Avengers (3rd series) #52

Issue Date: 
May 2002
Story Title: 
Counter Attack

Kurt Busiek (writer), Ivan Reis (guest penciler), Randy Emberlin (guest inker), Tom Smith (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Sadia! (letterers), Mark Sumerak (assistant editor), Tom Breevort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

A rebel force is saved from Kang’s army by the Master’s technology, now controlled by the Avengers. Kang revels in his army’s attack in Siberia, before being informed that there is trouble at the imperial prison. Indeed, at that moment, Thor, Warbird, Yellowjacket, Wonder Man and Quicksilver are freeing the imprisoned Wasp. They retreat to the Master’s base, which they have commandeered for themselves, with Iron Man, Stingray and Black Knight taking control of the advanced scientific components. The Wasp is disheartened, and worries that Kang will retaliate due to her rescue, but the President of the United States gives her some encouraging words. In space, Captain America, the Vision, Photon, Quasar, Living Lightning, Justice, Firestar and Triathlon - connected to the 3-D Man - discuss recent events, and the urgency to get back to Earth, and Triathlon manages to get the pyramid to move back through space, carrying them towards Earth. Back in the Master’s base, the Wasp gets back into action rallying forces, Iron Man is pleased to be back in his armor after so long, Silverclaw and Stingray get to know each other, and Warbird reveals to the Black Knight that she killed the Master, and feels that what happened in Washington may not have happened if the Master was still alive. Firebird finds Thor, and once more attempts to snap him out of his current disillusioned state, and admits to herself that she may be immortal after all. Kang’s forces strike all over the world once more, but thanks to the Wasp’s organisation, Kang’s armies are met with challenges - Deviants, Atlanteans, and the Presence and Starlight! The Wasp meets with those remaining active Avengers in the Master’s base, only to be attacked from space - Damocles Base. Kang is furious and is bent on destroying the Avengers. Thor, Firebird, Warbird, Iron Man and Wonder Man head into space, while Yellowjacket, Stingray and Black Knight take control of the Master’s technology. However, Kang gets even more furious when the pyramid slams into Damocles Base. He dons equipment which projects his massive form into space, in an attempt to destroy the pyramid - only to find that a projection of Captain America, equal in stature, is awaiting him.

Full Summary: 

Northern Montana, near what used to be the Canadian Border, before Kang the Conqueror conquered both nations and more, and declared them part of his Grand Imperium. Still, there are pockets of resistance - like these pitiful few, the only survivors of a rebel camp routed by Kang’s men. Clutching their weapons, they trudge through the snow-covered terrain. ‘…a few more miles, and maybe…maybe we’ll be safe…’ one of them exclaims. Another declares that it will not take Kang’s troops long to realize they didn’t get everyone. ‘And we’re leaving a trail a three-year old could follow!’ he declares. ‘Still, tell us again. Maybe we’ll believe it this -’ he begins, when suddenly, he sees two jets streak towards them from the air above. ‘Weapons ready, everyone! And dig in as best you can - ‘cause here they come!’

‘Resistance fighters sighted. Target-lock achieved’ one of the jet pilots declares, adding that the resistance’s weapons can do nothing to them. ’Initiative synchro-pattern, shrike-beta - and commence termination run’. The ship slips sideways, confidently flanking the doomed rebels - but in a rocky patch of ground behind them, a high-tech piece of equipment rises from the ground - and as the jets fly past it, weaponry fires at the jets, and destroys them mid-air. ’W-what?’ one of the resistance exclaims. ’They - they just - it worked good. All right, folks - let’s move on to the next stage’ one of the men exclaims.

Meanwhile, in central Siberia, north of Yakutsk, a grinning Kang lounges back on his hover-chair, revelling in the battle that plays out below him - as his troops battle the human resistance army. ‘Ah, look at it, Marcus’ he says to his son, the Scarlet Centurion, hovering alongside on his hover-deck. ‘Their defenses shattered, their lines broken - and now there is nothing left to for them but flight. It is poetry - glorious, epic poetry’. Kang declares that this is the true thrill, not merely crushing one’s foes, but meeting them head to head - besting them through strategy, through the careful arrangement of one’s forces on the battlefield.

