Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: John Buscema
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Featured Issue: Avengers #82
In the early hours of September 21st, 1970, the island of Manhattan begins to awake to a new and horrific reality. As the sun rises, the citizenry is stunned to find that they are being held hostage by a small and well armed military force. Although the NYPD make a desperate stand, they are laid low by a gas attack, knocked unconscious by the non-lethal concoction. With the primary form of resistance under control, the army goes about destroying bridges and tunnels and then taking the mayor into custody.
Deep within the White House, the President receives the ransom demands from Aries, leader of the criminal cartel known as Zodiac. Aries makes it clear that he and his forces are in complete control of Manhattan, having just defeated an attempt by Army paratroopers to invade the island in an effort to retake it from Zodiac. Not only was the invasion defeated, but now all the paratroopers have been added to the island’s population as hostages. To make matters worse, Aries displays the motionless figures of Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and Quicksilver. Aries then demands one billion dollars in ransom or else he will begin to execute the entire population of the island. As the news makes its way across the nation, the remaining Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man all wonder what kind of help they might be able to render from outside the ensnared island.
Unbeknownst to the invading army, the Avenger, Black Panther remains free and on the run. Having recently aided Daredevil, Black Panther heads to Hell’s Kitchen in order to again illicit his aid in saving the city. Unfortunately, Daredevil’s alter ego, Assistant District Attorney Matt Murdock is wanted by the occupying army. Just as they are about to take him in to custody, Black Panther kills the lights in Murdock’s office allowing Daredevil to make quick work of the two soldiers. Black Panther then quickly catches Daredevil up on the current situation and that to the best of his knowledge the pair are the only two heroes left free in Manhattan. The duo decide that their first objective should be to rescue the Avengers from the television studio where they were being held.
Smashing their way through a skylight, Daredevil and Black Panther eliminate the waiting guards. Unfortunately for them, Aries had foreseen this possibility and moved the Avengers away from the studio shortly after recording his ransom message. Although he faces the heroes alone, Aries still holds the Key to the Zodiac, his supremely powerful badge of office. Using the emblem, Aries destroys the station, knocking out Black Panther. Fortunately for Black Panther, Daredevil faired better and manages to drag his comrade out of the burning building.
Knowing that his position is vulnerable, Aries decides to make an example of the captive Avengers as punishment for Daredevil and Black Panther’s defiance. Soon, Zodiac’s army has rounded up thousands of New Yorkers and herded them in to Madison Square Garden in order to watch the execution. Among those in the crowd is Daredevil, once again in the guise of his alter ego, Matt Murdock. When Aries’ plan becomes clear, Murdock begins to rouse the crowd into an angry mob, hoping to overwhelm their captors. While some members of the crowd join in, others are too afraid to resist. Murdock is quickly taken captive by the soldiers, but not before launching a fine wire out of his cane and into the machine holding the Avengers in suspended animation, causing it to fail. No longer immobilized, the Avengers break free of their restraints and with the help of Black Panther and Daredevil, quickly route Zodiac’s army. Aware that he is rapidly losing control of the situation, Aries flees in his aircraft but is pursued by Thor. Before the Asgardian Avenger is able to stop him, Aries directs the nerve paralyzing force field around the island to begin closing in, attempting to kill everyone in Manhattan. Thor then manages to land on the aircraft and using his enormous power, destroys the plane and shutting down the field. With their leader gone and a counter attack sure to begin any moment, Zodiac’s army surrenders to the Army. Back at Avengers Mansion, the reunited team realizes that their various missions were all related as Cornelius Van Lunt was using his land in order to train the invasion force. When the Avengers thwarted Van Lunt’s plans, Zodiac was forced to move up their time table so they wouldn’t be detected by the Native Americans. Their mission complete, Daredevil says he farewells and takes leave of the Avengers.