Or – “We’re Needed!”
I’m always fascinated by names. If you say you enjoy the character of The Master, it means something different to a fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer than to a fan of Doctor Who than to a fan of Manos: The Hands Of Fate. (Fortunately, that third option is entirely theoretical, as no such humans exist.)
So it’s a matter of great humor to me to see an adaptation of a television property with an iconic name into comics, where that selfsame iconic name has an entirely different legacy and expectations, to see if the characters can hold their own on a new playing field…
The Avengers Steed & Mrs. Peel: John Wickham Gascoyne Beresford Steed is, simply put, a dandy. This does not, however, stop him from being one of the most skillful and clever intelligence agents that the British government has at it’s disposal. Originally partnered with Doctor David Keel (and later with a number of others), his closest partnership (in multiple senses of both words) was with Emma Peel, a young woman whose wit matched his own, and whose prowess in combat as well as spycraft was top-notch. To put it mostly succinctly, extraordinary crimes against the people, and the state, have to be avenged by agents extraordinary… They are two such people, and are sometimes known as The Avengers.
From the very first panel of the very first page, this is a gorgeous-looking book. Ian Gibson (who is not, as I initially thought, the former lead singer of Joy Division) gives the book a very comic-strip feel, with whimsical designs, but keeps things recognizable and realistic. Steed bears a strong resemblance to Patrick McNee, and the characters’ facial expressions are quite stunning throughout. The coloring and production in this issue is slightly different than in the original Eclipse comics printing, but uses a fascinating pastel color palette that reminds me of the characters’ mid-1960’s origins. Grant Morrison’s story is confectionary, with the lovely dialogue and interplay that make the Steed/Peel version of the Avengers the best (my opinion, mind you, Cathy Gale fans will probably smack me for such blasphemy) and a deadly serious threat at it’s center. I have long been a mark for English pop culture, and this book is a clear example why, giving me what my American sensibilities expect is a slice-of-life English tale of a special club whose members share a particular peculiarity, as well as murderous intentions.
ALSO: THERE WAS NEVER A MOVIE.
As I’ve often stated about Sarah Michelle Gellar, Diana Rigg’s facial features are incredibly hard to draw, but Gibson gives it the old college try, and delivers an always-striking-even-if-not-always-Rigg version of Mrs. Peel who gets in a few good licks on the villain of the piece, and sports her usual fashion-forward retro attire, including at least one spandex catsuit. Morrison knows his Avengers history, as well, as Tara King (another one of the series main characters) is part of the MacGuffin, but mostly this issue is about Steed and Emma unraveling a quirky mystery through the cunning use of intellect and the occasional picnic lunch. The issue reads smoothly, even though it was originally presented as the second chapter of a larger volume, and the restoration/reprinting make the reading experience a different one. Again, I have to mention how wonderfully the color is rendered, with the deep blacks and pastels making it feel almost like a watercolor painting, a very unusual look in today’s garish computer over-coloring environment…
THE VERDICT: A-PEELING TO ME…
I admit it: I am a mark for this series (and the female lead in particular), which means that I probably have a predisposition towards enjoyment of this issue, but it IS a good one, and it’s not your standard superhero bombast, something I know Stephen appreciates. (That is, so long as the bombast doesn’t have a scalloped cape, then he’ll drink all the Kool-Aid you got.) All in all, the first run of this book came at a point where Eclipse Comics was on the way out, and Grant Morrison was just a little-known guy working for Vertigo. Steed And Mrs. Peel #2 is a pretty cool book, well-written and gorgeous, earning itself a lovely 5 out of 5 stars overall. I’m totally psyched to finally get to read the END of this story! Now, can somebody bring back The Liberty Project?