Avengers (3rd series) #29

Issue Date: 
June 2000
Story Title: 
The Death Song of Kulan Gath - part 2: A Dream of Bitter Ash

Kurt Busiek (Plot), George Perez (Art), Al Vey and Dick Giordano (Finishes), Tom Smith (Colors), Richard Starkings and COMICRAFT (Letters), Tom Brevoort (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

The Avengers and Silverclaw locate Peliali, who is being attacked by the Hawk Riders. The team does their best to help, but Peliali is captured in the end. The Wasp and Iron Man discover that the Costa Verdan Army is coming to the city and head off to stop them before they enter. The Scarlet Witch enchants a chip to connect the team to the modern world and enters the city with the rest of the team. There, they discover that some aspects of the modern world are bleeding through the magic. They enter a bar, but Goliath is overcome by pain, which he dismisses. Warbird confronts Triathlon about his racial comments and tells him to make his choice about the team. Silverclaw is harassed by a drunken man and the team’s cover as priests is ruined. Gath transforms the people into demons, who put the team to sleep with gas. Gath then explains to Peliali that he is tired of the modern world and yearns to enter the realm of the gods, using everyone in the city, as well as Peliali, as a sacrifice. Meanwhile, neither the Avengers nor Gath notice that a familiar figure is watching them in the shadows.

Full Summary: 

A large clash of unnatural lightning crashes through the sky on the other side of a massive rock formation. A few miles away, the Avengers quickly respond to the call of the Wasp, who orders the team to fire up the skimmers. A few moments later, the team heads off to the sound of the fighting, with Iron Man and Warbird in the lead. The Scarlet Witch notices the anxiety in Silverclaw’s eyes and asks her if the mountain they are heading towards is where her mother is rumored to dwell. Silverclaw confirms this, but cannot go any further for the thought of finally meeting her mother scares her.

As the Avengers round the mountain, they find the source of the fight. At the base of the rock formation is a large group of natives, dressed in purple garbs and bird masks. All of them are armed with magical staffs, each having a bird head at the tip. The group of men surrounds one woman, who beats them back with the powers of a god: Peliali.

Peliali furiously tells the men to back down and yells at them for attacking her, who has watched over them for years, since “time immemorial.” Peliali tells the men one last time to leave before she reduces them to ashes. Goliath tells the others that Peliali means it, but the men have her surrounded. Silverclaw does not hear Goliath, for she is too shocked to be actually seeing her mother.

As the Scarlet Witch tries to calm Silverclaw down, the Wasp takes charge and orders the team to strike. As they go forward, Iron Man picks up something on his radar. A group of Hawk Riders swoops down and knocks the Avengers off their skimmer. The Wasp tells Iron Man and Warbird to catch the others, but Goliath tells her that they will be fine and to save Peliali. Hesitantly, the Wasp agrees and tells Iron Man to deal with the Hawk Riders while she, Silverclaw and Warbird take down the rest of Kulan Gath’s men. Silverclaw transforms into a bird and follows the two women.

Below, Goliath grows in size to break the trees under his fall. She-Hulk, who is naturally tough, simply hits the ground. The Scarlet Witch uses her Chaos Magic to whip up a wind, while Triathlon grabs onto tree branches to slow his decent, the whole time muttering on how no one asked him if he wanted a ride down.

Nearby, the men weaken Peliali, who is surprised that mortals could defeat her. Silverclaw flies towards them, but the Wasp stops her and points out that Kulan Gath’s men do not even notice them. They cannot charge in cocky. Jan tells Silverclaw to take the men on the right, she will take the ones in the middle and Warbird will take the men on the left. Warbird agrees but, before she can move, Iron Man comes slamming into her back.

One of the Hawk Riders laughs and tells Iron Man that he now has reason to fear their lighting bolts. The man, however, stops laughing when an angry Iron Man flies back at the “low-rent refugee from an Arkon movie.” He tells the man that he does not like magic, but it is nothing compared to how much he is getting tired of the Hawk Riders. With one blast, Iron Man blasts the Riders away.

