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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got some new-time religion, organizational changes, superheroic jurisdiction disputes, and bigger fish to fry in The Three Fold Battle

And we’re opening with Triathlon; remember him? The Olympic athlete who joined the Triune Collective, a cult that somehow gave him three times the peak level of strength and agility possible by the human body? That guy. Anyway, he’s performing for a gathering of the Triune Collective to show off what their vague, never explained religious movement is capable of if you embrace it. Kind of like the Power Team, except there’s one of him. And we also meet the Triunes leader, Jonathan Tremont. Who gets a dramatic pan up as he’s introduced, so imagine my surprise that he’s, y’know… just some regular guy and not, like… Thanos or something.

Now, he *does* change ethnicity several times through this issue, but I’m assuming that’s a coloring error, not a super power thing.

Meanwhile, at the Avengers Mansion, Wanda and Cap have a meeting as they’re aware that the team *really* hasn’t yelled together like it should since the roster changed and Vance and Firestar joined; and with good cause; Caps been real busy dealing with his own stuff in his comic, Thors got a *lot* of difficulty maintaining a work/home life balance since he got a secret identity again, Visions busy trying to convince everyone he’s still an emotionless robot, Simon feels conflicted about being a hero because the last time he was on the team he went crazy and killed some people, Iron Man had most of his skeleton broken, and everyone’s just kind of tired of Vance’s constant hero worship.

Firestars fine though; having the Avengers cure her health crisis really boosted her mood.

Anyway, Wanda takes it upon herself, as deputy leader of the team, to boost morale, and her first idea is to randomly appoint new Avengers Chairmen for each meeting, which means Firestar gets chosen to get the team (and new readers) up to speed on recent plot points and foreshadow future ones.

Given the way Marvel editorial worked in the 90s; legit unsure how much of this winds up being relevant.

Graviton is still *technically* at large after fighting the Thunderbolts (they tricked him into overloading himself and making him implode)

Nobody can find Apocalypse, after defeating Moses Magnum who was apparently one of his henchmen (Firestar phrases it like the Avengers were trying to get him on the phone and Apocalypse was screening his calls, which I find very funny)

The Wrecking Crew is at large *somewhere* but nobody really cares beyond, get, supervillains

And more relevant to this story, Templar has appeared all around the world trying to subjugate people “for universal peace” and insisting he’s a government employee despite nobody in any government agency ever hearing of him before, and Pagan has popped up all over the place like the worlds rowdiest edgelord screaming for someone to *just try* to stop him from wrecking stuff.

Luckily there’s some good news on that last point, as Iron Man flies in to the room saying that Tony Stark invented a way to track the weird energy signals that Templar and Pagan both seem to emit (this was before Iron Man and Tony being the same person was common knowledge and only half the people in the room know that); and so the Avengers, desperate for at least a partial victory in this arc, head off and track down that energy to its source…

The Triune Congregation just outside Lubbock Texas!

So the Avengers arrive, right in the middle of Triathalons display of how a healthy diet and dedicated belief in whatever it is that the Triune believe in can unlock *three times the maximum human body potential*, and ask if anyone’s seen any weird supervillains with clear ulterior motives, or extremely clear regular motives busting the place up lately. And Triathlon reacts like Cap just accused him to punching his cat.


Luckily there isn’t time for a Superhero Misunderstanding And Consequent Brawl, because Pagan punches his way out of the ground and proudly announces what is name is (“Pagan”) and his primary goals (“destroy weaklings”)

And as we’re midway through a Kurt Busiek comic, that means the plots over and the punches begin.

This fight goes much better for the Avengers than the previous one, partly because we’re closer to the end of this arc and mostly because they learned from the last match; Pagan is clearly physically superior but he needs time to adjust his defenses so the Avengers keep mixing things up to keep him off balance, and since Pagan keeps screaming about how he’s the avatar of chaos and the like, Wanda figures that she can strip him of his power rather than just hitting him with Hex Blasts, which works much better.


Also Perez gets to draw pages like this, and you know he loves that.

Eventually, despite their better showing the Avengers can’t make any headway against Pagan and the fight draws to a stalemate… when a giant light shines out of the sky and blasts Pagan into the dirt like a fence-post.


Templar drops out of the sky and starts smacking Pagan around like it’s nothing, and while Templar is still *extremely sketchy* and literally every nation on earth denies ever hearing about him before despite his insistence to the contrary, Triathlon runs to his side to help because clearly the so-called established heroes are incapable of dealing with a threat like Pagan. And so, Templar beats Pagan like a drum for a while, and Pagan says “Ah! Ya got me!” And scurries off with his tail between his legs.

Which *certainly* caught Cap, Wanda and Vances attention; since Thor was able to knock the hell out of Templar when they fought, and Pagan was clearly much stronger than Thor when *they* fought, so how in the hell is Templar able to beat Pagan as easily as he did?


Well, luckily, there's an answer forcoming in the first of the issues epilogues, as we close in on John Tremonts house later that night, when Templar materializes in front of him, saying that their plan has had a bit of a rocky start but is proceeding well; Templar has sown enough distrust with *literally every single* nation by bluntly saying he's operating on the governments behalf, while being just obvious enough that he's a bad-guy that people are willing to look more seriously at the one single organization that Templar seemed generally ambivalent towards; the Triune Collective.

And while Tremont was using Pagan, the seemingly unstoppable murder-monster as a common foe for everyone to focus on, and be relieved when Templar beat him, the fact that the Avengers keep showing up to hassle Templar, who has successfully upstaged them by beating Pagan, works even better. Especially given that the AVengers have, twice now, needed to rely on Triathlon to save the day from a comparatively minor threat.

So yeah, that's a good cliffhanger epilogue; I assumed that Templar and Templar were working together, but Triathlon being a third ring to it was not something I anticipated. I'd call that a Good Last Page Twist.

But there's one page left...

And we see who, exactly, Hank Pym has been working with all this time. Who, exactly, wants him, in particular, inventing things and being too wrapped up in his work to start questioning what he's building or for whom...


Mother friggin' ULTRON, THAT'S WHO!

And next is a three-part story involving the wrecking crew, from a fill-in artist and writer, so we're probably just going to skip that.


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
So I did read that Jerry Ordway three-issue mini-arc just in case it became relevant, and it largely is not. It’s fun enough, but compared to the rest of this run, you can really tell it’s just a filler. But it does prominently feature a forgotten villain from the 70s, and a lot of very specific issue callbacks, so it got that part right. And the plot is kicked off because the villains mistook Photon (formerly Captain Marvel) for Carol Danvers (formerly Ms. Marvel), which does feel like a very Busiek kind of plot point.

The main important thing is that Vance received a pretty severe concussion by standing too close to special-guest Black Knight as he was swinging his sword (Danes sword is a cursed mystic blade made of concentrated darkness, so a concussion is the best case scenario) which is especially dangerous considering his powers are psychic in nature, and he got a bone-sticking-out style compound fracture when he tried to help save the day from a big robot guy despite that.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got complicated family drama, even more complicated family drama, and one of my favourite ever George Perez comic covers in… The Evil Reborn

Now there *was* another fill-in issue before this one, a Wizard #0 special, that I didn’t bother to cover as its largely just a recap of this Avengers run so far, culminating with the Avengers fighting Firebrand, (the “I have a sociopolitical agenda I’m trying to push as a distraction from crimes” Iron Man villain, not the guy from Gargoyles Quest). And which is also a recap on Ultrons origins, but that’s largely all.

Except that there’s one scene of Simon and Wanda going to visit his brother, the Grim Reaper, in the hospital (apparently he didn’t just dissipate into magical hell ghost energy when he was beaten, but he *was* hospitalized), only to find the hospital in ruins, and nearly everyone inside dead, with the only survivors saying that robots attacked the clinic made a beeline for the Reaper and butchered everyone in their way.


And the issue ends with Hank Pym being attacked in his lab by *dozens* of Ultron-shaped robots.

So yeah… Ultron

Ultron holds rank as being one of the top tier major Avengers villains, alongside Loki, Kang the Conqueror, Baron Zemo and Thanos (maybe Loki, but hes really more of a Thor guy) Originally built by Hank Pym to help with his lab work (and looking more like a hot water heater); Ultron immediately, and I mean *immediately*, turned out to be evil. Seriously; Guy went from Baby Talk to Dedicated to the Complete Destruction of All Organic Life within about 5 seconds of being booted up. He also erased Hanks memories of building him because otherwise it’d be a weird plot hole that Hank forgot he built an apocalypse robot.

Ultron fought the Avengers a *lot* over the years, but the fact that he’s an AI made him particularly hard to put down; he always had a new and improved replacement body waiting for him when he was beaten, and everything from model 6 on up was borderline indestructible thanks to being made of Adamantium (the first canonical appearance of Adamantium, nearly a decade before Wolverine showed up, in fact). He also has a weird family fixation as he considers himself Hank Pyms son, and is obsessed with Janet Van Dyne (who he considers his mother) so he built a sexy mechanical replica of her to act as his wife. Then he built a son, Vision, based on Wondermans brain (he… had a spare copy of that brain laying around), and later a daughter, Alkema, based on Hawkeyes wife Mockingbird, and another son named Vic (forget whose brain he got) Every single one of them turned against him. Alkema was still evil, she just really didn’t like Ultron.

Later Ultron would go full Skynet and conquer the earth, requiring a *lot* of time travel to set *reasonably* back to Status Quo (there’s still an extra Wolverine and Sue Storm running around that nobody ever talks about), and later still he went to space and became the Borg; but that stopped when Hank sacrificed his life to give Ultron a conscience (didn’t work great) and then Galactus blew him to smithereens (used up the reserve of power that kept Galactus from needing to feed on planets so… arguably an even worse outcome). Now he’s alive again but I don’t read Iron Man so I don’t know why.

He was played by James Spader in the movies and he was very quippy, because Joss Whedon wrote that and “Everyone has to talk like Spider-Man” is low, but prominent, on the lists of problems with that guy.

