The world of Arcadia is being plagued with portals that pop out giant monster sharks and 50-foot killer robots. This gives some key players some things to do while others just stand around in the scene in full costume. It also may or may not have to do with the sudden appearance of a mute woman made up of star-stuff, but Nico Minoru is convinced she can rehabilitate her like any lost puppy. So She-Hulk levitates up into a portal to find a post-apocalyptic New York City.

If that summary doesn’t make a lot of sense, well, don’t blame the reporter. I know this comic is getting a lot of praise for having such a great number of female cast members, but the comic showcased this strength for the bulk of the first issue, and now I’m ready for something more… substantial as the series continues. This loose collection of things that might possibly be plot strands isn’t really doing it.

I’ve heard it said that the movie Back to the Future supposedly hit on the right formula of “20% weird,” in the sense that you can have 2 unreal/unfamiliar concepts for every 8 real and familiar ones. Now, I have no idea to which specific things might be those 2 or 8 for those films, but it’s meant also as a shorthand— don’t lose your audience by piling up too many unfamiliar things. A-Force is starting to do exactly that. There’s enough “weirdness” going on in Battleworld to begin with, thanks to Doom-as-god, shielded zombie areas, and armies of Thors, that taking too many *other* things for granted is straining the ability to buy into it. Counterparts to characters we’re seeing all over elsewhere? Dazzler’s flying now? Nico, Loki, and Ms. America Chavez all live together? Portals? Starfield children? Any one or two of these things is fine. 20%, right? And heck, with explanation or context, all of these can be fine. But we’re trying to sip a good story out of a firehouse of ideas by this point.

Some confusion is also stemming from the artwork. While beautifully depicting the characters individually, and in particular some wonderfully expressive faces, there is a breakdown of visual continuity between panels. Why, for example, present a close-up (page 3) on She-Hulk’s headset on the right, especially when Namor is already forcing himself into the panel on the left? And then there’s supposedly an impact, but the figures are already on the beach? Elsewhere (page 8), Nico is yelling at Medusa (who by the way thinks winding tendrils of hair up the Star-Baby can do something to help her speak) but appears overlapping on a panel 180-degrees from where she was standing in the previous panel, and at a completely different perspective angle than the panel she’s looking into. And how exactly does Medusa stand on a roof to wrap hair around the Sentinel head, given the angle on page 14? And then she’s down with the others after the head has fallen in the space of a panel on the next page?

And is the starry newcomer really responsible for the portals? (She remains unnamed at this point, you see.) Like the characters themselves, the readers don’t know. It’s OK if we don’t. Mysteries are fine. Some of my best friends are mysteries. But it would be more logical to assume that if some things are arriving with portals that this other strange visitor also arrived by a portal, not that she caused it. And how does She-Hulk go through the portal in the sky, anyway? Does Starlita throw her into it? Is the ribbon she gives She-Hulk truly a magic ribbon?

If I’m snarky, it’s because I care. There’s some intriguing set-up, I like She-Hulk and Nico and some others in the cast, and the art is overall lively and expressive. But when it’s not working, it’s not working, and maybe dialing things back a bit would require a smaller cast and a narrow focus. I gave the first issue a low B, but if it’s more of the same, that’s kind of a bad thing. I still think it’s slightly above average, but there needs to be some upping of game soon.  

Grade

C+

Conclusion

There’s more to be disappointed with than to be intrigued with here. There are too many mysteries at play for our attention, with not enough to give us a grounding in the first place. There seems to be a focus on certain key players, but with countless others not actively contributing, it’s diluting what could be a really important emotional connection and taking up too much space for what could really allow for more things to breathe.