Thursday, April 19, 2018 • Morning Edition • "Memorial to dead childhoods."

Your Top Creative Runs part 43

Written by rdrsfn82 on Monday, February 07 2011 and posted in Features
This should be the last week and we start out with two guest entries and all three books focus on different eras of the Avengers franchise. We got a classic 80's run introducing a new team, a classic late 90's/early 00's run, and a run from just a couple years ago featuring another offshoot team. {nomultithumb}

38. 247 points - West Coast Avengers (Englehart) - 6 first place votes

#1 - #39
wcavengers1Six people think this is the best book of all time! I'm pretty sure I voted for this run, and it's one of my favorite Avengers runs ever. I'm a sucker for some of the later additions to the roster like Moon Knight, and I loved Rhodes as Iron Man.

Our buddy Rex Chapman #22 again returns to do this entry. Take it away chappy!

As part of his plan to extend Avengers influence while he basically took over the world, the Vision instituted a West Coast branch led by the second greatest Avenger EVER, namely Hawkeye. The origins of the group, which included Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Tigra, Wonder Man, and Iron Man, were told in a four-issue mini-series, which earned them their own ongoing.

At the onset of the ongoing, the team crossed over with Vision & Scarlet Witch (in their second mini) to fight a new Lethal Legion featuring Grim Reaper, Nekra, Ultron, Black Talon, Man-Ape, and Goliath (the future Atlas). They would also take on ex-Avenger Henry Pym as a scientific advisor and compound manager, in what was a two-year running plot that led to his ultimate redemption. The early issues dealt primarily with a fruitless search for a sixth member (candidates included New hero Firebird and the Thing), and battles with a range of both old foes — including Ultron again, Graviton, and Zodiac — and new opponents such as Master Pandemonium and Dominus. Other ongoing plots included Wonder Man's rising star in Hollywood and growing self-confidence as a hero and his adoption of the worst super-hero costume EVER, and Tigra's battle between cat and woman, leading to battles with the Cat-people, a team-up with Hellstorm and Hellcats, and a merging of her personalities.

But the book's second year brought their greatest, and most far-reaching storyline, "Lost in Space-Time" in issues #17-24 (with a prologue in 16), echoes of which are still felt today. While Pym contemplated suicide, the team traveled to the Southwest looking for Firebird to offer her membership. Instead they find the alien Dominus, who sends them back in time on Dr. Doom's broken time machine. Separated in the Old West, Mockingbird is drugged and made to love (read: raped by) Phantom Rider while the rest of the team keeps going backward to find their way home. Along the way, Pym takes on a new role in the present and recruits Moon Knight to help him get the team back. Mock lets the Rider die, which along with Taurus's later death at Moon Knight's hands leads to a team schism and huge marital problems for Hawk & Mock.

The book dips in quality after this, with decent stories featuring Zodiac, and a trip to Hungary to investigate a report on Pym's first wife, where the Wasp, Scarlet Witch and Vision join the team, and the requisite need for Englehart to turn off all regular readers by bringing in his pet character Mantis for a terrible story, but the first two years were great fun, with lots of solid character work, a terrific arc for Hank Pym, and one of the great Avengers epics of all time.

37. 257 points - Dark Avengers (Bendis) - 12 first place votes
#1 - #16 (minus a crossover in a couple issues)
Twelve people thought this was the best book of all time! What the hell is wrong with these people? It's not even the best book Bendis has done. It's a fun book, but some of these votes hurt my head.

OHG leader JamesV contributes once again with this look at a group of psychos pretending to be heroes. Take it away James!

Norman Osborn is a crazy sumbitch.

You gotta understand that upfront. And when a crazy sumbitch gets put in charge of basically everything, what's he gonna do? He's gonna go and get him some more sumbitches that are just as -- or maybe a little more crazier then him.

And that's basically what Dark Avengers is. One pint of crazy with a few shots of crazy surprise served over ice. It shouldn't work. The concept -- Spider-Man villain Norman Osborn is now in charge of defending America and recruits his own gang of Avengers (read: super villains in sheep's clothes) -- verges on the obscene. It's a book that should exist in the strange annals of the worst of the What if? line ("What if Norman Osborn was the Iron Goblin!") and it's completely understandable that many would find it ridiculous to even be included here at all but holy crap...

It works.

And that's a testament to Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato's work. This is the low point of the modern Marvel universe -- the dark before the dawn. And that's not just a metaphor. It's draped in the black pencils of Deodato. Bendis wisely choose to not try and make this a story about redemption. No, that's the Thunderbolts. This is a story about a bucket of nuts getting to cosplay as heroes and oh, my the fun they will have.

