The Avengers is the biggest name when it comes to superhero media, thanks to the MCU. But those Marvel Studios stories are all based, in some way or another, on stories from over 60 years of Marvel Comics. Some of those Avengers comics were unmemorable, but some creative teams produced runs for the ages. Stories that deserve to be recognized today. Here are our choices for the ten best Avengers comic book runs of all time.
10. All-New, All-Different Avengers and Avengers by Mark Waid
Mark Waid was already a comics legend by the time he came on board the Avengers franchise, thanks to series like Kingdom Come and The Flash. but the Avengers he got to write were not the all usual suspects. In 2016’s All-New, All-Different Avengers, Waid kept stalwart members like Tony Stark, but added Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan, Miles Morales Spider-Man, Jane Foster’s Thor, and the teenage Nova, Sam Alexander, as a new generation of Avengers. And Sam Wilson was finally on the team as Captain America and not as the Falcon.
Waid excelled at writing this mix of heroic generations, giving the Avengers a multi-generational perspective it never had before. To make Waid’s run even better, he was joined by artists like Adam Kubert and Mahmud Asrar. Eventually, the younger generation would form their own team, the Champions, but Waid would continue with the older members in a new volume of Avengers. He’d close out his run in 2018 with the epic No Surrender arc, one of the best and most epic Avengers sagas of the 21st century. It was a brief run overall, but one that made a mark. No pun intended.
Issues in Mark Waid’s Avengers Run
All-New, All-Different Avengers #1-16, Avengers (vol.6) #1-11, Avengers (vol.1) #675-690 (2016-2018)
9. Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender, w/John Cassaday, Adam Kubert, Daniel Acuña, and Steve McNiven (2012-2014)
The Avengers and the X-Men, two teams who debuted on the same day in 1963, were enemies as often as they were friends. But they’d never really united to become one team before, until 2012’s Uncanny Avengers series. Written by Rick Remender, with incredible art by John Cassaday, Adam Kubert, and others, arrived in the fallout of the Avengers vs. X-Men. Captain America decided that he and other human heroes had not done enough for the mutant race. So he proposed a joint team of Avengers and X-Men, called the Avengers Unity Squad.
Several iconic Avengers like Wonder Man and Scarlet Witch were members, but so were important X-Men like Rogue and Havok. The stories were consistently great and explored the tension between human heroes and the mutant community, all while the Avengers faced epic villains like the Red Skull and his S-Men. Rick Remender’s run was relatively brief, only lasting two years in total. Later, other writers did their own run of the Avengers Unity Squad, to varying results. If it were longer, Remender’s Uncanny Avengers might have gone up a notch in the ranking, because this is some darn great superhero storytelling.
Issues in Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers Run:
Uncanny Avengers (vol.1) #1-24, 2012-2014
8. Avengers and West Coast Avengers by John Byrne with Paul Ryan (1988-1990)
Writer/artist John Byrne was the comic book industry’s biggest superstar by the time he took on the Avengers franchise in 1988. He had drawn issues here and there previously. However, this run was the first time he was the creator in charge of both writing and drawing. Actually, he took on both the monthly West Coast Avengers and Avengers at the same time, with help on the art of Avengers from Paul Ryan. His opening storyline involves the Scarlet Witch and Vision discovering the truth about their children. Not to mention, the Vision being dismantled and rebuilt as “White Vision.” Both stories had a huge influence on WandaVision.
Byrne’s run also saw Spider-Man join the team for an extended space adventure. Another significant addition was the Eternal named Sersi. The original ’40s Human Torch also made a comeback after 50 years during his tenure. Byrne’s run was big, pulpy, and just plain fun. He even took dated concepts like the Lava Men and made them a credible threat. And we can’t forget to mention that he introduced t he comedic Great Lakes Avengers during his run. That alone makes this a run for the history books.
Issues in John Byrne’s Avengers Run:
West Coast Avengers (vol.1) #42-57 Annual #4, Avengers (vol.1) #305-317, Annual #19, 1988-1990
7. The Avengers by Stan Lee, with Jack Kirby, Don Heck (1963-1966)
When Marvel publisher Martin Goodman asked Stan Lee to copy DC’s success with the Justice League of America, he did his own thing instead, creating the Fantastic Four. But by 1963, Marvel had enough solo characters to create their own “all-star” team, and The Avengers was born. The first two issues, by Lee and Jack Kirby, featured a lineup that included Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, the Wasp, and the Hulk. Issue one also introduced the idea of Loki as a primary villain for the team.
