The 10 best Avengers stories of all time
With a multi-billion dollar cinematic universe built around them and the hugely anticipated Avengers: Infinity War trailer on everyone’s minds, you might think the Avengers teams have always been the preeminent Marvel team, but after their successful streaks in the 60s and 70s, the Avengers had largely taken a back seat at the House of Ideas.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t a bevy of stellar superhero stories throughout the years. From the introduction of Captain America and Vision, to the machinations of intergalactic warfare in the Kree / Skrull War, classic Avengers stories aren’t hard to find.
In Recent years though, Marvel has upped the ante on the avenging, creating books like Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers, the phenomenal Young Avengers or the super popular comic event turned MCU outing Civil War to fill out a slate of classic books any serious comic or MCU fan should read.
10] The Old Order Changeth – The Avengers Vol. 1 #16 (1965)
The Avengers have had a ton of members over the years but for the first 15 issues the lineup pretty much stayed the same (more on that later). With The Old Order Changeth though, that stability came to an end.
After an intense battle with the Masters of Evil, original members Thor, Wasp, Ant-Man, and Iron Man take leave of the team. Such a change might kill other books, but Avengers continued strong as Hawkeye applied for membership, and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch joined the team.
The move worked well for Marvel too. Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch have become mainstays in the MCU, and Quicksilver was featured in the first Avengers film. On top of that, Hawkeye has gone on to found other Avengers teams like West Coast Avengers, and Scarlet Witch has even been at the center of the crossover event House of M.
9] Civil War #1-7 (2006)
Civil War was a huge event. It ran into most ongoing titles at the time (a trend Marvel continued for years, to fans’ ire) and inspired Captain America: Civil War. Make no mistake though, Civil War is an Avengers story.
Exploring the very real concepts of post-9/11 life and increased government activity, Civil War focuses on the fine line between a government protecting its citizens or ruling them. When the US Government passes the Superhero Registration Act, heroes are required to register their secret identities and dole out justice for S.H.I.E.L.D., instead of acting as vigilantes.
Eventually, as they always do, heroes take sides, and Captain America leads the charge against the registration act while Iron Man sides with the government. After its all said and done, Spider-Man is unmasked, a cybernetic clone of Thor made by Tony Stark arrives and kills the hero Goliath cementing them as villains, and Captain America surrenders, only to be shot on the steps of the courthouse. Yeah, it’s that crazy.
8] Breakout – New Avengers vol 1. #1-6 (2005)
Following the disbanding of the Avengers in the pages of Avengers Disassembled, New Avengers shines a light on a new team for a new era. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, the story explores the power vacuum that exists in a world without the Avengers, and which heroes would take up the call.
Breakout begins on a then unknown figure approaching the super-villain Electro about a job that could change the balance of power in the Marvel Universe. We don’t have to wait long to find out that the job in question is a full scale breakout at the maximum-security prison dubbed “the raft,” where Electro causes a massive lightning strike.
As chance (or comic books) would have it, different heroes are also converging on the Raft prison, including Spider-Man who sees the bolt of lightning from his home, Matt Murdock, Luke Cage, and Jessica Drew (all three of whom are meeting with Matt’s Client), and Captain America himself.
Just after the initial explosion, Electro appears inside the prison and frees a prisoner, before releasing the rest as a diversion. Now caught in a prison riot, Matt Murdock forces his way to his client, who is later revealed as the Sentry, one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel U. The team of heroes, joined by Iron Man, would then search for the escaped villains, a move that would take them to the Savage Land and encounter the Pterodactyl-man Sauron, and Wolverine who would later join the team.
7] Sidekick – Young Avengers vol 1. #1-6 (2005)
Another early 2000s Avengers story. Sensing a theme yet? Young Avengers is actually set between Avengers Disassembled and the beginning of New Avengers, comprising a team of mysterious young heroes of the Marvel Universe, who’ve caught the eye of J. Jonah Jameson.
