"The Coming of the Avengers!"
September 14, 1963
Far away from the golden spires of Asgard, where gods and monsters still roamed and battled, Loki, the god of trickery, sat in his tower on the Isle of Silence and plotted. "It is all coming together in my evil web." He gazed into a crystal ball, watching his past battles with the mortal who had taken his hated brother's power. "Lady Thor is fighting almost like a god, but my dear father grows more despondent. How can I best finally crush that blasted mortal once and for all?"
Waving his hand, the scene changed. "The rising mutants? No, they are too numerous and conflicted to make worthy pawns. Perhaps one of those costumed buffoons my sister always battles?"
Images moved quickly in the crystal. "Her own rouges are not worthy for the task. Indeed, if they could slay her, why have they not done so? Nay, I must find my tools elsewhere."
He slowed the images down as a monstrous gray skinned woman easily ripping a tank apart with her bare hands. "What is this? A giant walks Midgard?"
Focusing the crystal more intently, Loki watched as the Hulk (as he quickly learned her name) demolished heavily armored vehicle after vehicle. "Her strength is impressive, for a mortal. Mayhap she be the one I seek?" Loki leaned back on his throne and beneath his crooked brow a horrible plan began to brew.
Loki may have stood out against the barren desert landscape, but he didn't care. Throwing his bony shoulders back, he spied the train tracks on the valley floor below. "According to my magic, the true Hulk is no where in this area. A pity, but then again I need only her visage for my plan to succeed."
Reaching into his cloak, he withdrew a small vial of black liquid. Uttering words that had not been spoken in centuries, he poured the contents onto the sand at his feet. Within seconds, a grayish hand burst out of the ground, followed another. The Hulk, or a reasonable facsimile forced her way to her feet and stood before Loki. "What is your bidding Master?"
"Attack yon coach. Spare the people, but unleash as much destruction as you can against the mortal's means of transportation. When finished, come to me."
"As you command." The Hulk's double lumbered down to the train tracks and stood. The unholy thing wasn't idle for long. The train's whistle blared, alerting her to its presence.
With barely any effort, she reached down and tore the tracks apart. She continued to move down the line, yanking the tracks up like tape. The engineer, who first thought the gray skinned behemoth was simply a result of too much sun, sounded the warning whistle. When that failed to deter the Hulk, he pulled the brake lever, praying he still had enough track left to stop.
The Hulk moved slightly off the track as the train rushed past. With one arm, she reached out and snagged the engine. Metal screamed in protest as the massive train slowly ground to a halt.
"What the devil are you?" One of the crewmen staggered out.
The Hulk looked down at the pale man. "I'm the Hulk, and there will be more destruction. Inform Lady Thor that unless she fights me, I will wreck more trains." Before the stunned man's eyes, the Hulk turned and leapt away.
Loki cackled to himself. "The challenge has been issued. I know that witless mortal is on the same coast. She'll have to hear about it sooner or later!"
Loki was correct faster than he thought. Jane Foster, otherwise known as Lady Thor, was on the West Coast with Dr. Donald Blake. They had been attending a medical convention when the police arrived at the hotel.
The officer's cries of "Clear the area, the Hulk is on a rampage!" did little to calm the crowd. Finding themselves in a full-scale riot, Don and Jane slipped into a supply closet.
"The Hulk?" Don watched the crowd through a crack in the door. "This looks like a job for-"
Jane put a hand to his lips. "I know. Odd though, from what I saw, the Hulk always seemed a force for good."
"People change." Don closed the door and stepped back. "In any event, calming these people down would help prevent a lot of damage."
Jane smiled. "True." She held the gnarled walking stick over her head. "Wish me luck."
"You won't need it." Don covered his eyes as she brought the stick down. A blinding flash filled the room. Before him was no longer Jane Foster, nurse. In the now cramped closet was none other than Lady Thor, the goddess of thunder!
Opening the window, Lady Thor twirled her hammer and took the skies. She scanned the city below and failed to see any signs of the Hulk. "I must be careful. The Hulk's strength rivals that of my own!"
Rick Jones cursed. The cause of this was two reasons. The first was the radio announcement that broke into the afternoon sports coverage of the Hulk tearing up the Southwest. The second was the fact that hood of his truck fell down and nailed him squarely in the back.
Scrambling away from the broken down truck, Rick dashed for the work shed behind the garage, ignoring his boss's yelling. Once inside, he slammed the door shut and turned on his ham radio. Slipping on the headphones, he began to turn the dial.
"Calling all Teen Brigade! Calling all Teen Brigade! A-1 Emergency! Hulk on possible rampage in area; need Fantastic Four! Relay this to New York City operatives ASAP!"
