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50 Greatest Avengers Stories: #10-7

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).


4 great stories, but none of them made my list. All were in consideration at one point, though. And if I had read them more recently there’s a good chance either the Nefaria or Kang Dynasty storyline would have made it into my top 10.

This list is gonna end up making me dig out all my old Avengers comics.

Two of mine there (and I think I few more to come I think all but one of my list will make it). The Kang Dynasty I’m particularly pleased to see as I always thought it was rather over looked. Really pleased it wasn’t and isn’t. Superb stuff. Nefarious was the other, just fantastically choreographed super-heroics… oh actually two of mine won’t make it as I think the Busiek ‘sequel’ to this in his run snuck into my top 10 (if not on the fringes?) Wish I could remember my list exactly.

So anymore new (post Bendis’ takeover) stuff to come do we think? Or is it ‘classic’ all the way now? I can think of 4 defos to come (one I disagree with)

It’s pretty much natural to see so much Kang near the top. Always been a favorite.

I disagree that Avengers #4 dropped off after his discovery. I enjoyed the Mystery of the Avengers Statues and the battle between Cap and Namor at the end. I didn’t think much of “kang Dynasty” til I reread it last year. Good solid story . It only suffered a bit from too many artists.

Six left, which will certainly include: Kree-Skrull War, Under Siege, The Korvac Saga, Avengers Forever, and Ultron Unlimited. So what am I missing?

I had zero doubt Kang Dynasty would place high but I was hoping for higher. It’s a fairly epic arc.

The build-up of the Kree-Skrull War was awesome, even if Rick’s part in the ending is a bit deus-ex-machina. But you know? It’s a kind of fanboy moment from a number-one fanboy. It got my top ten vote, anyway.

I’ve had a LOT to say about Shooter, Stern and Englehart (and Gerber) writing a classic balance of action and characterization, and if you just click on my name and join a thousand others from around the world, we can talk about it on my blog’s 2011 entries until the cows come home (they are secretly hypnotized Skrulls, of course—the cows, not the writers—are they?).

Englehart gets props for elevating female characters’ prominence in story lines—and whoever thought Vision would be Mac Daddy in a love quadrangle?

Stern took great female characters to the top, though. His development of Captain Marvel was actually worth defending. As usual, the best writing came from scripters working with their pet characters, often of their own creation. Busiek’s top-rated story lines will be the exception. Shooter’s Korvac, Englehart’s Mantis, and Stern’s Monica Rambeau illustrate my point.

Each of these writers turned in vibrant personalities with personal issues and motivations; it’s no wonder one commenter said he seemed to know each of the Avengers in Stern’s run. None of them were ever before more interesting! (Except Cap, maybe, and Roger did a terrific run with him beforehand, too!) There is a lot to learn about writing, in general, from these guys. I haven’t read WCA’s Time Travel saga in at least a decade (I’m a long ways from my comics!) but remembered it vividly, in part because I loved it when it came out, and most of all, because, like “Siege,” it produced memorable moments amid carefully-turning, interlocking plot wheels.

Siege was the storyline of my early collecting days, so of course it knocked me out hard. It’s tremendous, and character-driven on the villain side, too. It all comes down to Cap and that ripped-up footlocker, does it not?

Ed Pettis and I (especially Ed) had something sooo great planned for Ultron, Kang, the Vision, and his renewed love and search for Scarlet Witch, but Marvel had something in the works before our pitch made it across home plate.

There’s Nefaria, my #1 pick (and the one I can’t believe no one was mentioning in their speculations.

The Nefaria Trilogy’s not as epic as Kree/Skrull or Korvac but that’s part of what makes it great. With the fat trimmed we’ve got a three-parter that’s lean, compressed and packed with action, characterization and beautiful Byrne/Marcos art. Plus, it’s got a ten-Avenger roster that’s can’t be beat (okay, there’s no Hawkeye, but still, Wonder Man, Beast, Vision, Black Panther in one of his last prominent appearances for years and years…)

This is the exact sort of story that would get a new fan hooked on Avengers…happy it made the top ten!

