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John Byrne (writer), Paul Ryan (penciler), Tom Palmer (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Christie Scheele (colorist), Howard Mackie (editor), Tom DeFaclo (editor-in-chief)
In some caverns beneath the ocean, Captain America, Thor, She-Hulk, Black Panther, Namor, Quasar and Gilgamesh battle the avatar of the Lava Men's god, Cha'sa'dra as part of Jinku's attempt to get revenge on the Avengers for causing Cha'sa'dra's death. The Avengers battle the beast as beast they can, but he is powerful and they struggle, forced to battle him in constrained surroundings as they grow weak. Quasar, Cap and the Black Panther are the first to fall, before Jinku the witchdoctor recaps why he is seeking vengeance against the Avengers, before a combined attack from Thor, Gilgamesh and She-Hulk manages to trap Cha'sa'dra beneath a pile of rocks that they cause to drop from the cavern ceiling. But that doesn't hold Cha'sa'dra for long, as he emerges from the rubble. By now, She-hHulk and Namor have passed out from the heat, leaving Thor and Gilgamesh to continue to fight the massive beast – but Gilgamesh is knocked out after he attempts to take Cha'sa'dra down, and the Avengers, who begin to rouse, are concerned when Gilgamesh doesn't recover, he apppears to be dead. Jinku attempts to command Cha'sa'dra to finish the other Avengers off, but he finds himself unable to – and to his surprise, the remaining Lava Men are no longer in their rock form – they have transformed into a golden form. One of them cracks Jinku's body, freeing him of his lava form and revealing his gold form as well. The Lava Men discuss their new, transformation, and Jinku apologizes for the wrong he has done to the Avengers, who are more concerned about the fallen Gilgamesh. Meanwhile, Avengers Island is currently perched atop a large column of rock that begins to crumble back into the ocean. Jarvis is in distress in the communications room, trying to raise help from any Avengers who pick up his call, and is surprised to discover that the column is made up of Lava Men. The island teters from side to side, when two former Avengers arrive, Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, who projects a force field like a wedge under the island, giving it some stability, although the immense task begins to cause her some strain. Invisible Woman is soon assisted by Wonder Man, who arrives with the other Avengers West Coast members. Wonder Man's incredible strength helps to keep Avengers Island positioned on the top of the column. This enables the Invisible Woman to create a series of rings around the crumbling column.
'Hello! Hello! Is anyone there? Is anyone receiving me? This is a priority double-A one emergency call!' Edwin Jarvis exclaims via the communications system within Avengers Island, which is currently teetering on a pile of rock that sticks up out of the ocean – and is beginning to crumble. Jarvis reports that Avengers Island has been lifted on a column of solidified lava, and that already much of the topsoil and some of their peripheral equipment has fallen into the sea, and the island is rocking terribly. Jarvis states that the supporting structure under the island is giving way, and he doesn't suspect they have more than a few minutes before the island topples and falls, too. Jarvis explains that it is the Lava Men, that they fused their bodies to make up the column, but something has happened to them, they are crumbling into fragments. Jarvis begs for someone to hear him, as there isn't any more time. 'This is Avengers Mansion... Jarvis, the butler calling! Emergency priority double-A one!' Jarvis shouts over the communicator, clinging to a console as the mansion is rocked about.
The panicked Jarvis shouts through the microphone to anyone within the sound of his voice, asking them to respond, he tells them that the situation is dire. More rock begins to break away, and the Island tilts dramatically. Jarvis falls backwards, just as a voice calls out to him though the communications system, telling him to hold on, that they are coming.
Outside, Reed Richards a.k.a. Mr Fantastic and Susan Storm-Richards the Invisible Woman are in a small Fantasti-Car, as they circle the Island. 'It's just as he described!' Susan gasps, wondering what on earth could be happening here. Reed tells his wife that there is time enough to consider that once they have addressed the clear and present danger. Reed pilots the hovercraft to where the rock is most fragile and states that if they are to prevent Hydrobase from falling, that is the point they must shore up. 'Shore up...?' Susan asks. 'But how? We responded so quickly to Jarvis's alert we had no time to collect any specialized equipment' Susan reminds Reed. Reed tells Susan that she is all the equipment they need, and instructs her to project an invisible force wedge into the gap beneath the island's pontoons. When the island is rocked back away from the side, Susan does as instructed, but a look of concern falls across Susan's face, as the island weighs thousands of tons, and puts immense pressure on her force field.
