West Coast Avengers (Vol. 2) #1-41, Annual #1-3 (October 1985 – February 1989)
Written by Steve Englehart (#1-29, 31-37, 39, Annual #1-3), Al Milgrom (#30), DG Chichester (#38), Margaret Clark (#38), Mark Gruenwald (#40)
Plot by Tom DeFalco (#41)
Co-plotted by Mark Bright (Annual #1), Mark Gruenwald (Annual #2), Tom DeFalco (Annual #2)
Script by Ralph Macchio (#41)
Layouts by Al Milgrom (#6)
Pencilled by Al Milgrom (#1-5, 7-37, 39-40, Annual #2-3), Kyle Baker (#6), Tom Morgan (#38, 41), Mark Bright (Annual #1)
Inked by Joe Sinnott (#1, 3-5, 7-21), Kim DeMulder (#2, 22), Kyle Baker (#6), Romeo Tanghal (#23), Mike Machlan (#24-27, 29-31, 33-37), Dave Hunt (#28, 38), Tony Dezuniga (#32), Al Milgrom (#39, Annual #2), Mike Gustovich (#40), Tom Morgan (#41), Geof Isherwood (Annual #1), Gerry Talaoc (Annual #3), Chris Ivy (Annual #3)
Colour by Petra Scotese (#1-3, 5, Annual #1), Ken Feduniewicz (#4, 6-15, 17-20), Christie Scheele (#16, 22-23, 25), Paul Becton (#21, 24, 31-34, 36-37, 40), Juliana Ferriter (#26), Phil DeWalt (#27-28), Bob Sharen (#29-30), Gregory Wright (#29, 41, Annual #2), Steve Buccellato (#35, 38), Andy Yanchus (#39), Marc Siry (Annual #3)
Spoilers (from thirty-four to thirty-six years ago)
After the original four-issue miniseries, and some appearances in issues of Avengers and Iron Man, the West Coast Avengers got their own ongoing series, by Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom. The series launched with a tie-in to the second Vision and the Scarlet Witch series, which I am also reading in sequence with this run.
I have a lot of fond memories of this series. I remember being excited by the inclusion of characters like Firebird, and later on Henry Pym and Moon Knight. I also liked the dark turn that Mockingbird’s story took on a trip through time, and the way it impacted her relationship with Hawkeye. As a ten year old, I thought it was cool to get in on the ground floor of a new Avengers team, which looking back, doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there it is.
I didn’t love Milgrom’s art at the time. I remember finding it a little too old-fashioned, at a time when some truly dynamic and distinct artists were making names for themselves. Still, this book was a favourite of mine through to the end of John Byrne’s run, and I’m looking forward to going through it again. I began this series of columns rereading my Avengers comics, and at the time it felt weird to be ignoring this one, so it’s good to rectify that now (I might even have to dig out my Solo Avengers run when I’m done with this).
Let’s track who turned up in the title:
West Coast Avengers
Hawkeye (Clint Barton; #1-40, Annual #1-3)
Mockingbird (Bobbi Morse; #1-41, Annual #1-3)
Wonder Man (Simon Williams; #1-40, Annual #1-3)
Tigra (Greer Nelson; #1-24, 26-41, Annual #1-3)
Iron Man (Tony Stark; #1-5, 8-31, 38, Annual #1, 2)
Khonshu (Egyptian God of the Dead; #21, 29-36, 39-41)
Frenchy (Moon Knight’s assistant; #21-22, 24)
Rover (Hank’s vehicle; #21-23, 26)
Chita Ramirez (#22)
Benito Juarez (#22)
Billy (son of Vision and Scarlet Witch; #30, 39-40, Annual #1)
Tommy (son of Vision and Scarlet Witch; #30, 39-40, Annual #1)
Hamilton Slade (#32, 41)
Maria Trovaya Pym (Hank’s first wife; #36)
Henry Peter Gyrich (Annual #1)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
Hawkeye and Mockingbird are making out in the West Coast Avengers Compound when they are interrupted by a knock at the door. It’s Hank Pym, the former Avenger. Clint is happy to see him, and introduces him to Bobbi, but Hank doesn’t like it when Clint tries to offer him a spot on the team. He’s there because he wants to examine Goliath, the former Power Man, whom the team is holding captive after a fight in Iron Man Annual #7, because he wants to know how he got his growing powers. Wonder Man is flying with Tigra, who starts to freak out about being out over the water. She admits to Simon that lately she’s been experiencing fear of the same things cats fear, like water. Simon talks about how he still feels inadequate at times. They are surprised to see Iron Man (in his Silver Centurion armor) fly right past them, and attack some very quiet robots that were sneaking up on the pair. Iron Man can’t fight them all on their own, but Simon struggles to protect Tigra and fight at the same time. Tigra realizes she has no choice but to jump into the ocean, at which point he and Iron Man are able to give the robots a beating. The remaining ones take off, so Simon dives down after Tigra. At the Compound, Goliath boasts to Hank, and we learn that he doesn’t have blood anymore. Clint and Bobbi talk about the fact that no one wants to fill their team’s remaining sixth spot because the team was formed by the Vision when he went crazy and tried to take over the world. The others return, and when Hank greets Iron Man, I’m reminded that Tony Stark is back in the armor (and maybe has gone public with his identity, since Hank called out his name in front of Goliath). They talk about a bunch of things, and Tigra starts rubbing up on Hank. They head up to the monitor room to talk some more. Tony has a monitor that detects the energy of the robots not far away; Hank offers to stay behind to keep an eye on the Compound. The others fly to San Pedro Harbor, where they track the energy to a ship. Simon and Clint enter it first to investigate. Tigra chats with Bobbi about the way she feels like she has a cat’s soul now, and that she’s fighting with herself for control. Clint sends up a flare, so the others join him. They enter the ship, and discover a maze of randomly welded beams creating a bird’s nest like appearance to the insides of the ship. Ultron-12 reveals himself as being behind the attack on them. Clint fires off an arrow that contains a gas that immunizes the Avengers from Ultron’s power blasts (none of that makes sense to me). Ultron rants, and then random adamantium tubes start randomly shooting out of the beams, making space very tight. Ultron-12 reveals that he’s after Wonder Man, the only person this trap won’t kill, but then inexplicably, he just leaves. The team tries to stop them, and it’s Clint who, by firing his only vibranium arrow into the mechanism, is able to shut it all down. Back at the Compound, Hank thinks about how Goliath has Pym particles in his ionic energy matrix, and is surprised to hear his ex-wife, the Wasp, calling on the monitor. He reluctantly answers, explaining that the team is on a mission. He’s about to chat with her, but the team returns, and Clint lets Jan know that Ultron is back. When Jan offers to send help, Clint turns her down, insisting that his team can handle it on their own. As their call ends, Clint realizes the Compound is under attack. Clint sends the team out to respond, and sends Tigra to guard Goliath. Clint, Bobbi, and Simon patrol the grounds, and Ultron overhears them mention Hank being there, which causes Ultron to change his plans. Tigra fumes at being sidelined, until Man-Ape shows up to free Goliath. They fight, and Tigra has Man-Ape on the ropes, but Ultron-12 hits her from behind and knocks her out. Ultron tells Man-Ape that plans have changed, and that Man-Ape and Goliath will have to capture Wonder Man, M’baku argues. Ultron blasts him. Tony had stayed with Hank, and they are attacked by Ultron-12. Tony tries to defend his friend. At the same time, Goliath and Man-Ape bust out of one of the buildings on the compound, and start fighting Simon, Bobbi, and Clint. Iron Man does well against Ultron, but Man-Ape and Goliath stomp on Simon. Just then, Ultron blasts Clint and Bobbi (I guess something happened between pages). He’s got Hank, and Goliath grabs Simon. With Ultron carrying Goliath, they fly off. Clint has finally figured things out, realizing that Ultron must be working with The Grim Reaper, who hates Simon, and who was in the Lethal Legion with Goliath and Man-Ape before. From here, the story crosses over with the second Vision and the Scarlet Witch series.
Hawkeye, Iron Man, and Tigra meet with Vision and the Scarlet Witch in the motel they’re staying at in New Jersey. Vision is unused to Iron Man’s armor, and Tony, in turn, is unused to Vision’s new, more human, voice. We learn that Clint tried to leave Tigra back in LA, and she objected, so Mockingbird offered to stay behind. Clint recaps the first issue of this series, while Vision recaps the first issue of his and Wanda’s book (they were attacked by zombies, and Vision discovered that the Grim Reaper and his allies, Black Talon and Nekra, had a zombie version of Simon made). The Grim Reaper has Simon and Hank Pym held captive somewhere else in New Jersey, in an energy cage. The Grim Reaper hates Simon because he believes he’s not really his brother; we learn that he intends to scan Simon and Visions’ brains, and then delete anything that’s not common, and then implant their original brainwaves into the Simon zombie, thus restoring his original brother. This is why Ultron is working with him, as he needs Ultron’s help to do the brain scanning, but now Ultron wants to kill Hank Pym when it’s all done. The Reaper is upset that Black Talon couldn’t capture the Vision, so now Ultron wants to go do it. The team, with Wanda and Vision, travel to the abandoned Williams Manufacturing plant. Iron Man, for some reason, is protecting his Tony Stark identity, even though the Vision called him Tony a few pages earlier, and starts to tell the story of how Simon originally lost his business because of embezzlement, and got roped in with Baron Zemo, and a complicated plan to infiltrate and betray the Avengers. In the end, Simon died a hero. Tigra takes issue with the story Tony is telling, refusing to believe that Simon was guilty of the things he was convicted of. For some reason, without even looking around the plant, Tony leads the heroes up the street to the house where Simon and his brother were raised. Mrs. Williams answers the door and invites the heroes into her home. Vision has never thought about the fact that Simon would have a mother, and he feels odd about all this. Mrs. Williams talks about how her sons were very different, with Simon being a real bookworm, while Eric (aka the Grim Reaper) was very athletic. Both were beaten by their father. While Simon took over the family business, Eric joined the mob. As Simon started to lose the business, in direct competition with Tony Stark, he brought Eric in to help, and that led to Eric stealing money. Simon took the fall for him (this knowledge makes Tigra happy). Clint learns that Eric was stationed in Las Vegas for a while, so he thinks they should start searching there. Mrs. Williams is hopeful that the Avengers can help her sons stop fighting, at which point Vision reveals that she is also his mother, in a way, and they embrace. Grim Reaper and Nekra lie around on some pillows on a floor, but when Man-Ape interrupts them, the Reaper uses racially charged language and insults him. Man-Ape leaves, and the Reaper reveals he doesn’t like working with black people (although his entire team of villains are either black or robots). Nekra points out that she’s black too, but he mentions that her albinism makes her the “purest white” he’s known, and they kiss. This scene would not be printed today, and for good reason. Man-Ape goes to Black Talon to complain, and he also gets angry. Hank suggests to Simon that this might be helpful to them, and Simon uses this as a good opportunity to continue to narrate his history. He reveals to Hank how he came back to life, and that ever since, he’s been afraid of dying again. Hank gets all psychological with him. The Avengers leave Mrs. Williams’s place, with promises that Vision and Wanda will come back to visit soon. They leave in their quinjet, heading for Vegas. Clint checks in with Bobbi, and just then, Ultron shows up in front of his window, and smashes the quinjet. His robots start ripping their way into the airship, and Hawkeye announces that it’s going down. This story continues in Vision and Scarlet Witch #2.
The whole V&SW crossover is over, and the triumphant heroes are standing around the site of the team’s crashed quinjet in the Rocky Mountains, with Goliath as their prisoner. Simon and Vision have another conversation about being brothers (really, at this point, we get it!). Vision and Wanda decide to walk to the closest town, while everyone else piles into the quinjet Mockingbird brought, and head back to LA. On the jet, Tigra gets all upset about the fact that she’s responsible for Ultron-12 escaping (she knocked him into a computer and he used it to increase his power). She picks an argument with Tony, accusing him of taking time off (while he was off the wagon), and then jumps out of the quinjet (they are over LA by now). Hank, Simon, and Tony convince Clint to leave her to figure out what’s going on with herself. Tigra jumps around the city (which suddenly looks more New York than LA), worrying about how she feels more and more like a cat. She comes across some people stealing from the African American Museum, and jumps on them. They all work for Kraven the Hunter. He turns up and starts fighting Tigra. He stabs her with a horn from his belt, and she feels drugged. He leaves her, and she collapses. The rest of the team return to their compound, and put Goliath in a cell. Hank suggests that he take on the job of running the compound, and working on his research there. Tony sees this as a step down for Hank, but he explains that he wants to support the team without being on it. Clint agrees to talk to the others about it. Simon gets a call in his bungalow, and agrees to an appearance on the Johnny Carson show. Clint and Bobbi go for a walk on the beach (in full costume), but Bobbi realizes that Clint is thinking about Tigra, and suggests they go look for her. Hank answers the phone, but there is no one on the other end. Tigra, I guess recovered from the drugging, is running around LA looking for Kraven. Some guy in a convertible hits on her, and she jumps in his car to kiss him. She explores Griffith Park, and discovers that Kraven has set up traps for her. They fight again, and when Tigra sees Clint and Bobbi flying overhead on Clint’s skycycle, she hides Kraven and herself in the trees. They continue to fight, and a crowd grows. In the crowd is Scourge, the killer who was making cameos in many Marvel books at this time, but he decides killing Kraven is too risky, and leaves. Kraven eventually gets Tigra on the ground, and is about to drive a branch through her neck, when Clint wraps him up with a rope-arrow thing. Bobbi fights Kraven, and knocks him out with her battle staves (he’s tied up the whole time). Tigra is not happy about the help, but both Bobbi and Clint point out that this is how teams work. Later, the team has gathered around the pool to discuss the fact that they still don’t have a sixth team member. There’s a knock on the door, and Ben Grimm, the Thing, enters the pool area, commenting that he has a flat tire. The team looks at each other, and Hawkeye prepares to pitch Ben.
The Thing makes it very clear to Hawkeye that he doesn’t want to join the team, but Clint won’t take no for an answer. Ben gets so mad, he gives them all (except for Hank) some tickets to his wrestling show, and storms off. Once he’s outside the compound, he remembers that he’d wanted to get some help with his bike, which has a flat. He lifts it and starts carrying it to a garage, but spies a flaming figure falling from the sky. Assuming it’s the Human Torch, he runs to catches the person. It turns out to be a woman he’s never seen before. Recognizing that she’s hurt, he takes her back into the WCA compound (not noticing a weird bird), where Mockingbird uses her SHIELD emergency medicine training to assess her. The phone rings, and once again, when Hank Pym answers it, there is no one there. Tony goes with Ben to get his bike, but they find it mangled, and don’t see the bird flying away. Clint continues to think that Ben is going to join the team, and tries to convince Hank of it. Simon wanders the team’s mansion, and is joined by Tigra. They talk about their growing friendship, but Simon points out that Tigra has shown interest in Hank, and is being inappropriate with him. At that, she kisses him, and invites him to the beach with her; he has to leave though. The rest of the team gathers to hear the woman’s story. Her name is Firebird, and she shares her origin, which involves growing up poor in a barrio in New Mexico, and being struck by fire from heaven, which gave her powers. She felt that she couldn’t explain what happened to her priest, and ran from a church to come across a robbery. Her powers manifested, and she took on the Firebird persona, eventually joining some other southwestern heroes to help free the Hulk from the Corruptor. Firebird, whose name is Bonita, explains that a big weird bird with long legs attacked her while she was sleeping, and that led her into a conflict with its master, Master Pandemonium. She ended up collapsing in the fight, and was left in the desert. When she came to, she decided to seek out the Avengers to warn them. Tigra gets weird, and storms off, angry at herself. Hank answers the phone again, and this time, hears the voice of Ultron-12, who is basically prank calling him. Hank feels he can’t tell the others about this, which is dumb. Simon appears on the Johnny Carson show, and takes time to explain to the audience that he embezzled money and feels guilty; Johnny praises him for his courage. As Simon leaves the studio, he sees the coliseum where Ben is performing and goes to visit him. Almost immediately, Master Pandemonium and his talking bird, Azmodeus, appear and attack Ben, asking if he is one of “the five”. They start to fight, and Simon calls the others, who decide to leave Firebird behind with Hank. Ben and Simon are surprised when Pandemonium’s arms turn into two demons. When the others arrive, they join the fight, but Ben, Simon, and Tony end up having to keep a building from collapsing. Clint, Bobbi, and Tigra are surprised to see Pandemonium loosen his clothes, and have a ton of demons pour out of his stomach. They fight them, and when the three powerhouses join in, things turn. Pandemonium’s become demons when Ben grabs his calves, and the now-limbless Pandemonium flies around on Azmodeus, who speaks in a jumble of words. Tony goes after the villain, who blasts him with unnatural fire from his mouth. Tony punches Pandemonium in the gut, and his arm goes right through the hole in him. Pandemonium recalls all the demons into him, and flies off with Azmodeus. As the team stands around yelling stuff, Pandemonium returns to a big home, where we learn that the the hole in his stomach is caused by the fact that his soul is gone; he wants to stop what he’s doing, but Azmodeus, who is smoking a cigar, rejects that idea.