The Teen Brigade, as Rick called them, had been growing steadily since their formation. Rick had always dug old radio shows, and the idea of having a network of operatives to give word on the goings on in the long underwear set appealed to him. After helping the Hulk tackle the Metal Master, the teens he had encountered decided to stay together. Rick invested his meager earnings into better radio equipment, and had been giving weekly updates. "Come on guys, don't let me down now!" Rick silently prayed.
Unknown to Mr. Jones, his broadcasted pleas were listened to by more than his usual audience. "Hmm. This offers a most interesting challenge. I expected a call for help, as well as more meddlesome heroes, but the so-called Fantastic Four? Nay, their presence may alter my scheme too much. Better that message is read by another group." Loki quickly searched the mortal realm, seeking out other heroes. He knew they had to be within range of the Lady Thor, yet weaker than either his accursed sister or his phony Hulk. Before time would even register for a mortal, he found them.
It was child's play to direct Rick's radioed cry to another frequency. It was easier still to make sure his intended targets and the targets alone heard it. Loki conjured a fresh goblet of mead and sat back to watch the drama unfold.
Iron Man, public protector of Tony Stark, stopped short. The Arizona heat was baking the sand around everyone. Before the golden armored figure several sheets of metal stood silently in the heat. A small crowd of officials stared intently, wondering why Stark's much vaunted hero was failing to demonstrate why Stark had so much faith in him.
The answer would have shocked most of them. For within the gold colored armor was none other than Tony Stark himself. Wounded in Southeast Asia some months back, Stark had been forced to don the armor in order to keep himself alive. The answer for his standing still would have equally shocked them. On Tony's private radio channel came a loud and clear message. "A-1 Emergency! Hulk on possible rampage in area."
"Who is this?" Tony tried to figure out how the signal came in. "No towers in the area, but still, if the Hulk is causing trouble, it might be a better display of this suit's abilities than simply lifting a few pieces of scrap."
Turning to the observers, Iron Man lumbered towards them. "Ladies and gentlemen, I have just received word that the incredible creature known as the Hulk has been sighted on a rampage nearby." Holding up his iron gauntlets, he motioned for peace before speaking again. "Mr. Stark has given me permission to handle this situation in my own way, as both a means to demonstrate the capabilities of this suit and to aide officials in stopping the monster."
Ignoring the questions that followed, Iron Man moved over to a waiting group of technicians. "Going to have to conserve power. Boys, fire up the rocket sled and let's give these people a show."
Some of Stark Industries best and brightest nodded and uncovered a shiny device that beguiled imagination. A circular base with a steering column, the Stark Rocket Sled was intended to carry soldiers over hostile terrain. Now it was being used to carry a man into a battle between a monster and god. Iron Man waved cheerfully to the crowd and stepped onboard. With a push of a button, the sled hummed to life and took off. Using the onboard systems, Iron Man was able to pinpoint the origin of the broadcast. "Once I deal with the Hulk, I going to have a nice long talk with whoever broke into my signal."
Hank and Maria Pym found themselves in a most unusual position. They had nothing to do. With crime at an all time low in Center City, Hank and Maria were at loss. "Maybe we should take up another hobby?" Maria looked around the kitchen. Every square inch of the room was covered by either some fantastic contraption of Hanks' or some memento of a past case.
"I hear some heroes put everything in giant caves under their houses." Hank sipped his coffee as he read the latest Scientific American.
"Cute, but the basement is already full." Maria ran a finger over the top of the refrigerator and blanched when it came back black. "Or maybe we could clean?"
Hank sighed and put down his magazine. "I'll get the mop if you get the vacuum."
"A-1 Emergency! Hulk on possible rampage in area!" blared over their radio, interrupting the plans.
"Guess the housework can wait." Hank dragged a familiar red and blue costume out of the closest.
"Wait, you mean you're coming with me?" Maria's tone was hopeful.
"Of course. You think I'm going to sit on the bench while you tackle the Hulk?" Hank slipped on the costume. "Come on dear, let's show the world what Ant-Man and the Wasp can do!"
Lady Thor found the Hulk within seconds of landing. She instantly suspected a trap. "Halt!" She tightened the grip on her hammer. "What business does thou have with these mortals?"
The Hulk casually dropped the car she was lifting. Strolling over to a parked truck, she leaned against it, ignoring the groaning metal. Folding her massive arms, she smiled a familiar smile. "Tell me, 'o worthy sister, do you not wonder why our all mighty father does not act?"
"Loki! I suspected as much." She hefted Mjolnir, but the Hulk raised a hand.
