THE LAST AVENGERS STORY – The World According to Dr. Henry J. Pym

“Boyoboy, a pointless scuffle. Just like old times…” – Hawkeye

Have you seen “Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron”? I assume you have. We here at the Unspoken Decade have. This month we want to share our boundless enthusiasm for all things Avengers with you and are taking a closer look at some of our favorite Avengers’ stories.

In 1995 Peter David wrote his first and only (aside from the “Season One” OGN) Avengers’ story, “The Last Avengers Story,” featuring the first American work of Argentinian artist Ariel Olivetti. Seeing print alongside such avant-garde alternate reality stories as Warren Ellis’ “Ruins” and Garth Ennis’ “Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe,” it is a trip through the bleak wasteland of the far future of 2016. It is also the story of the “last” Avenger, the man, the myth, and the legend himself, Hank Pym.

Everyone believes the universe singles them out; only failed entomologist Hank Pym has proof that the universe cannot stand him, although said universe has good reason.

This is not a comic about hope. It is not a comic about why you would want to be a superhero. This is a comic about what happens when you are a superhero, even if you cannot help it. Most importantly, this is a comic about family. “The Last Avengers Story” features cameos and appearances by many notable Avengers and some members who were, at least at the time, candidates from some weird future. This includes Cannonball, the Nigh-Invulnerable Man (sort of like “The Human Rocket” except with even more innuendo), so we can assume Jon Hickman was a fan. One notable absence is Tony Stark.

At no point during the two issue, prestige-format limited series does anyone acknowledge the fate of the team’s longtime benefactor or his “armored bodyguard.” Instead the story focuses on and shows the fruit of the Pym family tree. As if the entirety of what the Avengers are had been focused through the lens of Hank Pym, the doughy, porn-‘stached form of Hank Pym.

Have you ever had to acknowledge anything sadder than that?

In a world without the Avengers (it has been about two or three decades since we last saw the originals “in action”), things merely moved on. The Avengers became a poorly run franchise full of unlikable, younger heroes that are (since this was 1995) promptly “nuked” from existence.

High Tide, we hardly knew ye. Maybe you will return, along with your teammates Sequoia, Gestalt, and Super-Ego in an ongoing series featuring “The Just.”

When we first meet Hank (again) he is retired (again) and desperately trying to repair things with Jan van Dyne (again). The difference here is that this is the beginning as opposed to most Hank stories, where the failure comes later. Years after he first provided superpowers to a young woman in hopes of having her like him, the Wasp has begun to shrink, about an inch a year, and it is not to enhance her abilities. One of Hank’s only unobstructed accomplishments is killing the one person he loves more than life itself, and, as far as we are shown, Hank is no closer to solving the dilemma after a decade of constant work.

Hank has grown fat and watched the world slowly become unrecognizable. There are references made to Greenwich Village becoming an unlivable hellhole, while the South Bronx has become trendy and fashionable. If you are not intimately familiar with the various neighborhoods in and around New York this is not that important, but if you are, well, then I guess we could have worse instances of world-building. If nothing else, these issues escaped Peter David’s incessant obsession with puns. The heroes never made the world better. No grand change was made to how man and superman live together and without the constant focus of monthly adventures to distract our heroes they slumped into the same mediocrity that we ourselves can one day expect.

This scene does not appear in “The Last Avengers Story” which is a shame. Any time a carnie punches a man dressed in a flag while still believing he has the moral high ground is cause to celebrate.
This scene does not appear in “The Last Avengers Story,” which is a shame. Any time a carnie punches a man dressed in a flag while still believing he has the moral high ground is cause to celebrate.

My favorite Avenger, Clint Barton (referred to as “Cliff” at the beginning of the second issue because either Mockingbird has some undiagnosed memory issues or no one cared enough about the Avengers to copy edit) is retired and blind, lamenting the loss of the good old days. Bobbi Morse, his wife, hates everyone because Kirby-forbid that character ever to be likable. As another reminder that the world became worse, we are told that President Captain America was assassinated some time ago, under mysterious circumstances that remain unsolved.