The team has a meeting, and Clint lets it be known he’s mad at Simon about confessing to a crime (that he was convicted of and served time for) on TV, thinking that it made the team look bad. Tigra defends Simon, and they argue some more. The Thing, Firebird, and Hank Pym sit outside the meeting room, discussing their arguing, while a crowd of media folk assemble outside. The team addresses the media, with Clint spinning things. After the press conference, Simon walks off, and Tigra joins him on the beach. They talk about how Simon can see Clint’s point, and then they start making out in the surf. Clint and Bobbi get into an argument because Bobbi agreed with Simon, but felt it necessary to support Clint in front of the team. He doesn’t like that she disagrees with him now, and she storms off. Ben and Bonita tell Clint that they’re leaving, and when Clint tries one more time to get Ben on the team, he gets mad. He gives Bonita a ride into town, and we learn that she wishes she’d been asked to join the team. Bobbi heads to the beach to cool off, and is soon joined by Tigra, who tells her that she went a little wild on Simon, and couldn’t control her cat-like urges. Bobbi promises to help her fix her problem, and tells her to go to her bungalow. Tony checks in on Hank, who is sitting in a dark room. When the phone rings, Hank closes the door on Tony, and is unhappy to find Ultron-12 calling him again. He yells at him, and hangs up. Tigra comes to Hank, and starts kissing him. They make out on the couch, as Simon walks by but doesn’t see them. Tony plays the radio on his suit to show Clint that the public is mostly in support of Simon. Bobbi tells Clint and Tony that she and Tigra are going on a mission, and she apologizes and kisses Clint. Simon joins them, so Bobbi decides to explain her mission to the team – she wants to go search out the Cat People that gave Tigra her powers, and to do that, she has figured out she has to start with Jack Russell, who lives in LA. Tigra asks Bobbi not to say anything to Simon about what she told her, and Simon decides the whole team should go. At the same time, Ben drops Bonita off in a shady neighbourhood, where she enters an occult bookstore, looking for information about Master Pandemonium. The storekeeper tells her she should consult the Darkhold, which belongs to Jack Russell. The team arrives at Jack’s apartment, where they find Michael Morbius, the former living vampire (he’s cured at this time, but still looks odd). Jack is in full-on Werewolf By Night mode, and smelling Tigra, busts through the reinforced wood door that is supposed to keep him. He grabs Tigra, who he was once in love with, and jumps out the window. The team tries to rescue her, and Jack reaches into Tony’s mask, clawing at his eyes and mouth. Bobbi fights the werewolf, while Tony flies off to take off his mask and check on his face. Clint hits Jack with a flame arrow, and Simon sends him flying. They gather around the wolf, and just then Firebird arrives, surprised to see them all. She uses her flames on Russell, and Simon finally knocks him down. Tigra doesn’t want Simon to touch her, and when Clint explains to Bonita what’s going on, Morbius overhears and says he also knows the Cat People. Tony returns (although he was in a panel two pages before) saying he needs stitches. Back at the compound, Ultron-12 calls Hank again, and tells him he wants to apologize for his prior behaviour, and “bury that hatchet”.
Kyle Baker drew over Al Milgrom’s layouts for issue six, creating a very different look for the comic. The team, minus Iron Man, who had to heal from the scratches he got last issue, gather with Michael Morbius to learn the spell that will call forth one of the Cat-People, so long as it’s said in a nearby mansion where a mystic used to live. Simon gets a call about a role in a movie, and has to beg off. Firebird, who is still with the team, offers to come with them, but Tigra acts weird about it. Bonita apologizes for whatever she did to offend Tigra, and Bobbi supports her coming, thinking that it was fate that has brought them together twice already. Clint calls Ben Grimm, who still doesn’t want to join the team, but agrees to come along as muscle, since Tigra was once a member of the FF. The team, flying two skycycles, approach the mansion, and find the room once used for spell-casting. They recite what they are supposed to, and Balkatar, the emissary of the Cat-People appears before them. Ben immediately starts to fight him, with support from Bonita, but when he sees Tigra, he stops fighting and agrees to take them to his land. On some set, Simon meets Dino, a terrible stereotype of an Italian director, and when he’s attacked by someone dressed like a barbarian, learns he’ll be cast as a villain in Arkon IV, opposite Arnold Schwarzburger. Simon is pretty happy about this. Hank flies a skycycle above the compound, having agreed to meet with Ultron. Ultron, who makes it clear that he’s calling himself Ultron Mark Twelve, explains that he’s matured past his former adolescent anger, and wants a proper relationship with Hank, his father. Hank finds himself starting to agree with this logic. The WCA arrive in The Land Within, the kingdom where the Cat-People live. Bonita worries that this place is evil. A group of Cat-People arrive to punish Balkatar for bringing outsiders to their world, but when they see Tigra, they want to take her to the king immediately. The king, who is never named, is angry to see humans, and orders them imprisoned. Clint gets the team to stand down, in hopes that being locked up will help Tigra. Tigra talks to the king, recapping her origin (she was a hero called the Cat, who got shot and saved by a doctor who was secretly a Cat-Person, and using magic and science, turned her into Tigra). She explains that she feels torn between her two identities, Tigra and Greer. The king says they can strip away the human soul from her, but that’s not what she wants. The king is angry at being contradicted, but agrees to think about her wish to remove the Tigra part of her soul instead. He has Balkatar take her away. They head outside the city, where they can lie around on warm rocks. We learn that Balkatar is not his name, but his title (his name is Grigar), and they make love. Tigra learns that her name is also a title, and we learn the lengthy history of the Cat-People (which involves their creating the Black Death) and of her predecessor. We also get a recap of an adventure Tigra had, fighting one of the High Evolutionary’s mutates. Tigra is summoned before the king, who agrees to take away whichever part of her she wishes, so long as she first help them by killing Master Pandemonium. Tigra doesn’t want to kill anyone, but as they argue, the rest of the Avengers turn up, fighting a lot of Cat-People after they decided to escape their cell. Tigra pulls Mockingbird off a guy, and yells at the team to stand down. She explains that the king is going to help her, and makes a point of saying there are no strings attached.
Issue seven features the return of Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott as the art team. In the ruins of a building in New York, Red Cross volunteer discovered an item when trying to rescue people after an incident involving the Thing and the Human Torch. She brings the item, which turns out to be an Ultron head, home with her, and puts it on her TV. It takes over the TV. In the present, the WCA (and their guests) are still in The Land Within, feasting and watching Cat-People dance. Clint feels like there is reason to be concerned, while Bonita thinks she should be returning to her quest for Master Pandemonium. Clint uses this opportunity to once again try to get Ben to join the team, while Bonita wishes he would ask her, but doesn’t say anything. On Earth, Hank has gone to meet Ultron Mark Twelve in a shady neighbourhood in LA. Ultron embraces him, and tells him he wants to take him to his secret lab. In a flashback, we see that a computer scientist received a package from New York – the TV with the Ultron head attached. Ultron commanded him to drive him to his lab, where he had him place the head on a spare body. In the present, Ultron Mark Twelve and Hank arrive at Ultron’s lab, talking about how Ultron worries he caused Hank’s divorce as they go. Ultron leaves Hank for a moment to turn on the lights, and Hank comments on how impressive the lab is. Ultron returns and attacks Hank, who is furious with himself for being duped. Then, a second Ultron shows up to save him. It turns out that it’s Ultron-11 who is attacking Hank (he was the TV-Ultron), and it’s “Mark” who is there to save him. 11 rips Mark’s head off, and rants to Hank about the dangers of decadent evolution. As 11 drags Hank away, Mark commands his body to come to him. Simon and Arnold act out a scene in Arkon IV that doesn’t require special effects (Simon gets tossed off a castle into a moat full of alligators). Christina the assistant chats with Simon after the scene ends, and Simon notices Ultron in the woods nearby. When the robot comes to him, it’s clear something is wrong – his head is on backwards. Mark tells Simon he needs his help. Back in Silicon Valley, Ultron-11 has Hank strapped to a machine. Simon, who has changed into his uniform and gotten there pretty quickly, busts through a wall and starts to fight Ultron. Simon grabs up a ton of computer equipment, and crashes it on the robot. Next, he manages to dent his head badly. Mark stumbles into the room and collapses. Hank, freed by Simon, goes to him and holds him as his circuits fuse, effectively killing him. Hank is distraught. As the two men prepare to leave, Hank mentions that he didn’t get to tell Mark about how he’s with Tigra now, so he’s not really alone, as Mark had feared. Simon decides he can’t tell Hank that he’s been messing around with Tigra too. They fly off together (Hank is on a skycycle), and Hank mentions that they are lucky that there are no more Ultrons. At the same time, we see a kid in his house, playing around with another Ultron head.
The group that went to the Land Within are returned to the mansion they left from, and start to head back home. Thing asks Tigra to massage his neck while he pilots the skycycle they are on (I’m not sure how that would work, since he’s made of rock), and Tigra feels guilty about lying to her teammates. Firebird, while flying, as a vision wherein she’s a Spanish woman travelling with a caravan on the mission trail to San Luis Abispo, and flirting with the ‘capitano’ when a group of Native Americans attack them. The woman, Carlotta, joins in the fight, and flirts some more, before being shot in the back. She turns to see who shot her, and at that point, Firebird starts freaking out. When she explains that there was a traitor in her vision, Tigra looks nervous. When they return to the compound, they are joined by Wonder Man, who tells them he destroyed Ultron, and that Hank is pretty upset about the death of his ‘son’. Tony is walking with Hank, but that’s all we see of either of them this issue, which is kind of odd. Simon tells the team that his confidence is back, and Clint tries, once again, to get Ben to join the team. Bobbi notices Bonita walking off, and pulls Clint aside to tell him off for ignoring her. They get into a physical fight, that ends when Clint agrees to think about giving Bonita a spot on the team if Ben says no; they start to make out. Bonita stands at a cliff, thinking about what to do when she decides to pray. She receives an idea. Simon flies through LA yelling out his name, and is shot by an overzealous bank robber. He flies down to deal with the group of robbers, who brought a bazooka for some reason. He takes them down quickly. Tigra and Ben sit by the pool, and Ben starts to talk to her about how Johnny Storm betrayed him by hooking up with Alicia, but they are interrupted by Bonita, who has something to tell them. Just then, her former team, the Rangers, all turn up. Clint and Bobbi join the group, and introductions are made. Clint and Tigra both know Red Wolf. He explains that Bonita is bringing their team back together, since the Avengers don’t want her. When Shooting Star touches Bonita on the back, she suddenly realizes that the gunslinging hero is possessed. Clint is slow to believe her, but then Red Wolf moves to attack, and a fight is on. Red Wolf’s wolf, Lobo, grows and starts to fight Bonita, while Red fights Tigra. Bobbi stops Shooting Star from shooting Clint, while he takes on Ghost Rider (the Western version). Ben fights the Texas Twister. Everyone does well, except Bonita struggles with the Wolf. She swaps foes with Mockingbird (who should not be able to take down a giant demonic wolf), and then lets off a huge burst of light, blinding everyone except Shooting Star. Bonita explains, as they fight, that she’s realized Shooting Star is actually a demon, and is controlling the others. When she takes her down, the others are freed from her control and are confused. It turns out that Shooting Star has been a demon all along, and kept the team from sticking together originally because she knew Bonita would sense her eventually. Tigra guesses that Shooting Star is working for Master Pandemonium, and she’s correct. The team resolves to go deal with him next, and Tigra frets about her obligation to kill him.
It appears that Shooting Star has escaped the Avengers, and heads straight to Master Pandemonium, who makes it clear that he hates demons, but also wants information from her. What we realize is that she’s signalling to the rest of the Avengers to tell them her location. The Avengers (the regular team, minus Mockingbird, but with the Thing and Firebird still) are circling above LA, and spring into action. Clint provides a flashback, showing how after the Rangers were freed from Shooting Star’s control, they agreed to let the Avengers go after Pandemonium, with Bobbi posing as Shooting Star. Iron Man and Wonder Man joined them, and the Thing volunteered to see this through to the end. Just before the Avengers get into Pandemonium’s base, he grabs Bobbi and teleports away. When the team gets inside, they find her radio on the floor. Tigra summons Balkatar to help them track him down. Pandemonium and Bobbi appear in what looks like a medieval dungeon. Pandemonium talks a lot, and shows off the Amulet of Azmodeus, which he uses for something or other (where is Azmodeus, his long-legged bird friend, anyway?). He tells Bobbi (who he still thinks is a demon) that he was a famous actor that drove off a road, and lost his arm in the crash. Mephisto appeared to him, and when Pandemonium (then known as Martin Preston) offered him his soul to replace his arm, Mephisto replaced it with a demon arm, and then got creative. Bobbi tries to keep Pandemonium talking to stall him, and doesn’t notice when Balkatar slinks past. He returns to the others and tells them that Pandemonium is in an abandoned film lot. The team heads there, with Balkatar reminding Tigra of her duty here. When the team enters the lot, they get caught in a trap that separates them and sends them into two different chambers, which none of their powers allows them to get through. Pandemonium appears on video screens, boasting to them, and Clint is happy to see that Bobbi is alright. Bobbi puts on her Mockingbird facepiece and grabs the amulet, smacking Pandemonium with it. He knocks out the cameras, but also loses control over the spells that helped to trap the Avengers. They break through the walls and find themselves under attack by Pandemonium’s hordes. Throughout this issue, it’s becoming clear that the Thing is happy on the team, while Tigra and Firebird continue to fire shots at each other, verbally. As Clint and Bonita move ahead of her, Balkatar shows Tigra a shortcut to get to Pandemonium; he encourages her to kill him. Bobbi keeps fighting Pandemonium, and gets him on the ground in an arm lock. Just then, Tigra jumps down from the ceiling and lands on Bobbi’s head, knocking her out, and making her drop the amulet. Tigra explains that she has to kill Pandemonium to restore her soul, but he manages to grab his amulet and use it to teleport away, ust as Bobbi comes to. The rest of the team arrives, and Clint is very happy to see that Bobbi is okay. Ben starts to talk, and says he’s decided to join the team (which doesn’t go over very well with Bonita).
The team are all happy that Ben is joining them, and Clint makes plans to hold a press conference on the coming Saturday at 3. By 4:00 on that day, when Ben still hasn’t shown up, he starts to get worried. Hank can’t find him at home or at the arena where he performs, so Clint sends Simon and Tigra to start looking for him. As Clint and Bobbi walk through the halls, they come across Bonita, who tells them she’s leaving. Clint is a little awkward around the fact that he didn’t give her a spot on the team, but Bonita says that she wants to go on retreat to try to figure out her powers (I guess she’s over looking for Master Pandemonium). Hank tells Clint that Simon has found She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura, before she got rocky), and they told him that after he collapsed in a fight, he busted out of the hospital he was taken to, and now is missing. Clint is angry, and tells Simon to check airports, and Tigra to check the train and bus stations. Clint goes out to tell the media that the Thing is missing, and that the WCA are looking for him. We see someone who could be Ben (in a trench coat and hat) at LAX, but when he sees Simon flying over, he takes off. Simon stops for a quick interview with a reporter from Variety, and doesn’t see Ben walking away from him. Clint calls Reed Richards, who is a little upset to learn that Ben was going to join the Avengers. Next, Clint calls the Wasp, who reveals to Hawkeye that the six-person cap on the team doesn’t exist anymore. Clint thinks it’s funny that he could have had both Ben and Bonita on the team. Hank tells them that they got a report of Ben being seen on the coast, north of Zuma Beach. Tigra checks a bus or train station, and just misses Ben. She flies off on a skycycle to rendez-vous with the others, and thinks about how she wants to kill Master Pandemonium. Ben tries to buy a ticket to New York, but learns he has to show ID, so instead he grabs a taxi. The Avengers converge on the beach, and find a thin cloaked man waiting for them. He reveals himself as Headlok, a villain with mind powers, who is in control of The Griffin. For whatever reason, he wants the Avengers dead, so he has the Griffin attack Simon. As they fight, Simon’s concentration wavers, and Headlok takes over his mind, turning him against Iron Man. Clint and Tigra try to fight off the Griffin, while Bobbi attempts to clear her mind and locate Headlok, who is playing with their perceptions. Tony drops a big rock on Simon, but can’t stop him. Tigra decides to try communicating with, or seducing, the Griffin. Bobbi figures out where Headlok is, and tries to lead Clint to him. Headlok starts to mess with their heads, and Clint somehow goes flying through the air when he turns on a rocket arrow. He snaps his bow upon landing, and finds Bobbi kneeling over Headlok, who is out cold. She can’t remember what happened, and as the rest of the team, with the now docile Griffin, joining them, they are just missed by a big flying rock. A little ways off, Ben is standing in the shadows. He tells the team that he is the one who took out Headlok, and that he’s leaving and to not ask him why. Clint wishes him luck, and Ben, who we didn’t see once in this issue close-up, walks away (apparently while tearing up).
Bobbi receives an upsetting phone call, and slams down the phone, which concerns Hank, since he’s been debugging the compound’s systems, and thinks that might cause more problems. She’s upset because she just talked to a friend at SHIELD about the problems that organization’s been having, and how the media has been treating them. She wants to go see Nick Fury, since he’s in town. Tony is worried that since the Avengers have a restricted clearance, they might not be able to get in. Bobbi is sure she can bring them as guests. They ask Simon if he wants to come, but he has filming that day, and Tigra is going with him. Clint, Bobbi, and Tony, dressed in street clothes, arrive at the hair studio that serves as a cover for SHIELD. Josyane, the woman who runs the place, is Bobbi’s friend, and she whisks them into a back room where they change into their uniforms while the two women talk about Bobbi’s new haircut (which Clint doesn’t like – this becomes a thing all issue) and Fury’s bad mood. When the heroes recline on spa chairs and descend into the SHIELD base below the shop, dozens of guards start shooting at them. The three Avengers fight them off, until Fury comes in the room yelling. He’s not happy to see them there, and takes some shots at Tony Stark (who he doesn’t know is in the room) for not selling them weapons. Bobbi provides a recap of her time at SHIELD, and the work she did in ferreting out traitors and infiltrators for Fury. We learn that Fury is mad at her for not returning to the organization, and he takes more shots at Iron Man. He wants the heroes to leave, but does make a small attempt at reconciling with Bobbi as the three climb out of a grate into an alley, where their skycycle is waiting. Someone sees them leaving, and reports in to someone else in a payphone. Elsewhere, Simon is filming a big scene in the Arkon movie, that has him revealing his ionic energy eyes on camera. The director, who is still a ridiculous stereotype, loves it. Tigra is annoyed when Christy starts chatting with Simon, so she goes off to flirt with the director. Hank heads to the hall of records to investigate Anvil Studios, the place that Master Pandemonium was using as a base, but finds that all records pertaining to it have mysteriously burned away, inside the records books. He takes some of the charred papers to study. Bobbi is telling Clint that she feels let down by Nick Fury, and Clint talks to Tony about his regrets around Firebird. Just then, a villain named Shockwave attacks Iron Man, overloading his systems. Somehow Clint is going to crash the skycycle because of this, and as he tries to land, Razorfist and Zaran the Weapons Master jump out of nowhere and attack him and Bobbi. There are a few pages of fighting, during which time Tony struggles to keep his armor working as Shockwave keeps overloading it. Clint fights Zaran, while Bobbi takes on Razorfist. Zaran makes reference to a Monsieur Khruul, who the villains are working for (this is a deep cut character who was only ever seen in Englehart’s Avengers run, around the time that Mantis was on the team). Tony finally gets Shockwave on the ground, and starts to choke him, telling him that if he fries the Iron Man suit, his weight will kill him. He headbutts him. Bobbi gets Razorfist down, and he reveals that the three of them represent the Blood Tong of Hong Kong, who are looking to take over crime in America. Bobbi knocks him out. Zaran grabs the unconscious Shockwave (Tony can’t stop him because he’s rebooting his armor), and jumps into a flying car and takes off, yelling about the Blood Tong. When Bobbi turns back, she sees that Razorfist is gone. The heroes gather, and while Tony suggests they get in touch with the East Coast team, Clint wants to go back and warn Fury. Bobbi says they should do it through regular channels, because she doesn’t want to offend Fury’s pride or something. They all leave on the skycycle (Tony still can’t fly), and don’t notice a card that fell out of Shockwave that lists the three of them as targets, and identifies their true employer as SHIELD. A text box mentions an upcoming SHIELD limited series, but I’m not sure that any of this stuff ever got touched on again. It certainly was never mentioned in this book.
