Issue(s): Warheads #1, Warheads #2, Warheads #3
Writer Nick Vince had previously acted in Clive Barker movies (and it's worth noting that Marvel had a publishing relationship with Barker at this time, so Vince may have come with a recommendation from Barker).
This is the first of the truly new Marvel UK books that was part of the UK offices' 1992 expansion. A Death's Head II mini-series was published prior to this, but it of course had its roots in the original Death's Head series. The series is about a group of wormhole-jumping, often time-traveling, mercenaries that work for a corporation called Mys-Tech. The broad group of mercenaries are called the Warheads. The ones that we'll specifically be focusing on are called Kether Troop. There are other troops (e.g. Gebu Troop) that we hear mention of.
Mys-Tech discovered a series of wormholes "ten years ago", and they send the mercs to various points in time to acquire items of interest. The "ten years" thing is kind of interesting, because if it is meant to be 10 years from 1992, and i think it is, it means they were already operating in realtime in the time period that we first see Kether Troop being sent to. Which is the X-Men's 1988 Australian base.
Here is our team, although three of these individuals will die on this mission.
You'll notice that their leader, Colonel Liger, has a scarred face. We'll learn the origin of that in this issue. Liger is also aware that he's going to lose three of his troops, but he's "trapped... by fate" and unable to do anything about it.
Wolverine is the only X-Man home at the moment. "Fans" of Wolverine/Punisher: Damaging Evidence will recognize Erskine's, er, unique version of Wolvie.
The Warheads spread out and Wolverine hunts them down one by one.
Note that the Warheads prefer missions into the future, because they aren't allowed to loot when they go into the past, for fear of disrupting the timeline.
Liger and his psychic, Misha, are able to download data off of the X-Men/Reaver's computer system. Liger then calls out to Wolverine, asking to talk. We don't get to see that conversation, but when Liger gets back to the present, we get a flashback taking place in 1990 in Madripoor. In the flashback, Wolverine approaches the 1990, unscarred version Liger, and beats the crap out of him and uses his claws on his face, all so that Liger will know about the events that his future self will go through in 1988.
So that's how Liger got his scar. I'm not sure why this was necessary, though.
The Mys-Tech accountant, Mr. Grant, isn't too concerned about the units that died on the mission, and just assign some units from other troops to replace them.
A second story, also untitled, begins without warning midway through the first issue. It has the Warheads in the Amazon rainforest, about to get sent on another mission by a Mys-Tech wizard named Master Key.
The story is really confusing, jumping between flashback and present day with little warning.
But at least we get an introduction to some of the characters. Sort of. It's from the perspective of a new Warhead named Leona McBride.
This mission has the Warheads dealing with demons. This time they don't travel backwards or forwards in time; they've just gone to another dimension.
McBride gets trapped during the teleportation and winds up in some kind of Limbo, but manages to will herself out of it.
Erskine's art is just a goddamn mess.
McBride has to kill another Warhead, Johnny Heaven, during the mission because he was turned into a demon. This will be a source of guilt for her.
Misha is potentially interesting, but she's the only character that i can recognize without really trying. She's helping one of the other Warheads deal with the demons' mind-attacks in this scene. Her "Voice" is actually a separate character but that's the plot of a future story (you can scan the Characters Appearing for a spoiler, ofc).
It's unclear what the Warheads acquired in the demon dimension, but they manage to get out.
Misha's powers originally don't include precognition, but when the Warheads get back from the demon mission, her voice tells her that she has that, too, and warns her that SHIELD is preparing an attack on Mys-Tech's hidden base in the Museum of Pagan Antiquities in London. The SHIELD agents would never be recognized as such by readers. They're led by a mercenary ninja called Bad Hand! He leads the SHIELD agents through the sewers under the museum, where they find the remains of some Mys-Tech employees.
And then they go up into Mys-Tech's building, where the Warheads are engaged in a training exercise. Misha hasn't told the others about her vision, so the other Warheads think the ninjas are just part of a training sequence.
Misha is able to drive Bad Hand off.
But Bad Hand is able to escape with a Mys-Tech battle gauntlet, although the other two SHIELD agents die. Note that Bad Hand's skin has been "mostly replaced by Kevlar".
Misha's precog powers are brought to the attention of Mys-Tech after this incident. They are pleased with her new ability, but she's not so sure.
The second story in issue #2 starts with Mys-Tech scientists working with a creature that was brought back from a Warhead mission. But despite being adorable, it spits deadly acid.
The bunny makes its way to the inner sanctum of Rathcoole, Mys-Tech's director.
