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Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: An Avengers Retrospective Part 3: In Battle Joined (Issues #36-56)

Avengers (1963) #36

Guest contributor Eugene Selassie is back with the second part of his retrospective of Marvel‘s The Avengers. He started at the beginning covering the first sixteen issues. He’s back discussing issues #36 to #56!


In this third installment of my deep dive, reading every single issue of The Avengers from the beginning, what we know as staples of Avengers lore are introduced in these issues. Some of these staples greatly enhance the reading experience, while others detracted more than I remembered them to. Legendary writer and artist team of Roy Thomas and John Buscema begin their iconic run on the title. Many new heroes, that would go on to become perennial mainstays of the roster, make their first appearance in the book during these issues. Past relationships and connections come back to haunt a few of the protagonists. Story elements that played out in classic Avengers stories decades later are seeded in these issues. Continuity becomes a double-edged sword during this run, potentially splitting the audience into “love it” or “hate it” camps.

Roy Thomas took over as writer with issue #36. With the constant in-fighting (now between Goliath and Hawkeye over Clint’s insistence that Black Widow be granted membership status) and the hyperbole used in the narration (ex: “Thus it is that, less than sixty seconds later, twin engines of a highly complex design burst into ear-shattering life and zoom with blinding, supersonic speed into the sub-stratosphere, as all passengers fervently hope they will not be too late!”) meant that the transition in scripting from Stan Lee to Roy Thomas was as smooth as possible. Issue #41 heralded the debut of the legendary John Buscema as penciler. His layouts were a bit splashier than what we’ve previously seen. Nevertheless, with George Bell remaining as the inker, making the characters look roughly the same, the transition from Don Heck to John Buscema was not too jarring. Fill in issues by Don Heck were still welcome, as was a one-off by George Tuska, whose level of intricate detail was only rivaled years later by George Perez.

Avengers (1963) #38

I waited with bated breath to see new members, one by one, added to the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes:

  • Black Widow accompanies the team, in issues #36-37, to rescue Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver from an alien threat, the Ultroids, near their village in the Balkans. Natasha turns out to be the ace up the heroes’ sleeve that they desperately needed. The Avengers, sticking to their moral code, prevented them from doing what was necessary to defeat Ixar. On the contrary, Black Widow had no such compunctions. Days after this adventure, as Widow rushes to Avengers mansion for a meeting to discuss her membership, she is abducted. However, it is not by enemies. Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD recruits her for a secret mission overseas, a mission that must remain secret from even Hawkeye and the other Avengers. When Widow recovers in the hospital after this mission and explains how the government lied about her husband’s death and duped her into training (even though they did the same thing to him), there was no mention of the infamous “Red Room” training that we know in the modern age.
  • Hercules makes his Avengers debut in issue #38. The Prince of Power is locked in combat against the God of War, Ares, due to events from Thor issue #129. The Enchantress shows up to convince them to squash their beef and offers alcoholic beverages to both. In reality, she’s working with Ares. Hercules’ drink is spiked with a love potion, making him do Amora’s bidding. Ares gets to tell Zeus of this forbidden passion, making Hercules a pariah in Olympus, while Enchantress gets to use her unwitting slave against the Avengers. During their fight, the potion wears off and Hercules helps the team fend off the Asgardian and Olympian. Due to the perceived forbidden affair, Hercules is then banished from his home in Olympus. The Avengers take him in as less of a member and more of a house guest who helps them whenever he deems fit.
  • Edwin Jarvis, the butler of the Stark family and for the Avengers, makes his first Avengers appearance in issue #38. He’s not given much of a personality until further down the road in issue #54, where he hides a deadly secret from the Avengers; he’s sold the new mansion security specs to the Crimson Cowl in exchange for a large sum of money he desperately needed. Cowl, of course, reneges on the deal.
  • The Sub-Mariner returns in issue #40. A nuclear sub tests weapons near his kingdom, which Namor doesn’t take too kindly to. He attacks the island base from where it came from, only to encounter the Avengers. Page 15…Hercules vs. Namor…HOLY $#I^! These two beat the stuffing out of each other. I am surprised that there wasn’t a giant crater left in their wake.
  • Dane Whitman, nephew of Nathan Garrett, the villainous Black Knight, debuts in issue #47. Garrett met his end against Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #73. Dane seeks to atone for his uncle’s evil actions and decides to use the science and nom de guerre of his uncle, to do good with it as the new Black Knight. He seeks out the Avengers for an alliance. Conversely, they mistake him for his uncle and get into a brawl.
  • Black Panther makes a cameo, alongside Captain America (who quit the team several issues earlier) in issue #51, where Steve requests they consider T’Challa for membership. Issue #52 features the Black Panther entering Avengers mansion for the first time, in a story where he finds what appear to be the bodies of Hank, Jan, and Clint. He’s arrested by SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell and is hauled off into police custody. I don’t know if Roy Thomas understood how tone-deaf it was to see the imagery of the first Black superhero to be featured in the Avengers comic being shackled in the back of a squad car. Of course, T’Challa escapes so he can investigate what occurred.
Avengers (1963) #47

