Avengers (3rd series) Annual '98

Issue Date: 
July 1998
Story Title: 
To Challenge a Champion

Kurt Busiek (Plot), Kurt Busiek & Kaminski (Scripters), Carlos Pacheco (Penciler), Batt, Russell, Bob Wiacek, Al Vey, Paul Neary (Inkers), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Tom Smith (Colorist), Gregg Schigiel (Assistant Editor), Tom Brevoort (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Firestar and Justice argue on their opposing views about the Avengers when they realize they are late for a training exercise with the other members and honorary Avengers Magdalene and the Swordsman. After the training session, Captain America offers Magdalene and the Swordsman the open reserve membership slots, but they decline, for they still do not feel truly comfortable on this Earth. Shortly, the astral image of Arcanna of the Squadron Supreme comes to the Avengers, calling for their help. After a quick discussion about what to do they Avengers make their way to Project Pegasus, on the way Hawkeye informs Firestar and Justice of the Squadron’s history. Arriving at Project Pegasus, the Squadron attacks the Avengers until Arcanna stops the fight, informing her teammates that she called the Avengers for help. With issues of trust still somewhat shaky between the two teams, the Squadron inform the Avengers that they were recently at the hands of another attempt at mind control, however they managed to fight this one off and trace the co-ordinates of the attacker. The two teams join up and upon reaching the co-ordinates they learn the Imus Champion was behind the attack, and the recent successful mind-control of the Squadron. He reveals that he has an electromagnetic forcefield surrounding the area and unless they play his game of getting to the control center to stop bombs from going off while he tries to stop them, he will set the bombs off anyway. The Avengers and Squadron Supreme divide into teams and surprisingly the Avengers learn things they would not have otherwise. Hawkeye decides that Haywire reminds him of himself, while Arcanna informs the Scarlet Witch that she senses a great reservoir of untapped power within her. Thor finds himself bemused that he discussed his recent identity crisis with Hyperion, a complete stranger, than with his own teammates, while Power Princess gives Firestar some much needed advice about her relationship with Justice. Iron Man learns through Dr. Spectrum and the Whizzer that the Squadron are people just like the Avengers and how much they lost when they were shunted to our Earth. Champion eventually defeats all fifteen of the Mightiest Heroes of two worlds, though as he is about activate the bombs, he discovers Giant-Man has ruined the computers, and that the Avengers cheated by him sneaking in. Captain America reveals that the Avengers never agreed to play the “game” by his terms and just went along, but to do what they had to, to save lives. Champion is arrested while Iron Man finds a prototype of the Nth device which he believes may be able to send the Squadron back to their own Earth. Several days later, The Nth Projector combined with Magdalene’s trans-dimensional powers enable a portal to be opened, and the Squadron, minus Haywire who remains on Earth, depart for their own world, finally after so many years, and for a change they depart the Avengers as friends. Magdalene and the Swordsman leave soon after them, for they too decide that they need to find a world suited to their needs instead of remaining on a world they do not feel comfortable in. Haywire declines Captain America’s offer to stay with the Avengers, for he wishes to do some traveling.

Full Summary: 

Avengers Mansion, where in the upstairs display hall, newest recruits, the former New Warriors members, Vance Astrovik and Angelica Jones, or “Justice” and “Firestar” respectively are admiring some of the relics in the room. Holding up a statue of Ant-Man, one of the founding Avengers, Vance declares that he cannot believe he is on the same team as him, even when he was in his small ant-size, he was still one of the giants. Not so impressed, Angelica stands at her fiance’s side and mumbles that shrinking down in size and talking to ants would be kind of cool, but she wouldn't exactly call it legendary.

‘Not legendary?’ Vance asks aghast, before informing Firestar that Henry Pym discovered the Pym particle that let himself and others grow and shrink, he invented computer systems that allow humans to communicate with another species. He made breakthroughs in robotics and artificial intelligence not to mention serving as a founding member of the Avengers. Vance tells Angelica to look around, as this is just a fraction of what the Avengers have done, and that Dr. Pym was one of the five who started it all.

Smiling, Vance remarks that now he – he quickly corrects himself and says “we” have been given a chance to be part of what Pym helped build. He reminds Angelica that it is what he has dreamed of for years and now that it is happening he feels like he needs to keep pinching himself to make sure it is real. Frowning, Firestar tells Justice he may want to put the statue down before he drops it and breaks it and gets kicked out of the Avengers for being a klutz. She pauses before telling Vance that she knows how much this means to him, but she was hoping they could get away from the super hero business for a while, and have some time to themselves. Justice suddenly remembers that they have a training session and are late! He puts down the statue of Ant-Man before rushing out of the room. Firestar follows with a ‘sigh’.

In the Avengers’ high-tech training room, dubbed “the Playroom”, the five iconic Avengers – Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Iron Man and Thor – have started the training session. Captain America reminds his team that the objective of the program is to reach the shut-off button within fifteen seconds from now! Various machines attack the Avengers, including honorary Avengers Magdalene and the Swordsman, heroes from another world stranded on ours who are visiting their former teammates. Magdalene tells her lover to duck, and he barely escapes harms way.

