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Avengers #77

Posted: Sunday, January 11, 2004
By: Loretta Ramirez



“Lionheart of Avalon, Part 1”

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

Publisher: Marvel

Is chivalry dead? That’s an odd question to be addressed by a flagship title of a male-dominated comic book publisher. Then, have the question delivered by Hawkeye in his roguish blend of teasing sincerity, and this central theme to “Lionheart of Avalon, Part 1” becomes perfectly intriguing. The AVENGERS’ new creative team, Chuck Austen and Olivier Copiel, debut strongly as a disfigured single mother copes with a heartless world, Hawkeye and Captain America discuss proper gentlemanly conduct while stripping in a public street, and the Avengers battle the Wrecking Crew.

The plot of this issue is simple—the Avengers search for the Wrecking Crew in England while a mother takes her children for ice cream; and, naturally, a fight erupts around the young family. The pacing is well-calculated and the action plentiful, but the story ends with a sense that some pages must be missing. Perhaps this lingering desire to read on is caused by wanting to experience more of the issue’s charming character moments concerning the family and, most notably, Hawkeye. Austen seems to be yet another writer who favors Hawkeye since much emphasis is given to the character—his amusing analysis of Captain America’s romantic ideals, his peculiar concern over exposing his not-so-secret identity, his unbridled enthusiasm upon seeing giant-sized Wasp, and his flashy bravado while facing the Wrecking Crew. Austen seems to have a strong feel and affection for Hawkeye. Unfortunately, the other Avengers are treated less kindly.

In Austen’s hands, Captain America appears far less competent than he should be. His chivalry becomes a surprising hindrance as he races to save the Wasp from Thunderball, leaving Hawkeye to face the rest of the Wrecking Crew alone and neglecting the crucial job of evacuating by-standers. Further, his plan consists of merely slugging Thunderball (someone who’s taken hits from Thor’s hammer) in the face… with only his fist! Here, Captain America isn’t just tactless in regards to women but uncharacteristically tactless in regards to combat. Worse is the portrayal of the Wasp who is defeated by her own incompetence. Now able to grow to giant-size and shrink to bug-size, the Wasp transforms too rapidly, causing herself to faint into Captain America’s waiting arms. Frankly, this is an insulting characterization, especially since for years the Wasp has been married to and worked alongside a man who’s been plagued with size-altering health problems. She, of all people, should know how to manipulate her enhanced powers. But instead, she’s rendered totally ineffective and downright ditzy.

Concerning Copiel’s art, detail is ample and action is stimulating. Also, Hawkeye again shines with his lively expressions and commanding combat presence. The most notable depiction of Hawkeye occurs just after his explosive arrow engulfs the Wrecker. Smugly, Hawkeye grins as he surveys the golden detonation and reaches for the next arrow. Here, Copiel perfectly captures the character’s confidence and passion for the job. Also, though all attempts to improve Hawkeye’s classic costume habitually fall short, Copiel’s new design is a more successful attempt. Hawkeye’s heftier arm guard is a logical alteration, and the eye-mask has regained its Silver Age horizontal slant; yet, the quiver straps and pouched belt are too bulky, and having only the skirt of the traditional tunic seems unfinished and awkward. Still, the costume is identifiable and attractive. Additionally, the family is treated with striking attention. Copiel’s skill in encapsulating emotions is impressive, particularly with the children. However, again the issue has problems concerning an inconsistent portrayal of Captain America. In one panel, the character appears powerful, but in the next he’s remarkably beefy in a less flattering manner—so much so that it’s odd that Hawkeye isn’t giving his friend advice on diet rather than on women.

Yet despite the character and art flaws with Captain America and despite the Wasp’s inexplicable ineptitude, the story is a quick and fun read. Hawkeye is endearing, and the family is sympathetic. And it’s difficult to resist the desire to see a return of effective and modern-day chivalry—something that might brighten the lives of the tragedy-scarred family or brighten the pages of upcoming AVENGERS.



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