Armagideon Time

Go west, young fan

June 20th, 2016

Fellow quarter bin enthusiast Greg Araujo put forward a trio of questions. They’re great and I’ll try to answer them all in time, visit but today I’m going to take a swing at #3′s twin queries:

Is there a beloved story or story line you dislike?

There are a number of fan-favorite funnybooks that do nothing for me — Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil‘s “Born Again” arc, Sandman, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, Scott Pilgrim — but I’ve hit a developmental stage where “dislike” has mellowed to “weary apathy.”

If you happen to dig them, cool! Like I said, I’m past the point of casting vituperative judgement over differences in taste.

A hated story or story line you like?

I don’t know if “hated” accurately describes folks’ attitudes toward it, but there is a certain infamous storyline that I’ve felt obligated to defend on several occasions — John Byrne’s West Coast Avengers/Avengers West Coast run.

It’s not hard to see why those comics get the gas face from a lot of folks. It epitomized so many of Byrne’s unpleasant creative tics, mucking up the status quo with some radical retcons and continuity adjustments before departing in a huff and dumping the mess in someone else’s lap.

And, to be fair, I can see how developments such as transforming the Vision and Scarlet Witch’s kids into the World’s Creepiest Puppet Show…

…or Heel Turn Wanda giving Wonder Man an heavily implied hando….

…could generate negative sentiment among the base.

Without trying to defend that nonsense (because, honestly, I can’t), I will say it regrettably overshadows an fairly entertaining and mildly innovative run of comics. For starters, it was John Byrne’s return to Marvel after a three year stint at the Distinguished Competition. The significance of that might be lost on kids born after 1980 or so, but for my demographic peers it was a Big Deal. Our memories of his X-Men and Fantastic Four and Captain America work was recent enough to give Ol’ Crankypants another chance.

Before Byrne took the helm, the West Coast Avengers was a lower-middle tier afterthought coasting on the novelty of the original 1984 miniseries and okay-for-the-era sales. I know some folks who will swear by the trippiness of the Englehart/Milgrom run, but it never felt more than an inertial placeholder for me.

Byrne hit the ground running, letting loose a barrage of BIG CHANGES and SHOCKING DEVELOPMENTS right out of the gate. However, it wasn’t what he did as much as how he did it — with a dozen intertwined short-and-long-term plot threads that were advanced through cliffhanger moments and oblique after the fact references. The run’s narrative structure paralleled what Giffen and the Bierbaums’ were doing over in the “Five Years Later” Legion reboot, which also broke from the traditional set-up/pay-off dynamic for the genre.

It could be frustrating at times, yet it was also highly engaging in that it was leading up to something immense. Something that never happened because Byrne abruptly left the series and took the last vestiges of my tolerance for his antics with him.

Still, in those sixteen issues he managed to craft something that was as fascinating as it was flawed, with the return of the original Human Torch and a fun dust-up with the Mole Man thrown in for good measure. It also rekindled my waning interest in the Avengers and comics in general, which is something that did manage to survive the run’s unsatisfying and infuriating end.

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One Response to “Go west, young fan”

  1. Patrick C Ledet

    I’m sure nostalgia plays a prominent role but I always had a soft spot for the Avengers West Coast. It was the first series I ever made a concerted effort to collect in back issue form. It always felt like a “superheroics as a job” sort of book where you didn’t get the world-shaking mega-threats of something like the core Avengers or the inner angst and deeper philosophy of something like the X-Men but just a mostly consistent group of people working together with their various relationships. They’ve always seemed like the “network TV” level superhero team and a good departure from the made for the trade style of storytelling.

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