Reed encourages Susan to maintain the wedge formation, and adds that the triangle is the strongest form in mechanics, so it should be able to support the weight. Susan calms down and tells Reed that he is right, that she can take the strain, before alerting him to the fact that the rock is still crumbling. Reed tells Susan not to worry about that for now, and to concentrate on maintaining the integrity of her wedge. Susan increases the size of the invisible wedge as Reed tells her to keep the island as level as possible while he tries to raise Jarvis.
Back inside the communications room, Jarvis clings to a console for dear life, as Reed Richards calls out to him over the radio, asking him if he can hear him. 'Oh dear! This island has stopped rocking...but it still doesn't feel at all secure! Do I dare reach the transponder?' Jarvis wonders, unsure about what to do, he hopes that the Avengers are faring better than this.
But, the Avengers are currently an undetermined distance deep within Earth's core, battling the manifestation of the ancient “god” called Cha'sa'dra, while the Lava Men's witchdoctor, Jinku, watches from a nearby ledge, commanding his beast to strike and destroy the infidels and blasphemers. 'Boy, this guy makes the Ayattollah sound like a moderate!' Wendell Vaughn a.k.a. Quasar exclams as he blasts some quantum energy at the creature, while Namor the Sub-Mariner punches the creature's face, and Gilgamesh the Forgotten One dodges the creature's arm, which reaches out towards Thor, who throws his hammer at the large beast. King T'Challa a.k.a. Black Panther tries to spike the creature's leg, and tells Quasar that there is no time for humor, as the witchdoctor means to slay them all. 'He stands a pretty good change of getting his wish, at this rate!' Jennifer Walters a.k.a. She-Hulk calls out as she breaks off a large chunk of rock that juts out of the ground, while Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America turns to her.
Gilgamesh tells She-Hulk that she distresses herself without cause, and boasts that there is no thing that lives which can resist the power of an Eternal of Olympia. Gilgamesh then opens fire, blasting eye beams at the creature. 'No, Gilgamesh! Maybe this guy doesn't know that!' Quasar calls out, too late though, as the creature opens its mouth, and drowns Gilgamesh in a molten lava, which quickly solidifies and encases Gilgamesh, who falls to the ground. 'Great scott! That thing's completely encased Gilgamesh in molten lava!' Cap exclaims. 'You mean it basically threw up all over him, Cap! Double yuck!' She-Hulk declares as she gabs the large chunk of rock, and begins to hit the creature's leg with it. 'Time to teach this creep some manners! So, even though I'm not with the Fantastic Four any more...it's clobbering time!' She-Hulk jokes, before the creature leans down and swats her away. 'Or not' Jen thinks to herself as she is hurled across the cavern.
Thor catches his hammer as it returns to him and asks Captain America how the fallen one is. Cap tries to crack the basalt around Gilgamesh as he tells Thor that there has not been a peep out of him since he hit the ground. Cap's shield is barely making a scratch on the basalt, either. Suddenly, 'Perhaps not, Captain...but I have power you do not!' Gilgamesh boasts as he suddenly bursts through from the solidified molten lava. 'What it there, big man!' Cap replies as he is knocked backwards, and raises his shield to protect himself from falling debris, informing Gilgamesh that those fragments could have hurt somebody. The Black Panther looks up at Jinku and thinks about basalt – he knows that is the hardened form of lava, and notes that is what Jinku the witchdoctor seems to be comprised of. The Black Panther thinks that their answer might lie there – for while molten Lava Men are virtually indestructible, they reform as quickly as they are shattered. The monster grabs the Sub-Mariner while Quasar darts past him, and the Black Panther tells himself that while Jinku's attention is focused on manipulating the monster, he can strike – fast and sure as his namesake.
