Avengers (Vol. 1) Annual #2

Background

The last time we looked at any Avengers issue was Avengers (Vol. 1) #11, December 1964. Stan was still writing, Don Heck was drawing and the line-up was Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Giant-Man, and the Wasp. With Avengers #16, May 1965, the lineup became Cap, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch. In the three-plus years since, Giant-Man (now calling himself Goliath) and the Wasp returned (Avengers #28, May 1966), Hercules came (Avengers #38, March 1967) and went (Avengers #50, March 1968), and the Black Panther came on board (Avengers #51, April 1968). Now, five months after that issue, with Roy Thomas ensconced as the writer (since Avengers #35, December 1966) and John Buscema as artist (since Avengers #41, June 1967, but not in this issue) the old and the new come face-to-face. Or do they?

Oh, and Spider-Man has a one-panel appearance here, too. Or does he?

Story '...And Time the Rushing River'

There’s this tradition of covers with super-teams facing off against each other. One side is on the left facing right and the other side on the right facing left, so that your eye meets in the middle. What is the first of these covers? I thought there was an early Justice League issue when they met the Justice Society of America, that had one of these covers, but it looks like the first one of those is JLA #108, November-December 1973. Is there a Golden Age cover like this? Could it be that the earliest of these covers is John Buscema’s Avengers #53, June 1968 with the Avengers and the X-Men, just a few months before this issue? If anyone knows of an earlier version of this cover, please let me know. After this cover, there are Avengers #70, November 1969, the aforementioned JLA, X-Men #100, August 1976 and plenty more. This cover has “The New Avengers vs. the Old Avengers” with Goliath facing Giant-Man, Hawkeye facing Iron Man, Cap facing Thor, Black Panther facing Hulk, and Wasp facing Wasp. (These are also the match-ups in the story.) They all look pretty angry and intense. Let’s crack open the book and see what it’s all about!

First, there’s one of those “inside the front cover” greytone pages. This one touts, “The Original Avengers vs. the New Avengers!” and calls it “the most indescribably impossible battle in the history of panelgraphic literature…a 44 page full-length fantasy!” “Panelgraphic literature.” I like that. I wonder why that never caught on? There are two illustrations garnishing this page. The top one is from page 8 panel 1 of the story. The bottom one is a merger of the Scarlet Centurion from page 39 panel 2 and Captain America from page 39 panel 3. And then there’s a little note in the bottom right-hand corner, almost as an afterthought that reads, “Plus: A Bullpen Behind-the-Scenes Bonus!” which, believe it or not, will receive its own separate review.

As I said, the regular team on the Avengers at this time was Roy Thomas and John Buscema. Roy is the writer here but the art is by Don Heck and Werner Roth with Vince Colletta as the inker. I’m not as down on Colletta as some and I think Don Heck did a fine job on his Avengers stint. Still, it’s a shame that the art team of John Buscema and Frank Giacoia is only used on the silly five page backup feature. Nevertheless, no matter what you may think of the creative team, the credits declare them to be “Honorary Avengers All!”

The current Avengers, consist of Captain America (Steve Rogers), the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne), Goliath (Hank Pym), Black Panther (T’Challa), and Hawkeye (Clint Barton, though I don’t think he’d been given a name yet). Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch both quit back in Avengers #49, February 1968. Our heroes have just returned from the past where they attempted to determine whether Cap’s World War II partner, Bucky, actually died because Cap has suddenly become filled with “gnawing doubts,” though he doesn’t know why. The Wasp is left behind (probably because she’s a woman and it’s 1968) to work the controls of Dr. Doom’s time machine. The others are supposed to appear as wraiths in the past, but the Wasp inexplicably falls asleep and hits a button that causes them to materialize. In spite of that, they cannot change things. Cap finally accepts Bucky’s death, thinking, “For the first time, I can be sure, he’s gone forever,” not realizing that Bucky hasn’t died at all, returning as the Winter Soldier in Captain America #1, January 2005. Now they walk down a Manhattan street but a crowd forms, staring at them as if “none of them ever saw or heard of us before.”

