Essential Avengers Vol. 8

avengers8First Published: April 2012

Contents: Avengers #164 (October 1977) to #184 (June 1979); Avengers Annual #7 (1977) and #8 (1978); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Jim Shooter, John Byrne, Jim Starlin, Joe Rubinstein, George Pérez, Sal Buscema, David Michelinie, Tom DeFalco, Jim Mooney, and others

Key First Appearances: Henry Peter Gyrich, Django Maximoff, Lord Chaos, Master Order

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 7

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 9

Overview: Get comfortable, loyal readers! It doesn’t get much more essential than Essential Avengers Vol. 8!

The book starts out with a bang with the return of Count Nefaria, last seen taking on the “All-New All-Different” X-Men, which led to the death of Warpath. Nefaria has hired a team of scientists to increase his powers to a level where he can go toe-to-toe with Thor. However, he finds out that the increase in his powers comes at a price, as he starts to age at an aggressive rate. The team is stretched to the limits to defeat Nefaria but the battle ends with the Avengers facing a new threat – government agent Henry Peter Gyrich. We’ll get back to him soon enough.

Next up is an epic battle that crosses over between two annuals, where the combined forces of the Avengers, Captain Mar-Vel, Warlock, the Thing, and Spider-Man must take on Thanos. This famous story by Jim Starline and Joe Rubinstein has been reprinted many times, including multiple Essential volumes as noted below.

We then find ourselves slowly building up to the next great Avengers epic. The Guardians of the Galaxy have traveled to Earth in search of Korvac, their foe with god-like powers. While this is going on, members of the Avengers start disappearing. Are the two stories linked? This is a great story that builds up over 10 issues to an explosive conclusion.

Now I mentioned Gyrich earlier. Seems he has a problem with the Avengers. Lack of security to get into the mansion. Too many people coming in and out of the line-up. Gyrich lays down the law with the team, placing new guidelines on the team in order to keep their government clearance. Gyrich not only imposes a limit of seven active members on the team, he also takes it upon himself to name the new line-up: Iron Man, Vision, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Beast, Wasp, and the Falcon. Wait, the Falcon? We remember Captain America’s former partner, but he’s never been an Avenger before. But the government demands equal opportunities for minorities. The Falcon begrudgingly joins the team, and when the Scarlet Witch is forced to take a medical leave, she is replaced by Ms. Marvel. This gives us the new line-up for the team heading into Essential Avengers Vol. 9 and the epic Avengers #200 in the near-future.

What makes this Essential?: I just love this era of the Avengers! This has to be a must-own book for numerous reasons – the stories, the artwork, the character development, and more. The introduction of Henry Peter Gyrich opens the door for the concept that the government has some control over the Avengers. The Korvac Saga storyline may be one of the best multi-issue arcs since the Kree-Skrull War. The artwork of George Pérez and John Byrne looks spectacular in black & white. Please do yourself a favor and track down this collection!

Footnotes: Avengers Annual #7 was also reprinted in Essential Warlock Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 were also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Warlock Vol. 1.

Even though he is announced as a new member of the team in issue #181, the Falcon does not actually join the team until Avengers #183.

If you like this volume, try: the 1990s Guardians of the Galaxy series, with the first half of the series done by Jim Valentino. For many years, the Guardians had been those interesting backup group of characters, who never got the chance to really shine in their own feature. The Korvac storyline in this Essential is one of the longest appearances of the team until the launch of their own series in 1990. Along with The New Warriors, the new GotG title kicked off a new wave of youthful superheroes at Marvel. Valentino left after issue #29 to become one of the founders of Image Comics, but the Guardians title ran until issue #62. The Valentino issues were recently reprinted in three trade paperbacks, so they should be readily available to track down.

Essential Avengers Vol. 7

Essential Avengers Vol. 7

First Published: January 2010

Contents: Avengers #141 (November 1975) to #163 (September 1977); Avengers Annual #2 (1976); and Super-Villain Team-Up #9 (December 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Jim Shooter, George Perez, Don Heck, John Buscema, Sal Buscema

Key First Appearances: Hellcat, Amphibian, Cap’n Hawk, Black Talon, Tyrak, Graviton, Jocasta

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 6

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 8

Overview: This Essential volume has a little bit of everything we want and love of the Avengers. Time travel story? Check! Battles in an alternate dimension? Check! Stopping a war between Namor and Dr. Doom? Check! Return of classic villains such as Kang or Ultron? Check and check! Introducing new and returning Avengers? Check and check!

