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Comic Book Review – Steed And Mrs. Peel: A Very Civil Armageddon

Steed And Mrs. Peel #0–3
Issue #0: written by Mark Waid, art by Steve Bryant, colours by Ron Riley, letters by Steve Wands
Issues #1–3: story by Mark Waid, script by Caleb Monroe, art by Will Sliney, colours by Ron Riley, letters by Ed Dukeshire, edited by Matt Gagnon
Published by BOOM!

Did you know that Mrs Peel, as played by Diana Rigg, was not the only assistant Steed (John Macnee) had on The Avengers? She didn’t star in the show until the fourth series, which happened to be the first series shown on American television. Because the makers of the American comic books about The Avengers, which can never be called The Avengers because of Marvel, don’t seem to be aware of this fact. To them, it is only Steed and Mrs Peel, who were admittedly the longest pairing in the show in the 1960s, but it does seem a bit of an obsession. I wonder if it’s to do with the 1966 episode, ‘A Touch Of Brimstone’ – the ‘inspiration’ for Chris Claremont’s story in The Uncanny X-Men about the Hellfire Club: apart from using the same storyline, Jean Grey’s costume when she becomes the Black Queen is exactly the same as Emma Peel’s ‘Queen of Sin’ costume (Google it). The strange thing is that, apparently, the episode never aired on US television because it was too risqué.

The Hellfire Club is the source of villainy in the storyline of this collection, and there is even a flashback to the original episode and the Queen of Sin costume just to emphasise the connection – the prologue of issue #0 reintroduces the new Hellfire Club, still out to topple the crown, and using bizarre ruses to achieve this; in this case, trying to extract secrets from government agents. When one such agent is found killed, Steed and Mrs Peel are put on the case, and Mrs Peel’s sense of smell makes the connection to the Hellfire Club. In the main story, Steed and Mrs Peel are in an underground bunker in London with twenty lords and ministers when London is destroyed by a nuclear explosion. When they ascend to view the damage (after taking their potassium iodide), they are attacked by mutated creatures and ‘rescued’ by the new Hellfire Club. The ministers and our heroes are taken to the Hellfire Club’s headquarters because it is in a much better state than the underground bunker, but, and I’m sure this isn’t a spoiler, things are not quite what they seem (and there’s even a reprise for Emma Peel’s Queen of Sin costume).

There is plenty to enjoy in this book – the repartee between Steed and Mrs Peel is a delight, I loved the way they got out of the predicament (Steed: ‘I apologise in advance. For mentioning your husband, Peter.’), and there is a certain charm to the story, although the absurdity of the situations stretch credulity a little too much, even for a sixties-set story. The art is a little uneven – Bryant is not quite ready for prime time, although Sliney is a bit sharper, his style like a heavier-lined Steve Yeowell – and nothing as clean and sharp as Joseph Michael Linsner’s cover art. It’s also strange to see Mark Waid writing only the prologue and providing the story for the main story, especially when he has been trying to avoid the ‘Silver Age guy’ tag that undeservedly follows him around. However, if you are a fan of The Avengers, specifically Steed and Mrs Peel, then you’ll probably enjoy this nostalgic little adventure about the characters.

Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.

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