Next is Ultron-59, scion of the House of Pym, who has come to issue a challenge: Whatever heroes Hank can muster (the “real kind,” not these “pale imitations of today,” sounding similar to more than one aged fanboy I have met) versus the surviving forces of evil. This, we are told, will be for all the marbles but is one more instance of a child acting out for attention. Not only was he the one who annihilated the New Avengers in one fell swoop, but, to really drive home the point, he pulls out a cigarette and lights it with his eye beams. Take that, Dad! I can choose to smoke, even though I am an unconquerable killer robot. Alongside him is the Grim Reaper, this time played by Billy Maximoff about a decade before, and a world over, becoming Wiccan of the Young Avengers.

More Death Dealer than cosplayer, as if he were the genuine Grim Reaper, barely subsumed in mortal form, ready to usher in the end of all things.
More Death Dealer than cosplayer, as if he were the genuine Grim Reaper, barely subsumed in mortal form, ready to usher in the end of all things.

His twin brother Tommy is also around, apprenticing as the Sorcerer Supreme. Their father, the Vision, makes an appearance as we are shown why the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are no longer around. This is Hank’s extended family. The wife he could never quite figure out how to love, the son he never intended to have, the grandson he could never have fathomed, and the two great-grandchildren he now must simultaneously fight against and lead into battle.

Reaper is joined by Kang the Conqueror and a shapechanger named Oddball. “The Last Avengers Story” is a story within the story as well, used by Ultron-59 to lure Kang back to this decade because reasons. The nature of Oddball’s relationship to Grim Reaper, which is portrayed as important, is never explained. I like to believe he is the first, non-canonical appearance of Teddy “Hulkling” Altman. In a world apparently constructed around Hank, everyone suffers and no one is truly happy. Even a character that had yet to be created, such as Hulkling, appears to be retroactively sucked into this void. Instead of the Next Generation of Heroes there is a homicidal maniac (Billy), an indecisive shut-in (Tommy), and a pile of nonsense molded to look like a Simon Bisley drawing (Teddy).

Go ahead, tell me that does not look as if it should have been a cover to “Heavy Metal.”
Tell me that does not look as if it should have been a cover to “Heavy Metal.”

The cinematic world of the Avengers is one built by and around Tony Stark. In some cases the fact that he flies around as Iron Man is secondary. He built Ultron, gets credit for bringing the Avengers together, and is in the center of all those group-shot movie posters, inexplicably not wearing his helmet even though they are in the heat of battle. The world of “The Last Avengers Story” eschews Cocktail Shaker Man and focuses on the parts of the Avengers that stem from Hank Pym, a character who has yet to appear in any movie.

Part of that is not his fault; my understanding is that the Ant-Man film was green-lit way back when the first Iron Man film was getting made, so those characters were sequestered away. Still, I cannot imagine Tony Stark being that upset if Ultron-59 came to his door and demanded a Final Battle to get over his Daddy Issues. Tony, unlike Hank, will have moved on, and an Ultron built by him may not end up as needy as one built by Hank. With each reread I am surprised how dark the world presented here is.

This is Wonder Man’s finest story, by the way. Dying to take out the Hulk, the only foe the Avengers never truly defeated. If you have any recommendations otherwise, post below!
Wonder Man’s finest story, dying to take down the Hulk, the only foe the Avengers never truly defeated. If you have any recommendations otherwise, post below!

This story is a tragedy but it is also funny, the humor coming from the absurdity of the situations these also-rans find themselves in. Wikipedia tells me that this comic was written in 1986 and was shelved until the powers that be decided to temporarily replace the “What If?” brand with the darker, and more expensive-per-issue, “Alterniverse” brand. That means that instead of being a contemporary of “The Crossing,” the much maligned Avengers event that shipped merely two months before this far better remembered story, this should actually be considered a peer of Peter David’s own “The Death of Jean DeWolff” and the other boundary pushing stories of the eighties. This is not a parody of the era it found itself in, but is really one of its precursors. I am not sure what of David’s original scripts made it onto the page. There is a reference to the also much-maligned reveal of Alicia Masters as a Skrull from a few years before (She and Johnny Storm, also a former Avenger, have an adult child that Pym attempts to enlist).

