Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Avengers #93. Neal Adams. The Kree/Skrull War.

Avengers #93, Neal Adams, Ant-Man, the Vision & the Fantastic Four, Kree/Skrull War
There are some shameful things a man must admit to in life and I must confess here and now that, before reading the second half of this tale in Marvel UK's Mighty World of Marvel, I'd never noticed Neal Adams. Oh I'd seen his work before. I'd seen it in a 100 page issue of Batman where Batman took on a werewolf, and I'd seen it on the covers of various Atlas comics but, somehow, it'd made no impression on me.

But, with this issue...

...that all changed.

Suddenly enthused beyond all reason, I had to dig out all those old comics and look at them anew. I had to get out pencil and paper and have a go at copying everything he did; how he drew legs, how he drew faces, how he drew arms. Most of all, how he drew gums and irises.

There was no doubt about it. By the time I'd copied all that stuff, I was practically the next Neal Adams, so it was always going to be interesting to see what I made of his work when the Essential Avengers Vol reintroduced him to me.

But first, what happens? The original Avengers are having an Iron Man instigated meeting when the Vision barges in and collapses. Luckily Ant-Man's on hand to do his Raquel Welch impression and shrink down in order to enter the Vision's body and find out what the problem is. After encountering a whole bunch of obstacles, the diminutive dabbler succeeds and we get the story of how the Vision, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch - having gone to meet Captain Marvel at a farm - were attacked by a gang of cows that turned into the Fantastic Four. Long-standing Marvelites will know at once it's the return of the original Skrulls from way back in Fantastic Four #2.

Armed with this knowledge, the Avengers go to the farm and defeat the Skrulls.

But not before the Super-Skrull escapes in his flying saucer - with Mar-Vell, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch his prisoners - leaving the Avengers to stand despondent at their failure to stop him.

Two things strike me about this issue. One is it's long - 34 pages instead of the customary 20. The second is I really don't know what to make of Neal Adams' artwork. It's one of those things. I can see it's a work of beauty, executed with huge skill, talent and care. You have to hand it to him. He could presumably have made a perfectly good living drawing comics while putting in even half the effort he does here. Instead he gives it his best.

But still I can't get round the fact it doesn't really grab me. The panels feel just a little too detailed, the lines a little too polished, the style a little too stylish. It's a thing of beauty but, then, so's Keira Knightley and I've never found her any more stimulating than she finds me. For me, there's an odd blandness to Adams's work here, a lack of quirk or idiosyncrasy. It's the beauty of an advertising hoarding, rather than the beauty we're told exists beneath the skin. Plus, with his use of light, shade and exaggerated perspectives, I can't escape the nagging sense of Adams as, at heart, being just Gene Colan with anatomy lessons.

Rationally, as Neal Adams is recognised as an all-time great artist and I'm not acknowledged as an all-time great anything, the fault must lie with me and not with him and that's why I can't help thinking of the phrase, "Casting pearls before swine." If Suede sang, "We are the pigs," then, Reader, I am that swine.

On other matters, there's that panel that's always puzzled me. The one on page 15, where, just as he's about to leave, Ant-Man finds something in the Vision's brain that makes him double-take. What is it? Were we ever told? I've always assumed it had something to do with the Vision having once been the original Human Torch but, if so, just what was it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think it was ever specified what exactly made Ant Man look twice, but yes, I believe that was the first hint dropped that the Vision was not what he seemed, and was in fact the old Human Torch with some modifications (I believe the next hint came in #102)....given this wasn't revealed for about another three years, it's a fair display of some restraint on both Thomas's and Englehart's parts.

B Smith

PS I first learned to recognise Adams's art by the Letratone that Tom Palmer popped in occasionally.

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