First Published: October 1998
Contents: Avengers #1 (September 1963) to #24 (January 1966)
Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Don Heck
Key First Appearances: Space Phantom, Lava Men, Heinrich Zemo/Baron Zemo, Nathan Garrett/Black Knight, Masters of Evil, Kang, Simon Williams/Wonder Man, Immortus, Count Nefaria, Maggia, Jacques Duquesne/Swordsman, Erik Josten/Power Man, Princess Ravonna,
Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 2
Overview: And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born — to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand! Through the years, their roster has prospered, changing many times, but their glory has never been denied! Heed the call, then — for now, the Avengers Assemble!
In an attempt to gain revenge against his step-brother, Loki creates a plot to force the Hulk to fight Thor. Along the way, Iron Man, Ant Man, and the Wasp join with Thor, before they realize that their true enemy is not the Hulk but rather Loki. From that point, the five heroes vow to ban together to form an unbeatable team. The Wasp suggests the Avengers name, and the rest is history.
Subsequent early issues will have the Hulk leaving the team and Captain America, the now living legend of World War II, joining the team, establishing a tradition of an ever-changing Avengers line-up. This is dramatically shown in issue #16, when the remaining founders take leave from the team and are replaced by a team of reformed criminals in Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch (dubbed Cap’s Quirky Quartet).
Several long-time Avenger foes are introduced with Kang, Immortus, and Baron Zemo and the changing lineup of his Masters of Evil. Future Avenger members Wonder Man (initially a villain, but reforms years later following his resurrection) and Swordsman make appearances in this volume.
What makes this Essential?: As much as the Fantastic Four title was in response to DC’s success with the Justice League of America title, the Avengers is the more comparable doppelganger to the JLA. The original members of the Avengers (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Ant Man and Wasp, Captain America) all were featured in other anthology books at the time. The Avengers gave the characters a second monthly appearance each month. The events in this title impacted the individual character’s stories in the anthology books, thereby building up the Marvel continuity in a unified comic universe. If Iron Man or Thor was absent from an issue, an editor’s note would drop a hint to the reader to check out that other book to see what was going on.
Also, given the success of recent movie franchise, this is a worthy look at the humble beginnings of the Avengers. While small details were changed, the basic idea of a band of heroes uniting to stop Loki remains the same.
If you like this volume, try: the Avengers Assemble Vol. 1 HC from Kurt Busiek and George Perez. This collection contains the first year of the 1998 relaunch of the Avengers title. While other individual Avengers stories may be more memorable, this series by Busiek-Perez is one of the greatest runs of Avengers stories. The story kicks off with reuniting all previous Avengers to stop Morgana Le Fay from remaking the Earth. The team then slims down to a more manageable line-up, with traditional mainstays (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch) and introducing new Avengers (Firestar, Justice, Triathalon).