Heroes For Hire

Avengers #77

Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: John Buscema
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Sam Rosen

Featured Issue: Avengers #77

Plot Summary

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.

Avengers

Black Panther
Goliath
Quicksilver
Scarlet Witch
Vision

Villains

Cornelius Van Lunt
Kronus

The Blaze Of Glory…The Flames Of Love

Avengers #76Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: John Buscema
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Sam Rosen

Featured Issue: Avengers #76

Plot Summary

Deep within Avengers Mansion, Quicksilver and Vision watch as Black Panther and Captain America attempt to put the finishing touches on their D-Machine. With this device the Avengers hope to bridge the gap between their dimension and that of Arkon the Magnificent. There mission is one near and dear to their hearts; the rescue of Scarlet Witch. Impatient, Quicksilver chides his former teammates for taking their time know his sister’s life could be in danger. Vision however is quick to point out that there is far more at stake than just Scarlet Witch’s life and Quicksilver should not be so fixated on a single life when there are so many others in peril. In spite of Quicksilver’s earlier statements, Black Panther defends the speedster, noting that if Vision were human he might understand better what Pietro was going through.

Putting their banter put aside for a moment, Black Panther tells Cap to initiate the device. Unfortunately Panther’s fears are realized when the machine’s power supply proves unstable, causing him tremendous amounts of pain from the wild energy. Quicksilver attempts to intervene and rescue Black Panther but is rebuffed by force fields put in place to protect the device. With Black Panther barely holding on, Captain America acts quickly to free his friend, causing significant damage to the device in the process. With this latest setback, Quicksilver is unable to contain his frustration any more and releases it all on his former teammates. Tempers flare and Quicksilver storms out. Elsewhere in the mansion, Goliath works to create an oversized crossbow which matches his inhuman size, finding a way to possibly contribute since he is unable to travel dimensions with Black Panther. Has his experiment finds success, he is disturbed by an unexpected visitor, Black Widow. To his horror Widow announces that she will no longer be able to see Goliath. Stunned, Goliath demands that Widow tell him that she never loved him as proof of her intent. As tears well up in her eyes, she manages to force out the words as she walks away.

Elsewhere, a stranger creature journeys across an alien landscape. Riding on this beast of burden is the Scarlet Witch and her captor, Arkon the Magnificent. As they approach his city, Arkon chides Scarlet Witch for looking so glum. In his mind, the woman who will soon be his queen should be excited by the prospect, but Wanda has other ideas. She finds herself unable to have any pleasant feelings towards someone who would be willing to commit the mass murder of the people of Earth. As the pair arrive, they are greeted by Arkon’s elderly advisor who urges the conqueror to act quickly in order to save his world. Arkon inquires as to the status of the scientists building his nuclear device, but is told that they have not completed their work. Venturing to the dungeons, passing an imprisoned Toad on the way, Arkon attempts to persuade the scientists to his cause. When words fail, Arkon orders the most defiant of the men placed in a machine which will forcibly remove the knowledge they seek. With this knowledge, the advisor is able to create a handheld orb capable of accomplishing Arkon’s mission.

With his victory all but assured, Arkon takes the opportunity to win Scarlet Witch’s affections. Telling her the lie that he managed to find a way to save both planets, Arkon watches Scarlet Witch begin to soften. Taking things a step further, Arkon takes Wanda to see a special flower which is to be picked by the Imperion’s betrothed and worn on her wedding day. As Scarlet Witch picks the flower, she is reminded of a “Flower in the Crannied Wall” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Slowly the two are drawn to one another but just as they are about to kiss the moment is disturbed by a guard warning that a hole is space has opened and invaders sally forth through it. Immediately recognizing this as a counter-attack by the Avengers, Arkon summons his warriors for battle.

Even though the Avengers are vastly outnumbered, they manage to inflict devastating attacks on Arkon’s forces. Overwhelmed by the might of the assembled heroes, Arkon is forced back within his stronghold. Upon reaching his throne room, Arkon seizes upon the atom sphere which he intends to use to destroy the Earth. Scarlet Witch is appalled to learn she has been deceived, becoming even further incensed when Arkon claims to be above truth and falsehood. When the Avengers interrupt his escape, Arkon uses one of his lightning bolt javelins to transport back to Earth, arriving at the pinnacle of the Empire State Building. Thankfully the Avengers are right behind Arkon, thanks to the magic of Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjolnir. While Goliath scales the side of the build King Kong style, Quicksilver races to the top of the building. Although he is the first to arrive, Quicksilver is deflected by Arkon and knocked off the building, being saved at the last moment by Goliath. Repelling attacks from both Black Panther and Vision, Arkon attempts to deploy his world destroying weapon. Goliath is the only thing standing between the Earth and Armageddon and even his strength is being tested by the other-worldly visitor. Just as all seems lost, Arkon’s advisor appears in the sky telling the Imperion that there is no need for him to continue as Iron Man and Thor have created a device that is even now restoring the life giving rings around the planet. Seeing their quarrel at an end Arkon takes a moment free Scarlet Witch from her betrothal, if it is her will, before returning to his home. As the rest of the Avengers return home, Scarlet Witch finds herself once again staring at the Flower of Life, lost deep in her own thoughts.

Avengers

Black Panther
Captain America
Goliath
Iron Man
Quicksilver
Scarlet Witch
Thor
Vision

Villains

Arkon the Magnificent