The Union #2 is not a subtle comic. I didn’t expect it to be — Paul Grist is many great things, but subtle he is not. This is a comic about Brexit, what Britain should be, and what Britain is in a post-Brexit, post-EU world. Now, I’m not British. I fully expect that there are political subtleties and intricacies that I am missing. But I think that even me, ignorant as I am about the politics of the British Isles, can guess exactly what they mean by the famed hero Britannia, “all that is great about Britain, all that is good, all that is kind, all that is just and fair,” dying ignominiously on the first adventure of the new, post-Brexit, superhero team of the United Kingdom.
(Somewhere, Betsy Braddock is looking for her copyright lawyers.)
None of that is a spoiler, or even hidden. The last issue closed with Britannia dying; this one opens with the same. After that, the plot is nominally the same as the other King in Black tie-ins. Shock death, someone gets possessed by a goop monster, they find a tricky way to stop them, yadda yadda yadda. You all know the score, more or less.
But what makes this book so delightful is the character interactions and the specifics of that fairly cookie-cutter plot. Kelpie and Choir are fun; Snakes is delightful. The sensational character find of 2021. Union Jack – the central character of the issue – remains, as he always does, really fun as this working-class hero who is constantly out of his depth. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence, either, that the working-class hero is going to have to save the day after the death of the upper-class heroine.
Now, again, I’m not British. I feel safe to say that I am not an expert on British politics. But from my outside perspective, I think it’s a really interesting take on the politics of modern Britain.
A big part of that comes from Nolan Woodard’s colors. Andrea Del Vito’s art is good, make no mistake — I’m sure that it’s great in black and white. But the vibrancy that comes out in the colors really pushes it into another level. I really like the way that the purples are emphasized in the flashback in the first couple pages, and then how Woodard really pushes the bright colors in Kelpie and Choir’s hair, and contrasts that with the blacks of Knull’s victims. It’s some impressive work.
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