Avengers


Collects issues 158-167 of Avengers vol. 1.

Writers: Jim Shooter,
Artists: Sal Buscema, Pablo Marcos, George Perez, John Byrne, G. Tuska
Publisher: Marvel

These are Jim Shooter’s old Avengers tales, first published in 1977. The longest story arch lasts for three issues but there are subplots which are present in most issues, namely the Beast feeling superfluous in a team which has many stronger characters, like Thor, Vision, and Wonder Man, as well as all-around geniuses like Tony Stark and Hank Pym. Also Wonder Man constantly doubts himself and Hawkeye is helping Two-Gun Kid to adjust to the 1970s. The Kid comes from 1873.

The core team consists of Iron Man, Wonder Man, the Beast, Vision, Captain America, and Scarlet Witch, but other members come and go, as well.

The collection starts with the Vision attacking Wonder Man in a rage of jealousy. Strangely enough, the Vision constantly calls himself an emotionless machine but when he sees Wonder Man aiding Wanda, when she’s dizzy after a battle, the Vision attacks. Iron Man interferes to stop the fight. This issue also introduces a very powerful new foe, Graviton, who imprisons the core team plus the Wasp and Yellowjacket. It takes Thor and the Black Panther to free the others and defeat Graviton.

The characters don’t really have any breathers. Only hours after defeating Graviton, the Grim Reaper returns. He wants to know if Wonder Man or the Vision is the real Simon Williams, the Grim Reaper’s brother. Then Ant Man attacks with his army of ants which are too quick for even Iron Man to evade. The Wasp returns and explains that Hank has lost his memory and soon Ultron tricks Hank into helping him transfer Janet’s mind to a woman made of metal.

The Avengers also face the Lethal Legion and Graviton again. In the final issue, they inspect a huge space constructs which is heading towards S.H.I.E.L.D.’s orbiting space station. The collection ends is a cliffhanger leading to the Korvac saga.

Even though the issues have a lot of battles and excitement, there are also long plotlines brewing. In addition to the three I mentioned above, there’s a mysterious old man who thinks he’s Wanda and Pietro’s father. Currently, the twins think that the old hero Whizzer is their father and that their last name is Frank. Also, Iron Man and Thor have their own adventures in their own magazines so they’re away a lot. Since Iron Man is supposed to be the leader Cap and even Wanda tell him to do a better job. Also, Iron Man’s identity is secret; not even the other Avengers know that he’s Tony, so it’s difficult for him to explain his absences.

Many issues which originated here have longer ramifications. Hank Pym’s phycological problems for example and the Vision/Wonder Man rivalry and brotherhood lasted for a long time).

On the other hand, Shooter seems to rely on Thor coming in at the nick of time to save the others so many times, that even the characters comment on it and he devoloped a mysterious force which whisked Thor away and back to the Avengers when they most needed him. While the Wasp and Wanda are pretty underused, only Wasp is kidnapped once; and the whole team is beaten a couple of times. Also, only two issues actually have Ultron…

Still, it’s a fun read and a blast from the 70s.

Advertisements

Collects Uncanny Avengers #1-5

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday

After the events of Avengers vs X-Men, Captain America finally acknowledges that the Avengers haven’t done enough to help mutants. In order to help them now, he gathers an Avengers team from both mutants and Avengers. He also appoints Havok as the team leader. They’re thrown into a difficult situation right from the start: Avalanche attacks a group of humans and trashes several city blocks.

Meanwhile, Xavier’s grave is opened and his body is stolen. Rogue and the Scarlet Witch try to defend the body but unsuccessfully; instead they are kidnapped. Rogue loathes Wanda because of the things Wanda has done to the mutants but Wanda shields Rogue during the attack and is wounded. The attackers are a new group of villains under the leadership of Red Skull who has a pretty frightening new power. (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it.) The rest of the team (Cap, Thor, Havok, and Wolverine) are trying to calm down humans who are attacking mutants on the streets. A villain called Honest John seems to be causing this with his propaganda powers.

Red Skull’s S-Men were a bit cheesy start for the series and it seemed to me that Wanda confessed that she was actually thinking of joining Red Skull’s group! This was really disappointing! Otherwise, I think that it’s good that the Avengers have finally woken up to the difficulties mutants have and are actively trying to help them. The story references both Nazis and the Days of the Future Past comic in the X-Men, even having that iconic poster of the terminated heroes behind two fugitives, only this time the hunted ones are Havok and Wanda.

