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!
After a membership that revolved around the ancient hero Gilgamesh and one-half of the Fantastic Four, it became time once again for a clear picture of who and what the Avengers stood for. Captain America called a meeting of, well, everybody, in AVENGERS #305 and laid it all out on the table.
“A permanent consolidation of all members,” he proposed. “The Avengers are the Avengers. Not two teams. Not three. One team. Everyone who has ever been an Avenger will always be an Avenger.”
After the assembled heroes all pledged their support for the idea, the core team stood at Captain America, Thor, The Black Panther, She-Hulk, Gilgamesh, Sub-Mariner and the new cosmic champion Quasar. Then, they got down to it. First order of business: the Lava Men.
From AVENGERS #305-307, the team struggled with a mysterious attack by the subterranean Lava Men, a race the Avengers believed they’d made peace with years before. Jinku, the Lava Man witchdoctor, thought otherwise and, over presumed injustices, waged war against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes far below the surface of the planet. The end of the tale brought about a stunning transformation for the Lava Men—and near-death for a wounded Gilgamesh. With no real support system to heal an Eternal, the Avengers turned to the witchy Sersi, one of the fallen hero’s brethren, for help.
The plight of Gilgamesh in AVENGERS #308 led the Avengers into the awe-inspiring Negative Zone in search of the Eternals' fabled city of Eternia. Transported away from Earth by the mischievous Sprite, the city fell under the monstrous eye of the Zone’s most infamous citizen, Blastaar. Finally, the Eternals showed their faces and, along with the Avengers and Asgard’s legendary Warriors Three, managed to defeat Blastaar and restore order to Eternia.
AVENGERS #310 saw the team lose one Eternal as a member, Gilgamesh, but welcome another, Sersi, into its hallowed ranks. Endowed with fantastic powers that resembled sorcery, the bewitching beauty would become an important ally for the team, but also a thorn in the side of its leader, Captain America. Sersi’s wandering eye found the Star-Spangled Avenger quite to her liking—a feeling not returned by the good Captain.
The group’s waterborne headquarters, Hydrobase, escaped destruction at the hands of the Lava Men, but ultimately sank due to the attention of the master criminals of the world and their so-called Acts of Vengeance. From AVENGERS #311-313, the entire platoon of heroes fought back a hellish plan by such villains as Doctor Doom, The Mandarin, The Red Skull, The Wizard and others to wreak havoc throughout the world. The Avengers faced off against not only those fiends, but also the government-sponsored Freedom Force, formerly known as the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
With not so much a moment of rest, Captain America, Thor, and Sersi teamed with The Vision, Iron Man and a wandering web-slinger called Spider-Man to combat the universe’s most wicked woman, Nebula. It started in AVENGERS #314, and by the time AVENGERS #318 rolled around, the team squared off against the lady space pirate and her band, the enigmatic Stranger and the threat of “Ultimate Entropy” from the Infinity Union cadre of cosmic machines. Incredibly, the Avengers came out on top once again.
No sooner had they solved the problem of Nebula, the Avengers plunged headlong into one of the stickiest messes they’d ever found themselves in the middle of. AVENGERS #319-324 told of “The Crossing Line,” a sprawling saga of the rogue Russian terrorist group known as the Peace Corpse and their wish for nuclear Armageddon. When the dust cleared from that debacle, the Avengers wound up fighting against—and then with—the People’s Protectorate, Alpha Flight and a consortium of Atlantis’ worst baddies.
Finally, in AVENGERS #325, a respite. Well, not exactly. The team attended one of Sersi’s famous parties, but before they could grab a drink and begin to unwind, a covert assault by Mother Night, Minister Blood and Machinesmith grabbed their attention. Things didn’t calm down any in AVENGERS #326-328 as the team contended with another set of wayward Russians, this time around attempting to keep the secrets of the Chernobyl disaster and the man known as Surge. That battle ranged from the sewers of New York to another dimension, and when the Avengers eventually returned home, they unwittingly brought a clutch of demonic entities along with them.
AVENGERS #328 told of the amazing origin of the young street-fighting super hero Rage—a figure that would loom large in the team’s near-future—but at the time, all Captain America could concern himself over was the worst news yet: The U.S. government had revoked the Avengers’ charter, and it looked like the legacy of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes might finally be finished…