Avengers (3rd series) #53

Issue Date: 
June 2002
Story Title: 
Counter Attack

Kurt Busiek (writer), Kieron Dwyer (penciler), Rick Remender (inker), Tom Smith (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterers), Mark Sumerak (assistant editor), Tom Breevort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

In space, Quasar, the Vision, Photon, Jack of Hearts, Living Lightning, Justice and Firestar launch an attack on Damocles Base, while a large projection of Captain America battles an equally large projection of Kang. At the Master’s base on Earth, the Wasp directs Yellowjacket, Black Knight and Stingray as they use the base’s defenses to attack Damocles Base from Earth, while Thor, Warbird, Iron Man, Wonder Man and Firebird fly to join the battle in space, with Warbird feeling guilty about killing the Master, and wondering if he was still alive, whether Washington DC would have been decimated by Kang. Firebird tries to talk to Thor, but he ignores her. While the battle against Damocles Base continues, the space team is happy to see Thor and the others, and moments later, the Presence and Starlight, released from prison as a favor to the Wasp, arrive to join the battle. With the assault on Damocles Base in full-swing, Kang’s holo-projection disappears, the projection being damaged in the attack. Kang then begins to attack the pyramid that the space Avengers have been using as their temporary base. Triathlon, combined with the 3-D Man still, does what he can to counter the attack, but doesn’t want to use the pyramid, filled with the souls of ancient races, against their will. Jonathan Tremont then breaks free from his prison, and flies out to Damocles Base, which releases a blast at him, but he manages to destroy Damocles Base’s force field, enabling the Avengers to break into it. They battle Kang’s forces, and the Wasp’s team locates the power core. Warbird is closest to it, and makes her way there - only to be confronted by the Scarlet Centurion. Neither makes the first move - Jack of Hearts finds them, and begins battling the Scarlet Centurion, while Warbird dives into the power core, absorbing the energy, she then releases it throughout Damocles Base, tearing it apart. The Avengers manage to escape, and Kang pushes the Scarlet Centurion into an escape pod, while Kang stands firmly as the sword-shaped Damocles Base, burning brightly, plunges to Earth….

Full Summary: 

Space, near Earth, seven Avengers travel through the star-lit emptiness. The Vision, Wendell “Quasar” Vaughn, Monica “Photon” Rambeau, Miguel Santos a.k.a. the Living Lightning, Angelica “Firestar” Jones, Vance “Justice” Astrovik and Jack Hart a.k.a. Jack of Hearts. Inside the giant pyramid floating nearby, Delroy Garrett a.k.a. Triathlon, recently linked to the 3-D Man informs Captain America that their teammates are away. ‘Some of them will require propulsion assistance from Quasar, but they should reach Kang’s base swiftly’ Delroy remarks, adding ‘We, in turn, continue to approach at…’ before noticing Captain America take a beating, getting knocked backwards. ‘Are you okay?’ Triathlon asks, while Jonathan Tremont sits caged nearby. Steve “Captain America” Rogers wipes blood from his face and replies ‘He’s better than I remembered. But don’t worry about me, Triathlon - I’ll be fine!’

With that, Cap continues his seeming invisible assault - but in truth, his actions are carried out by a massive projection of Captain America, battling the diabolical Kang, also currently projected into space. p>

It comes down to this. The Avengers battle for Earth. Kang the Conqueror, time-traveling despot from the future has invaded the Earth of this era - and conquered much of it. All attempts to topple him have failed. But a small group of Avengers faced and defeated another threat - a void-wandering pyramid that sought to destroy all it encountered. Now, the pyramid under the control of the fully-awakened powers of the Avenger Triathlon - channeling the energies of all those fallen to its assault for millennia - the Avengers fight back. But even now - even this - may be too little, too late.

While the projections of Captain America and Kang battle near Damocles Base, the Master’s ring-wall weapons, now under the control of the Avengers, attacks Damocles Base from Earth. Inside Damocles Base, the Scarlet Centurion informs Kang, currently hooked up to the equipment which projects him into space to battle Captain America, that the preliminary scans are almost complete. The Scarlet Centurion a.k.a. Marcus adds that the initial analysis indicates that they are using the inchoate energies to duplicate the simulacrum-projection technology. ‘Though how skilled can they -’ he begins, before Kang interrupts, telling his son not to underestimate the Avengers.