"Strike me not." Her grin grew wider. "Else the dear Lady Sif shall find herself mourning both a husband AND a daughter."
"Thurd?" Lady Thor paled. "What trickery have thou wrought?"
"Oh, very little. A few mountain trolls who owed me a favor, a hidden fortress just outside Asgard, child's play really."
"The blind old fool couldn't care less. I suppose you could storm the Rainbow Bridge, fight your way past my minions, and reverse my enchantments without him noticing if you acted swiftly enough."
"Loki, why are you doing this?"
The Hulk's grin nearly split her face. "Because I hate you. That is reason enough." The Hulk slowly faded away. Lady Thor turned from the destruction and took to the skies.
Loki, from within his lair, laughed.
Elizabeth Ross was not in the best of moods. Her recent trials were stress enough for a small army, but when startled with the sound of slamming metal, her dander was already up. Sighing with no attempt to hide her annoyance, she pushed herself away from her desk and turned around. "Ok, what is on the loose this time?"
General Morris, commander of the Gamma Base, stepped into view. "Sorry Ms. Ross, but according to our reports, you."
Her annoyance replaced with shock, Betty stepped closer to the glass. "What?"
Morris held up a series of photographs. "According to dozens of eyewitnesses, the Hulk has been tearing up the entire Southwest."
"But that's crazy!"
"Well, yes, but frankly we had to make sure." Morris tapped the steel bars that separated them.
Betty shook her head. "Ok, well, I think I can prove that's not me."
Morris signaled to someone off to the side. Seconds later the bars retracted. "True, but now the country is in a panic."
"I guessed as much, but what do we do?"
Morris motioned her to follow him. "That is where it gets tricky. If we let you go to investigate, and I am convinced you are the best person for the task, you run the risk of panicking the public even more." Betty had to admit it, but he was right. It was doubtful the panicked populace would be able tell the difference between her and the fake.
"But if I do nothing, how do we stop this imposter?"
"Dr. Banner is already at work."
"With all due respect, sir, if that thing is half as tough as me, there is nothing on this base that can handle that."
Morris stopped. He knew she was right, but there was still too much at stake. Compromising, he led her outside. "You have a point, but this is going to be the military's show. You can go with Major Talbot as he oversees the operation, but I only want you to engage the enemy as a last resort. Understand?"
Betty nodded and gave a salute. "Understood sir, and thank you."
"Don't make me regret this action."
The phony Hulk landed on the outskirts of Harmony and quickly made her way through the city's defenses. The police and National Guard had been mobilized in record time. The Hulk went through them in less than a minute. Spying the distant sight of a circus tent, the Hulk laughed cruelly and leapt, jumping over the town and crashing near the circus. "Perhaps this will please my master." The creature mused.
"Hold it right there monster!"
The Hulk turned at the sound of the voice. "Who dares speak to me?" An unknown figure approached.
Iron Man had left the rocket sled behind. Transferring most of his power to his power rays, he calculated every possible avenue of attack. "I guess you never heard of Iron Man? Allow me to introduce myself." Holding up his hand, Iron Man fired off two blazing bursts from his repulsor rays. The Hulk took both impacts in the chest and grunted.
"Was that your best?" Iron Man began to reroute power and back away. The Hulk was on him in a second, the massive gray hands slowly crushing his helmet.
Just as the golden covering began to crack, the Hulk suddenly dropped him and put her hands to her eyes. Bellowing in rage, she swung at empty air. "Who dares attack me? Show yourself!"
Ant-Man and the Wasp suddenly appeared behind the dazed Iron Man. "Come on, while the monster is blinded!" Hank and Maria dragged Iron Man to safety as the Hulk blindly punched the air around her.
Ducking behind a nearby billboard, they set the armored avenger down. "Are you hurt?" The Wasp checked out the armor. "Stark must be a genius to design this!" She thought as she examined the damaged suit.
"I'm fine." Tony wheezed. His power was drained slightly by the attack. He couldn't tell them that, but unless he recharged within the hour he was dead. "I just got surprised that's all."
The sound of a helicopter filled the air. Iron Man staggered to his feet. "Friends of you guys?"
"No, looks like Uncle Sam decided to lend a hand." Ant-Man noticed the Army insignia on the side of the door. It stayed in the air as it fired several large caliber rounds at the Hulk.
The Hulk, to her credit, ignored the shell's flattening against her skin and tore a support wire away from the main tent. With precision aim, she tangled it within the copter's blades, dragging it down.
Several armed men and one woman spilled out. The woman rushed over to them while the men engaged the Hulk. "Hey, are you ok?"
