Hi, everyone. I'm back in the business of reading things... for the moment. Funds are a little shaky but the call of the mega-event is hard to ignore.
For you five newcomers who have accidentally found this article, the rules are simple.
1. I read an event book.
2. I weep at all of the continuity errors, missteps, and poor editing.
3. Regaining my composure, I do my best to write up the spoilerific walkthrough of the comic, attempting to explain away everything that made me cry and giving as much backstory on the hidden details as possible.
4. You read it. Or you skip ahead and see if at least the reworked panels are funny.
And that's pretty much it. This ain't my first rodeo. I've been covering Marvel events since Secret Invasion, back when I was a wide-eyed young fanboy with hope for the future. :) You can read about it all in the massive Super Reads section on the site. Or... we can just get started.
Avengers vs. X-Men #0
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Frank Cho
Editor: Tom Brevoort
The story in a nutshell:
Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman help the Scarlet Witch defeat MODOK. When they're done, Ms. Marvel invites Scarlet Witch to Avengers Mansion where her ex-husband chews her out for using him in Avengers: Disassembled.
This story by bullet points:
• MODOK and the forces of AIM make a play on a Doctor Udaku, a man who tried to get OUT of AIM.
• Scarlet Witch shows up to stop MODOK. This starts off well but the battle soon turns against her.
• Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman show up to assist, quickly mopping things up. Carol insists that Wanda comes back to Avengers Mansion for a visit.
• Once they arrive, it turns out Wanda isn't as welcome as Ms. Marvel had assured. Vision greets them at the door and chews out the Scarlet Witch for using him against the Avengers during Avengers: Disassembled.
• Wanda leaves. The Avengers have many mixed feelings. Vision proves that even an android can cry.
This issue in EXTREME detail:
Welcome to the official start of this summer's greatest and best Marvel mega-event! In this corner: the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! In the other corner: the X-Men: what remains of the Earth's dwindling mutant population! And now: fight!
Or maybe next week. This week, we'll just be paying some close attention to some of the two largest catalysts that have played major roles shaping how we've GOTTEN to this point and where we'll be GOING. First up is a little story about the Scarlet Witch.
The Scarlet Witch's real name is Wanda Maximoff. She is the daughter of Magneto and originally served as a reluctant member of the Master of Magnetism's Brotherhood (of Evil Mutants). When Mags disappeared, Wanda and her twin brother jumped ship and joined the second iteration of the Avengers alongside Captain America and Hawkeye. They both proved themselves time and time again... even though sometimes they found themselves back with the Brotherhood.
After what seems like a lifetime with the Avengers, the Scarlet Witch went insane just in time for Brian Michael Bendis to take over the Avengers franchise. Her first rampage shattered the then-current team of Avengers and led to a six month peroid where the heroes couldn't look each other in the eyes. When next we met with Wanda, she was altering all reality in the first Bendis penned mega-event: House of M. At the end of all these shenanigans, she said three words that rocked the Marvel Universe to its core.
"No More Mutants."
And then she disappeared for a while. The repercussions still define the X-titles. Only about two hundred mutants retained their powers after those words and no new mutants were showing up. Mutant-kind became an endangered species, fighting for their very survival against a world that still feared and hated them.
When Wanda reappeared during Avengers: The Children's Crusade, it caused everyone to go crazy and act out of character. I mean... people had a lot of mixed emotions involving her return and most of that meant that they were at each others' throats. While it didn't lead to the return of the worlds mutant population, it DID lead to Wanda returning, not being insane, and maybe Doom was implicated as being ultimately responsible for everything. Scarlet Witch begins a journey to discover herself, declining an offer to rejoin the Avengers.
And that leads us to...
Now the fight that is coming (probably) doesn't have anything to do with the big event, but it's a nice way of getting a bunch of people together who aren't otherwise traveling in the same friend circles anymore. The gist of it is an ex-AIM scientist, Dr. Udaku, is being escorted to the Pentagon by the Wakandan Ambassador and his entourage, presumably to give away all of his dirty little AIM secrets. There was no way that this wasn't going to lead to a massive confrontation with MODOK and his AIM legions... and I guess some genetically altered monsters and dinosaur heads on robot bodies.
Cliff notes: AIM stands for Advanced Idea Mechanics. They are a terrorist group that uses science, knowledge, and probably a thesaurus as a weapon. MODOK stands for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. He's that big head thing with the tiny arms and legs. He also has spider legs now.
Just as MODOK is about to assassinate Dr. Udaku, his systems begin failing. This is highly improbable. That means someone who can alter probabilities is on the scene.
