So You Want to Read an Avengers Comic
By and large, Avengers isn’t really very good. Even the Good Avengers comics aren’t very good.
There are a few “classic” stories that are referenced on everyone’s short list of Best Avengers Comics, but boy did they leave me cold. In fact, the bolder the title, the iffier they seem to be.
In something called the “Kree-Skrull War,” for instance, you might expect to see some awesome alien battles, and you would be wrong.
Mostly, you see the Avengers commuting from one planet to another to pick up some wayward teammates. And then perennial sidekick Rick Jones ends the (mostly off-panel) war with mental powers he was granted for no good reason to wrap the story up.
What about “The Korvac Saga”? Sounds dramatic and epic, yeah? It is a SAGA. Well, the long and short of it is this: a dictator from the future gains Phenomenal Cosmic Power, comes back to our time, sets up shop in a suburb in Queens, and sits in a lounger plotting for like eight issues.
Until the Avengers show up (using public transit, for reasons that even in 1977 had to kind of undercut the grandeur the story was theoretically aiming for), and basically wail on him for a while, and then his girlfriend won’t help him out, and he seems to die mostly from a broken heart.
But my favorite is one from the early 80’s, the “Under Siege” arc. It’s definitely better than the other two – it tells one story, rather than tossing a dozen disparate elements together and hoping something bombastic happens. And it is a big knock-down, drag-out fight between two big teams of costumed heroes and villains. So, not bad there.
But here is the story, in a nutshell (and if you do want to read it, go ahead and leave the post because I AM GOING TO TELL YOU WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN):
Baron Zemo hates Captain America so much, that he decides to ruin that which Cap loves most: The Avengers. OK, so far, so good. To this end, he gathers a team of bad guys, The Masters of Evil. Very intimidating.
But this is Zemo’s grand scheme: They wait until there are only Cap and a couple other Avengers (all non-powered guys) and their butler, Jarvis, in the Avengers Mansion, tie ‘em up, and beat the shit out of the butler.
(Please note: It is a big deal to torture Jarvis the butler, because he is a sissy-man who screams “aaiiiieeee!” Alfred Pennyworth would never give ‘em the satisfaction, and he’s like a hundred years old.)
And then…they just wait around (Zemo wrecks up Cap’s stuff, too, because Baron Zemo is the evilest dude wearing a pink and purple costume with fur trim) until the reinforcement Avengers show up.
You know, guys like THE MIGHTY GODDAMN THOR, WHO IS A GOD THAT HITS PEOPLE WITH
A HAMMER – show up, and get the shit roundly pounded out of them. That is it. That is the story. Doctor Druid is enough to handle a couple of these guys. They didn’t even have to call in Dr. Strange. They used his non-union Mexican equivalent.
And then Baron Zemo trips and falls off a roof, and the story is over.
So you can see why I can’t categorically recommend that one.
And again: These are the ones that FANS OF THE AVENGERS point to as the best stories.
This should give you a better idea of the books they DON’T recommend, like that time a time-traveling conqueror mentally manipulated Iron Man to kill a couple of c-list Avengers and the team went back in time to grab a teenaged Tony Stark to fight him.
Or the time before that when everyone had mullets and bomber jackets.
Or the time that shit got Very, Very Weird for Ms. Marvel.
Sometimes they’ll recommend Kurt Busiek’s run, but man, that is not for rookies. That is for people who want to read an entire comic book devoted to clearing up continuity issues about purple-headed invader Kang the Conqueror nobody even thought about.
But I like to be helpful in these things, so I will go ahead and recommend Geoff Johns’ run from the early 2000′s. It’s in three collections, it opens with an exciting, fast-paced mission, there’s some fun conflict between Iron Man and Black Panther over who gets to be the Batman on this team, basically, and Captain America’s long-time partner The Falcon gets a great showcase.
It’s all good enough that you’ll forgive Johns for doing what pretty much every Avengers writer does, which is try to make you give a shit about some B-list character who does not deserve any love ever.