'The Black Panther!' Jinku cries out as the Black Panther lunges at him and grabs his arms. The Black Panther tells Jinku to surrender his staff of power, and warns him that his solidified form is too frail to long resist the Panther's might. The Black Panther suggests to Jinku that he surrender willingly, or else he will take his arm, as well. 'Bold words, princeling...but even you have not the strength to act!' Jinku replies, as he commands the monster to hurl the Sub-Mariner straight at the Black Panther, sending both kings tumbling off the ledge. 'Enough!' Thor calls out, raising his hammer, he exclaims that rock and stone shall stand before the power of Thor – if they can. Cap watches as Thor whips up a full scale hurricane that lashes around the monster, then Cap calls out to Thor, warning him that he will bring the whole chamber down on them before that monster falls. Thor turns to Cap and asks him what he should do, then, as he hungers for a quick, clean triumph before others of their number fall.
As if on cue, Quasar is knocked back by the monster, although Gilgamesh catches the young hero, 'I had thought you better suited to the ways of battle, young one!' Gilgamesh tells quasar, 'Yeah, me too, Gil' Quasar mutters, joking that he was sick the day his SHIELD training covered fighting lava monsters. The Black Panther alerts Cap to the fact that the monster is raising the heat, and Cap confirms that he feels it, before asking T'Challa how much more of it he can take. The Black Panther suddenly collapses, and Namor tells Captain America that there is his silent answer. 'Panther!' Cap exclaims, rushing over to his friend, he exclaims that the Panther has almost had it. 'The Panther's tough as nails – but he's just a man! He doesn't even have the Super-Soldier formula helping him as I do!' Cap remarks, before turning to She-Hulk and Gilgamesh and telling them that it is time for one last stand, and to make every move count – or else they are never going to see Avengers Island again.
At that moment, the teetering Avengers Island is in ever graver danger as more of the column comprised of Lava Men begins to crumble away. Susan clutches at her head and tells Reed that it is too much, that she feels like her head is going to burst. Reed starts to tell Susan to try broadening the wedge, to shift the centers of strength, when suddenly, 'Wait! Look! Out of the Western sky, it's...' Reed begins as Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man flies towards him, with the rest of the West Coast based Avengers in a Quinjet following behind him. 'Well, not Sky King, Richards...but I hope Wonder Man will do!' Simon calls out, as Reed tells Susan that it is the West Coast Avengers, and not a moment too soon. 'Not “West Coast” any more, remember? We're all just one big happy team of Avengers now...and that means this island is just as much my turf as the West Coast Compound!' Wonder Man declares as he grabs onto the edge of the island, and uses his incredible strength to keep it in place atop the crumbling column, declaring that he would hate to see it go “splat”.
Susan looks relieved as she tells Reed that Wonder Man is taking some of the pressure off her force field. 'But.. how? Surely Wonder Man's rocket belt doesn't have the strength to...' Reed begins, before he notices that Wonder Man begins to strain, and wonders if the rockets on his belt are somehow linked to his own mutated life energy. 'As you said yourself, Reed...time to consider that later. He's leveling the island...but it's still in danger of toppling!' Susan exclaims. Reed tells her that they must modify their approach, and instructs her to drop her field so that Wonder Man can take the full weight. 'Hey, do you mind, Richards? I'm already busting my back as it is!' Simon calls back. Susan agrees and tells Reed 'You can't possibly expect him to...' her voice trails off, to which Reed tells her that it is only for a moment, and after Susan drops her force field, Reed asks Susan to re-project her field, but this time as a spiral around the whole rock column. Susan does so, an invisible field surrounding the rock column in a spiral form, as Susan uses her incredible powers to reinforce the column, before asking if it wouldn't be better if she sheathed the whole column, as it is still crumbling. Reed tells his wife that he knows that – and that is exactly what he wants it to do – he wants the column to disintegrate completely.
