The Masked Bookwyrm's
The Avengers Graphic Novel and TPB Reviews - Page 6

Back to other trade paperback and GN reviews

The Avengers: The Yesterday Quest 199_ (SC TPB) 80 pages

Written by David Michelinie (story Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant). Pencils by John Byrne. Inks by Dan Green, Klaus Janson.
Colours/letters: various. Editor: Roger Stern

Reprinting: Avengers (1st series) #181, 182, 185-187 (1979)

Additional notes: #181 was not, apparently, reprinted in its entirety.

Rating: * * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

The Yesterday Quest collects a storyline wherein the mutant Avengers, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, investigate the ambiguities -- and outright contradictions -- of theiir childhoods, by returning to their native Transia with an old man who claims to be their real father. The rest of the Avengers get involved, as well, particularly when the return to Transia also involves an ancient evil intending to conquer the earth.

Comic book collections and TPBs have proliferated so much over the years that many stories aren't just collected -- but are re-collected in more than one book. Case in point is this story which, a few years after this full colour TPB was released, also saw print as part of a black and white digest-sized collection, The Nights of Wundagore -- which is where I read it. Just for thee heck of it -- and to make my review site as complete as possible -- I decided to re-read the story, this time just focusing on the issues collected here.

In my review of The Nights of Wundagore, which collected Avengers #181-189, I mentioned that The Yesterday Quest storyline benefitted from being part of a run of issues. It wasn't required to carry a book entirely on its own. But, the fact of the matter is, The Yesterday Quest is an entertaining enough adventure just by itself.

According to my sources, issue #181 isn't reprinted in its entirety, presumably because a lot of it related to an on-going sub-plot about the Avengers' pruning their membership and getting government sanction, stuff not really relevant to this adventure. What remains is an interesting, reasonably off-beat tale, beginning with an adventure with the Avengers in New York, then focusing on the mutant siblings for the middle part, before the team re-unites for the climax.

Admittedly, this is one of those mythos heavy stories that can be fun if you know your background, but a mite confusing if you don't. I'm assuming the genesis of the story -- the contradictory "origin" stories for Wanda and Pietro that are sorted out here -- wasn't some long laid out master plan, but rather a simple result of different writers tossing in different story ideas over the years, and it finally falling to these guys to try and make it all make sense. Or maybe not. Maybe it was a grand plan. In this story we still don't learn who Wanda and Pietro's real father is, but there's little doubt the people at Marvel had already figured that out (it would later be revealed that he was super villain Magneto). But the origins of Wanda and Pietro, and the whole history of Wundagore mountain, is a complex stew with lots of references and flashbacks to characters like the High Evolutionary...though there weren't a lot of annotations in the edition I read to indicate what is new information, and what flashbacks to previously chronicled stories, nor in what comics those stories were told. As such, the story can be a bit bewildering...but also fun, benefitting from the very richness and complexity of the ideas. After all, it's not like I knew too much about this stuff, or had even heard of Wundagore mountain, before I read this storyline -- and I enjoyed it.

That's why I referred to this as an off-beat tale -- it's more than just a slugfest with a super-villain (though there's that, too).

Byrne's crisp art is good, even if Green and Janson's heavier ink style maybe doesn't entirely suit his then detailed, geometric style.

Unlike DC Comics, which has re-invented its characters, I have to remind myself that these old stories are, presumably, still considered canon -- that readers of the current Avengers can still read this and all it's revelations are relevant. Relevant but, admittedly, maybe a bit dated. That's maybe the problem with collecting stories "significant" to a character's mythos -- once enough time has passed, the significance becomes muted.

Still, The Yesterday Quest is a nice adventure. Here it's collected in colour, but by itself, in The Nights of Wundagore, it's collected with a bunch of other issues...but in black & white and smaller size. Take your pick as to which you'd prefer.

