It’s 1959. After World War II, but before the modern Marvel Universe started in 1961. It’s a time period that’s mostly lost in the Marvel canon, and Avengers 1959 is a five-issue mini-series here to fill the gap. It’s not terrible and it’s got an interesting cast of characters, but if this first issue is any indicator, there are much better books out there for your money.
Nick Fury gathers the 50s roster of The Avengers (Bloodstone, Kraven, Namora, Sabretooth, Silver Sable, and Domonic Fortune) for a dinner in New York City. A group of super-powered war criminals, who still remain a mystery, are “back to finish the job.” The master plan, or the people behind it, doesn’t get much less vague than that in this issue.
The setting seems like an easy fastball down the middle that Howard Chaykin shouldn’t have any trouble hitting out of the park. A lost time period in Marvel History? Check. Cold War era covert ops? Check. A cast of characters who (other than Nick Fury) you won’t find in any other current Marvel book? Check. The first issue isn’t a strikeout just yet, but it does in 32 pages what could have been done in far fewer.
After a few similar ambush scenes, it starts to get old. Literally every member of The Avengers who gets introduced in the beginning of the book gets their own scene where they get surprise attacked by a Hydra soldier. It’s repetitive and predictable, and it feels like Chaykin is just using this as a filler tactic in place of a more compelling story.
The book’s weak writing isn’t made any better by the art. Chaykin’s background art is smooth and clean, so it’s a shame that his characters are drawn completely differently. Most characters, faces especially, look like they were rushed. It’s not uncommon for shadows or facial features on characters to be quick scribbles in this issue. It clashes with the smooth background art, and to be honest, it doesn’t even look like the same artist drew it.
On top of the general rough, unfinished look of the characters, it doesn’t help that they all basically look the same. There’s a page early on that introduces the roster of the book with six panels looking straight on at their respective faces, and it looks like Chaykin has one basic face structure that he copied six times and drew different facial hair on (even Namora has almost the same cheekbones as the men).
To be fair, the art reflects the writing. The characters’ dialogue is just as interchangeable as their faces are. It’s similar to some of Brian Michael Bendis’s recent (read: weak) work. Chaykin could change around the characters and keep the same dialogue, and it wouldn’t feel any different at all.
Avengers 1959 is a shadow of what its potential is. Despite how weak it is, I’m not done with it yet. Maybe it’s hopeless, but I love these characters, and I love this setting, and if you’re the same way, you won’t find it in any other current Marvel book. If you’re craving another story set in the past in the Marvel Universe, you’d be better off hunting down David Liss’s fantastic Mystery Men mini-series.
WRITING: 1.5 / ART: 1.5 / OVERALL: 1.5