I’m honestly surprised it took this long. With the whirlwind international acclaim that Marvel’s film universe has brought to this brand, making The Avengers the kind of household name a teenage me hadn’t ever even imagined, why have we waited until 2018 for the return of the title’s first spinoff? We’ve had Initiative, Academy, Young, Solo, and Spotlight. World and Secret, New and Mighty, Assemble and A.I. And most of that was just in the last decade. Hell, even the Great Lakes Avengers have had their own title in the interim! Finally, almost thirty-four years after Clint Barton first put out the call to assemble a California-based branch of Earth’s Mightiest, West Coast Avengers is back on the stands, courtesy of Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli.
Refreshingly, this reboot of the Hawkeye-led best-coasters seemingly has nothing to do with editorial mandates or higher-ranking media imperatives. There wasn’t an earth-shattering crossover event that necessitated a tie-in title. In fact, the impetus behind Kate Bishop’s “heroes wanted” rally is a Santa Monica infestation of a random horde of mindless landsharks. Apart from Clint Barton, AKA the original Hawkeye (who’s really more of an adorable mascot), this goofy ragtag lineup doesn’t feature a single character with an MCU counterpart. Quentin Quire, in fact, after somehow avoiding being drafted into one of the seventeen X-teams falling off the racks, gets to shackle his irascible punk apathy to the meta-fictitious fangirl enthusiasm of Gwenpool. Wonderful. You can get away with anything in the Golden State.
It might also help when you’re Kelly Thompson, and your fan-favorite Hawkeye series recently leaped over the radar and onto the Eisner list of best series nominees. I’d like to imagine the conversation went something like…
“Kelly, the world wants more Hawkeye! How do you feel about bringing back the West Coast Avengers?”
“I feel great about it! Can I pick the team?”
“Of course! So long as it has Deadpool.”
“Fuck that. Never mind.”
“No no no it’s fine. Any team you want. (But you’re going to have to put him in your Rogue & Gambit book…)”
These “getting the team together” books are typically entertaining, and this one has all your standard tropes, including the interview scroll of ridiculous wannabe crimefighters (my favorite is The Scorp) and immediate friction among the actual superheroes. And despite the somewhat problematic inclusion of Gwenpool, Thompson successfully straddles the line between a humorous pastiche of classic super-teams (like the aforementioned Great Lakes Avengers book) which, while entertaining, have little staying power; and the more serious universe-at-stake melodramas that are too often the norm (see recent arcs of both The Avengers and Justice League).
Caselli’s art is as fluid and dynamic as ever. The veteran illustrator, although no stranger to team books — Avengers included — nonetheless gets his chance to add a host of characters to his résumé. Perhaps most exciting among them is a certain furry O.G. West Coaster who makes a pretty fun surprise appearance in this first issue’s final pages.