Marvel Comics Retro-Reviews: Avengers Vol. 3 #35-56 By Kurt Busiek, Alan Davis, Kieron Dwyer, Rick Remender & Others

Avengers Vol. 3 #35-56 ; Avengers 2001 (December ‘00-September ‘02)

Written by Kurt Busiek (#35-56, Avengers 2001)

Pencilled by John Romita Jr. (#35), Steve Epting (#36-37), Alan Davis (#38-43), Manuel Garcia (#44-47), Kieron Dwyer (#48-50, 53-54), Brent Anderson (#51), Ivan Reis (#52, Avengers 2001), Patrick Zircher (#55), Yannick Paquette (#56), and Ian Churchill (Avengers 2001)

Inked by Al Vey (#35-37), Mark McKenna (#35), Chris Ivy (#35), Mark Farmer (#38-43), Bob Layton (#44-47), Rick Remender (#48-50, 53-54), Tom Palmer (#51), Randy Emberlin (#52), Scott Koblish (#55), Ray Snyder (#56), Scott Hanna (Avengers 2001), and Norm Rapmund (Avengers 2001)
Spoilers (from thirteen to fifteen years ago)

The first thirty-four issues of this series (give or take a few) were the product of a very close and remarkable collaboration between writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez.  It stands as a high watermark in the history of Marvel Comics’s best known team property.  After Perez left the title, Busiek continued working on it for another twenty-two issues (and an Annual), although the quality of the run depended a lot on the artist attached to the book at the time.  Busiek had a lot of long-running plotlines to address, and the book became pretty complex at times.

Here is a list showing who made up the Avengers over this run, as the team got bigger and bigger leading up to its huge conflict with Kang the Conqueror:

  • Captain America (Steve Rogers)
  • Iron Man (Tony Stark; goes on leave between #42 & 43, returns out of costume #46 and doesn’t suit up again until #52 and then wears the worst looking armor he’s ever had)
  • Wasp (Janet Van Dyne)
  • Goliath/Yellowjacket (Hank Pym)
  • Vision
  • Wonder Man (Simon Williams; leaves #41; regular appearances starting #46)
  • Triathlon (Delroy Garrett)
  • Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff)
  • Warbird (Carol Danvers)
  • Thor (appears as part of “Avengers Infinity” #35; rejoins core team #38)
  • Photon (Monica Rambeau; appears as part of “Avengers Infinity” #35; sticks around; posted to deep space asteroid belt #38; regular appearances starting #46, Avengers 2001)
  • Quasar (Wendell Vaughn; appears as part of “Avengers Infinity” #35; posted to deep space asteroid belt #38, regular appearances starting #47-54)
  • Jack Of Hearts (appears as part of “Avengers Infinity” #35; sticks around, officially joins the team in #43)
  • Starfox (Eros, appears as part of “Avengers Infinity” #35; leaves afterwards)
  • Moondragon (Heather Douglas; appears as part of “Avengers Infinity” #35; leaves afterwards)
  • Tigra (appears as part of “Avengers Infinity” #35; leaves afterwards)
  • USAgent (appears as leader of fight against aliens in #35; leaves afterwards; appears #56)
  • Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff; rejoins core team #38)
  • Black Knight (Dane Whitman; posted to Slorenia #38 and stays active)
  • Firebird (Bonita Juarez; posted to Slorenia #38 and stays active)
  • Living Lightning (posted to deep space asteroid belt #38, regular appearances starting  #47-55)
  • Silverclaw (Lupe; reserve member; regular appearances starting #39-55)
  • Hulk (Bruce Banner; appears #40)
  • She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters; helps out #43-44, 46, 55 & 56)
  • Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff; helps out #43-44)
  • Stingray (helps out regularly starting #43-55)
  • Hercules (helps out #44, 46, 55)
  • Justice (Vance Astrovik; undercover in Triune Understanding, Avengers 2001, revealed #48)
  • Firestar (Angelica Jones; undercover in Triune Understanding, Avengers 2001, revealed #48)
  • Beast (Hank McCoy; helps out #56)

Also of great importance are two supporting cast members:

  • Edwin Jarvis
  • Duane Freeman (killed #49, although that’s not revealed until #55)

Let’s look at the events of this series in detail, with some commentary as I go along:

  • The first post-Perez issue is a tie-in with the Maximum Security event that was also written by Kurt Busiek, and which involves the Shi’ar, leading a coalition of alien races, declaring the Earth’s solar system a prison colony, dumping alien prisoners on the planet, and effecting a quarantine around the whole system.
  • This issue, drawn by John Romita Jr., focuses on the team of heroes who starred in the Avengers Infinity miniseries, which I barely remember, and which is not recapped here.  This team is made up of Thor, Photon, Moondragon, Quasar, Starfox, Tigra, and Jack of Hearts, although I’m not sure if the latter is an actual team member.
  • These heroes try to negotiate with Lilandra, but are given the runaround, and almost killed by a group of aliens known as the Ruul.  They are taken prisoner, and learn that the Ruul are actually disguised Kree, and that the Supreme Intelligence is behind Earth’s problems.  Quasar tries to get word to Earth, but we don’t know if he succeeds.
  • On Earth, the Avengers (missing Iron Man, and with Captain America seemingly calling the shots again, despite his having not been a member of the lineup two issues previous) learn that USAgent is going to run Earth’s response to this whole thing, and that he wants to fight back.  From here, the story continues in the end of Maximum Security.
  • Iron Man, Warbird and Vision fight a leftover from the Maximum Security event that is trying to wreck the Earth or something.
  • Some Avengers hang out at the mansion.  Jack of Hearts eats burgers and talks a lot, Wanda and Hank discuss Simon’s susceptibility to mind control by Nefaria, Jan and Hank discuss his coldness, and Peggy Chandler, the wife of the 50’s hero 3-D Man arrives at the mansion demanding to know the connection between him and Triathlon, who wears his symbol.
  • At the Triune Understanding, Jonathan Tremont decides it’s time to make the Avengers look bad again, so he sends Lord Templar and Pagan to fight them.
  • While they are fighting, Hank Pym gets knocked out by himself while walking down the street, and Captain America calls from Slorenia looking for help with the fact that a gigantic Blood Wraith is walking around that decimated country.  Photon, Iron Man, Wonder Man, and Scarlet Witch head to Europe to help, while the rest of the team stays to fight Templar and Pagan.
  • Arriving in Slorenia, Iron Man and Wonder Man build a cannon thing to stop Blood Wraith, but it doesn’t work.  The Avengers still in New York keep up the fight with Pagan and Lord Templar.
  • We learn that Blood Wraith is a spirit that lives in the Black Knight’s ebony blade, which now belongs to some guy named Sean Dolan.  The blade absorbed all the spirits of the Slorenian dead (who had been killed by Ultron), and now Blood Wraith wants to kill everyone on Earth or something.
  • Photon returns to New York and manages to take out Pagan with help from Jack of Hearts, while Triathlon knocks out Lord Templar, and Scarlet Witch manages to trap Blood Wraith within Slorenia’s borders, which is something of a solution.
  • Goliath acts all cavalier (presumably, this is the other Hank Pym), while Captain America gets all angry about how these fights came about because the Avengers weren’t proactive, and Wasp says she wants to make changes to the team.
  • A team of Avengers take out one of Taskmaster’s training camps in Florida.
  • Cap and Wasp have restructured the Avengers into a larger team that is working to be more proactive in their approach to things, seeking out threats.  To that end, they have sent Black Knight and Firebird to Slorenia to try to figure out how to cure Blood Wraith, and have sent Jack of Hearts to the Savage Land to look for the High Evolutionary.  They’ve also set up a deep space monitoring centre, staffed by Quasar, Photon, and Living Lightning.
  • We learn that the other Hank Pym is keeping the original prisoner in a tiny base on the grounds of Avengers Mansion, while two shadowy figures keep watch on what’s going on there.
  • Vision and Carol Danvers go on a date, but are interrupted by an emergency.  It seems a town in Greece has had all of its inhabitants turned into Hulks.  The Avengers head there and split up, so they can try to keep the hundreds of Hulks from spreading outside of the town.
  • Wonder Man and Triathlon share a chat in the Quinjet as they fly to meet with their comrades, while we learn a little more about the two who have been watching the Avengers – they are a father and son, and have some long-range plans in place for the team.