The first third of the book details the Serpent Crown affair, which involved the Squadron Supreme from an alternate Earth. Bringing that case to a close, the Avengers once again find themselves in a familiar position – too many Avengers and who is going to lead the team. Avengers #150 takes a look back at Avengers #16 while the team is whittled down to a more manageable seven members.

We get the return of Wonder Man, last seen in the pages of Avengers #9. Initially shown as a zuvembie, Simon Williams eventually regains his humanity to discover that he now has a step-brother of sorts in the Vision.

The next big Avengers story was too much for just this title, as the battle between Atlantis and Latveria crossed over into Super-Villain Team-Up. Attuma is once again trying to take over Atlantis and puts plans in place to bring Namor and Dr. Doom to war with each other, figuring that the winner of that battle would be easy pickings for someone like Attuma. But no one counts on the interference by the Avengers and the Shroud.

Finally, no collection would be complete without an appearance by Ultron. Once again trying to take revenge on his father Hank Pym, Ultron decides that in order to be complete, he must create a bride to be by his side. Kidnapping the Wasp to use as a pattern, Ultron creates Jocasta, who would quickly revolt against her creator and side with the Avengers.

What makes this Essential?: With this volume (and the subsequent volumes #8 and #9), the Avengers begin a five-year upward climb that reaches a climax with issue #200. We get a core team of members (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Beast, and Wonder Man) that comprise the bulk of the line-ups during this era. The story-arcs become five or six issues in length, building on clues planted issues in advance. These issues have appeal to the casual fan aware of the Avengers, as well as the seasoned fan who will recognize the classic stories and how they impact later stories to come.

Footnotes: Avengers #154 to #156, and Super-Villain Team-Up #9 were also reprinted in Essential Super-Villain Team-Up Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: digging through some back issue bins for a 2000 mini-series titled Avengers Two: Wonder Man and Beast. The stars of this title both (re)joined the Avengers during this Essential volume. The two characters each had insecurity issues  – Beast feeling outclassed on a team with the likes of Thor, Iron Man, and Vision; and Wonder Man fearful of dying again. Whether it was planned or just developed as the story went along, the Beast and Wonder Man became best friends within the Avengers, and would often be seen hanging out together during their downtime from the team. In this three issue mini-series from Roger Stern and Mark Bagley, we see the duo reunite for one grand adventure together. Sadly, this has never been reprinted as a complete story, so you may have to do some searching for these issues.

Essential Avengers Vol. 6

Essential Avengers Vol. 6

Essential Avengers Vol. 6

First Published: February 2008

Contents: Avengers #120 (April 1972) to #140 (October 1975); Giant-Size Avengers #1 (August 1974) to #4 (June 1975); Captain Marvel #33 (July 1974); and Fantastic Four #150 (September 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, John Buscema, Bob Brown, George Tuska, and others

Key First Appearances: Nuklo, Bova

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 7

Overview: In preparation for this review, I consider some alternatives to make my point here. My first thought would be to increase the font size to a larger style, but I hate that when other sites do it. I CONSIDERED WRITING THIS ENTIRE REVIEW IN ALL CAPS, BUT I DON’T WANT TO COME ACROSS THAT I AM YELLING AT YOU, MY LOYAL READERS. Maybe I should attach a sound file with trumpets blaring, or I figure out a way to roll out a red carpet. See, the reason for these possible changes is to help convey just how EPIC is this collection of the Essential Avengers!

Writer Steve Englehart and friends put together a series of memorable runs over multiple issues. This really felt like a heavy hitters lineup for the team, led by Thor, Iron Man, and the Vision. In this collection, the Avengers have their first encounter with Thanos; in a crossover with the Fantastic Four, we see Quicksilver and Crystal tie the knot in a ceremony delayed by Ultron; and we discover the secret origin of the Vision, in a story that goes back to the very first issue of Marvel Comics in 1939.

The highlight of this volume is the story of Mantis. In the lead-off story where the Avengers battle Zodiac, Mantis discovers that Libra is her father. She learns that she was raised by the Priests of Pama, which takes the Avengers to Viet-Nam where they encounter the Star-Stalker. From there, long-time Avengers foe Kang kidnaps Mantis and Moondragon, as both have been identified as potential candidates to become the Celestial Madonna. That leads the Avengers to travel through time and space after their teammate. During the battle with Kang, the Swordsman is killed, and Mantis realizes that he was the love of her life and not the Vision. Mantis discovers more of her origins, and finally embraces her role as the Celestial Madonna. In a ceremony overseen by Immortus, Mantis marries a Cotati reanimating the body of Swordsman, and the couple merge and depart to space. (It should be noted that the wedding was a double ceremony, as the Vision and the Scarlet Witch finally say their “I Do’s”.)

