It’s another week of the Marvel Rundown, and another new team from the House of Ideas! Writer Tini Howard and artists Germán Peralta and Jordie Bellaire have brought together the strangest assortment of heroes yet for a team Marvel hails as “Doing the dirty jobs the Avengers and other Marvel heroes can’t do!” Does Strikeforce #1 introduce the team well?

Then, classic New Mutants creators Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz reunite for a one-shot tale that continues Marvel’s 80th anniversary celebration. How does New Mutants: War Children #1 hold up against the creative team’s classic ’80s run on the series?

We’ve got discussion of those titles, plus a Rapid Rundown of other books we’re reading this week, all ahead in the latest edition of The Marvel Rundown!

Strikeforce #1
Strikeforce #1

Strikeforce #1

Written by Tini Howard
Illustrated by Germán Peralta
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered and Designed by VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover by Andrea Sorrentino & Dean White

Joe Grunenwald: Marvel’s latest team book is Strikeforce, featuring the oddest assortment of characters imaginable. What did you all think of the team’s first outing?

AJ Frost: Well Squad, I really only have one thing to say about this comic. It absolutely sucked. Everything about it annoyed me to no end and I don’t recommend it at all. This is a SKIP from me!

Samantha Puc: Womp! I actually did not hate this at all. In fact, I kind of loved it? This team is really bizarre but Tini Howard writes them in such a way that they somehow make sense on the page, especially with such a buckwild plot explaining how they ended up working together. What did you think, Joe?

Grunenwald: AJ, coming in guns blazing and then taking off. I think I fall somewhere in the middle: I didn’t hate this book, but I also didn’t love it. I honestly don’t know what to make of this book. It feels very much like an editorially-driven, ‘here’s a bunch of characters, do something with them’ book, and beyond that at this point I don’t know why it exists. That said, I think Howard makes the best of what she’s been given to work with. The fact that even the main characters don’t really know why they’re together helps make the oddity of the whole thing sting a little less, and I have confidence in Howard explaining it at some point. The question is whether readers will have the patience for that.

Puc: I think I’m biased for two reasons: 1) I really love fae stories in any format, and 2) Howard is easily one of my favorite writers in comics right now. I can definitely see how this book would be off-putting, because it doesn’t make sense, especially not right off the bat, but that said — sometimes it’s fun to just go on a really weird ride. The characters’ voices are captured perfectly here, which makes Strikeforce feel like a funky alternate universe fanfic. Maybe because I’m a sucker for stories that revolve around under-appreciated, underutilized characters — especially ones where they team up and kick some ass — I’m just coming into this with a totally different perspective.

Grunenwald: I totally respect that perspective. I’ve never been big on magic-based stories, but I appreciate how Howard wove those elements into plot relatively organically, and I think she used them well. I’m also not opposed to oddball assortments of characters; the recent War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery miniseries had a similar concept with a seemingly random array of heroes and it worked really well. Howard really does capture the characters’ voices well, but there was still something about it that didn’t quite click for me. I’m trying to put my finger on it, so bear with me.

Puc: I think my only real complaint is that there’s a bit too much exposition to make the story work, but I don’t think it could unfold any other way and still maintain the same pacing.

Grunenwald: That may be it. There’s a ton of exposition right smack in the middle of the issue. The most frustrating part of that is that it doesn’t really explain anything—it’s all just backstory for why Blade is interested in what’s going on with this group. I get what you’re saying about it needing to be there to keep the story moving, but at the same time it didn’t really feel like it accomplished anything to me. Does that make sense?

Puc: It does, but I do have to respectfully disagree! The exposition lays out Blade’s interest, but it also establishes that these creatures have been around for some time, and now that the black bifrost was destroyed in War of the Realms, they’ve landed on Earth. Their motivation for stealing the viruses isn’t made clear, but it’s also a #1 in a new ongoing, so I wouldn’t want that to be made obvious from the jump. Does that make sense?

