Comic Review – “Essential Avengers Vol. 1”

The team has been called “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” Care to find out why?

General Information

Title: Essential Avengers Vol. 1
Credited to: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Don Heck
Original Publication Date: 2001 reprint of material first published
from 1963-1966
ISBN: 0-7851-0701-0
Cover Price: $14.95 US, $21.95 Can
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Some of the stars of the Marvel Universe band together to face evil.

The Issues

This contains the first 24 issues of the first volume of
Avengers. The issue breakdown is as follows:

#1: A call to the Fantastic Four is diverted, so Thor, Iron Man, Ant
Man and Wasp are called to stop an apparantly rampaging Hulk.
#2: The Space Phantom masquerades as various Avengers to cause
dissention in the ranks.
#3: The Hulk and the Sub-Mariner team up to fight the

#4: The Avengers find and rescue Captain America.
#5: The Lava Men try to destroy the surface people.

: Dr. Zemo returns to get revenge on Captain America, and he
recruits help to do it. They call themselves the Masters of Evil.
#7: The Executioner and the Enchantress join forces with Dr. Zemo.
#8: The “first” appearance of Kang the Conqueror. (He first appeared
with another name in Fantastic Four #19.)
#9: Zemo, the Executioner and the Enchantress recruit Wonder Man to
fight for them.
#10: Immortus captures Rick Jones.
#11: Kang builds a robot duplicate of Spider-Man to fight on his
#12: Mole Man returns to the Marvel Universe.
#13: Count Nefaria convinces the world the Avengers are traitors.
#14: The only doctor who can save the Wasp’s life has been captured by

#15: Zemo and Captain America fight to the finish while the other
Masters of Evil keep the remaining Avengers busy.
#16: The remaining Avengers finish dealing with the Masters of Evil,
and decide to take a leave of absence to wind down. Quicksilver,
Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye join up with Captain America as the new
#17: The new team goes looking for the Hulk, and finds the Mole
#18: The Avengers face the Commissar in a story that is incredibly
#19: The Swordsman shows up to defeat the team.
#20: The Mandarin joins forces with the Swordsman.
#21-22: Enchantress creates Power Man using the Wonder Man technology.

#23-24: The Avengers face Kang the Konqueror once again.

High Point

The new line-up. A team as powerful as the original lineup is
virtually guaranteed victory. Thus, the second lineup is more
interesting to me because they have weaker characters, and because the
shake-up was an indication that they’re willing to change the roster
regularly to set up new relationships and group dynamics to keep
things from getting stale.

Low Point

The return of the Lava Men. They were boring the first time. Did
they really have enough fan support to bring them back?

The Scores

The originality is better than I expected. The concept
behind the series was to take the heroes that sold comics easily on
their own, and put them in one title, where they would be able to sell
even more. The combination actually works, though. The group dynamic
does change things up from the individual titles, so the characters
don’t feel like retreads. Also, having a rotating chairperson and no
leader in battle with the original line-up was something I hadn’t seen
in a team book before, so it did strike me as being quite different.
The rotating roster helps; the last issue in the set has a completely
different team than the first issue in the set.
I give it 5 out of 6.

The artwork is mostly by Don Heck, with Jack Kirby making up
the rest. It’s clean and clear, and tells the story well enough that
much of the text seems redundant. I give it 5 out of 6.

The stories are often good. Some of them, like the battle
with the Commissar, get really heavy-handed in the “democracy is good
and communism is evil!” area. I give it 4 out of 6.

The characterization was good for everyone but the Wasp. The
Scarlet Witch is the first 60s era female in Marvel Comics I’ve seen
that wasn’t spending all of her time trying to get one or more men to
notice her. Captain America, for example, was noble to a fault, but
he has distinctly different attitudes around the two lineups, which
shows a little fallibility on his part. The Wasp, however, seemed
just as concerned about her mascara as she was about whatever was
threatening the entire world. The other characters often treated her
as Giant Man’s sidekick, rather than as a full fledged member of the
team. (Currently, she and Captain America are co-chairpersons of the
team.) The villains were similarly one-dimensional. I give it 4 out
of 6.

The emotional response to this was moderate. Some of the
stories and interactions were interesting, but the rematches were
rarely very different from the previous matches. I give it 3 out of

The flow of this set, like most of the stuff Stan Lee wrote,
was saddled by overly wordy dialogue, especially in the fight scenes.
However, the fluid motion of Cap in particular helped the artwork
overcome some of this. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this is a decent collection. If you can stomach the
sexism and occassional Cold War inspired political diatrab, you’ll
probably enjoy this piece of Marvel history. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Essential Avengers Vol. 1 receives 29 out of 42.