The book opens at the Daily Bugle, where Jameson is instructing Jessica Jones and Kat Farrell to locate the team he has dubbed “new avengers.” Just after the meeting, Captain America and Iron Man informs Jessica that this team of sidekicks isn’t affiliated with the Avengers at all, and that they will shut them down at the first opportunity.
From there, Young Avengers focuses on the group’s attempts to fight crime, including a less than successful rescue during a heist in which the team is concerned that when the impending return of Kang the Conqueror happens, they won’t be ready to fight him. It’s a wonderful exploration of the legacy of the older heroes and following in the massive footsteps of the original Avengers teams.
6] Infinity – Infinity vol 1. 1-6, (2013)
I have a big soft spot for the work of Jonathan Hickman, and his Infinity crossover that spans its own standalone and the Avengers and New Avengers books is one of his best works. Parts of this storyline have even been adapted into the upcoming MCU flick Avengers: Infinity War, with the Black Order set to debut in the film.
Infinity kicks off with the Avengers team learning of a new threat to the universe in the form of an alien race called The Builders, who are dedicated to eradicating imperfect worlds from the universe. Simultaneously, we see Thanos’ Black Order, which consists of Corvus Glaive, Black Dwarf, Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight, and Supergiant, arrive on the different parts of Earth to confront the superhero group The Illuminati in preparation for an impending Thanos takeover.
It’s a must read for fans of the Avengers or Thanos, as we see the struggles of even the mightiest of heroes when two maximum threat level events occur at once. The world building Jonathan Hickman does is superb as well, as he crafts plots that carry over for the entire Marvel Now! Initiative and beyond.
5] Nights of Wundagore – The Avengers Vol. 1 #185-187 (1979)
Nights of Wundagore is a classic three part Avengers story drawn beautifully by John Byrne with a terrific script by David Michelinie that deals with the parentage of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in a story set among the wonderfully fanciful creatures of Wundagore Mountain. The Maximoff duo have a famously convoluted family history though, and it is this story that first changes their history in a big way.
Previously, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were merely born to Romani parents, which is later retconned in Nights of Wundagore (and then again in an Uncanny Avengers book.) For now though, the story follows Wanda and Pietro Maximoff in Bulgaria, where Wanda is met with Modred the Mystic as she sleeps. He bids her to come with him to Wundagore Mountain, where she arrives and is immediately attacked by Modred. Pietro then investigates her disappearance but is immediately beaten back off the mountain and knocked unconscious, when he wakes up in the home of a character called Bova.
Now, remember when I said the creatures of Wundagore were insane? Well, Bova is actually a highly evolved cow. Yes, you read that right. Bova explains to Pietro that he and his sister were actually children of a woman named Magda, and that her husband was a man who had gained strange abilities that had gone off “with a desire to rule the world,” which would later be revealed to be Magneto himself.
4] The Kree/Skrull War – The Avengers Vol. 3 #89-97 (1971)
The Avengers really hit their stride in the 70s, and The Kree / Skrull War was the high water mark of the time under writer John Thomas with art usually by Sal and John Buscema. Weaving in the Fantastic Four, Inhumans, and Avengers in one series, Kree Skrull War reads as a massive crossover in one book. And it was meant to be that way too.
The book focuses on the Kree, a race of alien dedicated to following their Supreme intelligence, a tecnologic hivemind dedicated on conquering other space faring empires, and the Skrull, a green-skinned rough-chinned alien race who prefer to conquer their foes by shapeshifting into them and bringing them down from the inside.
The original Captain Marvel Mar-Vell also features prominently, first arriving back on Earth, after being poisoned by Annihilus. He’s eventually cured and subdued by the Avengers, when Ronan the Accuser (who has noticed Mar-Vell’s unconsciousness) activates a sentry robot that abducts Mar-Vell to a secret Kree base on Earth.
