Force Works #1
Issue(s): Force Works #1 (and Force Works Ashcan)
The series is premised on the idea that the former West Coast Avengers team needed to get tougher in response to harsh violence of the 90s. This idea was set up in the last issue of Avengers West Coast. I have the dubious honor of owning the "ashcan" issue of this series, and in the intro to that issue they outline the premise (written from Tony Stark's perspective):
I'm tired of reacting to the world around me. Tired of having to avenge things when they could have been stopped in the first place. Tired of having to fix things that never had to be broken.
Sounds a lot like the Punisher, and, yes, also X-Force. And like X-Force, and virtually every attempt at creating a proactive team, the proactiveness falls apart just about immediately, with the team absolutely reacting to an attack instead of seeking things out. I would be 100% in favor a book about Iron Man leading a team on strikes against AIM, Hydra, the Sinister Six, whoever, before those organizations actually launched their latest schemes, even if it meant skirting the law. But that's not what this book is, at all.
I've already made the point that the divisions between the East and West Coast teams didn't get any kind of set-up or development. We can see from the ashcan intro that the split from the UN was on Marvel's mind. But it was the Black Widow, the East Coast deputy leader, who made the decision for the Avengers to leave the UN in Uncanny X-Men #307 (Dec 93). Some fodder for behind-the-scenes speculation regarding that: it seemed like Hawkeye was building up to that split in Roy Thomas' last issue of Avengers West Coast (Avengers West Coast #101, also Dec 93), with Black Widow seemingly disagreeing with Hawkeye. The ashcan has a 1993 copyright date, with no month given. So very possibly it was written before the decision (seemingly) changed to have Black Widow initiate the decision to leave the UN.
But in any event, in terms of what was actually printed, the divisions between the East and West Coast teams didn't actually exist until the final issue of Avengers West Coast (#102). We also haven't seen Iron Man developing along more aggressive lines in his own book. In fact, in the story concluding the same month as this issue (Iron Man #301-305), Iron Man learns a lesson about jumping to conclusions and starts making amends for past mistakes. So to have him simultaneously deciding to form a team designed to be less restricted by regulations here seems like a discrepancy.
The other area i mentioned (aside from the UN split) where it felt like a missed opportunity in terms of setting up this team was in the killing of the Supreme Intelligence. That incident was cited in issue #102, but not in a way that made any sense, since the decision to kill Supremor wasn't split along team lines (Scarlet Witch, a member here, was explicitly against it, and several East Coast members were for it). I want to be clear that i mentioned the incident because it is an example of a moral dilemma that split the group, not specifically because of anything to do with the Kree. But this issue goes in a literal direction and uses as villains Kree soldiers looking for vengeance over the Avengers' actions during Operation: Galactic Storm. Between this and the UN thing, it's like a game of telephone was being played, with the basic concepts getting passed down the line, but all the context and meaning behind them getting lost.
I also want to point out that the East Coast team currently had Deathcry as a member and had the Kree soldier Galen Kor as an ongoing baddie. Both characters also related to the Avengers' decisions in Galactic Storm.
It all shows what a disaster the execution of this book was. The note in AWC #102 specifically mentioned the lack of coordination between Avengers titles and between the solo books and the Avengers, specifically citing events in Iron Man in fact. And yet this book contradicts what was going on in Iron Man's solo book. And it's also redundant to plots in the Avengers.
On top of that, the Kree show up to attack the Avengers, not the other way around. So any idea of being proactive ("tired of reacting to the world around me. Tired of having to avenge things when they could have been stopped in the first place.") are right out the window from the start. Same with any need to deal with cumbersome restrictions. The Force Workers do nothing but defend themselves in this issue, and don't do anything outside the normal bounds of superhero fights to do so.
The other weird twist, related again to the vague idea about the Kree and Supreme Intelligence, is that when Iron Man frames the pitch to the other former West Coast Avengers when he's recruiting them, is that he's already talking about galactic threats. This is before there's even any hint that the Kree are going to attack them.
There's that word "proactively". But what in recent days has caused Iron Man to start worrying about events of "galactic importance"? If he's been sitting on this since Operation: Galactic Storm, we haven't seen any sign of it.
But before i go further... pop up cover!!:
The image is very busy, the art is pretty bad, and the folding and unfolding of the pop-up is fairly complicated and the danger that you might break it is real. But, um, cool?
