|Infinity #1 cover by Adam Kubert|
By Brett White
On Wednesday, August 14, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will take to the stars in INFINITY #1, plunging forward into the biggest event of the year.
The Avengers stand as the last line of defense for Earth against the Builders, an ancient and powerful interstellar race bent on judging civilizations and razing those found wanting. Taking a pro-active stance, Captain America selects an elite group to head the threat off before it can reach our world.
Before INFINITY kicks off, get to know the Avengers who will stand on the frontlines with in-depth bios informing of both their histories and present state, with additional insight provided by Marvel Unlimited.
Nothing lasts forever, but in INFINITY, the Builders will learn what it takes to face an Avengers World.
Unlike most of her fellow Avengers, Black Widow never had the option of a normal life.
Born in Stalingrad in the first half of the 20th century, the young Natasha Romanoff found herself in the U.S.S.R.'s mysterious Department X after her parents died in a fire. There, the Red Room Program brainwashed the future Widow alongside other young girls, turning them into merciless fighting machines. Her exposure to the Red Room gifted her with heightened reflexes and a healing factor that slows her aging and allows her to recover from most wounds. She became a master of psychological manipulation.
With her advanced physical skills and natural cunning, the newly christened Black Widow traveled to the United States to extract American secrets from the weapons manufacturer Tony Stark. She then defected to the United States and reformed in order to be closer to her new ally, Hawkeye.
As an Avenger, she utilizes her signature weapons initially created by Soviet scientists and enhanced by S.H.I.E.L.D. These include her Widow's Bite gauntlets, which can shoot 30,000-volt energy blasts, and her Widow's Line grappling hooks. She also put her Red Room skills to work for the good guys in S.H.I.E.L.D., pulling double duty for the international espionage directorate and Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
The Widow found herself even more entwined in Avengers affairs in recent years; she became Captain America's partner when Bucky Barnes assumed the mantle, and saved the world numerous times over as part of Steve Rogers' elite Secret Avengers squad. Her increased importance to the Avengers led her to be on the initial strike force against the cosmic interloper Ex Nihilo after his terra forming bombs hit Earth. She investigated one of the fallout sites located in the Savage Land, and then dealt with the confused Kevin Conner after he gained his Star Brand powers. She most recently accompanied a small team of Avengers to Hong Kong where they halted A.I.M.'s acquisition of a powerful army; unlike the rest of her teammates, Black Widow proved willing to—and did—kill those who posed a threat to their safety.
Marvel Unlimited Spotlight: BLACK WIDOW: DEADLY ORIGIN #1
Few heroes have been able to cram a lifetime's worth of adventure in as short a time as Cannonball.
Born the oldest of nine children in Cumberland, Kentucky, Samuel Guthrie worked in the coal mines to provide for his family after his father's death. His power to generate thermo-chemical energy from his body, launching him through the air, first manifested itself during a mine shaft collapse. The young man saved himself and a fellow miner. Professor Charles Xavier tracked Guthrie down and recruited him into his team, the New Mutants.
There Cannonball learned how to use his blast field effectively, discovering that it made him invulnerable while in use and learning how to use it as a force field. Sam became co-leader of the team throughout its run, retaining the title even after the time-traveling mercenary known as Cable molded the New Mutants into the strike team called X-Force. After gaining more experience in battle, Sam “graduated” to the X-Men.
When the X-Men faced a schism of ideals following the return of the mutant-hunting robots known as the Sentinels, Cannonball sided with Wolverine and his Jean Grey School. Sam remained on staff until the return of the Phoenix Force brought the X-Men against the Avengers. When the dust settled, Cannonball took the opportunity to take a break from heroics.
This break turned out to be short-lived, however, as a cosmic being named Ex Nihilo terraformed Mars and intended to do the same to Earth, wiping out all life. To counter the threat, Tony Stark suggested that the Avengers get bigger. Captain America recruited the vacationing Cannonball and Sunspot, who jumped at the chance to become Avengers. The two suited up with the expanded roster and defeated Ex Nihilo's forces on Mars. Sam also came in handy on a mission to Hong Kong where a select group stopped the terrorist organization A.I.M. from buying an army of assassins.
Marvel Unlimited Spotlight: X-TREME X-MEN (2001) #24
The living legend Captain America began life as a scrawny fine arts student named Steve Rogers who felt the call of duty as World War II raged in Europe.