We learned this in more detail in the Hell's Angel series, but Mys-Tech have gained their status, and immortality, thanks to a deal with Mephisto. And they're now trying to escape from Mephisto's deal.
McBride is trying to catch the bunny to save Rathcoole, but that's not necessary. Here's what happens when the Mys-Tech board members get threatened.
In the end of this short story, we see a shadow that originally possessed McBride come out of her and possess Mr. Grant.
The final issue has a full-length story. Nick Fury has asked Tony Stark to look at the glove that Bad Hand acquired.
Fury is apparently working for SHIELD these days, according to the footnote above.
So Iron Man heads to the launch site for the next Warheads mission, and uses his image inducer to replace one of the troops, a guy named Grierson (Grierson is a temp replacement because some of the other characters were injured in the fight with Bad Hand, so Iron Man is not posing as one of the major characters).
According to Wikipedia, the guest appearances in the Marvel UK books were designed to be cut out:
Neary instituted a deliberate policy to feature Marvel US guest-stars in the Marvel UK stories. However, they would only be featured on eleven pages, and these pages were designed to be able to cut from the main story; the eleven pages without the guest-star were run in Overkill [a UK anthology title]. This policy was dropped after market research showed people expected to see superheroes in Marvel ("that included watching a group of teenagers rip Overkill apart from behind a two way mirror", according to Freeman).
This Iron Man story was apparently written before the policy was dropped, because you can definitely skip the Iron Man pages. The fact that Iron Man uses an image inducer to look like Grierson makes it all the easier; Grierson would really just be Grierson for readers of the UK anthology.
For this jump, the Warheads wind up in outer space, at the site of a derelict spacecraft. They fight some weird lifeforms.
Iron Man/Grierson gets separated from the majority of the group pretty quickly. The others find a group of cocoons, with bodies in cryogenic storage. But they keep getting attacked by the strange life forms, which evolve to look something like the Warheads that they've absorbed.
Iron Man winds up meeting up with Misha.
Note that he's hoping to find something on this ship that will cure his current (long-term) ailments. He also recognizes that the Mys-Tech weaponry is more magic than science.
The other Warhead that Misha is with gets eaten, so it's just Misha with Iron Man. She says that her Voice tells her to work with him today. "Tomorrow maybe not". And she says that the other Warheads will kill him if they see him. They find the brain of the ship's defenses.
Note that Iron Man has an experimental psi-shield based on Shi'ar technology. But he "picked it up a while ago".
To convince the brain to not attack the Warheads, Iron Man has to turn back into Grierson, which conveniently allows him to appear on the remaining pages.
There is a nod to the fact that Grierson is Iron Man on one of the the UK-only pages.
That attack on Grierson in the end provides a secondary explanation for Grierson not having memories when they get back. If you haven't seen the page of Iron Man knocking him out, then Grierson is just woozy from getting hit at the end.
At the very end, Iron Man tells Nick Fury that whatever else the Warheads are, they are totally awesome.
The most amazing thing about this series to me is that it doesn't even seem to want me to care about the characters. Iron Man gets better characterization and focus than anyone else in issue #3, even though his appearance was designed to be expendable. As i noted above, Misha seemed like she might turn out to be interesting. The "Cherubs" are weird enough to be amusing, but they don't get a lot of page time (but they will barely appear again). Leona McBride seems to be meant to be our point of view character, but she doesn't help make the book more accessible. The other characters are blank slates as far as i'm concerned.
There seems to be another problem with the format beyond the Trimmable Iron Man that i'm hoping gets settled. The first story is half an issue. Then there's a story that runs halfway through issue #1 and halfway through issue #2, and then a random little story filling the end of issue #2. I guess this might make sense for the anthology that this book wound up in for the UK, but it's a weird stuttering way to deliver stories in US comics. But it also feels like it's taken as a given that we care about these characters, so we can already get to the task of picking out one of them (e.g. McBride in the bunny story) and giving them a random adventure. There's no introduction to the character, or any character work.
There's a basic idea here - expendable mercenaries working for an evil corporation - that could be pretty cool. I like the idea that some of the Warheads don't make it back from the missions, and that new characters are constantly getting swapped in. But i think it would have been much much better to introduce a core team and get us to know and like them.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: A reminder that i don't count the locals in time travel stories (hence no tag for Wolverine). Regarding Iron Man's appearance, there is a reference to Iron Man's ailments, but it's nonspecific and his ailments have been going on for a long time. There are also references to two other Marvel UK books. The Hell's Angel reference may not be a placement consideration; the Un-Earth Project was already in effect by the time of that first issue, so the reference is really just more of a way of telling us where to look for info, not a placement consideration. The Motormouth reference, on the other hand, is definitive, so Motormouth #3 should take place soon after this (note that the Reference is about something that is going to happen). Nick Fury seems to be running SHIELD, but it's not definitive.
