Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
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 #10-7!
10. “Captain America Joins… The Avengers!” Avengers Volume 1 #4
Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and George Roussos brought former star Golden Age character Captain America back into the Marvel Age in a classic tale that is so powerful that it seems to get re-told every other month. The sight of Captain America trapped in ice, the Avengers finding his frozen body, Cap leaping to attention, discovering that his partner Bucky died in the same incident that ended up with Cap being frozen – it’s such an amazing job by Lee and Kirby. The rest of the story is not as good, but it is at least interesting to see how well Cap folded into the Avengers. The “Man out of time” angle was extremely compelling right out of the gate. And that cover – it is little surprise that Cap quickly became the heart of the Avengers.
9. “Nefaria Supreme!” Avengers #164-166
Simply put, this storyline was Jim Shooter, John Byrne and Pablo Marcos telling the story of what if Superman fought the Avengers? This was the first chance that John Byrne had to show off his skills on the Avengers and boy did he deliver! Count Nefaria had been an Avengers villain for a long time at this point (all the way back into the early double digits of the title) but Shooter pumped up his powers to godly levels. What followed was one of the most dramatic battles that the 1970s ever saw – with the Avengers trying (and failing) to stop this, well, superman. Even Thor had his issues. Luckily, an Avenger shows up just in time to save the day with what would be one heck of an awesome wrestling pin move. It is crazy to think that this story directly followed the classic Bride of Ultron, which in turn itself directly followed the classic one-shot “The Trial.”
8. “Kang Dynasty” Avengers Volume 3 #41-55 and Avengers Annual 2001
Kang has always been described as a military man, but his battles against the Avengers over the years rarely seemed to resemble what a military man might do. Kurt Busiek, though, changed that with this year-long storyline where Kang decides that to protect the Earth he must first conquer it. The Avengers, naturally, disagree with his position. Kang, though, decides to make things very difficult for the Avengers by telling all the bad guys of the world that whatever they can conquer, they can keep. Suddenly, instead of a united planet against Kang, the world is divided, as are the Avengers, who have to stop skirmished all over the globe from old-time villains like the Presence, Attuma and the Deviants. Meanwhile, Busiek re-addressed the problematic Ms. Marvel/Marcus storyline by revealing Kang’s second-in-command is his son, named, of course, Marcus. He and Ms. Marvel (now called Warbird) have a tense relationship during this series, especially as he assists her in battle against the evil Master of the World, who has chosen this attack as the perfect time for HIM to make HIS move. At the same time, a long-running subplot involving the mysterious Triune Understanding came to a head, as well. Busiek was juggling roughly 147 plots at once in this masterful epic, drawn by a wide variety of artists like Alan Davis, Ivan Reis, Kieron Dwyer, Patrick Zircher and Brent Anderson (just to name a few).
7. “Celestial Madonna Saga” Avengers #129-135 and Giant Size Avengers #2-4
Speaking of juggling different plots, Steve Englehart was obviously the king of this type of story. His previous two epics on this countdown, Serpent Crown and Lost in Space-Time, both juggled different plots within a larger story arc. The Celestial Madonna Saga, though, was a whole other animal. This was like three separate stories all smooshed together into what ended up somehow being a coherent narrative, based pretty much solely on Englehart’s ability to balance these different stories. The main gist of the arc was that a prophecy declared that a woman close to the Avengers would become the mother to an important baby. She would be the “Celestial Madonna.” It could have been Mantis, it could have been Scarlet Witch and it could have been Moondragon. Kang, naturally, wants to get in on this action, as does Immortus and Rama-Tut. The Avengers vow to defend all three from those who would control her, whoever she turned out to be. In the end, it was Mantis. Scarlet Witch is inspired by the ordeal to marry the Vision during this story (the Vision discovered the truth of his origins during this tale, leading to him feeling that the time was right to get married). Celestial Madonna is likely the epitome of Englehart’s approach to the Avengers during this period – complex but easy-to-read and sprawling over different titles. There were a bunch of different artists for this story, with Sal Buscema/Joe Staton being the most common art team (Dave Cockrum, George Tuska and more drew part of the series).
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