Cap asks Wanda Maximoff, also known as the worlds most celebrated mutant, the powerful Scarlet Witch if she can summon Wonder Man a dead Avenger whom Wanda has been mysteriously summoning from the grave recently. Wanda replies that they have already tested countless times but it seems Wonder Man can only be summoned when she actually needs him, not during training sessions. Suddenly everything in the training room starts to malfunction, Cap orders everyone to stay alert while Clint Barton, a.k.a. legendary archer Hawkeye jokes that the warranty on all the equipment probably expired yesterday.

A smiling Justice and a not-so-smiling Firestar fly into the room as the former Marvel Boy declares that it wasn’t a malfunction, but a telekinetic barrage courtesy of him to save the day! ‘If not this month’s equipment repair budget’ Firestar mumbles under her breath. The Avengers group together around Cap as he tells Justice it was an impressive display of power. But that if he had arrived on time he would have known that the exercise was a test of agility and evasive action, the goal being getting past the drones with as little destructive force as possible. A nervous Justice gulps and apologizes saying that it won’t happen again.

The android Avenger known as the Vision, confined to the Mansion after recent injuries phases through the floor and informs everyone that their enthusiastic young recruits display resulted in only a 3.28 second abbreviation of the programmed time limit. Vision states that during the duration he had time to collate sufficient data to calculate individual scores, therefore in his opinion, Justice’s actions had a relatively insignificant impact on the purpose of the exercise. Matter-of-factly, he declares that Justice may have provided a benefit by reminding everyone that even in “practice” it is prudent to be prepared for the unexpected.

Captain America tells Vision that his point is taken before asking him to go over everyone’s individual scores at his leisure. Vision agrees, before the Sentinel of Liberty turns to Marissa and Philip and takes them aside to speak to them. Justice smiles as he asks Angelica if she heard him getting a compliment from the Vision, but Firestar tells him not to boast too loud about it, motioning to Captain America who is not too far from them. The Swordsman thanks Cap for inviting he and Marissa for it has been too long since they had a workout so good. Cap informs the alternate world heroes that he did not think they would have to upgrade Firestar and Justice from reserve Avengers to active status so soon, and he was wondering if they would be interested in becoming the new reserve members.

Magdalene tells Cap that they are honored, ‘and grateful’ Swordsman adds for all the kindness that the Avengers have shown them, but that they cant for they are not from this reality, and that being around the Avengers just reminds them of it. He says that they are not sure what to do, but Cap understands that they need to find a place of their own, he tells them he understands, as he knows what it is like to feel out of place. He speaks for everyone when he wishes them all the best and hopes they find what they are looking for, with that Philip and Marissa depart.

Smiling, Clint asks if everyone is ready for round two, adding that he wrote the next one himself. However they don’t get a chance to play Hawkeye’s game, as a mystical projection of Arcanna Jones, a.k.a. the new Moonglow, the powerful and most reasonable of the Squadron Supreme appears before the Avengers. With a desperate plea is her voice, Arcanna declares that the Squadron need their help, but she fades away before anything more can be said.

Scarlet Witch and Iron Man look intensely at Arcanna as she fades while Thor proclaims that he thinks they will have to test their mettle against Hawkeye’s game another day. Vision states that as he can still not leave the mansion he will perform monitor duty and is currently logging a Quinjet flight program with the FAA to the Squadron’s headquarters, Project Pegasus. When the flight program is approved, Cap orders everyone into the Quinjet.

Inside the Quinjet, Clint complains about the Squadron, wondering what kind of mess they got themselves into this time, especially as the last thing he needs is another battle with them. Firestar reveals that she is confused, for she thought the Squadron were heroes, not villains. Clint frowns and says ‘Sometimes, kiddo, but they got a nasty way of being both’. Hawkeye gives a very brief history of the Squadron, explaining that they are the Avengers equivalent, adding that he is “sure” they are great people where they come from. The problem is that whenever the two teams run into each other, the Squadron has been mind-controlled somehow, and the Avengers have to break them free. Hawkeye says that he heard there was some kind of Crisis on their world and they ended up stranded in ours, where they ran into Quasar who befriended them and they have been staying at Project Pegasus while trying to find a way home.

Informing Angelica and Vance of the Avengers most recent tangle with the Squadron, where they were controlled by the Corrupter of all people, the Avengers had to clear their good name when the Squadron declared them as phonies. Hawkeye complains that for the umpteenth time they went and freed the Squadron and didn’t even get a “thank you” for it. Wanda turns around in her chair and tells her best friend that his comment is unfair as the Squadron had reason to let their frustration overshadow everything else.

Suddenly, the Quinjet stops mid-flight, Cap tries to put the ship into full-throttle but to no effect as they seem to be caught in some kind of tractor-beam. Cap orders everyone out, and Justice telekinetically lowers Cap, Clint and Wanda while Thor, Iron Man and Firestar can fly down to the ground. Vance promises not to drop anyone as Clint asks Cap if he sees what he sees. Cap replies that he does, but cautions Clint that it may not be what it appears to be, that they shouldn’t jump to any conclusions just because the source of the “tractor-beam” is Doctor Spectrum!

