Current Reviews

subheader

Union Jack #2

Posted: Saturday, October 21, 2006
By: Ray Tate



"London Falling"

Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Mike Perkins(p), Andrew Hennessey(i), Laura Villari(c)
Publisher: Marvel

Urgh.

For the premier issue of Union Jack, I said in the review, "meh. I’ve read worse." For instance, there's the second issue. This is much worse than the first. Keep in mind. I like the character Union Jack. I like all three of them, but not this way and not in this story.

Let's first turn our attention to the villains. They are the losers of the Marvel universe working for a HYDRA splinter cell known as RAID. This acronym of course provides unwitting amusement. "RAID! Kills bugs dead!"

Each one of the costumed lunatics is a mercenary, but working for terrorists isn't at all lucrative. The costs--extradition to Guantanamo and/or torture in a secret CIA prison--far outweigh the benefits--lots of money. Mercenaries above all the other villain-types should behave in the most rational manner. They after all have a perfectly comprehensible motive and a survival instinct geared toward spending that motive. Gage does not give any of them the slightest modicum of intellect

SPOILER AHOY!

Take Shockwave from Master of Kung-Fu. His powers are electrically based. Insulated costume or not, it would be absolutely idiotic for this villain to go anywhere near water, yet of course, he plies his trade with the other two lack-wits attacking the Thames Tunnel. He could have been nice, safe and dry attacking Heathrow, but no, he either chooses or is directed to the tunnel beneath the Thames River, emphasis on river.

Shockwave's or his employer's unbelievable lapse in judgment provides Union Jack, he with the sharp, shiny knife excellent for cutting an insulated uniform, with an easy victory. Giving the hero a quick win does not make the hero look good. It simply makes him appear lucky.

SPOILER ENDS.

Gage's attempts at pushing Jack into the spotlight are downright embarrassing. Union Jack takes down all three of the tunnel saboteurs, but given the quality of the villains it's not really that great a feat. I would give more hero points to Iron Fist, the only super-hero who dares to wear slippers, because even when snow-blind he beat the snot of the big bad Sabertooth.

Gage writes a scene where Jack leaps off a SHIELD hover car that's floating at about seventy-five to one hundred feet above the Thames. Now, Joey Chapman, the current Union Jack, is just an ordinary bloke with some experience under his belt and some natural talent in the hero field. He no longer possesses any super-powers, and I don't think it's plausible to put him in the James Bond category of high divers. So, my question is when did Jack learn to carry out such a dive?

Bond, during Tomorrow Never Dies, when plunging into Chinese waters, performed a HALO dive and wore equipment that allowed him to execute such a technique. Bond is no dummy, and there was a very good reason for the HALO dive. Jack's lower altitude mimicry places him at unnecessary risk, which always exemplifies poor strategy. He's lucky that he didn't slam straight against the bottom, and there was just no way for him to judge. Jack's dive is simply too good, an Olympic level dive. His grandstanding also seems needless since the SHIELD hover car could have easily skimmed the water and allowed him to jump in. The drain of the water would have easily directed him to the hole in the Thames Tunnel, regardless of where he happened to be swimming in the water.

SPOILER AHOY!

Gage bolsters Union Jack at the expense of the other operatives. The losers attacking London Bridge somehow intend to overwhelm Sabra. Crossfire shoots her in the eye, and for some reason this blinds the bulletproof Israeli.

If she wasn't bulletproof, the bullet would have killed her instantly and left a large chunk of her head fluttering down to the Thames. If she was sort of bulletproof, the round would have badly injured her and incapacitated her. It doesn't, at least not enough. It seems Sabra's just bulletproof enough to withstand the impact, but not bulletproof enough to prevent the bullet from penetrating her eye. She's bulletproof enough to stop the bullet from doing extensive damage, but the bullet blinds her anyway. How? You can't have it both ways. She's either bulletproof, which she is, or she's not, which she isn't. The bullet can't blind her if it ricochets off her eye. She can't brush it off if the bullet blinds her. Are we to assume the bullet penetrated her eye, causing visible damage in the form of blood, but stopped before it hit her brain? Ridiculous and contrived. In any case, it's Union Jack to the rescue, again! This time he smacks the hover car into two lunks and knocks them off of London Bridge. Incidentally this is the second time this issue he defeats a baddie by running him down in a SHIELD hover car.

