Sunday, July 21, 2013



Collects Avengers Annual No. 16, West Coast Avengers Nos. 25-30, and West Coast Avengers Annual No. 2 (cover dates October, 1987- March, 1988)

Writers: Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom (30)

Artists: Al Milgrom and Mike Machlan with Dave Hunt and others ( Avengers Annual No. 16)

The book starts out with the two Annuals which are a sequel to the 1982 mini-series Contest of Champions. The Controller used the East and West Coast Avengers teams in a game to trick Death into releasing the Grandmaster from his deathly exile. Al Milgrom's artwork is best described as “serviceable”. He is okay as long as he has a good inker. When he inks his own work, as he does in the West Coast Avengers Annual, the results are less than impressive. I've read both of these a few times. They were collected in the 1999 Contest of Champions trade paperback which I owned (2001 printing) but then dumped off to upgrade to the 2010 Marvel Premiere Classic Hardcover Avengers: The Contest, which was a remastered and significantly upgraded version of the same material.

The issues from the core series were a huge arc dealing with the Zodiac. The Zodiac have been used so many times and in so many ways that even diehard comic fans find them hard to follow. The original incantation was a criminal cartel, where each sign was a gang leader. According to Wikipedia, there have been six versions of the Zodiac. This book features the second version. Loathe as I am to resort to referring to Wikipedia, the Zodiac are so confusing to me that I had to. 

The battle between Wonder Man and the Abomination in issue 25 is great. I have always enjoyed Moon Knight and was pleased to see him join the team. This group was always a mismatched affair and so he fits right in. The battle between Moon Knight and Taurus in issue 29 is a lot of fun, as we see Moon Knight's schizophrenic personality reemerging. Milgrom's pencils and layouts are good. He is a great storyteller even if he is not a technically great artist. Mike Machlan's inks are not as powerful as Joe Sinnott's but he still saves the day (and Milgrom's artwork). Englehart is mysteriously absent from issue 30 but returns in issue 31 (not in this book). Milgrom takes over the scripting duties in issue 30 in addition to his pencils. The story feels similar to one of those proto-Silver Age Stan Lee alien invasion type stories from Tales To Astonish or one of the other Atlas science fiction/ monster titles.

The material collected in this book is being repackaged in the West Coast Avengers Omnibus Vol. 2, due later this year. The rub of it is that this is the last of the Marvel Premiere Classic hardcovers, while the second Omnibus goes up to issue 41. So I will be dumping this (and Lost In Space-Time) on eBay and upgrading. I resisted buying the first West Coast Avengers Omnibus because I am perfectly happy with the first three hardcovers. This will be the only way that issues 31-41 and Annual 3* will be collected unless Marvel issues another hardcover...which they probably will if I buy the Omnibus. If I don't buy it, it will go out of print and then a collection of issues 31-41 and Annual 3 will never materialize. A pox upon you, completist OCD! (*Annual 3 was also collected in the Evolutionary War Omnibus.)

This will then bump us up to the John Byrne run, which I already own in the VisionQuest and Darker Than Scarlet trade paperbacks. The fill-in issues 58 and 59 are collected along with issues 63-75 in the Along Came A Spider-Woman trade paperback. This would give us enough material, already remastered and restored, for a third potential Omnibus. Don't hold your breath for that one, although I wouldn't entirely rule it out when Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theatres in two years.
That leaves us only issues 76-102 and Annuals 4-8* in order for the entire series to be collected under the West Coast Avengers banner. Annual 4 (Atlantis Attacks), 80-82 (Operation: Galactic Storm), 96, 97 (Infinity Crusade), and 101 (X-Men/Avengers: Bloodties) have been collected in their respective crossover-themed collections.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I love the way that these Chinese made books smell.

DVD-style Extras included in this book:
Marvel Age Annual No. 3 (1985) page 3, a spoof page by Writer/Artist Fred Hembeck, and page 5, which was a preview page with brand new writing and artwork by Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom, and Mike Machlan. That Annual was a blast, as they had a brand new page for each title that Marvel was currently publishing outlining the next year's plotlines. I loved Marvel Age magazine.

The covers to issues 27 and Avengers Annual No. 16 with modern recoloring. These were used as the front and back cover of the dustjacket for the bookstore market version of the book (see cover image at the top of the review). These are fully rendered and would have been used for a softcover version of this book. They likely will be used if one is ever made available. They are presented here without any trade dress (i.e. logos, etc.).

Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. These Marvel Premiere Classic Hardcovers were a sort of junior Masterworks line. While this isn't quite the “Blu-Ray” restoration you would see in a Marvel Masterwork, it is still excellent.

Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Thick coated stock with a slight sheen.

Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Sewn binding. The book lays 99% flat. I feel all warm and fuzzy.

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