Landing on the ground, Cap tells the Squadron that whatever the problem is the Avengers have come to help. The Squadron’s leader, Hyperion shouts back that they don’t need help as it is nothing they cannot handle themselves. Power Princess, Whizzer, Dr. Spectrum, Skylark, Haywire and the Shape converge around Hyperion who, holding up a huge boulder, tells the Avengers that if they don’t leave the Squadron alone, then they will be the ones in trouble!

Hawkeye aims an arrow while Wanda gets a hex ready. Hawkeye sighs, telling Cap that he knew they would have to do this again. Cap whispers to his teammates that they are not to make a move until he gives the signal. He tells Hyperion that the Avengers have dealt with his brand of trouble before and can do it again if they have to. Suddenly, a voice calls out for Captain America to wait, its Arcanna, and she rushes in between the two teams asking Hyperion and everyone to stand down, revealing that it was she who called the Avengers here.

Hyperion asks Arcanna why and Cap informs him that she said they desperately needed their help so the Avengers came as soon as they could. Tossing the boulder aside, Hyperion tells Cap that if he was invited as opposed to just butting in then it is different. Cap asks what the situation is and Hyperion invites them all in where they will fill them in. Haywire and the Shape walk behind Hawkeye, and Harold “Hal” Danforth uses his tanglewire to play a trick on Hawkeye, sending it through his arrows, causing them to spill out of their case. Hawkeye just sighs and picks them up while Haywire laughs, thinking he is hilarious.

Inside Project Pegasus, Hyperion’s lover, Zarda, also known as Power Princess, directs the Avengers’ attention to a viewscreen, which depicts the anomaly the Squadron, is currently tracking and appears to be central to their “situation”. For less than an hour ago the Squadron was subjected to another attempt at mental domination. This time however, the team had taken prior precautions against such a threat and were able to resist the effects. Arcanna steps forward and reveals that it was during the attack that she projected her astral image to Avengers Mansion, before she was certain the Squadron could fight it off.

Dr. Spectrum adds that once they had recovered he was able to trace the phenomenon to its source by its residual energy signature, which originated just outside of Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco. Hyperion states that they were preparing to depart when the Avengers arrived, adding that as the unknown enemy failed to take control of the Squadron, the team feared the enemy may have tried to do the same to the Avengers, and succeeded. He pauses before admitting that they overreacted, as they are a little touchy when it comes to mind control is concerned, as it is not something they have had to face often in their own world, for the Serpent Crown, Overmind and the Corrupter all originated on this Earth. It is possible that the Squadron lack some kind of natural immunity as a result. Hyperion sincerely gives the Avengers an apology on behalf of his team. Captain America shakes Hyperion’s hand and says that he understands and that the apology is accepted, suggesting they join forces to uncover this latest incident. Hyperion agrees, stating that it is high time their teams worked together instead of against one another.

The Avengers’ Quinjet and a Project Pegasus shuttle craft streak Westward, side by side, and upon reaching the co-ordinates where the Squadron located the “Situation” to, the two teams land. Iron Man informs everyone that his sensors determine this as the correct location, but that they are not picking up anything unusual about it. Firestar yawns as Hyperion remarks that his atomic vision penetrates for at least fifty meters around them, and all he sees are rocks. Dr. Spectrum complains that they went all this way for nothing, as they don’t see anything when a voice from above suggests they are not looking high enough.

Startled, the Squadron Supreme and the Avengers all turn to the sound of the voice, and shocked, Zarda remarks that the figure is easily three-meters tall, while Whizzer boasts that height doesn’t mean anything and wants to know who he is and what he wants. The large figure steps forward and suggests that they ask Hawkeye who he is, for they are old acquaintances, yet as to why he contrived to bring them all here, they will have to wait before they learn that. Grimacing, Hawkeye informs everyone the tall man’s name is Imus Champion, a financier, industrialist and entrepreneur – not to mention the fifth richest man in the world, and a grade-A scumbag.

Hawkeye reveals that Imus once hired him as his archery tutor, the one sport he had not learned, which turned out to be the beginning of a scheme to trigger the San Andreas Fault and drop California into the sea. What cuts Clint deeper is that Imus was going to use the skills Clint taught him to set off the bombs before the Avengers put a stop to the whole thing. Hawkeye asks Imus what the deal is now, as the last he heard Imus was dying of an incurable disease before being blown to bits in a lab explosion.

Imus Champion laughs and exclaims that it is no great miracle to survive a fatal disease when one can simply buy the biotechnology concerned which has developed its cure, nor arranging the appearance of ones own demise when one has mastered the arts of stage magic and illusion. Champion reveals that as of late he has remained untroubled by official scrutiny and free to amass further riches and seek out greater achievements. Of late, Champion has taken an interest in the collection of singular artifacts, such as the contents of an extra-terrestrial craft recently discovered by S.H.I.E.L.D. Power Princess and Dr. Spectrum hold Hyperion back as he tries to lunge at Champion, as he is angry at learning Champion was the one behind the mind control.

Champion asks Hyperion to control his temper and hear him out, revealing that he has grown bored with such “trivial” pursuits and long to faces a challenge of legendary stature. To prove himself against none but the worthiest opponents, and asks what triumph could be greater than defeating in battle the combined forces of the Mightiest Heroes of two worlds. Whizzer boasts that it takes two to tango and asks Champion what he would do if they were to say they were not interested in helping him feed his ‘morbidly obese ego’, for the Squadron and Avengers do not have to help him if they do not want to.