Back in the caverns, 'It is no use... the heat...' the Sub-Mariner utters as he leans against the cavern wall. 'I know... like nothing I've ever felt...' She-Hulk calls out as she grabs another spiked rock. Cap, Quasar and the Black Panther lay motionless on the ground, while Thor and Gilgamesh continue their assault against the large creature. Thor slams his hammer into the monster and tells She-Hulk that it is mystic heat, that the fiery breath of Hades itself gives life to this monster – even as it saps their own. She-Hulk turns to Namor, and points out with the others down, perhaps they should combine their strength. 'It will avail you nothing, giantess!' Jinku calls out. 'You see yourselves as the champions of the surface world! But this time it is you who are the villains! And mine is the right of retribution!'
Flashback images, narrated in the present by Jinku:Jinku asks the Avengers if he has told them how the great god Cha'sa'dra appeared one day to his ancient ancestors, how he promised them immortality in exchange for their devotion, and transformed them into the first Lava Men, so they worshipped him loyally, willingly, down through all the ages, until the great day when the dark gods turned their might against the blasphemous surface dwellers, and Cha'sa'dra was one of those gods, greatest of their warrior forces, but nonetheless slain by the treachery of the Avengers – and with his death, did not all but a handful of Lava Men revert to mortal form, instantly consumed by the weight of the age they bore.
Present:'Yes... yes... we know all that! You told us not ten minutes ago!' She-Hulk exclaims, raising the large spiked rock as she looks up at Jinku who still stands on the ledge, she then reminds him that they told him that this Cha'sa'dra was not the great god he thought, just a crummy little demon, he was evil, and deceived these people for all those centuries. 'You pile blasphemy upon blasphemy, female!' Jinku responds, telling She-Hulk that even if her words were true, they can be no solace. 'What joy might be snatched from the agony that burns in my soul?' he asks, declaring that he is alone, that he is the last of the Lava Men. Jinku motions to some unmoving Lava Men and points out that even those who seemed at first to have been spared, as he was, now stand petrified, turned into mindless statues by the destruction of Cha'sa'dra's magic. Jinku tells the Avengers for that alone they should – and will – be put to death. Cha'sa'dra fires a blast of energy towards the Avengers, as Thor rallies his teammates to rejoin the battle.
'Bold words, Asgardian... but I can see this mystic heat is taking its toll even on you!' Gilgamesh calls out, while Thor is surprised that Gilgamesh appears unscathed, that his Eternal form seems immune to the monster's power. 'That it is, Thunder God!' Gilgamesh responds as he leaps towards the monster, then away from it, as She-Hulk hurls the jagged rock at the ceiling, causing it to begin to collapse on the monster, while Gilgamesh explains that even the lowliest Eternal would be immune to this monster's heat, while encouraging Thor and She-Hulk to strike. Thor's hammer slams into the ceiling, too, causing more of it to collapse, eventually covering the large monster in fallen rock. 'The deed is done!' Gilgamesh announces, suggesting that not even one made of stone itself can survive being buried beneath a mountain. Gilgamesh suggests they gather their fallen comrades, but Thor tells him to wait, as he fears they are not done here. 'What? But he's...' She-Hulk begins, before Cha'sa'dra roars and bursts forth from the rubble.
'No!' She-Hulk gasps. 'It yet lives!' Thor exclaims, while Jinku declares that it does not live, and so it cannot die. He adds that immortality may be lost to the Lava Men, but it is likewise forfeited by the Avengers. Cha'sa'dra then slams a fist down on the ground, knocking Thor, Gilgamesh and She-Hulk backwards. Jinku tells the Avengers that they have fought well but they should surrender now to their fate, and he may grant them the blessing of a quick and easy fate. Thor and Gilgamesh get back to their feet, 'I say thee nay, priest!' Thor exclaims, before alerting Gilgamesh to the fact that the She-Hulk lies unmoving. 'Ours must be the victory!' Thor declares. Gilgamesh fires some beams from his eyes and tells Thor that although he is a god and born of legends, he is a warrior who has walked through all the ages of man, and so his and his alone shall be the glory.
