For Your Consideration: Marvel’s Avengers: The Vibranium Collection

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have been around for fifty years and there have been times when they set the pace for comic books and through the years, they have featured some of the biggest names working in the field at the time. With Avengers: Age of Ultron coming to theaters in May along with several publishing events, it appears that now is a good time to look back and be reminded of these previous eras of greatness.

Avengers: The Vibranium Collection

Avengers: The Vibranium Collection


To address that need, Marvel is releasing Avengers: The Vibranium Collection, a slipcased hardcover weighing in at a fat 776 pages and retailing for $200. Thankfully, they have also provided us with the contents so we may judge its worthiness.

The Avengers, of course, was Marvel’s answer to the Justice League of America, featuring the brightest stars in its newborn lineup of superheroes. It was also born out of necessity; when Daredevil was running late, Stan Lee rushed out a plot for this new book so the company wouldn’t pay a penalty for unused press time. No one was faster at pencilling pages than Jack Kirby, who helped design the characters involved: Ant-Man, Wasp, Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor. Rather than create a new foe, Stan used Loki, cementing this new book to the others in the line. The title was a success which was probably no surprise.

By then, issue to issue continuity was the norm for Marvel so carefully Stan and Jack began weaving threads together. The Hulk quit the team and wound up allied with the Sub-Mariner against the newfound team which led to the resurrection of the sentinel of liberty. It’s therefore appropriate the book opens with issues #1 (inked by George Roussos) and 4 (inked by Dick Ayers) of the title, bookending these momentous events.

Avengers #16

Avengers #16


A year later, Stan found coordinating the continuities between The Avengers and the member’s host titles to be a headache so made a radical decision. He jettisoned everyone but Captain America and surrounded him with Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye, all one time villains who are attempting to turn over new leaves under Cap’s tutelage. In the quarter-century of superhero teams in comics, nothing like this had ever happened and appears to be the template for Avengers 3 and 4: The Infinity War later this decade. Lee, Kirby, and Ayers take a victory lap here then the art is handed over to Don Heck, who becomes the title’s new artist and is sadly not represented in this book.

Avengers #57

Avengers #57


The lineup continued to grow and evolve, as founders came and went, costumes and powers fluctuated and in time, the creative team shifted too, until the book was in the capable hands of Marvel’s second wave talents: Roy Thomas and John Buscema. In many ways, together and separately, each had monumental runs on the series, leaving a lasting impression. After several warm-up stories, they delivered a knock out two-parter in issues #57-58 (inked by George Klein) as an android named the Vision arrived. He was revealed as having been built by Ultron, an experimental robot built by Hank Pym (then Goliath), and now a major threat. The art and writing may never have been stronger on their run and certainly influences next year’s film.

Giant-Size Avengers #2

Giant-Size Avengers #2


The next great writer for the series was Steve Englehart who further humanized the heroes and still delivered cosmic adventures. He’s best remembered for his lengthy Celestial Madonna arc and chapter two is included here, a long-story from Giant-Size Avengers #2, which sees long-time foe-then-ally Swordsman die while his protégé, Hawkeye, returns. With art from Dave Cockrum the story also featured long-time opponents Rama-Tut and Kang the Conqueror so it’s a solid choice.

Avengers #164

Avengers #164


The team’s next major chronicler was Jim Shooter, prior to his rise to editor-in-chief and while his Korvac Saga remains his high-point, this volume includes his three-part story pitching the team against Count Nefaria, who is elevated from second tier villain to top tier terror. In this 1977 arc spanning issues #164-166, the team also see Wonder Man (first introduced way back in Avengers #8, a story worthy of inclusion), Black Panther and the Lethal Legion (Living Laser; Power Man, Whirlwind). With art by John Byrne (who also had a noteworthy run as writer) and Pablo Marcos this is well representative of the late 1970s Marvel.

Avengers #276

Avengers #276


The book’s editor at the time was Roger Stern who wound up succeeding Byrne as writer in 1986 and is partnered with the art team of John Buscema and Tom Palmer in the five part story from issues #273-277 that may be included simply because it’s a solidly told tale and features many of the team’s long-time opponents, the Master of Evil, comprised at the time of Absorbing Man, Baron Zemo, Blackout, Bulldozer, Fixer, Goliath III, Mister Hyde, Moonstone, Piledriver, Thunderball, Tiger Shark, Titania, Wrecker, and Yellowjacket II. Meantime, the Avengers during this run included Black Knight, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Hercules, and Wasp.

One constant for the team dating back to the earliest days is Edwin Jarvis, the team’s manservant, confidant, and ally. He’s always on hand with just the right refreshment or observation but in this arc, he is actually tortured by Mr. Hyde, showing how strong a character he is even without armor, uru hammer, or super-soldier serum.

Avengers #19

Avengers #19


We jump ahead nearly a decade and pick up with the team’s next great creative team that of Kurt Busiek, George Pérez, and Al Vey. They headlined a new era for the book and their Ultron run from issues #19-22 is here as Cap, the Panther, Thor, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Vision, Wonder Man, and newer members Justice and Firestar attempt to save the world.

Avengers #65

Avengers #65


Given he only wrote a handful of issues, it’s interesting to see issues #65-70 from writer Geoff Johns here. I suspect it has more to do with artists Olivier Copiel and Andy Lanning since the Red Skull’s cloud of death was an interesting story but nowhere near as worthy of inclusion considering the stories left out.

New Avengers #1

New Avengers #1


The modern era had to be included; especially considering Brian Michael Bendis used both the Avengers and New Avengers titles to drive the direction of the Marvel Universe for years. As a result, that initial six-part arc, “Breakout”, with stunning art by Lenil Yu is still a strong, character-driven tale. Bendis’ gift for dialogue and characterization is seen here and set the tone for much of the last decade. This arc also includes a Civil Wars tie-in issue so that monumental event, to be echoed in 2016’s Captain America 3, is acknowledged.

Avengers #1

Avengers #1


More recently, a far more cerebral yet cosmic direction came from Jonathan Hickman and as his time, and the team’s, counts down to this spring’s next big event, it’s fitting the book close with his first three issues of Avengers with art by Jerome Opena, which propelled the team to other worlds and other realities.

All together, these stories help showcase the team at its finest, courtesy of many of the field’s finest talents. There’s a reason the title has endured and this volume makes for a marvelous, albeit pricey, sampler.

Purchase

Avengers: The Vibranium Collection

Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database.

USER COMMENTS

We'd love to hear from you, feel free to add to the discussion!