The final issue in the collection is a start to the next storyline. Twins are born and they’re called Apocalypse Twins. Both Kang and Immortus are involved. Meanwhile, back in the Avengers Mansion, Wonder Man, Wasp, and Sunfire are the newest members. Since Wonder Man doesn’t fight anymore, he’s in mostly for PR. But during a press conference, the Grim Reaper attacks. The Reaper claims that he can’t die but Rogue absorbs his powers and seems to kill him.

I’m a sucker for a good Kang story and I have high hopes for this storyline. Both Simon and Sunfire seem to have been through a lot of traumatic events which brings conflict into the team. Loved the early glimpse to (alternative?) future at the end of issue 4. Havok was great at the press conference; he took off his mask and told everyone his real name – then again he doesn’t have a secret identity as such.

Overall, I enjoyed this new team and I’m looking forward to that Kang story.

Collects issues 1-12 of the Avengers Forever series.

Writers: Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern
Artist: Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino
Publisher: Marvel

Rick Jones is critically ill and the Avengers travel to the Moon to get help from the Kree Supreme Intelligence. The Intelligence agrees to help him. For Rick and seven Avengers picked from different places in the Avengers time line, this is the start of an awesome adventure through time and different realities, and through Avengers’ history.

The seven Avengers are: the Wasp and the Giant-Man from the then current Avengers continuity: the Wasp is the leader of the group and takes command naturally. Three from the past: Hawkeye from the time just after the Kree-Skrull war and Yellowjacket at the eve of his and Janet’s wedding, when he is out of his mind. A super-strong Captain America who has just witnessed his beloved government at its lowest point and is demoralized. And two from the future who hadn’t joined the Avengers yet: Songbird the former criminal and a bitter Captain Marvel, the son of the original. The latter two are pretty much unknowns and Yellowjacket brings in a lot of conflict, so the team is quite interesting to follow and not too united.

Circumstances force the team to ally themselves with their old enemy: Kang the Conqueror who is searching for a way to avoid becoming Immortus, whom Kang despises. During their travels, the Avengers witness how, and eventually why, Immortus has manipulated the team pretty much from the start. Busiek and Stern explain the various inconsistencies in some of the team history, including the origin of the Vision and the various versions of Kang, and my hat is off to them for even attempting it.

This is aimed at the team’s old fans who know the back story and have read it, and those of us who love alternate histories and futures. I really enjoyed this one and it’s probably my favorite Busiek Avengers story. Kang is one of my favorites and here he gets a whole issue to himself to clear up his history and to see things from his perspective. The collection even has a handy guide at the back: a list of comics from where all the references are from.

Definitely not the place to start reading Avengers!

Collects Avengers vol. 1 270-271, 273-277

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: John Buscema, Tom Palmer

A large gang of villains band together under the leadership of Baron Zemo to humiliate and utterly defeat the Avengers. And looks like they are going to do it!

However, the collection starts with a different tone with people demonstrating against Namor joining the team. Some people remember when he led his Atlantean army against humans while to others he’s still a hero from WW II. But Namor has to leave in the second issue and doesn’t come back, so that subplot is left open.

Baron Zemo recruits a lot of villains who want to wipe the floor with the Avengers: Mr Hyde, Titania, the Absorbing Man, the Fixer, Yellowjacket, Moonstone, Blackout, Wrecker and his crew. However, from the start Moonstone is challenging Zemo’s leadership and throughout the story Zemo has to be paranoid about his own crew. Most of the other villains are interested in just physical battle, though.

The Avengers have quite a smaller line-up: the Wasp, as team leader, the Black Knight, Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Hercules. Namor leaves in the second issue and a couple of reservists join later. Marvel is obviously the most powerful Avenger and Zemo has plans to neutralize her. She also explores her powers and we see her traveling to the Moon in just a few minutes. Apparently, there’s a romantic triangle between the Wasp and the Black Knight, and a new character, a mercenary called the Paladin. Zemo is able to use that to his advantage. Also, Hercules resents the Wasp’s leadership so the Avengers bicker as much as ever. This time, the Wasp is a decisive leader which is a huge change to her small role in the Kree-Skrull War trade.

The story itself is pretty basic without any extra hooks or depth. However, the pacing is good and it’s entertaining.

This is a good trade for new readers because it doesn’t rely on previous stories. Of course, the characters are different from the movie.

