MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AVENGERS VOL. 12 (Marvel, First Printing, 2012; Hardcover)
Collects Avengers #112-119, Defenders # 8-11, and material from Foom #6, 7 (cover dates June, 1973- January, 1974 and Summer-Fall, 1974 for Foom Magazine bonus material)
NOTE: Only the four page prologue, Chapter One, is reprinted from Defenders # 8. The rest of the issue has no bearing on the plotline for this crossover and is therefore unnecessary. Don't think of it as an omission of Defenders # 8, think of it as bonus material for the main story.
Writer: Steve Englehart
Artists: Bob Brown, Sal Buscema (Defenders # 8-11), and Don Heck (#112, including Inking), with Inking by Frank Bolle, Mike Esposito, and Frank McLaughlin
The Avengers entered the Bronze Age with a bang. The first few issues in this book are Steve Englehart doing his warm up exercises, finding his voice before launching the biggest crossover of it's kind at the time, The Avengers/Defenders War. This ran across four issues of Avengers and four issues of Defenders and was the brainchild of Englehart.
#113 shows a terrorist organization,The Living Bombs, a hate group that targets mutants like the Scarlet Witch and synthezoids like The Vision. To their credit they were a progressive hate group for their time, allowing women and blacks into their ranks. This was possibly the first depiction of a suicide bomber in fiction. The story is timeless, as we still deal with bigotry and suicide bombers today. The more things change, eh?
Englehart introduces Mantis in #114, setting up one of the all-time great Avengers storylines, The Celestial Madonna. I read the trade paperback of it a decade or so ago and am looking forward to reading that one in “high def” in a volume already aging to perfection in my backlog of unread books.
Back to The Avengers/Defenders War, it is more fun to read this when compared to modern crossovers, which are mapped out more carefully. There are times where it feels like not only do I not know where the story is going, but neither does Englehart. I'm not going to bother with the plot synopsis, as it is a very basic story and it can be found on any of the usual sites. My job is to tell you why you need this book, not necessarily what it's about on a page by page basis. I will say that the Hawkeye and Iron Man battle is weak, as Hawkeye is hopelessly outclassed but pulls it off somehow. Lame. There are some legendary hero versus hero throwdowns, namely Thor versus The Hulk. In just a few short months we'll see that come to life on the big screen in Thor: Ragnarok, although I'm betting that it won't be as cool as it is here in this book.
The epilogue to the battle, as well as the book, is the meta-crossover that the guys at Marvel did with their pals over at DC (Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, and Len Wein). Tom Fagan, a part of early comic fandom, convinced the town to have superheroes as a part of the parade. It became a favorite of comic creators and it inspired the first Marvel and DC crossover in 1972. There were several unofficial Rutland Halloween Parade crossovers in comics for a few years. Both universe's heroes wound up in the town of Rutland, VT, with each universe's characters having an adventure at the same time but not really interacting with one another aside from a background shot. Savvy fans were in on the joke, and with no Internet to spread the news it took a few years for people to catch wind of it.
The story in #119 is an absolute blast, one of those it can only have happened in 1973 type of stories. The Collector decides to finally collect all of The Avengers by buying a house in Rutland, VT, spending six months getting it ready to trap the team there for his collection. It's completely, utterly ridiculous, and I love it because it is played straight even though you know that Englehart was pissing his pants laughing as he wrote this.
When people talk about all-time great Avengers writers, a few names should pop up. Steve Englehart's is one of them. This book is the opening salvo of his run and belongs in your collection.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Marvel Masterworks are my poison of choice. For Masterworks of this book's vintage, rest assured that this is the definitive Blu-Ray edition of this material. No line bleed or off register printing. No mouldering pulp paper. The art and the colors look like the artists intended and are not hampered by primitive four color printing processes.
Linework and Color restoration: Think of the post-2007 Masterworks as definitive Blu-Ray editions, with painstakingly restored linework and a color palette that is 100% faithful to the source material. Those who claim that the colors are too bright or miss the “artistic choice” of so- called Ben Day dots are nuts.
Paper stock: Thick coated semi-glossy coated stock.
Binding: Rounded book casing and Smyth sewn binding allow this book to lay completely flat in one hand as Godzilla intended.
Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Spot varnish on the dustjacket, faux leather grain casewrap with dye foil stamping.