Kang remarks that it is not long, in this time period, since Russia considered herself protected by her vast size - by the toll of long marches, extended supply lines proving fatal to any invader. ‘Not so here, however and it costs them -’ Kang begins, when suddenly, a robotic drone flies urgenty towards Kang: ‘Milord Kang! Milord Scarlet Centurion!’ Dire news!’ the robot exclaims. ‘Eh?’ Kang remarks, declaring that it had better be important news indeed for whomever sent the drone to distract his son and he from - the drone interrupts: ‘It is a code-three alert, Sire! There is trouble - grave trouble - at the Imperial Prison!’

Indeed, at the Imperial Prison, a squad of Avengers - Thor, Carol “Warbird” Danvers, Dr Hank “Yellowjacket” Pym, Simon “Wonder Man” Williams and Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff stand over Kang’s troops whom they have taken down. Carol and Simon use their respective powers to smash through a wall, encouraged on by Thor, who tells them to strike fiercely, as they are almost through. ‘And these fellas aren’t going to be giving us any more trouble, Thor - are you, boys?’ Hank jokes as he hovers over the troops. ‘Didn’t think so. So let’s move on to -’ Hank begins, before the wall is destroyed, and Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp steps towards her teammates, shackled and with a power-dampener attached to her.

‘JAN! That psycho actually trussed you up like a beast of burden?’ Hank exclaims as he rushes over to her. ‘He - he likes to have extra security when he’s not in the area’ Jan replies. Hank tells her not to worry, and assures her that the other squads are freeing the rest of the captive heroes. ‘Nobody stays in Kang’s clutches’ he exclaims, while Warbird breaks the chains binding Janet. ‘But - but you can’t - you don’t dare rescue me - or any of us!’ the Wasp exclaims desperately. ‘Don’t you see? I surrendered on behalf of the Avengers as a group! If I’m freed, if we strike back - Kang only keeps the kid gloves on as long as the other side plays by his rules! If we break the surrender, he’ll retaliate - murder entire cities, like he did to Washington DC!’ Janet declares. Hank tells her that it is okay, while Thor spins his mighty hammer, telling the Wasp that they stand prepared to fight back against the tyrant Kang. ‘Merely step through the portal I have created with the enchantments of my mystic hammer - and thou wilt see’.

In Northern Canada, the hidden former base of the self-styled Master of the World. ‘…see, Jan? The base is still shielded from Kang’s sensors - but we’ve finally cracked the Master’s technology! His weaponry cut through Kang’s defenses in Boston - and now it’ll do the same for us!’ Hank explains as he leads Jan into the control room, where the two of them, Thor, Carol, Simon and Quicksilver join three of the Avengers scientific members - Tony “Iron Man” Stark, Dr Walter “Stingray” Newell” and Dane Whitman a.k.a. the Black Knight. ‘It…seems like a miracle, Hank!’ Jan exclaims. Hank replies that he will not say it wasn’t tricky, explaining that the control technology could only be understood by a genius, a top brain, a paragon of scientific achievement. ‘Which means of course, that it was mostly Tony Stark’s doing’.

Tony, still wearing his lab coat as opposed to his armor, tells Jan not to let Hank fool her, as it was a team effort. ‘Hank, Stingray, the Black Knight - the technology is so alien that we needed all the perspectives we could get’. Tony turns on a large screen behind them, which depicts North America, marked with several red dots and lines going between them. Tony explains that the Master’s technology is quasi-organic, which means it can “grow”, replicating itself from the raw materials it harvests from the Earth’s crust. ‘There’s already a network of It beneath all of North America - allowing us to activate the dormant ring-walls he created, as well as create more of them - attacking from eve where at once’ Tony explains.

