With the group’s first outing as the official new West Coast Avengers team, WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 aims to further build on the already wild relationships at hand. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done for Kate and her fellow teammates. Especially when you throw creepy, odd theme park antics into the mix.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll gladly say it again: this is easily one of Marvel’s most entertaining books on the shelves right now. Writer Kelly Thompson continues to fill this story with vigorous energy and spunk. It really is a perfect foil to writer Jason Aaron’s powerful, serious, and epic AVENGERS series going on at the moment. You’ve got the Avengers dealing with Namor and his ocean bad guys, and then there’s Kate Bishop and her team dealing with really stupid threats like BRODOK over on the west coast.

I was so used to seeing artist Stefano Caselli’s style back on a regular Marvel. Alas, he’s left the series (for now). Replacing Caselli for WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 is artist Daniele Di Nicuolo. Much to my relief, the pass-off to Di Nicuolo is seamless and nearly unnoticeable. His pages almost match Caselli’s in terms of style, energy, and flow. I’m ultimately pretty happy to see Di Nicuolo’s style in this issue.

Team Building Exercises and a Theme Park

Speaking of the divide between the normal Avengers and the West Coast Avengers, WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 humorously opens with a phone call between Kate Bishop and Captain America. As the previous issue joked, Cap’s not too thrilled with the reality TV angle the West Coast team is using. And for good reason. Last time a super group pulled a stunt like that, bad things happened.

Afterwards, the team is shown dealing with a goofball villain calling himself Gridlock. This guy brags about himself as he forms a titan monster thing made out of cars, trucks, and a bus. Of course, he’s no more than an inconsequential nuisance to the West Coast Avengers. They deal with him quickly, then go off to enjoy some time off.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 page 7. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

That lasts all of one minute, though. As the team return to their base, they’re called right back out to investigate some odd goings-on at a local theme park. Upon arrival, the teams finds that Madame Masque, who’s been more than a pain in Kate’s ass for a while now, is up to something dastardly.

Before the team has a chance to formulate a plan, they’re split up. From here, the book gives us equal parts legitimate character-building moments and straight up goofiness.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 concludes on the note of Kate meeting her mother. Which isn’t supposed to happen, because, you know, Kate’s mom is dead. Or is she?

WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 Plays It Safe, But Not Too Much

Fun and entertaining as WEST COAST AVENGERS #5’s story is, and for all the character progression we get, it doesn’t quite feel like enough. A quarter of WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 is spent on idle chatter between the teammates that doesn’t further build their rapport, but instead gives us more of the same. At this point, I’m more than familiar with the banter that Kate and America will have. None of what they say to each other here has meaning, which upsets me. I want more America!

Thankfully, this isn’t the case throughout WEST COAST AVENGERS #5. For the most part, we actually some solid character interactions. I’m a particular fan of the relationship Thompson’s building between Kid Omega and Gwenpool. Like, that’s one I never would have expected. And it’s playing out in such a fascinating manner. Because, much as Quentin and Gwen profess they hate each other, they still find a deep interest in each other. Quentin’s perplexed by Gwen’s demeanor and her powerset, and Gwen is… well, Gwen.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 page 15. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

I’m actually interested to see more material involving Fuse. Considering he’s the new guy, you’d expect Thompson to give him more screen time, so we can get to know him. We get a little bit here in WEST COAST AVENGERS #5; he’s the younger sibling between him and his sister, Ramone, and it shows. But, when it comes to the superheroics, Johnny is very protective of Ramone. Again, it’s an interesting relationship, one which I want to see given more depth.

A Welcome Artistic Change

Something I wasn’t looking forward to going into WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 was the artist change. I hate those. It’s so easy to get comfortable reading a series with one artist for a while, and then it feels like a gut punch when they switch the artist on you.

Thankfully, the switch is ultimately a pleasant one. Daniele Di Nicuolo does a fantastic job keeping the story rolling, artistically speaking. Di Nicuolo’s style is very much on par with Caselli’s, if at times a bit sharper and angular. To me, it feels like an uncanny mixture of Ryan Ottley’s and Stuart Immonen’s styles.

Di Nicuolo really gets to show off a lot in WEST COAST AVENGERS #5. He starts out by giving us a two-page spread featuring a giant car monster, moves on to some wacky carnival shots, and tops all of this off with more than a few moodier panels sprinkled throughout.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 page 23. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Of course, much of the beauty of these pages is, once again, thanks to the colors provided by (still) series regular Tríona Farrell. Her work here is what we’ve come to expect from her previous WEST COAST AVENGERS issues. Which is good, just to clarify.

For real, though, I want more goofy looking guys like Gridlock. This looks like a villain who hardly tried to put together a costume. WEST COAST AVENGERS needs more morons like that. And, from what I can tell, Di Nicuolo is definitely the guy to draw them.

Mind Games

So, as far as I can tell, whatever’s going on with the team in this theme park of disaster is all a bunch of mind games. Clint and America sort of figure out there’s a mixture of tech and magic in play. They don’t ever get to make a sound conclusion, though, as they eventually found themselves knocked out. Then, of course, we get Kate’s mom, which is definitely a trick. Guess we’ll have to wait and see who’s behind all this.

But, at the end of the day, WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 is definitely another successful issue in the series. Thompson’s story lags a little here, but not enough that we’re losing a dramatic and worrisome amount of steam. I’m confident things will pick right back up next issue.

And, should Di Nicuolo stick with the series for a while, I’d be more than happy to see his style make a return appearance. It definitely fits the tone of WEST COAST AVENGERS, and I’d like to see more of it.

Now, let’s just hope Kate’s smart enough to realize it’s a trap. She’s worrying me.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 by Kelly Thompson, Daniele Di Nicuolo, and Tríona Farrell
WEST COAST AVENGERS doesn't do too much to move the story forward or build the characters, but what it gives us is nothing to pass up. It's sufficient and entertaining enough that this can still be called a very good issue.
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