It’s hard for some comic newbies, but the Avengers did exist before Brian Michael Bendis mutilated the brand. Although, I can’t hate on him too much as he redefined the team for the new millennium, but Avengers Disassembled (his first foray into the title) showed disrespect in the beginning and his signature looks tend to get annoying: building up a plot and finishing with a whimper, slow decompression, same non-distinctive voice for all characters, obvious pet characters, and very talky dialogue. Again, I don’t hate him because I’ve followed him since New Avengers started and will love his Siege. Again, it’s a love-hate relationship. But for nostalgia, here are 5 old Avengers story arcs (the final two I recently read) that gave all the Avengers a grand and epic feel:
Avengers 1 (1962)
The first issue as writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby gathers Earth’s mightiest heroes: The Hulk, Ant-Man, The Wasp, Thor, and Iron Man! They need to defeat Loki, the trickster god, and they do it with over-the-top silliness. Still, it’s a good issue that begins to tie the Marvel Universe.
Avengers 4 (1962)
Legendary World War II Hero Captain America returns from his icy grave as he cohesively intertwines the past and future of the Marvel Universe: the death of his WWII partner Bucky and Namor himself rescues the soldier. The Avengers weren’t complete until they had the Sentinel of Liberty shout “Avengers Assemble!”
Avengers 89-97: The Kree-Skrull War (1971-192)
Two alien races at war as the Avengers and Earth is caught in the middle. This is “War of the Worlds” style mixed with a political allegory stemming from McCarthyism and paranoia. With a classic lineup of Clint Barton (as Goliath), the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, Quicksilver, Ant-Man, the Wasp, Captain Mar-vell and the big three (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man) joining in later, all of the heavy hitters are present. Artists Neal Adams and the Buschema brothers (Jon and Sal) shine with surreal and fun art. My favorite issues have to be Ant-Man entering Vision’s robotic robot and the final two issues of the war in space. This is a landmark storyline that the Avengers of today constantly bookmark and reference. Think Secret Invasion and Young Avengers.
Avengers 181-187: Knights of Wundagore (1979-1980)
A pretty good story that deals with the convoluted history of the mutant twins, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Drawn by superb artist John Byrne, he fixes their convoluted history by successfully incorporating the High Evolutionary, voodooism, the Gypsy clan, Miss America and the Whizzer, and a nod to their real father. This storyline also shines a light that the Scarlet Witch is a powerful force that should not be reckoned with. Plus, the first issue begins with an Avengers lineup reduction as they force The Falcon join because of minority quota. Whoa!
Avengers Annual 20 (1981)
I have wanted to read this for one purpose: the introduction of mutant Rogue. Her powers are intriguing as she beats the entire Avengers team all by herself. What comes after becomes much loved history on the Southern belle. But there is so much other factors to love this comic: the strong friendship between Ms. Marvel and Spiderwoman, the history between Ms. Marvel and Rogue, the threat of Mystique and her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and, again, the complete takedown of the Avengers. Writer Chris Claremont does a fantastic job, especially considering how he seamlessly added the X-Men as crucial guest stars. Marvelous.
Young Avengers 1-12, Annual 1
As a quick shout out, the first 13 issues is a great follow-up to the Avengers title as it mixes its 40-year history with the next generation of Avengers. New Avengers is a good read, but a complete departure to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The lineup of characters all have strong ties to previous Avengers or foes: Iron Man wannabe is the future version of Kang, Wicca and Speed are the long-lost twins of Vision and the Scarlet Witch, Hulking is the son of Captain Mar-vell and the Skrull princess, Cassie Lang is the daughter of Scott Lang, and the Patriot is the grandson of the “other” Captain America. Great stuff to read!