Britannia is dead just as we were getting to know her. The King in Black’s forces are on the attack and have taken their first scalp by possessing team member Choir. The team are in hot pursuit, but it’s the internal conflict that’s the real threat in ‘The Union’ #2 from Paul Grist, Andrea De Vito and Le Beau Underwood.
UK writer Paul Grist continues to take readers on a magical mystery tour around the lesser known part of the United Kingdom with with a stop-off at coast town of Weston-super-Mare in The Union #2 as the eponymous team look to save Choir from her current possession by a symbiote. It’s a far cry from the skyline of New York City, or the dimension soup of the Negative Zone, but this issue certainly has its moments. Even if the United Kingdom Grist choses to showcase on doesn’t offer you the usual superhero backdrops. But, as someone sick of a media favouring London-centric stories – both factual and fictional – I am glad Grist is showing readers a UK not often presented abroad.
Although, I haven’t come for the scenery. Rather, I want to know more about the sudden murder of Britannia, the de facto leader of the Union. A government sanctioned superhero team that were minding their own business when the were attacked by the King in Black’s forces, currently enveloping Earth-616.
As you can imagine, a superhero team created by committee was never going to be a smooth, well-oiled machine and with the death of Britannia – who seems to have cast the same charismatic spell over the members go the Union as Captain America does with the Avengers – the team is on the brink of collapse. Leaving Union Jack in something of a pickle. And it’s this dynamic that sets it apart from other team books.
There are moments that indirectly reference such contemporary event as ‘Brexit’ – the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from Europe – but you really have to live in the UK to be aware of such inclusions.
For most readers this will be compared to other team books. If so, then some may find it lacking. New characters are always a hard sell. But, when your team is made up of mostly new characters – and British based characters at that – then I fear there may not be the uptake for this title that there could be. Comic book readers can be a conservative lot and the publishing history of British based superheroes at Marvel is filled with corpses. Beyond Chris Claremont and Alan Davis’ Excalibur (which relied in the inclusion of several American X-Men, let’s not forget) there aren’t too many long-lasting series set in these sceptr’d isles. Although, as an aside, I personally loved Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain And MI:3.
Paul Grist writes a good yarn and in just one issue has the Union fighting across Britain’s shoreline, include a moment of real internal crisis for this young team as well as nod to the duplicity of our current government. The way this unseen Prime Minster behaves is most definitely in keeping with the current habitant of No.10 Downing Street’s behaviour, that’s for sure. You don’t have to be British to get the most out of this comic, but it certainly helps the more opaque laughs land.
The real revelation or me was the dramatic development of Andrea Di Vito and Le Beau Underwood artwork. Maybe there was a large gap between issue once The Union was repurposed as a King in Black tie-in, but whatever the time-lag between the first issue and this one, Vito and Underwood’s combined pencils and inks have really levelled up.And it only goes to produce the overall reading experience for a medium that relies so much on visual quality.
While Union Jack clearly does not invoke the same sense of solidarity in his team mates as Britannia did, you can’t help but side with him. And, that’ll do it. Invested in Union Jack, if no-one else, should be enough to have any reader wanting to pick up the next issue. It certainly has me sold.
The Union #2 is out now from Marvel
You can read the review of the first issue here.