Jan asks Tony how he can be sure, as Kang broke through the Washington wall, to which Tony replies that it was operating on automatic, as the Master was not there to compensate for Kang’s attacks. ‘Still, if we make this move, and we’re were wrong - how many will suffer?’ Jan asks. ‘How many will die, if we fail again?’ Suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘We have to risk it, Ms van Dyne. WE have to pay any price, if the prize is freedom’. ‘Who -?’ Jan gasps, spinning around. ‘Oh!’ she exclaims as the President of the United States stands before her.

The President tells the Wasp that her surrender earlier was a noble thing, and she did it to save lives, and didn’t have any other choice then. ‘But now - if there’s hope, even the faintest hope…’ he begins. ‘I…you’re right, Mr President. And we’ll do it - we’ll strike back. But not alone!’ she exclaims, announcing that they will plan the strike for the earliest possible moment, but it will have to be tomorrow, as she has some calls to make, some favors to call in. Janet shrinks down, announcing that she better get on with it. ‘Time’s short and there’s a lot to do!’ she exclaims, waving goodbye to the President. ‘Of course, Avenger’ the President replies, while Janet thinks to herself that they are all right, perhaps this is their best chance - maybe their only chance. ‘Still, I’d feel a lot more confident if Captain America were here. With him and the others missing in space all times time…maybe dead…I just wish he was here, that’s all…’.

At that moment, in space, specifically, on the dark side of the Moon, inside a floating pyramid, where the missing Avengers have seen triumph over a great threat, and the transformation of one of their own. ‘Can you do it, Triathlon?’ Steve “Captain America” Rogers asks Delroy Garrett a.k.a. Triathlon, now hovering over everyone, glowing red, green and yellow, and accompanied by the 3-D Man. Cap declares that it was urgent they get back to Earth before, and now after being trapped here for weeks, and with what the Vision has learned of the situation in Earth…. ‘We understand, Cap. We’re trying’ Triathlon / 3-D Man replies, while Wendell “Quasar” Vaughn, Monica “Photon” Rambeau, the Vision, Jack of Hearts a.k.a. Hack Hart, Miguel “Living Lightning” Santos, Angelica “Firestar” Jones and Vance “Justice” Astrovik stand nearby.

‘Then keep at it, Avenger. When you and…your shared selves here manifested like this, you were able to channel enough power to shut this pyramid down. If you can use that power to control the pyramid - make it move - if you can get us back to Earth -’ Steve declares. Wendell steps forward and tells Triathlon that, if it helps, there are some experienced energy wielders here. ‘Photon, Firestar, the Living Lightning and I - if you can link us together, draw on our abilities -’ he suggests. But Triathlon / 3-D Man thanks Quasar, telling him that will not be necessary, as he is still not used to being wired into the 3-D Man and his brother like this, but they have been reaching out into the mass of stolen energies the Triple-Evil used to power this thing. ‘And I think we can…there! The shields that prevented detection by any but the Triune Understanding are back up now’ Triathlon exclaims as energy radiates from he and the 3-D Man. And slowly, the bulk of the star-spanning pyramid begins to hum, vibrate - and move….

Back in Canada, the Wasp sits at a monitor, making calls, while Yellowjacket watches her from the doorway. ‘Look at her. We’ve all changed a lot, since we founded this team, for good and bad…I’ve had my ups and downs, that’s for sure’ Hank thinks to himself, deciding that he think Jan has changed the most, and that it has been for the good. Hank realizes Jan is communicating with the Supreme Military Commander of Russia, that she is arguing with him and is not giving in an inch. ‘God, I love that woman’ he tells himself.

Elsewhere in the complex, Tony has donned his Iron Man armor. ‘Back in action, tomorrow morning. And I can’t wait. And I’m terrified’ Tony tells himself, thinking how he has been on the sidelines for most of this - doing scientific work, but now that he is suiting up again, he is ready for this battle. ‘But if we fail…if we fail…’.

In another part of the complex, Stingray sits with Maria De Guadalupe Santiago a.k.a. Silverclaw, and tells her that he has never been much of an active hero, that he just stumbled into it. ‘But they need us, so I do what I can…’. Maria tells Walter that she understands what he means, telling him that this is all very new to her, and that she feels like she belongs in college, not here. ‘But we don’t get to choose when to be ready, do we?’

