Friday, May 23, 2014


Writer: Christos Gage | Penciler: Mike Perkins | Inker: Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Laura Villari | Letterer: Cory Petit | Production: Brad Johnson
Assistant Editor: Daniel Ketchum | Editor: Andy Schmidt
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada | Publisher: Dan Buckley

After the UNION JACK mini-series by Ben Raab and John Cassaday, Jack fell dormant once again for a few years. He was picked up for the brief NEW INVADERS series, which continued the Baroness storyline from Raab's series, and which I may someday review here. But his next occasion headlining a mini-series came in 2006, when Christos Gage and Mike Perkins joined forces on UNION JACK: LONDON FALLING.

LONDON FALLING does not pack the emotional punch of the previous story, nor does it contain the moody, atmospheric artwork of John Cassaday. But that's okay, because it's just as entertaining in its own way. Where Raab's UNION JACK was a small, personal story focusing on character over all else, Gage brings us Union Jack as an action movie.

In a nice touch of continuity, the story begins with Joey Chapman more or less where we left him after the Raab/Cassaday series. The opening scene sees him battling a trio of vampires, his narration noting that taking on such creatures is a Union Jack tradition. Joey also spends some time reminiscing about his late father, a character element which was introduced in Raab's story.

Even when he takes things in his own direction, Gage continues to draw upon the past for his story. I've not read much written by him, but if this series is anything to go on, it seems Gage has the same tastes as me. In addition to overtly referencing the Raab version of Union Jack, Gage also utilizes several B- and C-list villains, brings back a Dreadnought with reference to the robots' encounters with SHIELD, and even throws in a one-panel flashback to the time Batroc turned on Mr. Hyde when the latter attempted to destroy Manhattan in CAPTAIN AMERICA #252. Plus, as if all the above wasn't enough, we also get a cameo appearance by Alan Davis's own MicroMax at the story's conclusion!

The story is fairly straightforward: a terrorist group called RAID has hired several villains and mercenaries to basically destroy London. RAID wants to cement themselves as the new Hydra, and such a feat would go a long way toward proving their credibility. To counter the villains, MI5 deputy director Gavin calls in Union Jack to lead a small group of operatives on loan from allied government agencies: the Israeli Sabra, the Arabian Knight, and SHIELD's Contessa Allegra Valentina de Fontaine.

Joey's ties with British intelligence are never quite explained in the story, so I assume they come from his time with the new Invaders, as that was his only major period of activity between the 1998 mini-series and this one. Not that the origin of this familiarity needs to be explained for this adventure -- but such background would have been appreciated.

Also unexplained is Joey's apparent leadership skill. Under orders from Gavin, Joey takes command of his small group and leads them extremely effectively, with barely any doubt about his ability, which would seem to imply that some seasoning took place somewhere. So I again must guess that his tactical knowledge and charisma were developed in the pages of NEW INVADERS.

As noted above, the story is basically a big budget action movie starring Union Jack and his allies. The group travels around London, thwarting terror attacks on the Houses of Parliament, Thames Tunnel, Tower Bridge, Heathrow Airport, and more -- all culminating in a battle with an enormous Dreadnought in the heart of London.

Gage keeps the story moving to the point that our heroes barely have any time to rest between encounters, but this only helps the "action movie" feel. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Mike Perkins was the best choice to draw the series. Perkins is a very photorealistic artist, which works fine for comics with a lot of talking heads and minimal action. But this series is almost wall-to-wall action, and Perkins's characters look too stiff to be pulling off the dynamic sequences Gage has written. Someone with a looser, more kinetic style would have been a much better fit for the story.

But even with the mismatched artist, it's still an exciting story, with some good character moments for Joey and the rest of his group. I'm unsure of Union Jack as a team player or as a government agent, but taking for granted that this is his status quo, Gage runs with the idea and makes it work.

If you only ever read one Union Jack story in your life, make it the Raab/Cassaday series. But if you find time for another, then you'll probably get some enjoyment from this tale as well. Plus, if you like second- and third-string international heroes and villains, and have an appreciation for the sorts of stories I've already reviewed here (there are, as noted, several references to stuff I've posted about previously), then LONDON FALLING is probably worth at least a glance.

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