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 week 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!
By the time of the storyline known as “The Crossing”—set to be collected later this year in an Omnibus edition—the Avengers’ ranks began to fluctuate once more. After the departure of Sersi and The Black Knight, it essentially fell to Hercules, Crystal, Quicksilver, The Vision and Hank Pym to carry on the legacy of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Writer Bob Harras’ last hurrah on the title from AVENGERS #390 to #395 did provide the team with a bit more meat in the form of a returned Hawkeye and a strangely-mutated Wasp, but it would fall to another legendary writer to really beef up the soup before they all fell before the power of Onslaught.
“The Crossing” saw Tony Stark, driven half-mad by years of secret manipulation by Kang the Conqueror, embark on a killing spree throughout Avengers Mansion and brought about some serious change to the team. Tony sacrificed himself to save everyone from Kang and when the dust cleared, a new Iron Man emerged in the form of his teenage self from an alternate dimension.
Teen Tony joined with a returned Captain America and Thor plus the regular crew of Quicksilver, Wasp and Giant-Man to see what they could see in AVENGERS #396. Their first foes to vanquish called themselves the new Zodiac, but success didn’t seem to be written in the stars for them.
By AVENGERS #397, the team swelled to include The Vision, Black Widow, The Swordsman, Hawkeye, The Scarlet Witch and a curious addition: Madame Masque.
To be fair, the real Guilietta Nefaria had nothing to fear from this Masque, a “bio-duplicate” that ranked as an Avenger just long enough to help them against The Leader in AVENGERS #397and the alien Shi’ar in AVENGERS #398.
Writer Mark Waid jumped onboard for the big anniversary issue, AVENGERS #400. He crafted a battle royale pitting the Avengers’ first adversary, Loki, against Quicksilver, Crystal, The Scarlet Witch, The Vision, Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Thor, Giant-Man, The Wasp and Black Widow.
AVENGERS #401 brought about the group’s first encounter with Onslaught, a double-trouble threat that sprang from the combined psyches of the villainous Magneto and the X-Men’s Charles Xavier.
The very next issue, AVENGERS #402, signaled the end of the line for the team and their long-standing title, as their clash with Onslaught would lead them directly into a new book, a new membership and a whole new universe…