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Union Jack #3

Posted: Saturday, November 18, 2006
By: Ray Tate



"London Falling" Part 3

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

I'm just as surprised as you are. Usually when I designate a writer's work as mediocre, it stays that way. This consistency is especially true when reviewing mini-series, which simply do not give the writer all that much time to improve. This issue of Union Jack, Christos N. Gage shows me something.

The book opens with a reminder of the cliffhanger presented last issue. The Corrupter lived up to his name by poisoning Union Jack's colleagues. Exposure to the Corrupter's toxic sweat allows the villain to take control of the victim's mind. You go right ahead, and do the math. Sabra, the Contessa and Arabian Knight have become thralls.

The Corrupter points out that Jack is "a glorified acrobat." Absolutely true. Without the Pendragon Powers, and I see nothing to suggest Jack still possesses them, he is "a glorified acrobat." Gage however demonstrates that Jack is a clever and determined "glorified acrobat."

Taking a page from Bugs Bunny's playbook, Jack defeats his foe through strategy. The look on the Corrupter's face is priceless. Even if Mike Perkins wasn't fluent in the theater of action, and lucky for us, he is, the depiction of surprise on the Corrupter's periwinkle puss would have visually paid for the rest of the panels.

Gage doesn't opt for the easy way out. Even with the Corrupter down, the toxins still flow in the bloodstreams of Jack's teammates. This makes sense. The Corrupter is not magic. He's a science fiction creation. His power derives from pharmacology, and these substances would not simply go away. Jack must fight his comrades. The plot demands it. The consequences of the Corrupter demand it.

Jack tackles the problem using his brain and agility. He takes down each one by employing psychology and superior dodging techniques, no doubt honed from fighting the supernaturally fast. In addition, Gage's mention of Sabra's energy quills displays a much greater knowledge about his cast than I previously credited him. I still disagree with the bullet sequence from last issue, but this issue I cannot find a flaw with Gage's engagement of powers.

One issue of the mini-series laid the blame for all the endangerment on Union Jack's shoulders. This issue Gage lifts that weight from him, and he doesn't succumb to clichés. Instead, he writes excellent snatches of dialogue stemming from the characters' natural feelings and personalities to absolve Union Jack from any potential trite angst build-up.

After the important, superbly written conversation, Union Jack and his incapacitated team head back to MI5 headquarters. Normally a scene at headquarters means the pace will slow down, but Gage must have seen The World is Not Enough. Inspired perhaps by Bond, Gage realizes that a lot can still happen even if the characters enter the relative safety of their territory.

For this scene, Gage brings to the fore yet another villain for Jack to face. This time the villain actually exhibits plausible threat. Her powers are potentially life threatening, and she has the attitude to back up her boasts.

Jack's handler gives him an answer that would lead to a defeat, but circumstances create a situation that teeter dangerously into a completely unbelievable scenario. Fortunately, Gage balances on the fulcrum of credulity and seesaws the characters out of the unsavory predicament. Gage wisely has Jack come up with a brilliant alternate plan that makes use of a thematic style Jack employs throughout the book.

I firmly expected to slam Union Jack again. I groaned when I saw it in my bag at the comic book shop. It's on my subscription list. I feel honor bound to take it. Imagine my shock to find that this issue of Union Jack is so far a solidly good read. Then Gage does something totally unexpected. He saves his best stunt for last. The final "WMD" of the "terrorists" is an over-the-top comic book lovely that resonates with history. Color me impressed and stunned.



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