Ok, on to the plot. The Kree are in fact part of the "Starstealth Cadre". They include a Major Kalum Lo and a Bo'Sun Stug Bar. Stug Bar has a synthetic larynx due to an injury received "during the mutiny that led to his transfer" to the Cadre. Kalum Lo's face is damaged due to extended time spent in suspended animation. The Cadre also have a Rigellian Recorder.
Note that the Vision is one of their targets, so Force Works' first villains haven't even signed an exclusivity agreement.
Meanwhile, Iron Man makes his pitch to the former Whackos, and takes them to what will be their headquarters a place called... wait for it... The Works.
Why is it called The Works? So Tony Stark could make a bad pun that only he would understand.
The Works is equipped with an AI counterpart to HOMER (from Iron Man's current series) named PLATO.
As pot-sweeteners, Iron Man offers Scarlet Witch the role of tactical leader (it's clear that Iron Man will really be the de facto leader). He offers USAgent a new costume (to get him out of the shadow of Captain America) and an "photon shield" to replace the shield that he tossed in the harbor at the end of Avengers West Coast. And he tells Spider-Woman that there's plenty of room for her kid and that the West Coast team's nanny, Consuela, is welcome to live at The Works as well. Wonder Man is very enthusiastic and doesn't need any extra incentives to join. The others come around after dithering for a bit.
Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man then go back to the West Coast Compound to pick up some things, and they find the Vision and Black Widow rifling around. They almost get into a fight, but that's when the Kree attack.
The Kree's spaceship has an ion cannon, which affects the Vision and, especially, Wonder Man.
The Recorder says that the ion cannon's beam is "encoded to the individual bio-spores" of the Vision and Wonder Man.
About this time is when the ashcan takes place. We see USAgent and Spider-Woman joining the fight.
Note the different ways that USAgent can use his shield.
The ashcan is by the same writers and penciler, but is inked by "Avon", which seems to be Michael Avon Oeming.
(Incidentally, the etymology of "ashcan" is worth breaking down. It seems that initially, an ashcan was a book that was created for the sole purpose of meeting some legal - or intellectual property rights - purpose, and then was immediately incinerated. I suppose that some of those ashcans managed to not get destroyed and became collectors items. By the time of this series, though, an ashcan was clearly just a promotional item. In this case it's the equivalent of the equally gimmicky "zero issue".)
USAgent and Spider-Woman allow Wonder Man to get free and he takes the fight up into space. Meanwhile, Scarlet Witch casts a hex which summons a new player.
He takes Force Work's side since he's immediately attacked by the Kree. He then introduces himself as Century, but doesn't seem to know anything beyond that.
Iron Man then arrives, and the Kree on Earth are quickly defeated. Out in orbit, Wonder Man has similarly disabled the ion cannon. But suddenly some mysterious "pod-like objects" crash into the Kree ship.
This causes the ion cannon to rupture. Wonder Man pushes it away from Earth, but he's caught in the explosion.
That's the last we'll see of Wonder Man until he is revived at the beginning of Kurt Busiek's Avengers run.
The remaining pods land on Earth. Century identifies them as "the Scatter".
In reviewing some Marvel UK comics, i've noted the tendency for UK writers to throw one random concept after the next at us in quick succession with no time for breaks, and with little set-up (probably a result of having cut their teeth on writing in anthology titles). Abnett & Lanning have been writing US comics for a little while now (some decent Punisher stories), but it feels like the same thing here. We've barely had a chance to digest the Kree and their motives, and already we're on to the next mysterious crisis. All this in the first issue of a book that was promising to deal with threats "proactively".
USAgent, Spider-Woman, and Scarlet Witch are caught by the pod creatures and dragged into the pods. They then vanish.
So that leaves Iron Man, Century, the Recorder, and the two Avengers (and they're injured).
I bought this issue (and the ashcan) in bargain bins. I bought it for a laugh, but i was initially sucked in by the idea of a "proactive" team. However, that promise quickly fizzles (i get sucked in every time, but it never pans out), and the story is a chaotic hard-to-follow mess. Even during the quiet team-building & dithering portion, the characters don't feel "in character". I have yet to pick up another issue. The fact that Force Works appeared in the Iron Man cartoon - and Century got a toy! - has enticed me a bit, since it means that they are sort-of "important". And i've subsequently come to like Abnett & Lanning's later stuff. But at the time of writing, this is still as far as i can bother to go.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: When Wonder Man first sees Scarlet Witch, he says, "I see that the Scarlet Witch has a stunning new costume". That is head-bangingly frustrating, considering that Scarlet Witch was wearing her new costume in the Scarlet Witch miniseries right in front of Wonder Man, when that series (which was also written by Abnett & Lanning) explicitly took place before the break-up of the West Coast Avengers. I guess Wonder Man just didn't notice it in that series.
