Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 5

Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 5

First Published: July 2011

Contents: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #97 (December 1984) to #114 (May 1986), and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #5 (1985)

Key Creator Credits: Al Milgrom, Herb Trimpe, Peter David, Rich Buckler, Luke McDonnell, and Mark Beachum

Key First Appearances: The Spot, roommates Randi, Candi, and Bambi, Sin-Eater,

Story Continues From: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 4

Overview: Once again, we swing into the crazy life of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. We see Peter struggling with his relationship with the Black Cat, who only has feelings for him when he is in costume. There is the question of the Black Cat’s new powers – how she came to get them, and why they are driving her away from her Spider. All of this gets wrapped up in the anniversary issue #100, with an all-out battle between Spider-Man, the Black Cat, the Kingpin, and the Spot. Yes, the Spot!

After that, we are given a lot of one-and-done stories to fill out this Essential. The title has a rotating creative team until Peter David and Rich Buckler take control of the book, creating some memorable storylines, detailed below. A benefit to these issues were some amazing covers by John Byrne for issues #101 and #102.

There is one issue towards the end, #111, which was a Secret Wars II crossover. Spider-Man’s adversary, the Puma, decides that it is his life purpose to destroy the Beyonder, and Peter finds himself with the moral dilemma of saving someone like the Beyonder.

What makes this Essential?: This book could be divided into two halves, one labeled Before Peter David, and the other Written By Peter David. The Before Peter David stories wrap up the ongoing storylines from Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 4, featuring the long-running story between Spider-Man, the Black Cat, and the Kingpin. The stories here are very similar in tone and quality to the other stories of this time (Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up).

There is a marked shift in tone when Peter David comes on board. These stories are his earliest work at Marvel, and they quickly show what an excellent writer he is of comics. The characters feel more real, more alive under David’s guidance. He shocked readers with the killing of long-time supporting character Jean DeWolff, not just proclaiming it on the first cover of the storyline, but with her dead body on page 3 of the story, giving no one the chance to say good-bye. For the work that David showed here, it is worthy of picking up.

Footnotes: Peter David would bring back the Sin-Eater in a second storyline, which ran in The Spectacular Spider-Man #134 (January 1988) to #136 (March 1988). These three issues, along with the original four-issue storyline, were collected in a Marvel Premiere edition, Spider-Man: The Death of Jean DeWolff.

If you like this volume, try: Spider-Man 2099 This was one of the first four titles in the Marvel 2099 line launched in 1992. Originally conceived as a Marvel: The World of Tomorrow project by Stan Lee and John Byrne, the concept eventually morphed into the 2099 line. The Spider-Man title ran for 46 issues, plus two specials, with almost all of the issues written by Peter David. In this story-arc, Miguel O’Hara is trying to recreate the abilities of Spider-Man when a freak accident causes half of his DNA to be over-written by the DNA code of a spider. There have been two trade paperbacks collecting the first year of the title, but the entire series is worth tracking down in the back issue bins.

Essential Captain America Vol. 7

Essential Captain America Vol. 7

First Published: July 2013

Contents: Captain America #231 (March 1979) to #257 (May 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Roger McKenzie, Roger Stern, Sal Buscema, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Bernie Rosenthal, Joe Chapman/Union Jack (III), Kenneth Crichton/Baron Blood (III)

Story Continues from: Essential Captain America Vol. 6

Overview: Captain America continues his patriotic duty to his country. The first half of this volume has several one-and-done stories with a variety of creative teams. Beginning with #247, Stern and Byrne take over, pushing the title in a new direction. Over the next nine issues, Captain America battles MachineSmith; considers a run for the presidency; and battles Baron Blood to the death. The final issue of the Stern/Byrne run, #255, gives us the definitive origin story which is still in use, for the most part, to this day.

Other highlights from the book include Steve Rogers moving to Brooklyn to start establishing his own identity. He gets to know the other tenants in his apartment building, including Bernie Rosenthal, a law student that would be a key player in the Captain America stories of the 1980s. With no mention of his Avengers stipend, Rogers goes to work as a free-lance artist for magazines and other publications. His artist portfolio was large enough to hold his shield, to allow for quick changes into the Captain America costume as necessary.

What makes this Essential?: IBy definition, you should consider this Essential-worthy just to get the Stern-Byrne run on Captain America. BUT, those issues can be found together in various collections, usually under the Captain America: War and Remembrance title, in both hardcover and softcover, and always in color. I would be hard-pressed to name a better run of Captain America issues, so find a way to read them in full color. You’ll thank me later!

Footnotes: Captain America #241 was also reprinted in Essential Punisher Vol. 1.

