Great Lakes Avengers #2

“Dismembership Drive”

Warning:  Spoilers throughout

This one nails it all: much-hyped Super-Hero deaths, Infinite Crisis, the Justice Department and its owners, the RIAA and MPAA, Batman…  Nothing is safe in the Great Lakes Avengers’ second issue.  We begin with another intro by Squirrel Girl, in which, in grand Lemony Snicket style, she warns us that this issue will be a downer.  She goes on to ask us if we, like her, miss the days when super-heroes fought super-gorillas on the Moon, and that.  She bemoans the coming of an age when comic book reality is something you want to escape FROM, not TO.

You go, Squirrel Girl!

Again, SG (who actually joins this issue!) reminds us not to mimic the actions of the suicidal Mister Immortal, “especially on page seven.  That’s where he downloads stuff from the Internet for free.”  Yeah, that’s much more dangerous than shooting yourself in the head or throwing yourself, weighted down, in a river, as he did last issue.  Sadly, our Justice Department would probably have us believe this is the case.  The slam against the Internet Gestapo is also subtle enough that it might be mistaken for a clever reminder that Marvel’s copyrights should be respected.

The GLA goes on a recruiting drive this time ’round, asking, well… everyone to join.  Some of the invitees get a whole sequence to themselves.  The new Swordsman:  “I’m not Clint Barton.”  “But I heard on the Internet…”; Moon Knight:  “the Moon Knight must remain an urban legend!”  (No mention is made that MK was a West Coast Avenger.); Spider / Wolverine / Daredevil “I’m a loner.”  The rest of the heroes (Including Awesome Andy and that Perez-drawn guy from FF in the 70s… Captain something or other) are shown in a montage of single panels, saying, “No!”  This is a beautiful copy of the recruitment sequence from Villains United #1, released the same week as GLA #2.  I don’t know if Slott knew this was coming, but the parody works very well, even if it’s not intentional.

Finally, with Flatman and Doorman announcing themselves as the (great lakes) AVENGERS, Squirrel Girl and Grasshopper join, Grasshopper to die only moments later, accidentally shot through the head.  Brilliantly reminiscent of the death of another colorful bug, but a lot less painful to watch, cause’ well… sorry, guy, you’re not a Ditko-created character with a forty-year history.

So we get the “death of an Avenger.”  I, personally, was sorry to see the grasshopper go.  He was no more of a shameless ripoff or a buffoon than any of the other GLA members, and I thought he really had that silly, old Marvel feel.  Like someone who really would wind up working security for one of the big corps of Marvel Land.  (I reference Guardsman working for Stark, Hawkeye working for Cross Security, the Squadron Supreme working for Roxxon.)  His intro and death in one issue work very well, though.  He was an Avenger for a matter of minutes, so the promise of last issue is filled on a mere technicality.  Another jibe, this one at the practice of slithering out of the  advance hype by killing someone we’ve never heard of.

An aside, just ’cause I like to pretend I’s a knowledgeable comics historian…  The concept of “One of these heroes will DIE!” goes back to Adventure Comics #353, dated February, 1967.  The Legion of Super Heroes story in this issue featured the death of Ferro Lad, quite possible the first death of a continuing comics character, and certainly of a costumed super-hero, ever.  (Steve Trevor, Larry Lance and the original Doom Patrol would not buy their respective farms for at least another year.)  If you can think of an earlier one, I’ll ask Stan Lee to send you a No-Prize.

This then-fresh concept was written by then-teenager Jim Shooter, later to become EIC at Marvel.  Of course, the death-eater-tempting verbiage on the cover probably came from editor Mort Weisinger.  Still, it’s interesting to note that Shooter appears to have touched off a rash of deaths in 1967.  John Byrne later apologized to comics fandom (no, not for being the godfather of Disassembled, for which he should apologize!) for touching off the rash of deaths by killing Phoenix.  But, while Byrne reportedly did want to kill Phoenix when X-Men 137 was plotted, the death didn’t actually get written and drawn until it was order by Marvel EIC… um… yeah… Jim Shooter.   Coincidence?  I think not.

Back to GLA, another death is promised for next issue, of course.  That seems to be the point of the series.

Overall, another fine job by Slott, Pelletier, Magyar and company, in the fine tradition of She-Hulk.  This issue is even a little step up from last issue, in which the Dark part of “Dark Comedy” occasionally outweighed the “Comedy” part.  This one is more fun, despite the untimely death of poor Grasshopper.  (Who, after all, could easily join the Unliving Legion and show up again.)  GLA is like one long in-joke for long-time and recent comics afficianados alike.  It’s almost a review in itself of the state of the comic industry, at least at the big two companies.  Gotta say, I’m enjoying this a lot more than I’ve enjoyed an Avengers comic since the first half of Busiek’s run.

Great Lakes Avengers, Volume One, Issue Two
“Dismembership Drive”
Rating: 4.75
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Paul Pelletier
Inks: Rick Magyar
Colors: Will Quintana
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover Art: Pelletier, Magyar, & Quintana
Publisher: Marvel