Avengers #370-371 seem to imply that they take place concurrently with this issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
"and the folding and unfolding of the pop-up is fairly complicated and the danger that you might break it is real."
Exactly what happened to me. :(
Posted by: clyde | November 6, 2017 6:02 PM
A couple of questions:
1. Why is Spider-Woman facing away from Iron Man during his recruitment pitch? Not even just from a in-story explanation, like layout wise why would she be facing that way?
Posted by: Mark Black | November 6, 2017 6:22 PM
The cover might just be the best thing about this issue...
Posted by: Jonathon | November 6, 2017 6:40 PM
Happy: "Boss, I'm making a lunch run, how do you want your hero?"
I guess we could say that Venus suit from Marvel Two-In-One was prototyped there.
USAgent's new costume is truly awful. It looks like he stretched a condom over his head and then cut out space for his face, leaving a big flap to dangle on his nose. I like the idea of giving him a variable energy shield to differentiate him from Cap, but of course, Tony will make Cap one too come Heroes Return.
Posted by: Mortificator | November 6, 2017 7:21 PM
I don't know. When I was reading this about a year ago, this series felt so bad and ridiculous (FORCE WORKS) it ended up being almost good again.
If Kevin Feige is out of ideas where to take MCU, I think making a FORCE WORKS movie is a great idea. If only for the terrible name!
But, I might have been prejudiced, because how much I adore Abnett and Lanning writing on GotG years years later.
Posted by: Karel | November 6, 2017 7:40 PM
(I am not at all arguing with the D rating, by the way :))
Posted by: Karel | November 6, 2017 7:41 PM
And so it begins: the multi-car pile-up that is Marvel in the mid-nineties. Until now we’ve been the slightly drunk driver who keeps drifting into the breakdown lane, but now we’re barrelling into oncoming traffic at ninety miles an hour with two blown out tires, sparks flying from the rims, throwing empty vodka bottles at the armada of cops behind us. Better writers and artists will spend years undoing the awful decisions made here and in Iron Man and the Avengers. It may be incoherent, but it’s interesting...
Posted by: Andrew | November 6, 2017 8:02 PM
This issue was supposed to come out 4 months earlier but it was delayed.
Posted by: Michael | November 6, 2017 8:11 PM
Thanks Michael. I meant to, but got distracted when i went looking for a better name than Recorder II. I see the Appendix calls him RE-404 but that's just a fan designation.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 6, 2017 8:33 PM
Avon is Michael Avon Oeming. He's not a studio and he's had a pretty good career since getting his start working at Marvel.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | November 6, 2017 10:09 PM
It definitely seems like there was, at some point, plans for Hawkeye to unilaterally pull the Avengers out of the charter and that to result in the shutdown of Avengers West Coast. On the comments of AWC #102, I wonder if everyone in the Avengers camp was on the same page about it but the UXM creative team screwed it up for some reason, forcing Abnett and Lanning to salvage what they could in AWC #102 (the question there being how long a lead time they had to work on the issue). Tony's mention of the UN in the ashcan definitely makes it more likely that the UN charter being the flashpoint between the teams was the plan all along.
Part of the problem may have been that there wasn't any real effort to differentiate the teams until they needed to try to justify the formation of Force Works. I don't know how long it was in the works (no pun intended), but Operation Galactic Storm was published a full two years beforehand and establishing the West Coast team as the one that "plays by the rules" less was probably not top of mind. The lettercol note in AWC #102 notwithstanding, under Harras and the Thomases there were basically two separate Avengers books with little to do with each other and little difference between them other than membership (if anything, what set later AWC apart was the goofy villains), except that AWC's sales stunk (pretty much any newsstand book of any relevance was selling better in the 1992 Statement of Ownership numbers published in 1993).
Posted by: Morgan Wick | November 6, 2017 11:23 PM
So regardless of how editorial tried to spin it, the bottom line was that AWC was getting cancelled and Marvel was using the pieces left behind to try to jump on the X-TREEEM!!! bandwagon (and they were giving it a big push with Iron Man and War Machine being lumped in with the "Force Works" editorial group and the appearance in the cartoon), and anything else was an ex post facto justification of the move that had little to do with what was actually being published in AWC. Bloodties could have been used to justify the split, but using OGS for the same purpose required revisionist history.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | November 6, 2017 11:27 PM
It's official now that Tom Tenney is the anti-John Byrne, in that he draws the least attractive Wanda ever.