Kang declares that Captain America is an astonishing warrior, one who has never fought under these conditions before, but already he adapts, mastering the form more completely than many who have trained for decades. ‘It is what makes him such a worthy foe!’. Marcus tells his father that he will defeat Captain America easily. ‘These back-century primitives…they are no match for Kang!’ Marcus exclaims. Suddenly, Kang and Scarlet Centurion are knocked off balance when Damocles Base is struck. Marcus calls out to one of the crewmen, asking for a defense report. The crewman replies that they are under assault from the planet below. ‘Until now their attacks have failed to make an impression on out shields, but now…the shields hold and they will hold. But they are taking damage’.

And below, at the hidden base wrested by the earthbound Avengers from the self-styled Master of the World, inside, Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp encourages her male teammates Dr Hank “Yellowjacket” Pym, Dane “Black Knight” Whitman and Dr Walter “Stingray” Newell to keep it up. ‘Cap has bought us some time - let’s take advantage of it!’ she exclaims. Hank announces that the force field is shifting structural frequencies, and he is transmitting the new data. The handsome Stingray replies that he has the data, and is modifying the weapons to compensate. ‘Great, great!’ Black Knight declares. ‘Between us and the pyramid, we’ve got him under assault from two sides! Let’s just hope - the others can make it in time!’

At that moment, one of the most powerful quintets of Avengers ever flies into space: Thor, Tony “Iron Man” Stark, Carol “Warbird” Danvers, Bonita “Firebird” Juarez and Simon “Wonder Man” Williams. Carol sees Damocles Base up ahead, ’There it is. We’re actually going some damage!’ she tells herself, adding that they are doing it with the Master’s technology now that they have figured out how to work it. ’Something we wouldn’t have had to do…if I hadn’t killed him. If we get through this, I’ll have to face that…!’ she thinks to herself.

Firebird calls out to Thor, telling him that she wants to say she is sorry for what she said to him earlier, for saying that he didn’t care about humans, that he was only thinking of himself. ‘I was upset. I shouldn’t have said it, and I’m…Thor?’ Firebird asks when she gets no response, as the God of Thunder flies onwards, seemingly ignoring his teammate. ‘…Th-Thor?’ Bonita calls out.

Meanwhile, Captain America punches Kang in the stomach, ‘This is where it ends, Kang. Your murderous invasion, your domination of Earth…it’s over, Kang! OVER!’. Kang regains himself, and punches Captain America in the face: ‘Is it, Captain? Is it really?’ he asks. ‘Fight, Avenger - fight your hardest! I wouldn’t have it any other way! Triumph is sweetest - sweetest by gar - when it’s hard-won!’. Kang tells Captain America to fight on to the end - and lose. ‘Lose your idiotic pyramid - your Arctic base - your lives - all of it!’

Suddenly, ‘We’re close enough team -’ one of the Avengers exclaims as Photon, Quasar, the Vision, Justice, Living Lightning, Firestar and Jack of Hearts reach Damocles Base. ‘So lets go, Avengers!’ Jack of Hearts exclaims as the seven Avengers begin their attack. ‘Let’s let ‘em know we’re here!’ Jack declares, while Damocles Base defends itself with beams of energy. Wendell tells everyone to spread out their attacks, to hit the force field everywhere in the hopes that they can overload it and breach it. The Vision asks Justice if his telekinetic scan has located anything within the field, such as a generator or projector, that he can reach out to and try to take control of. Vance replies that he is still looking.

While inside the pyramid, Triathlon informs Captain America that Kang’s base continues to bombard the pyramid, and that they are taking damage. ‘I’m re-knitting the hull as quickly as I can, but -’ he remarks, while Captain America urges him to keep at it, and keep the barrage up. ‘We’ve got to keep him on defense - and be ready to move, the minute there’s an opening!’ Steve exclaims.

From his cage, Jonathan Tremont laughs. ‘Something funny?’ Triathlon asks his former mentor. ‘Think about it, Garrett. You were my disciple, my foremost follower in the Triune Understanding…and yet, you judged me a criminal for gathering power to save the Earth from this very craft!’. Tremont continues: ‘For taking it from those who could not resist, wielding it for my own purposes, against their will. And yet we won. And you wield that power now…that power and more. And considering what you use it for now...and what we both know of its nature…what we both know to be true…considering all that, am I truly so evil?’ Tremont asks. Triathlon just frowns.

