Issue(s): Avengers #69, Avengers #70, Avengers #71
While the Avengers visit him, the Wasp discovers a little doll.
It turns out to be the Growing Man...
...which attempts to take Tony Stark.
It is a lure to get the Avengers to follow him to Kang.
Kang has already recruited the Black Panther, who points out that Kang is acting like an ass. Kang has gotten himself involved in a contest with an entity known as the Grandmaster...
...and the Avengers have to act as his avatars/champions/pawns in a cosmic game of chess. The Grandmaster contacted him a year ago but he's only getting around to talking to the Avengers about it now. If Kang wins, he gets the power over life and death, which he wants to use to restore Ravonna to life (she's currently in some sort of stasis tube). If he loses, the Grandmaster will erase the Earth from existence.
The Grandmaster's pawns are the Squadron Sinister, an analogue to DC's Justice League.
Kang sends Tony Stark back to Earth, and some of the Avengers are sent off to play the game. The rest of the Avengers get to hang around Kang's fortress and wait...
...which is odd, especially since Iron Man suddenly shows up, apparently having miraculously recovered from the fastest surgery on record.
The game is: The Avengers must prevent the Squadron Sinister from destroying four of Earth's landmarks. The very nature of the game seems designed to feel like a Golden Age Marvel or contemporary DC story, where instead of the teams acting as teams, each member has to go and perform a specific solo quest.
The battles are:
Captain America vs. Nighthawk at the Statue of Liberty. Cap wins just by being the better fighter.
Iron Man vs. Dr. Spectrum at the Taj Mahal. Iron Man wins by figuring out that Dr. Spectrum is vulnerable to ultraviolet light.
Thor vs. Hyperion at the Sphinx. Thor wins by.. er, we'll let Yellowjacket explain it: "Somehow, his hammer duplicated... and reversed.. the atomic process that gave Hyperion his powers!". Yeah. "Somehow.".
Goliath vs. the Whizzer at Big Ben. The Black Knight shows up and interferes with this battle.
The Black Knight decides he needs to make up for his blundering, so he consults the Brazier of Truth and contacts his ancestor, Sir Percy.
Meanwhile the game enters its second phase. The remaining Avengers (except, of course, the Wasp) are sent back to 1941 (according to the Black Panther) to fight the Golden Age Captain America, Human Torch, and Sub-Mariner. It may not be clear due to all the continuity inserts, but this is essentially the first appearance of the Invaders, although they aren't named as such. Cap still has his original triangle shield.
Yellowjacket makes a comment that he likes the Sub-Mariner better when he talks with contractions, i guess a reference to the fact that Namor wasn't written quite so regally in the Golden Age.
Meanwhile the Black Knight arrives at Kang's fortress through the power of Percy and a connection to his ebony sword...
...and he and the Wasp try and free the other Avengers. I don't know why they are doing this. The last time the Knight interfered in the game he nearly got the Earth destroyed.
The Avengers win, mainly due to the fact that the Vision is such a powerhouse.
The Grandmaster tells Kang that he only gets half the prize due to the Black Knight's interference. Kang has to choose between the power of life, and restoring Ravonna, or the power of death - being given enough power to destroy the Avengers. Kang chooses death, but loses the fight because the Black Knight was not officially an Avenger.
Then the Avengers induct the Black Knight onto the team. No dudes, that was your ace in the hole!
Having the Avengers fight DC's top heroes as a one time story was a cute idea, but somehow these characters kept coming back. I am no fan of them. Due to the convoluted way in which these Squadron folks became a regular part of the Marvel story instead of just a one-off, i am prefacing these characters as "Sinister" versions, with the exception of Nighthawk, since it is this version of Nighthawk that joins the Defenders, and the Whizzer, since he accommodatingly later changes his name to Speed Demon.
Overall this was a fun adventure story. Sal Buscema's art isn't quite as good as his brother's but i like it fine.
Quality Rating: C
Historical Significance Rating: 8 - 1st Grandmaster. 1st Squadron Sinister, including Nighthawk, who will go on to be a Defenders mainstay.
Chronological Placement Considerations: Continued directly from Iron Man #18, and Iron Man #19 takes place concurrently with the end of #69. Needs to fit into a break in arcs for Captain America and Thor as well. The MCP places this during the last few panels of Captain America #120 and between Thor #171-172. As Mark notes in the comments, the Invaders appear here during Invaders Annual #1, and it turns out that it's not actually 1941 in their time.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Super Action #30, Marvel Super Action #31, Marvel Super Action #32
Inbound References (25): show
Roy Thomas revisited this story by showing it from the Invaders' side in Invaders Annual #1.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 10, 2011 6:13 PM
Keith Pollard has a letter in #71.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 25, 2013 6:12 PM
Why not track the Sinister Whizzer as Speed Demon?