"Just fine." The Wasp eyed the new group. "What's going on?"
Betty jerked a thumb at the battle. "The plan is to hit that imposter with some freeze grenades, but" the Hulk tore a rotor blade free from the copter's wreckage and used it as a sword, "right now that looks a little doubtful."
"How about a distraction?" Ant-Man had an idea. "Just tell your men to fall back."
Betty looked at the odd trio. After a second, she shrugged her shoulders. "Why not?"
Running back to Major Talbot, she ducked as the Hulk cleaved a massive path between them. "Major, fall back!"
"What? Why?" Talbot dropped to avoid being skewered. Deciding at any idea would be an advantage at this point he ordered the group to fall back towards him.
Ant-Man adjusted his helmet controls. "I've never tried anything this big before." He muttered to himself. Sending his thoughts out, he mentally commanded every ant in the area to converge on his location.
The Hulk, seeing the troops fall back, dropped her weapon. "What's this? Is there no one here brave enough to face me as a warrior?"
"Yes, right here!" Ant-Man stepped out from behind the makeshift barrier.
The Hulk took a simple glance at Ant-Man and broke into near deafening laughter. The laughter ended when the soft dirt under the Hulk's feet suddenly gave way, dropping the gray skinned goliath into a deep pit. "Move in and fire!" Talbot and the other troops rushed forward to the edge of the pit.
The grenade they had been issued was a special model designed by Dr. Banner. It exploded, coating the Hulk in a special chemical that reacted to the open air. The giant was quickly covered in ice.
"Is it over?" Ant-Man questioned Talbot. For a response, the Hulk easily broke free of the ice.
"Enough!" Betty dashed forward and leapt into the pit. Ant-Man tried to stop her, but she fought free of his grip. Only the Wasp prevented him from falling in with her.
Before their horrified eyes, Betty's form began to change. Her slender frame darkened and grew, bursting out of her plain khakis. The Hulk, the genuine article, landed with both feet atop of the imposter and proceeded to stomp away. "Alright, spill, who are you?"
The imposter grinned. "Ah, so the true one was in the area the whole time." The fake's voice changed, growing deeper. "Go East and ye may find the truth." Before the Hulk could ask, the imposter faded from sight. The ice collapsed and broke at the Hulk's feet.
"Now what did that mean?"
It had been an easy trip. That was the first sign it was a trap. Lady Thor made her way from Earth to the Isle of Silence in record time with not a single god or troll to block her way. Throwing her head back, she issued a challenge to the dark landscape around her. "Loki! Show thyself!"
"And spoil my merriment? Nay fair sister, I have spent too much time on this game to allow you an easy victory. Fight my champions, scale my tower, and perhaps thou will live to see the mortal realm once more." Loki's laughter rang in her ears. "Oh, and more thing dear sister. You have only an hour, then thy daughter shall wake no more." The ground beneath her feet rumbled. The path before her broke and split, dozens of inhuman hands breaking free of the stone that imprisoned the owners.
"Loki, I will not fail. I swear, for honor and glory eternal!" She raised Mjolnir high and summed a lightening bolt. It streaked through the air and struck a large dying tree. It fell with a crash, landing atop of the dwarves that sought escape. Leaping, she ran atop the tree, keeping Loki's tower in sight always.
Loki couldn't help but smile as he saw Lady Thor's fight. "Oh, well played sister, well played. A better performance I could not ask for." Rising from the couch, Loki slipped on his cape and helm. "I suppose I should make ready for my part in this little drama." He opened one of the endless doors that littered his tower and stepped inside.
The sounds of battle echoed and rolled across the blasted land, an act that was all the more impressive when the land itself is known as the Isle of Silence. Lady Thor pushed forward, gaining ground with every swing of her hammer. She was not backing down, no matter how many trolls pushed forward. "Fight on ye curs, fight and see how I send to Hel's table!"
With one particularly strong swing, Mjolnir bowled over three dozen trolls before returning to its mistress's aching hand. Stumbling forward, more out of muscle memory than any willing action on her part, Lady Thor tossed off her battered helmet. The tower grew no closer.
A sound of clapping slowed her march. "Who?"
"Well played honored sister, well played!" Loki appeared next to her. "One might believe you intended to slay me."
"Thurd." Her voice was low.
"Who? Ah, yes. My darling niece," Loki's voice trailed off. "Oh, you mean how she fares? Well enough I suppose. Midgard food is such a poor quality, but I believe she'll be here before Midwinter."
His speech was ended by Lady Thor's hand around his throat. "Where is she?"
