The newest branch of SHIELD, led by Dum Dum Dugan, has to face the perfidy of The Sphinx and his arcane plans. Will they be able to stop the ancient villain? Your Major Spoilers review of Howling Commandos Of SHIELD #4 awaits!
HOWLING COMMANDOS OF SHIELD #4
Writer: Frank J. Barbiere
Artist: Brent Schoonover
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Jon Moison w/ Katie Kubert
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Howling Commandos Of SHIELD: “From the desk of Dum Dum Dugan Here’s the score: S.T.A.K.E.’s latest mission (that’s S.H.I.E.L.D.’s division for Supernatural Threat Analysis for Known Extranormalities) brought me and the Howling Commandos to San Francisco’s Museum of European Culture. Unfortunately, we weren’t there for sightseeing, but to perform recon on a supernatural assault that went belly up. Turns out the monster Sphinx is gathering ancient relics, as well as mummified soldiers ready to do his bidding. Me and the Commandos got into it with some of these mummies and things ended with a boom…”
FROM BAD TO WORSE
This issue opens in media res, in the aftermath of the museum explosion last issue, with Dugan and Warwolf having barely survived, while zombie Jasper Sitwell has shielded the agent known as Hit-Monkey from the explosion. Things quickly go from bad to worse as Dum Dum checks in with STAKE command, only to find that the commanding officer would have preferred he perished in the explosion. The issue features a very shocking moment where Dugan deactivates his android form by SHOOTING HIMSELF IN THE TEMPLE, only to find that STAKE command is likewise in disarray. Their newest recruit is being tortured for information, while his own agents have been injured in the brouhaha that erupted after her powers kicked in. Anita Hill of SHIELD makes a brief appearance, pointing out that STAKE is already falling apart, and that as her personal project, she can’t let that happen. By the end of the issue, Dugan has performed a coup on his jerkhole boss, and the entire team (including Kid Abomination, the Man-Thing, Manphibian and others who are not identified in these pages, prepare to go into battle against the Sphinx and his mystical army…
ANOTHER CORRUPT AGENCY
I’m always bothered when a story begins with an agency like STAKE already falling apart, and the fact that this one has been rotten from the beginning bothers me, especially when SHIELD itself has fallen to corruption half a dozen times in the last ten years. The story moves a little too fast, as well (though that might be a side-effect of modern publishing practices) as we are seeing in issue #4 the beginnings of a battle for the control of STAKE that might have worked better after the first arc is complete and the agency is established as a going concern. Art-wise, this issue is something of a mixed bag, with some pages (like Dugan confronting the agents torturing one of his new monster friends) working very well, but the layouts and especially the facial expressions of the characters feeling somehow unfinished. It’s a real problem throughout the issue, as faces tend to be inconsistent from panel to panel, a problem in a book where the characters wear jumpsuits or uniforms that are identical.
THE BOTTOM LINE: STILL FINDING ITS LEGS
As a fan of the first ‘Howling Commandos’ series (noteworthy for its use of Groot as a hero for the first time, rather than the villainous monster he’d been previously, presaging his appearances in Guardians Of The Galaxy by a couple of years), I really want to like this series, but there’s just enough rookie mistakes (characters appearing unnamed, shifts in location and tone that don’t quite resolve themselves, as well as the vagaries of the art) to make this book feel like it’s not quite fully formed. Howling Commandos Of SHIELD #4 is an issue that has a lot of storyline to express, and a lot of characters to play with, but hasn’t quite balanced out the issues of plotting to where it all gels together, earning a disappointed-but-not-entirely-discouraged 2 out of 5 stars overall. There’s potential here, and the use of The Sphinx in this context could give him a new role in a new Marvel Universe, but this creative team still has some things to hammer out to make this series ready for a long haul…