Force Works 2020 #1
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Art by Juanan Ramirez and Federico Blee
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Matthew Rosenberg assembles a new team in the by-the-numbers Force Works 2020 #1. Smarting from a recent defeat at the hands of the new factions of rogue AI popping up, War Machine is tasked with a whole new Force Works roster, one brought together with a fun, disconnected approach that sidesteps pointless teambuilding scenes. But while the team has an instant friction, there isn’t much of a drive beyond that which is further truncated by the issue’s largely absent connective tissue to the ongoing 2020 event. Juanan Ramirez and Federico Blee do what they can to add a pop to the proceedings with expressive characters and a few splashy action sequences focused around War Machine, Quake, and U.S. Agent respectfully. But as far as first issues go, Force Works 2020 #1 kind of just feels like more of the same.
We open on the “original” Force Works in action. War Machine, Solo, and Gauntlet are all on the job, hunting down a pocket of robot terrorists in New Jersey that are planning to attack the Supreme Court. Force Works stops them before they can, but at great cost. The robots, using a sort of child modeled decoy bomb, take out Solo and Gauntlet, leaving Rhodey to take the brunt of the fallout at the hands of Maria Hill. This opening has a real urgency and gets into interesting aspects of the rogue AI’s villainy that I think is missing from the main event title.
But from there our lead switches from Rhodey to Quake as Force Works is sent to recover another Force Works asset thought lost as their theatre of operations was compromised by a sudden nuclear explosion. There isn’t a ton of set up for this development, nor any real easing into the change in lead so it all reads a bit jarring.
Further hobbling the debut is the truncated pace of it all. Though the opening provides some texture for Rhodey as bloodied Force Works field leader, the back half of the issue moves too quickly for Rosenberg to gain any real purchase with the rest of the cast or find a way to fully connect the tie-in to the main event. He finds a bit of a charm with Quake and Mockingbird, but characters like U.S. Agent and War Machine in this section come across boorish and hard bitten. The tension is there, but there is nothing to really hang it on just yet.
Thankfully art team Juanan Ramirez and Federico Blee bring some pep to this debut issue. Armed with a few burly set pieces, like the opening anti-robot-terror raid and the new team’s explosive first meeting, Ramirez and Blee bring a real muscle to Force Works 2020. The opening set piece in particular has a certain strength. Operating at first as a dynamic display of paramilitary superheroics, the sequence lulls readers into a false sense of security as the sortie is over before it can start, only to then literally explode violently in the face of War Machine’s allies in a voluminous display of yellows and reds. The “teambuilding” scene however is a bit more in the standard mold of superhero action, but the pair add a real drive to it. Mostly focused on the headstrong attacks of John Walker, Blee and Ramirez toss him around the panels, holding the line against some henchmen until the rest of his team can fall in and help him out.
But fun artwork isn’t enough to make Force Works 2020 anything more than just another skippable tie-in. Unsupported by the kind of canny concept or wry tonality of his usual work, Matthew Rosenberg’s charm fizzles a bit here. It’s a shame considering his past work on team books and specifically with Quake. Even with the surprisingly textured artwork of Juanan Ramirez and Federico Blee there isn’t enough to make Force Works 2020 #1 a highlight of the 2020 checklist.