Kurt Busiek

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. 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.

Writers: Kurt Busiek and Fabien Nicieza
Artists: George Perez, Dick Giordand, Al Vey, Mark Bagley, Al Milgrom

Collects Avengers vol. 3 #31–34, Thunderbolts #42–44
Publisher: Marvel
Publication date: 2004

This collection deals with Madame Masque and her father Count Nefaria who is one of the Avengers’ most powerful enemies. It deals with a lot of back story for Iron Man and his relationship with Madame Masque so it’s not a good starting place for new readers, at all. Busiek’s stories often use Avengers’ rich history but these issues use it even more. Furthermore, all of the issues also continue story lines from both Thunderbolts and Avengers so unfortunately the collection doesn’t really work on its own.

Avengers issue 31 starts with the Vision’s return. He’s been absent from the Avengers for several issues. The Vision asks the team to help with Maggia because his “brother” the Grim Reaper is involved with it and the team agrees. During the battle, Madame Masque’s head seems to explode but Iron Man is convinced that she isn’t dead. He’s right, of course.

Meanwhile, Hank Pym is going through tests because his Giant-Man powers were in a flux in the previous adventure. They seem to be okay now but Iron Man is concerned over Hank’s mental health. We’re also shown who is the mysterious figure who has been following the Avengers: Yellowjacket alias Hank Pym! The Avengers’ main computer also recognizes him as Hank. He’s shown in later issue just having fun (drinking and brawling which is very unHank like behavior) and plotting something but that isn’t resolved in this collection.

In the Thunderbolts 42, Simon attacks the ionic powered Thunderbolt Atlas. However, most of the issue deals with Dallas Riordan whose mystery has been confusing the Thunderbolts for quite a while. Unfortunately, this is pretty irrelevant to anyone not already familiar with the comic.

The rest of the collection reveals Madame Masque’s secrets and the Thunderbolts (minus Moonstone who is having her own issues in a subplot) and the Avengers (together with reservists She-Hulk, the Black Widow, and Cap) unite against Count Nefaria and his pawns Wonder Man and Atlas. The two teams part as grudging allies which isn’t a huge surprise.

Unfortunately, this collection feels disjointed with various unresolved subplots from two different comics and lot of back story from Iron Man. Starting with Avengers 32, Paul Vey’s style is taking over the art and George Perez left the book with Avengers 34. He’s a great artist and I’ll miss his style.

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: George Perez, Dick Giordand, Al Vey, Stuart Immonen

Collects Avengers vol. 3 issues 23-30
Publisher: Marvel
Publication date: 2004

”Showdown”, issue 23, starts the collection with an emotional showdown between Simon and Vision. While the other Avengers are thinking about their reactions to the public and press who are demanding more non-white Avengers and kicking mutants out, Simon and Vision have a brief fight and then talk about their issues. Simon reveals how he’s always been, and still is, insecure and waiting to be punished for all the bad things he’s done in his life. How everything he touches seems to break. And Vision feels like a fake compared to Simon, who is the original. The Vision feels that he has nothing of his own. He leaves. This was a very emotional issue and brought to foreground a lot of things that have been plaguing the characters before.

In ”Harsh Judgments”, the racial issue is still being hotly debated and Vance gets his leg out of the cast. Quicksilver drops in for a visit and promptly finds out that many of the protesters are members of Triune Understanding. The everyone’s surprise, Avengers’ government liaison Freeman reveals that he’s also a member. Just then an alarm sounds and stone city floats above New York. It turns out the be the residence of the Exemplars, each of whom embody a ”god” and wants to tear up the Earth fighting each other. Juggernaut is one of them but he resisted his god and is now hunted down by the other Exemplars. He asks the Avengers for help but before they can act, he’s whisked away.

Vance also gets a new costume. I’m not wild about it. In fact I preferred his earlier costume. For some reason, he just seems hard to clothe. 🙂 Wanda and Pietro are on very cool terms because Pietro is one of Magneto’s ministers and Wanda doesn’t like that.

Dick Giorgano and Al Vey are the inkers in this issue and it changes Perez’s style somewhat.

In ”the Ninth Day” the Exemplars are torturing Juggernaut while the Avenges are looking for a way to get past the flying fortress’ defenses. Meanwhile, Wanda and Pietro talk things through, Cap realizes that he’s suspicious of Freeman because of the Triune connection, and several reserve Avengers arrive to help. When the Avengers finally breach the stone fortress’ defenses the regular members have help: Wonder Man, Gian-Man, the Wasp, Hercules, Quicksilver, Nova, and Spider-Man. The Exemplars are still hugely powerful so they can’t be defeated through physical combat. In the end, they flee and the press counts this as another failure. Cap quits the team saying that they need someone more press savvy to lead them.

The people outside Avengers’ gates are quick to criticize that the Avengers aren’t protecting them well enough. You know, all those white males and mutants, whom the crowd wants out of the group.