Though it’s nice to see Stan Lee/Kirby’s Avengers #4 here I’m a little sorry too because it was not there best work.In my opinion. Lee/Kirby were doing amazing work together, really fresh stuff that was imaginative and lively. We saw #1 here place at #38 on the list which was partly on here because it was the first issue but I hope it was also on here for the imaginative and fun ride that it was. How can you not love seeing the Hulk as a “robot” clown in a circus? I just love all the crazy running around and fighting in this early issue though of the early issues, for every good issue there seemed to be a clunker. Issue #2 was fun but issue 3 was kind of tired with Subby and Hulk fighting the Avengers on some island. With #4, while it was wonderful to see Cap back, the plot was a little off, even for Lee/Kirby with the strange alien plot that had very little to do with the Avengers and wasn’t very fun and the artwork was sub par (IMHO) even for Kirby. I attribute it to the fact that Kirby must have rushed it as he was doing multiple books at this time.

The Lee/Kirby issue I chose to put on my list was issue #5. The story wasn’t as fanciful and fun as issue #1 but I’m a sucker for anything “Masters of Evil”. I just love the idea of using villains from their solo books and throwing them all together on a team to fight the Avengers and Zemo was a great arch nemesis for them at this time that plagued them for what seemed like every other issue until #15 where his character was “retired” for a time. The Masters of Evil had a few major showings since. One being issue #54 – #55 which placed at #49 on the list and the other being “Under Siege” Which we all know is coming. I won’t mention the “Egg Head” Masters of #227 – #230 which placed at #23 on the list because, with the exception of the name, they have very little resemblance to any of the other incarnations. Stern did it better with “Under Siege” by having the ring leader be Zemo’s sin and having an amazing array of really great villains.

Nefaria Supreme at 9? Whaaa? Decent story but not THAT good?!

Celestial Madonna one of the most overrated bits of hackery in Avengers lore. I mean the central premise is “Kang is in a race to find out which of the Avengers he needs to rape”. About on par with Jim Shooter’s very weird obsession with men giving birth to themselves. And the story just dragged on and on, and as it turned out, there was no real purpose to the “celestial Madonna” aspect of the plot, so the ending is unfulfilling. But at least Scarlet Witch got to marry a robot. In a double wedding of course, shared with a character with the single most annoying speech pattern in the entire history of comics, and a tree in the form of the reanimated corpse of a villain. So every time the Vision and Scarlet Witch’s wedding is referred back to after that, we have to see that nonsense with it.

“based pretty much solely on Englehart’s ability to balance these different stories” – pretty much, because there is no other entertainment value to his writing here that I could make out.

2 of my picks doubling me up to 4 out of 10
..so if all 6 remaining were on my list I would get the full 10…
..not going to happen

the 2 picks were the Avengers greatest slugfest in Nefaria Supreme (sure it’s just a long fight scene but nothing wrong with that)
and my 10th place selection the Celestial Madonna

Kang dynasty was one of 2 Kang stories that almost made my list

This one thinks the self-indulgent overinflated borefest that was “Celestial Madonna” ending up ahead of “Kang Dynasty” is a joke.

been waiting for the kang dynasty to pop up on this list though thought it would be the top five. not to mention it showed that kurt was a real master when it came to not letting the story get so bogged down with plots going on. same with the celestial madona for it proved eagleheart is a true avenger master.

I have a soft spot for “Nefaria Supreme.” It was part of that absolutely fantastic run of stories by Jim Shooter, which included the Korvac Saga. My memory is that these issues of the Avengers were among the best comics produced by Marvel in the 1970s and presaged the enormous leap in quality of mainstream comics in the 1980s (the quality, unfortunately, declined precipitously in the 1990s).

It’s a good point: Nefaria has, essentially, the powers of Superman. Indeed, in the JLA/Avengers crossover, in one panel, Superman can be seen squaring off against Nefaria. This series was truly impressive just as a knock-down, dragout fight between the Avengers and a being who was truly stronger and more durable than the Hulk. From that massive shockwave (that not even the Hulk could match) to stopping Thor’s hammer with his gloved hand (a feat duplicated by Superman in the JLA/Avengers story), Nefaria was a foe truly worthy of the Avengers. He hasn’t been used much in recent years, but it’s probably best not to spoil a really good villain by overuse.