This story felt as if it could have been the future that the Marvel eighties promised, an era of Jim Shooter, Frank Miller, and a slow transition from Bronze to Dark. It was not a place of hope, and the noble tended to be ground down. Pym tells his motley crew that he wishes Captain America was there, to lead them, inspire them, and most of all to tell them what to do. Thor, Hercules, and other mythic characters have all perished in a separate, unrelated great disaster. This leaves the team constantly wondering why they should bother, which encapsulates what the Avengers are, both as a team and a franchise. They are not the Justice League. They are not the best of the best, they are the other guys. They constantly change their lineup and most of their greatest foes are former teammates. They occupy a pronounced space in popular culture that can be uniquely self-defeating.

To watch them flounder with existential despair while in the midst of their last great struggle shows that maybe this is what being a hero is. Fighting for what you believe in, no matter the odds, and hoping against hope that your faith in your friends will be enough to see you through. Except if you are Hank “Seriously, I went back to using the name Yellowjacket even after that Salvation-1 business (but that may have actually been a Skrull)” Pym. Then you wait until things get heated, grab your wife, and try to hightail it to the Microverse. My single favorite moment in this comic, possibly in all of Avengers fiction, is the look on Jan’s face as she realizes what Hank is proposing and that he is ready to go, no questions asked. He has thought about this. Amid the carnage and bloodshed of their friends and superpowered children fighting for their lives against a monster Pym himself created, Hank is ready to run away and hide. In fact, that was his plan all along.

I have always imagined Ultron as voiced by Chris Latta, actor behind Starscream and Cobra Commander from back in the day. Constantly manic and angry for no apparent reason.
I have always imagined Ultron as voiced by Chris Latta, actor behind Starscream and Cobra Commander from back in the day. Constantly manic and angry for no apparent reason.

Hank’s not the noble, inspirational figure of the story, at least not this one. He is not supposed to be. Those who are wear capes, gives speeches, and maintain even heart rates as they calmly tell mad gods to go ☠☠☠☠ themselves. Hank is the one who makes those people shine brighter by comparison. Captain America is a great man in story, but is he an interesting character? When he has something to fight against, sure. When he is disillusioned and coming up against something that makes him question what he believes in or how those beliefs are portrayed in the world. Hank does not have ideals; he just tries to follow those who do. You cannot write compelling fiction about a person who only does good. The writers of “Action Comics” for the last thirty or so years can tell you that.

“The Last Avengers Story” is about the legacy of a man who was there at the beginning of an idea and who sees it through to the end. Hank is murdered by a time traveling former pharaoh who may have once banged his “niece” (again, in another world). His has been a weird life made all the more strange by the fact that he never once made a decision he could really be proud of and that said decisions come back to haunt him in his twilight years. This is not “The Dark Knight Returns,” and the hero does not prove everyone else wrong. Hank, potbelly intact and with only a few flaccid devices at his disposal, can only defeat his villainous son (who should have been Hank’s legacy considering he created AI alone in his basement) by being murdered by an underling.

Hank falls, Ultron slaughters Kang, the man responsible for stealing his victory. Fearing that Ultron will now never know his true purpose he is then murdered by his own son, the barely coherent Vision, moved to action by the death of his “grandfather.” A vicious, awful cycle comes to an end, the dead are buried, and the survivors are left to wonder whether any of this was worth it. There are no celebrations and as far as I can tell Jan is still shrinking, slowly but surely, into eventual oblivion.

I am going to have a difficult time not imagining Hank Pym with a mustache from now on. Because of course he grows that particular poor decision when he passively asks for dispensation.
I always imagine Hank Pym with a mustache because of course he grows that particular poor decision right before passively asking for dispensation.

This comic is in many ways a precursor to DC’s “Kingdom Come.” That story featured a generation of morally vacant, superpowered young people causing more harm than good until their shenanigans reach a boiling point and Superman must be convinced to step in. He assembles together the remaining adult heroes, spanks the children, and ultimately leads to the deaths of an untold number of civilians. Momma Kent’s Lil’ Boy did not have a good time during the nineties is what I am saying. In a similar fashion, Captain America is revealed to have been watching as the world grew steadily worse. Watching the last of his friends taken down by their own inabilities.

Years before, Cap had come forward to lead the nation in light of rampant bureaucratic abuse of his superpowered peers (a government orchestrated “Villain Massacre” is mentioned). He could not have known that in this world the rules of the narrative would not allow for things to end well. He is shown to now be in a regenerative chamber. He is, inexplicably, clad in his full uniform and mask. Hawkeye, still blind, tells a mourning, doubtful Jan that “He” will return. There is a promise of glory to come but none is shown. We are never told how or if Cap has been healed or if something else has occurred to allow him to return. In this story Cap is reduced to a hollow shell, not a real person. His story, if there will be one, is hinted at as the primary story closes, with no acknowledgement if something better is just around this corner.

