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The Avengers Top Ten Graphic Novels
Growing up, my two favourite comic books were the Justice League of America and The Avengers. Initially it was because of childhood logic - hey, I can pay the same amount for an Avengers comic as for a Batman one, and I get tons more characters, and therefore story. As I grew a little older, I came to appreciate The Avengers book for what it was, just an excellent book full stop.Life didn't get much better than running home with a brand new issue, bottle of coke and some cookies, 'do not disturb' on the door, and reading it cover to cover...twice. But I digress.
What you want to hear is that I have dug into my archives and chosen 10 of the best ever Avengers collections, which I hope will please new fans and older fans alike. No particular order, but No 1 IS No1.
The Avengers debuted in September 1963, in Avengers #1, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, "And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat...'
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10. Avengers: Under Siege
Writer: Roger Stern Artist: John Buscema, Tom Palmer
Collects together Avengers, Vol.1 #270-#277
Lets hit the ground running. This story arc was a little different, as it steered away from the more cosmic stories usually favoured, but it was a doozy. Roger Stern in the 1980s was one of Marvel's top writers, and the ever reliable John Buscema never looked better.
The basic story revolves around Baron Zemo coming after Captain America with his Masters of Evil villain collective (a glorious Silver Age throwback), and attacking Avengers Mansion to do so. As scary and violent as they are, they find an Avengers team self destructing - Hercules is permanently drunk, Captain America's been feeling more and more out of touch with the modern world, the new Captain Marvel is struggling with her powers, Wasp is distracted by her love life and so on...things don't go well. Some of the fighting is brutal, particularly when Hercules goes down and Jarvis is assaulted. Avengers Mansion is also destroyed, which saddened me greatly at the time, but with older eyes I understand what Stern was saying - the building is not important, its the people inside.
Ultimately the Masters of Evil lose, (yaay Thor's back...and angry) but it has cost the Avengers dearly, Captain America especially. He mourns over the destroyed last few reminders of his past -- his original shield, a1930s baseball, some old snapshots, but we are left realising that although beaten down, the Avengers spirit was never broken. Great storytelling.
Buyers... - ...Assemble!!
Cap Down, But Never Out...
9. Avengers Forever
Writer: Kurt Busiek , Roger Stern Artist: Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino
This collects together The Avengers Forever 12 issue mini-series.
Fancy an Avengers history lesson? don't worry, its interesting history. Seven Avengers, all from different points in the Avengers timeline, must protect Rick Jones from Immortus, Master of Time, who is trying to kill him. Oh, and Kang the Conqueror is trying to stop Immortus too, who happens to be his future self....is it just my head starting to hurt
There's Captain America, from just before he quit; Hawkeye from the Kree-Skrull War; and a raving Yellowjacket from years back when Hank Pym had a breakdown. The Wasp and Giant-Man represent the present day Avengers,Long time fans will know that Yellowjacket and Giant-Man are both Hank Pym....this made for a great running plot point.), and the future ones are Songbird and Captain Marvel. The character interaction is fantastic throughout.
As with all time travel stories, you do have to pay attention, but the journey through many phases and events in Marvel history is great fun. There are great cameos as they jump around (yaay, 1950s Avengers) and a lot of excellent footnotes so we know who is who, what events occurred etc. Its an epic story, in true Avengers fashion, that that stretches from the Old West to the End of Time,. The writing and the art are absolutely top notch.
If you love the Avengers history, the past and present cast of characters, you'll adore this love letter to them.
8. The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection, Vol 1 and Vol 2
Writer: Mark Millar Artist: Bryan Hitch
These collect together the 2 volumes of The Ultimates (essentially 2 limited series) 376 pages, and 464 pages respectively
Slight liberty with this choice, being The Ultimates, but they ARE the Ultimate Universe Avengers, and these books are just too good not to list. These are a more real world Avengers, with some adult themes, and harder characters. Its what's become known as 'widescreen comics', truly epic in scale, breathtaking art. The Marvel films owe a lot to this run, Nick Fury has in fact been lifted intact from its pages! No prior knowledge of the Avengers is needed, as Millar goes back to the beginning...with his own twists of course.The Ultimates is Millar's reinvention of the Avengers for the modern age. What would a superteam look like if it was being put together today? how would the politics work? how would the government use them? how would the world be different?
Millar distills the characters down to their essence:- Captain America is a hero, but a flawed one, carrying many of the politically incorrect attitudes of his day; Tony Stark is a carefree ,heavy drinking playboy hero, and happy with that (no angst here). Thor is either a Christ figure (sent by Odin to save mankind) or a faker using technology and The Hulk is what the Hulk would really be...he kills hundreds of people. Hank Pym is the insecure, but brilliant, scientist pretending he can be a hero he always was, and Nick Fury is Samuel Jackson.