As they walk to their headquarters, they get a sense that something is wrong. Jan’s “women’s intuition” is “acting up.” (Really, Roy? Women’s intuition?) She also wonders why their “aero-car” was gone from where they had parked it at Dr. Doom’s castle. (If you’re wondering how they got back to Manhattan, this was not Doom’s castle in Latveria but the one he had in Fantastic Four #5, July 1962 when he kidnapped the FF and took them to his “castle stronghold within minutes.” So, it’s somewhere not too far away from Manhattan and it still has the original time machine that Doom used to send the FF into the past to retrieve Blackbeard’s treasure. Spoiler Warning: Blackbeard turned out to be the Thing.) Goliath says that no one could have stolen the aero-car without setting off the alarm. Cap wonders why Jan fell asleep when she was monitoring the time machine and Goliath replies, “Jan may be scatter-brained at times…but she’s no shirker.” (Really, Roy? Scatter-brained? To be fair, Roy does have Jan reply, “Thanks for nothing.”)

They get to the mansion and Cap wonders where Jarvis is. “This place seems different somehow…from the way we left it,” he notes, even though they only left a few hours ago. They head to their meeting room but their “auto-firing ray-weapons” attack them. Goliath throws a record cabinet at the weapons and Cap points out that they “junked that particular record cabinet – two years ago!” They enter their meeting room and find the original Avengers sitting around the table. “Original” as in, “before Cap joins” in Avengers #4, March 1964 not to mention “before the Hulk leaves” in Avengers #2, November 1963. The trouble with this is that Iron Man is wearing a later armor than he should have when the Hulk is a teammate. (Don’t ask me to tell you which version. I’m no Iron Man armor expert.) Let’s see if Roy has an explanation for this later.

Goliath is more shocked than his teammates because two of the Avengers at the table are he and Jan. Convinced he is seeing an imposter, Goliath charges in and removes Giant-Man’s mask, only to find that the man underneath is Hank Pym. Giant-Man doesn’t take kindly to this and he knocks Goliath to the ground with a punch. That starts the battle with Hulk taking on the Panther and Hawkeye taking on Iron Man who claims that he “never saw [Hawkeye] before in [his] life.” (Which makes sense since Hawkeye first meets and fights Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #57, September 1964.) Cap finds himself facing Thor, who says, “I know that thou dost wear the garb of Captain America…a hero of another era! But he hath departed this mortal vale in time past.” Cap thinks “Thor doesn’t remember how the Avengers restored me to life,” even though Thor was there when it happened.

The current Avengers find themselves losing to the originals so Hawkeye tells Goliath to pull “the ol’ wall of Jericho stunt.” This means Goliath grabs a big hunk of machinery and slams it down between the teams (fortunately they had each gone to their respective corners). Then Hawkeye shoots his last two “smog arrows” which gives the newbies cover to escape. But the originals aren’t ready to quit. Iron Man “senses that their presence on Earth can bode naught but evil,” at least, according to Thor, who adds, “They must be found and conquered.”

In an abandoned subway tunnel, the Avengers regroup. Cap thinks that they just faced the Avengers “as they would be if [Hawkeye] and [Cap] never existed,” which would explain why Iron Man has his current armor. It’s not the past but an alternate reality. The Panther and Cap realize that they just dealt with something that could change the past…Dr. Doom’s time machine.

Back at the mansion, the originals await “the one being who might know” who their opponents are. They summon him. He is a “tall, massive brooding figure” with “a voice which bespeaks both age and strident youth.” “Why have you summoned me from the vaporless void between time and space…from the place where eons are as moments?” he says, “Who dares disturb the sacred slumber of…the Scarlet Centurion?” I think that’s a rhetorical question since he can probably see the Avengers sitting there. Thor answers it anyway. “We have summoned thee, scarlet one, because the appointed hour has come! Those whom thou hast said would appear…have done so!” The Centurion is not happy to hear that the others have gotten away. He calls the Avengers “blundering clods” until Thor objects and the Centurion apologizes but adds, “There is little harm done…if they are speedily destroyed!” This bothers Iron Man and Thor. The Thunder God says, “Thou didst not command us to kill…the others!” The Centurion reminds them that he is responsible “for saving your puny planet” and all start to agree with him except the surly Hulk who asks the others to “Let Hulk smash him.” The Centurion fades away, telling them to stay put and await his reappearance. Iron Man reminds Hulk that the Centurion “is the greatest benefactor the Earth has ever known!”