TL/DR; Bad Robot is Back in Town

As for this issue; we’re opening up at the Wakanda Heavy Manufacturing Plant; a factory the Black Panther funded that *exclusively* makes replacement Quinjets for the Avengers, since they basically never land those things, just crash them.

God bless you, Kurt Busiek.

Anyway; not a Business-As-Usual kind of day for the plant (despite the fact that the Avengers wrecked three Quinjets in the last week), as the factory is under attack by an unseen, but brutally vicious entity; demolishing the factory floor and killing as many workers as it possibly can. Black Panther happens to be nearby, giving a speech at the UN as he’s king of a sovereign nation, but drops it because Wakandans are in trouble and he does *not* brook with that kind of nonsense under any circumstances. He arrives at the plant, sees who’s wrecking it, and immediately had a quiet freak out (and even in the 90s; T’challa is a pretty unflappable dude) and then we cut away.

Meanwhile at Avengers Mansion, Firestar and Vance Astro are officially moving in to the grounds; and their dynamic has effectively reversed; Firestar is *loving* moving up to the Big Leagues of Superheroics, finally getting the respect and admiration she’s been denied her entire career of extra judicial peacekeeping, and Vance is feeling like a third wheel since he has a reputation as a starstruck kid and also was pretty badly injured in a Jerry Oordway filler arc that he’s still nowhere near healed from yet.

Cap, meanwhile, is holding a press conference with Thor and Iron Man, where the reporters are complaining about their religious intolerance for hassling the Triune last time (Cap points out that they weren’t; they were chasing a Supervillainy who happened to be nearby, and the Triune took it very personally)

And the lack of PoC on the Avengers (which… fair) but in the same breath complaining that they’re “harboring mutants”, which nobody points out the hypocrisy of.

Oh, and Wanda and Simon are on a lunch date at a Romani Restaurant that translates to her dancing on stage, rendered with the joy and verve that Perez usually reserved for drawing a dozen people fighting a giant made of outer space.

The maître de keeps saying it’s a “Transian cultural dance” and I’m not especially well versed in anthropology but I’m presuming that’s better than the alternative term for Romani people the comic had been using.

Anyway, the press conference is getting a bit heated, so luckily things cool down because Talking Time is Over and Action Time Is now, as rendered by Wasp crashing through the window and screaming that Hank Pym has been kidnapped by killer robots.


She later mentions that she could have come in through the door, but, well… she wanted to crash through a window. And who could blame her?

Janet doesn’t have much time to elaborate beyond that, as at that same moment they get a *second* emergency alert from Black Panther, who is in the middle of getting the crap kicked out of him by another robot, made of Adamantium, at the Quinjet factory.

Everyone collectively says “Oh… oh *crap*!” And runs off to the factory because an Adamantium Robot, Hank Pym being targeted and a systemic attempt to ruin the Avengers ability to mobilize points at Ultron, and that takes immediate priority over anything else.

Also, well, Hanks already missing and T’challa is still under attack so they’re not even bothering to split up the team; everyone (except Vance) heads to the factory; where they find a scene of utter destruction, and the still beaten body of Black Panthers being mangled by…


Ah… hmm…

Not the killer robot promised.

As mentioned previously, Alkhema is Ultrons daughter, built with the brain patterns of Hawkeyes (then) deceased wife, Mockingbird. She, however is much less polite than Bobbi Morse was (even bearing in mind the fact that her code name came because of how rude she was); and she absolutely hates Ultron. She still shares his goals and preferences but she just doesn’t like *him*. She’s more of a bratty teenage daughter who hates her stepdad, but one who is also a murderous robotic psychopath who is functionally indestructible and strong enough to punch a hole through a battleship.

So yeah… superhero fight.


Alkhema is not on Ultrons level, but even so she absolutely *wrecks house* on the Avengers; having been upgraded multiple times over like her father was since their last encounter; tossing Wonderman, Vision and Thor around like rag dolls, and shrugging off Firestars and Iron Man’s best efforts. Cap reveals he can rebuild his new shield into different shapes to act as weapons, which is neat, but it’s still basically him bringing a sword to an Invincible Killer Robot fight.

Luckily they managed to buy enough time trying to just slow Alkhema down for Wanda to arrive from her impromptu dance recital, who quickly explains that she’s gotten an upgrade recently too; and she overloads Alkhema with enough Chaos Magick to disrupt her internal systems (she was guarded against Wanda’s hex power, Chaos Magic was unexpected), this gives the Avengers enough time to ask what exactly Alkhema was doing.

And her response is “distracting you!”

The Avengers race back to the Mansion and turn on the news (presumably at least tying up Alkema, or doing a factory reset or *something*) where they realize that, yup, they got hornswoggled real bad.



Courtesy of live footage from the fictional country of Slorenia (presumably the basis for Sokovia from the MCU), we see the entire country in flames, as a metallic figure has begun systematically and personally murdering every single person in residence.

Ooooh, this is… MUCH worse than building a sexy robot version of your mom.



Arm Candy
later still he went to space and became the Borg
Are you referring to Annihilation: Conquest, when Ultron merged with the Phalanx and was subsequently defeated by Adam Warlock and Phyla-Vell?

Because that happened before Bendis's Stupid Time Travel Event.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
No, I was referring to Rage of Ultron, where he became a nanobots swarm and Hank flung himself into him.

And then after that started acting like The Borg for a second time
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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We've got Traumaraderie, a great big robot rumpus and Waspy-sue getting married in... Ultron Unlimited Part 2: The Evil Revealed

So we're kicking off this issue with a considerably more detailed recap from the cliffhanger of the previous issue; with Ultron revealing that he used the fact that the Avengers were distracted to launch a MASSIVE attack on the fictional country of Slorenia (which I am most likely going to call Sokovia, because that whole part of the MCU was inspired by this arc). Here the Avengers are being lead into the Department of Defense' headquarters because the horrific footage of Ultrons attack that was on TV was pretty drastically toned down; and the generals break down precisely how brutal, methodical and excessively managed to literally, not figuratively, reduce an entire countrys living population to zero.

And because Slorenia is a country that exists in comic books, it also had Weird Defenses in addition to more conventional ones;


But all the zombie warriors, cyborgs and the Slorenian equivalent of the Avengers didn't amount to a hill of beans compared to Ultron, after he REALLY gets focused on a task; and, as noted, he personally manages to completely depopulate the entire country of all organic life; then took the time to arrange the still burning ruins to form a giant replica of his face for any military aircraft who might have been observing this, while he gloats that he's just getting warmed up


So yeah... that's... that's an Avengers-y kind of problem.

Ultron was never a villain to think small, and has always been a major threat to the team, but he's never existed as this sheer scale of threat before; sure he'd want to wipe the earth clean of organic life, but it was usually through building an elaborate doomsday device or building a family of Ultrons for himself; not just... widespread mass murder.

Anyway, the entire collective governments of the Earth think so too, and, with the Avengers acting at the vanguard, literally every country sends their combined military might to the ruins of Slorenia in order to take down Ultron before he decides to move on to the next country over.

Well, most of the Avengers do; Vance is still badly injured so he has to sit this out. But he's also still very touchy about his newfound reputation of being the starry-eyed gee-willikers kid on the team, and being benched for a little thing like having his leg partially inside out, and a concussion that his powers are exacerbating certainly doesn't help. So he decides to at least run support for the team, looking through Avengers files for any clue or hint to Ultrons plans or hints on how to defeat him.

Vance literally says that he doesn't want to just sit on his butt and play Pokemon while everyone else is fighting and dying against Ultron and that works as a surprisingly timeless reference and also, this comic came out in 1999 when the main audience of Pokemon was still children; and Vance is somewhere in his early 20s, so it kind of feels like he was still infantilizing himself, BUT ALSO... Vance would definitely be the kind of guy who was deep into Pokémon despite being in his 20s when it first came out.

Probably imported a copy of Green and taught himself Japanese just so he would have an edge with the deeper levels of the metagame.

ANYWAY, Cap, Thor, Iron Man, and Firestar head to Slorenia to lead the global offensive against Ultron and his drone army, Vance and Jarvis are on the bench, some army guys are trying to pry clues out of Alkhema (they don't succeed since you can't really torture a robot for information, but they do notice that Alkhema truly hates Ultron so she might have been working against him, somehow, by attacking the Quinjet factory) and the rest of the team is investigating Nugent Labs, where Hank Pym was working before mysteriously disappearing in a violent robot attack. This is the slow-things-down character arc part of the comic.

Wanda mentions that she definitely saw Vision at the Cafe Transia in the last issue when she started dancing, and comments that there's nothing wrong with that, but it's kind of weird that his favorite restaurant is one that specializes in her cultural heritage, especially given that he doesn't need to eat or anything, and asks if there's something they need to talk about, and Vision replies "No, it's a coincidence, I'm totally over you, beep-boop, I'm a robot!".

It's scarcely more subtle than that.

Wasp, meanwhile, figures that this is a good time to recap her tumultuous relationship with Hank Pym for the benefit of readers who have not read every Ant Man and The Wasp comic since 1961. And, because this is a Kurt Busiek comic, it comes complete with a bunch of retcons that, honestly... do a lot of heavy lifting for justifying a lot of the more objectionable parts of Hanks long and storied history of being a piece of crap as a person and husband. And, as is appropriate for this story; it too is Ultrons fault

More specifically, it's revealed that when Ultron mk. 1 hypno-blasted Hank immediately after being activated he wound up doing a LOT more psychological scarring than either of them ever suspected; mk 1s Encephalo-beams were much more crude than later Ultrons would wield, and it was more like trying to perform brain surgery by hitting him in the head with a brick until he got amnesia. That, coupled with the Pym Particles that powered his suit and his pretty severely repressed feelings for Janet (which Janet was not helping with by egging him on about them constantly) eventually lead to the full blown psychological break that lead to the rise of Hanks much more unstable Yellowjacket persona.

And Janet then figured "Now's the time to marry him!", which surely did not help.

Anyway, Hank eventually did the work needed to get over his robot-brain-ray induced CTEs and was on the verge of being pretty well adjusted when this happened.

