Avengers (1st series) #371

Issue Date: 
February 1994
Story Title: 
Godlings and Gladiators

Glenn Herdling (writer), Mike Gustovich (penciler), Tom Palmer (inkers), Chris Matthys (colorist), Bill Oakley (letterer), Ralph Macchio (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Ransak and Karkas battle the mind-controlled Black Knight and Giant Man in an arena, observed by the Deviant priest Karygmax and two mysterious hooded figures. Karkas and Ransak are defeated by the two Avengers, and the crowd wants them dead. The Black Knight obtains a sword and is about to strike them down, while one of the hooded figures asks where Ghaur is. The recently resurrected Ghaur has now trapped Sersi, Captain America, Crystal and Hercules, along with the Young God called Vaura in his pentagram. Kro sends Dragona and Tzabaoth against Ghaur, but he turns their powers against themselves with ease. Before the Black Knight can harm the two heroic Deviants, Enigmo appears and holds him back, while Giant Man is confronted by Toro rojo. Black Knight cuts Enigmo down, but that simply creates dozens of small versions of Enigmo – which are squashed when Giant Man falls on them after Toro Rojo skewers him with his horns. Enigmo reforms though, unharmed, and Giant Man shrinks down, the brain mine falls off his head, freeing him of the mind control. Black Knight battles Toro Rojo, but during the battle, Toro Rojo vanishes, replaced by the young Incan boy he uses as a vessel. Before Black Knight can harm the boy, he is overcome by something, and the brain mine explodes. It wasn't the Black Knight willing himself not to harm the boy, though, it was his mysterious connection to Sersi that destroyed the brain mine. He knows Sersi is in trouble, and the heroic Deviants start to lead him and Giant Man to the altar, where their teammates are overcome by a strange mystic flame, from which a Uni-Mind emerges. The Uni-Mind joins with Kro and Tzabaoth's essences, before settling on top of Ghaur, granting him the power of all of those individuals inside the Uni-Mind. Ghaur fights the remaining Avengers and Deviants, during which a strange energy dagger materializes in the Black Knight's hand. Eventually, when all seems lost, the Black Knight somehow knows to shove the dagger into Ghaur's large Uni-Mind – this destroys the Uni-Mind and frees Sersi and the others. Sersi is responsible for the energy sword, her unique link with the Black Knight creating the sword and helping the Black Knight understand what he was meant to do. Sersi explains that a person can only partake in one Uni-Mind at any one time, which is why her link with the Black Knight took precendence over Ghaur's Uni-Mind. The Deviants want Ghaur as their ruler though, and Ghaur orders the Avengers and Delta Force from Lemuria. As they leave, the Black Knight tells Sersi that when they return home, they need to have a serious talk about their mental link, while back in Lemuria, the two hooded figures watch the two teams leave, and one of them boasts that soon a war will erupt between the followers of Ghaur and the followers of Kro – and he will be the only one to remain alive to pick up the pieces!

Full Summary: 

Lemuria, where a Deviant announcer exclaims 'Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the gladiatorial arena of Subterranean Lemuria!' The announcer states that tonight's main event features a tag-team championship pitting two returning champions – Karkas and Ransak – against two self-proclaimed Avengers from the outer world – Giant Man and the Black Knight! The announcer goes on to inform the Deviant audience that the winners of tonight's match will earn the privilege of defending their title in future challenges and the losers shall be awarded the reprisal of death! Giant Man a.k.a. Hank Pym and Black Knight a.k.a. Dane Whitman are under the control of the Deviant priest Karygmax, who has placed brain mines on them. Giant Man lifts the monstrous looking Karkas into the air, while Ransak the Reject punches the handsome Black Knight, knocking him backwards.

