With the Avengers movie opening on Friday, May 4th, it seemed to be the right time to flex our geek muscles and do a comic book related top 10list featuring earth’s mightiest heroes. The team has had a great run, many dozens of members and quite a few incredible victories and more than a few stunning defeats. All in all the Avengers is a comic about a team of heroes banding together to fight for what is right and good in this world, at the sacrifice of even their lives. We have chosen the Top 10 Avengers comic covers from over 40 years of Avengers comics. While you might not agree with all of our choices, you should at least appreciate the time that went into pairing down so many great choices to these final to 10 Avengers covers.
10. Avengers 503 – Chaos
This solemn cover by David Finch says it all with a glance, the Avengers really are Disassembled! Captain America looks incredibly lonely surrounded by weapons and some pieces of armor from his comrades, like Thor’s hammer, Wanda’s cowl and Hawkeye’s bow & arrows. Bendis’ story inside seemed to be a bit polarizing, with many comic fans loving or hating the whole Disassembled crossover. Such is the fate of the Avengers time after time, they’re broken apart only to be put back together again.
9. Avengers 184 – In the Grip of the Absorbing Man
Another superb Avengers cover that makes great use of perspective. You can also appreciate the added dimension of breaking the fourth wall…kinda, but have the Absorbing Man’s fist and Ms. Marvel (looking as good as ever) be in front of the Avengers masthead. A nice gimmick when used sparingly and effectively. It can also be a chore to fit a whole team on the cover and the villain, especially when the villain is 50 feet tall. But all the Avengers are in the action, either hitting, shooting or jumping on Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man. It would be a great injustice not to have at least on John Byrne cover on a list of the 10 best Avengers cover and this issue checks that box. Does anybody wonder why no one goes for the crotch when trying to take down a giant. I mean, come on, Iron Man is hitting his thigh when Creel’s junk is right there waiting to get punched or hit with a well aimed repulsor ray. The guys know what I’m talking about. As a bonus we also include the original cover art by John Byrne (click for a full size view)
8. Avengers 223 – Of Robin Hoods and Roustabouts
You have to love an Avengers comic cover that points an arrow at you and has the temerity to attach Ant-man to the arrow. This cover is eye-catching and uses perspective in a very creative way. The determination and focus can be seen in both heroes eyes and you really have to give it to Ant-man. Does he actually expect to hang on when Hawkeye lets loose? Ah, who cares, we don’t read comics for a does of reality. Ed Hannigan and Klaus Janson portray both of these B-list heroes with about as much seriousness and dignity you can, especially when one hero is named after an insect and the other looks like a Galactus Kewpie doll. Oh, they fight the Taskmaster and he gets it, because, after all, someone was gonna get it!
7. Avengers (1998) 19 – This Evil Reborn
For many comic book fans the nineties held a low point in comics, however a few gems of both story and cover art come from that era. This George Perez cover featuring Ultron reinventing himself again is one of those cases on both levels. it was incredibly bold of Perez to create an Avengers cover without any actual Avengers appearing on it, however, any long-time fan will immediately recognize Ultron and get excited. The use of black space, as white space, helps to give an amazing sense of dread as we peer into Ultron’s cold eyes in the shadows.
6. Avengers 177 – The Hope…and the Slaughter
Avengers 177 is the final issue in the classic Michael (Korvac) story arc that darn nearly kills every Avenger, as you can see on this incredible cover. Although I have to wonder at Don Blake’s (Thor’s alter ego at this time) choice of who to save first. I would assume Captain America would be his first choice, but Hawkeye gets the CPR first. Naturally no one is dead at the end in this issue (but many die during the battle with Michael and Carina) but only because Michael decides to quit trying to fix the Universe and commits suicide, but this cover does the trick of enticing you to open the book and find out how our Avenging heroes get to this low point in the heroic lives. The very fact the Dr. Donald Blake is more important than Thor and is front and center on the cover gives the reader pause to wonder why Thor wasn’t able to help against the unseen foe that has defeated the Avengers. Fallen heroes, desperate actions and lost hope always make for the beginnings of a great cover and this once delivers. The late, great Dave Cockrum drew this classic Avengers cover. On a side note, I always thought it was clever having the Vision materialize from the cover (see upper left corner.)
