The calendar has flipped over to 2015 and the countdown begins to the second Avengers movie in May.  Arcs & Runs will be here to help feed the hype machine with stories about the team, individual members, and of course the bad guys leading up to the movies release.

The Avengers are an interesting kettle of fish. The original team was made up of individual heroes who agreed to band together to fight big time bad guys. They did not agree to stay together, but to gather when needed. The team changes a lot. Issue #2 Giant Man is in and the Ant-Man out, The Hulk leaves, issue #4 Captain America in, issue #16 all of the original members leave and are replaced by Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch Whew!  This constant change of membership was a little unsettling and exciting all at the same time to young comic readers. The Avengers were different than Marvel’s other two established super-hero teams. The Fantastic Four was basically a family with little to no change in membership except when Sue Storm was pregnant (Medusa), or The Thing left ( Luke Cage, others). The X-Men were a group of teenagers at a school. The Mimic joined for about 10 issues and Polaris and Havok officially joined the team in issue #65 one issue before the title went in to hibernation. It is interesting that the New X-Men adopted the Avenger boiler plate by having many additional members (right from Giant Size X-Men #1) and constantly changing the line-up as part of their revival and subsequent success when they returned to the Marvel Universe. The changes in personnel did not stop at issue #16 for the Avengers, and the influx of new characters continued and I think contributed heavily to the title’s success.

Today’s little classic run of the Avengers is one of their best. All of the art is done by big John Buscema who has been getting a lot of love here on Comic Book Daily lately, and it is richly deserved. He is inked by either Vince Colletta, George Tuska, Marie Severin, or George Klein throughout the run. All stories are written by Roy Thomas.

Avengers Assemble!

 

Avengers 52Avengers #52

May 1968

Death calls for the Arch Heroes

Our story begins with the Black Panther arriving at the Avengers mansion. He has found another New 52 issue to debut in (FF#52 is his first appearance), this time as a wannabe Avenger. He has come to join the Avengers after receiving an offer to do so by Captain America (see Cap #100). He arrives to find the Avengers (Hawkeye, Goliath & the Wasp) dead. Shield keener Jasper Sitwell and the police arrest the Black Panther and put him in jail. We see that in fact it is a new villain, The Grim Reaper that has put the Avengers in a coma like state and he is the only person with the power to reverse the condition. The Black Panther breaks out of jail and teams up with the Avengers butler Jarvis to defeat the Grim Reaper and save the Avengers and he joins the team. The Black Panther becomes a long-standing Avenger and is a great add to the team. The Grim Reaper is Eric Williams’s brother of the currently dead Simon Williams (aka Wonder Man) .The Grim Reaper becomes a deadly adversary of the Avengers by himself and as leader of the super bad team The Lethal Legion for many years. Once he is resurrected Simon Williams becomes another long-standing member of the Avengers as Wonder Man. Pretty cool book.

Avengers issue 52 page 12 by John Buscema and Vince Colletta

 

Avengers 53Avengers #53

June 1968

In battle joined

This story is a continuation of X-Men #45. It is in fact the conclusion to a 7 issue story line which began away back in Avengers #47 with Magneto hell-bent on retrieving his two wayward members of his Brotherhood of Evil mutants, The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. It is Arc & Run I plan to cover in the future, so this issue will be light on story details. Magneto has the X-Men and the Avengers seemingly battling each other only to find he himself has been tricked and the Avengers have arrived to save the X-Men. With the tables turned Magneto tells his fellow mutant the Toad to set his base to destruct after he and the rest have the brotherhood have escaped. The Toad however has finally grown a pair, and has other plans; he sets the base to destruct in one minute and leaves on ship with the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Magneto leaps and tries get into the plane however the Toad steps on his fingers and he falls to his apparent demise. The Master of magnetism can’t attach himself to the plane mmm….. The X-Men and the Avengers escape to fight another day and all is well.