Watching from the sidelines, a cloaked Deviant tells Karygmax that the combatants appear to be evenly matched. 'Would you expect any less from the entertainment I have provided in your honor, my lord?' Karygmax asks, while at a loss to explain the sudden arrival of Karkas and Ransak. Another cloaked Deviant tells Karygmax that although the two Avengers are mentally enslaved by his brain mines, they have not lost their capacity for teamwork, noting this as Giant Man hurls Karkas into Ransak, knocking them both over. 'Karkas – watch where you're -' Ransak calls out, too late. Karkas tells Ransak that he is sorry about that, before asking 'Hey, aren't we here to rescue these guys?' Ransak points out that it doesn't look like they want to be rescued, and tells Karkas to get off of him. Ransak then remarks that it doesn't look like the crowd is too pleased with their performance tonight, as the Deviants in the crowd all give the “thumbs down” signal and start to chant 'KILL! KILL!' over and over. Giant Man and Black Knight look around at the chanting Deviants, while one of the cloaked Deviants tells Karygmax that they are hesitating. 'Now is the time to ask yourself... are your brain mines powerful enough to subvert the most fundamental principles of these humans?' and tells him that if not, then he might have a problem on his hand – so to speak.

Giant Man picks Black Knight up in the palm of his hand, and raises him up to one of the seated areas, where Dane punches a Deviant called Darg and takes his sword. 'He is trying to escape!' another Deviant calls out, before another of them notices the Black Knight leap back into the arena, armed with the jagged sword. Karygmax tells the cloaked Deviant that the brain mines are effective at subverting even the strongest of wills, they cannot erase a victim's personality traits, nor his fighting skills. 'Rest assured, my lord... the Black Knight only needed a familiar weapon in hand to carry out his programming!' Karygmax explains. The Black Knight raises the sword over Karsak and Ransak, as the hooded Deviant tells Karygmax that this is splendid, and points out that it is a pity their guest of honor could not attend this celebration. He asks as to his whereabouts, and Karygmax reports that Lord Ghaur will join them once he has taken care of matters that have arisen elsewhere.

At an altar, Lord Ghaur looks up at a pentagram that has been formed out of five very unique individuals – the Eternal Sersi, the Inhuman Crystal, the Olympian Hercules, Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America and the Young God known as Varua. Ghuar thanks Warlord Kro for returning Sersi to his unholy pentagram, as she and her fellow Avengers are powerful constituents in his plans of conquest. 'You know that was not my intent, Ghaur...' Kro replies, before turning to members of his Delta Force – Dragona and Tzabaoth, and instructs them to subdue the vainglorious priest-lord. 'As you wish, Warlord' the Deviant called Dragona calls out as she swoops into action. 'Of course, father' Tzabaoth, who is actually Deb and Don Ritter, Kro's children, merged into one being. Suddenly, Dragona finds herself tangled up as her own wings wrap around her. Ghaur asks her if her precious Warlord did not warn her that he can manipulate the genetic codes of the Deviants.

Ghaur remarks that this is a fatal error in Kro's military strategy, and orders Tzabaoth to humble him. 'Father – I – can't control -' Tzabaoth calls out as they fire blasts at Kro, who tells his children not to blame themselves. Kro asks Ghaur to stop playing with them, and demands to know what he really wants. Ghaur points out that for some unknown reason, Kro has always been immune to his genetic control, and as he stands over Kro, he warns him that he will implore his offspring to destroy itself unless he submits willingly to his little game. Kro looks up at Ghaur and remarks that he is left with no choice. 'I am yours' he concedes, while silently praying to the Fourth Host that his other troop succeeds in their half of this operation.