Posted by: Erik Robbins | July 7, 2013 8:53 PM
Asked and answered here but coincidentally i am coming up on that issue now. And i'm definitely feeling the will of the people on this one. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | July 7, 2013 9:53 PM
Anyone know why the final page/panel in #71 (the great "Avengers Assemble!" page shown above) has Jan in a green, generic superhero-type costume...even though throughout this story arc (69-71) she's wearing a brown plaid mini-dress with blue-black boots and gloves? And if you look at the cover of the Marvelmania Catalogue #2 (1970), which has a similar Sal drawing of these very characters, she's shown there wearing the plaid ensemble. Was there a switch of the art?
Posted by: Shar | July 17, 2013 10:02 PM
A link to the Marvelmania #2 cover.
Posted by: Shar | July 17, 2013 10:31 PM
Since when does Hank (Yellowjacket) Pym control bees? I thought ants were his homies.
Posted by: Gary Himes | July 17, 2013 11:14 PM
A yellowjacket is a type of wasp, which I guess is some sort of explanation.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | July 17, 2013 11:28 PM
@Gary: prolly around the time someone informed him that ants don't make honey.
fnord12's gonna scold me for commenting on a comic i haven't read yet...pshaw
Posted by: min | July 18, 2013 6:21 PM
@Shar - thanks for the link and pointing that out. It sure looks like the new panel is a replacement and that's why there's a difference in the Wasp's costumes. Would giving (selling?) art to Marvelmania have precluded Marvel from using it themselves? Or maybe they just didn't want a repeat?
Posted by: fnord12 | July 20, 2013 8:23 AM
The Vision meeting the Original Human Torch is significant to later Avengers history as the Vision had been built from the Torch's android body by Ultron. John Byrne tried to change that in West Coast Avengers in effort to revive the Torch for use in the then current Marvel Universe. That changed a lot when Kurt Busiek split Marvel continuity in Avengers Forever to have the Torch exist along side the Vision and still have the Vision built from his body. If this continuity stands, The Vision met himself as the Original Torch in this story before his origin was fully fleshed out in subsequent Avengers stories.
Posted by: Bogie | January 12, 2014 2:25 AM
I love the Squadron Sinister/Supreme. One of my favorite super villain groups. Avengers 69-71 gets an A from me. Love Sal's art, the story and dialogue were great, and the ending where Kang chooses hate over love and loses to both...just brilliant.
Posted by: Mike | June 23, 2014 10:57 AM
Perhaps the Black Knight footnote is about Percy of Scandia (not seen since MSH #17) and not Dane Whitman? Nah, it's probably in #70, not #71.
An absolute classic, and great fun with the first ever "JLA/Avengers" showdown. Yes, the Avengers mostly win, but the story is written like a Gardner Fox JLA story, so there's a little fairness shown.
I also love how Roy tweaks three of the DC stalwarts' origins to account for their evil nature. Superman is no longer the friendly alien finding refuge on Earth after his home is destroyed; instead WE are responsible for his planet's death and he wants revenge. Batman isn't driven by his parents' murder, he's just 'bored" and easy prey for the Grandmaster. And since there was criticism that Green Lantern was just some guy with a deus ex machina ring, here they had the prism have it's own personality, and gave it equal billing with "Hal".
I would think you have to track each Squadron Sinister Spectrum separately; that Prism gets around. Interesting that apparently Hyperion is the same guy in both universes and it's definitely Kyle as Nighthawk both here and in he Squadron Supreme, but Speed Demon isn't Stan Stewart and I don't think any of the Sinister Spectrums have been the Earth-616 version of Joe Ledger. Perhaps the Grandmaster approached "our" Joe and Stan, but they weren't interested? Whereas Kyle, with the trauma he'd been through as seen in his origin (Defenders #31) was easily influenced. Man, I love me some Nighthawk, but that's a little sad.
And Hank Pym's studies in insect communications work on all species, I'm pretty sure.
That's not a mini-dress Jan is wearing. We can see she has a turtleneck on underneath her plaid jacket and (presumably, I would hope) some shorts or a really tiny skirt as well.
Posted by: Dan Spector | July 9, 2014 4:13 AM
Roy Thomas stated in Comics Interview #66 that he designed the Squadron Sinister's costumes, not Sal Buscema.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 9, 2015 11:39 PM
Personal Historical Significance Rating: 10
The first appearance of Kyle Richmond. There's a reason that my website is called Nighthawk News and he is the reason (https://nighthawknews.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/10-comic-books-to-remember-or-why-this-is-called-nighthawk-news/).
I must admit, I have always loved the Squadron idea (I'll love it even more when the Squadron Supreme comes around). When I desperately wanted to be a comic book writer at age 12, both Nighthawks had just been killed off, so I created a new one. And I was always a huge Justice League and Avengers fan, so the idea of combining them was just awesome (although, the version of the Avengers printed in JLA was pretty weak).