He is, huh? And his saving the Earth has made the Avengers willing to kill for him? But who are the “others” that they didn’t kill? It’s all very intriguing. I can’t wait to find out more.

First, though, we get back to the new Avengers. Cap speculates that “nobody’s heard of those of us who’ve popped up since ‘63” and Goliath tells him that the “herodotron” may be able to help “fill in the gaps.” It is “a giant computer…completed in early 1968” and its purpose is “to record all historical data…then use narrative feedback to instill such knowledge in others,” whatever that means. Maybe it’s going to teach classes? Goliath “helped work on it a few months back” but he despairs that the computer may not “exist in this era.” He adds, “How do we even know that we exist?” which is odd because he just confronted himself in the Avengers meeting room.

So, apparently, they walk along the abandoned subway tunnel to Long Island since…what?...there was once an abandoned subway tunnel from Manhattan to Long Island? Anyway, they get to the building where the herodotron is housed and where Goliath informs us that the computer is named for “Herodotus, father of history, natch” and not for “heroes” or anything like that. There are two guards at the building’s entrance. Goliath and the Wasp shrink down and take them out from behind.

And then, “We interrupt this mag to bring you – for the first time anywhere – a panoramic pin-up of every single superhero who has ever been a full-fledged Avenger!” It is signed “Hang Loose, Heroes! … Stan and the Gang” and it’s a very nice two-page spread by John Buscema and Bill Everett. And, it turns out, that there weren’t many “full-fledged Avengers” circa 1968. The Black Widow was not officially an Avenger at this point. Wonder Man (in Avengers #9, October 1964) and the Swordsman (in Avengers #20, September 1965) were, I think, but under deceitful circumstances. So, the pin-up spotlights, from left to right, Hercules, Cap, Thor, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Goliath, Wasp, Black Panther, and Quicksilver; just eleven in all.

Back to the new Avengers, who have found the herodotron and it turns out that “narrative feedback to instill such knowledge in others” means that someone sits in a chair and puts on a “head-worn apparatus” so that the computer can feed him history directly into his brain. Since Hank has to operate the computer, Cap is chosen to receive the info. The computer is turned on and Cap thinks, “Never imagined that mere thought could cause such searing agony,” which has to be a design flaw. I mean, why invent a machine that causes “searing agony” when it is used? Cap isolates the moment for which he is seeking. It is the end of the Avengers battle with the Space Phantom (in Avengers #2) and the Hulk is just about to leave the team when a voice calls out to “Wait, green-skinned one!” It is the Scarlet Centurion appearing in an intangible form because he is “not truly in or of your era.” He tells the Avengers he is there to “give aid where he may.” Thor tells him they don’t need his help until the Centurion asks, “Can you, the mightiest beings of this time, claim to hold sway over famine…over plague…over pestilence? Have you truly the power to vanquish evil…or to make even one lame child walk anew?” This makes the Avengers stop and listen. The Centurion tells them he “must return to [his] own timeless time, so that [he] may isolate the causes which most threaten this unfortunate era.” He promises to return the next day.

We’re getting closer to that one Spidey cameo but first here’s a full-page ad for “Hulk King-Size Special #1” with that now-iconic Steranko cover. Great stuff.

All of the Avengers, except for Hulk, decide, “Yeah, what the heck, let’s go along with this Centurion guy.” When the Centurion contacts them through their “communi-screen,” he tells them “My flawless calculations prove that no evil may be undone…no human frailties forever vanquished…until a cosmic imbalance is corrected…an imbalance caused an excessive number of beings in your era possessing so-called super powers! Only when they are overcome…their powers neutralized…may I act to bring about the paradise mankind deserves. Defeat them and the Scarlet Centurion shall keep his vow!” So, let’s see. What should they do? Believe the guy they’ve never seen before and go and attack the Fantastic Four and other heroes? Or figure this Centurion is a bad guy pulling a con? Well, of course, they decide to attack the FF and the other heroes! Even the Hulk goes along because he wants a chance to fight.

