Avengers West Coast #75
Issue(s): Avengers West Coast #75
This is a special double-sized 75th issue featuring the West Coast Avengers and the Fantastic Four taking Franklin Richards and Spider-Woman's daughter Rachel to an exclusive visit to a new amusement park.
The thing that's weird about that is that Rachel (supposedly) doesn't know that her mom is Spider-Woman, but that turns out to be the point of the story.
As the kids are on the amusement rides, there are a lot of nice moments for downtime interactions between the characters. But Herb Trimpe seemed to have his own ideas about the way the conversations go that don't quite meld with how Roy Thomas scripts things. Like, i don't know what's going on with the Human Torch and Living Lightning below, but it looks to me that Trimpe was expecting a rivalry (especially based on their angry/frowning expressions in the inlay panel) that Thomas didn't want to do. And USAgent is being way too friendly with Scarlet Witch, and her angry expression doesn't match her "Not your fault" reply.
Also note that even though Roy Thomas did as good a job as can be expected of putting the John Byrne hysterical pregnancy stuff behind us, he can't help continuing to pick at it now. This is the problem with saying that doing a particular thing to a character, be it the hysterical pregnancy or Henry Pym hitting Jan or anything else, can be treated as just a one time interpretation of a character instead of adding permanent baggage/damage. Writers remember these stories and do not let them go.
But getting back to Trimpe. I'm not in favor of fan service art generally, but good god, man! I can't even see the point of going for a brokeback position if you're going to draw your women like this.
The actual story here is an inter-dimensional battle between the realities of Arkon and Thundra. They use an Arkon roller coaster (he's the subject of fantasy movies in our dimension) to kidnap Franklin and Rachel, and then use that to force the heroes to take sides in the battle (some via mind control) and fight each other.
Rachel is held by a minion of Arkon named Shigaru.
He doesn't do much in this story and dies in the end while saving the kids, but he's an interesting looking character. He sets off my caricature alarms, actually, although i don't know who he might be meant to look like.
Thundra expresses a desire to marry the Thing before the fighting starts, and Arkon similarly still shows interest in the Scarlet Witch. But in the end, when Arkon and Thundra start fighting each other directly, things go in a different direction. Mr. Fantastic, expert in all things romantic, knew this was coming. I especially love his wordless gesture in the second scan below.
My interest in Arkon barely rivals watching grass grow, and i like Thundra best as a strong female character on Earth, not leading a horde of Femizons, so i can't say i'm an expert in their characterizations. But this story doesn't really ring true for me. And that's before we get to Trimpe's sadly declining art. The nicest bits are the downtime scenes. I do like Spider-Woman revealing her ID to her daughter, who actually already knew it.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: I almost had a heart attack when i saw the first scan in this entry and thought that the muscular guy in the FF costume was meant to be Ben Grimm, with Sharon Ventura still as the "She-Thing", but that turns out to not be the case, so this can take place after Fantastic Four #350-354. Living Lightning appears in the back-up story in Avengers West Coast annual #6 "a few hours" after the end of Avengers West Coast annual #6, and he's still very upset about the events of the back-up in the main story in the annual, so both the back-up and the main story take place before this issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showArkon, Franklin Richards, Grand Vizier (Polemachus), Hawkeye, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Living Lightning, Mr. Fantastic, Rachel Carpenter, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), Thing, Thundra, USAgent, Wonder Man
You really have to wonder why Marvel bothered continuing this book after Byrne, if this is the effort they were going the churn out. It's about as inspired as a coloring book.
Say what you will about Englehart/Milgrom. At least you got the sense they cared about what they were doing.
Posted by: Bob | October 5, 2015 4:49 PM
That brokeback pose of Wanda is atrocious. Ugh.
Re: kids. How old is Julia Carpenter, anyway? Her daughter seems to be at least ten years old...
Posted by: Piotr W | October 5, 2015 8:04 PM
We'll see in a later issue that she went to college with Val Cooper, so she's around Val's age.
Posted by: Michael | October 5, 2015 8:10 PM
In Herb Trimpe's defense:
Back in like 2001 Trimpe did an interview with The New York Times (I think) where he talked about his last days in the comic industry in the 90s.
He said he spent the 90s trying to emulate the popular Image style just to get work, which is why you see really bad work like that Scarlet Witch brokeback pose above. Marvel eventually stopped returning his calls regardless and he became an art teacher.
