Review: West Coast Avengers #1

Spinning out of her fantastic Hawkeye run, Kelly Thompson kicks off the next stage in Kate Bishop’s heroic career and makes her the leader of the Avengers with artist Stefano Caselli and Triona Farrell. Well, it’s the West Coast Avengers to be honest, and they fight lands harks and 200 feet Tigras and are funded by Quentin Quire’s reality TV show and camera crew. But questionable credentials aside, Thompson and Caselli have created something special: a comedic superhero team in the vein of the classic “bwahaha” Justice League International for 2018. Caselli can do literal big action and big funny as well as romance (Kate’s boyfriend from Hawkeye is on the team as the rookie superhero, Fuse) and even capture the watercolor beauty of traveling through America Chavez’s star portals. He gives West Coast Avengers a blockbuster scope while not sacrificing the humor or quirkiness.

Like most team superhero first issues, West Coast Avengers #1 is all about assembling the team and setting up the team’s first obstacle. Thompson and Caselli create this new Avengers squad from a highly organic place: Kate Bishop freaking out. Seriously, fighting land sharks with a bow and arrow and some martial arts is a tall order. There’s also the more logical place that most superheroes in the Marvel Universe are clustered around New York City and really there needs to be a dedicated, experienced superhero team to protect the West Coast, especially the United States’ second biggest media market, L.A. (Sorry Runaways!) Thompson and Caselli immediately set up the team’s key relationships by having Kate call in the other Hawkeye, Clint Barton and her BFF, America Chavez to help out with the initial threat. They have an easy conversational rhythm in the heat of battle, and Barton especially fits into his supporting role with Stefano Caselli drawing hilarious reaction shots of him watching Kate ride a herd of sharks into the ocean or his responses when Fuse acts about Kate’s ex Noh Varr, who wasn’t invited to the team.  He also acts as the connection

The two wild cards on West Coast Avengers are Gwenpool and Quentin Quire, who brings in the reality TV show angle and makes sure everyone around him knows that he’s an omega level mutant and the strongest member of the team. Since the mid-2000s and the New Warriors, the reality TV superhero angle has been used a lot in comic, but Thompson and Caselli don’t use it for broad brushed satire. Instead, they use the sound bites for characterization and quick moments of levity like when Quire and Gwenpool blow something up in the background while Kate is doing a semi-serious confessional. During these big gags, colorist Triona Farrell’s palette is bolder and absurd than her usual sunny SoCal color choices with the soft purple of Kate’s costume or the glow of the horizon.

West Coast Avengers is a grounded world of ex-boyfriends and sprawling and eating pizza after a hard day’s work, but it’s also a world of Looney Tunes Gwenpool guns and this never gets old, land sharks. Stefano Caselli uses reaction panels to wink at the audience and say, “Yes, this book is weird. Enjoy it!” It can segue from a romance beat to a comedy beat and then an action beat and back again in the space of a couple pages like when Kate and Fuse are making out, run into Quentin Quire and Gwenpool aka “useless Deadpool knockoff” bickering about a wet towel prank to jumping into action via an America star portal. West Coast Avengers has a light tone without devolving too much into parody. For example, giant Tigra is a very real threat to the team and also an opportunity for team leader, Kate Bishop, to exercise situational ethics as she begins with getting Tigra’s old teammate Clint to try to talk her down before bringing in Quentin Quire with the psychic knockout punch.

In recent years, Marvel Comics has had several strong comedy titles in their lineup (Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Howard the Duck, and Max Bemis’ Worst X-Man Ever come to mind), but Kelly Thompson, Stefano Caselli, and Triona Farrell bring the funny to a team superhero book in West Coast Avengers.  It also continues the fantastic arc that Thompson has crafted for Kate Bishop over the past two years and providing a new home for the madcap antics of Gwenpool, the goofiness and salt of the earth earnestness of Clint Barton, the laconic punching of America Chavez (Hopefully, she isn’t relegated to team chauffeur.), and the pompous edginess and untapped potential of Quentin Quire. In one issue, a team with an interesting dynamic has been assembled as well as a bad guy that fits the tone of the book so all in all, West Coast Avengers #1 is a win.

Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Stefano Caselli
Colors: Triona Farrell Letters: Joe Caramagna

Story: 8.4 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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