Several extended relationships are given more space to develop in these issues.

  • Issue #43 is the first appearance of the Soviet super-soldier known as Red Guardian, who happens to be the Black Widow’s ex-husband. When Clint finds out, he grows cold and emotionless for the first time in this series. This is the second time a villain is brought into the book that Hawkeye has an obvious grudge with, but their sole motive is to prove they can best Captain America, making the rest of the Avengers look “lesser than”.
  • Concurrent with this story is the arc of Tales of Suspense where Steve meets and falls for SHIELD Agent 13, aka Sharon Carter. It’s also where he’s contemplating giving up being Captain America, which didn’t quite sit well with me. I know Marvel was all about heroes with feet of clay, especially back then, but this was akin to Clark Kent no longer wanting to be Superman. I had no clue that Steve was a fan of Tolkien or fantasy novels in general, so it was cool to see that side of him.
  • Hercules travels to Olympus to beseech his father, Zeus, to reconsider his exile. However, the Prince of Power finds the fabled land completely deserted.  In issue #49, Hercules discovers that it is the dreaded ancient Titan known as Typhon who was responsible for what happened to the Olympians. By destroying the sacred Temple of the Promethean Flame, the immortals of Olympus just vanished. After confronting the Titan, Hercules finds himself banished to the same limbo that his people were banished to. Issue #50 sees Hank, Jan, and Clint search for Hercules, who has reunited with the Olympians. Zeus is able to send him back to Earth due to the magic holding them there not having as strong of a hold on the Prince of Power because he’s half-mortal. The team does their best to slow down Typhon, but the dude is a ten-foot-tall demigod with a battle axe that shoots lightning. Once Hercules arrives, he and Typhon have the grudge match of the ages. Whatever unidentified landmass in the Mediterranean where they brawled had to have been reduced by half. In the end, Hercules defeated him using not just brawn, but tactics taught by Captain America. He returns with Typhon to Olympus, bidding farewell to the Avengers for the time being. This leaves the roster to just Hank, Jan, and Clint…not the most powerhouse line up they’ve had.
  • Issues #47-49 feature Magneto, who was exiled to a planetoid far from the Earth in X-Men #18. This is indubitably pre-Chris Claremont Magneto. He’s not a sympathetic Holocaust survivor trying to prevent the same thing from happening to mutant kind. He is cranky, megalomaniacal, and vengeful. And he is quite abusive to his lackey, Toad. I completely forgot that neither Magneto nor Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch knew they were related in those early years. Magneto demands the UN for his own nation for mutants. When they refuse and he lashes out at one of the representatives with a microphone as a weapon, Hawkeye saves him, and the most fun, yet clunky, dialogue followed; “A diamond-tipped arrow…from out of nowhere…smashing the microphone. But who?” I love superhero comics. Hawkeye landing a kick right to Magneto’s face made me think that this is likely the only time that has ever happened.  The crux of Magneto’s plan was to cause one of the guard’s aim to go off wildly and accidentally shoot Wanda in the head (grazing her temple) just so it would send Pietro into a rage against the guards and the Avengers. Yeah, the “Magneto was right” crowd may want to tone it down a bit after this.

