lördag 2 juli 2011

Chris Eliopolous & Ig Guara: Avengers vs. the Pet Avengers

The Pet Avengers consists of Lockjaw of the Inhumans, Lockheed of X-Men, the Falcon's falcon Redwing, frog-Thor Throg, Ka-Zar's Zabu, and a cat and a dog. Here, they're out to protect the Earth from Fin Fang Foom and his band of dragons – or are they?

This is a collection of a four-issue miniseries, written by Eliopolous and with art by Ig Guara, with a bonus story by Eliopolous about Thor having been turned into a frog and getting help from Spider-Man, inspired by Walter Simonson having briefly turned Thor into a frog in the eighties.

Anyway, the main story starts out by showing Fin Fang Foom and a whole bunch of dragons arriving from space ages ago, first being revered almost as gods, and then being hunted into almost-extinction by the humans. After being given an elixir, Fin (or Foom, if you prefer) fell asleep and would sleep for centuries. That brings us to contemporary times and the Pet Avengers stopping a robber. Then, Throg receives a telepathic message from Thor that the original Avengers are in trouble, and the group uses Lockjaw's teleportation powers to transport themselves to help them out. Turns out the Avengers are in a battle with Foom (or Fin, if you prefer) and are in bad trouble – not least because Thor, Iron Man and Captain America have been turned into frogs.

The Pet Avengers join the fray – but Lockheed suddenly decides to take a stand with his fellow dragons, and after a somewhat lengthy discussion persuades his friends to help him and the dragons hold off the Avengers while Fin Fang Foom goes into the ground to retrieve something... (That'll have to do for a plot summary; I don't want to give away too much of the story.)

I really expected to like this comic. I mean, the Pet Avengers? How could that not be good?

Turns out it could, by a) not having adequate art, b) not having adequate writing. The cover of issue #4 illustrating this post is also the cover of the collection, and is symptomatic of the art problem. If you look at it, you wouldn't know that there is a problem, but the colors of paperback cover is significantly darker, killing a lot of Guara's line art. The same problem is prevalent inside the book; murky coloring makes it difficult to make out what's happening in many instances, and even when it's not, you're still robbed of the experience of Guara's line art. So a big Fail for the coloring and/or production of this book, then.

Also, the writing suffers from trying to be both a traditional Marvel action/adventure story and funny, I believe, and Eliopolous doesn't manage to pull that off. The big fight between the dragons and the Avengers is too drawn-out and to erratically paced, shifting between action and debate (though in fairness, some of my problem with that may be due to the dark, murky colors pretty much killing the action sequences). Even more problematically, having Thor, Cap and Iron Man turned into frogs seems just tacked on to the story; it doesn't contribute anything at all and isn't used to make any special points about heroism, either. Instead, it comes off as if Eliopolous just thought, "hey, wouldn't it be neat to have Thor, Cap and Iron Man turned into frogs?". But it's not neat enough that it can stand on its own; you have to actually do something with it as well. Instead, they're frogs, remain frogs for an issue or so, and are then returned to human form. That's it, and it's not enough.

So the main part of this book doesn't work, and you can't even buy it to just enjoy the artwork.

The last story, however, is drawn by Eliopolous himself in his own cartoony style, and it works better. It's a single-issue story from Spider-Man Family depicting how Loki gets Thor turned into a frog, and how Thor is then captured by the guy who delivers frogs to the local high school for dissection, and who happens to get him as his subject if not Peter Parker? Thor must somehow convey to Peter that he isn't just any old frog, and then find Loki and defeat him (with the help of the Amazing Spider-Man, of course).

This piece worked better because it was less pretentious and simply told its story in a straight fashion, and Eliopolous' art worked very nicely for it (it helped that it wasn't killed by insensitive coloring). But I can't recommend a book because one-fifth of it works, so I won't. Try Chris Giarrusso's Mini Marvels Ultimate Collection instead, which is both funnier, more readable, and better at characterization.

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