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Union is back with an ongoing series after a terrific and surprisingly human mini-series by co-creator Michael Heisler and artist Mark Texeira.
Will this inter-dimensional alien be as interesting without his introductory mystery and with the much more polished art of Ryan Benjamin?
To answer the latter half of that question, I’ll direct you at the cover over there to the left.
That is a glorious superhero cover, and it’s not too different from the quality of the interiors of these three issues. Ryan Benjamin was okay on 1994’s Union #0, but that issue was so packed with plot there wasn’t much room for Benjamin to stretch out and tell a story with his pencils.
He’s fantastic here with more space in the narrative and a bright, primary color superhero color palette from Steve Buccellato and Wendy Fouts. His Ohmen is large and well-muscled, but not so much that Benjamin can’t make an extreme caricature out of his foil Crusade in the opening issue.
With less exposition about Ohmen’s background to work through, Michael Heisler delivers three strong issues of WildStorm’s most straight forward superhero tale yet. It’s puzzling that he hasn’t been tapped by Lee and Choi to script any other series. Ohmen comes off as a very serious puppy dog, obsessed with doing right so much that he cannot help but get involved in every conflict in earshot.
Heisler continues to impress with his grounded take on Ohmen’s companion Jill Munroe, a regular women unintentionally wrapped up in superhero drama. Despite feeling faithful to Ohmen, she’s conflicted about repeatedly putting her life on hold for him.
But why should she be putting her life on hold? Ohmen moves them to New York and has some designs on adventuring with Stormwatch inspired by Battalion’s recent hero’s death, but that’s not a solid goal (nor is it a business plan).
Heisler does a clever thing in issue #1, confronting Ohmen with another stranger-from-a-strange-world in the Liefeld-esque Jim Lee creation Crusade. Ohmen is like an adolescent that grows up fast when they have to take care of a younger sibling in trying to wrangle the holy space knight, seeming to sheepishly realize how much of a handful he was just a few months before.
They briefly tangle with the egg-headed Mnemo from the mini-series, but the villain is less the focus than Ohmen’s interaction with Crusade and old friend Serren. He just as easily flips back to puppy mode beside a veteran hero like Savage Dragon in issue #3.
There are two stories you can read to get ready for this run – Union’s tangle with an insane Supreme in Supreme #14, and Crusade’s brief introduction from WildStorm Rarities.
Want a recap? Read on for the details of Union’s first ongoing adventures. Here’s the schedule for the rest of this month’s WildStorm re-read. Later today, I’ll take a quick jaunt through Gen13 #0-1, then we’ll read Team 7: Objective Hell tomorrow before wrapping up with WildStorm Rising on Wednesday.
Need the issues? These issues have never before been collected! For single issues – try eBay (#1-3) or Amazon (#1, 2, 3). Since the prior Union series hit these same issue numbers, be sure to match your purchase to the cover images in this post. You can also pick up Supreme #14 (eBay / Amazon). The Crusade story originally appeared in the Killer Instinct Tourbook and is reprinted in WildStorm Rarities (eBay / Amazon), a perfect-bound book with a spine.
Union #1 comes with some required pre-reading other than Union’s original limited series – the Crusade story in WildStorm Rarities and Supreme #14.
WildStorm Rarities includes the Crusade story “Released. It originally appeared in the Killer Instinct Tourbook, plotted by Jim Lee, Sean Ruffner, and the mysterious H.K. Proger with Union’s Ryan Benjamin on art. The Voyager One spacecraft collides head on with a meteor, freeing Crusade from centuries of imprisonment. We have no hint of whether he’s good or evil, but he’s religious and enjoys sunshine. His meteor is littered with the shattered armor of his former compatriots, and he swears vengeance on the “monsters” who killed them.
Supreme #14 could easily be called Union #.5. It’s a decent recap of Ohmen’s story and his ideals while it bears very little plot for Supreme, other than that he’s lost his mind and taken out several square blocks of Washington in his ensuing rage. Ohmen is in town with Jill for a day of art museums but feels honor-bound to assist with the wreckage Supreme leaves in his wake – which makes him a target for Supreme as he circles back around.
