Well, the fix is in, “S.W.O.R.D.” will be ending after its fifth issue, but that doesn’t mean the series is dead yet, as the third issue is the book’s best yet. While the first two issues suffered a little by having too much going on with the two different plots, this one settles into a nice rhythm by streamlining things down to one central plot as Henry Gyrich has taken over S.W.O.R.D. and is kicking all of the aliens off of Earth. Including S.W.O.R.D.’s commander, Abigail Brand.
The issue begins with Brand telling Beast, her boyfriend, not to break her out of the holding cell and, judging from his response, what do you think he spends the rest of the issue doing? If you guessed ‘sip some tea, listen to an opera, and hope for the best,’ well, you’re wrong. He, of course, works on a way not just to rescue his girlfriend, but also stop Gyrich’s plan to deport all of the aliens on Earth. How he goes about it involves some smart thinking and a few unexpected surprises. Gillen’s writing of Hank McCoy is some of the best in recent years as he’s full of charm and wit, and clearly shows off his intelligence when needed. Beast here is a fun, fearless superhero and is probably the best thing about the series.
Though, Beast’s look has also been the most controversial part of the series with Steven Sanders depicting the character in an exaggerated, cartoonish look that differs from the restrained look used by most artists. While I’m not a fan of this version, it does suit Gillen’s writing well and Sanders uses it play up the fun, charming aspects of the character. Sander’s clean style is very attractive and he does facial expressions well, but his use of perspective is distracting as he often chooses ‘looking up/down’ perspectives in panels instead of more traditional ‘head on’ ones. In some instances, like the conversation between Hank and Unit where the two are on different levels, making the perspective Sanders uses represent the character’s perspective. The rest of the issue, it brings the reader out of the moment with unnecessary showiness.
While the plot of Beast and his allies working against Gyrich here is well executed, there are a few minor problems. The origin of Unit given here is underwhelming and detracts from the mysterious nature of the character. While it’s a change of pace to have his origin given so quickly, it’s actually rather dull and uninteresting. As well, the cliffhanger for this issue also lacks the dramatic flair one would hope to see. Like disliking the Beast’s depiction visually, these are small complaints that can’t overshadow the quality of the comic, but do warrant attention.
It’s sad to see that “S.W.O.R.D.” won’t be given much of a chance to find its feet or an audience as it has improved with each successive issue. Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders work very well together and this is the most entertaining that Hank McCoy has been since Grant Morrison was writing him.