Characters Appearing: Alec Dalton (Dauntless), Captain America, Gog (Owen Llewelyn), Henry Peter Gyrich, Invincible (Joseph Hauer), Robin Pembridge, Sarah Wilde, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), USAgent
Super Soldiers #1-5
Issue(s): Super Soldiers #1, Super Soldiers #2 Super Soldiers #3, Super Soldiers #4, Super Soldiers #5
The story starts with a super soldier waking up from cold storage, ranting about finding someone named Childs.
He fights his way through some (presumably non-super) soldiers and locates his equipment in a locker identifying him as John Hauer, aka Invincible. In addition to body armor and a big gun with teflon bullets, his equipment includes an adamantium knife. And when he puts it all together, he looks just enough like Cable to hopefully sell the series.
He doesn't know much about himself. He only vaguely recognizes his name after he sees it.
He winds up escaping from what turns out to be the Orgley Biological Research Centre, where a reporter, Sarah Wilde, is outside. He forces her to take him with her in her car, and she'll end up staying with him through the end of the series.
Hauer's escape is discussed at the Cabinet Intelligence Committee for Superhuman Activities in Whitehall. Nuke from Born Again is brought up as a cautionary tale.
One member of the committee, Sir Robin Pembridge, calls a Sir Marcus Grantby-Fox, the previous minister of the super soldier program and now running a private company called Empire Chemical Enterprises (ECE). Grantby-Fox has the Childs that Hauer was looking for working for him, and their hatred is apparently mutual. But instead of sending Childs after Hauer, Grantby-Fox calls Henry Gyrich, who is surprisingly easily badgered into agreeing to help (not that i don't think he'd want to be involved in something like this; it's just that his demeanor seems weak).
Meanwhile, Wilde tells Hauer that she was outside the Orgley facility because she was investigating the fact that it was recently privatized and sold to ECE. She's aware that the facility was working on super soldiers, and she says that scientists working on the project have died, ostensibly from suicides. Wilde and Hauer then run into a roadblock, and Hauer goes into action.
I've enjoyed Marvel UK's depiction of Killpower, whose situation is that he's a little boy in the body of Big Gun type, and his dialogue is often hilarious. When he's in combat, Hauer is basically exactly what Killpower is parodying, right down to the dialogue. But if you're familiar with Nuke, you'll notice the "everything's going red" line, very similar to the red pills that Nuke would take. Hauer doesn't take any pills, but the "red" line is not a coincidence. When he's done destroying the army's roadblock, "everything's white... adrenaline washing out of me". He thinks to himself that he has to learn to control it.
From the encounter, Grantby-Fox learns that Hauer is with Wilde. He looks her up in a file and says that she is "listed as a subversive to be rounded up in the event of WWIII". For what it's worth, there is also talk in this series about how the nation state is giving way to global corporate power.
Grantby-Fox also determines that Wilde is taking Hauer to a Dr. Javed Kahn, the last scientist that hasn't been killed off yet.
Meanwhile, Gyrich recruits USAgent.
Gyrich convinces USAgent that Hauer is a traitor that was working with the Chinese, and USAgent is happy to go after "some Brit Commie traitor".
Kahn runs through a history of the various super soldier programs. Interesting to see Omega Red making the list (since we've only learned about him recently).
After Nuke was created in the "late 70s", the British program came into play and began trying to replicate the effect that Nuke gets with his pills. Hauer and Childs (codename: Revenge) and four other super soldiers were the result of that program. They have genetically engineered organs that produce those drugs "naturally" (Kahn actually developed the organs for medical use) and underwent induced amnesia after each mission. The six British soldiers were first deployed during the Falklands war ("1982"). The problems began when Childs became addicted to the red drug and became increasingly erratic and violent. After another mission, Hauer was the only soldier to return (Hauer has a vague recollection that he killed Childs after Childs went crazy). At this point the situation with Nuke had happened, so the program was halted and Hauer was put into stasis.
Kahn is about to give Hauer and Wilde the name of the director of the program when Childs shows up to shoot him. As Childs prepares for another sniper shot, regular troops move in. Hauer fights them, and he's already saying that he's able to control his red moods better. It also turns out that Wilde is a heck of a shooter herself.