I tried looking this interview up again online after he died, but unfortunately I don't think it's out there anymore. Really too bad since it was a pretty interesting read about what happens to older comic creators when their style is no longer in vogue.
Posted by: Red Comet | October 5, 2015 9:40 PM
Oh, and Piotr, Julia's daughter is supposed to be 7 in this story. This is how Herb Trimpe draws a 7-year old.
Posted by: Michael | October 5, 2015 11:34 PM
I thought it was Sharon in that first scan as well. Ben does seem to be Sharon's costume, with the white arcs on the chest (an "M", I suppose)
Posted by: Erik Robbins | October 6, 2015 12:56 AM
Does Spider-Woman know the FF somehow? Is there any reason why they appear here besides the fact that Spider-Woman's kid is roughly the same age as Franklin? Or are we supposed to assume there's a Superhero Parents' Association or something where she hangs out with Reed and Sue?
Posted by: Tuomas | October 6, 2015 5:02 AM
It's said in the story that the West Coast Avengers heard that the Fantastic Four were coming to the West coast for vacation, so they invited them along for this trip.
Spider-Woman should know all but the Invisible Woman from Secret Wars, but that's not something that is brought up one way or the other.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 6, 2015 7:31 AM
Okay, I guess that explanation makes more sense, since Ben is pals with the WCA folks and all.
Posted by: Tuomas | October 6, 2015 9:21 AM
Trimpe's story is a sad one, indeed. A veteran artist who was dropped when he wasn't cool anymore...
On the other hand, some of the art in this issue really is bad, regardless of Trimpe's attempts at emulating the Image guys. Some of the poses in the first scans are really weird (Simon looks like a shambling Frankenstein's monster...). And in the third scan, Living Lightning's face is actually scary. And USAgent looks like he's drunk and trying to tickle Wanda...
Re: character ages - so, Spider-Woman is of Val Cooper's age. Now, how old is Val Cooper, then? :)
BTW. Has there any background been established about this Spider-Woman before this point? Or is it the first time we see her daughter?
Posted by: Piotr W | October 6, 2015 6:26 PM
Re: your final questions. You can of course click on the Character Appearing links for Spider-Woman or even Rachel Carpenter to find those answers. :-) But Rachel has appeared before, and she's been an important part of Spider-Woman's story for her more recent appearances.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 6, 2015 6:47 PM
Only getting into comics in late 1980s I never liked many of the veteran artists such as Sal Buschema, Al Milgrom or Herb Trimpe. Outdated and boring. Analogous are the veteran writers such as Roy Thomas ...
Posted by: Grom | October 6, 2015 7:42 PM
How was AWC still being published when, based on everyone else's reactions, I was the only person still buying it at this point?
This is the kind of story that what have been perfect for an annual (like the two X-Men Arkon annuals) before Marvel started tying all their annuals into big events.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 17, 2016 1:01 PM
I think a lot of the old readers were abandoning Marvel at this time (and this website has a lot of commentators of the same age range who first began buying comics in the early eighties Shooter era), but there were certainly a lot of new readers coming in and the speculators craze is now beginning with lots of new #1s being published.
The 1989 Batman movie seemed to generate a lot of new interest in comics and this wave pushes forward until the speculators take over and the system crashes in 94-96.
Posted by: Chris | January 17, 2016 4:08 PM
I enjoyed Roy Thomas' WCA run but the sentiment on this site (perhaps somewhat inspired by fnord's opinion) is that Roy Thomas, in general, was a weak writer. On other sites you can find plenty of people who like this run. I used to post on CBR and this run had quite a lot of fans there.
I felt Thomas introduced a lot of things in West Coast that deserved a much longer shelf-life than they got (mostly due to them having either incredibly 90s names, incredibly 90s costumes or both). Alkhema is great, Mockingbird's death is well done, he establishes Demonicus as a worthy threat (if a total Doom rip-off, but there's worse things to rip-off) and adding Spider-Woman to the team was a great choice.
Another problem that people might have with the run is whereas under Byrne the team was surprisingly far more credible than the main team, Thomas makes West Coast a lot more of the "b-team" that everyone expects it to be. He gets rid of the Pyms and Quicksilver and eventually gets rid of Wonder Man and Iron Man and we're left with basically just Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch when it comes to the classic members. And even Hawkeye wanders off before the end. And it doesn't help that the team also features both U.S.Agent and War Machine as members, making them look INCREDIBLY like a second tier substitute group to the main team. Also by the end the membership is spotty at best. Basically Wanda, U.S.Agent and Julia are the only locked-in ones you can expect to see every issue. Darkhawk, Living Lightning and War Machine are only there when the story remembers them and, as said, by the final issue Hawkeye has just walked off too.