‘Ho, Avengers! They fellows have arrived!’ Thor exclaims as he, Warbird, Firebird, Wonder Man and Iron Man arrive at Damocles Base. ‘Well, all right!’ Quasar exclaims, before telling the power-houses to pick a section of the force field and have at it. Wonder Man is struck by one of Damocles Base’s defense lasers. Iron Man tells Quasar that they will not have any effect that way, explaining that it is an adaptive field, which shifts its energy structure in response to attacks on it. ‘We’ve all got to hit it in the same place - give it too many variables to deal with, too much to adapt to!’ Tony adds that even their power might not be enough, however, explaining that is why the Wasp arranged for a little more help!

‘The Presence and Starlight are here, American!’ announces the deadly Sergei Krylov a.k.a. the Presence, while Tania “Starlight” Belinsky hovers beside him. ‘Let us waste no more time’ the Presence suggests. And with that, Iron Man orders everyone to attack - and with everyone’s powers combined, they hit Damocles Base with all the colors of the rainbow. Once the shattering assault fades, Iron Man exclaims ‘Yes! According to my readings, it’s weakened! Just slightly…but we hurt it! Pour it on, folks!’

The Presence tells the long-suffering Starlight that they shall break this intruder, and they have proved their power, so they can return to the broken Earth below, and claim their due, perhaps their own nation, or dominance over mother Russia. Tania tells the Presence to be silent, and that he will do what he has been asked to do - to save the planet, and nothing more than that. ‘And then you will return to captivity. You will do this willingly…or by Heaven, I will leave you!!’ Starlight threatens him. The Presence cocks his head and pauses, before replying ‘Very well, my love. For you’.

Nearby, Kang has his arms wrapped around Captain America’s neck: ‘HAH! You see, Captain? You see? You may be the finest warrior of the age - but Kang is a warrior for all the ages!’. ‘Big - big talk, mister - but it’s not - over yet! It’s not -’ Captain America begins, before Kang suddenly fades from view, and in Damocles Base, he is shunted out of the equipment which projects his form. ‘What in -?’ Kang asks. ‘Father!’ Marcus exclaims. On his knees, Kang exclaims that their shields may be holding, but with the pounding they are taking they are weakening, shaking all of Damocles Base. ‘It must have damaged the holo-projection units - hurling me out of the battle when I was just about to triumph!’

Marcus informs Kang that the barrage from two fronts continues, and the assault of so many Avengers has put them fully on the defensive. ‘Perhaps we should disengage, return to our home century. We could rearm, recuperate, and return seconds from when we left…striking at full force when they are still reeling from battle’ Marcus suggests. ‘No!’ Kang exclaims, pressing some buttons on a console. ‘We will fight the battle before us, rather than resort to chronal guile. This is our canvas, Marcus, not our weapon. I made my preparations well…anticipated the alien pyramid, the Russian Presence, all the armies they have amassed…’.

Kang declares that the one thing he still does not understand, however, is the Avengers use of the so-called Master’s technology. ‘I told you before - he would not have given it up willingly, and they should not have been able to wrest it from him. If I knew how they managed that!’ Kang declares. Anxious, Marcus replies that he is sure it will prove irrelevant, telling his father that he will triumph over them anyway. Kang looks to the side, concerned, before exclaiming ‘Enough of this! We are hard-pressed, true - but that is when the true measures of a man is taken! As long as I have what matters - my strength, my skill, the battle before me - as long as I have those, and…and my son beside me…then all will be as it should be. Come, Marcus…let us show these fools how to wage war!’

Inside the pyramid, Triathlon announces that Kang is concentrating most of his fire on them, and that apparently he wants to blow them to bits, then turn to the others. ‘I’m doing as much repair work as I can, but -’ Delroy remarks, but Captain America declares that they cannot just float here like a punching bag, that they have got to get closer, get into the fight again. Triathlon informs Captain America that they may have a problem to which Tremont shouts ‘Are you mad, Garrett? You can’t seriously be thinking of -’, but Triathlon interrupts, exclaiming that he hadn’t been thinking, but Tremont made him see it. ‘The power we’re using, all the power in this pyramid - it’s all stolen, and it’s all alive. It’s the spirits of all those the Triple-Evil crushed - all the races it destroyed, leeching their power into the pyramid’.