  • Goliath (who is not the real Hank Pym) decides that the best way to deal with the Hulks is to slam them into each other, which somehow just creates larger Hulks, which he intends to shrink down later.  We learn that the people have been infected with dust from a town that the Leader gamma-irradiated some time ago.
  • Silver Claw, hanging out with Jarvis, runs across Diablo, who is behind the Hulk thing, and is trying to infiltrate Avengers Mansion.
  • Goliath’s plan doesn’t work, and so now the team is fighting one gigantic Hulk who can’t be shrunk.  Goliath gets sick again (although that was previously only shown happening to the real Hank Pym), and the team gets a call from Bruce Banner, offering to help out.  Quicksilver goes to get him, because Silverclaw is still busy fighting Diablo in New York.
  • Black Knight and Firebird, stationed in Slorenia, notice something strange happening in Siberia.
  • Wonder Man and Triathlon show up in New York and help Silverclaw take out Diablo.
  • Banner transforms into the Hulk, and merges with the gigantic Hulk.  He is able to push all the transformed people out of the matrix, reverting them to normal.
  • We learn that Diablo is not really Diablo, since he is trapped in some other dimension.  He sent a homunculus to work to free him.  We also learn that the two figures who have been watching the team are Kang and the Scarlet Centurion.  Kang, who has a gigantic space fortress shaped like a sword hanging over the Earth, called Damocles Base, decides it’s time to launch his attack.
  • Warbird tests her new power limits (funny how we never talk about her drinking problem now), fake Hank Pym gets sick to his stomach, Wonder Man decides to leave for the west coast, Wanda decides she won’t miss him that much, and Jan pries into Tony’s private life while a squad of Avengers (Cap, Thor, Quicksilver, Firebird, and Black Knight) head into Siberia where there is some sort of radiation thing happening.  Triathlon worries about his legacy on the team, while everyone else engages in leisure activities, such a Vision sitting and reading Martha Stewart Living magazine.
  • The Scarlet Centurion shows up at the UN building, and attacks the Avengers when they arrive.  They fight, and the SC finds himself attracted to Warbird, and then Kang shows up to blow up the building, while saving all the inhabitants.
  • In Russia, Cap’s squad approach the radiation zone, while in NYC, Kang gives a very long speech.  First he talks about all of the threats that the Earth is likely to face in the near future (he knows because he’s a time traveller), and then, after an American guy orders missiles launched at Damocles Base that do nothing, he talks about how he’s going to go about taking over the entire planet to save it.  He gives this speech while lounging on a floating transparent purple cushion, which does not make him look threatening.  He is also broadcasting this speech, and offers favour to anyone who helps him, which prompts Attuma to launch an attack in PEI, and the Deviants to launch one in China.
  • He ends his speech by telling everyone that the first threat he mentioned is currently happening in the East, where Cap’s team finds an injured Darkstar, and learns that The Presence is back, with a legion of floating radioactive zombies, including the rest of the Winter Guard.  Somewhere in here, Warbird realizes that the Scarlet Centurion is Marcus, who is her son/lover/confusing.
  • We learn how the Presence gained the power to created the irradiated zombies, and how he thinks he can save Russia by doing this to everyone.  
  • Cap’s squad continues to fight him in Siberia, employing foam-shooting super soakers, although eventually most of the team succumbs, becoming irradiated zombies, except for Firebird and Thor.  
  • In PEI, The Wasp, Triathlon, Jack of Hearts, and Yellowjacket (Hank switched things up, somehow, without telling his teammates who presumably flew there with him and would have noticed his new uniform) fight off Attuma’s forces, which include a giant monster controlled by a glowing pink pearl.  Jack of Hearts is made an official Avenger, Stingray is called in to pursue Attuma, and Yellowjacket collapses and starts to fade away.
  • Vision, Warbird, She-Hulk, Black Widow, and Silverclaw fight back Deviants in China.  They pursue them into their underground lair, only to discover that they are trapped and surrounded.
  • Kang and Marcus put out a call for recruits from among the Earth’s population to support Kang’s takeover of the planet.
