Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: John Buscema
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Featured Issue: Avengers #77
Much to the surprise and horror of a rapidly assembling crowd, Goliath along with his fellow Avengers begin to make quick work of a building scheduled for demolition. Each member of the team makes use of their powers in an effort to bring the building down in record time. As fear begins to grip the crowd, several wonder if this is what the Avengers are truly about, who out there can stop them. With the final crash of debris the police show up demanding to know what the Avengers are up to. As Goliath begins to explain that the situation isn’t what it appears to be, a well dressed man arrives in his limousine. Introducing himself as Cornelius Van Lunt, the man produces a property deed from his coat and claims that he hired the Avengers to demolish the property which he had just acquired. With the police mollified, Van Lunt sends his lackey Wilkins to pay the Avengers for their work. Although they accept the money, they are displeased to discover that the property had originally been intended for use as a playground, before being acquired by Van Lunt.
Thinking back on how they found themselves in this predicament, Scarlet Witch recalls a late night visit from their patron, Tony Stark. Literally hat-in-hand, Stark informs the Avengers that a man named Van Lunt is making a hostile takeover bid on Stark Industries. As a result, he is being forced to call on all his financial resources and must request the unpaid rent for use of Avengers Mansion, of which Stark is still owner. While it is a rather substantial sum, the Avengers understand Tony’s situation and vow to raise the money in order to help their benefactor. To the surprise of all assembled, Black Panther says that although he would like to help, he is unable to because he has recently taken a job as a teacher. This only makes Stark feel worse about the $2000 a month he has to ask his friends for.
Elsewhere, a motley group of thugs and villains are wrapping up a card game, just in time to be spotted by their employer, the hooded villain Kronos. With several of his “employees” mouthing off, Kronus takes a minute to remind them exactly who is in charge. Once order has been restored Kronus and his gang begin reviewing films of their last heist. Things went according to plan until the arrival of Black Panther. The heist is thrown into total chaos and the villains are only able to escape by gassing Black Panther. Needless to say Kronus is not pleased, especially considering that other Avengers have stopped several of their previous attempts at thievery. In spite of their recent failures, Kronus is confident that his next plan will finally deal with the Avengers.
The next morning a helicopter makes its way through Manhattan trailing a banner which reads “For Hire: The Avengers”. The team find themselves surprised that things have come to this, but in order to help Tony Stark they are willing to go to almost any length. They even go on late night television in order to promote themselves. Soon there are letters pouring in with all sorts of lucrative offers, though none of them meet their high standards. The Avengers continue to dig through the letters until they come across one with an offer from none other than Cornelius Van Lunt. The offer is so generous the Avengers decide they must look into it and agree to meet with Van Lunt. The conversation gets off to a rough start and only gets worse when Van Lunt offers to leave Stark alone if the Avengers agree to work for him for a full week. With their business concluded, the Avengers depart Van Lunt’s office.
At the end of the week, the Avengers have almost finished with their tasks for Van Lunt. Black Panther is off teaching his class of high school students about their African heritage. While he manages to get through to his pupils, he is a bit disappointed when they want to hear about the great black warrior…Falcon. Not far away, Kronus and his gang prepare to put their plan into motion. Their target is a bank in Midtown and Kronus has a special device that should deal with the Avengers and allow their heist to succeed. At the same time, the Avengers make their way to their final task for Van Lunt, fixing up an abandoned tunnel under the East River. Although they feel the job may be a trap, the heroes are true to their word and begin their work. With the Avengers out of sight, a truck pulls up and the supervisor climbs on board. Inside, the man removes his mask and once again dons his hood as Kronus. Taking hold of his special device, Kronus actives the demolition switch and blows up the tunnel.
With the Avengers gone, Kronus and his gang make for their target. Their heist once again goes off without a hitch, at least until Black Panther shows up. While the gang battles Black Panther, they are distracted and caught off guard when the other Avengers, having escaped before the tunnel exploded, attack and quickly disarm the hoodlums. Goliath manages to capture Kronus and Black Panther takes the opportunity to unmask the hooded menace. When the man is revealed as Wilkins, Van Lunt’s flunky, he admits that the whole situation was an elaborate scheme to get even with Van Lunt for driving him out of business years earlier. As the Avengers take Wilkins into custody, Van Lunt offers the Avengers the money they were promised in their contract. The heroes turn down the money because although it would be beneficial, it comes at too high a moral cost.
Cornelius Van Lunt