Andy’s Read Pile: Great Lakes Avengers, Same Old Same Old

GhostAndy

IMG_4731Hey Folks! Big news this week as Avengers: End Game finally drops on Blu Ray tomorrow , so one of the biggest movies of the year, nay one of the biggest comic book movies of all time, is now available to watch ad nauseam until the cows come home.

Honestly I’m not sure how many more times I’ll watch it the whole way through. Maybe once. But as our official review of the movie said, you can be damn sure I’m going to watch that final battle like 1000 more times before I’m dead. It’s still one of the best scenes in all of cinema, and I loved ever minute of it. Oh when Cap gets Mjolnir! Still gives me chills!!

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Of course, in the spirit of not spoiling a film that’s been out for months now and could have been seen as far back as July 30th digitally in your own home, I won’t discuss it any further. I mean, there could be people like my sister, Em, who don’t see any movies in the theater any more and wait exclusively in a cave for months until the Blu Rays. If people want to use sticks to start fires when there are lighters around, oh well. Can’t change them.

But I do want to talk about an Avengers related property in hopes of getting some quick clicks by talking about something relevant to the franchise. So without further ado, here’s a read pile about a comic book with “Avengers” in the title. Of course, this isn’t the Avengers you are likely to see in End Game or any other Marvel property for a while.

Well, I mean some of them were supposed to show up in the New Warriors TV show that was supposed to appear on Freeform as far back as 2018, but I feel like that’s now been cancelled…or in development hell at the very least….but I’ll get to that in my Fun Facts…

I’m talking about “The Great Lakes Avengers” by Zac Gorman with art by Will Robson! Straight out of Detroit (’cause Milwaukee didn’t want them)!

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Synopsis:

Great Lakes Avengers…Assemble! After several years of being disbanded, the GLA are finally ready to step into the spotlight again, however this time as real full fledged licensed branch of the Avengers operating out of a rundown factory owned by Tony Stark in skeezy part of Detroit.

Overjoyed by the news that he can finally be a legit superhero, Flatman convinces former members Big Bertha and Doorman to rejoin his new team. He does attempt to also get  Squirrel Girl and Mr. Immortal however neither of them show up. Squirrel Girl mainly because she feels she’s too “A” list to be seen with the GLA any more, and Mr. Immortal because he’s buried himself in an underground coffin after a very messy break up with Big Bertha.

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The group eventually gets entangled with a local super villain crime boss named, Nain Rogue, who is also city councilman Dick Snerd. Councilman Snerd is forcing people to sell their homes in the poor areas so he can flip them for a profit, and if they don’t agree Nain Rogue sicks his super goons on them. One of those effected by the scheme is a young girl named Goodness Silva, who can transform into a male werewolf named Good Boy. She is eventually convinced to join the GLA and help them take down Nain Rouge.

It’s at this point that Doorman brings Mr. Immortal back to help balance then team after Good Boy nearly murders Nain over an insult. Forced to lay low for a while in order to keep the Avengers name out of the news, Big Bertha ends up getting tangled up in scheme by the devious Dr. Nob who wants a sample of her mutant DNA to make a new weight-loss product.

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The GLA jumps to her assistance, and although they are victorious in saving the day as a team, it’s all for naught. Their previous actions in dealing with the Nain situation leaves the Avengers no choice up to fire them as representatives of the larger group bringing a close to this chapter in GLA history!


Things I Liked:

I gotta say there’s always a unique charm in writing a book about the “losers”. Regardless of whether it’s this book, Nextwave, Superior Foes of Spider-man, Doom Patrol etc., when you get to tell the story from the perspective of those on the “D” list there is always somewhat of a universal appeal, because we can relate to feeling of inadequacy. Even if you have always been the most popular person in the room (and trust me…I doubt that was really the case), you have at some point in your life felt inferior to someone. There’s always someone higher on the food chain, and we know how it’s like to deal with that.

However, what these books also have is somewhat of hipster chic about them. It’s boring to tell the same old stories about Captain America, Hulk, and Thor. It’s like going to the restaurant and ordered the same ol’ cheeseburger and fries. You need to mix it up a bit. Like Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Peanut Butter Bites!

It’s like the scene when those two bougie city rats want to buy Flat Man’s Winnebago and turn it into trendy urban food truck. It’s taking forgettable throw away items and giving them value again through some sort of ironic sense of self depreciation.

