Once upon a time, a curious me wanted to catch up on Avengers history. Through some digging, I found a name that kept popping up on the top 5 greatest Avengers stories of all time: The Korvac Saga. So I found myself a trade copy and decided to see what all the hubbub was about. What I found was a sprawling tale that wound its way through several storylines that led through the cosmic side of the Marvel universe, a massive crossover between two super teams and a well paced story that patiently built toward a climax that was well worth waiting for.
The two teams involved are the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. But these are not the Guardians that people have gotten to know because of the movie. These are the originals, working out of the 31st century: Vance Astro, telekinetic astronaut from the 20th century; Martinex, the crystal-bodied man from Pluto with the ability to project heat or cold from his hands; Charlie-27, the Jovian militiaman with super dense skin and superhuman strength; Nikki the flame-haired Mercurian sharpshooter; Starhawk, the sentient-light-projecting-Arcturian who knows; and Yondu, the blue-skinned super archer from Alpha Centauri. And playing for the Avengers, we have a lot of familiar faces: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Wonder Man, Ms. Marvel and many, many more. We also have jack-in-the-box-turned-god Michael Korvac as our antagonist, his love interest Carina, and The Collector himself.
Our story begins with the living computer Korvac wanting to conquer the universe in the 31st century. He is stopped by the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor and makes his escape to the 20th century. We then cut to present day where the Guardians pursue Korvac through time and enlist the help of the Avengers. Meanwhile, Korvac has taken on a new form boasting unimaginable power, and patiently plots and plans while the Avengers and the Guardians struggle to find and stop him.
This story is a blast to read. It is masterful in its storytelling and excellently paced. It gently asks for the patience of its readers, inserting small pieces of an overarching story in smaller stories with the promise of an epic payoff down the road. Either with the small inclusion of Korvac or the Guardians in every issue, or having earlier events be major clues that all lead to the climax, the story sowed seeds and allowed them to grow and develop at their own speed. It all made the payoff feel truly earned by the time the story got there. The main thing that might make it a bit of a slog for modern readers is the lack of subtlety in the characters’ thoughts and reactions. As with most classic books, we know exactly what every character is thinking the whole time, as their thoughts are laid out for us in thought bubbles. It slows down the pace a little bit, but with this particular story, I didn’t mind it because there was so much happening all the time.
One of the best aspects of this story to me was some serious character growth in the arc of one character in particular. In the early issues of this piece, we find Wonder Man thinking to himself about how he feels like a coward. He’s one of the most powerful members of the Avengers but is always the most hesitant while others charge into battle ahead of him. He eventually joins the fray every time with great reluctance, but his doubts keep him from really unleashing his full potential. But in the great battle, he has a moment that defines heroes. He overcomes his fears at the time he’s needed the most, and because of him the tide of battle turns.
Another standout moment to me was Starhawk’s first battle with Korvac alone. Without giving too much away, Starhawk knows where to find Korvac. Starhawk walks up to Korvac’s front door where he is greeted quite cordially, and the two begin a battle that spans every plane of existence. Battles don’t get much grander. What happens in the next few pages are some of the most spectacularly chaotic renderings of an epic battle I have ever seen, with the finale making me feel the same rage as one of the characters involved every time I read it. By the time it’s over, I feel like I was part of the battle, and I’m exhausted.
What’s also interesting is its eventual characterization of the Avengers as the villains of our story. Because they’re the heroes we know and love, we are inclined to think that what they do is unquestionably right. But through Korvac’s own words and the words of Moondragon, who is able to sense and understand Korvac’s thoughts and intentions, the Avengers don’t really save the day this time as much as simply survive it. The ending of this story leaves in question who really won, and whether or not they were correct. In the trade edition, there is a small four page epilogue that expands on that concept, and reinforces just how tragic the ending is.
The first time I read this story was about 3 years ago, in 2014. Almost 40 years after its initial release, it stands up to the storytelling standards of a lot of mediums today, and I found it enthralling and hard to put down. And with the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie on the way, it’s a good fix of the cosmic until we revisit the universe.