"The same place she was before you left, and before you ignored High father Odin's warnings about trespassing."
She loosened her grip slightly. "This was a trap?"
"Of sorts. While you were here, I was on Midgard. As we speak, four mortals are now in my thrall. They are going to unleash destruction the likes of which you cannot comprehend." She released him. "Of course, you could stop me and free them from my spell, provided you best me in battle."
"Where?" her eyes flashed. "And why not here and now?"
"Because if thou art discovered, thou will be put to death as per Odin's orders. As to the battleground, I believe mortals call the land 'Detroit'? Meet me there within the hour." He vanished. "Best hurry, least father's guards find you." His mocking laughter quickly faded.
In a rage, Lady Thor hurtled Mjonlir at Loki's tower. The enchanted hammer smashed the foundation, sending the stone spire crashing to the ground. Once it had returned to her, she took to the skies once more. "One way or another Loki, this ends today!"
The Hulk, the real one, emerged from the hole. "Situation is contained Major." Iron Man, after rerouting his power cell and making a few quick repairs, walked over.
"So what happened here?" Talbot looked annoyed at the golden gladiator's stance.
"If you don't mind," Talbot interrupted, "We appreciate Stark Industries' aid in this matter, but I think the military can handle it from here."
"With all due respect sir," the Wasp spoke up, "this may be something out of your realm of experience."
Talbot glanced at her. "You two handled that monster a little while ago, right?"
Ant-Man nodded. "An alien being, yes."
The Hulk coughed, jarring everyone. "Look, this imposter said something about going east. Maybe we could argue this later?"
One of the soldier's rushed forward. "Sir, urgent message from base!" he shoved a receiver into the major's hand.
Talbot took it and answered. His face paled. "Yes sir, I understand." Talbot almost dropped the receiver. "Something has landed in Michigan."
"East, eh?" Iron Man pressed a dial on his gauntlet. The rocket sled activated and landed nearby. "Major, with the Stark Industries latest jet prototype I could be there in less than half an hour."
Talbot ran a hand over his chin, calculating the numbers. "You lot may be the best choice." Gathering his men, he put a hand on the Hulk's arm. "As a duly appointed representative of the United States Army, I hereby authorize you to," he faltered "go and take care of whatever it is."
As the motley collection rushed away, Private Williams raised a hand. "Sir? Permission to speak freely?"
"Shouldn't we have just gone instead?"
Talbot cast a sideways glance at the soldier. "Williams, we are dealing with the unknown. You saw our weapons fail against what was a glorified magic trick. Better to send in someone who can shrug off an artillery shell first, correct?"
Lady Thor touched down. She barely had time to register her surroundings before she heard a crowd exclaiming about something. She was breathing hard, not only from the flight, but also her battle. "Loki's champions must be around here." She steeled herself for another battle and rushed out into the street.
"So, what landed?" Iron Man scanned the area. They were attracting a large crowd. After landing at the airport, they had made their way into greater downtown Detroit.
"I'm not sure." The Wasp signed a few autographs. "The radio said a flying saucer, but it seemed to vanish when the jet touched down."
"The police are waiting for us." Ant-Man tried to push past the gathering crowd. "But I suggest we hurry."
"Hey, isn't that Lady Thor?" A voice from the crowd shouted. The Goddess of Thunder stormed past the crowd, a dark cloud forming in the sky.
"Ho villains! I see my brother doth choose his champions well!"
Iron Man, the Hulk, Ant-Man, and the Wasp stood silently. The Hulk was the first one to speak. "Did anyone understand that?"
"Fear not, thou my heart be troubled, I shall free ye from thy enchantment!"
"Enchantment?" Ant-Man was about to ask for clarification when Mjolnir streaked through the air and knocked the Hulk back into a parked car. The crowd panicked and fled, leaving the street almost eerily silent.
The result was instantaneous. The Wasp and Ant-Man both shrank and retreated to the curb. Iron Man powered up his repulsor rays as the Hulk pulled herself free of the pulped remains of what was once a '62 Ford Fairlane. "Ok, just try that again goldilocks!"
The Hulk tried to lift the mystic hammer as Iron Man moved forward. The sun gleamed off his golden armor. "Lady Thor, I am asking you to turn yourself in."
"Surrender to Loki? Never!" With a slight gesture, her hammer flew from the ground (where the Hulk strained herself trying to lift it) back to her outstretched hand. Lifting it above her head, she slammed it to the ground. Lightening struck the ground around Iron Man.
Inside his armor, Tony Stark was sweating. "I've never seen such power! If I don't take her out of the fight quick, she could rampage across the country!" Waiting until the goddess opened herself up again, he fired twin repulsor rays. The beams struck Lady Thor full in the chest.
