The Old Order Changeth #18

The Old Order Changeth #18

By Jim Beard

“And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born—to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand!”

Each Friday will present a different column focusing on the one and only Avengers. From line-ups to costumes to villains to classic stories and beyond, we’ve got you covered on the history of Marvel’s most prolific team of heroes!

So let the call go out: Avengers Assemble!

People talk about “glory days” a lot, a time that’s remembered as being the best of the best. Perhaps AVENGERS (1998) #4-25 counts as “glory days” among the incredible past line-ups of the team, the title and the adventures; it certainly encompasses all the high-water marks of such an era.

With the top-notch talent of writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez at its helm, AVENGERS #4-25 features the type of champions that fans expect to see, going up against menaces worthy of their combined might and abilities. In the realm of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the run clocks in as a “win-win.”

After their arduous adventure against Morgan le Fay, the team found themselves with dozen of Avengers on their collective hands. AVENGERS #4 whittled that down to a stunning membership of world-beaters like Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, The Vision and Warbird, plus something new: active reserve members. In an effort to do an end-run around new Federal Security Liaison Duane Freeman’s limitations on number of active Avengers, Captain America named Firestar and Justice as reservists and set out to train them to be Avengers.

Running down the center of this legendary run, the triangle of The Scarlet Witch, The Vision and Wonder Man exists as a kind of spine, a narrative tent-pole that endowed the issues with an emotional core. Wanda Maximoff, reeling from the Vision’s declaration that they’re no longer married in AVENGERS #4, falls into the arms of Wonder Man, who, until AVENGERS #11, only exists as a barely-formed cloud of ionic energy, brought to life by the Witch’s hex powers. The tension reached a fever point between the three in AVENGERS #23, when the Vision squared off against his “brother,” Simon Williams, only to find that the once-deceased Wonder Man admired the synthezoid. Hatchet buried, albeit wobbily, the heroes tried to pick up the pieces and move along with their lives.

You see, other matter arose to capture their attentions, and those of their fellow Avengers—namely, villains. Opponents like the team never saw before, one after another, to challenge and corrupt our heroes. The other-dimensional Squadron Supreme returned in AVENGERS #5-6, stuck in the Marvel Universe and feeling at odds with their surroundings. Then came the blustery Moses Magnum in AVENGERS #8-9, a story that lead to Hawkeye—wait for it—quitting again. The Battling Bowman returned, of course, in AVENGERS #12, but only as new leader to the reformed villains seeking redemption known as the Thunderbolts.

The Scarlet Witch became deputy leader of the team in AVENGERS #13, to fill in during an absence by Captain America, and she carried out those duties until AVENGERS #25, despite her strife over her former husband and her present-lover’s return to the mansion. Oh, speaking of that; Wonder Man received a bountiful, bouncing visit from an old friend in AVENGERS #14 as The Beast brought the house down in a single issue, which featured artist Perez’ on-panel wish to writer Busiek for more appearances by the “funny little monkey-man.”

Where were we? Oh, villains! Well, how about the triple threat of Pagan, Templar and Triathlon in AVENGERS #15? That story also grew tendrils that wove their way through much of the run, in the form of the enigmatic Triune Understanding, a cult-like organization that new hero Triathlon worked for.

Perhaps the tops in terms of terrifying tales came when none other than Ultron, Hank Pym’s punishing and peerless prodigy, smashed things up for the team throughout AVENGERS #19-22, culminating in Pym’s dramatic rejection of his creation. After that, well, you’d think the Avengers might take a break, huh? Not this line-up, nosiree! They jumped right into a huge dust-up with a strange group of powerful individuals gunning for The Juggernaut, the avatar for the mystical Cyttorak.

We should also note here the poignant back-story of Angelica Jones, the young mutant heroine called Firestar, and her brave battle against powers that threatened her very life every time she utilized them. It took Hank Pym, the Avengers’ Goliath, to create an under-suit for her to wear below her costume to change the course of her career and bring tears of joy to her beautiful eyes.

Then, at the end of AVENGERS #25, a sad occasion: Captain America, distraught over the Triune, a “foe that can’t be fought directly,” resigned as leader and opened the door for, you guessed it, the Old Order to Changeth once again.

And changeth it did. Into one of the title’s most unique and eclectic line-ups.

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