Characters Appearing: Alec Dalton (Dauntless), Andre LeRoux (Dragonfly), Andy Black (Guvnor), Gog (Owen Llewelyn), Invincible (Joseph Hauer), Mandarin, Nick Fury, Sarah Wilde, Shinobi Shaw, Xantia
Super Soldiers #6-7
Issue(s): Super Soldiers #6, Super Soldiers #7
The premise that i like so much is an Enter The Dragon/Mortal Kombat storyline. Hydra is running a fighting contest for their own nefarious purposes, and various characters with their own agendas are either recruited or infiltrate the contest for their own reasons. Among those participating are: Xantia, a Savage Land warrior that has a vendetta against Hydra (particularly the organizer of the contest).
Andy Black, a slang talking Brit who is secretly (i mean, not so secretly) a mutant with powers identical to Sebastian Shaw. And whose family and neighborhood, years ago, did not give the X-Men a warm welcome.
And Andre LeRoux, a New Yorker who put himself into sleep stasis 20 years ago because there was no one worth fighting. His introductory scene is pretty great (he's just missing the goldfish in the shoes).
Andy Black aside, Hydra's tourney is supposed to be for non-powered individuals only. Without even trying you can still probably think of a dozen established Marvel characters that ought to be in the contest, but i'd argue that since Hydra is running it they know which established characters to avoid.
Meanwhile, reporter Sarah Wilde has lost her job following the events of the previous story. The Super Soldiers - Joseph Hauer, Alec Dalton, Owen Llewelyn - have gone to work for the UK government in a program modeled after X-Factor, and Hauer convinces Wilde to join them as a sort of conscience of the group, to tell Hauer when she thinks the government is using them for something immoral.
For their first official mission, Nick Fury shows up to ask them to infiltrate Hydra's tourney.
And as if things weren't awesome enough, they'll be supported by the "new SHIELD ninja unit".
This is the sort of plot that you'd think could sustain several issues. After this set-up issue, we could have had an issue or two of the Super Soldiers signing up for prequalifying bouts (instead there's just a short such scene of Dalton beating up a Van Damme lookalike in a prequalifying contest in Hong Kong at the beginning of issue #7) and then a few issues of the actual contest while the Super Soldier characters snoop around and make alliances with some of the new characters that have been introduced, all leading to a final confrontation with the Warlord. Instead that's all compressed into a single issue.
The contest is in the Savage Land, in a temple said to have been built by the Eternals. We're introduced to a few new and potentially interesting contestants, like a guy who is a master of "death-sumo" and another who is "one of the last practitioners of the ancient Northern English fighting art of Ecky Thump" (note the Goodies pin). I mean, feel free to give me a whole issue about each of those guys!
The story seems almost designed to disappoint us, with SHIELD's ninja squad being pretty boring. I mean they look kind of cool...
...but they don't do anything and barely figure into the story.
Even the rumored giant genetically engineered drug plants turn out to just be regular sized. The characters get thrown together right away and just begin a direct fight with Hydra; the tourney never gets off the ground.
Granted, there are still Hydra agents on dinosaurs, and that's not nothing.
Hydra are easily beaten and Xantia is able to kill the Warlord (for humorous/anticlimactic purposes, she opts to shoot him instead of getting involved in a swordfight). The new characters are recruited into the Super Soldiers. The twist, such as it is, is that this was all a scheme by the Mandarin and Shinobi Shaw to wipe out this Hydra operation.
The Mandarin's appearance is interesting because it's said in X-Men #20-23 that his turf was not getting divided up by the Upstarts in case he returned, which does seem to be the case here. But a Marvel UK book is a weird place to reveal that, and i don't think it has any repercussions (see the Considerations for more regarding the Mandarin's continuity). I also wonder how this Hydra operation fits into Baron Strucker's consolidation efforts, but again, getting an answer to that is probably more than i should be expecting.
Both the art and the scripting are significantly above average for Marvel UK books. And there are a lot of fun concepts here. But there just wasn't enough space to do them justice. Next issue will see a complete change in the Super Soldiers' set-up, and both Xantia and LeRoux will leave in the fall-out of that. And next issue has a Punisher guest appearance but the series is nonetheless cancelled in the middle of a storyline. So one possibility is sales were dictating a change in direction and this arc had to be cut short (and it still wasn't enough to save it). But whether it was always planned for this to be a two-issue arc or not, it's wasted potential.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Sarah Wilde has been "on the dole" for two months after losing her job after the events of the last story.
The Mandarin's appearance here is a problem. As Ben notes in the comments, the Mandarin lost his hands and went into a coma at the end of Iron Man #275, after a long storyline showing him being guided by Chen Hsu. During that time, the Mandarin was not meant to be pursuing his business interests. Iron Man #260-261 shows Chen Hsu restoring the Mandarin's memories (the implication being it was his lack of memories that caused him to become a Hong Kong crimelord), and from there they go to mainland China to wake up Fin Fang Foom and basically remain in China until Iron Man #275. When the Mandarin next appears in Iron Man #307, it shows him having woken from his coma but still recovering from having lost his hands, and then growing a pair of reptilian hands.
Arguably, then, this Mandarin appearance should get pushed back to prior to Iron Man #260-261. But those issues have Aug-Sep 90 cover dates whereas these issues were published three years later. Granted the Marvel UK books generally are behind the US continuity, but going back three whole years is a bit much. And this would cause the first Super Soldiers arc to get pushed back as well. That arc shows Spider-Woman as a member of the West Coast Avengers, placing it at least after Avengers West Coast #70-74 (May-Sep 91). The problem (well, one of several) is that Iron Man's appearance in West Coast Avengers #69 should take place after his health problems are cleared up in the story following Iron Man #275. So it's not really feasible to even push this back to sometime during Iron Man #260 and #275, i.e. even ignoring the fact that the Mandarin shouldn't be focused on this Hydra plot in this issue.
