Avengers 1959 #5

Better late than never. This issue concludes Howard Chaykin’s brilliantly done mini-series Avengers 1959. Is Nick Fury’s rag-tag group of super powered mercenaries able to Geoffrey Sydenham’s nefarious plot to usher in the next age of Nazi dominance thanks to some supernatural help from the evil spirit Dormammu?

Of course he does. He’s Nick Fury.

If there was any criticism of this issue, I guess it could be that it was light on plot. But to me that isn’t an issue; we’re reading the final issue of a short mini-series. Chaykin uses this issue as a violent pay off for the last four issues. His artwork is stellar, imaginatively pitting Kraven, Sabretooth and company against Nazis, zombies and even a group of super villains.

The ending is also left completely open, giving us the possibility that we’ll revisit this pre-Mad Men world. This is available as a collected volume and I highly recommend checking it out.

New Avengers: Volume 2

I guess you could figure out that I’ve been on an Avengers kick as of late. New Avengers: Volume 2 collects issues 7-13 of that series by Brian Bendis, and there is a lot that’s going on to this group of Earth’s mightiest heroes.

This takes place around the same time as the Fear Itself crossover, and there is a bunch of fun stuff that happens in the first half, ranging from the team convincing Dr. Strange to join their ranks (with art by Stuart Immonen) to why Luke Cage and Jessica Jones can never have an evening to themselves (with art by David Acuna).

The best part is the second half has Bendis and Mike Deodato putting the Avengers on a botched raid of a H.A.M.M.E.R. storage depot. Following this, the group deals with it seeming more and more that Victoria Hand is a double agent that tipped off H.A.M.M.E.R. about the raid, and Mockingbird is gravely injured. As this happens, there are flashbacks of Nick Fury’s Black Ops Initiative (which gets further explored in Avengers 1959) tracking down a briefcase that was in the Nazi remnant’s possession–and later in that H.A.M.M.E.R. warehouse.

So what was it? It was a Nazi-made mix of the Super Hero Soldier Syrum that made Captain America and the Infinity Syrum that keeps Nick Fury eternally young. This could possibly save Mockingbird’s life, and there is a great scene with everyone argues over the moral implications of how it could either kill her instantly (since it was a Nazi knockoff, after all) or grant her unwanted immortality.

Really, this was a lot of fun on its own, but it was put over the top with the fifties flashbacks drawn by Howard Chaykin. That reminds me, I still have the final issue of Avengers 1959 that I’ve been meaning to get around to reading.

Avengers 1959 #3-4

Avengers 1959 is such a good read when you have multiple issues to go over. Howard Chaykin’s Mad Men-esque look at the Avengers team of the late 1950s is just so much fun.

In these two issues a lot happens: a squadron of lady assassins, an attempt to rob Wakandan technology, explosions, gun fights, robots, communists, corrupt politicians. These are just a few of Chaykin’s favorite friends!

All of this is leading to a crescendo for the final issue: Nazi sympathizer Geoffrey Sydenham is conjuring up Dormammu in an effort to start a new reich!

Chaykin does a great job as always with his story and art. But what I really like is how everyone is dressed appropriately for the time. He did grow up during this time period, you know.

Avengers 1959 #1

Art by Howard Chaykin

What happens when you combine Howard Chaykin, some lesser known Marvel characters and a retro-1950s espionage spy story?

Other than something that I would buy, you have Avengers 1959. The first issue was epic fun and in a way is kind of like a Mad Men view of the earliest incarnation of the Avengers.

That said the story takes place over a decade after the team’s first meet up in World War II. This was previously shown in flashbacks in New Avengers. 

After Namora, Kraven, Sabretooth and Dominic Fortune all narrowly escape attempts on their lives, Nick Fury decides its time to get the band back together again.

In their last outing, they tangled with the Red Skull and the Nazis, so I’m assuming this miniseries will have them facing Hydra, the logical successor.

Art and story wise, Chaykin delivers. His art is gritty and pulpy, which only fits a story from this time period, and Jesus Aburtov’s colors only accentuate this. Story wise, this is typical Chaykin. Crazy violence? Check. Tough sexy women are all over the place, whether it be Phantom Blonde who is using her seductiveness to get to war criminal Dieter Skul, or the assassin posing as a hooker who nearly offed Nick Fury.

There’s also a really uncomfortable-but-funny scene involving the Chaykin created character Dominic Fortune while he’s trying to introduce a female companion to the mile high club. Their plane comes under attack, so Fortune does what James Bond do in a situation like that:  he gives her a parachute and tells her to jump out of the plane! We don’t know what happened to the woman, but I’m pretty sure she’s not going to be interested in a second date.

Absurdity aside, this is a lot of fun getting to see Chaykin doing a project like this. It’s a great introduction into his world and style, especially if you’ve never read anything of his before.

Captain America: America First

Captain America: America First is a collection of three separate Cap one-shot issues, each featuring a different creative team and unique story theme. So how did it do?

The first story is “Operation Zero Point” by Daniel and Charles Knauf with art from Mitch Bretweiser. This story is fairly straight forward, with Cap being sent to take out the Nazi’s new flying-saucer inspired aircraft. Along the way, Cap gets captured by a Nazi cyborg and attempts to rescue himself and the Jewish physicist who was forced into creating the flying death machines. Bretweiser’s art is phenomenal in this story, looking very realistic.

This is followed up with “Prisoners of Duty” by writers Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel (who brought us the short film The League) with art by Agustin Adilla. Steve Rogers is kidnapped and placed into a Nazi prisoners camp, having to find a way to liberate the other American POWs and himself. Along the way he meets a German nurse who has been forced into working there.

The best of the lot concludes this volume, with a tale by Howard Chaykin featuring Captain America in the 1950s. Wait a minute, wasn’t Captain America frozen after World War II? Yes. Marvel has explained that the comics featuring Cap in the 1950s (where he traded in fighting Nazis for communist spies and Soviet agents) are the stories of William Burnside, who took up the mantle during the 1950s.

Along side a young Nick Fury, this Captain is trying to get to the bottom of Soviet activity in America, all the while facing an overzealous Joseph McCarthy-esque Senator who is trying to turn the public.

Chaykin does a great job with this story; the ending is a bit of a swerve. Him writing about this time period is a perfect fit for his art style; it makes me all the more excited for Retro Avengers.

Howard Chaykin’s Retro Avengers

In the comics world, Howard Chaykin is a legend. His recent work at Marvel, on Punisher War Journal, Supreme Power and War Is Hell have all been great. Marvel just announced that his new project is Avengers 1959 which has Howling Commando and WWII war hero Nick Fury putting together a team of super humans to track down a group of former Nazis.

This book follows an arc from New Avengers, which featured a flashback to this team.

Chaykin said this about this new series, in the interview over on Comic Book Resources:

We’re going to take a look at New York in the 1950s, and we’re going to visit Madripoor and some of the great kingdoms of Marvel history. We’ll see other characters from that period show up in cameos and guest spots, which I will not talk about, but expect some fun and recognizable faces.”

The group that Fury recruits includes Sabretooth, Kraven, Namora (who has became quite popular since Agents of Atlas brought her back), the Blonde Phantom and Victor Fortune, a 1940s era profiteer that Chaykin created back in the 1970s.

Avengers 1959 debuts as a mini-series this October.

Consider me sold.