Issue(s): Avengers #267, Avengers #268, Avengers #269
We start with a scene that blew my mind when i read it in realtime so many years ago, with classic-costume Storm and Colossus joining the Avengers...
...only to have a fake Iron Man show up and trick Ronald Reagan into detonating a nuclear bomb.
Fake Iron Man turns out to be Kang...
...but he's soon transported to Limbo where he's executed by a panel of more Kangs.
I'll pause there and let you unwind that.
The Kang Council intrigue continues, as one of the Kangs on the panel returns to Limbo and finds a secret passage...
...where he's led by another Kang to a living Ravonna, and then killed.
Things get a little more grounded when we return to our current, non-alternate, timeline, where Hercules, the Black Knight, and the Wasp are extending a tunnel from Avengers Mansion out to Hydrobase. But things quickly get weird again when they get transported to Limbo and discover first the Hulk...
...and then the original Giant Man.
After being somewhat shaken by seeing her ex-husband, the Wasp figures out what's going on. These are the characters that were displaced to Limbo during the first attack by the Space Phantom. This is confirmed as Giant Man is replaced by Iron Man and Kang shows up to taunt the Avengers.
Kang's plan is to get the Avengers mad enough that they'll attack any "Kang" they see without question, which will allow him to eliminate the final member of the council. The idea is that thanks to all of Kang's movements across the timestream, multiple alternate realities, and therefore alternate Kangs, have been created, and the "main" Kang, who helpfully wears a cape, wants to eliminate all the others, especially since many of the divergent Kangs are failures.
I put "main" in quotes because this Kang isn't necessarily the original, if such a word even applies. The remaining Kang that caped Kang wants eliminated is actually "older" than him.
Issue #268 begins with the other half of the Avengers - Captain America, Captain Marvel, and Sub-Mariner - trying to figure out what happened to their missing teammates. When Avengers equipment detects a "chronal displacement wave" (or, a "time-teleport ray" if you prefer), Cap figures it must be the work of Kang. And that leads to one of my favorite little misunderstandings in comics.
Speaking of time travel jargon, here's Black Knight trying to explain Limbo to Hercules.
The Avengers in Limbo haven't gone anywhere yet because the Wasp is waiting for one final being to replace the old school Iron Man, and eventually the Space Phantom appears. However, he's immediately killed by Kang before the Avengers can get any information from him.
Next, the Avengers are attacked by Dire Wraiths, tying this Limbo in with the one from ROM.
The Wraiths basically throw themselves at the Avengers, forcing them to kill the creatures.
They learn that this was also Kang's intention. Kang's plan to get the Avengers enraged enough to attack him on sight is working.
Back on Earth, the remaining Avengers set up to use a Time Platform appropriated from the Leader to go after their teammates. I love the use of the Leader's Time Platform. It would have been easy enough to have the Avengers ask Mr. Fantastic or Iron Man to whip something up from them or use Dr. Doom's time machine yet again, but instead Stern pulls out this otherwise one-off gadget. As it happens, Kang wants to make sure the Avengers can't get back, so he makes sure that the Time Platform itself travels with them to Limbo, which means that it isn't available to return them to their home.
From another point of view, both the elimination of the Time Platform and the Dire Wraiths might just be clean-up exercises, but using these elements, even if it was just meant to be one last time, helps make the Marvel universe seem large and interconnected.
Back to the first Avengers team. They make it to a castle (it doesn't quite look like the castle where Thor met Immortus and i'm not sure if it's supposed to be) where they find the body of the most recently killed Kang. And that's when eldest Kang arrives. As caped Kang intended, there's enough confusion to start a fight between the Avengers and eldest Kang, who deploys the Growing Man.
Now, Hercules has been bristling at the leadership of the Wasp throughout this journey to Limbo (as well as in prior issues), and i thought perhaps the Growing Man would be used to teach him a lesson about following orders, because the last thing you want to do with the Growing Man is just hit the guy repeatedly. But i'm wrong (this is the second time i was wrong about that), and Hercules basically does just hit the guy repeatedly, resulting in some funny scenes.
With the trajectory of the Growing Man leading the second group of Avengers to the fray, eldest Kang is defeated, and that's when caped Kang shows up with Ravonna to take them all prisoner.
I mentioned at the beginning of this entry that this arc pulls in a lot of various elements from past stories, and of course the concept of time travel actually causing alternate realities, and the use of Limbo, and the Dire Wraiths, and various parts of Kang's history are all part of that. See the References section for the full list. But the story was actually a planned continuation of the story in Fantastic Four #272-273. At the end of that story, it was shown that Kang discovered the time machine created by Nathaniel Richards, and is therefore related to both Nathaniel and Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). But it wasn't explicitly stated as such; you had to be able to recognize the scene as a repeat from Rama-Tut's origin story. A blurb promised that an "upcoming Avengers saga" would answer people's questions. It took about about a year and a half to get to this story (delayed by Secret Wars II, maybe?), but we are here now, and issue #269 lays out the modern revised origin of Kang, about 10 pages of Kang's history interspersed with scenes of Hercules struggling to break free of his prison while Ravonna suspiciously doesn't alert Kang about it.