Agent's headpiece reminds me of Le Peregrine but at least on him it makes sense.
Posted by: Erik Beck | November 7, 2017 5:50 AM
Are those really supposed to be Wonder Man's ears? When I first saw this art I thought Marvel Earth had been hijacked and genetically modified by DC's Dominators.
Anybody know what total sales were like on this comic? It sure didn't do very well in my area, just a few copies at best. Everybody was, like, "Uh, what did Image put out this week?"
Posted by: Holt | November 7, 2017 7:50 AM
Fnord, the whole thing is available in trade now (or soon) on Amazon so if you really wanted to pick it up on the cheap just for completion's sake you could.
Posted by: Jeff | November 7, 2017 9:52 AM
fnord, is "Recorder (Starstealth)" or "Recorder (Force Works)" more appropriate? The Recorder Units are many (the main Recorder is Recorder #211 for example), so a numerical denotation is sort of... wrong?
Posted by: AF | November 7, 2017 10:04 AM
The first four issues of this series were terrible. The rest of the series was better, but the beginning of the series drove the readers away. Tom Tenney's art was terrible.
Posted by: Steven | November 7, 2017 10:45 AM
All I can remember from Force Works were the letters pages. Tons of complaints that the artwork made everyone look constipated.
Did Tom Tenney end up doing anything else?
Posted by: bigvis497 | November 7, 2017 11:01 AM
Between this and the UN thing, it's like a game of telephone was being played, with the basic concepts getting passed down the line, but all the context and meaning behind them getting lost.
I feel like this sort of thing happened later with "Onslaught", what with the one-shot Marvel published towards the end of the event laying out the arc of the story in a way that barely resembled what was actually presented in the comics themselves.
The image is very busy, the art is pretty bad, and the folding and unfolding of the pop-up is fairly complicated and the danger that you might break it is real.
Which is weird, because it's one of the few gimmick covers that gets obscured/damaged by being bagged-and-boarded (which, if the idea is all these #1s Marvel is pumping out are destined to be high-selling commodities in the future, then they must be protected, right?), putting the gimmick at cross-purposes with the whole point of gimmick covers (getting people who wouldn't ordinarily buy the book to buy the book because they think it has "collectible" value).
Posted by: Austin Gorton | November 7, 2017 11:17 AM
Assuming your will isn't broken by the time you get to "The Crossing", you're probably going to have to read some more Force Works, unfortunately. IIRC it ties in a bit, like with a character called Moonraker.
Posted by: Andrew F | November 7, 2017 11:29 AM
@AF, agree, and i like Recorder (Starstealth). Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 7, 2017 11:54 AM
@Brian, Oeming has already been doing occasional work at Marvel at this point and was (sometimes) getting credited with his full name. For the issues where he's credited as Avon, the UHBMCC just lists him as Avon. On the GCD, though, i found one instance where he was credited as Avon but the GCD listed Michael Avon Oeming. So i'm taking that as confirmation of what you're saying.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 7, 2017 12:09 PM
I don't know why I find Century yelling out "There is no motive!" so entertaining. This comic does seem very forced. fnord's right- the concept could have promise, but the execution is just really... yeah.
Posted by: Wis | November 7, 2017 12:16 PM
What is this art??? It's awful. Even Liefeld draws better-looking mouths on people...
Fnord, do I understand correctly that you won't be covering any more issues of this series? :(
Posted by: Piotr W | November 7, 2017 4:21 PM
fnord said "at the time of writing," so he may change his mind. But if his entire review is "Some shit happens, but it's all space phantoms in an alternate timeline," I can respect that as well...
Posted by: Andrew | November 7, 2017 6:57 PM
Man, that Century action figure is uglier than my mother in law...
Posted by: Jay Montoya | November 7, 2017 7:09 PM
So, worst gimmick cover ever?
Michael Avon Oeming was credited as simply "Avon" on a few occasions early in his career.
Rey Garcia, who was originally from the Philippines, remaining on Force Works for almost its entire two year run, only missing a couple of issues. He provided some much-needed consistency, as the series ended up having ten different pencilers in the space of 22 issues.
