West Coast Avengers (#46) – John Byrne

3 out of 5

My sole comic source as a kid was my grandfather, who would pick them up from some spinner rack somewhere on his way to visit us younguns, giving me that glorious experience specific to those pick-and-choose days when going to a comic shop wasn’t necessarily an option: you might get several issues of a comic / storyline in a row, you might not.  He knew to get me Turtles when he saw it, but there were like eight Spider-Man books, so I’d get a random mix of Spectacular or Amazing, not really understanding they weren’t the same book, and loving them all the same.  And then there’d be that random one that’d pop up on occasion: something that you’d get only once for whatever reason.  One of those, for me, was an Avengers book: West Coast Avengers #46, i.e. the first appearance of joke team the Great Lakes Avengers.

Of course, I didn’t know this was a first appearance then, but I loved the oddity of these characters, and reread the issue so, so many times.  I would end up getting another Avengers book in that random slot sometime later, and was disappointed that the GLA didn’t seem to register on Captain America’s radar at all.  But at least I still had issue #46 to return to.

Rereading it today with a heckuva lot more comic savvy and history under my belt – along with knowing who John Byrne is – it’s still a pretty good, if shallow, time.  Shallow because the story doesn’t make too much sense – it’s more of an aside to give Hawkeye a subplot in the Avengers books – and because my kidly imagination was giving these characters a lot more wackiness than is actually offered on the page.  The GLA essentially just shows up once, each character executing their jokey powers, and then we move on to a royally stupid bit where Hawkeye “tricks” the GLA into a fight to see why they’re using the Avengers name.  Some pages are dedicated to moving other Avengers subplots along.  …But the issue absolutely suffices as a goofy filling of twenty-two pages, and Byrne really is a skilled draftsman, with his pages looking fresh and energetic even after all these years.