But by issue #4, the Avengers really came into their own when Lee thought of having Captain America join the team. As leader, Cap proved to be the missing ingredient the Avengers needed. From that point on, Stan Lee was off to the races. Kirby left fairly early on, and capable artist Don Heck replaced him. Stan Lee’s run only lasted 35 issues and three years. Yet he introduced so many key concepts to what the Avengers are to this very day. Rotating memberships, major villains like Kang, and so much more were birthed in Lee’s run.
Issues in Stan Lee’s Avengers Run:
Avengers (vol.1) #1-35, 1963-1966
6. The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch (2002-2005)
Forget what the title of this comic says; the Ultimates are the Avengers in all but name. When Marvel launched the streamlined and modern Ultimate Universe in 2000, it focused on Spider-Man and the X-Men. But when it came time to do the Avengers, Marvel editorial believed the name was too associated with a property that was no longer popular. So Marvel dubbed this series The Ultimates. Even though the lineup featured Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Giant-Man, the Wasp, and the Hulk. So, basically, the Avengers.
Mark Millar, who became a name at DC writing the fascistic hero team series The Authority, brought some of his trademark grit and satirical take on heroes to Marvel. He and artist Bryan Hitch made Ultimates feel like you were watching a blockbuster movie. So it’s no surprise that Marvel Studios’ Avengers borrowed heavily from this run. If there’s one thing that makes this book cringe today, it’s that Millar’s take on the heroes is that they’re all slightly sociopathic at worst, self-centered jerks at best. And the modern twists to Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver are icky. But the big screen scale and imagination on display in The Ultimates make up for those shortcomings.
Issues in Mark Millar’s The Ultimates Run:
The Ultimates #1-13, Annual #1, The Ultimates 2 #1-13, 2002-2007
5. The Avengers by Roy Thomas, with John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Neal Adams, (1966-1971)
Roy Thomas took over writing duties on Avengers from Stan Lee in 1966, with issue #36. But more than any other writer, Thomas solidified who we think of as the most important and iconic Avengers. Taking over from Stan Lee must have been daunting, but Thomas somehow surpassed his mentor. During his run, Thor and Iron Man returned after a long absence, and he introduced the first hero created specifically for the team, the Vision. He increased the importance of the non-powered Hawkeye, and solidified ex-villains Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver as crucial members of the team.
Roy Thomas also added in Black Panther as a mainstay of the team, and created one of the Avengers’ primary antagonists, the sentient A.I. Ultron. During his tenure, Thomas dialed up the soap opera aspects of the Avengers, setting the standard for future writers. He also scripted the first true Avengers epic, the intergalactic Kree/Skrull war. He also worked with a genius young artist named Neal Adams, who took the book to a whole new level in a visual sense. Although his collaborators like John and Sal Buscema were no slouches either. So much of what everyone loves about the Avengers, and who we even think of as the Avengers, is rooted in Roy Thomas’ five-year run.
Issues in Roy Thomas’ Avengers Run:
Avengers (vol.1) #35–104, 132; Annual #1–2
4. The Avengers by Roger Stern, with John Buscema and Tom Palmer, (1982-1988)
The Avengers had featured a steady lineup of characters ever since the late ‘60s, until writer Roger Stern took over in 1982. He changed up the team roster in a way that hadn’t been seen since early in Stan Lee’s run. During the Stern era, a new character he created, Monica Rambeau, joined as Captain Marvel. Also joining was the Prince of Atlantis, Namor. Often neglected members like Hercules and Black Knight got a chance to shine in Stern’s run. And the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) went from writers relegating her to merely “Ant-Man’s wife” to team leader.
The Wasp was quickly succeeded by Captain Marvel as chairwoman. She-Hulk also became a cornerstone of the team during Stern’s run. These elements made Roger Stern’s time on Avengers a strong showcase for female heroes. Sure, some new recruits like Starfox and Dr. Druid were among the least popular Avengers ever. But hey, points for trying something new. Stern’s run saw one of the greatest Avengers stories ever in “Under Siege,” when Baron Zemo attacks Avengers Mansion, using their HQ’s own defenses against the team. Stern lasted five years on Avengers, primarily with the duo of John Buscema and Tom Palmer on artistic duties. Their run remains one of the best Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has ever had.
