Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Avengers 1959

There was a time when Howard Chaykin was a lure for me to buy a book. I especially like American Century from Vertigo, but at this point I'm finding that Chaykin just doesn't have the same drawing power.

That's meant both figuratively and literally. Where once his art work would be enough for me to check out a book, I find now that it pains me, more often than not. A lot of that is because of the frequent pained expressions on the characters he draws, regardless of whether the circumstance calls for a pained expression. Look at the cover to the first issue of this mini, for instance. Three of the six characters are grimacing. I think they're meant to look fierece, but they look like vampires with bowel problems, especially Sabretooth and Namora.

That sort of thing occurs in the interior art, too. Characters who are supposed to be smirking look like they stubbed their toe. Even smiling the characters look uncomfortable. Something about the corner of the mouth that makes it look like the smile is forced, I think.

To top it off in the art critique portion of this post, the covers are uninspired. The first, third and fifth issues are interchangeable. Hell, the third and the fifth even have Namora in the same prominent pose. The second and the fourth also look like they could be switched at will. It's as though Chaykin felt his inner James Bond calling and had to throw these two covers into the mix, regardless of their relevance to the story, of which there is none. Not that I object to covers that have nothing to do with the story, but these are just dull. If your cover is unrelated to the story, at least make it exciting to draw in a buyer.

But on to the story. In 1959 Nick Fury heads a team going by the Avengers name. It has nothing to do with either the Iron Man and Captain America group or Steed and Mrs Peel. This team consists of Bloodstone, Kraven the Hunter, Namora, Sabretooth, Silver Sable, Dominic Fortune and Blonde Phantom.

To be honest, I know nothing about Dominic Fortune and Blonde Phantom, and very little about Silver Sable. After reading these 5 issues, I know very little more than where I started.

It's an odd mix in this team. Sabretooth and Namora have super powers but none of the rest appear to be anything more than adventurers. In most of the fights with the Nazis, our ever handy foils, I wonder what the bulk of the team is doing to survive, as the Nazis seem to have quite a few powers.

There's a bit of magic thrown in on both sides for good measure, further muddying what the parameters are for the story. On the Avengers' side is a guy called Powell McTeague. Another cypher for me. I don't remember the name of the guy with the Nazis. Despite these two magicians, their primary contribution is teleporting people. A far cry from Dr Strange.

There are odd inconsistencies in the story. Blonde Phantom is working under cover, schtupping a guy called Skul who likes to engage in a bit of the cross dressing (because what would a story of Nazis be without the sexual oddity on the down low). He escapes and is referred to as a minor player in whatever conspiracy the team is trying to foil. However, in the last issue he's a general and a major player in the plot. Huh?

Whatever. The bulk of the story involves a plot to pit the US against Wakanda. There's a plant that puts it into the Wakandan Intelligence that the US renegged on some deal and was involved with the kidnapping of the crown prince. Disappointingly, I thought the Black Panther might make an appearance, what with all this Wakanda involvement, but no such luck.

For the life of me I can't recall what the motive was for the Nazis in all this. I mean, I presume they're trying to take over the world like they always do, but I can't remember how any of this was going to accomplish that. There's a bunch of minions running around in costumes that evoke Hydra, but they're not Hydra. The whole thing is touching on Marvel history but in a teasing, unsatisfying way. Slap that on to a generally unsatisfying story and I'm left with the question of why this series was created at all. I don't know who it's supposed to satisfy. I guess it can fall into the vein of the Noir books but it doesn't have any of that feel, and isn't told at the level of quality of either the Spider-man or Daredevil Noir books I've read.

Well, at least I didn't lay out any coin for this. I let Lee borrow my Xenozoic Tales over sized edition and got this and some other stuff back with it. Guess I'm doubling as a recycling center. Not that I should complain. I'm going to do the same thing and give this to a guy in my office. Him I'll forewarn, though.

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