Welcome back to Super Reads, the feature where I read some comic or another and then spoil the hell out of it for you. Today, we explore some girl-power with A-Force #1.
It may go without saying but I'll say it anyway:
There are Spoilers ahead.
Before the magic happens, let's go over some delicate background information.
This is Battleworld, the crazy hodge-podge planet left over after every Earth and it's respective universe has been obliterated. Why did all those Earths have to die? Because Marvel needs to make more money.
But I guess if you want a story reason, it's because... Marvel needs to make more money. And also because of three years of build-up in Avengers and New Avengers.
So what is Battleworld? Well, it's a bunch of different segments of previous realities all mashed up together into one world. Most of these "Kingdoms" are based on previous Marvel Mega-Events. Like there's one based on 2005's House of M and another for 2006's Civil War. So in a way, it's a celebration of Marvel's past with a HEAVY emphasis on the last ten years.
Each Kingdom is ruled over by a Baron. Each Baron is answerable to the King. And the King? He's a living god named Doctor Doom.
When I say "god," I mean that. It's not one of those monarch things where people believe you're divine when you're just some poor schmuck who landed on the throne. Doom is, by all accounts, the creator of this little remnant of reality. The hows and the whys of that are (hopefully) going to be explained in the main Secret Wars series but it basically boils down to Doctor Doom picking a fight with the Beyonders, an other-worldly collection of jerks who had already marked all of reality for destruction. Victor Von Doom just sort of... moved the bar forward a couple decades in order to "preserve something" when the end came.
While Battleworld is MOSTLY left in the hands of the individual Barons or Baronesses of each realm, Doom's word is law. His LAW is also his law. To carry out his will, Doctor Doom has his own planetary police force comprised of far more Thors than you'd ever expect to see in one reality. We've got regular Thors, Beta Ray Bills, Storm-Thors, and other well-known heroes rocking their own Hammers and Thor-themed costumes. When one of Doom's rules is broken or when one Kingdom comes into illegal conflict with another Kingdom, chances are you're going to see one or more Thors intervene.
So we'll see a lot of Thors show up in the different mini-series tie-in books.
And now, let's get to...
Writers: Marguerite Bennett & G. Willow Wilson
Penciler: Jorge Molina
Inker: Jorge Molina & Craig Yeung
Colorists: Laura Martin & Matt Milla
Letterer: Cory Petit (from Virtual Calligraphy)
Assistant Editor: Alanna Smith
Editor: Daniel Ketchum
In this issue: A-Force battle a prehistoric shark in defense of Arcadia, leading to one of their members getting banished to the dreaded Shield.
• We are introduced to the island kingdom of Arcadia, home of Baroness She-Hulk and A-Force.
• While Arcadia is home to both men and women, only women are members of it's defense force.
• The morning patrol battles a megalodon, an ancient, assumed extinct shark.
• After the megalodon is defeated, America Chavez, caught up in the moment, throws the shark into the Deadlands, breaking the Shield wall in the process.
• A Thor shows up to tell America that she just broke two laws.
• She-Hulk attempts to change America's sentence but the Sheriff of Agamotto is unmoved.
• America Chavez is sent to the Shield.
• She-Hulk calls in the Sub-Mariners to investigate the megalodon's strange appearance near Arcadia.
• America's sister, Nico, despairs at the loss of her sister but is perfectly positioned to witness a new arrival to Arcadia: a star covered woman named Singularity.
Welcome to Paradise Island Arcadia! This... island paradise... is situated JUST north of the Shield, the border protecting Battleworld from the zombies (Deadlands), killer robots (Perfection), and bug aliens (New Xandar). If our Battleworld map is accurate (and it probably ISN'T), Arcadia's neighbors (just a short boat ride away) are Bar Sinister (to the North), Limbo (East), and the Valley of Flame (West). So it doesn't have very nice neighbors but, looking at the rest of the map, you're not really going to find a lot of friendly Kingdoms.
