(Panini �16.99)

FOR newcomers looking to find out more about the comic book adventures of the Avengers after watching the blockbuster movie, then this is quite simply the perfect companion volume.

Since the second Fantastic Four movie was released, Panini have excelled themselves in compiling UK-original collections of suitable strips focusing on the stars of Marvel’s various films, including Wolverine, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Iron Man. The effort put into ensuring these volumes provide entry point tales for newbies, but also offer an interesting journey through the characters’ decades-long histories, is something which deserves recognition, especially with some of the featured issues having never before been collected.

The list of creators in this latest tome reads like a who’s who of comics, and includes Stan Lee, Kurt Busiek, Brian Michael Bendis, Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Roy Thomas, Alan Davis, George Perez and Steve Epting – truly an all-star line-up.

But it’s the issues featured here which really stand out, cherry-picking from almost 50 years of stories to produce a compilation which simply screams quality.

We have the team’s origin in Avengers Vol 1 #1, the first modern-day appearance of Captain America in #4 (first Cap), the debut of the red-skinned Vision in #57, and Ant-Man’s journey to the centre of the android in #93. Moving into the 1980s we have two crucial issues of spin-off titles Avengers West Coast, #51-52, which reveals the shocking truth behind the children of the Scarlet Witch.

The relaunched third volume of the series started off with the dream creative team of Busiek and Perez, and #10-11 offer two of the stand-out issues from their run. Confusingly, the series returned to its original numbering with the anniversary issue #500 (not collected here) and the Avengers Disassembled game-changing storyline, here represented with #503 and Avengers Finale, which wrapped up the run before it was relaunched again as New Avengers, with #3 wrapping up this volume.

Without doubt a nigh-on perfect collection of Avengers issues, this book deserves pride of place on the shelves of fans old and new, offering not only a remarkable look at one of the all-time great superhero teams, but also a fascinating journey through the Marvel Age of Comics. Outstanding, and truly a definitive collection.