Warbird gazes out a window, and the Black Knight approaches her, commenting that she is looking somewhat adrift. ‘What’s on your mind?’ he asks her. Carol turns and reveals to Dane that she killed the Master. ‘I thought it was the right move…the only move. But if I hadn’t, he’d have been able to run…all this. Washington…it wouldn’t have happened. They’re all dead. Because of what I -’ but Dane interrupts, telling Carol not to think like that. ‘The Master’s plans - they would have ended up with even more dead. You did what you felt you…what you had to do’ Dane assures Carol, adding that now is not the time to look back, but to look forward. ‘Sure. Forward. But forward to what?’ Carol asks as she returns her gaze outside.

Outside, Thor stands on a ridge and looks out over the night sky. Suddenly, ‘Hola, Thor!’ cries Bonita “Firebird” Juarez as she flies toward her teammate. ‘I saw you were gone. Did you come out here for fresh air…or for some distance, to separate yourself from all those mortal concerns?’ Bonita asks. Thor barely looks at his teammate, until Firebird lands beside him, telling him that people are going to die tomorrow. ‘Maybe a lot of people. And they’ll be fighting for what they hold dear - freedom, their families, their lives. But it doesn’t matter to you, does it?’ Bonita remarks. ‘They’re just mortal, after all’. ‘Woman!’ Thor booms, but Bonita ignores him, continuing her speech, she exclaims that the people are going to die anyway, right, now or decades from now. ‘It’s still just an eye blink to you’.

Firebird continues: ‘Maybe that makes logical, intellectual sense. Maybe it’s best for you to flee to Asgard when this is lover, like you said you would…avoid forming ties with mortals. And maybe I’m immortal too and I’ll watch everyone around me age and die, everyone I love. But I hope I’ll always care. I hope they’ll always matter to me - those lives, those struggles, no matter how brief. I’ve tried to get through to you - tried and tried - but you’re a God and you’re different. So you say’. Angrily, Firebird points at Thor, exclaiming that her God notices even the fall of a sparrow. ‘And that’s the God I’ll follow, the God I’ll do my best to emulate. Not you. Never you!’ Firebird declares, before flying off into the night sky. Thor just frowns.

The next morning, inside Kang’s recently constructed citadel on the Eastern Seaboard, Kang stands on a platform, as his message is projected all over North America: ‘People of North America! I speak to you because your heroes have betrayed you. The Avengers have broken their surrender, violated their oaths, and invaded imperial possessions. They will be punished’. Kang continues, announcing that the Avengers will be allowed to surrender once more and be executed - but not until after two more American cities have been destroyed as retribution for the Avengers’ treachery, and then every hour that passes with the surrender of the Avengers, another city will fall. ‘Denver, Atlanta - make peace with your Gods - your heroes have brought this upon you!’ Kang declares as his projections over Denver and Atlanta get ready to destroy the cities. Civilians begin to run - but as Kang speaks, a ring-wall suddenly surrounds his fortress, and the weaponry begins firing at Kang’s troops and the fortress itself. ‘Protect the citadel!’ one of Kang’s soldiers orders.

And as Kang’s stronghold comes under attack, forces begin to rise all around the world - the result of the Wasp’s long negotiations. In Japan, Kang’s forces are horrified to see Deviants rise from the ground. ‘But - they keep to themselves! To their city on the Pacific floor! They do not interfere in the affairs of humans!’ one of Kang’s warriors exclaims.

In France, Namorita leads an army of Atlanteans against Kang’s forces based in France. ‘Forward, Atlanteans! You followed the usurper Attuma - now win back your honor - and freedom for the surface men!’ the young hero orders.

While in Russia, Kang’s forces begin fleeing as firepower rains down on them. ‘No! No!’ one of them cries. ‘By the darkest nebulae! What…what is that?’ another calls out. High above, fly the terrors of Russia. He is Sergie Krylov, the diabolical Presence, and she is Tania Belinsky, the long-suffering Starlight. So feared are they throughout Russia, that the authorities were loathe to free them, even to save the world. They are beings of raw energy, radioactivity personified. Their power is incalculable, their touch deadly and their condition is contagious. They engulf Kang’s army in radioactive energy, and those who fall before them rise again as slaves in their service.