The Finnish edition (which came out a couple of months ago in hard cover) has also issue 272 where Namor asks the Avenger’s help to free Marrina who is being held hostage by Atlantis’ current ruler, the ruthless Attuma. The Avengers of course want to help him but they are worried that Namor will use them as a way to get back his throne. However, once they free Marrina, both Namor and Marrina swim away and aren’t seen in this collection again.

Collects Avengers vol. 1 #89 – 97 (June 1971 – March 1972).

Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: Sal Buscema, Neal Adams, Tom Palmer, John Buscema

This classic Avengers story has several story lines and is a clear inspiration to Busiek’s work. In addition to being a super hero adventure ins space, it’s a commentary on the Cold War.

The story starts with the Kree warrior Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell. The Avengers (the Vision, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch) are trying to capture him and succeed. He has a link to Rick Jones who is a young rocker kid here. They can change places so that the other is in the Negative Zone while the other is on Earth. Rick has concentrated on his coming career and left Mar-Vell to the Zone. Not surprising, Mar-Vell is unhappy about it and finds a way to return through the Fantastic Four’s Negative Zone device. However, because of his long stay on the Zone, he’s suffering from Nega radiation poisoning. The Avengers and Rick capture him and try to treat him.

Meanwhile, in the Kree home world, Ronan the Accuser is after his hated enemy Mar-Vell. Ronan usurped the leadership of the mighty star spanning empire, the Kree. He activates a Sentry robot on Earth. It captures Mar-Vell and bring him to the Kree base on Alaska. The Avengers, with Goliath, the Wasp, and the Yellowjacket, follow the Sentry there and battle it. However, the battle is near US science station and even though the three scientist at first agree to keep silent about the matter, they end up telling to the media that hostile aliens are on Earth. This starts a witch hunt spearheaded by Senator H. Warren Craddock. He even unleashes Mandroids against the Avengers because the heroes refuse to give up Captain Marvel. The Avengers stand by their friends and don’t give in to threats.

Much of the action is on Earth against various enemies until the last two issues. However, pretty early on, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are kidnapped and taken to the Skrull throneworld, so they are out of the action for most of the story. Later, the Avengers travel to the Kree home world and confront the Kree Intelligence Supreme.

Unfortunately, the writing shows its time. At the start of the story there are two active women Avengers, the Scarlet Witch and the Wasp, who, alas, aren’t very effective members. They tend to state the obvious and play peace maker. Even though they need to be protected in battle, they are often captured and used as hostages or bait for the other heroes. In the second issue Yellowjacket has disappeared and all the Wasp can do, is tearfully beg for Goliath to come rescue him. When the Yellowjacket retires from the team, the Wasp immediately does the same. This story also introduces the Vision/Scarlet Witch romance. However, later both Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are kidnapped by the Skrulls and used as hostages. The Wasp retires in the third and Wanda is soon kidnapped so for most of the story the Avengers have an all male (and white except for the red skinned android) team: the Vision, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and Goliath.

Quicksilver shows appalling sexism by telling Wanda “it ill becomes you to flaunt your carefully acquired colloquialism at your male betters”. And a couple of pages later he tells the Vision not to insult his sister!

However, the story introduces Carol Danvers as the head of security at Cape Canaveral. Nobody questions her right for the job and she’s a very no-nonsense woman. But she’s seen only briefly.

The other signs of the times is the pretty pompous dialog and the chatty narrator.

If you can stomach the sexism, this is great early super hero adventure.

Collects Avengers vol. 3 #41–55 (Vol. 1 #456–470), and Annual 2001
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Alan Davis and Mark Farmer (issues 41-43), Manuel Garcia and Bob Layton (issues 44-47), Kieron Dwyer and Rick Remender (issues 48-55), and Patrick Zircher and Scott Koblish (issue 55).

The final Busiek run! He goes out with a bang.
I consider this one of the best Avengers space adventures and also one of the best Kang adventures ever. As a time traveler, Kang is notoriously hard to write but Busiek manages.

Kang and his son the Scarlet Centurion have been watching Avengers for a some issues now and in issue 41 they finally attack from their sword shaped space station the Damocles Base.

In the next issue Kang shows the Avengers various futures where Earth’s fate is bleak: humanity will fall from various attacks. Kang offers to save the Earth from all of them – after he has conquered the whole planet, of course. Earth, in the person of UN’s Secretary-General, refuses. However, Kang has a ploy up his sleeve; he has broad casted an offer to everyone: anyone who will help subdue Earth will have a place in Kang’s new order. Not surprising, various groups take up on that offer. Avengers and various governments are plagued by attacks ranging from supervillains to the Deviants. The stage is set for multi-issue story lines.