So, the first thing they do is visit the FF and turn on them. Hulk and Thor’s hammer knock out the Thing, Iron Man topples the Human Torch, Thor defeats Mr. Fantastic, and Giant-Man and the Wasp take out the Invisible Girl. Even as they are doing this, Iron Man says, “I can’t feel any sense of triumph in this sneak attack!” and Giant-Man says, “And that wraps up our sordid little victory…a victory we could never have won…except by treachery!” But, that doesn’t seem to stop them. They move on to defeat the Amazing Spider-Man in a one-panel appearance that is the reason why we are here. Spidey has covered the Hulk in webbing but Giant-Man holds him from behind as Iron Man knocks him out with a WOK! Iron Man says, “If he weren’t relatively inexperienced, though, I think he’d have given us all a run for our money!” Don’t patronize him, Iron Man!

So, Spider-Man does have a one-panel appearance here but he’s not our Spidey. This intrusion by the Scarlet Centurion creates the first alternate Earth in Marvel history; so, in a sense the New Avengers don’t meet the Old Avengers at all. Someone has labeled this world Earth-689, which means that, instead, the Earth-616 Avengers meet the Earth-689 Avengers. I know. It’s pedantic. It gives me a headache, too.

The Avengers continue their attacks, defeating the X-Men, the Sub-Mariner (of whom the Hulk says, “feel as if this one and I should be friends”), Dr. Strange (of whom the Avengers haven’t heard but the Centurion says, “had to go”), Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, and Gabe Jones (of whom Roy says, “there will never be a group called SHIELD), and Daredevil (still in his yellow costume). There is a “Special Note” from Stan and Roy challenging the reader to explain “why the space-born Captain Marvel does not appear within these pulsating pages.” Isn’t it just that he hasn’t yet landed on Earth?

After taking care of the heroes, the Avengers go after the villains. (You’d have thought they’d have taken out the villains first. The other heroes could have helped before the Avengers betrayed them.) We get a two-page spread of the Avengers battling (clockwise from top left) the Melter, Baron Zemo, the Red Ghost, Mr. Hyde, the Mole Man, the Executioner, the Unicorn, the Beetle, the Scarlet Witch, Magneto, the Red Skull, the Sandman, the Enchantress, Quicksilver, the Radioactive Man, and the Black Knight.

When the dust settles, only Dr. Doom, Electro, the Mandarin, and Doc Ock are left. They have banded together but to no avail. Doom laments that he couldn’t undo all this with his time machine “but the Avengers dismantled it before I could utilize it.” The Mandarin says, “What irony, that we who once sought to establish tyrannies over mankind now flee an even more powerful tyranny.”

And, if there’s any doubt about that tyranny, Thor contacts the world to announce “From this day forth, no atomic tests, no scientific inquiry shall be allowed upon this planet lest any other mortal gain super-powers and force us to vanquish him!” The Centurion contacts the Avengers and tells them “the cosmic imbalance is now nearly corrected! When but five more are defeated, what long-awaited knowledge shall I not unveil to your eyes!” The “five more” are the newly-arrived New Avengers.

Cap removes the herodotron helmet and tells the others what he’s learned. He figures Doom’s time machine is their “only hope.” But he’s also learned that it was dismantled and “disposed of in three different places.” He tells the others that they must “find those parts and reassemble them.” The Panther and the Wasp both balk at this. They wonder if they should interfere. “If we were guilty of robbing the Earth of a virtual Golden Age,” begins the Wasp, but Cap cuts her off because this is a perfect opportunity for him to spout one of his speeches about freedom. In this case, he says, “Thru countless ages, mankind has often tried to escape from freedom into the open arms of tyranny.” (He could have also added that there is no Golden Age since the Centurion has not yet delivered on any of his promises.) By the time he’s done, the other Avengers are like Robin the Boy Wonder in the 60s Batman show after getting a lecture; “Gosh, Bruce, I see it now.”

So, that it. Cap declares, “We’ll put that time machine together again and use it to reverse events or go down trying as Avengers!” Woo hoo! Let’s go! But, it’s a two part story so first, let’s check out the title for part two, which doesn’t look good.

