I hope that you are better than me and have enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron by now. We went to the Ultimate Marvel Marathon, only to find out that the big enchilada, Avengers: AoU, would be in 3D! I have vertigo and therefore cannot handle a 3D movie! So we sucked it up and left early.
To date, I still have not seen the movie. I am sure I will, but to placate me until then, I am going to give you the top 1990s moments for The Avengers. Now all of these moments won’t be highlights or the best stuff that happened to them, but they will certainly be the ones that stood out the most, had the most impact, and generate the most buzz, good or bad, to this day.
10. The Crossing
Aren’t you glad I warned you that there’d be stuff you hated on this list? Don’t you wish that either the warning had come sooner or that this had come later? This is legendarily bad. So bad that we are still talking about it not just as the worst moment of Avengers history in the ’90s, but it is probably the worst moment for the Avengers period. In this story, we learn that Tony Stark, Iron Man, has been working for Kang for years and is a traitor to the Avengers. The Avengers have issues defeating him, so they go back in time to retrieve a young Tony Stark to beat the current Tony Stark for them. That makes no sense, and after this story, it is almost NEVER MENTIONED again. After Heroes Reborn/Return (which we’ll see more of later in this article) Tony Stark is just back. Of course, that’s the worst thing that happened in this story. Other awful things happened, too, such as the Wasp looking like this:
9. Spider-Man joins The Avengers
This one is controversial and creates a huge schism for superhero fans. I first learned of Spidey’s status as an Avenger by the 1991 trading card above. Should Spidey be an Avenger? There are several story arcs in the 80’s dedicated to such an idea, but it isn’t until 1991 that it finally happens! Of course, it wasn’t easy, as at one point in Avengers #316 he gets offered a spot on the team, only to have said offer be rescinded.
It would be just 13 issues later when Spidey would be brought in as a reserve Avenger, complete with one of those “WHO WILL BE IN THE AVENGERS” trademark covers the group likes to do so much. Spidey even gets to stick it to J. Jonah Jameson without webbing up the Daily Bugle Publisher’s mouth.
My two cents on Spidey being one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is that he should be in…but only as a Reserve Avenger. That makes sense to me, as Spidey is always fun to see team-up with folks once in awhile, and he’d be there if the situation was large enough, anyhow. Seeing him month in and month out is just no fun, though.
8. At one point, there were 8 simultaneous Avengers-related titles on the shelf at once
The 1990s are said to be the decade of Image Comics and the X-Men, and rightfully so. The Avengers, however, were no slouches. Despite spending most of the decade as perceived 2nd-tier players, you could get 8 titles related to the Avengers! Of course, some of these were solo titles that were not Avengers titles, but I cannot imagine Quasar, Thunderstrike, or Wonder Man getting titles without their Avengers connection. In the opposite manner, Mighty Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America certainly could have stood on their own without any Avengers ties, but the fact that these three guys are “The Big Three” of The Avengers means that even in their own books, being an Avengers is an integral part of the character. Throw in Avengers and Avengers West Coast, and you’ve got 8 books in the year 1993 to choose from to get an Avengers fix.
7. Acts of Vengeance
This one is a bit of a cheat, as the event actually begins in 1989, but it crosses over into 1990 just enough to garner it a place on this list. If more of it had happened in the ’90s, rest assured it would have a higher spot. As it is, the idea of the greatest supervillains of the world switching partners and taking on other foes is a great one, and it led to some awesome stories everywhere from Spider-Man to Punisher, with stuff like Daredevil taking on Ultron in-between. We also got a sweet John Byrne FF#1 homage cover. As one cover blurb states, it was the “ultimate Super-Villain Team-Up”. Read that in a Vince McMahon voice, please.
6. Heroes Reborn
Marvel was slumping from the loss of the speculator boom, and their flagship titles, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Captain America, and Avengers, were slumping not just in terms of sales, but in how they were seen by the audience. As stated earlier, Image Comics, X-Men, and Spider-Man (among several properties) had taken the eminent position in the marketplace. This led Marvel to throw a Hail Mary by reaching out to Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee to re-tool these properties and bring them back to the audience as cool and hot properties. Heroes Reborn resulted in great sales, including the best selling issue of Avengers of all time, but the sales were not quite what was needed to pay the salaries of Liefeld and Lee. There was harsh criticism of the books as well, especially Liefeld’s Avengers and Captain America. About midway through Heroes Reborn, Marvel asked them to take pay cuts. Lee acquiesced while Liefeld balked and walked. After a year, the deal was done, and we’d get Heroes Return, but Heroes Reborn might be the loudest Avengers moment of the ’90s, and it almost certainly generated the most revenue in Avengers comic book history; the movies, of course, are another story.