I can’t think of any other character in comics who has had a worse string of costumes than Wonder Man, but the look he debuts in issue twelve is particularly hideous. This is the green, red, and yellow costume with the stylized W on the front, the jetpacks on his shoulders, and where he stopped wearing glasses and dyed his hair that weird blue that is supposed to represent black or brown. He shows off this new look to the team, who generally like it. Clint points out that he’s gotten rid of the long sleeves on his costume, to better adapt to the LA weather. Bobbi excuses herself, and comes back in her new look, which is her old costume, only without anything on her legs. They joke about Tony needing a new look, and remind Tigra that she doesn’t change to her human self any more. She talks about feeling most comfortable as Tigra, especially in the LA sun, and we see that somewhere in some mountains, someone in a cape is bending light rays so he can watch Tigra. Bobbi pulls Tigra aside to talk to her about her identity issues, and Tigra goes off on her, and when mentioning that the Cat-People are going to help her without any strings, makes Bobbi suspicious. Next, Tigra goes to see Simon, and tries to cuddle up to him. He tells her he’s interested in Christy, and Tigra reacts badly. She especially doesn’t like it when Simon brings up Hank. Next Tigra comes across Tony, and starts flirting with him. He turns her down, because he’s still feeling guilty for putting the moves on Jan after her divorce with Hank. Tigra gets mad again, and goes to tell Hank it’s over between them, but when she finds him, she starts making out with him instead. In space, a generic old school Captain Atom looking guy flies towards Earth. A nuclear power plant starts to meltdown, but it’s because a woman with nuclear powers frees herself from the reactor. When she walks outside, she somehow summons the energy being Zzzax from the nearby power wires. Clint and Hank talk about the burned pages Hank found, and how things with him and Tigra are going well. Tigra runs around in the trees, talking to herself about getting rid of her Greer Nelson personality. She falls from the trees, which surprises her. The Captain Atom guy, who the cover tells us is named Quantum, shows up in LA and starts yelling in an alien language. Zzzax and Halflife (that’s the woman) arrive too. The cops call in the Avengers, and Hank gathers the team, except for Tigra, who doesn’t show up. They scramble their quinjet and head downtown. Simon takes on Quantum, who can Multiple Man himself, while Clint prepares to stop Zzzax the same way he’s done before. When Halflife touches Bobbi, she ages immediately. Simon helps Clint open up a water main, so he can use an arrow with a cable attached to ground Zzzax. Tony tries to help Bobbi, but Halflife makes his armor age too. Finally, Simon, who is essentially immortal and therefore immune to her aging touch, grabs her and knocks her out. Clint uses a smoke arrow to block Quantum from the sun, which weakens him and makes him easier to take down. Clint feels proud of his team, but just as Tony is about to figure something out about their foes, a force pushes the heroes to the ground. Graviton has arrived (representing the fourth fundamental force in the universe), and he has Tigra on a leash.
Graviton has the Avengers prisoner on an island he keeps floating high above the Earth. Bobbi and Clint are in an energy cage, while his gravity keeps Simon and Tony pushed into the ground. He still has Tigra on a leash, and he’s flanked by Quantum and Halflife, and there are about a dozen guards who work for him. He brags about how powerful he is, and then recaps his origin and his two earlier defeats at the hands of the Avengers. He admits he has a thing for Tigra, and that’s what made him decide to seek out beings that represent the other forces of the Unified Field Theory. He sent messages into space on light, and was able to recruit Quantum and Halflife (who is also an alien; no explanation is made of how she speaks English or how she came to be inside a nuclear power plant). Now he wants Tigra to be with him, and while the others object to the way he is speaking to her, Tigra ends up kissing him, and immediately chastising herself for being attracted to him. Graviton heads into his base to talk with the others, leaving the Avengers under guard. Bobbi tries to call on the East Coast team, but Graviton senses the radio signals she is sending from her hidden radio, and diverts them. In LA, Hank is visiting occult bookstores trying to track down Master Pandemonium. An old store clerk claims to have never heard of the Darkhold or Pandemonium, which makes Hank suspicious. A demon emerges from behind the man, and says that she is going to follow Hank to learn what his intent is. Graviton tries to convince Tigra that they should be together, but she rejects him. He leaves her in a gravity bubble to think about his offer. She starts to think that she should join him, and then realizes that she is losing control of herself completely. She uses her amulet to turn back to Greer Nelson. A guard notices her and approaches; he’s able to enter the gravity bubble, and explains it’s because all of the guards wear a box that neutralizes the effects of Graviton’s power. She attacks him to get it, and while she’s not as good a fighter in human form (despite the fact that it was already established that the amulet only makes her appear human), she manages to take the guy out. She takes his box and uniform and finds Halflife. She tells her that Quantum is going to destroy her. She then goes and tells Quantum that Halflife is going to destroy him. The two aliens start fighting, drawing a lot of attention to themselves. Graviton orders his guards to help him, and Greer uses that chance to knock out the two guards still watching the Avengers. She uses their boxes to free Clint and Bobbi, who then attach the boxes to Tony and Simon, letting them get up. Graviton, Quantum, and Halflife are locked together, which sends their powers a little wild. They knock Quantum off the floating island, and Halflife disappears. The island starts flying quickly towards space. Tony is not able to slow it with his armor, so they decide they have to fly away. Simon tries to bring Graviton with him, but he refuses. The guards pile onto Simon and Tony’s feet, while they carry their teammates, and fly down towards the ground. Graviton stays on the island as it approaches the edge of the atmosphere. After the Avengers drops the guards off at the local police station, Clint praises Tigra for her good work. She gets upset and says she only wants to be called Greer from now on, but then also admits that she has to change back to Tigra if she wants to stay an Avenger. She feels confident that she can stay in control of herself now. At the Avengers’ Compound, the demon watches Hank as he packs a baseball bat and ball for a trip to Kansas.
The Kansas trip is for the first East Coast/West Coast baseball game, shown in Avengers Annual #15 (by Danny Fingeroth, Steve Ditko, and Klaus Janson). Their game is interrupted by Freedom Force, who are there to arrest the Avengers. After a long fight, they are taken to The Vault, where they learn that Henry Peter Gyrich and Valerie Cooper are behind the charges. Someone has betrayed the Avengers and provided evidence that they are breaking laws, and this has given Gyrich the opportunity to pursue his vendetta against the team. Spider-Woman (the Julia Carpenter black-suit version) sneaks the teams out, and they agree that they will find the person who betrayed them and deal with this nonsense.
In the first West Coast Avengers Annual, the combined teams (our regular crew, with Captain America, Captain Marvel, Black Knight, Hercules, and the Wasp), and Hank, continue to make their way through the Rocky Mountains, evading the government. They gather in a cave to discuss who their possible traitor might be, rejecting many former members because of where they are now, and whittling down a potential list (as they talk, we see a shadowy figure in the background). They disperse to go check on these different old friends (without showing us how they all get out of the mountains and to these different places without a jet or anything). Tony calls on James Rhodes, who offers to suit up and join them. Tigra chats with She-Hulk, who is with the Fantastic Four now. Hawkeye calls up Black Panther, who decides to come help. Thor is living as Sigurd Jarlson at this point, and when Hercules comes to see him, insists on getting involved. Captain America checks on Falcon, who also suits up. Wasp calls up Beast, who is working with X-Factor, and doesn’t really want to get involved. Mockingbird goes to see the Black Widow, who also offers to join in – they both think about the fact that they’ve been in relationships with Clint. Simon goes to visit Vision and Scarlet Witch, who are at home with their newborns. Simon insists they stay home, and as he leaves, it’s clear that Wanda suspects who the traitor might be. The teams, and their inactive friends, gather in a cabin in upstate New York, where Captain Marvel tells them that she couldn’t find Quicksilver. Suspicion falls on him, with both Clint and Thor backing him. Thor suspects Hank, and Jan defends her ex-husband. Quicksilver turns up and tells them that he is the one who revealed their secrets (which were mostly lies) to the government, as an act of vengeance. He’s upset that he was never a bigger part of the team, and so he wants them destroyed (really, it’s hard to sell his motivation here). He’s set up threats for the Avengers in three places – the circus where they first fought together, their New York mansion, and in the Sentinel installation where Pietro almost died. He runs off, and the team decides to split into three groups to deal with whatever he’s planned, leaving Hank behind. It seems that Pietro has hired the Zodiac (at least, the LMD version of that organization) and left four of them in each location. He arrives to check on the ones outside Avengers Mansion (Gemini, Cancer, Taurus, and Aries). Inside the Mansion, Henry Peter Gyrich and Freedom Force are waiting. Pietro orders Freedom Force away, and Gyrich agrees with him. The East Coast team try to sneak into the Mansion via their submarine tunnel, but Pietro has the Zodiac waiting. There’s a fight that spills out into Central Park. The team defeats the Zodiac, and Gyrich’s men start firing on them. They escape back through the tunnels, and Pietro gets away. Hank goes to visit Vision and Wanda. In Arizona, Pietro joins more of the Zodiac (Leo, Libra, Gemini, and Scorpio), and they attack a travelling circus. The West Coast team arrives and do terribly against them. They manage to take down the Zodiac, but Iron Man’s armor is disabled, and Simon and Clint get knocked out. Wanda suits up, wanting to go track down her brother, but Vision objects. Pietro joins the rest of the Zodiac (Sagittarius, Pisces, Capricorn, and Aquarius) in Australia, where they break into the old Sentinel facility, believing it to be an Australian research bunker now. It’s abandoned except for the remaining Avengers – Black Panther, Thor, Falcon, Black Widow, and Iron Man (James Rhodes). They fight, but because this unit hasn’t trained together, have some problems. The rest of the Avengers arrive, and are hit with a strange energy. Pietro stands above them on a rock, explaining that he has a particle beam weapon that, if he pushes a trigger, could kill them all. As he’s about to set it off, Vision arrives. He has a ruby that he sends a solar beam through. It shows him a hologram of his new nephews. Vision talks to him about how Tommy and Billy need their uncle, and Pietro races off. Vision explains to the others that Hank came to see him. With everything done, Clint tries to get the baseball game started again, and everyone is mad at him.
Clint and Tigra are sparring, but she loses her temper and then loses control of herself again. The team has to jump in to pull her off Clint, but it’s only Hank who seems to be able to calm her down at all. She uses her amulet to turn herself back into Greer again, and decides she can never be Tigra again. Hank goes after her when she walks away, and tries to convince her that she can regain the life she had before she became Tigra. As they declare their love for one another, the demon we saw following Hank before the Annuals appears, with a ton of other demons with her. Master Pandemonium is sitting on his chair, talking to himself about how he still can’t find “the five” when Azmodeus comes flying out of his amulet to tell him that there are a lot of demons around. They teleport to them, and the Master is surprised to find the demons fighting the Avengers. The demon, Allatou, assumes that he’s there because he’s working with the Avengers, while Tigra worries that she won’t be able to kill him as Greer Nelson. Bobbi and Simon fight Pandemonium while Clint and Tony focus on the demons. Allatou grabs Hank and Greer and teleports away. Azmodeus and Pandemonium leave next, leaving the four Avengers to admit they need some specialized help. Clint suggests they head to San Francisco. In that city, Daimon Hellstrom and his wife Patsy, the former Defenders known as the Son of Satan and Hellcat, return to their home to find the Avengers waiting on the stoop. The Hellstroms have retired from the superhero game, and are now occult investigators. They agree to help, after Daimon explains why there are so many devil-themed characters in the Marvel Universe. They change into their superhero outfits – Hellstrom is now going by Hellstorm, and has a very traditional caped look. Hellstrom opens a portal to the demon realm, and just after the heroes have teleported, Pandemonium and Azmodeus fly through the window and jump into the fading portal. In the demon realm, Allatou has Hank and Greer in a cage; she now realizes that Hank doesn’t work for her enemy, but is still happy to have her horde terrorize them. Greer decides she needs to turn into Tigra, but she can’t. This makes her realize that being stuck as Greer is actually her greatest fear. The Avengers and their friends arrive, and start fighting the demons. Pandemonium arrives as well, and there’s a general level of chaos as they all fight again. Allatou tries to take over Simon’s body, but can’t. When Pandemonium turns his limbs into demons, Patsy can’t fight him, and needs help from Clint. Allatou knocks the land that her enemies are standing on loose, including the cage that Hank and Greer are in. They all collapse onto a boat, which comes loose from the shore. Daimon stops Tony from flying off, pointing out that on the River of Death, they are only safe so long as they stay on the boat, and have to hope that it comes to shore on its own. Pandemonium is with them, and Allatou finds this all kind of funny.
The Avengers, Hellstorm, Hellcat, and Master Pandemonium (but not Azmodeus, his sometime companion) have been floating on the boat in Hell for over three days, but no one is getting tired or hungry. They finally talk about their situation, with Greer talking about how her inability to turn into Tigra confirms that she wants to be Tigra. She picks a fight with Patsy about the fact that she’s wearing her old costume (I’d have thought human Greer would be less confrontational), and then Daimon decides to turn it all on Pandemonium. Bobbi confronts him, and has him tell the rest of his story. We learn that the ‘five’ that he’s always talking about are the five pieces of his soul that Mephisto gave to different demons to safeguard. Even though Pandemonium is ranting about killing them if they try to stop him, Daimon starts to compare notes. Just then, the boat crashes through a wall in a cavern, and they all find themselves in The Land Within, the home of the Cat-People. This makes them realize that the Cat-People are actually demons, and Pandemonium senses that part of his soul is there. Patsy takes off her mask, thinking it wise not to advertise her cat-theme, while the Cat-People bring them to shore. An unnamed Cat-Person is upset that Tigra returned to them with outsiders, and she learns that her amulet is working again, so despite her vow to never become Tigra again, she becomes Tigra. They are all taken to the King, where it’s revealed that Tigra promised to kill Master Pandemonium. The Avengers treat her as if she actually had killed him, and Tigra gets mad. Daimon comes to her defense. Pandemonium learns that the king (who never gets named again) holds part of his soul in a jar, and talks about how the Cat-People became demons. Tigra agrees to fight Pandemonium, so they move to an arena, where the Cat-People tear his demon limbs off of him, leaving him lying in the dirt. Tigra decides that she can’t kill him, so the King takes away her Tigra soul (which is what she wanted anyway), and all of the outsiders are locked up while they wait for the Balkatar to return. They are locked up with all of their weapons, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, and Patsy gives Greer her costume, saying it was meant for her anyway. Balkatar returns and learns of what happened, and freaks out that Hellcat is there with them. Just then, Greer, wearing the Cat costume, confronts him, and we see that all of the Avengers, who are now maybe working with Pandemonium, have entered the throne room. There is some fighting, while Balkatar talks to Greer about the day they spent together. She realizes he’s trying to seduce her, but it doesn’t work, and she starts to fight him (apparently the costume augments her strength and speed). She manages to tie Balkatar up, and the king gets more angry. One of the Cat-People suggests that the king free the Tigra soul, so Greer tries to grab the jar it’s in. It breaks, and re-enters her body. She transforms back into Tigra, shredding the Cat costume in the process, but now is much changed – she’s stronger and faster, her thoughts are clear, and she appears to have more stripes. She realizes that she is in complete control, and tells the king that they should all just leave. Pandemonium smashes the other jar, and retrieves one fifth of his soul, snapping it back into place in his stomach. He tells the Avengers that he’s still going to do whatever it takes to get the rest of his soul back, and he jumps out of the castle, back into the river, and leaves. The king, now friendly with Hellstorm, tells him that they don’t know where the river leads. The rest of the team decide that this mission is over, and Tigra tells them that she is at peace. Clint wants to head back to the Hellstroms’ for a barbecue.
Issue sixteen opens with Tigra jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, not because she’s trying to kill herself, but because she wants to prove to herself that she’s over her cat-like fear of water. Patsy helps fish her out of the water and into Daimon’s boat. It seems that Hank and Tigra have stayed in San Francisco, hanging out with the Hellstroms for a bit. They notice that the Harbour Patrol is chasing someone, and get involved. Patsy pulls Tiger Shark out of the water, and he attacks them. Tigra and Patsy (who is wearing her Hellcat costume) fight him while Daimon tries to keep the boat under control, and Hank feels useless. The women figure out that his costume holds water in it, and rip it open, so he is weakened. They manage to tie him up, and hand him over to the police. As he leaves, Tiger Shark takes a shot at Hank, commenting on how he helped Egghead ruin him. Hank explains to the Hellstroms how he had his breakdown as Yellowjacket, got divorced, and then got played by Egghead, which landed him in jail for a bit, until he was able to help the Avengers defeat the Masters of Evil. Hank assures them that now he’s quite happy with his life. They return to the Hellstroms’, where Patsy and Daimon retire for some alone time together. Tigra takes that chance to tell Hank that she doesn’t want to stay with him, because she has to explore her new, integrated self. He’s understanding, but after she leaves the room, he starts ranting to himself, and almost smashes a lamp. Then he gets himself under control. Back in LA, the rest of the Avengers hang out in one of the bungalows, where Simon is cooking pasta. Clint talks about checking in on Firebird and perhaps recruiting her to the team. Hank tells the Hellstroms and Tigra that he wants to catch Whirlwind, who Tiger Shark mentioned is in town too. Later, Whirlwind makes a play for a prototype device that the police are moving, not realizing that he’s being herded into a trap Hank has arranged. He starts to fight Tigra and Hellcat, and after a couple of pages, runs up to a roof, where he finds Hank waiting for him. As the women climb the building, Whirlwind rants about Hank, making him feel like a loser. Hank loses his temper and charges at him, falling off the building. Luckily Patsy is able to catch him, and Tigra sneaks up behind Whirlwind and captures him. He yells at Hank to remember what he said, but Hank, smiling, tells Patsy he doesn’t know what that’s about. The next morning, Tigra goes to get Hank so they can head back to LA, and finds him staring at the Golden Gate Bridge out a window, and it’s implied that he’s considering suicide.
