COMICS: John Reviews “Great Lakes Avengers: Misassembled” by Dan Slott and Paul Pelletier

GLA: Misassembled

GLA: Misassembled

The Avengers: a name synonymous with some of Marvel’s greatest heroes, from Iron Man to Captain America, Hulk to Hawkeye, even Spider-Man and Wolverine.  They protect New York and the planet at large from threats too dangerous for mere humans, but what about the rest of the country?  Who will protect the Midwest from bank robbers and Z-List villains?  The Great Lakes Avengers, that’s who!  Sure, they may not be quite as “super” as their East Coast counterparts, but Mr. Immortal (power=won’t stay dead), Flatman (power=2-D stretching), Doorman (power=human portable hole), Big Bertha (power=super-metabolism), and Squirrel Girl (powers=enhanced strength and speed, can communicate with squirrels) are just as heroic as the big guys, if not moreso.

Though the team predates Seth Green and Hugh Sterbakov’s Freshmen, there are a number of similarities between the works, in terms of both concept and execution.  Both books feature teams of “low-powered heroes” a la Mystery Men and The Specials, and both books are narrated by a different team member each issue (with “pop-up” narrations by the team’s cuddly animal mascot.)  GLA focuses more on exactly how pathetic its characters are, though, and tends to break the fourth wall (or is it third?) more often.  Slott uses the opening pages to provide “don’t try this at home” warnings to readers, to point out the misogynistic tropes seen all too often in superhero comics, and to take jabs at the trend of grim ‘n gritty comics like Avengers: Disassembled and Identity Crisis. In one of my favorite nod-to-the-audience moments, Squirrel Girl  sums up many fans’ and creators’ opinions when she says, “Comics used to have stories you wanted to escape to, not from…”  Slott manages a delicate balance of light-hearted fun and absurdly dark tragedy in Great Lakes Avengers, which will have you chuckling at one page and gasping at the next.  It would be easy to downplay the importance of death ina book with a protagonist who literally cannot die, but each of the numerous character deaths is treated with strong emotional weight and helps to further the themes of inevitability and loss.

Paul Pelletier does an admirable job of blending the visual attitudes of artists like Rags Morales and David Finch with the more whimsical character designs of the GLA.  The result is an enjoyably bizarre tale about wacky, zany heroes doing their best to stay positive amidst a veritable huricane of adversity, tragedy and all things negative.  Wil Quintana’s color palette seems most at home in the dark blues and blacks that accentuate the “darkness” of the story’s setting, but he is also capable of using unsettling yellows and greens to ratchet up the gross-out factor when the scene calls for it. Even when the scenes are repulsive, they look great.

Great Lakes Avengers: Misassembled is a fantastic combination of light-hearted “silver age” comedy, biting satire and surprisingly emotional drama.  It pokes fun at the all-too-dark and serious “event” comics currently being published by the Big Two, and shows that writers don’t have to make stories an endless succession of rape, torture and murder scenes to be compelling and entertaining.

Homemade GLA action figures.  How cool are these?

Homemade GLA action figures. How cool are these?

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