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Underrated: Jack Staff: Soldiers

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Jack Staff: Soldiers


I find I have an affinity to superheroes wearing the Union Jack, probably because one of the first comics I picked up was Marvel’s Union Jack, the three issue miniseries from the late 90’s where the titular character faced off against a legion of vampires, becoming one of my favourite characters in the process.

Since then I’ve always been drawn to heroes wearing the British flag, and so when I did a bit of research on other flag wearing heroes for a very early edition of this column, I came across Jack Staff. Britain’s Greatest Superhero was conceived from a Paul Grist script that was rejected as a Union Jack concept, and found new life as Jack Staff. Written and drawn by Grist, with Phil Elliott providing the colours, Soldiers is the second volume published by Image comics, and collects the first five issues of the Image comic series (the first volume contained the pre-Image stuff).

The story within the book takes place concurrently in two time periods over the course of twenty years – quite how Jack Staff doesn’t seem to age isn’t exactly explained, but then it doesn’t need to be. Grist has written the comics in an anthology-like style as multiple characters are used for focal points with each of the smaller stories telling a smaller piece of the whole. As a graphic novel, this works wonderfully.

Because the events of the story are contained to Castletown, there’s never a world ending threat to contend with, and so the threat level seems more credible given the smaller scale of the book’s events (and given Jack Staff’s ambiguous power set, not quite knowing what he can do is half the fun of watching the shit hit the fan).

Jack Staff: Soldiers is a lot of fun. There’s an old school feel to the heroics in this story, with Grist hinting that the characters are part of a much larger whole as this book scratches the surface of Jack Staff’s world. Despite being listed as the second volume, it’s an excellent point for folks to jump on board, and if you’re anything like me then you’ll be hunting out the other three volumes that Image have published.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Preview: The Union #5 (of 5)

The Union #5 (of 5)

(W) Paul Grist (A/CA) Andrea Di Vito
Rated T+
In Shops: May 05, 2021
SRP: $3.99

THE DRAMATIC FINALE!
• Doc Croc has defeated Union Jack and the team!
• But can this truly be the end of the line for our new heroes?
• Or can they receive one last push to pull it together?

The Union #5 (of 5)

Preview: The Union #4 (of 5)

The Union #4 (of 5)

(W) Paul Grist (A) Andrea Di Vito (CA) R. B. Silva
Rated T+
In Shops: Mar 31, 2021
SRP: $3.99

Caught in the cries of the Choir!
• With their sonic-powered teammate in trouble, Union Jack and the team must rescue the Choir before it’s too late!
• But what the Union finds out about the Choir may be too much even for them!
• Plus, meet the team’s newest recruit…Bulldog!

The Union #4 (of 5)

Explore More of the World of Heroes Reborn in June

The expansive tapestry that makes up the world of Heroes Reborn continues to be revealed! Jason Aaron and Ed McGuiness’ incredible new take on the Marvel Universe where the Avengers never assembled and the Squadron Supreme took their place as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes starts in May. But that’s only the beginning. On sale in June, this unpredictable story marches to its startling climax in Heroes Reborn #5-7 as the history and future of this new world is unveiled. The issues feature covers by Leinil Francis Yu.

In Heroes Reborn #5, witness a riot at the Ravencroft Asylum! Nighthawk must descend alone into a realm of madness, surrounded by the most deranged members of his notorious rogues’ gallery, including his archenemy, the maniacal Goblin. Featuring additional art by R.M. Guera.

Heroes Reborn #6 will turn the spotlight on the fabled daughter of Utopia Isle known as Power Princess. She’s defeated the All-Gog, Gorr the God Butcher and the King in Black, but now she must venture into the ruins of Asgard, where something unexplained is stirring in the graveyard of the gods. It features additional art by Erica D’Urso.

And the matchup you’ve been waiting for arrives in Heroes Reborn #7! Together they ended the Kree/Skrull war, defeated Dr. Doom in his Secret War, and even endured their own civil war between Hyperion and Nighthawk, but now the Squadron Supreme of America faces their greatest challenge yet: a mysterious new group of troublemakers called the Avengers. Aaron Kuder provides additional art.

June will also bring a series of new Heroes Reborn one-shots from all-star creative teams!

This is the Squadron’s world, and the age of vigilantes is over. Police Commissioner Luke Cage has one job: Find the scum and eliminate them – before ambition takes them beyond the city streets. Backed by the Squadron Supreme, Commissioner Cage takes care of criminals who’ve escaped justice in Heroes Reborn: American Knights by writer Paul Grist and artist Christopher Allen. Chris Sprouse provides the cover.

Meet Nightbird in Heroes Reborn: Night-Gwen by writer Vita Ayala and artist Farid Karami. By day, Dr. Gwendolyn Stacy is Ravencroft Asylum’s leading psychiatrist. But by night, she dons the guise of the vigilante known as Nightbird! But how did this happen? Why did this happen? And what does Kyle Richmond, the Nighthawk, have to do with it? It features a cover by David Nakayama.