Towering above the fifteen heroes, Imus declares that he cannot ask them, but he can make them! He mocks that a person does not reach his point in life without a thorough grasp on the psychology of motivating others, and points towards the Champion Estate in all its glory. He tells the heroes to take notice of the tower in the middle, for it is a state-of-the-art command and control center. Champion reveals that from it, via a dedicated uplink with a wholly owned communications satellite in geo-synchronous orbit he has access to the firing mechanisms of twenty explosive devices, each located in a major America city. Each with a sufficient payload of military grade nerve gas to kill every living thing within a two hundred-mile radius.

Imus Champion reveals that he intends to walk to the tower and transmit the detonation codes, and all the heroes need to do is stop him. He warns the Avengers and the Squadron that an electromagnetic disruption dome blankets the area and any attempt to leave or contact the outside world will end the game prematurely, by triggering the explosive devices. He smiles as he proclaims that the only way to stop him is to defeat him in combat, which, he boasts, will not be easy.

Electricity crackles and Imus Champion disappears, signaling the beginning of the game. Dr. Spectrum deducts that Imus must have been a hologram, projected from somewhere, and turns to Hyperion. The Squadron leader reports that there is too much leakage from the electromagnetic field around the area which is muddying up his infrared band, an his atomic vision is no good if he does not know where to look. Power Princess declares that this is not an opponent to be underestimated, and Whizzer jokes that Imus is ‘as crazy as a plaid hamster’.

Captain America turns to face both teams and proclaims that there is no doubt in his mind that Imus Champion is perfectly capable of carrying out his mad plan precisely to the letter, and that he has every intention of doing so. Steve Rogers begins to suggest that they split into teams and fan out as they will cover more ground, when Hyperion cuts in and snarls that of course the teams will be divided up so that there will be an Avenger to keep an eye on every member of the Squadron in case they cannot be trusted. Captain America calmly reminds Hyperion that since he has already pointed out that the Squadron has as much reason to be cautious about the Avengers, then he would have thought they would have agreed on that plan.

Hyperion admits that Captain America is probably right, but that doesn’t mean he has to like the plan, and Cap shoots back that he too doesn’t like the plan and that they should just hope it is al unnecessary and leave it at that. Justice smiles at Firestar as he proclaims that compared to this, taking on Whirlwind was a trip to the mall! Angelica scolds Vance by telling him that this is serious, for millions of lives are at stake. Vance calms down somewhat and tells her he didn’t mean for it to come out like that, but that this is the kind of adventure he joined the Avengers for. ‘I hate it’ Angelica states before glancing at an ant walking down a branch of a tree, and she thinks to herself that she hates being trapped, with no way to warn anyone or get a message out…. Quickly, the ranks are separated and the orders given, and the Mightiest Heroes of two worlds set off to save one of those worlds.

Hawkeye & Haywire
Making their way through a forest, the two handsome blond men are telling stories. Hal tells Clint of one time when the Squadron was all in a pool and he snuck a small piece of tanglewire under Inertia’s bikini straps, and “Oops”. The two men laugh and Clint thinks to himself that Haywire reminds him of himself when he was younger and more “in-your-face”, which he thinks is why Hal must have gotten on his nerves so much recently. Hawkeye guesses that Hal and Inertia ended up as an item and asks if she got stuck on Earth-S while he and the rest of the Squadron got stranded here. Hal stops in his tracks and reveals to Clint that Inertia died in the Crisis. Hawkeye realizes that he has more in common with Haywire than he thought before declaring how sorry he is.

Imus Champion suddenly appears near the two men and congratulates them both – on being the first to fall before him! Imus reminds the men of how he said he had become a collector of unusual objects, and holding up a small red object, he tells Hawkeye that he should recognize it – a modified eternal brain mine – and uses it on Haywire. Hal suddenly loses control of his powers, tanglewire flows everywhere, but Hawkeye tries to ignore it and move on to defeating Champion, aiming his bow and arrow at him declaring that Imus will not take him down. Imus replies by saying that it shall not be he who “takes” Clint, and he taps a button with his foot, and a fast-forming plastic shield surrounds Hawkeye, trapping him in an air-tight “container” filled with tanglewire.

Scarlet Witch & Arcanna
Walking side-by-side through the forest, the two beautiful young women are conversing about magic. Wanda tells Arcanna that despite her codename she has only gotten into magic now and again, and is way out of practice, adding that she has always relied on her mutant hex powers, but even they are changing lately. The mother of four, Arcanna Jones, who recently took on the codename of a former Squadron member, the retired “Moonglow”, informs Wanda that she senses a natural talent for the mystic arts within her and a great reservoir of untapped power. Arcanna believes that Wanda would do well to devote herself to a deeper study of the art of magic, for it can be most fulfilling.

Arcanna quickly turns around when she senses a lurking presence, and instinctively she casts magickal energies upon the presence – which is Imus Champion! Champion admits that Arcanna has an impressive display of powers, but that the Wand of Watoomb easily absorbs them. Champion reveals that sorcery is one of the few arts he is yet to master, but that the Wand of Watoomb is a potent instrument even in the hands of a novice, capable of not only absorbing Arcanna Jones’ mystical energies, but amplifying them considerably – and returning them! Champion redirects Arcanna’s powers back onto herself, knocking the powerful Squadron member out.

