Review by Tony Keen
This volume collects Avengers stories from 1965 and 1966, which continue to improve from those collected in the first two Avengers Masterworks volumes. More Avengers-specific villains appear. There’s Power Man, first allied with the Enchantress, and later with the Black Widow and the Swordsman; the first appearance of the strangely-motivated cosmic entity The Collector, and Kang the Conqueror comes back, given greater depth than previously. Most significantly, in the latter half of this run, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, having lost their own series in mid-1965, were able to return to the Avengers, adding Goliath and the Wasp to the line-up. This added power, character interaction, and more women; it also steadies the team, which nearly breaks up early in this run. Gradually, the Avengers are starting to resemble the team that is known from the classic stories of the early 1970s.
Don Heck’s artwork is particularly delightful. He’s always been under-rated, partly because superheroes were not the genre that suited him best. Yet he clearly loved drawing the Scarlet Witch, the Wasp and the Black Widow, and given a sympathetic inker such as Wally Wood or John Romita, his work is as good as any featured in Avengers up to this point. Sadly, such inkers were provided too rarely.
Stan Lee’s scripts are okay. There are some daft moments – the Avengers go off to Latveria, and only when they’re arrested do they realise that this is the country where Doctor Doom rules – but his decisions about where to take the series, in particular returning Hank and Jan, are sound. Nevertheless, while Avengers is getting in the right direction, it’s not quite there yet.