Avengers (1st series) #104

Issue Date: 
October 1972
Story Title: 
With a Bang—and a Whimper!

Roy Thomas (writer / editor), Rich Buckler (artist), Joe Sinnott (inker), John Costanza (letterer)

Brief Description: 

Quicksilver and Larry Trask arrive in Australia and head for the Sentinels’ secret lair, where they can already see the other Avengers battling Sentinels to enter. Rather than join them, Quicksilver and Larry instead take another secret entrance. In the meantime, the captive Scarlet Witch learns from the Sentinels’ leader Number 2 that they are using her to power the device that causes the sun flares. The next flare will sterilize humanity, after which the Sentinels will create a new humanity without mutants. In the meantime, the Avengers have fought their way in but face even more Sentinels. In the chaos, of the fight, the Vision disappears. Pietro and Larry too have entered the lair via a second entrance but run into a Sentinel, which copies Quicksilver’s speed. To take him out, Quicksilver deliberately runs into a wall. Though the Sentinel which copied his speed and is destroyed but Pietro too has broken several bones. He tells Larry to help the Avengers. Moments later, alone, Pietro suddenly faces a horrible sight. The Avengers are confronted by Number 2, who is about to kill them but the killing blast is stopped by the Scarlet Witch’s hex as the Vision has freed her. Larry wonders why the mutant detection device is switched off and switches iit on. It is revealed that Number 2 itself is a mutant, as it was mutated when it was close to the sun. The other Sentinels attack Number 2 and destroy it but, without their leader, they also fall. One of them falls on Larry, killing him. Unaware of Quicksilver’s fate, the Avengers leave the Sentinels’ lair and destroy all entrances.

Full Summary: 

The strato-jet commandeered by Quicksilver lands on a postage stamp airport at the edge of the Australian Outback and, grabbing Larry Trask, Quicksilver begins running again into the desert.

Larry begs him to slow down. He can’t— He can and he shall! Pietro interrupts. They have to find the lair which Larry’s late father designed years ago and they must find it soon!

As Pietro’s mind races back to the events that led them here, he fears it is already too late, that his sister Wanda has been slain.  And even if she lives, what good does it do, with something causing ever more massive solar flares which threaten at any moment to shrivel the Earth to a lifeless cinder.

They are close to the Sentinels’ anthill-like lair when they hear explosions. Larry believes this heralds the end of the world, but Pietro calls him a fool. He can see the Avengers battling a Sentinel. Larry fears they cannot defeat his father’s creations and Pietro admits he may be right. The Sentinels have gained strange, new powers. He longs to join his fellow Avengers in battle, then decides against it. If one group falls, then they all fall.

He reminds Larry he spoke on the plane of a secondary entrance. Where could it be? Larry suggests the nearby hills, which are just the right distance from the main entrance. Pietro races them both there and soon they both enter a cave.

Not far away, the Avengers still haven’t made headway against the two Sentinels guarding the main entrance. Thor throws Mjolnir at one Sentinel, which gloats that it has been analyzing the weapon. However, it suddenly falls in mid-sentence, not due to Mjolnir, but thanks to the Vision phasing through it.

The Vision attacks the second Sentinel before it can adapt and does the same. The others realize that the Vision merely pretended to be felled before.

They enter the mound with the Vision and Iron Man flying ahead. What kind of set-up is that anyhow? Hawkeye protests. He feels like he’s inside a factory-recalled Volkswagen. A far more sinister bug than ever tooled down the Autobahn, Captain America remarks grimly. Somewhere in this hunk of machinery is the device that’s causing those sunflares… one of which may incinerate the Earth at any moment. But they don’t know what they are looking for, Iron Man points out. Their only chance is to find this place’s nerve center and dismantle the device before the next sun flare. According to Corbeau, that could well be the fatal one.

Captain America feels that things have been too easy so far. Vision agrees, flies ahead and triggers a trap of deathly rays but makes himself insubstantial. A moment later, he confronts yet another Sentinel.

Elsewhere in the compound, the Scarlet Witch is shackled to a strange device. With her is the Sentinel called Number 2, which has a strangely, partially molten face. He calls her the most privileged of mutants. She shall be the instrument of the ultimate cleansing.