This is a review of the story as it appeared in Avengers: Nights of Wundagore

Cover price: __

coverEmperor Doom (Starring The Mighty Avengers) 1987 (SC GN) 62 pages pages

Written by David Michelinie (plot: Michelinie, Mark Gruenwald, Jim Shooter). Pencils by Bob Hall. Inks by Hall and Keith Williams.
Colours: Bob Hall. Letters: Bill Oakley. Editor: Jim Salicrup.

Additional notes: Marvel Graphic Novel #29, tabloid dimensions.

Reviewed: Oct. 2014

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Back when Marvel Comics first started experimenting with the "graphic novel" format of heavy paper, tabloid dimensions, multi-hue -- even painted -- colours (at a time when most comics used single tone colours) the early super hero graphic novels tended to feel like "special" events, either in terms of ambition, creative teams, or even slight mature subject matter.

But by the time of Emperor Doom it can feel a bit like just an expensive annual. At least in execution.

The premise sounds like a grand, epic idea. Doctor Doom, one of Marvel's signature arch villains, and long time dictator of Latveria, brainwashes the entire world into accepting him as their beloved ruler, with even The Avengers (East and West Coast branches) falling under his sway. The fly in the ointment turns out to be Wonder Man who, both because of his physiology and having been conveniently unconscious at the time of Doom's global coup, is unaffected and eventually snaps a few of his comrades out of their delusion

As I say: certainly a neat idea, even toying with ethical ambiguity when it turns out that a world ruled by Doom is actually a pretty decent place to live, raising the old "free will versus creature comfort" dilemma. (Though, as usual, without really delving into it with any depth, like asking: do we really have free will even in democracies -- let alone in war torn countries where the civilian population has very little say in their fates?)

But in execution it feels a bit bland and, well, throwaway. It's briskly paced, no denying that. It moves along at a jaunty clip. Though that's maybe part of the problem. It can feel like we're rushing through a story that needed more pages to develop. It's a 62 page adventure that feels like it either could've been told in half those pages -- or should've been expanded to some multi-issue epic serialized in the monthly comics. Doom's method simply involves capturing the Purple Man (an occasionally recurring villain with hypnotizing powers) and plugging him into a device to affect the world -- no real explanation for why Doom is doing this now as opposed to any other time.

But this sort of story has been told before and since -- the lone hero against a world that has mysteriously turned against him, or come under the sway of a dictator. As has touching on the ethics of what if the dictator actually does a good job. Heck the plot is co-credited to Mark Gruenwald who had already written one of the defining super hero sagas utilizing this idea -- The Squadron Supreme.

A real problem -- and a peculiar one-- is that writer David Michelinie seems to have little feel for the characters, at least as I know them. And that's peculiar because he's written for them before, both The Avengers own comic and as a defining writer on Iron Man! Yet here he has Tony (Iron Man) Stark sounding a bit too much like a hipster and asking, "What's going down?" While Doom, imperious, regal Doom, is practically making wisecracks at times. Doom recruits the Sub-Mariner to help him, and though that's maybe not too odd -- Subby, the mercurial anti-hero, has teamed with Doom before (though that itself would maybe indicate why he wouldn't here, since such teamings usually end with Subby getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop) -- but it's how Michelinie portrays Subby that seems unconvincing. Surely part of the reason you read story's like this is to hang with the familiar characters?

Now part of this may be that Michelinie just isn't taking the gig seriously (Iron Man saying: "What's going down?" is the set up for a gag with a character hitting him and saying: "You!"). It feels determinedly light and breezy, meant as just a colourful confection. There isn't a great deal of tension or suspense -- even in the action scenes. Yet without it swinging enough the other way of actually being cleverly witty or especially amusing. Part of the humour is that Doom finds that once he's conquered the world, the annoying part is dealing with all the bureaucratic minutia. But since Doom is already the ruler of a country, surely he'd be used to that. Maybe the story would've made more sense to have the villain be a simple criminal (Doc Octopus or someone) who conquers the world and finds it's more hassle than it's worth.