SPOILER ENDS.

Jack next reinforces his star status by reasoning with Bombshell, she of the--ah, frankly I don't know what Bombshell's deal is. Because Mike Perkins draws everyone in a realistic fashion and attempts to dramatize what is silly, I can't say she of the enormous ta-tas. However, rest assured. There are sexist jokes in the ultimately juvenile Union Jack:.

"She's Mossad. She probably knows how much your implants cost."
"Oh, Bombshell it's a good thing your pretty."
"Ooops. Pardon the imposition."
"All right. But watch your hands."
"I might survive. My costume's reinforced, but you...well, you just had to show off your legs. Didn't you?"
"But I've been doing this too long to get taken down by some chippie with a nice rack."
"They don't make you Deputy Director of SHIELD for having a 'nice rack.'"

It's written as if a five-year old was telling a story of his favorite hero. Correction. The bestus hero in the whole wide world!

SPOILER AHOY.

Union Jack, not one to rest on his laurels, brings Sabra to Heathrow where SHIELD agent the Contessa Valentina and Saudi hero the Arabian Knight fight against some flame-guy and Boomerang, who has now graduated to conscienceless killer. Boomerang gives the best performance in this act. The blowback from his own knockout gas boomerang takes him down. He even says I kid you not:

"Aw, not the gasarang!"

SPOILER ENDS.

Here is another reason why Union Jack does not work. The attitude is all wrong. Gage wants this to be a fun romp with boobie jokes. It can't be. I loathe George Bush. I think he is a despot that will ultimately destroy the world before his term thankfully ends. That said. There are people outside of the Bush administration who want to destroy the innocent. There have always been people like this and always will be people like this. Terrorism isn't fun. It isn't outlandish. Terrorists of the real world are completely devoted maniacs bent on causing as much damage and fear to their victims. They don't wear colorful costumes. They do not lack intelligence, and they do not carry knock out gas because for them the more death the better. Finding knockout gas on a terrorist would be like finding a stun gun on a Dalek.

Costumed crazy mercenaries on the other hand just may carry knock out gas because they're in this for the money not the murder and mayhem. More to the point, they are fictional, but in Union Jack Gage has these fictional mercenaries who pack knock-out gas working for terrorists who intend to fly a plane into Buckingham Palace:

"Hah! Close, but no cigar, pigs! Kiss Buckingham Palace goodbye."

The costumed screwballs know exactly for whom they are working, and this places them on a level that no fictional mercenary should attain. Whether or not they're packing knockout gas, they have become terrorists, but that doesn't make any sense. Terrorists have a cause. More often than not, they foster a death wish. They don't wear flaming pumpkins on their heads or sport a purse filled with little cartoon bombs. Union Jack fails to be fun because of the real world issues insinuated in the story. The book fails to be dramatic because of the fictional idiots employed by the terrorists. This is also why the heroes don't seem particularly heroic. Union Jack wins against some dope with a Molotov cocktail--that would do zero damage to the bridge by the way. No! Surely you jest!

Terrorism isn't out of bounds for comic books to use, but it must be used within the rules of drama. Batman, for instance, in a John Ostrander issue of JLA attacked a group of terrorists that intended to destroy Gotham City as a political statement. These were not costumed crazies. They mirrored the terrorists that would do such a thing. Likewise, Aquaman in an issue of Brave and Bold brought down a plane, that was loaded with a bomb sensitive to pressure that would have detonated and destroyed Gotham, into an air-pocket under the sea. The people who were behind the scheme were not garish ninnies. Instead they mirrored the drug lords of Afghanistan. Union Jack cannot decide upon a tone. It tries for all and fails miserably.



What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!