Annoyed, she points out he has used that phrase a hundred times. She suggests he tell her what it means or ditch the melodrama. She knows Sentinels were created to protect humans from the so-called “mutant menace.” But before they tried to capture all mutants. This time they only wanted her. Why?

He points to a diagram showing a mutant whose energies are sent to a transformer which triggers the solar flares. The Witch is horrified. They are using her to power an apparatus that will cause the end of the world! Number 2 agrees, explaining it was designed so that only one mutant was needed to power it.

But why choose her? Wanda shouts. They always fought the X-Men before. For technical reasons, they needed a female and she was easier to find than Marvel Girl. But she spoke before of the “end of the world.” Such sentiments are unwarranted. For the Sentinels are forbidden to allow human beings to come to harm. Wanda accuses him of doubletalk. They are inducing solar flares capable of burning the Earth to a crisp!

Number 2 explains they control those flares and after the very next flare there will be no more and humans will not have been destroyed. They will be forever sterile. In due time, all humans now born will die and in the Sentinels’ own laboratories a new human race shall be created genetically. There shall be no mutants among them. Yes, this final solution to the mutant problem will take years, perhaps centuries, but they have nothing but time. Only a few more minutes— That moment the intruder alert sounds.

Wanda demands why he is so misshapen and unlike the others. Number 2 realizes correctly she is trying to delay him. The audience is ended! He steps away. Wanda prays it is the Avengers and wonders if Pietro is with them. If she could look into Cerebro, she would know.

In the meantime, Quicksilver and Larry have reached the end of the tunnel: a closed, high-tech door. Larry suffers the onslaught of more visions, which he cannot shut off. Pietro demands what he sees. Does he see Wanda? No, he just sees what he saw before. His four fellow Avengers nearby somewhere, fallen helpless and standing over them is a Sentinel but grotesque, his face and body like melting wax. He is blasting them and those rays can reduce a man to atoms. Larry knows. His father invented them. Now he sees the final solar flare. Only minutes away. It’s striking the Earth almost instantaneously and destroys it. And finally he sees the third image. The most frightening of all! Nothing! A blackness… a void. He doesn’t know what it can mean expect doomsday.

Pietro refuses to accept that and orders Larry to stand aside. Larry warns him that door must be three inches thick. Mere speed won’t— He is fully aware of his limitations, Pietro cuts him off, but Trask is less aware of his strengths.

He taps the door at super speed, tripping the door’s timing mechanisms. It opens. He warns Trask the most dangerous task lies ahead. He tells Larry to stay here while he scouts the area. Larry warns him that the Sentinels can match his speed. Even he can tell him little of the Sentinels!  Pietro snaps and repeats his order.

Moments later, he runs into a Sentinel. Pietro refuses to give up though. He boasts about who he is and asks the robot what it will do to stop him. The Sentinel tries to smash him with its fists but misses. Quicksilver figures he is older than when the Sentinels last walked the Earth and perhaps a wee bit faster. Larry warns him in a few moments the Sentinel will have adjusted to his speed. What then? Larry knows Pietro can’t win and indeed the gap in speeds narrows.

The Sentinel keeps on trying to smash the racing Quicksilver. It sees Piotr running toward a solid wall and figures he will stop in time, and then so can the Sentinel. Except Quicksilver doesn’t stop. He suffers the full impact as does the Sentinel, which is destroyed by it.

Amid the debris, Larry sees Pietro, badly injured, his legs buried under the Sentinel. He orders Larry to try and stop the Sentinels and not look back. Larry vows he will and runs.

Pietro feels faint, about to lose consciousness, when suddenly there is a light and something appears in front of him, something huge… horrible!

Not far ahead, Larry runs. Images are projected onto the wall showing the final flare. He refuses to accept that he is too late.

Some distance away:
Lafayette, we are here!” Iron Man shouts, attacking two Sentinels with his repulsors. Vision points out they seem unable to adjust to the energies. Cap tells him not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Thor lays one of them low and Iron Man attacks the other. He is joined by Hawkeye and Cap in his attack, while he wonders where the Vision has disappeared to.

They manage to beat the Sentinel but, moments later, Number 2 and his three remaining Sentinels arrive. He orders the Avengers to remain here unmoving for five minutes. If they attempt to leave during that time, his remaining servitors will be forced to detain them.

He talks big for a guy who looks like his right side is made of soggy purple cheese, Cap snaps. Is that the latest style in Sentinels or is he a reject model trying to make good?

