Recently, I had the opportunity to read Unit 5 #1, an independently published comic. This title has a unique history surrounding it, having been launched at the New York Comic Con in 2012 and immediately garnering a fair amount of support and praise, including Funimation and Steve Lavigne. So why are others excited about this book? Let’s look at the premise.
The words from Unit 5’s creative team say it best:
Five extraordinary individuals hailing from the 5 boroughs of New York who have suffered personal losses due to the 9/11 attacks join together to fight global terror and are known as Unit 5!
September 11th 2001 was an ominous day in U.S history. However, it became the turning point in the fight against global terror. Founded by the G Foundation and born out of the personal tragedies of extraordinary individuals all with deep ties to ground zero, Unit 5 was born.
Who doesn’t love a hero, right? The tragedy in New York was felt by many worldwide (I am not an American but I was living in the U.S. at college when the attack took place) and seeing the stories on television of those first responders who attended the World Trade Center affected us all with a strong feeling of heroism. To use it as a premise of the heroism that grows out of such an attack definitely hits a number of emotional ties for many, and the fact that the creators were able to harness this well speaks volumes. It could come off as cheesy and many may have chosen to make the characters individuals who survived the attack in full, but instead chose characters whose families were impacted by the attack.
Let’s jump into the issue itself…
During the course of the book, we discover that Unit 5 is a group dedicated to protecting the world from terrorism. As mentioned earlier, the characters each have a background in the September 11, 2001 attacks, which gives them a reason for what they do. The group is made up of 5 field agents and one mentor/director (think Professor X or Hedy from NCIS: Los Angeles – those are who came to mind for me). Each of them wear an armor supplemented by a different color, allowing for some visual identification.
Box is the son of a DJ whose hearing was destroyed in the WTC attacks. Tech is a former thief who is fighting as a result of her sister having passed away from respiratory issues after the towers fell. Ollie lost her mother in the tower collapse as a police officer. Brain’s father was a lab technician whose father lost his life in the other tower. Drift is an unknown, but he is rumored to have been hurt himself when the towers fell. And their leader is Duke, a man whose family have served in the military for a number of years and who felt a responsibility to do something.
In this first issue, New York City comes to a standstill after the fuel supply appears to be contaminated and vehicles that have fueled up within the previous 6 hours just simply stop working. It appears to be a chemical manipulation which, although not exactly a physical attack, is still something to cause a disturbance in the day-to-day workings of a city like New York. The group behind it, Team Black, is up to something and it’s up to Unit 5 to stop things and put it right.
I don’t want to give a lot of the story away like I usually do in my reviews because I think this is an independent book definitely worth taking a look at. The creators took a huge risk in jumping right into the middle of the story and not starting off with an origin issue, but I think it paid off because we get an action story from the get-go rather than a slow build-up and light, airy introductions which could detract from the purpose of the team. They succeed in giving us some information on who the team is with a brief bio at the end of the issue, so there is some clarity provided. There are a number of questions, though, that need to be addressed in future issues and a few things that keep me scratching my head, but I have a feeling they will be answered in future issues.
Unit 5 is created by Skip Winter and Alex Robson, although Winter has taken on the writing responsibilities. Although they have created a story that I think has strong potential, this is a first issue and it seems like they are still trying to define everything and get their footing. They are not the only one’s here to fall into that trap, though; I am finding that this is the case in a number of Marvel NOW! books as well so it’s not a negative but simply an observation. Each of the characters in the book drives a flashy car, which makes me wonder if the creators were inspired somewhat by old Stephen J. Cannell shows like Knight Rider or Riptide, classic 1980s action shows that all featured a vehicle as an extension of the characters. Although they are still trying to lock everything down, it was a good story. As an editor, I found some spelling and grammar tweaks, but what can I say? I’m pickier than most. They did not detract from the story for me, though, and for me to overlook something like that and not take it as a negative is a huge thing – usually I reach for the red pen when I see something like that.
Will Robson is the artist on the book and does a good job. I see some inspiration in the artwork from a number of artists all at the same time, so it’s hard to pin down exactly who. There are some anime-esque scenes that jump out, but only for some characters and it suits it. The cyborg suits from Team Black fall into that category and I think it works. I was impressed by his ability to effectively put a good look on the vehicles in the book, partly because I have seen a number of other artists not be able to get vehicles drawn correctly. We see him jump from somewhat simple designs without too much depth or detail, such as when they are in their headquarters, to the scenes in Chinatown which has an amazing amount of detail. It shows that there is a breadth to his talents and this issue, I think, is really just starting to scratch the surface of what he is capable of.
Although I cannot give this issue a top review, I will say that it is a good book. Better, in fact, than some of the #1 issues of Marvel NOW! that I have read. And that says a lot. I am looking forward to seeing what issue #2 has in store since some time has passed since #1 came out and this gives Will Robson some time to flesh out his art a little more and I have a feeling I will be pleasantly surprised. Once this first story arc is done, I’d like to see some detail spent on the characters themselves and their motivations as the bio was helpful but I don’t think it’s enough. Getting the first story out-of-the-way and then doing a background on one or more characters would definitely help.
If you’re a fan of those old 80s action shows, I think you’ll like this book. It’s like jumping into an episode of Knight Rider somewhere in season 2 without seeing the pilot episode – you don’t need to. You get what you need as you go through. For me, as a child of the 80s, it also has that nostalgic feel of storytelling which I miss. If you’re interested in learning more about this book, check it out on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/unit5comic