1990: Steed and Mrs. Peel

Steed and Mrs. Peel (1990) #1-3 by Grant Morrison and Ian Gibson et al.

Another adaptation finds it way to Eclipse via Brits Acme, but this is the final Acme copro-duction, I think. But this one is written by Grant Morrison, so there should be a chance of goofing on genre, at least?

But Gibson’s artwork is just really uninspiring. I’ve never seen the Avengers TV series that this comic is based on, but I’m guessing it’s a James Bond knock-off, so we get a normal toilet-that’s-really-an-elevator joke. But if you didn’t know that that’s the standard gag, would you have been able to tell that that’s what’s happening here?

Gibson’s just not very good at guiding the reader’s eye: On this panel, the bottom “panel” seems to demand to be read before the inset above to the right, but that’s the wrong reading order.

He’s also quite inconsistent with his faces: All the women look identical, and you have to look for clues for their identities by remembering who’s got minutely longer hair than the other. The men have very different faces… but they change from panel to panel, so that’s really no better.

Each of these 48 page squarebound issues feature two 22-ish page chapters, which makes me wonder whether this originally has been serialised in an anthology somewhere, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s still a weird approach, but perhaps Morrison wanted to emulate TV episode structure.

Look how exciting it is when somebody shoots an… arrow? that’s an arrow? at our heroes. *sigh*

Gibson veers into French children’s comics territory with several of his characters, and they are completely incongruous with the rest of the… er… or perhaps not. Everything is a mess, really, so…

In the second issue, the latter half of the issue starts a new story… but the main storyline continues in the next issue. (And so does the new story.) That’s a weird choice.

The final issue is badly printed: All the linework seems to have “shadows”, giving it all a smudged, unpleasant look.

Oh, yeah, I didn’t mention the story at all, did I?

No. It’s total codswallop. I can vaguely see what Morrison may be going after: A zanier version of James Bond with huge, expensive set pieces and a fairy-tale-like twist, but it’s just tedious.

Boom comics re-serialised this a decade ago, but forgot to tell anybody it was a reprint. They also released a collected edition.

Others liked the book more than I did:

There’s a lot to like here. Steed & Mrs. Peel is hardly the strongest work in Morrison’s back catalogue, and it’s not an overlooked treasure by an measure. However, it is good fun – and there’s an obvious affection for the source material from both Morrison and Gibson, who have great fun playing up the absurdity and the hilarity of The Avengers. Steed rides a public toilet to work, while Peel flies a Union kite in the breeze. The story even features a none-too-subtle shout-out to Diana Rigg in the opening pages, as one gamer complains, “Them dice is rigged!”

Artist Ian Gibson has great fun with the material. His compositions are lovely and fluid, with his full-page splashes being something to behold. His approach is akin to that of a cartoonist, doing an excellent job creating likenesses of Diana Rigg or Patrick Macnee.

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