Femforce #162 is the 30th anniversary issue of AC Comics. I cannot say that I’ve been following the company since the beginning. But I have been a Femforce fan for a dozen years now, and I’ve bought a whole bunch of back issues from before 2001, so, yeah, I guess I qualify as a long-time fan.
In any case, it’s great to see an independent publisher last this long, especially when so many other small press publications have been forced to fold up their tents. So, my hat is off to AC publisher Bill Black, his long-time collaborator Mark Heike, and the line-up of talented creators who have been working with them.
Issue #162 is topped off with a beautiful, trippy cover by Brad Gorby featuring Synn, Nightveil, and She-Cat. As Black acknowledges inside, it really doesn’t have much to do with any of the actual stories in this issue. But it is certainly a very beautiful piece of art by Gorby, who I have always felt was a super-talented artist.
The main story in #162 is the two-chapter “The Commandos Are Coming,” penciled by Eric Coile, and written, inked & lettered by Black. The Black Commando, paramour to Femforce stalwart Nightveil, has returned to Earth and, once more seemingly insane, has apparently attacked the woman he loves. As Ms Victory and Synn pursue the fleeing Commando, the rest of the team attempts to revive their fallen comrade. However, all of them soon learn that one of Nightveil’s most bitter enemies is actually behind these events.
“Golden Years,” the issue’s second story, takes place concurrent to the main tale. It is written by Heike, with pencils by Rock Baker, Heike & Black, and inks / finishes from Jeff Austin. While Femforce is off attempting to solve the mystery of the returned Black Commando, Ms Victory’s husband Paragon is in a face-off with the angry, violent Rad. Ms Victory’s daughter Jen is furious at her house having been destroyed last issue, and she’s more than willing to take it out on her step-father, who she has never had a good relationship with. But the fight between Rad and Paragon is interrupted by a startling revelation.
Both “The Commandos Are Coming” and “Golden Years” will be very rewarding reads for long-time Femforce fans. In the first story, a lot of old angers held by Ms Victory come bursting forth while she is facing the Black Commando. We learn that, all these years later, Joan Wayne still blames the Commando for causing her to go insane & become the first Rad, an event that knocked over a whole row of tragic dominoes. In Joan’s absence, the government forced her daughter Jen to assume the mantle of Ms Victory, which led to the disintegration of her marriage and the death of her son, and culminated in Jen becoming the second Rad.
Likewise, in the Rad / Paragon story, once again Jen is casting the blame for her tragic existence solely on her mother’s shoulders. But when Paragon reveals previously-untold facts about Ms Victory’s past to Rad, it forces Jen to admit that her mother never had a perfect existence, and that she might have been unfairly targeting her as the cause of all her ills. Considering how long Rad’s resentments against her mother and step-father have been simmering, it was refreshing to see her begin to come to an understanding about Ms Victory, and to reconcile with Paragon.
This is why I’m such a fan of Femforce. Black & Heike have given the characters rich back stories, creating an engaging continuity. And they’ve invested their cast with very real personalities, causing you to care about them. At the same time, I think Black & Heike do a good job at making the series accessible to newer readers. There were certain past events referenced in #162 that I was unaware of, but the scripts presented them in such a way that I was quickly brought up to speed. I love that the book still has the editor’s notes pointing you to specific back issues, something that unfortunately has fallen out of style at Marvel and DC.
There were several back-up stories in Femforce #162. My two favorites were illustrated by Andre St. Amour. He works in a really cool animated style. Of the two stories, the one I enjoyed more was “The Evil That Time Forgot.” It’s an unconventional team-up story, as it sees Laura Wright, the sorcerer Nightveil, travel back in time to 1942 and team up with her earlier non-magical self, the pistol-packing vigilante Blue Bulleteer, to battle a Lovecraftian horror. The story had a real sense of fun about it.
The second story drawn by St. Amour is “Nosey,” written by Mark Holmes. She-Cat is assigned to the Middle East to help battle a pair of super-powered terrorists. Holmes’ tale was also rather enjoyable. I found it just a bit odd that She-Cat would be fighting a couple of female super-human extremists, as most Islamic fanatics are very misogynistic. So even in a comic book it seems a bit odd that terrorists would work alongside a pair of women. That detail aside, I did like the story, and I hope that Holmes does some more writing for AC. Certainly the artwork by St. Amour was, once again, fantastic.
All in all, Femforce #162 is a really good issue, with some entertaining stories. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing in future issues how Black and Heike develop the plotlines that they’ve set up here.
One last thing: perhaps the $9.95 price tag on Femforce seems a bit expensive. Keep in mind that AC Comics is an independent publisher struggling to succeed in a difficult market. And, as far as value goes, I would much rather pay $9.95 for a 76 page issue of Femforce than three or four bucks for a 22 page comic from Marvel or DC that takes less than 15 minutes to read. So, yeah, I definitely see Femforce as being well worth the price of admission, and I encourage others to check it out.