Issue 41, “High Ground”, sets up several subplots: Hank (who is still the fake Hank) suffers from sudden seizures and a small group of Avengers (Thor, Cap, the Black Knight, Firebird, and the Quicksilver) head out to Siberia to investigate alarming reports of high radiation levels. Meanwhile Wanda and Simon are taking a small vacation and Simon tells that he’s heading out to L.A. Wanda doesn’t want to leave her position as the deputy leader of the Avengers and so they depart. It’s not hard for either of them even though earlier they were professing love stronger that death. Also, in the middle of fighting the Avengers in front of the UN building, the Scarlet Centurion feels powerfully attracted to Warbird. All of these will have consequences in coming issues.

Then the Avengers start the fight in several fronts and a lot of reserve Avengers are called in.

In addition to Kang and his army, the Avengers have to deal with the Presence and his “mate” Starlight who are turning people into radioactive zombies, a surge of various groups who want to get to Kang’s good side, the Triune Understanding’s endgame, and the Master of the World. So their hands are more than full.

The Triune Understanding is waiting for a Triple Evil to come from space and they have built a space ship to fight against it. We get to finally know the whole story behind Triune’s leader Tremont and the whole movement. Triathlon’s connection to the 3D-Man is also revealed. I thought the storyline was ended well here.

Yet, Busiek has time to do characters stories, as well. Thor loses his temper big time when he sees that Captain America has become one of the radioactive zombies and only Starlight’s interference stops Thor from killing the Presence right there. Later, Thor realizes that he’s become too close to the mortal Avengers and wants to leave when the Kang situation is under control. However, Firebird had once again inexplicably survived damage that should have killed her and Thor remarks that she might be immortal, too. Firebird wants to convince Thor to stay on the team and says that the fleeting relationship are all the more precious because we know that some day they will be gone.

Carol gets a lot of screen time. The Scarlet Centurion is apparently attracted to her and Carol suspects from the start that he’s Marcus; the man who mind controlled her to leave the Avengers and did some pretty hideous things to her. One of the issues (47) is dedicated to telling us the Scarlet Centurion’s back story and circumstances force Carol and the Centurion to work together. Carol remains suspicions of him the whole time. Later, she also kills a villain in desperation and demands that she be court-martialed over it.

Issue 49 is written without any dialog. Considering that the issue has a crucial turning point to the story, it works amazingly well.

The last issue is dedicated to the aftermath and we find out about a surprising casualty.

I thought this was a very good story with several story lines. Considering how much is going on, it’s perhaps a bit surprising but this is probably the best album for new readers to get. There’s not much back story about the members to know about, and Carol’s and Marcus’ history is retold.

Collects Avengers vol. 3 #36–40, 56, Avengers: Ultron Imperative, and Annual 2001

above

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Steve Epting, Al Vey, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Yanick Paguette, Ray Snyder, Ivan Reis, Scott Hanna

Issues 36 and 37 have a two issue story where our heroes deal with two threats.
“No Rest for the Weary” starts with Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, and the Vision dealing with the aftermath of Maximum Security, in other words, a high powered alien who is still loose on the Earth. Hank is testing Wonder Man but he can’t find a way to protect Simon from being taken over by Neferia again. Wanda doesn’t like the way that Hank is all cold and scientific about it, and then Jan talks to Hank about the same thing; about how withdrawn Hank has been lately. Also the Triathlon/Triune Understanding subplots are developed. 3-D Man’s wife comes to the Mansion and accuses the Triune of doing something horrible to her husband because Triathlon has the 3-D Man’s powers and uses his symbol. However, Triathlon hasn’t heard about that hero but promises to look into it.

Then both Pagan and Lord Templar attack. Apparently, Lord Templar has turned Pagan into his disciple and is convinced that the Avengers are all that stand on the way of Lord Templar’s plan to bring peace on Earth. Guest stars Photon and Jack of Hearts join the fray. Then Cap calls and says that he needs help in Slorenia. And Yellowjacket Hank kidnaps Giant-Man Hank!

In “Scorched Earth” Cap, Wanda, Simon, Monica, and Tony are trying to figure out to a way to battle the Bloodwraith who is connected to all the dead souls in Slorenia whom Ultron killed in earlier issues. Bloodwraith is in unidentified energy form and he intends to punish the whole world for their deaths. Meanwhile, in New York Pagan and Lord Templar are tearing the Mansion apart while the Wasp, the Vision, Triathlon, Ms. Marvel, and Jack of Hearts are battling them. Giant-Man joins the fight and his mood has improved a lot – of course, because he’s an impostor!