Issue 26 is an interlude with Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger as artists. In “…Under Cover of Night” Captain America recruits Silverclaw, Warbird, and Ant Man (Scott Lang) to investigate the Triune Understanding. Cap says to the trio that the Triune has launched a smear campaign against the Avengers and he wants to get to the bottom of it. Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell) volunteers for the mission and Cap agrees. However, Marvel notices that something strange is going on but his sidekick Rick Jones persuades him to keep quiet about it. Also, Silverclaw has problems with breaking into the Triune building and ends up realizing the Cap isn’t Cap after all but the Taskmaster. Even though the team does well in the fight, they end up again looking humiliated and incompetent in front of the press.

We get to see Triune’s founder Tremont’s secrets who is apparently not human and also gets power from belief, conforming that he is, indeed, a villain. It appears that he’s not literally the new villain Lord Templar but can borrow his power. He’s also behind the smear campaign, just like Avengers thought he was. However, Triathlon has some reservations of his own about his boss but keeps them to himself.

The issue starts with Carol taking responsibility for her previous drunken behavior. I loved that scene. I love Carol and I love Immonen’s art so this was a treat for me. This issue also revealed Tremont’s secrets and believe me, when I first read these stories just one issue a month, the Triune mystery had been going on for over a year so it was great to finally see just what is going on. However, I was a bit disappointed with how easily a former spy like Carol was duped.

Issue 27 was a Monster size magazine and also the next lineup shake up issue. Vance, Angel, and Simon leave the team and Thor leaves in a huff after Freeman says that Thor should apologize to the press for throwing his hammer at them. The Wasp and Goliath (Hank Pym in a new identity) return. Cap has resigned but is still at the Mansion, helping to gather the next lineup. Freeman defends his faith against Avengers’ suspicions and after looking through their reserve members for any non-white people, Wasp admits that the protestators might have a point.

Carol returns. In fact, she’s had to agree to rejoin Avengers in order to duck jail time (Side note: why isn’t every super powered person in the MU taking this deal????). Iron Man is increasingly suspicions of Freeman and everything he does. Tremont and Triathlon arrive to the Mansion – just in time for Triathlon to beat up a gang of anti-mutant terrorists who were going to use their super weapons on the Mansion. Tremont and Cap shake hands in front of the cameras, and Tremont says that any misunderstanding has been forgiven.

And once again, the security liaison forces the Avengers to have a new black member, Triathlon in this case. Triathlon himself isn’t thrilled about the reason he’s accepted into the team but agrees so that he can show the Avengers that the Triunes are the good guys. Poor guy. The last open membership slot goes to the She-Hulk so for once, there are four women and three men in the team (Wasp, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Goliath, Iron Man, and Triathlon). The team leader is Wasp.

Even though Freeman had been portrayed as pretty easygoing and even a fan of Avengers, this time he puts his foot down and acts quite a lot as Gyrich. The issue has mostly set up for things to come.

The original issue had also reprints of four other Avengers issues: 150, 151, Annual 19, and 101.

The next three issues (28-30) feature the return of Kulan Gath. I must admit that I loved the X-Men issues with him where he turned Manhattan into a pseudo Medieval world and the combined X-Men and Avengers teams battled him there. To my frustration, my Avengers subscription ended with issue 29 so I don’t have issue 30.

Issue 28, The Death-Song of Kulan Gath part 1, starts with Kulan himself enjoying the attentions of his slaves in a lavish palace, in a South African jungle. Meanwhile, the Avengers are doing publicity stunts to improve their image. Triathlon is making jokes about being the only black man in the team. Then Silverclaw brings the news that she has been called back to her home village in Costa Verde because of an ancient prophecy about great evil coming from the past. The Avengers agree to help her. On the way, we are treated to Silverclaw’s origin story. Her mother is the volcano goddess Peliali who is thought to be mythological.

When the Avengers get there, they see a great city in the jungle and hawkriders attack them. While Iron Man and Warbird hold them off, the others land the Quinjet into the jungle. It turns out that there is a strong magical field around the city which transforms anyone going into the city. The Wasp is disturbed when Hank turns into the Yellowjacket, his most unstable persona. Kulan Gath sends a vision to them telling them to stay away. Iron Man tries to make peace with Triathlon but he won’t have it. Then, Silverclaw sees a nightmare where Kulan Gath in attempting to imprison Peliali.

In parts two and three, the Avengers investigate the city and fight Kulan Gath himself. Ms. Marvel also confronts Triathlon over the way he’s been behaving and Silverclaw has some serious mother issues. Also, a mysterious person is following the team.

The stories in this collection aren’t as epic as in the previous collection. Most of the time the Avengers deal with continuing story lines such as the demand for non-white members and the mystery with the Triune Understanding. In that respect, this isn’t as good a collection of stories as the previous collection.

Collects Avengers vol.3 issues 12-23 & #0, Annual 1999; Avengers: Rough Cut.
Publisher: Marvel
Publication date: 2012

Issues 8-15 are collected in Avengers: Clear and Present Dangers and issues 19-22 (and 0 which I don’t have! Sob!) are collected in Avengers: Ultron Unlimited.

