I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe. I don’t know where it originated but I have always loved the broader, cosmic side of Marvel. So as I kid I consumed a healthy dose of Captain Marvel, Warlock, Nova, and Silver Surfer. I loved how the universe expanded. How the plethora of alien races took shape and developed a history. I’d still rank the Sh’iar as my favorite with the Kree a close second. I thought the Elders of the Universe were an ingenious idea as were the Eternals of Saturn’s moon Titan. The latter having had an enormous impact on Marvel as of late, both in comics and on screen. When the Infinity Gems (to me they will always be gems) appeared I worked hard to learn what each gem did and who possessed it. I lost track for a time as my reading habits morphed but then the Infinity Gauntlethappened and they became front and center in my mind once again.
That being said my favorite cosmic Marvel stories are Avengers stories. For some reason I loved when Marvel’s Mightiest Team traveled into outer space or came into contact with aliens. I know that Cosmic Marvel’s birth spawned from the pages of the Fantastic Fourand much of what exists today evolved from those glorious first one hundred issues of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine but I always loved when the Avengers left the confines of Earth and explored the Marvelcosmic. With Avengers: Infinity Warshattering minds and records I thought it would be a good time to go back in time and look at some of my favorite cosmic Avengers stories.
Kree-Skrull War (Avengers #89-97)
I’d heard about the Kree-Skrull War before I ever had a chance to read it. Back in the day the trade market was not the greatest and it was not always feasible or affordable to hunt down back issues. It was something I had wanted to read for a long time before I happened upon some reprint Avengers comics and was able to piece the entirety of the epic storyline together. It wasn’t what I expected it to be. It was better
I had always envisioned the Kree-Skrull War as a space opera. With Star Wars on my mind and from reading stories about the story I just assumed it all took place in the depths of space. Some of it did but more of it took place on earth and I can only imagine it was a page-turner at the time and fanboys of the era couldn’t wait for the next installment. Long form story telling was still relatively new but Roy Thomas weaved a masterpiece over these nine issues of the Avengersjoined by some incredible artists of the time, Sal Buscema, John Buscema, and the superstar of the time Neal Adams. Eventually the story gets to deep outer space but the majority of the story is set on earth and revolves around Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) and his working to free his ally Rick Jones from the Negative Zone and then the conflict he and the Avengers (minus the big three) get into with Ronan the Accuser and the Sentry. It also involves a group of Skrulls infiltrating our government to create hysteria with Aliens on our planet. Captain Marvel is dragged into outer space and the Avengers give chase, which eventually leads to our cosmic adventure.
The Kree-Skrull War was full of so many great character moments, some of which still define characters today over forty years later. It’s a revered piece of Avengerslore and with the Kree already firmly established in the MCU, as well as Jude Law as Mar-Vell and the Skrulls being introduced in 2019’s Captain Marvelmaybe, just maybe we’ll see the Kree-Skrull Waron the big screen in the coming years.
Thanos War (Avengers Annual #7 & Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2)
Today Thanos is a big bad, not just a super villain but a mad god who wants to wipe out half the universe. That wasn’t always the case. In fact Thanos was a bit of a joke in his first appearance, he even tried to escape, I kid you not, in a Thanoscopter. But then Jim Starlin took ahold of the character and began to build the mythos behind the mad-titan and gave him the gravitas he has today. Through appearances in Captain Marvel, and Warlock in the ‘70s and then again in the Silver Surfer of the’90s the Thanos we know and fear today evolved. No better example of this evolution is the storyarc that has come to be known as Thanos War that was carried out over two Annuals (Avengersand Marvel Two-in-One) in 1977. This was Thanos’ second attempt at gaining the Infinity Gems and it took the full force of the Avengers, Spider-Man, Thing, Moondragon, and Adam Warlock to stop him. Written and drawn by the all time master of cosmic Marvel, Jim Starlin. Starlin’s artwork was stunning, a mixture of George Perez and Michael Golden, and it helped set the bar for cosmic tales at Marvel.
The tale actually begins in the Warlock series where Adam Warlock first meets Gamora, comes face to face with his future despotic self (Magus), and first confronts Thanos. When Thanos kills Gamora Warlock vows revenge, which leads into Avengers Annual #7. The Avengers, Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell), and Moondragon join Adam as they take on Thanos and his armada (with some of the best Thor moments of this era). The Thing and Spider-Man join in the conflict as they are drawn to outer space and help rescue the Avengers and with the sacrifice of Adam Warlock are able to turn Thanos to stone, trapping the mad titan for years. Anyone who has seen Infinity War are going to see the influence of this story on the screen and it is the impetus that Starlin later uses as he builds up to and then executes the Infinity Gauntlet.