The Avengers prepare to head to Albuquerque to look for Firebird, while Hank stands around looking sad. Tigra is not sure about inviting Bonita onto the team, but Bobbi points out how much Tigra has changed, and suggests that Bonita be given the same opportunity. Clint once again asks Hank if he’d rather be on the team, and he refuses again. The Avengers head out, and Hank, still thinking about what Whirlwind said to him, prepares to kill himself. As the Avengers fly to New Mexico, Tony talks about how Hank was in the Avengers’ early days; Simon comments that he was never right for their lifestyle. The team lands at the Albuquerque airport. Hank gathers the compound’s gardeners to tell them that he’s left them detailed instructions in his bungalow, if they ever need them. The Avengers walk down the middle of the street in Albuquerque, drawing attention to themselves. Tigra decides that if they show up at Bonita’s door in costume, they will cause a stir, so she has Clint buy her some clothes off a convenient sidewalk stall. I’m not sure what Tony does with his armor, but the rest of the team changes into civilian clothes (in an alley?) and walk past some cacti to Bonita’s building. She’s not home, and her landlord tells them she’s not been seen for forty days. Tigra has Clint pay her rent. Hank sits down and starts writing letters to the Avengers; we see his ones to Tony and Tigra. The Avengers head to the social services office where Bonita works, only to learn that she was fired after not returning to work. Next, they go to the church she usually worships at, and learns that the priest perhaps saw her there about forty days ago, praying and lighting candles. The team heads outside the church and changes back into their uniforms. Just then they are attacked by four new villains – Sunstroke, Gila, Butte, and Cactus (who is a big walking cactus). They start to fight, and we learn from Sunstroke that they work for someone named Dominus, who made them (only Sunstroke was human – the others are, I guess, an evolved gila monster, an animated pile of rocks, and a sentient cactus). We also learn that Tony fears that Simon thinks he’s over the hill, and has to prove himself. Just as they manage to take the villains down, a ‘force projection’ picks them up and flies them away. Tony tries his best to follow, and adjusts his sensors to track Sunstroke’s infrared emissions, radioing the others to follow in the quinjet. Hank finishes writing his letters – one to every Avenger ever, including the ones he barely knows – and then goes to call Jan on the videoscreen. He tells her that he’s sorry for how their marriage ended, and Jan figures that there’s something wrong. She wants to talk to Clint, but Hank tells her he’s alone and ends the call. Iron Man tracks the villains to a big hill in the desert, and discovers a cave entrance. The others join him as he enters, and finds the four villains waiting. Their leader, Dominus appears, explaining that he’s following up on the mission of his fellow alien, Lucifer, who failed to enslave the Earth. He had his minions watching Firebird, who he thought was the only threat to him, but is happy to have captured the Avengers. He hits a switch, and we see that they have been standing on the platform of Doctor Doom’s time machine. Dominus sends them into the past, explaining that the device can only go backwards in time. Hank sits with a gun in his hand, preparing to shoot himself. Just as he’s about to pull the trigger, he is joined by Bonita, now wearing a flowing robe and calling herself La Espirita. She says she’s there to bring him hope from God.
As the Avengers twirl through a time tornado, La Espirita stops Hank from killing himself. She talks about all the great things he’s done as a scientist and hero, but he argues that his various attempts at heroism make him a four-time loser. She tells him that he has to embrace his true nature, and that she is going to stay with him to reclaim his life. Hank drops the gun and sobs. The Avengers find themselves in the desert still, only they don’t know when. Bobbi freaks out a little, but Clint calms her by recapping the previous issue. Tony looks at the controls on Doom’s time machine, and figures out that it’s broken, and can only send them backwards in time. He’s not sure if he can fix it, but Simon insists that he can probably do the job, reminding everyone that he was a scientist too, and threatening Tony’s fragile ego in the process. Clint hears some yelling in the distance and recognizes the voice. Clint’s old friends, The Two-Gun Kid, The Rawhide Kid, and The Phantom Rider are fighting a large group of gunmen on horses who were attacking a stagecoach. We see the three Western heroes scare off the villains, before Two-Gun notices the Avengers. He knows Clint from his adventure in their time, and from when he came to the present for a while. Clint makes introductions, and asks them what year it is. They learn they are in 1876. Simon asks if there’s a blacksmith in town (they are just outside of Tombstone), and decides to fly the time machine to him to see if he can help fix it. Two-Gun explains that they are up against a group of villains – Iron Mask, Hurricane, The Rattler, Red Raven, Doctor Danger, and The Fat Man – who have taken on identities inspired by the Avengers’ fight with Kang back in the day. Clint offers to help out, and Tigra jumps on Rawhide’s horse, while Bobbi rides with the Phantom Rider, and Clint goes with Two-Gun. Tony flies ahead, hoping to locate the villains they are looking for. Clint and Matt chat about how Matt is enjoying being back in his time. Rawhide tells Tigra that he’s a little afraid of her, while Bobbi finds the Phantom Rider to be a terrible conversationalist (he insists that she is a goddess). Simon arrives at the smithy, where he meets the blacksmith, named Boom-Boom, who doesn’t seem too freaked out to see him flying in. Tony senses something travelling underground, but can’t pinpoint it exactly. He meets up with the others, and they head towards the hidden entrance (which is just a cave, again) where the gang of villains, and their many hired guns, are hiding. They all start fighting, and the old-timey villains are more skilled than expected. Clint takes down Fat Man and Doctor Danger, while Bobbi is saved from Iron Mask by the Phantom Rider. Tigra takes out both Rattler and Hurricane, while Tony rips Red Raven’s wings off him. When it looks like the heroes have won, Iron Mask calls forth The Living Totem, which is an alien made of wood that looks like a cross between a tiki statue and a cigar, with tiny wooden legs. It’s pretty easy for the Avengers to bury it. Later, they go with the local heroes to put all these villains in jail. The sheriff mentions that Simon is at the smithy’s, so they head there next. Simon explains that he can’t fix the broken transistors in the time machine. Tony offers some from his armor, but Simon says they aren’t the right kind. Simon’s plan is for the team to move further back in time, to seek out Pharoah Rama-Tut, who he knows the Fantastic Four once fought, and who is also actually Kang. He thinks that Rama-Tut can help them fix the machine. The Phantom Rider thinks it’s a bad idea, but after Clint approves the plan, Bobbi stands by him. They all get on the platform and say their goodbyes, but just as it begins to work, the Phantom Rider punches Bobbi in the face, knocking her out, and kidnaps her. As he rides away, the Avengers disappear, with Clint yelling her name.
The four Avengers find themselves in the desert again, a hundred years ahead of when they left. Clint insists they go back for Bobbi, but Simon and Tony explain that they can’t. Tigra asks how they know they’re in the year they were aiming for, just as a large group of Spanish soldiers on horseback approach them. In 1876, the Phantom Rider feeds some “Indian herbal potions” into the unconscious Bobbi, and then tells the long story of how his brother became the Night Rider, and how he, Lincoln Slade, took up his mantle after he died, using his trick costume (apparently, the suit is reflective, and the inside of the cape black, so he is able to hide parts of his body with it, but it also brings some spirits to him or something. Bobbi wakes up, and declares her love for Lincoln. In the present (aka 1987), Hank and Bonita are still talking. She gets him to explain how Pym Particles work, and when he demonstrates on an ant, the rapid size changing kills it. In 1776, the Avengers fight the Spanish soldiers. Simon gathers up all their rifles and powder horns, and squeezes them, causing them to explode. The powder burns Clint’s face and arm, and he passes out. Tony takes charge, and has Simon grab the time machine while he flies Clint and Tigra away. They find a cave in some mountains to rest in. Clint’s burns are serious enough to need medical help. Simon comes up with the idea of messing with time some more, and Tony lectures him. Clint says that they need to find a doctor, and just then, a woman enters the cave. In 1876, we see that the Two-Gun Kid and Rawhide Kid are searching for Bobbi. They spot some fake tracks, and are confronted by the Phantom Rider. He insists that Bobbi is his goddess, and starts to fight them, using his weird trick costume to make it look like he doesn’t have a head. Bobbi jumps into the fight, helping Lincoln to defeat them. In 1776, the Avengers meet Carlotta Valdez, who Clint figures out is the woman that Bonita had visions of earlier on. He learns that she has visions of Firebird, and her new La Espirita look. Clint takes a piece of the petticoat that Carlotta is using to bandage his burns (which are definitely not on his face, by the way), to write a note to Bonita (luckily he has an inkjet arrow in his quiver) telling her to tell the Fantastic Four that they are going to Rama-Tut’s Egypt. He asks Carlotta to keep the cloth in her family bible so that one day, Bonita will receive it. Carlotta tells them that she’s heading to California soon, and Clint tells her to watch her back, referencing the way he knows she’s going to die. Clint still wants to head for Egypt, so they can use the time machine to get to Rama-Tut’s time, where he can fix their time machine. In 1876, Lincoln and Bobbi return to his secret cave to kiss. Bobbi finds the arrowhead that Clint left there a century before, and decides to keep it with her because it’s familiar to her drugged mind. In the present, Hank suggests that he and Bonita get something to eat. She awkwardly mentions that she left her bible in a front room, and as they walk off, we see that Clint’s note is sticking out of it.
Tony carries Clint and Tigra, while Simon carries the time machine, and they’ve flown as far as Indiana, on their way to Egypt. They recap a bit, and we see that Clint is getting worse as they travel. Tony decides they should stop in Philadelphia to look for a doctor for him. Clint is still putting hope in the message he gave to Carlotta. Tigra jumps over to Simon to tell him off for being so difficult, and constantly butting heads with Tony and Clint. A month later in the timeline, Carlotta is travelling with her aunt and a priest, arguing over how bold she is. She decides to ride with the Spanish soldiers accompanying them, and we relive the attack we saw before, including seeing her get shot in the back. As she is dying, she confesses to the priest that she’s had impure thoughts, and that she wants the priest to protect Clint’s note for her. The Avengers arrive in Philly. Tigra stays in an alley with Clint while Simon and Tony steal some clothes to blend in, and look for a doctor. Tony’s excited to be in pre-Revolutionary Philly, but knows that he has no time to look around. He just misses running into Doctor Strange, Clea, and Ben Franklin. In 1876, the Phantom Rider takes Bobbi to Lordsburg, New Mexico, where he is the marshall. He changes into his regular clothes, and has her hide while he goes to buy her a dress. He heads to his office, where he also lives, and sneaks Bobbi in through a window. She kicks him out of the room, and changes into the dress he bought. She finds Clint’s arrowhead, and decides to wear it as part of a necklace. Lincoln takes her out to show her around town. We see that Rawhide Kid and Two-Gun Kid are still looking for her. The Avengers fly across the Atlantic. Clint says he’s feeling better after having seen a doctor. They approach England, and keep trying to think up other possible time travellers they can find. In the present, Bonita is still chatting with Hank. She picks up her bible, and Clint’s note falls out of it, but she just stuffs it back in without reading it. She wants Hank to tell her about Ultron-1. The Avengers arrive in Egypt in 1776, where they land in front of the Sphinx. They are immediately attacked by some very stereotypical-looking guys with curved swords, and have to fight them off while Simon readies the time machine. We see that Clint is struggling again. With the platform turned on, they jump through time again, arriving in 2920 BC, where they once again get into an immediate fight with the locals. They are stopped by Shamaz, the high priest of Pharaoh Rama-Tut. He can speak English (having learned it from the Fantastic Four, apparently), and explains that Rama-Tut is about to enter into suspended animation so he can travel to the future. Clint explains that he and Tony will be there when he wakes up (referencing an older Avengers adventure), and insists that they meet with him now. When Simon threatens to hurt Shamaz, he tells them that Rama-Tut is in the pyramid. They go to him, but find him entering into his trance, which makes him seem dopey and slow. He tells them to go back further in time, so his younger self can help them, and then he goes to sleep. Clint tells the others that the younger Rama-Tut is going to be a problem, and that he himself is too weak to keep running the show. He appoints Tony interim chairman and then passes out. Simon is butthurt that he didn’t get the job, and Tigra insists on carrying Clint. They head outside and use the time machine again, to land in 2940 BC, where they are immediately zapped by Rama-Tut and his ultra-diode ray.
The Statement of Ownership for 1986 states that this title had an average press run of 443 000, with average newsstand returns of 195 000.
Rama-Tut rants over the fallen Avengers, who he seems to think are natives of Egypt. The team are all immobile because of his ray, so he stands over them and talks about living in the year 3000 and studying the heroes of a thousand years before (whom he doesn’t appear to recognize, even though he name-drops the WCA), then building a time machine shaped like a sphinx and returning to Ancient Egypt to rule it. He orders his guards to come and drag the Avengers to one of the “discredited” temples for disposal. The guards take them to the Temple of Khonshu and leave them with the priests there, who then leave them lying in front of a statue of their god. In 1876, after Phantom Rider and Mockingbird have apparently killed a bunch of people (thieves, perhaps?), Bobbi shudders, as if the thing that has happened to Clint has happened parallel to her time, instead of thousands of years before. She wants to be alone for a while, and rides away from Lincoln, who is sure she still loves him. Two-Gun Kid and Rawhide Kid watch from a nearby cliff, and we learn that Matt just felt the same chill. In 1776, Carlotta is buried by the priest, who then agrees to accompany Carlotta’s aunt back to Mexico. He vows to keep her bible and use it every day. In 1847, a young woman named Isabel enters a church to pray, and the priest reminds her that she isn’t allowed to touch the bible on a stand. She argues that it used to belong to her great-aunt, and that her family founded the church. She says she’d like to be a priest, if it was allowed, and the priest laughs at her and walks away. She touches the bible anyway, and finds Clint’s note to Bonita in it. When she reads it, she has a cosmic vision of some sort, and decides that she needs to steal and hide the bible. Clint has a vision of his own, and a conversation with the god Khonshu. He wants Clint to take “vengeance” on Rama-Tut for him, explaining that he hid their identities from the time traveller. He wants the Avengers to free him, and will fix Clint’s injuries. Clint wants him to also send them back to their own time, but the god says he’s not able to do things like that. Instead, he agrees to send a message to the Avengers in the present. In 1876, Bobbi thinks about things, meditating on the arrowhead she found. Just then, Two-Gun Kid, dressed in a close approximation of Clint’s costume, fires some arrows at her, trying to jog her memory. They fight, and after he pins her to a tree and holds the arrowhead in front of her, she remembers Clint and realizes what happened to her. As Two-Gun reveals himself, and is joined by Rawhide Kid, she asks if the Avengers have returned yet. They ride out together. In 2940 BC, the Avengers regain the ability to move, and Tony wonders if Simon is upset that Clint’s injuries are healed. The priests of Khonshu take them to a passage that leads to Rama-Tut’s sphinx. We see a gleam in the eye of Khonshu’s statue. In 1987, Moon Knight, who is in his “Fist of Khonshu” phase, stops some art thieves, and then receives a message from Khonshu. He calls Frenchy, his assistant, to plan a trip to California. In LA, Hank shows Bonita the finished device they built. His new Rover looks like the Blue Beetle’s Bug, and he intends to use it to fly, shoot flame or acid, and lift things. It has a limited AI. Hank also explains that he can use his size changing abilities to affect other things, just not himself anymore. He has a number of devices, like a crude camera drone, that he can carry into battle with him and use as needed. He says he wants to be called Doctor Pym now, and that he’s done with superhero identities. Bonita is happy for him, and makes reference to her “Christian fellowship” with him. He worries that means that she’s not into him, but she tells him she’s not a nun, and they make out. In the Arizona Desert, Dominus thinks about the Avengers, and worries that he’s overlooked something in defeating them.
Bobbi, Two-Gun Kid, and Rawhide Kid ride into Lordsburg, looking for Lincoln. They find he’s already cleared out of the Marshal’s office, so Bobbi leads them to his secret cave. He confronts them, but his usual tricks don’t work, since Bobbi knows them all. He jumps on his horse and escapes, and Bobbi insists that she be the only one to follow him. In 2940 BC, the priest of Khonshu leads the Avengers into the Sphinx, and gives them a map to help them avoid any detection devices. As they start walking through the futuristic complex, Clint notices how much Simon and Tony are taking shots at each other. They spy some robots dragging an unconscious Doctor Strange down a corridor, and decide they should go rescue him. A ton of robots try to block them, and as they fight them, other robots keep walking away with Doctor Strange, placing him in some sort of force shielded clear sarcophagus. Strange’s astral self is able to escape, and we learn that this story is continued in Doctor Strange #53, which I wrote about here. Since the Avengers can’t get through the force shield, they leave him to try to take control of the Sphinx. When they get to the control room, they see on a monitor that Rama-Tut is meeting with the Fantastic Four of a decade before (as seen in Fantastic Four #19). Hawkeye decides they should go rescue them, but they run into more robots to fight. In 1917, the aged Isabel Ramirez takes her granddaughter to a tree in Mexico where she hid the family bible decades before. She wants her granddaughter, Chica, to keep it, and starts to explain about the message she found in it. Just then they hear screaming – a nearby rope bridge has snapped, sending some boys to their deaths. One boy, Benito Juarez, is hanging on for dear life. Isabel helps him up, but then suffers a heart attack and dies. Young Chica swears that she will spend her life reading Isabel’s bible. In 2940 BC the Avengers fight through the robots, and then find themselves in a chamber full of Rama-Tut’s human guards, who they then have to fight as well. We see Rama-Tut escaping through a secret corridor. In 1987, Doctor Pym, the Scientific Adventurer (as he now calls himself, as he walks around dressed like The Shadow) and Bonita return to the compound after having taken Rover out for a spin. They are surprised to find Moon Knight standing behind a tree. Hank doesn’t believe he’s the real Moon Knight, so he tries to fight him, using his new shrunken tools (like a chainsaw and a shield), but Moon Knight is the better fighter and still manages to take him down. It’s then that Moon Knight explains he’s come to alert them to the message in Bonita’s bible, which she is fortunately carrying with her. He pulls out the note from Hawkeye; Hank rushes to call the Fantastic Four. In 2970, the Avengers make their way through the guards and down more corridors. They think they know where Rama-Tut is, but then the Sphinx starts to shake, and they see on a monitor that Rama-Tut has escaped in a shuttle. They rush to catch him. The Fantastic Four are at the site Tut launched from, but since Sue found the ‘optic nerve restorer’ they came there for, they decide to leave seconds before the Avengers reach the same chamber. An explosion rocks the Sphinx. Outside, Doctor Strange, who is also free, says goodbye to a woman and heads back to his own time. The Avengers survived the explosion, which only destroyed all of Rama-Tut’s technology. They fly out through the roof, just in time to see the Fantastic Four take their time platform back home. Simon is really upset that they are trapped in the past, and that they’ve failed, but Hawkeye still has faith in his message in the bible plan. In 1987, Hank calls the Fantastic Four (okay, Johnny is not there), and learns that Dominus and his squad just attacked the Four and destroyed their time machine.
