So let’s assume you’ve seen all the Marvel movies for the last few years, and are looking to do some AVENGERS reading before the film hits theatres on Friday. What do we recommend? Well, lucky for you, gentle reader, I just happen to have a list…
AVENGERS MARVEL MASTERWORKS, VOLUME 1 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Don Heck
As they say, always best to begin at the beginning. These original tales of the earliest adventures of the Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Don Heck include the formation of the team, the (very) early departure of the Hulk from team membership, and the arrival of the team’s first recruit, the timelost Captain America. Created as a response to the success of DC’s Justice League, this teaming up of Marvel’s then-most popular solo heroes helped cement the notion of Marvel’s shared universe, which really brought the publisher to prominence. Includes the first appearances of long-running characters like Wonder Man, Baron Zemo, the Masters of Evil and Kang the Conqueror, as well as one of the best Silver Age brawls between the Avengers and the briefly teamed-up Hulk and Sub-Mariner.
NEW AVENGERS VOLUME 1: BREAKOUT by Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch
This series saw the beginning of longtime Avengers writer Brian Michael Bendis’ tenure on the Avengers books. Controversial at the time, NEW AVENGERS was a serious shake-up of the long-running AVENGERS mythology, teaming up “classic” members Captain America and Iron Man with characters long-considered “loners” and not Avengers material like Spider-Man and Wolverine, and characters who had faded from the spotlight like Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and the Sentry. Edgy, intense and sharply funny, with very striking art from David Finch, BREAKOUT is the place to start if you’re looking for a more modern take on the team.
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, VOLUME 1 by Kurt Busiek and George Perez
This collection of the first year of the Avengers’ 1998 relaunch is one of my favorite runs of comics, the pinnacle of what most people would consider the “classic” era of the Avengers. Following the unfocused, uninspired Bob Harras-penned run in the early to mid ’90s, which was in turn followed by the failed “Heroes Reborn” experiment in which Marvel’s characters were leased out to Image comics creators with less than satisfying results, this new series by writer Kurt Busiek and comics legend George Perez marked a return to classic Avengers storytelling, beginning with an epic three-part time-travelling, world-changing adventure which brought together everyone who had ever been a member of the Avengers! Densely plotted with wit and heart by Busiek, and featuring Perez at the absolute top of his game, these are great Avengers comics.
I AM AN AVENGER, VOLUMES 1 AND 2 By Various
New Avengers team lineups tend to happen one of two ways: organically, as members join the team and leave the team during the course of an adventure or extended narrative; or all of a sudden, as occasionally there will be a complete roster shakeup, either prompted from within or by government interference, resulting in an entirely new team. These I AM AN AVENGERS trade paperback collect the latter, the instances when a new roster is chosen, voted upon or otherwise reshuffled, over the course of the Avengers’ five-decade history. These are great just for the sheer variety of creative teams that’s offered, and as a way to see the style of the book change with the times.
AVENGERS: THE KREE-SKRULL WAR by Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Sal Buscema and John Buscema
Probably the single most famous AVENGERS storyline, THE KREE-SKRULL WAR put the Avengers smack-dab in the middle between to warring alien empires, with the planet Earth caught in the crossfire! One of the first attempts at Marvel of long-form storytelling, the KREE-SKRULL WAR storyline spanned nine issues, and brought together the largest accumulation of Avengers to date, with a plot that ranged from space opera to microscopic exploration to political intrigue. The height of writer Roy Thomas’ run on the series for sure, and with storyline repercussion that would carry through for decades.
Scott Tipton is about to re-read some Avengers. If you have questions about the Avengers or comics in general, send them here.