The art is by Bob Hall whose style here (perhaps influenced by the inks of Keith Williams) can come across a bit like the love child of Neal Adams and Walt Simonson (with a bit of Bill Sienkiewicz). Adams' lean, sinewy figures and long faces but lacking Adams' organic flow, instead as rendered by Simonson's jagged line work. Hall had drawn The Avengers before, but I do wonder if the visuals also relate to my point about the characters not quite feeling like themselves, as it doesn't quite have the visual look I associate with the team. It's sort of nice art -- certainly there are worse artists I could imagine -- even as I think it adds to the overall coldness, not really creating a warm environment, or letting the heroes feel like people.

Ultimately, I can't really say Emperor Doom is terrible -- just kind of breezily forgettable, with no real emotional depth or gravitas, despite the premise.

Original cover price: $__. 

cover by Stuart ImmonenEssential Avengers vol. 3 2001 (SC TPB) 508 pages

Written by Roy Thomas. Pencils by John Buscema with Gene Colan, Barry Smith (and George Tuska, Don Heck, Werner Roth, Sal Buscema). Inks by various.
Colour: B&W. Letters: various. Editor: Stan Lee.

Reprinting: The Avengers (1st series) #47-68, Annual #2 (1967-1968)

Additional notes: covers; a text piece detailing the history of the Avengers (though obviously reprinted from an earlier source, as it's not up-to-date)

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1 (some more)

Marvel's Essential books are a handy way to collect huge chunks of old comics that, otherwise, would be hard to track down and pretty pricey to boot. The only downside is that, in order to make then so darn economical (500 pages for the same price as a regular TPB of less than 200 pages), they're in black and white.

The third Avengers book collects almost two years of Avengers issues in their entirety (these issues had previously been reprinted in the late 1970s/early 1980s in reprint comics like Marvel Super Action and Marvel Triple Action, but usually edited to fit a smaller page count). This run of Avengers is O.K. with some noteworthy tales, but it's not exactly an unbroken stream of riveting escapades.

The art can't be faulted, with John Buscema delivering most of the pages with his mix of elegance and robustness, realism and idealism, while other artists -- including Gene Colan and Barry Windsor Smith -- contribute here and there. Admittedly, though, this is the first of these books where I really felt the absence of colour hurt it. Maybe Buscema's art takes to colour better, or maybe, with a team book featuring various colourfully garbed characters, the absence of colour is more obvious.

Despite coming on the heels of Avengers #46, which I had a reprint of from my youth (in the above mentioned Marvel Triple Action) -- a tale that seemed ripe with the kind of character angst and human drama that defined the Marvel Age -- too many of these tales are pretty light weight, as the Avengers simply go from one knock-down/drag-out battle to another. Nor is there a lot in the way of sub-plots -- something that can make these Essential books really fun, as you can follow an unfolding story to its end. Writer Roy Thomas throws in the odd character bit, or plot thread, but doesn't always seem to follow through on it. The Wasp's chauffeur, for example, is secretly the villain Whirlwind in disguise, which we are reminded of in a few issues...then that sub-plot disappears about half way through. I don't know if Thomas eventually did something with it, or whether he forgot about it entirely.

The stand out tale is Avengers Annual #2, ironically, not drawn by Buscema but the more modest talents of Don Heck and Werner Roth. They tell the tale competently enough -- and what a tale! Following on the heels of the previous issue (though only indirectly connected) the current Avengers find themselves in an alternate timeline where the original Avengers have set themselves up as (well intentioned) dictators. Eerie, moody, with the flavour of DC's alternate reality Elseworlds stories, and anticipating such moral debates as raised by Squadron Supreme, it's off-beat amd quite gripping for the most part.

Other solid stories include a two-part battle with the Masters of Evil (#54-55), given a dramatic kick in the pants by the Avengers seeming being betrayed by Jarvis, their butler (and Thomas doesn't use a cop out solution). As well there's the introduction of the Vision in a couple of effective, and oft reprinted, stories (#57 and 58 -- each self-contained, but inter-connected). There's the encounter with the villainous Yellowjack (#59-60) that poses intriguing questions as it unfolds (which, admittedly, are less so if you know your Avengers history). Because so many issues are reprinted, the book features not just the first appearance of arch foe, Ultron, but a couple of later appearances that flesh out his background and abilities.

