Review: ‘The Union’ #1 Introduces Readers To A United Team For A Disunited Britain
by Olly MacNamee
‘The Union’ #1 introduces us to an all-new British-based superhero team made up of supes from across the United Kingdom. A training mission handily allows writer Paul Grist to introduce this new team one character at a time, as well as set up drama and danger that the team will be acing in the next issue. A solid first issue, but not a stellar one.
(++ WARNING: This review contains spoilers for The Union #1, out now from Marvel ++)
If you’re going to introduce an all-new all United Kingdom super hero team, then it helps to include a British creator. And that’s exactly what Marvel have done in taking on creator and cartoonist Paul Grist to script The Union #1. A man who has a sly eye and a dry humour.
Grist presents this new team’s founding as yet another PR stunt by the current Tory-led UK government. They even ask the general public to vote on the name of the team. It’s exactly the kind go thing one would expect from our pompous Prime Minister who is big on self-promotion, but small on the details, and even more miserly with the truth. It’s not for anything we are currently leading Europe in our coronavirus death toll.
But, back to the comic. I’m sure you didn’t come here for the political discourse, right?
Originally intended as an Empyre cross-over, it would seem the Cotati – who one assumes would have been the intended big bad of this debut issue – were easily replaced by the venomous hordes of the King in Black instead. But, as this is the first issue, this doesn’t really come into play until the final curtain. The majority of the book is the welcoming on stage of other various new and old comic book characters that make up this new team. A team that is made up fo superheroes from all four corners of our united island; England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Sadly, no sign of Captain Birmingham from Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain and MI13 run, though. Grist rather goes with a new batch of superheroes, more or less. Although, Union Jack should be familiar enough to Marvel fans.
It’s a straight forward enough coming together of various superpowers folk, with the odd, and subtle dig at the ‘golden age’ of Britain; empire, colonisation and the enslavement of other nations. A time many Tories seem to harken back to even now.
Whoops, there I go with the politics again.
You don’t have to a Brit to enjoy this new book, but it helps when it comes to the more subtle references to recent cultural events. But, it won’t detract from your enjoyment of this book even of you don’t get them. It makes a refreshing change being in on the joke when a good deal of the time us British comic book fans don’t always get the US references in comics.
The art by Andrea Di Vito (pencils), Drew Geraci and Le Beau Underwood (inks) is good enough, but it’s not outstanding as we bare witness to a training mission in Somerset. A handy way of introducing the team and their power set as they battle it out in a friendly enough manner to plant their flag on enemy ground. You know, like paint ball, but without the paint balls.
In Union Jack we get a very different hero; Joe Chapman, a working class lad representing Queens and country. A far cry from the aristocratic Brian Braddock, the original Captain Britain. And a refreshing change from the norm too. There’s also the personification of Britain herself in team leader, Britannia, as well as several others I won’t methodically go through. You’ll meet then for yourselves if you plan on buying a copy. But, I will mention Steve Darwin, The Union’s very own Maxwell Lord, and financial backer for this new team. I doubt he’s bankrolling them for altruistic reasons.
Oh, and as this is a comic based in the UK, there’s even a dragon! Dragons are cool.
It’s a good introduction that walls the reader through each characters, the dynamics of the team and sets up the now-changed tie-in to Marvel’s all consuming ‘King in Black’ event that also kicks off today. A solid issue, yes, but not stellar. Will this first impression and it’s British-centric setting and characters be enough for people to pick up subsequent issues, I wonder?
The Union #1 is out now from Marvel