But in general, I quite like the run. I'd say it's the 3rd best run on West Coast Avengers, after Byrne and Stern. Which isn't a great accolade since there's really only 4 main writers (or 5 if you wanna count Force Works).
Posted by: AF | January 17, 2016 4:48 PM
One thing that should be mentioned is that Avengers West Coast lost a LOT of readers due to Thomas's writing. In issue 68, according to the statement of ownership, the sales were 206,000. In issue 80, sales were 152, 442 and issue 92, 147,942. Thomas lost a QUARTER of the readers. That is pretty bad.
Posted by: Michael | January 17, 2016 5:18 PM
Compared to the enormous drop-offs with current Marvel books, that's nothing. Some of then shed 40-80% of the "audience" after #1. What you're looking at here is the loss of quarter of the readers over a few months/years. There were a lot of factors, I wouldn't say it was chiefly Roy Thomas' writing (although that and his directions didn't help). Avengers West Coast was just becoming more and more redundant and wasn't really doing anything to remain "relevant". When stuff like Punisher, Wolverine and X-Force is selling hot, you then you have this: a odd piece of curios featuring a ersatz team of b-listers and replacements written by a Silver Age writer. Besides eventually killing Mockingbird, which still had little impact elsewhere, his run never did anything of much consequence and the team also felt very much removed from the rest of the MU. Remember when the West Coast team used to show up in other books and the main book? Rarely happens here (and is usually confined to the member's of the teams solo books or Annual crossovers). And, despite being a run, almost every story arc from it can be read individually and you don't feel like you've lost any extra context. And a lot of the actual important developments to the team happened in other books too (Iron Man leaving was in his book, Wonder Man leaving was in his book, Darkhawk joining was in his book).
But hey, it's still better than Force Works, right?
Posted by: AF | January 17, 2016 5:39 PM
Yes, Andrew, but keep in mind that this was being sold during an era of EXPANSION for Marvel. Also keep in mind that this was an unprecedented low- the core Avengers book hit its low in 1978 with 162,996 and this was around the time of the DC implosion. Avengers West Coast had also never fallen this low before.
Posted by: Michael | January 17, 2016 5:53 PM
Andrew? Well, that's a new one, at least.
I think it basically just became an amputated limb once Roy took over.
And are you saying he was "fired" with any proof? A book being cancelled or a book getting a new creative team doesn't necessarily mean he was "fired". He still wrote other books for Marvel after his West Coast run had ended. I don't know much to anything about the behind-the-scenes of West Coast during his tenure (even that nobody cares about!), but I always thought West Coast ended due to the combination of having out-lived it's heyday, declining interest and the "exciting new direction" by DnA.
Posted by: AF | January 17, 2016 6:19 PM
Sorry about the typo regarding your name,AF.
Posted by: Michael | January 17, 2016 6:27 PM
To be fair to Thomas, whose writing on All-Star Squadron is still one of my favorite runs on any comic, a major reason this stretch of AWC no longer appeals to me as much as it did at the time is the art. Not only did the art fall off badly after Byrne (what else could it do?), but they couldn't keep a consistent artist and the artists they did have weren't any good.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 17, 2016 8:03 PM
Thomas admitted in Alter Ego #136 that he was abruptly dropped from this title after being ordered to kill Mockingbird by editor Nel Yomtov, but he didn't stop regularly writing for Marvel until mid-1998.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 18, 2016 10:33 AM
Why did Nel Yomtov order the death of Mockingbird? US Agent was the one who should have been killed.
Posted by: Steven | January 18, 2016 1:19 PM
Well, U.S.Agent had a concurrent limited series around about that time...
Posted by: AF | January 18, 2016 1:52 PM
USAgent was created by Mark Gruenwald. Mockingbird wasn't. One less superhero marriage and this one was a two for one. Now they are both unmarried.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | May 14, 2016 2:50 AM
Hate to completely break your slanderous conspiracy theories: http://40.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mc5ndigdBy1r89a2ho1_500.jpg
Posted by: AF | May 14, 2016 3:07 AM
This was the issue that made me quit comics for a few years. I couldn't believe how low WEST COAST had sunk. It used to be one of my favorite titles, and I remember even my 18 year old self knew this issue was garbage.
Posted by: Urban Commando | February 16, 2017 5:28 AM
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