The three women swoop down to attack when, suddenly, there is a blast of yellow light. Once the light is gone, the Avengers find that Peliali and the attackers are all gone. Warbird realized that the Hawk Riders were just trying to delay them. Goliath agrees and adds that they are just as in the dark as ever. From above, Iron Man disagrees and descends to the ground with a Hawk Rider in his arm.

The group quickly regroups, as Iron Man explains to the Hawk Rider that Kulan Gath has used his magic so they can all magically understand one another. He begins the interrogation by asking what Kath wants. The Hawk Rider laughs and tells Iron Man that it is Kulan Gath’s wish that the Avengers die ignorant of his plan. Suddenly, Wanda warns Iron Man that she feels a sudden upsurge of mystical energy. Before she can continue, the Hawk Rider explodes in a gulf of blue flames and dies. Stoically, Iron Man asks Wanda not to take any offense, but he really hates magic.

The Wasp tells the group that magic may not be their only problem. Goliath asks if more of Gath’s forces are coming. Jan says no, but explains that a new third party is involved. While she was airborne she spotted movement in the jungle and checked it out. It seems a division of the Costa Verdan Army is heading their way.

Goliath gazes at the city and points out that the army does not know of the mystical field. If they pass through the field they will turn into Gath’s troops like he turned into a “bloodthirsty corsair” and Warbird and She-Hulk turned into “armored Amazons.” Triathlon smiles and tells the women that they were fine-looking Amazons, too. Of course, they aren’t really hiding anything under their uniforms now, Triathlon adds. “Says the buffed-up guy in head-to-toe spandex…” says She-Hulk. Warbird smiles, but then turns her attention back to other matters. She tells the team that it bugs her that they cannot do any reconnaissance in the city.

“Maybe we can, Warbird,” says Wanda, as she approaches Iron Man. She tells Iron Man that she knows he hates magic, but she thinks they can use it to their advantage. She asks if he could spare a part of his armor, something inessential. Without hesitation or question, Iron Man gives her a spare comm-chip. Wanda looks at the chip and tells the others that it is something of the present. If she can charge it with Chaos Magic and link it to them, then they can be bound to their present day forms even after they pass the magical field.

Jan tells them that it is worth a try but, in the meantime, someone should stop the soldiers. She tells Iron Man to come with her and tells the others to go with Wanda. Wanda charges up another chip for Jan and Iron Man and then her group proceeds to the city. As they move out, a mysterious figure in the bushes comments on all the running about and wonders, which group does he follow? Unfortunately, his voice is low and no one can hear him, which is sad, because all of them would have found his voice familiar.

The Scarlet Witch’s group reaches the entrance to the city and stop. She asks Goliath if he is ready and he tells her that, if she starts to change, he will yank her out. Uncertain about what will happen, Wanda reaches forward with her hand into the city…and it remains the same. She breathes a sigh of relief and tells everyone to stay close to her.

Elsewhere, Iron Man and the Wasp reach the army. Iron Man thinks to himself that he understands that the army probably heard of sightings or noises in the area, sent someone in to investigate, who would have been transformed into Gath’s minion, and now they have sent the army to find out what’s going on.

The two Avengers find the Command Car, which stops. The commander comes out to greet the Wasp, who explains that they are the Avengers and wish to speak to him. After an explanation, the man tells Jan not to take offense, but her story sounds crazy and that there has never been a village in the Kamekeri Village. Jan explains that they were made to forget, but the commander tells her that he has orders to investigate. Jan tells him that they could talk to his superiors in Courantine if he’d wait. The man gives up and tells Jan that he can hold off for an hour. Jan turns to Iron Man and tells him that she hopes her has room for a bug-sized passenger, because they need his top speed.