Avengers 12, “Old Entanglements” is a double sized issue and picks up a few weeks after the end of the previous issue. Hawkeye has left and has been reported with the Thunderbolts who have been outed as criminals. Vision has finally been repaired and he’s back in action. Even though Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch are now together, Vision is clearly not over Wanda and wants her back, even though he won’t admit it. Meanwhile, Vance is increasingly uncomfortable with being in the same team as the Living Legends he has admired so long. Hank (Pym) manages to cure Angel’s health problems so ironically Angel is now more comfortable being an Avenger than Vance who desperately wanted into the team in the first place.

Then, the Thunderbolts are spotted in the old Dominus base and the Avengers head there to get some answers. Of course, a fight breaks out. Finally, the Thunderbolts and the Avengers united to defeat a common enemy. However, Hawkeye stays with the Thunderbolts.

The Thunderbolts and the Avengers exchange some heated comments during the battle and have clearly trouble in trusting each other. Hawkeye is his old self; the first battle was supposed to be a training opportunity which goes a bit wrong.

The next issue, “Lords and Leaders”, spotlights Vance and brings in a new enemy, the Lord Templar. The New Warriors guest star and Vance realizes how comfortable he is with his old teammates Night Thrasher, Nova, and Speedball. Captain America is off dealing with his own problems and Wanda becomes the new deputy leader. She proves herself immediately during the battle with the mysterious Lord Templar. He spouts about wanting to bring peace on Earth, with firepower, of course, and manages to escape.

Vance was ready to quit the Avengers but Angel is now really comfortable with the team and wants to move into the mansion. I rather enjoyed this reversal of their roles and it was great to see more of Angel and Vance.

In the next issue the Beast returns! It was great to see the old friends Simon and Hank (McCoy) reunited! Hank, Wanda, Simon, and the Vision have a long heart-to-heart talk with each other about the awful things they’ve done in their past. Simon is haunted by his rampage before he died and Wanda remembers her own rampage. Then Pagan, a very powerful new villain attacks. He shrugs off the Beast and the Vision, and even goes toe-to-toe with the Wonder Man. He, too, escapes in the end in front of cameras.

I really enjoyed the Wanda/Vision/Simon talk. They are all characters with serious baggage; in other words they have been victims of some very strange plot devices and it was great to see them acknowledge these and try to get through them somehow.

In the Three fold path in issue 15, Triathlon returns and we get to see a bit more about his religion, the Triune Understanding, which apparently seeks to help humans have balance inside themselves. Meanwhile, the Avengers are searching for the Lord Templar with gadgets that Iron Man built. The new deputy leader Wanda tries to bring the current Avengers members closer together and more comfortable with working together. Now they have a rotating leader for the weekly meetings and paring off people who aren’t used to working with each other during training and on the field.

Lord Templar’s trail leads, of course, to the Triune Understanding’s residence. Triathlon is at first pleased to see the Avengers but doesn’t want to let them in to search the grounds. Then Pagan attacks. While the Avengers protect the crowd, Pagan mops the floor with Triathlon. Then the Lord Templar appears and seems to easily imprison Pagan. The media is there, of course, and once again the Avengers have been humiliated in front of the cameras. Wanda remarks that in previous fights Thor has bested Lord Templar but Pagan has bested Thor, so it’s illogical for Lord Templar to defeat Pagan. On the second to last page we get to see that the leader of Triune Understanding, Jonathan Tremont, is in fact Lord Templar. The plot thickens! And it thickens even more, with a one page glimpse of the Wrecking Crew being transported away and on the last page where Ultron boasts: “…total irrevocable destruction of the human race it at hand!” Yay!

Next up is the three issue (16-18) arc with the guest writer and artist Jerry Ordway. These were very good issues with the team divided and a galore of guest Avengers (well, okay, four. But I’m a fan of both Monica and Carol and it was great to see them). I rather enjoyed this arc, too, and it’s a shame it hasn’t been collected elsewhere.

In Mistaken identity the Doomsday Man has returned from long hibernation and has employed the Wrecking Crew giving them stronger powers. The Crew is a bit dubious about working to him but reluctantly agree to look for Ms. Marvel. The Crew make a bank heist and start wrecking New Orleans where Photon (former Captain Marvel) works with her dad. Monica changes to her energy form and heads toward the crew.

Meanwhile, Vance is desperately trying to chair the Avengers weekly meeting and fails. He’s very upset about it. The Black Knight drops by for a visit and Photon barely makes it back to the mansion to ask for help. Cap, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Firestar, Iron Man, Justice, The Vision, and Wonder Man leave immediately to help. Unfortunately, the Wrecking Crew manages to evade capture because it’s the Mardi Gras and there are lots of innocent people about. The team disperses and looks for the villains. Unfortunately, they aren’t still used to fighting together. The Black Knight inadvertently wounds Justice and the Crew manages to knock Photon unconscious and kidnap her. Then they disappear with her. Meanwhile, Jan runs into Warbird just in time to see her be teleported somewhere.

In Cage of Freedom, the team splits up. Cap, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Firestar, The Vision, and Wonder Man follow the Crew’s, and Photon’s, energy residue to Polemachus, the home world of Arkon and Thundra. Iron Man and doctor Foster inspect Justice’s injury when Wasp and Giant-Man bring word that Warbird has been kidnapped. Iron Man, Wasp, and Giant Man investigate while Justice is put on the injured list, over his protests. The Doomsday Man has indeed kidnapped Carol. She fights him until Iron Man, the Wasp, and the Giant-Man arrive. However, Vance has stubbornly followed the other Avengers and saves the day, further injuring himself in the process.

