Overview

Force 51 #1

Review

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Force 51 #1

Credits

  • Words: Shawn Lewis
  • Art: Pietro
  • Inks: Pietro
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Aug 23, 2006

The military unleashes a new super-team, the likes of which the world has never before seen. Their mission: to combat the supernatural threat of Nazi occultism!

Dakuwaka’s new series takes place in a mythical elsewhen, a world wherein the Allies may have won the Second World War, but the Axis have yet to officially surrender! Japanese submarines fill the seas; Nazi eugenics and supernatural experiments continue unabated, in hopes of finding some key power to topple the new world order and subvert all nations back to Third Reich tyranny. Enter: an immortal ninja, a vampire, the president’s personal maid, a super-strong surfer, twin element manipulators, and a mysterious prognosticator – together, they are Force 51!

Right from the start, Force 51 offers up a bushel of well-loved, old-school concepts, weaving together fan-favorite subjects such as Nazis, the occult, and militaristic superhuman commando teams, yet stirring them into a unique base stock and winding up with a relatively original soup. Everything you would expect (and want) to see is crammed into this opening chapter – the gung-ho, patriotic, and unswerving leader (a la Nick Fury), martial arts, monsters, super powers, and even an on-high boss eerily reminiscent of the DCU’s Director Bones. Still, while the pieces contain nary a novel shape amongst them, all primarily postmodern in selection, the puzzle they create is an enthrallingly eccentric one, fresh and loaded with promise.

Writer Shawn Lewis dexterously handles the heady stew of characters and concepts, juggling introductions, explanations, and pulling them together into a surprisingly self-contained first adventure. As soon as the team is assembled, reports come in of strange, violent activity going on at an old "Black Reich" testing facility. Force 51 is swiftly sent to investigate, and from there on in the tension is high, the action grand, and the enemy a satisfyingly thorny challenge to overcome.

The pacing of Lewis’ script is oftentimes imperfect, a handful of moments clumsily executed and ineffective. For example, one of my favorite characters is quickly waylaid and consequently laid up, this seemingly done so that the transport helicopter which flew the team in could then fly the man out. This leaves the rest of the team stranded at the facility, a move I assume was made to increase the sense of danger and reader apprehension. Unfortunately, the team – being military and on a mission – would theoretically never leave without the mission being complete, not realistically, and so instead of a moment of honestly heightened tension, precious pages were wasted, we lose one of the most interesting characters for the remainder of the issue, and both detractions were enacted to support a classic story set-up that wasn’t in the least bit necessary or terribly effective. There are a handful of additional sequences to this result, offering little more than off-tempo story lag time and leaving too little space for better character and action development. Yet for all of this, the book still clocks in at 32 pages of story and art – plenty of space for a whirlwind battle and a hefty dose of power presentation and example; most of the characters are granted a proper page count to bask in the spotlight.

Even more enchanting than the plot, artist Pietro’s fabulous blend of gothic and superhero nuance easily steals the show. His overarching style is highly redolent of Troy Nixey and Ted Naifeh, though his figures and panel layouts are staunchly structured in the realm of the modern action-adventure, spandex hero book. In Force 51, the artist is fully allowed to shine, with a cavalcade of differing characters, ranging from the undead and immoral to the perky and patriotic; even more fantabulous are Pietro’s occult monstrosities, which are superbly freakish and terrifying, designed and drawn with visible ferocity and lethality.

Force 51 is not yet the stellar commodity that Dakuwaka’s lynchpin title Helios is, but it certainly retains the potential to become so. It’s a fabulous concept, and seems driven by a pair of sincerely talented creators. Lewis isn’t at the top of his game as of yet, but given time, he may develop into a talent worthy of indy cult status (his dialogue is superb, and once again I’ll go ahead and stress how marvelous the basic plot and ideas are). With an artist as distinctive and attention worthy as Pietro in his corner, too, I expect that Dakuwaka will soon have two titles of indy hit celebrity on their hands.

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