Every squad of heroes has their B-Team. Some even have a C- and D-Team loaded with goofy superpowered “rejects”. DC has the Legion of Substitute Heroes and the Justice League Antarctica. But Marvel has the the very cream of the crop (scraped from the bottom-of-the-barrel) with the GREAT LAKES AVENGERS. They’ve been gone for a while, but now they’re back this week in the brand new (and aptly titled) GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #1 by Zac Gorman and Will Robson.
I love these guys. And I’d love these guys based on their general silliness alone, but several stories over the years have actually dared (gasp) to give them depth. You want a quick rundown on membership? Look at that cover from right to left, and you’ve got… SQUIRREL GIRL (well, a cutout), MISTER IMMORTAL, FLATMAN, BIG BERTHA, and DOORMAN. In hindsight, their names are a bit on the nose with what their powers are. As you’ll see, they don’t pack a great combination of abilities, but they’ve got a lot of heart, and darn it, do they try. Originally conceived as a one-off joke by John Byrne during his time on WEST COAST AVENGERS, the GLA have served as fodder for the THUNDERBOLTS, DEADPOOL, and Marvel Universe as a whole. In 2005 they headlined their own series GLA: MISASSEMBLED, playing off the Avengers own breakup at the time, and though they only have about a baker’s dozen worth of appearances since 1989, the team remains a fan-favorite. Heck, they even saved the universe once!
Let’s hop right in. Connie Ferrari is the irascible partner at the law firm that represents the Avengers. With her anxious paralegal Amy in tow, they confront Dr. Val Ventura, FLATMAN, about the ownership of the Avengers name. Turns out, due to a freak fortunate legal loophole, the rights to the Avengers™ name have reverted to him, the one (Flat)man who apparently had the sense to try and trademark the team name when the Great Lakes Avengers first struck out on the streets of Milwaukee.
If you think he looks like a Mister Fantastic knockoff, you’re not entirely off-base. His doctorate might be questionable, but he’s certainly stretchy, something he exercises a lot more since’s he’s two-dimensional. Flatman also happens to be openly gay, coming out in 2005, around when the Young Avengers were introduced and LGBT characters were really starting to gain traction in modern comics.
Anyway, in exchange for the rights to the name, Flatman bargains for the GLA to be an existing Avengers affiliate, and that means getting the band back together. He has a rendezvous with BIG BERTHA and DOORMAN at a local diner, with Mister Immortal a no-show and Squirrel Girl too busy hanging out with the real-deal Avengers to pick up the phone.
I’m gonna let those caption boxes do the heavy lifting for me. The status quo change to Bertha is INCREDIBLY smart and contemporary! Her origin had her as a supermodel who bulks up to girthy super-strength and uses bulimia of all things to shrink back down to a waif-like waistline. Now she can balloon up and down at will, and her career has been re-branded to a body positive plus-size model. Doorman is a little more complicated, especially for a guy who’s ability to teleport is limited to a gap between flat surfaces. He sort of fell into his job as a veritable grim reaper after he was killed (superhero comics, folks, everyone comes back) and now it seems like back to slacking on the job. After a brief conversation featuring hints that the team has disbanded over some personal (maybe intimate?) reasons and the senses-shattering revelation that Flatman can become three-dimensional any time he wants, the team gets a call and they’re off to Detroit on their first official mission.
We cut to an interlude that features a new character, a blue-haired teenage girl diligently toiling away at anime-inspired artwork when her house is suddenly exploded by the supervillain FIREBRAND and her neighbors are being accosted by PITCHFORK, the man with pitchforks for hands. She comes to their defense by transforming into a giant anthropomorphic wolf, if the cover for issue #2 is any indication, named GOOD BOY.
The story resumes with the GLA as they meet up in the bad part of town with a strange gothic girl named PANSY who has Mr. Immortal’s phone, who seems utterly unphased by their appearance. Supervillains have organized just down the street, somewhat alarmed at the arrival of superheroes in the generally defenseless city. The issue ends with a stinger– MR. IMMORTAL is buried underground in a coffin, breathing through a straw, lamenting the situation as a poor decision.
Overall, as fun as this issue was, it was a very quick read. Robson’s art is a delight to see and an absolute perfect fit to capture the lighthearted and fun nature of the comic. Gorman’s dialogue is hilarious and laden with fun puns, and it’s clear he knows the characters inside and out to capture their voices. He does some serious work setting up the story and character developments that I hope pay off tremendously in coming issues, but with the complex history these characters have (Doorman’s in particular being quite egregious) it might be tough for new readers to jump right in. If you’re a long time fan, you’ve already checked this book out– if you’re a new fan looking to learn more about the Great Lakes Avengers, I’d sooner recommend doing your homework with their older appearances so you can get a better sense of how far the characters have come.
Until these D-Listers really become A-Listers– Make Mine Marvel!
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