Bendis and Deodato wisely chose the book's cast. Bullseye, Moonstone, Venom and fan reviled/loved The Sentry form the true core of Norman's team, and they all match Osborn in distinct ways: his sociopathic nature (Bullseye), his expert manipulation (Moonstone), his obsession (Venom), his struggle with madness (The Sentry), and his broken family (Daken). Watching them try to be a team is just a parallel to the inner struggle that Norman fights with the Goblin in himself. Bendis even writes the only good person (Noh-Varr -- alien) out of the group early on, leaving Norman alone with his madness(es).

There's a lot of strength in these here pages: The Dark Avengers taking on Morgan le Fay, the conversion of S.H.I.E.L.D into H.A.M.M.E.R. and the introduction of Victoria Hand (a former S.H.I.E.L.D. member, idealistic enough to hope that Norman can bring peace to the World), Clint Barton publicly reminding the world that Osborn's a murderer, the Molecule Man physically and mentally torturing Osborn, and eventually The Sentry succumbing to dark, murderous Void inside of him.

Villains and bad guys play the hero all the time. Sometimes it's about growing and changing and developing into a different character. Sometimes its a quest for redemption.

And sometimes it's cause creators realize how much fun it can be to let a crazy sumbitch loose in the playground.

36. 265 points - Avengers (Busiek) -14 first place votes
#0 - #56 (minus a couple issues)
Avengers Forever #1 - #12
Fourteen people think this is the best book ever written! This is also one of my favorite Avengers runs ever! I have only read parts of it though, as I was out of comics for most of this time. Avengers Forever is great if you are a long time fan.

In 1998, the Heroes Returned to the Marvel U. This followed up on a big event where most of the heroes of the Marvel U were transported to another universe. Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez were given the job of reintroducing the premiere superhero team to the Marvel U, and they did so by bringing in many older members of the team, as well as adding many new members like Justice, Firestar, Triathlon, Silverclaw, and Jack of Hearts. Perez stayed on the book for the majority of the first 34 issues, and was followed by various artists including Alan Davis.

Alongside the relaunched title was a miniseries by Busiek and Carlos Pacheco called Avengers Forever, which was an attempt to wrap up some loose ends, correct some continuity issues, show why certain characters are important to the team, and bring the various eras of the Avengers together into a cohesive definition of what it means to be an Avenger. The series saw Kang's future self, Immortus, attempt to kill Rick Jones, only to see his plan fail. Rick summons a group of Avengers from across the eras to his aid. These Avengers are Cap from the era just before he became Nomad, Yellowjacket before he knew he was Hank Pym, Hawkeye from around the end of the Kree-Skrull War, Giant-Man and Wasp from the present, and Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell) and Songbird from the future. While at first the group seemed odd and unrelated, they actually served important purposes. Cap from that era didn't want to lead, but still brought the team together and stepped up when needed, Hawkeye wasn't the leader he'd become, but wasn't the rookie he was before that either. Yellowjacket's selfish nature and eventual betrayal of the team helped put them in a position to succeed. Wasp was a capable leader able to deal with the big personalities of those various characters. A heroic Songbird had a relationship with various characters over the years. Giant-Man had the confidence that other versions of Pym had lacked. Genis-Vell's powers would play a key role, especially his cosmic awareness.

The team is thrown into what is basically a big war between Kang and his older self, as he tries to fight the destiny laid in front of him that would see him become Immortus. The team ends up thrown into different eras, ranging from the war torn future of Killraven, the old West where the Two-Gun Kid and whatnot lived, the 50's where the first Avengers team (later known as the Agents of Atlas) came into existence, and many other timelines. Over the course of the series, Busiek sought to show the importance of the characters and the threat of Kang in his various forms. In the end the Avengers battle some beings known as the Time Keepers, Kang and Immortus are split into two separate beings (like how the Human Torch and Vision were split years ago, and Rick Jones and Genis-Vell were bonded into one being (which would be explored in a new ongoing series by Peter David).

Kang would go on to play a huge role in one of the final arcs by Busiek, the Kang War, which saw Kang take over the Earth and destroy many large groups of people. The story was written before 9/11, but published afterwards. Despite the sensitive nature of some of the events, the story was published without changes. The story started in June of 2001, but some of those events, such as the destruction of the UN building and the destruction of Washington D.C., didn't happen until after 9/11. Eventually Kang was defeated and the Avengers were successful.

Overall, Busiek's run was a good balance of old school superhero storytelling, great art, fun stories, and tried to move the Avengers forward with new members and characters growing from where they were before the series started.

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