Avengers (1st series) #191

Issue Date: 
January 1980
Story Title: 
Back to the Stone Age

Roger Stern (plotter), David Michelinie (writer), John Byrne (penciler), Dan Green (inker), John Costanza (letterer), Sharen (colorist), Roger Stern (editor), Jim Shooter (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

The Grey Gargoyle fights the Avengers and takes out their most powerful members before the team can develop any good strategy against him. One by one they are defeated and rendered unconscious, only the Falcon is clever enough to remain in hiding to follow the villain as he leaves the battle area. The Gargoyle checks out his former living quarters for chemicals that would further enhance his abilities, but much to his angers the rooms have been redecorated by the woman who currently lives there. Before the situation gets out of hand, the Falcon steps in and he can keep the villain long enough for the whole team to arrive. The Grey Gargoyle then is defeated by the Scarlet Witch, who cast a spell that temporarily turns him back to flesh again. Afterwards the Avengers go back to their senate hearing and are glad to hear that the final decision is in their favour; the team gets back their priority privileges and security clearances without Gyrich’s restrictions.

Full Summary: 

The opening moments of the story find the team pitched in heated battle against the Grey Gargoyle, who just turned Iron man and Daredevil to stone. Having been freed from his stone casing, the villain releases his fury first upon the Falcon, who takes a stony left hook to the jaw. Vision counters quickly with a loaded left hook of his own, which sends the Gargoyle flying. As Vision sees it, if Thor has defeated the Gargoyle single-handedly, "surely seven assembled Avengers can do the same." Gargoyle notes that Vision's history is correct. Thor has beaten him--but only because he is Thor, which, as he tells the android, "you, you hollow-voiced prattler, are not!" With that he lands a retaliatory right that launches Vision into a building wall. The Avenger retains consciousness just long enough to desolidify before impact, but he is lost for the battle. With the two mightiest Avengers present incapacitated, the Gargoyle presses his attack. With a raking claw he assaults the Scarlet Witch from behind as she races to aid her fallen love. The Beast now brings the fight to the villain, attacking him from atop his shoulders. But he is quickly shrugged off and thrown with tremendous velocity at Captain America, who braces for the blow with his shield. The two heroes fall backwards into a vegetable cart, which explodes beneath them. Leaping to an awning above their heads, the Gargoyle turns it stone, collapsing it and trapping them (with the Wasp) beneath its weight. Now only one Avenger stands: Ms. Marvel. Lifting the Gargoyle from behind, she raises him into the air and throws him into the ground with great force. But she is overconfident in following up her attack, and a prone Gargoyle surprise her with a double-leg kick to the head that leaves her concussed. The stone menace now decides to leave the scene before killing the team, as more pressing matters lie at hand. He ascends a building, and is gone.
Flash to the Avengers' Mansion, where Jarvis finds Falcon's bird, Redwing, in a frantic hurry to leave the premises. He opens a window for the bird, which departs into the Manhattan sky with desperate speed.
The defeated Avengers regain consciousness soon thereafter and find themselves in working, if not battered shape. Vision, noting Wanda's panicked concern for his well-being, remarks "you have acted strangely ever since your return from Attilan, my wife. We must talk." Cap and Beast attend to more immediate matters, checking on Iron Man and Daredevil. To their stunned amazement, they find the team's leader very much alive and talkative, as the Gargoyle's touch turned only his armor to stone, trapping him within it. Iron Man orders them to track down the Gargoyle at once, noting that he and Daredevil will be fine "as long as Central Park's pigeon population doesn't find us." Turning to depart, the Beast suddenly realizes that the team has overlooked one small detail; the Falcon is nowhere to be found.
We now cut to a soaring Falcon, who has been following the Gargoyle out of his line of sight for quite some time. The trail ends at a Manhattan high-rise, as the villain returns to the apartment he last rented in his human identity. There is one small problem, however. Standing in the apartment is a woman named Margot Neil, the current occupant of the premises. Little matter for the Gargoyle, who crashes through the window and bars her exit. He then recounts his origin, as super-villains are wont to do.
(Several flashbacks)
As Paul Duval, he was once a brilliant chemist who, through a failed experiment, gained the ability to touch anything and turn it to stone for one hour. Because his body had absorbed the formula, when he touched himself he gained the durability and toughness of stone, but could still move. Taking the identity of the Grey Gargoyle, he battled Thor for his mystic hammer (thinking it would grant him immortality), and lost. Sent to Earth in a rocket after his defeat (see Thor #259), Duval was thrown into space when the vessel accidentally exploded. But he was able to coat himself with cosmic particles and wreckage (which he turned to stone) and establish a trajectory towards Earth, where he eventually landed. The Avengers then unknowingly freed him from his "encumbering shell."
Having defeated the Avengers, the Grey Gargoyle has come back to his former premises to retrieve chemicals that will augment his already formidable powers. Checking inside a secret cache behind a mirror, Duval discovers that his chemicals are gone, replaced by a makeshift and well-stocked bar. As the woman notes, "oh, uh, I threw all that smelly stuff away when I moved in." The enraged Gargoyle turns on her, but Falcon, who has been watching covertly, now makes his presence known, and his finest moment as an Avenger begins. The Gargoyle attacks first, hurtling a stone ashtray at the hero, who deftly dodges it. The Avenger then manages to lift the woman and, leaping, saves them both from a two-handed stone couch attack. At this point Redwing arrives ("he musta' homed in on the psychic bond we got between us"). Falcon commands the bird to go get the rest of the Avengers, but Gargoyle, with amazing speed, grabs the pet and turns it to stone before it can escape. Now it is Falcon who takes the offensive, springing off an end-table and landing a double-leg kick to Duval's head. But the hero soon realizes that he is badly outmatched and, dodging a series of violent attacks, decides to make as much a ruckus as possible in order to attract attention and bring help. He fights valiantly, but the Gargoyle, springing off a wall and nailing him with a huge punch, finally brings him to the ground. The battle seems lost, but as Wilson tell his foe, "at least I gave it. . .my best shot." At this very moment, a star-crested shield slices through the air, chopping into the Gargoyle's mid-section. The Avengers have arrived! A Wasp bio-sting distracts Duval, who is again lifted and thrown by Ms. Marvel, this time into the Vision. A fearsome left hook from the android sees the Gargoyle fly into a wall and crumple. The Scarlet Witch now strikes, casting an unconventional hex that reverts the villain to flesh form. The finishing touch is applied by the Beast, who plasters Duval with a straight left, knocking him cold. The battle is done as the now-devastated high-rise once again lies quiet.
The epilogue finds the Senate hearing reconvened. Impressed with the Avengers' recent struggle against the Grey Gargoyle, the Senators rule in the team's favor, restoring their priority privileges and security clearances and ordering that the restrictions against them be sharply curtailed. An exhalted Beast sees the red-faced Gyrich out of the hearing room with a rousing "apprez-vous, Petey." Just as Cap remarks that things seem to be returning to normal, Iron Man notices that this might not be the case for everyone. Standing at the hearing room window with their backs to the celebration are Vision and Scarlet Witch, in contemplation of their own personal battles which lay ahead.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Captain America, Falcon, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Wasp (all Avengers)
Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler
Redwing, the Falcon’s pet
Margot Neil
Emerson Bale, lawyer of the Champions
Jeryn Hogarth, lawyer of Heroes for Hire
Matt Murdock / Daredevil, lawyer
Senators Fleckner, Reischel and Roosevelt
Henry Peter Gyrich, national security
Grey Gargoyle
Grey Gargoyle / Paul Duval (in flashbacks)
Thor (in a flashback)

Story Notes: 


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