Essential Avengers v3

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill

Collects The Avengers #47-68 and Annual #2

Comments: Now we're five years into Avengers mythos, long enough in comics time for a sizable history to have been built up, and for regular patterns to have been established and re-used for rinse/repeat cycles forever more. The Avengers have a built-in way of avoiding this to an extent, and that's with periodic lineup changes. Thomas follows up on Lee's practice of having members cycle in and out, leaving in disgust or weariness, anxious to join but impeded in some way, lost on dangerous subplots or welcomed back after a lengthy sojourn. And it really does prove to be true that once an Avenger, always one. They seem to take in almost everyone who ever attacked them, as long as they say sorry. 

This is the collection where Black Panther joins, continuing a theme of integration that Thomas began when he had Ben Foster (eventually Black Goliath/Goliath II) racially bashed by the Sons of the Serpent while working with Hank on Pym particles. Perhaps to a lesser extent than the X-men, the Avengers have always stood for acceptance, tolerance and rehabilitation. Thomas is right in synch with the times in adding the Wakandan King to the team's roster, and there's no hint of the later revelation that T'Challa only joined for espionage purposes for his country. Rather his acceptance seems to be a matter of pride, and his many capabilities fully evident from the start. 

There are a lot of great stories in this volume. The X-men make a guest appearance, as Magneto continues to make life hell for his deceived offspring, the beleaguered Wanda and Pietro. They don't rejoin yet (that won't happen until issue #75, due to interference from Arkon), as Quicksilver gives into a bout of mutant oppression angst. But the Grim Reaper attacks (in vengeance for his brother Wonder Man's death long ago), and the Panther largely fends him off single-handedly, earning everyone's loyalty and trust. 

Also introduced at this time (albeit in as unlikely a way as possible) is the new, heroic Black Knight, scientist Dane Whitman. He breeds his mutant winged horse in a matter of panels, and vows to make up for his uncle's storied career as a Master of Evil. Unfortunately, he also unwittingly calls an exiled Magneto back to Earth. Rocket science, flying horses, feudal castles, ghostly visits. There's a bit too much going on there to make much sense, but, hey, he looks cool. He's an anachronism, meaning he's a Roy Thomas specialty. 

Meanwhile Jarvis is manipulated by the new Masters of Evil, who turn out to be dupes of the horrific Ultron (masquerading as the Crimson Cowl), and Natasha continues on her secretive mission for SHIELD. 

The Vision is also unleashed on the team, and if that weren't enough Yellowjacket shows up as well. Jan's inexplicable determination to marry this stranger (whom only she recognizes as Ant Man/Goliath) makes for one dysfunctional tangle. This is the man uncomfortable enough in his own skin to have created Ultron (who in turn gave new life to the old Human Torch's body in the form of the Vision), an insane computer intelligence that hates its "father," who then forgot it ever happened. Even weirder, Hank decides to stick with his new identity and cedes his old one to Hawkeye for a long while. Thomas is confident readers will follow through these layers of complexity, and he certainly never stops for breath admits all the twists and turns. 

John Buscema's anatomy and composition skills are solid if not flashy, especially in the handling of the confused Vision, the enigmatic Panther and the suddenly wealthy Wasp. Then Gene Colan shows up for several issues, not at his pinnacle under heavy inks, and then a nascent Barry Smith debuts for a short run in full-on Kirby-clone mode. No one looks like themselves, but they do look pretty cool. Sal Buscema follows up in a more standard style, by which time Thomas has come into his own as far as lining up personal threats to the team that usually reflect their own sins back at them. Is this the point when the Avengers begin to be haunted by their mistakes? Could be.

 

 

Community Discussion