Avengers (3rd series) #42

Issue Date: 
July 2001
Story Title: 
No More Tomorrows

Kurt Busiek (Plot), Alan Davis. (Art), Mark Farmer (Inks), Tom Smith (Colors), Richard Starkings and COMICRAFT’s Jason Levine (Letters), Mark Sumerak (Assistant Editor), Tom Brevoort (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

After surrounding the United Nations Plaza with a force field, Kang shows all present a possible future he has seen for Earth, in which a radioactive life form originating in the east comes forth and destroys all of humanity by turning all living beings into radioactive monsters. Kang assures all that the scenario he showed is not a worst case scenario and that these are all outcomes of their future. Kang continues to show more possible futures, including one with a mystifying pyramid from outer space heading towards Earth. While this goes on, Warbird recognizes the Scarlet Centurion as Marcus, her thought-to-be-deceased lover. Kang then announces that he has come to take over Earth in order to save it, starting with France and Germany. He then sends out a call to the world, telling all that anyone who is able to take over any substantial amount of land for him will have a guaranteed spot in his new world order, in which humanity will achieve manifest destiny in the stars. Around the world, uprisings begin, including a sect of Deviants attacking China and Attuma leading Atlantis against the surface world. Kang returns to Damocles Base, but not before warning the Avengers that the radioactive threat he mentioned in the beginning has already begun. Simultaneously, in Siberia, Captain America’s squad finds a terrified Darkstar but, before they can question her, they are found by the Presence, who has created a new form of radioactive life he plans on sharing with the world.

Full Summary: 

A group of Avengers find themselves in the forbidden zone of Khystym in Siberia. This mission began when a spike of radioactivity was picked up by Firebird and the Black Knight in Slorenia. Thor, Captain America and Quicksilver were sent to investigate with them. Now in Khystym, all the members, save Thor, wear special translucent helmets to protect them from the radiation.

Thor looks around at the area, completely devoid of life, with green mist all around and the earth a scorched black. A scientist informs Captain America that it has been seven hours since the Winter Guard, Russia’s super-team, went to search for answers. Captain America asks when the last time they radioed in and is told that it was shortly before the Avengers arrived. The man shows Cap the last transmission of the Russian Guard. Vanguard and Darkstar appear on a handheld device and Vanguard gives the update in Russian.

Cap asks what Vanguard said and Quicksilver tells him that they searched the station, but found it empty. There is evidence of violence, but not bodies. Cap is surprised to discover that Quicksilver speaks Russian. “Doesn’t everyone?” replies the man. Quicksilver tells the technician Stoykov and his men to return back to their base for their safety. Suddenly, an explosion occurs a mile or too off, which catches the team’s attention. Cap realizes that the Winter Guard must be going against something big and tells the Avengers to move.

At the United Nations, the army convenes at the ruins of the United Nations. The colonel in charge orders his troops to maintain their positions outside the force field that now encloses the ruins, trapping the civilians and Avengers with Kang and the Scarlet Centurion. The colonel also orders that his Comm-Squad get a signal through the field. He wants to know what is going on. Inside the field, the Wasp tells her team to be ready for anything. The Scarlet Centurion orders everyone to be quiet so they can hear the words of Kang, who sits upon a floating pad. Kang thanks his son for getting everyone’s attention and then orders the Avengers to stand down. He is not here to destroy them, for the team would already to be dead if he wished so. He has come to talk. Kang then presses a button on a device in his hand, which causes energy to coalesce in front of the Avengers. Kang then tells everyone to turn their attention to his omni-screen so he can show them their future.

Everyone looks at the omni-screen, which displays a very desolate Earth. Six radiated skeletons fly through the air over some rubble, which include the dead Vision, Iron Man’s torn and empty suit, and Spider-Man’s ripped mask. Kang knows that everyone wonders how this future will come to be as the screen shows a group of Avengers, as well as the Fantastic Four, fighting more of the green skeletons. Kang informs all that the threat will come from the east and, by the time a credible resistance is mounted, the enemy will be too strong to defeat.

The creatures are radioactive soldiers directed by a single communal mind and their touch has the ability to turn their victims into them. The world’s resistance is futile. Some humans do survive, but the air and water are poisoned and, in the end, those who initially escaped capture can do nothing in the end, but succumb. The transformed then join with their brothers to become a single mind, like an atom, to create a lattice to surround the whole world. Their identities are gone and no longer do they fight, breed or strive for anything except communion. Humanity is dead. Kang, however, assures the crowd that this fate can be avoided, though unlikely. If humanity is able to survive this threat, will they be able to overcome what else is over the horizon, which they do not even realize is there.

