REVIEW: Steed And Mrs. Peel #1

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Or – “Will It Be A Smashing Debut, A Crashing Bore Or Other Britishy-Sounding Things?”

There will always be a special place in my heart for ‘The Avengers,’ as I used to watch when I was a child.  I had no idea who or what they were, or the history behind them, or even that John Steed had accomplices before (and, for that matter, after) Mrs. Peel.  All I knew was that the actors were charming, the plots were engaging, and Diana Rigg was utterly beautiful.  After the dreadful movie adaptation, I had worried that there would never be another adaptation of the adventures of Steed and Mrs. Peel, and certain not one written by comics legend Mark Waid.

Sometimes, it’s good to be wrong.  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

STEED AND MRS. PEEL #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Scripter: Caleb Monroe
Artist: Will Sliney
Colorist: Ron Riley
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Steed And Mrs. Peel:  “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!

SOMETHING AWFUL IS HAPPENING…

The Avengers television programme (the final e makes it British, apparently) was, at its core, something of a mystery series.  Certainly there were trappings of spycraft and powerful overtones of science fiction, but the investigation of strangeness was always a large part of the proceedings.  This issue posits us the requisite strange mystery, as we open with a group of soldiers breaking into a well-guarded facility before transitioning to John and Emma as they watch the city of London engulfed by an enormous nuclear fireball.  It’s pretty shocking stuff, starting with a graphic on-panel murder and culminating in the sight of Big Ben and Parliament getting blown to the proverbial Kingdom Come.  The first shots of Steed and Mrs. Peel are quite well done, with her face showing pure shock, his confusion and anger, and a quiet panel where Mrs. Peel takes his hand.  I have to say that I love this quiet moment, as it underlines the bond between them (whether it’s friendship or courtship is irrelevant for the purposes of enjoyment, mind you) and illustrates in just a few seconds what our unusual heroes are about.  The story quickly gets moving, though, as the super-spy and his gorgeous better half quickly take control of a chaotic situation with a stiff upper lip and some lovely dry wit.

“I WOULD, OF COURSE, FOLLOW YOU ANYWHERE.  END OF THE WORLD IT IS, THEN…”

The second half of the story doesn’t quite hold up, however, as our heroes end up being clearly herded towards something ominous, with a mysterious fire breaking out in their bomb shelter, forcing them to the surface.  The Steed/Emma repartee never falls completely apart, but when they climb out into the world only to be attacked by what seem to be mutated post-Atomic zombies, I find myself confused.  The #0 issue was clearly set in the 1960s, so I presume that this is in that time period as well, but it’s troubling that there’s never a clear statement to that fact.  The seeming destruction of the world is intriguing, but ends up working as a confusing convolution rather than an interesting plot point, and when Steed begins gunning down mutants with his service revolver, my brain starts trying to work all the angles.  Are they being manipulated with a false apocalypse? If so, isn’t Steed killing innocents?  How did they get here?  If the end of British civilization is NOT a fake, how will the series continue?  As we end, a familiar villainous face appears on the horizon to confront our Top Professional and Talented Amateur, and I find myself a little bit annoyed at what’s going on…

THE BOTTOM LINE: NOT A BAD START, BUT THINGS ARE AMISS…

The art in this issue is interesting in a  kind of 60’s nouveau sort of way, and the likenesses (while inconsistent) are better than they might have been.  This issue’s depiction of Emma Peel, specifically, is superior to what we got in issue #0 and the Grant Morrison miniseries, and even when she doesn’t quite look like Dame Diana, she still looks attractive with vivid facial expressions.  When you boil it all down (perhaps to make a nice spot of tea?), Steed And Mrs. Peel #1 gets the job done in terms of art and dialogue, with the biggest flaws coming in terms of some odd plotting and a bit of ambiguity in the sequence of events, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I am a bit nonplussed to find that Mark Waid is credited merely with the story here, given how prominent he is in the advertising for this book, but overall it makes for an okay episode and a better-than-average single issue reading experience…

Rating: ★★★½☆

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