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!
|AVENGERS #311 cover by Paul Ryan|
To fully comprehend the magnitude of the Acts of Vengeance perpetrated on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, one must also view the events leading up to AVENGERS #311-313 and AVENGERS WEST COAST #53-55, a dire time in Avengers history. Suffice to say, it ain’t a pretty picture.
The team still reeled from the Atlantis Attacks situation, in which the minions of Set attempted the subjugation of The Scarlet Witch, who herself still felt the shock of losing both her children and her husband, The Vision. The amazing android had recently been cruelly disassembled and reassembled as an even colder machine, one whom Wanda barely recognized. The Avengers had also lost their headquarters in Manhattan, having moved their mansion to the artificial floating island known as Hydrobase.
Along came Loki, the mighty Thor’s trickster brother. Still ashamed at being the catalyst that originally brought the Avengers together as a team, he hatched a devious plan utilizing the world’s wickedest villains to do his bidding. Posing as a subservient lackey, Loki gathered a cavalcade of criminality: Doctor Doom, Magneto, The Red Skull, The Mandarin, The Kingpin and The Wizard. Together they dispatched super villains to engage heroes mostly unfamiliar with them—the plan centered on confusing Earth’s champions with strange opponents and situations.
The gambit struck home in AVENGERS #311. An army of armored robots descended on Hydrobase in the waters off Manhattan while the Avengers addressed other concerns elsewhere. The island’s only defenders? The cosmic crusader Quasar and a small unit of the team’s staff—all of them, save Quasar, normal human beings with no powers. A furious battle ensued while Loki’s vile villains squabbled among themselves, not realizing their lackey ranked as one of the universe’s most powerful beings.
|AVENGERS WEST COAST #53 cover by John Byrne|
Quasar and his makeshift team held their ground for as long as they could, and valiantly so, but the tide turned against them and while they were distracted a bomb blew up the Avengers’ fuel dump. Moments later, Quasar watched as Hydrobase sank into the bay and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes became the victims of the first Acts of Vengeance.
The east coast team suffered the first blow, but in AVENGERS WEST COAST #53 other heroes shared in the pain. Hank Pym fretted over a comatose Scarlet Witch while his compatriots butted heads over a multitude of matters, but vengeance fell on their heads, too. An assassination attempt on the helpless Wanda by the U-Foes scrambled the Avengers into action, still not grasping the larger, looming danger of Loki’s schemes. The Scarlet Witch came out of her stupor to help win the fight and the team hurried into a quinjet to check up on their east coast counterparts.
“Has the whole world gone mad?” asked The Wasp in AVENGERS #312, and the combined forces of east and west coast Avengers could not give her a complete answer. Tensions continued to mount in the hive of the villains but still their plans became reality as heroes across the nation found themselves in conflict with unusual sparring partners. Now, the so-called “Freedom Force”—in truth the former Brotherhood of Evil Mutants but now working for the US government—paid a visit on Avengers Park in New York.
Even a timely appearance of Captain America to help The Wasp, Hank Pym, The Scarlet Witch, The Vision and The Falcon against Freedom Force could barely quell growing public dissension for the heroes, but the villains showed their true natures. The mutants made an escape and the Avengers scratched their heads over the mystery of the attacks.
|ACTS OF VENGEANCE OMNIBUS cover by Alan Davis|
AVENGERS WEST COAST #54 found the team in a pitched battle with The Mole Man and his gargantuan subterranean monsters, while The Scarlet Witch once again submerged into a brain-locked state. After routing the ruler of the underground, both coasts of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes conferred and realized that the team had suffered the greatest losses of all the world’s champions and the cry went out: “Someone is out to destroy the Avengers!”
Could The Mandarin succeed where other adversaries had failed? He certainly tried his darndest in AVENGERS #313 to destroy the heroes once and for all. While the public cried out for the Avengers’ heads on silver platters, Loki’s partners came to blows among themselves and the entire Acts of Vengeance began to crumble. With the aid of The Black Widow, Hellcat and the Mighty Thor, the Avengers managed to beat both The Mandarin and The Wizard, which led to the story’s final, desperate chapter…
The great trickster’s consortium of evil unraveled in AVENGERS WEST COAST #55 and the villains went their separate ways when Loki revealed himself as the true mastermind behind the Acts of Vengeance. Now, with the knowledge of their torturer’s identity, the assembled Avengers caught up with him on the mystical Isle of Silence and brought battle down on his pointy head.
In the end, Thor took it upon himself to end his brother’s latest machinations and imprisoned him under a millions tons of earth. The team discussed Loki’s shame at having inadvertently founding the Avengers and then parted. Back to their own lives they went—but waiting in the wings, Magneto’s plans for his daughter The Scarlet Witch grew into fruition. Alas, no rest for weary Avengers…
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