The Scarlet Witch charges a hex up while remembering how her former mentor Agatha Harkness mentioning how the Wand of Watoomb could make its wielder almost omnipotent. Wanda hopes to hit Imus with something unexpected – and in her time of need, her plan could work! With that, Wonder Man appears behind Imus, grabbing the enemy at his throat, Simon warns him to leave Wanda alone. Simon asks Imus how he feels now going up against someone of his own size, but Champion replies that Wonder Man has a most unsporting attitude considering his greater strength.

Imus Champion however has a plan of his own and informs Wanda and Simon that the disciples of Asian martial arts taught him how to turn his enemy’s strength against him. The Scarlet Witch cries out to Wonder Man who is momentarily knocked out, and Imus turns to Wanda and tells her that he suspects the prodigious apparition was her doing and wonders if Wanda’s valiant defender will remain on the game board without her being able to conjure him. Wanda prepares for an attack, but Champion throws a rock at Wanda, it hits her in the head and she falls over. Wonder Man begins to fade away and as Champion walks past Wanda he says ‘Ah, I thought no’.

Thor & Hyperion
Flying close to one another, the two mighty men are in the middle of a conversation about secret identities, Thor asking Hyperion if he thinks it was a mistake giving up his own human guise. Hyperion replies ‘Maybe’, adding that he abandoned his secret identity when the Squadron launched the Utopia Program, for at the time it seemed like a distraction he could not afford to deal with. Hyperion admits that looking back he wonders if he would have made the mistakes he did imposing the program on humanity if he had not given up the human perspective, and if all the Squadron had not let themselves lose touch with the point of view of the people they meant to help.

Thor admits that it is a danger faced by the gods as well, when wisdom is blinded by arrogance, and he too finds himself mulling these questions again, since he has recently been forced into a human guise after much time without one. Thor is suddenly taken aback – for he has not even told his own teammates of this but is talking with a man who is practically a stranger. Hyperion spies Imus Champion and Thor praises his vision for rivaling that of Heimdall and with the villain spotted Hyperion flies toward Champion, and he is suddenly smashed back way up into the sky.

Thor hovers over Imus and states that he doesn’t know when he acquired such strength, but supposes it was through deceitful means. Grabbing the Thunder god and shoving him to the ground, Imus reveals that he had the Wizard construct him a wonder glove – in his size of course – quite legitimately. Holding up a staff, Champion reveals it was somewhat more difficult obtaining the staff, which is carried by Thor’s equivalent in the Egyptian pantheon, Seth. Holding the staff up to Thor’s head, Imus states that it was a most worthwhile investment, for a weapon that is able to fell a god. Imus uses the weapon on Thor, who is momentarily weakened.

Thor struggles up, declaring that it will ‘take more than that to’ – he doesn’t finish his sentence because Champion pushes the god back down with his foot. Hyperion flies over and grabs Thor’s hammer, explaining he will airlift him to safety, but the Squadron leader finds himself unable to carry Thor’s impossibly heavy hammer, and he too falls to the ground, stuck beneath Thor’s hammer, while Thor remains unconscious. Turning his back to the fallen Squadron member, Champion declares that it is the price of impulsiveness, for surely he should have known that Thor’s hammer is enchanted and only the god himself can life it.

Iron Man, Dr. Spectrum & the Whizzer
Streaking across the ground, Stanley Stewart, a.k.a. the Whizzer proclaims that it does not make much sense to him to have the fastest and most maneuverable of the teams together when they could be covering three times the area on their own. The airborne Iron Man states that at first glance it may seem that way, but over the years he has come to trust Captain America’s instincts when it comes to strategy and tactics. Tony Stark, the man inside the armor adds that whatever Cap’s criteria for picking search groups he had a good reason for them. Tony thinks to himself that he agrees with Cap’s teams, for given how quick the Squadron was to turn hostile earlier along with their past history. As much as he would like to, Iron Man cannot find it in him to trust them.

After leaping onto Dr. Spectrum’s floating mechanism, the Whizzer sighs, declaring that Imus Champion was right about one thing – the area is very beautiful. It reminds him of the park back on Earth-S where he proposed to Maddy and where they take – he corrects himself and says ‘took’ – their daughter Tina during the summer. Joe Ledger, a.k.a. Dr. Spectrum assures Stanley that he will take them there again one day, that they will all get home one way or another ‘Eventually…somehow…’. Iron Man thinks to himself that the Squadron sound so homesick and just a minute ago he was finding it so easy to judge them without even knowing them as people, but now listening to them talk about what they have lost, now he cannot help but feel somewhat heartless.

‘Ah, a threesome! This should prove a refreshing change of pace’ declares Imus Champion when he sees the heroes approaching. He manages to disrupt Dr. Spectrum’s spectrum band by grabbing its tether. Mockingly, Champion declares that it was very observant of him to notice and that he may wish to devote that same acuity to study to the next maneuver, colloquially referred to as “cracking the whip”. This results in Dr. Spectrum been thrown away somewhere, while the Whizzer supposes that a body of Imus’ size must have a great metabolism, and must need a lot of oxygen to keep running. So the Whizzer starts to run circles around Champion, telling him they can see how well he deals with a vacuum pocket, inside a super-speed cyclonic vortex!