There also would be other incongruities involved in trying to push Avengers West Coast #70-74 prior to the Mandarin's defeat in Iron Man #275. For example, it would be putting this story earlier than the Gamesmaster's debut (to be clear, it's possible that the Upstarts thing had been going on already; it would just be weird to place this story before the concept was introduced). It's all possibly surmountable but it would get very convoluted and require a lot of hand-waving. So it seems better just do one big hand-wave and suggest that the Mandarin woke up from his coma and is using some sort of image inducer to hide his missing hands while he meets with Shinobi Shaw in an effort to keep up appearances and maintain his hold on his territory. And then the strain proves to be too much - hence his nonsensical vendetta against Hydra here - so he goes back to resting until Iron Man #307. This may all sound like i'm stretching - and i am - but i'll note that the MCP also place the Mandarin's appearance here between Iron Man #275 & 307.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Andy Black: I was a right 'Casual' (football hooligan) always taxing (stealing) Tachinni (Sergio Tachinni)and Pringle (golf sweaters). I guess only us Brits would understand what he was on about.
Posted by: JSfan | February 13, 2017 1:15 PM
Wish I could edit my post so I could add it to my previous post but I instantly despise Andy Black for being a Spurs fan (and probably leader of their firm).
Posted by: JSfan | February 13, 2017 1:23 PM
A bigger continuity problem with the Mandarin is that the last time he was seen, at the end of Iron Man #275, his hands had been disintegrated and he was left comatose. The next time he appears in 1995, in the lead-in to the "Hands of the Mandarin" crossover, he is finally waking up from his coma and growing a new pair of reptilian hands. So that would make it really difficult for the Mandarin to show up in this story.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 13, 2017 1:43 PM
Never heard of this, but it does sound like wasted potential. I love me a good martial arts tournament storyline.
That said, this story sure is sweary. Ponce, nonce... you could apparently get away with a lot more stuff in Marvel UK than in regular Marvel!
Posted by: Berend | February 13, 2017 5:28 PM
That Count Dante reference is pretty great! Anything that makes old comic ads canon is OK by me.
Posted by: S | February 13, 2017 7:20 PM
Too bad Rip Van Pimp didn't sleep for another 20 years - with the gentrification taking place in NYC, he would have at least seen some changes.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | February 13, 2017 7:38 PM
The story and art are indeed far above the average "Image-ized" Marvel UK book. Priest would've had a field day with Andre LeRoux! His intro sequence is brilliant.
Posted by: Clutch | February 13, 2017 7:58 PM
I'm not liking the way the writer dragged the X-Men into that flashback just to humiliate them.
Posted by: Michael | February 13, 2017 7:59 PM
Some background on Ecky-Thump, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kung_Fu_Kapers
Count me a fan of Dragonfly LaRoux as well. That is a fantastically good intro. The gold tooth is a bit much, but even so, I'd buy the guy's comic.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 13, 2017 9:15 PM
@Ben, thanks for noting the problem with the Mandarin. I considered trying to push this back before the Mandarin's defeat in Iron Man #275 (3 years!) but doing so would just introduce other problems. I've made some notes in the considerations.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 14, 2017 12:41 PM
Okay, I'm wading into territory I know nothing about here, but would moving it to after Iron Man #307 be an option?
Posted by: Berend | February 14, 2017 3:33 PM
Not sure how long he retains the lizard hands or what else might arise, but yeah that's an option when i get there.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 14, 2017 3:38 PM
@Berend: I'd honestly leave it here and just chalk up the Mandarin's appearance as a combination of fnord12's image inducer idea and a pair of robotic prosthetic in case he needs to actually handle something, it isn't something that Mandarin will do for a long-term basis but for short periods of recovery like this arc, it'll do.
Posted by: D09 | February 14, 2017 3:42 PM
Or it could be a clone, or an LMD, or a Skrull, or a Space Phantom, or his Earth-A counterpart taking a vacation on Earth-616... there are so many different possibilities!
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 14, 2017 4:10 PM
@Berend- the problem is that Shinobi references the Gamesmaster in the above panels and Shinobi quits the Upstarts in New Warriors 46. Placing Mandarin's appearances starting in Iron Man 307 before New Warriors 46 is difficult- the Warriors appear in Iron Man 302-303, New Warriors 46 takes place directly after X-Men 29, which has a February cover date (and Iron Man 307 has an August cover date), etc.
Posted by: Michael | February 14, 2017 7:58 PM
Those all work as explanations, though the Mandarin wouldn't be tagged in any of them. That's actually my suggestion for the big hand-wave, to leave this guy untagged and say he can't be the actual Mandarin. It's much more sensible for one of the many extant shape-shifters to be imitating him here than for the Mandarin to wake up from a coma, leave the village, obtain bionic hands, use a holographic disguise to appear as if he cleaned himself up, get in an out-of-character opium war with Hydra, turn off his image inducer, take off his bionic hands, go back to that remote village, and fall back into a coma, all without the people who are nursing him noticing.
@JSfan - Thanks for the translation. ;)
Posted by: Mortificator | February 14, 2017 8:26 PM
I should have put an @Ben before the first paragraph above.
Posted by: Mortificator | February 14, 2017 8:27 PM
Fnord, I see your comments that the story's rushed and doesn't work but man, every panel you choose to screencap there is pure gold. I want a regular series featuring these characters right now.
Posted by: GregT | February 16, 2017 1:36 AM
In New York, they would have refered to "flares"(UK English) as "bell-bottoms" (US English). I'm fairly sure few Americans would be aware of the term "flares".
Posted by: kveto | May 21, 2018 7:59 PM
Comments are now closed.
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