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Friday, May 31, 2013 

Newsarama and new Marvel contributors are calling West Coast Avengers dated

Newsarama wrote about the history of the first true spinoff of the Avengers, that being the West Coast Avengers, one of my favorite titles of its time (except for some of the John Byrne-scripted material, more on which anon). But there's a few writers listed who seem incapable of appreciating the the best parts of the series because they think it's too old fashioned:
Looking back on the West Coast Avengers title and its run from1984 to 1994, it seems somehow quaint that the Avengers would need a separate branch on the West Coast only 2790 some odd miles away from the Avengers Mansion when the team routinely – both then and now – travels to outer space, other worlds and foreign countries nonetheless.

“I love the West Coast Avengers but they're destined to be a footnote in the evolution of the Avengers,” explains Sam Humphries, writer of The Ultimates and the upcoming Avengers A.I. “When John Byrne took over the main title, he made the membership flexible to include any Avenger in the history of the team. When Brian Michael Bendis took over, he blew it wide open to include the entire Marvel Universe. Jonathan Hickman's era on the book has already been marked by even broader horizons. With a scope like that, the concept of a second, separate team four hours away by commercial airplane seems quaint, doesn't it?”

A team for a bygone age? Perhaps, says Humphries.

“West Coast Avengers filled a role back then that they couldn't fill now. The world feels smaller today than it did in 1984 – the West Coast Avengers belongs to the age of the fax and the landline, not the age of the Internet and global trade.”
What a ridiculous put-down. No matter where the Earth's Mightiest Heroes travel, it's not like it takes - or has to take - mere minutes even in a Quinjet. When they traveled to other galaxies in past stories, even that could take a long time depending on the distance. Humphries sounds incapable of using his imagination.

And he hints one of the biggest problems with Bendis' work: he stuffed in nearly every hero in the MCU regardless of whether it made sense or not, and that includes all the multiple appearances by Wolverine and Spider-Man in both mainstay series and spinoffs, which did not follow any logic, coherence, consistency or continuity. Especially silly about Humphries' view is that he's ignored the spinoffs, right down to Dark Avengers. Is it okay if Bendis oversees a spinoff of Avengers but not if Jim Shooter and company launched one back in the day?

And technology age wasn't what made West Coast Avengers click, it was the character relations and interactions that did. Hawkeye and Mockingbird's marriage, for example, plus the focus on Tigra and Wonder Man. Those were some of the best highlights. Even the focus on Hank Pym trying to redeem himself worked pretty well.

But now, here's the part where they fumble: John Byrne's run on the title, which wasn't very good:
The four-part “Vision Quest” arc showed writer/artist John Byrne at the height of his career doing the quintessential story for the Avengers power couple of Vision and Scarlet Witch as their lives are torn apart, presaging the events of Avengers: Disassembled, House Of M and one of the key pillars of Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Avengers years later.

“This was a shocking storyline the merits of which are still debated by Avengers fans of the period, but it definitely got people paying attention,” says Brevoort. “And Byrne at this point was still phenomenally popular, so there was a great draw to seeing him both write and illustrate an Avengers series.”
I'm afraid I'll have to deliver some serious dissent here. Byrne's run saw the dissolving of Wanda and Vision's marriage plus the obliteration of their children as mere magical constructs. But what really made it a futile charade was when Wanda, a girl who'd long been an established cast member, learned to be a confident woman and a brave fighter, lost her marbles over all this and soon turned crooked again. Granted, Magneto might've played a part influencing her reversion, but it still stunk. Wanda became a silly cartoon-vamp, cutting her tresses short and turning against her Avengers partners.

Adding insult to injury was the fanfictionish way the women in the story were rendered ineffective, unless, as in Wanda's case, she was using her powers to paralyze the good guys. The low point was Wanda scratching Simon down the side of his chest. That left me feeling more than a bit disgusted, and if memory serves, I wasn't the only one if the feedback they got in 1990 says anything. If you look closely at the second scan, you'll notice Wanda's clawed glove has traces of blood on it, which doesn't make much sense, because when Simon resurfaced in the late 70s, he'd become an energy-based lifeform, and while not invulnerable to injury, he couldn't actually bleed human blood. There's something wrong with a tale where Magneto's made to sound more reasonable than his daughter was. Notice how Brevoort even goes so far as to use the attention-seeking tactic at all costs to defend the tale's existence, ditto the term shocking to hint that he's fine with using blatant shock value as a selling point.

