Collects Avengers vol.3 issues 1-4
Publisher: Marvel
Publication date: 2000

I’m a long time Avengers fan and I consider Busiek’s run the latest (last?) great Avengers run. I started reading the Avengers in the late 1980s first with the few Finnish publications of the earlier classics and then subscribing to the comic around issue 300. Bendis was the writer who managed to single handedly end my decades long love affair with the team but maybe it’s time to revisit the New Avengers this year and see if they weren’t as bad as I remember. I have Busiek’s run as single issues and not as the collections.

These issues are pretty much unabashed glorying of the classics which have come before and praise of the Avengers’ spirit. I have no idea how a new reader might feel but I’d guess that they could well feel lost with pretty much every Avenger ever making an appearance in one way or another, and the characters behaving like the long time friends they are. The story starts after the year during which the Marvel mainstream thought that various heroes had been dead (Heroes Reborn) and the Avengers had been disbanded for a while.

Issue 1 “Once an Avenger…” has been divided into several chapters. It starts with Asgardian creatures attacking various Avengers all over the world. Just when the monsters are about to win the fight through sheer numbers, they vanish. Captain America, Wasp, Gian Man, and Iron Man gather to the Avengers Mansion to discuss things. Then Thor staggers in and declares that Midgard is in grave danger. Asgard has been devastated, and the Norn stones and Twilight Sword have been stolen. All Avengers are alerted and 39 of them answer the call. The Norn stones are sensed in different locations and the Avengers split into teams. Captain America’s team heads for the Tintagel castle and confronts the villains: Morgan le Fay and Mordred. Morgan imprisons the Scarlet Witch, and combines the powers of the Witch with the Twilight Sword, and changes the world to her image.

Issue 2 “The Call” is set in Morgan’s world; a pseudo-medieval city where Morgan is the Queen and the Avengers serve her as the Queen’s Vengeance. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Witch is in the Queen dungeon but very much alive and using her powers. She sends a mental call to anyone and everyone. The first to answer the call is Captain America. He snaps out of his role as Yeoman America, the aloof leader of the Queen’s Vengeance, and recruits the next Avenger: Hawkeye. Together, they choose other Avengers to reach out. Not all of them can remember their true selves but few do. During the night, they managed to free the Wasp and Photon but when they try to reach out to Iron Man, he resists their efforts and alerts the others to the “traitors”. Cap makes his final plea and both Quasar and Justice manage to break off the spell. But the others attack the small band. Just as things look bleak for our heroes, Thor returns. He’s also free of the spell and with his help the six other Avengers manage to escape. Meanwhile, Wonder Man appears to return from the dead to answer Wanda’s summons.

In issue 3, “Fata Morgana”, Morgan makes her final mistake and the Avengers unite against her.

I through enjoyed this alternative world. All of the Avengers have different, pseudo-medieval costumes and code names, and Perez does his best to stuff the panels full of the various characters. Still, it doesn’t feel crowded to me. Despite the huge number of characters Busiek focuses on Cap, Hawkeye, and Wanda, while giving others a panel or two. There’s easy camaraderie between most of the characters and a few conflicting personalities, too, mostly Hawkeye and Moonstone. Justice and Firestar are the newcomers. Justice hero worships most the Avengers while Firestar is more level headed but still a bit intimidated by the more experienced heroes. There are also short scenes from media which is mostly interesting, this time around, rather than annoying. It’s to be expected that the world would have an interest in our heroes. Busiek did a lot of tight storytelling but it didn’t fell rushed or cramped.

In the next issue, “Too Many Avengers!” the Avengers are re-established with an official roster and the US government’s support. Cap, Wasp, Giant-Man, Thor, and Iron Man discuss about various members while Hawkeye fumes that he’s left outside. The story starts when a huge group of Avengers is trying to stop Whirlwind from robbing a bank. Unfortunately, the heroes get into each others way, harm property, and Whirlwind escapes causing a media embarrassment to the Avengers. Later, Justice and Firestar decide to go after the villain to prove themselves. Oh, and we’re introduced to the new government liaison, Freeman, who is a fan of Avengers and the very opposite of Gyrich. There’s also reintroduction to the romance conflict between the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, with Wanda pining for Vision while determinately trying not to and Vision not showing his feelings. And a glimpse of Wonder Man.

This issue had a classic feeling. It’s very much a cool down story from the previous three issues but the Avengers have had the occasional roster shake up/ establishment issues before. There’s bickering between various characters and most of the characters leave pretty quickly leaving just the “new” core team.

Overall, this was a great beginning for Busiek’s run and a great sampler of his style through out: classic characters and conflicts mixed with some new characters. Busiek also created immediately conflict inside the team. Carol Danvers came back to the Avengers with the code name Warbird. What she didn’t tell her fellow team members was that her power levels have decreased: she can’t access the powers of Binary anymore. Personally, I was a bit disappointed by yet another depowering of a powerful woman. There are hints that she a problem with alcohol and she’s also quick to anger. Hawkeye feels that he’s being sidelined and is at odds with Cap from the start. And then there are Vision and the Scarlet Witch. The Vision/Wanda soap opera especially almost feels like rehashing of old material but I’ll take that any day over “gray” heroes. The “new” team isn’t really new but very much a classic one.