Bad Hand seems to be called Badhand more frequently when future appearances are taken into account, so that's how i've tagged him. Col Liger's gun will eventually gain sentience and take the name Clementine.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAudit, Badhand, Blackheart, Brendan Rathcoole, Clementine, Gregory (Warheads), Iron Man, Leona McBride, Master Key, Misha (Warheads), Mr. Grant, Nick Fury, Perez (Warheads), Stacy Arnheim, Tigon Liger, War Machine
Fnord, I'm confused- why are Iron Man and Tony Stark appearing separately in the conference with Fury? Nick knows Tony's ID at this point, so there would be no need for a ruse.
Posted by: Michael | February 29, 2016 11:17 PM
I actually quite like the art here, apart from a few fails (like Misha's head apparently shrinking to half its size after shooting the ninja). It's busy, but quite nice.
Stuffing in 11 pages of a guest star who can have no impact on the story at all seems like a good way to sink a series from the word go though.
Posted by: Berend | March 1, 2016 12:25 AM
I haven't read this series, but let me see if I have this right. These mercenaries attack Wolverine at the X-Men's base, and it must be a pretty brutal fight, if he kills three of them. Then their leader calls Wolvie out and says something along the lines of, "Do me a favor? I'm from the future. Track me down a couple of years from now and scar my face, exactly like you see I'm scarred, while screaming crazy stuff like three must die."
And Wolverine just goes along with it? And this whole thing accomplishes what, exactly?
Posted by: Mortificator | March 1, 2016 4:14 AM
I think the idea is that Wolverine had to do it since Liger remembered him doing it or it would screw up history.
Posted by: Michael | March 1, 2016 7:49 AM
Confusion is a perfectly natural and healthy reaction to these comics.
Stark is using his image inducer to make himself look like he's not wearing his armor (he is), while Rhodey is also wearing a suit of armor. The point is to introduce the image inducer to the audience, for when it's used later when Iron Man replaces Grierson. The technology is presented like it's something new, as if Iron Man hasn't had an image inducer since the 60s. The fact that he's able to fool Fury proves to Stark that it works.
I don't have a good explanation for the Wolverine time loop. Colonel Liger wants to try to prevent the death of his three troops, one of which, Cale, was his girlfriend. But he's also fully aware that he can't change the timeline. We don't see the conversation with Wolverine in 1988, so i don't know how Liger convinces Wolverine to do anything. But yeah, "Hey, we just stole data from your computer, but can you do me a favor? A favor that involves cutting up my younger self in two years, while shouting cryptic things?" doesn't make a lot of sense. In 1988, Liger remembers the warning as "three will die" and briefly tries to prevent it before realizing that it's futile. But Wolverine's message in 1990 is actually "three must die", which seems to be more about telling Liger to preserve the timeline than change it. So i don't have answers to your questions, Mortificator. I don't know why Wolverine goes along with it, and i don't know what it accomplishes.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 1, 2016 7:51 AM
I enjoy the art, but it's very clearly in the lineage of UK style - not just Marvel UK, but 2000AD and the like.
That said, the execution of this story (and the relaunch Marvel UK line in general) screams "Whoo hoo we get to play with all of the Marvel U's toys!" without any consideration to how it all fits together, or any greater appreciation of Marvel's approach to continuity. (Let alone editorial guidance on the matter)
Posted by: cullen | March 1, 2016 1:04 PM
The panel of "That night - Mr. Grant's bedroom" is a homage to a famous painting "The Nightmare" by Anglo-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli (1741–1825). It's missing the horse, though.
Posted by: Teemu | March 19, 2016 3:35 PM
Am I the only one who finds Misha's look to be disturbing..?
Anyway, the premise (amoral mercenaries jumping dimensions and hunting magic items) could be cool, but I gather that it wasn't properly executed here...
Posted by: Piotr W | April 29, 2016 8:14 PM
Just to ask, is EVERYTHING produced by MarvelUK unreadable crap, or is that just me? Because I still have piles of it I'm reluctant to touch. (Curse you, 25¢ box!) Recommendations welcomed.
Posted by: Dan Spector | September 4, 2016 8:09 PM
Comments are now closed.
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