Back in May, I reviewed issue #1, GLA Misassembled. Now that all four issues have been published, I present my review of the entire mini-series.

General Information

Title: Great Lakes Avengers #2-4

Writer: Dan Slott

Artists: Paul Pelletier, Rick Magyar, Wil Quintana.

Premise:

A group of second-rate superheroes struggle against the odds (and a disturbingly high death rate) to establish themselves as heroes and to stop a universe-threatening menace.

As previously discussed, the Great Lakes Avengers have been tooling around the Marvel Universe since their 1989 debut in West Coast Avengers. They follow in an established tradition of spoof superheroes who co-exist with the more seriously-sold characters. The 1940s saw the tongue-in-cheek adventures of the original Red Tornado, and even Plastic Man emphasized the comical aspects of his powers. DC created a humorous hero team in the 1960s—-the Inferior Five—- and they carried their own title for a time. The Flaming Carrot provided an independent take on the genre, and also introduced the Mystery Men, who found their way into film. In 2005, Marvel (having already sent themselves up in the 70s with Howard the Duck) gave the Great Lakes Avengers a mini-series, which blends their adventures with obvious satiric jibes at comic book trends and conventions. In particular, the four issues mock their own readership, and direct a number of satiric barbs at DC’s recent Identity Crisis series (Reviewed here and here).

High Points

Monkey Joe’s hilarious commentary throughout the four issues, assisted by other characters. Insulting though some of it may be, I suspect it has more than a small connection to the truth. Follow, if you will, the discussion in issue #3 about the handling of women and women’s issues in comics.

The sequence in #2, which features a significant portion Marvel characters snubbing offers of membership in the GLA, also proves pretty funny.

Low Point

I wondered about the follow-up to Monkey Joe’s death. It’s redeemed somewhat by the discovery that “the cause of death… was a footprint on his brain. I’d say men’s size 12.”

The Scores

Originality: 2/6. The mini-series features some interesting jabs at superhero comics generally, and at Marvel’s Distinguished Competition in particular. However, the concept of underdog superheroes is no more original than that of underdog heroes who eventually succeed.

Artwork: 5/6 The series features good, mainstream superhero art. The sequence in #2 where various Marvel superhero’s turn down the offer to join the GLA has been handled in a way that enhances the gag.

Story: 4/6. The story proves amusing, even if four issues stretches the humour potential a little thin.

Characterization: 3/6

Emotional response: 4/6 The jokes work best if you know the targets: Marvel’s hero-crowded New York City (even Central Park has its own hero), the endless, usually temporary deaths of superheroes, DC’s recent Identity Crisis series, the treatment/inclusion of social issues in comics. GLA, however, wants to have it both ways: it appeals to the fannish, while hurling insults in that general direction. The story critiques certain trends in comics, yet its satire arguably participates in those same trends.

Consider Issue #3, which opens with Squirrel Girl and Big Bertha commenting on the treatment of female characters in superhero comic books, and making several pointed references to Identity Crisis. Bertha suggests that the questionable handling of women and women’s issues may reflect the hostility of geeky male readers and writers, “overweight men in their thirties with bad hairlines who never got any action in high school.” Of course, all of this serves as a caution that we shall see more questionable treatment of women in this very issue. We learn that Big Bertha must purge herself, bulimic-like, in order to shed her monumental bulk and return to her beautiful secret identity1, and the artists provide a graphic depiction. A crossing guard in the same issue complains, after she saves his life, that with “tons of hot super-chicks in the world,” he has to be saved by Big Bertha.

Flow 5/6.

Overall: 4/6 In its better moments, Great Lakes Avengers recalls Steve Gerber’s work at Marvel in the 1970s. The series may not be classic reading, but comic fans will find much of it funny: provided they don’t take themselves too seriously.

In total, Great Lakes Avengers 2-4 receive a score of 27/42.

My overview of the entire series appears here.

1. Say… What does happen to all that extra bulk the Hulk must shed when he becomes Bruce Banner?