On a personal note, this volume was the 100th Essential edition read by this reviewer. Finishing this volume is what prompted me to start the Essential Showcase blog back in 2013.

If you like this volume, try: the first Mark Waid and Ron Garney run on Captain America. Following Mark Gruenwald’s long run on the title, the stories (as well as the character) were feeling a little stale. The Waid/Garney run began with #444 (October 1995) and breathed new life into both Steve Rogers and Captain America. Going from #443 to #444 really felt like going from #246 to #247 with Stern/Byrne. The run came to an end with #454, so that the title could be included in the Heroes Reborn launch with WildStorm. The Waid/Garney issues have been collected into a Marvel Premiere Edition titled Captain America: Operation Rebirth, and, most recently, these issues were included in a Captain America Epic collection.

Essential Captain America Vol. 6

captainamerica6First Published: April 2011

Contents: Captain America and the Falcon #206 (February 1977) to #222 (June 1978); Captain America #223 (July 1978) to #230 (February 1979); Captain America Annual #4 (1977); and Incredible Hulk #232 (February 1979)

Key Creator Credits: Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, Don Glut, Steve Gerber, David Anthony Kraft, Roger McKenzie, Sal Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Arnim Zola, Primus, Wendell Vaughn/Marvel Boy (Marvel Man/Quasar), Vamp, Ameridroid

Story Continues From: Essential Captain America Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Captain America Vol. 7

Overview: Welcome back to the (sometimes) solo adventures of Captain America. He’s a soldier, a patriot, an Avenger, and most importantly an American.  u recall the creation of Captain America, right? I’m not talking about the character’s origin story in the comics. Rather, I refer to the creation of the character in 1940. Writer Joe Simon doodled out a concept called Super

This collection wraps up the end of legendary Jack Kirby run of the mid-1970s. But before he goes, Kirby gives us another of his wacky character creations with Arnim Zola, the would-be conqueror who’s mind has been transferred to a robot body, which has a TV screen in its chest displaying Zola’s face. Zola was a Nazi biochemist who escaped capture at the end of World War II. If you are a long-time reader, you know that any time Captain America comes into contact with a former Nazi, that the Red Skull cannot be far behind.

The Kirby run comes to an end with Captain America Annual #4, which has Cap facing off against another one of Kirby’s great co-creations, Magneto! Considering that one of these characters has powers of magnetism, and one of these characters carries an adamantium shield, well, it’s not looking good for our hero.

Following the obligatory reprint issue or two to recount Captain America’s origins, we are treated to a visit by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. The spy organization has been recruiting a new team of super agents, but the squad needs a leader. Naturally, Nick believes that Steve Rogers is the man for the job, but Steve has a better suggestion. He proposes that the Falcon take on that task. He’s been working with Cap for many years and is ready to be a leader in his own right. So Captain America and the Falcon go their separate ways, but the two will find ways to reunite in the years to come.

So Captain America is once again working solo, but that doesn’t mean he is alone. We are treated to numerous appearances from the Avengers, and Sharon Carter is by Steve’s side to bridge the gap between his costumed and civilian life. The volume wraps up with a two-issue crossover with the Hulk, making for a pair of characters that we don’t normally see together. It’s a great way to bring this book to a close!

What makes this Essential?: This is an interesting transition time for Captain America. Jack Kirby’s run comes to an end. The title seems to have a rotating roster of writers before Roger McKenzie begins a two-year run. Sal Buscema returns to the book, providing some familiarity for the long-time readers. But the biggest change comes with the ending of the Captain America-Falcon partnership, both within the book as well as the title of the comic.

Despite all of the changes, this is a solid collection. The Kirby issues in this book are my favorites of his mid-1970s run. Arnim Zola may be one of, if not the last great crazy Kirby concept, who has become a mainstay in the comics and now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Letting the book go back to its singular focus on the title character helps the book, allowing stories to go in different directions without trying to find a way to work the Falcon into the plot. That’s not to imply that I don’t like the Falcon. Just that after being partnered with the Falcon for seven years, having Steve Rogers on his own just offered up fresh takes on our hero.

Footnotes: The table of contents is incorrect in this volume, which lists Captain America Annual #4 as being located between Captain America #230 and Incredible Hulk #232 in the collection. The annual is actually found between Captain America #214 and #215, at the end of the Kirby run.

Captain America #230 and Incredible Hulk #232 are also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 7.

