Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Avengers #390

Avengers #390, "Campfire Tales," Cover Date September 1995
Written by Bob Harras and Terry Kavanagh, Penciled by Mike Deodato, Inked by Tom Palmer

I've gone into it a bit already in several other posts, but 1995 saw Marvel fracture into several different editorial branches, each with its own editor-in-chief. This might not have been so bad if the editors weren't all "separate but equal," and driven by stockholders and their marketing department to directly compete with one another. Thus, the Clone Saga is born out of a desire to compete with the X-Men's successful "Age of Apocalypse," as is the slightly lesser known but equally infamous "The Crossing." So let's do it!

We begin with Deathcry, everyone's favorite alien teen, shouting "get out of my way or I won't be held responsible." The drama is undercut by the fact that she is wearing a swimsuit, so the next panel of her splashing into a swimming hole is not a revelation. Yes, the Avengers are relaxing in the Adirondacks, smashing up pieces of wood, using their super powers to catch frisbees, and wearing the most inappropriate barbecue cooking attire I think I've ever seen. Showing that inappropriate attire is gender-blind, The Swordsman, the alternate dimension version of Hawkeye's (dead) friend, brings over some steaks while wearing a speedo, all the while taunting Inhuman dog Lockjaw by saying the food isn't for him.

Crystal has no idea how aprons work.

Crystal immediately tries to repair Inhuman/alternate dimensional guy relations by promising to give Lockjaw some leftovers as she starts the grill with her elemental powers. Then, the Inhuman who needs special super-allergy medicine from Reed Richards to live with Earth's air pollution is amazed at how "green" the woods look. She thinks something may be watching her from the woods, but finds the feeling "oddly comforting," probably because she's an exhibitionist weirdo who doesn't understand how aprons work. Quicksilver visits with his estranged wife, wearing an X-branded sleeveless tee he probably stole from X-Factor.

So does Deodato just not know the size of all celestial objects?

Meanwhile, Magdalene (a Big Barda rip-off that's romantically involved with Swordsman) and Hercules break up entire trees for firewood. Magdalene is glad to notice that Hercules still  has super strength, although a simple task like smashing up a tree has him sweating, but notes that the way he speaks has changed. A nice way of explaining that Terry Kavanagh isn't going to bother even trying to get Hercules to sound like Hercules. Their conversation about Hercules's speech patterns is interrupted by Lockjaw bounding into the woods to catch a rabbit. Hercules takes off after the dog, and finds himself in a strange glade. A pointy-eared teenager in a loincloth says he's a "friend," and pulls out a deck of Avengers tarot cards he picked up at a flea market.

I'm pretty sure this photo-reference gets used a bunch more times.

Back in New York, Hank Pym meets with Janet, as her lawyer informs her that even though she's always been provided for from her trust fund, she's "in danger" of losing everything based on her portfolio swan-diving over the course of a week. What, did she buy a trading card company in 1995? Jan reacts to the news cheerfully, and Hank assures her lawyer that she's not an idiot, she's just "unique."

I know you're her brother or whatever, but please put on some pants when visiting a young girl's room.

Hours later, Hercules heads back to the compound, along with Tuc, as Deathcry mentions that Herk "almost missed the sing-a-long." Tuc says a meaningful hello to baby Luna. Crystal explains that Quicksilver is a gypsy and so he's not fazed by weirdo fortune tellers wandering out of the woods. Tuc gives a quick recap of Quicksilver's love life, calling him and Crystal soul mates. Tuc then tells Deathcry that the "truth" about herself may set her free, but it will also cause "the stars themselves to weep." So far, Tuc's batting .000, for those of us living in 2013. Marilla, Luna's Inhuman nanny, is next up, and Tuc gets cryptic, saying only that Luna loves her. Marilla gets up and sadly wanders off, apparently so that nobody else gets blood splattered on them when she dies in the immediate future. Later, in Luna's room, Tuc appears, saying he loves his "big sister," and that he did all he could. The End?


Talk about a down issue! Even the most relaxed of Claremont's X-Men can't compare to the sheer nothing-happening-ness of this issue. At least the X-Men would usually train a little or Wolverine would go off and brood or something. The focus should therefore be on the character beats, but there's really not much here, it's mostly just catching everyone up to speed on what's been going on with the non "name" Avengers. Hercules has lost his godhood and he's been mopey, Deathcry's origin is some terrible dark secret that will never be revealed, etc. What's especially disappointing is how little agency Quicksilver has, even after returning to the team several years ago. He was brought in to serve as the "other man" in the triangle with Crystal and Black Knight, which paralleled his original spot in the Human Torch/Crystal/Quicksilver love triangle. Now, there's nobody else, and it seems like he's jut being defined by being in a rocky relationship. It's kind of a dull character turn for a pretty cool character. Unfortunately, we don't learn anything about Black Widow, who's ostensibly been the leader for awhile now but doesn't appear or get referenced in this issue at all.

Quicksilver's weekend T-shirts are all shirts he got for free.

Critics of Harras have said his whole run was a conscious attempt to copy what worked about the X-Men. I don't know if that's true of all his stuff, but this particular issue does feel amazingly derivative. From the angsty teen to the casual use of super-powers to bar-b-que, this is the sort of issue you just don't get from Avengers comics, in part because the X-Men have it so well covered. The vague hints of a horrible threat looming over-head is less exclusive to the X-Men, but the whole issue does feel like Scott Lobdell could've written it.

Deodato's work here is very detailed, but it's already starting to show signs of his current style, as a few shots of Deathcry and the Wasp look extremely photo-referenced if not traced outright. It's honestly a bit jarring in the context of his normal drawings of absurdly muscled men and women wearing outlandish outfits, since we're before the point where he's photo-referencing everything to the point where he could release an issue full of nothing but collage art and most people wouldn't notice.

All in all, this is kind of a waste of time as a full-fledged issue: it feels more like a Wizard-era issue #0, or Marvel's recent throwaway "point one" issues.

90's Fashion: Quicksilver's recreational outfit is pretty great, particularly his blue athletic shorts. Crystal wears an extremely revealing one piece swimsuit with an apron around her mid-section. Magdalene wears cutoff acid-washed jeans and a shirt that's tied in place like she's a waitress at a boob-themed restaurant. Crystal at the campfire throws on a pair of jean shorts and a fringe jacket over her swimsuit.

1 comment:

  1. Critics of Harras have said his whole run was a conscious attempt to copy what worked about the X-Men.

    While there's certainly some truth to that, I really feel like it doesn't obviously become the case until right around "The Crossing", at which point Harras is on his way out and Kavanagh is more involved.