AVENGERS: WEST COAST AVENGERS- FAMILY TIES (Marvel, 2011; Hardcover)
Collects West Coast Avengers (Vol. 2) Nos. 1-9 and Vision and the Scarlet Witch Nos. 1, 2 (cover dates October, 1985- June, 1986)
Writer: Steve Englehart
Artists: Al Milgrom (Penciler 1-5, 7-9), Kyle Baker (Penciler, 6), Richard Howell (VaSW 1, 2), and Joe Sinnott (Inker)
Nostalgia is a funny thing. If you had asked me how long I read this title prior to reading this hardcover I would have answered “a long time”. The truth of the matter is that I bailed after issue 8 and didn't return until John Byrne took the title over a few years later. What made this title seem so lasting to me was the simple fact that my family was poor and didn't have cable, so I re-read all of these issues countless times back when this series came out. I managed to buy all of these issues off of the stand except for Vision and the Scarlet Witch No. 1 as well as issue 9 of the main title.
This was my first exposure to Engelhart's writing, and it is kind of surprising that they launched this series as part of a crossover with the Vision and the Scarlet Witch mini-series. Issue 1 remains a favorite, as I loved the battle with Ultron-12, Goliath, and the Man-Ape. I must have read that a dozen times in July of 1985 alone.
I love the dynamics of this rag-tag group of heroes. You have Hawkeye, a veteran Avenger, as the leader. I never liked Hawkeye except for when he ran the show in this series. He is normally an insubordinate jerk, but here he tries to be the voice of reason. Mockingbird, his wife, essentially an unknown bit player thrust into the big time. Iron Man, founding member of the original team. Tony Stark had only recently resumed being Iron Man and had an underdog, tarnished reputation aspect to him at this time. I always felt that him belonging to this team was part of his redemption. Wonder Man was always a second stringer but I liked him well enough. And Tigra, who looked cool but was pretty useless as an Avenger. The Thing appeared on the last page of issue 3 and hung around until issue 10. He was kinda sorta not really a member, ditto Firebird, who assisted the team in an unofficial capacity for a while. I enjoyed the loose knit vibe of the team. Having Hank Pym (founding member, formerly Ant-Man/ Giant-Man/ Goliath/ Yellowjacket) aboard in a non-heroic capacity served to spice things up as well.
Englehart brings in an enemy unique to this team in issue 4, Master Pandemonium. He fights the team on and off throughout this book. The search for him ends up leading to a fight with my beloved Werewolf By Night in issue 5. That cover still kills me to this day. I remember how excited I was when I pulled that issue off if the spinner rack back in November of '85. Little did I realize that it was either an homage or a swipe from the cover of Moon Knight #29. I knew nothing of such things at age 12, nor would I have cared. I do miss the no spoiler environment of fandom back then. You almost never knew what a cover would look like, or what the next issue was about aside from a letters page Next Issue hype blurb. There was a lot of joy of discovery back then. Oh well, things have moved on, mostly for the better. This was a very lonely hobby back then.
Issues 5 and 6 also featured a then-cured Dr. Michael Morbius, otherwise known as Morbius the Living Vampire. Issue 6 had artwork by Kyle Baker instead of the regular team of Milgrom and Sinnott. I'm not much of a Baker fan, although I do appreciate his work a helluva lot more now than I did back then. Al Milgrom's artwork is best described as serviceable, but when paired with a heavy handed inker like Sinnott his work really shines.
I enjoy Engelhart's characterizations, especially Tigra. What on the surface seemed like fanboy fantasies with Tigra were in reality foundation building for her losing her soul to her cat side. Her coming on to her teammates was done as a demonstration of her becoming more animal-like...or at least I hope it was. Otherwise, it would be sophomoric.
All in all, this was an entertaining read. It's not quite as good as I remembered it being. In all honesty this was never a favorite title of mine, even back when it was originally published. They are just solid, well done comic books. Not every comic book published has to set the world on fire or redefine the medium as a whole. Sometimes it's fun just to see superheroes save the day and maybe grow a little as characters along the way.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- The late, lamented Marvel Premiere Classic line was sort of a junior Masterworks line. Classic material presented in hardcover with nice paper and sewn binding at a much lower MSRP.
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4 out of 5. The restoration is excellent everywhere except for issue 3. Lines are washed out and/or dropped, and things look generally murky in that issue.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Heavyweight thick coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding rating: 4.75 out of 5. Sewn binding. The book lays about 95% flat.