Issues in Roger Stern’s Avengers Run:
Avengers (vol.1) 227–279, 281–287, Annual #13–14 (1982-1988)
3. New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Avengers (Vol. 3), and Dark Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis (2004-2013)
In the mid-2000s, Marvel realized the “main universe” Avengers needed a massive overhaul, and so Marvel’s editors pulled out the big guns. Not just on the creative team, with superstar writer Brian Michael Bendis, but also on the team roster. Bendis added two of Marvel’s most famous heroes, Spider-Man and Wolverine, who had never been Avengers before. After Bendis closed out the old Avengers era with Disassembled, which saw Scarlet Witch go mad and Hawkeye die, he launched New Avengers with artist David Finch, and later Leinil Francis Yu, Alex Maleev, Mike Deodato, John Romita Jr., and several others.
This run was an instant sales success, and New Avengers overtook X-Men in sales for the first time in over two decades. From the get-go, the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America was at the heart of this series. A conflict that would boil over into Mark Millar’s Civil War event. Bendis would continue his run for almost a decade, extending it to books like Mighty Avengers, Dark Avengers, and just plain Avengers. Although this run ties into way too many big events, like Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and others, the characterization was always top-notch under Bendis’ watch.
Issues in Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers Run:
Avengers (vol.1) #500-503, Avengers Finale, New Avengers (vol.1) #1-62, (vol.2) #1-34, New Avengers: Illuminati #1-5, The Mighty Avengers #1-36, Dark Avengers (vol.1) #1-16, Avengers Assemble #1-8, Avengers (vol.4) #1-34, 2004-2013
2. Avengers by Jonathan Hickman (2012-2015)
Writer Jonathan Hickman has already made a name for himself thanks to his run on Fantastic Four and creator-owned titles like East of West. But on the heels of the Avengers film, he took over the franchise with a take on the team that used the MCU roster from the film, but also heroes from the previous New Avengers run like Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Spider-Woman. Not to mention, there were several new characters, and even former X-Men Sunspot and Cannonball. Hickman worked with several artists at the top of their game during this run, including Jerome Opena, Stefano Caselli, Steve Epting, and many more.
Hickman’s run was a game changer due to the sheer breadth of its imagination, introducing concepts like Avengers World, and the threat of Multiversal incursions. All of which would culminate in Hickman’s Secret Wars event in 2015. Hickman found a role for each member of this superhero army to play, somehow balancing so many characters together in a way that just worked. No Avengers run has ever gone as big and outside the box in its scope as Hickman’s. Somehow, he found a way to push the very concept of what the Avengers were meant to be within the Marvel Universe. And readers everywhere had their minds blown.
Issues in Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers Run:
Avengers (vol.5) #1-44, New Avengers (vol.3) #1-33, Avengers World #1-5
1. Avengers by Kurt Busiek, with George Perez, Alan Davis, Carlos Pacheco (1997-2002)
When veteran writer Kurt Busiek took over Avengers with a new #1 issue in 1997, the team had just come back from a year away with the Image Comics creators doing their own spin on the concept. He went “back to basics” doing classic storytelling with a modern sensibility, as part of Marvel’s “Heroes Return” publishing initiative. Together with superstar artists George Perez, and later Alan Davis and Carlos Pacheco, this creative team remembered how to balance the melodrama with world-ending threats. In this regard, no one did it better than Busiek and his creative partners.
This run featured just about every iconic Avenger in a significant role. All while graduating teen heroes like Firestar and Justice into Avengers themselves. Busiek rescued Carol Danvers from obscurity and gave her a rightful place at the forefront of the Marvel pantheon again, as well as expanding on often-neglected heroes like Wonder Man. And the versions of longtime arch-foes like Ultron and Kang were never better than under Busiek’s direction. For five years and 56 issues, Kurt Busiek gave fans the quintessential Avengers run, and it still hasn’t been topped.
Issues in Kurt Busiek’s Avengers Run:
Avengers (vol.3) #1-56, Avengers Forever #1-12, Avengers: The Ultron Imperative #1, 1997-2002