Avengers Classics

Avengers Classics: Heroes Return

Writer Kurt Busiek revisits the rebirth of the Avengers and one of their most popular members!

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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!

 

1997's Heroes Reborn shunted many of the Marvel Universe's greatest heroes into a parallel world where things transpired differently than in their home reality. One year later, the heroes triumphantly returned and took their rightful places in the proper Marvel Universe once again.

AVENGERS: THE MORGAN CONQUEST
AVENGERS #1-3 details the reformation of Earth's Mightiest Heroes with the largest, most expansive cast of Avengers ever and in a manner that ran them through a gauntlet of challenges. Thankfully, the Avengers had two of Earth's Mightiest Creators on their side: writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez.

In AVENGERS #1, team founders Iron Man, Giant-Man, The Wasp and Captain America convened to discuss the attack on almost every single member of the group, past and present, by mystical monsters and creatures. Before the gathering could even begin to form a plan, the arrival of the Mighty Thor shattered the air with a dire warning of impending doom. The Thunder God had found fabled Asgard destroyed, the Rainbow Bridge shattered and scattered across the Nine Worlds and, most importantly, the Norn Stones and the doomsday-bringing Twilight Sword in the hands of an unknown enemy.

Several dozen Avengers found themselves assembled and hurtling into danger in search of the mystical artifacts, only to run headlong into Celtic sorceress Morgan le Fay and her bombastic nephew Mordred. The Avengers' old foe craftily captured The Scarlet Witch and manipulated her reality-warping powers to seal the entire team's fate, and a white-hot curtain of failure fell over the day.

"I decided to use Morgan le Fay because I like her [and] she'd fought the Avengers before," says Busiek. "She's not Asgardian but has the mystic chops to use the Twilight Sword, and her Arthurian roots would give us reasons to play with the Avengers as a kind of modern day Knights of the Round Table. So once all that was in place, the question was, 'What would Morgan want?' and it seemed to me what she'd want is to be the boss, in

AVENGERS #2 (1998) cover by George Perez
a world built to her specifications. So that's what we did."

AVENGERS #2 introduced a new reality: Morgan le Fay's reality, that is. The Queen's Vengeance filled the skies with transformed Avengers, as they looked down upon a pseudo-medieval world of their mistress' making. Thor became Donar, Iron Man the Iron Knight, The Vision the Ghost of Stone and the stalwart Captain America now Yeoman America. Their brains twisted by magicks, all seemed lost for the heroes in their new station as champions of evil. Then, Yeoman America woke up and proceeded to alert his fellows to the reality of the situation.

"I did come up with medieval names for all of them," Busiek notes. "It was a lot of fun. As I recall, I came up with most of them on a long plane ride, so it passed the time. And mostly, it was just a matter of coming up with the name, and the name would suggest a hint at a visual or an attitude, or whatever, and George would take it from there."

Half of the Avengers, now aware of Morgan's manipulation, faced off the remaining Queen's Vengeance, still operating as their medieval selves. Deep in a dungeon, The Scarlet Witch strained against her ensorcelled shackles and in doing so unconsciously brought about the return of an Avenger long thought dead: Wonder Man.

AVENGERS #3 (1998) cover by George Perez
"Making Wonder Man a kind of ionic ghost tied to Wanda was a new thing to do with him, and set up an interesting wrinkle in their relationship," explains Busiek. "At a time when The Vision was pushing her away, what would it do if someone literally came back from the dead out of love for her? How would she feel about that? It's a pretty heavy idea, and a little creepy, too. What if she didn't love him back as strongly as he loved her? Would she feel like she owed him something? Would she feel guilty? Could she not love him back, if doing so would uproot him, send him spiraling off into death? What kind of tension would it create?"

With her fantasy world beginning to crumble around her in AVENGERS #3, Morgan le Fay scrambled to recapture her escaped prisoner, The Scarlet Witch. Furious beyond measure, the sorceress threatened the awakened Avengers with her mystical weapons, the Norn Stones and the Twilight Sword. For her part, the Witch wondered at Simon Williams' resurrection as the battle between friends and teammates continued.

"I wanted to bring [Simon] back, because he's a part of the strange extended family at the heart of what makes the Avengers for me-it's this whole web of relationships that fuels the drama," says Busiek. "Still, I'm not really fond of just reversing some bit of comics history for the hell of it, essentially saying, 'I didn't like that, so I'm going to make it go away.' I'd rather make a story out of it, go deeper into it, find a conflict to resolve, make an adventure out of it, so the reader doesn't just get

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE VOLUME ONE
continuity bookkeeping, they get a story, a conflict, something dramatic."

When all seemed lost, The Scarlet Witch appeared to challenge Morgan directly and with the ion-powered aid of Wonder Man she presented the villain with more power than she'd ever witnessed in her evil existence. Feeding untold amounts of energy into Simon, who grappled physically with Morgan and the Sword, the Witch turned the tide and reality returned to normal. Morgan Le Fay's influence disappeared and the Avengers picked up the pieces from their arduous adventure.

Many questions lingered: Had Wonder Man truly returned? Had The Vision paid for his unwilling servitude as Morgan's Ghost of Stone with his artificial well-being? And, most prominently perhaps, what would Earth's Mightiest Heroes do with 39 Avengers?

 

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