Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Collects Avengers Annual No. 15, West Coast Avengers Nos. 10-16, and West Coast Avengers Annual No. 1 (cover dates July, 1986- January, 1987)
Writer: Steve Englehart, Danny Fingeroth (Avengers Annual No. 15 only), and Mark Bright (co-plotter, West Coast Avengers Annual No. 1 only)
Artists- Pencilers: Al Milgrom, Steve Ditko (Avengers Annual No. 15 only), and Mark Bright (West Coast Avengers Annual No. 1 only); Inkers: Joe Sinnott, Klaus Janson (Avengers Annual No. 15 only), and Geoff Isherwood (West Coast Avengers Annual No. 1 only)
Steve Englehart handles things so much differently than writers do nowadays. All of the character development occurs while things are happening, be it a battle, team meeting, etc. No 4-6 or more pages wasted on breakfast table conversations where nothing actually happens, unless you consider characters interrupting one another and speaking in a singularly snarky voice as something happening. Wonder Man's increasing arrogance, Tigra losing her soul, Hank Pym losing his mind...these things all occur in ways that are organic to the overall narrative and story. 
Remember when superheroes didn't kill? Me too.
One of the charms of this title is how mismatched and disproportionate the power levels are between the various heroes. You have Hawkeye, whose only power is shooting arrows. Arrows for crying out loud! I've always thought that he was a terrible Avenger, but here he shines only because he is trying to be better than he really is as a team leader. Mockingbird, while trained by S.H.I.E.L.D, only has battle-staves to battle universe shaking threats. Iron Man is of course extremely powerful. I love how he is constantly refining his armor. Tigra gets a power upgrade in this book, and Wonder Man is realizing how powerful he really is. It was a treat seeing Hellcat (formerly known as The Cat, as in Claws of the...) and Hellstorm, formerly the Son of Satan, back in action again, although they were not official Avengers.
While I enjoy Englehart's writing, his penchant for C and D list Bronze Age villains can get silly at times. The Griffin, Razorfist, Zaran the Weapons Master, Shockwave, Zzzax, Tigershark, and Whirlwind see our heroes barely working up a sweat. Some of the new villains leave a lot to be desired as well. Headlok? Quantum? Halflife? At least Master Pandemonium is an interesting adversary. Fortunately we see the West Coast Avengers put through the paces by some serious heavyweights, such as Graviton, Freedom Force (formerly The New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants), and the Zodiac. 
Wonder Man's new costume design is hideous, crossing the worst aspects of his original costume with the worst aspects of his '80s one. Mockingbird's new costume is a more subtle redesign. Both costume changes occurred in issue 12.
I don't usually associate Al Milgrom with quality artwork, but when paired with a heavy handed inker like Joe Sinnott he does just fine. They define the look of the title while Englehart spins his seemingly endless subplots and epics. Like the rest of the run of this title, these comics didn't redefine the medium or set the world on fire. What they did do is provide solid, classic superhero stories, and for that I am grateful. Life is heavy enough, and sometimes I just want to see good guys beat up on bad guys and save the day.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- That winking Hawkeye picture on the dustjacket from the cover of issue 14 creeps me out.
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: 5 out of 5. The restoration is excellent throughout the book.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Heavyweight thick coated stock, a bit too glossy for my taste but still very nice.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Sewn binding. The book lays about 95% flat.

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