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50 Greatest Avengers Stories: #40-36

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In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Avengers, we’re doing a poll of the greatest Avengers stories of all-time! You all voted, now here are the results of what you chose as the 50 Greatest Avengers Stories!

Each day will have five more stories on the countdown (eventually I think it’ll get to three stories a day). Here is a master list of every story featured so far. Here are #40-36!

Enjoy!

40. “The Terrible Toll of the Taskmaster” Avengers #194-196

David Michelinie, George Perez and a different inker every issue (Joe Rubinstein, Dan Green and Jack Abel) gave us this fun three-parter that introduced one of the coolest characters of the 1970s, the Taskmaster, the villain who has both one of the coolest power sets (he can automatically do anything he sees someone else do, so if he sees Hawkeye shoot an arrow, he can instantly shoot an arrow like Hawkeye) and one of the coolest set-ups for a villain (Taskmaster runs a series of henchmen training schools). Now, you might ask, would a guy who can do everything instantly just because of his superpower really be the guy you would go to to teach skills to other people? No, probably not, but come on, a henchmen training school? That’s awesome! And the Taskmaster has one of George Perez’s coolest costume designs of all-time.

39. “Time — And Time Again” Avengers #267-269

The popular Avengers mini-series Avengers Forever (which Stern co-wrote the last 10 issues of) took a great deal of inspiration from this three-part storyline that involved alternate timelines, an entire Council of Kangs and an epic battle between Kang and Immortus – with the Avengers stuck in the middle! John Buscema and Tom Palmer did the art.

38. “The Coming of the Avengers” Avengers Vol. 1 #1

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers came up with one of the more outlandish origins for a superhero team that you’ll likely ever see, well, at least when it comes to a superhero team that is still being published today and has inspired a billion dollar movie. And yet, this tale of Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man and the Wasp being manipulated against the Hulk by Loki has just enough spark in the interactions between the various characters that it really does work. It gave no hint as to what this title would eventually become, but it ends up being a delightful yarn in and of itself (and any comic that involves the Hulk pretending to be a robot clown has got to be a classic, right?).

37. “The Court Martial of Yellowjacket” Avengers #212-213, 217

Jim Shooter, Alan Kupperberg, Bob Hall and Dan Green produced this memorable moment in Hank Pym’s life. Hank had recently decided to rejoin the Avengers when he felt that his wife, the Wasp, was growing tired of him. He figured becoming an Avenger again would excite her. Well, during one battle, Hank was so determined to impress her that he blasted a bad guy right when Captain America was busy trying to talk her down. The Avengers decide to court martial Hank. In #213, Hank basically snaps. He comes up with this asinine idea to create a killer robot that will attack the Avengers during the court martial and he’ll save the day and redeem himself in the eyes of his teammates. When his wife tries to stop him from this plan, he strikes her. By the end of the issue, he is no longer an Avenger and no longer married. Nearly every Hank Pym story from this point on referenced this event in Hank’s life.

36. “Secret Invasion” Secret Invasion #1-8

Ever since Civil War split the Avengers into two factions (one, led by Iron Man, registered with the government and another, led by Luke Cage, went on the run to avoid registration), mistrust was everywhere in the Marvel Universe. It only makes sense, then, to learn that the Skrulls had been using this time of uncertainty to secretly invade Earth! The heroes of Earth are dealt a pretty major blow early in the series (especially when the Avengers learn that their teammate, Spider-Woman, is really the Queen of the Skrulls) but eventually, the heroes fight back, especially when the new Captain America and a resurrected Thor show up to give us our first meeting of Marvel’s “Big Three” in quite awhile (Siege would be the first time the “Big Three” would get together with everyone in their “proper” identity, namely Cap being Steve Rogers again). Sadly, the events of Secret Invasion paved the way for Norman Osborn to take over SHIELD and begin a Dark Reign where NO true superhero would be safe! Leinil Francis Yu and Mark Morales did the artwork for this series, which also crossed over into the pages of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers.

28 Comments

First from my list to show up (Taskmaster). I was tempted not to include it because the meat of it seems less of an Avengers story and more of a YJ/Wasp/Ant-Man story, but the others do get some character bits (esp. if you include #194, the set-up issue) and I couldn’t deny it is one of my favourite stories. Plus wanted some Michelenie representation on my list ’cause I thought he had a great run (unfortunately overshadowed at the end by the way he wrote out Ms. Marvel).