As Wanda takes down a number of monster machines, MODOK gets caught up to speed and figures out who he's engaging in battle. He basically sums up who she is and what she's been up to in a more concise way than I did above. Good times.
Unfortunately for the Scarlet Witch, there are just too many monster machines. They start to overwhelm her. Someone's gonna have to assist her.
Enter: The Mighty Avengers! Or at least two of them. Decending from a Quinjet, Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman get their fight on. Together, the three heroes turn the tide and end the conflict, which even leads to MODOK getting KO'd. The street is riddled with fallen monster machines, AIM Agents, and lots of blown up cars.
But I bet absolutely no dead people. Hey kids! Comics!
With hostilities ended, Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman get a chance to talk to the Scarlet Witch who has decided that she's not really up to her typical skill levels. Wanda tries to excuse herself but Carol (Ms. Marvel) won't have it. It's time for the Scarlet Witch to return to Avengers Mansion and say hi to all of her friends. Wanda knows this is a bad idea but she's not really given a choice.
A short Quinjet ride later and our three heroes are at Avengers Mansion, the headquarters of two teams of Avengers. Greeting them at the door? The Vision.
This is the definition of awkward. The Vision is Wanda's ex-husband so there's always some tension when the two are in the same room. Beyond that, Vision was basically used as an Ultron bomb during Avengers: Disassembled, unleashing an army of killer robots on his comrades as his body fell apart. So, yeah, that's not something that is easy to get over. In fact, it took years (our time) for Tony Stark to even get the Vision back in working order.
Flanked by Wolverine, Thor, the Beast, and Iron Man, the Vision reminds Wanda of this. The Scarlet Witch apologizes but this is not something that the Vision is willing to forgive. He tells his ex-wife to get out of his yard.
There are reactions all over the place. Wolverine respects the Vision's decision on this. Iron Man tries a half-hearted attempt at changing Vision's mind but leaves it in the synthezoid's hands. Beast... well, Hank McCoy looks pissed, inquisitive, and maybe just a bit constipated.
Ms. Marvel's opinion should be easy to determine. She was the one who forced Wanda into this confrontation and was seriously expecting everyone to get along. Carol tries to chew Vision out but Vizh ain't hearing any of that noise. Ms. Marvel ends up flying a crying Scarlet Witch away.
The menfolk watch as a seemingly uncaring Vision walks away from the door, engaging in their own commentary on the matter (except Beast who is still giving us strange facial expressions). Tony Stark understands WHY the Vision told Wanda to leave but in his heart of hearts... he "always liked them together."
With his face turned away from his companions, the Vision begins to cry... but it might just be a design defect. He does this kind of thing.
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Frank Cho
Editor: Tom Brevoort
The story in a nutshell:
Hope sneaks out of Utopia (after eyebeaming Cyclops) and fights crime in San Francisco all by her lonesome. With a healthy dose of violence! She also acknowledges that the Phoenix is coming for her and she can't wait.
This story by bullet points:
• Hope steals Cyclops' jetpack and tries to sneak out of Utopia.
• Cyclops catches her and makes an attempt to stop her. That doesn't work out to well.
• In San Francisco, Hope fights the Serpent Society after interrupting their bank robbery. Things get a bit more bloody than necessary.
• Cyclops and Emma Frost show up, blasting open the bank door and stop Hope from thrashing on her unconscious foe.
• Hope announces that she's the next host for the Phoenix and couldn't be happier. Oh, she's not Jean Grey, too. That's IMPORTANT.
This story in EXTREME detail:
And this is the other side of the coin. While the Scarlet Witch story focused on Wanda and the Avengers, this one is all about Hope and the X-Men. Much like the Scarlet Witch, Hope is a game changing hero.
And because she's an X-Man... and worse, a SUMMERS, she is unnecessarily complicated. Hope was the first mutant born in a world where mutants STOPPED being born. After being chased around by every single group that has ever cared about mutants, Hope was removed from the timeline and raised in the future by Cable, the son of Cyclops who was ALSO raised in the future. It's the place where babies go.
When Cable and Hope returned to what passes for the present in the Marvel Universe, they found themselves beset by enemies even after they had reached the sanctuary of Utopia, the island nation of the remaining mutants that rests right off the coast of San Francisco. At the conclusion of that event, Cable found himself temporarily dead and Hope had used her abilities to activate five new mutants all over the world.
And that's just it: Hope is the Mutant Messiah, capable of either healing or destroying the world's remaining mutants. She could be the one to take the mutant race off of the endangered species list OR she could wipe them and the rest of humanity from the face of the earth.
