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 #500-503, collectively known as “Avengers Disassembled,” still stands as the clear defining line between the Avengers of old and the modern era of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Finch produced a story that continues to resonate today and takes on even more significance now with the return of both a core AVENGERS title and The Scarlet Witch in the pages of AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE.
A perusing of “Avengers Disassembled” illuminates the fractured relationships of the membership at the time and the importance of setting the team on the long road to recovery and regrouping. Bendis paints the group as a dysfunctional family and Finch’s brooding art serves to further cement the darkness that had grown in over time in Avengers Mansion.
It began with the worst day in Avengers history…
As AVENGERS #500 opened, the team sat around and squabbled over trivialities while doom shambled through the garden towards them. Jack of Hearts, a hero who’d recently been killed in the line of duty, crept through the mansion’s gates; a walking corpse on a mission. Ant-Man ran outside to investigate—and Jack exploded. Over at the United Nations building, U.S. Secretary of Defense Tony Stark addressed a full assembly of UN delegates, but seemingly drunk, slipped into a rage-fueled tirade. Tony swore he hadn’t touched alcohol in years.
Back at the mansion, things moved from bad to worse. The Vision, the team’s resident synthezoid, crashed a quinjet on the grounds and coughed up five versions of Ultron, one of the team’s worst foes. The terrible, grueling battle that followed drove She-Hulk to the brink of insanity and she lashed out at adversaries and friends alike. After ripping The Vision to shreds, she attacked the brightest star in the Avengers line-up: Captain America.
And tried to kill him.
AVENGERS #501 offered little respite for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. A beleaguered Iron Man put She-Hulk down, but not before she seriously wounded Janet Van Dyne, The Wasp. Presently, several Avengers populated the wounded, incapacitated or deceased list: Captain Britain, She-Hulk, Ant-Man, The Vision and The Wasp. The remaining members looked around the rubble and asked themselves “Why?” More squabbling and backbiting ensued and the Avengers crumbled further.
Then, almost every other hero on the planet showed up to confront the team. And still no answers to who would attack them presented themselves.
Thankfully, the assembled throng of heroes announced they’d arrived to help. But AVENGERS #502 offered no more real aid to the Avengers, only more chaos. The skies overhead suddenly darkened with the arrival of an alien Kree armada and the writing appeared on the wall for one of the heroes present. Hawkeye, at the forefront of the battle despite his lack of super powers, found his entire quiver of trick arrows on fire from stray laser beams. The battling bowman saw his moment of truth walk up and tap him on the shoulder and, in true heroic fashion, went out in a blaze of glory. The Avengers routed the Kree only to witness the ghostly arrival of Doctor Strange, the Master of the Mystic Arts.
He told them the answer to their troubles lay in magic. Magic being abused.
Who but The Scarlet Witch, hex thrower and magic user could be behind such a betrayal, thought many of the heroes who stood among the debris of the Avengers’ shattered history? Finding Wanda Maximoff, the awful truth became all too clear: driven off the deep end by the loss of her twin children, the Witch sought revenge from her teammates for what she saw as negligence in the matter.
Wanda threw chaos magic at the Avengers in large quantities and the heroes fought back valiantly but futilely. Only the Orb of Agamatto, wielded by Doctor Strange, could drive Wanda back and render her unconscious. Then, before Earth’s Mightiest Heroes could react further, the Witch’s father, the infamous Magneto, wafted in and spirited away again with his daughter. In the end, not one of them protested.
It’d been said before, many times, many ways, but the Avengers would never, ever be the same again.