Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Crabs, Assemble!, Part Twelve: Marvel Premiere Classic, Vol. 44: Avengers: West Coast Avengers Assemble

 Go west, young Hawkeye!

 When we last saw Hawkeye, he and his new bride, Mockingbird, were sent out west to California by Avengers Chairman, The Vision, to set up the new west coast branch of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. (See THE AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION, BOOK 2 for the details...) This volume picks up right where we left off (And even includes the relevant pages from THE AVENGERS #'s 243-244 and #246, in case you missed them!), with Hawkeye and Mockingbird moving into the new headquarters and assembling the team.

 As always, Marvel's collected editions team leaves no stone unturned, starting the book with the aforementioned AVENGERS pages, and moving on to the first issue of the WEST COAST AVENGERS  from there. The mini-series is written by the legendary Roger Stern, who does his usual stellar job with the characters, as Hawkeye gathers the new team and deals with a mysterious threat in their new headquarters.

 From there, editor Mark D. Beazley makes the curious decision to break up the flow of the mini-series by including IRON MAN ANNUAL #7. It messes with the flow, but it does seem to be placed in just the right reading order, so....I know better than to second-guess Marvel at this point. They're killing it with their collections. I just ran with it. The issue is written by Bob Harras, who is better known as an editor, for good reason. Not a terrible issue, but nothing memorable, either.

 Issues 2-4 of the mini-series are up next, and they show that maybe the interruption wasn't such a mistake after all. These three issues flow together and function as a complete story above and apart from the "Getting the band together" first issue, and find the team dealing with a relatively minor threat (The Blank), who leads into a much greater threat (Graviton, who handed THE AVENGERS, complete with the real Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, their asses....This guy is nothing to sneeze at!). Stern shows the team's greatest strength in the battle, as they use skill and guile to make up for the lack of brawn.

 Stern cleverly assembles a team that looks oddly lopsided- Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Tigra, Iron Man (With James Rhodes in the suit, still learning the ropes), and Wonder Man, but they work extremely well together. This book could have been a real contender, had Stern stayed on as writer, but he was replaced by Steve Englehart when the book graduated to monthly status. I remember vaguely enjoying the monthly for the first year or so, then just kind of drifting away. We'll see how those issues hold up a little further along in the marathon.

 THE AVENGERS #250 follows the mini-series, but that was covered in the ABSOLUTE VISION , BOOK 2 collection, so click on the link above for more on that issue.

 The book is rounded out by a Marvel Press poster of both teams, the covers of the three AVENGERS issues excerpted in the beginning of the collection, a handful of OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE pages, and a Roy Thomas story from AVENGERS WEST COAST #100, which is oddly placed......The tale is a flashback to the early days of the Hawkeye/Mockingbird marriage, but there's a pretty big spoiler that makes it not quite fit in this volume.

 A fun collection, but nothing earth-shattering. On the new Crabby-Scale of 1-10, MARVEL PREMIERE CLASSIC, VOL. 44: AVENGERS: WEST COAST AVENGERS ASSEMBLE  gets seven devil-heads.