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!
It started with an attack by the Mechano-Marauder. From there, it only got progressively weirder.
The membership of AVENGERS #221-249 included the traditional stalwarts among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but it also stood as a period of flux for the team, wherein the “Big Guns” came and went, old members rejoined and three first-timers got the ride of their lives.
AVENGERS #221 welcomed back that battling bowman Hawkeye and celebrated the arrival of new heroine She-Hulk into the fold. The Avengers’ ranks had been whittled down a bit at that time, what with The Vision and Scarlet Witch on leave and Hank Pym—Yellowjacket—in prison. The roll call stood at Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and The Wasp, so a few new recruits seemed just the ticket. Before they knew it, they’d have more teammates then they’d know what do with. Eventually, the Avengers splintered down the middle.
Cap, ever the good and loyal soldier, made sure to attend just about every crisis throughout this period, but his old buddies Thor and Iron Man just didn’t possess his stamina. Iron Man perhaps had the roughest time; romancing his old-friend-whose-in-prison’s wife and hitting the sauce a bit too hard added up to what we delicately call a “leave of absence.”
She-Hulk barely found time to unpack her bags when the team found themselves fighting against Egghead, Whirlwind and the Masters of Evil. In fact, the so-called “Trial of Hank Pym,” which kicked off in AVENGERS #227, brought all kinds of bad eggs out in the open, but thankfully it ended with Hank exonerated for his crimes, Egghead dead and the Masters defeated. Hank quit
his career as a super hero but The Wasp stayed on with the Avengers and they rolled with the blow.
A tussle with the Plantman brought the team a potential new partner in the form of Eros the Titan, otherwise known as Starfox. Not exactly the first person you’d think of as Avengers material, Starfox nevertheless proved his worth beginning in AVENGERS #231 and managed to hang on through many of the groups’ trials and tribulations.
The third and last of the new first-time members to join during this period represented a proud moment for the Avengers: the forging of a new hero with a classic name. Captain Marvel—Monica Rambeau in civilian life—took her spot among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in AVENGERS #227 as a provisional member but soon won her spurs as she and her partners faced the challenge of Annihilus’ latest assault from the Negative Zone in AVENGERS #233. She even managed to put up with a certain webbed wall-crawler when Spider-Man tried once again to join the Avengers. Perhaps fortunately for everyone concerned, government liaison Raymond Sikorsky put the kibosh on that particularly nagging problem. Poor Spidey; it’d be years before his dream of membership would come true.
Eventually, The Vision and Scarlet Witch returned to the team in AVENGERS #233, but the android’s injuries therein put him on the disabled list until AVENGERS #243. In the meantime, he’d merged his consciousness with the ISSAC computer on Titan and operated as a hologram. But wait! Then the Vision became the Avengers chairman and led the group during the Dire Wraith invasion of AVENGERS #244-245 and their struggle with the Eternals beginning in AVENGERS #246.
Throughout these issues, the personal problems of the individual members ebbed and flowed but thankfully there came spots of levity, such as the Avengers’ appearance on the David Letterman show in AVENGERS #239. You think we make this stuff up? It even featured a return of the team’s most terrible opponent, the Mechano-Maruader!
Alas, all good, gigantic team-things must come to an end and with the formation of Hawkeye’s West Coast Avengers franchise and the regular team’s kidnapping by the Beyonder to his Battleworld for the Secret Wars, well, it just couldn’t last. By AVENGERS #249 the team found itself short its major players and looked for guidance. It arrived in the form of…you think we’d tell you now? Come back next time and marvel at the newest addition to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in AVENGERS #250—by Zeus, you’ll be shocked!