Essential Thor Vol. 5

Essential Thor Vol. 5

First Published: May 2011

Contents: Thor #196 (February 1972) to #220 (February 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, John Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Silas Grant, Ego-Prime, Young Gods, Mercurio the 4-D Man, Ultimus, Krista

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Thor Vol. 6

Overview: If you are worthy, it is time to hold up the hammer and possess the power of Thor. Welcome back to another Essential Thor volume.

In this volume, Thor battles new foes such as Ego-Prime and Mercurio, but must still deal with familiar villains such as Pluto, the Absorbing Man, and Loki. Of course, Thor’s ego gets the better of him once again in Asgard, and Odin banishes his son (and some of his friends) to Earth for some time. Which leads to some humorous moments as the Asgardians hanging out at Avengers Mansion with Jarvis, the butler.

A battle with Ulik forces Thor and his friends to return to Asgard, which they find empty of all people. That mystery leads them into space chasing intergalactic slavers. That, in turn, leads to another battle against Mercurio, whom we thought was destroyed six issues past. Finally, Thor defeats all enemies, and returns to Asgard with his friends and Odin, only to find Asgard ruled by another Thor and Odin. Confused yet? Trust me, go pick up this volume and see how this wraps up!

An interesting insert occurs with issue #200. I don’t know if this was planned from the start for the anniversary issue, or the need to meet a production deadline, but this appears to be a filler issue by Stan Lee and John Buscema (with a prolog and epilog by Gerry Conway and Buscema). It has nothing to do with issues #199 or #201, which makes me lean towards Marvel just trying to meet a deadline. Anyway, Lee gets the chance to tell his take on the Ragnarok story, which according to Norse legend is the end of the gods in a final battle. In Asgard, Odin has a prophetess share how the Ragnarok would play out: Loki triggers the start of Ragnarok, then does battle with Thor while the world around them falls. The Asgardians and the world dies and is reborn again. As the prophetess ends her tale, Odin cautions Loki that only those deemed worthy are reborn in the new world, and Loki slinks off wondering if he is part of that number.

What makes this Essential?: The stories in this volume are interesting. Not Gerry Conway’s best work ever, but by no means his worst work either. The stories split nearly evenly between those on Earth, those on Asgard, and those in space. The Earth and Asgard stories seem to be the more-complete stories, but the space stories feel like they are not fully complete. Almost like Conway wanted to do something a little more with them but held back, either by choice or editorial constraint. Buscema’s art once again shows the epic proportions of Thor and his entourage. These stories are an interesting read for a Thor fan, but I don’t know if I would say these are truly Essential. 

Footnotes: Thor makes his first visit to Rutland, Vermont, in Thor #206 and #207. For more information on Rutland, see Essential Avengers Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try:  the Ragnarok story from 2004 from Michael Avon Oeming and Andrea DiVito. This wrapped up the 1998 Thor series, as all of the Avengers-related titles were disassembling around the characters (and the readers). The Thor story was the best ending of those titles, Once again, Loki has aspirations of taking over the throne of Asgard, and resurrects Surtur to begin the Ragnarok. Over the course of six issues, spanning many months, the various Norse gods meet their demise in battle. At the end, Thor beheads Loki, and places himself into hibernation, until it is time for Thor to return. This story has been collected in two editions – a 2009 Avengers Disassembled hardcover that collected the ends of the Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man titles; and a 2005 Thor: Disassembled trade paperback.

Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 1

werewolf1First Published: October 2005

Contents: Marvel Spotlight #2 (February 1972) to #4 (June 1972); Werewolf by Night #1 (September 1972) to #21 (June 1979); Tomb of Dracula #18 (March 1974); Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July 1974); and Marvel Team-Up #12 (August 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Mike Friedrich, Doug Moench, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Mike Ploog, Gene Colan, Gil Kane, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Jack Russell/Werewolf, Lissa Russell, Phillip Russell, Buck Cowan, Tatterdemalion, Raymond Coker, Topaz, Tigra,

Story Continues In: Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 2

Overview: Jack Russell is your typical teenage boy growing up in southern California in the 1970s. He’s just turned 18, he can’t stand his stepfather, and his mom is always nagging him about something. But turning 18 brings on a change to Jack Russell, as he finds out that he carries a recessive trait thanks to his birth father, who he never really knew. Turns out dear old dad was also a lycanthrope, and now Jack is too. Not familiar with the lycanthrope term? Let me save you the time of looking it up and clue you in on the more common term – a werewolf! This is Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 1.