Triathlon continues, exclaiming that he wields that power, but used it to destroy their common enemy, and that was the Triple-Evil, not Kang. ‘The more we use it now, the more we sacrifice the spirits of ancient races, in a battle that was never theirs!’ Delroy exclaims. ‘They ache for release, Cap. For peace and freedom after their long ordeal. Can we really use their souls as a weapon? Against their will?’. Cap looks downwards, ‘I - I don’t -’ he begins, before exclaiming that they need that power, desperately. ‘But to enslave others to fight for us -’ Cap remarks.

‘STOP!’ Tremont booms. ‘You can’t do this, you fools! You can’t! Earth lies in the balance! You cannot scruple at anything - anything - to save it!’ he exclaims from within his cage. Tremont begins to glow, ‘DAMN YOU!’ he exclaims. ‘I had a shred of power left - was surreptitiously absorbing more - I was going to use it to escape! But you - they’re aliens, damn you! Aliens! Who cares about their souls!?’ Tremont exclaims as he bursts free from his cage, and in a glowing fury, he smashes through the side of the pyramid, towards Damocles Base. ‘No! You see this, you sanctimonious fools? This is what must be done! This is -’ Tremont begins, before one of Kang’s weapons blasts Tremont.

Weary, and with his ribs and lungs burning, Tremont summons his remaining power to do what must be done, and painfully, he surrounds Damocles Base in a fury of energy. ‘He - he - that did it! The was the last straw! The force field is down! It’s down!’ Iron Man exclaims. Photon and Jack of Hearts smile nearby, while Iron Man tells everyone to move quickly, as the front door is finally open. ‘But we’ve got a long way to go yet’ he points out as they resume their attack. Justice however surrounds himself in a telekinetic shield to protect the unconscious Firebird and Quasar. Wonder Man and Thor begin ripping apart the hull of Damocles Base, encouraging each other to get inside. ‘If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes…I’d never have believed it…’ Justice remarks as he looks at Tremont, floating motionless nearby.

Back in the Master’s Base, the Wasp encourages Hank, Dane and Walt to scan the interior of Damocles Base now that they can. ‘Get the data to feed to the others…they’re going to need all the help they can get!’ she exclaims.

At that moment, Thor, Iron Man, Warbird, the Vision and Photon swiftly cut their way through Kang’s soldiers aboard Damocles Base. Nearby, the Presence radiates his opponents, while Firestar exclaims ‘Way to go, Jack of Hearts! We’ve got ‘em on the run!’. ‘The ones in this bay, maybe’ Jack replies, before pointing out that the base is crawling with soldiers, and reinforcements are on their way.

Wonder Man, Photon and Iron Man are all struck down by reinforcements. One of them holds an axe over Iron Man’s head as Tony begins to rise. ‘Now, troopers! Before they can rise! Set for maximum energy concentration - and we will -’ he begins, about to bring the axe down - only for Justice to smash through the group of warriors in a telekinetic fury, ‘Like HELL you will, jerks!’ Vance shouts, knocking them over. Tony thanks Justice, who replies ‘No sweat, Iron Man’ and announces that he will get Wonder Man and Photon to be shelter, and be back as soon as he can. ‘Vance…they couldn’t be in better hands’ Tony exclaims, flying off, telling Justice to join them when he can.

Outside, Damocles Base has shifted to secondary defenses, using its guns to intercept blasts from the batteries on Earth, and any remaining weaponry to fire back.

Inside the Master’s base, a soldier informs the Wasp that the installation is falling apart, and announces that they have to evacuate. Janet doesn’t answer, instead she points at a computer screen: ‘There, Hank! That’s it!’ she exclaims. ‘Got it hon! Isolating…’ Hank replies, while Janet radios the Avengers in space, informing anyone that can hear her that they have found the base’s power core. ‘We can guide you…’ she begins, while Warbird radios back, announcing that she is available and can take it. Wasp tells Carol that they have located her signal, and tells her that about 75 yards there is a right-branching off-shoot.

Carol reaches the off-shoot, and blasts the soldiers there. The Wasp tells her that she is doing great, and informs her that there should be a hatch on the rearward wall. ‘Correction, Wasp. There was a hatch!’ Carol exclaims as she blasts the hatch away. Suddenly, ‘Halt where you are, intruder. I am Marcus, Scarlet Centurion and heir to the imperium, and you will not -’ the Scarlet Centurion begins, but stops in his tracks when he sees who has entered the core of Damocles Base. Carol stops too, and they stare at each other. It was not long ago that they fought side-by-side, that each risked their life to save the other’s. They parted as foes, true, but still….