And then Perez got bored drawing people tlaking about their emotions and had a bunch of robots run into the room.


A lot of robots.


No.... seriously... a LOT of robots.


Literally every single Ultron variant, and lots of duplicates of them shows up to attack the Avengers at the lab, and while the real Ultron (referred to as Prime-1 by the army) has, out of a weird sense of nostalgia, opted to replicate the DESIGNS of the earlier models perfectly (right down to glaring weakpoints and speech mannerisms), he did take the time to eliminate their personality quirks that made them anything less than perfect, obedient, killing machines.

Ultron-15 still talks like a grizzled prospector and Ultron-1 still talks like a baby, which is all I need.

Anyway, Wanda, Vision and Simon are among the heaviest hitters the Avengers have ever had, and Wasp has had years worth of being an extremely effective team-leader even before Avengers Forever called her up to the biggest leagues of Superhero Team Leading, but they're still four people against an inexhaustible supply of virtually indestructible kill-bots, so they get beaten badly, but luckily, the Ultron army has no interest in killing them, and instead carries them back to Ultrons main command center in Slorenia, where he informs them that they're pretty lucky since, yes, he's about to murder the lot of them, but not before they provide necessary, albeit unwilling, aide in helping him create the next order of life to rule the planet.


Surely things can't get worse!

NEXT TIME: Instruments of Destruction

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got some good old fashioned family time, yet more Battlebots and Everything Getting Worse in Ultron Unlimited Part 3: The Evil Unveiled

Opening up with some newsreel footage that covers the much more publicly known part of this story; that the murderous apocalypse robot Ultron has stepped up his game and personally murdered *literally everything* in the country of Slorenia, prompting a massive global retaliation known as Operation METALSTORM, spearheaded by the able-bodied active Avengers (Cap, Firestar, Thor, Iron Man and Black Panther)


And Perez showed remarkable restraint by not showing that part in the previous issue, so he’s making up for that now, as most of this issue is about that global counter-offensive against Ultron and his robot army.

And it is not going well.

Turns out that one of the issues Ultron has with organic life is how *wasteful* it is compared to mechanical life, and he’s hardly a hypocrite so he’s recycled and converted the now deceased population of Slorenia into his own army of robot zombies (or Necro-Cyborgs as they’re called); additionally he still has several Terminator-franchises worth of his existing Drone bodies and warships that he used to wipe out Slorenia in the first place still kicking around; the Avengers having their hands full with the bigger badder robots while the less superheroic soldiers busy themselves double-killing the mechanical undead.

They’ve been doing this for hours straight now and have been making no progress towards finding Ultron himself, so the team decides to split up, trusting Panthers natural observation skills and heightened senses for tracking (and also Firestar for being able to fly and the fact that her microwave beams work pretty well against Ultrons robots) to find Ultrons central command while the rest of the Avengers look elsewhere, and busy themselves beating down more robot soldiers.

And that means we cutaway for SUBPLOTS

But this is the middle chapter of a major arc, and the genocide robot who is now boasting a death toll in the millions is *kind of* a higher priority than Simon, Wanda and Visions love-triangle or Vance feeling inadequate, so they’re all Ultron related this time.

Vance has been working himself past the point of exhaustion scouring the Avengers files on Ultron trying to find a clue on how to stop him this time, noting a point in the past (the Acts of Vengeance storyline in particular) where Daredevil of all people managed to beat Ultron by exploiting the fact that that Ultron was particularly psychologically messed up, and another instance where a shipment of Adamantium Ultron was intending to rebuild his body with turned out to have been faulty and turned into brittle Antarctic Vibranium by accident.

In the Blue Mountain military base… everyone has been killed by robots; but *completely different* robots than the ones Ultron has been using, and they free Alkhema, who complains that they took too long and they have to hurry to deal with Ultron


And deep within the capital of Slorenia, Ultron (Ultron mk.16, as a number of close-ups keep pointing out) decides to give a classic Villain Monologue to the captive Avengers; Wonder Man, Vision, Ant-Man, Wasp and Scarlet Witch (and also The Grim Reaper, for poorly explained reason); seems that Ultron came to the conclusion that the reason his previous attempts to exterminate all organic life failed was because he was going out of order; sure he wanted a robotic family for himself (as being the sole guiding intellect of the population of Earth is... kind of lonely) but they usually wound up betraying him and saving the planet from him. So the obvious solution is to wipe out all human life *first*, then use a handful of carefully selected humans mental patterns to build a new generation of synthezoids that have distinctive personalities (but which are still less murderous towards him) all working together more like a eusocial insect collective; which is what he had put Hank on his payroll for.

Love that panel layout, btw.

This is a pretty bonkers plan, but Ultron has never been known for his carefully considered opinions. Anyway, he can't really focus on harvesting the brains of his captives while he's in the middle of a war, so he decides to go ahead and murder the Avengers real quick, which fortunately corresponds to Firestar and Black Panther finding his command base.

And correspondingly, yes, this does mean the rest of the issue is Perez drawing the hell out of an extended superhero fight between the remaining Avengers and what is arguably their deadliest foe, at the height of his powers.


I had high hopes that this panel meant we were going to get a Voltron-Ultron, but no, he was just assembling a dopey looking hoverboard thing.

As you'd expect from a George Perez fight scene where everyone fights an invincible robot, it looks friggin' incredible, and because nobody (including myself) has been overstating how tough Ultron is; despite being outnumbered 5 to one by four of the top-shelf Avengers, plus a rookie whose abilities are tailor made to work particularly well against Ultron, it is anything but an even fight; Ultron-16 is faster and stronger than the lot of them put together, and his Adamantium body can shrug off anything.

But, luckily, Captain America manages to pull off a win by exploiting the fact that Ultron-16s head is designed so that he's incapable of closing his mouth and hitting his enormous glowing weak-point.


Wild that nobody else has ever thought of that.

Nobody really stops to celebrate though (though Firestar really wants to), since, well... a solid dozen pages of constant heavy bombardment from a guy who breathes lightning or no, that was entirely too easy. Everything they through at Ultron shouldn't have dented, let alone destroyed him. But the very, very exhausted and beaten Avengers can't stop to do much more than wonder if Ultron sourced some shoddy second-market Adamantium for his body before heading into his citadel to rescue their captive allies... when they get blindsided.


By Ultron mk.17.

And Ultron mk-23


Oh... shiiiiiiiii~

NEXT TIME: Judgement Day

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got words with thee, the day being saved by an obsessive cataloging of Marvel trivia and sparing the Rod spoiling the child in This Evil Triumphant

Wasting absolutely no time this week as we pick up immediately where we left off last issue; Ultron has revealed his plan to copy the brains of the captive avengers in order to build a baseline of his next (and all future) generation of bodies, the rest of the Avengers having fought to the point to collapse at what they *thought* was Ultron Prime, but was in fact just yet another (albeit very powerful) Drone, only to be attacked by a few more comparably powerful Ultrons.


Quite a few more as it turns out.

Now, the goodish news is that while Ultron is really, really good at building killer robots, and has an entire counties worth of resources to gather for materials; a suitable Ultron body requires raw materials he simply doesn’t have access to, so while there are hundreds of Ultrons here, most of them are built from dollar store knockoff Adamantium or even mere titanium.

The bad news is that there’s still hundreds of them and the Secondary Adamantium ones are still tough enough that only Thor can manage to dent them and, well, Titanium is still really really strong; it’s right there in the name.

So they’re going to be fighting against an unsending swarm of murderous kill bots for a bit; let’s check in with the others.

Vance has disappeared from the mansion, despite his leg being slightly inside out and his CTEs, after reviewing a bunch of (recent) Avengers files from right around the point when Templar showed up.

And in the depths of his central base, Ultron Prime is... doing exactly what he sent out to do; fully copying the mental engrams of his captives and storing them on computer chips (that look like widdle-tiny Ultron heads) and all the while bragging about the superiority of mechanical life to organic, and of Ultron in particular, compared to other mechanical life; and he's also noted that there's something *slightly* off about Vision; like how his brain patterns are actually now wildly different from Simon Williams' despite being a perfect copy of his brain to begin with, and also wonders how much Vision has changed since Ultron originally built him.

Surely that won't scupper his plans in any way.

And word has gotten out that Alkhema-2 has broken out of the Blue Mountain military base she was imprisoned in, all the guards are dead, and she has her own robot army at her beck and call.

And Hank admits that he doesn't just feel terrible for building Ultron in the first place; but that he programmed him using his own mental patterns so all of his genocidal inclinations must have came from Hank himself.

And we cut back to the Avengers fighting the Ultrons and managing to make a bit of headway by Tony reverse engineering the weaponry of a defeated drone


I don't *think* this is supposed to be a homage to the Proton Cannon from the Vs. games, but... I *did* hear "IN MY SUNDAY BEST" when he did that.

Alright, so, back at Ultrons central command, Vision reveals he's been a *little stinker* all along; Ultron didn't know that Vision was recently blown to smithereens and repaired, and in the meantime got real good at commandeering outside electronics to his beck and call; and that Ultrons safeguards and shackles were specially calibrated to Visions original design specs, not these new ones; so Visz is able to activate his Phasing abilities and slip out of the prison Ultron built for him, and we're ready for a ROBOT THROWDOWN.



A genuine hug-it-out moment between a robot superhero and his dad, the genocide robot, when Vision explains he knows all about how much it can hurt when your family winds up rejecting you (which Wanda notices and says "Oh no, he's got all his emotions back and is very sad about me smoochin' Simon"). And Ultron is touched...

And then he touches back.


Yeah, Ultron doesn't... like emotions.

Luckily, Vision knew that and was using the speech as a distraction while he freed the rest of the captive Avengers and distracted Prime enough that the rest of the team had a chance to break through the line of Drones to the central base.

Say the line, Thor;


And not that this arc has had a lack of stuff for George Perez to completely wild-out drawing ludicrously exciting action scenes, but you can just hear him giggling with joy when it comes time to draw All the Avengers vs. Ultron Prime in an overcomplicated techno base strewn with rubble. At first their plan is to have the rest of the team just launch a massive show of force against Ultron, while Wanda waited in the wings building up enough of a charge of Chaos Magic that could shut down Ultron (Ultron noted a few times in this arc that he had to make her prison particularly reinforced, and left her sedated as much as possible because Chaos Magic is something he can't defend against). And this plan works...