Grunenwald: Yeah, that does make sense. Alright, I’m sold on necessity of the exposition. As for it being the first issue of a new ongoing, though, if this were any other publisher I’d be right there with you, but the way Marvel’s been stealth-cancelling books lately I feel like a new series, especially one as off the beaten path as this one, has to make a case for itself pretty quickly or risk getting the axe. Unfortunately I’m not sure this debut issue does that, at least not for me.

Puc: That’s a good point — we have no idea how long this series will last, and a lot of Marvel’s books that aren’t about major teams have been getting the axe left and right. Hell, the Gwenpool Strikes Back mini directly addresses that on the page! I think you’re right that this issue might not grab enough potential readers to establish Strikeforce as a worthy investment, but I also hope that it does, because it’s fun. I also really, really love Germán Peralta’s art, and Jordie Bellaire’s colors are stunning as always. Also, since I’m obsessed with lettering and Joe Sabino is great: that alarm sound and placement and design in the first few panels is just so good. What a great series of panels to set up the intrigue behind this fae mystery.

Grunenwald: I also found that first page to be exceptionally well-done all-around from a storytelling perspective. The visuals on the rest of the issue were equally well-done. Peralta and Bellaire are solid storytellers throughout, and I particularly enjoyed Bellaire’s colors on the Blade flashback sequence. They also do a nice job of driving home, for lack of a better term, the ‘ick’ factor when it comes to the creatures the team fights. There’s a lot of dismembering in this book and you can hear, smell, and feel each one.

Puc: So much dismemberment. We are just a few days away from Halloween season, so this feels like an appropriate lead-in…

Grunenwald: It hadn’t even occurred to me that this was intended to be a horror comic until I was reading Howard’s note at the end of the issue, but going back and looking at it again I can definitely see that influence in it.

Puc: Speaking of the end: those character descriptions are on point.

Grunenwald: I really enjoyed those as well. Anything that acknowledges, even in a winking way, the existence of Nextwave is a good thing as far as I’m concerned, and Monica’s bio made me chuckle.

Puc: I also enjoyed Hellstrom’s, especially in the context of that final page. Regarding Howard’s note, though, I do trust her. Do you? Is there anything else you want to touch on, or should we deliver our final verdicts?

Grunenwald: That’s really the question, isn’t it: whether readers will trust Howard on this one. I want to trust her, and like I said before I’ll check out at least one more issue of this series to see if it fully takes hold of me. I’m giving this issue a BROWSE.

Puc: I thought you were going to skip with AJ, so that’s a better result than I expected! I’m going BUY on this one because I’d like to see it continue.

Final Verdict: It’s a three-way split on Strikeforce #1! AJ says SKIP, Joe says BROWSE, and Sam says BUY!

Strikeforce #1
Panel detail from Strikeforce #1.

New Mutants: War Children #1

New Mutants: War Children #1

Written by Chris Claremont
Illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz
Colored by Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Bill Sienkiewicz

Joe Grunenwald: Marvel’s 80th birthday celebration continues with another throwback one-shot, this one reuniting Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz for a New Mutants tale. What did everyone think of the latest addition to the anniversary festivities?

Chloe Maveal: I will literally celebrate any anniversary thrown by anyone if it reunites Claremont and Sienkiewicz. Reading this was a fantastic throwback that honestly felt like the two picked up right where they left off as if no time had passed at all.

Samantha Puc: I love these characters so much and seeing them reunited with Claremont and Sienkiewicz was a genuine treat. This issue is a really beautiful exploration of the New Mutants’ bond, and I mean that both in terms of story and in terms of visuals — this issue is gorgeous.

AJ Frost: I think unlike a lot of readers, I didn’t really grow up reading Claremont’s writing at Marvel. It’s only been through reading other Marvel work that I’ve come to appreciate the energy that Claremont brought to the medium. This one-shot is really spectacular in a lot of ways. It’s a throwback to a style of comics composition that is no longer the norm and I really appreciated it as a visual exercise as a reader. There’s a Basquiat-esuqe quality to it…. Sienkiewicz is pure visual candy.

