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!
After one of the team’s periodic disbandings, the mighty Avengers witnessed one of their most unique and quirky memberships since “Cap’s Kooky Quartet.” Featuring a founding member, a classic Avenger in a different guise, two heroes from another team and an ancient legendary warrior, AVENGERS #298-304 stands as a short but sweet testament to the team’s unflagging tenacity in the face of adversity.
It all began with Jarvis. That’s right; when things looked bad and every Avenger had walked away, 'twas the butler who dunnit. AVENGERS #298 told the tale of “the last Avenger” and his search for meaning without his employers, a story that might’ve ended badly if not for the intercession of an old friend of Jarvis’. You see, the world burned in the grip of Inferno, an infestation of demons from beyond, but that hardly mattered to the greatest butler a super hero could ever want; he sauntered out into the streets and reminded everyone what a real Avenger did in times of crisis. The Captain—Steve Rogers in a new role—came to Jarvis’ rescue during an attack by a demon-possessed car, but our dear gentleman’s gentleman probably could’ve handled everything himself.
AVENGERS #299 too opened without real Avengers, but by story’s end a new team began to emerge during a battle with the freakish Nanny and the Orphan-Maker. The Captain joined the Fantastic Four’s Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman in an effort to save their son Franklin Richards from weirdos and demons alike. It would take the addition of the mighty Thor and the legendary Gilgamesh, sometimes known as “The Forgotten One,” in AVENGERS #300 to assemble a new roster of Avengers. On the forge of the Inferno, a new team arose to face the world.
After defeating the combined tyranny of Kang, the demon N’Astirh, the Growing Man, Nanny and Orphan-Maker, these freshly-minted Avengers found themselves hurtling headlong into a dire event known as “The Super-Nova Saga.” While overseeing the anchoring of Hydrobase—rechristened Avengers Island—in New York Harbor in the opening pages of AVENGERS #301, Steve Rogers began to wonder if Reed Richards could ever submerge his natural leadership tendencies to become a team player. The point became moot when the Avengers sprang into deep space to address the question of Super-Nova and the towering titan’s designs for Earth.
It took an amazing amalgamation of the new Avengers and the existing West Coast team—led by the cantankerous Hawkeye—to stall Super-Nova’s trashing of the planet long enough for Mr. Fantastic to devise a solution to the problem. By the end of AVENGERS #303, congratulations rang out for the former FF front man, but Captain America saw nothing but division over leadership with Reed in the future.
Fortunately, a real blowout between the two heroes never arrived, for in AVENGERS #304 it came down to just Thor, Gilgamesh and Captain America to save the day—and Ellis Island—from the menace of the U-Foes. The puzzling Puma and a young Native American man stood at the center of the maelstrom that sprang up during the case, but no easy answers came forward when the question of what to do about the Puma’s prey: the young man utilized his surprising powers and spirited himself away.
Perhaps this crazy-quilt collection of Avengers never truly had their proper chance to earn the title of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” for soon after Captain America decided that the team needed a much broader spectrum of players. Reed and Sue went back to the Fantastic Four and the Avengers headed into their next great phase…