Avengers Classics

Avengers Classics: The Final Threat

To take on the mad god Thanos, the Avengers will need a little help from their friends

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“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!

By Jim Beard 

Sometimes even the Avengers get into it over their heads, and their famous battle against the mad god Thanos, worshipper of Death, stands as a good example of this. That struggle also included a team-up with two heroes destined to one day become full-fledged Avengers themselves: Spider-Man and The Thing.

1977’s AVENGERS ANNUAL #7 and MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #2 told a massive tale in two parts of the final conflict between Adam Warlock and Thanos, a story writer-artist Jim Starlin built up over several series in the preceding years. It also represents an Avengers event that plays out on a stellar scale, dwarfing their comprehension but needing their direct attention. 

It began in AVENGERS ANNUAL #7, on a “small planetoid” where Adam Warlock, possessor of the mysterious Soul Gem, found the woman he loved broken and dying. Gamora gave one final message to Adam before she perished: Thanos wanted nothing less than the obliteration of all life, but also that the mad god feared Adam’s wrath.

On Earth, at Avengers Mansion, the assembled team members felt premonitions of danger and horror on a rainy night. Iron Man, Captain America, Beast, Scarlet Witch, Thor and The Vision suddenly received two guests, Captain Marvel and Moondragon, who had come to tell the heroes that they too felt something dark and terrible descending upon them. Then, in space, Thanos destroyed an entire star, an event felt by the psychic Moondragon as a warning of things to come. Adam Warlock joined in the conversation at that moment and convinced the Avengers of the need for their presence to stop the Titan from gathering the six soul gems. To do so meant the creation of an immense Star Gem—and the end of the universe as they knew it.

As Thanos’ space armada headed towards our solar system, the Avengers launched into the void to confront it, each hero deep in introspection over the approaching battle. When the heroes finally entered into battle with the overwhelming forces of their enemy, the destruction rated on an unheard-of scale. Then, entering Thanos’ own space ark, the Avengers fought off an army of aliens in its hold. After discovering Adam Warlock’s friend Pip the Troll lobotomized by their foe, the heroes watched in horror as he made his first attack on our sun, making it flare up and inch closer to death.

Captain Marvel saw Thanos’ projector for his Star Gem and destroyed it, only to fall from his exertions. Adam Warlock came in swinging, entering into close physical combat with Thanos, but his old adversary gained the upper hand and killed the golden-skinned savior of the spaceways. It came down to Thor and Iron Man to pick up the fight, and so they did; Thor grappled with Thanos while the Armored Avenger destroyed the Star Gem. Thanos made his escape, and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes stood over the body of Adam Warlock, realizing he finally rested in peace.

The story picked up in MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #2 with a psychic call for help from Moondragon to Peter Parker, the amazing Spider-Man. The wall-crawler gathered up Ben Grimm, The Thing, and the two heroes made their way into orbit to aid the Avengers against Thanos and his space-horde, who still threatened Earth.

With surgical strikes, the mad god felled all of the Avengers and imprisoned them in stasis beams, like flies in amber. On another plane of existence, two cosmic beings, Lord Chaos and Master Order, watched the proceedings and hoped for the scales of the universe to balance once again. They placed their trust in the lowly Spider-Man.

The two heroes found their way onto Thanos’ space ark and immediately confronted an on rushing attack by their foe’s alien army. Chaos and Order schemed for Spider-Man and The Thing to free Adam Warlock from his final resting place, his Soul Gem, but things looked dark when Thanos blasted the two intruders into unconsciousness. Waking, they saw the Avengers hanging motionless in stasis and listened as the mad god explained his reasons for destroying all life in our solar system: to please the personification of Death. The Thing made his objection known with a crushing blow.

Spidey flipped out, realizing how far out of his depth he floated, and tried to find a way to escape the ship. Then, knowing full well his duty still stood at defending the planet, no matter what, he used his own body to smash the machinery that held the Avengers captive. Freed, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes brought some serious hurt to Thanos and his crew. Thor and the Thing tag-teamed to wrestle mightily with their powerful enemy, but it came down to Spidey’s heroic freeing of Adam Warlock from the Soul Gem to turn the tide in the heroes’ favor.

Adam’s fiery spirit manifested on the deck of the space ark and took Thanos’ soul away, petrifying the alien tyrant on the spot. Then, finally, Adam Warlock could rest. The Avengers gave his body a proper burial and they all mourned the man in their own individual ways.

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