Dark Guard #1-4
Issue(s): Dark Guard #1, Dark Guard #2, Dark Guard #3, Dark Guard #4
...and it has a pretty impeccable creative team. This is still early in the careers for Carlos Pacheco and Oscar Jimenez and the art in these issues isn't that great, but there's no denying that they were up-and-comers who will go on to do good stuff. And Dan Abnett has already proven himself to be a good writer, although his output is spotty, probably due to the number of books he was working on. So this seems like it should have been a winning formula.
It doesn't work out that way, though. It's very likely that all Marvel UK books were doomed to fail at this point, but this book just isn't a success creatively. I'd say that a lot of that has to do with "continuity", in several senses. For one thing, this book uses these existing characters but it uses them all very generically. From a logistics point of view, there are several dependencies. Dark Angel was hanging out with the Encoders at this point, and in her book Mys-Tech transformed themselves from old corporate wizards into young super-heroes. The Knights of Pendragon had broken up, with Albion leaving with a portion of the group to go help fix another dimension. The Warheads were meant to be on the run from Mys-Tech while dealing with an addiction to wormhole jumps. None of this is acknowledged in this series. It's unclear when the characters are meant to be appearing here in relation to their own series. Some dialogue suggests that it takes place while their books were still ongoing...
...but i think it's more the case that this book was written without any considerations or awareness of what was happening in the other books (see the Considerations regarding Albion).
Beyond continuity "logistics", basic characterization seems to be off. And i mean really basic, like Motormouth, instead of cursing up a storm, just talks really fast.
The other "continuity" concern, broadly speaking, is just that there's nothing momentous going on here. We've finally gathered together this group of characters that have all run up against Mys-Tech individually, and so you might think that now they can perform some final strike or at least some real impactful action against the evil corporation. I may be benefiting from hindsight here, knowing that the entire Marvel UK line will be cancelled not that long from now without any kind of resolution. So i'm thinking in retrospect that these four issues would have been a great place to do something big. To be "fair", this series wasn't intended as a mini-series, it just got cancelled after four issues. But even ignoring the fact that the line was in danger, it just makes logical sense to do something more meaningful here, both in terms of in-story logic and as a publishing strategy. You've got all these characters together; do something with them. Instead what we get is just a totally random adventure dealing with the latest totally random Mys-Tech scheme; something that could have been done in any of these characters' individual books.
The Time Guardian has gathered these heroes together. It's not clear why he's chosen the particular members of the Warheads and the Pendragons that he did (it's also not clear from a publishing perspective; you'd think recognizable characters like Misha and Union Jack would be included). Added to the Dark Guard's ranks is a new character with the very silly name Ultra Marine.
He's the stick-in-the-mud leader type, but Dark Angel winds up proving to be a more effective leader.
After some initial Misunderstanding Fighting, tragedy strikes in the form of Stacy Arnheim engaging in a terrible self-own. She decides she doesn't want to be a part of the group, so she forces open an airlock which unfortunately means she's sucked into the Limbo dimension that surrounds the Time Guardian's home, and seemingly dies.
That's too bad because i've always liked the look of her but she never got a ton of screen time.
Death's Head II of all people spends some time trying to talk Colonel Liger out of a funk over Stacy's death. I'll remind you that the whole conceit of the Warheads book was that team members were dying constantly, but Stacy had been a member of the group for as long as we've been seeing it.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team gets involved in whatever the current mission is. At first i thought the idea was that we didn't get to see the debriefing because we were getting the focus on Death's Head and Liger, but it turns out that the Time Guardian didn't even tell Dark Guard what their mission was. He just dumped them on some random world full of random characters.
One of whom, in the best parody of a He-Man character's name ever, is called Collapsar.
Collapsar is super-invulnerable. Killpower and Liger are captured, and the rest of Dark Guard have to return to the Time Guardian's base to find out what the heck they're supposed to be doing. The Time Guardian is not around, but they're met by his robot assistant, Superconductor.
So, more than halfway through issue #2, we find out that Mys-Tech is trying to instigate a war between two civilizations, with the idea that they'll launch nuclear strikes on each other and Mys-Tech can gain credit with Mephisto for all the resulting dead souls. Dark Guard are upset to learn that they are supposed to kill Collapsar, who is secretly a Mys-Tech agent (pretending to work for one of the planet's factions). Dark Angel objects to being treated like assassins. Death's Head II isn't specifically interested in being an assassin, but he's willing to go back and rescue the captured members of Dark Guard and kill anyone that gets in his way. Motormouth goes with him, since Killpower was captured. The rest of Dark Guard return to the planet to try to stop the war, and they have to contend with more super-baddies.
The adventure all works out of course. I won't go into details but here are some highlights. It's a perfectly fine adventure; it's just nothing special.
One of the Mys-Tech board execs, Tyburn seems to make a direct appearance, but she later turns out to just be a bio-mimetic construct.
Meanwhile, Stacy resurfaces on the Time Guardian's platform, albeit without her best attribute, the mecha-suit.
She's the only person in the Time Guardian's base when Dark Guard returns, and it turns out she has no memories.
This seems like a weird thing to do with Stacy but i'll have to withhold my judgement indefinitely because the Dark Guard Gold book promised at the end will never manifest.
There is some fun stuff along the way here, and i'll personally never tire of Killpower, but it's not a great story and it definitely doesn't feel like a big loss that the book was cancelled. The problem with this All Star format is that it takes the characters away from what made them unique - especially the Warheads and Albion - but the larger issue is that Marvel UK thought that they could just keep doing generic adventures with these characters instead of doing something big to turn things around.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: As noted above, it doesn't seem like any thought was put into when these characters were appearing. They have all been brought together thanks to a time jump from the Time Guardian, so it's possible that the idea is that they've all been plucked from various moments in time. But for placement purposes (and the ability to list all the characters), i prefer to assume they were all taken from the same time period. This would have to take place after the end of the Warheads series due to the change to Stacy Arnheim. And this would have to take place after the Dark Angel series since she's in her final costume. There's really no context for Motormouth & Killpower or Death's Head II. At first i thought Albion was a conundrum, since his comment about wanting to get back to the other Pendragons to defend the Green suggests that it takes place while the group is together. And the Die Cut vs. G-Force miniseries will offer some seemingly additional clues regarding Albion (which i'll discuss in that entry). But ultimately i realized that this has to take after the Knights of Pendragon series ends. Because the final story in that series has Death's Head II meeting the Knights of Pendragon for the first time and not knowing if he can trust them or not. Which couldn't be the case if he was already on a team with one of them here.
So i'm placing this after the ends of all the books, except for Death's Head II which was still ongoing.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAlbion, Clementine, Dark Angel, Death's Head II (Minion), Killpower, Motormouth, Stacy Arnheim, Tigon Liger, Time Guardian
Should Tyburn really be listed as a Character Appearing? The "golem" seems more like a Doombot than an astral projection.
Posted by: Michael | March 2, 2017 7:54 AM
There actually was an "Asskickers of the Fantastic" in Warren's 1984 magazine.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 2, 2017 10:47 AM
I never heard of this one. Must have come out right after Marvel UK drove me out of collecting comics for 20 years
Posted by: Mquinn1976 | March 2, 2017 4:47 PM
@Michael, you're right, she shouldn't be listed.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 3, 2017 8:09 AM
I love that Killpower refers to Liger as "Colonel Funny-Face" :)
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 4, 2017 6:23 PM
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