The goddess howled in rage and pain, but never lost her footing. "Fire mortal, you'll find the goddess of thunder is more than equal to thy flame!" To Stark's horror, she actually began to move forward, shrugging off the rays that would have punched through a tank with no effort.
"Yeah? What equal to me?" The Hulk pushed Iron Man aside and rushed forward. He managed to switch off his rays before he hit any buildings, but he caught the goddess of thunder directly in the face. He gasped in disbelief.
Lady Thor's face was burned, and burned badly; her helmet had been knocked free of her head, and he could see smoke rising from her hair. Aside from that, she bore no other injuries. The Hulk reached out and gripped her arm.
The Hulk had both hands on Lady Thor's wrist. She was trying to get her to drop the hammer, but had no luck. "You're strong Blondie, I'll give you that."
Lady Thor smiled and nailed the Hulk with a left cross. "Aye, your strength is almost as great as my own. Perhaps when thou art free we could spar."
The Hulk shook off the blow and drove her foot into the Asgardian's instep. The golden haired warrior refused to drop the hammer, but she faltered and dropped to her knees. "Get it through your head lady, we're not the ones attacking!"
"Bah!" Lady Thor forced herself to her feet. "A pawn's decrees!" She tapped Mjolnir against the ground three times, sending lighting bolts streaking through the sky. The Hulk took several million volts right to the chest and staggered back. "Why won't you fall?" She dragged herself to her feet. Her tone was more angry than curious. The wind began to pick up, as the sky grew darker. "By the gods of old, by the power I wield, I bid thee fall!"
The whole block went white, as lightening, great streaks like the hand of some ancient force, seemed to tear through the clouds and envelop the Hulk. Iron Man, blinded and deafened by the attack, rushed forward and tackled Lady Thor. At point blank range, he fired his repulsor rays.
The reaction was immediate. Lady Thor turned her attention from the Hulk and focused on him. With a balled fist, she batted him aside. Tony saw stars swimming across his eyes as he tried to regain his footing. He heard her heavy boots stomping closer to him, but he found his legs wouldn't respond.
As she lifted her mighty weapon, she suddenly dropped it. Her hands went to her eyes, clawing. Screaming incoherently, she staggered back. With a scream of protest from his armor, Tony looked up. "Ants?"
Thousands of ants were swarming over Lady Thor's head. Madly clawing at the biting horde, her hands suddenly went to her ears. "What madness is this?"
The Wasp was presently not enjoying her current surroundings. Inside Lady Thor's ear, she had enlarged herself only an inch, but it was enough to get the goddess's attention. With Ant-Man directing an entire army of ants, Lady Thor was driven to the ground in seconds.
"Hey long hair, remember me?" Lady Thor looked up, tears running down the raw cheeks. The Hulk loomed over her. Smoke was still rising off of her gray skin. She reached out for Mjolnir, but the Hulk's giant fists enveloped her hand. "If there is one thing you don't want me to be, it's angry."
Lady Thor never saw the blow. She felt her breastplate shatter as she flew backwards. She hit the ground and lay still. The Wasp crawled out of her head and resumed normal size. "Is it over?"
"Wonderful!" A booming voice came from the sky. Before their startled eyes, a thin man dressed in green and gold appeared. "Truly, I have witnessed battles between gods that less epic than this!"
"Who are you?" Iron Man was helped to his feet by the Hulk and Ant-Man.
"Someone." Loki held up his hand, ignoring their questions. His attention was drawn to the fallen Mjolnir. After a few seconds, much to their shock, the mystic hammer was replaced by a gnarled piece of wood. Loki picked it up and strolled over to the frail form of Jane Foster.
Casually picking her up with one hand, Loki began to slowly float away. "Wait!" The Wasp shouted. Loki stopped and stared at her.
"What manner of mortal dares stop a god?"
"I do. Who are you, and what just happened?"
Loki grinned, and the Wasp felt her blood go cold. "I will tell you no lies. I am Loki, son of the giants and heir to Asgard. At least, I will be once I dispose of this flea."
"You mean you tricked us into fighting her?" The Hulk rumbled.
"My, and I thought your intelligence was lowered in thy beastly form." Loki's laughter echoed throughout the street. "I will explain my motives, but not here. Meet me in yon forge." A green arrow appeared in the sky. "Since this victory was too easy, I desire more sport. If you fools can best me fairly, I might tell of my plans. Or perhaps I shall just return this mortal to you. Either way, I shall be there." He faded away, taking the unconscious Foster and her cane with him.
