Issue(s): Avengers #259, Avengers #260
We start with Firelord making amends for the damage he caused the city in his fight with Spider-Man.
Soon, however, the Avengers receive the message that Captain Marvel sent last issue. Starfox flies the team to a Starship from Titan (The MCP gives Mentor a behind-the-scenes appearance)...
...and pilots through sub-space into Skrull territory.
They meet up with Captain Marvel, who, along with the Skrull's leader, General Zedrao, proposes an alliance with the Skrulls against Nebula's fleet.
Starfox agrees that with the power of Thanos' Sanctuary II behind her, she's a universe threatening threat and, despite the Black Knight's objection that the Avengers shouldn't be "policing the whole blasted universe", the Avengers agree. Firelord, a Xandarian before he became a herald of Galactus, objects and leaves the group. Which is for the best since the Skrulls weren't too happy having a former herald of the guy who ate their homeworld and cast them into civil war around anyway.
Meanwhile, Nebula gets tired of dealing with the Skrull governor that she's been using as a figurehead, so she kills him and takes direct control. She's amassed a massive "motley" fleet of mercenaries, plus she's got Thanos' ship. Should be enough, right?
The Avengers and Skrulls join the battle. It's a common thing, but worth commenting on: super-heroes are normally averse to using lethal force, but get them in outer space and up against some bug-eyed aliens, and it's blazing lasers away.
Hercules is, as always, awesome.
During the battle, the Black Knight uses the "atomic steed" that the Beast brought home from Wundagore a while back.
It's said that it fell into disrepair but Dane was able to easily fix it.
Captain Marvel is instrumental in breaching Sanctuary II's forcefield, but the effort causes her to "use up a few pounds of mass".
With the field down, the Avengers and Skrulls are able to infiltrate Thanos' ship. The Skrulls make great use of their shapeshifting powers for a change (only Captain America is the real thing in the shots below). What better form to use to strike terror into the hearts of interlopers on Thanos' ship?
Slightly earlier, Firelord had a change of heart when he arrived at Xandar and discovers it in ruins.
A dying Queen Adora told him that Nebula was responsible for the attack. Among other things, she says "all of Xandar's Champions... slain".
That choice of noun isn't a coincidence. It's a reference to the New Champions, meaning that Comet, Crimebuster, and Powerhouse are now dead. The 1985 Marvel Handbook confirms it, even adding an (i think) original piece of art.
Firelord heads back into the battle zone...
...but despite his vast power he's taken out very quickly. I guess this is meant to demonstrate the massive power of Sanctuary II, but coming on the heels of Firelord's defeat by Spider-Man, the former herald is starting to look like a chump.
He's subsequently found by the Beyonder, who is looking for the Avengers. Firelord tells him that if it were in his power, he'd hurl Nebula "from this very galaxy" so after donning what he considers to be equivalent to a super-hero costume...
...the Beyonder teleports over to Nebula to do just that.
Prior to that, though, Starfox confronts Nebula...
...and learns that she's Thanos' grand-daughter (or so she claims, and that seems to have been Stern's intent; earlier he had her trying to get to know Thanos better by going through his files).
Therefore, when the Beyonder zaps Nebula and her inner circle away, Starfox is clearly less than pleased.
The Beyonder is befuddled by the Avengers' reaction (they don't realize who he is), and he returns to Earth (to be shown at the end of Secret Wars II #3 looking despondent about having made a mess of things).
Definitive art and writing for the Avengers, in my opinion.
It's never mentioned, but General Zedrao is the Skrull that payed tribute to the original Captain Marvel while he was on his deathbed in the first Marvel Graphic Novel. It's cool that Stern re-used the character, and a shame that he's never been used again after next issue.
Nebula says in this issue that Gunthar and Levan were former underlings of Thanos. We've never seen them prior to Stern's Avengers run, so i wonder if they weren't doing a little resume padding. I mean, Thanos had a lot of people working for him, but it's a big jump from being a petty officer on Sanctuary II to Nebula's right-hand men.
When Captain Marvel first re-unites with the Avengers, she introduces her to the Black Knights, saying, "Oh, I don't think you've formally met". We could take that to be reference to the fact that they fought together during the Wraithwar but CM didn't stick around long enough to get introduced.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The first few pages of issue #259 take place very soon after issue #258, but they only feature Nebula and her henchmen. The story begins in earnest "one week later". Issue #260 takes place concurrently with Secret Wars II #3. The Avengers appear in Avengers annual #14 and Fantastic Four annual #19 after these issue, and then back in Avengers #261 before returning to Earth, so they shouldn't appear anywhere else until after that. Before leaving for space, Captain America arrives at Avengers Mansion as She-Hulk and Wyatt Wingfoot are leaving to join Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman (i'm including them as Characters Appearing even though they are off panel) for a "well deserved night on the town". The two couples will still be at dinner at the beginning of Fantastic Four annual #19. It's still "late afternoon" when Cap and She-Hulk are talking, so we can assume that all of these Avengers issues and a portion of Avengers #14 takes place during that afternoon and evening before the FF catch up with the Avengers in space for the crossover in the annuals.
Cross-over: Secret Wars II
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
Inbound References (3): show
Whatever happened to Diamond Head, who was around during the start of the whole Nova/FF/Xandar thing?
Diamondhead betrayed Xandar to the Skrulls in Rom 24. In that issue, Nova defeats him and leaves him floating in space. He reappears in Quasar, where it's revealed that the Stranger found him and imprisoned him as a test subject. He's freed by the Overmind and makes his way back to Earth.
I've never understood why the Beyonder didn't just teleport Nebula back.
This is the point where Secret Wars II is starting to get on my nerves. In previous issues we mostly just got cameos, and in that FF issue the Beyonder made sense as a sort of spirit-guide to Johnny. But here? The Nebula plot had been build up for several months, but rather than a conclusion we suddenly get an out-of-nowhere Beyonder showing up and mucking things up? I mean, it's in character for the Beyonder, but it's just annoying to read.
Secret Wars II is like cousin Ed from Christmas Vacation...except he's real and bothering us instead of his family in the film.
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