In the city, the Avengers walk down the streets dressed as monks, though the locals still give them odd looks. She-Hulk jokes about the costumes as Triathlon asks Silverclaw what is wrong. Silverclaw tells him that this place is her home. It’s the same layout, the same streets, the same buildings, the same people…yet it is all different at the same time. Triathlon asks her if she is feeling out of place or unwelcome, and then sarcastically comments that he could never imagine feeling like that. Warbird hears this and gives him a dirty look.

Silverclaw looks down and notices something. She bends down to pick up a piece of paper and is confused to find out that it is a gum wrapper. Wanda is also shocked, because everything in the city is archaic. There would not be any candy stores around and, if anyone brought gum in, it would have been transformed with everything else.

Goliath tells Wanda if she thinks that is weird then she should look up. All six of them look up to see a traffic light hanging between two buildings. The confused Avengers move on; none of them notice that they are being watched. The young woman, if she really is one, looks at the traffic light, which then disappears like magic. She shakes her head with sadness and disgust and walks away. After she leaves, however, a bus stop appears where she had been standing earlier.

In the plaza square ahead, Goliath suddenly is overcome with pain and falls the ground. Wanda tries to help him, but he waves her away and tells her it is a “stomach thing.” Wanda begins to ask him if he is having health problems, but Hank tells her that he will run tests when they get back home. He assures Wanda that the pain will pass. He gets up and tells them that they need information and what better place to do that than in the local bar. A little shocked by Hank’s quick dismissal, Wanda hesitantly agrees.

The young woman outside watches the Avengers enter and then she stays there for several moments later. She makes many complex hand gestures and then disappears into the alleys.

Inside, She-Hulk takes one big whiff of undercooked meat and stale beer and begins to reminisce of her undergraduate days. The only thing that Warbird can think of, though, is that it is bar. Warbird watches a man chug drink beer and tells herself that she should not be here, because she has been sober for only four months. Before she can continue, she realizes that she can almost taste the beer.

Triathlon interrupts her thoughts and tells her that they have a table, but then comments that he will be there as long as they don’t have a “colored-heroes-only” booth. Angrily, Warbird takes him aside. She thinks to herself that she is doing this to take her mind off the beer, but also that someone needs to talk to him. Warbird tells him that she knows he did not like how he was invited into the Avengers, but his attitude is no way to handle it.

She continues to explain that the Avengers are not perfect and no one knows that more than she does, but they are good people. People make mistakes, but people always try to be better. Triathlon tires to interject, but Warbird tells him that he can make as many comments as he wants, which the Avengers will respect no matter what, or he could try joining the team and being one of them. She knows which one she’d pick every time. Warbird goes to the table and, after a moment, Triathlon follows.

She-Hulk welcomes them to the table and tells them that drinks are all around, except for Silverclaw and Warbird, who are getting water. Warbird thanks her and sits down with Triathlon. Goliath points out that, since everyone here is loyal to Gath, they cannot pose as curious travelers. They should look around for someone important and cut him out of the crowd.

Wanda interrupts Hank and asks Silverclaw why she is shaking. Silverclaw cries and tells them that she has been singled out all her life, yet the stories were true this whole time. However, her own mother let people believe it wasn’t. She let them believe her father was a madman and that she was a freak. Silverclaw asks how a mother could do that to her own daughter.

A large, dirty, hairy, drunk man grabs Silverclaw’s hand and tells the “little priestess” that she has a lot of energy and a nice shape under that robe. He smiles at Silverclaw, who glares back, and asks her to break some vows with Bargath Redhand. Silverclaw is disgusted with the pervert but, before she can do anything, She-Hulk grabs him and chucks him across the room, which also destroys their cover as priests.

The men in the bar take out swords and Goliath asks if they settle things by buying them a round for the room. Triathlon smiles and says that he winds up in such fun places with the Avengers. She-Hulk throws off her robe and tells them that they are going to have a brawl.

At Kulan Gath’s palace, the young girl returns. Her servants attend to her and explain that wards claim there are spies in the city. Seven intruders entered the city. The girl says that she already aware and it is being dealt with.

