AVENGERS: Once An Avenger collects Avengers 21-40, which show the problems with the “Marvel method” (the artist does a lot of the plotting) that Stuf’ Said talked about. Don Heck wasn’t comfortable flying without a detailed plot from the writer and Stan Lee’s outlines were probably pretty thin (he was working on a lot of Marvel books at this point) which put even more weight on Heck’s shoulders (Roy Thomas takes over the book near the end of this volume and seems to be a stronger plotter). As a result, we have a lot of padding in some stories, and frequent whipsaw plot changes. At one point Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch head back to their home nation of Transia because their powers are fading and they hope the motherland will recharge them. Several issues later, with no set up, we see a kindly Einstein-lookalike (who apparently lives with a fully equipped lab in a Transian mountain village) miraculously figuring a way to recharge their abilities. Apparently Lee or Heck decided it was time to bring them back so presto, miracle cure!
That said, I do enjoy Lee’s style of mixing melodrama and heartache (the latter probably came naturally to Heck, who did a lot of romance comics work) in with the superheroics. Hawkeye has a genuine character arc, going from hot-head to a fairly sensible guy (though the team continues to take up space with constant bickering). And there are some great stories: the Avengers second battle with Kang, their encounter with the white-supremacist Sons of the Serpent, and the debut of the Collector. While he would appear many more times, later stories made him more SF and lacked the quirkiness of his collection here: a flying carpet for transportation, beans that grow giants, a medieval catapult (I can swallow this, as a lot of real collectors are equally arbitrary in their selections). So a thumbs up, but YMMV.
I picked up GOTHAM CENTRAL: The Quick and the Dead by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano for cheap at the library’s display table, and while I like the premise of the series — life as a cop in Gotham City — this is not one of the stronger volumes. One story ties in to some then-current Bat-event and with no context or explanation why Batman is suddenly persona non grata, it lacks punch. Another takes a couple of cops to Keystone City to confront Flash’s foe Dr. Alchemy. While they play off the contrasting attitudes of Flash-series cops to Gotham cops, this turns Alchemy into a blatant Hannibal Lector ripoff, a guy who can figure out everything you’re thinking and use it against you. There’s no basis for this in the character, and more importantly it just doesn’t work. So this one went back to the library.
#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.