  • The Avengers 2001 annual resolves the Hank Pym plotline.  The two Hanks (the other is discovered by the Wasp) are beginning to disappear, and Triathlon suggests that the Triune Understanding’s leader, Jonathan Tremont, may hold the key to fixing him.  Joined by Photon, he and the Wasp take him there.  On a mind plane, the two factions of Pym’s personality meet, and guided by the Wasp, realize that they need to integrate to form the original Pym, which is what happens, fixing all of his mental issues for now.
  • While this is happening, Photon chats with Delroy, and also explores the Triune headquarters, where she runs into Justice and Firestar, who are undercover, investigating the cult for Iron Man.  They show her that Tremont is building a faith-powered spaceship in the basement.  Photon shares her concerns with Delroy, but doesn’t tell him about the other Avengers.
  • These rare appearances of Monica Rambeau make me hope that the upcoming Ultimates title that features her is successful.  She really is one of my favourite Marvel characters, and Busiek writes her well here.
  • Stingray tracks down and destroys Attuma’s supply lines while the rest of his squad (now assisted by Hercules and Scarlet Witch) wraps up the rest of his forces in PEI.
  • Warbird challenges the leader of the Deviants to combat, and has to fight his champion, Glomm.  She defeats the blobby monster, and orders the Deviants back to Lemuria.
  • In Siberia, Thor and Firebird have to face their zombified teammates.  Thor sucks the Presence’s powers into his hammer, freeing everyone from his control.
  • Kang continues to gather recruits on his Damocles Base.  When Whirlwind acts all arrogant, Kang destroys him or teleports him away.
  • With all the squads victorious, the government wants to meet with them to discuss a response to Kang’s threats.  Duane Freeman is with Valerie Cooper, and we learn that the government has Sentinels on hand, in case the Avengers aren’t enough to stop Kang.
  • Kang engages in a whole lot of exposition again, telling Marcus about his childhood (which doesn’t involve Carol Danvers at all), and of their plans.
  • Cap, Wasp, Thor, and Firebird meet with the US military to help coordinate plans for dealing with Kang.  Thor gets a little emotional about the fact that he cares about people.
  • Hank decides to stick with the Yellowjacket persona for now, which is supposed to make everyone feel better about his mental state.  Warbird and Vision talk with Triathlon and Jack of Hearts about a plan to further infiltrate the Triune Understanding to figure out what’s going on with the belief-energy spacecraft.  They then go out for dinner and drinks.  Quicksilver feels lonely on the roof.
  • Cap thinks Sentinels are a bad idea.
  • Structures appear ringing major cities around the world.  The Master of the World, in all his John Byrne-designed glory, has plans to protect the world from Kang.
  • Kang’s ground forces attack in France, and engage soldiers from around the world, the Avengers, and some local heroes.
  • The Avengers investigate the structures ringing major cities.  A Plodex kidnaps the Mayor of Boston, and is pursued by Stingray as it swims north.  An Avengers team made up of Warbird, Silverclaw, Quicksilver, and Yellowjacket follow.
  • Cap, Scarlet Witch, Jack of Hearts, and Photon ready a ship to take the fight to Kang, despite not being able to penetrate his forcefield yet.
  • Vision and Triathlon arrive at the Triune Understanding’s headquarters to begin their investigation, just as word reaches them that the threat the Triune are readying for, the Triple-Evil, is approaching.
  • We learn that the Master is as good at exposition as Kang is.  He wants to protect the world for himself, basically.  Stingray overhears his plans.
  • The Master’s Plodex fight off Warbird’s squad, and then he detonates their section of his base.
  • In the middle of so many storylines, Busiek gives basically an entire issue to Warbird.  He has her remember what has to be the strangest story she was ever involved in, when a different version of Marcus used technology to make her fall in love with him, impregnated her, and was then born into the real world through her.  Unable to stay in the world, he had her return to Limbo with him, where he promptly died and abandoned her.  What makes this all so disturbing is that her friends, the Avengers, allowed all this to happen, and never questioned her actions.
  • Carol is alone in the Arctic, almost out of power, and pursued by the Master’s Plodex wolves.  The current version of Marcus arrives to help her, and although she doesn’t trust him, they end up working together over the course of the issue, and she begins to change her mind about him.  They part uneasily.
  • The rest of Warbird’s squad survived the explosion, and she goes to join them.
  • In deep space, Quasar and Living Lightning detect a large pyramid flying towards the Earth, which they pursue.