They took stock of themselves. Iron Man's armor was dented and cracked. Unknown to them, his power cells that kept his heart beating were still working, but the question was for how long? The Hulk was bruised and burned. Her incredible muscles were healing, but far too slowly. Ant-Man and the Wasp were the only ones not injured in some way, but they knew their powers would be of little use against Loki.
"So what's the plan?" Ant-Man looked around.
"We put that guy in the ground." The Hulk cracked her knuckles. "Who wants to help?"
Loki dumped Jane on the ground. "Amazing, such injuries would fell a god, yet on her…," Jane had numerous bruises on her body, but only bruises. "An interesting development; I would have not have guessed that injuries in one form fail to transfer to another." Taking the cane in his hand, he twirled it around briefly. "To hold the hammer of Thor, the irony is too much!" He casually tossed it to the ground. "I could end the both of you here, but my plans require you to be among the living for a little while longer." Turning around, he spied the assembled mortals making their way towards him. "I suppose if I am to strut upon this stage I should be attired as the proper character." He moved away from Jane and strolled through the interior of the foundry. The workers fled when the fight started, which was just as well. "This fight is not for spectators."
Hearing the mortals approaching, and after checking to make sure the gnarled cane was within the proper distance of Jane Foster, Loki strolled boldly out into the open air. The Hulk landed first.
Her skin was burned and her clothes tattered, but he could see the rage bubbling under the surface. Iron Man was behind her. His armor was dented and cracked, but he still marched forward. Ant-Man and the Wasp trailed behind them. They looked to be in better shape than the former, but he also knew their power was lesser.
Clapping his hands together, Loki chuckled. "The gang is here." His expression changed to one of concern. "That is how you mortals say that expression, correct?"
"Actually it's 'hail, hail, the gang's all here'" Ant-Man interjected, but quickly backed down.
"Ah, my mistake. I admit your slang and euphemisms still give me trouble."
"Pal, we're about to give you a lot more." The Hulk clenched her fists.
"I don't doubt it, but how can you battle something like this?" With a snap of his fingers, Loki's skin and clothes turned green. Heat radiated off of him as the ground began to sizzle.
"He's radioactive!" Iron Man shouted as his internal sensors screamed out warnings.
"Get behind me!" The Hulk moved in front of the group. "I'm used to it."
"Perhaps, but tell me giant, how much can you really hold?" Loki smiled as the brightness increased.
Ant-Man and the Wasp slipped away. Around the foundry, and in their shrunken forms, a plan hatched. Hank moved over to a series of levers while Maria hitched a ride on a scurrying cockroach.
While the Hulk soaked up Loki's deadly attack, Iron Man moved to blast the god of evil. Quickly enlarging, Hank shouted to the pair. "Quick, knock him back here!"
Loki, distracted by his voice, turned just as Iron Man fired. The blast was enough to knock the trickster back several yards. "Fools! You think such an attack would be enough to stop me?"
Hank reached out and grabbed the nearest lever. For a reply, he pulled the lever, which released dozen steel beams from a crane overhead. They crashed around Loki, burying him under the metal.
The roll of thunder made everyone freeze. Lady Thor limped out of the darkness, the Wasp behind her. "Look who I found!"
"Aye, and my thanks." Turning her attention to Loki, Lady Thor glowered. "Thurd was never in any danger, was she?"
Loki's smile came back, eerie due to his glowing body. "True."
"This whole thing was a farce?" She tightened the grip on Mjolnir.
"Aye, and one you played so well." Loki was caught off guard as the Hulk picked up a fallen beam and slammed it against his head. The result was Loki being freed from his trap, albeit stunned.
"Quick, hit that molten lead!" The Wasp pointed to the large transport filled with molten lead, left abandoned when the fight broke out. Lady Thor caught on and aimed her hammer. It shattered one of the supports, sending the liquid metal cascading out and over Loki.
Loki tried to stand up, but the heat and pressure were too much. With an outraged scream, he leapt towards his foes one final time before the liquid metal enveloped him completely. With Mjolnir once back in her hand, Lady Thor caused a small storm to occur over the mound, cooling it quickly.
"Excuse me friends, but there is one task I must complete." Without any further warning, Lady Thor picked up the mound and with one heave, sent it flying into the sky. "There, hopefully Loki shall trouble us no more." The leaden lump sailed through the air, gaining altitude until it vanished.
"That was pretty impressive." Iron Man stepped forward.
"Yeah, you guys did alright back there." The Hulk folded her arms.
"Us? Heck, you were the one doing all the heavy lifting." Ant-Man gushed.