Writer Tim Seeley and artist Dan Jurgens bring you a tale from the Squadron’s past in Heroes Reborn: Marvel Double Action! Years ago, Nighthawk and his trusted partner, the Falcon, patrolled the streets of Washington, DC, from the vile criminals that lurked in the dark. But that all changed one fateful night… Re-presenting for the first time ever: the Night Sam Wilson Died! With a cover by Dave Johnson.

Elektra leads a team of the world’s deadliest heroes and villains in Heroes Reborn: Squadron Savage written by Ethan Sacks and drawn by Luca Pizzari! There are some threats that require a more savage approach than the Squadron Supreme of America can offer. For those missions, the Department of Defense has put together a team consisting of Elektra, the Punisher, Crossbones, Cloak and the enigmatic new character, Murder Hornet. The cover is by Stephen Segovia.

Finally, the Squadron Supreme protects and defends the interests of America but where does that leave a country like Canada? Who will stand up and protect them from the supremacy of the Squadron? Meet Weapon X & Final Flight by Ed Brisson and artist Roland Boschi. They’re the best there is at what they do! Featuring a cover by Tony Daniel.

See all the covers now and stay tuned for even more exciting Heroes Reborn news coming your way, including the reveal of the epic double-sized finale issue!

Preview: The Union #3 (of 5)

The Union #3 (of 5)

(W) Paul Grist (A) Andrea Di Vito (CA) R. B. Silva
Rated T+
In Shops: Feb 24, 2021
SRP: $3.99

KELPIE GOES ROGUE!
• In the wake of the disastrous Knull invasion, Kelpie takes drastic action…
• …but when her choices land her in hot water, only Union Jack will be able to save her!

The Union #3 (of 5)

Preview: The Union #2 (of 5)

The Union #2 (of 5)

(W) Paul Grist (A) Andrea Di Vito (CA) Paco Medina
Rated T+
In Shops: Jan 13, 2021
SRP: $3.99

• The Union must battle for their lives (and each other) as the invasion crescendos!
• Thrust unto the global stage, will they be able to prove themselves as a team or will they crumble as the world watches?
• Plus, a devastating blow to the fledgling team rocks them to their very core!

The Union #2 (of 5)

Review: The Union #1 is a Half-Baked Attempt at Both a new superhero Team and an Event Tie-In

The Union #1

I was familiar with Paul Grist’s work from his work with Grant Morrison on the underrated (And, at the time, highly controversial) 1989 British indie comic St. Swithin’s Day where a disaffected youngster sets out to assassinate Margaret Thatcher. With the exception of the first page that is both written and drawn by Grist in a cheeky cartoonish style, The Union #1 lacks this book’s satirical edge and dark humor and introduces a fairly generic team of UK-themed superheroes to fight some fairly generic symbiote types connected to the King in Black crossover. The visuals from Andrea Di Vito, Drew Geraci, Le Beau Underwood, and Nolan Woodard are decent and have some decent energy any of The Union members use their abilities like Kelpie masquerading as a puddle in a training session against British soldiers. I also liked the recycled Phonogram: Rue Britannia plot point though.

I’m a big Anglophile and was really looking forward to a new team of British Marvel heroes in The Union #1, but boy, was I disappointed. There are the seeds of some good ideas in the book with Grist and Di Vito establishing from the get-go that the team is a big media stunt complete with making sure that England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland are each represented by a team member. They also establish a media pecking order with everyone wanting to speak to Britannia, and Union Jack, who has appeared in comics for the past four decades and even had his own series several times, getting out and out shooed by the breakfast TV host parodies, Phil and Suzanne. It’s kind of funny because Union Jack is really the only character in the book with any kind of personality even if his narrative captions are pretty basic commentary on being a hero for a long time (Yay sliding timelines!) and the legacy of British imperialism. The other team members, Snakes, Kelpie, and The Choir also get to showcase their unique powers and be generally sassy towards their government handlers. This sounds like a superhero book, I could get into, like Justice League International with a UK flavor.

However, character development and the dynamic between The Union, the British government, and corporate sponsor Steve Darwin is all thrown aside for an editorially mandated King in Black crossover that will last all five issues of the miniseries. Paul Grist and Andrea Di Vito really get into generic superhero team-up beats complete with hapless bystanders falling under some form of mind ,er, symbiote control and a telegraphed taking out of a main character before you have a chance to really get to know them (Again, think Phonogram.). There’s also the ol’ team rallying together in a big team pose instead of a cliffhanger that makes me want to pick up the second issue. (I will because I’m a softie for British superheroes, and with his reputation, Grist deserves another chance.)

