Roundtable Review: New Warriors v4 #4

The Roundtable Review examines New Warriors #4 of the current series. Corey had to sit this one out while he vacationed in the Big Apple, but we’ve still got James, Flank and Jeremy weighing in. How did the issue stack up? Read on!

New Warriors volume 4 #4
“Defiant Part Four”
Writer: Kevin Grevioux
Penciler: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Virtual Calligraphy’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Nic Klein
Production: Dial & Ginter
Assistant Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley

James: This issue seemed a very mixed back to me, once again. It had its strong points but it also had some very weak ones. Let’s start by looking at the downside of this issue, the elements I had problems with. First of all, I have to say that the dialogue problems from the first issue seem to be rearing their ugly heads again. Once again Grievoux lost Sofia’s “voice” in this issue and it took me out of the story. Again she just doesn’t sound right and I have to wonder if Grevioux is trying almost too hard to capture her voice, which is why it’s not working. I just know that she seems like a very different character to how she was in New X-Men: Academy X.

Flank: Yeah, I enjoyed this one, but I had some serious problems with it — the dialogue, the characters who don’t seem in character. But for me the issue’s main problem is focus. There’s too many characters running around — nine Warriors, another potential Warrior, four Initiative trainees, the ten-person Zodiac, four members of the diner cast, four Costume Division cops, two NW support staffers, plus Yellowjacket, Tony Stark, and Secretary Kooning. That’s 37 characters, in a 22 page book. Breaking it down another way, the book features four pages of cops and Yellowjacket; two of Stark and Kooning; six pages of the Warriors; three pages at Sofia’s diner, a page of just the Zodiac and the defeated Initiative, and six page of the Warriors and the Zodiac fighting. The Warriors scenes hold a slight majority of 12 pages to 10 pages of supporting characters, but after four issues of this, it’s getting harder and harder for me to deal with. Four months in, and we’ve still only really been teased with the team that the book’s supposed to be about.

Jeremy: To set aside Flank’s concerns for a moment, I have to argue with James. Yes, Sofia doesn’t sound right – we’ve been in agreement on that since day one. But I don’t think Kevin is trying too hard by any stretch. It seems to me like he is trying to establish a patter between her and the diner cast (may they never show their heads again, save Tina) – and it is terrible. I won’t mince any more words on this one – the dialogue Sofia engages in when she’s around anyone not a Warrior is awful. Period. He’s not trying too hard, he’s flat out not trying at all, or at least not trying for what he ought to be aiming at.
As to Flank’s concerns of focus, these I can get behind. The book is too big, but sometimes I wonder if maybe we’re all making the wrong assumptions about what the book is supposed to be about. Maybe it isn’t about the Warriors so much as the atmosphere they create by existing. That’s the message issues 1-3, and the first half of 4, sent to me.

James: We can still agree that Sofia doesn’t sound right, but I have to disagree with you Jeremy. I still think Grievoux is trying almost too hard with Sofia’s voice. Every so often the old Sofia will shine through, which suggests to me that Grievoux does know of/about Sofia but he seems to be trying too hard to make the diner crowd (may none of them appear again, not even Tina) fit with Sofia’s dialogue. So yes, whilst he’s (for want of a better phrase) “dumbing down” Sofia, I think it’s because he’s making the assumption that the average reader knows Sofia and that’s what I mean by Grievoux trying too hard. (I know that’s a clumsy sentence, i’ve spent ages trying to get the wording right though, and I’m giving up now).
I have to agree with you both about the cast being too big but, like Jeremy, I think that we went into this series making assumptions about what the series would focus on. To be fair to Kevin Grievoux, he did say right from the earliest interviews that the series would focus on the atmosphere within the Marvel Universe that the new team of Warriors found themselves in. Kevin always has said that the series was more about rebellion against the act than anything else, but never the less, I still expected more of a focus on the Warriors than we have had in these past 4 issues.

Flank: Trying too hard, or not trying at all? My money’s on trying too hard. From the beginning the diner scenes have read to me like dialogue struggling to be conversational, and instead coming off as totally contrived and stilted.