To make things even more complicated, it turns out that Hope will be the newest host for the Phoenix Force, a power that is capable of creation and destruction on a galactic scale. When the Phoenix first appeared in the Marvel Universe, it took the place of Jean Grey for a time before eventually losing it and causing a star to super-nova. Enough of Jean Grey's personality remained in the Phoenix for her to realize the scale of her actions and she committed suicide before doing anything more destructive. That's never the end of things, though. The Phoenix is all about death and rebirth. It possessed other people, including the alternate future daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey, Rachel (because the Summers family is WAY too complicated).
The Phoenix Force hasn't taken up residence in Hope quite yet. In fact, things may look a little wonky in that regard. While Avengers: X-Sanction #4 clearly showed Hope rocking a Phoenix signature while removing the techno-organic virus from Cable, it's also been shown in outer space in the Point One adventure of Kid Nova. There's an explanation for that and I'll try to explain it closer to the end of this write-up.
Our story begins on the mutant island of Utopia late one night. It looks like Hope is about to leave and it ALSO looks like she's trying to do that without catching anyone else's attention. That's unsuccessful. Here comes Grandpa Summers (you may know him as Cyclops) to spoil all of her sneaking out fun.
Clearly, Cyclops is upset that Hope is leaving in the middle of the night all alone to have adventures in San Francisco. Part of that is because Hope is stealing his jet pack to do it. The other part has everything to do with her being the mutant messiah. She's the one who will change the fate of all mutants according to editorial mandate. While doing good deeds is something that the X-Men are all about, letting Hope go out unescorted isn't cool.
Now, I don't read Generation Hope. Sometimes I forget it exists. Maybe these scene directly contradict things that happen in that book. Maybe Hope could argue that she was raised in the post-apocalyptic future by a guy who taught her how to survive in almost any condition. Maybe she's a teenager and isn't thinking about any of that.
What she's more interested in is this Phoenix thing. No-one will tell her any of the stuff I just went over above. Apparently, it's something that still bothers Cyclops. It might also be that talking about his old flames, especially the ones that could burn out stars, would just upset Emma Frost, his current girlfriend. Whatever the case, Scott Summers isn't going to let Hope know anything about the Phoenix.
Cyke makes one final attempt to stop Hope from leaving Hope unleashes a concussive eye beam blast on him. Oh yeah, that's her power. She can mimic other mutants' abilities when they're in range. Scott is immune to his own powers but a blast with concussive beams still knocks him off his feet.
Hope's destination is the Isotope Bank and Trust on 326 Fell Street where a bank robbery is already in progress. She's using a police scanner to track down crime and teach it a swift lesson. when she reaches the roof of the bank, Hope drops from her jet pack, letting Cyclops' toy hit a wall and smash. Man, she's pissed.
After crawling into the bank through an air duct, the mutant messiah runs right into one of the bank robbers. This isn't your average thug, though. This one has a tail instead of legs and claws on his hands. If you check your score card, you'd know that this is Bushmaster, a longtime member of the criminal organization, the Serpent Society.
I'll give you one guess on the theme of Serpent Society members. Did you get it? They're all snake-themed.
While Hope is making short work of Bushmaster, we take a trip further into the bank where the rest of the Serpent Society is working on getting the vault open and tying up hostages. It makes you wonder why there are so many people IN the bank. I mean, it's after dark and I KNOW how late most banks stay open. Maybe things are different in San Francisco.
The remaining Serpent Society members are Asp (the mutant lady who has toxic skin), Anaconda (super strength and stretchy arms), Cottonmouth (the dude in the purple snake suit-- he has a mouth full of fangs), and Puff Adder (the guy using his acid spit to open the vault). They hear a commotion in the other room but most of them figure that Bushmaster has things well in hand.
Asp isn't so certain. She walk back to check on her teammate only to be caught in a blast when the door explodes. Hope emerges with her knife drawn, demanding that the rest of the Serpent Society surrender.
Hahaha. No one thinks that's going to happen.
Hope tells the Serpent people that she cut off Bushmaster's cybernetic arms even though she didn't KNOW they were cybernetic at the time. So now we know how part of that off-panel fight went.
I'll give you a hint: Hope wins this fight without assistance. She's very, very good. Also: very, very violent. You might have guessed that when she described her fight with Bushmaster. Cutting off arms when you think they're flesh and blood is stone cold, yo. Anaconda goes down with a number of headbutts. Since Puff Adder is a mutant, Hope uses his own powers to knock him down for the count. All that leaves is Cottonmouth but we never get to see how that fight goes down because we're too busy watching Cyclops and Emma Frost blast their way into the bank.