Byrne had put some questionable depictions of women into his earlier work, including the background and split personality he wrote for Aurora in Alpha Flight and the bizarre neck-hold seen at least 3 times during his Superman run, but his take on West Coast Avengers (or Avengers West Coast; they'd rearranged the title a bit in 1989) was a nadir in his career. He left the book shortly after, and the story was either left incomplete, or hastily finished up.

And yet this insulting story became a source of un-inspiration for Bendis' way overlong run on the Earth's Mightiest Heroes, a direction built entirely off of defeatism and contrived situations. Today's writers have a very alarming penchant for choosing the worst in past efforts as a wellspring.

When asked why Marvel won't try the West Coast name for a spinoff title again, Brevoort says it's because it'd only amount to nostalgia:
“At least since I started working on Avengers in 1997, that’s probably due as much to me finding the name silly as much as anything,” Brevoort admits. “Nothing wrong with the characters or the grouping, but not being a big fan of the name “West Coast Avengers.” I haven’t pursued it. So it’s all my fault. Apart from nostalgia, I don’t feel like there’s any great value to be had in resurrecting that particular title. At least so far nobody’s hit me up with a good reason to use it apart from nostalgia. I’d never say never, but at the moment there aren’t any plans to use that title in the course of the next year. We’re doing an awful lot of Avengers titles, though, so it’s not for a lack of interest in the franchise.”

Although an admittedly life-long fan of the team and title, Christos Gage agrees with Brevoort’s frank assessment. When asked if a West Coast Avengers title could work in 2013, says there many reasons why not and only one why it should.

“The thing Tom Brevoort insists on – and I think he’s right – is that there has to be a reason for them to exist beyond nostalgia and/or simply expanding the Avengers franchise, because you can’t sustain a title on that. Really, nowadays, the Avengers are heroes for the whole world…with their various means of transportation, they can be on the west coast pretty quick, so there’s no logical need for a West Coast unit. It would make more sense to have an Avengers Europe or Asia, you know? So there needs to be a reason for a West Coast Avengers team to exist, and it’s hard to come up with a good one…so far all I’ve got is “because I want them to.”
No it doesn't have to be just because anybody wants them to. It can be for the value and potential in character drama, something they once excelled in, but with the people in charge now, is just not possible. What they predictably won't admit is that any Avengers title they publish today is held hostage to the whims of the crossover-obsessed editors, effectively keeping them from finding their own direction.

And since when weren't the Avengers heroes for the whole globe? They traveled to foreign countries before in better days, even Latveria. What Gage fails to mention is that the stories the Avengers are known for today are the company-wide crossovers where they clash among themselves and other heroes, including Avengers vs. X-Men. There's no logical need for stifling crossovers that only make it impossible to run a convincing stand-alone story, and even that gets botched by today's writers, Gage included.

And as jumbled as his arguments are, Brevoort is right about one thing: though not the only one, he's also at fault, for leading to the dire situation they're in today.

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Not to mention the series also had the only Ultron that actually loved his father, Hank Pym. But, no, no, it's "too old, therefore, it's bad." Sighs. I get so sick of this constant present tense culture, but here we are.

Makes me wonder or hope whenever new writers come aboard and dump whatever Bendis and the modern House of No Ideas did, since Bendis and crew blithely did with West Coast or anything of the old guard. What goes around..., etc.

And even though, Vision Quest sucked, the excesses of the 90's pale in comparison to the glut that is today's modern comics, but whatever. These editors obviously know best, right? Heh.

I'll be the dissenter here, I guess. I liked Byrne's run on WCA, and even as a BIG Vision fan, I was amazingly appalled at what he did in Vision Quest. I thought the plot was very cool, especially considering what Vision had done when he attempted to take over the planet. I still recall gasping when I saw that finale splash page of Vizh all disassembled on that table. I didn't like that pale yellow look he had following his rebuilding, and as a big fan of Englehart's 70s Avengers tales when Wanda and Vizh were madly in love, it was heartwrenching to see Wanda attempting to cope with her husband emotionally non-existent.

As if there can't be more than one super-crisis at a time. So a world with fewer Avengers in fewer places would be safer?

Comics journalism kills brains.

Any comment on this stroyline (West Coast Avengers vol. 2, #18-23 (Aug. 1987)) and the immediate aftereffects?

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