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Essential Avengers, Vol. 5 (Marvel Essentials) Paperback – December 1, 2010
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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Volume 5 of the Essential Avengers series covers issues 98 to 119 (with one Daredevil and four Defenders to make sure certain stories are complete). The core lineup in this period include most of the big names in the group: Hawkeye, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch. The only "classic" Avengers who are missing are the Wasp and her husband (Ant Man/Yellowjacket/Giant Man/Goliath). Also appearing are the Black Panther, Black Knight, Hulk, Swordsman and Mantis.
Since these are the elite heroes, they rarely battle third-rate villains. In these issues, they face such heavyweights as Ares, the Grim Reaper, Magneto, Dormammu, Loki and the Collector. In between battles, the principal story arcs involve the three members who don't have their own magazines. For the Vision and Scarlet Witch, they are finally admitting their love for each other, with all the problems an android/human relationship entail. For Hawkeye - who has his own designs on Wanda rebuffed - this leads to alienation from the team and a brief membership with the Defenders.
While most of the stories are pretty good, some are a bit on the weak side. Surprisingly, this also includes a single-issue story by Harlan Ellison, who is normally one of the best short story writers around. But even if the quality is occasionally erratic, overall this is another fun volume that once again evokes a somewhat simpler era of comic book tales.
The Avengers line-up at the start of this collection consists of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision, with Rick Jones hanging around because he is sharing space with Captain Marvel. By the end Hercules, the Black Panther, Hawkeye, and the Swordsman and his paramour Mantis show up for duty as well, although everybody who has ever been an Avenger shows up for #100 as the Avengers assemble and invade Olympus because Ares the god of war has been causing trouble on Earth. The Ellison story has to do with killing innocents whose descendants will destroy the world, before we move on to more traditional super villain tales. As the Avengers hit 100 issues it is the Vision who is the key member of the group and he has to deal with his brother, the Grim Reaper before alone (#102) and in tandem with the Space Phantom (#106-08), while the romantic relationship between the Vision and Wanda continues its stormy way.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of issues focusing on Hawkeye, who comes back, quits (#109) and joins the Defenders. I never cottoned to Hawkeye (and never was enamored of the Green Arrow either) and even in retrospect he is, at best, a light proto-type version of Wolverine (think about it). There are also several issues dealing with evil mutants and other characters from "The X-Men." First the Sentinels show up (#102-04), followed by Lorelei (#105), and then Magneto (#110-11). Of course, Wanda and Pietro were original members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, so there is that history to justify it all and it does make for something different (the problem with a super group is that it is so hard to come up with a group of villains for them to fight, so you have to go with one supervillain, such as Magneto, who is arguably stronger than any one hero, which makes you wonder what happens when Cap, Iron Man, Thor, etc., has to deal with somebody one-on-one).
Collected in this volume are "Avengers" #98-119, "Daredevil" #99, and "Defenders" #8-11, so there are some cross-overs that involve not only Daredevil, who is teamed up with the Black Widow at that point, and the newest (at that time) Marvel super group. This clash was interesting because what happened was members of each group met in mini-battles: the Vision and the Scarlet Witch vs. the Silver Surfer; Iron Man vs. Hawkeye; the Black Panther and Mantis vs. Dr. Strange; Swordsman vs. the Valkerie; Captain America vs. Sub-Mariner; and in the last but not least position, Thor vs. Hulk (which is when the two groups finally get together to go after the evil tag-team of Loki and Dormammu. The problem with "The Avengers" is that the comic book never really seemed to jell, and it was always one step forward and one step back. If Buckler had stayed as the artist for most of these issues I could round up, but Don Heck was probably my least favorite Marvel artist during that time and I look at any title he was drawing as being second tier at best.