Steve Englehart is arguably the most underrated writer in Avengers history. Far from being boring, the “Celestial Madonna” story, besides Englehart’s own creation — Mantis — resolves then-long dangling plot threads, including Vision’s true origin and the beginnings of the Kree-Skull War. Englehart’s winding use of Kangaroo actually set up some story beats that Busiek returned to decades later in “Kang Dynasty.” He’s easily in my Top 3 of Avengers writers, if not #1.

Kang Dynasty at #8????? If there’s anything “written” by Bendis scored higher than this, I will literally lose all faith in humanity. There will be definitive proof that there is no god.

Also, if a Bendis book gets into the top 3, expect Zimmerman to be not guilty, Paula Dean to get a new national tv show, and Scalia to continue to subvert human rights. Yep, they’re all forms of INJUSTICE.

Closing argument: a Bendis comic is 1% as good as a Mark Waid or Mike Allred comic. Go read Daredevil and FF.

He hasn’t been used much in recent years, but it’s probably best not to spoil a really good villain by overuse.

Nefaria was the main bad guy in Bendis’ recent Moon Knight series.

The Crazed Spruce

June 30, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I always thought that “The Kang Dynasty” was criminally underrated. It was the perfect capper to Busiek’s run on the book, and it’s great to see how highly it placed on the list. (And it’s also great to see how much love it’s getting in the comments section. And here I thought I was the only one who loved that storyline!)

10. Some classic stuff here that still serves as a major foundation for the MU, specifically with Cap’s man out of time routine, the death of Bucky and the resulting ennui, all of which defined the character. The actual story this takes place in isn’t very good though. Boring pre-hero Atlas aliens, ho hum.
9. An awesome story with excellent art. It’s basically What If the Avengers Fought Superman?
8. My favorite Avengers story ever, so…
7. Another classic. Englehart had no shortage of ambition. I loathe Mantis about as much as any comic book character ever created, so that brings it down some. On the other hand, I love Kang. Worthy of being a top ten selection without a doubt. Just not perfect for me.

The issue with Kang Dynasty is that, in the monthly serials, it was overlong. It reads great as a book you could read at leisure, but not over the 15 months it took to come out. I know that some Marvel books tried to integrate it into their stories early on, but 15 months including complete global takeover is too long for a shared universe book, and it broke the feel of the story when no one else was dealing with the Kang Dynasty. I think those are the root causes of the negative reception, and, having not enjoyed the story when it came out, I’ll hazard a guess people with poor opinions are not revisiting it.

Brian, there were also annuals and one-shots in the Kang Dynasty, covering Hank Pym having a Hulk-style heart to heart with his feuding identities (Avengers Annual 2001) and a book covering what Alkhema did with the personality recordings of the Avengers from the end of Ultron Unlimited (Avengers: The Ultron Imperative).

Brian, there were also annuals and one-shots in the Kang Dynasty, covering Hank Pym having a Hulk-style heart to heart with his feuding identities (Avengers Annual 2001) and a book covering what Alkhema did with the personality recordings of the Avengers from the end of Ultron Unlimited (Avengers: The Ultron Imperative).

Avengers Annual 2001 is listed in the post as part of Kang Dynasty. I personally don’t count Ultron Imperative as part of Kang Dynasty, though.

Ah, myopia. I even went back to check and looked right past it!

I count Ultron Imperative is part of the Kang Dynasty as the robot race therein is called out as one of the coming disasters when Kang speaks to the UN, and the book is then published in the publishing schedule of the storyline. The Ultron-bots are even on the (kick-butt) cover of Avengers 42!

I don’t have any dog in this race (I actually enjoy Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern-age Avengers, for different reasons), but I kind of want to see a Bendis story get number one just to watch the purists FLIP OUT.

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