I know this is only his first appearance, and he doesn't do much here, but I really liked Century. I'm probably one of the few Century fans out there.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 7, 2017 7:42 PM
Incidentally, I'm more familiar with the "classic" definition of ashcan (it gets brought up whenever you have to explain why the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel's first appearance was Whiz Comics #2 instead of #1), so I'm reading this and think "fnord has a throwaway book Marvel only produced to secure the concept and name?! That really must be rare and valuable! Oh wait, no, it's just yet another 90s promotional gimmick."
Posted by: Morgan Wick | November 7, 2017 8:58 PM
Also, if you look at the UHBMCC's "names" search, "Avon" is listed next to "see also Oeming, Michael Avon".
Posted by: Morgan Wick | November 7, 2017 9:01 PM
Force Works lasted 22 issues?? Wow. I had no idea. I wonder what the contemporary opinion was from long-time Avengers readers when it premiered.. if they were sticking with Marvel at all...
Posted by: Wis | November 7, 2017 9:03 PM
With a July '94 cover date, that would mean Century appeared in animation some four more months after his creation--would that be a record, not counting characters created specifically for other media? (Though it seems evident there was a lot of synergy going on.)
It seems funny that an Abnett\Lansing team revamp with Iron Man as the cornerstone of a franchise is so poorly executed as both aspects would, albeit separately, be huge parts of the MCU. Please tell me somebody says "Until Bucky is brought back as a Hydra agent Make Mine Marvel" in the letter column for the trifecta.
Posted by: rabartlett | November 8, 2017 12:18 AM
@Wis, I can’t speak for other Avengers fans but my opinion was “This is shit.”
Posted by: Robert | November 8, 2017 12:51 AM
Would be a good outcome IMO if fnord12 decides to skip over reviewing comics he doesn't like, rather than burning out on reviewing before he gets to the "good shit."
Posted by: Holt | November 8, 2017 7:31 AM
To risk stating the obvious, "force works" seems a PG-13 riff on "wetworks" or lethal covert operations. In what is certainly a coincidence, Marvel's 'Force Works' debuted within about a month of Images 'Wetworks' (July/June 1994 cover dates).
Posted by: cullen | November 8, 2017 9:27 AM
A couple of issues of Force Works were part of the "Hands of the Mandarin" storyline that also ran in Iron Man and War machine. And of course several issues of Force Works were part of "The Crossing" storyline. So fnord might be covering those issues when he gets to those specific arcs. We shall have to see.
As someone who actually liked Force Works (albeit with the proviso that it never lived up to it's potential, something fnord points out is the case with a lot of supposedly "proactive" superhero series) I would have liked to see fnord's write-ups on as many of these issues as possible. But there's just soooooo damn much coming out from Marvel in 1994 and 1995, much of it not good, that I certainly understand why he's skipping over a number of things.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 8, 2017 11:08 AM
Luckily, by 1995, Marvel's output contracts big time, and, for a good chunk of the year, the X-Men books, a sizable chunk of the line, are an alternate timeline. (What's the stance on Age of Apocalypse, and for that matter, Heroes Reborn?)
Posted by: rabartlett | November 8, 2017 1:10 PM
I remember at some point, fnord mentioned he would be covering 'Heroes Reborn' with the exception of the WWIII crossover.
Posted by: cullen | November 8, 2017 5:50 PM
Century? Really?!? Where are Decade and Millenium? (Pls don't tell there actually are characters with that name)
Posted by: Multiple Manu | December 1, 2017 5:43 PM
I recently read these Force Works books for the first time, and they were terrible. In spite of that, I'd like to request you do them for the site, I'd like to read your take on them.
Posted by: OrangeDuke | December 28, 2017 2:58 PM
Just looking at this out of idle curiosity and I really dislike this type of artwork that was all the rage in the 80s and 90s. Give me the likes of Kirby, Ditko, Colan, Eisner, Fine, Gustavson, Bill Everett, 70s Trimpe, the Severins or the Buscemas any day.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 28, 2017 5:46 PM
IMO, the artwork was the least horrible thing about this title. It was just a total piece of garbage series.
Posted by: clyde | December 28, 2017 7:22 PM
Well at least it wasn't Rob Liefeld, the artist who gives everyone 46DD busts, including men.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 28, 2017 7:41 PM
... I kind of like "Century" as a name. Is it in any way worse than, say, "Rogue"?
Posted by: Piotr W | December 29, 2017 4:12 AM
It is if you put "Turner D" in front of it.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 29, 2017 4:32 AM
Comments are now closed.
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