Avengers Forever (Avengers Forever #1-12)
At the height of the Kurt Busiek and George Perez era of the Avengers(Heroes Reborn) it was decided that Buseik and Carlos Pacheco would launch a twelve part maxi-series, Avengers Forever, that was in part a sequel to the Kree-Skrull War but more so it was an incredible maxi-series and one of my favorite Avengersstories of all time, one that I reread regularly, and one I hope could play out on the big screen some day.
Avengers Forever was a simple premise but utilized the storied Avengers history and was executed in a fashion that long time readers were over joyed for a return of their favorite eras while new readers were easily included and educated. Busiek created an Avengers roster of past, (Yellow Jacket, Hawkeye, and Captain America) present Wasp & Giant Man) , and future (Captain Marvel and Songbird) Avengers along with Rick Jones and the aid of Kang must save history to stop Immortus an(Kang’s future self) from controlling all of time and space. Busiek picks up where the Kree-Skrull War left off and once again links Jones and Captain Marvel. The Kree play an important role and the team moves through time and space as they attempt to thwart Immortus. It is some of the finest artwork Carlos Pacheco has ever produced and in the hands of Kurt Busiek all the different era Avengers meld into a believable team that must not give away knowledge to their pasts selves but also must save time and in some cases change time to put things right. Maybe past versions of Avengers will be needed to put the Infinity War right and clean up what Thanos has done?
Nebula (Avengers 255, 257-260)
Roger Stern has one of the most under appreciated runs on the Avengers. Along with comic legend John Buscema Stern spent a few years telling some of the best Avengers stories of the modern era and did so without the big three. Of Marvel’s holy trinity only Captain America was a mainstay of Stern’s run while characters like Hercules, Black Knight, Wasp, Sub Mariner, Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Starfox, and the Monica Rambeau Captain Marvel filled out the roster. Even with the A list roster absent the stories were still compelling and some of the best Avengerscomics of the ‘80s. Buried within this run & pigeonholed into the god-awful Secret Wars II maxi-series was the wonderful tale of the Avengers returning to space to aid the Skrulls against what is a believed to be returned Thanos, since his ship (Sanctuary II) has entered Skrull space. It turns out that it is not a returned Thanos but rather his ‘granddaughter’ Nebula and her collection of space pirates who are antagonizing the Skrulls. Of course the Avengers route Nebula and it is never truly defined if she is actually the granddaughter of Thanos (a topic touched on years later in the Infinity Gauntlet). It’s a fun story, very reminiscent of the times but still a great read today. Buscema’s artwork was fantastic. Now fans of the MCU and specifically the Guardians of the Galaxy films will not recognize Nebula when she first appears since there are no cybernetics and she has long flowing hair. She does bear a resemblance to Thanos and could easily have passed as his granddaughter. Nebula’s story is picked up later as she appears again in the early ‘90s and then an even bigger role once Starlin’s Infinity events kicked off. But if you’re interested in a classic cosmic tale or just a great Avengersrun you can’t go wrong with Roger Stern and John Buscema’s run.
I loved Infinity. It’s still one of my favorite Marvel events and stands out as an incredible AvengersEvent. No one will ever accuse Jonathan Hickman of not being detailed in his storytelling nor that he doesn’t thoroughly plan his stories from beginning to end. Infinity was a grand space opera that began in the pages of Hickman’s two Avengers titles (Avengersand New Avengers). While the Avengersdealt with the looming cosmic threat and the need for the team to become larger to deal with that threat. New Avengers on the other hand was the story of the reformed Illuminati and the earth incursions that would eventually culminate in Hickman’s Secret Warsa couple of years after Infinity. Infinity sees the Avengers dealing with two threats. The core Avengers group travels to outer space to deal with the Builders, an ancient race that takes over worlds and builds them as they see fit. The other threat is Thanos, who along with his Black Order, travel to earth to not only take it over but also to find and kill Thanos’ long lost Inhuman son.
I recommend Infinityto any of my students who are looking for a comic close to Avengers: Infinity War. It has all of the principle players and a few who will show up in the MCU later. The magnitude and storytelling is amazing and it may have one of my top five Thor moments off all time (to be honest it may be my favorite God of Thunder moment). Infinityis everything an event is supposed to be and without a doubt one of the best modern Avengers story, if not the best.
So if you’re feeling the Avengers itch after Infinity War and looking for a little cosmic MarvelAvenger stories then hopefully you’ll find some of these gems to your liking.