The volume concludes as some new faces become probationary members of the team in Avengers #137. Having graduated from the X-Men and moved on to a solo career, the blue-haired Beast shows up for a series of adventures, but it won’t be until the next Essential before he earns his Avengers identification card. Also, Moondragon joins the team, making for a good consolation prize for losing out on the Celestial Madonna sweepstakes.

What makes this Essential?: This volume can best be summed up with one name – Steve Englehart. The writer had taken over writing duties on the Avengers in the previous Essential volume, and this collection sees Englehart work in all of the stories that he was really wanting to tell. He uses a core line-up of Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Mantis. (It should be noted that long-time Avenger Captain America was knee-deep in his own book at that time, and could only make the occasional appearance in the Avengers. By the way, Captain America and Falcon was being written by Englehart.) Mantis, a creation of Englehart and Don Heck, becomes the focus of the Celestial Madonna story in this volume. Towards the end of the run, Hank McCoy (a.k.a the Beast of the X-Men) Joins up, but this is the blue-furred Beast. Hank McCoy had undergone a further mutation in the pages of Amazing Adventures, written by — wait for it! — yes that’s right, it was Steve Englehart. So long story short, you need to be a big fan of Englehart and his epic vision for the Avengers to really appreciate this volume. I first read these stories out of order, as I picked up the back issues to fill out my Avengers collection over the years. Being able to re-read this story in order via the Essential allows me to better appreciate what Englehart did here.

Footnotes: Captain Marvel #33 is also reprinted in Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 2.

Avengers #127 and Fantastic Four #150 are also reprinted in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 7.

If you like this volume, try: the first series of The Ultimates. Hot on the heels of the successful Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men, Marvel turned to Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch to develop an Ultimate version of the Avengers. Trimming the team down to it’s 1963 roster of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Giant Man, the Wasp, and Captain America, Millar and Hitch created an EPIC spin on the historic narrative. Yes, changes were made to make the group more contemporary – most notable is Nick Fury portrayed as an African-American that happens to look a lot like Samuel L. Jackson, long before that actor was cast in any Marvel Studios role. Conversely, The Ultimates became a template that Marvel Studios could use as they began to shape the Phase One series of movies. This initial series ran for 13 issues, albeit over two years time, and has been collected in numerous trades and hardcover collections. There have been various sequels to spin out of this, but the original story remains the best by far.

Essential Avengers Vol. 5

Essential Avengers Vol. 5

First Published: January 2006

Contents: Avengers #98 (April 1972) to #119 (March 1972); Daredevil #99 (May 1973); and Defenders #8 (September 1973) to #11 (December 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Harlan Ellison, Steve Englehart, Barry Windsor-Smith, Rich Buckler, Don Heck, Sal Buscema, Bob Brown, and others

Key First Appearances: Imus Champion, Mantis

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 6

Overview: In the aftermath of the Kree-Skrull war, the Avengers have returned to Earth to find that one of their members is missing. Tracking down the Warhawks, the Avengers are reunited with Clint Barton, who has dropped the Goliath act and is now back to the bow and arrows of Hawkeye. With him, they find another former Avenger, Hercules, confused and disoriented. What a way to start the next volume of Essential Avengers!

The disoriented Hercules leads into a storyline that leads into #100 anniversary issue, which brought back every former Avengers – including the Hulk – in a battle between Earth, Asgard, and Olympus. Following that, the Avengers face numerous familiar foes, including the Grim Reaper, the Sentinels, the Space Phantom, and Magneto.

The highlight of this volume is the Avengers-Defenders War, which crossed over between the two titles, both scripted by Steve Englehart. Loki, the step-brother of Thor, and Dormammu, long-time foe of Doctor Strange, manipulate the two super-teams into battle. This has been reprinted multiple times, including in the Essential Defenders books.

The volume concludes as the Avengers make another return to Rutland, Vermont, for the annual Halloween parade. Once again, chaos ensues as the Collector shows up trying to complete a set of Avengers.