The two super men battle each other to a near standstill before Ohmen realizes how much collateral damage they stand to cause if they keep up the fight. He briefly relinquishes his staff, allowing Supreme to get in a cheap shot that looks to be deadly so he’ll fly away.
Union #1 opens with a brief interlude in the Tibetan mountains, where the egg-headed Mnemo finds the hulking Crusade knocking on his door. Halfway around the globe, Ohmen and Jill living in New York City. Jill is waitressing at a dive with a misogynist boss and Ohmen is struggling to figure out how to turn his super-powers and penchant for breaking up super-powered standoffs into a paying job. His profile is considerably higher now after his run-in with Supreme, and not in a positive way.
That’s why Ohmen has set a meeting Synergy (who is currently Weatherman at some point after Battalion’s death) – he needs help with a secret identity so he can find employment. Synergy demurs on the identity, but agrees to keep Ohmen on retainer in exchange for him being on-call to assist Stormwatch. Ohmen returns to the dingy apartment he shares with Jill to tell her the news, but through the window they spot a pair of flying figures locked in combat – and one is wielding a Justice staff.
That is Union’s best friend, Serren, who mysteriously disappeared from his home dimension. They have no time to catch up, as Serren is locked in a vicious battle with the Thor-like Crusade. What Ohmen does not realize is that Serren is a puppet of Mnemo, and he’s playing double duty in distracting Crusade and outing Ohmen.
Ohmen realizes someone is pulling his friend’s strings. He stops to question Serren, but they’re both caught by surprise by a resurgent Crusade, who sends Serren crashing to his apparent death and Ohmen into unconsciousness.
Union #2 begins just seconds later, with an awakened Ohmen taking the fight to Crusade in the sky. Meanwhile, on the ground, Jill reaches Serren’s supine form and is surprised to discover that he’s still alive! The three super men meet in the sky, and Serren seems to have shaken free of Mnemo’s control. Ohmen calls a truce, which gives us the amusing image of these three impossibly massive men sitting around a Jill’s kitchen table.
Together, Ohmen, Serren, and Crusade realize they have a foe in common – Mnemo!
They spend an entire day flying around the world to reach his lair in the Himalayan mountains, where Ohmen has to convince Crusade not to swat down Chinese air force craft who are acting reasonably to defend their airspace. When the three find their way into Mnemo’s base, the villain holds Serren hostage in a brief, tense standoff. He eventually throws Serren’s body down to cover his escape, but not before he removes modifications he made to Serren’s staff and stone so that they could function on Earth (remember, Union’s stone got altered on the journey and merged with a Directorate stone).
Ohmen flies Serren up into space, where he explodes into nothingness. He recaps it all for Jill back at their apartment, including how he parted ways with the self-righteous Crusade. Their conversation is interrupted by a phone call – Synergy is activating Union for service with Stormwatch!
We don’t get to see that mission in Union #3 – we just flash to the resulting paycheck and flight to Chicago to visit Jill’s college friend Kath. They are happy to see each other and do tourist things, but Ohmen is hopelessly morose, and it’s hard to tell if it’s because he is mourning for Serren or because regular life is so dull to him. Probably both.
Kath insists that Ohmen just needs a few drinks to loosen up, which Kath seems to sense is going to be a disaster. It’s hard to tell if the drinks make a difference when Savage Dragon crashes in through the bar’s window and Ohmen assaults him, assuming him to be a monster. That’s what Ohmen would do on a regular day, right? He’s quickly informed by the bar’s patrons that Dragon is a cop. Ohmen apologizes, takes a slug in the jug from Dragon, and then goes overboard helping him apprehend his subjects – sending their car into a fiery crash.
Drunk Ohmen is still an incorrigible do-gooder, and he insinuates himself as Savage Dragon’s partner for the night to help him bust the gun-running ring he was staking out. They handily take down an armed penthouse full of armored mobsters, by which point Dragon has warmed up to Ohmen enough to buy him a drink (at a strip club). Drunk Ohmen is effectively a toddler who thinks everything is fascinating or funny.