Or – “Not To Be Confused With “H.A.L.B.E.R.D.”


H.A.L.B.E.R.D., of course, is the Heuristic Algorithmic Lifeforms Built for Exploration and Rational Defenestration, a robot support group to try and stop them from throwing fleshy humans out of windows.  I believe there’s an old expression about knowing being half the battle…

S.W.O.R.D. #1


WRITER: Kieron Gillen
PENCILS: Steven Sanders
INKS: Serge LaPointe
COVER BY: John Cassaday

Previously, on S.W.O.R.D.:  Agent Abigail Brand, of the Sentient World Observation and Response Department, has been tasked with protecting Marvel Earth from invasion from beyond.  Although she was key to helping the X-Men defend the planet against Ord of the Breakworld (not to be confused with Lord Of The Rings, or Lothar Of The Hill People) those of you who were paying attention over the last couple of years may have noticed that she kinda $*&@#ed that up a little bit, what with the massive planet-scale invasion of the Skrulls.  (She was probably busy lusting after a Beany Baby at the time…  She likes ’em blue and fuzzy.)  Either way, with the big changes in the government, the dismantling of SHIELD (but, strangely, NOT S.W.O.R.D. or A.R.M.O.R.) and the various nastiness of Dark Reign, I suspect that there are some big changes ahead for the alien monitoring agency and it’s half-alien green-haired temptress of a director.  Either way, that’s a pretty striking cover, ain’t it?

Of course, the first thing anyone who opens the issue will discover is that the interior art style is completely different, falling into an odd hybrid art style somewhere between Jim Lee and Berni Wrightson.  We start in Brand’s office as a lackey runs down the itinerary for the day, and the sudden reveal that it’s Agent Henry Peter Gyrich (government stooge and basic pain innabutt from old-school issues of Avengers) and NOT Abi in the command seat.  Brand arrives and tries to throw him out, but he reveals that Norman Osborn put him in charge of things.  Brand reminds him that it’s only CO-charge, and that she’s still a factor, but Gyrich wants to know how she thinks she can defend the planet when she, herself, is half-alien.  Brand ends the interaction, and we are given some glimpses of the rest of the cast, including Hank McCoy (The Beast of the X-Men) who commutes in from Utopia in a flying car, Lockheed (Kitty Pryde’s old dragon pal) and a dragon-esque fellow named Sydren who has a strangly elongated face.  This wouldn’t bother me so much if The Beast wasn’t ALSO draw with a strangely elongated face, resmbling a cereal mascot.  A number of crisis situations simultaneously crop up, in Men In Black fashion, including the arrival of Brand’s own alien brother, Lothi.

Lothi adds to my discomfort about the art be having the same head structure as the Beast and Sydren, and as is apparently his way, he is in trouble, being tracked by the intergalactic bounty hunter known as Death’s Head.  (This is, oddly, the original Death’s Head, who I would swear was destroyed years ago during the creation of Death’s Head II, who recently appeared in ‘Captain Britan and MI:13.’ ) Big doin’s occur, as Beast, Brand and Lockheed have to save her wayward sibling (with help from a mysterious alien who  acts as Hannibal Lecter to Brand’s Clarice Starling.)  Brand adn Beast end up in Death Head’s gunsights, while back on Earth, Gyric goes before the council that oversees S.W.O.R.D., recommending that they eject ALL alien life-forms from the planet. Strangely, the issue’s main story ends here, but we’re given a backup in which Brand explains to Lockheed why she can’t find a way to save Kitty Pryde from the giant bullet that she has been trapped in since Giant Size Astonishing X-Men #1. Lockheed ends up consulting with the same mysterious incarcerated alien, and he gives him the same irritating shtick, implying that he can help Kitty, if only Lockheed will let him out of his cell…

My problems with this issue start with the first panel, with the implication of bait-and-switch tactics in the art style. The fact that three different characters, two of them representatives of two different alien races, look so similar is bothersome (though the revelation that the Beast apparently resembles the males of Brand’s alien half’s race kind of makes sense in and oddly Freudian sense.)  The breakneck pace of the issue doesn’t help with clarity, although the art does very well with spacecraft and technology and things of that nature.  All in all, there’s a lot of obvious influences in this book, from the ‘Silence of the Lambs’ riff to the teasing ‘Nick & Nora’ nature of Brand and Beast’s relationship, to Lockheed’s single-mindedness about Kitty.  Indeed, the characterzation of Lockheed as an angry hardcase may be the thing that moves this book from blah to amazing, as but there’s just too much introduced all at once, and a very nontraditional narrative in use, wherein the question that many of us would ask first about S.W.O.R.D. (‘Whatever happened with the whole Kitty Pryde thing?’) is answered in it’s own short story rather than being folded into the issue in an organic fashion.  S.W.O.R.D #1 isn’t half bad, and has enough goodwill going for it that I’m interested to see what’s in store for this series, earning 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. ~wyntermute~
    November 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm — Reply

    – Henry Gyrich bugs me. It seems that he exists _solely_ to be an antagonist, regardless of who he antagonizes, or what he’s antagonizing them about. As far as I can tell, he’s just “the bad guy” for few, if any, apparent reasons.
    – And what’s up with drawing Beast like he’s got a snout on him like Beta-Ray Bill??? That kinda took me aback for a second, though you do make a good case for it. Just that… Well, he ain’t looked like that before. (P.S., Speaking of strange art-decisions, y’all GOTSTA review this week’s Amazing Spidey so that I can vent about the art in that.)
    – Lockheed is the “Riggs” to Hank’s “Murtaugh”? That could be some kinda funny if they do it right.

  2. Crash
    November 23, 2009 at 7:56 pm — Reply

    Funny comic and intriguing idea but it feels like they were trying too hard.

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