Wasn't this a hostage situation? Let's all remember that Emma can read minds and I'm guessing check one what was going on inside before Cyclops started blowing doors down. And walls. And that fountain.
The two arrive just in time to stop Hope from beating Cottonmouth, already on the floor and unconscious, to a bloody pulp. Yeah... Hope has some anger issues... though I guess Cottonmouth tried to eat Hope's head while we were distracted by Cyclops and Emma's entrance.
And this is where things get real. Hope tells Scott that she knows that the Phoenix is coming. It's going to possess her or empower her or replace her or whatever the Phoenix is doing this year. She knows that Cyclops is worried that this will go down just like it did with Jean Grey.
But the thing is... the IMPORTANT thing is... she's NOT Jean Grey. Things are going to be different this time. This time... well, this time the Avengers are going to show up and there's going to be a whole lot more fighting. There might even be a call back to that time when Phoenix snuffed out a star. Oh, the fun we will have!
Instead of being scare about the Phoenix, Hope WELCOMES the thing. She can't wait. She thinks she's ready.
As Hope walks away, Emma and Cyclops have a moment to talk things out. The part that is interesting here is that Cyclops doesn't know what the results of all this will be. Hope could destroy them all or she could be the mutant messiah that everyone hopes she is. However it plays out, Cyclops is going to be there for her. After all, he promised Cable that he would over in Avengers: X-Sanction #4.
Back on Utopia, Hope takes off her hand bandages and washes her hands in the ocean. She looks up and we pan out. Out. FURTHER. There's Earth. There's the solar system.
And there's the Phoenix not possessing Hope quite yet. The official reason on this is that what we've witnessed so far are simple flare ups of a Phoenix holder's POTENTIAL, I guess. She doesn't have it YET but it's on the way and it's looking for her.
Because the Phoenix Force likes redheads.
Tales of Suspense #49
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Steve Ditko
Inker: Paul Reinman
Editor: Stan Lee
The issue in a nutshell:
The X-Man, Angel, goes evil after being exposed to radiation from a nuclear detonation. Iron Man ends up squaring off against the mutant but the fight only ends when the Avenger makes the X-Man save his life and revert to being a good guy.
The issue by bullet points:
• Angel accidentally flies over a nuclear test. In what must be New York State. Seriously.
• While Iron Man tries to shoo him away, the high flying hero just thinks that the Avenger is as excited to meet HIM as he is to meet Shellhead. When the nuke goes off, they're both hit by the blast. Only ONE of them has their personality altered and starts down the path of pure evil.
• Warren heads to the X-Mansion and quits the X-Men, declaring his newfound life path.
• Believing this to be the most dangerous thing that ever happened, Professor X has Cyclops contact the Avengers. Most of them are too busy in their civilian lives to even hear the call but Iron Man doesn't have anything better to do.
• After some random acts of destruction, Angel attracts the attention of the police and Shellhead.
• The two heroes' fight is all over La Guardia Airport with neither one being able to declare victory. A career low for Iron Man.
• To make Angel "not evil," Iron Man flies the X-Man way up in the air until his boot jets give out, believing that the mutant won't be able to let him die.
• Angel saves Tony's life at exactly the last second. And the day is saved. Life long bonds of friendship are formed.
• Iron Man forgets who Angel is.
The issue in EXTREME detail:
This is it! The very first confrontation between an Avenger and an X-Man! Let me give you the back story.
It was January 1964! Avengers and X-Men had both had two issues released at this point. The Avengers had faced off against Loki and the Space Phantom. The X-Men had confronted Magneto and the Vanisher. It was time to start crossing over.
Instead of a full blown team meeting, this would just be the Angel meeting Iron Man. The rest of the X-Men are pretty integral to the plot and even the other Avengers appear in cameos.
The X-Men at this point consisted of Cyclops, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), the Beast, Iceman, and Angel. They all wore the school uniform of black and gold (or blue and gold depending on how you interpret comic book colors), spent their free time training in the Danger Room, and spent the rest of their time fighting the world's evil mutants. The team was being taught in the use of their mutant abilities by Professor X. At this stage, the X-Men concept was based around the school.
Iron Man had just gone through his biggest change up to this point. He had just upgraded his gold armor to a more traditional red and gold suit (designed by Steve Ditko). The new look came with power upgrades as well, making the super-hero stronger than ever before.
So how does the first fight between X-Man and Avenger go? Well, as was the style at the time, it ended in a draw. Let's find out how!
It all begins at a nuclear test being conducted at one of Tony Stark's weapons plants. Angel, flying his way back to the X-Mansion in upstate New York, decides to cut over that plant to save time. Iron Man, on the site at the time, tries to wave the X-Man away but Warren is too excited at the prospect of meeting Iron Man to get the meaning behind the Avenger's frantic hand gestures.