So now at the start of each full moon, Jack Russell undergoes a transformation into a werewolf. He retains very little of Jack’s memories and values, reverting more to a wild animal looking for the hunt and trying to escape the city for the forest. For three days, Jack must worry about the setting of the sun and the rise of the moon, when his transformation kicks in. He’s constantly looking for a cure and often falls into traps because someone offers him the solution to his monthly hairy situation.

I think we can all agree that being a werewolf is not the easiest of curses to deal with. For starters, you go through a lot of shirts – good thing you live in SoCal as the weather generally works in your favor. You try to protect your family members, like your sister. When people realize your secret, they create schemes or plans to make that work for their own personal gain.

Many of these issues are one-and-done, or they might have a story that carries across three issues with each issue covering one night of the current full moon. Right or wrong, there are a lot of foes or characters that only appear once or twice, and never appear again in any other comic.

Now, just because he is based in California doesn’t mean that he is isolated from the Marvel Universe. A trip to Europe in search of clues about his birth father leads to an encounter with Dracula in a memorable crossover between the respective books. Back in California, he meets up with Greer Nelson as she becomes Tigra for the first time. And in the craziest of meet-ups, the Werewolf meets up with Spider-Man in San Francisco, after Peter Parker is sent to the west coast to get pictures of Daredevil and Black Widow.

What makes this Essential?: There were parts of this collection that I really enjoyed. Reading individual issues were good, but reading these issues back-to-back seems to fall apart. The problem I had is that Jack Russell’s condition is triggered by the full moon, which runs for roughly three nights every 28 days, give or take. So as I am reading this, I’m curious to find out what is going on in the 3 1/2 weeks between the end of one transformation period and the start of the next transformation period. (I had this same problem with Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2 when he was fighting a villain that would only appear at the start of a full moon.) If I had been reading this month-to-month, I think I would have appreciated the title more. But reading this as a complete collection, I think it doesn’t hold up.

Footnotes: Werewolf By Night #15 and Tomb of Dracula #18 were also reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #1 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.

Giant-Size Creatures #12 featured the first appearance of Greer Nelson as Tigra. However, Greer’s first appearance in comics was in The Cat #1 (November 1972). In this short-lived series, Nelson and another woman were part of an experiment to imbue them with cat-like abilities. Greer used her abilities for good, while the other woman used hers for bad. Guess how that worked itself out? Anyway, in the Giant-Size Creatures issue, we Greer transformed yet again, this time into Tigra. Somewhere along the lines, Greer’s original Cat costume was left in the care of the Avengers. It was later claimed by Patsy Walker, who went briefly by the name of the Cat as well before settling on Hellcat.

If you like this volume, try: the Fables series from DC/Vertigo and created by Bill Willingham. The basic concept of the series is that the fables we are told as kids to teach us morals and values are all true. The characters are real and still alive. In fact, they have migrated from the Old Lands and have set up residence in Fabletown, a hidden neighborhood in New York City. In addition, there is a farm in upstate New York to host the animal characters from the fables. One of the main characters from the series is Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf from ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ or ‘The Three Little Pigs’ fame. Bigby Wolf serves as the sheriff of Fabletown, and can switch back and forth between his human, werewolf, and wolf forms. This series ran for 150 issues and is easily found in trade paperbacks and hardcovers.

Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 1

ddcp_superman_1First Published: November 2009

Contents: DC Comics Presents #1 (July-August 1978) to  #26 (October 1980)

Key Creator Credits: Martin Pasko, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, Steve Englehart, Denny O’Neil, Cary Bates, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Murphy Anderson, Dick Dillin, Joe Staton, and others

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 2

Overview: Comics, like any other medium, loves to duplicate a success. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so I’ve been told. If Company A has a character selling well, then Company B will create a similar character. (Or in more modern times, if Company A has a best-selling character in one book, then that character will soon be featured in two or more books.)

So it should come as no surprise in the late 1970s that DC Comics introduced DC Comics Presents, a team-up book that would be anchored by Superman. DC had found success by focusing on Batman in the pages of The Brave and the Bold. Heck, World’s Finest Comics was a Batman-Superman team-up book. Over at the distinguished competition, Marvel doubled it up with two team-up books featuring Spider-Man (primarily) and the Thing. I guess the only question to ask here would be why it took DC so long to get this book started? While I haven’t found a definitive answer to that, I’m sure that the then upcoming release of Superman: The Movie might have prompted DC to get another Superman title on the newsstands.

