With the release of the Age of Ultron, the Avengers have reclaimed their post in being one of the most popular superhero franchises. So what better time to get into the comics? There’s a whole 50 years of content worth exploring, with plenty of lore and battles to read about. However, it can be a little daunting to find a good run, or even an easy access point.
We’ve decided to make the job a little easier for you guys. Compiled here is a list of what we think are the most accessible, and also quality Avengers runs. We’ve tried to spread it out over the decades, so you can get a taste of how the team was in every era. Die-hard fans, bear in mind that some of your favourite runs may not be included, as they can be a bit too reliant on past lore. We’ll get to yours later.
Stan Lee Era (Avengers #1-35)
What better place to start than at the very beginning? It may not hold up as well today, but there’s no doubt that Stan Lee was onto something when he decided to throw all his big heroes into one comic. His run may have it’s ups and downs, but it’s worth a read to see how the core elements of most Avengers stories today were written. From the ever-changing line-up, to the discourse between members, it doesn’t get more classic than Lee’s Avengers.
He has some serious talent backing his horse, too. Initially drawn by the great Jack Kirby, Lee also had artist Don Heck, who kept the series rolling along after King Kirby left the book. Both have very unique styles, but both really added to the series. You’ll see the debut of villains like Loki, Kang the Conqueror, and Baron Zemo, as well as the additions of Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and tons more to the team. It’s a fun read, and worth looking into if you can find the issues collected.
Roger Stern Era (Avengers #227-277 + Annual #13)
The 80’s was home to many a great Marvel series, from John Byrne’s Fantastic Four, Chris Claremont’s X-Men, Walt Simonson’s Thor, and a bunch more. In particular, Roger Stern’s Avengers was a gem amongst this bunch. It took all the best elements of past runs, and updated it for an 80’s audience. Again, the narrative style may not hold up as well to today’s tight scripting, but it’s a lot of fun, and really enjoyable to read if you can get past this fact.
It introduced characters like Captain Marvel, who later became known as Photon, and built up to epic story arcs like Under Siege. The stories were a lot more consistent than the original Stan Lee run, and really had an ongoing, long form feel to them. Old elements often came back into play later on in the run. If you crave some tight story telling that feels grand in scope, you can’t go wrong with Stern’s Avengers.
Brian Michael Bendis’ Era/The New Avengers (Avengers #500-503, New Avengers vol. 1 #1-64 + Finale, Mighty Avengers #1-20, Dark Avengers #1-10, Avengers vol. 4 #1-34, New Avengers vol. 2 #1-34, House of M #1-8, Secret Invasion #1-8, Siege #1-4 PHEW!)
Speaking of epic long-form runs, it doesn’t get much bigger than Bendis. His name was pretty much associated with the team for nearly 10 years, and he made some big changes. It’s a heavy run to invest time + money in, but you can really pick any of the series from the list I included and get a good standalone story.
Bendis is known for pretty much dragging the team through hell. He disassembled them, brought them back together, split them in two, revealed some of them were aliens in disguise, it was a rollercoaster ride of twists and turns. He’s also infamous for bringing strangers like Spider-Man and Wolverine into the team, heroes that previously had no association with the Avengers. It’s a great modern run, and having only finished 3 years ago, holds up excellently. Should you choose to read it all, you’ll get a great sense of Avengers mythology, and most of the lore that is used in stories today.
Kurt Busiek Era (Avengers vol. 3 #1-56, Avengers Forever #1-12)
Backtracking in time a little, we have the comic that pulled Marvel out of it’s creative slump in the ‘90s. Kurt Busiek’s Avengers started off with a story that included every Avenger ever, and only built momentum from there. Tied with superstar artist George Perez, who’s incredible eye for detail gave a great sense of scope to the series, and you had one of the best Superhero books on the stands at the time.
Busiek was known for reinventing classic villains, and giving them definitive stories. From the classic Ultron Unlimited, to the Kang Dynasty, nearly everyone got the treatment, and it made for some really great reading material. It may be about more than 15 years old, but it’s one heck of a run, and stands up well today. If you’re willing to spend the money, Marvel just released a beautiful omnibus collecting a hefty amount of the run, giving it the collection and grandeur it deserves.
Jonathan Hickman Era (Avengers vol. 5 #1-44, New Avengers #1-33, Infinity #1-6)
The most recent run also happens to be quite a game changer for the Avengers. Jonathan Hickman, known for his long, intricate stories, brought his A-game to Marvel’s poster team, and gave us one of the best event series in some time. This is also one of the more sinister takes on the Avengers, especially in the New Avengers series, focusing on Marvel’s ‘Illuminati’, made up of the greatest super minds on earth. They find themselves making choices to save the world that play heavily on their conscience, and it’s really great to follow.
The best part about this run? It’s still going, in a sense. Starting this week, we have Marvel’s next big event, the Secret Wars. It looks to draw heavily from Hickman’s run, specifically the world incursions that play such a big part in the New Avengers series. If you want a run filled with tension, drama, and but still damn fun heroics, Hickman delivers. It’s a great modern era Avengers story, and is easily accessible for new readers.
Got any thoughts on these runs, or suggestions of your own? Comment and discuss, we may have missed some of your favourites, so let us know!