Avengers Classics: Avengers 1 1/2

Avengers Classics: Avengers 1 1/2

“And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born—to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand!”

Each Friday Marvel.com will present a different column focusing on the one and only Avengers. From line-ups to costumes to villains to classic stories and beyond, we’ve got you covered on the history of Marvel’s most prolific team of heroes!

So let the call go out: Avengers Assemble!

By Jim Beard

As interest in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes runs at an all-time high thanks to “Marvel’s The Avengers,” the question of the Incredible Hulk’s membership rushes to the forefront. It’s all true! Ol’ Jade Jaws once stood alongside the rest of the team, but unfortunately for only two issues before he turned against his fellows and proved more villain than hero.

But wait! There exists one other classic Avengers adventure that includes The Hulk on the roster, none other than 1999’s AVENGERS #1 ½! With writer Roger Stern and artist Bruce Timm ably filling in for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the wondrous one-shot tells of then-unknown mission that took place between the seminal AVENGERS #1 and AVENGERS #2.

It began with the world in a dither over news of Ant-Man, The Wasp, Iron Man, Hulk and Thor banding together to “protect and safeguard the planet Earth.” Everyone possessed an opinion on what the Avengers would do next, and most especially a certain Latverian monarch called Doctor Doom. In fact, the American government felt that the devilish doctor bore looking into and asked the team to make it their highest priority. With an assist from a “state-of-the-art jet-copter” loaned to them by the Feds, the Avengers flew off to track down Doom’s immense flying fortress.

Stern and Timm’s deep understanding of the magic that Stan and Jack poured into the early days of the Marvel Universe comes on in full force as the Avengers invaded Doom’s ship and encountered traps designed to impede and impound them and their special abilities. The Hulk, of course, smashed and crashed his own path onto the mysterious fortress, much to the chagrin of his teammates, but he too wound up on the wrong side of a patented Doctor Doom device.

One of the greatest bits of fun in the issues comes when Ant-Man realized a little size increase would serve to ease his burdens. Thus, Stern and Timm revealed the incredible transformation of Ant-Man into Giant-Man, explaining Hank Pym’s presence in his larger heroic persona in AVENGERS #2, which played off his first actual size adaptation in TALES TO ASTONISH #49.

Finally, the Avengers escape from Doom’s traps by helping each other and beard the armored lion in his den. The doctor tried to escape, but ran afoul of the Hulk’s prickly temper and then lost his head! Literally! Of course, the Hulk discovered he’d only decapitated a robot duplicate, but found no time to ponder it further as Doom’s flying fortress went Barooom!

The Avengers won the day, but many questions about Doctor Doom’s purposes remained—as well as growing feelings of resentment on the Hulk’s part. Stern set it all up beautifully at the end of AVENGERS #1 ½ to pave the way for the legendary AVENGERS #2 and the last all-for-one of Iron Man, Thor, The Wasp, Giant-Man and The Hulk as a team.

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