“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!
|The Lethal Legion strikes|
The mighty Thor’s place in Avengers history cannot be denied; founding member, powerful ally and faithful friend, he’s stood with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes through thick and thin, always there when his fellow crusaders need him most. In the case of the wicked Count Nefaria’s assault on the team in AVENGERS #164-166, the Asgardian arrived just in the nick of time, by Odin!
A little backstory: Thor wrestled with Avengers chairmanship from AVENGERS #128-150, and although he carried himself with regal stature and lead by example and deeds, the leadership position eventually weighed heavily upon his shoulders. Spurred on by the enigmatic Moondragon, Thor began to question his godly presence among mortals and moved on to further ponder the problem; after that time, he returned to the Avengers line-up when they faced off against foes beyond the usual crop. In AVENGERS #164, a gentleman by the name of Count Nefaria decided he wanted to test out his new-found powers on the heroes.
At first, Nefaria wrangled a deal with arch-criminals Whirlwind, Power Man and the Living Laser to steal funds that would feed his lust for power and to battle the Avengers. The money they stole paid for mysterious experiments by unscrupulous scientists in Nefaria’s employ; while they toiled, the Count observed the Lethal Legion rush into a fight with the heroes, not knowing they amounted to nothing more then guinea pigs for their master.
At this time, the Avengers struggled with several problems of their own: the mystery of the resurrected Wonder Man, the disappearance of Iron Man, the wistfulness of The Beast, the convalescence of The Vision and the directionless Whizzer. Into this mix dropped the Lethal Legion, and following them, a super powered Count Nefaria.
|The Avengers face Count Nefaria|
Up until this time, the Count had relied upon gadgets and gewgaws to befuddle his enemies and found only limited success against the X-Men. In AVENGERS #165, he whaled the tar out of the Avengers. Possessing super strength, super speed, deadly eyebeams and limited power of flight, the aristocratic fiend tore into the heroes and buried them under an entire building of rubble. Captain America, Wonder Man, Yellowjacket, The Wasp, The Scarlet Witch and The Black Panther ended up on the wrong end of Nefaria’s acute anger and not even the late arrival of Iron Man could turn the tide. It looked pretty bad for the team.
See, during the brouhaha senior citizen crimefighter The Whizzer gave the Count an earful about the criminal’s eventual downfall due to old age. This sent Nefaria into a deeper tizzy and, once thrashing the Avengers, he flew off only to return seeking Thor. No one knew what he wanted him for, or why.
Then, in AVENGERS #166, Thor appeared with a crash of thunder, not caring one bit what Nefaria wanted. The mightiest Avenger just wanted to do some avenging.
The ensuing battle rated on an epic scale. Building used as clubs, fists striking with punishing, explosive blows—that sort of thing. Then, the unthinkable: Nefaria stopped a swing of Thor’s mighty hammer with just his gloved hands! Stymied, the thunder god took a punch and dropped the hammer. Nefaria saw his prize with a gleam in his eyes.
|Thor vs Count Nefaria|
What could stop the Count? Victory danced before him and the Avengers looked powerless to stop him. What gave Nefaria pause came in the form of the weak little scientist that gave him his power, Professor Sturdy. The old man told the Count that his aging had increased and he’d burn out in a matter of days. The team rallied and made one last assault on their foe while he was confused and panicked; the fully-recuperated Vision swooped in to deliver the crucial blow to the villain and laid him low.
Incredibly, it turned out that Sturdy lied to Nefaria in order to weaken the man’s resolved and give himself up to be “cured.” As the Avengers stood over their prone adversary and bickered over minutia, Yellowjacket began to prepare to return the Count to normal. The Nefaria saga finally came to an end—for the moment.