“Avengers Assemble.” It’s long been the rallying cry for Marvel’s team of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” but exactly who is doing the “assembling” tends to change pretty frequently.
With a new series,Avengers Assemble, debuting this week from the famed Ultimate Spider-Mancreative team of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley, and anAvengers feature film out on May 4, we’ve looked at the many (many, many) different Avengers lineups since their 1963 debut and devised a list of the 10 best.
10.) THE WEST COAST AVENGERS
Spinning out of the main Avengers team, this Los Angeles-based squad was the brainchild of then-chairman and Avengersconstant the Vision, who hand-picked heroes for the squad.
The original lineup, led by long-time original team member Hawkeye, consisted of Tigra, Wonder Man, Iron Man (piloted at the time by James Rhodes), and Hawkeye’s sometimes love interest Mockingbird. Though they were hardly the most potent of Avengers squads, the team made up for what they lacked in terms of raw power with a level of teamwork and drive that can hardly be rivaled.
As the team grew, they welcomed members that, while in many cases seemed to be analogues for more iconic Avengers, were usually strong characters in their own right. Though they imploded in the early ’90s, the 10 years that the West Coast Avengers were in operation showcased some of the most dynamic stories and characters that Marvel featured at that time.
Members: Hawkeye, Tigra, Mockingbird, Wonder Man, Iron Man, Wasp, Hank Pym, USAgent, War Machine, Spider Woman, Moon Knight, Living Lightning, the Thing, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Human Torch, Firebird
9.) CAP’S KOOKY QUARTET
So nicknamed due to the odd nature of the three characters who joined Captain America’s team after the other founders all departed, “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” was another team known not for the strength of its members, but for the relationships and characterization they enjoyed, and the entertainingly strange nature of many of their stories.
Despite consisting primarily of former criminals with bad tempers, Cap’s Quartet managed to take on threats including the Masters of Evil, Kang, the Mandarin and even Dr. Doom; without a powerhouse among them. Their run was fairly short-lived, as Giant Man and the Wasp re-joined the team just before also welcoming characters like Hercules and the Black Panther into their ranks, but the members of this era all became permanent additions to the team, and their stories are some of the most fun and off-beat of the Avengers canon.
Members: Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch
8.) KREE/SKRULL WAR TEAM
The Avengers that took part in the legendary Kree/Skrull War were few, but almost no other lineup is as iconic and recognizable as the bunch that appeared in issues #89-#97 of the original series.
Featuring several longtime members and founders, the Kree-Skrull war also featured Clint Barton — better known as Hawkeye — in his first outing as the shape-changing giant Goliath, and honorary Avenger Captain Mar-Vell, in what was easily one of the most enduring stories of all time.
This roster is a prime example of an Avengers team that was great not necessarily because of the characters it featured, but because of the stories in which they took part. In addition to adding Captain Marvel to Avengers canon, the Kree-Skrull War also showcased how a seemingly typical roster can be elevated to great heights based on the energy of the creative team at the helm.
Members: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, Ant-Man, Goliath, Vision, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Captain Marvel
7.) MID/LATE ’80S
Even though they featured a few duds among the line-up (Dr. Druid, I’m looking your way), there were some great additions to the Avengers roster in this time period, including the energy wielding Monica Rambeau, the tempestuous She-Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner, plus the return of characters like Black Knight and Hercules to the team.
Not necessarily the most iconic of Avengers teams, they were nonetheless a part of some of the greatest Avengers stories ever told, including the destruction of Avengers Mansion by a veritable army of Masters of Evil.
Members: Captain America, Black Knight, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Hercules, Wasp, Namor, She-Hulk, Thor, Dr. Druid
6.) YOUNG AVENGERS
They may not technically be an official branch of the Avengers, and their status as an active team is uncertain in the wake of recently wrapped miniseries Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, but the group of teens known as the Young Avengers have starred in some of the best loved, best received, and most exciting Marvel comics of the last decade.
Consisting primarily of young heroes with, at first, tangential connections to long time Avengers, over time, as their membership grew, and their secrets were revealed, the connections to Avengers history became much stronger. Featuring the long-thought-dead twin children of the Vision and Scarlet Witch, the daughter of Ant-Man, and a young, pre-villainous Kang the Conqueror, the team filled a void left in the wake of the dissolution of the classic Avengers. In their short run, they faced off against the Skrulls and the Kree, Kang himself, and even their mentors in the original team. Though they have seemingly disbanded, there’s little doubt that the demand for more stories featuring these fan-favorite characters will only grow in their absence.
Members: Patriot, Hulkling, Hawkeye, Stature, Iron Lad, Vision, Wiccan, Speed
5.) THE FOUNDERS
The very first Avengers line-up might be higher on this list if not for two factors. For one thing, this line-up only lasted two issues, with Hank Pym switching from Ant-Man to Giant-Man by issue #2, and the Hulk departing entirely at the end of that same issue.
