Review by Ian Keogh
This is a real period-defining collection, featuring almost all of Jim Shooter’s landmark late 1970s work on the Avengers, page after page of spectacular George Pérez art, some equally good work from John Byrne, and Jim Starlin wrapping up his Warlock epic.
That last item is best experienced as what was intended, the conclusion to an introspective and wide-ranging exploration of depression and society’s values. It stands separately as a cracking and ambitious superhero story with a surprising conclusion, but the context is provided in the preceding material found in Warlock by Jim Starlin: The Complete Collection.
Shooter displays equal ambition in constructing what’s the bulk of this collection, an eleven part episodic story uniting almost all the Avengers with the Guardians of the Galaxy against a foe more powerful than their combined might. As they face their most desperate test with the possible fate of humanity at stake, they’re hamstrung by government interference and red tape. When they finally locate their foe, they have no clearance to use their private aircraft, and need to commandeer a bus! Shooter’s equally good when it comes to presenting villainous motivation, exploring the idea of redemption very effectively, and constantly veering away from the presumed direction of a superhero story. The opening half dozen chapters meander to the main story via detours, including one extremely effective Ultron story following up on Shooter and Pérez’s use of the character in the previous volume, and in the process introducing a new character, Jocasta.
While of its era in terms of interactions between the Avengers, who almost all speak with one voice, the plotting is strong enough to ensure ‘The Korvac Saga’ remains among the best of Marvel superhero stories of the 1970s, where it has strong competition. It’s long been available as a separate collection with a specially created (but unnecessary) coda by Mark Gruenwald and Tom Morgan, also included here. It’s with the artwork that the story topples slightly from grace. Pérez in his pomp is great, but he couldn’t complete the saga. Sal Buscema is fine, but a then novice Dave Wenzel is rather overwhelmed when thrown in at the deep end, and his layouts for the final chapters lack the emotional punch and dynamism either of the previous artists would have achieved.
Before the Avengers meet the Guardians of the Galaxy there’s an enjoyable piece uniting villains the Living Laser, Whirlwind and the one-time Power Man under Count Nefaria. They’d all troubled the Avengers in the past, but the team’s power set in the later 1970s ensured the villains were completely outmatched. Shooter compensates via an imaginative plot, and Byrne obviously enjoyed the playful nature of the story.
There’s one final story to discuss, in its way equally indicative of the period when the regular run of issues was frequently interrupted by an unconnected fill-in due to a creator blowing their deadline. If you want to see Captain America attacked by eagles, the Black Panther against a polar bear and Iron Man taking on the Soviet army, this is the place, but Marv Wolfman’s story is nowhere near as interesting as that makes it sound. Consider it a bonus, ignore it, and revel in the remainder.