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!
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…