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It’s in the “knowing” that these characters are pretty terrible in terms of their effectiveness as crime-fighters and yet focusing on how that ineffective nature impacts them as characters. Mr. Immortal spends 6 weeks in a coffin underground, killing himself daily as a way to get sober after his drinking causes nothing but problems. Doorman is an Angel of Death that would rather be quoting pop culture than shuffling humans off of this mortal coil, so much so that he allows himself to be haunted by a ghost of one. The group’s newest member Good Boy, is more interested in revenge than heroics.

But the saddest is Flat Man who sincerely lied about entire persona, being a doctor, being an Avenger, even his “real name” of Val Ventura, just to have a chance of one day being a real hero, and such when he’s finally given a real chance, he’s so worried about blowing it that he constantly makes the wrong decisions as a leader.

The only one of the group that seems to have any sense of self actualization is Big Bertha, who despite having the ability to have that perfect “10” super model body, is content in her new career as a plus sized advocate and foe of fat shaming in all of its forms. The real heart of the team, Bertha is the best example of taking a “joke” character and turning her into something that has real value.

If there’s one thing that writer does extremely well is showing the incredible inner strength of Bertha as she takes no guff from anyone including her former fiancee, Mr. Immortal. She really shoulders the responsibility of the team and despite Flat Man and Mr. Immortal wanting to pretend they are the leaders, she’s the real deal, attacking threats head on, looking out for the well being of her team mates, and mentoring Good Boy.

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Yeah…make no mistake about it she’s by far the strongest character in this series. Definite Avengers material.

(BTW…anyone else catch 90s “D” list Spidey villain and female “lead” of Maximum Carnage, Shriek, in the background there. Oh yeah…that kicked ass too!)


Things I Didn’t Like:

I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but there was something off about parts of this book. It almost felt forced at times, like it was trying too hard to be different or quirky, instead of being in the moment and really embracing it. It was almost like writer, Zac Gorman, was yelling at times:

Hey! Look at me! Can you believe they handed me these crazy characters!?! I made this one to be symbolic of Furry sub culture! Look there’s a drunk throwing up in the background! What a hoot!

It reminded me of this scene from an old Simpsons where Marge goes to a TGI Fridays and sees an alligator in sunglasses and it’s almost like she gets a cheap thrill about how “wacky” it is despite it not really being that far off from the normal.

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That’s how I felt about this book.  Zac wanted to really cut loose and make a off kilter avant garde style superhero team, but he didn’t really know what that entailed. It was too “safe” at times and in the moments when it was supposed to be weird for weird sake, it was somewhat cliche. I also don’t doubt he wanted to write a book with a lot of heart given the above mentioned handling of Big Bertha, but it’s like he didn’t know how to merge that approach with some of these odd characters and it shows.

Like Mr. Immortal burying himself alive to get sober, with his little pal “Corky” in which he could plug up the air hole. I’m not sure if that’s a joke with the character given he can’t die, or a serious jab at the curse of immortality, but how ever you slice it, it seemed like it was only put there to draw attention to how “strange” Mr. Immortal is. It didn’t serve any other purpose and didn’t end up going anywhere after that.

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Same thing with Doorman meeting his dead sidekick who looks a lot like Danny DeVito. They go run off in the middle of an issue and give some random dude a heart attack because good ol’ Danny doesn’t want to join the choir eternal just yet. Again it’s like he didn’t know exactly what to do with an Angel of Death that was terrible at his job, so we got this exchange instead which seems both random and pointless.

The only character Zac Gorman really seemed to know what he was doing with was Flat Man in terms of telling a somewhat zany story that actually progressed the narrative and fleshed out the character.

His origin as a bumbling barista who then uses his super power to pretend he’s Mr. Fantastic at superhero costume parties, was ingenious given he has so often been called just a Reed Richards rip off. Wanting to be something more than just a phony, Flat Man reinvents a brand new persona for himself as a hero, one he’s trying desperately to get people to believe in, even though they are believing a lie. It’s got a lot of heart and gives real weight to the reason why he wants the GLA to be a real team instead of a joke.

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I just wish the rest of the book was written with the seemingly deft touch that Flat Man’s story was. I feel if it had been, the series could have been so much more.


Fun Facts:

As I mentioned before, there was a good chance we could have seen some of the members of the Great Lakes Avengers in something other than a comic book as some of the characters were going to be adapted for the comedy/coming of age series entitled New Warriors.

