Avengers Vol. 1 No. 1

I recently picked up a copy of the "40 Years of Avengers" DVD-ROM from
Graphic Imaging Technology Inc. ( http://www.gitcorp.com ). I could
quibble about the reproduction (scanned from printed comics), the
format (Adobe PDF files), or the ommissions (it includes the Annuals,
but not the Giant-Size issues). But it's hard to argue with the value:
over 500 issues of comics for about the same price you'd pay for a
single Marvel Masterworks volume.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to go through the series an
issue at a time and record my opinions and observations. We'll see how
far I get before I get bored; probably long before I reach the Rob
Liefeld issues. ;-)

September 1963
Written by: Stan Lee
Drawn by: Jack Kirby
Inking: Dick Ayers
Lettering: S. Rosen

The premise is simple enough, if slightly contrived. Loki, the evil
Asgardian god, has been exiled to the "Isle of Silence" for past
misdeeds. He blames his brother Thor for his exile and plots revenge
against him. Using his powers of thought-projection and illusion, Loki
tricks the rampaging brute known as the Hulk into wrecking a railroad
trestle. Although the Hulk manages to hold the tracks together long
enough for the train to pass over safely, he is blamed for the
destruction and the word spreads that the gamma-powered monster is on
a rampage.

Teenager Rick Jones, who had witnessed the Hulk's origin and been his
confidant in the past, reads the news. He's not convinced that the
Hulk is guilty, but he figures that either way, it will take more than
the normal authorities to get to the bottom of things. With the help
of some friends who are ham radio buffs, Rick tries to get a message
through to the world-famous adventurers the Fantastic Four. But Loki
intervenes, diverting the radio signal so that instead of the F.F., it
reaches Dr. Donald Blake, the mild-mannered surgeon who is secretly
Thor. Blake transforms into his godly form and heads towards the
southwest to respond to Rick's call for help.

However, Loki's redirected broadcast reaches other targets he hadn't
counted on. The team of insect-sized adventurers, Ant-Man and the
Wasp, are soon racing across the country on the backs of their pet
flying ants. Likewise, industrialist Tony Stark dons his suit of
transistor-powered armor and responds to the call as Iron Man. The
quartet of heroes arrive at the teens' clubhouse, much to Rick Jones'
surprise and relief.

Loki is not pleased at this turn of events; he's only interested in
fighting Thor, not these other mortal heroes. He manages to lure Thor
away from the others with an illusion of the Hulk. Once Thor realizes
that the creature he's chasing is just a magical projection, he knows
that Loki is repsonsible. Without a word to the others, he takes off
for the realm of Asgard to confront his half-brother.

Meanwhile, we learn that the Hulk has gone into hiding. Disguising
himself as a robot, he's hooked up with a travelling circus,
performing feats of strength for the crowds. But a tiny ant witnesses
his stunts and passes the information on to Ant-Man. Arriving on the
scene, Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Iron Man soon confirm that the "robot"
is indeed the Hulk. The heroes try to reason with the emerald brute,
but the Hulk is in no mood to talk, and a battle ensues. Ant-Man and
the Wasp, even with their army of insect allies, seem hopelessly
outclassed, and even Iron Man's mechanical stregth is no match for the

While this is going on, Thor has arrived at the Isle of Silence, only
to fall prey to Loki's traps. But despite the evil god's best efforts
-- entangling vines, volcanic eruptions, even superhumanly strong
trolls -- Thor subdues and captures him. Loki wonders what his brother
has in mind next...

Back on Earth, Iron Man continues to pursue the fleeing Hulk, and
continues their battle in the middle of an auto factory. But before
things go too far, Thor arrives, with the defeated Loki in tow. The
thunder god tells his allies what has happened, and the Hulk is eager
to exact a little revenge of his own against Loki for all the trouble
he's caused. But Loki still has one trick up his sleeve; he makes
himself radioactive! He warns the others to leave, so that he and Thor
can continue their private battle, or else be killed by the radiation.

But Loki doesn't notice the swarm of ants gathering nearby. Following
Ant-Man's mental commands, the insects flip a switch, opening a
trapdoor beneath the evil god. Loki is hurled down a chute into a
lead-lined tank used to store radioactive waste (What the heck kind of
cars are they building at that factory, anyway?). Thor says that his
brother can't maintain his radioactive state for long, and that once
he returns to normal, Thor will take him back to Asgard (Loki is a lot
weaker here than he would become in later stories; he seems to be no
stronger physically than a normal human, and his powers are largely of
the mental/illusory variety).

Before everyone can go their separate ways, Ant-Man proposes that they
team up on a regular basis. Iron Man and Thor are all for it, and even
the Hulk decides that being part of a group might be better than being
a hunted loner. The Wasp dubs the new team "The Avengers", and thus
history is made...

A solid and enjoyable first issue. Stan and Jack have to cover a lot
of ground here, introducing all the characters, establishing a reason
to bring them together, and giving each member some time in the
spotlight. You can see them taking extra care to make the relatively
puny Ant-Man seem like a vital part of the team: he's the one who
initially locates the Hulk, and the one who imprisons Loki at the end.
The Wasp isn't so lucky, being mainly used as either comic relief or
as a damsel-in-distress; roles she would continue to play up until the

One of the hallmarks of the Lee/Kirby collaborations is the clever
staging of the fight scenes. The Hulk doesn't just throw a punch at
Iron Man; he uses a conveyor belt as a makeshift slingshot to hurl a
car axle at him. When Loki creates multiple illusions of himself, Thor
whips up a whirlwind that blows them all off the edge of a cliff; he
knows that the Loki who actually grabs hold of the ledge must be the
real one. The whole story is filled with ingenious little touches like

Kirby's artwork hasn't quite yet achieved the epic sweep he became
known for, but his visual imagination is definitely in evidence. The
scenes on the Isle of Silence are especially cool, as Thor battles
through various natural and supernatural obstacles to get at his evil
brother. Those trolls, with their giant, grasping hands, are downright
freaky looking.

The idea of taking established solo heroes and forming them into a
team wasn't a new idea, even then. DC had been having success for
several years with their Justice League of America (which of course
was a retooling of the even earlier Justice Society). But Lee and
Kirby managed to spin this familiar concept in a uniquely "Marvel"
way. Even in this first issue, you can see foreshadowing of the
personality conflicts and tensions that would become a major theme of
the series: Thor's arrogance, Ant-Man's over-achieving and
over-compensating, and of course the volatility of the Hulk, which
would boil over in the very next issue...