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Marvel Masterworks: Avengers Volume 4
Reprints: Avengers #31-40
(Vol. 38 in the Marvel Masterworks Library)
Current In-Print Edition: First Print
REGULAR EDITION ISBN: 0-7851-1638-9 • List Price: $49.99 224 Pages Scripted by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas
Current In-Print Edition: First Print
REGULAR EDITION ISBN: 0-7851-1638-9 • List Price: $49.99
Scripted by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas
So long, Stan! Say hello, Roy!
One of the constant themes of the Avengers, as we all know, is change. The old order changeth while the new order cometh. And in this particular batch of Avengers stories, we will see a big change in the scripter's chair.As Stan Lee's responsibilities within Marvel Comics Group grew, so, too, would his scripting chores be lessened. It wasn't a new thing for Stan to leave already established titles like the Avengers to move on to newer titlesthat needed to be launched with that "Stan Lee touch." And in November 1966, with the 34th issue, Stan turned thescribing over to Roy "The Boy" Thomas. Stan maintained an "editors" credit for a few issues, and added and alteredsome of Roy's dialogue, but after a few issues to get used to penning the adventures of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, thetitle was all Roy's.
The first several story lines in this book are two-parters. The first order of business in Avengers Masterworks Vol. 4is to pick up with the story line so rudely unreprinted in Avengers Masterworks Vol. 3! Avengers #31 finishes thetwo-part saga of Goliath's trip to the South American Andes, and his pursuit of the one man he thinks can help cure himof hisfreakish height.
The next two issues feature Stan's last full story line, in which the Avengers take on their strangest foe yet, the closedsociety of the Sons of the Serpent. I'm sure this story was quite cutting edge back in the day, with a bunch of race-baiting fascists running around dressed like snakes trying to urge the American populace over to their twisted way of thinking. Since noneof the Avengers weren't white (a couple more books until Black Panther shows up, y'all!) a supporting character was added to the mix to help add gravity to the Serpent rampage, and that was none other than Bill Foster. A lab aide to Goliath, Mr. Foster would help ol' Hank Pym solve his medical problems while simultaneously being the first major black supporting character in a Marvel comic that wasn't a super-hero. He'd also later become Goliath, too. (Black Goliath, natch!)
The next two-parter involves the obviously manic-depressive stalker of beautiful women, Arthur Parks, aka the Living Laser. These two stories prove that stalkers are always at their most dangerous when they wield the amazing power of the laser, so look out ladies! Stan started this story, and maybe he figured he had "jumped the shark" so much with the first story that he pawned off finishing the job to Roy. Sort of a trial by fire, maybe? The Living Laser two-fer is all over the map, with one nutty premise after another. Somehow, Mr. Parks finds a way to fold his insane desire for Janet Van Dyne into knocking over a tin-pot country in Latin America called Costa Verde (fans of Kurt Busiek's late 90s Avengers stories know that locale well!)
Roy's first full story line was, as he admits in his introduction, merely a "get acquainted" job with the Avengers. In the battle with the Ultroids, we see Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver return to active duty, and the first utterances of "the Avengers Code." The Code, in which the Avengers subscribe to the ethic that they can never harm another living person, nor allow a living person to come to harm, may seem like a hard one to live up to, but try to live up to it they do. (My favorite part of the story is when Hawkeye says "Awww...why'd ya have to go and remind me of the Avengers Code!") Such altruistic logic can only hold up in the philosophical confines of a comic book, and it sure is kooky to see our Avengers writers try!
Sublots and supporting characters abound! Besides the previously mentioned Bill Foster, we also have Hawkeye's girlfriend, the former Russian double-agent Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow! Appearing in battle alongside the Avengers in several issues, she is constantly on the cusp of membership. Will she join, or won't she? And the Avengers finally meet Hercules! After premiering in the pages of Thor, the greek god needed a place to call home. While he doesn't yet have full Avengers membership accorded to him, he is welcomed into the Avengers Mansion as it's most honored guest, while Zeus has exiled him to Earth. Hercules' dialogue is a hoot, and he brings a crackling with to the proceedings that is fun to follow.
But the biggest addition to the Avengers' supporting cast barely makes a ripple in the pages of this Masterworks volume. But despite his brief appearance, you can't miss Jarvis the butler! This iconic legend in Avengers history, the trusty and able butler for the whole expanse of Avengers-dom, takes a bow in Avengers #38.
Don Heck holds the fort throughout the issues reprinted in this book, and does his own inking chores in most of the issues. He's a real solid workman; not too much flash, although he really does hit a few home runs here and there. While most Avengers fans look back at John Buscema's run most fondly, it's easy to overlook Dastardly Don's run. After Jack Kirby launched the book, it was Don Heck who would solidify the title as one of fandom's favorites. And it is with this volume that his run as permanent Avengers penciller ends. John Buscema's run begins with the first issue of the next Avengers Masterworks, with only a few Don Heck fill-ins to follow. So when you read this book (and you will read it, right, Poncho?) give Don a little extra attention. He did some good work here, and it looks great inside Masterworks hardcovers!
-- by Gormuu
-- panel images provided by Avengers Assemble
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