Wow. Journalism school in the UK must be pretty intense.
Hauer and Wilde get away without encountering Childs directly. USAgent hasn't come into play yet, so Grantby-Fox releases a new group of super soldiers that he's been working on.
Meanwhile, Wilde turns out to be an expert computer hacker in addition to a reporter and a firearm expert. She and Hauer break in to an old super soldier control center, and she hacks into the computer system. She learns that Hauer is actually of Dutch origin (which, as she notes, lines up with his name). She also gets the code names of the other super soldiers, and info confirming that they were used for internal peacekeeping (like killing the IRA sympathizers), as opposed to for dealing with the supposed threat of super-heroes (which was the purported purpose, per Kahn's history). Getting this info seems to trigger new memories from Hauer, and he now recalls his final mission. It was on the Thai/Cambodian border. They came across a massacred village and then Childs admitted that he did it and started killing the other super soldiers. Childs and Hauer fought, with Childs seemingly getting mortally wounded before Hauer himself passed out. Wilde's data says that Childs is indeed supposed to be dead, but another super soldier, Dalton (Dauntless) is only missing in action. So Wilde and Hauer go to Thailand to find him.
It's in Thailand that USAgent catches up with them.
Issue #3 starts with that fight and then goes into flashback, showing the events that led up to it. Talking to the locals, Wilde and Hauer heard talk of a "strange white man who lived with some Buddhist monks who revered him almost as a god" (RME). This is Dalton.
Soon after they find Dalton, USAgent shows up.
I'm not sure what the "same kind of design on his chest" as Hauer is about.
Back to the fight. I mentioned Hauer has an adamantium knife. He's able to cut through USAgent's vibranium shield.
Dalton refuses to get involved because of his oath of nonviolence. But to USAgent's credit - and i admit to judging him by a pretty low standard - he starts to realize that Gyrich was lying to him.
From there, a weird flashback. Weird both because it happens in the middle of the fight with no segue or even the rounded panel borders of the previous flashback, and weirder because it shows USAgent talking to his parents on the phone, something that he was well past at this point.
Despite starting to suspect Gyrich, USAgent keeps fighting. Since Dalton won't help, here's Wilde again.
I do like the art in this series. I especially like the big goony USAgent.
Meanwhile, here comes Childs with the new super soldiers.
Despite his orders, he releases the soldiers while Hauer and USAgent are still fighting. USAgent has Hauer on the ropes, and we see him struggling with his oath to never kill again.
After the dead parents again (mentioned again by Childs in the scan above), i assumed that the writers were just working with outdated info on USAgent. But this reference to his 'no killing' vow is from the same issue (#3). And yet the no killing vow was made in the same issue where USAgent faced up to the fact that his parents were dead (Captain America #383).
Anyway, the arrival of the new super soldiers interrupts USAgent's dilemma.
The new super soldiers look much more like monsters than the previous batch.
The fact that they are targeting Hauer convinces USAgent that he's been lied to.
Thought this image of Wilde carrying Hauer's gun was funny.
What's a little weird is that the gun disappears for this next segment when Dalton gives Hauer his gun. But even weirder for me is seeing the word "fag" in a Marvel comic. It's completely in character for USAgent, but i wasn't expecting it. No comics code authority stamps on the Marvel UK books.
Dalton's non-violent philosophy doesn't apply to what seem to be the mindless new super soldiers.
And he and USAgent seem to get along ok despite USAgent's slur.
After killing all but one of them, they figure out that the soldiers are all acting in unison, so instead of killing the last one they knock off his headpiece, and he's suddenly in control of himself. No one seems to regret having slaughtered the rest of them.
In fact, Hauer keeps killing the rest of them. Even USAgent is uncomfortable with that.
The one that doesn't get killed has the code name of Gog. Dalton uses his mystical abilities to restore Gog's personality and memories. His real name is Owen Llewelyn, and he'll remain with the group for the rest of the series. He reveals to the rest of the group that Childs is alive and that Grantby-Fox is the mastermind. The group decide to go back to England to go after them.
