Marvel has the habit of publishing one-shot stories that are unconnected to their main books. This gives readers more options if they want a different flavor of the story, or a story that can be easily added to their pull list without further commitment. Marvel has been collecting these disparate stories in a new series of trade paperbacks called Legends of Marvel. They’ve already released a Spider-Man collection and an X-Men collection if you missed any or a few of the tales. This week, the Avengers get the focus with four extra-sized one-shot stories collected focusing on Hulk, Thor, Captain America and the Invaders, and an Avengers tale on its own.
This book starts with the Hulk one-shot Incredible Hulk: Last Call. This was a big moment for Hulk comics when it was released back in June since it reunited Peter David and Dale Keown, who created quite a few iconic Hulk stories from 1990 to 1992. This is an interesting psychological story crafted by two creators very familiar with the character. In the issue, we witness a Bruce Banner who is calm but seriously contemplating suicide. It opens with him calling a suicide hotline and talking about why he wants to take his own life. As he talks things over with the suicide prevention worker, he goes over how he’s ruined lives and has no will to live with his wife Betty long gone. David and Keown retread stories with Betty, but also show when they first met which adds a touching moment to the narrative. In a key moment, Bruce reflects on what the monster was and how it wasn’t a personification of his rage, but something else. It’s a nice sentiment and one that adds weight to the monster inside the character. The tale can feel oversimplified at times though, never having the finishing touches on the conclusion and plot turns to hold up upon multiple read-throughs.
The art is rock solid, depicting the ripped Hulk, and other monsters, well. Keown’s strongest work is when Hulk is rippling with muscle and doing his worst with his fists which you get plenty of here.
Following this tale is the Avengers: Loki Unleashed one-shot by Roger Stern and Dale Keown. This story has classic Avengers written all over it, from Keown’s art style to the appearance of characters like Living Tribunal. Its general purpose is to show how Loki is as instrumental in creating the Avengers as the heroes are themselves. A fun little wrinkle of a story, although it’s simplistic in its main conceit.
Next up is Thor: The Worthy with three stories the first by Walter Simonson and Mike Hawthorne, the second by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, and the third by Kathryn Immonen and Tom Reilly. Of these tales, all of which came out of Marvel’s 80th anniversary plans, this might have the strongest anniversary vibe. Each tale utilizes different icons from Thor’s history like Beta Ray Bill, Sif, Jane Foster Thor, and even the ’90s Thor who wore a vest and had a ponytail. It’s a nice tribute to the various characters.
Wrapping up the book is Captain America & The Invaders: Bahamas Triangle by Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway. This book lives and breathes the Silver Age of comics with Cap punching out Nazis, Namor taking out submarines, and Franklin D. Roosevelt even showing up to root our troops on. It’s a nice reminder of Marvel’s roots. It’s a bit odd to be collected under the banner of the Avengers — the Invaders have nothing to do with the team, but you could argue the same of most of the other stories here.
This is a nice collection that reads more like a tribute to the characters in each story rather than a tribute to the Avengers proper. It’s fun enough, especially if you’re a fan of Thor, Hulk, and Captain America, but it’s also an easy trade to skip since it isn’t tied to any main stories.