Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Sal Buscema
Inker: Sam Grainger
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Featured Issue: Avengers #70
Our issue opens with Kang the Conqueror eschewing his feast in order to concentrate on the upcoming battle between the Avengers and the chosen champions of the Grandmaster. Leaving his banquet hall, Kang questions the Avengers about the progress of the battle, but the Avengers divulge that Grandmaster will not speak with them as they are only pawns in his game with Kang. After finally being confronted by Kang regarding the delay, Grandmaster reveals that he is using the computers on his home planet to create suitable opponents for the Avengers. Secretly though, Kang’s soldiers take position in an effort to assassinate Grandmaster, but the attempt is thwarted by a mere thought from Grandmaster. Shocked by this sudden turn of events, Kang agrees with Black Panther that the strategy was flawed and that he will not make the same mistake twice.
Turning to Kang’s time-scanner, the Avengers, Kang and Grandmaster watch their teammates Captain America, Goliath, and Thor back in the 20th century. The trio is soon joined by the newly restored Iron Man (Tony Stark having recovered after the events of last issue). Just as the Avengers get done catching Iron Man up on the details of their mission, the Squadron Sinister again appears before the quartet of heroes. The Squadron members admit that they are in fact not present, but that the Avengers are only seeing their astral images. As such, the Squadron Sinister decides to fill in the Avengers on their origin, since there is no risk to the Squadron. Being the master of time and space that he is, Grandmaster reached back and altered the lives of four Earth men in order for them to become the super powered villains Nighthawk, Hyperion, Dr. Spectrum, and Whizzer. As they finish, the four figures dissolve into images of four famous locations on Earth, the Statue of Liberty, Taj Mahal, Big Ben and the Sphinx, implying that a member of the Squadron Sinister is located at each. With that, Iron Man sets off for the Taj Mahal while Thor uses the powers of Mjolnir to transport the other Avengers to their battles.
Up first is Captain America, facing off at the most fitting of locations, the Statue of Liberty. As he evaluates the situation, Captain America notices a figure watching from the statue’s crown, but fails to notice the snare set on the ground and Cap is caught in it as he moves forward to investigate the figure. Battered against the figure, Cap is knocked unconscious. When he comes to, the Avengers finds himself the prisoner of Nighthawk. Even more astonishing than his imprisonment, is the fact that the pair in flying in Nighthawk’s aircraft, carrying the Statue of Liberty in tow. When Nighthawk threatens to destroy the statue if Cap does anything to interfere with the Grandmaster’s plans, Cap reacts immediate and destroys the detonator with his shield. In a last ditch effort to destroy the statue, Nighthawk leaves the aircraft and attempts to release the statue in midair. Again Captain America’s quick thinking saves the day as he attacks Nighthawk and manages to turn the tables on when Nighthawk tries to kill Cap with an explosive capsule. In the 40th century, Kang points out that one of the Grandmaster’s champions has already fallen.
Next to fight is Iron Man, facing off against Dr. Spectrum and his sentient power prism. Saved from an initial blast by his new armor, Iron Man quickly takes to the offensive only to find that his attacks are useless against Spectrum’s defenses. Thinking quickly, Iron Man catches on to something Dr. Spectrum said and bathes Spectrum and his prism in ultraviolet light. Drained of his power, Dr. Spectrum collapses to the ground and another of Grandmaster’s champions is defeated.
In Egypt, Thor arrives but finds no enemy. Only when the ground begins to quake and Hyperion explodes from beneath him does Thor realize that he has fallen victim to a trap. After narrowly avoiding the ambush, Thor confronts Hyperion only to find that Mjolnir bounces off the most powerful member of the Squadron Sinister. Struck low by a blast of Hyperion’s atomic vision, Thor is forced back on the defensive and must use Mjolnir to block the incoming attack. Finally given a moment to think, Thor hurls Mjolnir at Hyperion, who, in his overconfidence allows Thor a free shot. Instead of ineffectually bouncing off Hyperion again, Mjolnir instead encircles Hyperion and traps him within a bubble of glazed sand.
Lastly we find Goliath in London, preparing to face off against Grandmaster’s final champion. Before he can find his foe however, Goliath is confronted by Avenger’s ally, Black Knight. Although he offers to help Goliath, Black Knight’s assistance is rejected. As Black Knight prepares to depart, the heroes notice that something moving at great speed is travelling around Big Ben. This can be none other than Goliath’s adversary, Whizzer. Although outmatched in size, Whizzer speeds around Goliath, making a near tornado around the supersized hero. Unfortunately for the Avengers, Black Knight decides to intervene and attacks Whizzer with the flat of the Ebony Blade, his mystical ancestral sword. Goliath quickly attempts to step in and stop Black Knight, but the damage is done. With the outside interference from Black Knight, Grandmaster interrupts the game and removes both Avengers and their competitors for a final round. With this, the Black Knight is left alone to swear that he will make amends for his interference, though he is uncertain of how he will do this.
Kang the Conqueror
One thought on “When Strikes The Squadron Sinister”
I really enjoyed the commentary in this podcast.
This issue uses the very effective team book formula of having some of the members break up and tackle the problem individually in a variety of distinctive locations. Each of the four sequences here managed to capture the flavor of their star. Even Hawkeye, whose transformation into Goliath wasn’t terribly popular with the fans, was visually dynamic as presented by Buscema.
The homage to the Justice League was always interesting to me. I think the Justice League also had a similar homage to the Avengers around the same time…the only two characters I remember offhand were Blue Jay standing in for Yellowjacket, and the Silver Sorceress representing the Scarlet Witch.