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The new book The Avengers Vault is a coffee table-style art book written by comic book writer Peter David and published by Thunder Bay Press. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe has shifted more and more attention to “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” Marvel has determined ways to emphasize the Avengers team, from animated shows to merchandise. This book is the latest venture to both introduce new fans and reward old ones. The Avengers Vault is partly a history but even more it’s a tribute to the great art of the Avengers comic book.
The Avengers Vault is divided into five main sections. The first gives a fast history of the Avengers, both in the story and publishing sense. Then the four remaining sections are devoted to a similar treatment to four of the most prominent Avengers: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and Hulk. So in one sense The Avengers Vault isn’t really a book entirely devoted to the Avengers but a book devoted partially to the Avengers and partially to some of the Avengers’ members.
It may seem a little strange to highlight the Hulk since until his inclusion in the Avengers movie (and the Ultimates comics prior to that), Hulk has not really been an integral part of the Avengers, even though he was a founding member. However, since David is one of the best writers to ever pen Hulk’s comic, that section is actually one of the most interesting. He has some insight and some observations on the Hulk’s history that make Hulk’s inclusion in the Avengers Vault worthwhile. Plus, these are the four characters that have had solo movies and thanks to the Avengers movie, Hulk has become a big part of the Avengers within Marvel’s comics again.
The history sections for the team and team members are fun and a quick read. It’s aimed more towards new and casual readers, but David is very knowledgeable and occasionally drops some historical trivia that even longtime fans might not know. For instance, I did not know that in his initial appearances, Bruce Banner only changed into the Hulk at night, sort of like a werewolf. David is also a skilled enough writer that he makes reading the sections on the characters enjoyable even if you’re familiar with their history. He also chronicles some of the character’s main foes, which while not essential is still interesting.
Even though David does a nice job with his writing, the fact that the character bios aren’t exceptionally deep means that the text isn’t the real draw here. The real appeal of The Avengers Vault is all of the art images from Avengers and the characters’ titles. The book has many full-page pictures, which really highlights the impact of the art from legends like Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Don Heck, John Romita, and others.
The best part of The Avengers Vault is that each of the five main section features a pocket-type page with inserts of a couple of reprints of comic, production, or promotional art. They are not the usual Avengers pages you see posterized frequently (such as covers to Avengers #4, #57, or other landmark issues). They are less commonly seen illustrations, so it’s a really cool feature. Additionally, Marvel and Thunder Bay Press has done a really nice job on these images in The Avengers Vault, both within the sections and the pull-outs. The images look great and have sharp coloring.
If there is one thing missing from The Avengers Vault, it’s that the book does not cover any of the team members in depth besides Cap, Thor, Hulk, and Iron Man. Hank Pym, Hawkeye, and others are mentioned from time to time, but not in length. I think a sixth section that gave a little discussion to some of the other Avengers who spent lengthy or significant stints in the team (perhaps Pym, Hawkeye, Wasp, Vision, and Scarlet Witch) would have made the book feel a little more complete. As it is, this is more a book about four Avengers rather than a book about the Avengers team.
However, if we simply take The Avengers Vault for what it is rather than what it could have been, it’s a very nice book. It might not be an essential piece for a comic library, but the art alone makes it worth owning if you like large-format art books about comics. It’s too bad the title wasn’t out in time for the holidays because The Avengers Vault is also the type of book that would make a fantastic gift for a Marvel fan. Overall, David’s conversational but absorbing text and a plentiful collection of art images makes The Avengers Vault a nice treat.