Back in the arena, as the Black Knight edges closer to Karkas and Ransak, Ransak tells his companion that he thinks they botched this mission pretty good. 'It ain't over till it's over, Ransak!' a new arrival calls out as he suddenly appears behind Black Knight, and holds him back from moving any closer to the others. 'Enigmo!' Karkas and Ransak gasp in unison. Ransak tells Enigmo that he is better late than never, before pointing out that the Knight's overstuffed friend doesn't look too happy right now. Indeed, Giant Man scowls as Red Bull a.k.a. Toro Rojo rushes towards him. 'Let Red Bull take High-Pockets down a few inches, amigo!' Toro Rojo calls out as he slams into Giant Man. Toro apologizes to the others for not being around to pull their fat out of the fire sooner, but they were entertaining some of their old gladiator friends in the bullpen. 'Yeah, they tried to keep us from joining your little soiree -' Enigmo explains as the Black Knight tosses him overhead, then rushes up and slices the sword through Enigmo, cutting him in two!

'Heh heh. Get it?  “Cutting me in two”!' Enigmo jokes as he appears half his size, but there is two of him. Black Knight looks confued, and proceeds to slash both Enigmos over and over, 'Oh. Help me. Help me. He's cutting me to ribbons' Enigmo calls out sarcastically, as the Black Knight continues to cut him to shreds – but in fact simply cuts him don into dozens of smaller Enigmos. 'Give it up, dude! Each one of us has the power of the full-blown Enigmo!' one of them calls out. 'Oh, yeah? Then maybe on of you can give me a hand with Gigantor? He's not too happy that I gored him!' Red Bull calls out as Giant Man smacks him aside. “Gored him?” several of the Enigmos call out, suggesting that they scram before he – 'Uh...oh...' they utter, too late, as Giant Man collapses onto them all, squashing them. 'Ouch. I really do hope I can get myself together after that' Enigmo mutters as he starts to re-form back to his regular size. During this time, Giant Man reverted to his regular size, and the mine brain falls off of his head. Enigmo suggests that his powers must operate on a time limit, and notes that the mine brain has fallen off.

'Time limit? That reminds me – I've gotta end this right now!' Toro Rojo exclaims as he spins around and rushes towards the Black Knight, while the Deviants in the audience continue to watch them. Toro Rojo dodges Black Knight's blade – but then he realizes he should have been watching for the hit, as the Black Knight slams it into Toro Rojo's neck, then slices the blade into one of his large horns. Toro Rojo cries out in pain, but the blade does not cut through the horn, and Toro Rojo boasts that his metallic horns are attached to a metallic skull. 'Now you will learn why one should never enrage a bull...' But, suddenly, a strange sensation comes over Toro Rojo, and he goes wide-eyed, before he vanishes, and in his place, the boy called Tupac Amaru appears. He is an autistic child of Incan descent, and like so many of his ancestors centuries ago, he is about to meet his demise at the end of a blade. 'NOOOO!' Giant Man shouts, and the Black Knight's brain mine suddenly goes up in flames, and falls from his head – with the blade barely an inch from the stunned Tupac's face.

Giant Man rushes over to Black Knight and tells him that he did it – that his conflict over killing the boy must have overloaded the brain mine. Dane tells Hank that he wishes that were the case, but the energy surge had something to do with his psychic link to Sersi. Dane knows that she is in trouble, and declares that they have to get out of this monkey cage to save her. He throws the blade up into the crowd, where it lands with a K-THUNK. Karygmax turns to one of the hooded Deviants and remarks 'I think we'd better – gulp – m'lord? M'lord?' but gets no response. Ransak tells Black Knight that was very impressive, but they had better let the Deviants handle things from here. Karkas adds that they can escort them to Lemuria's inner city through the least guarded alleys and tunnels. 'Then let's move – it may already be too late!' Giant Man exclaims.