In a classic comic book mistake (besides conducting a nuclear test in New York state), Iron Man fails to abort the detonation and decides instead to fly up so that Angel can actually hear him. This results in both heroes getting his by the nuclear blast and its deadly radiation. Iron Man being covered in armor, gets through the whole thing with no terrible repercussions.
Angel is not so lucky. While the nuclear explosion doesn't physically harm him, the radiation does some significant damage to his personality.
Instead of being all heroic, Warren Worthington III is now deviously evil. Iron Man, not realizing that the X-Man is now a menace to society, tries to reach Angel to check on him but the winged one stays JUST out of reach. Iron Man realizes what's happened (isn't it obvious?) but his attempt to reach the mutant has put far to great a strain on his boot jets. They sputter and die, leaving the Avenger falling quickly back to earth.
It's times like these that having a heavy suit of armor isn't a comfort.
No real worries for the quick thinking hero. He grabs his handy dandy magnetic repeller and uses it on a metal roof top. It slows his fall enough so that it isn't fatal. He crashes through the roof and damages his chest plate but that's the extent of things. Making his way back to his private lab, he begins work on fixing it.
Meanwhile, Angel has made his way back to the X-Men's Mansion. He wastes no time in telling the rest of his teammates that he is quitting and joining the bad guys. This leads to a traditional Silver Age brawl between team members. Angel is able to squirm out of every fight.
We cut back to Tony's lab, Stark has finished repairing his damaged chest plate and can go on with his usual activities as a wealthy business owner.
And now we're back to the X-Mansion to watch as Angel soars off into the sky, once again declaring his intent to join the other team. Professor X attempt to talk to Angel through telepathy but he is unable to sway Warren away from a life of evil. All of this has a detrimental psychological effect on the Professor who is now concerned that he might just be training future super-villains instead of super-heroes. He is seriously thinking about closing down the school... but first things first. They must bring their erstwhile member in before he passes on his special training to the rest of the evil mutants.
For this task, the Professor orders Cyclops to call in... the Avengers!
Which is easier said than done. Cyke gets on his ham radio and tries his best to get a hold of the super-hero team but everyone is busy and away from their radios. Bruce Banner (Hulk) is busy working an rockets. Donald Blake (Thor) is taking care of his patients, Hank Pym (Giant Man) and Janet Van Dyne (Wasp) are out on a date.
That leaves the Invincible Iron Man. Tony keeps his chest plate on at all times because it keeps him alive. Since it has a built-in radio, there's no escaping a call to help the X-Men. After excusing himself from his duties, Tony Stark puts his armor back on and goes looking for the Angel.
Warren Worthington III has flown back to New York City in his attempt to find the rest of the Evil Mutants and join them. To do this, he steals some TNT from a construction site and detonates it all over the city. He doesn't hurt anyone or do any property damage but claims that he'll be doing all of those things when he meets up with his comrades.
None of this gets the Evil Mutants to come out in the open. They know who the Angel is and suspect that this is just a trap. It's only the police and Iron Man who start really paying attention.
The police are actually ready to open fire on the flying mutant when Shellhead shows up. Stark gets ten minutes to try and bring Angel down before the police open fire. Let's see what ten minutes can get him.
Well, it looks like it can get him some aerial combat! While Iron Man can fly, Angel can fly faster and corner better. The best the Avenger can do is get this battle closer to the ground. The pair ends up fighting in the middle of La Guardia Airport.
Shellhead catches Warren in a steel grip and starts to explain why the mutant is acting so evil but Angel breaks out after Tony relaxes his grip. From there, the two are in and out of various hangars. For about ten seconds, Angel traps Iron Man in a hangar but the Avenger's strength gets him out with ease.
While this fight is going back and forth, no one seems to be doing much winning. For some reason, Angel is an equal match to the armored Avenger. That's ok. Tony doesn't have to BEAT Angel. He just has to make him all better. Stark has a plan.
Iron Man flies right up at Angel, grabbing the X-Man. From there, it's straight up until his boot jets give out on him again. Iron Man lets go of the Angel and begins his plummet back down to the ground. This time, he's too high to be saved by his magnetic repeller.
Warren watches the hero fall, wondering why the Avenger pushed things so far. It's not until Iron Man is dangerously close to the ground that Angel finally has a change of heart and swoops down to rescue the hero. To assist, Tony uses his magnetic repeller to gain precious seconds.
