Classic Comics Cavalcade: Perez Proves His Might In ‘Avengers’ #141-143

by Tony Thornley

It might seem like an unusual place to start, but Avengers #141 may be one of the most notable issues in Avengers history. Beast and Hellcat begin their tenures with the team. Captain America returns after a leave of absence. Thor and Moondragon begin a battle with Kang. They’re all pretty innocuous events, but the notable thing is the arrival of an artist who would be synonymous with the Avengers for his entire career from this point forward.

We continue our series remembering the industry greats we’ve lost this year, after a short interruption, with the legendary George Perez. I could have looked at his work at DC on Teen Titans or Crisis. Or his return to prominence with the Heroes Return relaunch of the Avengers. Maybe I could have even looked at the capstone of his momentous work for hire career with JLA/Avengers. Instead, I wanted to look at a story I’ve never read- the beginning of his decades-long relationship with the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Avengers #141-143 came early in Perez’s career, and brought the soon to be superstar onto the franchise in the middle of Steve Englehart’s run (a franchise he would revisit himself several times). It’s frankly not a great starting point, but it’s a good example of how serialized storytelling in the mid-70’s went. This feels much more soap operatic than a modern series.

My focus hero though is on Perez though. Here in these issues, he was inked by Vinnie Colletta with colors by Janice Cohen. If you’ve heard of Colletta, it’s likely because of his work over Jack Kirby’s pencils on Thor. In a great feature by Marvel editor Tom Brevoort, he talks about Colletta for good and ill, as an inker who worked quickly and got results. That does mean that he often polished the corners off artists’ work. In the case of Perez, it’s hard to tell whether that means here that the more house style linework is a result of Perez being young, or whether it’s Colletta’s inks overpowering Perez’s pencils.

That said, it’s still an incredible looking story. Even if it lacks the detail Perez would later become known for, he still used layouts that were incredibly innovative, especially for the mid-70’s. Englehart’s script calls for some range in his storytelling, giving Perez a straightforward fist fight (at least as straightforward a fight involving Captain America and the Beast can be), to a firefight within the timestream. The second issue switches gears into a superhero western adventure, and so it goes several more times.

Is this something I would hand to someone wanting an example of Perez’s work? No, absolutely not. I would go with Crisis, or the first volume of the Busiek/Perez Avengers. But this is a fantastic story to look at for someone who’s already a fan interested in a legend’s work on the Avengers, or just in general. This is good superhero comics, and it’s worth checking out, especially in Perez’s memory.

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