This week the House of Ideas welcomes a new team of heroes to the Marvel Universe. An assemblage of new and existing heroes hailing from the United Kingdom have come together to battle against the forces of Knull as The Union! Does the new team stand a chance against the arrival of The King in Black?
We’ve got a review of The Union #1, along with a Rapid Rundown of other new releases for the week, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!
The Union #1
Written by Paul Grist
Pencilled by Andrea Di Vito with Paul Grist
Inked by Drew Geraci & Le Beau Underwood with Paul Grist
Colored by Nolan Woodard
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by R.B. Silva & David Curiel
Reviewed by Zoe Tunnell
The Union has had a strange road to release, huh Originally announced as an Empyre tie-in, the mini-series from Paul Grist and Andrea Di Vito caught a lot of attention after it’s initial reveal. Whether excited over Grist’s shocking return to corporate comics, and first-ever work with Marvel, or apprehensive over the political optics of a team of heroes from across the United Kingdom in the wake of Brexit, folks had a lot to say about it. Now, well over half a year later and having changed events to the symbiote-infested The King in Black, the miniseries has arrived. And thankfully, it is a stellar debut that outshines the event it is tying into.
To preface, I’m American as all hell. Born and raised in the Bible Belt, I am about as far from someone with actual real-life experience with life in the UK as you can get. As such, my review is colored by those perceptions and the limits and biases within. For a different take on the issue and some perspective from an actual Brit, I would highly recommend Ally’s coverage at AiPT. With that in mind, God, I loved this comic.
Grist’s work on Jack Staff pays dividends from the very first page, presenting the new hero Britannia as a Saturday Morning Cartoon parody of British stiff-upper-lip attitudes and taking swipes and jabs at the modern state of the UK throughout. While not as pointed as they could be, the prodding sends a message that Grist is all too aware of the frayed tensions within the country and that it is something the series will be addressing. Between team introductions and stage setting for their symbiote-infested foes, there isn’t quite as much as I would hope, but the sheer quality of everything else makes up for it.
The team itself, Union Jack, along with newcomers Britannia, Kelpie, The Choir, and Snakes (he’s snakes), is equal parts government-backed superhero team and a walking PR machine for a local billionaire. While Choir, Snakes, and Kelpie don’t get a ton of page-time, there is just enough to establish the series’ tone as a team book full of people who really don’t like each other very much. The butting heads, both amongst themselves and amongst the for-hire security they’re training with, is never frustrating and feels very natural and, often, genuinely funny. If you’ve missed the classic bickering team of frenemies dynamic in your superhero books, The Union had you covered.
Di Vito’s art is rock solid, as always, and makes all of the RB Silva-designed looks pop off the page with appropriately bright and flashy colors from Woodard. While not boundary-pushing, Di Vito’s art is the gold standard for classic house-style superhero comics art and helps to lend a sense of authenticity to the new team. Grist himself even gets in on the action, rendering the opening Britannia sequence in a cutesy style that is equal parts Jack Staff and Hanna-Barbera.
Really, the only place where The Union falters is its status as a #1 issue and event tie-in. Union Jack and Britannia get plenty of spotlight, but with The Choir and Snakes getting barely a line of dialogue apiece, the issue can’t help but feel like a bit of a misfire from an ensemble perspective. Swapping events from Empyre to King in Black, similarly, feels a bit awkward as the sudden arrival of one of Knull’s dragons feels like the threat could have very easily been copy-pasted over a Cotati spacecraft.
Even with these issues, The Union #1 stands as a strong debut for a new superhero team and, frankly, is much better than the event it is tying into in the first place. Hopefully, Grist and Di Vito push both an increased focus on the cast and more clearly defined political commentary to make the series into something special.
Final Verdict: Buy.
- Daredevil #25
- We must’ve been extra-good children to get two issues of Daredevil in subsequent weeks. There’s a welcome time-jump following the end of last week’s issue as Daredevil settles in to prison. Nature — and Hell’s Kitchen — abhors a vacuum, though, and even with an ending that became obvious as the story progressed, the reveal via a magnificent splash by Marco Checchetto & Marcio Menyz was still perfectly executed, and feels wholly earned in the context of the rest of the series. —JG
- Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1
- Christopher Cantwell and Felipe Andrade pull off this genuinely disgusting and very frequently disturbing one-shot story where some weird alien substance is messing with the FF’s powers. As you can tell from the cover, things go very wrong very fast. Andrade’s psychedelic and brutal artwork is the star of the show, boosted by Chris O’Halloran’s excellent colour work, and Cantwell manages to capture the voices of his cast very well. If you’re in the mood for a different kind of FF story, this is for you. —HW
- Hellions #7
- I can’t help but find the humour in the fact that the first post-X of Swords X-comic I’ve read is… Hellions. This is still the funniest book of the line, without a doubt. The Hellions’ resurrection process has gone along smoothly… mostly… but there’s still work to be done, as Sinister sends his minions on another mission. Another internal rift in the team looks to be sprouting, and I’m extremely excited to see where the story goes from here. —HW
- The King in Black #1
- It feels like the last alien invasion just ended and we’re already besieged with another one. Whereas Empyre featured distinctive adversaries with interesting motivations from the jump, The King in Black #1 instead features an army of amorphous symbiote monsters working under the command of Knull, who just wants to kill everyone because I guess that’s what he enjoys. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s more to it as the series progresses, but the first issue was ultimately kind of a yawn. —JG
- X-Factor #5
- There’s something about this book that’s preventing me from clicking with it, and I suspect it’s because Leah Williams thinks I know these characters as well as she does. I’m sorry, but all these small panels with vague impressions of who those characters are? I couldn’t tell you who they are or what they’re up to. The murder mystery aspect of this series is something I’m still clinging onto, and the brief nods to the nature of resurrection post-X of Swords are interesting, but I have a feeling readers with intimate connections to these characters are having a ball. —HW
Next week, The King in Black engulfs the Marvel U, and S.W.O.R.D. debuts!