Until they realize that, for one thing, Wanda has been drugged a LOT recently and isn't in her best shape and also Chaos Magic is, well... chaotic, and instead of disabling Ultron, it just supercharged him even further.

Luckily, that's when the missing Vance Astro, and the Quinjet that was shown making its way to Slorenia in the background since this issue began, arrives, tossing a couple of cannisters of artificial Vibranium at Hank; the same Artificial Vibranium from a few issues ago, when Templar first showed up; and which degraded into incredibly corrosive Antarctic Vibranium; capable of dissolving any form of metal.

Including the metal that Ultron Prime used to build his body with.


And Hank proceeds to just absolutely pulverize Ultron with it; hitting him so hard that the shockwaves from it dissolve all the metal in the area around him as well as Ultrons body (leading to some new issues, like Caps shield-generator breaking apart and frying the life-sustaining circuitry in Firestars under-suit), but also completely destroying Ultron.

Sadly I couldn't capture the page showing Ultrons actual death, as it was... pretty friggin' rad, but also beyond the Discord image hosting limit. Consider this a favor being offered to your data limits.

With Ultron dead, all his still-fighting drones and Necro-Cyborgs immediately shut down, so the non-superpowered global counteroffensive can easily disable the rest of Ultrons army (better safe than sorry), and we get our denouement; Vance is back to feeling pretty confident about his place in the Avengers (seeing his heroes get the crap kicked out of them, while he saved the day by reading old comic books put things in perspective), Hank had a very cathartic reaction to beating his ersatz son entirely to death with his bare hands, Firestar is back to having her superpowers be a real health concern for her and Wanda is aware that Vision is pretty upset about her smooching his brain-brother, but Visz is getting over it. But everyone is more relieved and excited that Ultron has been destroyed and Slorenia... might still be completely depopulated, but at least Ultrons aims went no farther.

And as an epilogue;


Alkhema snuck into Ultrons base after his death and stole the mental engrams of the Avengers that SHE can use to build Ultron-Avenger hybrids.

NEXT TIME: Romantic Rivals

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got self confidence, affirmative action and some highly aggressive therapy in Showdown!

And, y’know, we just got a major four-and-a-half issue arc of Perez going full goblin mode being able to draw the hell out of a robot war, so it’s only fair he get a chance to rest his drawing hands, to an extent, drawing a dialogue heavy comic of people Dealin’ With Feelin’s. Plus Kurt is really good at handling interpersonal conflict in Superhero Stories so no complaints on that front either.

So we’re picking up with the denouement to the Ultron Unlimited story; though with less dealing with that arcs fallout than you’d think. We pick up X-Men style, with an Avengers training session which mainly exists to show off who each of the Avengers’ are, but also exists to show off how pleased Vance is at having been instrumental in defeating Ultron and saving the planet; plus his leg is largely recovered and he’s able to set a new record for clearing the Avengers Training Room.

Meanwhile, outside the mansion, the incredibly fickle general public of the Marvel Universe has, as usual, shifted gears completely on their heroes. Everyone’s done celebrating them for, very unambiguously, saving the entire planet and all organic life on it, from Ultron, and now they’re back to complaining about them. Partly because one of the Avengers built Ultron in the first place (…fair) and also because the current Avengers line-up is pretty thin in representation from any people of colour (they pointedly say that Vision doesn’t count, and nobody mentions that Wanda is Romani).

Cap politely asks Black Panther if he’d mind rejoining the team for a minute to appease the protesters and T’challa says “Nnnnnno? I’m the king of an entire country, and don’t want to be the Token Black Guy on an American Superhero Team.”

T’challa, incidentally, looks more like Late DS9 Ben Sisko when out of costume rather than like Early DS9 Benjamin Sisko that I usually associate with him. Really threw me off.

Anyway, as the cover of the issue would suggest, the real meat and potatoes of the story is between Wanda, Simon and Vision, since Vision pretty unambiguously said that he still has emotions when captured by Ultron in the last issue, and he’s been trying to discretely hang out around all of Wanda’s usual hangouts lately, and she and Simon figure he’s still carrying a torch for her.

And Vision admits that, yes, he does have a problem with their relationship, but it’s not with Wanda, or that she’s dating someone else, it’s with Simon, and more specifically with the fact that Simon likes all the same things he does, like Jazz, chess, and the comic strip Pogo.


Vision does not share Simons delight at having A lot of common with his brain brother, and bashes a hole through the Mansion ceiling running off,and Simon flies off after him in order to elaborate on things a little more.

they also have a brief tussle, since this is a superhero comic, but Simon is immune to Visions attacks and isn’t fighting back, so it’s mainly to give Visz a chance to blow off some steam trying to beat up Simons invulnerable sparkle body, and then they hash things out.

Vision is upset to see how many of Simons opinions he shares because it reminds him that he’s not only an artificial replica of a human, but that since his personality was built out of Simons Brain, he feels like a cheap imitation of a real person Rather than being his own individual person. Simon points out that Vision was based on his brain patterns, yes, but that was years ago and they’ve lead *very* different lives since then; and *lots* of people who like jazz also like Pogo and chess, it’s a package deal. Besides, even Ultron said their brain patterns were wildly different now, and if you can’t trust an apocalyptic genocide machine, who can you trust?

Meanwhile, Simon also gets an opportunity to vent his own grievances, which are frankly kind of harder to sympathize with, as he’s feeling guilty that he never gets blamed for all the terrible things he’s done; his brother took the fall for him embezzling from his company, everyone was quick to forgive him for him being turned into a sparkly Master of Evil because Zemo tricked him, he Went violent and attacked his former teammates but society forgave him because his brain was jacked up from Nega Bomb Radiation, and he died a bunch but he’s a superhero so that was, at worst, a timeout for him.

Anyway, Vision thinks this isn’t really an equivalent problem and grumpily storms off to get some Me-Time, and Simon things “Well jeez… I’m… not good at this.”

Then as an epilogue, some guy named Carnivore is discovered by some People who call themselves Decay, Conquest and Stonecutter and they vow revenge on the Avengers, so, hey, I guess the next issue will have more action in it.

NEXT TIME: Juggernaut, lest ye be Juggered

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got yet more affirmative action, but bad this time, and the return of some guys I’ve genuinely never heard of in… Harsh Judgements

So this story arc is a little less Cliffhanger-y than the last couple, so there’s a bit of downtime before things abruptly go nuts later in the issue.

An unseen, but large, person is steadily heading towards the Avengers mansion, an even which keeps happening throughout the issue until we see who it is on the last page and which was spoiled by the To Be Continued thing in the previous issue (it’s Cain Marko, the Juggernaut)

Vance got a clean bill of health and is able to go back to full active duty on the team, and got another new costume to commemorate the occasion


I prefer the previous one but s’not bad.

Wanda and Simon are looking for Vision who stormed off in a huff at the end of the last issue and have been having no luck tracking him down.

And, the thing that eats up most of this issue; the protests about the lack of representation in the Avengers lineup has been bolstered by a second set of protesters complaining that they have entirely too much representation (this from anti-mutant bigots) and even aside from how much anger both groups are throwing towards the Avengers for not having the precise correct amount of diversity, they also, understandably, also are throwing hands at one another.

One of the protestors is holding a sign saying “A [Romani] isn’t enough” which feels *way more* hella racist than the guys complaining about mutants.

Anyway, all this is kind of messing with Caps head; the Avengers has always had a rotating membership and virtually every black superhero has been a member at one point or another (granted this is still, like… four people over the course of 35 years) and there have been mutants on and off the team almost since their inception so it’s weird to be complaining *now*.

Caps pretty forward thinking for a guy from the 40s but he still kind of misses the point sometimes. But he also notices that the protests all started shortly after their dust up at the Triune Collective a couple months back.

Meanwhile, outside the Avengers compound the protestors all find someone else worth picking on in the form of Wanda’s brother, the mutant speedster Quicksilver, who one of the Pro Bigotry protestors says that he’s “One of the worst ones” as far as mutants are concerned. And, yes, he’s a *jerk*, but you… know there’s a mutant named “Apocalypse”, right? Because of the things he does to civilizations?

Anyway, because he’s a Known Jerk, Quicksilver is much less passive about the protesters who hate him for his genetics or who are complaining about a lack of PoC in the current Avengers lineup, and decides to taunt them all a bit. And because Quicksilver really can take his sweet time people-watching during his super powered derring-do he notices that every single one of the protesters is a *literal* card carrying member of the Triune.


News which he reveals to the Avengers, and which comes as a particular shock to the Worlds Friendliest Bureaucrat, Dwayne Freeman, who is himself a member of the Triune!

Boy, this is a surprising and emotionally charged reveal; be a real awkward time for something weird to happen!


Oh, that’ll do nicely.

Yes, we’re midway through the issue so it’s time for the personal drama to be set aside because SUPERHERO STUFF is happening, in the form of a giant stone airship suddenly materializing in the middle of the city, shooting lasers all over the place, and piloted by 7 people who just friggin’ *hate* one another, and are indeed a lot more focused on trying to kill one another to establish dominance than doing… whatever they’re trying to accomplish by flying a giant stone building over New York, shooting lasers at random.


It’s The Exemplars! A group that had only very recently shown up in a Spider-Man and Iron Man crossover storyline (weirdly, not X-Men despite Juggernaut being prominent), and then never again after this storyline! The Exemplars all have *basically* the same deal as Juggernaut (and indeed, Cain Marko is one of them); 8 people empowered by a group of Cursed Evil Gems collectively referred to as the Octessence, and each embodies Something that makes them Very Cery Steong as long as they’re really rowdy and Violent about it. Then, so empowered they are all inspired to beat each other to death in order to determine which primal force of nature is strongest. Then that one will proceed to destroy the world, because… y’know… they’re bad guys.

