Silver Sable & the Wild Pack #1
Issue(s): Silver Sable & the Wild Pack #1
That said, i think Silver Sable was a good choice. While it might have been more obvious to bring back a character like Carol Danvers in some form (since she was recently returned to Earth in Galactic Storm), or give a popular female X-Woman like Storm or Rogue a chance (and, heck, why not do those things too instead of giving a book to the non-powered Johnny Blaze or adding a third Punisher title), Silver Sable has built up a lot of cred by appearing semi-regularly in Spider-Man's books and elsewhere, and she's got a strong, well defined personality and a built-in storytelling engine. And as an added bonus, she employs Sandman as part of her Wild Pack; having a reformed villain as a supporting character adds interest.
But this is all me piecing together in my head today why i think this should be a good book. I have no idea if it actually is, because (aside from some crossover issues, which obviously didn't leave much of an impression) i'll be reading it for the first time for my project. The book is written by assistant-editor-turned-writer Gregory Wright. Wright has been doing the more straightforward stories on Deathlok and basically is not a noteworthy writer, and this book had a long run of undistinguished artists, starting with Steven Butler. And in 1992, when i was just a teenager and Min wasn't always looking over my shoulder saying, "Why does ever female super-hero have to stick her butt at the camera?", diversity wasn't something i was really thinking about. So this was just another random minor character inexplicably getting a book with a sub-par creative team, and i didn't give it a second look, and i've often considered it the poster child of Marvel's expansion period.
When i use the word diversity, i usually mean "more and better depictions of non-white and non-male lead characters", but there's also a case to be made for diversity in terms of the tone and sub-genre of the book (obviously the main genre is always super-hero). And this book does theoretically have a unique sub-genre. But in some ways it's similar to the genre of the Nick Fury book. Granted SHIELD is a UN based peacekeeping organization whereas Silver Sable's Wild Pack are a strange government/mercenary hybrid (they work for the government of Silver Sable's fictional country of Symkaria, but hire themselves out as mercenaries and indeed are said to be the "cornerstone of the country's revenue"). But both books basically have a storytelling engine that involves them getting assignments, and both deal, broadly speaking, with international terrorism. The Wild Pack was originally formed to hunt down Nazi war criminals. Sable has expanded their remit but seems to mostly keep things along those lines. Hydra are the villains of this issue, for example, and they're certainly within SHIELD's domain.
If Marvel was doing any kind of market analysis, the comparison between the Nick Fury and Silver Sable books should have been alarming, since Fury's book at this point was flailing wildly trying to find a direction that would turn sales around, and it winds up getting canceled in 1993. But this book must have had something going for it, because it manages to last until 1995. It can't just have been the foil cover.
This issue opens with Silver Sable fighting some armored men in what will turn out to be a recruitment test.
Yeah, it took until page 5 before someone made a sexualized pun directed at the lead character.
The 'tackle from behind' guy, Doug Powell, 'wins' the test and gets recruited into Sable's core Wild Pack team.
The next scene is designed to show Sable's non-nonsense focus on her mercenary business, as she rejects a series of job offers (listed by Mortimer Sablinova, aka Uncle Morty) on either moral grounds or because the price isn't right, and even (initially) declines a job where she has a family connection.
I like this. It's nothing new, of course; it's how she's been depicted since Tom DeFalco introduced her. But i like having a book about a woman that runs her own organization with ruthless expediency, and is a (broadly speaking) super-hero that isn't motivated purely by altruism.
The next page, however (a little too quickly, in my opinion), shows her going to rescue her niece Anna on her own. Her raid on the school that has been taken over by Hydra attracts the attention of Spider-Man.
A couple of things to digest in the above scene. We see that Sable is the sort of hero that kills, which puts her in conflict with Spider-Man, but as usual with Spidey, only to the extent that he whines about it (see also: Spidey and the Punisher). The second thing is that "hate all men" line, which gives me flashbacks to Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway writing characters like Thundra and Man-Killer in the 70s. Do we have to go there the minute we have a strong female character?
The Hydra cell that Sable is going up against is led by a Dmitri Petrovitch, and i have to assume that this is another Bush League Hydra sect that Baron Strucker hasn't gotten around to wiping out or assimilating yet.
The fact that one of their agents is called YoYo is the first alarm bell (and the fact that Petrovitch is on first name basis with his agents seems a bit off, too). But when the leader of the sect worries about showing the police that they mean business, you have to wonder if they're really Hydra at all. Hydra has goals and sets out to achieve those goals. They shouldn't need to show anyone that they mean business. And they certainly shouldn't be motivated by proving to the world that Hydra is not an organization "to be trifled with" by killing schoolgirls.
Sable and Spider-Man work their way through the Hydra agents, with Spidey beings used as a foil to show Sable's relative sophistication.
Meanwhile, the elite Wild Pack team decide to go help Sable. Which of course leads to a conversation where Powell makes a bet with Sandman that he can get Sable in bed.
And Petrovitch turns out to know Sable. In fact they were former lovers.
Powell is downright creepy.
The end scene reinforces Sable's cold persona.
I said above that i liked her personality. And i do, but there's always a fine line when it comes to depicting strong women where if you go too far they wind up falling into the "bitch" stereotype. I'd be more sympathetic to Gregory Wright's attempts here if he wasn't also doing this while a) having one supporting cast member treat Sable as a sex object, b) defining Sable's relationship with the main villain of the story via a romantic involvement, and c) using Spider-Man to reinforce the bitch/hates all men idea instead of, say, admiring Sable's take charge attitude. Now, as i've said, i haven't read any further into this series yet. So it could be that Powell gets his comeuppance in short order and that Wright generally finds the right balance in depicting Sable's strengths.
