The release of the Avengers: Age of Ultron in theaters this Friday signals a great opportunity to peruse some of the library’s comics collections starring the World’s Mightiest Heroes. The recently-published Age of Ultron, Brian Michael Bendis’s capstone to a six-plus-year stint writing the series, imagines the team in an alternate universe overlorded by the archvillain Ultron. Surely not-to-be-missed by anyone wanting more of the film’s eponymous automaton, however there are bounteous tales of impossible feats and catastrophic conflicts starring these characters worth reading. The following recommendations are some of the more idiosyncratic adventures starring one, some, or all of the core Avengers:
Avengers, New Avengers, and Infinity by Jonathan Hickman – Most famous for his heady forays into high-concept science-fiction, Jonathan Hickman has been pitting the Avengers against some unbelievably cosmic threats for the past few years now. Over ten volumes of story, spread over three titles, including a crossover event involving Thanos’s perennial lust for the Infinity gauntlet’s power stones, Hickman takes many of the ideas inherent to the Avengers and sees them through to their logical and often devastating conclusions.
Captain America: Cast Away in Dimension Z – Speaking of alternate universes, this Captain America story hurls the hero into the titular realm, a zone ruled by the fiendish Arnim Zola. A rollicking, fantasy-doused epic told over two volumes, featuring some of illustrator superstar John Romita Jr.’s finest work. It also establishes a surprising new status quo for Cap, sure to raise eyebrows.
Thor: The Mighty Thor – In the early ’60s, comics legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided to incorporate the Norse pantheon into the Marvel Universe. The library possesses the first three collections of these issues, each chapter featuring a tale of Thor in modern times as well as a backup short story telling of Thor’s experiences in ancient times. The short stories have also been collected separately as Tales of Asgard, and are not for any Thor fan to miss.
Iron Man Noir – Scott Snyder, now DC’s head writer on the Batman books, imagines a version of the superhero living in 1930s New York City. Like any good noir pastiche, the drama is drenched in shadows and fatalism, and the convoluted plots and intricate scripting that are hallmarks of the genre are also Snyder’s signature.
Planet Hulk – This book could be Marvel’s masterpiece. A cabal of Earth’s smartest superheroes determine that the Hulk is simply too dangerous for this world. In attempting to rocket Hulk to a peaceful planet haven to live out his days in calm solitude, his ship is sucked through a wormhole, displacing him on a slave-driven gladiator planet. An addictive, pulpy homage to the likes of Robert Howard and Cecil DeMille, it’s also one of the strangest examinations of Hulk’s emotional spectrum, as he struggles between his desire for seclusion and using his power to help fight for the alien slaves. A novel approach to one of comics’s most single-minded characters, and a must for any fan of sword and sandal adventures.
— posted by Sven