The book closes with two above average trilogies. The first (#63-65), giving background to Hawkeye, and throwing in a touch of pathos, is good as a story, but it really scores because of Gene Colan's art. His beautifully fluid, unique style might at first seem like an unusual choice for the iconic Avengers, but there's a visual panache that even Buscema's issues don't match. The closing saga is drawn by a young Barry Smith in a style that goes for a Jack Kirby-esque blockiness that is surprisingly effective (and unrecognizable compared to his later style), with Sal Buscema (John's brother) furnishing the finale issue. It sees the return of Ultron in a big way, cranking up the angst and character conflict within the team as they are betrayed by the Vision. The ending is a bit simple, but it's pretty exciting and apocalyptic, evoking the kind of earth shattering threats the Avengers, overall, are known for.

As noted though, there are a lot of undistinguished stories here, though that doesn't make them bad. Just...undistinguished, reflecting too much the simplicity of the times. Though, looking at my above mentioned favs, clearly things get better as they go along.

In addition to introducing the Vision and Ultron, this features the first appearance of the hero, Black Knight, and the villain, the Grim Reaper, plus the Black Panther joins the team, and Hawkeye becomes Goliath II and other keystone events. The membership roster shifts here and there. The team is mainly comprised of Hawkeye, The Wasp, Hank Pym (under various guises), the Black Panther, and the Vision, with other stalwarts like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Hercules, and the Black Knight sticking around for a few adventures here and there. As well as occasional guest stars...although a guest appearance by the X-Men is problematic as it continues from a story in their own comic (at least it isn't continued into the X-Men!). Later "Essential" volumes would tend to include such crossover issues, but I guess when this was first printed they hadn't thought of that (possibly later printings did include the X-Men issue).

In the end, this third volume of Avengers stories should satisfy Avengers collectors, and there are enough decent reads to make it reasonably enjoyable. In fact, re-considering it after re-reading a few stories, I find myself asking a question I've asked a few times about collections: should my final rating be based on the average...or on the best tales? I mean, if I'm saying that there are indeed a handful of above average stories here...dosen't that justify the purchase, even if they're sandwiched inbetween more modest tales? So in that spirit, I'm boosting my rating from 3 stars to 3 and 1/2.

So "essential" reading? Maybe not quite, but with some enjoyable episodes.

Cover price: $21.95 CDN./ $14.95 USA. 

Essential Avengers vol. 7 2010 (SC TPB) 500+ pages

cover by Gil KaneWritten by Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Jim Shooter, with Tony Isabella, others. Pencils by George Perez, with John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, others. Inks by Vince Colletta, Pablo Marcos, others.
black & white. Letters: various.

Reprinting: The Avengers (1st series) #141-163, Annual #6, Super-Villain Team-Up #9 (1975-1977)

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Reviewed: March 27, 2010

Essential Avengers 7 collects a big consecutive run of Avengers comics (including a crossover issue of Super-Villain Team-Up) from the mid-1970s, reprinted in black & white to keep the price down. These Essential volumes (and DC's comparable Showcase Presents collections) offer a lot of bang for your buck, though I do quibble about the name. "Essential" sounds like something that collects selected issues. Better to call it "The Complete" Avengers.


This run of issues features the last of writer Steve Englehart's well-regarded run on the series, sees the reins handed over to Gerry Conway for a few issues, then Jim Shooter takes over. Shooter had already made a name for himself at DC on another team series -- the Legion of Super-Heroes -- and would quickly rise through the ranks of Marvel to become Editor in Chief for a long spell. And though Shooter has acquired his share of detractors over the years, even his critics tend to regard his initial run on The Avengers (he would return to the team) as a high point of the series.

