Marvel's first and greatest superhero group. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's cleverly used Loki to accidentally gather together Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man and the Wasp as well as, very briefly, the Hulk. The stories are first class and the artwork by Kirby and later Don Heck is stunning. The first team's only outing together was against the shape-changing Space Phantom which led to the Hulk's departure which was on the cards from the word go. Very soon it picks up a peg or three as The Sub Mariner joins with the wayward Hulk. Then to top that Lee and Kirby re-introduce Kirby's 1940's iconic creation Captain America, thawed out after 20 years in the ice. Cap becomes the 5th Avenger. Together the 5 heroes battle the Lava Men, Zemo and his ever changing Masters of Evil (initially Black Knight, the Melter and Radioactive Man). Zemo then joins with the Enchantress and the Executioner who have recurring roles throughout these early tales. Also featuring Kang the Conqueror, Wonder Man who will play a major role in later Avengers stories, Immortus the Master of time, yet another Marvel version of Merlin, The Moleman and the Red Ghost, Count Nefaria and the Maggia; an alien war and Baron Zemo and the return of the Masters of Evil which leads to the break up of the original line-up. The New team, a reformed Hawkeye (one of my favourite Marvel characters) and the brother and sister act Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch and Captain America as the leader settle in with a battle against the Mole Man and the Minotaur then the Commissar a giant communist robot which gives a great excuse for some typical 1960's anti-communist rhetoric. Against the Swordsman and the Mandarin, another couple of Marvel favourites the undercurrents of tension within the group start to surface, Hawkeye has history with the Swordsman and is also jealous of Captain America assuming control of the team, even Quicksilver starts to question decisions. The next few tales are superb firstly with the Enchantress and Power Man, then the Ring Master and his dodgy Circus of Crime. The last two-part tale is a great way to end this book as they take on Kang in the far-flung future. There are some wonderful tales to come in the next few decades and I recommend these tales to all action fans as well as nostalgics like me.
The "essential" collections by Marvel Comics give the chance to younger generations to see how the Marvel superhero-with-everyday-problems comics that made the silver age of comics come about in the early 1960's. If you're looking for muscles that would give century old tree-trunks a run for their money, don't buy this book. Don't buy this book, either, if you're looking for non-stop fight scenes and full-page panels from end to end. The Essential Avengers reprints in black and white the first couple of dozen stories by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Don Heck of a series egged into creation by DC's team comics of the late fifties and early sixties. They are simple stories, seemingly one or two-dimensional in the light of the eighties and nineties work by people like Alan Moore and Frank Miller, but they are vital, well-balanced stories that have aged, yes (for example, they're sexist by today's standards - why is the Wasp always left out when the original Avengers are mentioned?), but the stories do show us how it all started. There would be no Miller and his ilk if there had been no Kirby, whose work here round about the time when he was co-creating the Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Thor and so many others is dynamic and alive. Heck's work is not up to Jack Kirby's, but is artistically competent and shows the artist's ability at visual story-telling. A good buy for comic nostalgia buffs.
Marvel's first and greatest superhero group. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's cleverly used Loki to accidentally gather together Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man and the Wasp as well as, very briefly, the Hulk. The stories are first class and the artwork by Kirby and later Don Heck is stunning. The first team's only outing together was against the shape-changing Space Phantom which led to the Hulk's departure which was on the cards from the word go