Every week, a secret cabal of Marvel staffers gathers to discuss the best of the best when it comes to the House of Ideas.
Some of the Marvel Universe's greatest champions gathered for a somber occasion this past week: laying one of their own to rest in HERCULES: FALL OF AN AVENGER #1.
While the Lion of Olympus may be the latest Avenger to lay down his life in the line of duty, he's hardly the first. Many of Earth's Mightiest have seemingly been lost to us through the years, and while several have found their way back to the land of the living, this hardly invalidates their sacrifices, which the Secret Cabal recognize this week.
For each character you get the quick rundown as well as a special spotlight comic courtesy of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
As always, these picks reflect the personal choices of the Secret Cabal, not the official opinion of Marvel or Marvel.com, and can be considered subjective at best. Enjoy!
10. THE WASP
When It Happened: SECRET INVASION #8 (2008)
What Went Down: Transformed into a living bomb by the Skrulls, Wasp is shunted away by Thor's hammer at her own request to prevent mass casualties.
Why It Makes the List: A founding member of the Avengers and former leader of the team, Janet Van Dyne did not disappoint anybody who had ever believed in her when she refused to let the Skrulls use her as a weapon of mass destruction, allowing Thor to cut her down instead. Perhaps no incident better encapsulates why the Secret Invasion failed, as the Skrulls simply did not know who they were messing with and greatly underestimated the incomparable heroism of The Wasp.
Spotlight Comic: MIGHTY AVENGERS #20-Remembering The Wasp!
When It Happened: AVENGERS WEST COAST #100 (1993)
What Went Down: A Skrull posing as Mockingbird is struck down by Mephisto, saving the life of Hawkeye in the process.
Why It Makes the List: Ok, so the real Mockingbird never actually died, instead spending years as a prisoner of the shape-shifting Skrulls, but when the extraterrestrial who replaced her saved the life of her ex-husband, Hawkeye, it certainly tugged at our heartstrings. To boot, the knowledge that a green-skinned doppelganger was willing to make such a sacrifice in order to save a man she had spurned has to eat at Mock more than a little today as she works to repair her bond with Clint, and that's gonna cause sparks down the line.
Spotlight Comic: NEW AVENGERS: THE REUNION #1-Mockingbird returns following her alien abduction and explores rekindling her relationship with Ronin!
8. JACK OF HEARTS
When It Happened: AVENGERS #76 (2004)
What Went Down: After saving Ant-Man's daughter Cassie from a kidnapping, Jack of Hearts chooses to rocket into the atmosphere with her abductor in tow, knowing his out-of-control powers would detonate them both.
Why It Makes the List: Jack of Hearts never quite seemed to belong among a group known as Earth's Mightiest Heroes, certainly possessing the power, but none of the drive to do the right thing or particular desire to befriend his teammates, both flaws he readily admitted. However, after a lifetime of loneliness and torment, Jack decided he would make his final act one that counted, even if only on a small scale, proving in the end he was definitely worth to be called an Avenger.
Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS #62 (2003)-The tragic origins of Jack of Hearts!
7. THE SWORDSMAN
When It Happened: GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS #2 (1974)
What Went Down: Swordsman hurls himself in the way of an energy bolt fired by Kang meant for Mantis, professing his love for her as he dies.
Why It Makes the List: While several former villains have found redemption among the Avengers' ranks, none did quite the 180 of The Swordsman. Hawkeye's sinister former mentor attempted to undo his pupil's team more than once before reforming in the name of love and petitioning for membership. While his old foes understandably did not trust Swordsman at first, he proved himself more than once, and in the end showed his heart to be true, giving his own life so that his beloved Mantis could live.
Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS #19 (1965)-The debut of The Swordsman!
When It Happened: HOUSE OF M #7 (2005)
What Went Down: Returned from a previous death in the House of M dimension created by the insane Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye goes on a suicide run against his former ally and is broken down into nothing.
Why It Makes the List: The first death of Clint Barton rocked the Avengers so hard that the venerable team disassembled in its wake. When Hawkeye reappeared in the House of M alternate universe created by his erstwhile killer, many of his peers were overwhelmed by confusion or sadness, but the Avenging Archer remained focus, lunging at the person he viewed as responsible for the tragedy in both his life and those he cared for: The Scarlet Witch. Despite being hopelessly outmatched, Clint flung himself at his one-time teammate as he had so many powerful opponents in the past, but this time found himself on the losing end-yet given a third lease on life for his heroism.
