May 30, 2012

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #4 and #5

Written by Grant Morrison (issue 4) and Ann Caulfield (issue 5)
Art by Ian Gibson
Boom! Studios

In issue four, Steed and Mrs. Peel work together for perhaps the last time to save the life of Steed's new partner Ms. King (not to mention all of England) from a power-mad game enthusiast with a mad-on for Steed.  Continuing on into issue five, Mrs. Peel takes her leave with Mr. Peel in order to retire to a quiet life.  But when some odd cultists with a South American link get involved, her retirement may be very short indeed.  The action never stops as we move closer to the end of this series of reprints of the comic adventures of the iconic British television adventurers.

The ending to the four part Grant Morrison "episode" was absolutely brilliant.  In typical Morrison fashion we get an ending that meets our expectations and yet surprises you at the same time. He does an excellent job of balancing Steed and Mrs. Peel's contributions to the fight, and Steed's resolution to the final game is so spot-on it almost makes me wish they'd resurrect the show with new actors and let Morrison be the lead writer.  (Or at least contact him when they inevitably get around to doing a new movie based on the property.)  His banter among the three agents is as clever as ever and totally in keeping with the show's light-hearted bent despite all the dire situations and insanity.  King doesn't come off very well, but who does next to Diana Rigg's iconic character?

The whole thing would be amazing, except that I just can't get over Gibson's sloppy artwork that really hurts the flow of the story, the timing of Morrison's script, and the likenesses that are anything but.  This might be the worst issue yet, featuring panels where I cannot tell at all what is going on or supposed to be happening. Gipson has a few good moments, such as when he frames things with the gallows or tips the reader to the solution to the puzzle, but overall, the work is below average in my opinion. I really wish this had been done by just about anyone else and I admit my enjoyment was lessened because of the artwork.

Unfortunately, while Morrison bids goodbye after the fourth issue, Gibson continues with new writer Anne Caulfield, who I am completely unfamiliar with.  Picking up where Morrison leaves off, Caulfield opens by possible out-Morrison-ing Morrison with an outrageous link between the missing Mr. Peel and Incan culture.  Before the issue is out, Steed is being asked to look into strange doings and Mrs. Peel is about to start regretting her new career choice as a housewife.

There are some leaps in logic on this one and after awhile, the pretend gylphs began to grate, mostly because Gibson just isn't up to the task asked of him by the script.  I also must admit losing the mystery of Mr. Peel doesn't seem to me to be worth the payoff here.  Still, there's a final issue to go, so we'll see what happens.

I think folks are mostly safe to finish up with the Morrison arc, which was quite good, but I'm in for the last issue because I really dig the characters and am happy to spend some extra time with them.  Your mileage may vary, however.  The series wraps up next month with its six issue.