At that moment, strange mystic flames wash over the captive Avengers and Vaura as Ghaur tells them to prepare themselves, for Vaura, the spiritual leader of the Young Gods, initiates the most powerful Uni-Mind ever created! The Avengers stare blankly ahead as Ghaur asks them if they feel ecstasy, or agony – or both – as their very essence is converted into the living blue flame. 'Do you share approbation for one another when you merge body and soul? Or does disgust permeate every fiber at what I intend to accomplish for acquiring your individual abilities?' Ghaur asks. 'By the names of the Space Gods – NO!' Dragon shouts as she watches this strange ritual take place. Kro and Tzabaoth watch in awe as from the flames rises a strange brain-like being. 'Your precious Celestial deities will soon be obsolete, child. Behold the birth of a new divinity! Behold the Uni-Mind!' Ghaur declares, as the Uni-Mind absorbs the abilities of Kro and Tzabaoth, the process is nearly complete, and the Uni-Mind floats down to Ghaur, who remarks 'What good is a mind without a vessel to execute its bidding?' Ghaur points out that his carnal arteries writhe up to nourish the entity with dark blood, as though they were destined to be one – and the Uni-Mind is then firmly connected to Ghaur!

'One more corner and we should reach the temple of the priest-lords' Karkas calls out as he, Enigmo, Ransak, Black Knight and Giant Man, who carries Tupac on his shoulders, rushes through a tunnel. 'Gotta hand it to you, Karkas – we made it the whole way without encountering any resista-' Dane begins, before a blast of energy is fired at him, knocking him backwards. Hank goes over to him and asks him if he is all right, before noticing that Dane's eyes have returned to normal, before they suddenly turn crimson again. 'Now I know something's happened to Sersi! We've got to -' Dane starts, before a group of Deviants appear, and one of them shouts 'You will do nothing, intruders – except anoint this hallowed ground with your blood!' 'And me without my sword' Dane mumbles, when, bizarrely, some sort of energy sword forms in his hand. 'What in the world?' Dane wonders, before deciding that there is no time to think about it. 'Gentlemen it's time to kicks some Deviant derriere!' Black Knight declares as he leads the others to the approaching Deviants. Dane uses the energy dagger on the Deviants, realizing that it works just like his own, disrupting the nervous systems of these poor creatures, leaving them otherwise unharmed.

The Black Knight points out that this still doesn't explain how the dagger appeared, as only Sersi can materialize things out of thin air. 'If that is true, Avenger... then Lord Ghaur should be able to de-materialize you with a casual glance!' Ghaur boasts as he approaches the group, his entire body glowing with the power of the new Uni-Mind. Dragona is nerarby and she urges everyone to flee, informing them that the Uni-Mind atop Ghaur's skull contains the powerful essence of their friends and comrades. 'Bah! Why threaten them with words...when deeds can speak so much louder!' Ghaur declares as he fires a blast of energy towards the Black Knight, asking him if it enrages him that he employs the cosmic power of his own lover against him. He then uses Vaura's teleportation to dodge the Black Knight who moves towards him, before using the elemental powers of the Black Knight's other lover, Crystal, to keep Giant Man and the approaching Deviants back, causing the earth around Giant Man and Karkas to rumble, and blasting Enigmo with flame.

Giant Man leaps towards Ghaur, who knocks him aside, telling him that even at full size, he could not overpower a foe with the strength of Hercules. 'And you, Enigmo – trying to sneak up on one whose reflexes rival Captain America? For shame!' Ghaur declares, slamming Captain America's sword into Enigmo with ease, before throwing the shield at Karkas, hard, and declaring that the good Captain could never hope to wield his distinctive weapon with such force. Ghaur throws his arms overhead, energy radiates around him as he tells the Avengers and Delta Force to continue their futile attack, as it amuses him so. He boasts that he is the composite of this world's dominant genealogies. 'I am POWER!' he exclaims. Dane looks at him and realizes that he is right – they are getting their locks cleaned. Holding the mysterious energy dagger still, Dane wonders why he feels like he holds the key to ending this little fracas, and supposes it has something to do with Sersi's telepathic clues.