The Avengers then arrive on the scene after discovering the base, where Ronan mindcontrols Goliath – who is really Hawkeye, with Hank Pym’s Giant-Man formula – into fighting his compatriots. Ronan then gets word that the Kree Empire’s space has been invaded by the Skrull’s, kicking off the war. Later, we’re also shown that the Skrulls have already invaded Earth as well, including the Avengers team and that Super Skrull is attempting to destroy Attilan, the home of the Inhumans.
There are a lot of plot points to be had in the pages of The Kree Skrull War and many easter eggs too, as John Thomas was himself a Marvel superfan as a teen. And an amazing job he did too, as the upcoming MCU flick Captain Marvel has, at least in some part, some basis in The Kree / Skrull War.
3] The Kang Dynasty – The Avengers Vol. 3 #41-55 (2001-02)
The Kang Dynasty, written by Kurt Busiek, is a 16-part story featuring the time traveling warlord Kang the Conqueror, in which Kang is actually successful in taking over the Earth. It’s also notable for depicting Kang destroying the United Nations building, and killing the entire population of Washington, D.C. – right after the events of September 11th.
Kang arrive on Earth from the 30th century, vowing to take over the Earth to save it from its fate, and begins in New York as he blows up the UN building, while saving the occupants inside with a force field. He then tells them that though he will be taking over, anyone who wishes to claim land for parts of his empire may do so and be spared.
Many groups, including the Atlanteans and the Deviants take Kang up on his offer and join his cause. Meanwhile, Kang begins his invasion of Europe but his attacks are eventually repelled. The Avengers then form a plan to attack Damocles, his base in Earth’s orbit, but are stranded in space when the attack fails.
With Earth Avengers-less, Kang deploys a massive futuristic weapon on Washington, D.C. killing millions and causing Earth, and the Avengers to surrender.
2] Captain America Joins….The Avengers – The Avengers Vol. 1 #4 (1964)
The quintessential Avengers issue and the first addition to the classic lineup and boy was it a doozy.
The issue starts off with Namor battling the Avengers and looking for his missing Atlanteans as he makes his way to the North Sea. Namor then discovers a tribe of Eskimo worshipping a man frozen in a block of ice. Namor, being angry at humanity for disturbing Atlantis and in search of vengeance for his missing countrymen, throws the block of ice into the sea.
The Avengers happen to be nearby, and notice Cap in their submarine. Giant-Man then pulls him on board, and realize he is the long lost World War II hero Captain America. Cap initially resists the Avengers before coming to his senses, and regaling the team with his last memory – of Bucky, Baron Zemo, and falling into the ice. Later in the issue, Cap officially accepts membership into the Avengers, and the Marvel landscape was never the same again.
1] The Ultimates – The Ultimates vol 1. #1-13
The Ultimates is the brainchild of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, in an attempt to modernize the Avengers team under the Marvel Comics Ultimate imprint. It’s also inspired multiple aspects of the MCU, including both Avengers films, and it reads like a summer blockbuster too.
Ultimates takes everything about the Avengers and manages to make it work on an even grander scale. When the US president approves a budget for a superhero team, General Nick Fury assembles a team that includes Tony Stark and Hank and Janet Pym. Bruce Banner joins the team as a science advisor, attempting to recreate the super soldier serum that created Captain America, but is initially unsuccessful. Thor is also offered a spot, but declines on the basis of there not being enough money in the budget for environmental issues. Captain America is later found frozen in ice, and is eventually brought back as well, mimicking his original Avengers origins.
The Ultimates at first fail to gain enough exposure, resulting in the government considering pulling the funding from the group until Hulk, experimenting with the super soldier serum, goes on a rampage after injecting the liquid into his blood. Hulk’s rampage goes on with the Ultimates unable to stop him, until the government decides to amend the budget so that Thor will join the team officially forming The Ultimates.
The Chitauri are then introduced as a new villain for The Ultimates to tackle whose roster would now include two new recruits, the mutants Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Sounds familiar, right?
Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite Avengers tale? Let us know in the comments section below.
Image credits: Marvel Comics