What can I say about the early Avengers that hasn't been said? I finished Vol.1 & 2 of the Marvel Masterworks Avengers some time ago, and have been unsure how to approach the already thoroughly discussed & researched subject of the team's genesis. Stan Lee & Jack Kirby's creation in September 1963 was the first "supergroup", all the members having come from other titles, such as Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, and Journey Into Mystery. Born in '72 and only back into comics for just over a year now, I missed all this. It was all new to me in that while I knew the characters, I had not read their first stories. While context of the times is somewhat lost on me, the impact of these early days of Marvel are not. This is where it all started. I've touched on the subject of old comics versus the books of today more than twice, so I won't go through that again, but I have to say I had a fun time reading this. Instead of outlining the plot of each issue (been done), I'll just list a few moments I found delightful in this book:
*Hulk joins the Circus! Issue #1
Due to the misdeeds of Loki, looking for a way to exact revenge upon his brother Thor, the misunderstood Hulk joins a circus to hide from Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Iron Man. When Loki's plot is exposed by Thor, the villain is captured by Ant-Man & the Wasp, and a new team is born! Avengers Assemble!
*Giant Man! Issue #2
Giant Man's first appearance was actually in Tales to Astonish #49, but Dr. Henry Pym was known as Ant Man in the previous issue of the Avengers. The Space Phantom tries to turn the Avengers against one another by impersonating them while sending them into limbo individually, causing great confusion among the ranks, and resulting in a resentful Hulk leaving the team in the end. Stan Lee & Jack Kirby were shaking things up early!
*The Avengers meet Sub-Mariner! Issue #3
Issue #3. Sub-Mariner & a disillusioned Hulk battle the team he was part of just one issue ago! The pace for constant change is set in this title!
*Captain America Lives Again! Issue #4
Riding through the ocean in their bathyscaph, Cap is discovered floating in the ocean by the Avengers, freed from a block of ice by the Sub-Mariner who carelessly tossed it while terrorizing some Eskimos. Confused upon awakening, he leaps to life, amazing his soon to be teammates with his lightning physical prowess!
*Invasion of The Lava Men! Issue #5
The now classic tale of the ancient subterranean race of Lava Men, the Living Rock, and their clash with the Avengers- good stuff!
*First Appearance of Baron Zemo! Issue #6
Also of note: A villainous Black Knight from the pages of Tales To Astonish joins Zemo's "Masters of Evil" with the Melter & Radioactive Man, to battle the Avengers!
*Rick Jones appears as Bucky! Issue #7
Old friend of Bruce Banner/The Hulk & leader of the Teen Brigade, Rick Jones just wants to be part of the team. When he dons the late Bucky's outfit, a confused Captain America lases out at him in anger, unable to forgive himself for the youngster's death, unable to bear the thought of losing young Rick the same way- Intense! Also in this issue, The Enchantress & Executioner, banished from Asgard by Odin, are recruited by Baron Zemo back on Earth to defeat the Avengers- action packed, Kids!
*The introduction of Kang the Conqueror, Issue #8
The 30th century, time travelling descendant of Dr. Doom battles the Avengers! Rick Jones & the Teen Brigade trick Kang, helping free Thor to rescue the rest of the team & save the day.
*Wonder Man! Issue #9
Introduced and killed off in issue #9! Created to destroy the Avengers, he realizes the error of his master's ways, and turns against Baron Zemo and his partners in crime, The Enchantress & The Executioner, to save the Thor, Cap, Iron Man, Wasp, & Giant Man! Of note: Don Heck takes over the pencilling from Jack Kirby here.
*Paul Bunyan, the Biblical Goliath, and Hercules? Issue #10
...Atilla the Hun and Merlin the Magician as well- all brought from the past by Immortus to defeat the Avengers! The Masters of Evil put the time-bending villain up to it, and the Enchantress erased the event, turning back time to avoid their capture by the Avengers. Just the beginning of Marvel's long & confusing continuity issues to come :D
*Check out the Marvel Masterworks Resource Page!
*Don's exhaustive Marvel Genesis blog- Silver Age greatness worth following!
*Steve Does Comics blog- Steve also covers a lot of Silver Age Marvel
More Later- Make It FUN!