Dane goes over to Dragona and asks her if her wings are more than just ornamental. Dragona introduces herself and boasts that she can soar with the grace and savagery of her namesake. 'Then I need to book a flight!' Dane jokes as he stands on Dragona's back, Dragona flies upwards and towards Ghaur's overgrown Uni—Mind head. 'Let us hope you are not planning a one-way trip, Sir Knight!' Dragona remarks, as Dane holds the energy dagger and tells her that unless he misses his guess, the only one getting his round-trip ticket punched is Lord Ghaur! Dane then plunges the dagger into the Uni-Mind, and Ghaur screams. 'That weapon! Where did you get -' he begins, before keeling over in pain, a hand reaches out from inside the Uni-Mind, 'Sorry, Ghaur – I had a hand in creating that weapon – to help my Knight in shining armor rescue his fair damsel in distress!' Sersi calls out as she emerges from the muck of the Uni-Mind. 'Sersi – thank Heaven you're all right!' Dane exclaims, holding out his hand, he pulls Sersi up.

The Black Knight tells Ghaur that his plan was perfect, except for one minor flaw. 'Through the Gan-Josin, Dane and I already share a Uni-Mind of sorts – by its very nature, a person can only partake of one Uni-Mind at any given time' Sersi explains, adding that when one of its participants falls, the others must follow. 'Verily! Although the Lion of Olympus would have preferred a less ignominious escape from his bondage' Hercules mutters, as he and Cap emerge from the Uni-Mind, also covered in the same muck as Sersi. Cap tells Ghaur that he has something that belongs to him. 'You used this in a manner for which it was not intended' Cap declares as he snatches the shield from Ghaur, asking him if he would like to see what it was created for.

'That would be unwise, Captain. You see, although you have prevailed this day, my resurrection has once again convinced the Lemurian citizens of my sovereignty!' Ghaur declares, informing Captain America that he and his companions are no longer welcome in their realm.

Soon, aboard Kro's jet, Ransak, Karkas, Enigmo, Vaura and Tupac can be seen in the jet, as Karkas asks 'That's it, then? We just leaven?' to which Kro tells him not to be concerned, and that Delta Force will reckon with Ghaur sooner than he thinks.

And aboard the Avengers Quinjet, Cap asks Dane why he is so glum. 'Let me guess: You feel we should have taken down Ghaur once and for all – despite the fact that it would have thrown the Deviants' society into complete chaos?' Cap remarks. But Dane tells Cap that is not it at all, and Sersi goes wide-eyed as Dane declares that when they get home, he thinks he and Sersi should have a long heart-to-heart about this Gan-Josin thing once and for all!

Elsewhere, the departures of the Avengers and Delta Force are seen on a monitor, as one of the hooded figures that was in the arena remarks 'They're escaping, Lord T. Should we engage the heat-seekers?' but “Lord T” addresses the other hooded figure as “Lord K” and tells him that will not be necessary. He explains that their task today is complete – they have driven a wedge between the ranks of the Deviants, and very soon, war will erupt between the followers of Ghaur and the strike force of Kro. 'But only I will remain alive to pick up the pieces' he laughs, wickedly.

Characters Involved: 

Black Knight IV, Captain America, Crystal, Giant Man, Hercules, Sersi (all Avengers)

Dragona, Enigmo, Karkas, Ransak, Toro Rojo, Tzabaoth (all Delta Force)




Khult and Tantalus (unnamed)
Darg and other Deviants

Tupac Amaru

Story Notes: 

Delta Force have not been seen again as a team following this story.

Dragona and Toro Rojo have not appeared since this issue.

Enigmo returns many years later in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (2nd series) #12-14.

Deb and Don Ritter return in Fantastic Four Unlimited #10, and become supporting characters in Heroes for Hire  (2nd series) during which they change their name to Dark Angel IV.

Ransak and Karkas also return in Fantastic Four Unlimited #10.

Vaura returns years later in Eternals (4th series) Annual #1.

Although unnamed this issue, Lord T and Lord K are later identified as Tantalus and Khult and they return in Thunderstrike #7.

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