Number 2 replies he will not be goaded into rash action. As heir to the Master Mold, he has no desire to annihilate Earth. If he did – observe yonder models of the sun and Earth and grow wise. The images show their fear of a sunflare destroying Earth. He has that power, Number 2 boasts, but he shall not. In five minutes, the energies in his android form will interact with that of the captive mutant to cause one last solar flare which will sterilize all humans.

Cap is horrified. Iron Man vows the Avengers have enough power to stop this mad scheme. Unfortunately for them, what applies to his fellow Sentinels no longer applies to him, Number 2 exclaims and blasts them with force rays intended to kill them. The Avengers fall under the onslaught, even Thor crumples to his knees. Fortunately, a forcefield then surrounds and paralyzes him, preventing Number 2 from atomizing them, courtesy of the Scarlet Witch who was freed by the Vision.

The Vision attacks Number 2’s three minions, while the Scarlet Witch tells him to hurry. He will adapt to her hex soon. The Vision phases through one Sentinel’s chest and then becomes diamond hard to destroy it.

From a hidden vantage point, Larry Trask watches the scene. This is what his father’s experiments have come to, a warped monster who would “save” man’s life… by ending it. Even the planet itself may be endangered, despite Number 2’s words. But the Avengers still live and the blow-up he saw must have been the models of Earth and the sun, but what about the darkness, the void, which can only mean Earth’s end? He has to do something!

He recognizes the device next to him as a mutant detector his father created and wonders why it is turned off. Following a crazy hunch, he reactivates it. Wanda and Larry begin to glow… but so does Number 2. This cannot happen! he shouts. He took pains to see that it did not!

Vision asks Wanda what the glow is. Larry shows himself and addresses Number 2. He deactivated the device because he didn’t want it to show that the leader of the Sentinels is a mutant. Wanda realizes that would explain his spacewarp power. Thor finds it beyond belief. Only a human—

The mutant intruder has sensed the truth, Number 2 replies. Something happened within him when the Sentinels orbited the sun months ago. Because he passed closest to it he evolved somehow into something quite different from the others. He realized the full potential placed long ago into him by Bolivar Trask. He became both truly human – and a mutant! But that changes nothing! His plan goes forward as conceived. He wants no heirs. For he is a Sentinel. He shall live forever. In less than a minute, the sun shall flare one last time and not even the Avengers can defeat him in time. In despair, Larry groans they have no more aces up their sleeve. Maybe they don’t have to, Cap replies.

The other Sentinels advance upon Number 2. He orders them to stop. They are not programmed to follow a mutant’s commands, the others reply, only to render mutants harmless. And since nothing short of oblivion can render him thus, oblivion he shall have!

They blast him apart. Number 2’s scream is human but mercifully brief. With him gone, the energy within him won’t set off the final flare. The next moment, the remaining Sentinels topple and fall. The Avengers dodge them but one of the Sentinels falls on Larry Trask, killing him, and so his vision of outer blackness does come true – for him. He dies, not knowing he has saved the human race from his father’s creatures.

Minutes later, the Avengers leave the Sentinels’ lair and, on Cap’s order, Iron Man’s repulsor rays bury the mound. They leave, unaware of the friend Quicksilver’s fate…

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Quicksilver,  Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision (all Avengers)

Larry Trask


Number 2 and other Mark II Sentinels

Story Notes: 

Quicksilver shouldn’t be aware of Peter Corbeau’s pronouncements, since he had left the team before the talk with Corbeau.

The “horrible sight” Quicksilver sees are the Inhuman princess Crystal and her teleporting dog Lockjaw, who save Pietro [Fantastic Four (1st series) #131-132] (Presumably the “horrible” refers to Lockjaw rather than Crystal). The Avengers however won’t learn about his fate until Avengers (1st series) #110.

Iron Man’s quip of "Lafayette, we are here," refers to Gilbert du Motier, the 18th century Marquis de Lafayette. Usually referred to simply as “Lafayette,” the 18th century French nobleman was a military general who came to America during its revolution and was granted senior positions in the Continental Army. The debt his contribution to the country’s founding was used as impetus for the United States entering on the side of France during World War I. The symbolism of the repaid debt culminated at Lafayette’s grave in which Colonel Charles Stanton commented "Lafayette, we are here."

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