In this world, where all things apparently stem from Hank Pym, Cap is unable to save the day. He cannot do much of anything because he only exists as the one dimensional caricature he is remembered as. Hank thinks back to him as the father figure he never had, and even then Cap is portrayed only as an example of unyielding heroism. We have been shown in this story what happens to heroes, so why are we to believe now, at the worst of times, that one will change the fundamental nature of things? I do not buy it, and while the first time I read this, I was invigorated by the idea of Cap coming back to deal with all of the nonsense that the future had wrought, I think now of Superman in KC. Maybe Cap would have a titanic battle with Iron Man (our Captain Marvel stand-in) that corrects the indignities heaped on their dead comrades, but more than likely, based on what we have seen, more people would perish in the worst way leaving a still blind Hawkeye proselytizing to no one in particular.

This team went on to include Otto Octavius and even he did not dwell on his shortcomings as much as Pym. Most shown have done far worst, they just moved on.
This team went on to include Otto Octavius and even he did not dwell on his shortcomings as much as Pym. Most shown have done far worst; they just moved on.

Hank could never get out of his own way. This makes a certain kind of sense when you consider that he is an outcast from a different genre than someone like Cap. “The Man in the Ant-Hill,” Hank’s first story, was published in those early, just barely Marvel stories. His peers are giant monsters and unknowable invaders from beyond. He was widowed and traumatized beyond repair before he ever met anyone wearing a brightly colored costume. He belongs in a Chuck Palahniuk novel, not standing alongside Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Regardless, Hank represents what the Avengers are: what happens when normal people try to make sense of all the incredible crap that they come across while living in a place such as the Marvel Universe.

The Avengers are the number one box office draw in recent history. They have even eclipsed their peers and mass media precursors, the X-Men. There is a different “Last Avengers Story” waiting to be told today. That story will have glory and heroic sacrifice, and it may even have Cannonball. It will not have Hank Pym. It does not need to. The franchise outgrew him. All that he was died unceremoniously in a fight that could have been avoided altogether if he had been better at anything he had tried to do earlier in life. “The Last Avengers Story” is just that, the final tale of a team at a certain point and what that could have meant. So much has changed since then that the franchise is almost unrecognizable by comparison, but that is also its greatest strength. The Avengers endure, no matter what, which is what makes this story as enjoyable as any blockbuster film featuring all the pretty people.

Slaying the Dragon #1: “The 1990’s Killed Comics”

Welcome to the first installment of a new, irregularly published column here at The Unspoken Decade. Slaying the Dragon exists solely to dispel half-truths and outright misconceptions about the most prolific decade in comic book history, the 1990’s.

In 1991, when I was 10 years old, I bought my first comic books from a spinner rack at a grocery store. The 1990’s were MY decade. I love everything about the 1990’s comic scene, even what I hated about it at the time. To say that I’m a 1990’s comics fanatic is an understatement. But to say I’m a 1990’s comics fanboy would be erroneous. By my own definitions, a fanatic is someone who loves everything about a specific topic; a fanboy is someone who loves it to the point of losing objectivity.

While I love everything about the 1990’s comic scene, I am able to separate facts from oft-repeated and unfounded opinion. Some geek blogger who dislikes the 1990’s uses the horse-laugh fallacy to win the approval of the current generation of comics fans, and that personal opinion gets regurgitated endlessly as actuality.

When I sat down to write this first edition of Slaying the Dragon, it didn’t take a lot of thought to decide which dragon I should attempt to slay first. Remove the head, and the body dies, they say. I’ll start with the biggest false notion—that the 1990’s are responsible for the current plight of the comic book industry.

Comic book films are making previously unheard of amounts of money at the box-office, meanwhile sales figures for books featuring iconic characters such as Batman, Spider-Man, and the other titans of the comics multiverse are still at a fraction of what they had been, not only in the 1990’s, but in most other decades as well. I’ve seen countless comics’ fans post on social media about how the 1990’s market crash has forever crippled the hobby we all love. False.