James: Another problem I have (as I expected going in) is the use of Jono as Decibel. Had he not had Wondra/Jubilee refer to Decibel as Jono, indicating that he was in fact Jono Starsmore, the former X-Man Chamber, I would not have recognized his character. He seems very different. I’m also bothered by his appearance in the team in that I don’t understand why he’s there. As a citizen of the United Kingdom he is exempt from the SHRA and, following his last appearance in New Excalibur #9, there’s really no reason why he’d return to the States. He certainly made it clear that he had no desire to be a hero to Pete Wisdom. His presence just bothers me hugely (as does the number of ex-mutants in this incarnation of the Warriors, which Jono himself may, or may not be).

Flank: Yeah, that doesn’t make much sense — and I hadn’t even thought about Jono’s citizenship. This issue we also find out that Tempest is Angel Salvatore, Beak’s wife, which I have an equally hard time dealing with — she’s never shown any interest in being a superhero, and was generally quite immature and irresponsible. And as much as I like the idea of a hero team who are all former mutants given new powers through technology — this book says New Warriors on the cover, so why is it full of characters from New X-Men and Generation X, without a single confirmed former Warrior in sight? Grievioux has said “this isn’t your dad’s New Warriors, it’s your New Warriors,” but so far we haven’t seen much connection to the reason we’re fans of the series to begin with. All these guest stars, all the time spent on the reactions of the rest of the Marvel Universe, but if we want to see the reaction of a founding Warrior to the new team, we have to open this month’s Avengers: The Initiative — or wait until issue #7 comes out.

Jeremy: Bingo! No character here acts like they have any connection to their previous appearances. I think this book probably reads much better in a vacuum. As someone who has a pathological and likely unhealthy love for the shared universe continuity, I can’t really reconcile Sofia with Wind-Dancer any more than I can Decibel with Chamber or Tempest as Angel. The only characters who have acted in-character thus far have been Tony Stark and Wolverine. Possibly because they have been so archetypified that anyone can write them and feel in-tone. I’m turning very negative here – I don’t want to say I am not enjoying this book, because I am… but sometimes I think I enjoy it more than it deserves.
Wow. Those are harsh words. Hopefully issues 5 and 6 will find me eating them.

James: I take your point Jeremy, indeed I agree with it to a large extent. However, I would argue that Beak has been very much in-character (his appearance has changed, as we know, but that can be explained by the disappearance of his mutation. Its possible that he took longer to return to normal because he had such an extreme mutation). His confidence growth started in Morrison’s New X-Men and developed into his appearances in Exiles. I would argue that his confidence in this title is a logical development and showed character growth as opposed to making him unrecognizable to his previous appearances.
Another point I would make is that (arguably) we haven’t seen enough of Angel (she didn’t even cameo in the first 2 or 3 issues, unlike Chamber) to gauge Kevin’s characterisation of her.

Flank: I really can’t reconcile Beak and “Barry” either. Barnell was an incredibly awkward social misfit who fell into a strange dysfunctional relationship with someone who was even more screwed up than him. Whereas Barry is, as you say… confident. That’s not the Beak I knew.

James: I had an issue with the death of Longstrike because it did not convey the shock value that was clearly intended. We never got to know the character of Longstrike so it was impossible to get any form of emotion from her death. She ma as well have just worn a red shirt, and I tend to think it’s an unnecessary shock to kill a Warrior (and certainly it did not need to be done this early on in the series). I’m glad Sofia is still alive but that is the only consolation for me.

Flank: Seconded.

Jeremy: My only consolation is that I don’t think we are supposed to care about Longstrike so much as “Thrash” is. Why do I spend so much time trying to figure out what Kevin wants me to think, instead of just thinking what I want to think?

James: I have no answer to that, but I think it’s something we are all doing because we wan this title to succeed. The fact remains we shouldn’t have to work out what Kevin wants us to think, it should be apparent from the dialogue (and to a lesser extent the art, facial expressions tell us a lot) but sadly it isn’t.