In Battle for Imperion City, the Avengers in Polemachus fight the Wrecking Crew who have managed to take over Imperion City.

Next is the four issue Ultron Unlimited! One of my favorite Busiek arcs!

“This evil reborn” starts with the Black Panther witnessing a slaughter in a Wakandan plant. The attacker is s robot with glowing, smoking green eyes. Then we move to the Avengers mansion and Angel and Vance moving in. Angel is really exited about it but Vance is till glum with his injuries. Wanda is dancing in a local restaurant to an enraptured audience and among them is Wonder Man and the Vision who flees when Wanda notices him.

Meanwhile, Iron Man, Thor, and Cap are holding a media conference which turns ugly when reporters ask about the incident at the Triune Understanding and accuse the Avengers of religious intolerance and racism as well. It’s almost hilarious, if it wasn’t so sad, to see a reported pointedly asking after non-white Avengers and accusing the Avengers of having mutants in the team in same breath. When the Wasp crashes through the window, tells that Hank has been kidnapped, and the Avengers chase out the reporters. One of them even shouts “the public has the right to know!”.

Then, the Avengers hear that the Black Panther is in combat with a being made of adamantium. They leap to the quinjet where Vision tells Ultron’s history to Firestar very briefly, not even a full page! They storm the factory and find out that the Panther is a bait to lure the team to the clutches of Alkhema-2. The team isn’t able to contain her until Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch arrives and Wanda is able to really rattle the robot (literally). Then the team finds out that Ultron has massacred an entire small (European) country.

“This Evil Unfolding” starts with the UN and Avengers uniting against Ultron. There are disturbing scenes about how easily Ultron conquered Slorenia and massacred the entire population with his hovering robot platforms. Several countries have given troops to take back Slorenia and the Avengers are going to lead them. Meanwhile a crack team of four Avengers are investigating the thrashed room from where Hank was kidnapped. The Vision, Wonder Man, Wasp, and the Scarlet Witch reminiscent about Jan’s and Hank’s history and then they are attacked by former versions of Ultron. The battle goes well until Wanda is taken down and then the Ultron copies grab the four and deliver them to Ultron himself who intends to use them as “seeds” for his new race.

The issue actually starts with a little lighter touch with Vance wondering about how easily the Black Panther returns as an active Avengers and Thor gently telling him that the older Avengers are like brothers (and sisters). Lovely scene! The rest is pretty grim. There’s a small scene with Wanda and Vision about why Vision left in the previous issue from the restaurant where Wanda was dancing. Another is with Firestar and Iron Man about how Ultron personifies the fears about technological abuse and Tony fears that his technologies can be used to similar evil. Angel, of course, doesn’t know that Iron Man is Tony. This was a really nice touch. And Vance has to stay behind because of his injuries. Jan tells about her history with Hank and she blames herself for some of it, for marrying Hank when he was in the middle of a break down. She’s also worried about Hank’s continued sanity.

There are no light scenes in “This evil unveiled”. People die and the Avengers’ fight against the army of Ultrons seems desperate. Ultron has created an army of necro-cyborgs from the bodies of the hapless slorenians his flying robot army has slain and they are now defending the conquered country against UN troops and the Avengers. The Black Panther and Firestar look for Ultron’s command center while Ultron is discussing his plans with his prisoners. Apparently, he wants to reproduce by using and mixing the brain patterns of the Vision, Simon, Wanda, Hank, Jan, and Eric (the Grim Reaper) on his robot army to create individuals instead of just copies of himself. Meanwhile, the Panther gets close to Ultron’s lair and he fights them on his classic command platform. The Avengers give it all and finally manage to destroy him. This puzzles Iron Man who though they shouldn’t have managed it, because no matter what you hit adamantium with, it shouldn’t break. Still, they descend into Ultron’s underground lair – only to be confronted with an army of Ultrons.

Meanwhile, Hank starts to blame himself for everything Ultron has done and will do, and Jan fears for his sanity. In the mansion, Justice tirelessly researches Ultron’s history. And Alkhema has summoned a robot army of her own to free her.

In “This Evil Triumphant”, the five Avengers fight an army of Ultrons. They fight for hours, never giving in, clothes in tatters. Thor especially is the back bone here, since he’s the only one who can destroy the titanium made Ultrons. The fight is epic. And yet, there’s also the human element. The Vision offering to help Ultron to shed his hatred and Hank blaming himself. And Vance having to confront the fact that the Avengers are very human, no matter how heroic they are, and so he can fit in, too.

The arc is very grim and bloodthirsty for an Avengers comic. My only complaint is that there should have been more Avengers or even other heroes. Surely, some of the reserves should have come to help the main team in Slorenia, if not right at the start, then later. After all, the fight lasted hours, maybe a day or two. And doesn’t Marvel have a few European heroes who should have helped, too? I would have been happy to see them in just a few panels to unite with the UN troops, for example, while the main team still took on Ultron.

