Britain is a bit of a mess right now, with Brexit dividing the nation. So what better time for a new superhero team with members from all corners of our islands?
That’s the pitch for The Union, which kicks off with an animated adventure starring the Spirit of Britain, Britannia.
In the real world, we find team member Union Jack performing for breakfast TV on an island off the west coast.
Game over, we see tensions between the two sides, superheroes and soldiers.
And then, death from above.
I quite enjoyed this. That’s ‘quite’ in the British sense of, ‘a little bit’. It’s very decent. The art is great – penciller Andrea Di Vito is a confident storyteller, and his work is crisply inked by Drew Geraci and Le Beau Underwood.
And that first page drawn by writer Paul Grist is terrific, I’ve always liked his slightly wonky style.
The character designs are splendid, from the regal Britannia to the slightly sinister Choir, and that’s a rather splendid dragon. The colours by Nolan Woodard capture the tones of the UK – I believe in that island with the abandoned fort.
I like the cover by illustrator RB Silva and colourist David Curiel, despite the woeful logo and the weirdness of Britannia below the waist (it’s probably a visual metaphor).
This series could go interesting places but the first issue didn’t do the job it should. Union Jack is an established hero and it’s heavily hinted Britannia has a Jenny Sparks/Uncle Sam resurrection deal. Both get action scenes and conversations. But Kelpie, The Choir and Snakes get short shrift; the first two use their powers a little, and there are glimmers of personalities, but unless I missed something, Snakes just looms. Sure, he looks splendid, and I like that letterer Travis Lanham gives him diamond-shaped word balloons – sorry, balloon, he has four words in the entire book – but who is he?
The first issue of a series should set the tone, provide an idea of what the book will be. As noted earlier, we’re told that The Union is intended to unite the British people, courtesy of a speech from an unseen Boris Johnson. But we need to have a sense of the characters, the spotlight should be shared.
I suppose it’s a tribute to the designs that I do want to know more about the characters. I fear, though, that they’re going to be overwhelmed in this King in Black crossover that’s trailed on the cover… when this book was announced at the start of the year they were going to be tied to Empyre. Then it went into Covid limbo for awhile and the Empyre train passed by. But Marvel events are like buses, if you miss one there’ll be another along in a minute. Maybe two. Actually, The Choir looks very on-trend with her Chamber-style face scarf.
I’ve never knowingly bought a comic starring Venom or Carnage or any of that symbiote lot, but it seems the dragon here has something to do with them. I think I may wait and read the second issue of this series on Marvel Unlimited, and see if the team is interesting enough to make up for all the crossover stuff.
Perhaps I’m being too gloomy and issue two won’t be all dripping black monsters. Maybe we’ll get what I want, recognisable British folk in the world outside my window. Paul Grist is a good writer, he could certainly deliver a UK spin on contemporary Marvel, bring in some of the flavour of his Jack Staff character – think Union Jack’s sideways twin. This debut issue has a hipster financial backer, who’s apparently up to something. There’s a Minister With Special Responsibility For Super Heroes. And I like the idea that The Union are meant to be exemplars of Britishness… I hesitate to think!
There’s definite potential here. Maybe I will buy next issue.
I’d love to know what other people thought. Is it worth being part of The Union?