Grunenwald: This may actually be the first New Mutants comic I’ve ever read, so it was an introduction to most of these characters, and certainly to those versions of them, for me. I cannot agree more that Sienkiewicz’s art on this comic is a visual feast, and an incredible reminder of just how good he can be when he’s doing sequential pages. And Claremont’s writing is, for good or ill, exactly what you would expect from Claremont. There are points where it worked for me and points where it very much didn’t. There’s no denying that this feels like it came from the ’80s, though, which will certainly appeal to longtime fans of the property.

Frost: This will definitely make someone jonesing for that ’80s comics feel right back at home at that most outlaw time. And there’s so much to see with each turn of the page. It’s probably the most outre mainstream comic of 2019, if that is such a thing.

Maveal: I actually found myself much more drawn in by the art. I was completely distracted by it my first time reading through. Sienkiewicz goes so abstract and plays with proportions so much and all of that paired with Sotomayor’s vibrant, playful colors? It’s just awe-inspiring. Much love to Claremont and his ability to be very on-brand after all these years, but the writing almost felt overshadowed by the visuals. At least to me.

Grunenwald: I think you could completely excise the text from this comic and still be able to follow what’s going on, and the emotion behind all of it, based simply on Sienkiewicz’s art. So I don’t think you’re off-base in saying the art overshadowed the writing, Chloe.

Frost: There’s nothing wrong with some really strong visuals, especially those that veer from the present Marvel house style. It’s this visual panache that sets this book apart from all the others coming out this week.

Puc: I agree — I was so enthralled with the art and colors in this one-shot; the writing was good, but I was definitely more invested in the evolution of Warlock and Illyana and Doug across these pages.

Frost: I’d still say I’m a New Mutants newbie. I wasn’t familiar with the original run when that was out in the late ’80s/early ’90s. How does this book stack up or add to that much much earlier run?

Grunenwald: That’s a great question. It seems like there are huge, character-defining things happening in this one-shot. I’d love to know how it fits, if it does, with the original run.

Frost: It has a bit of a Grant Morrison Doom Patrol feel. Not saying it’s similar, but it has that avant-garde aesthetic.

Maveal: Writing-wise it felt like a greatest hits for Claremont. Like an annual or something. Really bolstering the tension and emotional melodrama in the most Claremont way possible. As far as the art, while Sienkiewicz is still clearly doing what he has always done, this seemed like his vibe turned up to eleven. He surpassed greatest hits and literally became the art version of The Beatles in a single person. Im perhaps a little biased though. I basically live — and would willingly die — for Bill Sienkiewicz.

Puc: You heard it here first, folks. Put it on Chloe Maveal’s tombstone. Died for Bill Sienkiewicz.

Grunenwald: There are worse things to die for.

Maveal: Yes. I’ll take it.

Grunenwald: I have to admit there were a few moments in the script that gave me pause. Kitty Pryde refers to two different people as her best friend within the span of two pages, which is not a problem so much as something that made me laugh. But there’s a moment later in the issue where I think it’s Karma who refers to her ethnicity in…the strangest way? Like I said earlier, for good or ill, this feels like classic Claremont.

Maveal: Good or bad, it’s just Claremont focusing the totality of his psychic powers and so forth. Heh.

Grunenwald: Of course. How silly of me. Is there anything else anyone wants to add before we deliver verdicts?

Puc: Sorry, I’m still looking at the art in this issue.

Frost: Same!

Puc: I think this is the best thing that’s come from Marvel’s 80th anniversary celebrations, to be honest. Even the bits that gave me pause didn’t make me feel any simmering rage or rampant disappointment, which is kind of… refreshing.

Grunenwald: Yeah, the Karma part I mentioned earlier didn’t seem offensive or anything, just…dated? Which is good I guess for a book like this.