Hank, Bonita, and Moon Knight have arrived at Four Freedoms Plaza to visit the Fantastic Four, where they see the damage that Dominus and his team caused. Hank is sure he can help Reed fix their time machine in a hurry, while the Thing dwells on his problems, and Franklin Richards plays with Rover. Invisible Woman is put off by Moon Knight’s air of mystery. When Ben drops some big wrecked piece of equipment, Hank saves the day by enlarging a brace to catch it. In 2940 BC, the Avengers find themselves fighting Rama-Tut’s people some more, who all apparently speak English, and who represent the ruling class. Clint says they should all retreat to the temple of Khonshu, but Simon disagrees. He tries to start a fight with Tony that Tigra breaks up. Once they are sealed in the temple, the priests explain that by allowing Doctor Strange to project his astral self, he was able to free the Fantastic Four, which in turn forced Rama-Tut to flee. Therefore, Clint kept his side of the bargain he made with Khonshu. Since the team is going to be sitting around for a while, Clint asks if he can carve some weapons for the priests, mentioning darts, boomerangs, and throwing irons, while Khonshu’s eye gleams. In 1987, Moon Knight thinks about his origin, how he adopted different personalities, lost his mind for a bit, quit being Moon Knight, and then returned to the temple and met the priests who gave him the weapons we now know that Hawkeye made. In 1876, Bobbi pursues Lincoln to a cliff which he often spoke of. He appears to be floating in the air, where he justifies his actions to her, but because she knows his tricks, she hits his actual body with her staves. They begin to fight, and Bobbi makes it clear how angry she is at the way he treated her. She knocks him off the cliff, and as he hangs on, he demands she lift him up. Instead, she lets him fall. In 1987, Ben and Bonita talk about the changes she’s undergone, and he tells her what happened to him since leaving the WCA. Hank and Reed finish fixing the time machine, and Hank turns down Reed’s offer to bring the FF. Moon Knight insists on accompanying Hank and Bonita to the past. In 2940 BC, Clint shows the priests the weapons he made, and just then the time platform appears (I guess this one can travel through space as well, although I’m not sure how Hank knew exactly where they’d be, or how they’ll get back, since it looked like the controls stayed in the 80s with Reed). Everyone is happy to see one another, and Clint mentions Carlotta to Bonita. Moon Knight is shocked to see that the priests of Khonshu are the same people he met in the 80s, and they point out that this is the House of Eternity. Clint thanks them, and they leave. In 1876, Bobbi watches some Comanche take Lincoln’s body into a cave, and their leader assures her that his spirit will live forever. Bobbi wonders about the Ghost Rider they met with the Rangers, who claimed to be Lincoln’s ghost, and thinks about what the Avengers would say about her letting Lincoln fall to his death. Just then, the Avengers arrive on horseback with Two-Gun and Rawhide. Clint and Bobbi embrace and kiss, and she tells Clint (who already knows the rest of the story) that Lincoln killed himself. As they get ready to leave, Clint offers to bring Two-Gun back with him, but he turns it down. The team heads forward in time, and Clint says it’s time to take down Dominus.
Dominus shows Sunstroke that his great “master machine”, positioned inside a mountain, is complete. He explains, at length, the failures of his predecessor, Lucifer, and recaps how he had Cactus surveilling Firebird, and then sent the WCA away through time. Just then, the WCA show up. We see the team, including Doctor Pym, Science Adventurer, Espirita, and Moon Knight make their way into the cave entrance to Dominus’s base, and check in all of their thoughts. Hank, still dressed in Shadow drag, is excited to be back in action, while Moon Knight is wondering if Khonshu is trying to tell him something by having him work with the team. Bobbi is thinking about the Phantom Rider of course, while the others are having more regular thoughts. They are confronted by Dominus’s team – Sunstroke, Gila, Butte, and Cactus, but learn that there are dozens of versions of the latter three. They all start to fight, with Tigra taking on some cacti, while Tony and Simon get into another pissing contest while fighting Buttes. Hank sends Bonita after Sunstroke (who she keeps calling Sunspot), and then attacks some Gilas with a baseball bat. Bobbi fights some Buttes and a Gila, and Clint notices how intense she seems. Moon Knight fights a cactus, and Bonita’s fight with Sunstroke seems headed for an impasse. He flees, flying up the inside of the mountain. All of the Avengers, having vanquished their foes, give chase, climbing a large spiral staircase. They find Sunstroke in the middle of a massive machine room. Dominus jumps out at them, and explains that it’s actually the big machine that holds his consciousness. The machine is designed to take over the minds of everyone on Earth, blasts the Avengers, and they all freeze. Dominus talks a lot, and sends Sunstroke away for something. The thing is, Moon Knight is not frozen. As he approaches Dominus, and hits him, the alien machine blasts him again, and again, the mind control doesn’t work. Dominus tries to shoot him, but misses, and Moon Knight grabs him. While the machine tries to figure out why it can’t control MK, it also starts to break apart. We learn that MK’s status as a schizophrenic (back when that word was still being used to mean multiple personality disorder, or dissociative identity disorder, if we want to be 2020 about it) is what protected him from the blast, although he was down to his last identity. The team is freed, and they all run out of the mountain (emerging at ground level, suggesting they climbed back down the long staircase) as the rock shatters, revealing a very phallic-shaped rocket that launches into space. Tony, Simon, and Bonita go after it, and as they reach the edge of the atmosphere, they are surprised to see that Bonita can still breathe. The jets on Simon’s back can’t though, and he starts to fall back to Earth. Tony decides he has to let Dominus go in order to catch Simon, grabbing him before he hits the Earth. Simon is angry at Tony, and they argue some more. The rest of the team gathers around them, and Clint suggests that they may have three new members on the team. He also declares it time for a barbecue. When the Avengers return to their compound (having gone back to Albuquerque for their quinjet), they find that Simon’s movie’s producer’s assistant is waiting for them. He’s upset that Simon has been gone for so long, and tells him that, with a month remaining before his movie comes out, he has to fix his image, specifically the ugly costume he’s been wearing. Simon objects at first, but realizes he has to listen to this guy. He then goes off when Tony suggests he do what he wants to do. Simon yells at all of his teammates, who leave him to start their barbecue. Simon suggests to the PA that he might be ready to leave the team.
WCA Annual #2 fits in here, and opens with the team playing baseball against the East Coast team again. We learn that Doctor Pym has joined the Avengers, but Espirita and Moon Knight haven’t, although they are there to watch the game. Simon has another new costume – the sleeveless 80s wrestler look. The WCA is ahead by four, and Thor is the last at-bat in the last inning, with the bases loaded. Simon strikes him out twice, but Thor hits the last ball, sending it right through the Houston Astrodome’s roof. It looks like the ball is returning, but it’s actually the Silver Surfer, who crashes through the roof. He fires some energy throughout the stadium, and then starts to explain that he’s there because he learned from the Champion (I really want to re-read the Englehart/Rogers run of his series) that the Avengers are in danger from one of the Elders of the Universe. As he talks to Clint about this, no one notices that the entire East Coast team has died in their dugout. The Surfer convinces the WCA that he is who he says he is, and that all that’s going on has to do with the Grandmaster, who died in Contest of Champions (which I’ve still never read). They suspect that he’s gambling with their friends’ lives, and decide to go with the Surfer to see the Collector, who was also part of the Contest. The Collector is expecting them, and explains some complicated thing about how the Grandmaster is going to bargain with Death to trade his life for the Avengers (he didn’t know there was a second team). The Collector’s plan is for the WCA to all die, and then get their friends away from the Grandmaster. Simon boasts that he can’t die, but the Collector has a special poison that will kill them all. They decide to work together to do this, even Moon Knight and Espirita. Weirdly, the poison doesn’t work on Bonita, so she is stuck in the Collector’s ship, fending off his wish to ‘collect’ her. At the same time, the East Coast Avengers (ECA, since I hate ‘Eackos’) find themselves in a death dimension, standing in front of the Grandmaster. He echoes the Collector’s words, and explains that the Collector is going to send the WCA to Death in exchange for immortality. The Grandmaster claims that if the ECA can beat the WCA, he can restore all of their lives. The WCA arrive and prepare to fight, while Tigra complains that Bonita chickened out, and the Surfer flies off to try a different angle on all this. Tony starts off by fighting Captain Marvel for a few pages, and defeats her. Bobbi decides to take on Captain America, and he eventually manages to snag her on some thorny vines, and capture her. The Surfer finds Death, and tries to appeal to her; he ends up looking at her face, and is frightened. Hank ends up facing off against the Wasp, who tries to take pity on him, but ends up his prisoner. Simon takes on Thor, and demonstrates anger and lack of control, which is why Thor is able to take him down. Tigra faces Doctor Druid, whose illusions can’t fool her sense of smell. Still, he’s able to distract her enough to pin her tail down with a rock, and then take control of her mind. Moon Knight and the Black Knight fight, with MK using the weapons Hawkeye made to try to best BK’s ebony blade. In the end, the Black Knight stabs at Moon Knight, and worries that he’s engaged the blade’s curse, but MK really just fooled him with his cloak, and knocks him out with an ankh. Clint gets into it with She-Hulk, and even though she breaks his bow and trashes his arrows, he’s able to maneuver her into a lake, and then knock her out with his gas arrowhead. The West Coasters came out on top, but when they all gather together, they see Death appear in front of them. The Grandmaster is happy that his plan worked, as we see that Death is wrapped in some kind of silvery rope. The Grandmaster claims that his plan worked, and that by getting Death involved, he’s now won the universe.
Avengers Annual #16 has the two Avengers teams working together to fight Grandmaster’s Legion of the Unliving (a combination of old foes and friends, all dead) in a challenge to defeat his plan to reboot the universe. Only Cap and Hawkeye survive, and when things look very dire, Hawkeye tricks the Grandmaster into playing a game of chance against him, which he loses. Thus, Death kicks the Grandmaster out of her realm (restoring him to life), and sends all the Avengers back to Houston to keep playing ball.
Wonder Man is fighting some guys in the sky above LA, but it’s all staged for the premiere of the Arkon movie; he lands on the red carpet, where he’s joined by Christy, who has somehow become a leggy blonde since we last saw her. Simon, Christy, and Dino enter the theatres to watch Arkon IV, where they have the balcony all to themselves. It’s odd that Arnold Schwarzburger, the film’s star is nowhere to be seen. As the movie plays, Simon revels in how the crowd is reacting to him. Clint and Bobbi are at the compound, sharing a hot tub. Clint asks Bobbi about her time with the Phantom Rider, but she claims that he never touched her. Bobbi is torn by having to lie to Clint, but she knows he won’t react well if he learns that she let Lincoln die. Tony decides to go talk to Simon in his bungalow, to bury the hatchet, but becomes upset that he’s chosen to go out to the premier of his movie instead of staying home after a busy week. This is odd, given that Tony runs his own company. At the premiere, Dino tells Simon he’s like him to star in Rocky V, but Simon doesn’t want to be a villain anymore and walks away from the offer. Moon Knight is staying in one of the compound bungalows. He has decided to become an Avenger, and has arranged for a meeting with Frenchy, his usual pilot, who brings the Moon-Chopper over the compound. Marc climbs up to see him, and tells him he won’t need his services when he’s Avengers. Frenchy tells him that since he’s still an active mercenary, he’ll just go to Nicaragua to fight. Simon and Christy are headed to a taping of the Tonight Show, and Christy looks down on Simon’s Avengers stipend. They arrive at the studio, where Simon is excited to see a crowd waiting for him. Hank finds Bonita in his lab, and she explains that the Silver Surfer brought her back to Earth. She tells Hank that she wants to “seek a better understanding” of why she didn’t die when the others drank the poison. Hank tells her that he’s realized he doesn’t really love her, and when she asks, he admits he doesn’t believe in God. Bonita is okay with that, kisses him, and leaves. Simon talks to the press after the Carson taping, and is suddenly attacked by what he thinks is the Abomination. In actuality, Tyrannus was trapped in the Abomination’s body in a Hulk Annual. Tyrannus is upset that Simon is getting attention while Tyrannus still has issues with his fate centuries before (this is one of the weakest reasons for a fight I’ve ever seen). They fight, and end up crashing the taping of David Letterman’s TV show in an adjacent studio (despite the fact that he taped in New York). Simon worries that the Abomination is too strong for him (he even gets a blackened eye), but eventually manages to take him down. He’s upset that no one filmed the fight, and the various cameramen accuse him of arranging the fight as hype, as he did the one at the film premiere. Simon is shocked. Bobbi and Clint have moved to the sauna, and talk about Clint having to fight the Swordsman in the Avengers Annual. Simon interrupts them, and tells them that he is always going to be a part of the WCA, since his experiences that night taught him what is truly important.
The original Zodiac, the Zodiac Cartel, are meeting in Houston, at the request of Cancer. He is concerned about the Life Model Decoy Zodiac (seen in WCA Annual #1), and that they might come after the original group. Scorpio stands up and reveals that while everyone expects him to be Jacques LaPoint, he is actually Jake Fury, but also really an LMD himself. Just then, the rest of the LMD Zodiac, although not all the ones we saw in the Annual – Pisces, Taurus, Libra, Gemini, and Capricorn have been replaced with female versions – bust into the room and attack. The fight is short lived, and soon only the original Taurus is left alive. He flees, falling into the mall beneath where they were meeting. Scorpio, armed with his Zodiac Key, gives chase, but Taurus somehow disappears. In LA, Bobbi meets with her friend Josyane, who tells her that there are still problems in SHIELD; Bobbi was hoping that she could talk with Nick Fury about her Phantom Rider situation. She gets picked up by Clint and Marc (who is now a “provisional” member of the team). In Silicon Valley, Tony spars with Hank, who is piloting Rover, in the skies above Stark Industries. After they finish, they enter the building, and find Taurus waiting for them, holding a star-blazer weapon. He tells them he needs their help. We see that Tony sends out an alert, summoning the other Avengers. Tigra, who is hunting a squirrel for fun, has to give up the chase. Simon is in a meeting negotiating a movie deal, but leaves when he gets Tony’s call. We see this helps him get the deal he wants. Once the Avengers have assembled, Taurus explains what happened to his cartel. Clint is not happy, given the number of times they’ve had run-ins with Taurus, but Moon Knight, claiming a moon connection, and the fact that the moon is “in Taurus” at that moment, decides he can trust him. We, as readers, know that Taurus is playing them, and intends to restart the Zodiac after the LMDs are taken care of, but also feels like he can predict what the LMD Zodiac’s next move will be. So, the LMDs attack a cattle auction in Wichita, planning to rob it, but the Avengers are there waiting for them. When Tony can’t affect the Zodiac Key with his disruptor beam, Simon decides to take on Scorpio. The team mostly has to fight two-to-one, but are doing alright. LMD Taurus jostles Clint as he fires an arrow, with the result being that he “kills” Sagittarius, which shocks everyone. Pisces freaks out a bit, saying that she sees disaster ahead, which causes many of the LMDs to retreat. Scorpio covers their tracks by releasing a bunch of cattle. After the team has collected the cows, Clint feels bad about killing Sagittarius, which makes Bobbi realize once again that she can’t tell him about the Phantom Rider. Back at the Zodiac base, Scorpio is angry with Pisces, but we learn that this new Zodiac really does follow the characteristics of their signs. Scorpio has a conversation with the Key, and uses it to create a new Sagittarius, which is identical to Hawkeye.
Clint has been to see Arkon IV for the fifth time, in his full Hawkeye gear for some reason, and is walking down the middle of the street to his skycycle, wondering why they haven’t seen the Zodiac again. Coincidentally, the Zodiac are hiding all around him and they attack. Clint does really well against them, but is surprised to see the new Sagittarius, who is identical to him in every way, including skill with the bow. While Sagittarius keeps him occupied, Scorpio comes behind him and zaps him with the Zodiac Key. Sagittarius rides the skycycle back to the compound, crashing it outside the gate, claiming it’s out of gas. The other Avengers come to let him in. He’s surprised to see that the original Taurus is still with them, and he predicts that the Zodiac’s next attack will be on the Denver Mint. Sagittarius claims he’s not feeling well, and blows off Bobbi’s offer of a massage because he knows that will reveal he’s an LMD, but Bobbi thinks he’s upset with her. He calls Scorpio to tell him what he’s learned. Bobbi asks Hank to get her on a video call with Nick Fury, and to give her privacy. She pulls Nick out of the shower, and after some brief confrontational small talk, she explains what happened with the Phantom Rider; he suggests that she tell Clint the truth. The Zodiac make plans, and while Scorpio wants to continue the attack, some of the others worry that it is too dangerous. Scorpio pulls rank, reminding them once again that he made them, and gets into an argument with Leo. He storms off, and chats with the Key. Moon Knight wanders the grounds of the compound, and thinks he sees Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night. It’s really just Tigra, who likes to stalk the night as well. They flirt, and she kisses him, but he lets her down. Bobbi goes to talk to Clint, who is really Sagittarius, but he blows her off. Hank and Tony discuss the weird feelings they are having that something is the matter. Simon comes to get them to tell them that Taurus has new information. The team gathers, and Van Lunt explains that the Zodiac might be hitting any of the three Mints. Sagittarius is happy to hear that the team will be splitting its forces. Bobbi confronts him and tells him all about what happened with Lincoln in the past. He reacts like it’s no big deal, and she gets suspicious. When she hits him, she feels the metal under his skin, and realizes what’s happened. They fight, and he knocks her down. Just then, Tigra enters, and joins the fight. They disarm Sagittarius, and then disarm and disleg him. When Bobbi runs to get the others, Tigra opens up her arm and reports to Scorpio – she’s actually the newest Leo LMD!