5. Avengers (1998) 40 – Thoom
Puny humans, everyone knows Hulk the strongest one there is. Also apparently now a giant as he grabs and crushes the entire Avengers with one mighty hand. This amazing Alan Davis cover really grips you immediately and makes you wonder if the Hulk will be friend or foe inside. The Hulk’s never exactly been a hero or a villain, he’s more of a force of nature, so you’re never really sure which one he’ll be when he shows up in another book. I’m still not sure why the Vision is looking so defeated; he’s intangible.
4. Avengers 146 – The Assassin Never Fails
This Avengers cover is illustrated by one of my favorite artists, Gil Kane and inked by Al Milgrom. I love this cover for two reasons. The first reason is it is able to show all the Avengers in an easy to see format. You can make out the faces and costumes quite easily and it doesn’t feel like you are squishing all the characters to make the fit. Although it is a bit odd that Captain America appears to running on air (with one leg) besides everyone else flying. Hawkeye is on a rooftop so he’s cool. The second reason I especially like this cover is, of course, the use of the cross air. Nowadays this seems old hat, but back in 1976 this one a new gimmick and works well. The black is closing in on them increasing the feeling of peril. Of course, unless the Assassin is shooting a nuclear missile, he probably isn’t hurting Thor. Better to aim a little to the right and lower. Sorry, Hawkeye. The dramatic nature of this cover makes is so good, I feel guilty mentioning the tiny size of Thor’s hammer. Shouldn’t it be bigger, especially when we are seeing everything in close perspective.
3. Avengers 76/491 – Full House
Cover artist Jae Lee’s signature style is immediately recognizable, with sharp shadow edges and a moody atmospheric presence. A solemn sense of dread is apparent on everyone’s face. The members of the Avengers team tend to change about as often as you change your sheets, and yet one of the most iconic representation of the Avengers is always Captain America leading the team, and his shield. Just by looking at the cover, you know something bad is going to go down inside, and there’s Captain America raising his shield to spread hope.
2. Avengers 12 – This Hostage Earth
A classic Jack Kirby cover featuring Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Giant Man & the Wasp battling to save the earth from the macabre Mole Man. The immediate draw of this cover is the iconic symbol of Thor smashing his hammer into the ground and obliterating the rocks, and Giant man’s huge hand pointing its way ahead. But the real mystery of the cover is why all the Avengers and the main villain, who’s actually behind them, are all facing in the same direction. As great as this cover is, unfortunately it’s also an example of how uneven most of the early Avengers stories were, the insides are drawn by Don Heck and not Kirby, and Stan Lee has some of his typical early contrived plot devices in play. Still, the inside detracts nothing from one of my all-time favorite Avengers covers.
1. Avengers 57 – Behold the Vision
To me this is the ultimate, the best, the most awesome Avengers cover of all time. It doesn’t hurt that my most favorite Avenger, The Vision not only dominates this comic cover but also makes his debut. I may be biased but I would be surprised to see this left off of any top 1o list of Avengers covers. It is that good.
Where do you start? The use of red is so overpowering that you get the sense that this Vision villain is so dangerous and possibly evil that you fear for the Avengers before even opening the comic. The juxtaposition (great word) of the Vision’s size versus the tiny and helpless Avengers further adds tension to this cover. The team writhes on the cloudy floor, reaching up in fear and mercy as the Vision looks beyond them and waves his hand asserting his control. Hard to believe the Vision became a member after this ominous cover. And even harder to believe his powers weren’t based on growing larger or controlling the weather (cloud cover) or excreting some sort of noxious gas. Thank you creative license. Still this cover pays attention to the details by making sure the masthead is red and so is the background behind the heads of the Avengers in the top left corner. The Vision stands in front of the Avengers letters in the masthead furthering the belief he will defeat our heroes.
You’ll not seen a finer cover by artist John Buscema and inker George Klein and it is such a classic cover that John Byrne did an homage in The West Coast Avengers 45 when he debuted the new and less-improved white Vision.
Another home was done during Secret Invasion with The Mighty Avengers 14 when a Vision-Skrull was used.
And finally the Avengers 57 cover was copied by the Boston Comic Con 2012 Geek Week rendition.
What to read more about the Avengers? Try this top 10 on the lamest Avengers.