If you like this volume, try: reading up on Quasar. From his humble origins as Marvel Boy contained in this Essential, his stature has grown over the years. He was a recurring character in Marvel Two-in-One with the Project: Pegasus storyline. He was a member of the Avengers, serving a key role in the Galactic Storm mission. He headlined his own title for 60 issues. And he was one of the featured characters in the original Annihilation story, which that event kicked off a series of events that brought “Marvel Cosmic” back into the mainstream. As a result of Annihilation, readers were given a re-introduction/re-imagining of the Guardians of the Galaxy concept which we later saw incorporated into the MCU. The early issues of his solo series were reprinted in 2012 in a Quasar Classic trade paperback. He’s an interesting character that we don’t see enough of anymore, so dive into the back issue bins to find his early adventures.

Essential Hulk Vol. 6

Hulk6First Published: September 2010

Contents: Incredible Hulk #201 (July 1976) to #225 (July 1978); and Incredible Hulk Annual #6 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Sal Buscema, David Anthony Kraft, Roger Stern, Herb Trimpe, George Tuska, Jim Starlin, and others

Key First Appearances: Constrictor, Quintronic Man

Story Continues From: Essential Hulk Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Hulk Vol. 7

Overview: He’s back! He’s mad! And he’s green! Do we need much more than that for an introduction to the sixth volume of Essential Hulk

There are two main names to know about this book – Len Wein and Sal Buscema. Both joined the series in the last volume, helping to provide the definitive take on the Hulk in the 1970s. At the end of this volume, Wein transitions the writing duties over to Roger Stern, who will begin a long run with our title hero.

The basic points of the story remain the same. Bruce Banner changes to the Hulk when he is angered. The US Army led by General Ross is on the hunt for the Hulk. Banner still has feelings for Ross’ daughter Betty, who married the general’s second-in-command. The Hulk still has feelings for Jarella, the green queen of a microscopic world. Finally, the Hulk once had friends, such as Rick Jones and Jim Wilson. But at the end of the day, the Hulk is a loner. That’s everything you need to know to get started with a Hulk story.

Now I mentioned Jarella earlier, the queen of her world. She reappears in the Hulk’s life, but this time by coming to his world. In the heat of a battle, Jarella is killed saving the life of a child. The Hulk does his best to save his love, going from one Doc (Samson) to another Doctor (Strange) but nothing can overcome death. Not even the Hulk.

You could make the argument that Jack of Hearts makes his first comic book appearance (Incredible Hulk #213) in this collection. He had been a character featured in the Marvel black & white magazines up to this point. I guess I could promote this as Jack of Hearts first appearance in color, but we all know the Essentials are black & white collections. Maybe we should just be excited for the inclusion of Jack of Hearts for a few issues and go with that, OK?

One of my favorite B-grade villains is introduced in this collection with the Constrictor. He wears a costumed suit with electrified adamantium alloy cables that shoot out of his wrists, creating a heavy-duty whip that he can use as an offensive weapon. He never sticks around for vey long, but I always loved the design of his costume.

As we get to the end of this collection, we find that the status quo remains much how we found it at the beginning. Bruce Banner changes to the Hulk when he is angered. General Ross and the Army still hunts for the Hulk. Banner still has feelings for Ross’ daughter Betty. The Hulk still has feelings for Jarella. And the Hulk has a few friends, such as Rick Jones and Jim Wilson. But at the end of the day, the Hulk is alone. (Well, not entirely correct there. At the end of THIS collection, we see the Hulk and Doc Samson in battle against the Leader. The book leaves us in the middle of a story arc! Stupid Marvel, I need to go read Essential Hulk Vol. 7 now!)

What makes this Essential?: I am unsure how to sum up this volume. The stories are interesting, and there are some memorable moments (particularly with Jarella) that stand out in this volume. Sal Buscema has become THE Hulk artist in this era, and visually defined who the Hulk is at a time when there were more eyes on the book as a result of the CBS TV show. But I find myself wanting just a little bit more from these comics. I get the feeling that monthly publishing schedule was more important than developing and pushing the characters forward. It’s OK to have books that meet the publishing schedule month after month, but for a book that has been around for more than 10 years (at this point), I just don’t know if we see the growth in the Hulk character compared to the growth seen in other characters in this time-period. This is a good volume, but I really want some more at this point with the Hulk.

Footnotes: The Incredible Hulk TV series debuted on CBS as a pilot movie on November 4, 1977, during the era of the books in this collection. This volume ends with issue #225 so we won’t see this until the next Essential volume, but beginning with issue #227, each cover will have a banner reading “Marvel’s TV Sensation.”

