Review by Tony Keen
Heart of Stone continues straight from where the 2009 version of Avengers: Nights of Wundagore ends (there is some overlap with the 2001 version of Nights), collecting Avengers issues from 1979 and 1980. It’s a bitty collection. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with this – the stories are, for the most part, perfectly enjoyable in and of themselves, with David Michelinie writing most.
The volume begins with Bill Mantlo placing the Avengers in the Soviet Union, facing a group of incarnated elements, villains who have echoes of DC’s Metal Men, then a fight against the robot Arsenal drawn by Don Newton. It’s a sequel to an Iron Man story from the previous year, and begs the question that if the threat of Arsenal is as great as Iron Man suggests, pulling in as many part-time Avengers as he can, why did he take so long to act?
The stories then revert to John Byrne on art duties, doing some of his best early work. Steven Grant writes a good Hawkeye solo story, pitting him against Deathbird and resolving frustrations Hawkeye had been dealing with since being forced out of the Avengers. There is then a confrontation with the Grey Gargoyle, in the course of which the Avengers’ problems with the US government, another plotline that carries over from Nights of Wundagore, are put to an end.
Up next is a two-part, and not very inspiring, story set in Pittsburgh and drawn by Arvell Jones and Ricardo Villamonte, neither of whom are at their best here. George Pérez then returns to the title on which he’d made his name in peak form. He provides meticulously detailed backgrounds in a style differing from Byrne, but equally well suited. This three-part Taskmaster story concludes this volume with some of Pérez’s best work on the Avengers, and of Michelinie’s.
Overall, this is a nice example of superhero comics at the very beginning of the 1980s. There is nothing here that busts open genre conventions, but for the most part it’s well-written, well-drawn, and generally enjoyable.