Yes its grand, overblown at times, too much too cool for school dialogue at times, but its wonderful. And it has my favourite Captain America quote ever - '"Surrender? What do you think this 'A'on my head stands for?" "France?".
Ultimates Character Slideshow
7. The Avengers Omnibus, Vol. 1
Writer: Stan Lee Artist: Jack Kirby
Collects together The Avengers, Vol 1. issues 1-30
Pure gold. I could end the review there, but that wouldn't be very good would it!
Firstly, the format. Weighs in at a whopping 750 pages, but all quality content. Extras include 29 pages of house ads, reprint and collection covers , and original art., as well as the original letter columns (great touch, as these are as important to the book as the stories).
The stories are obviously classics, all 30 issues from the very beginning of the title - Issue 4 sees Captain America thawed, 6 sees the first Zemo led 'Masters of Evil', 16 sees the roster completely change as the big guns leave for the second stringers, 22 sees Cap leave, 25 Dr Doom! (yaay),
I could go on, but you get the picture. These are truly classic stories, remastered into a fine collection. You would be mad not to buy it.
Jarvis recommends.... - these!
The Avengers find Captain America
6. JLA/ Avengers
Writer: Kurt Busiek Artist: George Perez
Childhood dream come true. The much delayed crossover we had all wanted as kids, finally happened as adults. Fanboy heaven. I didn't so much read this as savor it and consumed it with my eyes....ahem.
Who doesn't love a team-up? and when its the JLA and the Avengers, and its drawn by George Perez, you just have to say its great.
The team-up itself could just have been a great excuse for a huge fight, a DC/Marvel mash-up, if you will. We do get that, but we also get a darn fine story from Kurt Busiek. Fortunately, as in all good hero team-ups, their differences were put aside in favor of battling the Grandmaster and Krona, and saving both of their universes from utter annihilation. It’s a vast story, both in time and space, and brings together everyone who has ever been part of either team, both in terms of the heroes that were members and the villains they fought.
Great fun is had in the confrontations. Superman beating Thor. Discuss. Captain America taking it to Batman.Discuss. Its just great fun.
I like the sneaky way Busiek injects a little comics politics into the story as well. In the Marvel Universe, the heroes are tolerated/ generally respected by the people, but in the DC Universe their heroes are revered as almost godlike. Superman dislikes the Marvel heroes for not doing enough to positively impact their Earth; Cap America regards the DC heroes as almost fascistic in the way they treat their Earth.
DC/Marvel editorial differences, as they ever were...!
great book, fun read.
5. Avengers: The Korvac Saga
Writer Jim Shooter/ Various Artist: Various
Collects together: Avengers, Vol.1 issues 167-168, 170-177; Thor , Vol 1 Annual 6
This was cosmic Avengers at their best, written by a man who's Avengers run is not really appreciated today, Jim Shooter. He took an interesting angle - in the established cosmic pecking order of the Marvel Universe, what if a wild card appeared?
It begins when the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive from the 30th century in present day Earth orbit in hot pursuit of a cyborg villain named Korvac. They team up with the Avengers to try to find/ defeat him, but he has absorbed the power cosmic of Galactus and becomes a demi-god, remaking himself as 'Michael' and wanting to remake Earth in his image. The heroes find him, and battle ensues; he kills nearly all the Avengers, before killing himself when he realises his plan for utopia has been destroyed; with his final act, he resurrects the heroes.
Was he bad for wanting to make things better? were the Avengers the villains for depriving Earth? philosophical and thought-provoking.
Nice storytelling, with a grand plot intertwining with smaller stories, and some great spotlight time for one or two characters (Hawkeye especially) make this an Avengers essential.
'...if we can't protect the Earth, you can be damned well sure we'll avenge it.'
4. Avengers Assemble, Vol. 2
Writer: Kurt Busiek Artist: George Perez
collects together : Avengers, vol 3 issues 12-23, O, Annual '99, 1 Rough Cut
hmmm, another Busiek. The guy can sure nail these stories down...and more Perez too. I would actually recommend Vol 1 of Busieks run as well, another great read, but I have picked Volume 2 because of the great Ultron storyline, 'Ultron Unlimited'. Sentient robot Ultron,the “son” of Hank Pym, is one of the greatest enemies in Avengers history, and never was he a bigger threat than in this outstanding story arc by Kurt Busiek and George Perez.. This arc ran in issues 19-22.
In this tale, Busiek ups the level of Ultron's genocidal nature, and his rampage through the fictional county of Slorernia is absolutely horrific. We get the weirdest 'family reunion' you've ever seen - Ultron tcaptures Pym , his "father" , along with the Wasp ,his "mother" ,and several more including Wonder Man and The Grim Reaper ,'brothers' and Scarlet Witch and the Vision and who in his own twisted way he sees as his extended family. Remember, Ultrons brain patterns were based on Pym's, but at a time he was very unstable.
