Avengers 1959 #4

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill

The cover of Avengers 1959 #4 identifies Geoffrey Sydenham as the true villain behind all the zombies, Nazis and Red Skull robots plaguing our stalwart group of violence-prone super-spies. But he's really just a tool of Dormammu, using the Nazi fascination with black magic as a back door to our plane of reality. Seeing as how only one issue remains, I'm guessing our team will need to shut that door. The battles along the way are much more local and immediate and fun than another sojourn in the Dark Dimension.

Only Chaykin could come up with lines like these, describing Sydenham's far more intriguing agent as he attacks Wakanda: "Hitler is his martyred God. Nazism is his persecuted faith." Those words describe a man ostensibly allied with the "Amies" (the Allies, his enemies of old) in order to plunder tech from Wakanda and round up the former Ubermadschen and Ubermenschen (in hiding since the war) to use as expendable mercenaries. For, creepily enough, the Americans, of all the ironies.

Meaning, Chaykin doesn't only nail the fashions of the Cold War, he's intent on plumbing the politics as if they might have existed in the known Marvel Universe of the time. A time when Namor is lost to amnesia, Captain America is sleeping on ice, Namora is setting the groundwork for the Agents of Atlas, and Sabretooth is almost tolerable because marginally more sane long before he finds out what mutants are.

It's those colorful details that make this series work more than any big epic scenes. This is a story of espionage and covert operations, after all. So along the way we get zombie Nazis, robot attack dogs, and odd mission-specific team-ups like Namora (whom Chaykin uses mostly as a bulldozer and Sabretooth-tamer, giving her power level compared to most of the team) and Dominic Fortune, where she notes that he's a practiced thief and he lets her do all the heavy-lifting and bludgeoning. And we learn that McTeague, the British mystic the team has picked up, comes by his powers the natural way: his father was a Welsh elf and his mother a Kaballah witch, making him the sneakiest Mossad double agent ever.

Chaykin cheats us of another scene where Namora and the Blonde Phantom subdue a freak in a robo-wheelchair (whom we already saw fenestrate Sabretooth), but it does make for a funny reveal. Skul's attack on Wakanda is literally powered by Count von Blitzkrieg, and the rabid racism on display earns serious payback, surely coming next issue. I mean, it's called "The Exquisiteness of Battle," after all! Chaykin has taken a kernel of a flashback idea from one of Bendis' main Avengers titles, and turned it into winning and inventive lost Avengers classic.



Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.

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