Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers was a cornerstone of Marvel’s comics for the three years it was running. It’s considered by many to be the definitive Avengers book, and even the definitive book of the Marvel Universe. Avengers and New Avengers in tandem told a bleak story of what happens when people consider themselves fit to make decisions on behalf of an entire universe, yet Secret Wars ended with a hopeful conclusion and the opportunity to prevent it from happening again.
I’m not here to go and talk about this run again — there’s nothing that I can really add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said far more eloquently than I could. What I do want to talk about is this collection, and how it treats the structure of the run as a whole.
Hickman’s Avengers run was split into two main ongoings: Avengers and New Avengers. These books would remain separate until the final act of the run, when they alternated every issue in what was essentially a months-long crossover called Time Runs Out. However, the first portion of this run is interesting — Avengers tells the story of the gathering of the Avengers, the day that the team grew and called upon all its members to assemble, while New Avengers depicted the true motivations of this gathering.
There’d been some debate over the proper reading order for this first chapter — does it work better in chronological order, as the events of New Avengers #1-3 took place before those of Avengers #1-3? Or does it work better thematically to show what seems like a triumph before revealing the truth behind it? This complete collection takes the strong stance of placing Avengers #1-3 before New Avengers #1-3, settling the debate. Personally, I think this is the better move. Showing the triumph before subverting it leads to a stronger emotional reaction and is just a better reading experience.
This book also makes the choice of not showing issue covers between issues, but still makes the issue breaks clear with stylish title pages separating the last page of one issue from the first of the next. It’s honestly a really cool way to read, because it feels like chapters in a book rather than that this was a bunch of magazines that are now being smushed together into a trade paperback. Of course, that’s exactly what this is, but the way this is collected keeps it from feeling like that, which is a win in my book. The trade does still have the covers, but they’re all in the back after the story has finished. And let me tell you, there are some gorgeous covers.
Speaking of things in the back, the book strangely does not end with the cover gallery. Once you’ve gotten through them all, there’s an extra story in the back: Hickman’s story about Sunspot and Cannonball in Marvel’s Astonishing Tales that came out prior to his Avengers run. This isn’t really an essential story, and it’s easily the weakest part of the collection, but it’s fun. I can see why they put it way at the end — it’s not really connected to anything else that happens and is tonally dissonant from pretty much everything else. It makes sense to not place it immediately adjacent to the main story being told, and this way serves almost like a special feature from back when people bought DVDs.
Like I said, I’m not here to convince you to read Hickman’s Avengers. If you’re reading this review, you’ve probably already heard the praise for it. And it’s deserving of that for sure. I’m here to tell you that this Complete Collection is the best way to read this run. The omnibuses are out of print, and the original trades are mostly out of print and not in the right order. This is an affordable option that also ensures you have a good experience reading the series, something that I genuinely have to commend. There was genuine effort put into the contents of this collection, and it shows.