It is absolute fact that the biggest industry crash in comics history occurred in the mid-1990’s. I would never argue against that. The only local comics shop (LCS) to ever exist in my tiny hometown opened during the boom year of 1993—a time when more comics were being published in a given month than even in the 1940’s. Then the bottom fell out of the market. There was more product being published than the market could support. My town’s LCS folded by 1996, never to be replaced. That’s reality. That is truth.

The comic book market has yet to even return to the sort of sales it enjoyed in the 1990’s, or even in the 1970’s for that matter, a time when industry insiders were predicting the demise of the entire industry. That is also truth.

But to blame the current state of the industry on something that happened 20 years ago is a simple explanation for a complex problem. I care far too much about 1990’s comics, to allow them to take the blame for a decline that started decades earlier.

While the 1990’s crash was the biggest in terms of the sheer number of publishers, distributors, shops, and titles forced to fold, it was just one of many crashes. It happens most every decade. In the 1940’s sales dropped following the end of WWII. In the 1950’s censorship and Seduction of the Innocent hysteria lead not only to a crash, but to public comic book burnings in communities around the nation. In the 1960’s, oversaturation inspired by the Marvel Comics revolution and the popularity of the Batman ’66 TV show lead to a crash. In the 1970’s, both Marvel and DC Comics were almost shut down by their parent companies thanks to the decline of the newsstand distribution system. In the 1980’s, an explosion of mostly forgettable black and white comics looking to imitate the success of Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles caused a young, gullible direct market to crash, resulting in hundreds of new comic shops disappearing along with a gaggle of publishers. Yet, after each crash, the comic book industry has risen from the grave, much like a phoenix, or for that matter, almost every Marvel Comics character to ever die a sales-spiking death.

So why hasn’t the industry resurrected itself? Why hasn’t it returned to its previous heights? There are lots of reasons, and hardly any of them are a direct result of the 1990’s.

I believe it all started the 1970’s. When the big two were almost shut down by their respective corporate entities, their woes were largely the result of a failing distribution system. Cheap “funny books” turned a minuscule profit for both newsstand outlets and distributors, so huge amounts of comics were returned untouched in order to create shelf space for money making magazines. Then in the late 1970’s, the direct market appeared. Upstart distributors convinced comics companies to sell product to comic book specialty shops. This was the savior that comics had been looking for, or so everyone thought. Publishers were making big profits once again, and the direct market opened the doors for creator-owned comics and freed creators from the shackles of Comics Code Authority censorship, allowing for books that appealed to adults as well as children.

Then came the 1980’s crash, but no big deal. Publishers were still making some money on newsstand sales, and the direct market rebounded quickly thanks to speculators who came over to the comics market when the baseball card market experienced a crash of its own. These speculators were hoarding huge amounts of first issues, first appearances, and, later, gimmick books similar to gimmick “chase cards” found in random packages of sports cards. These greedy newbs were banking on their Spider-Man #1 (with a print run close to 1 million copies) eventually being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, much like Spidey’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 was at that point in time (now worth millions of dollars). What these speculators failed to comprehend was that Amazing Fantasy #15 came out at a time when kids treated their comics like toys, reading, folding, and trading them until they disintegrated, rather than placing them in acid free bags and boards, and storing them in acid free boxes, all while having a much, much smaller print run.


Then the bottom fell out, like anyone might have figured it would. Speculators fled, dumping their gluttony of “collectibles” into the market, causing prices to crash. True fans became disenfranchised as the value of their favorite books plummeted. Comics shops closed. Many who weren’t soured to the hobby simply out grew it or developed new interests. More shops closed. But there would be new readers to take their place, eventually right? It all worked out the other times, right? Well, apparently not. Today most comic book fans are 30 or order, meaning that they lived through the 1990’s crash and stuck with it, or they’ve returned after a long absence. These days, comics newbs are a minority (although a very vocal one).

