Current Reviews


Avengers #78

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2004
By: Loretta Ramirez

“Lionheart of Avalon, Part 2”

Writer: Chuck Austen
Artists: Olivier Copiel (p), Andy Lanning (i)

Publisher: Marvel

A housewife and a criminal recite passages from classic literature, while a superhero refers to Harry Potter; a delicate Avenger known for shrinking becomes a giantess; and a legendary hero has fallen while a civilian must become his protector. These are examples of the ironies that fill “Lionheart of Avalon, Part 2” by Chuck Austen and Olivier Copiel. Traditional superhero roles are reversed as the Avengers defeat the Wrecking Crew and face a tragic aftermath.

Although the plot progression is gradual in this issue (the Avengers quickly end their fight, then regroup), strong dialogue and interaction create intriguing dichotomies that focus on character. Austen seems to be contrasting the characters’ core strengths against their weaknesses in order to see who continues to look good despite their flaws. In this issue, Hawkeye looks good. The cool cocky archer, Hawkeye traditionally relies on pure skill and cunning to succeed; but he’s also poorly educated and powerless, thus making him a constant target of ridicule and disrespect. In this issue, the common lack of regard for the character is again shown as the Wrecking Crew quickly dismisses Hawkeye as harmless and then resumes their criminal business. Thus, it’s immensely satisfying to see Hawkeye decisively defeat both the Wrecker and Piledriver in one single pull of a bowstring. Austen has an excellent handle of Hawkeye, including his sincere friendliness with others. One highlight is the character’s conversation with a little boy who comments that he is glad Hawkeye “stopped being Goliath and went back to being Hawkeye.” Here, again, Hawkeye’s effectiveness as an archer is contrasted with the traditional desire for heroes to be larger-than-life powerhouses; and, again, Hawkeye is celebrated for simply being Hawkeye.

However, the opposite occurs with the Wasp who is undergoing a significant character change. She transforms—from the previously dominated, wispy ex-wife whose power was to shrink—to a giantess. Austen’s set-up for the Wasp’s future is interesting, especially as the first thing readers see when she shrinks to normal size is her ex-husband scolding her for growing too large. This is a potentially fascinating relationship issue as the once big man is forced to now stand in a woman’s shadow—another significant reversal of superhero roles. The third major reversal is much darker and concerns Captain America’s failure as a hero. It would have been more satisfying had the results of his failure been addressed in this issue; however, the story felt full with exciting fight sequences, insightful character exploration, and amusing dialogue—especially between the Wrecker and Piledriver with Hawkeye in the background, trying to join in on their movie discussion.

In fact, although the story has dramatic moments, there is a huge element of fun. Copiel’s action sequences have much to do with this; his art is clever, particularly in portraying Hawkeye’s clash, which ends in two arrows poking through Piledriver’s body, reminiscent of Piledriver’s previous encounter with Hawkeye in SECRET WARS. Piledriver’s intense agony would actually be pitiful, if it wasn’t so hilariously exaggerated. His fingers curl, his one open eye wells with tears, and his lower jaw seems to have detached, so wide is his mouth in preparation for a belting scream. Even his hair seems stiff with pain. In a far more serious manner, the cruel battering of Captain America’s protector is equally impressive in presentation. And Thunderball’s folded body, mowing through a block of parked cars, effectively demonstrates She-Hulk’s strength. The characters’ expressions and body language are also worth noting—from Hawkeye’s cool poise as he perches on a car and smoothly takes aim, to the Scarlet Witch’s remorse as she updates the awakened Captain America on the tragic turn of events.

Together, Copiel and Austen have created a character-driven plot that, amidst action, highlights the characters’ core powers and weaknesses. And though the issue has a few flaws, especially in its re-explanation of the Scarlet Witch’s powers, the reversal of superhero roles and the possible ramifications of these reversals create a suspense and tension that make the month-long wait between this issue and the next almost unbearable.

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