DC Comics Presents brought in a lot of the creative talent that helped shape DC Comics in the 1970s. The title found a cast of regular co-hosts (mostly fellow members of the Justice League) that would cycle in and out frequently over the course of the run of the book. Perhaps in a nod to the quirky stories Bob Haney would deliver over in The Brave and the Bold, we do get the one issue in this collection where Superman is blasted back in time to World War II, where he teams up with Sgt. Rock and Easy Company. As with any team-up book, the premise that would bring the characters together was sketchy a lot of times. In this era, the norm was 17-page stories, so many of these are quick reads.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I’ve said for years that team-up books should be required reading for all comic book fans. But I would recommend starting with the other books of this era first, such as The Brave and the Bold, Marvel Two-in-One, and Marvel Team-Up. This title always seemed to me unnecessary – given how powerful Superman was in this era, why does he need the help of <guest star of the month> to solve the particular problem for that issue? I have this same issue with Superman in the Justice League of America title in this age, too. The team-ups can be a lot of fun, but the premise of the stories are generally weak.

Footnotes: DC Comics Presents #26 is one of the issues from this series most in-demand in the back issue market, but with nothing to do with the Superman story. In this era, DC started placing 16-page previews of upcoming titles in various books. In this issue, a preview of The New Teen Titans #1 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. This serves as the first appearances for Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire, so it has stayed in demand for many years with collectors.

Who’s Who:
#1 – Superman & Flash
#2 – Superman & Flash
#3 – Superman & Adam Strange
#4 – Superman & Metal Men
#5 – Superman & Aquaman
#6 – Superman & Green Lantern
#7 – Superman & Red Tornado
#8 – Superman & Swamp Thing
#9 – Superman & Wonder Woman
#10 – Superman & Sgt. Rock
#11 – Superman & Hawkman
#12 – Superman & Mister Miracle
#13 – Superman & Legion of Super-Heroes
#14 – Superman & Superboy
#15 – Superman & Atom
#16 – Superman & Black Lightning
#17 – Superman & Firestorm
#18 – Superman & Zatanna
#19 – Superman & Batgirl
#20 – Superman & Green Arrow
#21 – Superman & Elongated Man
#22 – Superman & Captain Comet
#23 – Superman & Doctor Fate
#24 – Superman & Deadman
#25 – Superman & Phantom Stranger
#26 – Superman & Green Lantern

If you like this volume, try: Action Comics #584 to #600 from 1987 and 1988. Following Crisis on Multiple Earths, DC brought in fan favorite John Byrne to reinvent Superman for the new DC Universe. Following the initial Man of Steel mini-series that gave us the back history of Clark Kent and Superman, the books returned to a normal monthly publishing schedule. In Action Comics, this became a team-up book, with various heroes meeting up with Superman. Done by Byrne, there are a lot of fun match-ups that stand out from this run. While there is not just one collected edition for these issues, there is a series of eight trades, Superman: The Man of Steel, that collect all of the Superman stories from this time in publishing order. Alternatively, the individual issues can be generally found in discount bins at shows or local comic shops, so that might be a fun run to hunt down on your own.

Essential Killraven Vol. 1

First Published: July 2005

Contents: Amazing Adventures #18 (May 1973) to #39 (November 1976); Marvel Team-Up #45 (May 1976); Marvel Graphic Novel #7 (August 1983); and Killraven #1 (February 2001)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Don McGregor, Keith Giffen, Howard Chaykin, Herb Trimpe, P. Craig Russell, and others

Key First Appearances: Killraven, M’Shulla, Hawk, Old Skull, Carmilla Frost, Grok, Mint Julep, Volcana Ash

Overview: You remember the Martian invasion back in 2001, right? The Martians came to Earth, destroyed governments, and left the planet as a human-breeding farm to feed the growing Martian-population. Don’t worry though, in just two short years, a red-headed human will escape the slave pits to lead a revolution, to rid the Earth of Martians and reclaim the planet for the humans. Welcome to the future (or alternate) world of Killraven!

In the early 1970s, Roy Thomas and Neal Adams collaborated to find a way to work H.G. Wells classic story, The War of the Worlds, into comic book form. Rather than do a direct adaption of the original story, they instead took the situation from the book and told a story based on the Martians successfully taking over the Earth. What would the Martians do once they occupied the Earth, and how would the humans respond. From there, the character of Killraven was developed. Originally designed to be a next generation version of Doc Savage, Killraven borrows heavily from other concepts – from Conan the Barbarian to Flash Gordon and more.