Inside the cyclone, Champion boasts that it is only a momentary shortage of breath for him and it is no great test. He declares they will use another of the Wizard’s toys. This time an anti-gravity disc, to see if Whizzer is equally capable of coping without traction. When the disc lands on Stanley he gasps, and is thrown into the air while trying to remove the disc from his body. He manages to get the disc off, but starts to plummet to the ground again. Iron Man informs Dr. Spectrum that he will get Whizzer and asks if he can keep Champion busy until he gets back.

Garbed in armor created by his power prism, Spectrum holds up a sword and says ‘Bet on it’ before leaping towards Champion, asking the giant if he is going to behave, or whether he has to part his hair with the sword first. Champion admits that Dr. Spectrum has outclassed him in terms of sheer elegance in armaments. Holding up the Zodiac Star Blaster weapon, Champion declares that however unfortunate the weapon’s design is, it more than suits his needs, having been tuned to emit a massive burst of ultra-violet rays. Dr. Spectrum cries out in pain at the blinding powerful light, for it is the one portion of the spectrum that he is defenseless against.

Spectrum falls to the ground as Iron Man flies back into the area carrying the Whizzer. Iron Man lays Stanley down as Champion mocks the return of the “shining knight”. Iron Man snaps back that he has had enough of Champion’s third-rate grand-opera dialogue, and tells him to ‘put up or shut up’. Holding up another device, Champion thanks Iron Man for “fielding” the Whizzer, for if he used this device before dealing with Spectrum his Blaster would not have functioned. Champion smiles as he presses the button, and Iron Man is stunned at the electro-magnetic pulse crashing all the electronics in the area, including his armor. Tony know that the fail safe back-up systems will take six minutes to re-boot from optical rom, and as he sees Imus rushing towards his frozen body, fist outstretched and ready to punch, he doesn’t think it will be enough time, before the armored Avenger is knocked out.

Firestar & Power Princess
In the air, Firestar flies somewhat behind the genetically engineered Power Princess before asking Zarda why she asked Cap to pair the two of them up. Power Princess replies that she sensed she was troubled, uncomfortable not only with the mission, but with her role as an Avenger itself and she thought she could offer some counsel, if she so desires. Firestar reluctantly admits that Zarda is right, revealing that being part of the Avengers is Vance’s dream, not hers. Zarda asks Angelica if she thinks it is fair to let herself be bound so by the will of another, and whether she should giver herself the opportunity to find a mate whose goals are more in accordance with her own accord.

Firestar remarks that when you love someone, sometimes you have to make compromises. Zarda states that all harmony grows from compromise, so long as the sacrifices made are mutual. Firestar seems quite taken by Zarda’s advice and says that she has something to think about it now and thanks her. Power Princess declares that if she has been of help then she is honored, for her people’s philosophy holds that there is more to doing good than simply fighting evil. Speaking of evil, Zarda points out their quarry, and somewhat resigned, Firestar supposes they have to go back to the fighting part. ‘I fear so’ says Zarda.

Firestar unleashes microwave energy blasts on Champion, who is surprisingly agile and dodges them all, Zarda is astounded at his agility compared to his stature. Champion smiles as he states that he has been many things in his life, but he is proud to say that he has never been a male chauvinist. Power Princess blocks a fireball as she catches up to Imus asking him if that is so before stating that she thinks he underestimates them, especially as his dodging Firestar’s flame was an unsuccessful attempt at getting Firestar to strike her ally down. Champions informs Zarda that she misinterprets him, for his plan was to get her to block Firestar’s power, so it left her distracted enough for him to knock her out - and he does so.

Angelica remains in the air and declares that while Power Princess was tricked, he will not be able to trick her, for he cannot hit what he cannot touch. Champion declares that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp and throws Power Princess’s shield at a tree, slicing its trunk horizontally, and the huge tree falls down on Angelica, trapping her beneath it. Champion admires Zarda’s weapon, and wonders why he had not considered using this game to expand his collection. Grabbing a bow off his back, he states that it is fitting he carries the weapon of the man who trained him. Suddenly, a voice calls to Champion, ordering him to back away from Zarda and Angelica’s bodies. Imus turns, and smiles when he sees the remaining roster approach.

Captain America, Justice, Skylark & the Shape
Concerned about his fiancee, Justice tells Imus that he better pray Firestar is okay, while Skylark is shocked to see their enemy has taken Power Princess’s shield. Captain America remarks that with Zarda down, they have lost one of their most powerful, and orders his team to have clear heads, for they cannot have any mistakes. Leaping into the air, Imus tells Cap that his teammates have long since wasted his budget for prudence and that there is nothing left to spend. Champion grabs Justice by the head and causes him to lose control of his telekinesis, sending a psi-bolt slamming into the Shape.

Imus lands back on the ground and looking at Linda Lewis declares that he believes as it is said in the parlance, that the fat lady is preparing to sing. Skylark replies ‘Oh, really? I’m a size seven – and that’s only on a bad day!’ The winged Squadron member starts to singe but she is shot at by an arrow from Imus, striking her in the throat it causes her sonic powers to go crazy, and her shrill voice seems to shatter the surrounding area, causing Vance, the Shape and Skylark herself to fall. Imus glares at Captain America and declares that it is one living legend to another and that they shall now end this battle.