The other factor is the teams almost utter lack of teamwork. Even in their first outing, when they were accidentally brought together by teenager Rick Jones to combat Thor’s evil brother Loki, the Avengers weren’t exactly a get-along gang. Feelings of inadequacy and mistrust among the team members were only exacerbated by the creepy illusionist the Space Phantom, who sowed dissent against the Hulk in the team’s second outing.
Still, they were the first in a long line of Avengers rosters, not all of which were the best of friends, and they elevated the Mighty Marvel formula of all-too human super-heroes in a way that no single hero could have done.
Members: Thor, Iron Man, Wasp, Ant-Man, Hulk
4.) THE NEW AVENGERS
With a line-up based on the principle of showcasing all of Marvel’s “moneymakers” alongside some more… let’s just call them dark horse candidates, the New Avengers, launched in the wake of the seminal “Avengers: Disassembled” storyline introduced some Marvel mainstays to the Avengers who had long avoided membership among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
In addition to Captain America and Iron Man, the team included now long-term members such as Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, and perhaps most surprisingly, Spider-Man and Wolverine. The roster now includes even more surprising members (The Thing, Iron Fist and Daredevil among them), but the original line-up that launched the new era of the Avengers was notable for its strong characterization, surprising cast and high quality, high energy stories.
If only because the lineup began the modern era of the Avengers and set the stage for almost everything that’s happened in the following years, the New Avengers are one of the greatest superhero teams of all time.
Members: Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Echo, Ronin, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Daredevil, Thing, Mockingbird, Ms. Marvel, Sentry
3.) THE KORVAC SAGA TEAM
Throughout the ’70s, the lineup of the Avengers fluxuated around a core group of members, coalescing in the crew featured in the now legendary story “The Korvac Saga.”
Though most of the decade featured a small group of Avengers often joined by one or two guest stars, all those erstwhile members came together in the wake of the being known as Korvac’s ascension. In addition to showcasing some of Jack Kirby’s last Avengers art, and the introduction of the long-running Beast/Wonder Man best buds club, the Avengers stories of this era also introduced such long-running subplots as the Hank Pym/Ultron/Vision/Wonder Man family tree, and of course, the all important “Korvac Saga,” which was truly the highlight of the run.
In the aftermath of “The Korvac Saga,” the team was pared back, and saw some characters depart, and new ones take their place, but the team at the height of this era was one of the strongest and most well-written in Avengers history.
Members: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, Yellowjacket, Beast, Wonder Man, Hawkeye, Whizzer, Scarlet Witch, Hellcat, Moondragon, Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, Mantis, Falcon
2.) CAPTAIN AMERICA JOINS THE TEAM
In their fourth issue, the Avengers would see one of the most important and iconic events not only in their own history, but in the history of Marvel Comics — the discovery of the frozen body of WWII legend Captain America, floating in the ocean.
Upon his unfreezing, and his adjustment to the strange era in which he was revived, the Avengers drafted Captain America into their ranks, filling the Hulk’s empty spot among the team’s founding members. Though he lacked the raw strength of the Hulk, Captain America possessed a single skill that completely transformed the team from a barely-together group of heroes into Earth’s Mightiest protective force: leadership.
Through the strength of Captain America’s charisma and personality, the Avengers were able to flourish, and, after a brief period where they left Cap alone with a bunch of ex-cons, grow into the mainstay of Marveldom that they are today. Almost nothing that has happened in Avengers history would have been possible without the addition of Captain America to the team’s ranks, so while they weren’t technically the first Avengers lineup, this is truly the team that started it all.
Members: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp
1.) HEROES RETURN
In the wake of the critical failure known as “Heroes Reborn,” in which some of the day’s highest profile creators attempted to re-envision Marvel’s most iconic characters, something incredible had to happen to reinvigorate the Avengers franchise, which suffered from one of the most-maligned titles of the “Reborn” line.
To facilitate the Avengers return to greatness, Marvel chose Kurt Busiek, a veteran writer who had never written the team, and George Perez, the legendary penciller who had drafted some of the greatest issues of the Avengers ’70s run. What happened was a pitch-perfect combination of classic Avengers sensibility and characterization set against stories that were always moving forward at a breakneck tilt.
While the team did include some misguided latter-day members, such as Silverclaw and Triathlon, the bulk of the run featured a core group of some of the most classic Avengers members, and a couple requisite new recruits. While the book’s opening arc showcased nearly every character who had been an Avenger up until that point, it was with issue #4 that the new lineup was solidified, and the title really began re-establishing itself as a powerhouse among the comics of the day.
Because of the strength of the creators, the energy and excitement of the stories, and the perfect blend of old and new-school members, the “Heroes Return” Avengers were, without a doubt, the greatest team of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes ever assembled.
Members: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Hawkeye, Justice, Firestar, Warbird (Carol Danvers), Giant-Man, Wasp, Triathlon, Silverclaw