I found myself enthralled by the number of story elements that were just the nugget of an idea that played out on a larger scale some years, even decades later:

  • Long before the Kree-Skrull War, you could tell that both Stan Lee and Roy Thomas had the idea percolating, of a war between two alien empires with Earth caught in the middle. The Ultroids made the second time that something like this was hinted at.
  • Magneto blackmailing the United Nations into giving him his own nation was something done three decades later in an X-men storyline titled “The Magneto War”.
  • Issues 54-55 bring us a new Masters of Evil, comprised of the Klaw, the Melter, Radioactive Man, Whirlwind and the new Black Knight. They’re all working for the mysterious Crimson Cowl. However, they don’t know that this Black Knight is not Nathan Garrett, but his nephew, Dane Whitman. Dane goes undercover with the group to gather intel that he can bring to the Avengers. The mission of this new incarnation of the villain group, to storm Avengers mansion and capture the team. I never knew the Masters of Evil attacked the Avengers in their home, long before the classic Siege of Avengers Mansion during Roger Stern’s run.

I am a person that loves continuity, when used the right way. When Thor or Iron Man have to leave the team due to events in their own book that month, I loved it. Realistically, the characters cannot be everywhere all the time. That era was much better with not having characters guest starring in six different books the same month “just because”. However, when a character pops into a book, carrying over from a story in another book, it gets a bit frustrating keeping up with. While the Hercules story carrying over from The Mighty Thor was explained thoroughly, Nick Fury’s subplot from Strange Tales, where he’s essentially on house arrest, Cap leaving the team due to being duped in Tales of Suspense by Swordsman and Power Man into believing Bucky was still alive, and the most egregious one, the X-men versus Magneto fight that carried over into an Avengers comic, were not given the necessary flashbacks to really flesh out these elements. In the case of the X-men one, it would’ve helped tremendously if they just made it an actual crossover with the parts 1 and 2 posted on the covers of those respective issues.

My apologies for the gargantuan length of this post, in the future, I will do my best to make sure the articles aren’t covering twenty issues worth of content. Speaking of content, when we reconvene again, we discuss several debuts (Vision, Yellowjacket, and a guest appearance by Doctor Strange) along with trips into the sci-fi, the cosmic, and even the occult. Until next time, AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

New Batman: The Adventures Continue and Avengers/Thunderbolts are Part of Today’s New Digital Releases

There’s nine new digital comics available today from comiXology. Comics from Marvel, DC, Harlequin, and more are available for you right now. See the full list here or the individual issues below!

Avengers/Thunderbolts Vol. 1: The Nefaria Protocols

Written by Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza
Art by Mark Bagley, George Perez
Cover by Mark Bagley
Purchase

Collects Avengers (1998) #31-34 & Thunderbolts (1997) #42-44.

Collected here is the inaugural Avengers/T-Bolts crossover! The T-Bolts and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes stand side-by-side against Count Nefaria, master of ionic energy! But before they can confront the Count, they’ll have to deal with their own ion-empowered teammates, Atlas and Wonder Man – both of whom have fallen under Nefaria’s thrall and now act as his henchmen. Featuring the all-time team of KURT BUSIEK & GEORGE PÉREZ!

Avengers/Thunderbolts Vol. 1: The Nefaria Protocols

Avengers/Thunderbolts Vol. 2: Best Intentions

Written by Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza
Art by Tom Grummett, Barry Kitson
Cover by Barry Kitson
Purchase

Collects Avengers/Thunderbolts (2004) #1-6.