Part 2: “The Avengers Must Die!”

That’s the Scarlet Centurion speaking and he’s got a big hourglass in his hand with the original Avengers on one side and the New Avengers on the other. But, it’s a symbolic splash page in the middle of the story and there really is no such giant hourglass at all.

The New Avengers split up to find the three parts of Doom’s time machine, the locations of which Cap apparently learned from the herodotron. The Panther and Hawkeye use a flying “two-man ship” that they picked up at the herodotron location. The Panther worries that the ship was “too easily accessible.” Hawkeye doesn’t see a problem and the two start talking about what has gone before in so much detail that this feels like a recap in the second issue of a two-parter. Maybe this was going to be two Avengers issues before it became the Annual. They discuss how the Scarlet Centurion must have induced the Wasp to fall asleep and that, as Hawkeye puts it, “When we became solid [back in the past in Avengers #56], Cap threw the laws of time all haywire by existin’ in two places at once!” That’s as good an explanation as any. The Panther points out “the rest of us broke those self-same laws, bowman, though we were but infants during World War Two!” Yep, that’s right. It’s 1968 and all the super-heroes were born in the 1940s.

They arrive at their destination; a “dark, deserted and perhaps deadly” construction site. They land and immediately have to leap for their lives to avoid a girder that has been thrown at them by the Incredible Hulk. The Panther takes him on to no effect as Iron Man appears and challenges Hawkeye, who realizes that his advantage is that “I know more about this Iron Man than he does about me.” So, Hawkeye fires four arrows. Three hit Iron Man, who scoffs at the thought that the arrows would penetrate his armor. But these are arrows with “anti-metallic acid” in their arrowheads. (Of course, Hawkeye just happened to have four of these in his quiver. Along with the smog arrows and all the others.) The three arrows start to melt Iron Man’s armor. The fourth arrow has also found its target; a steel girder. Weakened, the girder falls and strikes Iron Man, knocking him out.

The Panther continues to elude the Hulk until Hawkeye signals him to move away. Then, Hawkeye shoots a sonic arrow that emits so much noise around Hulk that he changes back to Bruce Banner. Roy realizes how lame this is so he has Hawkeye say, “His changin’ back was a fluke. Probably couldn’t happen again in a million years!” Now, earlier, Hawkeye and the Panther speculated that the time machine piece must be “buried here beneath the burgeoning building.” Instead, they find it sitting under a tarp. Not the best way to hide something. I mean, the construction guys who work on the building probably knew it was there.

It’s a quick cut in the middle of the page to Cap fighting Thor as Cap does all he can to make sure his shield takes the blows from Thor’s hammer. They are in a warehouse that houses another part of the time machine. Cap comes up with a strategy that involves running away so that Thor will throw Mjolnir at him. He uses his shield to knock the hammer askew so that it doesn’t return to Thor, then he keeps the Thunder God busy until a minute passes and Thor turns back into Don Blake. (Does everybody know about Don Blake?) Then, he uses a karate chop to knock Don unconscious. Cap comments, “In our battles together, I always noticed how Thor hung onto his hammer! So, I reasoned that my only hope was to see what happened if he lost it! But I never imagined he’d be so helpless, so frail, and yet, it’s lucky for this Avenger that he was!” So, this is before Cap learns that Thor is Don Blake. In fact, this seems to be the way that he learns it!

In a “twilight region twixt the now-is and the once-was, the Centurion watches Cap carry a crate full of time machine to his two-man ship. He vows that Cap’s victory will “turn to bitterest gall.”

The third part of the time machine is stored on a ship that is “due to dump [it] at sea.” As Goliath and the Wasp approach on the dock, the Original Avengers’ Wasp attacks. She tries to get Goliath but the “New” Wasp intercepts her. The “New” Jan soon realizes that her “Old” version is “as cruel as the worst super-villain.” (She also taunts her with “Tell me, why are you still wearing that same outfit? Are they still wearing crew-necks in this era, too?” Aren’t we still wearing crew-necks?) And it hits her that “If she wins out, I’ll become my own killer.”

