MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AVENGERS VOL. 13 (Marvel, First Printing, 2013; Hardcover)
Collects Avengers #120-128, Giant-Size Avengers #1, Captain Marvel #33, and The Fantastic Four #150 (cover dates February- October, 1974)
Writers: Steve Englehart (#120-128), Roy Thomas, Jim Starlin, and Gerry Conway
Artists: Pencilers- Bob Brown, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Rich Buckler, and Jim Starlin; Inkers- Don Heck, Mike Esposito, Dave Cockrum, Joe Staton, Dan Adkins, Klaus Janson, and Joe Sinnott
Things start out with a three part bang, with The Avengers going toe to toe against The Zodiac in 120-122. The Zodiac are a 12-member crime syndicate, with each member wearing a costume respective to their sign with powers to match. Growing up in the '70s, zodiac signs were everywhere. My mom even had a wall hanging featuring the zodiac signs. This is one of those it-could-only-come-from-the-70s plots, where The Avengers are racing against time to stop The Zodiac from using a beam to murder every Gemini in Manhattan.
This lineup of the team in this era is great. Thor, The Vision, Iron Man, Black Panther, the Scarlet Witch, Mantis, The Swordsman, and Captain America, who was coming and going during these issues due to problems with The Secret Empire over in his own title.
Issue 123 has one of those convoluted story twists that could only come from the early 70s. Steve Englehart shifts gears with Libra of the just-defeated Zodiac trying to trick Mantis into thinking that he is her father. This starts the team on a journey back to Vietnam to try to uncover her true origins, which at this time were still a mystery. We learn bits and pieces and it all becomes a bit ridiculous. At least the Avengers fight a giant red dragon called the Star-Stalker in #124, which makes no sense but it looks cool and was fun to read.
There is no break in the action as we head into issue 125. The Avengers end up in a space battle with the fleet of Thanos, who is shown but the team do not encounter him at this time. This brings us to the crossover issue Captain Marvel (the original, Mar-Vell, not the Carol Danvers one that newer readers know), where we see Captain Marvel and Drax the Destroyer battling Thanos for the Cosmic Cube.
Giant-Size Avengers #1 is a Roy Thomas continuity porn spectacular, where he shoehorns in members of The All-Winners Squad from the 1940s into Marvel continuity, albeit as middle-aged superheroes. Rich Buckler turns in his Jack Kirby homage art and I have to admit that it's great. There was a time when artists try to emulate the Marvel house style of the day. No one does that anymore.
I really got a kick out of issue 126, where The Avengers fight Klaw and Solarr in another one of those It could only come from the early seventies type of stories. As silly as some of these things may seem to a middle-aged man here in the so-called sophisticated 21st century, you have to remember that Steve Englehart was winging this as he went along for the most part. He may have had a map but he was able to do things on the fly which no writer today could do with all of the editorial constraints that they face. I would much rather read stories like this that are fun and it seems like the writer is juggling balls trying not to drop one then some boring and sterile completely mapped out down to the last panel comic book. Your mileage may vary.
Number 127 sees the Avengers head to the Hidden Refuge of The Inhumans to attend the wedding of Crystal and Quicksilver. It's another one of those absurd 70s kind of stories where the twist at the end reveals the villain to be none other than Ultron-7. Ultron rules. This issue was also a crossover with Fantastic Four #150. Seeing the Fantastic Four and The Avengers take on Ultron together was awesome.
Number 128 was a story that focused on the Scarlet Witch. Steve Englehart was one of the first writers to really explore Wanda Maximoff. Women's lib was in full swing and there was no reason that a mutant who had the power to alter probabilities should be so easily winded and a weak link in the team. Englehart brought in Agatha Harkness, the former caregiver for Franklin Richards of the Fantastic Four. Harkness ended up parting company with the FF after the wedding of Crystal and Quicksilver to accompany The Avengers back to Avengers mansion to work with Wanda and help her with her mutant powers. In yet another one of those kind of absurd, post Rosemary's Baby early '70s faux occult stories we see her reach her full potential.
And that ending! Kang the Conqueror! I'm a huge fan of Kang and all of his time slips. While I've read all of the issues that are in the next volume and this line I can't wait to reread them in high def. Steve Englehart is one of the all-time greatest Avengers writers, and the next volume in this line features one of its all-time greatest storylines: The Celestial Madonna.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.
It irks me that none of the original issue cover artists are given credit.
Linework and Color restoration: Think of the post-2007 Masterworks as definitive Blu-Ray/4k editions, with painstakingly restored linework and a color palette that is 100% faithful to the source material.
Paper stock: Thick 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 casewrap with dye foil stamping.