Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Avengers Forever #8, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated July 1999. Enjoy!
Avengers Forever is a damned fine comic book series, even though this first page isn’t all that exciting. Busiek, however, in that way he has, does manage to pack a lot of stuff into this page, even though poor Carlos Pacheco is left drawing Hawkeye threatening a stick. Poor Carlos Pacheco!
Let’s see what we get from Busiek on this page, as we’re 8 issues into a 12-issue series and Busiek probably thinks we ought to know some of what’s going on already. Unlike many comics, it appears we start this comic in the middle of a scene, with Hawkeye (we don’t know his real name from this page) talking to a stick, which he apparently thinks can talk to them (as it turns out, it can). If this is your first experience with this comic, it’s a weirdly humorous scene, and as it’s been a while since I read this series, I can’t remember how much we really know about the true nature of the “synchro-staff” (i.e., that it’s a shape-shifting Space Phantom), but Busiek does this a lot in the series – it’s a fairly serious story, but there are lots of humorous touches. In the second panel, we get introductions to three other characters – Songbird is on the left, Wasp is next to her, and Captain Marvel is standing in the foreground. We learn that two characters are missing and that Captain Marvel is (probably) from the future, as he speaks haltingly of the “delicate” timeline. Hawkeye gives us more information in Panel 3, as the stick was telling the Avengers about the history of the universe – man, I bet that took a long time! – and in Panel 4, we find out that Songbird (“Melissa”) is also from the future, but she doesn’t know much about what’s happening, either (we also find out that the Wasp’s real name is Jan). In Panel 6, we find out that the other two characters are “Hank” and “Cap” – Captain America is probably well known enough so that we can figure him out, but I doubt if Hank Pym is as familiar. All of this is interrupted by the long cry in Panel 7, which leads to the next page and the Space Phantom revealing himself because Hawkeye was about to snap him in two. Busiek gives us quite a bit about the people in the scene and he’s also able to get us a bit caught up on the plot.
Pacheco, as I mentioned, doesn’t have to draw too much action, but he does a good job fitting all these characters into the small panels. He does a nice job with Clint’s facial expressions as he gets angrier and angrier, and Jan and Melissa’s body language in Panel 4 is handled well. Clint has way too many muscles in Panel 5 and even Cap’s neck in Panel 7 is a bit odd, but it was Marvel in the 1990s – what are you going to do? Pacheco, naturally, points the entire cast to the right in Panel 7, because that’s where the reader needs to go! An unsung hero of this comic is colorist Steve Oliff, who does a wonderful job making everything bright and “superheroey” but also moving easily from the present and the bright colors and different time periods, when the colors change. That’s not in evidence on this page, of course, but Oliff does a nice job making the yellow and blue and red stand out, giving this a more heroic look. Oliff, of course, didn’t come up with the color palette for the characters, but colorists can diminish the bright colors of the costumes or enhance it, and Oliff’s choices make the Avengers look more like awesome superheroes, because the book is ultimately about how heroic the Avengers are.
There are more exciting first pages in Avengers Forever, but even one like this shows us that Busiek knows how to write a data-rich story without bogging down too much and Pacheco can draw a nice, heroic figure. That helps a great deal in the course of this series!
Next: Oh, dear. T. will be most upset that I’m showing this comic. But he can find comfort in the archives!
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