The Avengers and the movies which led up to it (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Captain America, Thor, etc.) are based in the Ultimate Universe, whereas the comics I read were the original Silver Age stories in which The Avengers originally formed and gelled as one of the premier superhero teams. These comics are a far cry from the HD effects-driven blockbuster movies, but many of the crucial elements of The Avengers exist both in comic book and in movie form.
The original Avengers were Iron Man (in his golden soup can armor), The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Henry Pym (in his Ant-Man phase) and his trusty partner Wasp. Captain America wouldn't join up until issue #4. The original story which brought The Avengers together was a little lame. They just all showed up to the same fight and basically entered an oral contract to be a team. It was a very loose agreement which The Hulk promptly broke, which kinda makes it seem like they weren't much of a team. There was a lot of in-group fighting in the first 10 issues, and the team had no official government backing. They were literally just a bunch of dudes and one girl (who hit on every guy she met, which got really annoying) who fought as a team when they felt like it. This means they were only slightly more dedicated than The Defenders when they first got together. The lack of real teamwork makes these early Avengers comics slightly less awesome than The Fantastic Four.
Another issue with these first issues is that they face a few real duds in the villain department. Loki makes an appearance in the first issue, which is nice, but he's really more Thor's enemy than anything. The Avengers needed marquee villains that required the collected forces of all the members (I'm thinking a Magneto type). Zemo and the Masters of Evil really started coming together as a team by the end of the first 10 issues, but that's about it. Also, I feel the need to point out that Zemo is a Captain America villain and The Enchantress and The Executioner are both Thor villains. Once again, there's a need for original villains created specifically for The Avengers. Also, to that point, I found the plot in issue #2 to be a bit silly. The Space Phantom comes along as a real challenger to The Avengers, but as an interloper he states that his big goal is to beat The Avengers, thus proving his power. The problem with this is that The Avengers had literally just gotten off the ground and it didn't seem the public was too aware of the team. How would a visitor from another world know that beating the Avengers was the most important thing for an evil villain to do while on Earth? Maybe I'm just picking too many nits here.
Lemme say that I really enjoyed The Avengers. I've mentioned before that 1960's Marvel comics are pretty much my favorite thing. There's plenty to love about the early issues of The Avengers. All the knocks I listed above were mainly just justification for putting The Avengers lower on my First 10 totem pole than I really want to. The Avengers are pretty much another win for Silver Age Marvel. I just have other series' I want to read first. This shouldn't mean that The Avengers aren't worth reading. They're in the mix along with a whole bunch of other awesome series. I'll get to 'em all eventually. Here are the current standings:
- Amazing Spider-Man
- Fantastic Four
- The Punisher
- Golden Age Green Lantern
- The Avengers