CLockwise from the top they're Tempest (embodies nature), Decay (embodies death), Bedlam (embodies minds), Juggernaut (embodies strength), Inferno (embodies fire), Stonecutter (embodies dirt), Carnivore (embodies... animals?) and Conquest (embodies war)

Anyway, Juggernaut has had a bit of a change of heart WRT Bashing Stuff for the Sake of Evil lately, and especially since the last time the Exemplars showed up and nearly murdered him, so he wants to distance himself from them, and had run to New York hoping the Avengers would help him.

The the Avengers are quick to point out that leading a cabal of super powered sociopaths completely obsessed with murdering one another and heedless of collateral damage to one of the most heavily populated cities on the planet *really* doesn’t give them a lot of leeway for being concerned about Juggernauts wellbeing, but, well… taking care of the flying stone warship is the more pressing concern and decide to deal with that.

Unfortunately they’re not quite prepared for how tough the Examplars are, and they manage to take out the entire team effortlessly with energy blasts, and then they pick up the unconscious Juggernaut and whisk him off so they can murder him and shortly thereafter, everyone else.

The Avengers are more concerned with that second step of the plan.

NEXT TIME: Exemplary Service

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got the power of friendship, the power of animosity, begrudging superheroics, and the continuation of a storyline that makes me say “Uhhhh…?” in… The Ninth Day.

Not counting a brief recap of the important parts of the last issue; with the Exemplars (avatars of various Marvel Godlike beings who want to fight, and fight… and keep fighting until one one is left victorious) having successfully captured Juggernaut, who it turns out was one of their members but wanted to use his invincible magical super strength to commit crimes instead of Fight to Prove He’s Strongest. They’re going to kill him and then just make it a global 7-way free for all war to prove superiority rather than an 8.

But all that’s happening in a stone temple floating medium-high above New York City; the rest of the Avengers are on ground level preparing themselves for a rematch against the Exemplars. And mostly dealing with the growing protests outside Avengers Mansion; with one group protesting that the team has entirely too many Mutants and the other protesting that the team is made up almost entirely out of white guys (and one Romani woman and a robot). Both these protests are treated as being precisely as unwarranted as each other and the Avengers are getting mighty sick of hearing from both of them.

Kurt, I adore you as a comic writer, you’re one of my absolute favourites to ever put pen to paper…

This part of this whole arc is… inelegant.

Anyway, besides that;

The Avengers have brought in some ringers (some invites themselves) to help with the Exemplars, as the disparity in power levels here is pretty severe; reserve members Ant Man and Wasp are back (Hank is feeling pretty good about superheroics since very cathartically beating his ersatz son to death with a chemical weapon), as is long time New Warrior Nova, and Spider-Man too! Presumably because Perez wanted to draw him. Most importantly however (to met at least) is my… third or fourth favorite Thor Character; the Lion of Olympus; the Prince of Power…



Herc here, like Thor, is the Actual Guy from Mythology; the key difference between them is that while Thor tends to be pretty dour and serious, Hercules is a braggadocious party dude. He’s much more in line with the MCU depiction of Thor.

As for the extant team;
Simon is not sure if he can really keep insisting he’s *not* an active Avenger, since he gets dragged into, like, every storyline since Kurt took over the book

Cap is increasingly distrustful of the Triune, thinking they’re behind the Avengers’ current publicity woes, and is kind of taking it out on their government liaison Dwayne Freeman. And Dwayne kind of politely floats the idea that since the Exemplars just want to kill Juggernaut, a guy who… umm… has… some criminal “whoopsie daisies” in his past, why not, y’know… let them?


Cap sets him straight.

And Wanda has a pretty intense conversation with her brother, Quicksilver, because he's upset that Pietro is working as an ambassador to the UN on Magnetos behalf as Magneto has recently become the ruler of the Mutant (former) slave nation of Genosha. This is in sharp contrast to present day X-Men books, where Wanda voluntarily let Magneto kill her to reinforce the stability of a mutant-run South American island nation (it was a whole thing).

And frankly, you know a country is having problems when you appoint Quicksilver, a man whose chief defining characteristics are "Rude and Impatient" as a good will ambassador.


And Vance and Firestar have something important they want to share with the rest of the team but get interrupted because Talking Time is Over and George Perez Is Impatient to Get to the Fun Stuff.

This is, in fact, the second or third issue in a row where this has happened and Vance and Firestar are starting to take it personally.

Anyway, the machine Tony and Hank were building has been completed and the Exemplars’ fortress has stopped moving so it’s time for a Boss Fight.


Nice little note I appreciate; Tony accidentally lets it slip that he's Tony Stark by merit of knowing *way too much* about the technical use of the big laser gun he and Hank were building, when he's publicly known to just be the anonymous pilot of a mech suit and not the guy who financed it; Vance and Firestar deifnitely notice it but elect to say nothing.

Anyway, a George Perez Fight Scene breaks out once the Avengers, plus hangers-on arrive on the Exemplar Ship; and it's, y'know... fine. Not his best work, but it's fine. The Exemplars aren't the most interesting villains; but the fight is pretty evenly matched; the Avengers might be fighting the equivalent of 7 Juggernauts but the Exemplars also, as a matter of pride, absolutely hate, and very badly wish to murder one another, so teamwork is not on their list of assets.


The flip-side of that is that the Avengers are relying on each other pretty much entirely, and are individually much, much weaker, so when one of the Exemplars gets a lucky hit in and takes out Quicksilver, the rest of the team falls apart pretty quickly, and after they're collectively knocked out and captured; all but Captain America who managed to escape in the confusion of the rest of his team getting the absolute stuffing kicked out of them.

Luckily, he's frickin' Captain America, and while it's pretty clear that fists aren't going to beat the Exemplars, but words might, and when it comes to speeches, Cap can do this all day.


Granted, it's less of a rousing spirit about overcoming adversity and opposing evil, and more about how if the Exemplars succeed in their plan, it would kind of mess up their enjoyment of their hobbies. Except Carnivore, I guess; a planet-wide free-for-all murder-war is basically what he's been shooting for all his life.

Anyway, this speech works and the Exemplars take a moment to realize that Godlike Beings Implanting them with a desire for a species wide massacre even might not be looking out for their wellbeing and they collectively leave the planet then and there (a quick glance at the Marvel Wiki indicates they never came back, no real loss), and while, yes, their flying stone temple fortress started collapsing, the Avengers were able to deal with that problem easily not even on panel.

Juggernaut, as thanks for the Avengers rescuing him, agrees to go peacefully to jail without kicking up a fuss, which he then admits is also because he can break out of jail really easily, and there wouldn't be, like, a dozen superheroes standing nearby to punch him in the face if he were to wait a little bit, (which was easily my favorite moment of this issue) and the Protesters outside the mansion are... still indignant; saying the Avengers let the Exemplars get away, that heroes like Photon or Black Panther could have beaten them with a fraction of the collateral damage, and it was the stupid no-good mutants getting taken out that let the team get beaten in the first place.


News which makes Captain America say; "You know what? I'm out."


Well, we could continue pulling on this particular story thread or we could go to that OTHER Avengers storyline Kurt was writing that wrapped up around this same time...

NEXT TIME: Let's Do the Time Warp Again

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption


Okay, as I implied a few times before, Kurt Busiek (and special guest Bruce Pacheko) had a *second* Avengers miniseries popping off right in the middle of the main Avengers run; Avengers Forever, it… *might be* the single most Kurt Busiek-ass comic ever written. And *Boy* is it stuffed with Footnotes on Obscure Marvel Ephemera.

Let’s dive right on in, shall we, with the first issue; Manifest Destiny.

And already things are popping off unconventionally; as we open on a planet in deep space, inhabited by blue skinned mohawked aliens; the Centaurians (not centaurs, oddly enough); who you might recognize as being the same species as Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy. Anyway, they’re in the midst of a rebel uprising to overthrow their tyrannical masters… and which goes *tremendously* badly as before the first shot can be fired, time stops on the planet, and a horde of what looks *very much* like militarized Avengers drop out of the sky and completely massacre a full 30% of the planets population to punish the… like… dozen or so revolutionaries; all while flying the Avenger emblem.


So yeah… that’s… uncharacteristic. And certainly catches the attention of some other robed aliens who think “Troubles brewin’”.

And that’s all for the prologue so now we’re into the meat and potatoes! Starting as all the best stories do, on the Moon!

As you may recall from issue #7 of the main book, the Avengers had been up there recently dealing with an attempted attack on Earth by the alien Kree, and they left the Krees organic supercomputer; The Supreme Intelligence up there as a prisoner of war (he’s a brain the size of an SUV, in a jar so they couldn’t really transport him), where the scientists at SHIELD and Starcore have been alternatively studying and detaining him.

“Detaining” isn’t difficult since, again, Brain in a Jar.

Anyway, the Avengers are up there as they need to swallow their pride and ask the Supremor for help; help for their long time buddy, team co-founder and official Sidekick of the Marvel Universe, Rick Jones. That's him, wearing the HOT TUNA shirt on the cover.

Ricks… right up there with Dr. Doom for being the guy you simply need to wind up dealing with at some point in order to establish your bonafides in the Marvel universe; dudes been *everywhere* and is nonetheless still pretty unheard of outside of the dedicated marvel fan base. Off the top of my head he’s been best friends/sidekick to Hulk, Captain America, Gamma Flight, Avengers, and *been* two separate Captain Marvels (the original Mar-Vell and his son Genis-Vel), he’s been killed, resurrected, given super powers, lost super powers, turned into a ghost, a ham radio operator and a vestigial second head on an Oingo Boingo skeleton. His ex wife is the Grim Reaper (the skeleton, not the guy with a sword-arm). Most relevant to this storyline, however, is that he was instrumental in resolving one of the first Big Event Comic storylines; the Kree/Skrull War, which was resolved when the Supremor accidentally boosted his latent genetic potential which gave him the power to manifest other superheroes to defend him and destroy the invading alien armadas attacking Earth.

He’s not lead a boring life. But currently he’s also not living a *healthy* life as he’s in the middle of dying.

