By Jim Beard
"And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born-to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand!"
As the Heroic Age dawns on the Marvel Universe and we prepare for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, each Friday Marvel.com will present a different column focusing on the one and only Avengers. From line-ups to costumes to villains to classic stories and beyond, we've got you covered on the history of Marvel's most prolific team of heroes!
So let the call go out: Avengers Assemble!
Even tyrannical time-despots fall in love. That's the crux of the classic AVENGERS #23-24 from 1965, Kang the Conqueror's third tussle with Earth's Mightiest Heroes and one of the wildest. While Kang's latest
|AVENGERS #23 (1963)|
The story involves "Cap's Kooky Quartet," the second Avengers line-up to grace the halls of Tony Stark's mansion: Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch. As AVENGERS #23 begins, Cap's had quite enough of the belly-aching and dissembling in the tiny team and walked. That's right: Captain America slammed the door on his way out and became a sparring partner for a professional boxer. The rest of the Avengers lifted their chins off their chests and tried to muddle through without him.
Enter Kang. Snatching up Clint, Pietro and Wanda, he whisked them off to his far future time, hostages in his scheme of revenge. But a new wrinkle had also become apparent at this time, one that changed the landscape of the villain forever more: Kang had fallen in love.
Princess Ravonna's an interesting character, to be sure. The daughter of the monarch of a small kingdom in Earth's distant future, she held her head high and proud while Kang expressed his desire to take her as his wife but ultimately rebuffed him. Yes, the single and solitary time tyrant seethed with passion over the beautiful girl and apparently felt he needed her love above and beyond any other possession within his sight. But she
Kang looked upon the Avengers, especially after they escaped and chose to fight rather than flee, and admired them. Even likening himself to a "giant toying with helpless Lilliputians," he almost regretted their impending deaths at his hand-almost. Things looked dim for the three newbie Avengers until Cap arrived like the cavalry and challenged Kang's conquest of the future.
With an impressive and invincible hoard of his own waiting outside the perimeter of the small kingdom, Kang seized his chance to prove his love for Ravonna and held her people hostage until she saw the light. Then, after her continued defiance, with one swift command he ordered his horde to attack.
AVENGERS #24 opened with a battle royal. Captain America stood up and delivered an impassioned speech of inspiration and then threw himself into the defense of the kingdom. Witnessing the small band of Avengers almost single-handedly fighting back Kang's legion of troops, Ravonna announced that she would not run but stay and see the battle through. For
|AVENGERS #24 (1963)|
But a curious thing happened: Kang's commanders revolted when their master broke their code by refusing to slay all conquered monarchs, which included Ravonna. Soon, Kang realized that all had turned against him, save perhaps the Avengers themselves. Declaring his continued love for his intended bride, he promised the heroes he'd set the princess and her people free if they'd join him in squashing this new-found rebellion. So it came to pass: the Avengers and their archenemy, together against infamy.
They won, of course. The former hordes of Kang fell before the combined might of time-traveler and costumed titans and a joyous cry went up among Ravonna's people. Kang prepared to leave, tail between his legs, but not before he swore to the Avengers: "When next we meet-it shall be again be as foes!"
The Avengers sped back to their own time while Kang the Conqueror cradled his princess in his arms while her last breath-and her love-leaked into the sands around him.
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