Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Howling Commandos Of S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 - Marvel Comics

There can be little doubt that Frank J. Barbiere tried to bundle Issue Five of “Howling Commandos Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” with as much action-packed gunplay, fist-fights and magical mumbo jumbo as this twenty-page periodical could take. For whilst the Rutgers University graduate’s narrative still provides plenty of exposition regarding just who The Adversary is that has been causing the “elite black ops unit of monstrous agents” so many recent problems, as well as moments of character development such as Nadeen self-doubting her own suitability to become part of “Dum Dum” Duggan’s strike force. It does so against the dynamic backdrop of S.T.A.K.E.’s covert team defending the world against one of its “weird[est] and bizarre threats” as Anath-Na Mut storms New York City’s Grandview Museum with an assault-rifle carrying zombie army desperately searching for the Mask of Amenhotep.

Such a weird storyline must surely have bewildered this comic’s 12,281 regulars, let alone any curiously perusing bibliophiles, especially when the book begins with an overcoat-wearing Hit-Monkey nonchalantly approaching some of the Sphinx’s undead minions before blowing them away with its twin submachine guns. But so incredulous an ambush is actually just the start of an extraordinarily entertaining publication-long pitched battle. Which, whilst undoubtedly taking a “fun approach” to depicting Vampire by Night head-staking heavily-armed cadavers, Warwolf tearing away at glowing Egyptian spectral warriors, and Man-Thing tangling with a multi-tentacled Hellspawn, still manages to create an increasingly tense atmosphere as both Navid and his cosmic-powered master are revealed to be little more than pawns in a greater being’s powerplay.

Barbiere’s penmanship also manages to create some genuinely engaging moments amongst all the ‘lively’ chaos of the combat, and in doing so clearly highlights how far removed he wanted this “military book” to be from a “very cold and tactical” read. Indeed, few of this magazine’s audience could have stifled a belly laugh when the ‘high and mighty’ Sphinx is brought low by the Commando’s resident Japanese Macacque, or later not felt Duggan’s validation as Jasper Sitwell finally groans “I…mmm…Commanndoooo!” when the S.H.IE.L.D.-suited zombie starts blazing away at The Adversary’s non-corporeal form.

Disappointingly however, the energetic script does seemingly take its toll upon the breakdowns of Bren Schoonover. The Midwestern-based freelancer does an incredible job of bringing dynamic life to the majority of his panels. Yet somewhat mystifyingly seems to struggle quite abysmally when pencilling either of the Hassan twins, as well as Nina Price in her occasional humanoid form.
Writer: Frank J. Barbiere, Art: Brent Schoonover, and Color Art: Nick Filardi

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