If you like this volume, try: reading up on Jack of Hearts. Visually he is so interesting to look at, although he probably induces nervous twitches in artists or colorists when his name comes up in the script. His appearance here in the Incredible Hulk is his first outside of his initial story arc in the Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu magazine. Born from a human father and an alien mother, Jack Hart discovers as he grows up that his body is developing deadly energy. His father designs a special containment suit, which just happens to maybe look like a Jack from a deck of cards. (This was the 1970s – inspiration could be found EVERYWHERE!) Over the years, Jack of Hearts would pop up in a variety of Marvel titles, sometimes embracing his cosmic heritage, other times just to provide a visually interesting character. He did land his own mini-series in the mid-1980s, but that has not been completely reprinted. He did eventually join up with the Avengers, during the Busiek and Johns eras in the late 1990s. Sadly, Jack of Hearts did not survive the roster upheaval with Avengers: Disassembled, and has been used very sparingly ever since.

Essential Captain America Vol. 5

Essential Captain America Vol. 5

First Published: June 2010

Contents: Captain America and the Falcon #187 (July 1975) to #205 (January 1977); Captain America Annual #3 (1976); and Marvel Treasury Special Featuring Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles #1 (1976)

Key Creator Credits: John Warner, Frank Robbins, Sal Buscema, Tony Isabella, Jack Kirby, and others

Key First Appearances: Moonstone, Threkker, Contemplator, General Argyle Fist, Brother Inquisitor

Story Continues From: Essential Captain America Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Captain America Vol. 6

Overview: You recall the creation of Captain America, right? I’m not talking about the character’s origin story in the comics. Rather, I refer to the creation of the character in 1940. Writer Joe Simon doodled out a concept called Super American, but decided there were too many Supers in comics those days. So he gave him the title Captain, tweaked the name, and brought in artist Jack Kirby to flesh it out. Captain America Comics #1, featuring Captain America punching out Adolf Hitler, came out in late December of 1940, nearly a full year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So the history is there that Jack Kirby has been there since Day 1 with the adventures of Steve Rogers.

Flash forward to 1975, and Marvel re-signs Jack Kirby to a contract after a five-year run at DC. Part of the deal gave Kirby creative control of his books, so he did a lot of titles that fell on the fringes of the Marvel Universe, such as The Eternals and Devil Dinosaur. But he was also given the chance to write and draw Captain America. Kirby jumped in head first and turned the action level up to 11 with the start of his run in the monthly Cap book.

Kirby takes Captain America (and the Falcon) on a MAD run across the country in search of a BOMB. (Yes, that is a subtle plug to the main storyline, Madbomb.) In typical Kirby fashion, there are a lot of Nazis, a lot of 1950s monster references, and a lot of fist-fighting — maybe this is what Kirby was most comfortable drawing, or what he thought would sell best. Marvel really didn’t care, because it was still new art by the King.

What makes this Essential?: If Marvel had planned things out more in advance, they could have easily made this an Essential Captain America by Jack Kirby volume. This volume contains six issues before Kirby took over the title. This Essential ends with issue #205, and Kirby’s run ends ten issues later (including Annual #4) with issue #214. So it could have been possible to get all of the Kirby run in one Essential. Alas, it did not work out that way.

Regardless, this collection is worth a look for the Kirby issues. I will be the first to admit that this is not Kirby’s greatest work. Part of the deal to get Kirby to return to Marvel required giving him more creative freedom and less editorial supervision. I’ve contended for many years that writers and/or artists should not be their own editors. The stories could have been helped some by another voice providing input and suggestions. These are action-packed stories, but there is very little character development going on here.

Footnotes: Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles #1 was initially published as an over-sized Treasury edition. Because of the size of the treasury, the page dimensions to not scale down properly for the Essential formatting, which leads to extra white space on the bottom of each page.

If you like this volume, try: the Captain America volume from 2013 by Rick Remender and John Romita, Jr. This was another re-launch with the All-New Marvel event. In this storyline, Captain America is thrown into Dimension Z, a post-apocalyptic world ruled by Arnim Zola. There is no United States or no American Dream to defend. Steve Rogers just has to be a man standing up for what is right. While this storyline ran over the course of 1 year in publishing time, the events of the story cover 10 years in Captain America’s life. Along the way, Cap gains a son, but is he the father? The story as well as the art echoes back to the frenzied approach that Jack Kirby took in the stories in this Essential. And much like the 1970s Kirby run on Captain America, this run by Remender & Romita, Jr. is either really loved or really hated. This isn’t your typical Captain America storyline, so you have to be willing to accept the character in this different environment.

