Kelly Thompson is having one helluva year. The writer been actively playing in a few different worlds of the Marvel Universe, where she's continuously produced fun and exciting stories. Through snappy dialogue, fast paced plotting, and collaborating with talented and vibrant artists, it seems there really is nothing she can do wrong. Thompson's grasp on specific characters shines on each page, where interactions between characters who have been part of the Marvel canon seem natural and illuminate their shared histories instead of trying to rewrite them.
One of the best examples of this can be found in the pages of the miniseries Rogue and Gambit, and the subsequent ongoing title, Mr. and Mrs. X. Thompson continues this trend in the debut issue of West Coast Avengers.
Since their debut in 1984, the West Coast Avengers have provided a home for characters most fans wouldn't exactly consider A-listers. They're no gaggle of schlubs, of course; heavy-hitters like Wonder Man and Iron Man (Jim Rhodes) were some of the founding members, but the real backbone of the team was Clint Barton. The inception of the West Coast Avengers was from Hawkeye under the vague tutelage of Vision. Now, over thirty years later, the team again is formed by Hawkeye once more, but this time it's Kate Bishop... under the reluctant tutelage of Barton.
Whenever Kate Bishop is in a comic, readers are in for snide humor and snappy comebacks, especially in the hands of a writer who revels in crafting this sort of dialogue. Matt Fraction handled the brash young archer with grace and humor in the pages of Hawkeye, capitalizing on the generation gap between Bishop and Barton while exploiting the joy in showing how the forging of a new legacy can butt up against a long established one. Kelly Thompson understands this relationship, and runs with it.
West Coast Avengers #1 begins with Kate and Clint entangled in a swarm of land sharks (yes, we thought of the old Saturday Night Live skit, too) rampaging though Santa Monica, California. During this skirmish, they get an assist from America Chavez. From their the idea to reform the titular team is born. Now, not to get too spoiler-heavy, but the manner in which Kate rallies the troops is done is quite clever and is reminiscent of Brian Michael Bendis' interview panels from the "Fear Itself" tie-ins from the Avengers titles he was writing at the time.
Artist Stefano Caselli (Invincible Iron Man, Hack/Slash) does a wonderful job of transitioning from static interview and confessional panels to hyper-kinetic action pieces, neither of which lose any steam or the fun vibe this issue exudes. Caselli, along with colorist Triona Farrell (Runaways) breathe life into the team's sunny, so-cal world with wonderful beach town vistas and colorful interiors. They aesthetic of the book matches its light, breezy tone, both of which act as subterfuge to distract from the dangers of being a superhero. It's as if the creators are saying, "Yeah, things don't look so hot right now, but man, check out that sunset. Can we get ice cream after this?"
West Coast Avengers #1 is a wonderful summer read. It evokes the sun-drenched fondness one gets from listening to the Beach Boys or readers Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice. The care-free West Coast living is all good from the outset, but deep down, it really isn't (there's friggin land sharks, for crying out loud!). But this tonal dichotomy is what makes the book work so well. Thompson and Caselli capitalize on this and make something that can bring new readers on board and appease long-time fans (as long as they're willing to indulge in some bubblegum fun).
Add this one to the stack if you haven't already. Thompson's name on the cover alone should be enough for you to do so, but the light tone and wonderful artwork should clinch it. Now West Coast Avengers is probably not going to be an upper echelon title or sit within the ranks of works by writers like Alan Moore or Grant Morrison, but not every comic has to be. If you want to read through an issue with a smile across your face, then this one is for you. Who says comics aren't fun anymore?