My first comic book was the shorter French edition of this anthology: Les Vengeurs et Captain America issue 2 by the French editor Arédit (the collection was called Pocket Color Marvel Arédit). It contained the version in French of "Captain America Joins... The Avengers!" from The Avengers #4 (March 1964) by Marvel Comics. Furthermore, it had a reprinting of issues 5 and 6 of The Avengers and of issue 6 of The Incredible Hulk, Vol. 1 (March 1963). A true masterpiece that makes me very nostalgic... So of course, I was very excited with this current purchase. Compared to my original book, the quality of Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers Volume 1 (Marvel Masterworks Avengers) is truly fabulous! It is evident that Marvel really took the time to re-colour the book and present it in a new, modern format while at the same time, preserving the original feel of the comic book. I believe that any true comic book fan should own this collection. Stan Lee's original stories are really fun to read and they emanate an innocent simplicity that makes them very appealing (far from the extreme, artificial complexity you might expect from contemporary comics). And the attentive reader will be rewarded with some hilarious cultural references (such as Ant-Man's misogynistic comments towards the Wasp, radiating the relaxed editing norms of the `60s). My only two problems with the book are Marvel's choice in over-saturating the original colours and the overall quality of the paper. Indeed, the levels of some colours are exaggeratedly high. Additionally, the quality of the (shiny, thin) paper is low (although not as bad as some of the recent DC TPBs). I suspect that printing on this kind of wax paper makes the colours pop out even more. I am convinced that standard newspaper paper would have been more accurate and it would print the Ben-Day dots so much better!
This volume reprints Marvel Comics' Avengers issues #1-10, from September 1963 to November 1964 (bi-monthly originally, monthly from July '64). The stories are written by Stan Lee and pencilled by Jack Kirby (#1-8) and Don Heck (#9 & 10), with inking by Dick Ayers (#1, 8-10), Paul Reinman (#2, 3, 5), George Roussos (#4) and Chic Stone (#6 & 7).
The stories are - P001: #1 - The Coming of the Avengers! P023: #2 - The Space Phantom P047: #3 - The Avengers meet Sub-Mariner! P073: #4 - Captain America Joins...the Avengers! P097: #5 - The Invasion of the Lava Men! P121: #6 - Masters of Evil! P145: #7 - Their Darkest Hour! P168: #8 - Kang, the Conqueror! P190: #9 - The Coming of the...Wonder Man! P212: #10 - The Avengers Break Up!
Here we see the earliest adventures of the Avengers, starring villains (and others) that are still with us today. The first issue has Loki stirring up trouble with the Hulk, leading to the team-up of Marvel's main heroes; the second issue has the Space Phantom stirring up trouble leading the Hulk to leave; the third has the team looking for the missing Hulk and finding an angry Sub-Mariner (what's new there?); the fourth has an angry Sub-Mariner venting his anger on some hapless Eskimos (as they were called back then) and throwing the lump of ice they were venerating into the ocean, where it drifts past the Avengers' submarine, who happen to notice there is a figure inside the ice, who just happens to be the long-lost Captain America; the Hulk is back for the last time in the fifth issue, along with the Lava Men. Issue six sees the introduction of Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil - the Black Knight, Radioactive Man and Melter; followed in issue #7 by Baron Zemo and the Enchantress and Executioner; followed by Kang the Conqueror in #8, and Zemo and company again in #9, where they create Wonder Man, who decides to become a good guy at the end, and dies (but just for a few years...). Finally, in #10 we meet Immortus (and Zemo, Eecutioner and Enchantress). As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same: great comic books from the greatest age of Marvel.
You know this stuff or you probably wouldn't be buying it. To add: yes, these are in colour, but it's debatable whether the adherence to the original levels is wise. Solid print colours may have been completely necessary for use on the awful paper they used to be printed on, but on glossy white stock they are much too overpowering, and don't reproduce accurately the colours you remember. But it's a minor quibble. As a current practitioner, I am envious of the talent involved and the occasional disregard of backgrounds!
I used to have the original avengers comics and seeing them again is an absolute joy. It felt like going back in time only reading them again through different eyes. Some dreams do come true after all.