Avengers (1st series) #169

Issue Date: 
March 1978
Story Title: 
If We Should Fail – the World Dies Tonight

Marv Wolfman (writer/editor), Sal Buscema  (layouts), Dave Hunt (finishes),  K. Klackzac  (colorist), J. Costanza (letterer), Archie Goodwin (editor)

Brief Description: 

Captain America, the Black Panther and Iron Man are the only Avengers at the mansion when they are attacked by an armored villain, who tries to goad them into killing him. After they overwhelm him, Iron Man recognizes their foe as Jason Beere, a competitor of Tony Stark. Beere announces he is dying and that he has hidden four neutron bombs that will destroy all life on Earth when he does so. Iron Man hooks the dying Beere up to a device that keeps him alive, though comatose, and puts him into a cryogenic chamber. The three Avengers then go to find the three bombs, the locations of which they found hints in Beere’s office. Cap fights a strange cult in Peru to get one device, Black Panther battles an icebear in the Arctic for another and Iron Man has to face and eventually work together with the Russian military to get the third. The Avengers put the three devices together, which turn out to be not a bomb but a recording device. The true bomb, the message informs them, is connected to Beere’s heart, which is kept alive by Stark’s chest respirator and the cryogenic chamber, something which Beere had never anticipated. So Beere will outlive them all…

Full Summary: 

Between missions, the Avengers find some time for rest. Iron Man is working on a crossword puzzle, but even Captain America can’t help him with “a twelve letter words meaning ‘producing sweat.’” Looking out of the window, the Black Panther informs them the word is “sudoriferous.

Suddenly, a blast comes through the window. The Panther dodges it and shouts they are under attack. Through the hole made by the explosion, the emerald-armored attacker comes, threatening them with death.

Cap jumps at him but the villain quickly grabs Cap by the throat and tosses him away. He mocks their weakness. Had he known that, he would not have spent millions developing his invincible armor. Iron Man doubts said invincibility. The stranger fires at him with his concussions missiles, hitting Iron Man’s chest. Iron Man is afraid the missile damaged his chest plate, in which case he would be undone.

The Black Panther jumps at the stranger from behind but he heats up his armor to two hundred degrees, too hot for the Black Panther to hold onto.

Cap and Iron Man attack in tandem, with Cap throwing his shield and Iron Man unleashing energy blasts. Fight and kill him! the stranger urges them.

Captain America realizes there is something wrong about the situation and orders his teammates to stop fighting. The stranger threatens them and goads them to fight to preserve their own lives.

Iron Man believes he’s crazy but the Panther doubts it. Iron Man points out that he is still dangerous and he won’t let him destroy their headquarters. Tony Stark pays all too much for the rent as it is! He fires another blast at the stranger, who urges Iron Man to destroy him. Cap asks him to stop. He isn’t a murderer. But Iron Man has only subdued him and the stranger falls unconscious.

They take off the stranger’s mask and Iron Man recognizes the unremarkable face beneath as that of Jason Beere. He explains Beere is an industrialist and one of Tony Stark’s major competitors. When he asks Beere why he did all this, the man snaps back he is dying and when he goes he wants the world to die with him. He passes out, leaving the Avengers puzzled by his words.

Iron Man figures they shouldn‘t take any chances. He asks Cap and T’Challa to meet him at Stark’s Flushing plant. He has to get Beere there – immediately. He flies off, carrying Beere. His sensors tell him that Beere’s heart rate is slowing. He is indeed dying. He takes him to the plant and outfits Beere with a version of his chest plate that keeps his own damaged heart beating.

Captain America and the Black Panther arrive and Iron Man informs them Beere is stable for the time being. He explains Beere is a megalomaniac. He has planted four bombs in unknown locations all over the world, which will go off when his heartbeat stops. They are neutron warheads - powerful enough to obliterate all life on Earth. Simply said, Beere wants to take them all with him. Cap announces they have their work cut out for them.

Peru, less than an hour away by Quinjet. As he pilots in silence, Captain America thinks to himself that, though they know the location of three bombs, but what bothers him is the fourth, the triggering device. From the notes in Beere’s office safe, the bomb should be in the temple below. He lands with a, parachute musing that Beere’s wife and children left him and he didn’t want to live anymore.

Cap quickly locates the bomb in a not too well hidden recess of the pyramid. Several natives with spears attack him in the name of the winged god. He fights his way through the warriors and almost becomes the victim of a warrior’s poison dart. Cap carefully makes sure not to kill any of the men.

From top of the pyramid, their leader informs him they were paid handsomely. He orders his fierce Harpy Eagles to attack. Cap dodges the birds’ ferocious assault while noting Beere knew they’d find the bombs, so this is all a wild goose chase – but for what?

He uses a bee hive against the birds and wonders if Beere is taunting them, knowing they will never find the final bomb. Still, he swears they won’t give up. He takes out the warriors, grabs the bomb and hopes the others will succeed with their tasks while he searches for the fourth bomb – alone!

The Black Panther finds himself in the Arctic Circle, noting the irony of a prince of the tropics being here. He muses about his dual role as king and Avenger as he enters a cave where the device is.

Moments later, a giant polar bear attacks. The Black Panther manages to get on its back but the ice breaks under them and they land in the icy waters. T’Challa battles to stay awake. He grabs a frozen stalactite and beats the beast, barely managing to crawl on land again. He then returns to the cave to gather the bomb.

It is nighttime in Moscow as Iron Man flies through the skies, nervous since he is basically in the country illegally. But he figures they couldn’t have called the Russians and told them there was a neutron bomb hidden in their most famous museum.

However the military has been informed by a secret message and soon soldiers fire at him from the ground. He figures Beere informed the Russians but wonders why he wants them to find the bombs. Why attack the Avengers at all instead of committing suicide quietly?

He takes out the soldiers and flies toward the museum. However, the place turns out to be booby-trapped. Automatic doors slide down, trying to trap Iron Man, and suddenly gas is emitted in the room. However, thanks to his sealed mask and own oxygen supply, he stays awake and manages to burst though the wall. He finds and grabs the device but soon finds himself surrounded by armed Russian military. He asks them how they’d like to hear a little story…

Cap and the Panther have returned to Avengers Mansion. Cap is frantically wondering where Iron Man is, while T’Challa has more confidence in their teammate. Iron Man finally arrives, explaining that he got held up by Russian officials. However, after they examined the little device, they were more than willing to let him remove it from their country…

Iron Man explains that, according to Beere’s diary, the three devices need to be fitted together. Cap is skeptical about following the instructions but Iron Man explains there are no detonation chambers in those three devices.

As they are fitted together, a recording plays announcing that Beere knew they would manage to succeed, which is why the real bomb is timed to his heart and will detonate when it beats its last. He decided the world will go with him. They have been duped. And now he is dying and the final bomb has been activated.

Iron Man stays calm. He scanned the device and when he found out it was a tape recorder, not a bomb, he reasoned out the rest of the story. Beere told them where the bomb was at the beginning. It is attached to his heart. And his heart is being kept alive by Tony Stark’s chest respirator. He explains there is no way to operate on him at the time. So he will have to stay in the cryogenic chamber and the device will keep his heart beating. There is no guarantee, Stark will ever find a way to remove the device safely. Beere thought he would die young, but now he will probably outlive them all…

Characters Involved: 

Black Panther, Captain America, Iron Man, (All Avengers)

Jason Beere

Peruvian cult
Russian military

Story Notes: 

Why were the Russian officials happy to let Iron Man have the device, if they had actually found out it was harmless?

Written By: