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Avengers #1 (1963)

Review and Analysis

Avengers # Cover Art

Avengers Vol. 1, #1

Title: "The Coming of the Avengers"

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Jack Kirby

Cover Art: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

Inks: Dick Ayers

Lettering: Sam Rosen

Characters:

Superheroes: Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Ant-Man, Wasp (The Avengers), the Fantastic Four (Cameo), Odin (Cameo)

Super-Villains: Loki and his ally, a Troll of the Isle of Silence

Supporting Characters: Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade, Jane Foster (Cameo)

1st Appearances:

The Avengers (as a team)

The Troll of the Isle of Silence

Significance of Avengers #1:

--This issue featured the origin and first appearance of the Avengers as a superhero team

--Rick Jones plays a hand in the formation of the Avengers. He will play a significant role in the history of the Avengers, as well as of the Hulk, Captain America, and Captain Marvel

--Loki appears as the first Avengers villain

 

Avengers # 1 Story Synopsis:

Loki in Avengers #1

Loki Plots Revenge from the Isle of Silence in the splash page from Avengers # 1

Loki, the evil half-brother of Thor, previously exiled to the Isle of Silence by Thor, wiles away his imprisonment devising plots with which to get revenge on the God of Thunder. Using his powers, Loki's mind's eyes rove the Earth, spying upon Thor as he treats young patients in his mortal guise of Dr. Donald Blake, assisted by his girlfriend/nurse, Jane Foster. Loki's mind then wanders the Earth, seeking something he can use to exact his revenge against Thor.

Eventually, as his mind's eyes hover over the American Southwest, he espies the Incredible Hulk. Believing that his do-gooder brother would seek revenge for innocent deaths, Loki seeks to cause the Hulk to destroy a train through deception. Loki plants the image of a bundle of dynamite upon a railroad trestle where the Hulk can see it. Thinking he needs to rescue the oncoming train from the explosives, the Hulk instead smashes through the trestle, just as Loki planned. But, since this version of the Hulk is not quite as stupid as other, later versions, the green-skinned man-monster instead manages to employ some fancy engineering and muscle-bound construction skills to prop the bridge up long enough for the train to safely cross. Of course, since the Hulk is well known as a brutish public menace, the people on the train believe he intentionally damaged the bridge. Despite the lack of civilian deaths, Loki's plan began to bear fruit.

Newspaper headlines announce the news that the Hulk is once again on a rampage, and Rick Jones, the only person who, at this point in history, knows that the Hulk is actually the good-hearted but mutated scientist Dr. Bruce Banner, calls upon his comrades in the Teen Brigade, a collection of young ham-radio hobbyists, to put out the call to the Fantastic Four to come and help either capture the Hulk, or prove his innocence. Loki, who is still mentally observing all that transpires in this little drama, frets that the call to the Fantastic Four will prevent Thor from chasing after the Hulk, uses his mystical powers to divert the radio call to the Fantastic Four to a radio within earshot of Dr. Blake, who then transforms himself into his Asgardian alter-ego, the Mighty Thor. Thor then flies off to find the source of the radio call. Unfortunately for Loki, his diversion of the radio call toward Thor also sent it to three other heroes. Wealthy playboy Tony Stark picks up the signal and dons his golden Iron Man armor, and sets off for the long flight to the southwest. Meanwhile the tiny twosome of Ant-Man and the Wasp hear the signal and take off on relays of flying ants (controlled telepathically by Ant-Man's cybernetic helmet), to, you guessed, it the southwest.

All four heroes arrive nearly simultaneously at the headquarters of the Teen Brigade, where Rick Jones updates them on his suspicion that the Hulk may not be the menace everyone thinks he is. Loki, meanwhile, again worries that his plans will be upset if Thor meets the Hulk with other heroes at his side. Once more using his powers of deception, Loki makes Thor imagine that he sees the Hulk outside the window (and Thor never stops to think what a coincidence that is!), and takes off on his own, flying after the imaginary Hulk.

After chasing after the Hulk phantasm, Thor sees that he was fooled into attacking the Hulk, Thor finally realizes that Loki must be responsible. Thor then travels back to Asgard to seek permission from his father, Odin, to deal with Loki. Odin grants permission, and Thor then journeys to the Isle of Silence to confront the God of Mischief.

Loki, expecting Thor's arrival, prepares a trap. Thor arrives at the exile island, confronts Loki, and then is attacked by a troll who is allied with Loki. Thor defeats the troll, uses the mystical properties of Mjolnir, his enchanted hammer to attach Loki to the hammer itself and take him to Earth to reveal his duplicity.

Meanwhile, Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp find the Hulk at a travelling circus, disguised as a clown-faced circus strongman (who the circus workers and audience all believe to be a robot named Mechano). They engage the Hulk and the battle is on. The fight is interrupted by the appearance of Thor with Loki, and everyone is informed of Loki's plans.

After returning Loki to imprisonment, Thor and the other heroes (the Hulk included), are about to depart, when Ant-Man and Wasp propose that they band together to deal with threats that no one hero alone can face. They agree to give it a try, but in the discussion, the question of a team name is brought up. Wasp suggests a name like "The Avengers," and all of them agree to adopt that name for the world's newest group of superheroes.

Avengers # 1 Story Analysis:

Marvel took their best-known heroes who were not part of a team and who did not have their own self-named comic book titles (sorry Spider-Man!), put them all together, and tried to repeat the success of the Fantastic Four. The Avengers title has been, over the decades, a success for Marvel, and, as we have seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Avengers brand is a huge money-maker, and has brought the Avengers into mainstream fame. But the origin story of the Avengers, while pretty well known, is a bit clunky, and not dissimilar to the origin of DC Comics' Justice League of America. In other words, here we see heroes band together to deal with a threat. But Marvel, (meaning creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby), would become well-known for doing things differently.

At the time of Avengers #1, the Hulk was, to the public eye, a brutish menace to be hunted down. With this book, the menace becomes a hero. This is a theme revisited many times in Avengers history, as former villains and threats to society are given a second chance and given the opportunity to redeem themselves as Avengers. And, as with so much of life, things are not what they seem, and true villains are not always apparent. Loki, who was established in his encounters with Thor in the preceding Journey Into Mystery books, fights his battles through trickery and deceit, rarely engaging in combat himself if he can help it. As seen in other encounters with his brother, Loki underestimates Thor. While the Hulk is certainly a being who can and does fight Thor on many occasions, often to a draw, Loki believed that he had found the perfect vehicle to destroy Thor. Even if the other Avengers had not interrupted his plans, later battles between Thor and Hulk prove that while they can engage is some of the best classic battles in Marvel history, there can be no assumption that the Hulk would have destroyed, or even defeated Thor in combat. Loki was wrong on that point. Also, Loki constantly thinks Thor is a big, dumb lummox, who is easily fooled. The events of Avengers #1 show that Thor is wise enough to recognize Loki's handiwork when he sees it (at least once in a while).

Wasp and Ant-Man converse in Avengers # 1

While we do not see much of Iron Man's personality in this issue, the personalities of the Wasp (socialite, fashion designer, and heiress Janet van Dyne) and her scientist boyfriend Ant-Man (Dr. Henry "Hank" Pym), show themselves, and seem to foreshadow future developments between them and their relationship. In dealing with the Wasp, Ant-Man is more than once abrupt, commanding, and somewhat condescending toward the Wasp. As seen in future storylines in the Avengers, this behavior perhaps presages his mental problems and his abuse of Janet. The Wasp for her part is portrayed as somewhat flighty, petty, and man-hungry. She makes snap judgments based on appearance, considering Iron Man as "horrible," and is visibly and verbally lusting after Thor. The Wasp's future flirtations and flings (and Pym's perceptions of her actions toward other men), lead to serious problems in the history of the Avengers and for the Marvel Universe as a whole.

The Avengers Assemble for the first time, and the Wasp provides the name of the team

Resources and Links:

Wasp's Wardrobe--from Pseudo-Random Noise

Avengers 1--Option38.com

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