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!
After being dealt a crushing blow by Onslaught, the Marvel Universe found itself with a yawning hole in its middle. Its mightiest heroes—the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and others—disappeared, seemingly forever. In reality, or perhaps beyond reality as we knew it, a new universe came into being, sprung from young Franklin Richards’ mind and populated with new, fresh versions of the Marvel heroes.
Known as Heroes Reborn, this grand experiment in storytelling kicked off with a new volume of AVENGERS, which boasted such creators as Jeph Loeb, Rob Liefeld, Ian Churchill, Walter Simonson and Michael Ryan. Its short tenure notwithstanding, this version of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes clocked in as a unique re-imagining of the title with its own exciting line-up of characters and situations.
AVENGERS #1 introduced readers to the recently-formed team, consisting of Captain America, Hawkeye, Hellcat, The Scarlet Witch, The Vision and The Swordsman. Overseen by S.H.I.E.L.D.—represented by Nick Fury and government liaison Henry Gyrich—the heroes’ headquarters rested on an island just off the coast of New York City. Immediately, we learned of the tensions and turmoil among the team as they settled into their new digs and awaited their first real mission.
These Avengers also maintained a support staff, which included brilliant scientist Henry Pym and the lovely Janet Van Dyne. Pym’s newest project, the robotic Ultron-1, stood in as the scientist’s lab assistant after the previous one, The Vision, became a full-time Avenger.
That first issue also clued us in on the machinations of Loki, evil god of mischief, and his curious memories of another reality with its own Avengers. Loki watched as Dr. Donald Blake discovered the frozen body of Thor, Norse god of thunder, and then proceeded to convince the newly-awakened warrior to attack the Avengers. Unfortunately for Loki, Thor ended up joining the team instead.
AVENGERS #2 and #3 told of the coming of Kang, despotic time-traveler from the far future, and his quest for the enigmatic Mantis. Over the course of these two issues, the Avengers found themselves captured by Kang and then watched in horror as the android Vision fell to Earth, seemingly destroyed. Back at Avengers Island, Ultron-1 seriously creeped out Janet and began to worry Dr. Pym.
The Hulk dropped in for a visit in AVENGERS #4 and, driven by Loki’s evil cunning, attacked the Avengers’ headquarters. The green behemoth single-handedly defeated most of the team, while deep within the complex Henry Pym donned his Ant-Man armor and miniaturized himself to travel through the heavily-injured body of the Vision. Thor arrived to enter into earth-shaking battle with The Hulk in AVENGERS #5, but too late to prevent the headquarters’ gamma core power source from going critical after being damaged in the fight. It’d take the help of the Fantastic Four and Iron Man, beginning in AVENGERS #6, to defeat the Hulk and stop the radioactive core from blowing.
Iron Man joined the group in AVENGERS #7, but, over this issue and AVENGERS #8, the collective heroes faced off against not only the Lethal Legion, led by The Enchantress, but a new Masters of Evil, made up of The Black Knight, Whirlwind, Radioactive Man, Klaw and The Melter. The Scarlet Witch met her own set of troubles when she found herself mystically controlled and traitorous towards her fellow Avengers.
AVENGERS #9 saw an angry Thor quit the team, only to then enter into direct conflict with another Thor who popped out of an alternate dimension. Seems that pesky gamma core tore a rift in the space-time continuum, one that led directly to what seemed to be the familiar Marvel Universe and its Thor. The two Thunder Gods clashed in AVENGERS #10 and the Heroes Reborn Thor met his final fate in AVENGERS #11. Oh, did we also mention a giant-size Loki on a rampage and a magical save by The Scarlet Witch?
What remained for AVENGERS #12—the final issue of the run—to say? Well, Doctor Doom showed up to warn the team about the approach of Galactus, interstellar Devourer or Worlds. A brand-spanking-new Vision joined in to help, alas, way too late: by issue’s end everybody died and the Earth looked pretty destroyed…
But, fear not—the Avengers survived to return to the original Marvel Universe and enter into one of their grandest eras yet, with a classic line-up and a creative duo that rocked their mighty world.