 

Avengers 54Avengers #54

July 1968

and delivers us from… The Masters of Evil

The new Masters of Evil have returned to attack the Avengers in their own headquarters. This group’s first appearance was in Avengers #6 and was lead by Baron Zemo who was killed in Avengers #15. The group has reformed with original members the Radioactive Man and the Melter, joined by earthly villains Klaw and The Whirlwind. They replace the un-earthly Executioner and The Enchantress. The evil Black Knight (Nathan Garrett) has seemingly perished in Tales of suspense #73. The mysterious new leader is the Crimson Cowl.

The Masters of Evil have broken into the Avengers mansion and by passed security protocol with the help of the now traitorous butler Edwin Jarvis. The new good Black Knight Dane Whitman (Avengers #48) tries to help but he himself is caught in a trap. The new Masters of Evil take down the surprised Avengers quickly, and as the cover of the book shows (a north –south face-off cover) they are in trouble deep. Worse still there are two Crimson Cowls one is a robot seemingly giving orders from the other Crimson Cowl who is revealed to be the butler Edwin Jarvis!! My head was spinning the first time I read that book and it is spinning again today. Continued next issue…

Avengers issue 54 page 17 by John Buscema and George Klein

avengers 55 coverAvengers #55

August 1968

Mayhem over Manhattan

The Avengers are trapped and transported via a ship out of Avengers HQ.  The real Crimson Cowl is soon revealed to be the robot called Ultron- 5 and Jarvis was just a pawn. A pawn Ultron -5 no longer requires and he kills Jarvis, or appears to as Jarvis narrowly escapes and makes his way back to Avengers HQ. Once there he free’s Dane Whitman and as the Black Knight he attacks Ultron’s ship and finds away to free the Avengers. An all out donnybrook ensues between the Masters of Evil and the Avengers with the good guys coming out on top. They capture most of the bad guys with Ultron 5 and the Whirlwind getting away to return and terrorize another day.

The new Black Knight – Dane Whitman has acquitted himself quite well in this battle, and he returns in future stories becoming an official Avenger himself in issue #71.

The Crimson Cowl was just too good a villain name to be used just once. A new Crimson Cowl (Justine Hammer daughter of Iron Man nemesis industrialist Justin Hammer) leads the current version of the Masters of evil.

This group of Avengers are all heart. Jarvis the butler is given a chance to stay on with some reservations after the security breach. That what thanks you get Jarvis for saving their collective ass twice in the last few issues.

Avengers issue 55 cover by John Buscema and George Russos

 

Avengers 56Avengers #56

September 1968

Death be not Proud

 Captain America returns to the Avengers as they reunite in an old castle that also happens to contain Doctor Doom’s time machine. Cap has been having doubts that Bucky was actually killed as he remembered it and wants to travel back in time to confirm it. The Avengers return with the Wasp at the controls of the time machine.  They watch events in ghost like form and they unfold as they should. We see Baron Zemo, Hitler, the V2 rocket, Bucky’s death, and Cap’s encasement in ice.  There is also a quick physical fight with Zemo and his humanoids when The Wasp fall’s a sleep at the controls of Doom’s time machine. She wakes up and brings them back to current time and they head back to Avengers HQ. This story does not end here. It continues in a big way in …..

Avengers issue 56 cover by John Buscema and Frank Giacoia

 

Avengers Annual 2Avenger’s Annual #2

September 1968

and times the rushing river…

Part 1

The Avengers arrive in their own time and their transportation has gone missing and have to hoof it on foot back to Avengers HQ. Everything seems the same but different. When they arrive at HQ they are shocked to find the original Avengers in there meeting room. Goliath approaches Giant Man and lifts his mask and discovers it is him Henry Pym. All hell breaks loose and the original Avengers attack forcing a retreat by the current team.  While in a subway Goliath has an idea to check out a device called a

Heropotron (a what!) that lets the user somehow look back at history. They hook up Captain America to the device (he started this mess) and he observes. We go back to Avengers #2 and the Avengers battle with the Space Phantom, right after the battle the Scarlet Centurion (for the first time) appears and basically promises the old Avengers a utopian state (no disease, famine etc.) for earth if they can round up all the super heroes on earth and put them out of action, some how they are the cause of all our problems. The old Avengers are quite capable and we see practically every hero in the Marvel universe as they round them all up and put them in quarantine. Cap has seen enough, they need to get Doom’s time machine and go back in time to correct the paradox they created.

