All Winners Squad: Band of Heroes #5 delves right in to the aftermath of the last issue’s cliffhanger. “Slo-Mo” Jones is trying to come to terms with the kiss he saw between American Ace and Frank Cortez and what it means for his position in the Crazy Sues. The comic sets up tension in the beginning as Merzah the Mystic warns Slo-Mo that he’ll be tempted to out Frank Cortez, and when that happens, he needs to resist the urge. Merzah tells Slo-Mo that while it may be tempting to “not be the lowest man on the totem pole any longer,” he cannot betray Frank Cortez’s trust.
We know from both this scene and from the scenes between Slo-Mo and Alyssa Byron in the present day that Slo-Mo will betray Frank Cortez, just as Mezrah warns, and the tension builds as when and why. By the end of the comic, we get an answer to this question, as Slo-Mo makes a choice that he regrets for the rest of his life. The comic manages to successfully show the poisonous nature of bigotry — both racism and homophobia — without coming off as too heavy handed or veering into the other direction and being too simplistic to the point of becoming offensive. Both Slo-Mo and Frank are written as three-dimensional characters and not just one-sided representations, which gives a complexity to the story and the message it conveys. Both persecuted by society, it should be their shared “lowest man” status that brings Slo-Mo and Frank together, but it’s ultimately what pushes them apart and leads to Frank’s feelings of complete betrayal.
The entire series has been a slow build, with each issue showing just a little more of the secrets behind Operation: Firefly. Issue five brings us again a bit closer to the truth, but still with as many questions left as answers. It’s paced in a way that draws the readers in and makes them eager for the next piece of the puzzle. One plot thread that does seem to be dangling a bit now, however, is Loki, as he hasn’t been mentioned since he appeared and then disappeared a few issues back. With three issues left until the end of the series, I don’t doubt that he’ll make a reappearance, but for the time being his earlier scenes seem somewhat out of place with the rest of the comic. I’m eager for Loki to return and for it to be clearer as to what the Asgardians have to do with the rest of Operation: Firefly.
Overall, however, All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes continues to offer a well-written, more realistic look at the early days of Marvel comics. It tells the kind of story that couldn’t have been told back then, but should be given a place in comics today.
Sara McDonald started reading comics in the third grade, and now puts her English degree to good use talking about them on the Internet. She currently resides in Western Massachusetts with a roommate, three cats, and an action figure collection and spends the time she isn’t reading comics working for a non-profit. You can visit her blog at Ms. Snarky’s Awesometastic Comics Blog.