The Good: Good character establishment
The Bad: Artwork is frequently terrible, Repetitive story feel, Campy dialogue.
The Basics: In a surprisingly disappointing trade paperback anthology, The A-Team: War Stories poorly sets up the cinematic version of The A-Team.
It wasn't until I sat down to review the new movie prequel for The A-Team that I realized it had been quite so long since I last read one of these. Making movie prequels in comic book form is nothing terribly new and many of the major blockbusters which are not adapted from comic books anyway tend to use the medium to generate interest in the forthcoming cinematic endeavors. The last one I read was the prequel to Legion, Legion: Prophets (click here for that review!). Sadly, as audiences prepared to buy The A-Team on DVD and Blu-Ray, War Stories, produced by most of the same team of writers and artists as other movie prequel comic books of late is an unfortunate flop which might presage a dismal failure for the film.
At the same time, The A-Team: War Stories does what it ought to in terms of establishing backstory and character work. For those who might not be familiar with the 1980s television series The A-Team, The A-Team: War Stories reinvents the franchise by telling the stories behind Hannibal, B.A., Face and Murdock. Each of the characters gets a vignette story to establish them and the stories do what they are supposed to in terms of creating (or re-creating) the characters. Unfortunately, the artwork is homogenously terrible and the stories are filled with awful dialogue which makes one wince.
The “Hannibal” story has John “Hannibal” Smith in the Gulf War. His story finds the U.S. forces desperate to capture a high level member of Saddam’s military to help bring the war to an end. Hannibal takes that mission and proves himself to be a loyal soldier of the U.S. Military and a natural leader.
In the story for B.A., Baracas works as a mechanic in the Gulf War. He is competent, but hot tempered. When he uncovers a racket that puts American interests in jeopardy, he violently opposes the corrupt soldiers, with detrimental effects to his career. His is a case of doing the right thing the wrong way, though it is clear he has a soft heart underneath his gruff exterior.
The Face section is a vignette where Face, who is known for scavenging and making deals to profit is caught by a general when one of his deals goes sour. Rather than face military punishment, Face is given a chance to buy the General’s loyalty by getting him a Ducati motorcycle. As Face hunts the last Ducati in Iraq, he finds himself in incredible danger and on an impossible mission.
Finally, there is Murdock’s story. Murdock is absolutely crazy and his story is about taking a helicopter out and getting caught for it. His is a very basic story which explains his talent for being a chopper pilot more than anything else. Beyond that, it’s just examples of him talking in a nonsensical fashion.
So, despite each little adventure actually establishing the character (and in some cases exploring how they left the military service), The A-Team: War Stories flops. First, the adventures are predictable. It is very hard to have a real sense of menace in a prequel and by the time Murdock’s story comes up, the reader doesn’t care because we know whatever he gets into, he’ll get out of.
Even worse than the predictability element is the artwork. Much of The A-Team: War Stories is sloppy from the penciling on up. Hannibal’s section is especially marred by the fact that many of the pictures do not look like Liam Neeson. Instead, many panels feature a generic white-haired guy who we only know is Hannibal by the fact that he is the only white-haired guy in the book. Similarly, the proportions are frequently off and Hannibal looks pinheaded. Also disturbing is how Face will look like Bradley Cooper in one panel, but in the next, he looks like a demon from Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Poor artwork and mediocre stories are not enough to set up a popcorn movie, which is proven by The A-Team: War Stories.
For other trade paperback anthologies, please check out my reviews of:
Wonder Woman: Challenge Of The Gods
Batman: Knightfall Volume 3 – Knightsend
For other book reviews, please check out my index page for an organized listing!
© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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