The Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. #6
Writer: Frank J. Barbiere
Art: Brent Schoonover
Color Art: Nick Filardi
You gotta love Dum Dum Dugan. I’ve chosen to ignore the reveal from Original Sin that he is a life model decoy (LMD). Who knows if THAT particularly continuity survived and exists anymore anyway? For the continuity in my head, DDD is the same, affable, endearing, never-quit character that he has always been. That is no more apparent than in the pages of The Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. (forthwith referred to simply as SHIELD) #6. It’s fortunate but also bittersweet, as the Barbiere letter at the back of this issue seems to say that this is the end of this team’s short-lived ongoing.
Let’s not think about that right now, though. THCoS teams together all of your favorite monsters of the Marvel Universe. You get Teen Abomination, last seen in Superior Iron man if memory serves, as well as Zombie Agent Sitwell (thought he was killed in an Avengers flick?), and Man-Thing (last seen in Wolverines?). The other characters I am unfamiliar with, but Barbiere writes them to be likable enough, so I give them a bye without deeper scrutiny. In this issue, which is an Avengers Standoff tie-in, the team’s comms officer, a 15-foot tall alien name Orrgo, is bamboozled into taking a vacation at Pleasant Hill. If you have not checked in on any of the Standoff tie-ins or the main book, Pleasant Hill is the Mayberry-as-super-villain-prison run by Warden Kobik, a 10-year-old corporeal avatar formed from the shards of several cosmic cubes; this being the brain-child of apparently now cray-cray SHIELD Director Maria Hill. Toss a bunch of monsters into this volatile mix and you can imagine what kind of mayhem ensues.
This is a great bit of story written in a style ever so slightly akin to the comedic tone of the Secret Avengers work and other Avengers books pioneered by Nick Spencer. Not quite that campy, but in the ballpark. What makes the team dynamic so great is that they are as tight, if not tighter, than any Avengers team I have ever seen. And, in stark contrast to recent portrayals of a fractured SHIELD, this is one of the tightest teams in Marvel, period. Each of the team members is hyper-aware of their outcast state. More than any team of X-Men or Inhumans, they know that this special team of SHIELD, codenamed S.T.A.K.E. (nope, no idea what that stands for), is the only home and family that they may ever know. Each team member has the others’ back, and their loyalty to Dugan is as deep-rooted as that of any team ever devoted to one Steve Rogers. Barbiere highlights this team dynamic every chance he gets, and it never gets old. A few C-Team villains show up and get resoundingly trounced by the Commandos Their engagement with Kobik takes a bit more umph however. In the end, the Commandos are restored to full strength, just as they are informed that every supernatural and bizarre prisoner they were holding in their base underneath Area 13, has been released. The ending feels very much like the Season 5 and series-ending finale of Angel as the Commandos mount up to go fight the good fight.
What sticks out to me the most in terms of the artwork is the bright, popping colors from Filardi. He does a great job whether it is the deep blue-blacks of the SHIELD uniforms or the more complex pyrotechnics on display in this issue. There are a lot of special effects in this book. Fire, pumpkin bombs, spectral rays, ghosts…Filardi nails them all regardless of the hue. Fights are wonderfully choreographed and hats off to Schoonover for the amount of detail he puts on Man-Thing.
I had a good time reading this adventure comic. It’s not quite up in my stratosphere of books that earn an 8.0 or above review score. But it is solid, solid work and highly entertaining. If this book has been canceled, it’s a shame. Here’s to high hopes that this team finds its way back or keeps trucking along. If it is just a roll-off the creative team given the completion of the first arc, I hope that they put it in equally caring hands.