  • Cap’s squad attempts to attack Damocles Base, but are unsuccessful.  Kang appears as a gigantic hologram outside the ship, and when the US government launches its Sentinels at him, he takes control of them, and turns them back towards America, holographically walking them towards the planet.  He blows up Cap’s ship, and leaves that squad floating in space.
  • Warbird’s squad (assisted at a distance by, presumably, Marcus) engage the Master in battle, and Carol drives a chunk of metal through his torso so they can take control of his technology in the battle against Kang.
  • Thor and Firebird fight Kang’s army in Europe, and Thor gets mopey again.
  • Vision, Triathlon, Justice, and Firestar accompany Jonathan Tremont in his faith-based spaceship, and are still surprised when it hurts his acolytes to fly it.  They are off to fight the Triple-evil, which I imagine is the pyramid thing.
  • Busiek really has a lot of balls in the air at this point, and I would expect there to be a lot of momentum to the story, but it just isn’t working that way.  I remember getting pretty bored with this run around this time (which didn’t allow me to really take in how good Dwyer and Remender were on art).
  • Marvel’s ‘Nuff Said Month, when most of their line consisted of issues that didn’t use any words for one month, fell into a weird spot on this title, but Busiek and Dwyer used it very effectively.
  • Kang attacks Washington DC with his new army of Sentinels, destroying much of the city.  Wasp, Thor, Firebird, and Wonder Man do their best to resist him, but with fire support from Damocles Base, he’s too powerful.  The Avengers do manage to stash the President with the Lemurian Deviants (an odd touch), but presumably any other government leaders in the city are killed.
  • The United States surrenders to Kang, and he has Wasp sign it, further demoralising her.
  • It’s kind of nice to go a whole issue without Kang’s endless Kangsplaining.
  • The fiftieth issue of this series is another double-sized one, and it mostly ignores what’s been happening on Earth to focus on the Triple-Evil, and to wrap up a number of Triune Understanding-related plotlines.  The issue cuts between the story set in the present and the history of Jonathan Tremont, that begins with three cosmic beings creating a pryamid of evil, and three smaller pyramids of good that are let loose in the cosmos.
  • We learn that Tremont was once one of three brothers, but that the other two died and were absorbed by him (becoming Lord Templar and Pagan at some point), that Tremont killed the 50s hero 3-D Man to gain power for himself, and later embedded 3-D Man’s essence into Triathlon.
  • In the present, Quasar and Living Lightning rescue Captain America, Jack of Hearts, and Photon from Kang’s robots.  They aren’t able to save Scarlet Witch in time, and she is taken prisoner by Kang.  Quasar and LL are pursuing the evil pyramid thing, but Cap doesn’t want to divert from dealing with Kang.  When Tremont, Vision, Triathlon, Justice, and Firestar show up in the Triune spacecraft, Cap changes his mind.
  • The Avengers end up inside the evil pyramid, where they are shown illusions that make them believe that they are getting their hearts’ desires.  Cap breaks free, and the team is soon in battle with aliens that are hard to defeat, even when Templar and Pagan show up to help them.
  • Triathlon learns that Tremont is not just looking to defeat the Triple-Evil, but to co-opt its power for himself.  Triathlon uses the powers of one of the good pyramid things to fight back against Tremont, and becomes an amalgam of himself, 3-D Man, and 3-D Man’s brother.
  • Triathlon uses his new cosmic powers to cleanse the evil pyramid of its evil.  Vision informs the team that Kang has had control of the Earth for weeks.
  • Wonder Man and Scarlet Witch are given a solo issue, drawn by the amazing Brent Anderson and Tom Palmer.  Simon has been work with a resistance group against Kang’s rule, but is captured and taken to a gulag where Wanda is being held.  They both wear collars to negate their powers (although not effectively in Wanda’s case).  They are afraid to bust out, because Kang immediately executes other prisoners when this happens.
  • They get time together to work out the fact that while they love each other, their relationship is over.
  • They hatch a plan that allows Simon to get free, with Kang’s people believing that he is dead.  He heads off to rejoin the resistance.
  • It’s weird to think that in this storyline, Busiek has the entire planet under Kang’s subjugation, but that was not reflected or mentioned in any other series at the time.  Today, Marvel would use a storyline like this as an excuse to launch some thirty-odd miniseries, while DC would just publish a bunch of one-shots featuring their marquee characters.