Glad to see Yellowjacket’s downfall here. Remember it being compelling and certainly different from normal fare as a kid, albeit sad to see a character I’d always liked fall so low. It was easy to identify with someone feeling insecure surrounded by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, even to the point of snapping. Many felt it wasn’t the kind of realism (i.e. domestic violence) they wanted in their superhero stories, and that’s understandable, but I always felt it was simply taking Marvel’s typical focus on flawed characters (like Peter Parker or Tony Stark) to another level.

The Court Martial of Yellow Jacket has had such long legs. It’s unfortunate this seems to be a moment Hank will never live down as every single writer revisits it no matter how hard previous writers have worked to resolve/move past it.

Secret Invasion beating out Time And Time Again?! Oh well, that’s democracy I guess…

The Court marshall was riveting stuff, hurt only by the terrible artwork from Bob Hall. I would love for it to be redrawn one day by a Sal Buscema, Byrne or other Classic artist.

During his “Replacement Cap” storyline, Mark Gruenwald did a good job showing exactly how Taskmaster could train folks using his powers. In one of the issues, Taskmaster breaks down Captain America’s shield moves into a bunch of katas so that John Walker can learn them.

It’s unfortunate this seems to be a moment Hank will never live down as every single writer revisits it no matter how hard previous writers have worked to resolve/move past it.

Much of the problem is that nearly all the moments or things that distinguish Hank from every other “tech” or science-based hero are his breakdowns and failures. Take away the psychotic break that creates Yellowjacket, the guilt for creating Ultron, and the court-martial storyline and its various redemption/reenactment sequels and you have a pretty bland character left over.

It’s also hard to look back on his Silver Age relationship with the Wasp without finding it creepy. He falls for a 19-year-old heiress who’s just lost her father because she reminds him of his recently-killed wife, experiments on her to give her superpowers, and then spends years pretending he doesn’t reciprocate her affections and bossing her around. Finally, hopped up on chemical fumes from a lab accident, he turns himself into the “bad boy” he imagines all women want, and it’s in this condition that he finally proposes to and marries her. Even with Joe Casey’s retcons, Hank looks pretty screwed up there.

Omar, I agree that it would be a mistake to do away with the breakdown completely but on the other hand, it looks ridiculous when other heroes LITERALLY get away with murder and other characters in the MU still think of Hank as a jerk.
It also has Unfortunate Implications when fans (and sometimes characters in the MU) argue that Emma Frost should still be able to teach children even though she abused the Hellions and Firestar but Hank shouldn’t be dating Jan because he hit her. (And unfortunately, Emma’s been teaching kids for so long now without anyone bringing it up that it would look odd if it was suddenly brought up now.)

You should be able to have a somewhat sketchy, failure-prone Hank Pym without constantly calling back to a couple individual failures.

And I think that’s a desirable thing. Otherwise what stops him from being Reed Richards Lite?

Time-And Time Again would have been on my list if I played, and Avengers Forever would have been my number 1.

I did not like how Secret Invasion played out. I thought it would be a scary, paranoia filled mystery/hunt, but instead the Skrulls popped out and said ‘surprise, we’re here.’ Then they showed up for a big final fight in NY.

Glad to see that most of the list so far is pre 1990 (with a few exceptions); nice to see the classics getting credit. Lots of love for Yellowjacket with two covers so far and key stories showing. Plus as mentioned the Taskmaster story is largely a YJ / Wasp/ Ant Man spectacle. For a while I had hoped Secret Invasion would reveal that the YJ Skrull was around the longest and was actually the wife beating YJ. But I agree that taking away all those failures would leave Hank as a pretty bland character. Surprised YJ hasn’t had an ongoing – interesting, complex, and tortured character who strives to be good despite all of his failures. Maybe Ant Man movie coming out will rectify the lack of Hank solo stories in the modern era.

I would give a Giant Man series a try. Unless Waid was writing it. Then I would just add it to my pull box as soon as it was announced.

If Jim Shooter made his way clear, Pym wouldn’t have been in that stupid situation to begin with.

Yeah, Pym as the tortured soul is kind of his thing. It’s just kinda sad that Hank’s hero’s journey of redemption seems to be on loop repeat.

Secret invasion takes a lot of (justified) criticism, but it reads a lot better when collected. My biggest issue with it has always been how few Skrull infiltrators there actually turned out to be given the build up from literally New Avengers first few issues. Sure, there were a lot of nameless guys replaced but very few players of consequence. I know the point is supposed to be there was so little trust in the community that it didn’t take much at all to set everyone against each other, but the point kinda failed to play out.