"Thy modesty speaks well, but thy valor speaks for itself." Lady Thor clasped a hand on Hank's shoulder, nearly dropping him. "Thine battle prowes rivals nearly my own."
The Wasp spoke up. "You know, together we were pretty good out there."
"You have a point." Iron Man had an idea. "Why don't we stick together? Like the All-Winners Squad did?"
"You mean as a team?" The Hulk looked skeptical. "I don't know."
"Come gray one, thy strength is nearly to mine own! Together, we could shake the very pillars of Midgard!" Lady Thor held her hammer out before her.
"Well, I'm convinced." Ant-Man stuck his hand out and placed it over Mjolnir.
"Why not?" The Hulk placed her hand over his. "I'd like to see anyone tangle with the likes of us!"
"I agree." Iron Man put his gloved hand over hers. "The world is changing, and it needs heroes of today."
"No, not quite." The Wasp put her hand over his. "It needs someone to right the wrongs, avenge the people."
"By Bifrost, 'Avengers!' That shall be our name!"
Breaking away, the group looked at the area as the workers slowly returned. A foreman stepped forward. "Hey, what happened here?"
Lady Thor looked at the older man. "Mortal, go forth and spread the word. The Avengers hath assembled!"
In the wake of the clean up, various news agencies spread the word. The team had made no comments over anything, but word had spread to the White House. A few days later, once the areas ravaged during the fighting had been repaired, all five heroes stood before the president.
"Mister President, always a pleasure." Iron Man stepped forward with his hand out.
Kennedy shook it briefly before going down the line. "The reason I called you here is simple." He returned to his chair. "Things are growing tense around the world. Russia and China are in a space to create more, ah, individuals like yourselves, European magic is getting stranger by the day, and the alien encounters are growing by the week."
"What do you want of us Mr. Kennedy?" The Wasp asked, slightly breathless.
"I want you five to remain a team. The Avengers has a nice ring to it." He shook his head, getting back on topic. "Officially, you are independent. Iron Man's employer Mister Stark has already agreed to front your operation, but unofficially I want you to work with us."
"And not tell the people?" Ant-Man was troubled. "Why can't we just be honest?"
Kennedy shook his head. "I sympathize, I do, but if the United States government unveiled what is essentially five new kinds of weapons, it could start a whole new arms race, one which I doubt anyone would win."
"So we stay in the spotlight, but as an opening act?" The Hulk grumbled. She wasn't comfortable with the idea of more deception.
"Something like that. Right now, the public wants you. New heroes for a new age and all that; but the road ahead is not going to be easy."
"Sir, we all love our country, but if we had to expose ourselves-" Iron Man started to talk, but an upheld hand silenced him.
"I understand, but no, I won't have you reveal your identities to the people. You can work out something later, but in the meantime I want you all to relax. You're not soldiers. I am granting you some limited authority, so you can be more effective." He pushed a series of envelopes. "Everything is explained in greater detail. Right now though, relax. You five have earned a break."
Meanwhile, back in Asgard
Loki inwardly smiled as he outwardly fumed. A team of dwarfs chiseled away at his iron cocoon. "Blasted metal, weakening my magic!" That had been the only snag in his plan.
Freed, he left the underground forges and moved back towards the golden spires of home. "It worked perfectly, I must say." Loki's spirits soared. "With all five pieces on the board, it would be child's play to smash them all!"
He corrected himself. "No, that would be too easy. Odin, dear all seeing blind man Odin, must be told of this travesty. And then…" he chuckled as he walked. It carried across the land, chilling the marrow of every living thing.
Well, here's another issue. Boy, this one took a while to get here, didn't it? I hope you found the wait to be worth it.
To begin, this tale was based on "The Coming of the Avengers!" which first appeared in The Avengers I#1 (September 1963) with credits to Stan Lee (script), Jack Kirby (pencils), and Dick Ayers (inks). All characters and concepts owned by Marvel Comics/Disney Inc. all rights reserved.
So, basically, who are the Avengers? In a word, they are the big guns. The best of the best, cream of the crop, etc. and they are going to be on the forefront in the Marvel Universe. Much like the other Marvel books, you can expect some similarities to the main Marvel books, but there are going to be some differences. What kind? Well, you're just going to read them to find out, eh?
And an extra special thanks to Darci for proofreading this.
Be here next time when a surprise villain makes an appearance.
And also be sure to watch out for the next upcoming works:
Journey Into Mystery#15-Lady Thor battles the Lava Men
Sensational Comics#14-Trial by Sorcery
Tales to Astonish#13-When Cyclops Walks the Earth
Amazing Fantasy#5-The Grim Ghost!