Legendary THUNDERBOLTS scribes Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza return for this mighty Marvel melee! It’s the rematch of the century as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes face off against Marvel’s Most Wanted! Baron Zemo and the original Thunderbolts are back… but have they returned as friends or foes? The Avengers – including former T-Bolts leader, Hawkeye – want to know!

Avengers/Thunderbolts Vol. 2: Best Intentions

Batman: The Adventures Continue (2020-) #9

Written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
Pencils Ty Templeton
Inks Ty Templeton
Colored by Monica Kubina
Cover by Paolo Rivera
Purchase

Batman is hot on the trail of the man who’s been watching him for months, and he can’t believe who it is. Meanwhile, someone launches an assault on the clown prince of crime, the Joker!

Batman: The Adventures Continue (2020-) #9

But I’m A Cat Person #30

Written by Erin Ptah
Art by Erin Ptah
Purchase

Stronger, Together
Two ordinary graduates accidentally adopt a magical shapeshifting battle monster. Final chapter: The one where they change the world.

But I'm A Cat Person #30

Dark Temptation

Written by Joanna Mansell
Art by Natsuko Hamaguchi
Purchase

Philippa is a belly dancer currently regretting the fact that a few drinks talked her into getting engaged to some guy she just met. Next time they see each other, she’s determined to set the record straight. Instead, someone completely unexpected shows up. The young, sexy intruder is her fiancé’s uncle, James Haverford, Earl of Sherringborne. Desperate to hide the scandal of his nephew getting engaged to some “second-rate dancer,” he tries to take Philippa to his mansion.
Philippa is outraged. “Do you think you can look down on people just because you’re an earl?” She lashes out at him, but the earl’s charms are irresistible.

Dark Temptation

Return Of Her Italian Duke

Written by Rebecca Winters
Art by Karan Dan
Purchase

Vincenzo, the heir to an Italian dukedom, falls in love with Gemma, the daughter of one of the castle’s staff. However, his father doesn’t accept their relationship because of their class differences. Their relationship ends when Vincenzo disappears without a goodbye. Ten years later, Gemma has graduated from confectionery school and learns that the castle she grew up in has been bought by a businessman and turned into a hotel. She applies to their wanted ad before she learns that the businessman who owns it is none other than Vincenzo! He wants to rekindle their relationship, but she’s still hurt by his silent disappearance all those years ago…

Return Of Her Italian Duke

Killraven

Written by Alan Davis
Art by Alan Davis
Cover by Alan Davis
Purchase

Collects Killraven (2002) #1-6.

In the not-so-distant future, Martians have invaded our world and laid waste to our civilization! Now, only Jonathan Raven – the gladiator known as Killraven – and his band of Freemen stand between Earth and utter annihilation! Dig sci-fi action? Love great visuals? Then grab your tub of popcorn and get ready for this modern classic from the great Alan Davis!

Killraven

Marvel Adventures Iron Man Vol. 1: Heart Of Steel

Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Ronan Cliquet, James Cordeiro
Cover by Michael Golden
Purchase

Collects Marvel Adventures Iron Man #1-4.

Who is Iron Man, the world-renowned symbol of mega-conglomerate Stark International? And what terrible secret from his past forces billionaire inventor Tony Stark to become the Golden Guardian? Find out here!

Marvel Adventures Iron Man Vol. 1: Heart Of Steel

Marvel Adventures Iron Man Vol. 2: Iron Armory

Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by James Cordeiro, Graham Nolan, Rafa Sandoval
Cover by Skottie Young
Purchase

Collects Marvel Adventures Iron Man #5-8.

The Armored Avenger blasts through the second arc of his solo title in the critically acclaimed, best-selling Marvel Adventures line! Tony Stark shows off some of the various incarnations of his armor, including the Deep Sea Armor and Space Armor as he fights the Techno-pirates, the Living Laser and more!

