While the Suspended Animation column generally deals with comic books and their creators, it seems odd to never comment on those forms of media influenced by comics. That being the case, I'd like to inform you as to why I believe The Avengers is not only the best Marvel movie made to date, but also instructive in what made the Marvel brand so distinctive, back in the day. *There will be spoilers, of a type, so be aware!*
There has never been anything perfect about Marvel's characters, and many fans and historians will site that as the reason they became so popular when compared with those of Marvel's main rival of the day, DC Comics. "Heroes with hang-ups" would have been an apt catch phrase, starting with the first issue of The Fantastic Four, back in '61. (Knowing Stan Lee, I wouldn't be surprised if he used that one.)
The Avengers movie captured those imperfections in a big, bold way. Thor's conceit, Tony Stark's cockiness, Captain America's insecurity as a man-out-of-time, and Nick Fury's manipulative ways, along with the foibles of other characters, make this a movie where the average viewer can actually relate to characters who, though they may fly, do so with feet of clay.
Oops! My mistake. We should be friends!
Any Marvel buff will tell you that, in an age when Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and the rest of that crowd were pals, it was refreshing, and just downright fun to see their counterparts from the House of Ideas try to smack the snot out of each other. See, many Marvel team-ups at that time began with a misunderstanding, which led to a fight, which ended with the heroes finding out that…, heh…, they were on the same side. Who knew? Well, the fans did. But heaven help anyone who messed with the formula.
Thanks to those who put The Avengers together, formulaic has never been so much fun; especially when it comes in the form of throw-downs between Iron Man and Thor (with Captain America breaking it up in his own unique fashion), and Thor and the Hulk. I mean, this stuff is the best apology fans have ever received for the televised fiasco that was 1988's "The Incredible Hulk Returns", which guest-starred an overly-corny, barely-recognizable Thor.
Thankfully, the creators of the movie respected the soul of the source material. In other words, even if the characters didn't look EXACTLY as they did in their heyday, they definitely acted like it. That makes The Avengers the most geek-out-worthy Marvel movie ever made, in my opinion.