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 #254 cover|
After another period of tumult in the first half of the 1980’s, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes settled into an incredible run of almost 50 issues that featured one of their strongest, most powerful line-ups ever. Wait, did we say “settled”? In actuality, AVENGERS #250-297 encompassed several of the team’s most dangerous missions, including one of the darkest days the Avengers had faced since their inception.
At its core, this line-up included favorites such as Captain America, The Wasp, Thor and Captain Marvel, but also showcased heroes who’d never held membership before. A team that included The Black Knight, Starfox, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Doctor Druid made it an Avengers line-up to shake the world as well as cast a bit of fear over a few super villains. Did we also mention that the amazing art team of John Buscema and Tom Palmer illustrated almost this entire run?
It all began as Hercules, the Lion of Olympus, rejoined the team only to bear witness to the android Vision’s near-takeover of the entire world. It happened in AVENGERS #251-255 and the team had to pick up quite a few pieces after that and needed to get their act together for the peril that headed their way. Almost immediately, in AVENGERS #256-257, they tackled the towering terror of Terminus in the Savage Land and then rocketed into space to knock sense into some Skrulls as well as the naughty and nasty Nebula. For dessert, the Avengers found themselves served up with a heaping helping of Beyonder, in AVENGERS #261.
Then, in AVENGERS #262, the question of “Could Hercules and Namor the Sub-Mariner exist on the same team?” demanded an answer—and Captain America somehow made it work. Finally, the Sentinel of Liberty was reunited with his old Invaders chum and the Avengers headed out to square off against the mystery of a resurrected Jean Grey, more calamities courtesy of The Beyonder and Molecule Man, plus a rematch with Kang the Conqueror. It all happened in AVENGERS #263-269, but before the team could catch their collective breath, Namor stood accused crimes against humanity and his Avengers membership came under fire by the public at large.
|Avengers #277 cover by John Buscema|
Things looked dark indeed at this juncture. The terrible trio of The Grey Gargoyle, Screaming Mimi and the female Yellowjacket tested the group’s defenses in AVENGERS #271 and Namor led them into battle in Atlantis soon after, but the supreme challenge for the team, perhaps their greatest ever, lay directly ahead: the sorrowful saga known as “Under Siege.”
Writer Roger Stern and artists Buscema and Palmer designed a deadly trap for our heroes and sprung it on them in AVENGERS #276-277. In an attack on Avengers Mansion, Baron Zemo and his new Masters of Evil hit the team where it hurt the most: at home. The villains captured Avengers Mansion and with it The Black Knight, Captain America and the ever faithful Jarvis. When the dust cleared, the Knight had been pounded, Cap’s dearest mementos destroyed before his eyes and Jarvis, poor, defenseless Jarvis, beaten within an inch of his life. And there also lay Hercules, one of the greatest heroes of myth and legend, almost dead. The Avengers gained a new ally in the frenzied fight, the enigmatic Doctor Druid, but lost almost everything else they held dear.
AVENGERS #279 ushered in a new leader for the group, Captain Marvel. She barely found time to pound the gavel for her first time before the Avengers found themselves transported to mighty Olympus and fighting against an assault on that legendary realm by the forces of Hades. The line-up of AVENGERS #281-285 included the mighty Thor, the savage Sub-Mariner and Hercules himself, but the entire ordeal bore down hard on the already-weary team. With little rest in-between missions, the Avengers faced the coming of the android team of Heavy Metal and Kubik, the living Cosmic Cube, in AVENGERS #286-290.
Namor, still smarting from the public’s distrust, then needed to deal with his shape-shifting wife Marrina in AVENGERS #291-293, and in the ensuing chaos Doctor Druid exerted his vast mental powers to claim leadership of the Avengers. Turned out to be Nebula who exerted her own vast powers on him, but the team rose to the challenge regardless, and by the time Kang reared his ugly face again, the Avengers conquered all.
|Avengers #296 cover by John Buscema|
But such a lengthy string of battles, conflicts and confusion takes a toll on even super heroes. By the end of AVENGERS #297, the group dissolved, each member going his or her separate ways and leaving one last Avenger to clean up—with a dust pan and a broom. Edwin Jarvis, butler to heroes, walked through the empty halls of Avengers headquarters and could not foresee the future.
Good thing, too, because no one could have guessed the line-up that came next! You thought “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” stood as the craziest membership? You ain’t seen nothing yet, True Believer!