Not a review of the Avengers film

There is no point in adding my 2 cents to the pile on this film, except to say, “WOW!”  This was far more fun, silly and action packed that I could have ever hoped for.  Go see it.  I don’t care if you don’t like comics, go see it.  You will have fun, and that is all that matters with a film like this.  I never thought this would be a failure, but I never expected it could be this good, or this successful at the box office.  With an opening weekend of $207 million (blowing past HP 7 pt 2), it will be a hard opening weekend to beat.  This movie is almost certainly going to hit half a billion dollars in domestic box office, and could challenge Avatar if it doesn’t falter too much in the next two weeks.  Not likely, but it is possible.

The real reason for this Avengers related post, is to do what comic book movies almost always fail to do.  I want you to read more comics, so I will mention a few Avengers comics that people who enjoyed the film might like.  This will be more or less divided into 2 groups, modern and classic.  The division is because the classic stuff, while a great read, is very dated and comes off as a bit silly at times.  While well written for comics of the day, these books just don’t pack the serious tone and darker, more realistic style of the newer ones.  Many modern readers will just not be able to connect with them as they will seem trite and simplistic, with too much over written dialog.

Cover to the Kree/Skrull Trade Collection

One of the more interesting classic books was The Kree/Skrull war, available as a trade or hardcover collection, the Chitauri of the film are a different version of the Skrulls.  Written by Roy Thomas and drawn by John and Sal Buscema and Neal Adams, this was the first really good cosmic Avengers story.  There are a few beats from this that ended up in the film.

Another classic story would be the Korvac Saga, written by Jim Shooter.  While not one that ages well, it is a decent story that showcases the team dynamic well.

The last of the great classic stories on my list, and one that is unfortunately not collected in any form yet is the runs of (primarily)writers David Micheline and Roger Stern.  With art by George Perez, this was the run of stories that really defined the title in the 1980’s and is still my favorite run on the book.  Now if Marvel would just get it into a reprint volume that would be great.  This run was from the 180’s to the early 200’s and also featured art by John Byrne, among others.

Staying with John Byrne as we go into the transition years where the stories started to develop the more modern sensibility, is Byrne’s run on a couple of Avengers titles.  The better, more noteworthy run is on the West Coast Avengers book where he redefined the Scarlet Witch and the Vision characters.  This run really pissed off some fans who didn’t like that Byrne upset the apple cart so dramatically, destroying a much-loved romance between these two characters that had lasted for over a decade.  The Darker than Scarlet and Vision Quest storylines have  been collected in trade format, and are well worth the read.

Then things went into the crapper in the 1990’s.  Lack of good stories and no real editorial direction lead to some pretty awful books.  The sales went so low as to allow Marvel to essentially hand the books over to the Image guys to revamp.  It was awful.  Many attempts are made to modernize comics for a new audience, but only a few succeed.  The Heroes Reborn books are available in trade collections if you want to see how NOT to reboot a classic title.  The Heroes Return books that came after and reset things to pre Reborn run continuity was a much better storyline by Kurt Busiek and George Perez, and is also available in trade and hardcover collections.

In 2004 the Avengers Disassembled story destroyed the team, literally.  Killing off several members, incapacitating others and destroying the team’s long time HQ, this story was designed to rip the concept to its’ foundations so it could be rebuilt.  Another run that really upset long time fans, this was the book that made the Avengers a top seller again for the first time in many years.  They essentially gutted the team like a fish and started over with a new mission and a new lineup.  One of the places they went was The Mighty Avengers by Brian Micheal Bendis.  The first arc, The Ultron Initiative drawn by Frank Cho is the best of the bunch and is a great look at defining a villain that is particularly hard to write well.

The hot new book is AvX, which is not what I call great, but it is selling well and will be the story that sets the status quo for the Avengers and the X-Men for the next couple of years.

There are also a number of good runs highlighting the Avengers from the movie in solo adventures.  One of the best is Captain America: The New Deal and The Extremists arcs written by John Ney Rieber.  A very modern take on Cap and Nick Fury and how they would function in a post 911 world.  Very powerful stuff, that takes a look at the very normal and human side of the living legend of WW2.  There is also an amazing run on the Thor solo book that is not dated at all.  Walt Simonson turned everything on its head with the Beta Ray Bill story line that started in #337 of the Thor monthly book.  Lots of thees and Thous and cosmic action, with a fair splash of humor, make this book exciting for all ages.  The Iron Man Extremis story by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov is also one of the more interesting attempts to modernize a classic character, and while it is not for everyone, this was a compelling book to read and a strong entry into the mythos.

Lastly there are The Ultimates books.  This is where the Nick Fury look you saw in the movie came from and a few other similarities such as the use of the Chitauri.  This is in a different continuity from the above books, and take a more modern approach in telling the Avengers stories right from the beginning.  The first 3 Ultimates trades are excellent versions of the characters and bear some definite similarities to the version you see in the films.  Fury, Hawkeye and the Black Widow in the movie are very much drawn from these volumes.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it is the list of books I have most powerful memories of reading in the 30+ years I have been reading comics, and they give a good snapshot of some of the best (or at least most popular) Avengers stories.  There are many others, but these would be a good place to start for anyone that liked the movie and may want a little more.

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