It’s rather rich that in 2012 Marvel released an oversize hardback of their then most recent Avengers series, prominently featured the Avengers movie cast on the cover, then add in tiny print right at the bottom of the cover that “This is not a tie-in to Marvel’s The Avengers film”. Yeah, right.

Still, anyone that may have been deceived ended up with a decent collection of Avengers material, just lacking Black Widow and the Hulk from the film. There are two very good Brian Michael Bendis stories and one that doesnt quite match the remainder, but is still very readable.

The opening sequence was individually released as Avengers Prime, and the focus is Captain America and Iron Man settling their differences as they set about the mythical creatures of Asgard in the company of Thor. Initially separated, they re-unite to discover a way home, along the way encountering elves, the Enchantress, the dragon Fafnir, and a heavy hitter who’s taken advantage of an opportunity that’s come their way. The bonding and understanding established as they battle their way home forges a base from which the Avengers can be re-launched.

When this occurs, Bendis pulls out all the stops with a spectacular story setting Kang against Ultron and featuring several other heavy hitters besides. By the time it concludes time has been broken and set right again, which is a pretty good day’s work by any standard.

A second team of Avengers with a largely different cast, although still with Spider-Man and Wolverine, are also launched, and their inaugural threat is magic based. It’s the weakest material collected here, with little leavening character touches between giant slabs of action and smaller slabs of exposition.

The artists of all three sequences take advantage of the opportunity to provide spectacular double-page illustrations, Stuart Immonen less so than Alan Davis or John Romita Jr. The latter two pack their art with memorable images, their contrasting styles working equally well on good Avengers material.

The content is available in paperback as Avengers Prime, Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis volume 1, and New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis volume 1. Art fans might want to buy this hardcover instead as the method of binding ensures less loss of detail in the gutters when art is spread over two pages.