The first issue of DC's Team 7--which wasn't issue #1, but rather issue #0--was all about introducing us to the eclectic cast of mercenaries and soldiers that would comprise Team 7. Set five years before the current events of DC's comics, the mission of Team 7 is to locate, contain, and control the growing number of metahumans popping up in the world.
Team 7 #1: "Black Diamond Probability: Mission One: Black Ops" is written by Justin Jordan, with art by Jesus Merino over Ron Frenz's breakdowns. Four different inkers contribute to the book: Merino, Marlo Alquiza, Drew Garaci, and Jose Marzan, Jr. Doug Mahnke provided the cover.
I’m a guy who “earned” a D+ in Art in high school, so the validity of my criticism of any artist are certainly debatable. On the other hand, I think if you make your living as a professional artist, it ought to stand up to a degree of scrutiny from anyone.
Jesus Merino’s name on the solicits and cover for this issue left me fairly satisfied. He’s never ranked among my favorites, but I’ve seen his work and never had a problem with it. The full creative team listed on the title page, however, gave me pause; Merino is listed as penciler... over Ron Frenz’ breakdowns. I’ve seen Frenz’ work and it never impressed me. Frenz’ layouts are boring and his depiction of faces, especially female faces, leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of panels and pages are bereft of background or detail. A lot of the images in this issue give no context to where the action takes place or what kind of rooms they characters are in. Also, the graffiti in the prison isn't even real graffiti; it's just squiggles and lines to look like writing.
What’s more, there are four inkers credited on this book. When I think of an issue that has pencils over another artists breakdowns/layouts, and four different inkers, I think of an issue that is severely behind schedule, crunching a hard deadline, when the artist is overworked and tired, usually after an uninterrupted run on a longer book. I don’t think of a debut issue. True, issue #0 came out last month, so this is technically the second issue of the series, but even still, it should not have taken five artists, not counting the colorist, to bring it to fruition (Merino was one of the inkers; he doesn’t get counted twice). And if that many artists worked on the issue, it ought to have looked a lot better than this!
Also, the title seems to be: Black Diamond Probability: Mission One: Black Ops.
Wouldn't that suggest the first story arc is called "Black Diamond Probability? and that Mission One is synonymous with Chapter One and that "Black Ops" is the title for the first issue/chapter? But this mission isn't over by the end of the issue, so wouldn't Mission One be the name of the first story arc? Also, "Black Ops" is a stupid name for an issue! And the Black Diamond part makes sense in connection to Eclipso at the end, but is that something that's going to run through the first arc, or the entire series? Is this part of a crossover that wasn't advertised? And if so, how does that work if this issue takes place earlier in the timeline?
I'm already filled with doubt and dread about this story, and I haven't gotten to the story yet. So…
The issue opens with a very wordy opening page narrated by the never-really-seen John Lynch, who tells us this team should not work because of how volatile each team member is, even though he hand-picked each member.
Team 7 has to infiltrate a floating supermax prison called--seriously--the Float. The pilot, Summer Ramos, comes under fire from the prison's automatic defenses and has to make a dangerous maneuver to dump the team out on the prison's roof before flying off to either repair her ship or die (it's never made clear).
Dinah Drake sticks her landing, but her boyfriend, Kurt Lance, whose speciality is specifically vague, falls off the roof and has to be rescued by teammate James Bronson, whose specialty is deliberately ambiguous.
After that, the team stands around arguing with each other, displaying the emotional intelligence of a group of kindergarteners playing musical chairs. Then Cole Cash blows a whole in the wall so they can further the
While searching the prison, they find a lot of blood but no bodies, until Dinah and Kurt find a survivor.
The survivor appears to be possessed by something resembling the crescent moon-faced villain Eclipso from the classic DC universe. She attacks the team, Bronson fights her off, and then…
The issue ends with a horde of Eclipso-possessed prisoners and guards (I assume) coming after the team like a zombie outbreak.
Last issue, I went over who the characters were before the New 52 and what I thought of them now. So this is just what we learn about each of them, if anything, from this issue.
- John Lynch - In this issue his presence is limited to narrative captions. He also sounds kind of reckless and irresponsible, considering he personally selected this team which he has severe doubts about, and he's putting them through seven test missions before they're official.
- Slade Wilson (aka Deathstroke) - Oy... I’ve never been a fan of this character. Even when I was a fan of those “extreme ‘90s” era characters, I never found the appeal of this one. At first, all I knew about him was that he was this super intelligent, super incredible assassin who was, for some reason, best known as a foil for the Teen Titans (fair fight). The more I learned about him, the less I cared. The only cool thing I’ve ever seen or heard of Deathstroke doing was when he pwned the Justice League in Identity Crisis, and in that scene, weren’t we really all thinking that should have been Batman’s strategy for taking down the League? Slade doesn't do anything notable in this issue other than look menacing.