After several issues of epic fighting, the collection ends with the confrontation between – the Avengers vs. the angry press, and between Simon and the Vision. The team has been getting really bad press in previous issues and they’re now being blamed for pretty much everything from the conflict with the Triune Understanding to creating Ultron. Now there are people outside the mansion gates demanding a black Avenger to the team. The Black Panther is still at the mansion but he can’t stay, and he doesn’t want to stay as a racial token, anyway. Who would in a job where you have to depend on your teammates to survive?

Meanwhile, the Vision and Simon have a long talk. Simon reveals how he’s always been, and still is, insecure and waiting to be punished for all the bad things he’s done in his life. How everything he touches seems to break. And Vision feels like a fake compared to Simon, who is the original. The Vision feels that he has nothing of his own. He leaves.

This was a very emotional issue and brought to foreground a lot of things that have been plaguing the characters before. On the other hand, I felt that this cheapened a little issue 14 where there was supposedly a heart-to-heart talk with Simon, Wanda, and the Vision, and yet the Vision didn’t say anything about these feelings. At any case, the team is again shook up which brings more conflict.

In Annual 1999 we get a glimpse to the time during which the heroes were gone and thought dead. “Day of the Remains” by John Franics Moore and Leonardo Manco starts with a terrorist attack in opera. The Avengers foil it but afterwards Cap reprimands them for not working properly together. Then Jarvis tells Vance about the time when the founding members where thought to be dead because of Onslaught. The Black Widow tried to get a new team together but failed and the Avengers were disbanded. Later, four eerily familiar giant robots declare the current Avengers impostors and mutants and try to save the city from them. This is rather somber story first about how Natasha blamed herself for the “death” of the heroes and then failed to get a new team. Secondly it’s a story of good intentions going awry. Unfortunately, it’s not a memorable story especially suffers in comparison to the epic Ultron story.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed this collection and I think new readers would be able to enjoy this one more than the previous collection. While these stories are also rooted in the past, more things are explained and so better accessible to new readers.

Collects Avengers vol.3 issues 1-11, Avengers Annual 1998; Iron Man (1998) #7; Captain America (1998) #8; Quicksilver #10
Publisher: Marvel
Publication date: 2011

Almost a year of Busiek’s Avengers! It’s very hard to top this.

The first four issues were collected in the Morgan Conquest . They gather up almost every Avenger ever to battle Morgan la Fay and eventually to form the new team which has internal conflict from the start.

In issue 5, “Accusation Most foul”, a couple of other classic elements returns: the Squadron Supreme and public suspicion. The issue starts with a training sequence where Warbird refuses to use her Binary powers and still doesn’t tell Cap that she doesn’t have them anymore. Meanwhile Tony is helping Vision repair his synthetic body which was wounded in issue 3. While his body is being repaired, Vision is a hologram and so confined to the Mansion, and also creepily spying on his fellow Avengers. Downtown, Hawkeye is helping Wanda to shop and they discuss how Wanda is able to summon Wonder Man who is thought to be dead. Wanda is a bit uncomfortable with her fluctuating powers. Then the team is called to help with a crashed airplane. The plane is slowly sinking into the sea and the Avengers start to help the rescue efforts. Cap and Hawkeye are arguing when the Squadron Supreme appears and accuses the Avengers of being impostors. Interestingly, the media picks up on this and is speculating if it could be true that the real Avengers are still dead. Of course, a fight ensues.

The issue has several hints about things to come. The issue starts with Jarvis picking up the mail and a letter from Costa Verde is mentioned. Thor is bringing in the Cask of Ancient Winters. Wanda is worried about her powers and summons Wonder Man again. Cap also notices how rusty the team is working together and Carol is still not telling about her powers.

The issue has a lot of humor. Hawkeye is making his cracks which refer to classic events, such as the Squadron Supreme being mind controlled again and when Freeman says that the Avengers have to clear up their name or they would be arrested, Hawkeye says: “Again? But that trick never works.” Loved it.

In the next issue, “Earth’s Mightiest Frauds?” the Avengers decide, after some bickering, to travel to Project: Pegasus where the Squadron lives and investigate things. Cap and Hawkeye talk briefly about Hawk eye’s frustrations about not being the leader. They shake hands but Clint still has his reservations. Meanwhile, Wanda and Carol commiserate about the situation. This could have been a great time for them to talk about the troubles they’ve had with their powers but no. The team heads to Project: Pegasus and searches the Squadron’s living quarters for any clue. This is, of course, the worst possible moment for the Squadron to return. Another fight breaks out. During the fight, Wanda again wonders about her changing powers: she can somehow tap into magic even though she’s had only a small about to training in it. After the fight, Cap and Carol quarrel. Again.

Like in the previous issue, there are great small moments in this issue too: the Vision explaining how the publics suspicious response is logical with Skrulls and other impersonators running around. The Cap/Hawkeye and Carol/Wanda moments mentioned above. Carol also gets the Avengers into the Project in a great way.

The Squadron storyline concludes in the Annual, which I don’t have.

