Read More About It: The Avengers

All good things must end — even Avengers Week. We wrap things up with a look at Avengers comics, just in time for Free Comic Book Day.

The first Saturday in May, in addition to being Derby Day, has been declared Free Comic Book Day. If you walk into any participating shops (and libraries) today they are required by law to give you a free comic book. Some will give you more than one.

Various publishers provide the comics for the event. Marvel’s offering this year is a Spider-Man book and an Avengers book. The Avengers book is a reprint of something they sold me last year, so I’m not too keen on the offering. Last year they provided new material, as they should.

It’s not even that good of a story. It’s mainly designed to promote an upcoming story line instead of telling an interesting tale.  And not enough Hawkeye. On the plus side, it has decent Bryan Hitch art and naked Spider-Woman bondage.

Personally I’m more interested in the Thor Heroclix figure than any of the comics offered this year. For more information on Free Comic Book Day, visit http://www.freecomicbookday.com

Avengers Comics Assemble

So, you just finished watching “The Avengers” movie and now you want to enjoy the team in their original comic book form. Marvel is more than happy to accommodate you. The company currently publishes 5 different monthly titles with “Avengers” in the name: The Avengers, New Avengers, Avengers Assemble, Avengers Academy and Secret Avengers (and coming soon — Dark Avengers. no kidding).

Unfortunately, all but one of these titles are currently wrapped up in a crossover war with the X-Men. So it’s not a good time to wade in. The lone holdout is Avengers Assemble, which was custom designed for newbies drawn in by the movie. The book stars the eight heroes that appear in the movie and is not (yet) tied in to any other books. The first two issues should be available in shops.

Book ’em, Cap

If you’re looking for something more substantive than a 20-page comic, Marvel has released tons of Avengers comics in collected editions. If you’d like to start from the beginning there are two options. The Essentials line offers phonebook size editions on cheap paper in black and white. They’re a great value if you want to get a lot of comics at a reasonable price, and you can always give the books to your kids to color with when you’re done.

A pricier option is the Masterworks line, which offers smaller compilations on nicer paper in full color. Available in paperback or hardcover.

Many Avengers story lines have been collected over the years. One popular one from the early ’70s is the Kree-Skrull War. The story by Roy Thomas is really not that good — it makes no sense to be honest — so what makes this comic stand out is it features the only Avengers work by popular artist Neal Adams.

Another popular run was kicked off in 1998 by writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez. These stories can be found in a series of volumes titled Avengers Assemble (not to be confused with the new comic of the same name referred to earlier). Hawkeye is only in the first volume so you can skip whatever comes after that.

Ultimately…

I know what you’re saying, “Roy, this is too much. I can’t process it all. Isn’t there one Avengers book that tells a single story that’s similar in feel and content to the movie I just watched?”

No. There’s no such Avengers book. But there is The Ultimates.


In the year 2000, Marvel Comics launched a new group of titles that were meant to update its classic characters and bring them into the 21st century. Among the books launched were Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four. When it came the Avengers’ turn, rather than simply place the word “Ultimate” in front of it like they’d done with all the others, they chose to rename the team and title as The Ultimates.

It’s a decision I’m sure many people in Marvel’s marketing department have been cursing lately.

Written by Mark Millar with art by Bryan Hitch, The Ultimates tells the story of how Samuel L. Jackson, director of SHIELD, brings together a dysfunctional group of superhumans — along with two assassins from SHIELD’S black ops program — and turns them into a team. In their first official outing they head off an alien invasion by the Chitauri.

Sound familiar?

The Avengers movie is not a direct adaptation of The Ultimates but it’s a much closer match than anything Lee and Kirby did. Ultimate Hulk is more violent, cannibalistic even, than Movie Hulk, and Ultimate Thor is more of a hippie than Movie Thor. The movie is a decent mix of the classic and the ultimate.

The Millar/Hitch “Ultimates” ran for 25 issues and is available in 2 hardcover volumes or 4 paperbacks. The second volume is Loki-centric and is pretty dense and not as popular, but I liked both a great deal. Do not continue into the third volume (by a different creative team). The characters are unrecognizable and the story is crap.

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