5. Avengers West Coast Disbanded
When I started reading comics regularly, there were two branches of Avengers. This made Avengers seem awesome and very important. Avengers West Coast was also consistently more entertaining than its east coast cousin when Roy and Dann Thomas were at the writing helm, while the Bob Harras Avengers title just sort of floundered. I didn’t see the end of Avengers West Coast coming. I remember being shocked when I read about it in Wizard or Hero Illustrated or some such magazine. I was upset, and I didn’t understand why they’d trash this legacy for Force Works. I liked FW all right, but it was no Avengers West Coast to me, and while much of that grandeur surrounding The Avengers has been restored, I wonder why in the last decade of umpteen badrillion Avengers books named everything from New to Secret to Pet Avengers, why we couldn’t have gotten the return of Avengers West Coast…
4. Operation: Galactic Storm
A huge part of the history of The Avengers is the role that the mega epic plays in their history. If they didn’t have any, we could not refer to them as “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and they probably would not be the center of the movie world. The Avengers mega epic menagerie includes great stories like The Korvac Saga, The Thanos/Warlock/Mar-Vell Saga, The Kree-Skrull War (to which Operation: Galactic Storm was sort of a sequel), The Avengers-Defenders War, and more. Operation: Galactic Storm is one of the biggest editions to the cosmic cabinet that holds these mega epics…LITERALLY. The story goes on for 19 parts through 7 different titles, and it has epilogue stories that even include a Silver Surfer issue. While it is unwieldy at parts, and it was definitely stretched too thin, the ongoing saga has that epic feel that The Avengers really didn’t capture as often as they should have in the ’90s. There’s also a giant moral theme that permeates the story and the epilogues, and it also spawned a really crappy video game.
3. Avengers Forever
I’d call Avengers Forever confusing, but that would sort of be like saying that race cars go fast. That sort of description is appallingly insufficient. Avengers Forever centers around Kang, The Destiny War, Rick Jones, Immortus, and a cast of different Avengers from throughout time as they run into other Avengers throughout time. I have read this three times, and that’s honestly the best way to put it. Actually, a better way to put it might be a love letter to Avengers continuity. It is confusing, but it is also quite a fun book, and it is beautifully done by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino. Just enjoy getting to see cool stuff like the Avengers teaming with Killraven against Martians, as seen above, and Two-Gun Kid vs. Kang, and you’ll be ok. Try and make too much sense of it and you will have a headache that can only be destroyed by Ant-Man. Enjoy it as a romp, and well, you get a romp.
2. The Last Avengers Story
Peter David crafts a dark tale that isn’t saturated in grim and gritty nonsense that Ariel Olivetti renders in an eye-pleasing darkness that seeps into everything. The Avengers aren’t what they used to be, kids, and what they used to be was kids. David’s story highlights the inherent advantages that villains have within the superhero paradigm. He also shows us a world gone mad, heroes broken for different reasons, and the fate of the children of several of the heroes. Also, we get Cannonball in this for some reason. I guess in this timeline, he grows up to be an Avenger instead of Cable: The Sequel. In the end what passes for The Avengers gather to make their last stand against an assemblage of their greatest foes, and many of the Avengers who are left simply don’t make it, but hope remains for those who do. Darry Weight will take a closer look at this masterpiece later this month!
1. Ultron Unlimited
In my mind, this isn’t just the greatest ’90s moment in Avengers history, but this is truly the greatest moment in Avengers history, period.
That. That’s it. That panel epitomizes The Avengers. Even their heaviest hitter, Thor, is war-scarred, having battled all that Ultron has to offer. Captain America and Firestar are beaten down too. Despite the hardship, despite the war they have just gone through, and despite their fatigue and injuries, The Avengers are here to do a job, and that job is saving the world. Ultron is at his uttermost worst in this tale; in contrast, the Avengers have never been better, shone brighter, or come through against more horrendous odds. That, to me, is what The Avengers is all about. When things look bleak, they find a way. When the odds are stacked against them, they unstack them. When the worst villains show up, they get confronted by the best heroes. Those heroes are…THE AVENGERS!!!
Just want to give an honorable mention here to the Infinity Saga. I had it on the list, but it’s really more of a Marvel Universe story instead of just an Avengers one. One could make the same argument for Acts of Vengeance, but it ended in an Avengers title. and so I justified it. While the Infinity Saga did crossover into the Avengers titles, it was more or less contained within the three mini-series under the “Infinity” heading.