Review: Avengers 1959

Nick Fury's Cold War-era team of heroes takes up a new fight against the remnants of the Nazi threat.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Avengers 1959

Alas, Howard Chaykin, you present a mixed bag.

As previously established with my enjoyment of Mystery Men, I'm a fan of seeing Marvel's underdeveloped eras being explored, whether it be the pre-Captain America 1930s or, in the case of Chaykin's Avengers 1959 #1, the pre-Fantastic Four 1950s.  This was very obviously a back-up series pilot woven into one of Brian Michael Bendis' Avengers books, and now its gotten its own five-issue miniseries.  It's such a cool idea that you just want it to succeed… but Mr. Chaykin's handling both sides of the creative work, and thus it becomes a very difficult-to-acquire taste.

It's not that the writing is bad.  In fact, it's pretty fun.  This unlikely team of Cold War Nazi hunters is led by Nick Fury and features Dominic Fortune, UIysses Bloodstone, Kraven the Hunter, Sabretooth, Namora and the original Silver Sable – not to mention that the obscure golden-age spy known as The Blonde Phantom is in the mix.  If you can't wrangle some enjoyment out of that motley crew getting marked for death by a secret Nazi ring, then you ain't worth your salt.  There's a moment early on where Kraven just straight-up shoots Victor Creed in the face in a public restaurant for flirting with Namora that is surprising enough to be laugh-out-loud funny, and the James Bond smarmy spy bits with Fortune towards the end are also amusing.  There is also the potentially intriguing use of pre-Doom Latveria as a hide-out for an ex-Nazi thought dead, and a pre-T'Challa Wakanda as a place for some shady dealings… although the latter has the chance of turning out straight-up wrong.  Last I checked, nobody was ever named the "emperor" of Wakanda, although there's a chance that the jerk trying to dupe the Wakandans is just wrong.  If Chaykin doesn't pain the Wakandans as fools, and he manages to work T'Chaka into this, I will really have to try a lot harder to stop hating his artwork.

It's his particular drawing style that's the frustrating thing about Avengers 1959, just as it was in the B-plot in that Avengers book.  It's just straight-up ugly.  Everybody has bulbous Jay Leno chins – absolutely everybody.  In fact, they all pretty much have the same face and head, with different colors and arrangements of hair.  It feels very hazy and indistinct and off-putting.  It makes everything really hard to like.

There's a mysterious someone who appears at the end, though, which makes this whole exercise more intriguing.  An erudite man in a pinstriped suit wielding a sword hidden in an umbrella, who claims he's a friend who needs to speak about the Avengers.  Is this nothing more than an in-joke, or is it possible at all that they have the rights to work the British Intelligence version of The Avengers, featuring the inimitable John Steed, into Marvel continuity?  How awesome would that be?

Awesome enough that I'll have to persevere through this art I dislike intensely to find out what happens in Avengers 1959 #2.  I feel I owe the concept that much.