04th Aug2021

‘Marvel Action – Avengers: Off The Clock’ Graphic Novel Review (IDW)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Katie Cook | Art by Butch Mapa | Published by IDW Publishing | Format: Paperback, 144 pp

Although we like to throw around terms like ‘graphic novels’ and ‘sequential art’ these days, comic strips and comic books were originally designed to be cheap and cheerful throwaway entertainment. The comic strips were designed to appeal to the Mum’s and Dad’s, comic books to their kids. The original age comic books were aimed at was roughly 9-11 years old, which makes sense when you think about men in bright costumes punching other men in bright costumes. Comics, for good or bad, ended up growing up with their audience, so that by the 1980’s grim and gritty era, followed by the highly sexualized 1990’s T&A one, comics were no longer for kids.

Luckily, though, Marvel and DC realised it was bad business to completely ignore the younger demographic and down the years have tried various lines and titles. Marvel had its Star Comics line back in the day, and DC have been doing pretty good with books featuring Hanna-Barbera characters, as well as young versions of characters like Supergirl and the Teen Titans. All good stuff. Equally good, and sorely needed, were the all-ages Marvel Action books, a nice to see collaboration between Marvel and IDW. Featuring all the fan favourites, primarily based on versions similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe a lot of kids would be most familiar with, these have done really well. The Avengers, Spidey, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Hulk, and Ant-Man, the usual suspects, all feature heavily.

Today, for my review, it’s The Avengers.

So, Avengers: Off The Clock follows the same format all the IDW Marvel Action books do, smaller in size than a normal comic, more book size, but nice glossy covers and high quality design and printing. The kids don’t care, of course, but nice to see IDW not slumming it to turn a quick buck. Each book like this collects together three separate stories, the ones in here all written by Katie Cook and drawn by Butch Mapa. Each story reprints the original cover and has 20 pages of story and art. With the UK cost of the book running at around £6 or so, that’s not bad at all.

The theme with this collection seems to be unlikely pairings, odd couple team-ups and oddball villains. The first story sees The Avengers all taking a day off, Leaving Thor seemingly home alone. That is until Ant-Man turns up, which usually means mayhem and witty one-liners aren’t far behind. This proves to be true, although a lot of the mayhem is supplied by, who else, Loki. There’s a nice little moral point in there too. It’s a fun story. Story two sees Captain America team up with none other than Squirrel Girl, obviously picked for her character rather than powers. Still, when the villain is Paste-Pot Pete, Cap doesn’t really need A-lister help. Pete’s not all bad either, this being an all-ages tale as well. Finally, we get Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel teaming up, literally magic and science, against the menace of…The White Rabbit. It doesn’t take long.

Although the three stories can be read stand-alone, which they would have been when published monthly, reading them together you can see that these three stories are actually three chapters of the same story. I really enjoyed reading this. Great humour, some nice gentle moralising, fun antics, all with the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon in print form. Two fellow critics, aged 10 and 11, both agreed this was very funny and really enjoyable. The art, by Butch Mapa is in a loose manga style, perfectly suited to this sort of story. Easy to follow, easy on the eye, perfect.

Although I love my more mature comics fare, I am really keen for books like this to succeed. Without new audiences discovering the magic of comics, comics will die a slow death. We need to create the fans of tomorrow by creating stories they will enjoy, and the Marvel Action books are a great step in the right direction. Fun storylines, no continuity knowledge, no mature content, all aimed at the original 9-12 years old age range, and all adding up to bringing comics back to what they were originally intended to be.

Pure entertainment for kids of all ages to enjoy.

**** 4/5

Marvel Action – Avengers: Off The Clock is out now from IDW Publishing. Order your copy from Amazon and help out Nerdly too!


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