The next issue is the final part in a four part cross-over, Live Kree or Die. I don’t have the other issues but there’s a good summary. The Kree Lunatic Legion wants to change all of humanity into Kree. To do that, they’ve stolen a prototype power generator and they’ve captured Warbird whose human/Kree genetic mix they’ve used to fire up the generator. Warbird was apparently drunk which allowed the Kree to capture her. She managed to escape though. However, the Kree Supreme Intelligence doesn’t seem happy with the Legion’s plans.

The Court Martial of Carol Danvers, issue 7, starts with the court martial where the active Avengers, plus Quicksilver, accuse Carol of alcoholism, reckless behavior, and deliberately not telling them about her power level decrease. Carol quits. The Avengers get a message that the Lunatic Legion is on the Blue side of the Moon and preparing to use their weapon. The active Avengers, Quicksilver, Justice, and Firebird race to the space Quinjet and to the Moon.

A huge battle ensues on the Moon. However, the Kree are only delaying the Avengers while they power up their weapon.

Wanda worries about Carol and thinks about the friendship. Unfortunately, we haven’t really seen them interact differently than with any other Avengers and the rest of the team don’t seem broken up about her leaving. This time Wanda summons Simon (briefly) by just thinking about him and later has doubts about summoning him just for battle. Justice is really excited about fighting alongside the Avengers and we find out about Angel’s health problems. When she uses her powers on a high level, she risks radiation poisoning. Meanwhile, Carol tries to fly to the Moon under her own power and fails.

This is a fine wrap-up issue for the story line and also for Carol’s story line, for now. I didn’t like that she left the Avengers but it was great that she had a, well, gender-neural story line.

Next we have two stories that take up two issues. In issue 8, Turbulence, Moses Magnum is the threat and we’re introduced to two new characters. Jarvis is on the airport meeting a young girl from Costa Verde whom he’s been sponsoring for years. Unfortunately, that’s the same day when armed men and a shape shifting woman, called Silverclaw, terrorize the airport. However, Jarvis manages to call the Avengers for help. Cap, the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Justice, and Firestar answer the call. They are imprisoned but get help from a new hero, Triathlon. When Magnum and his goons escape, Triathlon hides on their airplane.

Again, we’re treated with small character moments. Angel and Vance get their new costumes and Angel is less than thrilled about how revealing her costume is. Cap also gets a new energy shield and Wanda get a new gypsy type costume (although I’m not convinced that wearing a full length skirt into battle is very smart). I liked Vance’s new costume although I’m not thrilled about it. However, I liked Angel’s previous costume and wasn’t convinced she really needed a new one. But I really liked her attitude towards the new one and how she modified it.

Wanda is still thinking hard about her changing powers and wants to get some answers about why they are changing and why she’s able to summon Simon. During the battle, both Wanda and Clint follow Cap’s orders but they aren’t happy about it. After all, both have been team leaders before. The issue ends with Wanda again summoning Simon and apparently having sex with him. In the finest soap opera tradition, Vision is just then sneaking into in her room. I actually thought his skulking around to be pretty creepy and unbecoming for an Avenger.

Silverclaw turns out to be a victim of blackmail. She’s really quite a sweet girl and the Avengers don’t press charges.

In the next issue, The Villain Who Fell from Grace with the Earth, the Avengers get a call for help from Triathlon. Magnum and his goons are on a floating resort and planning something really big. The Avengers agree to help. Some of them swim to the big ship and others infiltrate it by pretending to be paying guests. Triathlon and Hawkeye team up and we hear Triathlon’s origin story. Again, Wanda is reluctant to summon Simon just for battle and she uses her changed powers to block Magnum’s energies. The mystery around Simon deepens; when Wanda is knocked unconscious, Simon returns to pummel her attacker. (And is anyone still in the dark about why this is happening? ;))

The issue ends with somewhat bleaker note. Wanda is determined to get answers, even if she has to leave the Avengers to do it and Hawkeye leaves with just a note on the door.

Great, small moments: Hawkeye continues to keep an eye out for Justice and Firestar, and he’s over all in a teacher mode which is a far cry from the rebellious ex-criminal he used to be. The issue starts with a breakfast scene where Silverclaw again apologies to Jarvis about her attack last issue. On the continuing soap opera side, Jarvis comments on how lovely Wanda looks and Vision is distracted by watching Wanda. You’d think he would have learned by now to say something before it’s too late?

Next issue, “Pom and Pageantry” starts with NY celebrating Avengers day. There’s a parade where Cap, Justice, Firestar, Vision, Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, and Giant Man ride on a float with the city council and two commentators walk us through Avengers history: members, villains, and the dead. Meanwhile, Wanda returns to her old mentor, Agatha Harkness, and asks her for help. Agatha has some explanations and revelations about Wanda’s powers and her ability to summon Simon. Then, the Grim Reaper attacks the Avengers and with him are the dead members, including Simon. The Reaper has twisted them into hating the Avengers and so the battle is joined. The Reaper makes a force field around the team and the other heroes rush in to try to break it.

I liked this issue a lot. On a reread, I wasn’t thrilled about the Wanda/Vision/Simon thing, especially when I remember how it (wasn’t) resolved. However, here we finally get answers to Wanda’s situation which was great.