I will say that the art manages to avoid any Jim Lee style cheesecake in this issue. Steven Butler's art is pretty straightforward. It's very plain, but it gets the job done.
One more note: Sandman, being very powerful and being a very interesting character - a classic Lee/Ditko era villain that has reformed - has the potential to upstage Silver Sable in this book. But he doesn't do too much here. The main use of him is to show that he's very protective of Sable.
It's a little overdone but i think it's more or less the right approach if this is going to be Silver Sable's book. But to flip that, if i were reading this in 1992 my main interest would have been the Sandman, and i suspect that this would have disappointed me. So you can see that the creators of this book had multiple difficult needles to thread.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAnna Sablinova, Dmitri Petrovitch, Doug Powell, Joy Mercado, Lorna Kleinfeldt, Sandman, Silver Sable, Spider-Man, Uncle Morty
I bought this soley for the cool cover and the Spidey guest appearance. Actually reading the book otoh was... disappointing in just about every count.
Which is too bad, as Sable has a lot of potential as both a character and as the head of a mercenary organization. Certainly someone like Warren Ellis could've had a ball with a setup like this.
Posted by: JC | February 26, 2016 4:15 PM
Anna has a couple more appearances, so she should be listed as a character appearing.
Posted by: Michael | February 26, 2016 7:50 PM
Butler's art reminds me of Lim when it features close-ups of Sable's face, and Valentino when the camera is further away.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | February 26, 2016 9:29 PM
I read this series in real time, and I found this first issue to be underwhelming. However, very much to my surprise, subsequent issues saw a great deal of improvement. Of course, your mileage may vary.
BTW, fnord, you are correct... Strucker does indeed show up down the line, and he's none too pleased about Dmitri's actions in this issue.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 26, 2016 10:10 PM
Wow, Silver Sable had an ongoing for 3 years? House to Astonish wasn't kidding when they said anything could get an ongoing in the early 90's!
I don't mind Powell so much as, based on the scans here, he seems intentionally sleazy. If he's supposed to be a slick ladies-man, then we have a problem though.
Finally, Spidey doesn't seem like a good team-up partner for Sable. I get he's there since she's from his book originally, but the problem of him unconvincingly complaining about her killing rears its head again. I agree it would be nice to have the guest star admire Sable's take charge attitude, but you really need a character who accepts her methods as well. The Punisher would be a good choice. (This being the early 90's, I assume we will be seeing him soon anyway)
Posted by: Berend | February 27, 2016 3:26 AM
"Wow, Silver Sable had an ongoing for 3 years?" I guess it might have helped being a DeFalco creation: "We should do a line called Big Guns, with tough, dark, street level characters like Punisher, Luke Cage, Nomad, and a character that I created!"
Less jokingly, I guess having a Spider-Man connection (and also characters with real superpowers, like Sandman) does differentiate this from Nick Fury, and may have helped this stay afloat for a few years.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 27, 2016 5:36 AM
@Michael, added Anna. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 27, 2016 9:57 AM
I don't know about this particular book, but Sable is awesome. Just saying...
BTW. Spidey's complaining about Sable killing just... doesn't make sense at all. It's one thing for him to oppose the Punisher killing, but Sable isn't a vigilante superhero, but a mercenary with official backing. What's next, Spidey is going to complain that cops use lethal force on occassions, too?
Posted by: Piotr W | February 27, 2016 4:36 PM
It would be refreshing if Spider-Man did object to police violence, actually...
Posted by: cullen | February 27, 2016 5:33 PM
That's pretty cool that Silver Sable rejects working for the CIA ("The Company") btw...
Posted by: cullen | February 28, 2016 12:28 AM
You've listed Silver Sable's uncle (Mortimer) and her niece (Anna) as both having "Sablinova" as their surnames when, in fact, neither character has EVER been given a last name. At least, not in-story.
In any event, "Uncle Morty" is Silver's uncle because his late sister, Anastasia, was Silver's mother so his family name is definitely not "Sablinova."
As for Anna, Silver is not her aunt since Silver never had any siblings. However, Silver's father, Ernst, had a twin brother, Fritz, who was the father of one of Anna's now-deceased parents. This makes Anna and Silver first cousins, once removed. And since it has never been revealed if it was Anna's father or her mother who was Fritz's child, that means that there's a good chance that Anna's surname may not be "Sablinova" either.
Posted by: Don Campbell | March 12, 2016 12:31 PM
Thanks, Don. The MCP lists Morty as Sablinova, which is what i was following, and when Michael alerted me that Anna appears again, i googled her and found people (e.g. the Marvel Appendix) giving her Sablinova as a last name. I really hate just tagging people who only have a first name and i hate tags like "Anna (Silver Sable's first cousin once removed)" even more, so i'm going to leave Anna's tag. But i'll change Morty Sablinova to "Uncle Morty".
Posted by: fnord12 | March 12, 2016 12:45 PM
Fair enough. Of course, it doesn't help when the Marvel Appendix lists Anna as Fritz Sablinova's daughter instead of as his granddaughter, as she should be listed. I guess the person who wrote that profile misinterpreted what Anna said about how Fritz "disappeared when (her) parents were killed."
Posted by: Don Campbell | March 12, 2016 2:49 PM
Holmes and Yoyo is a reference to an old, unsuccessful 70s cop series about a detective partnered with a robot police officer. I remember watching it and think it was meant to be funny.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 12, 2017 3:02 PM
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