I enjoyed the divided team but there’s so much going on that the latter issue is starting to feel crowded. However, both of the threats are old Avengers business coming to bite them again. Not surprisingly, Cap feels frustrated about the situation in the end.

In “Above and Beyond” the Avengers expand their teams and the way they’ve operated so far. For starters, Cap and the Wasp are now co-leaders. Instead of responding to threats, which they also do of course, they send a team (the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Triathlon, Ms. Marvel, and Wonder Man) after the Taskmaster’s training groups. They also have an early warning platform in space which is manned by Quasar and the Living Lighting with Photon popping in every now and then. The Black Knight and Firebird are in Slorenia looking into Bloodwraith’s situation. Carol and Vision go finally on a date. And then the government liaison contacts the Avengers: a horde of Hulks is decimating a small Greek village.

Oh, and Wanda gets a new costume. It’s much more practical than the flowing skirts.

In “Condition: Green” and “Thoom!” the main Avengers team (Cap, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Wasp, Giant-Man, the Vision, Iron Man, and Ms. Marvel) battle the many Hulks in Greece. Dr. Banner also shows up to help. Meanwhile, the villain responsible for the Hulks, the Wizard, is skulking around near the Avengers’ Mansion and Silverclaw confronts him. Later, Wonder Man and Triathlon help her.

This was just cheesy fun and I really enjoyed these two issues! Silverclaw gets to really shine with her shape shifting abilities against the Wizard and she has a lot of courage to take on such a long-time villain. On the other hand, I didn’t really care for the way that the (fake!) Hank took over leading the Avengers by not telling his plans to the Wasp before executing them. The Wasp is supposed to be the team leader, after all. She was curiously hesitant around him and unfortunately it also felt weird, or should I say dumb, that she didn’t suspect that Hank had been replaced or mind controlled or from another universe or something.

Issue 56 “Lo, there shall be an… accounting” might be worth a few giggles but it’s otherwise quite forgettable. A couple of accountants from the Maria Stark Foundation are quizzing various Avengers about a case they had because the accountants have to know if all the destruction (and so the use of money) was necessary. One of the accountants is new and apparently would prefer for the Avengers to retire and let Kang or Thanos or somebody to rule the world instead. The other one is more experienced, though. Thor, She-Hulk, the Beast, USAgnet, Cap, and Jack of Hearts tell their own sides of the case.

Annual 2001 solves the two Hank Pyms plot line. Yellowjacket-Hank collapses and is turning translucent. The Avengers’ regular doctor, Dr. Foster, can’t do anything about it. Hank tells Jan about the other Hank who is being kept as a prisoner in The Horner Hideaway, right on the Avengers’ front yard. Triathlon suggests that Hank has been split into two (instead of being a doppelganger or alternate universe double or… Good guess!) and that the Triune Understanding’s Tremont can heal them into one man again. Janet is out of options and so she asks Tremont for help. He agrees. We get to see the two Hanks talking through their issues in some sort of mental space.

Meanwhile Photon and Triathlon bond. Triathlon still feels out of place because he’s the new guy while the others are old friends and Photon, who has been the new member once, too, tells him that in time he will fit in just fine. They also talk about being black in a white man’s world.

Photon also finds out that Justice and Firestar aren’t on vacation but undercover at Understanding. They’ve found out that the Understanding is waiting for some great evil to come from space and they are building a spaceship which will either work on brain energy or kill everyone. They are concerned.

The Hank plot line is solved here with three Hanks merging into one. Hopefully, Hank’s behavior will be less erratic in the future.

The annual also had short story “House Cleaning” where Jarvis answers queries from the government (actually from the readers, presumably). The three Tony Starks plot line, which emerged right before Onslaught is explained; apparently, the Tony who killed three women doesn’t really exist anymore even though the current Tony has some memories of the time. Also, Janet turning into a giant insect right before Onslaught but returning as regular Janet was explained; Franklin Richards recreated the heroes from his memories which “fixed” Janet – and Clint’s hearing problems, too.

(Yep, a bit a of cop out for Marvel dropping plots without any awkward consequences.)

The Annual tied up the Hank plot line and I really enjoyed the many Hulks story (in fact, I’ve used it in a table-top role playing game and we had a blast). However, I was less thrilled with the way that Janet, the presumed team leader was sidelined.

The collection is a continuation of previous story line and not a good place to start for new readers.

Next Page »