On the Eastern Seaboard, Kang and the Scarlet Centurion have joined the fight in protecting the citadel, blasting at the weapons on the ring-wall. ‘They strike from everywhere, my Lord! All the existing weapon-walls, plus more - the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Alpha Flight -’ but Kang interrupts, telling his son that is enough. ‘I’ll have a full report from you soon, but not now. Prepare the shuttle, my son - immediately - we shall…withdraw to Damocles Base - and make our displeasure known from there!’ the highly-annoyed Kang booms.

Moments later, Kang and Marcus are space-bound, leaving their troops at the mercy of the Master’s weaponry. The stern-faced Conqueror remarks that there is one thing he does not understand: ‘My studies indicated that the so-called Master of the World would never deign to ally himself with the Avengers - and that he could repel them easily, if they tried to take his technologies. He should not have been a factor until much later. So how did they gain an advantage over him?’ Kang asks. ‘I…I am not in a position to guess, of course. you have often praised them as resourceful, however. Perhaps it is as simple as that…’ Marcus offers. The time-striding Conqueror is silent at that - a silence that lasts all the way to Damocles Base.

Back in Canada, the Wasp has gathered the remaining Avengers - Yellowjacket, Thor, Wonder Man, Iron Man, Firebird, Warbird, Quicksilver, Stingray, Black Knight and Silverclaw - and tells them that they have got a chance. ‘A slim chance. But a chance’. She points out that Kang’s armies are in turmoil, and fighting on multiple fronts, which will tie them up for a while at least. Janet tells her teammates that they must take out Damocles Base - shatter its force field, and that only the Master’s technology has any hope of doing that. Jan tells Hank, Dane and Walter that they will stay here and run through the bombardment configuration that they think will work beast, while Thor, Simon, Bonita and Tony will get into position to assault the base once the force field is down.

Deep in her heart, Jan knows that this will work. She can see it, unfolding just as it should - just as it is meant to. Victory. And freedom. ‘Quicksilver and Silverclaw, you’ll reinforce Hercules and -’ Jan begins, when suddenly, the ground shakes, and everyone is knocked off balance. Imagine the Wasp’s disappointment - when her plan goes sour. Hank makes it over to a monitor and switches it on, showing the outside of the base, Han reports that scanners say the sensor shields are still working, but they are definitely under attack - from space!

As Damocles Base continues to fire at the Avengers’ makeshift base, Kang projects himself over the base, telling the Avengers that they are fools to think he would not be prepared for this. ‘Your base itself may be invisible to me - but the commands you are sending to the weapon-walls allow me to track you - triangulate on your location - I knew I would fight your base’s owner in time - now I simply strike earlier than planned!’ Kang declares, boasting that he will devastate the entire area, and in the process, the Avengers will inevitably be destroyed. ‘He’s firing blind! We’ve still got a shot!’ the Wasp exclaims, telling Iron Man and Hank that there is no need to be coy. ‘The main batteries are prepped - power up, lock ‘em on and -’ Jan exclaims. ‘On it, hon, just a few seconds’ Hank replies as he and Iron Man work their magic across the computer.

The batteries have been locked on Damocles Base since it came over the horizon. Now, energy floods them as they go white-hot, blue-hot - but too late, as Damocles Base destroys the weaponry systems of the Master’s base. ‘No. He didn’t - they didn’t -’ Jan utters in shock, before telling everyone to go and do what they can. Dane steps forward and announces that they can “grow” another set of batteries, a dozen at once if needed, and maybe it would still be in time. The Wasp pauses, before exclaiming ‘Yes, Dane. Of course. Do what you can’. They both look at the monitor and watch the devastation as Kang continues his assault on the Master’s base. Janet knows that was their chance. And now it has passed.