As the team battles on, the She-Hulk tells Goliath to pick the man he wants to interrogate and prop him on the bar so they can question him when they are done. Goliath tells her not to be overconfident, but Triathlon agrees with She-Hulk and says that, “They’re only…”

In the palace, the young girl transforms back into Kulan Gath. The old man walks up a spiraling staircase to a room where Peliali is trapped in a magical sphere. He greets the goddess and tells her that he hopes her accommodations are suitable. The goddess demands that Gath lets her go or suffer her wrath. Gath sarcastically tells her that he is sure she would be very fearsome. He assures her that she will be released in more ways than she knows, but for now she must learn her purpose here.

“DEMONS!” screams Wanda to finish off what Triathlon was saying. Silverclaw is surprised as the men all magically turn into monsters. Wanda explains that it is a massive transformation spell, but she also senses that it is not over.

Gath asks Peliali if the city is not impressive. It is based on his memories of the finest and most majestic city of the age he was born in. It should be grand and glorious, but it is not. In this world and time it’s a backwater, which is dwarfed by modern age. That is the problem. He tells her that she surely understands.

This is his city. He is Kulan Gath and he has devoted his life to the gathering of power. He studied power and in time gained it. He served Shuma-Gorath, the N’garai and other unspeakable creatures. Eventually, he became mighty.

In the bar, the Avengers are all constricted by the snake-like creatures. The Avengers are unable to move. Wanda asks Goliath if he can shrink free but, unfortunately, he cannot.

Gath explains that he wanted more power and more time to become stronger. He delayed death and finally cheated it by infusing his life essence into a necklace, ensuring that he would live on after his body died. One millennium after his death, he was reborn into the world. He found himself in battle with the day’s champions and was on the verge of victory.

In the bar, the demons breathe gas into the Avengers’ faces.

However, Gath continues, the world was so big, noisy and foul. Of course, though, Peliali must know this by now. He was overwhelmed and defeated, his necklace cast out into the sea. Eventually, it was rediscovered and he was reborn into the world in events that were erased by time itself. His necklace returned to the sea once more. Yet again, though, it was found and he was reborn. He wandered the lands searching for a place to begin anew.

In the bar, the Avengers succumb to the gas, though they try their best to stay awake.

Gath could not find a place unspoiled. Even in the Kamekeri Valley, hints of the modern world creep in, bleeding through his spells and corrupting his world. He knows why, though. He and Peliali are anachronisms, whose purpose no longer exists and was left behind like dust. They have lived too long and do not belong in the world anymore. In his world, he would have achieved the final reward and gone to another plane of existence to become a god but, in this world, the gods he knew are gone and the gates to their realm are forever closed.

However, says Gath, he will still get his reward. He needs strong magic to reach his proper place and to awaken the old gods and provide them with proof of his worthiness. Peliali shall be his proof. It will take nothing less than the death of a god to open the gates to paradise.

As Gath makes this revelation, he does not notice that he is being watched by a costumed figure, the seventh unknown intruder. Gath tells Peliali that she will be the sacrifice along with the city and its fools. And, if the world does not survive the cataclysm, that will occur when he splits reality…”Well, no matter. It’s a foul world and it’s better off dead.”

In the bar, the gas disperses and the Avengers lie unconscious on the floor.

Characters Involved: 

Goliath, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Triathlon, Warbird, Wasp (all Avengers)
Silverclaw (Avengers ally and Jarvis’ sponsor child)

Hawk Riders
Kulan Gath

Mysterious figure in the shadows
Various Kamekeri people

Story Notes: 

The Avengers came to aid Silverclaw in Avengers (3rd Series) #28. Goliath, Warbird, and She-Hulk were transformed in that same issue.

Triathlon joined the team under negative circumstances in Avengers (3rd Series) #27.

Kulan Gath first fought Spider-Man in Marvel Team Up (1st Series) #79. He then later fought the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #190-191.