  • The free Avengers (Thor, Yellowjacket, and Quicksilver) bust Wasp out of Kang’s prison and take her to the Master’s base, where Tony Stark, Black Knight, Stingray, and Wonder Man have been working to understand the technology there.  Silverclaw and Firebird are also around, as is the President.
  • In space, Cap’s squad work to use the Triple-Evil pyramid to their advantage, mostly though Triathlon’s new abilities.
  • Wasp negotiates with allies, to coordinate attacks on Kang’s forces worldwide.  She is supported by Deviants, Atlanteans, and the Presence and Starlight.  Kang and Scarlet Centurion return to Damocles Base and are about to destroy the Master’s base and several American cities when the Triple-Evil pyramid arrives.
  • Kang uses his holographic technology to go fight the pyramid in space, but a huge holographic Captain America shows up to challenge him.
  • Cap fights Kang holographically while the rest of the Avengers (Cap’s squad and the Wasp’s) attack Damocles Base, supported by the pyramid and the Master’s base.  Kang is surprised, not having expected the Master to work with the Avengers (and not knowing that Marcus aided Warbird), while Jonathan Tremont uses the last of his power to help the Avengers pierce Damocles’s shields.  
  • Warbird makes her way to the base’s power core, absorbing and releasing it, which basically starts destroying the whole thing.  Kang puts Marcus in a lifepod and returns him to the future, but is determined to go down with the ship, which starts plummeting towards the Earth.
  • After Damocles Base crashes into Maryland, the Avengers arrive to help civilians, and to take Kang out.  Captain America fights him, and knocks him out.
  • Triathlon chooses to leave the team, to dissolve the pyramid, and to figure out his new, heightened, abilities. Warbird confesses to killing the Master, and is looking for some sort of official process to help her assuage her guilt.  
  • The world celebrates its freedom from Kang, although there might be a problem with the Master’s base.
  • Kang is imprisoned in a jail in a mountain.  He is accepting of his place as a prisoner, confident that Marcus will carry on his legacy.  Marcus arrives to free him, which is against his will.  Back on his own vessel, he reveals to Marcus that there have been twenty-something clones before him, and that he knew Marcus betrayed him by helping Warbird.  He kills his son, and returns to his role as Kang the Conqueror.
  • Busiek uses #55 as an epilogue to the Kang storyline, and to his entire run, giving us a very effective and at times touching issue.
  • Warbird has asked for a court martial to discuss her killing of the Master.  The scene (drawn by Zircher) echoes her earlier court martial for drunkenness, and helps bring closure to Busiek’s run by bringing things full circle.  The team refuses to censure her for her actions, which finally makes her feel accepted by the team.
  • The Avengers have a party and hang out, which gives Busiek the chance to check in on a lot of characters over the course of the issue.  We learn that the Master’s bases have dissolved, and Firebird frets over her treatment of Thor in his mopiness.
  • Triathlon returns the two people that made up 3-D Man to their wife/sister-in-law, and gives up his powers.  He decides to return to the Avengers.
  • Vision runs into a woman he met in Chicago, and makes a new friend outside the superhuman world.
  • We learn that Duane Freeman was killed in the attack on Washington.  Iron Man meets with his brother to give him his personal effects, and we learn that Tony has felt bad about how he treated Duane.  His brother sets him straight by making clear how much Duane still respected him.
  • Thor arranges for an Asgardian dinner for everyone, and isn’t mopey anymore.
  • Cap, Wasp, and Iron Man go to Washington to pay their respects to the dead.
  • Kurt Busiek’s last issue is an odd one.  He has various active and inactive members of the team meet with accountants from the Maria Stark Foundation to discuss the expenditures incurred on a particular mission.
  • On that mission, a group of constructs called the Elements of Doom (picture the Metal Men being made of more obscure elements, and angry) try to rip apart St. Louis, and the team, buttressed by She-Hulk, Beast, and USAgent work to stop them, while wrecking a Quinjet, some buildings, and some other stuff.
  • It’s an amusing issue, but after the dignity of the previous one, it falls a little flat.  Also, I don’t understand why Thor looks so weird, with chains added to his chest, and his helmet sporting wings that cover his cheeks.
  • The accountants work in good-cop, bad-cop fashion, and in the end, decide that the Avengers did the right thing.