‘Back away, Warbird. I aided you once, and would rather not fight you - but I am my father’s son, and if I must -’ Marcus exclaims, holding his weapon towards Carol, only for Jack of Hearts to rush Marcus from behind. ‘Not a chance!’ Jack shouts, knocking Marcus to the ground. ‘What are you waiting for, Warbird? Do it! Do it!’ Jack shouts. ‘I -’ Carol pauses, before diving into the core of Damocles Base. ‘No!’ Marcus shouts. ‘Yes!’ Carol declares.

Carol is surrounded by the energies in the core. At her peak, she commanded the energies of a star. That link - that fire - is long gone, but the capacity remains. She plunges deeper and deeper into the Heart of Damocles Base’s power core, and she feels it seething around her, raw and angry. She concentrates, drawing it to her, drawing it in and absorbing it. The energy roars in Carol’s ears, deafening her, alive in her brain, her heart, behind her eyes - and Lord help her, it feels food. Like it used to. Like she never wants to let it go. Carol calls it to her again, calling it, burning in its fire, calling more and more - and then - Carol sighs, and with a sad smile, she releases the raw energy.

The energy slams outwards, breaching the containment field that held it still for so long. It rips through the decks and bulkheads around the power rooms, shredding them before it like tissue paper, before roaring up and down the length of Damocles Base. ‘We must go, Avengers. We must abandon this structure, lest we too are consumed by its death throes’ the Vision announces. ‘No. Really?’ Justice jokes. The energy touches secondary and tertiary power distribution points, and ruptures them as well. It seeks escape - it seeks freedom. And with that, it tears through Damocles Base, into open space.

In moments, Damocles Base is in chaos. ‘Go, Avengers! Go! Go!’ Firestar exclaims as she and the others escape, carrying the wounded Avengers. ‘No! No. Please!’ one of Kang’s warriors cries out as he and other warriors are overwhelmed by the energy.

Through its buckling, collapsing corridors, however, Kang strides. Calm, apparently unconcerned. But seeking, searching. ‘Where is he? Can’t abandon him. He’s got to go. Got to take his place as -’ Kang remarks, when suddenly, Marcus shouts ‘Father! There you are!’. Marcus approaches his father, exclaiming that they cannot remain any longer. ‘You’ve got to see that now! We’ve got to launch the command pod - get to safety!’ he declares, telling his father that they will escape back to the Imperium and come back another time.

‘No. You’ll go. I stay here’ Kang declares. ‘What?’ Marcus asks. ‘You are my heir, Marcus. You have a lifetime to live, to learn from your errors. To become a man, a ruler, as I did’ Kang exclaims, adding that this is his last battle and is content that he will go out as he chooses . ‘But -’ Marcus begins to protest. ‘No, Marcus. I am not merely your father, I am also your commander - and I am ordering you to escape. You have an empire to rule. A throne to grow into’ Kang declares as he pushes his son into a chamber. ‘As for me, as long as I have my strength, my skill and the battle before me - and the loyalty of my son and heir - I have all a man truly needs’ the Conqueror declares as he presses a button on the pod control panel, ‘Farewell, Marcus - bring credit to your father’s name’.

Once the command pod is far enough from its housing, it flares with chronal energies, and is gone. Leaving Kang within Damocles Base, standing in the fire. ‘So be it. If this is the end, I welcome it - I do not shrink from it, but I do not surrender to it, either!’ he booms. ‘Fates, Avengers - bring your worst. KANG THE CONQUEROR FIGHTS TO THE END!’ And with a final, convulsive lurch, Damocles Base begins to fall. First slowly, very slowly - then faster, faster - the sword-shaped base in flames falls towards Earth….

Characters Involved: 

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

Scarlet Centurion II / Marcus

3-D Man

The Presence & Starlight

Jonathan Tremont

Kang’s Warriors

Story Notes: 

Part 13 of the “Kang Dynasty”.

The Triple-Evil (the pyramid) was defeated in Avengers (3rd series) #50.

Warbird killed the Master of the World in Avengers (3rd series) #48.

Firebird had heated words at Thor in Avengers (3rd series) #52.

Warbird and the Scarlet Centurion fought side-by-side in Avengers (3rd series) #47.

As Binary, Warbird commanded the power of stars from Uncanny X-Men #164 until Quasar #34.

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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