Avengers Epic Collection: Earth's Mightiest Heroes Paperback – 25 Nov 2014
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Initially the work of Silver Age dream team Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, this mighty book follows the titanic assemblage of Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Ant Man and the Wasp, who decide to join forces after being accidentally brought together by the evil Loki. From the beginning, though, it is clear that this is a team whose membership will not be set in stone; the Hulk becomes more of an occasional antagonist after the second issue, while the fourth sees the rebirth of Golden Age legend Captain America into the modern age. And by the end of this hefty collection, the largest shakeup yet takes us into the era known fondly by fans as 'Cap's Kooky Quartet.' It's an approach that ensures the book never gets stale, and it's fun seeing how different heroes interact with each other.
Lee's purple, excitable prose coupled with Kirby's dynamic and energetic art proves as irresistible as ever, even if it takes a few issues (with the addition of Cap) for the concept to really 'click.' After issue eight, the overworked Kirby is replaced with Marvel stalwart Don Heck; although not the artistic genius that Kirby was, Heck's pencils are still a fine example of the forceful sixties Marvel style.
Over these initial twenty issues, the Avengers deal with menaces including the wrathful Atlantean prince Submariner, Nazi war criminal Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil, evil time-traveller Kang the Conquerer, organised crime boss Count Nefaria and many more. As the Earth's premier superhero team, the Avengers face threats that no single champion could hope to overcome. Amidst all this action, it is the very human humour and pathos among the team's members that really make the stories.
While they don't yet hit the heights that later storylines will accomplish, these early stories are important must-haves for any Avengers fan. As with most of the other Epic Collections, a few extras are included; in this case, house ads from the time period and original art by Kirby and Heck, showing several changes from the printed material. Another great collection; long may they continue!
The initial team of Thor, Iron Man, Ant Man and Wasp are briefly joined by the Hulk after they thwart Loki's plans to get the Hulk to destroy Thor.
There's a couple of no-prizes available in the early issues as the Hulk's alter ego Bruce Banner is referred to as both Don Blake and Bob Banner, thankfully the editing improved substantially as the characters developed.
As the stories are set in the 1960's there's lots of references to the menace of Communism and when Captain America joins in issue 4 the flag waving gathers pace.
There's Sub-Mariner and lots of great villains Zemo and his various Masters of Evil including the Enchantress and Executioner, the Lava Men, Kang, Immortus, Mole Man, Red Ghost, Count Nefaria and alien invaders before the first major line-up change with several of the team leaving and three surprise choices joining. The last few issues introduce the Swordsman who would return to the team in later years and the Mandarin.
It also sees the introduction of Wonder Man and lots of cameos from other Marvel heroes including a tale largely featuring Spider-Man they also feature journeyman sidekick Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade.
The artwork from Jack Kirby and Don Heck is great and these tales by Stan Lee laid solid foundations for many decades especially with Wonder Man.
I've just started Avengers Epic Collection: The Final Threat and the first part of that volume directly ties in with the early tales.
Great to read these in colour again after so many years.
So sit down and transport yourself back to a wide eyed bygone age and enjoy !
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