And so, Angel's personality is returned to its normal, heroic default setting. Pay attention here. Tony Stark was so certain that Angel was naturally a good guy that he was willing to sacrifice his own life to prove it. Sure, these were the early days of the Marvel Universe and all of our heroes have learned a few detrimental lessons on trust but it's still fascinating how this first encounter played out.
After explaining the situation (temporary evil?) to the cops, Iron Man and the Angel sit around and wait for the rest of the X-Men to arrive. Warren shakes Tony's hand, telling him that he can call on the X-Men whenever they are needed.
Professor X realizes that his training isn't a failure and the X-Men program continues. As Iron Man flies off, Xavier telepathically contacts him, promising to repay the hero for his kindness.
So, happy endings all around.
The Avengers #3
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
Inker: Paul Reinman
Editor: Stan Lee
The issue in a nutshell:
The Avengers search out the Hulk after their falling out last issue. The Hulk teams up with Namor the Sub-Mariner and the battle is on!
The issue by bullet points:
• The Avengers search for Hulk after he deserts the team.
• They contact Rick Jones who finds the green goliath almost immediately but doesn't tell the Avengers this until taking care of the Hulk/Bruce Banner for a night and having Banner rage off as the Hulk once more.
• The Avengers all eventually make their way to the American Southwest where they engage the Hulk in less-than-mortal combat. When it's all over, the Hulk escapes and starts a swim out into the ocean.
• The Hulk nearly drowns and is picked up by a passing ship. Eventually, he recovers and leaps back into the ocean, intent on reaching a small deserted island.
• Once on the island, he meets up with Namor the Sub-Mariner and after that it's SUPER VILLAIN TEAM-UP TIME!
• The Avengers are challenged to a fight on Gibraltar and leap at the chance to run right into a fight on a battle ground that their enemies have chosen.
• After four pages of battle, the Hulk runs away after turning into Bob Banner and Namor is nearly captured before escaping with a little watery help.
• Even though everyone got away, the Avengers high five and head home.
The issue in EXTREME detail:
BONUS ISSUE! The X-Men only make the most minor of appearances in this comic but it's their very first appearance in the Avengers book so it's kind of important. Since I already covered this issue back in Super Reads War of Kings and Dark Reign 68, I'm throwing in an updated version of that read through for your entertainment. Here we go!
Still January 1964! It was only the third issue of the Avengers and already they were down one member. After the fiasco with the Space Phantom, the Hulk noticed a distinct lack of trust coming from the rest of the Avengers and he leaves for parts unknown. The Avengers realize that they really DON'T trust the Hulk and begin to search for the green goliath before anything bad happens.
To accomplish this, Iron Man decides to use on of Tony Stark's new inventions. It's basically a peeping tom device put together because Stark is kind of a pervert. It projects the user's image anywhere they want to go and, through the magic of comics, even allows communication.
Tony spends the next few pages visiting a literal 'who's who' of the Marvel U up to this point. First up is a trip to the Baxter Building and the Fantastic Four. No-one here seems even close to interested in helping the Avengers locate their wayward Hulk. Ben's almost out the door for a date with Alicia Masters, Sue's leaving for a fashion show, and Reed is way too interested in examining Johnny's powers. The first family is no help at all.
Next up is Spider-Man. Spidey is capturing a gang of criminals and isn't too happy that someone is flying over him and watching him do his thing. When Iron Man tells the Wall-Crawler that the Avengers are searching for the Hulk, Spidey just acts frustrated for the interruption into his busy life. It looks like Iron Man will have to find some other super-heroes to pester.
This leads us to the very first appearance of the X-Men in the Avengers comic. When Iron Man transports his image to the X-Mansion, the team is doing what they usually do: training in the Danger Room.
Since this issue takes place right after Tales of Suspense #49, Iron Man tells Xavier and his crew that the Angel told him to come to them if he ever needed their help. And it looks like he does. You know. Finding Hulk and stuff.
Professor Xavier tells Iron Man that they'll contact the Avengers if they hear anything about the Hulk but, for now, they've got some training to do. Interestingly enough, Iron Man is one of the first outsiders to learn of Professor X's existence. It shows what kind of trust he's gained for his help in ToS #49.
Anyway, that idea wasted a couple pages so it wasn't a total loss. Iron Man even got to test an invention and found it worked pretty well. Imagine all the wacky situations he'll get into with that device off-panel!
Vefore the Avengers completely gives up on finding the Hulk, they remember that Rick Jones is the one that got them in contact with ol' green skin in the first place. The team decides to contact him via ham radio and let the teenager do the searching for a while. Rick gets the message and believes that the Hulk would only end up in one place: right where HE is in the American Southwest! It's where the Hulk usually ends up.