The Avengers fly towards the Denver Mint, carried by Tony and Simon, and bust into the building just as the Zodiac load piles of silver into their weird looking vehicle. Tony is not able to disable the Zodiac Key, and they quickly all start to fight. When Scorpio tries to use the key to teleport away, it doesn’t work at first, but then it does. Tigra, who is really the new Leo, asks Tony to explain about the Key, and he gives a brief history of how it comes from a dimension ruled by The Brotherhood, who like conflict. As the rest of the team goes to ask Van Lunt where the Zodiac have gone, Moon Knight pauses to make his own prediction, which he whispers to Leo/Tigra. Van Lunt confirms the same idea, that the Zodiac have gone to Death Valley. We see them there, without the silver they were stealing, and watch as Scorpio and Leo (the LMD1.0 version) argue again. The Avengers arrive in their quinjet, and they all start fighting again. The Avengers do really well, since Iron Man was able to sneak in and secure the Key, and Tony manages to stop Virgo from sticking an energy siphon on him (I don’t know where she got it from). It looks like the team is mopping up the Zodiac (Leo/Tigra even took out Pisces), but then Leo/Tigra puts the siphon on Tony’s armor, giving Scorpio the chance to grab the Key again. He zaps the Avengers with it, and reveals that Tigra is Leo. The other Leo is angry about this, and attacks Scorpio. Simon gets into the fight too, and things all wild. The Key doesn’t work when Scorpio tries to use it, and Simon and Leo knock him down hard. The Key floats into the air and restores any of the damaged LMDs, so the fight looks to start all over again. Scorpio orders the Key to take everyone to its dimension. It tries to argue against that plan, but Scorpio insists, but then they are all teleported away, leaving only Van Lunt handcuffed inside the quinjet. He makes his way to the radio, hoping to call in his flunkies to come get him. The Avengers and Zodiac enter the other dimension, and immediately the Zodiac all collapse to the ground. The Key explains that without access to Zodiacal energy, they can’t function. The Key explains it thrives on conflict, so it blasts a mountain to reveal that Clint and Tigra are there, fighting the Brotherhood. When Simon tries to help, the Key blasts him, and the team work together to try to stop it. They aren’t able to, and it joins the Brotherhood, who immediately stop fighting. They realized that having the Key with them, they would easily defeat the Avengers, ending the conflict, so they end the conflict (yeah, I don’t get it either). They decide to send the Avengers home, threatening to send the Key back at a random time, so that conflict can begin again. Upon returning to Death Valley, they head to the quinjet. Bobbi stops Clint, because she wants to confess about the Phantom Rider, but he stops her, explaining how he knows she’ll never let him down. This causes her to not confess. The Avengers are upset to see Van Lunt gone, but none more than Moon Knight, because he swore to the moon he’d go straight.
Taurus is talking to The Shroud, offering him a place on the new Zodiac he is rebuilding. Shroud turns him down, because that wouldn’t fit with his multi-year plan to destroy the LA Underground. He also points out to Van Lunt that the Avengers aren’t dead as he believes, because Moon Knight is right there ready to fight him. Van Lunt rants at him, but MK just stands silently, talking to Khonshu in his head. Shroud melts into the shadows, and Van Lunt starts shooting with this silly Star-Blazer gun where he thinks Marc is. Marc attacks him, and as they fight, he thinks he hears Khonshu speak back to him. Marc runs through a quick conversation with each of his alters – Steven Grant and Jake Lockley, but rejects them. Taurus runs, and can’t believe that MK has gotten ahead of him. He carjacks some couple, and takes off in their vehicle, which is now missing a door. He’s surprised to see Moon Knight following him on a skycycle, and panics, trying to get away. He blasts the cycle, and goes to check where it crashed. He’s freaked out that Moon Knight is not with the ruined skycycle, and starts running. At the Avengers compound, Clint talks to Shroud on a viewscreen, and gets angry that Marc is operating without telling him. Tigra defends him, while Hank tracks down the skycycle, and the team gets ready to head there. Van Lunt finds an airfield, and hijacks a two-engine plane that is about to depart. As the plane ascends, Van Lunt feels apprehensive, and orders the pilot to look around for Moon Knight. In fact, the pilot is Moon Knight, and while the autopilot flies, they fight some more. Their fighting sends the plane into weird turns, and finally, Van Lunt is able to open the door and push Moon Knight out. He sees that the plane is turning, and realizes Moon Knight is on the wing. He decides to open the door again and try to shoot Marc with his silly gun. Marc lets go of the plane, and as it shifts, Van Lunt shoots the ceiling. The plane starts to nose dive, and he’s not able to pull it up. As it falls, he sees Moon Knight using his cape to glide down, although we learn from Marc’s narrative that he won’t be able to use the cape all the way to the ground. Luckily, Iron Man swoops in and grabs him, and takes him to the nearby quinjet, where Hawkeye takes a strip off of him for doing Avengers business without getting permission or even telling him. Marc apologizes, but also asserts that he won’t change his approach to getting things done. Clint reminds him that Avengers don’t kill (presumably Van Lunt died in the crash, which no one is checking on). Bobbi steps in to defend Marc, and Tigra agrees with her – they both think that there might be new rules needed. Tony and Hank push back on this. As the quinjet flies off, we see the Phantom Rider, or the Ghost Rider, standing on the side of a cliff watching them.
Al Milgrom wrote issue thirty, which is more or less a fill-in issue. Simon is in New Jersey visiting Vision, Scarlet Witch, and their twins. He reads them the fable of the blind men and the elephant, which is significant for the rest of the story. The kids fall asleep, and Simon leaves, piloting a quinjet back to LA. He is suddenly attacked by a pair of insect-like green robots. He feels like they’ll be easy to handle, but calls in their presence anyway. Then he notices that there are dozens of them around the ship. When the rest of the WCA get his message, they assemble, and fly off to join him. Simon finds himself the prisoner of the Sligs, a race of aliens looking to take over Earth. Their leader explains that they want to test the strength of the Avengers before committing to their invasion. When the other quinjet comes near, they teleport it into a different dimension. Simon joins his peers, as does The Examiner, a large robot who attacks Simon (everyone else is frozen in a stasis field). Simon destroys the robot, but it reassembles. Simon disappears, but Tigra is now free of the field, and she starts to fight the Examiner. She defeats it too, even though it’s now absorbed Simon’s abilities. When it reforms, Bobbi finds herself free to fight it. She uses her battle staves and judo to knock it off the floating chunk of land this is all taking place on. When it reforms again, it takes on Clint, who drops his high voltage arrow for some reason. He is able to melt the Examiner with some acid arrows. When it’s time for the Examiner to reform again, the lackey responsible for that tells its boss that there is a considerable power drain. Tony is the next to fight the Examiner, and he finds it tough going, until he uses Clint’s high voltage arrow to recharge his armor and magnetize the robot. Reforming the Examiner again involves tapping into the Sligs’ ship’s stardrive. Hank is up next, and he shrinks and stomps on the robot. The lackey is seriously concerned, but the boss wants to see the Examiner fight Moon Knight. At first, Marc has to quiet the voices in his head, but then Khonshu speaks to him, pointing out that there are moons all around them. This gives him more power than ever before, and as he tears the Examiner apart, we learn that the Sligs’ ship is going critical. They return the Avengers to their proper dimension, and the Sligs’ leader tells them that they are sending their information to their homeworld, as their ship explodes. On the Sligs’ homeworld, a functionary reports to the “supreme one” on their findings, and shows them an image of what the Avengers look like – it’s a composite image, reminding us of the blind men and the elephant. The Avengers head home.
The Phantom Rider (not the Ghost Rider, as I originally assumed; this is Lincoln Slade in the body of his descendant) returns to his sacred cave, which has a mechanical entrance, but is otherwise very primitive. The Texas Twister has been staying with him, trying to figure out a way to get his Vicki back, by which he means the demon that was posing as Shooting Star. The Rider is helping him, despite his disdain for him, because he is plotting his revenge against Mockingbird for letting him die. They’ve been working some kind of mystic ritual, that the Twister thinks is going to bring Shooting Star back, although instead, they have summoned Arkon, who is angry. He explains he’s come to Earth to destroy Wonder Man, and the Rider is okay with that. At the Avengers’ compound, Moon Knight looks out on the ocean and chats with Khonshu about the Avengers (I think some of the text boxes are miscoloured, so it’s a little hard to tell who is speaking at times). Tigra joins him, and they start to make out. Iron Man also arrives, and is angry with them because he wanted to stand in that spot and contemplate things. It looks like Tony and Marc might get into a fight, but Clint comes to calm things down. He tries to get Tony to open up about what’s bothering him, but Tony instead asks Clint to trust him, and then flies away. Bobbi joins Clint, and he asks her what it was she wanted to talk to him about before. She tries to sidestep, and is happily interrupted by Hank, coming to say that there’s an emergency call from the East Coast team. Captain Marvel tells Clint that a couple of days before (why wait so long?), Tony got into a fight with The Captain (which is the identity Steve Rogers was going by at the time). Clint is upset about this, but before he can do anything, lightning strikes the compound. The Avengers rush outside to find Arkon floating above them. He’s there to fight Simon because he’s angry about the Arkon movies. Arkon insists on fighting only Simon, so they go at it while the rest watch, because Arkon is holding a nuclear bomb that will go off if anyone interferes. They start fighting, and as everyone cheers Simon on, Bobbi notices the Phantom Rider behind her. She slips away to follow him, and confronts him on the edge of the cliff that overlooks the ocean. The Rider makes it clear that he is Lincoln Slade, only now the powers that he tricked people into believing he had are real. They start to fight. Simon tries to explain to Arkon that there have been four movies made about him, and that makes him more angry. Lincoln makes Bobbi more and more angry. As Simon is close to defeating Arkon, he offers to talk to the movie studios about the fact that they are offending the other-dimensional ruler; he sees talking as the role of women, but agrees that Simon has been honourable, so he leaves. Bobbi and Lincoln continue their fight, only now, Bobbi is the one who falls over the cliff and is left holding on for her life. She refuses to ask him for help, and he’s about to stomp on her fingers, but instead summons his horse and rides off, promising to come back and torture her some more. Bobbi manages to swing over to the set of stairs that lead to the beach, and then join the rest of the team.
The Wasp has come to visit the WCA, but is surprised to find Clint, Tira, Simon, and Marc moping around. Apparently, after last issue, they had to fire Tony from the team because of his Armor Wars (I really want to do a set of columns on Iron Man soon). Clint is suspicious of why Jan is really there, and things are a little awkward when Hank comes into the room. Jan tells Clint that she is there to help the team, but he starts listing off other people they could call on if need be. While all of this has been going on, we’ve seen that Bobbi is researching Lincoln Slade’s descendants, with the help of the Mormons. She learns that he has a great great grandson (which is interesting, given that he wasn’t married when Bobbi let him die) named Hamilton, who is a professor of archeology. When she tries to call him at the University of Nevada, she learns he’s not there. She enters the others’ conversation, and suggests that the team needs to take a vacation together to hike in the Grand Canyon (I mean, it worked in the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans run). They all fly to Nevada together, and we see that everyone has decided to share their identities with Marc, as they are out of costume. When Simon tries to flirt with Tigra, Marc gets angry, and Khonshu asks him why. When they arrive at the Canyon, Simon is mobbed by fans. The team starts hiking, and Hank asks Jan why she’d want to be on their team. Everyone else appears to be talking about them, and Bobbi points out Budiansky Point to Clint, while also tossing some explosives into the canyon behind her back. They explode, and a giant big foot type creature named Yetrigar emerges (Bobbi knew he was there because of her SHIELD connections). While the creature starts rampaging, the team leaps into action, changing into their uniforms. Clint can’t find Bobbi, but Marc lies and says he saw her thrown in his direction. In fact, Bobbi takes off, and Marc, changing clothes, decides to follow. The rest of the Avengers fight Yetrigar, which Simon quite enjoys. Bobbi hunts Hamilton Slade, not knowing that Marc is following her. When she discovers the site of his dig, where he is working alone (because that’s how archaeology works), she changes into Mockingbird and jumps on him from above. She threatens to kill him if he doesn’t stop harassing her; she assumes he’s the Phantom Rider. Hamilton has no idea what she’s talking about, which makes Bobbi more angry (but Marc approves of her methods). As Bobbi keeps beating on Hamilton, Hank comes up with a plan to manage Yetrigar. He has Jan use her sting to distract him, while Clint restrains him with a cable-arrow. Hank and Tigra jump on the beast, and locating his ear, Hank puts his little brace thing in it, and then enlarges it, knocking him out. While this is happening, Marc steps in to stop Bobbi from beating Hamilton anymore. He sees that Hamilton has done nothing wrong, and apologizes, explaining that they are dealing with a case of mistaken identity. He offers to pay all of Hamilton’s expenses, asking that he put nothing through his insurance. Marc and Bobbi leave, and Hamilton is left to wonder if this has anything to do with the frequent blackouts he experiences. His face changes, and we see that the Phantom Rider has taken him over, and is laughing. As the Avengers wrap up with Yetrigar, Bobbi and Marc join them. She claims that her leg was pinned under a boulder and that Marc helped her, which makes Clint decide he can be a full Avenger. Jan, standing back, recognizes that there is something wrong with Clint and Bobbi’s marriage that Clint is not even aware of.
The team is gathered to decide whether or not they should make Moon Knight a full member of the Avengers (did this protracted probationary status ever happen to anyone else?). Clint, Simon, and Bobbi all agree. Jan is still hanging out, and she’s excited about Marc joining, but has no say. They are just waiting for Hank’s vote. He comes busting into the room, all upset. He explains he was having fun hacking on his computer, poking around Soviet Bloc security networks, and saw reference to Maria Trovaya, his first wife, who he always thought was dead. He explains how he met Maria, and how when they got married, they decided to honeymoon in Hungary, despite the fact that she and her father fled from there before. As they chatted about how Hank wanted to stay on vacation, Maria quoted her father’s favourite saying, “Go to the ants, thou dullard” (seriously). Maria was recognized and kidnapped by some guys in suits, who knocked Hank out. When he came to, the American embassy explained that Maria is dead, and that someone blew up her father’s lab in America. Hank went mad and attacked some random soldiers, and was sent back to America, where his wife’s words are what encouraged him to become Ant-Man. He’s confused as to why he’s only now hearing that Maria might still be alive. They decide to induct Moon Knight, and then make plans and head to Hungary. As they fly, Tigra flirts with Marc some more, while Jan thinks back to her own time with Hank. She remembers meeting him through her father, being attracted to him, and then calling on him when someone killed her father. Hank revealed to her that he was Ant-Man, and turned her into the Wasp, complete with antennae that let her communicate with bugs too. They avenged her father, and then Jan realized that they were in love despite the fact that Hank hid that for a long time. The team arrives in Hungary, and are met by the American ambassador. A group of soldiers arrive, led by Hank’s old foes, Madame X, El Toro (why is there a Spanish-themed villain working for the Hungarian government) and the Beasts of Berlin (a pair of talking apes). Madame X says that the Avengers are under arrest, and Hank realizes that everything, perhaps including Maria’s being alive, is a trap. Hank starts to run, Madame X is about to shoot him, and Jan attacks her. The fight is on, and Tigra discovers that El Toro’s horns deliver poison; she collapses. Bobbi takes out X while Simon fights the apes and Marc fights the soldiers. El Toro poisons Marc, and Jan slips off to follow Hank, who takes out some soldiers. He enlarges some shears and cuts a fence. Soon, only Simon is left standing, and he and Clint decide to surrender to save their unconscious friends. Madame X orders everyone to look for Hank and Jan. They, meanwhile, find a place to hide in a boarded up basement, where they argue then laugh. Jan comments on how if Hank were still Ant-Man, he could ask the local insects where Maria is (why doesn’t he have the Ant-Man helmet shrunk down in his pockets?). Hank realizes that Jan still has her antennae, they just don’t grow anymore. He uses his powers to restore them, and Jan is able to send a message to the insects of Budapest. She learns that someone said Maria’s name in Bratislava Prison, so they head out. They sneak into the prison, where they find a door with a big high tech lock. Opening it, they are surprised to find Vision and the Scarlet Witch in the cell.
The Statement of Ownership for 1988 lists this book as having an average press run of 383 000, with average newsstand returns of 176 000.