Meanwhile, Goliath grows to giant size just in time as Giant-Man attacks him. They wrestle, evenly matched, until Giant-Man brags, “you’re fighting one who’s battled the Colossus, the Sub-Mariner.” This mention of Namor gives Goliath an idea. He maneuvers them into falling into the water. Roy tells us that “an eerie, unnerving sight greets two-late-night bay fishermen,” but these fishermen have coats and fedoras on and don’t have any fishing equipment. They look like mobsters who have just dumped a body but we don’t see them again. It is an odd moment. Anyway, Goliath pulls Giant-Man underwater, where he defeats him. He surfaces to find that “New” Jan has defeated “Old” Jan because, as she says, “I know myself, how I get careless when I get mad.” Goliath explains that he has worked on expanding his lungpower in case he ever faced Namor again. (Though it’s badly phrased. He says, “In case you’re wondering, honey, I beat my alter ago by superior lungpower. Something I’d been working on in case we ever tangled again,” which makes it sound like he’s referring to tangling with his “alter ego” again.) He finishes with, “In this world, though, Namor’s no longer a threat so Giant-Man, to put it mildly, was a wee bit short-winded!” And off they fly in their two-man ship with their part of the time machine.

The New Avengers meet back at Doom’s castle and put the time machine back together. Jan worries that “we were all successful so easily, almost too easily.” The Panther concurs. “These components could have been destroyed years ago,” he says, “not merely disassembled!” (Yeah, and not hidden under tarps.) They have brought the still-unconscious Iron Man and Bruce Banner with them. The Wasp wonders why and Cap says, “at least we can keep an eye on them” but it must have been Hawkeye and the Panther who brought them, not Cap. (And how did they fit four people in their two-man ship?) The time machine is operational and, right away, the Scarlet Centurion materializes. He ridicules them, then attacks Captain America with a force bolt from his finger, even as he tells Cap that he is responsible for “your sudden concern over Bucky’s death,” which started the whole story back in Avengers #56.

The Scarlet Centurion sure likes to talk. He tells us “each of my fingertips contains a weapon no man of this age can withstand!” (How did he get this power? Did he have it when he was Rama-Tut? Oops! I’m getting ahead of myself.) He uses one to cover Cap in a pillar of ice. He uses his powers to make the Wasp drowsy again, as he did “when you relaxed the controls enough to materialize your fellow Avengers in the past.” He soon blurts out his whole plan, even as he defeats the Panther and Hawkeye. “Though I had misled the original Avengers with the aid of my mildly hypnotic aura and vocal devices, I feared I might not be able to defeat their sheer, raw power, so I allowed you five to live that long!...I reasoned that you five, despite your lesser power would feel out your fellow Avengers’ weaknesses as you did! I allowed the time machine to exist merely to bait my trap.” So, he arranged everything so that he would fight the current, weaker team who are the stars of the book. You’ve gotta love that.

Before he is defeated, Hawkeye shoots an arrow that the Centurion thinks has missed. (He also says, “Mister, you can outtalk any twentieth-century Joe I know.” How does Hawkeye know the Centurion is not from the 20th century?) But Hawkeye was not aiming at the Centurion. He has fired that arrow at the time machine because Goliath, in his Ant-Man size, is riding on it. The Centurion realizes that Goliath is missing. “I had him defeated as Giant-Man,” he says, “I won’t have him foil me now as someone else!” What exactly does he mean here? When did he have him defeated as Giant-Man? When Goliath defeated Giant-Man? I think you’re grabbing too much credit here, Centurion.

In spite of the Centurion’s ravings, Goliath does foil him. He crosses some wires in the time machine and the Centurion disappears. The time vortex fills the whole room and Goliath and the others start to disappear. But as Cap vanishes, musing about “what a story we’ll have for our files,” the Watcher sticks his nose in and tells Cap the whole story. It seems that the time-traveler, the Pharaoh Rama-Tut (who originally fought the FF in Fantastic Four #19, October 1963) encountered Dr. Doom in the time stream during which they speculated that they might be the same man (FF Annual #2, 1964). After returning Doom to Earth, Rama-Tut encountered “disturbances in the relative timestream” that he thought sent him to the year 4000 instead of 3000 where he became Kang the Conqueror (as recounted in Avengers #8, September 1964, which was on sale at the same time as FF Annual #2). But it turns out that first he landed in the 20th century and became the Scarlet Centurion. Having lost to the New Avengers, he journeys on to AD 4000 where he will become Kang. And because he has vowed to never interfere, the Watcher…well, he interferes, telling Cap, “neither you nor he shall remember aught that has here transpired for it is best that no man know his fate or the hour he shall meet his maker.” Not that anyone has met their maker here or anything.