The Baroness of Arcadia is Jennifer Walters. You might know her better as She-Hulk. In the regular Marvel Universe, she's a lawyer who has also been an adventurer with the Fantastic Four and Avengers. A bit later in the story, we'll learn that key in her getting the job as Baroness (and leader of A-Force) was her devotion to the law. But you learned that NOW instead because it made this paragraph longer.
It's a beautiful morning on Arcadia and the morning patrol team of A-Force is waking up and starting their day. She-Hulk opens up the shades and lets some light into whatever room she's in. Loki (woman version) is getting her wards, America Chavez (Ms. America) and Nico Minoru (Sister Grimm) ready for a busy day of patrolling, chastising America for oversleeping. Dazzler walks through a local market on her way to work (we see Rogue, Gambit, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and their baby Danielle in the background). Captain Marvel is drinking a coffee (maybe a tea-- it's a hot beverage whatever it is) and doing some morning reading before getting her patrol on. Medusa is kissing a sleeping Blackbolt (probably) goodbye. That's our main cast, people. Let's see where the day takes them.
It takes She-Hulk to A-Force headquarters. It's not a fancy skyscraper or mansion like the Avengers have. It's actually a classically inspired building called the Hall of Justice. In fact, the entire island has a classical feel... or, rather it strikes me as more Italian Renaissance than Classical Greek but, regardless, it's pretty to look at.
Meeting Jennifer in the Hall of Justice is Medusa and outgoing monitor, Spider-Woman (in her usual costume and not the one the Marvel Universe version is wearing in her latest solo series). It's been a pretty quiet night.
It'll be a louder day.
Out over the island, the dayshift flies around, looking for trouble. Joining the cast we met earlier is Pixie, from the X-Men.
When I saw Dazzler flying, I was kind of surprised but I looked it up. It's an actual thing she can do. Usually, it's just levitating and super awkward but the Arcadia version flies like a pro.
On the waterfront, you'll see Meggan and Crystal catching fish using their powers. This is important because we saw a pregnant version of Meggan in Secret Wars #2. That version (and the regular Marvel version) was the wife of Brian Braddock. THIS one is decidedly NOT pregnant. This is a tiny reminder that we're going to see multiple versions of everyone depending on what Secret Wars tie-in book you're reading.
In fact, seeing Captain Marvel is going to be the most confusing part of this. In Secret Wars #1, the Marvel Universe Captain Marvel was one of the few heroes who actually ESCAPED the destruction of the multiverse. She's (presumably) still on board a liferaft waiting to wake up in the regular Secret Wars book. Yet here's another version of her wearing the same costume patrolling Arcadia with A-Force.
So as this event continues, prepare to confuse one version of your favorite hero for another.
ANYWAY, Meggan and Crystal's fishing trip ends when their boat is attacked by a megalodon.
A megalodon! What's that? Why, it's a prehistoric shark that lived back in the Cenozoic Era, 15.9 to 2.6 million years ago. It could reach fifty-nine feet (18 meters) in length. The megalodon was frickin' ridiculous.
It's the grey and red outlines, depending whether you want the regular-sized giant killer shark or the maximum-strength giant killer shark.
So this thing leaps right out of the water and picks a fight. Before it drops back into the ocean, Captain Marvel punches it in the... underside. I don't know fish terminology. Right between the pectoral fins. Do sharks have chests? In the shark chest.
The megalodon drops back into the water but manages to catch part of Ms. America's jacket, pulling her down with it. You probably don't want to be in the WATER with that thing no matter how invulnerable you are.
Back at the Hall of Justice, She-Hulk orders Dazzler to get all the non-powered citizens out of the water. Sister Grimm casts a magic spell ("Bioenergy"), lancing the megalodon and causing it to let America go. The ancient shark isn't done fighting yet, though. It once again leaps out of the ocean right underneath a gathering of ships. Those ships were still loaded with people and they. Go. Flying.
Captain Marvel and Dazzler are still busy clearing the area but Alison (that's Dazzler) breaks away from humanitarian operations in order to hit the mega-shark with some laser blasts. Somehow or another, this gets the megalodon to fly out of the water and land inside the city proper.