Mainly, those from GLA that would be regular characters were the incredibly popular Squirrel Girl (played by that spunky little cutie from the AT&T commercials, Milana Vayntrub) and Mr. Immortal (played by that spunky little cutie from the Freeform show, Baby Daddy, Derek Theler. The rest of group were actually members of the New Warriors proper like Night Thrasher and Speedball.

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Any who, a pilot was filmed and afterwards 10 episodes were ordered to air on Freeform in early 2018. However, then something happened. There are conflicting reports on whether Marvel then pulled New Warriors from Freeform, or the opposite happened and Freeform didn’t have a slot on it’s schedule for the show anymore, but regardless the pilot never aired. From that point it seemed like Marvel’s Television wing was attempting to shop around the show to some of the other Disney owned networks and services.

First, There were some reports that said it might appear on the Disney streaming service, and in fact that seemed to make sense originally. Why have a MCU style series appear on anything other than this brand new streaming service that Disney fully owns and wants people to subscribe to.

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But those rumors seemed to die with the announcement that the MCU shows on the network would be created by Marvel Studios (aka the Kevin Feige movie wing), not Marvel Television (aka the Jeph Loeb Netflix Daredevil Universe wing).  Those shows being Winter Solider/Falcon, Loki, and Scarlet Witch series with no mention of New Warriors being included. It could be that the bad blood between Marvel Studios and Marvel TV did indeed play a part in this decision, but regardless New Warriors was an unfortunate causality of that beef.

Then there was efforts to get the show on the ABC network, which at one point there was mention that the network was considering cancelling Agents of  S.H.I.E.L.D. in favor of New Warriors, although that could have just been idle gossip. In the end, ABC didn’t cancel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and that was the last mention of New Warriors regarding any channel, network, or streaming service.

Will this show ever see the light of day, or is this series doomed to live a life as bootlegged DVDs passed around the seedy floors of Comic Cons like some of the other dead Marvel pilots of the past like Generation X, Power Pack, and the Mockingbird vehicle Marvel’s Most Wanted? Only time will tell…

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Final Thoughts:

I did have somewhat high hopes for this book when I first started reading it. This is mainly because I’m a sucker for Mr. Immortal. I think he’s always had a super interesting power set and one that really proves the point that often times, really great superpowers aren’t just one, but a set. Immortality is great, but without super strength and invulnerability, is it really worthwhile in being a super hero? The answer seems to be a big fat “no”!

In any case, it’s not as if I’m going to sit here and say I was disappointed by this series, but I will say it was pretty uneven and as a result, not very memorable. The art is pretty good by Will Robson, sort of a poor man’s Todd Nauck, with a cartoon like well rounded anime style, but it’s nothing that jumps off the page at you.

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Furthermore, I liked the characterization of some of the members of the GLA such as the aforementioned Big Bertha and Flat Man, but some of the other characters such as Door Man and Mr. Immortal seemed very haphazard and lacked focus.

Perhaps that was my biggest gripe in that when you are given a book which intentionally can be spoofy or played for laughs to a certain degree, it’s easy to overindulge in that and want to throw everything and the kitchen sink into the plot to see which jokes stick. However unlike say Nextwave which indeed gave us monkeys with laser faces or Baby Modoks or whatever, Warren Ellis didn’t make most of that a part of the plot, but instead more of silly window dressing.

The issue here was Zach Gorman wanted everything to count. All the members and their backstories. All their silly issues and hangups. All their past history and problems. And all the nonsense  like Grade “Z” supervillains and commentary on why being a superhero sucks.

And that’s just way too much for a tight story. As a result, some plot threads seem to go nowhere and it just seems like a garbled mess at times. I mean why were there supervillains everywhere in Detroit again? What was Good Boy’s power exactly? Who exactly was the Goth girl just hanging out at their warehouse base? What’s a Squiff? Is that like a Queef? Too many questions…

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I did laugh at a couple of the bits such as the hipster bloc party which includes the members of GLA as some sort of meta-fictional shout out to the fact that only these types of characters would be seen as trendy enough to appear at something like this what with the sardonic flighty vibe that permeated the surroundings.

But I think those moments were too few and too far between to make this series really something special.

Still it’s bizarre that it was unceremoniously canned by Deadpool on the last page…not sure what to make of that. Some sort of pity party in that there are a thousand books on a popular character like DP and not on these guys…?

…seems like a better book would have fixed that.

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Andy’s Read Pile Grade: B-


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