Sure enough, that's exactly where the Hulk is. Rick doesn't do much searching at all before he comes across some of the Hulk's misadventures. The green guy has already managed to freak out a passing driver to such a degree that the man drove his car right into a lake. Hulk doesn't understand what was up with that guy but does spend the time necessary getting the automobile out of the water.
Rick leads the green goliath away to one of Bruce Banner's secret labs, sets him up in front of a gamma ray gun, and fires. The blast changes the Hulk back into Bruce Banner but the scientist is so worn out by the transformation that he goes right to sleep. Rick tucks Bruce into bed and then waits outside the armored door, regretting the day that Banner saved his life and became a monster.
Our favorite gamma-irradiated scientist doesn't nap too long before waking up, changing back into the Hulk, and smashing things up. With that done, the Hulk makes his exit.
With the Hulk off doing nothing in particular, Rick remembers that he was supposed to contact the Avengers after finding the Hulk and goes off to make a call on his ham radio. The Avengers get the message individually and then travel to the American Southwest in their own styles. The super-hero team isn't very organized in this regard and don't even have a Quinjet yet.
Iron Man and Thor fly off under their own power while Giant-Man and the Wasp hitch a ride on a jetliner. That's right. Hank and Jan hobo their way across the country.
Since Iron Man got the message first, he's the first to find the Hulk. He's also the first to be heavily outclassed. After taking a sucker punch, Shellhead decides that distance weapons will do and uses his repulsor beam to fire boulders in the Hulk's direction. Hulk dodges and in the process grabs a cactus to use as a weapon, wringing the plant out and spraying needles all over the place. Iron Man is able to get a rock shield up in time (because I guess his armor wouldn't be enough to stop cactus needles?). Hank and Janet arrive just in time to be greeted by a hail of needles.
After escaping that attack, Hank and Wasp travel down the nearest ant hill to force the ants into doing their dirty work. The insects work swiftly to block up an underground stream which causes the ground around the Hulk to rupture and burst with water geysers. Deadly water geysers. Hulk jumps away from the ground and is met in the air by an attacking Iron Man.
Tony uses his repulsor beams to keep Hulk in the air, spinning the green goliath around in circles. While Shellhead is keeping the green guy busy, Thor joins the fight. Eventually, Hulk is able to reach a rock formation and halt his helpless spinning. Deciding that he's not really up for fighting any more, Hulk makes his escape, traveling through some abandoned mines until he comes upon a speeding train.
It looks like he's found his way out, but the Avengers are after him a lot quicker than he anticipated. Hulk ends up throwing the caboose at Thor and Iron Man (don't worry kids, he checked to make sure it was empty first!) but Thor's hammer makes short work of it. Hulk fights with the two Avengers until Giant-Man joins the battle. Taking a hold of a few bags of flour, Hulk evades Hank's enormous hands and head up to the front of the train where he drops the bags. The result is a huge smokescreen that hides the upcoming tunnel from Hank's view, clotheslining the giant hero.
It looks like the Avengers don't get to catch the Hulk today.
Hulk isn't done escaping just yet, though. He hides inside a gravel truck and waits for the vehicle to dump its payload into a nearby stream. The big green guy doesn't come up for air but instead swims downstream into the Mississippi and eventually right into the Gulf of Mexico. After that, he just keeps on going, coming up for air every so often to keep from drowning.
This might be a good way to pass the time but even the Hulk isn't capable of swimming forever. A passing ship sees his exausted form floating at the top of the water and pulls him aboard without a second's pause. Once they get him out of the water, the crew panics at their catch. This is, after all, the frickin' Hulk. The captain calms them down. This might be the Hulk but the big guy is so close to death that he's not a threat. They pull the Hulk on to the deck and then make a call in to the authorities for a quick pick-up.
For some time, Namor has been watching the Hulk, curious to see if he's found a future ally. The Sub-Mariner is pleased to find that the green goliath has ended up in his ocean home. Knowing that the Hulk will recover from exhaustion much more quickly that the ship crew expect, the sea prince is not worried about the gamma-powered creature getting captured. Namor rushes out to prepare a welcome for his future partner.
Hulk DOES end up getting back to his Hulkish self quicker than the captain or crew imagined possible. Instead of causing a rampage on the ship that rescued him, he sees a nearby island and decides it would make a good temporary home and jumps overboard. Upon reaching the island, the green goliath finds that the Sub-Mariner is there to greet him.
