West Coast Avengers #46 – Reviews Of Old Comics
I was going to continue on the the mid-80s frenzy that I was in, visiting the dawn of the West Coast Avengers, but in looking at the series, I wanted to hit where the series had its greatest impact. The mini-series was not that point, and in the series itself, the high points seemed to coincide with John Byrne’s run on the title. Those also tended to run with multi-issue stories, with a couple notable exceptions, and one of those is the introduction of some of the silliest heroes of the 1980s, the Great Lakes Avengers. They keep coming back and at one point in their evolution boasted among their members, Squirrel Girl. This is before everyone’s favorite nut-eating, butt-kicking hero was invented, and features some heroes that if not silly, definitely were interesting, to say the least. So with the intro now long enough to wrap past the Reviews of Old Comics logo, let’s get started.
Writer/Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Mike Machlan
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Cover Artist: John Byrne
A costumed hero interrupts a bank robbery, his acrobatic and fighting skills are effective only a bit before the robbers shoot him down, apparently killing him. It’s then that they notice their hostages being rescued by a flat, stretching ribbon and themselves stopped by a gigantic obese woman immune to their bullets, and a flying dinosaur woman that flies into the bank directly through the wall. As they try to escape, they find themselves stopped by the hero that they thought they had killed, who begins to beat them viciously. The flat hero that rescued the hostages restrains him until the dinosaur lady can calm him down with her hyper-sonic voice. When the heroes emerge, they announce themselves to the Milwaukee television news cameras as the Great Lakes Avengers.
In a motel room in California, Hawkeye catches a news report and is instantly outraged by some heroes simply claiming to be Avengers. He goes to call the team before realizing that he quit when U.S. Agent was brought in to take over as leader. He answers a knock on his door to find his ex-wife and former teammate, Mockingbird who has arrived to try and make their marriage work despite her violation by the Phantom Rider, which Hawkeye handled selfishly, and Mockingbird’s betrayal of the team.
AT the West Coast Avengers Compound, U.S. Agent is enjoying a hearty breakfast and conversation with the Avengers’ cook, Mrs. Heyges. Their conversation is interrupted by Tigra chasing a mouse through the kitchen. U.S. Agent grabs her an an attempt to get her to act sensibly, but she attacks him in a flurry of scratching and hissing. As she skulks off, Mrs. Heyges tells him that Tigra has been catching mice in the pantry for some time, which U.S. Agent finds repulsive.
A merchant ship lands on the planet Egg, which records tell has nothing of value. The Captain tells his first mate the inhabitants are special, as when they reach puberty, they harden and become mountains. The Captain then lures one of the mobile young ones into the ship with candy. The child cries as it’s locked in the hold and taken from its homeworld as a slave.
Hawkeye and Mockingbird fly to Milwaukee to check out the Great Lakes Avengers. In Milwaukee, the Great Lakes Avengers arrive at the Germania Building where a mysterious light show has triggered an A.P.B. Doorman uses his powers to make his body a portal for Flatman to get inside the building without damaging it. Dinah Soar flies to the top where she’s ensnared in a net, and she signals her teammates with a whistle. Responding to the call, Mr. Immortal climbs on Big Bertha’s back and she uses her powerful bulk to give him a lift to the roof of the building, before safely falling back to the ground herself, protected by her great mass.
At the top, Mr. Immortal is confronted by Hawkeye, whom Mr. I thinks is an impostor. When Mockingbird responds to Mr. Immortal’s attack, he thinks her to be an impostor as well, and inexplicably jumps off the roof to his death. When Mockingbird checks on his dead body, Flatman lets her know Mr. Immortal can’t die. Later at what passes for the Great Lakes Avengers headquarters, Big Bertha’s luxurious house, she reveals that she used to be a high-paid supermodel with a super-power. Seeing how serious the group of heroes is, Hawkeye gets the idea that by leading the Great Lakes Avengers, he could turn them into “a heckuva team.”
At Avengers Compound, the Scarlet Witch gets a letter from Absolon College in Texas promising to restore the Vision to his former self.
The story is absolutely a priceless way to introduce some stupid comic book characters. There was some blowback on this issue, but John Byrne has said that it was the intention that the character, the names, everything was intended to be “stupid.” At this point, the Avengers took themselves way too seriously. In the main Avengers book, the team was coming off completely falling apart and being rebuilt by Captain America who used Thor, two members of the Fantastic Four, and Gilgamesh, which went over like a lead balloon. This also started a period where to be an Avenger, you simply had to be asked by Captain America to join. According to John Byrne’s comments on his forum, this was a period at Marvel where the Avengers were constantly meddled with by the men in charge at Marvel.
As far as this comic goes, it’s put together quite nicely, especially after four issues of a very heavy story. It’s also a very refreshing switch in tone. The artwork is very good Byrne artwork, especially given that he spends so much time during it creating believable environments, whether it be a Milwaukee bank, a cheap motel room, Avengers Compound kitchen, an airplane to Milwaukee, or the Germania Building. The inking by Mike Machlan is not the best for Byrne’s artwork, but it’s admirable in remaining faithful to Byrne’s style. The colors have moments, like in the scene above where Mr. Immortal is shot at the bank. Mostly, though it’s perfectly functional and not memorable. Overall, quality-wise, this comic is good and memorable, but not great.
This issue has been collected in the Vision Quest collection. If you want an actual issue, it may take a few bucks, since it is a first appearance. It is available digitally, on Comixology.
FINAL RATING: 6.5 (out of a possible 10)