This also sees artist George Perez first assuming pencilling chores on the series (though with a few pinch hitters here and there). Perez, too, enjoys a hallowed place in the hearts of Avengers fans (and he would return to the team decades later, as well). Making this run of comics representing a fairly well regarded period overall. So much so that the early issues reprinted here have also been collected in a colour TPB -- The Serpent Crown. For a more detailed review of that story arc, you can read my review here.

Strangely, though I've picked up a few Essential volumes featuring various characters over the years, and enjoyed most of them quite a bit, the previous Essential Avengers volume I read was perfectly enjoyable...but didn't quite muscle to the top of my list. And strangely...this volume too, though easily justifying its purchase price, isn't an unimpeachable representation of comics excellence...despite my having a pre-existing appreciation for this era of the Avengers. The colourfully garbbed Avengers may take less well to the black & white representation than do other series.

But there's still a lot to enjoy. The opening Serpent Crown epic is a twisty, fast paced, enjoyable page turner.

In the middle of it -- presumably because of deadline problems -- Tony Isabella and one-time Avengers' artist, Don Heck, pinch hit an out-of-continuity two-parter. And it's quite an effective tale, even if Heck's art pales beside the other gentlemen represented here -- though he tells the tale well enough. But the story, about an assassin -- called, oh-so imaginatively enough, "The Assassin"! -- targeting the team maybe works precisely because there's something a little low-key about it. The Avengers generally deal with villains who can topple sky scrapers. But this is a slow percolating suspense thriller, the villains' advantage being cunning, not power, as the Avengers are initially oblivious that someone is targeting them. Isabella even wraps it up with a twist ending. In a way, you almost wonder if this was intended for a one-shot annual, then broken up into two regular issues -- it being both self-contained, and suitably "special" in feel.

This collection also features one of those obligatory membership reviews the Avengers under goes periodically, even incorporating a flash back/edited reprint of an old Lee/Kirby Avengers issue.

The very size and fluidity of The Avengers' roster means the tales can stay fresh simply by the changing personnel -- unlike most team books where the line up will remain fairly consistent for long periods. So over these 25 issues, no matter who your favourite Avenger is from that era, chances are they'll make an appearance sooner or later -- everyone from Moondragon to the Black Panther. Even when a character quits the team, he might return as a guest star a few issues later. Heck, one time Avengers Hercules and the Black Widow crop up...guest starring as part of their 1970s team, The Champions.

Another good arc runs through two regular issues, then the annual, with John Buscema drawing the first two chapters, before Perez returns for the climax. As much as I enjoy Perez, and his astounding detail, and recognize his art is definitely a major plus to this collection -- I also like "Big" John Buscema, and there is a power, a drama to his issues, his sense of composition, that maybe even Perez lacks. The story, by Gerry Conway, is off-beat for an Avengers tale which, like with the Isabella story, is maybe its strength, involving the Avengers investigating voodoo mysticism in New Orleans.

The next big arc is a convoluted tale involving Dr. Doom, the Sub-Mariner, and a renegade Atlantean warlord that runs through a number of issues and crossovers into the Super-Villain Team Up issue. It's fun just as a recklessly paced serial, rocketing about, crisscrossing the globe, the team splitting up. But Dr. Doom and the Sub-Mariner had been sharing co-starring credit in Super-Villain Team-Up, so aspects of the story had started before the Avengers became involved. Still, if not neatly self-contained, it's okay as an action romp.

Part of the strength of the Avengers was the Marvel-style angst that arguably separated them from DC's Justice League of America. So even when the focus is just on action, there's still time out for introspection. The biggest catalyst for some of this is Wonder Man who had only appeared once, years before, as a villain-with-a-hero's-heart. In this run of issues we see his resurrection and informally joining the team, providing not only an on going mystery surrounding his return, but unsettling the android Vision, whose brain patterns were modelled after the believed-dead Wonder Man, causing the Vision to question his own identity. Unfortunately, though these threads are carried along, they can seem a bit erratically developed -- perhaps a mark of changing writers back and forth between Conway and Shooter. In fact, the mystery behind Wonder Man's resurrection is teased out so long, that even by the point the characters seem to feel it has been solved...I was still a bit vague on the details (and, indeed, the final issue contains a teaser line promising more revelation's regarding Wonder Man to come).

