The Avengers Vibranium Slipcase front by Alex Ross in homage to Jack Kirby’s Avengers 4 cover. The Vibranium Edition is similar to the X-men Adamantium Edition and slightly different height and width than the King-Size Kirby or Taschen 75 years of Marvel. These are huge books that some people might find difficult to handle. Personally, I lay them down on a couch to read. It’s well worth it though, this is an experience like none other.
Marvel does an amazing job in production. These books are sturdy and very well put together. The materials are high quality.
The Avengers Slipcase Art
Inside are 776 pages of a selection of the best Avengers stories per era. There are a few more stories they could’ve included from the second Byrne run or a few stories from the Thomas/Buscema run, such as the Squadron Sinister or the Invaders origin, but this is a great tribute to the Avengers.
Its interesting to watch the changes in themes and tone, art styles, story pacing, and the lineup as this collection samples from the best throughout the Ages. Each story is color-coded along the edge, which is visible when the book is closed, allowing the reader to jump to a story through this visual cue.
NOTE: Comic Ages aren’t universally agreed upon and aren’t identified in the book as such. There are a variety of opinions on the Ages, especially when we move past 1986. The Cinematic Age is my own convention.
Avengers stories from the Silver Age
Under direction to create a new super-team, Lee and Kirby collect five of their odd assortment of heroes and throw them into a team. Each one has issues and, not unexpectedly, they clash with each other. Add in the Golden Age icon Captain America into the mix and a team is born is born like none other assembled before it.
Like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers challenged Silver Age conventions, moving the superhero genre forward. These heroes were more likely to punch each other than shake hands. There was an unpredictability to these early adventures.
There are several other Silver Age stories that could have made the cut, but these are definitely the five most essential stories.
Jack Kirby and Stan Lee:
Avengers 1 (1963) with the team origin as they face the manipulations of Loki. Best moment: Hulk hiding in a circus disguised as a 7′ green clown.
Avengers 4 (1964) where Captain America is found frozen and joins the team. Also has an appearance by the Sub-Mariner.
Avengers 16 (1965) first of many lineup change when the villains Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Quicksilver join the team. Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man and the Wasp leave.
John Buscema and Roy Thomas:
Avengers 57-58 (1968) includes the defining Vision story, his original origin, Ultron, flashback to the Masters of Evil and Wonder Man fight, Vision vs the Avengers. Unlike the Marvel convention, Vision has an array of super-powers and uses each of them in battling Marvel’s strongest super-team.
Avengers stories from the Bronze Age
The Bronze Age attempted to build on the impact that Marvel had at the end of the Silver Age. The Comics Code was relaxed, leading to an explosion in horror titles. The industry grew quickly and so did cover prices, moving from 10¢ at the dawn of the Silver Age 15¢ at its close. The Bronze Age opened in 1971 with a price increase to 20¢ and quickly grew to 65¢ at its close. The price increases, genre expansion, code changes, and title count increases led to upheaval in sales, creative teams, and readership throughout the Bronze Age.
The Avengers title had excellent stories throughout this period. The Private War of Dr. Doom, the Absorbing Man, the Heart of Stone and several other stories from the 140s through 191 could’ve made it on this list.
Dave Cockrum and Steve Englehart:
Giant-Size Avengers 2 (1974) is a time travel story where they face Kang the Conqueror. Also includes ties to Rama-Tut, as the Avengers go back to ancient Egypt. An Avenger dies.
John Buscema and Roger Stern in Avengers 164-166 (1977):
Count Nefaria infuses three B-list villains to fight the Avengers, imbuing them with more power than they’ve ever had before. Living Laser, Whirlwind and Power Man give the Avengers more than they can handle. Nefaria has been using the three to fuel his own super powers. Now, he combines all three power sets to the Nth level, making himself almost a “superman”. Even more than any Squadron Sinister/Supreme battle, this is Thor and Vision vs Superman. Byrne was in his prime on this all too brief run.
Avengers stories from the Dark Age
The Dark Age was characterized by a deconstruction of the superheroic myth, giving us grittier characters and stories. As the Age progressed, each title tried to outdo the other, with heroes becoming weaponized and equipping themselves like soldiers in a super army.
Though most titles suffer in retrospect, the Avengers stayed relatively strong during this tumultuous period.
Roger Stern and John Buscema, Avengers 273-277 (1986-87):
Acclaimed Under Siege storyline pitting the Avengers against the Masters of Evil assault on Avengers mansion. I love Absorbing Man, whose real name (Crusher Creel) is better than his villainous name. The lineup includes Hercules, Captain America, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Wasp, the Black Knight, and later, Thor.
Kurt Busiek and George Perez, Avengers vol 3, 19-22 (1999):
The Busiek-Perez run is one of the best in Avengers history at the end of the comic market speculation implosion. One of the best Ultron stories, also features the Grim Reaper, brother of Simon Williams, Wonder Man. Firestar and Justice have joined the Avengers after leaving the defunct New Warriors.
Avengers stories from the Cinematic Age
The Cinematic Age is our own convention as a way to refer to the “Modern Age”. Comics since 2000, and clearly since 2006 have been heavily influenced by the success of superhero movies. We use X-men 2000 and Marvel’s Ultimate line as the inception of the Age. The X-men movie showed that non-traditional superheroes could have success at the box office while staying relatively true to the source material. The Ultimate line was an attempt by Marvel to re-craft their heroes origins with a more cinematic lens and without the burden of 40 years of continuity.
The Ultimates would’ve been a great addition to this collection and is probably the most glaring oversight. Probably, the rationale is that the Ultimates occurs in a different universe. All the stories in this collection occur within the so-called “Earth 616” universe, which began the Marvel Age.
Geoff Johns and Oliver Copiel Avengers 65-70 (2003)
Red Zone storyline begins with a mysterious red cloud drifting through South Dakota, killing people in its wake. The story is decent and features excellent artwork from Copiel. The Avengers lineup features Warbird (Captain Marvel), Jack of Hearts, She-Hulk, Ant-man, Black Panther, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Captain America, making an attractive group for the Marvel Cinematic Universe fan.
Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch, New Avengers 1-6 (2009):
Beautiful artwork from David Finch in Breakout, where the Avengers have disbanded following the tragedy of House of M. When super-villains break out of the Raft prison, a group of heroes come together to hunt them down. The lineup features Spider-woman, Luke Cage, Captain America, and Sentry. They face a host of villains, including the Purple Man, the U-foes and Electro. A host of heroes and villains have cameos or are mentioned.
Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena, Avengers vol5 1-3 (2013):
Once again, this format really makes Opena’s artwork pop. The Avengers face cosmic beings Ex Nihilo, Aleph and Abyss.
Huge lineup contains Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Wolverine, Spider-Woman, Cannonball, Sunspot, Manifold, Shang-Chi, Falcon, Smasher, Hyperion, Captain Universe.
Though not as many extras as Masterworks typically have, each story has variant covers and/or original artwork. A few have introduction pieces written for them.