None of the Avengers, even the ones whose doctorates are at least tangentially in medical backgrounds, have the slightest clue as to why, or even, of what, so out of desperation they decide to let what is objectively the biggest brain in the solar system take a stab at it; and the Supremor has no choice but to help because he really isn’t in a position to bargain.

Besides “Teen is dying of Unknown Space Energy Poisoning” is a puzzle worth of Dr. House himself, so it’ll be a fun challenge.

Anyway, no sooner does Cap and Wanda leave the giant brain in a jar with a comatose (frozen?) dying Forever Teen than a giant caveman made of ice names Tempus shows up to bash Ricks friggin’ head in with a club made of hardened time.

And Tempus is the servant and chief assassin for none other than Immortus the Wizard!


Immortus is… complicated, and hes also at odds with, uneasy ally of, alternate timeline counterpart to, or Deepfake Old Age Make Up of the guy who is the *other* big antagonist of this storyline;

Mother flippin’ KANG THE CONQUEROR

Okay, so… Kang. Kang is the end result of Stan and Jack taking a pretty easy to grasp concept (time traveling warlord who uses the technology to the future to conquer the world of the past) and then made it more complicated than it needed to be. And then every consequent writer took that ball and ran with it; even attempts to streamline Kangs whole deal to make it simpler just wound up making it a hundred times more complicated.

Both because his mastery over time makes Kang functionally immortal, and he’s tried reinventing himself a number of times, and because his constant futzing with history, he has changed the timeline enough that there’s now an infinite supply of alternate Kangs out there making a mess of chronology. Some of them good, most of them evil, and all of them hate each other. And the two who get along the least are Immortus (an elderly Kang who has dedicated himself to stopping his earlier incarnations from wrecking history more than he already has) and Kang himself (his younger more fiery tempered version who loves him a good conquest).

He has been played by John Majors in the MCU, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if that wound up not being a long-term situation.

ANYWAY; Tempus has shown up to completely murder the hell out of an already Mostly Dead Rick Jones, only to get immediately shot in the chest by the aforesaid Kang. Who really didn’t seem to have any grander plan in play here; he just saw Tempus and said “Oh, that’s one of Immortus’ guys… I hate Immortus” and decided to shoot him.


Naturally this causes each of the shards of Tempus’ very exploded body to grow into a different era of historical soldier and all attack Kang en mass, which delights him because a Conquerors gotta conquer, and time-spawning countless giant lasers to shoot holes into Roman Legionaries and Cowboys is always a fun time.

Anyway, an excess of time manipulating radiation apparently works like smelling salts, since this wakes up Rick from his medically induced coma, and he reacts to being in a time bubble surrounded by old Timey soldiers being blown apart by a future astronaut while standing in the middle of the corpse of an Encino Man with a level of tired resignation.


To be fair, to Rick Jones, this is a normal weekend.

At about this time, a mysterious robed figure (not the same ones from the prologue) who has been lurking around the background of the Supremors base, making vague, but dire, pronouncements comes forth and reminds Rick of the time he attained psionic Godhood and summoned forth a bunch of superheroes to save him, and the world, from an otherworldly threat, and informs him that he has to do it again; and not just with forgotten Golden Age characters, he'll need to reach into the past present and future and manifest the single greatest team of Avengers history has ever known in order to save Earth and all of reality, from the strain an all out war between Kang and Immortus will put on time itself.


So... umm...

That's a line-up?


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

The most self-indulgent thing Kurt Busiek ever wrote continues with… Now is the Time for All Good Men!

So, since this really doesn’t seem to be the kind of arc that was designed to be read issue by issue and instead all in one chunk, the first issue was… really dense with Prologue STUFF but didn’t have a singular plot; we’ve got a vision of a grim timeline where militarized Avengers conquered and harshly oppressed an alien planet, Immortus and Kang (same guy at different points of his immortal life) getting cheesed off at one another for reasons as yet unexplained, beyond the fact that they hate each other on general principle, and Rick Jones apparently caught in the middle where he brought a third force to counter Kang and Immortus’ armies; the Avengers! But specifically the Avengers from different eras of the teams history; so few of them *really* know each other.

Collectively, we have;

Past Avengers:
Hawkeye- from the early 70s, during the Kree/Skrull War, and with no shirt and a faux turtle neck. It’s a look. This was when Steve Englehart realized that the efforts to make Hawkeye more interesting by giving him a succession of terrible costumes and super powers was a terrible idea so he went right back to being a No Powered Arrows Guy, but before he went back to his classic costume.

Captain America- Also from the early 70s, just at the very end of the Secret Empire arc where he realized that Richard Milhouse Nixon was a supervillain and watched him commit suicide rather than face justice for his crimes; this left Cap pretty shaken in terms of accepting authority and so he’s kind of emotionally distraught for this entire run. It’s a Cap Who Ain’t Acting Like Cap, but in a compelling way instead of a “DO YOU THINK THIS A STANDS FOR FRANCE?!?!” Way.

Yellowjacket- From the mid 60s; Hank Pym after having a complete mental breakdown and developing a split personality of a guy who insists he murdered Hank which Hanks fiancé, Janet, decided to exploit in order to finally marry him. It was… pretty friggin’ suspect of all parties involved; Yellowjacket is the persona Hank has adopted ever since when he’s in a Bad Way. Why he’s included in a team of Histories Greatest Avengers is absolutely wild, and someone needs to have a Talk with Rick for summoning him.

Present Avengers-
Wasp and Giant Man- from the current Busiek run of Avengers, this was a little before the Ultron Unlimited arc, so Hank hasn’t gotten a chance to very therapeutically beat his ersatz son entirely to death with a toxic can. Wasp winds up stealing the show for this comic.

Future Avengers-
Songbird- a reformed supervillain known as Screaming Mimi, Songbird wound up being one of the founding members of the Thunderbolts, and one of the members who realized she liked being Good more than being Bad. Everyone is kind of surprised that she’s an Avenger at all since the rest of the team really only knows her for her years of screaming-based supervillain team-ups.

Genis-Vel- The son of Captain Marvel (the original Mar-Vell one, not Carol). I don’t know much about him, except that he has one of those Slim Shady haircuts and that a cool Half Costume-Half-Outer Space look.

Anyway, much like the readers, the Forever Avengers are *really friggin’ confused* to suddenly be in the middle of a fight between a time travelling spaceman and a hundred historical warriors that sprung out of a caveman’s tummy, with a brain in a jar yelling at them.

Kang explains, and the Supreme Intelligence backs him up on this, that, yes, everyone in this room right now has tried to kill the Avengers a lot (quite recently in some cases), and that while Immortus is more of an Ends Justify the Means kind of villain as opposed to Supremor and Kang who are more of the Kill ‘em All And Let God Sort Them Out style of villain, they’re *technically* the good guys in this case by merit of them being the ones trying NOT to kill their friend Rick.

And the Avengers say “Well… we LIKE Rick, and we don’t like Immortus… but we REALLY don’t like Supremor and Kang…” and are paralyzed with indecision until Wasp takes control of the situation and starts ordering everyone around, really effectively; she’s had nearly as much experience leading the team as Cap, and this version of Cap is much less experienced and emotionally and spiritually drained because of Watergate, so she’s the best leader the team has.

And besides, a whole bunch of cowboys and knights and Mongol Warriors are *way* easier to deal with than Kang, so… pick your battles, y’know?

The fight proceeds apace (Chris Pacheco draws a good superhero fight) until Rick catches his breath and then starts floating around the room


Immortus says “Frick, this is exactly what I was sending cavemen and stuff to AVOID… Plan B!” And then disappears, taking his soldiers with him, Kang leaves too, on the grounds that he doesn’t like the Avengers and doens’t want to waste his time explaining anything happening in this story. That’s when that mysterious robed figure who’d been showing up a bunch in the previous issue reappears and takes off his hood, revealing who he is.

And this is a Kurt Busiek comic, so take a moment to go to an Obscure Marvel Character wiki and hit Random Page a few times, see if you can figure out who it is.

Did you guess Sleepwalker? The Unicorn? A Man Called Gideon? Kree Sentry 459? That guy who stole the Vultures costume in an early Spider-Man comic?

Nope, it’s Libra!


Libra, as the name implies, was a member of Zodiac, surely *somebodies* favourite astrological themed supervillain cabal; and as his name further implies, he’s the guy who wasn’t particularly all-in on Doin’ Crimes. He was in it for attaining Balance in All Things, which means he sometimes had to do some Crimes in order to cancel out any good things he did; and eventually his policy of Extreme Neutrality in All Things translated to full on metaphysical powers. He also claims to be the father of Mantis, from Guardians of the Galaxy, but her whole deal is mystifying enough that nobody is *quite* sure.

Furthermore, he also had a few rebranding over the years, including for some truly reviled and nonsensical Avengers stories, which Wasp calls him out on and he has absolutely no idea what she’s talking about. And he is from the current time period, so it’s not like he has the same temporal displacement thing that the Avengers presently have; he has no knowledge of ever calling himself “Moonraker” and trying to sell his Maybe-Daughter to aliens to be a child bride.

Like I said; terrible plot lines.

ANYWAY, “Extremely Neutral” is better than “Actively Hostile” so the Forever Avengers decide to trust Libra for now, and have elected to consider Immortus the Big Bad this time by merit of him trying very hard to kill their friend, but also acknowledge that Immortus is a jerk, but not Evil, so this is all unusual and uncharacteristic of him, and they travel with Libra to Kangs fortress city of Chronopolis (Libra is so I tuned with Balance he can find the otherwise inaccessible access points to the city seeded across all time and space); figuring that Kang, out of everyone in history, is the one most used to having to fend off Immortus so it should logically be the safest place for them.

And BOY, were they wrong;

The Avengers (plus Libra and Rick) arrive in Chronopolis in ruins, all the myriad timelines that its connected to bleeding into one another, and the inexhaustible armies of Immortus laying waste to Kangs main citadel at the Heart of Forever with Immortus’ ghostly face in the clouds pointing out that you can’t help but be too late when you’re dealing with a guy who controls time.