Early on in the story, Killraven breaks free from the slave pits, and sets off on a mission to track down his long-lost brother. Along this journey, Killraven builds a band of followers that all look to him for leadership. Unfortunately, the Martians kept getting in the way of Killraven’s band on their haphazard travels around the country, and eventually the goal becomes more to rid the world of the Martians. (And yes, it if’s Marvel in the 1970s, you can fully expect a cameo crossover with Spider-Man along the way!)

Eventually, the band of freedom fighters find themselves in Florida at the Martian headquarters, and their Killraven finds his brother, who has betrayed his brethren and is working with the Martians directly. The rebels destroy the Martian base, crippling their hold on the humans, and Killraven parts ways with his brother in a final battle. But the battle is not over yet, and Killraven moves on to the next untold adventure to save the Earth.

What makes this Essential?: This is an interesting story, in particular when we get the creative team of Don McGregor and P. Craig Russell. Those two were definitely in sync with the direction and the flow of the book. These are some of the most creative comics that came out of this era, when compared against many of the other Essential volumes from this era that I have read. BUT… in the grand scheme of the Marvel Universe, this seems to be an isolated aspect that doesn’t get revisited much. With the bulk of these stories taking place in the (then) future, and it later being determined that it was an alternate Earth’s future that faced the Martian invasion, there hasn’t been the demand/need to go back to this story. Killraven is occasionally brought in for the rare cameo appearance in other Marvel Universe titles, but I feel that is more to keep a copyright in place rather than to continue Killraven’s story. I think this is an important volume to have for the sci-fi/fantasy fan, but I can think of multiple Marvel Universe characters that probably deserved an Essential volume ahead of Killraven.

Footnotes: Marvel Team-Up #45 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: Weirdworld, the five-issue miniseries from Marvel earlier this year that tied in with the 2015 Secret Wars event. Written by Jason Aaron with art by Mike Del Mundo, this fantasy epic touched on so many familiar elements of the Marvel Universe from the 1970s and 1980s. Arkon, a long-time foe for the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, is struggling to find his home, Polemachus. Unfortunately, he is stuck traveling through the Weirdworld zone of Battleworld in order to find his home. Along the way, he encounters the likes of Warbow, Skull the Slayer, Jennifer Kale, and others. At the same time, he finds that Morgana Le Fay is working in the background to stop him. Del Mundo’s art is spectacular in this series, giving it a dream-like appearance from page to page. This has been one of my favorite comics from 2015, and I hope you got a chance to read it too.

Essential Iron Man Vol. 4

Essential Iron Man Vol. 4

First Published: April 2010

Contents: Iron Man #39 (July 1971) to #61 (August 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, Gary Friedrich, Mike Friedrich, Steve Gerber, Jim Starlin, and George Tuska

Key First Appearances: Guardsman, Moondragon (as Madame MacEvil), Blood Brothers, Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Chronos, ISAAC, Mentor, Eros/Starfox

Story Continues From: Essential Iron Man Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Iron Man Vol. 5

Overview: You would think that Tony Stark would have things easy by now. His company, Stark Industries, is doing well; Tony’s heart is getting stronger thanks to a pacemaker; his love interest Marianne Rodgers, really digs his thoughts; and his Iron Man armor has never been better. Life’s good, right? Um, not so much….

Tony Stark/Iron Man faces a variety of challenges – at home, in the corporate boardroom, and on the battlefield. Stark finds that with his heart healing, he can commit to a long-term relationship with Marianne, and proposes to her. However, Marianne has E.S.P. powers that constantly foretell of dangers that Iron Man will face. She can’t bear the thought of Tony dying, and stumbles down the path to insanity. Tony breaks off the engagement, as he finds that his role as Iron Man once again gets in the way of living a normal life.

At Stark Industries, Tony is facing a takeover battle by Simon Gilbert, the chairman of the board. Gilbert uses his sway to have Kevin O’Brien don the Guardsman armor, which corrupts his thinking. The Guardsman becomes a pawn for Gilbert to use against Stark. When the takeover bid fails, Gilbert takes matters into his own hands by planting a bomb in one of Stark’s construction plants. His hubris gets in the way, and Gilbert is killed in the explosion.