What is interesting with this volume is Englehart advancing the characters into relationships, bordering on a soap opera. The Scarlet Witch and the Vision start a relationship, much to Quicksilver’s chagrin. Mantis shows up, and wants to claim the Vision as her own. The Swordsman has fallen head over heels in love with Mantis, but can’t get the time of day from her. All of this gets resolved in the next volume.

What makes this Essential?: We see another transition in the Avengers title as Roy Thomas steps down as writer, and Steve Englehart comes in as the new scribe of the book. The X-Men – friend and foes – make numerous appearances during a time when their book was strictly a reprint title. Englehart scripts one of the first multi-part crossovers between the Avengers and the Defenders. With the introduction of Mantis, we start approaching the Celestial Madonna storyline that will dominate Essential Avengers Vol. 6. The downside to this volume is the art, which suffers from a lack of consistency. If you liked Essential Avengers Vol. 4, you should probably have this volume as well to continue the run.

Footnotes: Avengers #111 and Daredevil #99 was also reprinted in Essential Daredevil Vol. 4.

Avengers #115-#118 and Defenders #8-#11 are also reprinted in Essential Defenders Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Avengers: Under Siege by Roger Stern and John Buscema. Running in Avengers #270-#277, the Masters of Evil are back with a vengeance, taking down the Avengers one-by-one. During the onslaught, Hercules is beaten within inches of his life; control of the Avengers Mansion falls over to the bad guys; and even the butler Jarvis is caught up and injured. But falling back to the group’s origins, the Wasp rallies the troops, calling in Thor and Captain America to defeat the Masters of Evil. When fans are asked to name the best Avengers stories, this is easily in the top five for everyone, if not the top choice. This has been collected multiple times and remains in print nearly 30 years after it initially ran in the monthly book.

Essential Avengers Vol. 4

Essential Avengers Vol. 4

First Published: October 2004

Contents: Avengers #69 (October 1969) to #97 (March 1972), and Incredible Hulk #140 (June 1971)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, John Buscema, Neal Adams, and Harlan Ellison

Key First Appearances: Grandmaster, Squadron Sinister (Doctor Spectrum, Hyperion, Nighthawk, Whizzer), Zodiac (Aquarius, Aries, Cancer, Capricorn, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Pisces, Sagittarius, Taurus, Virgo), Monica Lynne, Arkon, Lethal Legion, Red Wolf & Lobo, Lady Liberators, Valkyrie, Squadron Supreme (American Eagle, Doctor Spectrum, Golden Archer, Hyperion, Lady Lark, Nighthawk, Tom Thumb, Whizzer),  Jarella

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 5

Overview: Hold onto your seats, faithful readers. This is a 29-issue run of Avengers that never lets off the gas, giving us non-stop action that crosses multiple universes.

Leading off, we meet the Grandmaster, one of the Elders of the Universe, who has challenged Kang to a game. Kang chooses the Avengers as his pawns, and the Grandmaster chooses from an alternate dimension the Squadron Sinister, whose four members bare a striking resemblance to DC’s Justice League. Later in this volume, the Avengers travel to another alternate dimension dubbed Earth-S, where they meet the Squadron Supreme. This team fights for the side of good, and again contains character analogs for the Justice League.

Next up would be the confrontation with the Zodiac, a crime cartel made up of 12 members representing the various astrological signs. In particular, Taurus (Cornelius Van Lunt) would be a constant thorn in the side of the Avengers for many years. During this period, we also learn more about Black Panther, getting his full origin and meeting a new romantic interest for him in Monica Lynne.

The concluding story in the volume is the Kree-Skrull War. While it officially begins with issue #92, hints of this looming confrontation had been dropped for months. The two alien races go to war against each other, and Earth finds itself literally in the middle of the battle. The Avengers intercede, leading to a ceasefire and letting both empires know that the Earth is off limits to territorial expansion by either the Kree or the Skrulls.

The creators of these issues are some of the all-time greats. This is some of Roy Thomas’ best writing in his long career. The art is alive, jumping off the page thanks to the Buscemas and Neal Adams. We are even treated to a rare comic appearance by legendary writer Harlan Ellison, whose plot concept was adapted into a two-issue story by Roy Thomas for Avengers #88 and Incredible Hulk #140.