Other notes on these? I agree that's a coat Jan is wearing, but it's pretty damn short and I also find it odd she's in a completely different, much much less revealing outfit in the group picture.
Also, I almost never notice the inking, but either there's something screwy with the source panels that fnord used or with the inking, because in the first page of the Nighthawk / Cap battle Nighthawk's outfit is a much darker blue than previously and later.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 29, 2015 7:19 PM
About the last page of #71: a letter in Alter Ego #130 details that the cover to Marvelmania Catalog #2 was done first showing the Wasp in the brown plaid coat. Then for some reason(maybe Martin Goodman being micromanagerial, as he was around that time), another artist altered the page to provide the generic super-hero outfit for her, which was used for #71. A 3rd version of the page was used on the 1969 Seulingcon Program Book and later reprinted in Alter Ego #118. All 3 versions were inked by Grainger, and I'm guessing the catalog cover showed up just by the Marvelmania people requesting any unpublished art that was around.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 25, 2015 11:43 AM
Actually the "letter" in Alter Ego #130 is composed of excerpts from an email exchange I had with Roy Thomas after I saw the "SeulingCon" (aka July 4th-6th 1969 NYC Comic Art Con) image printed in Alter Ego #118.
For me, that SeulingCon page was the missing piece of the puzzle. In my email exchange with Roy I speculated the sequence of events as follows:
Posted by: Shar | March 4, 2015 2:25 PM
I know I'm responding to old comments, but I don't believe Hyperion is "the same guy in both universes" any more than Spectrum and the Whizzer are. Unless it's been retconned, I think the Squadron Supreme series revealed that this Hyperion was an inorganic duplicate created by the Grandmaster (so the origin given here is a lie - although it IS the true origin of the Squadron Supreme's Hyperion, upon whom this one is modelled. And it IS the 616 Hyperion's origin as far as he knows).
So the 616 Hyperion is actually more like Bizarro.
And that means only Nighthawk has the same identity in both 616 and the Supremeverse.
Posted by: Dan H. | September 13, 2015 1:50 PM
The Squadron Supreme's Hyperion is eventually retconned into an Eternal but you're right about everything else.
Posted by: Michael | September 13, 2015 2:34 PM
C'MON Marvel we need some Squadron Sinister with lethal costume upgrades. The NightHawk/Batman character has a real chance to lead this prospective new Dark and twisted Superhero/Villain Group (this conflict by itself kicks some Keester) and maybe Parlay into the Marvel Multiverse concepts and perhaps even a Defenders crossover. Marvel give the gentleman writing the NIGHTHAWK NEWS some Props and purpose!
Posted by: RocknRollguitarplayer | July 12, 2016 6:29 PM
Black Knight is the last new Avenger for forty issues. No one new would join the team until Black Widow in Avengers #111.
Posted by: Steven | August 13, 2016 8:22 PM
"Then the Avengers induct the Black Knight onto the team. No dudes, that was your ace in the hole!"
Be pretty hilarious if instead of "remedying" that omission, the Avengers had been dicks and used that as an excuse to screw Dane out of membership. "Aw, gee, we'd love to have you on the team…but we might need you in case Kang gets power over us again. You understand how it is, right, bro?" Lmao.
Posted by: Dan Spector | June 14, 2017 9:01 AM
Roy Thomas designed the Squadron Sinister's costumes? That would explain why they're so goddam ugly. I wonder if he designed the equally ugly costumes for the Zodiac?
Posted by: Andrew | September 9, 2017 11:27 AM
Once he gets pants, Hyperion's isn't that bad.
Posted by: AF | September 9, 2017 2:42 PM
I first encountered this story in the British black and white reprints published by a fellow named Alan Class in the early 70s. Sal Buscema's art works really well in black and white. I have nostalgic memories of those old reprints, which also included other companies' work like Magicman and T.H.UN.D.E.R. Agents.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 17, 2017 12:23 PM
DC had already done some (less serious) parodies of Marvel teams - the Inferior Five (parodies of other DC characters) had already met the Egg's Men in 1966 & the Kookie Quartet (a FF parody) in 1967, plus the Sub-Moron, the Cobweb Kid, and a parody of Marvel's version of Thor. None of these were recurring characters in the way Squadron Supreme/Sinister became though.
The Inferior Five's parent team Freedom Brigade included a Wonder Woman-parodying parent called Princess Power, while their Flash parody had an arch enemy called Speed Demon, so I guess there are only so many names for DC parodies.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 11, 2018 12:04 PM
If Kevin Feige spent some time on Supermegamonkey reading posts instead of his own headlines he’d have contemplating thoughts for future phase offerings. Super mega monkey needs it’s own movie LOL
Posted by: Rocknrollguitarplayer | June 13, 2018 1:48 AM
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