New readers simply aren’t there, even though hundreds of millions of people see the latest Marvel or DC blockbuster in theaters. If only a fraction of them started buying comics, we’d have a new industry golden age. Why isn’t that happening? I believe it’s because the industry is relying nearly exclusively on a direct market that can’t produce enough new readers to replace the ones who inevitably tire of reading serialized entertainment. When the newsstand system failed, comics lost something the direct market hasn’t been able to replicate. Comics are no longer available at every corner drug store, gas station, toy store, candy show, bus station, or grocery store, the latter of which being where I first discovered the joys of comics. Many children (and adults) live hours from a comics shop. Even if a kid lives relatively close to one, a young comics fan needs to be in walking distance to have access to comics, and even then, they have to brave a shop littered with 30-somethings bitterly complaining about how the Scarlet Witch from Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t wearing the exact costume she wears in the comics. It’s difficult for most kids to convince their parents to make a special trip for comics. For me, it was next to impossible. The only kids I see in comic shops also have a parent that is there for comics. A kid lacking a parental geek is highly unlikely to discover the medium. Of course, all the blame can’t be put on comics becoming a niche market. There’s also the astronomical cover price. In 1991, $20 (not that I ever had that much money back then) could buy you 16 comics!  Now it barely gets you 4 comics. The 1990’s can take the blame here, as it was during the mid-1990’s when everyone followed Image Comics’ lead and began using ultra-expensive glossy paper.

I hope the industry savior is digital comics. Most kids have access to tablets, e-readers, or smart phones. Digital books can be significantly cheaper than paper and ink as well (even though most digitals currently cost nearly as much as the physical books, which makes little sense to me). These digital comics can be obtained by new readers young and old with just a few finger swipes. But we’ll see if the publishers figure out how to attract them.


Mind you, this piece is no dig at comic shops or paper-and-ink comics. I love my current LCS, and hardily recommend everyone support their local shops. I myself much prefer physical comics to digital ones. Comic shops are what keeps the industry afloat, and that’s not a bad thing. The bad thing is that after almost 40 years of existing, the direct market hasn’t been able to attract the same amount of new readers the long dead newsstand industry once managed. So what the hell is the solution to this problem? I don’t know. If I did, I’d probably be some comics industry bigwig instead of a fan with an Internet column. But I hope the industry improves, or at least sticks around at its current level. A world without comics would be a dreary place. Just don’t blame my beloved 1990’s if it all disappears.

SBTU Presents: Top 10 Biggest Avengers Moments of the 1990’s!

Hello, Legions of the Unspoken!  I hope that you are better than me and have enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron by now.  We went to the Ultimate Marvel Marathon, only to find out that the big enchilada, Avengers: AoU, would be in 3D!  I am not sure I have related this before to the Legions, but I have vertigo and therefore cannot handle a 3D movie!  So we sucked it up and left early.

To date, I still have not seen the movie.  I am sure I will, but to placate me until then, and to satisfy all of the guests taking a gander here due to the Super Blog Team Up, I am going to give you the top 1990’s moments for The Avengers.  Now all of these moments won’t be highlights or the best stuff that happened to them, but they will certainly be the ones that stood out the most, had the most impact, and generate the most buzz, good or bad, to this day.


Age of Innocence- Rebirth - Page 1

Aren’t you glad I warned you that there’d be stuff you hated on this list?  Don’t you wish that either the warning had come sooner or that this had come later?  This is legendarily bad.  So bad that we are still talking about it not just as the worst moment of Avengers history in the 90’s, but it is probably the worst moment for the Avengers period.  In this story, we learn that Tony Stark, Iron Man, has been working for Kang for years and is a traitor to the Avengers.  The Avengers have issues defeating him, so they go back in time to retrieve a young Tony Stark to beat the current Tony Stark for them.  That makes no sense, and after this story, it is almost NEVER MENTIONED again.  After Heroes Reborn/Return (which we’ll see more of later in this article) Tony Stark is just back.  Of course, that’s the worst thing that happened in this story.  Other awful things happened, too, such as the Wasp looking like this:

016- Avengers #394 - Page 1

9-Spider-Man joins The Avengers

Marvel Universe Trading Cards - Series II (1991) - Page 1 Marvel Universe Trading Cards - Series II (1991) - Page 2

This one is controversial and creates a huge schism for superhero fans.  I first learned of Spidey’s status as an Avenger by the 1991 trading card above.  Should Spidey be an Avenger? There are several story arcs in the 80’s dedicated to such an idea, but it isn’t until 1991 that it finally happens!  Of course, it wasn’t easy, as at one point in Avengers #316 he gets offered a spot on the team, only to have said offer be rescinded.