Still, the very volume of material collected can make such sub-plots more satisfying. Thinner, colour, collections focus on specific story arcs...but sub-plots stretch over months, even years. So these Essential collections better allow them to be followed, and read, in their entirety.

In amongst the multi-part stories, are the occasional one-shot -- most decent enough.

Once Jim Shooter takes over full time, he kicks things off with a two parter that evinces a good sense of characterization...but suffers a bit from a generic action plot -- a problem with a lot of Avengers stories over the years. Though the story could be seen as a rough draft for the similar, but much, much superior "Super Count Nefaria" story (that would be reprinted in vol. 8) -- the villain even has a beard like Count Nefaria!

But Shooter really seems to come into his own with a two-parter from #161-162, in which the menace of Ultron returns. Now, I can't be certain of my objectivity, since I had read part of this years ago, when I was a kid. So nostalgia may play a part. But I think it does hold up as a strong story, one of the best in this collection. Shooter nicely handles the characters, their inner selves and turmoil, presents a story that provides mystery as the Avengers seek to fathom Ultron's goal, and manages to deftly mix action with suspense and thrills.

Art-wise, Perez provides the majority of the art, with occasional breaks filled by artists I'm fond of (John Buscema) to others I can be more mixed on (Sal Buscema and Don Heck). George Tuska pinch hits an issue and Shooter himself draws one, a rare example of art from a man known as a writer. Pablo Marcos assumes the inking towards the end of this collection, and though Marcos' distinctive style can have pluses and minuses, his style tends to round out and add shadow to pencillers' lines, so that Sal Buscema and Don Heck both, I think, benefit from his embellishment.

Ultimately, though I'm not perhaps bursting at the seams with enthusiasm, that shouldn't detract from the fact this is a perfectly solid collection, representing a key -- even seminal -- period in Avengers lore (in addition to the re-introduction of Wonder Woman, we have the introduction of Hellcat, and the first appearance of Jocasta -- sort of; plus guest appearances by the Sub-Mariner, the Whizzer, and the 1970s team, the Champions, and more). Maybe it's the very use of overlapping sub-plots that means it's hard to necessarily pull out individual stories as stand outs, because even when they end, there can be a sense of a tale not fully told. At the same time, as mentioned, that's the advantage to a big collection of consecutive issues...little, dangling questions will be answered just a few issues down the line.

Cover price: __ CDN./ $19.99 USA. 

coverThe Last Avengers Story 1996 (SC TPB) 100 pages pages

Written by Peter David. Illustrated and painted by Ariel Olivetti.
Letters: Jim Novak.

Reprinting the two-part prestige format micro-series.

Reviewed: Mar. 2016

Rating: * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Apocryphal "last" stories are practically a sub-genre in super hero comics. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it's the only medium/genre in which the characters carry on indefinitely (even when properties are periodically re-booted, it's usually without any closure) so it's fun to imagine a "final" adventure. Or maybe because of the idiom's sci-fi themes, it leads one to look into possible future realities.

Whatever the reason, there are a lot of these tales, from old "imaginary" stories featuring Superman and other DC heroes told in the pages of their monthly comics, apocryphal series like Marvel's "What if...?", to later day specials, graphic novels, and even mini-series.

Which bings us to The Last Avengers Story, originally published as a two-issue, prestige format (square spin, 48 pages each issue), painted, micro-series. It's written by fan favourite Peter David and drawn and painted by Ariel Olivetti -- funnily enough, neither man I think with much past history with the Avengers.

The premise is that in an unspecified future (but presumably about twenty or thirty years ahead) the current roster of The Avengers is wiped out by a villainous team including Kang and the latest iteration of Ultron. Middle-aged Hank Pym (ie: Ant-Man/Goliath/Yellowjacket/etc.) and The Wasp set out to recruit a new team simply because the villains warn him if the heroes don't team up to fight them -- they'll just be hunted down and killed individually. (The team including a mix of aging heroes and second generation ones like the daughter of the She-Hulk).