This is also a celebration issue of Avengers’ history which isn’t really friendly to new readers. Every Avengers ever is shown again either in the montage pages or in balloons and costumes the people are wearing. I giggled at the Jarvis balloon! Considering how much misery and mistrust has been directed at the team over the years, they more than deserve a bit of celebration. We also get to see glimpses of Spider-Man and Daredevil as they swing by, and the X-Men and the Hulk follow the parade on TV which was a nice touch. For some reason I also really enjoyed the two commentators, the Stunt Master and Chili Storm. It was really endearing to see the spectators dressed up as the various heroes. Once again, the panels are full of details. I’m amazed at how well Perez does that.

Initially, I was happy that Wanda’s powers were expanded from the smallish, and rather ill-defined, probability hexes to chaos magic which can have power over all of nature. As it turned out, the writers apparently considered her too powerful. And that might be true in the comic book world where no-one dies permanently and all superpowers are non-lethal to begin with. Also, this makes her backstory even more convoluted which isn’t a good thing.

Issue 11 “… Always an Avenger!” starts with Wanda returning to the Mansion mulling over Harkness’ explanation. According to her, Wanda is able to summon Simon because he loves her more than life and is his anchor to the land of the living. In order to bring him permanently back, “all” she has to do love him back. Wanda isn’t convinced (and if she doesn’t love him, that’s pretty much impossible to do, anyway…). However, the dead Avengers assault her in the mansion and take her captive. Meanwhile, other NY heroes are trying to get inside the force field where the Grim Reaper is torturing the Avengers with his monologue about days past and how he has been wronged and this is his revenge. Over at the mansion, Wanda uses her powers to rekindle the former Avengers’ true selves.

Simon’s problems come to a head in this issue and that’s another long storyline resolved, for now. This being a continuing comic, nobody is happy in the long run. 🙂 The Grim Reaper and Wonder Man issue was handled nicely, with the twisted family feeling they have going on. Wanda also acknowledges that the Vision and Simon’ personalities are very similar, since they are based on the same brain patterns.

Over all, this as a very good collection with more (if minor) character development and power changes than is usual in a long-running comic. In fact, it reminds me a bit of Claremont’s long X-Men run which I really enjoyed, except that the Avengers don’t really change as much; rather they have difficulty taking up old roles. Clint and Wanda have both been team leaders and they chafe a little under Cap’s command. Some of the characters obviously have their own comics so they can’t really change but even the characters who don’t have, change only a little. Overall, there wasn’t a life threatening danger for them, rather the issues feel like light adventure (again, not a complaint, but an observation – not every issue can have a life threatening danger! Well, unless you are an X-Man under Claremont. 🙂 ). All of the characters are established ones and there’s no serious threat of them dying, although they can leave the team, of course, and the Vision has been under repairs for most of the arch.

Overall I really liked all the nods to the team and character histories. While the team had a fixed roster there where new and old characters coming and going which is part of the charm of the team book like Avengers. (Bendis, take note: this is the way to introduce new team member candidates – not just declaring them new members.) Another classic, if somewhat frustrating aspect for me, is the changing mood of the public. One issue they are adoring Avengers as their heroes and in the next issue they suspect that the Avengers are impostors. Ah, the changing human mood! Bickering! Cap and Hawkeye at odds! Wonder Man coming back from the dead was another treat to old fans.

Can’t wait for the Ultron issues in the next collection!

Issue 11 also provides conclusions to many long-running mysteries so it’s a good issue to end the collection.

By Kurt Busiek and George Pérez

This is eye candy to Avengers and JLA fans. Busiek manages to include every member of both teams at least once. The story is as silly as they usually are in these cross-overs.

The being Krona (a blue-skinned man) is seeking truth about the birth of the omniverse itself and he doesn’t care how many universes he destroys during his quest. His probes are already sending beings from DC universe to Marvel and vice versa. The JLA are fighting Terminus while the Avengers battle Starro.

The Grandmaster intercepts Krona and proposes a game: the Grandmaster will tell Krona who is the one being in the Marvel universe who has lived through the birth of the universe if Krona’s champions win. If Krona’s champions win, he will not destroy the Marvel universe. The champions are, of course, the Avengers and the JLA. Metron tells the Avengers that there are six objects from their world which are scattered throughout the DC universe and the Avengers must retrieve them. The Grandmaster tells the JLA the same thing.

During the scavenger hunt, the teams get glimpses of each other’s world. Superman believes that the other world is in such grim place because its heroes haven’t done enough. Captain America is convinced that the JLA forces people to worship them. Of course, this leads up to big confrontation between the teams.

The story isn’t as cheesy as it could have been, though, and I rather enjoyed the sequences that show what it could have been like if the teams had had frequent contact during the years. Most of the time, it’s pretty pure eye candy.

This trade tells the story of Carl Donewicz aka Steeljack. He’s a super villain who has an indestructible steel skin and super strength. At the start of the story he has just got out on parole after twenty years at Biro Island prison. However, he has a very hard time getting a job and even then he gets only minimum wage jobs where his strength is a handicap (washing dishes…). People look at him with fear and suspicion except on his old, poor neighborhood at Kiefer Square. Many of the people living there are also super villains or their families. Steeljack has decided to keep his nose clean this time but when an old illegal jobs fixer, Ferguson, gives Steeljack an offer, it’s hard to resist.