Avengers316 - Page 29

It would be just 13 issues later when Spidey would be brought in as a reserve Avenger, complete with one of those “WHO WILL BE IN THE AVENGERS” trademark covers the group likes to do so much.  Spidey even gets to stick it to J. Jonah Jameson without webbing up the Daily Bugle Publisher’s mouth.

Avengers329 - Page 1 Avengers329 - Page 19

My two cents on Spidey being one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is that he should be in…but only as a Reserve Avenger.  That makes sense to me, as Spidey is always fun to see team-up with folks once in awhile, and he’d be there if the situation was large enough, anyhow.  Seeing him month in and month out is just no fun, though.

8-At one point, there were 8 simultaneous Avengers-related titles on the shelf at once.

Captain America #420 - Page 1 Avengers367 - Page 1

IM294 - Page 1thor462

The 1990’s are said to be the decade of Image Comics and the X-Men, and rightfully so.  The Avengers, however, were no slouches. Despite spending most of the decade as perceived 2nd-tier players, you could get 8 titles related to the Avengers!  Of course, some of these were solo titles that were not Avengers titles, but I cannot imagine Quasar, Thunderstrike, or Wonder Man getting titles without their Avengers connection.  In the opposite manner, Mighty Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America certainly could have stood on their own without any Avengers ties, but the fact that these three guys are “The Big Three” of The Avengers means that even in their own books, being an Avengers is an integral part of the character.  Throw in Avengers and Avengers West Coast, and you’ve got 8 books in the year 1993 to choose from to get an Avengers fix.


WestCoastAvengers #99 - Page 1 Quasar #50 - Page 1

7-Acts of Vengeance

060 West Coast Avengers #55 - Page 1

This one is a bit of a cheat, as the event actually begins in 1989, but it crosses over into 1990 just enough to garner it a place on this list.  If more of it had happened in the 90’s, rest assured it would have a higher spot.  As it is, the idea of the greatest supervillains of the world switching partners and taking on other foes is a great one, and it led to some awesome stories everywhere from Spider-Man to Punisher, with stuff like Daredevil taking on Ultron in-between.  We also got a sweet John Byrne FF#1 homage cover.  As one cover blurb states, it was the “ultimate Super-Villain Team-Up”.  Read that in a Vince McMahon voice, please.

050 West Coast Avengers #54 - Page 1 063 Solo Avengers #29 - Page 1 058 Avengers V1 #313 - Page 1

6-Heroes Reborn

Avengers V2 #1 - Page 1 Avengers V2 #4 - Page 1 Captain America V2 #2 - Page 1

Marvel was slumping from the loss of the speculator boom, and their flagship titles, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Captain America, and Avengers, were slumping not just in terms of sales, but in how they were seen by the audience.  As stated earlier, Image Comics, X-Men, and Spider-Man (among several properties) had taken the eminent position in the marketplace.  This led Marvel to throw a Hail Mary by reaching out to Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee to re-tool these properties and bring them back to the audience as cool and hot properties.  Heroes Reborn resulted in great sales, including the best selling issue of Avengers of all time, but the sales were not quite what was needed to pay the salaries of Liefeld and Lee.  There was harsh criticism of the books as well, especially Liefeld’s Avengers and Captain America.  About midway through Heroes Reborn, Marvel asked them to take pay cuts.  Lee acquiesced while Liefeld balked and walked.  After a year, the deal was done, and we’d get Heroes Return, but Heroes Reborn might be the loudest Avengers moment of the 90’s, and it almost certainly generated the  most revenue in Avengers comic book history; the movies, of course, are another story.

5-Avengers West Coast Disbanded

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When I started reading comics regularly, there were two branches of Avengers.  This made Avengers seem awesome and very important.  Avengers West Coast was also consistently more entertaining than its east coast cousin when Roy and Dann Thomas were at the writing helm, while the Bob Harras Avengers title just sort of floundered.  I didn’t see the end of Avengers West Coast coming.  I remember being shocked when I read about it in Wizard or Hero Illustrated or some such magazine.  I was upset, and I didn’t understand why they’d trash this legacy for Force Works.  I liked FW all right, but it was no Avengers West Coast to me, and while much of that grandeur surrounding The Avengers has been restored, I wonder why in the last decade of umpteen badrillion Avengers books named everything from New to Secret to Pet Avengers, why we couldn’t have gotten the return of Avengers West Coast…