- Cole Cash (aka Grifter) - Jim Lee took Gambit, gave him Deadpool’s mask and a pair of handguns, and that was WildC.A.T.s, pretty much. None of the other characters ever really mattered; the visual iconography of Grifter superseded any story or characterization that might have informed the character. Naturally, he was one of the Wildstorm Universe characters to be incorporated into DC’s New 52. In this issue, he's the wildcard who doesn't like standing around bickering like an idiot when he could be blowing something up.
- Alex Fairchild - The third and final carryover from the original team, Alex Fairchild’s inclusion makes me scratch my head. In the original series, the character was mostly known for being the father of Gen13 star Caitlin Fairchild, and then nothing else. His fate after the team’s disbanding was uncertain for years, and for this reason he was one of my favorites. Now, however, that hardly seems as special. Caitlin Fairchild appeared in Superboy, but she’s hardly the formidable or sensual presence she was twenty years ago. Is her father really more relevant a character than Deathblow, Backlash or Jackson Dane? In this series, Alex Fairchild seems to be a cynical mercenary with no sense of loyalty or honor.
- Dean Higgins - Dean is one of the brand new characters debuting in this series, and probably the first one to die. He's bald, and described by Lynch as neutral and level-headed. That's about all we get from him. Again, I think he's going to die. And I won't miss him.
- James Bronson - Another brand new character, Bronson is a big guy with a black and blue costume that covers his whole body. That's more stylistic, though; it's not like he's badly scarred underneath. He's described as young and eager. I hope he dies.
- Summer Ramos - The hotshot pilot who leads Team 7 into a swarm of flak from the Float's automated defenses and drops them off. Her ship is badly damaged and she's never seen or mentioned again, so hopefully she died.
- Kurt Lance - A brand new character for the series, who might be an updated version of Larry Lance from the classic DCU. In the present day-set Birds of Prey series, Black Canary's name is listed as Dinah Lance, implying this Kurt Lance character is her eventual husband. I'm intrigued by him for that reason and that reason only. In this issue, Lynch implies that Lance is not a field operative, not a soldier, but he specializes in finding people and things that don't want to be found. Of course, I just described it much more clearly and easily than the script did, but the implication is that he might have been some kind of private investigator like Larry Lance was in the Golden Age.
- Amanda Waller - This is one of the New 52 updates that just pissed me off. Amanda Waller was a fascinating character in John Ostrander's Suicide Squad. The fact that she was a powerful, often terrifying figure who happened to be a large black woman gave her an instant credibility that went beyond the usual supermodel-esque women in comics. So naturally DC screwed with a good thing by slimming and trimming her down for the New 52. She doesn't belong on this team, or in this body.
- Dinah "Not Yet Black Canary" Drake - As for Dinah, she's fine in this issue. It's clear that the creative team takes her seriously and treats her with respect, although her obvious sense of caring and passion for her teammate sticks out like crazy and I have to wonder why she's even here. The martial arts training that has always been a staple of the character is completely absent from this depiction of the character. Lynch considers her love for Kurt Dinah's one weakness. He also says he's known her the longest, which makes we wonder about something: how old is Dinah in the New 52? To reach the level of training and expertise she seems to have requires a lot of time and experience. Lynch's description makes it sound like she's a seasoned operative who could easily be in her mid-thirties if not older. And this takes place five years before Birds of Prey. I thought the point of the New 52 was to de-age the heroes.
Another problem with the script is that the characters constantly refer to each other by their last name, as if the reader would be confused at who is being spoken to. Every time someone talks to Cole Cash, he or she ends his dialogue with "Cash". It feels like Jordan is entreating the reader to play a drinking game where you do shots every time someone says "Cash". Also, a lot of the dialogue is just horrible.
It takes way, waaay too long to get into the story. The characters spend more time bickering at each other, but it doesn't create the chaotic feel for an oddball team that writer Justin Jordan seems to be going for. Mostly it just makes the members look unprofessional and unqualified for their jobs. It's hard to take them seriously when you don't respect them.
The prison is called The Float? Seriously? Did Marvel take all the good names for supermax prisons?
There's a lot of confusing and missing information right on the title page. First, we're never told when this issue takes place in the continuity of of the DC Universe, or what Team 7 is. In every other comic DC releases, on the title page is a little caption describing who the main character is and what he or she does. That caption is nowhere to be found in this issue and I'm pretty sure it's an editorial oversight.
All told, this isn't a good issue. The script fails the fundamental show-don't-tell test. We're constantly told these characters are the best at what they do but they don't belong together; but they don't do anything special, and their arguments are more sophomoric than substantive.