Gilgamesh then leaps at Cha'sa'dra, and lands on his chest, despite Thor telling him not to, that his thoughts are mad. 'Then madness is the only way a warrior should think!' Gilgamesh responds as he punches Cha'sa'dra in the face. 'Hear me, monster, if mind you have to understand...I am the warrior of the thousand names! I am the Dragon Slayer! I have fought ten thousand battles, and I have won them all! I am without equal in the annals of the Earth...AND I AM YOUR DOOM!' Gilgamesh shouts, as he strikes the monster again and again – until suddenly, Gilgamesh is hurled across the cavern by the large monster. Jinku laughs and declares that such is the fate of all blasphemers. 'Look upon your fallen comrade, surface-dwellers...and see in his still form your own hereafter!' Jinku slides down the ledge towards the ground as the Avengers rouse, and turn to the fallen, lifeless Gilgamesh. 'He... moves not...breathes not...' the Sub-Mariner utters, while Quasar begins to ask Captain America if Gilgamesh is dead.
The Avengers turn their attention back to Jinku who tells them that it matters not if the fallen one is dead, for in a moment he most surely will be – and they along with him. But the Sub-Mariner tells Jinku that he thinks not, as he feels a strange invigoration. Cap agrees, and points out that the heat seems less, and his head is clearing. Jinku tells Captain America to enjoy it while he can, 'For in a moment you may long for the numbing oblivion to shield you from the agony of your...eh?' Jinku utters, as Cha'sa'dra stands over him, unmoving. 'What sorcery is this? My lava monster does not move. Does not obey me...' Jinku utters, as a voice calls out 'Nor shall he, Jinku. He is ours now to control'. Jinku turns to see the Lava Men who were formerly frozen in solid stone stand before him in a gleaming gold form. 'Are we so changed you do not know us, brother?' one of them asks 'Are we so different you cannot see us in the very ones you fought so hard to avenge?' Jinku stares at them in shock, 'Akor? Danka? Kelak?' he asks 'How?'
One of the transformed Lava Men steps forward explains that it was by a means as natural it seems as the slow and steady growth of crystal in the darkness. He tells Jinku to lay aside his anger, his bloodlust, and join them, as he slams his hand against Jinku's shoulder, Jinku's reddish form suddenly transforms into a golden form like the others, 'There is no pain in this rebirthing!' one of the Lava Men calls out. Jinku looks at his new form, and remarks that the stiffness in his hands and limbs is gone, that the agony of each movement has passed, as though it never was. Captain America tells Jinku that the statue forms must have been some kind of chrysalis form, that his comrades weren't dead within their stony shells, they were metamorphosing. One of the Lava Men tells Jinku that Captain America is correct, but that his consuming agonies blinded him to the transformation happening within.
The Lava Man continues, explaining that free of the influence of Cha'sa'dra, they have evolved into this higher, finer form – and with this form comes an understanding. He adds that their brothers died because they were too thoroughly corrupted by Cha'sa'dra's evil magicks, but somehow, in their hearts, they remained untouched. 'And so did you. For though you sought the destruction of the Avengers, it was not hate that drove you, but grief and anguish'. The Lava Man tells Jinku, adding that he wished only to see right snatched from what he thought a terrible wrong, and so it has been set aside, this weapon, and now he can let the joy of this beginning fill his soul. 'I feel it even now. But...Avengers...I have done you a great wrong' Jinku admits. Captain America tells Jinku that they will recover, before turning to Gilgamesh and remarking that he is not sure Gilgamesh will!
Black Panther, Captain America, Gilgamesh, Quasar, She-Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Thor (all Avengers)Wonder ManInvisible Woman & Mr. Fantastic (both Fantastic Four)Edwin Jarvis
Akor, Danka, Jinku, Kelak and other Lava MenCha'sa'dra
in flashback images:Gortokians / Lava MenCha'sa'dra
The Captain, Gilgamesh, Mr Fantastic, Thor (all Avengers)
The flashback scenes where the Avengers battle numerous demons, apparently also Cha'sa'dra, took place during Avengers (1st series) #298-299, part of the “Inferno” event.