The art is a mixed back. On one hand it boasts that lavish, prestigious "painted look" with Olivetti evoking a kind of modelled, 3-D look at times. But equally, the art is kind of ugly -- I mean delibetrarely so, with the characters all cartoonily exaggerated muscles, bulging tendons, and jutting jaws. Olivetti's style has evolved over the years, and I've seen stuff by him I've liked, but this is very much like the love child of Simon Bisely and Richard Corben. Interesting, certainly eye catching -- but, as I say, aesthetically unattractive. (It's also unashamedly sexist in that the women tend to be drawn in buttock displaying leotards -- not that that that compensates for the previously mentioned ugliness of the visuals; the art is sexploitive, but not actually sexy). He's also not too bothered by backgrounds, with often Spartanly defined backdrops. Which, given this is supposed to be the future, robs the story of much sense of an actual future reality. The art is also quite dark -- visually, I mean -- making the images a bit muddy and vague at times.

And then we get to the script.

Peter David is one of those odd figures for me -- a critically acclaimed fan-favourite writer, but one who I often find myself more ambivalent toward. Part of David's strength is supposed to be his quippy dialogue but, equally, the problem with having a distinctive style is it can take away from the characters just being characters. Here David tends to write everyone with a slightly hard-boiled belligerence that can get a bit wearying after a while. I don't mean they aren't friendly with each other in scenes, but there is a lot of Alpha Dog personalities. As mentioned, neither David nor Olivetti necessarily have much past connection to the Avengers, which maybe adds to this sense of disconnect from the characters. It's not that the characters are demonstrably untrue to their roots but, equally, they don't necessarily uncannily look or sound like themselves, either. (Mind you, some are new characters, and others aren't traditionally associated with the team, like the FF's Johnny Storm).

(And this "future" David envisions was based on continuity at the time, so don't expect it to necessarily still apply in light of later stories).

Perhaps the biggest problem is the plot is just really, really, thin. The idea is Henry Pym has to recruit a new team to fight the villains -- simply because the villains demand that he recruit a team to fight them. It's basically a glorified WWF match! David might have seen the story as being analogous to the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven, as much of it entails Pym going around recruiting his team, before we get to the big smackdown -- but at least in those movies there was still a greater stake (they were fighting to save a village). For that matter, I didn't really feel David did enough with the characters (conveying personalities, exploring their personal motives) to make recruiting them a substitute for a story.

David is also part of the later generation of comic book scribes who often seeks to bring a knowing, post-modern cynicism to comics, winkingly taking pokes at the cliches and the tropes (hence why fans like his dialogue) -- even as writers like him are often guilty of what they critique. In fact I could imagine David might argue the very mindlessness of the conflict is itself a knowing dig at the mindless of so many super hero battles. In one scene two heroes get into a cliched, pointless conflict -- while another character sarcastically remarks on how it's a cliched, pointless conflict! David also repeats that hokey old cliche of having the characters remark how things were so much simpler and more innocent in the old days (when, y'know, they really weren't). And though it's sort of mentioned as a kind of melancholic lament for days gone by, equally it's just an excuse for writers like David to write violent stories because, well, that's what they want to write.

The problem with The Last Avengers Story is that it's an awfully thin, minor story for 100 pages, without much sense of why David felt compelled to write it (again, I'm not sure he has much connection to the team) and without doing anything that distinguishes it from the dozens, possibly hundreds, of other apocryphal, near-future "last" adventures. While Olivetti's art is certainly distinct, but not exactly aesthetically attractive, nor does it draw you into the charaxters. (Admittedly, David's script with a different artist, or Olivetti's art with a different script, might have gelled better).

Original cover price: $__. 

Back to Avengers Reviews - Page 5

Back to the masked bookwyrm