While the group are making introductions, USAgent says that his name is John Walker. Wilde laughs at him and asks if his parents were drunks. USAgent says "How dare you!" and tells her that his parents were killed by the Watchdogs. She says she's sorry, and he smiles and says, "Not as sorry as the Watchdogs any time I run into them!". This is in issue #4; maybe in reaction to complaints about the phone scene in #3.
Childs wants to go in himself after the super soldiers failed to stop Hauer, but Grantby-Fox is pissed at him for disobeying orders, and he activates an implant that causes Childs head pain, which is how he maintains control over Childs.
When they get back to England, Wilde finds that she can't hack ECE's computer system. So Dalton tries to send his astral form into it. He gets pushed out, but not before learning that Grantby-Fox is using a security system designed by AIM. Hearing that, USAgent gives Captain America a call.
Then the group gears up and heads out. Love Wilde's panel at the end.
And yes, USAgent is using a gun now. "No killing" indeed.
Wilde gets shot by Childs. The others fight on...
...and Hauer confronts Childs, chopping off his hand.
Childs responds with a fistless punch. And note another gay slur: "you prancing great pansy".
Hauer's defeat of Childs is practically in Looney Tunes country. He slices open his throat, tosses him out of the top of a skyscraper and in front of a moving train.
When Hauer confronts Grantby-Fox, Grantby-Fox tells him that he's "the establishment" and therefore won't be sent to jail. Hauer says he's going to kill him, but that's when Captain America shows up. Cap convinces Hauer not to kill Grantby-Fox. One thing i always find frustrating about that kind of ending: obviously Childs and countless goons were killed getting to Grantby-Fox. But it's considered a pivotal moment when Hauer is deciding whether or not to kill Grantby-Fox. He's already killed! And as it turns out, Grantby-Fox is absolutely right that he's going to walk (although he won't appear again in this series). So when Hauer finally decides that he'd be no better than Childs if he killed Grantby-Fox, it's at an inconvenient time. To be clear, i'm not advocating anyone go out and kill any evil CEOs; i just always find this kind of internal logic to be off.
It turns out that Wilde was wearing body armor, so she's fine.
Hauer wonders what he's going to do with himself now, and Cap tells him to fight for "the dream".
Hauer doesn't let Cap sneak that past him. He responds, "The American dream! Ha! That's a fantasy!". But he agrees to think about it.
This book is crude in a lot of ways but it's actually really readable and i quite enjoyed it. Andrew Currie's art works well for the characters, and the scripting is natural and character driven. The book has its flaws but it's fun.
These guys never appear outside their own series (I think Hauer is mentioned in a Civil War handbook), but they are pretty tied in to the Marvel universe in terms of the guest appearances and history. Unlike most Marvel UK books, the guest stars actually make a lot of sense. USAgent wasn't an obvious commercial choice like the various X-Men and Punisher appearances in most other books, but he fits in perfectly with the storyline and characters.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This can really fit in any gap for USAgent, Captain America, and Spider-Woman. The appearance of the Mandarin in the next arc potentially causes problems, but see that entry's Considerations for more.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Some of the art seems kind of sloppy to me, although it's clear the artist focused an awful lot on Spider-Woman's figure...
Posted by: Morgan Wick | October 7, 2016 4:31 PM
Man, that shield is huge...
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | December 3, 2016 8:43 AM
There's a clear resemblance in places (albeit a pale and inconsistent imitation) to Barry Windsor-Smith that I suspect may have been a deliberate choice to recall Weapon X and Nuke stories drawn by BWS.
Since USAgent is surely not one to casually drop British slang and surely wasn't calling the guy a cigarette, we can assume he was employing the American usage and making an anti-homosexual slur. But I suspect the British meaning of "fag" may have made that remark easier to get past the editors. If it would have been an issue at all.
(Amusing to compare the censorship of British shows airing on BBC America and on PBS. BBC has on occasion assumed the "sod" and "bugger" needed to be censored for American audiences where PBS let them through even while censoring "crap"! Don't even get me started on "fanny"...)
Posted by: Ubersicht | December 4, 2016 4:11 AM
Agree on the “shield is huge” comment. If anything, the shield should look smaller when used by John Walker (USAgent) since he was always depicted to be larger than Steve Rogers, and on Steve the shield looked more proportional.
Posted by: Paul Peterson | July 8, 2018 11:11 AM
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