While the secretary-general of the UN gets a call from the colonel outside, Kang shows them all another possible future. This time, he shows an Earth overrun by technology, as over-industrialization leads to wealth and power to be hoarded by the upper class as robotics eliminate the need for a working class. Rioting ensues, but the world’s governments end it by force and become pawns of the corporate powers. Nations cease to exist and humans become nothing more than living chattel of their corporate employers. Only a few rebels remain of a free humanity and they live like animals, who scavenge through discarded technology while staying a few steps ahead of those ready to exterminate them.

Can they stop that fate, Kang asks. Kang continues to show more images and asks if humanity can stop the destruction of the moon at the hands of a rebellious colony and the environmental disaster is causes. A global winter will ensue and the remnants of civilization will be locked in unceasing war. Can humanity stop an invasion from a space fleet staged at Mars? Their population will be decimated and a small group of refugees fight for freedom, though they cannot win. There are many threats, continues Kang, such as the dreaded Norse Ragnarok, to the rise of the elder god, Chthon, and the infections he brings with him. In one future, the sun may flare up and boil away Earth’s seas. In another, humanity will be enslaved by Magneto and the mutants who live among them.

The end could also come from space, as aliens destroy humanity for retribution of acts done by Earth’s superheroes. Other aliens could invade for greed and power and, as Kang shows an image of a massive techno-organic pyramid in space, he explains that others could attack for reasons more mystifying. The end could come from within, as science creates worldwide horrors, as humanity is supplanted by their creations. The global economy could be destroyed by Wakanda, or a faulty computer circuit could bring twin Earths together as they collide in the same orbit. There are thousands of other futures, says Kang, and they should heed his warning. These are not predicted worst-case scenarios. He is a time traveler and he has seen them with his own eyes. Kang closes the omni-screen as the Avengers discuss. Vision and Triathlon think to attack Kang quickly, but the watching Centurion warns them not to, as he will start killing ambassadors.

Triathlon is about to respond, but Wasp flies in between and orders both hero and villain to stand down. First, they should hear out Kang. Centurion thanks the Wasp and informs her that he regrets this situation. He looks at Warbird in the eye and tells her that he would like it if there was peace between them. Warbird gasps, which causes the concerned Vision to ask her what is wrong with the Centurion that affects her this way. Warbird stammers that the man’s voice, eyes and stance are all familiar. He is Marcus, Warbird reveals.

Kang ignores the interruption and continues to lecture the group about how humanity will find the future to be treacherous. Their only hope is a man who has seen the future and can guide them through eddies and byways and to mankind’s destiny in the stars. The secretary-general steps forward and tells Kang that he has had enough. He has attacked them and kept them hostage and now he offers help? He has communicated with military forces outside and he only let Kang talk long enough so they could break his cloaking technology and find his orbital base. As the military outside fires four missiles into space, the security leader tells Kang that his offer is rejected.

The omni-screen opens again just in time to see the four missiles strike Damocles Base, which causes an intense flare of power and light. When the flash dies out, Damocles Base remains in tact. Kang apologizes for the deception and reveals that he allowed his men to contact him and to find the base to show that he is quite able to protect himself from Earth’s backward technology. However, they are all misunderstanding his intentions here. He is not offering assistance. He has come to announce his declaration of war. He has come to conquer them in order to save them. He would offer them the ability to surrender, but knows that they won’t accept it. So why doesn’t he just show them what will happen?

On the omni-screen those gathered see Kang’s legions, which are undefeated on a thousand worlds across space and time. He shall take France and Germany first and, of course, the United States will be dependable to argue internally and fail to take action. He will then spread his beachhead from there and Europe will fall in three weeks, though his most generous projections say twenty-six days. After that, the rest of the world will easily follow. The heroes will undergo reeducation that will make them his loyal soldiers and the rest of the able-bodied population will be conscripted into the new world order in their proper places, whether it is military or something else. Genetic scanning will separate the finest human stock from the rest so only the best can pass on their genes to create a better humanity. Great armaments will be built to defend against possible threats. Colony ships will be sent to fulfill humanity’s manifest destiny.

The secretary-general interrupts and tells Kang that he will never succeed as the rest of the world will unite against him. Kang smiles and agrees that the world governments will unite, but what about the people? The governments offer nothing but uncertainty, while he offers a secure future. Earth’s children will survive with him and become a star-spanning empire. He also knows that the government do not want to be replaced and will make sure his people do not learn about his offer, but it is too late. When he opened this discussion, he put full details on the global Internet and broadcasted his address on every television and radio in the world, with accordance to the major language in the area. The people know and can choose freely. The secretary-general ignores Kang and tells him that the world will fight him and drive him off.

