Column: Comics Over Innsmouth: M Appeal

By Lyndsey Holder

Morrison, Grant, writer and Gibson, Ian, artist. Steed and Mrs Peel #1 (of 6). Boom! Studios, 2011.

Let me tell you a secret: Every time I hear someone talk about The Avengers, I assume they are talking about the 60s TV show with Emma Peel and John Steed, the one I used to watch reruns of with my dad when I was small. My heart flutters when I hear those four magical syllables together, and then instantly fills with lead and sinks right through the floor when I realise they are talking about the other Avengers -you know, the team of superheroes that everyone except me instantly thinks of when they hear those two words. When I found out that The Avengers was going to be made into a comic series, called “Steed and Mrs Peel, I felt strangely vindicated. Soon, I was certain, people who wanted to talk about the superheroes would get all excited when they heard a conversation about The Avengers, only to find out that they were talking about John Steed and Emma Peel. The tables were turning! Take that, superheroes!

I was even more excited when I found out that Grant Morrison was going to be the writer, as it seemed an obvious choice. He is, more than any other comics writer, deft at making a story that is at once endearingly campy and incredibly clever, the two integral elements of every Avengers episode. I dared to hope that what I would find in Steed and Mrs Peel was the wicked stylishness of The Invisibles and the silly-with-a-dangerously-strong-undercurrent-of-smart-ness of Seaguy.

Having read the comic, I now must admit to being a bit disappointed. I’m left a bit like a kid at Christmas who has opened all of her presents and found that they were entirely socks and underpants. Is that all? I mean, it’s great that you thought of us fans of The Avengers and made a comic. Don’t get me wrong – I really appreciate the sentiment and all. But couldn’t you have, I don’t know, made it good or something?

To be fair, the writing isn’t bad. It seems to be setting itself up to be a slow burn, which would be great if it were published only as a collected volume. However, the first issue falls short of major intrigue. It’s more like lieutenant intrigue – I’m interested, but I’m not going to be lining up at the door to the comics shop to buy the second issue when it comes out. The hook is basically that John Steed and Emma Peel are teaming up again and there is danger afoot. Okay, and then what? Had I picked this up in a comics shop, not knowing who John Steed an Emma Peel were, I would be sorely disappointed, not only because this issue doesn’t really give me any reason to care about them, but because the art is rather frustrating and makes it difficult to follow, as characters are never drawn the same way twice.

The really unfortunate thing is that I’m sure it’ll get really great in later issues. I’m sure there’ll be some kind of palpably tense mystery going on and it’ll come to a heart-pounding conclusion, but at this point, I can’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t a huge fan of The Avengers, already. Any amazing parts will involve wading through a bunch of filler to get there. Sure, there’s witty conversation, but it’s full of in-jokes you won’t get unless you’re a big, nerdy fan like me. As awesome as Grant Morrison usually is, his name on this title isn’t a guarantee that the climax will be worth slogging through frustrating art. Watch the TV show, if you haven’t – it’s great. I’ll follow this series because I have a soft spot for The Avengers and because it’s a comic series I can read with my dad, but I really can’t, in good faith, tell anyone else they should be reading it. Not right now.

Steed and Mrs Peel will likely not usher in an era where The Avengers, in public vernacular, refers to John Steed and Emma Peel, and not the Marvel superhero team, but perhaps this is for the best. In an era where everything is being revamped and reimagined and renewed, maybe it’s better that some things are primarily remembered in their original incarnation or not at all.

Steed and Mrs Peel #1 can be found at Amazon.com