Busiek’s work on this book continued to be impressive until the end.  Some of the plotlines that finished up at the end of the Kang story were begun at the very beginning of his run, taking almost fifty issues to wrap up.  This is an incredible accomplishment compared to where comics stand today.  Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers barely lasted forty issues, and was heralded as a very complex run.  Most comics are now being relaunched every seventeen to twenty issues, making a run like this impossible.

This also works against this run in some places.  The Kang storyline incorporated the Triune Understanding plotline, and became so busy and wordy in places as to be completely boring.  Once everything started to click into place, the book did get a lot more exciting.

It’s interesting to remember, though, that when Busiek was reaching the end of his run, Grant Morrison was writing New X-Men, and Mark Millar was writing Ultimates, two books that made this classic approach to superhero storytelling, which was so refreshing a couple of years earlier as the spectre of the 90s was being banished, feel a little old-fashioned and tired by the time Busiek finished.  This was a very impressive period in Marvel’s history, and this book began to feel a little staid in comparison, although reading it again in a short span of time really helps uncover some of its strengths.

Busiek was always a very character-driven writer, and I liked being able to look at how he changed a number of characters for the better.  His Scarlet Witch (who was only a couple years away from being wrecked forever by Brian Michael Bendis) became confident and a leader.  His Carol Danvers confronted her own alcoholism and became more centred as a superhero.  Vision started to exert an actual personality.  Hank Pym resolved his mental health issues.  He took a character like Jack of Hearts, who had a ridiculous look, and made him feel acceptable as a team member.  He gave Stingray something to do!  The blending of obscure characters, secondary heroes, and the major members of the team worked very well.  He made me like Triathlon, and reading these books again, made me want to see more of this character.

After Perez left, the book went through a number of artists.  Alan Davis had a decent run, but I’ve never liked him working on certain characters.  His Vision looks great, but he always draws Captain America as too slim and young, more like he’s Spider-Man in a Cap costume.

It was interesting to see artists like Ivan Reis and Yannick Paquette draw this book, since I associate them so strongly with DC Comics.

My favourite artistic run belongs to Kieron Dwyer and Rick Remender.  I’d forgotten that Remender inked this book, which is amusing seeing as he went on to write a lengthy run on Uncanny Avengers, and that most of his fans might not even know he ever drew comics.  Dwyer’s an artist I would never associate with superhero comics.  His unique approach to figure drawing made the characters feel very distinct.

Dwyer’s covers on this book really stand out, as he played with negative space, and crafted minimalistic, striking covers that grab the eye.  Choosing iconic and noteworthy covers to include in this article became difficult when I hit his run, as they are all worth sharing and enjoying again and again.  I opted to throw all his later ones in here, because I couldn’t stand to leave any out.  I’m glad he stuck with the book into Geoff Johns’s run, as I want to look at more of his art.  I’d like to know what Dwyer’s up to these days, as it’s been a while since I bought one of his comics, and I’ve always enjoyed them.

I dropped this title shortly into Geoff Johns’s run, but have recently picked up some of those issues I skipped in a sale.  My next column is going to look at his run, and if I find I enjoy them more than I remember them, I may even spring for the last few issues I’m missing.  Only time will tell.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, here are links to all of my other retro Avengers reviews:


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