Essential Spider-Man Vol. 9

Essential Spider-Man Vol. 9

First Published: May 2009

Contents: Amazing Spider-Man #186 (November 1978) to #210 (November 1980); Amazing Spider-Man Annual #13 (1979) and #14 (1980); and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #1 (1979)

Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, Denny O’Neil, Keith Pollard, John Byrne, Sal Buscema, John Romita Jr., and others

Key First Appearances:  Felecia Hardy/Black Cat, Deb Whitman, Calypso, Cassandra Webb/Madame Web

Story Continues From: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 8

Story Continues In: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 10

Overview: With this publishing of this post, this will be the 14th Essential that features Peter Parker as Spider-Man. I think we all know the “Great Power, Great Responsibility” origin that got Peter into the costume business. Let’s skip the recap and get right into learning about Essential Spider-Man Vol. 9.

We all know that Peter Parker is a free-lance photographer for one of New York City’s most distinguished newspapers, the Daily Globe. Wait, what’s that? What happened to the Daily Bugle? Well, once again, J. Jonah Jameson fired Peter Parker due to a missed assignment. But before he could be hired back, Peter took his services and photos over to the Daily Globe. Setting Peter up in a new newsroom gave Peter a whole new set of characters to interact with.

Speaking of new characters, Peter gets a pair of new women in his life that are stretching him in all directions. First, there is Deb Whitman, a fellow student at Empire State that has the dreamy eyes for Peter Parker. She makes a great lab partner, but she just can’t take the hint when Peter’s spider-sense starts tingling. On the opposite side, we meet Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. the Black Cat. Is she a villain? Is she a misunderstood hero at heart? What makes this romance interesting is that the Black Cat has the dreamy eyes for Spider-Man and only Spider-Man. In fact, she finds Peter Parker to be very boring. She just wants her Spider in costume and has a hard time respecting the secret identity that Peter does his best to maintain.

The last volume ended with a large complex Green Goblin story so that villain goes into limbo for awhile. So we get some good appearances from Doctor Octopus, Electro, Mysterio, Mesmero, and more. And with Amazing Spider-Man still being the core title of the Marvel Universe, you can count on numerous guest appearances, such as Dazzler, the Human Fly, and the Punisher.

What makes this Essential?: Change is good, right? EMBRACE CHANGE, PEOPLE! OK, these are some of the most creative issues of Amazing Spider-Man since some guy named Stan Lee wrote the book. Not a knock on anyone that has written the book between then and now, but writer Marv Wolfman was not afraid to try new things with Peter Parker and his costumed alter-ego. The new employer, new love interests, both in and out of costume. And while we are boldly moving forward in new directions, Wolfman takes us back to the very beginning, questioning why the burglar would even be wanting to invade Ben and May Parker’s home all those years ago in Amazing Fantasy #15. When Wolfman ends his two-year run on the title, he hands over the duties to Denny O’Neil, who knows a thing or two about telling a good comic story. And if you need yet another reason to pick this up, we get the start of the John Romita, Jr. run with Spider-Man, that would run throughout the early 1980s and be picked back up again in the late 1990s. You would be hard pressed to find a bad Spider-Man book that has a Romita (Sr. or Jr.) attached to it.

Footnotes: Amazing Spider-Man #201 and #202 were also reprinted in Essential Punisher Vol. 1.

Amazing Spider-Man #203 was also reprinted in Essential Dazzler Vol. 1.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #13 and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #1 were also reprinted in Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #12 (1978) was not reprinted in this Essential or the previous volume. Annual #12 featured reprints of Amazing Spider-Man #119 and #120, which can be found in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 6.

If you like this volume, try: the Spider-Man: Brand New Day storyline from 2008. OK, I know that a lot of fans were not happy with how Marvel was handling the Spider-Man books in this era. The previous storyline, One More Day, magically ended the Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage, which proved to be a jumping off point for a lot of readers. Following that event, Marvel retooled the Spider-Man line of books. Sensational Spider-Man and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man were canceled, and Amazing Spider-Man started coming out three times per month. Marvel formed a creative team (Dan Slott, Marc Guggenheim, Bob Gale, & Zeb Wells) to provide the direction for Peter Parker. In this new reality, Peter Parker’s identity is a secret to the world once again; he’s single and living with his Aunt May. The Daily Bugle is struggling financially, and a new investor buys out J. Jonah Jameson and turns the paper into a tabloid. Spider-Man fights a mix of new and returning villains in these issues. Reading the Brand New Day story arc really reminded me of the Spider-Man era reprinted in this Essential — a lot of energy in the title, a mix of old and new, and willingness to take chances by changing the status quo. The Brand New Day story has been reprinted in numerous collections, so it should not be hard 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.