Captain America leaps at Champion and informs him that size and strength do not make on a legend, and that he doesn’t care how tall he is, for he is as small and petty a man as Steve has ever seen! Cap declares that while Imus has superior height, reach and strength, he has still faced opponents with greater advantages and learned to counter them. As Cap grabs Imus by the hair, Champion remarks that he is well aware of this fact, which is why he never intended on relying on them. Imus smiles when he tears at his shirt, revealing adapted designs from the armor schematics of Cap’s old foe the Porcupine, and a fast acting narcotic gas!

Captain America finally falls as Champion stands over the mighty Avenger, declaring (not that anyone could hear him) that it took him months to build the required immunity to the gas’s soporific effects. But his patience has been rewarded – for he has defeated the last of the Mightiest Heroes of two worlds, and won!

Inside the control center, Imus proclaims that he will savor the moment of the recent victory for decades to come, despite it being a victory with a bittersweet after taste. He walks through the command center he declares himself an honest man and regrets that so many innocents will now have to suffer while he basks in his victory – especially as they are the ones who made the day possible. Champion is a man of his word however and therefore needs to play by the rules, which he laid down. He pulls down a lever on a control panel – and nothing happens.

Imus curses it as a computer error and thinks he may have to re-initialize the entire sequence, when suddenly a small voice tells him not to bother. Dr. Henry Pym makes his presence known and declares that his sex-legged friends the ants and he have done a thorough job of turning the hardware mainframe into scrap metal. Dr. Pym changes from his Ant-Man size into Giant Man, and towers over the tall Imus Champion, adding that he firstly traced all the bombs and alerted the authorities at the locations, where the bombs will be getting disarmed right now.

Champion is surprised to see Giant Man, and declares that his cheating was very un- sportsmanlike and that he is very disappointed. Captain America and Hyperion are flanked by the members of their respective teams as they all enter the room, Hawkeye cutting Imus off mid-sentence and telling him to ‘put a sock in it you oversized windbag’. Cap reminds Champion that they never agreed to his terms and that they simply did what he forced them to do, playing his deranged game, but by their own rules, not his – and the Avengers rules have always been about saving lives, whatever it takes! Captain America walks up to Imus and asks him if he wants to try his luck taking on all sixteen heroes at once, or do the sensible thing and surrender. Champion says nothing.

Later, once the authorities have arrived, Giant Man applauds Firestar for using the ants to circumvent the electromagnetic field and get a message out to him. Modest as ever, Angelica replies that she didn’t do too much, that it was just an idea she had. Vance tells her not to be so cute about it, after all she did save the day, while he thinks to himself that he should have thought of that! Being led out of the room by guards, Imus turns back and declares that this will only be a minor set back for him, for with the legion of attorneys at his command he will be free within the week. Imus adds that he will file suit against the Avengers for the baseless accusations, which led to the arrest in the first place – at the very least. Captain America calmly declares that they will risk it.

The Avengers and the Squadron Supreme stand around and catch their breaths after the recent encounter, and Cap declares that it was a close call and if not for Firestar’s resourcefulness they may have lost this one. He states that they had previously dismissed Champion as a deranged crackpot before, one who talked big but would never be anything more than small time. This proved wrong however and they now know he is dangerous and entirely capable, and will undoubtedly be back. Cap turns to Firestar and proclaims that he when Champion returns he hopes they will have as clear-thinking members as she, and thanks her.

Firestar says nothing, but is quite happy that Captain America actually thanked her – and with witnesses too! Hyperion declares that now that this is all over he supposes it is time for the Squadron to go back to Project Pegasus and return to waiting around full-time. Iron Man, carrying a large device steps forward and proclaims that this may not be, for he has been looking through Champion’s collection of exotic hardware and found this device, which looks very much like a prototype of the Nth Projector. An early model of the same device that unleashed the energies that caused the Crisis on Other-Earth and stranded the Squadron here, he believes they may be able to rig something up….

Several days later, at Project Pegasus, Hawkeye asks Iron Man if he is sure this plan is going to work. Iron Man replies that when it comes to inter-dimensional transit, nothing is “sure”, however he and Magdalene have spent the past two days calibrating the Nth Projector to synergize with her Slash/Way Portal Opening abilities. They are fairly certain they can use her abilities to get beyond the Nth barrier – and get the Squadron home! The sultry Magdalene uses her staff in co-ordination with the Nth Projector and informs the Squadron that to allow for a margin of error she will envelop the Squadron’s starcraft within the portal. This is so that they may enter their realm in the void of space, where there is the least likelihood of materializing in conflict with solid matter.

A moment passes and the Squadron’s spacecraft is gone, and Hyperion, Power Princess, Dr. Spectrum, Arcanna, Whizzer, Skylark, the Shape and Haywire stand on a platform, while Hyperion states that he is glad the Avengers and Squadron are able to part company on better terms this time. Captain America replies that the Avengers feel the same way. The Shape gets all excited about going home, when much to everyone’s surprise – and in particular Hawkeye’s – Haywire reveals that he will not be returning to Other-Earth. The Squadron ask him why and Hal replies that with Inertia dead there is nothing left for him on Earth-S, and that it was okay when they didn’t have anything – but to be back on their world and not have her in it – he does not want to go through that.