Avengers Annual 2 by John Buscema

Part 2

Doctor Doom’s time machine is in pieces and the team need’s to get it back. The Scarlet Centurion is already ahead of them and has warned the old Avengers of the plan. The new Avengers are now going to take on the old Avengers in attempt to retrieve the pieces of Doom’s machine and re-assemble it. Now I must say right from the moment I saw this match-up on the front cover of Avengers Annual #2, I didn’t give the new Avengers much hope. However in true David versus Goliath (ugh!) fashion they do prevail in an entertaining romp. With the Doom’s machine in hand they correct time and put things right.

The Watcher appears and fills in the blanks on the Scarlet Centurion. He starts out as Rama Tut, becomes the Scarlet Centurion and 4000 years in the future becomes Kang the Conqueror. A bad guy for all time!

The cover for this book is another gorgeous face off cover by John Buscema. The interior art is done by Werner Roth and Don Heck the only work in this Arc & Run that isn’t done by Buscema. There is a lot more to this book that I didn’t cover here and I would say it is probably the most overlooked and under appreciated book of the bunch.

 

Avengers 57Avengers #57

October 1968

Behold the Vision

The Vision enters Avengers HQ and collapses in front of the Wasp and Goliath. This is not the golden age Vision (although they have a similar appearance) but a new creation of the villainous Ultron 5. The Black Panther and Hawkeye (out visiting the Black Widow – smart guy!) are summoned back to Avengers HQ. The Vision revives and for a moment and attacks the Avengers but is quickly put down. He tells the Avengers he was sent by Ultron to kill them. He takes the Avengers back to Ultron’s hideout, which of course is what Ultron wanted all along. A battle ensues and the Vision turns on his creator helping the Avengers defeat him. Our story continues next issue…

Avenger’s #57 has the most iconic cover on a run full of beautiful work by John Buscema. The red “wash” on the cover was pretty unique at the time and Marvel used it again on X-Men #41 and Iron Man #13.

 

Avengers 58Avengers #58

November 1968

Even and android can cry

Our last book in this run contains an Origin of the Vision, and his creation by Ultron 5. Ultron 5 we find out was created by Henry Pym and Ultron himself erased this knowledge from Henry’s mind. It also appears Ultron used Simon Williams (Wonder Man) memory banks found in Mr. Pym’s lab in the making of the Vision. Great work Hank!

With no other purpose in life, The Vision wishes to be an Avenger and is put through a series of tests. He passes them all with flying colours and is granted Avengers status and the grateful Vision sheds a tear as the this story and run comes to a close.

This run has much more in these books than I cover here. It does highlight the constant change that takes place with in the group. We added two long time members of the Avengers in the Black Panther and the Vision and super bad Ultron, the Grim Reaper and the Scarlet Centurion. I will also add one more time that John Buscema’s artwork is a highlight, and he is top form here.

Avengers issue 58 page 27 by John Buscema and George Klein

 

The 44th Overstreet values here may be a little out of date on hot books #55 and #57.

Avengers #52               6.0 $21            8.0 $44             9.0 $82             9.2 $120

Avengers #53               6.0 $27             8.0 $60             9.0 $120           9.2 $180

Avengers #54               6.0 $30             8.0 $64             9.0 $132           9.2 $200

Avengers #55               6.0 $63             8.0 $147           9.0 $324           9.2 $500

Avengers #56               6.0 $24             8.0 $51             9.0 $96             9.2 $140

Avengers #57               6.0 $102           8.0 $245           9.0 $548           9.2 $850

Avengers #58               6.0 $30             8.0 $66             9.0 $138           9.2 $210

Avengers Annual #2    6.0 $24             8.0 $51             9.0 $96             9.2 $140