Steed and Mrs Peel (#1 (Eclipse, 1990), #3 – 4 (Boom!, 2012) – Grant Morrison

3 out of 5

This was printed across 3 prestiges by Eclipse – Morrison’s bits appear in 1 and 2 – and then in a 6-issue floppy format, Grant in issues 1 – 4, by Boom! Because life is fun, I own half the story in one format, half in the other.

A couple of British agents meet in a bar; one ends up quite dead, the other missing. Steed and Peel are called in to figure out what’s what.

Not knowing anything about the Avengers (beyond their existence), a brief wiki perusal does place this comic in a very specific era and vibe of the show: the 4th and 5th seasons, when Emma Peel was a character, and the series veered more towards cheek, and sci-fi. Cheek and sci-fi were certainly appealing to a 90s-era Grant Morrison, and if that puts you in mind of his 2000 AD work, well, yes: he’s working alongside the great Ian Gibson and the sturdy lettering hands of Ellie De Ville, so this certainly looks and feels like a classic UK thrill of yore. And it gets off to a rather great start, with title cards introducing episode-ish chunks of the story, which has our lead duo tracking clues through a twisted riddle book. Grant loves poking at stiff-upper-lipness, and Steed is a great foil for that, stiff himself, but with a smirk, and Peel high-kicking any troubles he’s too busy being polite to see to. So we get the beginnings of a kooky mystery, some Bond-ish villain trappings, and Gibson playing up the physical comedy extremely well.

It rather falls flat in its final chapter, unfortunately, and due to the way it drops the title card structure and doesn’t end up doing much with the riddle concept once the villain is revealed – I mean, it’s there, it just feels like an afterthought in order to get to a final pun – it almost reads like Grant had some larger ideas that he decided he couldn’t be bothered with. Thankfully, it remains a fun and breezy read throughout, so even with this plotting sidestep, it’s still worth checking out.

…In the Eclipse printing. I’m not sure what was going on with Boom!’s reprints, but there’s a distinct blurriness to the scans / reproductions, and the color tint is slightly washed out. The originals definitely look better.