One by one the Squadron walk through the portal, and Hyperion remarks that he understands, before wishing Hal good luck and saying that perhaps they will meet again sometime. As Hal watches his friends disappear, Captain America informs him that he would be welcome to stay with them. Hal thanks Cap but reveals he is going to do some traveling instead, for the Pacific Northwest got hit rather hard on Earth-S, and he would like to see it green and healthy while he figures out what to do.

Marissa steps forward and wishes Hal good luck in his search too, before proclaiming that the Swordsman and she must begin their own search now too, for somewhere out there is a world that they can belong in – and she feels it is time they found it. Philip shakes Cap’s hand and thanks him for everything, declaring that he knows this Earth is in good hands. Cap wishes them both well, and as the inter-dimensional lovers walk through the portal, Magdalene calls back ‘Farewell’.

Haywire stands with the other Avengers as Hawkeye comments on the amount of people coming and going, alluding the Avenger’s world to Grand Central Station, before adding that no matter how many times they get kicked down, they always find away to pick themselves up and keep on going. The Scarlet Witch tells her best friend that it is not just “folks like us” and that it is true of everyone, for it is part of being human. Clint smiles at Wanda before saying that he guesses it is.

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Firestar, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Justice, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision (All Avengers)
Giant Man (Reserve Avenger)
Magdalene / Marissa Darrow, Swordsman II / Philip Jarvett (Inactive Avengers)

Dr. Spectrum, Haywire, Hyperion, Moonglow II, Power Princess, Shape, Skylark, Whizzer (All Squadron Supreme)

Imus Champion

In Illustrative Image
Amphibian, Arcanna, Cap’n Hawk, Dr. Spectrum, Hawkeye II, Hyperion, Lady Lark, Nighthawk, Nuke, Power Princess, Tom Thumb, Whizzer II (All Squadron Supreme)

Story Notes: 

Others that can grow and shrink in size thanks to the Pym Particles include of course Hank’s ex-wife the Wasp; Dr. Bill Foster a.k.a. Black Goliath; Rita deMara a.k.a. the second Yellowjacket; Scott Lang, the current Ant-Man; Erik Josten a.k.a. Power Man/Goliath III/Atlas; and even Hawkeye had the ability for some time, calling himself “Goliath II”.

Swordsman II and Magdalene came to our Earth as enemies of the Avengers as they were pawns of Proctor, when they were freed from him they became honorary Avengers. They have refused full membership several times, for two reasons – that they feel out of place on our world and because they are slightly uncomfortable around the other Avengers.

The illustrative image of the Squadron Supreme depicts the earliest members of the team (those active prior to the Squadron’s “Utopia Program” [Squadron Supreme #1-12]). Of the early members, only the Skrullian Skymaster is missing from the image. Later members of the Squadron Supreme include the Shape, Haywire, Inertia, the original Moonglow, Foxfire, Quagmire, Ape-X, Lamprey, Redstone, Thermite, and Dr. Decibel.

The Avengers stopped Champion’s plans to sink California in Avengers (first series) #109, while Champion was dying and seemingly killed in Marvel Comics Presents #126.

Thanos’ lost spacecraft was recently salvaged by S.H.I.E.L.D, during this Champion used the Corrupter to mind-control the Squadron into helping him acquire this, by preventing the Avengers from helping rescue workers. [Avengers (third series) #5-6]

Justice’s comment about defeating Whirlwind being a “trip to the mall” refers to the time he and Firestar “won” their places on the Avengers by defeating Whirlwind together, something twenty plus Avengers could not do because they kept getting in each others way. [Avengers (third series) #4]

The Crisis occurred in the Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe Graphic Novel, in which Inertia was killed, before the surviving eight Squadron members eventually ended up on our Earth. [Quasar #13]

Hawkeye’s comment about he and Haywire having more in common than just cockiness and a somewhat constant state of annoyingness is because Haywire’s girlfriend Inertia died, and Hawkeye’s wife, the Avenger Mockingbird, died while saving Hawkeye. [Avengers West Coast #100]

The original Moonglow, an illusionist, retired during the Crisis [Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe Graphic Novel], Arcanna took on her short-lived teammate‘s codename soon after arriving on our Earth. [Quasar #14]

It is unknown how Firestar was able to communicate with the ants, this is an ability she has never displayed prior to this issue, and has never used since this issue.

The Squadron Supreme return to their world in the one-shot, Squadron Supreme: New World Order, which is their final appearance to date.

This issue marks the final appearance of Magdalene and Swordsman II to date, and it remains unknown whether they ever found a world that they can be comfortable in.

Haywire does go on his travels, in which he encounters the Scarlet Witch, Thor, Silverclaw and Mantis, and joins them in a cosmic adventure, where he gets the unwelcome attention of Silverclaw and meets the cosmic being Death, whom he confronts and orders her to give him back Inertia. Haywire eventually jumps into Death herself to search for Inertia, thus killing himself. [Avengers Celestial Quest #1-8]

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