The Avengers/Kang: Time and Time Again: written by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, and Roger Stern; illustrated by Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Herb Trimpe, Tom Palmer, and others (1968-1986; collected 2005): Time-travelling super-villain Kang is probably the most fun villain Marvel’s Avengers have ever had. He pops up all over the place. There are several thousand versions of him at one point. And he’s also, probably, maybe, two other super-villains as well at different points in his timeline.
This too-slim volume presents Kang stories from a span of about 20 years, beginning with an encounter with Thor and ending with…well, actually the volume ends with a lengthy prose piece that explains Kang’s twisted timeline from his first appearance in the late 1960’s to the early 2000’s. Along the way, Kang butts heads with the Avengers, and the Hulk and Thor in solo outings.
Among other things, Kang gave Marvel writer Roy Thomas a handy way to indulge his love of obscure characters, Marvel’s 1940’s superheroes, and homages to the characters of other comic-book companies. The Hulk teams up with the Phantom Eagle, a World War One flying ace in the Marvel universe with only one appearance previous to that team-up, to thwart Kang’s plans. The Squadron Sinister, a riff on DC’s Justice League, battles the Avengers. The Invaders, Marvel’s World War Two superhero group, battles the Avengers. And so on, and so forth. Most importantly, Kang battles himself. Really, Kang’s greatest enemy almost always turns out to be another version of Kang, while the Avengers look on in bemused fashion. He’s the Man Who Scolded Himself.
The Roger Stern/John Buscema/Tom Palmer 1986 arc that ends the volume shows Stern at the top of his form as a writer, cleaning up continuity while also forging a fascinating story without over-indulging in nostalgia and minutiae in that Roy Thomas manner. The art throughout the volume ranges from competent in the sections pencilled by workhorse Sal Buscema to top-notch in the Jack Kirby-pencilled Thor outing and that concluding Stern arc, with Buscema and Palmer doing a fine job. Kang multiplies. He divides. I’d like an omnibus that contains all of his appearances. Would that be too much to ask? Recommended.