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the Mighty AVENGERS
There came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born - to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand!
Through the years, their roster has prospered, changing many times, but their glory has never been denied! Heed the call, then -- for now, the Avengers Assemble!
Volume One
by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, & Don Heck
Paperback: 528 pages
Marvel Books
ISBN: 0785107010
Captain America-- Living Legend of World War II; the Mighty Thor, Asgardian God of Thunder; the Invincible Iron Man, a brilliant industrialist turned modern-day knight; the unbeatabe mutant duo of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch; and many others: seperately they are extraordinary individuals. Together, they are the Avengers, Earth's Mightiest Heroes! This volume collects issues #1-24 in black & white.
The Avengers were initially an obvious recipe for success-- take a number of characters already supporting their own comics and bring them together as a group, an idea as old as the Justice Society of America. So, in the debut issue, we have Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Ant-man and the Wasp joining forces as an unexpected consequence of a plot by Loki against his half-brother, Thor.

However, the ideas changed quickly as the Hulk left and teamed-up with the Sub-mariner to fight his former allies and was replaced by Captain America, a World War 2 hero frozen between then and the 60s. And then again, to suddenly have all the original members depart, leaving Cap with Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, three super-villains seeking to reform, as his teammates.

The stories in this volume represent a fairly diverse bunch, showing both the best and worst aspects of Stan Lee's writing at the time. Interesting team dynamics, where the characters are not always each others' friends, villains with motives beyond the banal, references to events in other titles, secrets and subplots that aren't resolved in a single story all show the hallmarks of a writer seeking to develop a loyal following. At the same time, we have blatant sexism and racism, villains with banal motives and some very hokey dialogue.

The art is OK, the early Jack Kirby issues not his best work, and I've never been fond of Don Heck's art. It seems a little odd to be reading these stories in black and white, although this obviously keeps the price down.

If you want to see how one of the best super-hero team series started out, get this.

Volume Two
by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Roy Thomas, & John Buscema, et al
Paperback: 528 pages
Marvel Books
ISBN: 078510741X
This is a wonderful value for the money which contains over 20 issues of Avengers continuity. Great stories by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas and likable art from Don Heck and then up and coming John Buscema. Not up to the level of the first Essential volume but is still must reading. You get to see the evolution of Hawkeye's character, the return of Goliath and the Wasp to the team, and the addition of the mighty Hercules. The skillfulness of Cap's kookie quartet (Cap, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver) was in no way the strongest lineup but their skills and teamwork was among the finest in the group's history.
Reprinting Avengers 25-46 and King Size Special #1, "Essential Avengers vol. 2" is something of a mixed bag. Stan Lee hands over the reins to Roy Thomas at approximately the midway point in the collection, which is a slight improvement as Thomas injects some fresh blood into a project which clearly held Lee's interest only flaggingly at the end. Don Heck's art looks uniformly execrable throughout, so John Buscema coming on board for the last third or so is a very welcome change indeed.

The scripts themselves are uneven. While the initial bickering amongst the team is fairly interesting (if only to hear Captain America, a product of the 40s, exchanging barbs with Hawkeye in perfect 60s tough-guy patois), the team soon begins to emit affirmations of hero-worship to each other like a couple of natural-born bootlickers at a Promise Keepers rally ("You're the man!" "No, you're the man!" <hug>)

The initial promise of Goliath's being trapped at the freakish height of 10 feet tall is squandered within a few issues, Hercules joins the team in an apparent attempt to bring Stan Lee's lofty dialogue back, the Wasp is her usual irrelevant self, and Captain America, the born leader, fails miserably to control the team and needs Goliath to straighten it out.

The issues do build some momentum, and classic battles with the Super-Adaptoid and the Whizzer rekindle the old magic of the Avengers.

Even with all the aforementioned flaws, this collection of the Avengers still beats most of the stuff on the newsstand and in the comics shops today.

Volume Three
by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, & Gene Colan, et al
Paperback: 528 pages
Marvel Books
ISBN: 0785107878
Collecting AVENGERS #47-68 & Annual #2

The Avengers continues to be one of the hottest selling titles in the comics industry. In thanks, we`ve given readers the opportunity to catch up on more of the classic stories that made them legends in The Essential Avengers Volume 3, with over two years worth of some of the greatest comic stories ever told at one of the best values ever!

See the Avengers fight their greatest adversaries: the Grim Reaper, Ultron and the new Masters of Evil! Thrill to the exploits of Earth`s Mightiest Heroes as they welcome the Black Knight, Yellowjacket and the Vision into their midst! Each Essential volume provides a hefty 500 page-plus page count at an affordable price!
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