Page 45 Review by Stephen
A review of the first 20 issues told in two 45-minute halves, with an interlude so you can suck oranges before switching sides.
Part, The First:
Welcome to the very first adventures of Earth's Most Mightiest of Heroes!
Iron Man, the Golden Avenger!
Thor, the Norse God of Thunder!
Captain America, WWII Super-Soldier!
Hulk: Incredible, but a Bit Mardy!
Giant-Man / Ant-Man / Amazing Identity Crisis Man!
Janet van Dyne, the "winsome" Wasp, whose only job here appears to be flirting outrageously with everyone in sight, and calling everything else "silly".
Suspect I'm being a bit hard on super-sexist Stan 'The Man' Lee? All these utterances are real:
"Know something, handsome? You look like the poor man's Ben Hur on that silly ant!"
"Personally, I think it's silly not to have a permanent leader!"
"Couldn't you have made these silly things taste better while you were inventing them?"
"I'm as all right as any girl could be who had her make-up smudged by a silly ol' collapsing ant hill!"
"You, sir, are about as romantic as the rotor blade on this silly ol' plane."
It's a helicopter, Jan!
"Did anyone ever tell you that you have the most deliciously blue eyes, Henry Pym?"
"I'll bet he's not bad-looking under that silly head-gear he's wearing!"
"Hmm... he'd be real dreamy if he was a little huskier!"
"Look! An intruder is coming! Hmmm... he's not bad looking!"
OMG, she wants to hump the intruder! Nevertheless, it's team-mate Thor she's truly stuck on:
"He sounds like a burlesque of a comic hero in MAD Magazine! But with those shoulders... those eyes -- who cares how corny he talks!!!"
All this swooning comes right in front of her boyfriend, Hank Pym / Giant-Man / Ant-Man. No wonder he has size issues. But then that's what happens when the world's most sophisticated biochemist dates a flying clothes horse with a brain the size of a butterfly's.
"That whirling shield of yours is a like an all-purpose detergent, Cap!!"
Janet, in what possible way...?!?
A feminist tract, this is not. Covers aside, it's not much to look at, either (it honestly isn't): tiny figures all boxed in, largely by Stan Lee's insane over-writing. There's a scene wherein the duplicitous Wonder Man swats a boulder back at Giant-Man, and you can just tell from the art (drawn before Stan's written his script) that it's intended to back-fire on the traitor by smashing into his leader's machinery, yet Stan feels the need to append this off-panel bobbins:
"But, though wracked with pain, the valiant Giant-Man again lifts the boulder and, before Wonder Man can stop him, sends it smashing into Zemo's Magnet Mechanism!"
That's not what happened! You've ruined a perfectly decent irony, Stan!
So yes, villains include Wonder Man, Zemo, The Enchantress, The Executioner, Kang The Conqueror (himself conquered here by the ludicrous, Rick Jones-led Teen Brigade of random ruffians), The Hulk (conflicted), The Space Ghost, The Radioactive Man, The Black Knight, Immortus, Namor The Sub-Mariner, some Lava Men, Janet Van Dyne's sex drive and the chap what unwittingly brought them all together in the first place: Loki, Norse God of unbelievably half-assed cock-ups.
Phenomenal, really. I love it to bits.
I adored THE AVENGERS.
From the age of seven or so, I grew up on Marvel Comics. No others would do. I lapped them up, one and all.
But THE AVENGERS had a colourful, iconoclastic, rough-and-tumble cast whereas the FF and original X-Men wore homogenous uniforms and were each lead by a fun-free, dominating patriarch. I thrilled seeing Iron Man's armour evolve early on, and totally geeked-out each time Hank Pym / Ant-Man / Giant-Man / Amazing Identity Crisis Man (coming soon: Goliath and Yellow Jacket plus multiple mental breakdowns) changed his costume.
My favourite eras as a kid were the early adventures drawn by John Buscema (coming shortly) then Neal Adams (KREE-SKRULL WAR), plus George Perez and John Byrne's 50-odd issues. Later, as an adult, my kiddie thrills all paid off during writer Brian Michael Bendis's NEW AVENGERS run which I recommend to any modern sensibility seriously interested in superheroes with all my heart and none of this naughty nit-picking.
Have you finished your oranges? Excellent!
Part, The Second:
Another pulse-pounding pageant of pugilism, but also the end of an era as the Wasp runs out of compact, so opts to resign. Thor and Iron Man follow suit (as does her boyfriend Giant-Man, somewhat defensively) leaving no one for the recently resurrected Captain America to bark orders at. Handily Hawkeye the marksman offers his services, as do siblings Quicksilver (Pietro) and Wanda, The Scarlet Witch, which gives Stan Lee a fresh opportunity to demonstrate his sterling credentials as a forward-thinking feminist:
"You are the oldest, Pietro, and I shall so as you say!"
Obviously the outgoing Avengers must first ascertain how qualified each applicant is to take over by judging their strength, stamina and skill-set with a rigorous and impartial eye, beginning with Hawkeye who ties up their butler in order to play William Tell.
"I'm sold! How about you, Wasp?"
"Va va voom! Oh >eh< I mean -- he ought to do fine!"
Left to their own devices, the boys begin bickering immediately, each one jockeying for position of leader in a tidal wave of testosterone that would threaten to drown poor Wanda if she wasn't perpetually falling through trap-doors. It's funny how the lads start walking on opposite sides of the street.
Fortunately statesman Captain America is above it all:
"Stay out of this, Wanda! It's between Hawkeye and myself!"
"You're blamed right it is! I'm sick of the way you try to push your weight around all the time! Do ya read me?"
"Loud and clear, feather-brain! And get your finger out of my face before you lose it!"
Well, almost above it all.
What they can unite behind is their righteous disgust towards evil foreigners like The Mandarin and The Commissar of the Communist-ruled puppet state of Sin-Cong. One which Captain America invades (without so much as a phone call to the United Nations, let alone a Resolution), overthrows those squalid Commie bastards, then issues this stern warning to all right-minded Marvel readers:
"Be always on your guard! Their goal is nothing less than total world conquest, and world enslavement! Only constant vigilance and devotion to freedom can stop them! And remember -- The Avengers always stand ready to do their part!"
"Cap, did you take lessons on how to be a cornball, or does it come natural?"
"Sorry, Hawkeye! Guess I got carried away by my own convictions!"
"With convictions such as those, one has a right to be carried away!"
Yes, right away.
Some terrific covers, though, including the exceptional Jack Kirby composition (bottom piece of interiior art), its perspective and narrative enhanced by an upright triangle, its base the row of heads, gazing up on both sides at the Swordsman and his sword (further emphasised by Wanda and Hawkeyes gesticulations), on the left via Cap & the plank from which he jumped. He did actually jump.