(This is all recounted very nicely in the story “Birth of a Warlord” in Captain American Annual #11, 1992, in which Kang relates that “I sent Doom back to Earth and then traveled back in time a few months, adopting the new identity of the Scarlet Centurion. I would conquer the age of the Avengers using the Avengers themselves! By mesmerizing the original Avengers I created a divergent timeline in which they took over the planet at my command! Then I used the Avengers from the original timeline to eliminate my powerful pawns as threats to me! So they did, but these Avengers also succeeded in banishing me from the new timeline, creating a new divergence. In one reality, the Scarlet Centurion escaped to another dimension, where he built an empire and became the arch-foe of the Squadron Supreme! But in my timeline, I returned to my role of Rama-Tut and set sail for my own time period.” All of which is great except that Kang probably shouldn’t remember being the Scarlet Centurion.)

The Watcher departs and the Avengers find themselves back in Avengers #56. They have returned from the past, with Hawkeye wanting to “leave time-hoppin’ to Alley Oop” (everyone remember Alley, the time-hopping caveman?),

while Cap accepts that Bucky is really gone for good (which he isn’t). Jan confesses that she fell asleep while the others were gone and Cap says, “No harm done!” Goliath can’t escape “that feeling that it was more than a mere accident,” nor can Jan. But, as they fly off in their aero-car, Cap tells them, “Forget it, both of you! After all…how important can it be?”

General Comments

So, that’s it for the Scarlet Centurion except for those panels in that Cap Annual #11 story and in What If #29, October 1981 which is, I think, a riff on this issue but which I’m not going to bother to pull out to be sure. Otherwise, he’s just part of the whole Kang continuum. You know, Rama-Tut becomes the Scarlet Centurion becomes Kang the Conqueror becomes Immortus becomes (somewhere in there) Iron Lad, becomes (somewhere else in there) Victor Timely becomes some other characters that I’m not remembering. And it turns out he is not Dr. Doom after all but, last I heard, Reed Richards’ descendant Nathaniel. Don’t ask me to dig any deeper. What do you want, anyway? This is a Spider-Man website.

The Avengers move on to face the Vision in a story that we will partially cover a few months down the line.

Overall Rating

Can we all agree that this is a great issue? This is Roy Thomas working on all cylinders, using Marvel history to perfection, bringing the two Avengers teams together like you never thought you’d see them, leaving us with one of those classic Roy ironic endings. Okay, so the original Avengers are defeated pretty easily considering they are the much stronger team. (The only defeat that rings true is when Cap gets Thor to become Don Blake.) But there is so much else packed in these pages, what do you want? It’s believable enough. I only have three questions.

  1. Weren’t they using Doom’s time machine? I mean, wasn’t it there when they returned to the present? They talk about how their aero-car is gone but not the time machine. How can it be split into three parts when they used it? And if it was gone in this reality, then how did they get back from the past? And why was the Wasp there, for that matter? She should have disappeared with the aero-car.
  2. Why bring Iron Man and Bruce Banner with them to the castle? They weren’t used for anything, story-wise. Did Don and Werner draw them there without telling Roy and then Roy had to deal with it? For two formidable Avengers, they sure stayed unconscious for a long time.
  3. Where was the Centurion all this time? What’s with all this “timeless time” and “twilight region twixt the now-is and the once-was” business? It’s not like he was in limbo. Wasn’t he deposited in the 20th century?

But, who cares about all that? It’s a classic issue, one of the highlights of 1968 Marvel. It’s got to be a full five webs.

Footnote

There is a silly five-page story that rounds out this issue but it gets its own review because it has half of a Spidey cameo in its very last panel. Hey, what can I tell you? Rules are rules. Avengers (Vol. 1) Annual #2 (Story 2) is next.