Our Underwear #1
Column by John Velousis
Dance isn’t even an art form.
In this column, I’ll be reviewing Avengers Academy #19. First, though, I have to make some excuses.
Part 1: Hi!
Hello. To start with, I want you to know that I wish you well. By “you,” I mean YOU, the person reading these words that I’m writing right now, but will have long since written by the time you actually read them. I figure that if I let you know right away where you stand with me, you’ll know that I’m joking if I suggest that you might be a socially retarded schmuck, for example. Or I might maybe say that I’m going to stab you a hundred times in the face. I don’t think that I would do that, mind you, but I go where my muse takes me, and my muse is kind of a total prick. Also, I’m not real good with computers – like, for example, I’m pretty shaky on how to use the “Backspace” button. So, what I’m saying here is that it would be completely unfair to hold me liable – legally or morally – for any words or images “from” “me” that you might see here. It was an accident, or I was just joking, or it was my muse’s fault and you should blame him/her (my muse, Terpsichore, has both sets of genitals. Eww, right? S/he is WAY less hot than Olivia Newton-John was in Xanadu.)
Part 2: Obstruction
I kinda wanted my first column here to be a think-piece explaining why superhero comics are like Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier. Well, I wanted Barack Obama to be a liberal, and I didn’t get that either. I used to have such ambitious dreams. I used to think, “Some day, I’ll own all the poop, and people will have to pay me if they want poop.” But, you know, you grow older and get jaded. You realize that even if you could do it, they’d probably just figure out how to steal it, right?
Golly, I do hope you’re reading Avengers Academy. Christos Gage has been consistently writing a fantastic character study of six characters that he himself created. As an aside, I bet Marvel doesn’t pay him one red cent extra for having invented Reptil, Finesse, Hazmat, Striker, Veil, and Mettle. Well, maybe co-created along with some illustrator whose name I’m too lazy to look up… As long as I’m running off the rails with asides and digressions, I should admit right up front that I care about the writers of comics WAY more than the people who draw them. (In this issue, Tom Raney made pencil drawings, then Scott Hanna traced over those in ink, and then Jeromy Cox put in a bunch of colors, probably using some sort of computer. Every one of them does a serviceable job, nobody embarrasses himself. I guess Cox stands out with the pretty-neato colors on the opening splash. I bet HE didn’t get paid extra for that, either. Oh, and the letterer can go fuck himself.) Good lord, what is the comic-blog-reading public supposed to do with digressions like THAT? I owe you all a big apology, but don’t hold your breath. So… yeah, Gage created these characters, and they’re good ones, and after he quits or gets fired, Marvel will pay somebody else to make, like, the miniseries “Striker: Shocking Truths!” and Gage will just have to go suck it. Bummer!
Anyhow, Gage has done a swell job making a series of characters whose reactions and personalities are well crafted and, you know, shit like that. Reptil, for example, is often comedy gold – he has been from his first appearance (in Avengers: The Initiative: Featuring: Reptil: The Boy Whose Powers Came From Colons), when he immediately asks Cloud 9 (evidently a famous super-heroine in the Marvel U at the time) if she’ll be his date to prom. He seems perhaps boring and straightlaced, but if you look deeper, you’ll find that he’s actually hilariously stupid. His deliriously senseless questions to Spider-Man in Amazing Just-Mentioned-Guy #661 are worth the four bucks just by themselves. Value, of course, is always relative. Like, if you’re a Mexican illegal immigrant stoop farmer making $1 an hour for your punishing toil, maybe it really isn’t worth the $3.99 (the penny actually MEANS something at that pay scale.) I await a wonderful discussion in the comments section with all of the Mexican stoop workers reading this blog. Sorry, no Guatemalans!
Mr. Gage (the writer, remember?) has also given us, in Striker, a character that has a problem I can relate to very much: he’s afraid to die. Like, really afraid. He thinks about dying, worries about dying, and talks about dying A LOT. Considering the fact that he’s a super-hero, this actually makes a shit-ton of sense. I’m sure that other super-heroes must have had this problem before, but this is the first time that I can recall. Well, I just wanna say that I think that’s pretty groovy.
As to the actual issue itself, it’s the conclusion of the Fear Itself arc wherein the Absorbing Man and Titania – power-upped and stupidly renamed as Skirn, Maker of Flan and Garygroth, Breaker of Balls, irrespectively – besiege the kids in the Infinite Avengers Mansion. The whole arc has been pretty solidly crafted, steadily pushing the stakes higher with each issue, and this issue’s plotting just ices the whole plot-cake with, like, some super-yummy cream-cheese frosting. Buttercream frosting is just fine for some cakes, but this comic is a carrot cake, and carrot cakes demand cream cheese frosting. ESPECIALLY when the cake is a metaphor!
So, Gage builds it up to a point and then BAM! He lands at a spot where the characters land at their only possible chance of saving a bajillion lives, which happens to involve GIVING UP THEIR OWN LIVES. Now, okay, it’s easy as hell to make characters you’re writing act bravely. For example:
John Velousis walked straight ahead as Matthew “Mr. Nazi Sadist Baby Rapist” Evilman shot at him. John felt the first bullet destroy his femur, the most painful bone a human could break, but he kept walking, for if he ran or zig-zagged, then the bomb would kill all of those babies on the bus to their first day of Baby School. Another bullet hit his left eye, then his right. Blind, he soldiered on through the pain, guided only by the stench of evil. Reaching Evilman, John snapped his neck with one mega-awesome move, before collapsing himself. As he died, he said to The Chief, bawling nearby, “It was time for Evilman to take… a break.”
See? Easy! But Gage makes it work by seeding the characters exactly just so, where the reader buys it. It’s a superb story moment, and it gets much closer to the notion of what heroism is than super-hero comics usually do. Big ups, Chris Gage, big ups. Buy it, damn you!
Writing: 9 / 10
Art: 7 / 10
Special teams: 8.5 / 10
PS The lettering here is done by VC’s Joe Caramagna, and I don’t really want him to go fuck himself. I have no problem with ANY of the Viet Cong, that conflict was a long time ago and the wounds have healed, with the obvious exception of any kind of wound that can’t actually heal.
If you like what we do, buy a digital comic book.
Thank you for your support.