Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Howling Commandos Of S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 - Marvel Comics

HOWLING COMMANDOS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. No. 2, January 2016
Enjoyably similar to an episode of Chris Carter’s Nineties science fiction horror drama television series “The X-Files”, Issue Two of “The Howling Commandos Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” predominantly concentrates upon the exploits of just Commander Duggan, Manphibian and Vampire By Night as they search for a missing commuter train deep within “the tunnels beneath New York City”, rather than the espionage agency’s entire team designed to deal with the “stranger aspects of homeland protection”. Such a focused story-telling technique doubtless frustrated those 20,498 readers anticipating an appearance in "Ghost Train" by Man-Thing, Hit-Monkey or Teen Abomination, but does understandably allow Frank J. Barbiere a bit more space within the storyline with which to develop the lesser known character of Nina Price, as well as the super-strong widowed extra-terrestrial accompanying her.

Indeed a good deal of this twenty-page periodical’s engaging charm stems from its narrative containing some fascinating exposition surrounding Manphibian’s secondary role within the squad as a hi-tech weapons designer, and the female Lycanthrope’s ability to project her mind into others “touched by the supernatural” following “another darkness” transforming the operative into a vampire. These insights, sprinkled throughout the American’s author’s sinister subway infestation by “the spirits of the Ancient Ones!” genuinely helps maintain interest, and even allows for the occasional ‘belly laugh’, such as when the grizzled “Dum Dum” is startled by a surviving train passenger having just fended off an Egyptian apparition attack: “Perhaps after you’re done being scared witless, we can free them?”

Barbiere’s script is equally as strong in advancing matters within the mysterious Area 13, most notably the monstrous agents’ “enigmatic leader” Paul Kraye and his questionable motivation for monitoring the “horrors” in his charge. Just why the ‘good’ Doctor has a bed-ridden comatose Dracula secretly locked up deep within the bowels of S.T.A.K.E. HQ is just one of several intrigues the “writer from Brooklyn” tantalisingly teases his audience with, and, along with Duggan’s “hush-hush” ‘extraction’ of Nadeen Hassan in order to “assess any extranormal threats” the young girl may possess, proves an extraordinarily persuasive hook for any casual bibliophile to keep the title on their Pull List.

Suitably colourful and dynamic, though suspiciously weak when illustrating the more sedentary conversationally-lead panels, Brent Schoonover’s pencilling for this comic book is enticingly eye-catching. Admittedly some of the South Beloit-born artist’s panels depicting Kraye and Captain Reyna talking are somewhat underwhelming, as is his work surrounding Nina’s mental confrontation with Nadeen. But there is no doubt that “the stylin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ n’ dealin’, Midwestern based” freelancer’s drawings of the Ancient Egyptian ghosts battling a gun-toting “Dum Dum” and Manphibian are worth the cover price of this magazine alone.
Writer: Frank J. Barbiere, Art: Brent Schoonover, and Color Art: Nick Filardi

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