Spotlight Comic: THE PULSE #10-Hawkeye explores his rebirth in the House of M!
When It Happened: INCREDIBLE HERCULES #141 (2010)
What Went Down: Attempting to stop his mother Hera and her ally Typhon from destroying the universe with their Continuum machine, Hercules is stranded and left for dead by his sister, Athena.
Why It Makes the List: For countless centuries, Hercules has been known as a great hero, but also as something of a buffoon, never taken seriously by his peers either among the gods or the heroes of Earth. In the recent past, the Prince of Power has proven not only his mettle, but his leadership ability and a degree of cleverness none knew he possessed in foiling major threats like the Skrull gods and Artume of the Amazons. That he was beginning to display more potential than ever before adds to the pathos surrounding Herc's death, as does the knowledge that his most beloved sibling played an enigmatic role in the proceedings.
Spotlight Comic: INCREDIBLE HERCULES #126-The origin of Hercules!
When It Happened: ANNIHILATION: NOVA #4 (2006)
What Went Down: Annihilus drains the power from Quasar's quantum bands, burning him to nothing as Nova watches on.
Why It Makes the List: Wendell Vaughn never quite made it to the A-list of the super hero set, despite Avengers membership, designation as Protector of the Universe, and sacrificing his ability to set foot on his birth planet in order to save Earth from Ego. However, lack of recognition never stopped Quasar from hurling himself into the fray when evil struck, and so he attacked a massively-powered Annihilus head-on during the early days of Annihilation, though he'd regret it moments later as the inter-dimensional dictator fried him and took his quantum bands. Wendell has since returned, but given the same situation all over again, he'd likely still put his life on the line again, even knowing the results, provided he could make a difference.
Spotlight Comic: ANNIHILATION: NOVA #3-Quasar and Nova take the fight to Annihilus!
3. WONDER MAN
When It Happened: AVENGERS #9 (1964)
What Went Down: Betraying his villainous master Baron Zemo and aligning with the Avengers after infiltrating them Wonder Man succumbs to the process which provided his powers overloading his body.
Why It Makes the List: Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil believed they had stumbled on a foolproof plan and the perfect pawn, enlisting disgraced industrialist Simon Williams to become the ionic powerhouse Wonder Man, who would join the Avengers then betray them from within. What Zemo and his cronies didn't count on was that while Williams had never been a hero, spending time amongst Earth's Mightiest inspired him to give it a shot, so when the time came to pull the trigger on the big set-up, Wonder Man turned on his masters and aided the Avengers, despite believing he wouldn't survive the experience.
Spotlight Comic: AVENGERS CLASSIC #9-A different perspective on Wonder Man's tragic first adventure!
When It Happened: THOR #85 (2004)
What Went Down: Rebelling against the nigh-omnipotent Those Who Sit Above in Shadow, Thor breaks the cycle of Ragnarok, sending his fellow Asgardians to new lives on Earth and vanishing himself.
Why It Makes the List: All Asgardians live with the instilled knowledge that someday they will perish in the violent glory of Ragnarok, ending their immortal existence in defense of the Golden Realm. However, only Thor was shrewd enough to notice that Ragnarok had come and gone several times with many of his friends and family sacrificing their lives only to pop back up later. The God of Thunder discovered the true nature of his people's twilight and how Those Who Sit Above in Shadow had orchestrated a never-ending cycle of tragedy to feed their own power. Though it meant standing up to beings who dwarfed him and ending his existence as he knew it, Thor cut the strings of fate and delivered Asgard into freedom.
Spotlight Comic: THOR #81 (2004)-The Thunder God teams with his Avengers allies, Iron Man and Captain America, one last time!
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA
When It Happened: CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 (2007)
What Went Down: Upon his surrender following the conclusion of Civil War, Steve Rogers is shot by a sniper as well as a mind-controlled Sharon Carter on a courthouse steps.
Why It Makes the List: Perhaps the most tragic thing about the death of Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, was that he didn't go down swinging against an old foe or powerful menace, but instead met a quiet demise while public sentiment of the people he lived was largely against him. However, the impact of Cap's death remains nearly unmeasured, as it galvanized not only the Avengers but the entire Marvel Universe to take a hard look at their priorities and at least try to become better heroes. Rogers' recent return and his leadership of the charge against Norman Osborn only underlines his value and how much he was missed.
Spotlight Comic: CIVIL WAR: FALLEN SON - THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA #2-Both teams of Avengers cope with Cap's assassination in their own way.
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