James: Despite all of these criticisms, there were some elements of this issue which I greatly enjoyed (it’s not 100% negative, far from it). There are some characters, such as Wondra/Jubilee, which Grievoux does write well (she hasn’t been this interesting to me before, and as we mentioned in the review of #3, it’s nice to see her maturing at last!). I enjoyed her interaction with Thrash, particularly, and I’m actually enjoying her as second in command.

Flank: Same here, and the twists in the identity of Thrash this issue have me intrigued. Between the matching voiceprint and the knowledge of Thrash’s account passwords last issue, it sounded pretty cut and dry that it was Dwayne under the mask. Now I’m not so sure.

Jeremy: You guys are right – I have to add Jubilee to the list of characters that I think are being well-handled here.

James: Agreed. In fact I would argue that she hasn’t been handled this well since the “Phalanx Covenant” story (if ever).

James: Perhaps surprisingly, given the tone of this book, I have to say I’ve also been very impressed by Grievoux’s characterization of Tony Stark (I say that as a pro-SHRA supporter). He seems to understand the awkward position which Tony is in and is doing his best to make Stark sympathetic, which is a pleasant surprise from a lot of books which Tony appears in these days.

Flank: Agreed. It’s nice to see people not writing Stark as a jerk.

Jeremy: See above.

James: A three way agreement? that’s something new!

James: I should also note that I like little touches, such as showing the Initiative recruits in this title, because it gives a feel of a shared universe which is one of the things I love about Marvel (and which has been missing recently). Little touches like seeing all of the Warriors in action this issue (which I greatly enjoyed) and seeing them using Murderworld as a base of operations is also appreciated. Overall, this series continues to be an enjoyable take on the Warriors name, I just hope that Kevin Grievoux masters Sofia’s “voice” soon.

Flank: I like the shared world aspects too, but I don’t feel like they’re always implemented that well. For instance, what was the Initiative doing in this issue? Why would the Stamford trainees be dispatched to deal with the Zodiac, and where were their teachers? All they were was strawmen to make the new team of Warriors look good. Still, I’m enjoying this series and it’s got a lot of potential.

Jeremy: I think that our bias as people who want to like this book is clearly showing. The book is fun, and its entertaining, and the art is sharp (most of the time) and the ideas are well-realized… it simply feels, I think, like the freshman effort of a writer whose strength lies in telling compelling stories independently, not in telling an engaging story that interweaves the elements of a shared universe. When Kevin starts playing with other people’s toys, the book starts to suffer. And the issue for me becomes: do I still love this book even though Avengers: The Initiative is closer to being about the Warriors than this one is? The answer is, as of now, yes. I still love this book. But the slowness of pacing and the decision to leave us as much in the dark about things as Sykes and Givens is wearing very steadily on my all-too-tolerant nerves.

James: I don’t think any of us are in a position to deny our bias, and I agree that the book is entertaining and the art is good. I’m not sure that I agree that all of the ideas are well-realized (the very fact that we are trying to work out what Kevin wants us to think suggests that they are not) but certainly some are. I’m still enjoying this title but I’m not 100% sure that I can say I love this book. I enjoy it and I want it to succeed but, as you say Jeremy, Avengers: The Initiative has more Warriors that I care about. I don’t mind these new New Warriors (I certainly wasn’t expecting old members back) but I just wish Kevin would a) give them more depth and b) make the characters recognizable and compatible with their previous appearances.
I hope this does not come across as overly negative, I do enjoy this book. I just see so much potential in it which, sadly, isn’t being realized.

Flank: Pretty much the same for me. I’m also giving Grevioux slack because, as far as I know, this is the first book he’s done for Marvel, and may well be the first time he’s writing characters established by other people. And there’s a learning curve there. Plus, the personalities of Nova, Namorita and even Speedball at the beginning of New Warriors vol. 1 didn’t bear much resemblance to previous takes on them, and I think we’d agree that turned out rather well.

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