What makes this Essential?: This is a must-own volume for so many reasons – the creative talent on these books, the introduction of the Squadrons Sinister and Supreme, a new Elder of the Universe, the Zodiac crime organization, the Lady Liberators, and, of course, the Kree-Skrull War! These comics are still influencing ongoing stories 40+ years later. Seriously, if you plan on not having this book in your collection, then I really need to question our friendship.

Welcome to Rutland: In Avengers #83, the Avengers and the Lady Liberators travel to Rutland, Vermont, where they take part in the annual Halloween parade. The parade began in 1960, with local resident Tom Fagan being the driving force behind the event. Fagan, a comic book fan, would encourage people to dress in superhero costumes for the parade, and he would wear a Batman costume for the event. Fagan developed friendships with many popular comic writers of the early 1970s, such as Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, Len Wein, and others. These writers then started incorporating Fagan, Rutland, and the Halloween parade into various stories at both DC and Marvel. In Marvel books, many DC characters could be seen in the parade, and vice versa. In addition to this issue of Avengers, look for Tom Fagan and Rutland to appear in Batman #237, Thor #206-207 (Essential Thor Vol. 5) and #232 (Essential Thor Vol. 6), Avengers #119 (Essential Avengers Vol. 5), Justice League of America #103 (Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 5) and #145, Defenders #100 (Essential Defenders Vol. 5), and many other comics.

Footnotes: Avengers #88 and Incredible Hulk #140 were also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 3.

While 11 of the 12 members of the Zodiac debuted in Avengers #72, Scorpio (Jake Fury) made his first appearance in Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (June 1968).

If you like this volume, try: the Secret Invasion mini-series from 2008 from Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu. Following the events of the Kree-Skrull War, the Skrull empire has secretly been capturing various superheroes and replacing them with disguised Skrulls. The ruse comes to light when “Electra” is killed in battle and her body reverts to her true form. Distrust forms among the superhero community, as colleagues question if they have a Skrull in their midst. During a raid of the Skrull world, many longtime characters believed dead were revealed to alive as prisoners of the Skrulls. Battles ensue as the Skrulls make a full-blown of invasion when their plan is revealed. The Skrulls are defeated in a final battle in Central Park, as a long-time Avenger makes the ultimate sacrifice to stop the Skrull threat. This has been collected as both a hardcover and as a trade paperback.

Essential Super-Villain Team-Up Vol. 1

Essential Super-Villain Team-Up Vol. 1

First Published: September 2004

Contents: Dr. Doom stories from Astonishing Tales #1 (August 1970) to #8 (October 1971); Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up #1 (March 1975) and #2 (June 1975); Super-Villain Team-Up #1 (August 1975) to #14 (October 1977), #16 (May 1979), and #17 (June 1980); Avengers #154 (December 1976) to #156 (February 1977); and Champions #16 (November 1977)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Larry Lieber, Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo, Steve Englehart, Wally Wood, George Tuska, Herb Trimpe, Bob Hall, and others

Key First Appearances: Prince Rudolfo, Andro, Cynthia Von Doom, the Shroud, Tyrak

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 7

Overview: Bring on the Bad Guys! With so many comics told from the perspective of the hero, sometimes you want to view the world from the other side of the confrontation.

For most of this book, the focus is on Dr. Doom, ruler of Latvia. The stories from Astonishing Tales deal with Dr. Doom trying to stop a rebellion, which turns out be organized by Red Skull. Doom’s attention is soon turned towards the Black Panther, as a skirmish develops between Latveria and Wakanda – not the first time that’s happened, and certainly not the last time either.

When the actual issues of Super-Villain Team-Up starts, it’s between Dr. Doom and Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Depending upon the needs of the story, Namor has been both hero and villain over his many years in comics, and we see that in this volume. It starts out with Namor and Doom in conflict, which is then turned into an uneasy alliance of sorts. While battles rage between Namor and the Atlantean warlord Attuma, which crosses over with the Avengers title, Dr. Doom must continue to stave off rebellion. But the mysterious Shroud shows up — but is he hero or villain?

Towards the end of the run, the publishing schedule got quite erratic. The title came to an end, but the final storyline was wrapped up over in the pages of the Champions, with the team loaded with former X-Men facing off against Magneto. The Red Skull makes another appearance in the final two issues published a year apart.

What makes this Essential?: This really is not an essential book. There, I said it. Hate me or love me for it. What we have here is a loose conglomeration of stories that are grouped together under the banner Super-Villain Team-Up (SVTU). Given the number of various talents that worked on this throughout the 1970s, this was never intended to be one giant story. Instead, we get Writer 2 picking up on the story threads left by Writer 1 two years ago in a story, and continuing them for three issues until Writer 3 came in and changed the threads completely.

