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Avengers Fridays

The Old Order Changeth #14

An eclectic assortment of Avengers becomes a dimension-spanning force for justice

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!”

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!

In January of 1992, writer Bob Harras brought together an Avengers membership that, while not exactly classic in construction ran for over 50 issues and four years; not many line-ups of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes can make the same claim. Harras endowed his heroes in AVENGERS #343-395 with a heavy helping of pathos and inner turmoil, and, in doing so, made readers believers in this odd assortment of characters.

At its core, this hard-hitting collection of stories revolved around the strained love triangle featuring the Inhuman Crystal, the Eternal Sersi and the swashbuckling Black Knight. Time and time again, Harras’ narrative returned to these three characters’ plights while the bigger picture brought the Avengers into conflict with some of the most heinous foes and weighty challenges.

AVENGERS #343 brought Crystal and a new Thor, Eric Masterson, to the team, but then wasted no time in also introducing the mystery of The Swordsman, a former Avenger thought to have been killed in battle. With The Swordsman came the equally-mysterious female warrior Magdalene, and a new onslaught from the Avengers’ foe Proctor.

After an arduous adventure during the “Operation: Galactic Storm” saga, the Avengers faced down the alien Kree leader The Supreme Intelligence and some among the heroes decided its fate to be total destruction. As the dust cleared from that fateful decree in AVENGERS #347, longtime Avengers chairman Captain America left the team, unable to condone such strident action against an enemy. The membership then stood at The Vision, The Black Widow, Hercules, The Black Knight, Crystal, Sersi and Thor.

More challenges arrived in the form of Hera, the queen of the gods, and her revenge against Hercules as well as a battle against the Starjammers. Proctor ratcheted up his own schemes and sent his Gatherers into multiple dimensions to kill Avengers and bring terror to many versions of Earth. By AVENGERS #357, the wretched triangle between the Black Knight and the two ladies in his life became an issue that couldn’t be denied. When Sersi killed an enemy in AVENGERS #359 and then almost forcibly mind-bonded with The Black Knight in AVENGERS #361, things spiraled downwards from bad to worse.

Captain America returned to the team around this time, only to witness the arrival of the Shi’ar warrior called Deathcry in AVENGERS #364 and then welcome back Hank Pym, Giant-Man, into the fold. Hostilities between the Kree and the Shi'ar had reached a fever point and the Avengers found themselves in the middle of it, as well as conflict with the X-Men, when Fabian Cortez, a follower of Magneto, kidnapped Crystal’s child, Luna.

“Bloodties” wound its way through AVENGERS #368-369, but the team’s problems with the mutant population paled in comparison to the inevitable mental breakdown of Sersi. The Eternal sorceress felt a great weight when the police tried to arrest her for murder in AVENGERS #373, but did she have to go and destroy the Brooklyn Bridge and Avengers Mansion just avoid the cuffs? In the end, she learned Proctor stood behind her long bouts of madness, as he had bonded with an alternate reality version of Sersi and sought revenge on all other iterations and their friends.

In AVENGERS #375, all became clear: Proctor existed as an alternate reality doppelganger of The Black Knight. The two larger-than-life figures met on the battlefield and dueled furiously until the Knight stood as the victor. Weary of this world, Sersi spirited herself away, taking The Black Knight with her and leaving behind a befuddled and heart-broken Crystal.

The team picked up the pieces and continued on with their mission as protectors of the Earth, going up against such menaces as The High Evolutionary, the Kree Arides and the evil Red Skull. In AVENGERS #384, poor Hercules discovered the Earth woman he’d fallen in love with, Taylor Madison, to be a cruel joke played by Hera. By the time the team faced the Commission on Superhuman Activities in AVENGERS #389, they felt they’d seen better days.

Immortus, master of time, caused the Avengers much trouble throughout AVENGERS #390-394, but perhaps the apparent death of founding member Tony Stark, Iron Man, signaled the true end of the long tenure of this particular line-up.

The events to come would bring another two founding members back to the team, one of them in a strange, new form…

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