Kang admits that he will look forward to the combat. However, first the man should know that he also made another offer. Anyone who rises against their present masters and takes control of a part of the world’s inhabitable surface and swears fealty to him will have a guaranteed place in the new order. That offer was also made public when he started his communication. He is now allowing full radio communication inside the force field. Why doesn’t the secretary-general check what is going on outside?

Iron Man also checks the radio waves and is shocked at the reports. At Rollo Bay, Prince Edward Island, a platoon of Atlanteans rush out of the water, lead by Attuma, the usurper of Atlantis. In Wuwei, China, the ground rips open near a village, as a humanoid race known as the Deviants rush out. The reports do not stop, as Iron Man learns of rioting and looting all around the world. Even the secretary-general admits that this is too much.

Kang tells the Avengers that the war is underway and expects them to be busy for some time. He will leave now and prepare for his European invasion. However, they should know that any attack at him or his son as they leave will result in retaliation from Damocles Base and, this time, he will not show mercy. The force field dissolves and the group holds their breath, as thousands of guns come to bear on Kang and the Centurion. The colonel awaits orders from his commander and then, after a moment, tells his men to stand down. Kang smiles at the events and, before leaving, tells the Avengers that the threat he mentioned in the beginning has already begun. They should look to the east.

In Khystym, the Avengers reach the place where they believed the explosion took place. Cap surveys the area and sees that no one is around. He asks Quicksilver if there are any signs of battle. Quicksilver is not sure, as the land is already freakishly scarred. Cap interrupts him, as he hears a sound. He sees a gloved hand appear from the rubble, trying to lift a rock. Cap lifts it to see Darkstar, which confirms that the Winter Guard was here. Terrified, Darkstar tells the group that he has returned and taken them all. Who, Captain America asks, who has returned.

Suddenly, a massive flare of light appears behind the Avengers. They all turn to see a figure in a seat with a large group of green corpses, many resembling Vanguard and the rest of the Winter Guard. Firebird recognizes the man in the chair from the Avengers’ files. He is the presence. The Presence confirms this and announces that he is bringing a new dawn of life and a new blessing, which he intends to share with the rest of the world.

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Goliath I, Iron Man, Quicksilver, Thor, Triathlon, Vision, Warbird, Wasp (Avengers)
Black Knight, Firebird (Temporary Active Avengers)

Scarlet Centurion II
Various radioactive life forms

Kofi Annan (United Nations-Secretary General)
Various people at the United Nations
Various scientists in Siberia

Darkstar, Red Guardian II, Vanguard (Winter Guard)

Story Notes: 

Though not specifically named in the story, the secretary-general of the United Nations is obviously Kofi Annan.

The future where the world becomes over-industrialized was seen in the Machine Man 2020 limited series. The future with the destruction of the moon and global winter was seen in Fantastic Four (1st series) #272-273. The future where Martians attack Earth was seen in Avengers Forever. The future where aliens come for retribution for acts done by Earth’s heroes was seen in Defenders (1st series) #125, though it was thought to be a hoax. The future where humanity is supplanted by its creations saw its beginnings in Avengers (3rd series) #21. The future where Wakanda destroys the world economy stems from such actions in Black Panther (2nd series) #18. The twin Earth’s future is a possible fate after the Heroes Reborn Earth was brought to the 616 universe in Heroes Reborn: Ashema.

The original Marcus was the son of Immortus who used technology from Limbo to make Warbird fall in love with him. The two lived in Limbo for some time, though Carol was not aware that her feelings were not genuine and she was being raped. Carol later returned to Earth, but found herself mysteriously six months pregnant. She gave birth to a baby, who quickly aged into an adult Marcus, reborn. Being a child of Limbo, Marcus could not live long on Earth and he returned to Limbo with Warbird, who agreed to go but was actually still under the influence of Marcus’ mind control. In Limbo, Marcus aged rapidly and died within days. With the mind control over, Carol realized the horrible truth. [Avengers (1st series) #197-200, Annual 10]

Attuma usurped Atlantis in Defenders (2nd series) #2 from Prince Namor.

Captain America’s inability to understand Vanguard’s message can be considered a continuity mistake, as it was established that Cap is fluent in Russian in Captain America (1st series) #353.