Personally, I would have rather seen (and still hope to see someday) an Essential Doctor Doom volume. Collect his various appearances all over the Marvel Universe in one edition. That would be much more interesting to see collected then this SVTU collection.

Footnotes: Super-Villain Team-Up #9 and Avengers #154-#156 are also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 7.

Super-Villain Team-Up #15 was a reprint issue, with stories from Astonishing Tales #4 and #5 (included in this volume). The cover is included in this Essential.

If you like this volume, try: the Secret Society of Super-Villains (SSSV) from DC. This came out during the mid-1970s, around the same time that SVTU was on the stands. DC’s story had a team of villains assembled (Gorilla Grodd, Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Sinestro, Star Sapphire, Lex Luthor, Bizarro, Darkseid, and many more) working together to take on jobs that they couldn’t do as solo criminals. Much like SVTU at Marvel, the SSSV storyline continued in other DC books long after the comic was cancelled. DC has recently collected the entire SSSV storyline into two hardcover collections.

Essential Avengers Vol. 3

Essential Avengers Vol. 3

First Published: March 2001

Contents: Avengers #47 (December 1967) to #68 (September 1969), and King-Size Avengers #2 (September 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Gene Colan, and Barry Windsor-Smith

Key First Appearances: Dane Whitman/Black Knight, Aragorn, Typhon, Grim Reaper, Ultron, Scarlet Centurion, Vision, Yellowjacket, Man-Ape, Goliath (II), Barney Barton

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 4

Overview: Welcome to the Mighty Avengers! Writer Roy Thomas takes full control of the issues collected in this volume, putting his own vision (pun intended) into the team. The Avengers welcome two new members: Black Panther is brought in from the pages of Fantastic Four; and the Vision is introduced as a villainous pawn who overrides his original programming and stands with our heroes. Hank Pym adopts yet another identity in Yellowjacket, and Clint Barton discards his bow and arrows as Hawkeye to take over as the second Goliath on the Avengers team. A new Black Knight is introduced, but he will not officially join the Avengers team until the next Essential volume.

We also get the introduction of two foes that will plague the Avengers for decades to come. The Grim Reaper shows up to take vengeance on the Avengers for the death of his brother Simon Williams, the original Wonder Man from Avengers #9. Things would get much more complicated when it is discovered that the Vision has the memories of Simon Williams, making him a step-brother of sorts to the Grim Reaper.

And Hank Pym inadvertently unleashes an evil unto the world with his creation of Ultron, a self-replicating robot that desires nothing more than world conquest. Ultron places the Vision into the team as a traitor, only to be betrayed by the synthezoid. Ultron would return over and over again, with plans of ruling the planet and punishing his “father”.

What makes this Essential?: I see a transition in the Avengers title in this era. The team becomes less focused on being the world’s mightiest heroes, and instead becomes one large family, albeit dysfunctional. Early stories in this volume deal with the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver trying to break their connections with Magneto. Pym “fathers” Ultron, who in turn “fathers” the Vision. Grim Reaper seeks vengeance for his brother, and finds his brother’s personality and memories alive in an android. Hawkeye comes face-to-face with his long lost brother. And Pym and Janet Van Dyne tie the knot in the first wedding ceremony at Avengers Mansion, creating a whole-new dynamic for the team with married super-heroes. This may sound a lot like a soap opera, but it works for the Avengers. As a reader, I want to keep coming back to see what is going to happen next to these characters. These family issues is what made the Avengers so fascinating throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Footnotes: Avengers #53 was also reprinted in Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2.

Avengers #61 was also reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2.

Beginning with issue #62, the word “Mighty” was added on the cover, making the cover title read The Mighty Avengers.

If you like this volume, try: the Last Avengers Story by Peter David and Ariel Olivetti. Issued in 1995 during the painted art wave of comics, this prestige format book takes place some number of years in our future. Ultron has destroyed Avengers Mansion and the team inside. Fueled by grief and anger, Hank Pym tries to assemble what remains of the Avengers team to defeat Ultron one last time. Gathering up the Wasp, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Human Torch, and Cannonball, this Avengers team takes on Ultron, as well as the Grim Reaper, for a final resolution. This story has been collected multiple times, most recently in the Avengers: First to Last collection from 2008.