However, soon a group of villains’ families come to Steeljack and tell him that some of the old super villains have been murdered. They know that police doesn’t really care to investigate the death so they want to hire Carl to look into them. Carl hesitates; he’s no detective. However, he’s also broke so he agrees.

Carl goes around talking with the families of the murdered villains and hear their depressive stories. All of the villains had dreams to make it big but none of them could make it happen. So, they live with their families in poverty much the same way as Carl himself. They do get money from crimes but then they seem to always waste it on something.

Goldenrod’s daughter also wants to follow in her dad’s footsteps into a life of supposedly lucrative crime. Carl tries to talk her out of it but she doesn’t listen but beats him up. Otherwise, the people seem pretty depressed and accept their fates in endless poverty.

Ferguson takes Carl to listen a former hero’s story about his golden days and fall from grace. Then we hear another, a bit more successful, villain’s story.

This has again an aged protagonist who thinks he is past his prime. We get to see a little bit of his earlier career. Carl is a very sympathetic protagonist even though he himself thinks that he is a loser. He also thinks of the heroes as angels and himself as their opponent and opposite. He has many regrets and is often on the verge of giving up altogether. However, this is a story about human spirit and how even a convicted criminal would like to do the right thing.

A very human and moving story even though not as great as Confession.

In the familiar Astro City style, this is a collection of one or two comic stories where the main character is a normal human (or a retired super in one case) living in a city full of super humans and villains. We see how the heroes influence the lives of other people around them.

Newcomers: the main character is a veteran AC citizen who greets people at the Classic hotel. He remembers how he first came there and his encounters with the supers. He also sees the reactions of the newcomers to the city; how they react to meeting the heroes.

Where the action is: Sally Twinings is a comic book writer who writes about the real heroes in imaginary situations. Sally wants to check the facts first and not to just invent stuff. However, her boss Manny has been in the comic book business for a long time and he wants to continue with stories that sell better. However, the heroes aren’t necessarily thrilled about how they have been portrayed. Contains probably a huge amount of industry injokes.

Great Expectations: a soap opera in this world requires a super hero in order to be more realistic. (That already blew my mind. :)) But then the actor playing Crimson Cougar is part of the team that stops a robbery from happening. Here we see what happens when a TV hero gets to have a chance to be a real hero.

Shining Armor: an old woman remembers when she first came to AC full of determination to find her own job and also the best man for herself. She ends up as a reporter and falls for Atomicus, the greatest super hero at the time. A sort of retelling of the Lois and Superman story from their earlier and sillier times.

Pastoral: a girl from AC is forced by her parents to go to the countryside. She’s convinced that she’s going to die of boredom but finds out that even the country cousins have their own superhero: Roustabout.

Knock Wood and Justice Systems: a two-part story where a down on his luck lawyer has to try to defend a mobster. The lawyer is working at a time when the supers have just started to get a wider influence and he decides to take advantage of that.

Old Time: retired superhero Supersonic is practically forced to defend his city against an old enemy. Supersonic knows that he isn’t as good as in his best days and he relives some of his adventures.

All the stories are once again enjoyable but I guess I’m more used to stories that have a continuous main character(s). These are charming and nice, though.

By Busiek, Anderon, Blyberg,

This trade has four distinct stories and their only connection is that they happen in Astro City.

In the first story, a man and his two daughters move to Astro City from Boston. They are trying to get used to seeing all of the super folk and the super level fighting around them. The man, Ben Pullam, and his daughters are all normal people and Ben feels quite inadequate compared to the super people, at least at first.

The second story centers, finally, around actual super people: Astra who is the 10-year old, super powered girl of the First Family. Astra and the rest of the First Family live in their own place with lots of technological gadgets and away from other people. Astra wants to know other kids and to play ordinary kids’ games, so she decides to go on her own adventure in a nearby school. Unfortunately, her parents are worried sick about her and think that she’s been kidnapped. We also get the First Family’s brief background story.

Then another one issue story which is about supervillain called the Junkman. He was a successful toy designer until he was put on retirement and decided to design gadgets for his own good. His first robbery is a success but somehow that’s not enough for him.

A bit longer story centers on Jack-in-the-Box. He meets his three sons which have all come from a possible future. One of them has modified himself through cybernetics in order to kill his father. The son is embittered and somewhat insane because his father died before he was born. The second son is also just as embittered and somewhat insane. However, he has studied Jack, and what Jack has said and done has become a religion to him. The second son is out to bring bloody justice to every law breaker and when he realizes that Jack doesn’t want him to kill anyone, he teams up with the first son and tries to kill their father.

Jack realizes that his eventual death will have dire consequences to his family and has to re-think being hero all over again.

The final short piece is about an animated cartoon character Leo and his sad story in Hollywood and outside it.

All of the stories were at least interesting. I enjoyed especially Astra’s tale because of the obvious parallels with Fantastic Four. I was a bit surprised that she looks completely like a human, though, when her grandfather is the prince of Animal-Men and her father looks like Ben Grimm. Then again, all comics’ women look the same, even when they aren’t mammals.

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