While in the armor, Iron Man faces a variety of foes, some familiar and some new. No book would be complete without an appearance by the Mandarin. He sneaks into the picture as Gene Kahn (think about it!), a labor organizer trying to create unions at Stark’s facilities. Firebrand returns and the revelation of his parentage explodes across the pages. And in the midst of everything, a new villain is introduced that would have far-reaching effects on the Marvel Universe as Iron Man is caught up in a fight between Drax the Destroyer and Thanos!

What makes this Essential?: Issue #55 (first appearance of Thanos) is what makes this volume of stories Essential. However, the stories preceding and following this issue seem small in comparison. You could get this volume as a cheap way to read this issue. There are other reprint collections which feature issue #55, in color, for close to the same price. Pick up one of those volumes. Get this only if you are a die-hard Iron Man fan. Even that might be a waste of money, but not as much a waste as Iron Man installing roller skates in his boots — see issue #56.

Footnotes:  While Iron Man #55 is considered to be the first appearance of Thanos, he does not truly appear in this issue. The Thanos we see is a robot, and other appearances are in flashback. The first full appearance of Thanos is Captain Marvel #27.

Iron Man #55 was also reprinted in Essential Captain Marvel Vol. #2.

If you like this volume, try: the Thanos Rising story by Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi. I realize that I am quickly making this review into Essential Thanos Vol. 1, but bear with me. Thanos has become a major player in the Marvel Universe, and now the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the interest in the character, Aaron and Bianchi visit the origins of the demigod, explaining his childhood and how he came to power. Both creators are at their artistic peaks with this storyline, making the reader feel compassion for what is one of the most-evil villains in the Marvel library.

Essential Thor Vol. 4

Essential Thor Vol. 4

First Published: June 2009

Contents: Thor #167 (August 1969) to #195 (January 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, John Buscema, and Gerry Conway

Key First Appearances: Hildegarde

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Thor Vol. 5

Overview: Welcome back to the world of Asgard, home of the Norse gods. Led by all-seeing Odin and served by his dutiful son, Thor, god of thunder and protector of Midgard (Earth).

These comics expand the adventures of the thunder god to cosmic proportions. Odin sends Thor on a journey into mystery to track down the world-devourer Galactus. Later on, Odin and the Silent One travel into the universe to face Infinity, and they must call on Thor to rescue them from oblivion. As always, we see the ambitious Loki looking to take the throne of Asgard for himself, leading multiple attacks by giants and trolls.

As cosmic as this volume gets, Thor remains true to Earth as well. Deadly encounters with the Wrecker and Doctor Doom challenge Thor to his very limits. Thankfully, with his loyal friends like Balder, the Warriors Three, the Lady Sif, and even the Silver Surfer, Thor finds himself to be worthy of any task or challenge laid before him.

What makes this Essential?: For the artwork alone, this volume should be in any collection. With art by Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, and John Buscema, there is not a badly drawn issue to be found in this book. You can see the majesty of Asgard jumping off of the page; the thunderous rage of Thor; the evil manipulations of Loki. This is just a beautifully drawn book. However, this is not Stan Lee’s best writing. For all of the talk about comics of today being written for the trade paperback, Stan Lee was doing it 40+ years ago. The stories in this volume stretch out across multiple issues; ten years earlier, Stan and Jack would have the stories done in one issue, or two tops. If you can find the book, pick it up for the art.

Footnotes: This is a hard Essential to track down. Marvel published this in June of 2009, but no re-issues or second editions have been released since then. Given the character’s popularity with the movie franchise, it’s surprising that this has not been kept in print, especially given the talents who worked on these issues. If this is not currently in your collection, you may need to turn to eBay in order to find this volume.

Kirby left Thor (and Marvel) in 1970 due to contract issues, and took his services over to DC Comics. One of Kirby’s first projects at DC is what would become to be known as the Fourth World saga, with the introduction of Darkseid and the New Gods. There is enough examples to note that the New Gods’ origins came with Kirby’s work on Thor over the previous eight years. Check out Comic Book Legends Revealed #444 over at Comic Book Resources for a complete recounting of how Kirby was building the New Gods concept.

If you like this volume, try:  the incredible run on Thor by Walt Simonson. This is the ultimate run by any single creator on this title, elevating Thor and Asgard to new heights. Simonson introduced Beta Ray Bill, an alien who was just as worthy as Thor to hold Mjolnir. We witnessed Ragnarok as the great winter storms took over the world. And the mischievousness of Loki reached new lows as he turned his step-brother into a frog. This has been collected numerous times, as trade paperbacks and most recently as an oversized omnibus. However you choose to read this, the Simonson Thor should be part of every comic library.

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.