Despite his patriotic passion, the army continually rejected Rogers based on his frail body. His attempts did not go unnoticed, however, as Project: Rebirth covertly enlisted him into the Super-Soldier program and gave him a serum that pushed his physical form to peak human condition, gifting him with enhanced strength, stamina and agility. Armed with the codename Captain America and his iconic vibranium star-spangled shield, Rogers took the fight to the Nazis alongside his special agent sidekick, Bucky.
The duo met their end unexpectedly, when their attempt to stop Baron Zemo from launching an explosive drone plane resulted in Bucky's seeming death and Captain America being lost to the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Preserved in ice by the super-soldier serum in his veins, Cap revived when the newly formed Avengers discovered his frozen body.
After adjusting to his modern surroundings, Captain America quickly reclaimed his role as the hero that all others strive to be. He helped guide the Avengers through their most perilous adventures and saw the team swell in ranks. He even worked past the pain of losing Bucky, to take on a new partner, Falcon. The wound re-opened, however, when Steve learned that Bucky had not died during World War II, but had actually been kidnapped and brainwashed into becoming the assassin known as the Winter Soldier. With S.H.I.E.L.D.'s help, Captain America brought his friend back to his senses.
Since the Phoenix Force had obliterated planets in the past, Captain America saw the return of the cosmic entity to Earth's orbit as a harbinger of doom. Cyclops and his X-Men hoped that it would bring mutants back from near extinction. The fierce battle between the super teams resulted in the Phoenix's destruction and the X-Men's defeat.
Feeling guilty over prioritizing other matters over the mutant race's survival, Rogers created the Avengers Unity Squad, a team that mixes veteran Avengers alongside members of the X-Men. Captain America simultaneously leads the main team, which has expanded its ranks to take on the threat posed by the alien Ex Nihilo and his desire to remake the Earth through its destruction. The Avengers halted Ex Nihilo's plans, only to then deal with the fallout of the emergence of a powerful new being: the Star Brand.
Marvel Unlimited Spotlight: CAPTAIN AMERICA (2012) #1
Carol Danvers grew up in Boston with two younger brothers and a father who did not believe that women could accomplish what men could. To prove him wrong, Carol joined the Air Force to pay for her college education. There, her intelligence and determination allowed her to rise through the ranks. She eventually found herself as the head of security at NASA headquarters at Cape Canaveral, where she befriended the alien Kree super hero known as Captain Mar-Vell.
Mar-Vell's enemy Yon-Rogg, used Carol against the hero, blasting an alien weapon at the two of them that transferred the Kree’s genetic structure onto her. Now calling herself Ms. Marvel, Carol possessed all of Mar-Vell's powers: super strength, speed, agility, and stamina, as well as flight, invulnerability, and energy manipulation. After a brief time as a solo hero, Ms. Marvel began a lengthy career with the Avengers.
Following a period of adventuring, Carol quietly retreated into the background, taking a job with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. But after experiencing the thrill of being the world’s most popular super hero in an alternate reality, Ms. Marvel became determined to up her profile in her own world. She again aligned herself with the Avengers, working with the team as their leader.
When Ms. Marvel traded in her longstanding black uniform for an attention-grabbing red and blue flight suit, Captain America suggested that she take on the unclaimed mantle of the deceased Captain Mar-Vell. While initially reluctant about taking on the name of a lost friend, Carol remembered the urgings of her recently passed mentor, Helen Cobb, who always wanted her to be the best she could be. In order to honor them both, Carol took on the title of Captain Marvel.
Her adventures as Captain Marvel have taken Carol through time to World War II and to the depths of the ocean. She's also become a key player in Captain America and Iron Man's expanded Avengers team, wherein she's filled the role of experienced soldier and provided always needed muscle. She stood up to Ex Nihilo's forces on Mars and went undercover in Hong Kong to stop a terrorist organization from purchasing an army. Now, along with the rest of the Avengers, she works to contain the fallout from Ex Nihilo's machinations, following Earth's newfound sentience.
Marvel Unlimited Spotlight: CAPTAIN MARVEL (2012) #1
Tomorrow, get caught up with Captain Universe, Hawkeye, the Hulk and Hyperion