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4-Operation:  Galactic Storm



A huge part of the history of The Avengers is the role that the mega epic plays in their history.  If they didn’t have any, we could not refer to them as “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and they probably would not be the center of the movie world.  The Avengers mega epic menagerie  includes great stories like The Korvac Saga, The Thanos/Warlock/Mar-Vell Saga, The Kree-Skrull War (to which Operation:  Galactic Storm was sort of a sequel), The Avengers-Defenders War, and more.  Operation:  Galactic Storm is one of the biggest editions to the cosmic cabinet that holds these mega epics…LITERALLY.  The story goes on for 19 parts through 7 different titles, and it has epilogue stories that even include a Silver Surfer issue.  While it is unwieldy at parts, and it was definitely stretched too thin, the ongoing saga has that epic feel that The Avengers really didn’t capture as often as they should have in the 90’s.  There’s also a giant moral theme that permeates the story and the epilogues, and it also spawned a really crappy video game.

Get ready to play as Thunderstrike…with Thor as your backup. Who thought that was a good idea?

Emily Scott will be taking a closer look at Operation:  Galactic Storm later this month, as we are celebrating The Avengers all month long!  She will be crafting a 2-parter because that’s what passes for a mega epic around here.

3-Avengers Forever

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I’d call Avengers Forever confusing, but that would sort of be like saying that race cars go fast.  That sort of description is appallingly insufficient.  Avengers Forever centers around Kang, The Destiny War, Rick Jones, Immortus, and a cast of different Avengers from throughout time as they run into other Avengers throughout time.  I have read this three times, and that’s honestly the best way to put it.  Actually, a better way to put it might be a love letter to Avengers continuity.  It is confusing, but it is also quite a fun book, and it is beautifully done by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino.  Just enjoy getting to see cool stuff like the Avengers teaming with Killraven against Martians, as seen above, and Two-Gun Kid vs. Kang, and you’ll be ok.  Try and make too much sense of it and you will have a headache that can only be destroyed by Ant-Man.  Enjoy it as a romp, and well, you get a romp.

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2-The Last Avengers Story

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Peter David crafts a dark tale that isn’t saturated in grim and gritty nonsense that Ariel Olivetti  renders in an eye-pleasing darkness that seeps into everything.  The Avengers aren’t what they used to be, kids, and what they used to be was kids.  David’s story highlights the inherent advantages that villains have within the superhero paradigm.  He also shows us a world gone mad, heroes broken for different reasons, and the fate of the children of several of the heroes.  Also, we get Cannonball in this for some reason.  I guess in this timeline, he grows up to be an Avenger instead of Cable: The Sequel.  In the end what passes for The Avengers gather to make their last stand against an assemblage of their greatest foes, and many of the Avengers who are left simply don’t make it, but hope remains for those who do.  Darry Weight will take a closer look at this masterpiece later this month!

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1-Ultron Unlimited

In my mind, this isn’t just the greatest 90’s moment in Avengers history, but this is truly the greatest moment in Avengers history, period.


That.  That’s it.  That panel epitomizes The Avengers.  Even their heaviest hitter, Thor, is war-scarred, having battled all that Ultron has to offer.  Captain America and Firestar are beaten down too.  Despite the hardship, despite the war they have just gone through, and despite their fatigue and injuries, The Avengers are here to do a job, and that job is saving the world.  Ultron is at his uttermost worst in this tale; in contrast, the Avengers have never been better, shone brighter, or come through against more horrendous odds.  That, to me, is what The Avengers is all about.  When things look bleak, they find a way.  When the odds are stacked against them, they unstack them.  When the worst villains show up, they get confronted by the best heroes.  Those heroes are…THE AVENGERS!!!

Just want to give an honorable mention here to the Infinity Saga.  I had it on the list, but it’s really more of a Marvel Universe story instead of just an Avengers one.  One could make the same argument for Acts of Vengeance, but it ended in an Avengers title. and so I justified it.  While the Infinity Saga did crossover into the Avengers titles, it was more or less contained within the three mini-series under the “Infinity” heading.

Thanks for enjoying our top ten! Now, Assemble with these other fine folks in the Super Blog Team Up!

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