Madame X has decided to release Hawkeye, Wonder Man, and Tigra, although she says she’s going to keep Hawkeye’s weapons, and hold on to Mockingbird and Moon Knight, since they are “criminals”. Clint ends up punching X in the face, and another fight starts, with Simon and Tigra fighting the Beasts of Berlin (there are a lot more than two of them). Clint uses the Hungarian flag to bait El Toro into getting his horns stuck in a wall. Next, Clint bends the flagpole, and breaks some jambs from a handy banister to make some “arrows”. They manage to take out all of their foes, and rush back to the cell they just left, only to find that Bobbi and Marc are gone. A bunch of soldiers surround them, but just then the US ambassador arrives and takes custody of the Avengers. He takes them back to the embassy, while talking about how they are going to find Hank and Jan. Clint and the ambassador argue briefly about whether or not he should be allowed to listen to the Avengers’ plans. He surprises them with the presence of the Phantom Rider, who is there to help them, explaining that he has some guilt around how the previous Rider treated Bobbi. Meanwhile, Bobbi and Marc are taken to the same cell that already holds Hank, Jan, Vision, and Scarlet Witch. Hank and Jan recap how they got there, while Vision explains that a device in the wall negates all of their powers, including his. To explain how he’s human, again, he recaps his entire history, from being the original Human Torch through the recent birth of his and Wanda’s children. He explains that they received a letter from Bova, the cow-woman who helped raise Wanda. They left their boys with Simon’s mom, and flew to Wundagore Mountain, where they were attacked and taken prisoner. The cell door opens briefly, and Quicksilver comes running in. He still has his powers, so he’s able to evade Marc and Bobbi’s attacks, while explaining what he’s been up to since his attempt to destroy the Avengers with the Zodiac. Apparently he went after the Fantastic Four too, failed, was taken prisoner by the Inhumans, and then escaped them. He explains that his goal is to become “the king of the evil mutants”, and then he leaves. We see that the Phantom Rider, as an intangible ghost, has found the heroes and stands listening to them as they talk. Wanda worries that the taint of Magneto’s blood has driven him mad, but Vision rejects that idea and says some sweet things. When Marc asks Bobbi if she’s thinking about Clint, she breaks down and admits that she’s betrayed him. She explains what happened with the Phantom Rider, and is surprised to learn that everyone in the room supports her and what she did. This also surprises the Rider, who is still listening, and as he leaves, he vows that he must make sure Bobbi won’t be happy. He returns to the others, and tells them where they all are. He also says he needs to explain something to them. Shortly, Simon busts in the door to the heroes’ cell, and while everyone is happy to see them, Clint is visibly short with Bobbi. As they try to leave, their way is blocked by a bunch of massive talking insects – the Scarlet Beetles – modelled on an old foe of Hank’s. They start fighting their way through them (it appears Clint has his regular weapons back), and as they fight, Bobbi is confused by how Clint is behaving towards her. Simon explains by calling her a murderess (which reads as hella sexist to me). Vision finishes off the beetles, and they all head outside, where Tigra arrives with the quinjet. The various Hungarian villains arrive on scene too late to stop them, but Madame X calls in a missile strike which hits the quinjet (because Tigra forgot to turn on the anti-missile screens, which seems like something that should be automatic). Clint takes the stick to try to control the crash, and we see that as the quinjet goes down, it crosses the border into Latveria.
Bobbi wakes up to find herself in a lavish bed, Clint beside her. At the foot of the bed stands a tiny Doctor Doom. She wakes Clint, and he reacts with anger, recognizing the little Doom as Kristoff. Doom/Kristoff explains that he is the real Victor von Doom, residing in the child Kristoff’s body, while the guy walking around in his real body is a dangerous lunatic. Doom tells them that he is looking for allies to help him in the fight against the imposter. He knows that the Avengers have fled the Hungarian government, and he’s agreed to return them if Hungary allies with him, but he’s decided that the Avengers would be better friends to have. He offers to free them if they promise to help him when the time comes, and leaves them in the guest room to think about it, giving them a deadline of midnight. There is an energy field around the room that keeps them from being able to leave. In another part of the castle, Hank, Jan, Simon, Wanda, and Vision are being held in a cell. High tech devices keep Hank and Wanda from using their powers, while Simon is wrapped in coils that sap his energy. Vision is free, but can’t phase out of the room, and Jan can’t find any tiny holes to get out through. Hank suggests she try to grow her antennae to contact some insects, and she manages to get it to work, but there are no bugs to be found. Doom comes to see them, again having to prove that he is the real Doom. He makes the same offer he gave to Bobbi and Clint, but they immediately reject him. He still gives them until midnight to think about things. Next, he goes to a control room. We see that he’s put Tigra and Marc in another cell, one full of deadly threats, so he can study their abilities (they are the only Avengers he’s not fought before). The Danger Room style threats start, and his scientists begin their studies. Bobbi asks Clint why he’s not really speaking to her. He reveals that the Phantom Rider told her how she basically killed him, and he’s upset about it. She reacts with anger when he isn’t interested in hearing her side of the story, and their argument gets more and more angry, to the point that she suggests leaving their marriage, and they fight over who is divorcing whom, while the Phantom Rider, in his phantom form, sits on the furniture and laughs. In the cell, Jan and Hank get on each other’s nerves, and Jan makes it clear that there can be no relationship between them. As Tigra and Moon Knight keep fighting the various mechanical threats, Marc gets an idea. He lets himself get knocked out, so that Khonshu’s spirit can leave him and walk through the castle as a ghost. He finds Doom and makes himself visible to him. He demands that Doom free the Avengers, and furious, Doom learns he can’t fight him. When Khonshu calls Kristoff Doom, that makes him happy, so he decides to free the others. He shuts off all their bonds, and walks away. Tigra’s fight ends just as Marc wakes up (we see Khonshu return to him). Doom, on his throne, prepares for the representative of the Hungarian government, who turns out to be Quicksilver. It seems that Pietro had insulted Pietro in an issue of Fantastic Four (remember that Englehart was writing both books at this time), and holds a grudge. Pietro tries to flee, but Doom traps him, making him run into a wall. Doom starts to choke Pietro, but Wanda and Vision come bursting through the wall. Vision fights Doom while Wanda sees to her brother. As Vision holds Doom, the other Avengers come through the hole in the wall. Pietro recovers and runs away. Doom tells the Avengers that he’s going to give them a ship so they can leave, but Hank insists that they are returning to Hungary to look for his first wife. As they leave, Doom wonders why Clint and Bobbi are walking far apart from one another.
The Avengers, with Wasp, Vision, and Scarlet Witch, are back in Hungary, and are making their way through Bratislava Prison again, since that’s where they believe Maria Pym is being held. As they make their way through the prison, Hank thinks about how nice it is that his friends are supporting him, while Clint thinks about how angry he is with Bobbi, and she thinks about how rigid he can be. They are confronted by Quicksilver and another one of Hank’s old villains – The Voice. The Voice is able to freeze them in their tracks, and then explains how Hank gave him laryngitis, ruining his powers, until Madame X found him and helped restore them. The Voice orders the rest of the team to hunt down and kill Pym; Pietro wants the Vision to be the first to die, but he is also under Voice’s commands. The Voice opens a door to a large maze that is used to test super-beings (inside the prison, of course), and gives Hank a five minute head start. Hank runs, trying to figure out how to best use his various miniaturized weapons. He sets up his camera and his flying rocket to work as a drone and transmit to his wrist TV. The Avengers head into the maze to find Hank, and seem to have their regular personalities, as shown by the way Clint and Bobbi walk away from each other, while still under the Voice’s control. We learn that The Voice had no effect on Moon Knight, because, as it’s been hinted, Khonshu has taken over Marc Spector’s body. Hank tries to hide in his enlarged brace, but Clint can feel the heat created by expanding it (this is weak). They fight, and when Clint is about to kill him, he hesitates, giving Hank the chance to knock him out with a good punch. Hank runs, seeing on his TV that Wanda is approaching, but the Vision emerges through the wall and surprises him. Hank gases Wanda, but the Vision starts to crush him. Hank makes his flying camera grow, and it collapses on Wanda, at which point Vision lets go to look after her. As Hank runs, Tigra drops from a ceiling to pounce on him, but Hank runs into a dark tunnel. Tigra finds MK there, and he sends her in the opposite direction to where Hank ran. Thinking he’s safe in the dark, Hank pauses, but then Bobbi grabs him from behind. He shrinks the brace she uses to hold her battle stave, breaking her arm, and then heads away from her. He finds a big door, and uses his brace to break through it. Inside, he finds a woman with a massive brain attached to a number of machines. It’s Maria! Recovering from the shock of her appearance, Hank shuts off the IV drip drugging her, and she starts to wake up. She projects her story as text to a view screen, and we learn how after she was kidnapped, and her father harassed in the US (he ended up killing himself), the Soviets used the ray they’d used on the Beasts of Berlin to expand her brain, and then forced her to participate in their super powers program (she’s contributed to the creation of Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, and the Red Guardian, which doesn’t make much sense). Hank promises to help her, but is then knocked down by the Wasp’s sting. The rest of the Avengers enter the room, and while Simon grabs Hank and prepares to kill him, Hank pleads with Maria for help. She manages to negate the Voice’s powers, restoring everyone’s sanity. Soon, all of the Hungarian supervillains are in the room, depowered. Even Pietro is not able to use his powers anymore. Hank announces that he’s going to leave the Avengers to work to help fix Maria (he doesn’t say where he’ll do that). Jan comments that, since Maria never died, she and Hank were never legally married, so they’re not actually divorced. Vision and Wanda talk about how great marriage is, so Bobbi announces that she and Clint are splitting.
The Avengers, still with the Wasp, Vision, and Scarlet Witch, are back on the compound in LA, and Clint and Bobbi are yelling at each other, with Jan trying to intervene. Clint wants Bobbi to leave, and Bobbi wants to leave, yet they are still just yelling at each other. Clint also doesn’t want Jan involved, and is mostly upset that Bobbi lied to him. Hank tries to step in, pulling Clint aside to try to talk to him. Vision wants to join that conversation as well, while Wanda and Tigra decide to talk to Bobbi. Simon asks Jan if the rule against killing is written down anywhere, as if that will be helpful, and Jan tells Simon she’d let the whole thing go. Simon disagrees, and Moon Knight talks about how his god is one of vengeance, and then doesn’t like it when Simon doesn’t want to hear that. The groups come back together, and Clint tells Bobbi that he can’t trust her. She responds by saying that he brought her into the Avengers world, and that she never really fit in there. They say goodbye, and then Bobbi says goodbye in a nicer way to the rest of the team. As she leaves, both Tigra and Moon Knight decide to leave with her. This prompts everyone else to give a little speech about what the Avengers means to them, and they all fall behind Clint because he’s the team’s chair. Hank tells Clint he’s leaving too, to start helping Maria (who doesn’t seem to be there). He says he’s going to get a lab in the valley, and tells Clint that if he ever needs a “scientific adventurer” to give him a call. Jan also says she’s heading out. When Hank walks her out, they embrace, and things feel good between them, now that Jan insists they were never actually married. Bobbi is in her bungalow getting rid of her Avengers ID and other tools, while Tigra and Marc are standing around being supportive. Tigra raises the possibility that Maria’s mental block might wear off on the Voice, which seems a little out of place. Marc suggests they go after the Phantom Rider, but instead, Bobbi wants to investigate a report she read (where?) that the FF said that Master Pandemonium is at the South Pole. Clint suggests that Wanda and Vision probably want to get back to their kids, but they surprise him by saying they are willing to stick around and join the team, since it looks like it’s just Clint and Simon now. They intend to take turns, with one of them staying with their kids. Clint is still worried about the team’s power levels, and they are all surprised to see Mantis (in the green-skin, grass skirt era) show up on the lawn. She says that Bobbi and the others let her in. Wanda worries that Mantis once tried to steal Vision from her, and when Simon introduces himself, Mantis attacks him. She starts fighting the four of them, and doing remarkably well against them for a few pages. Clint gets suspicious that this is just like Hungary, so he jumps over the fence and starts going through the trees outside the compound. He discovers The Voice lurking around. We see The Voice’s thoughts, and learn how Maria’s influence wore off, and he made his way to California (in the same amount of time that the Avengers took to fly there on their quinjet), where he happened to run into Mantis, and used his powers on her. Clint holds a notched arrow to Voice’s neck and has him enter the compound with him. At the same time, Simon finally catches Mantis by the wrists and holds her off the ground, so she can’t continue her attack. Clint brings The Voice to them, and has him return control to Mantis. Wanda puts a hex on his powers, immobilizing them. Mantis apologizes, and then says that she came to the Avengers for help. She woke up a couple days before with no memories of anything prior to her last meeting with the Avengers (which happened in a recent Silver Surfer Annual). She went to Avengers Mansion, but it was gone. A cop told her about Hydrobase, and about the West Coast team, so she came to LA looking for help. Clint promises to help her.
Annual #3 was part of the massive Evolutionary War crossover that happened in almost every Marvel Annual in 1988. It looks like it’s the ninth chapter of that event, based on the High Evolutionary short in the back. The first story opens with the High Evolutionary walking around his complex in Antarctica, overseeing his technicians, and explaining to his assistant, Stack, that they are in Antarctica because it is close to Wakanda. He sends his Gatherers to that country for the next item he needs in building his evolutionary bomb. Before they leave, one of the technicians slips a capsule into the neck of one of the Gatherers. The High Evolutionary walks around outside the complex, in the Savage Land, where he wonders about a monument to the Beyonders, and provides some explanation as to what is happening in the Fantastic Four’s book at the moment (which Englehart also writes, remember). The Gatherers appear in Wakanda, where they fight the Black Panther, some of his warriors, and his THROB – a trans-human robot with an embarrassing acronym. The Panther defeats the Gatherers, and his men find the capsule in the one’s neck. In it is a note from Bill Foster, the former Black Goliath, asking that the Panther contact Hank Pym immediately. The WCA arrive, but it’s only Hawkeye, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Mantis that emerge from the quinjet. Wanda and Simon fill us in on the history of Bill Foster, and how he got cancer from his time as Black Goliath, and how a transfusion from Spider-Woman saved his life. The Panther Totem rises, signalling a threat. A new group of villains have invaded Wakanda’s techno-jungle. They are the Sensors – Sight, Touch, Sound, Smell, Taste, and Intuition, and they are pretty crappy villains. It takes five or six pages for the Avengers to defeat them, and as T’Challa deals with Sound on the Vibranium Mound, which absorbs all sound, he doesn’t notice that Stack teleports onto the Mound, cuts out a chunk of it, and teleports away. The Avengers leave T’Challa and head to the Savage Land to investigate what the High Evolutionary is up to, but when they arrive at the coordinates Foster gave them, all that’s left is a big empty hole.
Mockingbird, Tigra, and Moon Knight are flying a quinjet to the Savage Land, and are surprised to see that this fabled jungle has been restored. They meet Ka-Zar upon landing, and he tells them how the High Evolutionary fixed the place and restored the jungle. He takes them to his hut to meet Shanna and his infant son, where Moon Knight acts a little oddly. The three Avengers head to the High Evolutionary’s citadel, and just knock on the door. Stack takes them to see the Evolutionary, and as they pass through the building, Bill Foster assumes they are there to rescue him. He sneaks out of his area. The Avengers meet with the Evolutionary. He explains he’s going to mutate everyone on Earth with his bomb, and then gases them. Moon Knight, under Khonshu’s control, doesn’t collapse as quickly as the others. The Evolutionary has them taken to a maze (because every good citadel has one), while Foster realizes he has to now rescue them. Bobbi wakes up alone, and starts exploring the maze, fighting off an octopus robot thing. The Evolutionary watches her on a monitor, deciding that whichever Avenger gets out of the mazef first will be a test subject for his formula. When Foks reports to him that the Sensors are fighting the WCA in Wakanda, he tells him to teleport to the vibranium mound as soon as the fighting gets there. Tigra fights a robot, breaks through a wall, and finds Marc, who has also fought a robot. She embraces him. Foster gets caught in an area he’s not authorized to be in, and knocks out two guards. Bobbi makes her way to the Evolutionary’s chamber, where she tries to fight him. He grows really big, and grabs her. Foster, seeing this, decides he has to try the new serum he’s been working on. He drinks it, and confronts the Evolutionary, growing to the same size as him. They start to fight, and Foster is elated that there was no pain when he grew. He explains that the mass he brings from another dimension is curing him of his cancer (which I thought Spider-Woman already did). The Evolutionary respects Foster’s intelligence and evolution, and upon learning that Foks secured the vibranium, decides that he will complete his bomb somewhere else. He flies through a wall and escapes. Foster feels like that could be a problem for them, so he breaks through a wall, finds Tigra and Marc, and leads them out. They see the Evolutionary’s ship take off, and the citadel explodes behind them, destroying everything. The three Avengers and Foster leave in their quinjet, and moments later, Clint’s group comes from the other direction, bringing us back to where the last story ended.
I guess after the Annual, Englehart and Milgrom needed a break, so issue thirty-eight is a fill-in, and a pretty poor one at that. Clint’s group is flying back from Antarctica in their quinjet, and Simon starts thinking about the value of teamwork and how it helped when the team had to fight the Defiler. From there, we see a couple trying to get away from someone who is trying to grab them through a hole in a fence. Michael, the guy, is wearing a vest with a lot of chains on it. He wants the girl to go ahead of him, but she won’t. The Defiler, a big guy wearing a fringed leather vest, grabs them both. Luckily Simon and Tigra are in the same alley, and they attack the Defiler. He is able to punch them both and send them flying, which gives him time to pick up the two teens and drag them across a road to a billboard showing his face, advertising his concert. It turns into an extra-dimensional portal, and he tosses the girl in. When he tosses the guy in, his chains catch on one of the lights. Simon and Tigra recover, and call in the rest of the WCA, who seem to just appear in the alley. The team at this point includes both Iron Man and Doctor Pym, but not Moon Knight, so I have no idea when this is supposed to have occurred – presumably after their trip through time but before Tony left the team, so MK should be there too, but whatever. Hank’s sensors pick up the dimensional gate which is also across the street from them and visibly pulsing. They head over, and Tony, finding Michael’s chain, pulls him out of the gate with Simon’s help. Michael explains that Susan is still in there. He explains that he brought her to the hard core scene, and they worked as roadies for the Defiler (whose band is called Corruption of Innocence), noticed that other roadies kept disappearing into vortexes, and then tried to run away. Hank surmises that the Defiler is draining energy from the other dimension, and that everyone is probably still alive. They realize that his concert is happening, so they need to stop him. Michael wants to help, but Simon tells him no, so he hails a cab as the team flies off to the venue. The show is outdoor and appears to have thousands of attendees. As the Avengers move to attack, all the screens turn into vortexes and start sucking in concert-goers. Clint suggests they dig under the stage, since there is an energy shield around it, so Tony and Simon start digging. Simon punches the Defiler out into the crowd (so I guess there isn’t an energy field around the stage anymore), while Tony grabs kids from being sucked through the vortexes, and Clint starts knocking down the screens. Hank catches a bunch of falling kids with a big baseball mitt. Bobbi is helping people evacuate and sees Michael fighting his way in. Tony grabs bobbi and Michael and flies towards the last active vortex. Tigra and Simon fight the Defiler. Hank tells Tony, Bobbi, and Michael that no one can enter the dimensional gate because the Defiler is distracted, but maybe Michael can because he’s been there before. Hank enlarges a big rope, which he ties around his waist, and then he, Michael, and Bobbi enter the vortex (they aren’t even holding onto Michael, so maybe he’s not the “key” they thought he was), while Tony anchors the rope. As those three fly through the Defiler’s dimension, they are attacked by glowing rock things that Bobbi bats away. They find Susan and some other kids caught in some yellowish goop that is draining their energy. Hank figures that the stuff channels energy to the “Corruptor” (I assume there was a name change at the last minute, and the editor missed this one). Bobbi tries to chop it up with her staves, while Hank uses a massive chain saw to cut everyone free. Because they are all tired, he enlarges a skateboard and gets everyone on it, and radios Tony to start pulling them out. So while before, he needed Simon to help him pull out one kid, now he can drag dozens on a big red skateboard with no problem (maybe it’s because of the wheels). The Defiler sees what’s happening, and tries to hit Tony, but Simon flies in and hits him to Tigra, who attacks him. The flying parasite things come at the people on the skateboard, but Hank hands out baseball bats and they all start swinging. Tony pulls everyone out just as the portal starts to close, at which point it starts sucking everything back into it again. The Defiler tries to get away, but Michael tackles him, and he gets dragged into the portal. After that it collapses. Simon, Clint, and Bobbi watch Michael and Susan walk away together. This brings Simon back to the present, feeling sorry for how the team is falling apart. Just then the quinjet starts shaking and flying out of control.
