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Avengers #77

Posted: Thursday, January 8, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Chuck Austen
Artists: Olivier Coipel (p), Andy Lanning (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Plot:
As the Avengers arrive in London, England following the intelligence that the Wrecking Crew have jumped the pond, we see the Avengers are woefully unprepared for an encounter with the Wrecking Crew, as their lineup consists of Captain America, Hawkeye and the Wasp. Even with the Wasp testing out the more imposing side of her growth based abilities, we see the Wrecking Crew are able to make a very convincing case that the Avengers needed to bring more heavy-hitters to this party.

The Good:
It would figure that in the debut week of my new review format I'd be forced to come up with a paragraph where I have to essentially praise the work of a writer whose work I actively despise. Still, I guess the one advantage that this issue has over his work on Uncanny X-Men is that Chuck Austen doesn't look to reached the stage of the game where he attempts to impress us with his uncanny ability to come up with largely generic villains with master-plans that are the very definition of incredibly stupid, as this opening issue features the Wrecking Crew, a group of villains that I've always been rather fond of. What's more their plan isn't all that bad as they finally realized that attempting to pull a daylight robbery of an armored truck in the middle of Manhattan is the quickest way to draw the attention of the half dozen super-group that call that city home, and as such the Wrecking Crew transplant their show to London, England. Being an unabashed Hawkeye fan I also have to confess that I was rather impressed by the scene where Clint squares off against the Wrecking Crew. Plus, while I imagine many fans won't be quite so excited by the prospect of the Wasp's Giant Man impression, I rather like the idea of giving her a power that allows her to do more than fly around the villains, zapping them in the head.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Olivier Coipel for saving me from being forced to fill a second column of faint praise, as his art is more than deserving of being included in the "Good" side of the review. While his version of London, England is largely generic, he does a pretty impressive job of delivering this issue's big impact moments, with our visual introduction to the Wasp's new power being particularly impressive, as is the ensuing battle where the Wrecking Crew live up to their name. I also have to give the art a hand for managing to deliver a scene where Hawkeye and Captain America are out of costume, standing beside each other, and for the first time in recent memory I wasn't dependent on the dialogue to tell the two apart. The final page is also quite solid, as Captain America does look like he was on the receiving end of an attack that would leave him down and out.

The Bad:
The idea that the Avengers would actively seek out the Wrecking Crew with a lineup consisting of Captain America, Hawkeye and the Wasp struck me as rather foolish. I mean the Wrecking Crew has a history of highly destructive battles where they display a criminal indifference toward the innocent bystanders that might be injured and/or killed, and Chuck Austen has the Avengers decide to counter this by bringing a lineup that at best could hope for a victory that would involve a long, drawn out battle in the middle of a populated city. I mean I guess one could argue that the new power that Janet displays in this issue bumps her up to the category of heavy hitter, but given she's shown to be largely inexperienced in the use of this new power, she's more of a liability than an edge in this conflict. Now don't get me wrong, I like the idea of the heroes being an underdog, but Chuck Austen made this mismatch the result of careful planning by the Avengers and not a chance encounter, which makes the Avengers look like blithering idiots for rushing to a gun fight armed with pocket knives.

Chuck Austen also offers up what I imagined he believed was a highly amusing conversation between Captain America and Hawkeye where Clint looks to be saying that Captain America can't get women because he's living by an outdated code that placed women on pedestals, while Hawkeye claims that dragging them down in the mud with you is what is really required. Now, this conversation might be more engaging if it had been previously established that Captain America was having trouble with getting into relationships with women, or if Hawkeye had a history of successful relationships to draw upon, but instead it reads like Chuck Austen simply relating a conversation that he heard between two guys at the local bar that he's decided to transplant into this book. Plus, any argument that hinges on the idea that you need to respect women by affording them the same disrespect you show toward your male counterparts seems a bit wonky. I fact I suspect Hawkeye's opening argument was largely designed to offer up a controversial stance that Captain America and readers could react to, but in the process it casts Hawkeye in a rather unappealing light.

The Land of Ex-Parrots and Funny Walking:
I am not a fan of Chuck Austen's work, as I gave up on the first War Machine maxiseries halfway in, and he's managed to drive me off every title he's touched. In my mind he's a writer who has never impressed upon me any semblance of having the skills required to tell a good story, and I remain stunned that he continues to land a string of assignments that seem to suggest that the editors are seeing something that has managed to elude me. Now to be fair if there was any other name in the credit box I'd likely be more willing to give this rather weak opening issue every opportunity to impress me, but I've already played this game on War Machine, Uncanny X-Men, Exiles and Captain America, so I'll thank Marvel for making this first issue into a relatively cheap reminder that Chuck Austen is a fair to middling writer with an annoying tendency to transplant whatever personality he feels best suited to a character. I'll be back when Chuck Austen is gone and I pity those of you who stay on board.



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