Saturday, October 8, 2011

Avengers 1959 #1 (of 5)

I've always been a big fan of writer and artist Howard Chaykin, but I hesitated to pick up this issue.

It spins out of a recent story in the regular New Avengers comic that was written by Brian Bendis and drawn by Chaykin, and it didn't really work for me.

Part of the problem is the fuzzy timeline Marvel has. Since modern-day heroes (such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, etc.) can't age in "real time," their origin date has to slide with the real calendar. After all, if the FF first appeared in 1961, and Reed Richards and Ben Grimm had fought in World War II, they'd be in their 90s by now. Spidey would be, what, in his 60s?

That's why the company, quietly, long ago, set up a "sliding scale," which sets the origins of the modern-day Marvel Universe about seven or eight years ago. And it'll always be that long ago (I think John Byrne gets the credit for this, but I could be wrong). That way, the past adventures are still valid, and the heroes stay as young as they need to be.

Yet here's a title locking down several Marvel characters in 1959 - and calling them The Avengers.

The series feels like it's struggling under its own weight. Chaykin mixes in some trademark sexy situations, some sharp banter and a developing menace, and provides strong, creative artwork that seems to be buried under murky colors by Jesus Aburtov.

It all trudges along, with lots of attacks by cookie-cutter Nazis (or Hydra or whatever they are), lots of dry one-liners and no real reason to much care one way or the other.

Even Nick Fury, one of my favorite characters, seems to sleepwalk through this. But then, he must be an imposter, because on the first page he says he's never been prouder than of the time he's spent in the company of this new group of Avengers. Really, Nick? You think so little of the Howling Commandos, with whom you fought in World War II?

OK, now I'm being picky. But I have to think Chaykin was having an off day when he tackled this issue. No doubt it'll pick up from here - but the series is off to a shaky start.

Grade: C+


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