As I mentioned earlier, Andrea Di Vito, Drew Geraci, LeBeau Underwood, and Nolan Woodard’s art is probably the less egregious part of The Union #1. For example, Woodard uses deep blacks for the symbiotes against the cloyingly bright palette of the Somerset to show how silly all the media prattle seems against a real threat. In the same scene, Di Vito, Geraci, and Underwood channel medieval compositions when Britannia goes against a symbiote dragon while quipping about St. George not actually being British, which is a nice bit of satire about the emptiness and historical inaccuracy of nationalist symbolism from Paul Grist. If only the rest of the comic could have synthesized wit and action like these pages. However, I didn’t have many complaints about the art. It’s easy to follow, and each team member has a distinct design and power set even if their personalities aren’t as fleshed out yet.

Paul Grist, Andrea Di Vito, Drew Geraci, LeBeau Underwood, and Nolan Woodard introduce a new British superhero team in The Union #1, but the novelty of new characters (and the return of an old one) is soon overwhelmed by one-dimensional characterization, predictable plot beats, and the burden of having to be an origin story and event tie-in. Also, Grist’s script lacks the bite of his U.K. indie work even though he gets a couple of licks in. I’m really curious to see how much of his original vision was “editorialized” out.

Story: Paul Grist Pencils: Andrea Di Vito with Paul Grist
Inks: Drew Geraci, LeBeau Underwood with Paul Grist
Colors: Nolan Woodard Letters: Travis Lanham
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXology – Amazon – Kindle – Zeus Comics

Review: The Union #1

The Union #1

I read The Union #1 before King in Black #1 which actually helped the experience in some ways. Focused on a new team bringing together heroes from around the United Kingdom, the story is an introduction as it dives directly into an event tie-in.

Written by Paul Grist, The Union #1 is both good and bad. As far as an introduction to the team and their goal, there’s things that work. The issue revolves a lot around the team being introduced to the nation as an example of its unity. The use of the media and morning television smells of a realism and interesting aspect. The team is being introduced to the nation as well as to the reader. But, it also shows that the team is as much as public relations move as it is one of national security. It forces the reader to question why members have been chosen and if it’s due to their abilities or because they fit some aspect the PR team deemed important.

There’s a lot there to build off of as it shows some cracks already in the team and you wonder how it’ll play to the actual reality Britain and the region is going through. That’s touched upon but not really enough. That’s part of the bad of the issue as well. It touches upon reality and uses it to some extent but it mostly is just a line or two instead of a real discussion.

What really works is the tie-in to King in Black. The team is unaware as to what’s going to happen and if read before the main event issue (also out this week) it acts as a greater surprise to the reader. Like them, we’re surprised at the event unfolding before them and us. Reading the two issues in the reverse order, that surprise and sense of “what the hell” is lost. We the reader are no longer surprised, we have knowledge the comic characters don’t.

The art by Grist and Andrea Di Vito is pretty good. There’s a nice focus on the characters and their interactions that emphasizes the team dynamics. It doesn’t go over the top with the action but still delivers some solid designs and use of panels. Drew Geraci, Le Beau Underwood, and Grist provide the ink while Nolan Woodard handle colors. As the story progresses and the attack begins the art and color shift a bit to better show off the darkness coming. It never fully falls into darkness though and sticks to its lighter visuals.

The Union #1 is a rare debut tie-in that works really well. The issue plays off the attack quite well while building up an interesting dynamic for the team. The building blocks are here for what could potentially be a very entertaining story. It’s just a question to see what it does with the seeds its sown.

Story: Paul Grist Art: Andrea Di Vito, Paul Grist
Ink: Drew Geraci, Le Beau Underwood, Paul Grist Color: Nolan Woodard Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleZeus Comics

Hellboy Universe: The Secret Histories Collects Three Stories in Hardcover

Fans of the Hellboy universe know that Rasputin is the man responsible for bringing Hellboy to Earth, but when did the mad monk find his calling to bring about Ragna Rok? Following his iconic appearance in Hellboy: The Conqueror Worm, how did the mysterious Visitor stay hidden on Earth for so long? Where did the legendary Sledgehammer armor really come from? Hellboy Universe: The Secret Histories collects in hardcover for the first time three acclaimed stories that shed new light on the hidden corners of the Hellboy universe: Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon, Sledgehammer 44, and The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed.

Dark Horse Books will release Hellboy Universe: The Secret Histories in the summer of 2021, featuring an all-new cover by legendary creator Mike Mignola and award-winning colorist Dave Stewart and 420 pages of stories by John Arcudi, Chris Roberson, Laurence Campbell, Christopher Mitten, Dave Stewart, and others.

Hellboy Universe: The Secret Histories will be available in comic stores on June 2nd, 2021 and in bookstores on June 15th, 2021 for $39.99.

Hellboy Universe: The Secret Histories
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