Thursday, May 3, 2012
The Avengers - Marvel's Greatest Comic!
Several years ago when at last the Essential Ant-Man volume was published I gathered up all my Essentials and sat them on the nightstand to read the Marvel Universe in chronological order. Month by month I moved from volume to volume reading the books as they would've been released onto the market, trying somehow recreate the experience, at least a little, of what it must have been like to experience the Marvel Universe as it was just getting started and began to bloom. It was a revealing experience in many ways, and despite having read nearly all the stories before in other contexts, reading them this way showed me patterns in what Stan and Jack and Steve and Larry were trying to do.
One pattern revealed was how critical the Hulk was to early Marvel history. After losing his own book after six issues, his peripatetic adventures became something of a spine for many of the Marvel titles as the Hulk saga moved across the spectrum. Eventually it resulted in Greenskin joining the Avengers for a brief two issue run before famously blowing his stack and thundering off. It was in fact the search for the Hulk which caused the Avengers to stumble across a frozen body which just happened to turn out to be Captain America, the Living Legend, and that utterly transformed the whole of Avengers history.
But before that momentous discovery we have Avengers #3, the issue in which the Sub-Mariner, the Golden Age anti-hero and at the time a confirmed Fantastic Four villain, teams up with a reluctant Hulk and the two of them face off against Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man, and the Wasp. I personally feel this adventure may well be the single finest comic book Marvel has ever produced. Avengers #4 was more momentous, but it was not a better story. That honor goes to #3.
Here is the fantastic splash page for Avengers #3. Below is some more original artwork from the issue. Jack's storytelling is impeccable. Paul Reinman's inks do the job nobly.
What I find most impressive about the issue is the sheer density of the story told. There is enough plot in three panels of Stan's and Jack's story to fill a full issue of a modern comic book. In fact I'd argue the story told in Avengers #3 alone would easily be a year's worth of comics today as the the story was told in languid fashion with a mountain of boring reaction shots in overlarge panels. There might two years of story there.
I first chanced across this epic in the reprint comic Marvel Super-Heroes #21. It's a wonderful comic in its own right. And features not only this Avengers masterpiece, but the great second issue of the X-Men seen below. That's a good comic but not as fine as the Avengers story.
Avengers #3 is in my estimation the single finest story Marvel has ever published, or at the very least the most entertaining. And for me, that's the same thing.
To read this outstanding story see this link.