The Avengers are a weird property at Marvel because more than any of their other mainstays, the team has undergone probably the most significant long-term change in foundation. Sure, the X-Men are immortals living on an island now, but the basis of “mutants in a world that hates and fears them” remains. The Avengers, though, went from a bureaucratic organization reminiscent of a superpowered fire station to… just a group of super-powerful and important heroes teaming up against the largest threats to Earth. It’s hard to recommend older Avengers stuff to people entrenched in the newer definition of the team, because not only are old comics hard to recommend in general, the concept of what an Avenger is has changed so significantly that it’s basically a completely different book. Books like Avengers Epic Collection: The Final Threat don’t do much to help matters, either – even when there are good contents inside they’re surrounded by some of the dullest Avengers stories Marvel’s ever put out.
The creators are credited, in order, as follows:
- Writers: Jim Shooter, Gerry Conway, & Jim Starlin with Steve Englehart, Bill Mantlo, & Scott Edelman
- Pencilers/Layouts: George Perez, Jim Starlin, & John Byrne with Sal Buscema, John Buscema, Don Heck, George Tuska, Jack Kirby, Herb Trimpe, & Jim Shooter
Alongside a whole host of inkers, colorists, and letterers, these are the primary creatives in this collection. But what they don’t tell you is that Jim Shooter, whose work is the best of these creators, starts more than halfway through the collection after a miserable slog of Gerry Conway’s Avengers that seems to be designed to drive people away. I’ve read all of these stories before, I knew what to expect going in, and even then I needed to take several breaks while trying to get through Conway’s portion of the collection. There’s really dull character work, some conflict with Attuma, the most forgettable of Avengers villains, and honestly uninspired art from George Perez. It’s a run I can’t actually describe in detail because every detail slides out of my memory as soon as I’ve stopped reading. I just know that the entire time I was reading the first half of this collection, I wanted to be doing anything else.
Don’t get me wrong, once the Shooter stuff starts it reminds me why I love these classic Avengers comics so much. And Starlin’s few annuals at the back of the collection are gorgeous, if otherwise forgettable. Shooter’s Avengers are a very noticeable improvement over the Conway issues — his first story is so much more entertaining and the drama is so much more riveting than anything in the collection prior. But ultimately I can’t say that it’s worth the price to get a collection that’s half a dull slog for half of a collection of fun classic Avengers comics.
I personally think this collection is worth it for me — I’m a huge fan of the classic Avengers, especially Shooter’s run, and this collects its beginnings. But I’m a hardcore fan who would never recommend this to someone casually interested in the Avengers. It’s got such a massive slog to get through before you can read anything remotely enjoyable that I honestly think it would more likely push people away from the Avengers as a franchise pre-2005. But if you’re one of those people already invested in these stories who really wants to have Shooter’s run collected, you might get something out of this.
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