The reason the quinjet is falling out of control? Clint called the EC Avengers team to warn them about the High Evolutionary, and they said that Bobbi already told them. Once Clint is back under control, he looks sad. Because Bobbi’s involved, Clint decides they shouldn’t help the other team, and instead decide to head for New Jersey so Vision and Wanda can check on their kids. The babies are with Simon’s mother, who is happy to see him visiting as well. They tell her that the family is moving to LA, and invite her along, but she declines. Clint leaves the house while everyone is chatting, and Mantis follows him. She can tell he’s upset about his divorce, and they talk about it and how she has no memories. The team leaves Wanda behind and flies off. Bobbi’s team lands in Newark, and Giant Man, who is still full-sized, is most happy to stretch his legs. He tells the others that he’s staying oversized until the cancer is purged from his system by his other-dimensional added mass, and then also says that he’s off to find Hank Pym (who we know is in California), so he can maybe help him cure Maria. Moon Knight comments that he’s glad Bill is gone, which Tigra interprets as a racist statement, but Marc/Khonshu meant that he didn’t think Bill was tough enough to hang with them. The Phantom Rider appears in the air and attacks them. His horse kicks Moon Knight hard enough to knock Marc out. Khonshu’s essence leaves him and scares away the Rider. At the same time, Wanda senses that something is wrong. Clint’s team has travelled to Connecticut, where they inspect the house that Mantis woke up in. There’s a knock at the door, so Mantis turns her skin back to a human colour, opens it, and learns that the postman knows her, and has brought her a box of CDs. Not seeing any answers there, the team flies off to Vietnam, and the temple where Mantis grew up. There, they find the grave of the swordsman, and talk about how a Cotati took over his dead body so that its spirit and Mantis’s could commune and make a child. Simon asks some decent questions, and then the Swordsman, green like Mantis, arises from his grave. He tells Mantis he can restore her memories, but then tries to kill her. She fights back, and the Avengers jump to her defense. The fight lasts for a bit, and he tries to lure Mantis to the temple. The trees grab ahold of her, and while Vision tries to hold him, he throws his sword and impales her with it. She realizes she is bleeding sap, and collapses. Swordsman insists that he just helped Mantis, and then we see her, normal skin-coloured, coming out of the same grave the Swordsman just came out of. She explains that the other Mantis was a plant, and that her real body has been in suspended animation in the grave all this time. She explains that the priests of Pama buried her and the Swordsman there, and that Mantis returned to Earth to give birth, and had to use the plant-body to properly gestate her hybrid child. She lived in that house in the suburbs with him for a while, and then sent him away to live with the Cotati at some point. Then her spirit wandered space, which is what she was doing during her time with the Silver Surfer, but then that plant body was destroyed, so her spirit returned to her Earth home and grew another plant body. Now she’s back in her proper body. The Swordsman says it’s time for him to give up his plant body, but first he gives his sword to Clint. As Clint and the others prepare to leave, Mantis tells them that she’s going to stay and meditate.
Issue forty was guest-written by Mark Gruenwald. As Bobbi is out patrolling, she comes across Digger, from the Night Shift, burying three men up to their necks in the middle of a road. She intervenes, and takes him and the three men to the police station. Elsewhere, the Night Shift sits around their headquarters waiting for a meeting to begin. The team consists of Dansen Macabre, who is in charge when The Shroud is away, like he is now, Tick Tock, The Brothers Grimm, Misfit, Tatterdemalion, Needle, and apparently the Werewolf By Night. Gypsy Moth flies in and tells the others what happened to Digger. The team decides that they need to go to the West Coast Avengers to retrieve their friend. They drive a pair of hearses to the compound, where they disable the defences using magic beans, and tearing apart the fibre optic cables in their cameras (apparently Gyspy Moth can control fibres). The bust into the living quarters of the team’s servants (who we’ve never seen before). One of them, a woman, manages to hit an alarm button. This alerts Clint, who is sleeping on a couch. He contacts the rest of the team, which is only Wanda and Vision, since Simon is out. Wanda decides to stay with her babies, and sends Vision to see what’s going on. The Night Shift attacks them, and they fight for a few pages. Elsewhere, Moon Knight’s helicopter picks up Bobbi. She talks to herself about the Shroud, who we already know is friends with Tigra, but she says nothing. Marc suggests they go straight to the Night Shift’s headquarters to figure out what’s going on. Back at the compound, Wanda joins the fight, but ends up trapped in a big ball of cotton. With their servant being held hostage by Needle, the fight is at a standstill. Clint doesn’t understand what his visitors are talking about. Bobbi’s team enters the Night Shift’s spooky castle lair, and work their way through its defenses before finding the main room, with piles of money and gold stacked on a table. They read a note the team left for Shroud, and realize that the Shift has gone after their old teammates. Bobbi decides not to go help, but instead to wait for them there. Clint, who is frozen by Dansen Macabre’s dancing, tries to explain that they don’t know about Digger, when Simon comes swooping in and helps the team. The fight is back on, but now the Avengers are doing better. Shroud returns to his castle, and can tell there are intruders there. He’s surprised to see the three ex-Avengers in his main room, and using his powers, tries to frighten them. He senses the contents of Dansen’s letter, so he leaves to go to the WCA compound. There, the Avengers have the Night Shift sitting on chairs, now that things have been worked out. Simon still wants a fight, but Clint is inclined to let it all go. Just then, the room goes dark, and they know that the Shroud is there. Clint, for the first time in this whole series, acknowledges his hearing aid and turns it up to try to hear where the Shroud is. Shroud tells his team to evacuate, and they take off. Clint figures out where Shroud is, and they agree to talk in their “usual place”. When the lights come back, Clint tells his team to stand down. Ten minutes later, he meets Shroud at the edge of a cliff. They talk about the deal between them, and Clint finally figures out what happened with Mockingbird and Digger. Shroud suggests he talk to Bobbi, and Clint suggests that Shroud tell more of his team that they aren’t villains. He also tells Shroud that he’s going to tell the rest of the Avengers that Shroud is an undercover hero.
I guess that Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom quietly bowed out, as they did not complete what ended up being the last issue of their run. Instead, that fell to Tom DeFalco, Ralph Macchio, and Tom Morgan. Weirdly, the issue opens in Asgard, where Lady Sif and Leir, the Celtic lord of lightning are fighting off the hordes of Seth, the Egyptian god. His general, Cheops, worries that Seth won’t be able to withstand all the enemies that are gathering against him (I’m assuming this ties into something happening in Thor’s book that I forgot about). Bobbi’s team have gone to the University of Nevada, with Daimon Hellstrom, to confront Hamilton Slade again. Moon Knight feels uncomfortable around Hellstrom, thinking he can sense that he’s really Khonshu. Bobbi tells Slade the story of what happened to her in the past, and he agrees to let Hellstrom take a look at him. Later, they all stand around a pentagram, and Hellstorm (he’s in his superhero suit now) blasts Slade with some energy. Two ghostly Phantom Riders emerge from Slade – Bobbi recognizes one as Lincoln Slade, her tormentor, and the other identifies himself as Carter, the first Phantom Rider. The two brothers fight, with Carter insisting that Lincoln was never meant to take up his mantle. Hellstorm blasts Moon Knight with the same energy, causing Khonshu to rise out of his body. When he does, he shows up on Cheops’s monitor screens in Asgard, and he dispatches forces to attack him. The Slade brothers keep fighting, while Khonshu explains to Marc that he’s taken over his body for months so he could learn about being an Avenger. Just then a portal opens, and Seth’s warriors spill out. General chaos breaks out, as Marc tries to fight them and finds his weapons keep shattering. The Egyptians have a weapon that hurts Khonshu, knocking him out. Tigra goes wild and starts fighting them off. Meanwhile, the fight between the Slade brothers spills outside, with Carter continuing to insist there’s something wrong with Lincoln. Bobbi has to remind Tigra not to kill anyone. The Slades fight some more, and Moon Knight finally gets his head in the game. Through all of this, Hamilton is hiding under his desk, but then Carter speaks to him, asking him to host his spirit again. Hamilton becomes The Phantom Rider, and manages to free Khonshu. At the same time, Marc takes out some Egyptians while Daimon takes out some more. The rest flee back through their portal, and the battle is over. Khonshu and Marc talk, and the god tells him that he’s heading off to fight Seth, and suspects it will kill him. He thanks Marc and tells him to continue to strike in his name. With the fight over, Carter leaves Hamilton’s body, and asks Daimon to banish both him and Lincoln. At the last second, Hamilton calls Carter back into him, so it’s just Lincoln who falls into some kind of portal. Hamilton agrees to become the new Phantom Rider, and Bobbi apologizes to him, but also doesn’t. As the heroes leave, Marc tells Tigra that he’s leaving the Avengers. She asks Bobbi to come back to the WCA with her, but Bobbi says she’s not ready to face Clint. With that, Tigra feels lost, but Daimon gives her a bit of a pep talk.
As I have been rereading these runs that I remember fondly from my childhood or teen years for this column, I’m surprised by how often great runs just peter out when a writer up and leaves. I realize that I don’t ever remember endings as clearly as I do beginnings and middles.
Was this a great run? I’m not sure about great, but it was definitely a very good one. Englehart is a classic writer, who structures his series with lots of slow-burning b-plots, while maintaining a steady supply of action. He also has a keen interest in Marvel history, and integrating past plotlines, such as the one about Mantis and Swordsman, or his other contemporaneous titles (such as the Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer, both of which impacted this book). I miss the days of the fully realized shared universe, where books didn’t need to wait for big events in order to cross over casually. Or when they would revisit past events, such as the team’s journey to Egypt, where they almost ran into both the Fantastic Four and Doctor Strange. I love those kinds of shout-outs to previous stories.
Englehart took what is a bit of an oddball idea – to have a second Avengers team on the west coast, to fill it with a small group of highly interconnected characters, and to let it stand in sharp contrast to the main Avengers title. And it worked. Over the course of his forty-ish issues, including the Annuals, the team went from being more or less strangers to bonding, to being torn apart due to personal reasons. The main Avengers book never had this same sense of family to it, with the possible exception of the Kooky Quartet days.
I’d like to take a look at the main characters of this book, as this was a much more character driven comic than other team books are.
Hawkeye – I like the way that Clint grew more confident in his leadership skills over the course of this run. At the beginning, he questioned himself a lot, and never seemed very sure of his decisions, largely because he’d bought into his own hothead narrative, and didn’t trust himself to make good decisions. A lot of his confidence came from Bobbi, so her betrayal, if that’s what it really was, must have hit extra hard. And that’s my problem with Clint in the later issues – I don’t believe that a reformed villain with a history of making poor choices would have come down so hard on her for allowing the man that raped her to die. It felt out of character to me. I mean, it made sense that he lost his head at the start of that, but I would have thought he’d calm down a little more quickly. It’s interesting to note that for much of this run, Clint was also headlining the Solo Avengers book, but whatever his adventures there were, it seems like they never impacted this title at all (I’d like to tackle that series for one of these columns some day, because I don’t remember anything about them, except for when Clint got a new sillier looking costume in an attempt to go grim’n’gritty).
Mockingbird – When Bobbi entered this title, she was more or less a blank slate. Her marriage to Clint was so sudden in the Hawkeye mini, and while she may have had some Marvel history, she was effectively a new character. I feel like Englehart never quite knew what to do with her. She had all this SHIELD training, and was clearly capable, but she also tended to slide into the background before her trip to the past. It wasn’t until she let Lincoln die that she became interesting to me, but I found it frustrating that she couldn’t be more clear about what had happened to her. At the same time, I think I’m reading this from a very 2020s perspective, instead of an 80s perspective, so I’m not sure how people at that time would have reacted to news that their wife was mind-controlled and raped. I think the fact that she didn’t know if Clint would ever come back for her should have come up as extenuating circumstances.
Iron Man – Other than Clint’s Solo Avengers gig, Tony was the only character on this team with his own book, and as such, he had the least work done on him. In fact, he had no character work done at all. He was basically a stand-in character. Sure, there was his brief rivalry with Simon, which never seemed that convincing, but that’s it. One thing I noticed in this, which is something I’ve been wanting to check out by rereading his Iron Man series, is just how boring Tony Stark was before Robert Downey Jr. came along and changed how he was portrayed forever. Tony’s just kind of bland.
Tigra – Tigra also slouched her way to mediocrity as this series ran. At the beginning, as she struggled with her unintegrated human and cat sides, she was pretty interesting, and I think kind of risqué for a book like this. After she gained full control of herself, she got dull, and became more of a supporting player. And aside from her appearances in Avengers: The Initiative and Avengers Academy, she’s never really done much after this.
Wonder Man – Simon has always been a tough character to like, and this series did very little to help him. He always struck me as vacuous and shallow, and beyond the brief bit about him overcoming his fear of death, I stayed with that assessment of him. He also came off as very childish, and thinking of him as an inventor on Tony’s level never made any sense, because he was always played as being pretty dumb. Plus, he had maybe the worst collection of outfits of any Marvel character in the 80s. I had always thought his leather jacket leisure suit was lame before this title launched, but then he got that green outfit with the rockets on his back, and it was a new low. Even after he switched to the wrestler look, with a nicer red jacket, his haircut was terrible. I don’t know if this was an editorial mandate to always make him look like a loser, or just Milgrom’s poor design sense, but I remember hating Simon as a kid, and I haven’t gained any new appreciation for him here. I talked about his brotherhood with Vision in my second Vision and Scarlet Witch series, so I won’t say much here, except to say it felt forced to me.
Doctor Pym – You could be forgiven if you thought that Hank was the main character of this book. From the very beginning of the series, when he was taking on the office manager role at the compound, so much of the book tended to revolve around Hank. We saw him reconcile with one of the Ultrons, going so far as to feel like a father, before that robot was destroyed. We saw him get close to Tigra, and find new life in her arms. Then he hit a low point and contemplated suicide. After Bonita saved him (without “saving” him), he decided to see if he could out-Simon Simon in terms of bad costumes, dressing first like The Shadow, but in blue, and then wearing a pair of red cover-alls and calling himself a “science adventurer”. I was down with Hank until that point, and then I started to see him as just a very corny character. His shrunken arsenal had a lot of potential, but everything in it was kind of dumb. I mean, the number of times he used a brace? Also, I hated the idea of Rover, his dog-like AI flying car, which got written out after a few issues. It’s just weird.
Moon Knight – I also thought it was a very strange idea to take a character like Moon Knight, who is known for dark, street-level New York type stuff, and move him to LA to be on a team that operates in the daylight. The Khonshu stuff was interesting, and I love the Fist of Khonshu outfit, even with Milgrom drawing it, but Marc never fit on the team.
Firebird/Espirita – It’s a shame that my favourite character in this book was almost never in it. I thought that there was a ton of story potential in Bonita, and that it was a shame that she didn’t stick around. I was curious about her portrayal as a Christian superhero, and all the weird contradictions that would come with fighting alongside characters like Moon Knight, Thor, or Hercules. Also, she just seemed really nice, and I’d have liked to see where she would have landed on the issue of Bobbi and the Phantom Rider.
I don’t feel like Vision or Scarlet Witch were in this book enough to discuss here, as Englehart did most of what he wanted to with those two in their own book. I never liked or bought Quicksilver as a villain, especially as someone who wanted to run “the evil mutants”. It just didn’t suit him. I did always think that Hellcat and Hellstorm should have been in this book more often, even if it would have given the book too much of a Defenders field. I also wonder why I never liked Shroud more. He should have been a cool character, but he struck me as kind of frumpy.
There was a long stretch towards the beginning of this run where I was getting tired of the team just coming across villains for no good reason. One month, Graviton is pulling together some vaguely physics-related characters. In another, they walk around and run into Headlok and the Griffin. Not long after that, it’s Dominus’s modified cacti and lizards. It got a little old, but once the team was sent back into the past, things really got tight in terms of plotting.
I still wonder why Englehart left the book. I could tell from the letters’ page (which I only skimmed from time to time) that he wanted more prominence for this book. Apparently at one time there was a discussion about renaming the first Avengers title East Coast Avengers, or giving this book the name New Avengers, but the fans didn’t like that.
I do still see Milgrom’s art as a weak point in this book. His style was just a little too old-school for me, back then and now. I appreciate the great ink work of the late Joe Sinnott on the early issues, even though he gave the characters a stiffness I didn’t enjoy. When Mike Machlan took on the finishing role, things didn’t really improve. This book always looked a little out of time compared to the other titles on the stands (the Buscemi/Palmer Avengers run looked so much more realistic and adult to my young eyes). Still, I recognize that Milgrom is a great artist. I just found his character designs weak.
I remember being really excited to learn that my childhood favourite, John Byrne, was taking over the title. That’s where we’re headed next, as Byrne started Wanda down the road to ruin, and also kind of wrecked Vision. But, USAgent!
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