Maveal: Seconded, Samantha. The anniversary content has been such a mixed bag of various nonplussed reactions and scowls, and this felt like an actual celebration of what Marvel and their creators have accomplished over their many decades. Dated concepts with great followthrough and nostalgia is infinitely better than a resounding “UGH”.

Frost: I agree with that statement. It’s better to embrace the lightness and the surreality of superheroes then constantly look at their id.

Grunenwald: Well-said. As far as verdicts go, while this is something of a niche book that will definitely appeal to fans of Claremont and Sienkiewicz’s ’80s New Mutants run, coming into it fresh I still found there to be a lot to enjoy and appreciate in this comic. It’s worth a BUY for the visuals alone in my opinion.

Frost: I’m a BUY as well. It’s refreshing to look and read something so distinctive and fun.

Puc: I’m going to say BUY for sure! There’s nostalgia here, but it’s the kind that offers something unique in comparison to other titles on the shelf.

Maveal: If my stance wasn’t clear enough based on what’s apparently now going on my headstone, this has a giant BUY stamp on it from me.

Final Verdict: It’s a unanimous BUY from the Rundown crew for this tale of mutants past!

Panel detail from New Mutants: War Children #1.

Rapid Rundown!

  • Amazing Spider-Man #30
    • The first Absolute Carnage tie-in for ASM finds Spidey fighting Red Goblin, and Kindred having a conversation with Norman Osborn. But isn’t Osborn Red Goblin? Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley‘s tale is light on plot but heavy on pathos as Peter reflects on all that he’s lost at Osborn’s hands over the years. A non-essential event tie-in to be sure, but a solid Spider-Man story. — JG
  • Avengers: Loki Unleashed #1
    • Writer Roger Stern returns to the Avengers for a one-shot story set immediately following his classic “Under Siege” storyline. This issue, like New Mutants: War Children, feels like a true throwback, in terms of both Stern and artist Ron Lim‘s story and the way it’s told. If you miss frequent editor’s notes referring to previous stories, thought bubbles, and a classic Avengers line-up facing off against nigh-unbeatable foes, you’ll love this issue. — JG
  • Captain America #14
    • Is this Ta-Nehisi Coates week? Because this feels like Ta-Nehisi Coates week and honestly, you won’t catch me complaining. Coates continues to do a bang-up job capturing the essence of Steve Rogers; particularly when it comes to his progressive views on modern problems relating back to Steve’s history in the 1940s. Beyond that, Niko Walter and Matt Milla tackling the art is a visual treat if you’re a fan of cross-hatching and bold colors (hint: I totes am). — CM

  • Fearless #3
    • This anthology series has been so much fun, and this latest issue is excellent. Zoë Quinn‘s Hellcat story builds really well on the series written by Kate Leth, and Marika Cresta‘s art is fantastic — I want so much more from the character introduced in this short! If anything, pick up this issue for Quinn’s first Marvel comic, as well as Alyssa Wong‘s excellent Jubilee and Wolverine short with artist Alti Firmansyah. — SP
  • Ghost-Spider #2
    • It’s Gwen’s first day of college! Seanan McGuire continues to knock it out of the park with her scripts and Takeshi Miyazawa‘s art is dynamic as ever. This series has such a specific look and feel, and that hasn’t been sacrificed at all as Gwen straddles two different dimensions. The thematic elements of this issue are also great, with the Big Bad making all kinds of terrifying plans. There’s nothing bad to say about this series. Not one thing. — SP
  • Powers of X #5
    • There’s a lot of good stuff in Powers of X #5, notwithstanding accidental reveals (link contains spoilers!). There are just two issues left in the HOX/POX saga, and pieces are falling into place — but heading into the finale, I still have questions. Best thing about this issue? Emma Frost. — SP

Next week, the mysteries of the Eternity Mask are revealed in Marvel Comics #1001!

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