Hulk isn't all that happy to see Namor. Hulk just wants to be left alone, and especially wants to be away from those dirty humans that pester him so... when they aren't saving his life from potential drowning. Namor doesn't take too kindly to being called a human and, well, a fight ensues. I know! Surprising. These two are both super powerful but, once the fight reaches the water, Namor get a +10 to his attack and defense and takes a win in the battle. Bringing the green guy up to the surface, the two agree to work together against humanity.
Now, you'd think that they would team-up to take on the Fantastic Four. That's who Namor really has it in for, after all, and it seems like he's the one making the plans here. In a surprise move that no-one but the reader (who KNOWS they're reading an AVENGERS book) sees coming, the duo decide to attack Earth's Mightiest Heroes. They choose Gibraltar as the perfect place to make their stand.
Super-villain team-ups never work out right in the Marvel Universe. Namor's already had a bad experience while teaming up with Dr. Doom. Maybe because of that experience or simply because he doesn't think much of the Hulk, Namor plans on turning on his new ally as soon as he's gotten a good use out of ol' green skin. As far as the Hulk goes, the feeling is mutual. Betrayals all around.
Back at Avengers Mansion, the team picks up some radio transmissions sent by Namor and the Hulk challenging them to a fight. Thor delivers a speech all about how they're going to have an ending this time and not let the Hulk slip right through their fingers... even though that's totally going to happen. Wasp likes what she's hearing and starts flirting only to be interrupted by Hank Pym who DOESN'T like it when his sidekick/romantic interest has eyes for anyone but him.
Instead of crossing the ocean by their own individual means, this time the Avengers take one of Tony Stark's super subs. It gets them there more quickly and we don't have to feel bad for Giant-Man and the Wasp for hoboing on a jetliner again. Heck, we can't waste the panel time now. There's only four pages left to fill up and still a massive battle to fight!
As usual, I'm not going to describe the play by play in immaculate detail. Suffice to say, Namor and Hulk working as a team basically means Namor says "you are inferior to me in every way you dundering clod!" in every other panel. This doesn't build too much trust on the Hulk's part but the big guy is angrier at the Avengers so, for now, they continue to work together towards a common goal.
Iron Man has a bad time during the fight. He's immobilized by an emery dust pellet gun and is defended by Thor while Giant-Man uses a compression pump to pump out all that dust and get him mobile again. Later in the battle, Namor damages Shellhead's chest device and, since that's what's keeping him alive, he has to take time to fix it or perish.
Wasp also has a hard time of it. She's disoriented when one of Hulk's fists smashes the rockwall and sends shockwaves through the care. Those shockwaves release rocks from the sides of the wall which, at her size, could prove deadly. Wasp ends up flying to the ground only to risk getting trampled on by her own teammates. She survives this by finding a tiny hole in the ground and hides in it until the rest of the Avengers pass her by. At this point, she's had enough of almost getting killed and sits out the rest of the fight on Giant-Man's shoulder.
Thor and Giant-Man actually do ok. Thor fights both Namor and Hulk at the same time and manages to stay on his feet. This is probably because Hulk is more interested in parting him with his hammer which is mystically impossible to do. He actually distracts both foes by sending Mjolnir away. Namor and Hulk both try to reach the weapon and, in their rush, Giant-Man is able to get his oversized hands on the Sub-Mariner.
Which is the turning point in the fight. While Thor and Giant-Man both take on Namor, Hulk finds himself changing back into... BOB BANNER! Don't know why he chose this moment to call himself "Bob." In fact, Marvel didn't know why either and corrected the mistake for the Essential reprint. The point is, the Hulk is human again and that means he's useless in this battle. Banner rushes off before anyone can get a good look at his face.
That leaves Namore all alone against Giant-Man and Thor. Now, he's the Avenging Son so there's going to be no clear victor here. The Sub-Mariner is able to slip out of Giant-Man's hold but runs right into a refreshed Iron Man. Stark holds the villain in a repulsor field and tries to talk his adversary into surrendering but Namor has no intention of doing that little thing. He's able to smash through the wall behind him, releasing a flow of water that bathes him in power. With the refresher, Namor is able to break free from the repulsor field but his tase for combat has been sated for this issue.
Angry that the Hulk abandoned him, Namor renews his vow to destroy the surface world and flies off. The Avengers, seeing how valiant a foe Namor was, break off pursuit and leave. They got a good fight out of the trip and that's good enough for them, I guess. AFter all, they let both Hulk and Namor slip through their fingers. It's probably best taht they don't analyze this one too closely and just quickly put it in the "win" category.
And that's two Avengers/ X-Men meet ups to start things off! I threw in that Avengers one for free since it's such a tiny cameo.
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of Super Reading. With any luck, I'll be back in a week to show you the wonder that is Avengers vs. X-Men #1.
Have a good week!