Thursday, March 04, 2010

Old Avengers/New Avengers

When the Avengers was created it featured most of the unaffiliated heroes in the Marvel Universe - Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Ant Man, and the Wasp. By issue fifteen, the team was really hitting its stride. The Hulk was long gone, replaced by Captain America. The other characters were better-defined.

Issue #15 was fast-paced. Baron Zemo returned and gathered his Masters of Evil - the Executioner, the Enchantress, the Black Knight, and the Melter. Zemo kidnapped Captain America's sidekick, Rick Jones, and flew to his base in Africa followed by Cap. The other four faced off against the remaining Masters of Evil.

During the fight between Zemo and Cap, Zemo was killed in a rock-slide. This was a point of honor for Stan Lee for years - a villain died and you saw his body so he will stay dead.

In issue #16, everything changed. The fight between the Avengers and the Masters of Evil was wrapped up quickly. After that, Thor left for Asgard for a trial of the gods. Captain America's plane was blown up so he had to walk back to civilization. The remaining three decided that they were tired of being Avengers and that they needed a break. They recruited a trio of replacements. Cap returned in time to be appointed leader of the team.

This was just one of many changes going on in Marvel at the time leading to what I think of as Marvel 2.0. Giant Man's strip in Tales to Astonish was replaced with the Sub-Mariner. The Human Torch and the Thing's strip in Strange Tales was replaced with Nick Fury, Agent of Shield. The Hulk went from a mindless brute to being intelligent (for a while). At the same time, the X-Men and Daredevil went from bi-monthly to monthly comics. They even tried changing the name from "Marvel Comics" to "Marvel Pop Art Productions".

Issue #17 was the first with the new team. In many ways this issue started what we think of as the Avengers. Previously the team had a rotating chairman. From this point forward, it would have an actual leader. This issue introduced the lower level of the Avengers mansion, filled with high-tech crime-fighting equipment. It was the first one that had the Avengers training together (although the X-Men and the Human Torch had been doing training exercises for some time). It was also the first issue where the Avengers had their own custom-built jet.

The issue began with the new members questioning Captain America's leadership. In order to add some power to their ranks, they announced a search to add the Hulk to their ranks.  They were given a clue that the Hulk was in the desert. While searching for him, they fell into a trap. The Mole Man decided to kill off the new, weaker team using the Minotaur - a giant creature who would have given the Hulk a fight. The Avengers used teamwork to defeat the Minotaur and the Mole Man, proving that they did not need additional strength. As all of this was happening, a few panels were reprinted from the Hulk's own strip showing where he was while the Avengers searched for him.

This was the strongest issue to date. There was character development and growth. You could see the group become a team.

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