Sunday, November 3, 2013

TEAM 7 #3

Team 7 is an elite special forces unit designed to combat metahuman threats.  In their first mission, they broke into a floating prison complex which had been taken over by a dark entity known as Eclipso... sort of.  We actually didn't see the real Eclipso, just his presence taken over inmates and doctors.

Team 7 #3: "Black Diamond Probability: Mission 1.3: Darkness Rising" was written by Justin Jordan, with art by Julius Gopez and Jimbo Salgado.  Colors are by Nathan Eyring.  The cover was done by Tyler Kirkham and Batt, and boasts the guest appearance of Essence from the pages of Red Hood and the Outlaws.  Since I don't read that book, this appearance means nothing to me yet.

So... this issue is still part of "Black Diamond Probability" which, I guess, is the first story arc featuring the threat of Eclipso.  And this is still part of the first mission, even though this seems like a completely different thing.

This issue is narrated by Slade Wilson, the man we know as Deathstroke, as part of his "war journal".  What, you thought The Punisher had a monopoly on that phrase?  He explains that Team 7 is making their difficult way to the mysterious Sentinel Island.  He explains that because of the strange electromagnetic effect of the island, the team must approach "low tech" via raft and climbing ropes instead of more traditional sci-fi stuff.  Slade doesn't explain, however, why they need to go to the island or what the mission is.

They arrive at a village only to discover that mercenaries have attacked and slaughtered the villagers.

Dinah Drake and her boyfriend Kurt Lance investigate one of the village huts, finding children murdered.

The team finds one lone survivor, who they don't understand because no one speaks the language, except for the writer or editor who translates the dying man's speak.  Oh, and Essence understands them, too.  She translates for Slade, who is the only member of the team able to see her.

I don't know who Essence is or what she does, other than she seems vaguely ghost-ish.  Slade sees her and starts shooting.  What's interesting is that the rest of his team don't see her, but start shooting because, hey, they have guns; why not use 'em?

Slade actually does the most level-headed and rational thing I've ever seen a character in comics do: he refuses to play by supernatural rules.  He flat out tells Essence if she doesn't reveal herself to his teammates, he'll walk away and ignore any warnings or pleas she tries.  So Essence shows herself to the rest of Team 7.  Slade's play is so clever that I think writer Justin Jordan probably thought of it first and then manufactured a situation where the others couldn't see Essence.  That's how it must have happened because nothing else makes sense.  There is no reason why she didn't show herself to all of them from the beginning.

There's also no reason why the old dying man's dialogue needed to be translated for we readers if Essence was going to do it on the next page.  It's redundant and bad writing/editing.

We cutaway from Team 7 and Essence to the surviving band of mercenaries who attacked the island.  The leader is forcing a man and his daughter to march through the jungle when ghost-like spirits attack the mercs, butchering them pretty easily.  The mercenary leader takes an amulet from the little girl and uses it to barter safe passage through the wilderness while the spirits carry the little girl away.

Since Slade's narration never explained what the mission was or what they're here to accomplish, I have no idea who the mercenaries are, who the villagers are, who the ghosts are, or what any of these people want to accomplish.  What's more, I don't think the characters do?  The merc leader seems surprised at what's happening, and takes the girl's amulet for protection as a desperate audible play.  If he didn't know what it would/could do, why did he have the old man and the girl in the first place?

Also, I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but Team 7's costumes are overly complicated and stupid-looking, but if that's how you're going to have your heroes dress, than the villains shouldn't wear costumes that look the exact same.  I swear, the first page of the mercenaries I thought I was reading Team 7 characters getting killed.

The unsuitability of their costumes is perfectly illustrated in the dialogue between Cole Cash and  James Bronson.

Cash comes up with an eye-rollingly forced explanation for why he wears a mask.  And when pressed why he chose a red mask, he simply chocks it up to "style".  The thing is--Bronson, who asks why Cash wears a red mask--is wearing a red combat suit.  The team's uniforms look more like superhero costumes than military fatigues, so this kind of dialogue either suggests a disconnect between the script and the art team, or a lack of understanding how visual irony works.

Essence explains to Team 7 what the art already showed us, and tells us a little of the What of Sentinel Island.  It's a prison housing some dark force, and the ghost spirits are protectors/jailers.  Still don't know why anybody is here or why they don't know why they're here.

Then we cut to Kaizen Gamorra, a bad guy, I believe, who is using naked telepaths in a bubble bath to spy on the events of the island.

After this, we arrive at the Heart of Hell, a part of the island in what looks like an open volcano crater.  Slade, Cash, Alex Fairchild, and maybe the rest of the team, though we don't see them, rush the mercenary defenders.  Slade is blown up, but he gets better enough to slice open the merc leader, who also gets better enough to reach for the glowing rock that seems to be important all of a sudden.

Then this happens:

The Characters

If you're a fan of any of the characters other than Slade, this issue wasn't really for you.

  • Dinah Drake finds the hut full of dead kids, and later she is still shaken up by it.  I guess this shows that she's sensitive and compassionate.  Good to know.
  • Kurt Lance doesn't do anything really noteworthy.
  • Slade Wilson is stubborn and rational.  He narrates the issue, though like issue #2, there's no strong reason for this story to be told through his eyes.  It could have been Lynch's after-action report or briefing, but whatever.  Slade, it appears, is now possessed by Eclipso.
  • Alex Fairchild doesn't do anything really noteworthy.
  • Cole Cash has some kind of funny dialogue.
  • James Bronson doesn't do anything really noteworthy.
  • Amanda Waller doesn't do anything really noteworthy.
  • Dean Higgins doesn't do anything really noteworthy.
  • John Lynch and Summer Ramos do not appear in this issue.


The story depends on the reader just dismissing the lack of exposition and just rolling with the events happening.  If you ask any questions, however, your enjoyment of the story just plummets.

I like Gopez's art better than Ron Frenz and Jesus Merino on the previous issues, but only a little bit.  There is a strong lack of background details, and the last couple pages give you no sense of setting.

My initial fear that the cast was too large and unwieldy and underdeveloped to receive adequate attention every issue has proven true for two issues in a row now.  This issue only has enough time and space for three characters; the rest are given courtesy lines and maybe a background panel or two.

Grade: D+

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