After the now familiar facts (see References again), we learn that after Kang's battle with Thor in Thor #140, Kang wound up in Limbo where he discovered a dead Immortus...
...and used his technology to rescue Ravonna from her near-death. But the result of that decision was the creation of a divergent timeline in which he himself was killed in her stead. And that's when he learned that there were in fact many divergent timelines and many divergent Kangs. And since many of them were "idiots", he set out to destroy them all "before the name of Kang become synonymous with 'fool'".
With that explanation finished, Hercules weakens Kang's tractor beams enough that Captain Marvel is able to escape and free the other Avengers.
In the resulting battle, while most of the Avengers are dealing with robots and Ravonna keeps a gun trained on eldest Kang, caped Kang releases Darkforce energy to trap Captain Marvel.
The other Avengers arrive in time to rescue her. Eldest Kang escapes, but his gun malfunctions and he dies (in a more bloody than usual death for a code book)...
...leaving only a single Kang. That's when Immortus shows up.
Ravonna's actually with him, and it turns out that Immortus has been manipulating Kang all along.
The story ends with Kang getting tricked into a psyche-globe that imparts the memories of all the slain Kangs to him...
...but also drives him crazy, and he runs off and gets lost in Limbo.
Immortus then "imperiously" sends the Avengers back to their own time period, deliberately ensuring that they continue to view him with suspicion.
I said above that this story had the unfortunate side effect of adding a lot of baggage to Kang, but that wasn't necessarily inevitable. Roger Stern cleans up his own mess here by eliminating all the divergent Kangs and having the one survivor absorb the memories of all the dead ones. So going forward, there only needed to be one Kang again (once he recovered from his madness), and he could have been wise enough to avoid creating more duplicates. And in the meantime, this story re-establishes Immortus as a mysterious entity who may or may not be acting in the best interests of the Avengers at any given moment.
And while this story has a bit of a history-lesson feel to it, Stern, Buscema, and Palmer do a great job injecting character and action, making it a fun ride even if you don't want to get involved in the mechanics of Limbo.
Two little appearance changes in issue #267. The first is more of an acknowledgement. Wasp comments on Jarvis having lost weight. It's true; Jarvis used to be drawn a lot fatter in the face.
And Captain Marvel has relaxed her hair a bit. One criticism of her look has been that her afro was already out of date when she was introduced, so this is an attempt to rectify that.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: A word on the time travel characters: Kang, Immortus, Space Phantom, Ravonna, and even the Growing Man. As always, it's not necessarily the case that their appearances in my project are listed in their chronological order; since they can time travel i really have no way of knowing if, for example, Kang's appearance here from his point of view really takes place after his appearance in Secret Wars II #7. Compounding that problem is the introduction of multiple Kangs and Ravonnas; it's possible that any given Kang (especially) appearance has really been a divergent version and there's really no way of tracking the "one true Kang", although i suspect that it wasn't Roger Stern's intention to invalidate any of Kang's published appearances. With regards to Ravonna specifically, it will be revealed in Avengers annual #21 that Ravonna was replaced by a doppelganger after Avengers #71. So i've definitely not listed her.
On a more practical note, the Avengers are shown returning from Limbo at the beginning of Avengers #270 where they begin dealing with some protests around Namor that are building outside their mansion, so no Avengers appearances should occur between #269-270.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showBlack Knight (Dane Whitman), Captain America, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Growing Man, Hercules, Immortus, Jarvis, Kang, Sub-Mariner, Wasp
My brain just exploded from this review
Posted by: doomsday | November 25, 2013 11:59 PM
This was an awesome story. Kang was one of my favorite villains, and this really made him a threat. I agree that future writers really screwed up by making time travel too incoherent afterwards and leading to many divergent realities, but this story was done very well.
I like the burgeoning Paladin-Wasp romance. Readers know what is happening, but it doesn't waste any time or space better devoted to fighting villains!
Posted by: Chris | November 26, 2013 9:21 PM
I've stated before about Jarvis' changed appearance. IMO, It wasn't just a weight loss. He was drawn to look like a whole different person. He seems to be taller and his hair is darker, as well as his face being thinner. I never understood how two different artists can "draw" the same person to look different. A person should look the same no matter who draws him or her. I expect a carbon copy look from issue to issue. I realize there will be instances when cosmetic changes will occur - i.e. Iron Man changing armors or Thor with and without a beard. But, those should be the exceptions to the rule.
Posted by: clyde | May 26, 2015 3:14 PM
These were definitely great issues. That's why it was so disappointing when just a couple of years later we again had multiple Kangs running around in Avengers confusing everything.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 22, 2015 11:41 AM
So, Storm and Colossus at the beginning - Is that really them? If so, shouldn't they be tagged as appearing?
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | April 15, 2016 5:57 PM
Scratch that, didn't read the beginning of the synopsis thoroughly. :P
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | April 15, 2016 6:07 PM
Comments are now closed.
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