Hmm…. He ain’t wrong.

NEXT TIME: We’ll Previous Do This Again Tomorrow


(Fem or Gender Neutral)
Okay, as I implied a few times before, Kurt Busiek (and special guest Bruce Pacheko) had a *second* Avengers miniseries popping off right in the middle of the main Avengers run; Avengers Forever, it… *might be* the single most Kurt Busiek-ass comic ever written. And *Boy* is it stuffed with Footnotes on Obscure Marvel Ephemera.
To give you an idea of how stuffed it is, this is the footnotes from the second chapter



Arm Candy
Genis-Vel- The son of Captain Marvel (the original Mar-Vell one, not Carol). I don’t know much about him, except that he has one of those Slim Shady haircuts and that a cool Half Costume-Half-Outer Space look.
I always thought it was supposed to be like George Clooney's iconic 90s hairstyle (which he achieved using a flowbee)

Johnny Unusual

Genis-Vel- The son of Captain Marvel (the original Mar-Vell one, not Carol). I don’t know much about him, except that he has one of those Slim Shady haircuts and that a cool Half Costume-Half-Outer Space look.
Most of what I know is that Peter David wrote him in 1999 (which might mean the events of this book are what lead to the premise of that book so I won't say too much) for a few years in a pretty well-regarded run. But Bill Jemas hated the book so he made this weird bet with him over it that he could write a better series. Peter David rebooted the series so Genis-Vel is turned into an unstable villain and it's sounds a bit complicated but also cheeky while Jemas created Marville, one of the biggest self-owns in comicdom which started as a broad but deeply misguided and confusing parody of comics (including a scene where Iron Man almost says the n-word and people are saved by Rush Limbaugh) and tries to get deep and metaphysical and it's just one of the biggest embarrassments you can imagine. Also, Greg Horn covers.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We get a modicum of context as Kurt Busieks opportunity to play with all the toys in the Marvel Toybox continues with… City at the Heart of Forever!

Previously, Rick Jones suddenly awoke to, and then promptly lost, vast psionic powers that allowed him to summon a team of Avengers from across history, including one chemically unbalanced violent sociopath, and a Captain America too depressed to be of much help, to intercede in a war between Kang the Conqueror and Immortus the Master of Time; and everyone was *very* confused about why they were helping Kang as he’s the greater of two evils there. Eventually they won and met the Possibly Reformed, True Neutral “villain”, Libra who at least seems to be on their side and they went off to Kangs fortress city of Chronopolis, partly for safety and partly to figure out what the hell is going on; only to find it ruins as Immortus’ army has already been laying siege.

Anyway, the Avengers find themselves in the middle of a Warzone being attacked on all sides by Immortus’ forces (which they’re relieved to notice are made up of robotic drones, so they don’t have to worry about hurting anyone. Except for Yellowjacket who doesn’t notice or care either way), and eventually manage to drive off the invading force and rescue the last of Kangs remaining defenders; who are largely time displaced human conscripts. Also, among the Avengers; Cap is way too emotionally distraught to be of much help fighting and needs to be reminded he can throw his shield, Genis Vells cosmic senses are incompatible with Chronopolis' unusual state of non-being, and Clint has no trick arrows in his quiver just regular pointy ones which are not useful against futuristic robots (he also has no shirt still), and nobody is quite willing to credit Songbird as being a superhero since they’re all still accustomed to her being a Yelling Based Supervillain (or else have never met her), and Goliath is still being thrown off by the presence of his psychopathic secondary identity being on the team ineffectively trying to sleep with his wife.

Anyway, Hawkeye sees someone skulking around the battlefield in the shadows and knocks them out with an arrow, thinking it was a straggler from Immortus’ army only to discover its largely forgotten former Avenger Red Wolf!


I’d give a more detailed recap but I’m honestly not that familiar with the character and he's had a pretty light footprint in terms of plotlines; He has similar deal to Black Panther except Dog instead of Cat and he’s indigenous rather than African. Fun Fact; Red Wolf was the first Marvel character to headline his own book who was not a white guy.

Hawkeye also noticed that despite the general look and vibe; he isn’t the Red Wolf that was briefly on the team; and as the title of Red Wolf is an inherited title rather than a single guy doesn’t think much of it.

The team helps escort the injured Red Wolf back to Kangs citadel where they’re informed that Kangs elite guard, the Anachronauts (*great* name for a group of time displaced warriors, NGL) have all perished in Immortus’ attack, save for Red Wolf, and Kang finally provides *some amount* of context for what the hell is happening;

It seems that, for reasons still undisclosed, Rick acquiring temporary, but *vast* cosmic powers locked history on to a track that will end with the premature end of Humanity. Immortus, being an Ends Justify the Means kind of villain, has decided that killing Rick is the sensible course of action, but aforesaid cosmic powers prevent that from being a viable course of action. And because of Time Travel Rules, going back in time to kill him *before* he gained powers would create a new branch of the Multiverse but wouldn’t do squat to solve the problems addressing this current one.

To that end; he’s attacking Chronopolis, as the energy source that powers the city, The Heart of Forever, can side-step time travel rules and has the ability to change history in a way that makes it *irrefutably canonical*; he can use it to make sure Rick dies in such a way that no amount of dimension hopping or Chrono Triggering or anything can undo. Which, it turns out, is also what most of Immortus and Kangs beefs have been about; that thing would make Immortus’ goal of a single unsullied timeline *much* more attainable.

Having explained all this, Kang admits that the Avengers are the only people across the whole of eternity that gave him a suitable run for his money when it comes to Conquering and, assuming the Avengers feel the same way he does re; fighting people to impose their will on others decides to rally them to his side with an inspiring speech.


Kang can read the mists of time, but he can *not* read the room.

Nevertheless, helping Kang is still the only avenue open to them for saving Rick and surviving Immortus, so the Avengers begrudgingly agree to at least help his forces defend a macguffin so they aren't all killed.

And we get a montage of the Forever Avengers dealing with their various personal problems again; the only one of which getting any kind of proper development being Hawkeye being woefully underequipped as he replaced his wooden arrows with futuristic super-science arrows and a cyber-bow; giving him the opposite problem he had before; he can easily destroy an entire battalion of robot tanks, but even in a warzone, he refuses to hurt a person and it's *really hard* to land a non-fatal shot with these things.

Eventually, another wave of Immortus' soldiers attacks Chronopolis and Kangs already depleted forces are completely routed (Wikipedia tells me that this is also the last appearance of this particular version of Red Wolf, so pour one out) and the Avengers have to retreat when they realize that Kang is the only defender left and... they don't really *like* Kang enough to risk their lives. Luckily, the whole "Conqueror of Time" thing means that Kang has a boat load of Time Machines in his basement, so they hop into the nearest one (The Sphinx of Rama Tut, for those of you keeping track); and leave Kang behind...

Only for him to get knocked the frick out, first by a resurrected Tempus, and then by Immortus himself who now has no one to stop him from waltzing up and stealing the Heart of Forever


Without the Heart, Chronopolis can't hold itself together and instantly dissipates into non-existence and its component parts and inhabitants are returned to their native eras... and Immortus realizes that the Avengers did not because they'd escaped before he destroyed the city and they took Rick with them when they did; so now he has to hunt them down.

This is a very busy day for Mr. Richards.

NEXT TIME: Sliding Doors

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Kurt Busiek continues to say “Can you believe I get paid to write Kurt Busiek comics?!?” In… Running Out of Time.

So, as per last time; the time displaced Avengers were fleeing the destruction of Chronopolis by Immortus and his armies, who had successfully stolen the Heart of Forever from it, which will let him change history without worrying about pesky time travel rules, all of which in order to kill Rick Jones for reasons as yet unknown.

Anyway, the team is pretty demoralized, partly because they just had to flee while hundreds of people died to protect them, and partly because their current roster consists of The Saddest Captain America and also a violent, womanizing, psychopathic mad scientist. To his credit he’s at least moved his womanizing to Songbird, who is not in a committed relationship at the moment and *far* more likely to punt him into the stratosphere.

And Hawkeye decides to vent his frustration by taking a swing at Libra, since his whole Being Deliberately Vague And Pointedly Not Helpful thing is wearing thin; so Libra decides to bounce.

Somehow. Presently they’re in a flying sphinx lost in the Timestream, so not sure where he went. Maybe he just locked himself in the bathroom.

Luckily, even if one is a friggin’ asshole, the team *does* have multiple super geniuses on deck at the moment so the two Hank Pyms are able to work out the controls of the Time Sphinx pretty easily and can use it to detect points in history where something has recently (by whatever standards you’d use to define “recently” in this context) putting a lot of stress on the Timeline;


Naturally this means it’s time to pull out the standard Superhero Team Comic Playbook; and the team splits into three groups to deal with the temporal anomalies, figuring that one of them *has* to be Immortus and even if they don’t know what he’s doing they know enough to say that Thwarting Him is a good idea.

Sad Captain America and Giant Man head to New York In the Future

Hawkeye, Songbird and Yellowjacket head to Tombstone Nevada in the late 19th Century

Genis-Vel and Wasp head to the Republican National Convention in the 1950s

Rick is left out since he has no controls over his cosmic powers and also Immortus wants to kill him so him being on the field is a terrible idea; he still feels bad about it. Anyway, if this whole storyline was Kurt just *going ham* on Marvel continuity already, buddy, *you ain’t seen nothing yet*

In The Future, Sad Cap and Giant Man are… a bit alarmed to find New York in ruins (especially Cap); with people in no disciplined March but a stampede; 8 million people driving headlong without order or a goal, as it’s the beginning of the rout of civilization; the massacre of mankind. This is because, of course, they arrived in the Alternate Timeline Future where The War of the Worlds actually happened, and Martians have invaded in giant tripod mechs.

It is… definitely not one of the better known Marvel alternate futures, but it absolutely is one. Never question that Kurt has done his homework on such matters.

Cap and Hank see giant alien robots and pretty friggin’ gnarly zombified soldiers gunning down innocent people and say “Oh, the Immortus thing can wait; this is a higher priority” and proceed to get to punching an entire alien army, despite being VASTLY outnumbered...