That giant shark is still seriously scary but it's kind of useless out of the water. I mean, as long as you stay away from it's mouth. Actually, just stay away. It could still flop around to get a meal.
America Chavez doesn't care. This thing has seriously pissed her off. She lifts it into the air and tosses it out of Arcadia. Everyone is protesting her actions the entire time but America's in the middle of a berzerker rage and won't be stopped. The megalodon ends up smashing up part of the Shield before landing in the Deadlands amidst a group of zombies.
Thus, America Chavez has broken two Laws of Doom. Sam Wilson of the Thors lightning bolts in to deliver justice. Yep, Sam Wilson, typically Falcon and CURRENTLY Captain America in the Marvel Universe, is a Thor. He lays down the charges. America has "BREACHED the Shield and endangered everyone under it's protection" and has "forsaken the sanctity of DOOM'S BORDERS." She broke a wall and illegally transported an animal into a foreign habitat.
Nico tries to assure Ms. America that she'll be ok but... well, let's see if She-Hulk can get America out of punishment.
Jennifer gives the Sheriff of Agamotto a personal tele-call to find that Strange is not gonna budge. We learn here (or at least I do) that "THE BORDERS ARE NEVER TO BE CROSSED!" This is apparently the biggest rule of Battleworld. No plea on She-Hulk's part changes his mind. America Chavez is being sent to the Shield to serve her sentence.
And that sentence, of course, is life.
If She-Hulk were to defy this ruling, the consequences would be terrible. You don't want Doom's attention focused on you. Arcadia would be in a bad way.
So She-Hulk does the only thing she can, she leaves to say good-bye to a citizen, ally, and friend.
Outside, America Chavez and her sister, Nico, wait to see if their beloved leader was able to change the ways of the world. In the background, we see the rest of the morning patrol along with Storm and Phoenix of X-Men fame and Spider-Woman of... Spider-Woman fame. Before She-Hulk can deliver the awful news, Loki shows up, demanding to know what's going on.
They all learn together. America Chavez is going to the Shield. Loki gives her ward a giant hug and her furry cape. America relays some instructions to Loki for when she's gone. Stuff like "remember to feed the cat" and "don't listen to sad records." She's handling this like a champ.
A platoon of Thors show up to escort Ms. America to the Shield. She-Hulk delivers something like the official wording of her sentence. And then she's gone.
And all that remains is Loki's furry cape. I guess that didn't go with her.
She-Hulk tries to convey how sorry she is to Loki and Nico. Loki remains silent. Nico... less so. She throws a lot of blame at her Baroness before both she and Loki leave.
The rest of the assembled A-Force is more reasonable. Medusa tells She-Hulk that they don't blame her at all and understand the position she was put in. Speaking of that position... it means not wasting too much time dwelling on sad events and more time put forth solving Arcadia's problems.
For example: what's an extinct shark doing attacking this island paradise?
To answer that riddle, She-Hulk calls in the Sub-Mariners. Namor, Namora, and Namorita answer the call. I don't know if they are members of A-Force or even citizens of Arcadia. After all, this is an island kingdom and these three sort of live in the water. It's possible there's an Atlantis Kingdom covering the ocean regions. Or multiple Atlantises. Even so, Namor is the only dude hero with a speaking part in this comic. Thors not-withstanding.
And, yeah, this is clearly not the same Namor as the one currently running around with the Cabal in the main Secret Wars book.
The three Sub-Mariners willingly agree to help discover the source of Arcadia's megalodon troubles. They swim off into the deep, eventually entering a very dark area of the sea. We don't SEE what they find but it leaves a very surprised look on Namora's face.
It's been an eventful day. Night was already falling when She-Hulk met with the Sub-Mariners. Now, it is well after dark. Near Bishop Lighthouse, Nico Minoru is crying, upset at the loss of her sister.
Or is America actually gone? In the sky, a vaguely human lightning bolt crashes to the ground. Nico is certain that this is America returning. But when she reaches the crater that marks the touchdown point, she find a woman made of stars.
And that's the end of A-Force #1, Marvel's first all-woman Avengers-like team.