Marvel Adventures Iron Man Vol. 2: Iron Armory

Discover the Hulk’s Dark Destiny the in Maestro Trailer!

Almost 30 years ago in the landmark story Future Imperfect, legendary Incredible Hulk scribe Peter David and superstar artist George Pérez introduced Marvel fans to a far-future version of the Hulk known as Maestro – the master of what remains of the world. Ever since, the mystery about how this villainous version of Bruce Banner came to be remained untold but next month, Peter David returns to reveal Maestro’s shocking origin in Maestro #1! With astounding art by Dale Keown and Germán Peralta, this series will answer questions that have haunted fans for decades about the fall of earth and the rise of Maestro! Get your first look at this highly anticipated launch in the Maestro trailer and discover the secrets of one of the Hulk’s greatest foes when Maestro #1 hits stands this August!

Gail Simone is Auctioning George Perez Wonder Woman Art to Raise Money for Black Lives Matter

Comic creator Gail Simone took to Twitter on Tuesday to recount her experience with Wonder Woman and the creator George Perez. She had the honor of writing Perez’s final to Wonder Woman.

Perez then gifted Simone the final two pages of the story. And as she describes them they have “more value” to her than anything else.

Simone is putting up the “very last page of George Perez’s legendary Wonder Woman work” to help raise money for Black Lives Matter.

But beyond just the page, Gail is including a signed and personalized Wonder Woman Omnibus, two signed and numbered Wonder Woman scripts, the original art signed by George Perez, a sketch by Colleen Doran, and a signed sketch of Diana and Philipus from George Perez himself. Dodeca Donuts is also donating one of their products for free to the winner of Gail’s auction.

The auction ends at 12:00 PDT/7pm GMT on WEdnesday June 3, 2020. It’s currently at $5,000. If you’d like to bid, use #WonderWomanLot.

You can start to read Gail’s full thread below.

The Origin of the Maestro Will Be Revealed!

The Earth will tremble under his jade fist! Almost 30 years after the landmark story “Future Imperfect,” legendary Incredible Hulk scribe Peter David returns to the far-future version of the Hulk known as Maestro – the master of what remains of the world. With astounding art from Hulk veteran Dale Keown and rising star Germán Peralta, Maestro will answer questions that have haunted Hulk fans for years – and inspire some new ones along the way.

How does Earth fall and Maestro rise? What happens to the world’s heroes? And what does fate have in store for Bruce Banner and the Hulk? Find out in MAESTRO #1 when it smashes its way into comic shops this August!

Maestro #1 is written by David, art by Peralta and Keown, a main cover by Keown, and a variant cover by George Pérez.

DC Expands Its Digital Firsts and Launches DC Essential Reads

DC is expanding its digital releases with DC’s Digital First publishing program, home of bestselling titles Injustice: Gods Among UsDC Comics: Bombshells, the new Batman: The Adventures Continue, and many more fan-favorite comicsUnder the robust new program, comic book readers will have more variety of content and immediate access to stories that have never been available on digital platforms.

The first week of DC Digital First titles include:

These series are new to DC Digital First, having previously been exclusive to DC Giants.

While regularly scheduled and solicited print comics, traditionally available on Wednesdays, will continue to be available day-and-date digitally on Tuesdays moving forward, DC Digital First comics will be released seven days a week.

In addition, on Monday DC is launching DC Essential Reads, a free digital promotion providing first issues of some of the most iconic graphic novels and collected editions in the DC library. Available until June 8th on a variety of digital platforms, DC Essential Reads titles include Watchmen #1 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Batman #608 by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex SinclairThe Sandman #1 by Neil Gaiman and Sam KiethDark Nights: Metal #1 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Doomsday Clock #1 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Mister Miracle #1 by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, and more.

DC Digital First comics and DC Essential Reads free issues will all be available from participating digital retailers, including ReadDC.com, Comixology, Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, and more.


