Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Avengers: West Coast Avengers- Assemble! by Harras, Stern, Hall, Milgrom, and McDonnell

It is just after the Secret Wars, and the Avengers have finally returned home to the Avengers mansion. Wasp steps down as Chairwoman, and the Vision is elected, and his first act is to split the team, sending one half to California, to better police the country.

Put in charge are Hawkeye and his wife, Mockingbird, and they recruit heroes and heroines who live out in California: Tigra, Iron Man (although at the time, it is Rhodey rather than Tony Stark), Wonder Man, and the Shade- even though the Shade declines the offer- he works alone.

But it seems that California is undergoing an upswing in supervillainous crime, what with Dr. Karl Malus re-powering a villain named Power Man, and the West Coast Avengers don't seem to have any luck catching him. But when they find him again, can they use teamwork to finally catch him?

Then they must face off against a criminal known as the Blank, who can erase his features and even his tangibility at will. So far, he is using his power to rob banks. But the device he is using to become the Blank is not just powered by strange science, but by the spirit of one man- Graviton! And when he comes back, it will be up to the new West Coast Avengers to bring him, and the blank, to justice. But with Simon Williams- better known as Wonder Man, becomes determined to bring in the Blank and Graviton on his own, will his teammates be able to bring him to his senses, and bring in the miscreants?

The books ends out with two stories, on in which the East Coast and West Coast Avengers band together to take down a menace known as Maelstrom. The new Captain Marvel discovers that the Earth's rotation is slowing down even even faster than it would normally. But when she discovers where the disturbance is, something frightens her so badly that she is nearly paralysed. But what will it take her to overcome her fear and attack Maelstrom?

The second story shows how Hawkeye and Mockingbird found the mansion where the West Coast Avengers make their headquarters. It belongs to an old Hollywood movie star named Moira Brandon. She says her one regret was that while she played women of great courage in the movies, she herself is a coward. But when the villain named Crossfire attacks them in the depths of the mansion, can Moira Brandon find it in herself to save the day? And the story is framed with the device of Hawkeye talking to the grave of his wife?

I actually enjoyed this book. I wasn't into comics during the whole Secret Wars Era, though I had been into the Avengers earlier on. By the time of Marvel's Secret Wars, I was much more into independent comics and publishers, so I missed all of this, like the start of the West Coast Avengers. This graphic novel allows me to catch up on what I missed. The stories are good, and the characters are sort of the best of the 80's cheese.

Everything, from Simon Williams, the quintessential 80's Marvel Hero, to the sort of overblown villains that dress like something out of a bad fantasy novel- this is the sort of thing that Marvel in the 70's and 80's was well known for. But the stories are interesting, and I have to wonder how much the non-Avenger, the Shade, played as part of further stories set in California. He wasn't a character I was familiar with, nor do I seem to be able to find much about him now online.

For doing an offshoot of the original, this isn't bad. The new team is rather irreverent, but that suits the leadership style of Hawkeye and Mockingbird. It's a fascinating introduction to a series, and one I very much enjoyed. Recommended, if you can stand high levels of cheese.

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