Or – “Isn’t It Really Just A Number One?”

“Extraordinary crimes against the people and the state have to be avenged by agents extraordinary. Two such people are John Steed, top professional, and his partner Emma Peel, talented amateur – otherwise known as…
The Avengers! Steed And Mrs. Peel!

Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

STEED AND MRS. PEEL #0
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Steve Bryant
Colorist: Ron Riley
Letterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Steed And Mrs. Peel:  John Steed was not, originally, the star of ‘The Avengers,’ instead serving as partner for Doctor David Keel in his investigations of strange and murderous phenomena.  When Keel left, Steed partnered with a number of remarkable young women, such as Cathy Gale and Venus Smith, before meeting and teaming up with Mrs. Emma Peel (the former Emma Knight, a formidable presence and deductive mind on her own.)  In America, we mostly know Steed and Mrs. Peel, but the show went on after Diana Rigg’s exit as well.  The salad days of 1966, however, feature a quiet romantic undertone, a quintessentially British experience, and some lovely witty repartee between the super-spy and his talented young protégée…  This is one of their stories.

FIRST SURPRISE:  SOMEONE CAN DRAW DIANA RIGG!

As a fan of old-school television and a well-documented Anglophile, I am aware of The Avengers mostly because of my love affair with Dame Diana Rigg, and the inability of anyone to translate her facial features to paper has been the biggest disappointment of the previous iterations of this series.  The cover of this issue (I got the Phil Noto version) made me VERY happy, both for a correctly drawn Mrs. Peel and for Mark Waid’s writing credit.  The first few pages were immediately engaging, drawing me in quickly to a world long past, while also showing off a futuristic vibe.  Our first appearance of John and Emma takes place in a theatre, with an interesting use of sixties Batman-style “Biff! Boom!  Pow!” sound effects, transitioning into a sequel to one of the best remembered Avengers episodes, “A Touch Of Brimstone,” notably referenced by Chris Claremont in the creation of X-Men villains, The Hellfire Club.  (Emma Frost, The White Queen, is named for Emma Peel, who appeared in a leather outfit in the episode in question…)  When discussing the flashback, Mrs. Peel amusingly chastised Steed to “stop picturing me!”  Heh.

TIME, SEE WHAT’S BECOME OF ME…

I am very entertained by this issue, and how well Mark Waid captures the voices of the characters, and their quiet, charming banter.  The plot is byzantine, but still understandable, with nods to The Beatles, 1960’s Spy-Fi, and what I think is a riff on Woody Allen’s “Sleeper.”  In any case, I’m not 100% certain why this is positioned as a Number Zero rather than just the first issue, as it’s a pretty good introduction to the characters and their world.  The most ironic part of all?  The interior artist, Steve Bryant, also does a good rendition of Diana Rigg, but never quite nails Patrick MacNee as Steed, except for a few panels with the “aged” Steed that look like modern-day MacNee.  Some of the figure work is a little stiff (especially noticeable with Mrs. Peel’s judo choppiness) and wide shots tend to make the faces little more than squiggles, but overall the art isn’t unpleasant.

THE BOTTOM LINE: MRS. PEEL, WE’RE STILL NEEDED!

The hardest parts of any comic book Avengers adaptation have routinely been the character dialogue and Emma’s face.  (At least, the hardest parts for ME as a reader, which could be showing off a bias of what I’m paying attention to in the comic.)  This book gets both of those right, with Waid delivering strong interplay between the two leads (perhaps overplaying the quiet romantic vibe near the end, but quickly recovering) and Bryant getting the faces at least half right.  For my money, Steed And Mrs. Peel #0 delivers most of the goods, and makes for a decent read, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s not a perfect comic, but it’s a good first issue, and shows, rather than tells, the reader what they need to know about our leads and their lives…

Rating: ★★★½☆

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. Oldcomicfan
    August 31, 2012 at 5:59 am — Reply

    The problem with any comic that uses actual people for the characters is that either artists try to slavishly try to get the characters right, to the detriment of fluid and natural artwork and usually utterly fail, or they don’t even try to match the appearance of the actors and come up with something that is usually so far off that it makes fans of the television show or movie want to toss their cookies. I usually avoid Movie or Television adaptation comic books like the plague for that reason. Back in the early 80’s comic book, there was one mystery comic about a lady who had lost her memory – I forget the title – where the artist hired real models and posed them for every frame and took pictures which he then “rotoscoped”. The art was stunning, but that’s the only example I can think of where that sort of tracing actually worked. With a long running series like “The Avengers” I am surprised nobody’s ever tried that technique. Also, since the television show began in 1961 and “The Avengers” comic didn’t debut until 1963, (And given how Marvel has entitled their series ‘The Avengers, Secret Avengers, Ultimate Avengers, Uncanny Avengers’ etc. I am surprised they didn’t title this comic series something like “The Original Avengers” or “No Really, We Were The Avengers First, So There!” If they got Dianna Rigg drawn right, I may have to pick this issue up, if I ever see it in a comic book store. I used to watch The Avengers whenever it was on, until she left the show, back when it was new. She was a Bond Girl once, too. Though I am glad, when she hosted Masterpiece Mystery a few years back, she didn’t try wearing her Emma Peel cat suit. I prefer to remember her young.

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