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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 274: Avengers West Coast #57

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Avengers West Coast #57, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1990. This scan is from Avengers West Coast: Darker Than Scarlet, the trade that was published in 2008. Enjoy!

He's napping so nicely!

John Byrne’s wacky Scarlet Witch saga spawned, unbeknownst to him, a decades’ worth of terrible, terrible stories, and I wonder if these days Byrne sits up in his ivory tower while his nubile Canadian female servants groom his long, flowing beard and clip his toenails and thinks, “Why, WHY did I have Wanda go nutty? DAMN YOU, BENDIS!!!!!” But that’s neither here nor there with regard to the first page of issue #57, is it?

Byrne likes his splash pages, so we get this rather boring splash page that at least has a bit of a cliffhanger on it. Byrne begins with the bad guy holding Hank Pym’s hair and asking if Pym should be killed. Oh dear. Byrne, as an old-school writer, tells us exactly what’s going on: it’s right after issue #56 ended, we’re in a cottage on the AWC compound, the unconscious dude is Henry Pym (Byrne even tells us his various superhero identities), and the speaker is … dum-dum-DUMMMMMMM! That’s the cliffhanger, and I’ll spoil it for you: It’s Quicksilver, who just showed up to join with Crazy Wanda and Evil Magneto.

It’s not a bad beginning, writing-wise, but Byrne’s drawing of Pym is somewhat dull. He’s facing the right way – toward the correct edge of the page, in other words – but he looks rather peaceful, given the fact that Quicksilver just clocked him on the head. Pietro did hit him on the back of the head, though, so maybe that’s it. Paul Ryan’s inks aren’t perfect, as he doesn’t leave Byrne’s smooth lines alone (which is one way to do it, and not a bad one) and he doesn’t go rougher (like some other inkers in this collection, which tends to work quite well). Ryan’s kind of wishy-washy on this page, and so we don’t get the “classic” Byrne look because Ryan uses heavier inks on the cheekbones and around the mouth, but we also don’t get him imposing his will on the page. It’s certainly not terrible, but it could be better. Byrne’s drawing of Pym is strange, too, even though we can’t tell right away. Pym is lying on the ground and Pietro is holding his head up, but notice that it does not look like his torso or neck is bent in any way. It appears that Pym is sitting in a chair, but he’s not. So we don’t realize how off this page looks until we turn the page, and then we see Hank lying on the ground. It’s a bit odd.

So, yeah. This is a pretty dull splash page, but at least Byrne designs it so that we’re constantly moving to the right. That’s about all it has going for it.

Next: October begins with the first reader suggestion, and it’s one of the more famous first pages in comic book history! See other famous first pages in the archives!

13 Comments

The page is almost spectacular in its unspectacularness. We didn’t even bother with a background!

If memory serves, Byrne had a string of really blah splash pages in WCA. Off the top of my head I seem to recall: the disassembled Vision, staring out at the reader; US Agent, staring out at the reader, Toro’s widow, staring out at the reader, Mr. Immortal, staring out at the reader while upside down, and Captain America and She-Hulk taking a nap.

Sometimes the narration made them interesting.

The lack of colour on the tufts of Pym’s hair adds to the awkwardness. On first glance, it just seems like Pym’s getting rapped on the head, not yanked up by the hair.

At least Bendis never had Wanda give an unrequited suitor a hand job of spite in front of all his friends…

Also, I feel bad for Paul Ryan. He’s a very talented artist who did solid work on both AWC and Iron Man, in largely the same time period. But now he has to share his name with that awful excuse for a Vice Presidential candidate.

I thought this run was great but this was just before he left things and went a little screwy.
Not a fair comment on Byrne, though a fair comment on the page.

After the highs of his FF and Alpha Flight, this series was the beginning of my losing faith in Byrne as a writer. I couldn’t have imagined back then that before long I’d have no faith left.

To be fair, Byrne wasn’t the one to make Wanda insane, he was just one in a sequence of writers to do so. Englehart started it with the Agatha Harkness in the “Celestial Madonna” arc, and Michelinie ran with it during “Nights of Wundagore” when she got possessed by a wizard. Then Englehart again when he had her get “pregnant” with a robot’s baby. And you know what? The insanity works for her because it builds on the per-existing stories by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas featuring Magneto abusing her or Quickilver and Arkon attempting to control her. Any writer worth his stuff would have had her crack at some point. I actually enjoy stories where Wanda is losing grips on reality, they are far more interesting than the standard weak 1960s “Wanda is the weakest Avenger” stories. The craziness — and potential craziness — makes her a far more compelling character.

Wanda wasn’t really insane in most of those stories, though. If you want to say Englehart was insane to write the pregnancy story that’s fine, but Wanda was perfectly sane at that time until it was later retconned by Byrne because he thought it was weird. Being possessed by a demon doesn’t make you insane either, it just makes you possessed.

Byrne is so terrible he even has me defending Wanda. That’s pretty damn terrible.

” I thought this run was great but this was just before he left things and went a little screwy. ”

Wouldn’t be the first time Byrne’s left a franchise mid-story with the heroes in a FUBAR situation. He left his concurrent Iron Man run with Tony Stark dying of neural degeneration, too.

I was such a huge JB fan during his X-men/Avengers/Captain America runs. HE was THE BEST. During his FF/Alpha Flight runs I was already seeing the decline of his art. Liked what he did in DC’s Legends/Superman, but by time he got to AWC, the hero-worship I had for the man had been whittled to nostalgia. That being said, the picture of the dismantled Vision made me gasp autibly and his treatment of Wanda seemed plausible given her past, Pietro’s disdain/attitude, and heritage. I didn’t mind this run at all, plus it had the UFoes, and who doesn’t love the UFoes?

The Hulk. Hulk no love U-Foes. And yeah, it’s hard to beat that early Byrne./Austin art, though I grew to appreciate his rougher self-inked FF style as well.

But man, now that I’m blogging regularly about Wonder Woman, I do a whole lot of grumbling about Byrne’s gratuitous and unwieldy retcons.

Don’t get me wrong, I collect the entire run of FF while he was there; but what a difference Joe Sinnott would have made to that run. I thought Byrne’s rough self inks were what was gratutious back then.

…oh, and Claremont/Byrne/Austin’s “Starlord” were FRIKKIN’ SWEET!

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