Today I will be reviewing an old comic from 1985, that says on the cover "A 39-page Action Epic" and was the first issue of a monthly on-going series that shaped my love for comics. It was one of the first comic books I collected as a child, the first Marvel team book that I collected and my first exposure to the Avengers. I'm of course talking about West Coast Avengers Issue 1. This issue was written by Steve Englehart, drawn by Allen Milgrom and inked by Joe Sinnott.
All images Copyright of Marvel Entertainment, LLC 1985.
In this issue the team is getting established in their new base of operations, the Avengers mansion that Hawkeye and Mockingbird had selected the in mini-series leading up to this issue. They are also starting to work as a regular team for the first time. The issue opens with a visit from ex-Avenger, Hank Pym. His visit is played off as Hawkeye recruiting his at the 6th member of the team, but it is clearly a plot devise because Pym becomes a larger player in the story with the later appearance of Goliath, who uses Pym's technology to grow larger and stronger.
Tigra and Wonderman are flying over the bay on patrol when they are attacked from behind. Iron Man comes to the rescue and you see the muscle of the West Coast Avengers go to work on these flying robots. In typical 80's action style, the girl (Tigra) is dropped into the ocean and has little to no affect on the ensuing battle. Although later in the issue Tigra does have her moment to shine, this issue is all about the boys beating up bad guys and the girls playing ancillary roles. It's not necessarily a fault as these characters are just being developed, but more as a sign of the times in comic book stories that are almost 30-years old.
I found it interesting how robots were attacking these character for seemingly no reason and how that caused them to interact with each other. There was some nice character moments between Wonderman and Tigra but in the end it just gave Wonderman an excuse to show off his strength and for Iron Man to prove that he should be a regular part of the team. Wonderman talks about how he started as a villain and how he is trying to prove himself as a hero, and it sheds some light on Iron Man feeling of inadequacy as he is shown up by Wonderman's pure strength. I think Iron Man becomes a more key character in the series in later issues, but at this point it is clear that the focus is on Wonderman and how he fits on the team.
The issue continues to progress with the team trying to figure out why Wonderman and Tigra were attacked, why Pym is really there and how Goliath fits in. Here is an interesting quote from Steve Englehart's website about Pym:
The main thread in these early issues was the alarming deterioration of Hank (Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket) Pym's mental state - until, with #16, he planned to commit suicide. AVENGERS fans consider this series Hank's high-water mark, which is fascinating because I never warmed up to the guy.
Eventually the issue takes us to the harbor where the West Coast Avengers decided to investigate a cargo ship that is using a lot of energy. What they find inside is quite surprising and starts one of the longer, continuing story lines throughout the series. That's right, it's Ultron.
They fight Ultron-12 to a standstill and narrowly escape. Ultron is one of the Avengers Villains and was created by Hank Pym. You can now see how the plot begins to unfold. Pym is in California studying Goliath (who he used to be) and now finds the West Coast Avengers fighting one of his creations.
Overall this issue is quite campy and ironic, but a fun read and a great look back at superheroes almost 29 years ago. It focus on how each member of the team plays a role
What I liked: I liked all the character development that took place in this issue. I enjoyed the interaction between Tigra and Wonderman before they were attacked. It helped to explain the back-story and motivation of both characters. I got a kick out of how Tigra calls Wonderman a "turkey" in this panel. I have actually been calling my daughter a turkey for years (no idea if it was stuck in my subconscious from reading this as a child).
I also enjoyed the plot threads that Englehart is playing with in this story. He is pushing the character to develop and overcome their feelings of inadequacy at being the b-team Avengers. He is also clearly laying some groundwork for some upcoming story ideas.
What I didn't like: That Mockingbird says "Meow" on more than one occasion in the book. First in reference to Tigra hitting on Pym and a second time when Wonderman is questioning Hawkeye's judgement leaving Pym alone with Goliath at the Avengers complex. I just bothered me how 1-dimensional Mockingbird is in this first issue.
I also didn't enjoy how Hawkeye refereed to everyone with cutise nicknames. He calls Wonderman "Wondy" and the Wasp "Waspy". I surprised that he didn't call Mockingbird "Birdy".
Looking Forward: I'm excited to be revisiting these comic that had such a profound effect on me in my youth. I'm also looking forward to seeing how each member of the West Coast Avengers overcomes their own feelings of inadequacy and begin to get more comfortable in their role as an Avenger.
I want to explore the plot lines that Englehart is playing with and get to know the characters better. I'm also ready for more good comics staring my favorite superhero from my you, Hawkeye. The Hawkeye comic by Matt Fraction and David Aja is on many people's best comics of 2013 lists and I'm hoping that new Hawkeye fans don't forget that he has been a valuable member of the Avengers over 30 years. Cheers!