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DC Releases a First Look at the Landmark Wonder Woman #750

Wonder Woman #750

Stories and artwork by Steve Orlando, Jesus Marino, Greg Rucka, Nicola Scott, Gail Simone, Colleen Doran, Marguerite Bennett, Laura Braga, Scott Snyder, Bryan Hitch, Mariko Tamaki, Elena Casagrande, Kami Garcia, Phil Hester, Shannon and Dean Hale, Riley Rossmo, Vita Ayala, Amancay Nahuelpan, Ramona Fradon, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Emanuela Lupacchino, Liam Sharp, Bilquis Evely and Travis Moore.
Cover by Joëlle Jones and Trish Mulvihill
In Shops: Jan 22, 2020
Final Orders Due: Dec 09, 2019
Prestige Format
SRP: $9.99

Decade Variant covers:
1940s variant cover by Joshua Middleton
1950s variant cover by Jenny Frison
1960s variant cover by J. Scott Campbell and Sabine Rich
1970s variant cover by Olivier Coipel
1980s variant cover by George Pérez and Laura Martin
1990s variant cover by Brian Bolland
2000s variant cover by Adam Hughes
2010s variant cover by Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair

AN ALL-STAR COLLECTION OF CREATIVE TALENT CELEBRATE
WONDER WOMAN THIS JANUARY IN LANDMARK ISSUE

Wonder Woman #750 is an all-star 96-page celebration of the Amazon Princess by longtime favorites and acclaimed new voices! This oversized gem tells tales from Diana’s past and present, along with major implications for the future of DC’s first Super Hero! Storytellers contributing to the issue include Colleen Doran, Mariko Tamaki, and legendary Wonder Woman creators Gail Simone, Liam Sharp, Nicola Scott and Greg Rucka returning to the character! Wonder Woman #750 also features pinup artwork by Ramona Fradon, José Luis Garcia-López, Emanuela Lupacchino, Bilquis Evely and Travis Moore.

In this first look, Mariko Tamaki and Elena Casagrande show Wonder Woman’s strength; Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott test her friendship and grace; and Gail Simone, Colleen Doran, and Hi-Fi revisit her love and compassion (and bring back Star-Blossom!) to showcase Diana’s wisdom and wonder. All this and more when Wonder Woman #750 hits shelves on January 22nd, 2020.

Wonder Woman #750

Preview: Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 Facsimile Edition

Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 Facsimile Edition

(W) Marv Wolfman (A) Jerry Ordway (A/CA) George Perez
In Shops: Dec 04, 2019
SRP: $3.99

Witness the final fate of the Flash! The key chapter of DC’s Multiverse-shattering miniseries is reprinted in a new facsimile edition, timed with the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover between DC’s CW TV shows. In “A Flash of the Lightning,” one of the most famous superhero death stories in comic book history, Barry Allen risks everything to save billions-sacrificing his own life to stop the Anti-Monitor’s antimatter cannon.

Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 Facsimile Edition

DC Reveals Wonder Woman #750 Decade Variant Covers

On January 22, the landmark Wonder Woman #750 hits comic book stores and participating digital retailers, spotlighting Princess Diana and including incredible stories from her past, present and future. This oversized tribute to one of pop culture’s most enduring heroes is guaranteed to become a collectors’ item when it hits stores.

This collectability will be further enhanced by several of comics’ most talented artists, each honoring the Amazon warrior in a series of variant covers, each depicting Wonder Woman throughout the decades:

1940s variant cover by Joshua Middleton
1950s variant cover by Jenny Frisson
1960s variant cover by J. Scott Campbell
1970s variant cover by Olivier Coipel
1980s variant cover by George Pérez
1990s variant cover by Brian Bolland
2000s variant cover by Adam Hughes
2010s variant cover by Jim Lee and Scott Williams

Wonder Woman #750 is a 96-page prestige format one-shot comic book, debuting in comic book stores and participating online retailers January 22, 2020, for $9.99. Be sure and check with your local comic book retailer for details on any of the decade variant covers it might carry.

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