The Trial of Yellow Jacket is my first pick to show up, I think I might get a full house. Most of the stuff I was tempted to include has already shown up, although that completely random Avengers issue that was once my favourite comic probably didn’t get a single point.

I am disappointed that Secret Invasion has turned up, it makes me think we’ll see more New Avengers than I would have hoped.

Except for Secret Invasion every one of these was a contender for my list, but none quite made it. Taskmaster is one of my favorite characters ever, but I went with a different Taskmaster story (which I’m pretty sure won’t make the list.) When I started collecting Avengers on a monthly basis issue #267 was the I started with and I’ve always loved that Kang storyline. It would have been 11 or 12 on my list.

And I definitely echo the sentiments about how it’s kind of ridiculous how Hank Pym still seems defined by his failings and specifically that one hit. Not that hitting his wife was ok, but when you consider the fact that superheroes are constantly fighting each other(male or female) when not being mentally controlled and quite often end up killing people while under mental control, it seems a bit hypocritical to only hold it against Hank.

The Trial of YJ would have made my lsit if I had seen this in time to vote. But in my mind it’s not just those 3 issues. You either have only #212-213, or you also include #222, #224 and #227-230 (#217, #222 and #224 set up #227-230).

Which brings me to the question of: Why doesn’t a TPB collecting those 9 issues exist? It’s a seminal story that would definitely find an audience, I’d figure.

Alvaro: It exists, but it may take some looking around to find it at a reasonable price. http://www.amazon.com/Avengers-Trial-Yellowjacket-Marvel-Unnumbered/dp/0785162070

The Trial was great. I a pretty sure I voted for it. I didn’t vote for Taskmaster, but I should have.

Secret Invasion, though? Really?

Secret Invasion?

Wow, the Trial of Yellowjacket is commanding secondary prices already? It only came out less than a year ago.

I had been waiting decades for Marvel to collect this run and it looks like I wasn’t the only one. If it sold out so quickly, Marvel needs to issue a second printing or release it in hardcover for. Everyone deserves a chance to read these seminal Avengers stories.

Somewhat dissapointed to see Time and Time Again so low on the list. Most of my top 10 hasn’t come by yet though, so here’s hoping those do end up high in the list.

Taskmaster’s costume is definitely the George Perez-iest costume George Perez ever designed. (Though Nightwing’s original costume gets an honorable mention.)

Anyone who turned in a list with Secret Invasion on it should have had their vote thrown out.

Secret Invasion wasn’t even a “story”, let alone an Avengers story.

Jeezuz, there are some people who REALLY hate “Secret Invasion” apparently. Lighten up, guys. Some people like different things than other people, it turns out.

My ongoing descent into insanity continues. I have a feeling by the time I finish reading this entire countdown I’ll have to be sent to Arkham.

My thoughts:

40. Cool story. Taskmaster is a great character. There’s also a typo in #195 where they call Ant-Man “Scott Harris” instead of Scott Lang. Probably why these issues have been going up in value.
39. Mind bending stuff. Kang is one of my favorites. As a kid, this confused the hell out of me, though. And it set up the long-winded Council of Corss-Time Kang stuff from Simonson, which may be a plus or minus depending on your point of view. A cool story either way.
38. An important story, sure, but I’ve never really thought it was that great. Stan and Jack did much better stories in the following issues. I guess it should make the list since it starts everything, but when your highlight is Hulk in a clown costume…
37. A great storyline. With, as others have said, unfortunate long term implications for the character. I know a lot of old school fans who hate this storyline and I don’t blame them. But I think it is very well done. I consider all the Pym stuff from #211-230 to be one arc, though, so that colors my thinking.
36. Shit on a shingle, but without the benefit of a shingle. Utter garbage in every possible way. Someone is trolling not just the internet, but humanity itself by voting for this. God frowns.

Heh~ The Origin of the Avengers. Want to see it in cinematic form? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lorDIKuZroU Laugh-a-minute. Chuckle each half-minute. And only six or so minutes at that!

I love how apparently a lot of people voted for Secret Invasion, but not a single person defends their vote telling us why.
My problem with it is that like a lot of Bendis stuff, it has a good premise or catch, but it makes everything so out of character that it has no direction. All the ways to detect Skrulls before? Reed tech, Wolverine smell, MAGIC…yeah, none of those work anymore. Just because. And haven’t, even though they have in other stories after the time frame of some of these replacements. And take a good idea like “why only make one Super Skrull?” and turn it into a badly drawn army of them rather than well defined reusable concepts. Blech.

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