West Coast Avengers #1 // Review
The Avengers have had a lot of spin-off team books over the years. Mighty, Young, Occupy, New, Uncanny… the list goes on forever. However, it all started with a spin-off set on the West Coast. Featuring heroes who weren’t on the main book, including Iron Man, “West Coast Avengers” ran as a mini-series and a 102 issue series from 1984 through 1994, before being cancelled during the Dark Age of Comics due to lowering sales. However, it would become a cult-favorite among fans for featuring a real group of oddballs with excellent creative teams bringing some fantastic stories to the page. However, with the Avengers having gone worldwide and even cosmic, some Marvel creators argued that it wouldn’t make sense to bring them back.
It looks like someone changed their minds, though. From writer Kelly Thompson, not to mention artists Stefano Caselli and Triona Farrell, comes the third volume of West Coast Avengers. Similar to previous iterations of the West Coast team, a cast of oddballs (and Hawkeye) takes on the oddities of life in the Marvel Universe.
After confronting a gam of land-sharks, Kate Bishop (Hawkeye the younger) realizes that something truly bizarre is going on. After all, someone probably made those sharks, and will probably continue making trouble for Santa Monica, California. After a recruitment montage, and calling in favors from friends, the roster for the unnamed team is assembled!
-Clint Barton, the other Hawkeye.
-America Chavez, a girl who’s a flying brick with the additional power to create portals.
-Johnny Watts, aka Fuse. Kate’s boyfriend, with the power to take up the properties of anything he touches.
-Gwenpool, a girl from the real world who fell into the comics world. With guns.
-Quentin Quire, Kid Omega, formerly from the X-Men. Extremely powerful, and with funding!
Quentin’s funding comes with a catch, though. They’re now being filmed, like any reality TV show. But before that can really be debated, the West Coast Avengers need to take on their first threat: A 200 foot feral Tigra, storming up and down the Santa Monica beach. Needless to say, they’ve got their hands full.
Thompson has done a fantastic job with this first issue. This isn’t her first time with either Hawkeye, and she’s taken the time to build off what she’s done with the previous volume of “Hawkeye” she wrote. There is a ton of charm here with the relationship of the Hawkeyes, and they form a cornerstone of the book. Thompson’s strengths are in character interaction, and she’s chosen a great group of characters to work with. Gwenpool and Quentin Quire look like they’ll be continually fighting in some form throughout the book, while characters like Kate, Clint, and America provide high levels of sass and sarcasm. Land Sharks and a 200 foot Avenger certainly make for an awesome hook, it’s hard to argue against such a dysfunctionally fun team.
Another nice touch are the sequences with someone on the team talking to the camera guys. Thompson uses them to either cut in a brief monologue about what’s going on in the main story, or to fill in some plot details. It adds another humanizing element to the characters by showing another facet to their personalities, and also provides a great way for new readers to get to know people they’re less familiar with.
A great story hook is nothing without art, and both Caselli and Farrell do awesome work. Caselli’s art has always been expressive and highly detailed. However, it feels like his work has hit another level with this book. Kate and America have always been highly expressive, but it’s a real trick to put emotions on someone like Gwenpool, who always has her face mostly covered in this book. The designs of the Land Sharks are also wondrously bizarre, and the sense of scale with the 200 foot Tigra is impressive. Another bonus is that the comic actually feels like it’s taking place in California, which is in stark contrast to other non-New York books put out. Weapon H, for example, needed geography lessons on Washington State. Farrell’s colors also stand out, making Caselli’s pencils pop. From subtle application of blush or makeup on some characters to the actual scanline effect on the camcorder sessions, the comic becomes incredibly immersive. Special mention has to go to the sunset for the final page, where an already dramatically bizarre cliffhanger actually looks like a movie poster.
While the scope of the comic is obviously as far from the cosmic stakes the Avengers have taken in recent years, Marvel potentially has a AAA comic crafted from some of the more bizarre characters available. While it’s only the first issue, it’s pretty rare to have such a strong opening from a spinoff title. While there are a ton of comics with Avengers, mutants, and other various Marvel chaos, this book easily deserves your hard-earned money. Pick it up when you’re next at the comic shop, you won’t be disappointed.