Of course that does not mean the Avengers give up. The powerhouse quintet consisting of Thor, Iron Man, Wonder Man, Warbird and Firebird take to the air. They are the Avengers. They’ll do what they can. There is always a chance for a miracle. Always a chance…. ‘Growth matrix established!’ Hank announces. ‘Execute, Stingray! Go! Go!’ Black Knight tells Walter.

But up in the sky, the projection of Kang just laughs. ‘And this is why you are my greatest enemies, Avengers. You fight to the end and beyond. Just as I would!’ Kang declares. ‘But your defenses are broken. Your sensor-shields have fallen. You are invisible to me no longer. It’s over’ he exclaims. In Damocles Base, Kang stands on a platform and looks at the view screen which shows the Master’s base under attack. He calls out, ordering all power to forward batteries to the co-ordinates on screen. ‘City-killer salvo on three. One. Two -’ he begins, but before he can say “three”, there is a massive WHKAMM.

‘What? What the eternal void was …that?’ Kang asks, as Damocles Base was hit by the Triple-Evil pyramid! ‘Shields geld. But we rattled ‘em good. Readying another blast’ Triathlon announces. ‘Way to go, Triathlon! That let ‘em know we’re here!’ Cap exclaims as he, Wendell, Monica, the Vision, Jack, Miguel, Angelica and Vance observe the goings-on.

‘Dracchan’s teeth!’ shouts Kang as he strides towards another chamber. ‘Is there no end to these interruptions?’ he asks, declaring that he will deal with this personally, and tells Marcus to have the holo-chamber prepared, and the simulacrum at full weapon’s power. I’m on my way!’ Kang booms. He steps into the chamber, and puts on some armor. ‘Now! Now Avengers -!’ he shouts.

Captain America tells his teammates that if their last attack is any indicator, then he thinks he knows what is coming next. ‘Triathlon, I’ve got an idea. Let me know if the pyramid can do this…’.

And outside, Kang hovers alongside Damocles Base, and stares at the pyramid. ‘Simulacrum manifested. Full weapons power’ the computer announces. ‘No. larger!’ Kang orders. His form is increased, until it is larger than Damocles Base. ‘Larger! Larger!’ he orders, so that he is large enough to wield Damocles Base as a literal sword. He marches towards the pyramid, and reaches out for it, exclaiming ‘Even my admiration of your tenacity has its limits, Avengers. You think this freakish, nomadic pyramid is your salvation? I foresaw it. I even told you of it. Do you worst, in the moments you have left of life. I can counter all of your new toy’s capabilities!’ Kang booms.

‘Even this?’ a voice calls out, as a large red-gloved hand reaches out to Kang. ‘Eh?’ the uber-villain exclaims, turning around, he sees Captain America, increased to the same size as he. Captain America frowns at Kang as he “stands“ on space, and exclaims: ‘Now, you miserable, jacked-up little tim Hitler…let’s end this!’

Characters Involved: 

Black Knight IV, Captain America, Firebird, Firestar, Iron Man, Jack of Hearts, Justice, Living Lightning, Photon, Quasar, Quicksilver, Silverclaw, Stingray, Thor, Triathlon, Vision, Warbird, Wasp, Wonder Man, Yellowjacket (all Avengers)

Scarlet Centurion II / Marcus

3-D Man


The Presence & Starlight

President of the United States
Gloom and other Deviants
Kang’s Soldiers
Members of the Resistance
Other Soldiers

Story Notes: 

Part 12 of the “Kang Dynasty”.

The Master of the World was slain by Warbird in Avengers (3rd series) #48.

Kang broke through the Washington wall and subsequently massacred everyone in Washington in Avengers (3rd series) #49.

For more on the adventures of Captain American and his squad in space, see Avengers (3rd series) #48, 50.

Thor considered leaving the Avengers and returning to Asgard in Avengers (3rd series) #44, since then, Firebird has taken it upon herself to counsel him.

Of course the Scarlet Centurion knows more than he is letting on, as he helped Warbird gain re-entry back into the Master’s base in Avengers (3rd series) #47.

During the “Kang Dynasty”, many inactive and reserve members of the Avengers were assigned active status to deal with the numerous threats posed by Kang and his armies.

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