Ultron is finally defeated, mainly by a VERY angry Thor, and Pym is given a chance to redeem himself at story end.
The other stories in this collection are also good, but this was the cherry on top.
'Ultron, we would have words with thee'
After defeating wave after wave after wave of robot zombies, an enraged Thor comes out with a classic line...
(image property of Marvel Comics)
3. Avengers: First to Last
Writer: Peter David Artist: Ariel Olivetti
This collection actually collects together The Last Avengers Story #1-2 min-series (now out of print) , plus backup material from Avengers Classic #1-12. Its the Last Avengers Story I'm recommending, but the other stuff is ok.
Peter David nd Ariel Olivetti creat a tale set in the future, when former Avenger, Hank Pym,has to get the original Avengers back together after his 'son' Ultron-59, destroys the current generation of heroes. Pym and Jessie,the daughter of She-Hulk and Wyatt Wingfoot, track down the retired Avengers that are still alive, and we learn the fates of those who aren't.( he's living with his former wife the Wasp, who is slowly shrinking away with no cure in sight ).
They contact Bombshell (daughter of Hercules), Hotshot (son of The Black Knight), former New Mutant Cannonball ,the Fantastic Four's Human Torch, a blind Hawkeye, Mockingbird, and a much changed Vision to try and defeat the villains Ultron-59, Kang The Conqueror,and the Grim Reaper. (you'll enjoy seeing the all powerful Dr Doom as well; he's still around...in a fashion)
It's a sombre story, but then 'The End' books Marvel published usually were, but David brings his customary style to the story, and Olivetti's painted art is excellent.
the a fore mentioned backups are 'untold' tales of the Avengers past, from the very early days. They are fun, but nothing groundbreaking.
2. Avengers: The Serpent Crown
Writer: Steve Englehart Artist: George Perez
Collects: Avengers, Vol 1 issues 141-144 and 147-149
To be honest, this pick was between this storyline and another one by Steve Englehart 'The Celestial Madonna'; I would recommend you seek that out too, its a classic. I settled on this for the simple reason it just..has....eveything.
The Justice League, er, Squadron Supreme. Check. Alternate worlds. check. Evil multinational companies (boo hiss). Check. Cowboys...and in the Old West too. Check.Check....and Kang. Want the debut of a new Avenger? hello Hellcat. Check and out. Y'know what. It all works too.
Essentially the storyline has two strands which meet at the end - one is the hunt to find Hawkeye in the Old West, the other to defeat Roxxon.
Its great fun. It has dated slightly, but that won't spoil it for you. What shines through as well is the genuine affection Englehart has for Vision and Scarlet Witch; he would go on to be their best writer, and eventually married them.
As a kid I always thought the Serpent Crown was cool, and after reading this, so will you.
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1. Avengers: Kree/Skrull War
Writer: Roy Thomas Artist: Sal Buscema, Neal Adams
Collects: The Avengers, Vol 1 issues 89-97
THE definitive Avengers story. The shapeshifting Skrulls, and imperialistic Kree bring their galactic war to Earth, and the Avengers get caught in the middle. This changed EVERYTHING, both in our knowledge of, and in the balance of power in the Marvel Universe, and in comics publishing itself. The Kree-Skrull War was one of the first major crossover epics in comics, and set the blueprint for the 'event' comics that have followed it ever since.
The story features 2 of my all time favourite characters as well - Captain Mar-Vell, and Ronan the Accuser, but there's a lot more besides!
Mar-Vell teams up with the Avengers Vision, Hawkeye, (now in his Goliath identity), and Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, and they face off against the Kree Empire and its champions, Sentry and Ronan the Accuser. Eventually these Avengers are put on trial for keeping the Kree attack a secret., which they did to avoid public hysteria - Captain America, Iron Man and Thor order the four to disband the Avengers forever...er, WHAT?!
Calm down, it was the plan all along of the shape-changing Skrulls, who posed as the Cap, Thor, and Iron Man who disbanded the Avengers; luckily the real ones turn up, with the Vision to end the deception. This leads to battles between the Super Skrull and Captain Marvel, while the Avengers come to the aid of the Inhumans, under attack from Maximus , who has made pact with the Kree Supreme Intelligence. Now attacked by both Skrull and Kree alike, the Avengers decide the best defence is a good offence: they blast off into space in a borrowed ship and proceed to take on the entire Skrull invasion fleet single-handedly, in what is one of THE moments in Avengers mythology.
Its great stuff, written by a Roy Thomas at the top of his game, and the issues drawn by Neal Adams are just gorgeous. You won't KNOW the Avengers until you have read this. Thank me later.
Buy... - ...Ultron Commands!
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