"Lionheart of Avalon"
Writer: Chuck Austen
Aritsts: Olivier Coipel(p), Andy Lanning(i), Chris Sotomeyer(c)
Given the critical lambasting, Chuck Austen frequently receives, I expected little from The Avengers, but priced at fifty-cents, the comic book was simply too good of a deal to pass up. Imagine my surprise to find that the story actually was as good as the deal.
The author impresses with a laidback, light-hearted touch to the Avengers that's reminiscent of the Giffin/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League. He opens the tale by focusing on a supporting cast consisting of an English family who sound English but without their resorting to horrid dialogue clichés such as "strewth" and "cor' blimey." The visual of the mother immediately triggers interest, and her son's love for Captain America is a nice contrast from how kids are usually badly written in comic books or seen in other media.
Austen follows through with a conversation between Captain America and Hawkeye who are on Avengers business in England, and Mr. Austen perfectly characterizes each of these heroes while providing some fitting laughs. Hawkeye's reasoning though is as baffling to the reader as it is to the good Captain.
The Anti-American attitude from English passerby as Cap and Hawkeye change into costume certainly is appropriate given the European climate toward the Presidolt, but it is misplaced within the story. This is not a fault in Mr. Austen's writing. The Avengers represent the United Nations, but the world at large is unaware. How could they know since despite their new status the Avengers' adventures still took place in America? The change of direction becomes evident. Mr. Austen has taken the Avengers out of New York and injected some novelty through the simple change in setting.
Our third Avenger this issue is the new and improved Wasp. Avengers writers continually made this character's growth interesting, and Mr. Austen adds to it literally in a move that puts the final nail in the coffin of Hank Pym's madness. The power was at Wasp's disposal all along, but for some reason Hank denied her the ability. The offscreen approval now shows that Hank is not afraid of being overshadowed by his winsome wife. Her new power is a testament to Hank's mental health, and Jan's use of the power is perfectly conveyed by both Mr. Austen and Olivier Coipel who makes Jan proportionate at any scale. I am not however crazy about his beefier take on Captain America.
Mr. Austen pits these three Avengers against villainous fan-favorite the Wrecking Crew. The author treats these B-villains like the losers that they are but without diminishing their threat to innocent non-powered individuals. He balances out their ineptitude to at least provide the Avengers with a potentially lethal diversion, and they through Mr. Austen possess superior talent for providing scenes of slapstick comedy. I wonder if that armored car was designed by Acme.
Any book that contains two knowledgeable allusions from The Prisoner and another humorously from the original--or if you prefer semi-original--Avengers John Steed and Emma Peel cannot be all bad. In fact Chuck Austen's debut writing for The Avengers isn't bad at all.
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