…only to get help from The Avengers!

Just not the Avengers they just left, or the ones in the main book at the moment; clockwise from the top we have;

Crimson Dynamo; Russias equivalent of Iron Man
Living Lightning; Guy made of lightning; doesn’t have a big comic book footprint
Thundra; who I frequently confuse with Titania; she’s Very Strong and loves showing off her abs
Killraven; the main superhero of the War of the Worlds Actually Happened Timeline; he gets time travelled a lot and tries to use that to stop the Martian invasion
Black Panther; still T’challa, but he’s old and his eyeballs are all jacked up because it’s the future and there’s Martians
Jocasta; Ultrons daughter, built like a sexy replica of his mother and who was intended to be his wife. Understandably does not share his opinions on anything.

Panther is surprised and delighted to see that his old buddy Steve Rogers is somehow alive and kicking (he expresses no opinions re; Hank) but then Cap mentions he was chasing Immortus and wound up here and T’challa says “Oh… The Destiny War between Kang and Immortus; that’s happening *today*, I guess?” And treats it like one more tedious chore put on top of a busy day; since the (rather successful) Martian Invasion of Earth is about to hit its tipping point.


Clint, Bad Hank and Melissa are straining a bit as a team; since Clint was made leader, but this is Young Rowdy Shirtless Clint; and not the quasi-effective Older Clint who taught Songbird the ropes of Superheroing. And also Yellowjacket just friggin’ sucks out loud. Their pursuit of the temporal anomaly brings them to Tombstone, where they meet a bunch of Marvels forgotten Western Heroes; The Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt and… umm… my note taking is less comprehensive than Kurt Busieks memory, I’m going to say “Two Gun Kid”.

They’re all adults; don’t let the name confuse you.

Clint is a Cowboy Nerd and is *so excited* to see his western heroes he fails to notice them presently being attacked by Kang the Conqueror throwing a tyrannosaurus at them.


Incidentally I can’t overstate how happy I was to turn the page and see that panel.

While everyone else is busy yelling “JEHOSEPHAT!” And otherwise generally panicking, Songbird says “Well, I guess this isn’t our problem” and elects to leave. This is because, while it happened after Shirtless Hawkeye and Yellowjacket were on the team, it happened in *her* past and she’s aware that The Western Heroes got attacked by Kang (plus some dinosaurs) and the Avengers wind up travelling back in time to save them/stop Kang; this is just *Normal* cross time superhero nonsense.

God I love comic books.


Wasp and Genis-Vel are at the 1959 Republican Natuonal Convention; Wasp elected to go with Genis since, of all the Forever Avengers he’s the most unknown quantity and she trusts him the least (Songbird at least has some degree of plausible deniability wrt Still Being a Criminal, and her feelings on Yellowjacket are complicated); additionally he’s an alien and from the future so he *really* has no context for why a time controlling wizard from the end of history would *possibly* have any interest in messing up a political conference, just because some creepy dweeb whose running for vice president would be in attendance.

And Wasp explains that while, yes, *personally* she has no problem if Richard Nixon winds up getting blasted by a spaceman, he’s still a *pretty significant* historical figure and that the whole political landscape of the world might have gone down a different path if he didn’t take a little trip to China. She says this part out loud and in a crowded fair ground in the height of the Cold War, and “It is our goal to ensure that the Vice Presidential Candidate absolutely must go to a communist country” is… not something that fully escapes notice.

But before much hay can be made of that, Genis’ Cosmic Awareness flares up and he realizes with absolute certainty that Richard Nixon is a duplicitous treacherous slime ball who has no interest in governing and only in avoiding detection for his inhumane crimes.


And he’s a Skrull too!

Wasp doesn’t have time to fully absorb *that* before yet another wrinkle is added to her day as that whole Not Unreasonable Misunderstanding about taking Nixon to China thing reached the ears of the real security force for the RNC; and it ain’t the Secret Service; it’s…


The 1950s Avengers, from a What-If Don Glut wrote 20 Years Previously!

Kurt, I love you.

NEXT TIME: Oops! All Vengers!

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got some premium tier Hokey Comics Dialogue, Time Travel Allegiance Confusion and Not the Shape Shifting Otherworldly Provocateur Promised in… Past Imperfect… Future Tense! Which is a kind of clunky title, admittedly.

Last time, as part of a general “Stop Whatever Immortus Is Doing On General Principle” plan, the Forever Avengers split into three groups, to eras under a lot of unknown chronological stress; an alternate future where humanity is on the brink of extinction courtesy of a Martian invasion, a 1950s political rally where Richard Milhouse Nixon is replaced by a Skrull, and A Wild West showdown where Kang the Conqueror is attacking cowboys with tyrannosaurs. So naturally this issue flips between those storylines in a way that’s kind of hard to recap for my purposes.

In the Future, Sad Cap and Giant Man understand the broad strokes of what’s happening when they meet that eras Avengers (there’s creepy cyborg guys with gaping holes in their faces gunning down panicking people so… hard not to figure out whose the aggressor here), but Cap is especially put off by how violent and aggressive that eras Avengers are to their enemies.

And Future Black Panther explains, while yanking out a Martians entire spine like he’s performing a Mortal Kombat fatality, that this is kind of warranted since the Martians have already killed something like eight billion people and the few thousand that now make up the population of New York is literally all that’s left of the human race; so yeah… not… feeling like Geneva conventions are super applicable. All of which *really* doesn’t help Cap with his crippling depression.

Also, the Android Jocasta is very visibly pregnant, with Machine Mans child, which has Hank Pym *very* confused but he accepts that’s a lower priority thing to be asking about.

Meanwhile, in the time of both Rootin’ and Tootin’, this group of Avengers have seen Kang throwing dinosaurs at cowboys and decided that is *not their problem* and elected to leave. Unfortunately, Kang noticed *them* and decided they *are his problem*, so he steals their Time Machine (technically it’s his anyway) and then tries to kill them with missiles.

It doesn’t work, of course, but Clint takes a moment to sympathize with time travelers who must have a *really* hard time keeping track of who they’re mad at each time they see them, since Kang was on their side, like, five minutes ago.


Not long after that, the Avengers meet up with the closest thing the Wild Weet had to the Avengers; the Gunhawks! And after a brief Superhero Handshake (everyone fights), the Hawks realize that the Avengers are there to fight Kang not help him.

Well… they’re not, but other Avengers will be along shortly, and these Avengers are not fans of Kang at this exact moment so… y’know…

Close enough.

However; nobody was expecting what a flippin’ cowboy nerd Hawkeye truly is, and he knew that the Gunhawks were killed several years *before this*, so the Avengers attack and subdue the Hawks who reveal themselves to be…


The Space Phantom(s)!

Space Phantom(s) aren’t *quite* the most deep cut of Kurt Busiek pulls, but *pretty close*. They originally appeared waaaaay back in issue 2 of Avengers where one attempted to break up the nascent team by impersonating them to sow distrust (partial success since this did make Hulk leave the team at the end of that issue) and then reappeared about a decade later where he was revealed to be a minion of Immortus, working towards smoothing out the timeline a bit.

More relevantly; there’s always been *one* Space Phantom and these are three separate guys. And as soon as they reveal themselves, in the Time Bunker Rick is squirrelled away in, he gets a report that the stress on the timeline in that era has just flared up wildly out of control.

Meanwhile, Previously, in the Future Of the Cowboy Era But Before Now, at the 1959 Republican National Convention, Wasp and Genis Vell find the 1950s Avengers, who existed for one single What If issue and which nobody was sure was canon or note. And apparently Kurt saw that ball and ran with it; because Kurt is Gonna Kurt.

For those who didn’t read mid 70s What If; you should, that was a very fun series. But more relevantly; President Eisenhower assembled a team of otherworldly heroes to protect America from Foreign Terrors like the Yellow Claw (precisely the level of racist you might expect), then immediately disbanded the team because a Futuristic Robot, Alien, Roman Goddess and Talking Gorilla didn’t *really* embody the American Ideal because the 1950s weren't super progressively minded.

Anyway, the 50s Avengers attack Janet and Genis, as they heard them talking about how it's imperitive that Richard Nixon goes to China and immediately jumped to the asumption they were there to kidnap him for THE COMMIES


Despite being outnumbered two to one, Wasp and Genis are *very good* at being superheroes and have *way* better powers than the 50s Avengers so it’s really just embarrassing how easily they win; We also get a lot of pretty delightful instances of Clunky 50s Comic Book Dialogue, and everyone gently reminding The Human Robot that he doesn’t have to threaten to murder everyone who addresses him.

Luckily, clearer heads prevail and Wasp just opts to not continue beating the stuffing out of her mid century counterparts and explains the whole situation. She also obliges Marvel Boy into thinking he’s helping by using his psychic powers to see if she’s telling the truth.


Both sides admit fault since “Richard Nixon Has to Go to China” is a kind of ambiguous statement in the circumstances, and the 50s Team also accept that Tricky Dick is trickier than usual at the moment as he’s been replaced by a Skull infiltrator (the 50s Avengers have encountered Skrulls before; they’ve been ineffectively trying to conquer Earth for centuries); and both teams jump into action to reveal his duplicitous treachery…

Only to learn they needn’t bother, since the army personnel who showed up to greet him unmasks himself to reveal he’s actually Immortus!

And the Secret Service guards around Nixon were more Space Phantoms!

And they unmask the Fake Nixon in front of the public and Immortus uses the Heart of Forever to completely annihilate this branch of history now that it’s incompatible with his own view of history!


The Forever Avengers *barely* manage to escape to their timeship before the Heart of Forever annihilates this branch of history in an all consuming wall of white (if this were the Avengers series drawn by Perez, I’d take it as a deliberate homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths, as it is; it just Looks Neat), and Kurt Busiek can finally rest easy knowing that the question of how canonical that one issue of What If was; as it stopped being Canon about a minute ago.

Well that’s a load off my mind!

NEXT TIME: Space Ghosts, Coast to Coast