Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: Force Works #19

Force Works #19, "Time Out of Mind," Cover Date January 1996
Written by Abnett & Lanning, Penciled by Heitor Oliveira, Inked by Rey Garcia

Force Works 19 cover Kang Mantis Iron Man

Last issue of the Crossing I covered, Tony was finally revealed as evil and fought the Avengers, thus clearing Hawkeye's name. Kang was also finally revealed as Mantis's mystery husband! Meanwhile, Force Works is in Vietnam, Tony Stark's crazy ex is somewhere in the arctic, and War Machine, U.S. Agent and Black Widow are on some military base in the southwest. Now that we're all caught up, let's get to the action!

Force Works 19 Amanda Suzi Endo
Nooooooo my good friend who it turns out I never met!

At Chronopolis (presumably), Iron Man realizes where he is, as an incredibly different looking pair of brothers stands near him. Kang and Mantis say hi, and the two bicker about outing Stark as a spy, calling him "Anthony" repeatedly, which is odd. Kang drops that he picked Anthony as his spy "all those years ago," implying that at least on some level Iron Man has been influenced by Kang for years.

I can't help but hear this:

Back at Force Works HQ, Amanda Chaney is still struggling to figure out how components of their base are from the future, when Iron Man shows up. He chases Chaney into another room, where Amanda sees a cryogenic chamber. She brushes aside the fog to find... Cybermancer, aka Suzi Endo, which causes her to go into hysterics for some reason. Iron Man kills her and thinks how this gets easier every time. Elsewhere, the Avengers and Force Works members in the southwest are on a plane, where Hawkeye gives them the news that Iron Man is the murderer. Black Widow is shocked and saddened, but U.S. Agent is mostly just mad.

Force Works 19 Scarlet Witch Moonraker
Something isn't right here. Somebody's anatomy is a bit... off.

In Vietnam, Spider-Woman is freaking out that her love, Moonraker, is really Gustav Brandt, aka Libra, as revealed last issue. Scarlet Witch asks for an explanation, and he gives a really long-winded ramble about how the Priests of Pama, the people who trained Mantis (and Moondragon), sent out Libra as a sort of "mayday" of the impending Kang crisis by sending an alternate universe Moonraker into the Marvel Universe, and hiding Libra's brain in there, to be restored when they got to Vietnam. Seems like a pretty dumb plan! Fisher and Spider-Woman come back with the kite boy, who now looks like a member of the Gargoyles cartoon show. Libra-raker explains that Kang's plan involves recruiting these 1%'ers who get super powers when exposed to Kang's "chronographic effect." The group plans to leave, and Spider-Woman reluctantly helps Libra, but then storms off before he can apologize for the situation.

Force Works #19 Iron Man James Rhodes Rachel Carpenter
Avengers will shout "noooooo" at anything, won't they?

Back at Force Works HQ, Iron Man is chatting with Cybermancer (so, is she not the real Cybermancer? I have no clue at this point), when Century appears. Iron Man does a very obvious "everyone's out to get  me, help me, Century" bit, but Jim Rhodes and Rachel Carpenter appear. Jim tells Rachel to tell Century about overhearing Amanda's murder, and Iron Man responds by going "no, noooooooo" and charging up to kill a small child. Century's seen enough, and grabs Rachel and teleports away. Iron Man says Rhodes should've gone too, as he's no match for him without his armor. But with a FA-FOOM, Rhodes puts on the Warwear, and it's To Be Continued in War Machine!


Well, after months of vagueness, we finally get answers, but I don't think they're the answers anyone wanted. It seems like somebody's out to kill Iron Man's character dead, as him being manipulated by Kang for years is a pretty massive ret-con and it gets more and more unlikely that Tony will somehow "shake off" Mantis's control, as was hinted at a few issues ago in Iron Man. We also get a really long-winded and dumb explanation for the secret of Moonraker, and I don't think anybody can be happy about it. Introducing a mystery new character only for it to be revealed to be... another forgotten 70's character, and he's not even a bad guy? Why? Just having him be a Kang spy on the west coast team would've been so much simpler and less involved. Maybe even a spy who really fell for Julia so he's conflicted and helps the good guys? But resurrecting a forgotten character to do more Steve Englehart references 20 years later is just dumb.

Force Works 19 Kang Iron Man
Anthony and Kang wax nostalgic about how evil Tony is. In hindsight, the mustache was a dead giveaway. 

I've been pretty high on Force Works through the first few parts of this crossover, at least in part due to my appreciate of D&A as writers, and Jim Cheung as an artist, even if he is pretty raw at the time. But this issue reads like it was written in large part by editorial, with way too much exposition, and only a handful of pages dedicated to the book's regular cast. Cheung is out of Force Works, as he gets shuffled to a few other books. Oliveira has previously done a few issues of Iron Man, but I believe this is the first issue he's done all of. He's not great, but he's definitely better than Marcos Tetelli, who must've been responsible for the awful faces in Iron Man #321. Overall, it's nice that the plot is finally rolling, but this issue is a pretty big step down in terms of just the Force Works issues, which up to this point were pleasant surprises. I'm not sure who did the cover, but it's a mess, too. From having way too much white space, to giving away Kang on a cover that would've been seen months before the issue was released, to Kang's awkward gloating pose, it's just bad.

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