Review by Tony Keen
If there is one artist associated more than any other with The Avengers over the past forty years, that artist is George Pérez. He first drew an issue in 1975, and drew several runs between then and 1980, never, as Tom Brevoort writes in his introduction, more than five issues at a time. When the title was relaunched in 1998, Pérez, by then a superstar, returned as penciller, and stuck with the title (annuals and fill-ins aside) until the end of 2000. It is in this context that Avengers Visionaries: George Pérez (later reissued as Avengers Legends Vol. 2: George Pérez Book I), was published.
This collection omits Pérez’s very earliest work on Avengers (unsurprisingly, as it’s not very good – if you feel the urge to see it , it’s in Essential Avengers 7 and The Serpent Crown), but collects a selection of material from between 1976 and 1980. The stories chosen are ones that will stand on their own, so there’s no particular attempt to provide a narrative thread. Indeed, the disjunctions can sometimes be quite jarring – the first story begins in media res, whilst ‘The Bride of Ultron!’ ends with Hank Pym insane, and the very next story begins with a perfectly happy and stable Hank Pym working away. When Ultron’s ‘bride’ Jocasta shows up in a later story, a reader unfamiliar with Avengers continuity is given no indication what has happened in the meantime. The plots are not always the greatest – Gerry Conway’s Nuklo story and Roger Slifer’s Dr Spectrum adventure are pedestrian, and Jim Shooter’s two-part Ultron story, whilst significant for introducing Jocasta, is not Shooter’s best work on the title (though far from being his worst).
However, the stories aren’t really the point here – the object is to showcase Pérez’s art. In that, this volume clearly succeeds. It is true that, as Brevoort notes, the inking on Pérez’s pencils is often inconsistent – he fares much better under the inks of Josef Rubinstein or Gene Day than he does under Jack Abel. It’s also clear how much Pérez improves as a penciller over the four years represented. The 1999 cover shows that Pérez has come on even further and is now much better at imparting character through his art. What is clear throughout is how much he loves drawing the Avengers, and his depictions of the likes of the Beast, Wonder Man and Ms Marvel are among the best the series has seen.
The real treats in this volume come at the end. David Michelinie’s ‘Interlude’ is a lovely story of what the Avengers do on their day off, leading to the introduction of the Taskmaster, and is written with considerable warmth and humour. And finally, the solo strip for the Avengers’ butler Jarvis, where he visits his mother and motivates the local community against a bully, is a delight.
So this is really for Pérez fans, rather than people necessarily wanting good stories. On the other hand, it is a useful way of getting hold of the Jarvis solo story without having to put up with all the other dreck in Essential Avengers 9.