The Avengers weren’t always Marvel’s big flagship team. No, for most of their existence, they were honestly a mishmash of popular and relatively unknown characters, frequently rotated cast members and filled to the brim with bureaucracy and a workplace vibe. Compared to the X-Men, Marvel’s actual biggest team, the Avengers have never really had that singular defining voice like Claremont, as the book jumped from creator to creator every few years. This is clearly evident in this Heavy Metal Epic Collection, which collects the entirety of Walt Simonson’s Avengers run as well as some Roger Stern and Ralph Macchio stories before and after Simonson.
The first five issues of this collection are by Roger Stern and Ralph Macchio, with Macchio taking sole writing duties about halfway through. And honestly? They’re fairly boring. Stern’s Avengers contains some fantastic parts, and his overall tenure is one of the strongest the franchise has had, but his greatest weakness is that the earliest and latest portions of his run are lackluster and dull. I honestly don’t even remember the main story of these few issues. I know there was something to do with the Super-Adaptoid, but honestly there aren’t really any good Avengers arcs with the Super-Adaptoid. These few issues are not the reason you should be buying this collection.
The good news is, there is a very good reason to buy the collection: Walt Simonson’s 10-issue run on the title, from #291-300. If you’ve heard Simonson’s name, it’s likely for his absolutely incredible work on Thor, a run that could still reasonably be called the greatest superhero comic run of all time. While his stint on Avengers doesn’t quite hit that bar, it’s still a fantastic one. If the Stern/Macchio portion of the collection was dull and tedious, this is the exact opposite. The whole run is vibrant and interesting and fresh. There’s really strong character work, some unique storytelling, and a plot that feels genuinely high-stakes in a way that a lot of modern “high-stakes” stories miss the mark on. John Buscema’s art is gorgeous, and Simonson’s story feels geared to take him out of the standard superhero style that he spent a while doing. Simonson and Buscema are a perfect fit for each other’s styles, as they both feel like they bring out the best in their collaborator. Honestly, these 10 issues are worth the $40 price point for the entire collection.
Simonson’s last issue on Avengers sets up a new roster and status quo for the team, but unfortunately it doesn’t work very well. Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, USAgent, Thor, and Gilgamesh the Forgotten one comprise the new roster that make up the final three issues of the collection helmed by Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio. I really don’t have anything to say about these few issues beyond that I don’t remember a single thing about them. They’re unmemorable and aside from the bizarreness of the roster, there’s just nothing that really stands out.
But ultimately, it’s okay. Simonson’s run is good enough where the extra fluff at the beginning and end of this Epic Collection doesn’t detract from how enjoyable the meat of the run is. Simonson’s Avengers was a small hidden gem of the franchise, and this collection is well worth the purchase to be able to read it.
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