Avengers (3rd series) #41

Issue Date: 
June 2001
Story Title: 
The High Ground

Kurt Busiek (Plot), Alan Davis. (Art), Mark Farmer (Inks), Tom Smith (Colors), Richard Starkings and COMICRAFT’s Albert Deschesne (Letters), Mark Sumerak (Assistant Editor), Tom Brevoort (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Kang the Conqueror and his son, the Scarlet Centurion, arrive in the 21st century aboard Damocles Base to launch a new campaign on Earth. In Avengers Mansion, Goliath tests Warbird to see how powerful she is, due to the team’s new proactive stance. When Warbird is done, Goliath, or rather his imposter, becomes overcome by intense pain that he thought only his double was suffering from. Warbird overhears Triathlon talking to Jarvis about his search for the 3-D Man, whom Triathlon seems to be modeled after. Triathlon expresses his feelings over how he does not fit in with the rest of the team and his fear of becoming one of the many forgotten Avengers. The priority alarm goes off and the Avengers head to the United Nations Plaza, where the Scarlet Centurion, an envoy for Kang, demands audience with the delegates. This leads to a fight with the Avengers, who at first underestimate their foe. Warbird is troubled, however, as the voice of the Scarlet Centurion is horribly and hauntingly familiar. Kang arrives and, to teach the Avengers a lesson for attacking a diplomat, has Damocles Base destroy the UN building. However, Kang safeguarded the people within and, as he reveals that the occupants are alive, also announces that he has seen the future and he is Earth’s last hope. Meanwhile, while on vacation, Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch reach a crossroad in their lives that ends their relationship, though both are troubled that the break-up doesn’t bother them as much as they think it should.

Full Summary: 

Kang the Conqueror stands in front of a holo-projection of the planet Earth and gives his son, the Scarlet Centurion, a brief history lesson. What they are viewing is the Earth during the early twenty-first century. The Hatterag Line installations won’t be built for another 342 years and the thermospehere barrage shield for another 87 after that. From their vantage, the Earth looks helpless, doesn’t it? That is because it is, says Kang as he cuts the Earth with his sword.

The Scarlet Centurion questions his father, who already knows what his son is thinking. Kang told him earlier that Earth was not to be taken lightly, but that isn’t to mean that they should be feared. He has waged countless campaigns on thousands of world across thousand of centuries and he has mastered the principles of war.

The first and most important thing he learned is that a good commander takes control of the battlefield. If one has a greater force then they will have no difficulty crushing their foes in battle. However, if one has a weak force then they must shatter the confidence of their foes and throw them into disarray. They also need a good position. If you are under attack you should have a hard to reach base with natural defenses. If you are attacking you must have easier access to your enemies than they have to you. In short, you want the high ground. The Scarlet Centurion asks his father if they are ready yet, to which Kang replies yes and that he should make way to the Transport Chamber. If the Avengers should involve themselves in their latest plan, then they shall fall. Damocles Base, a massive space fortress, shaped as a sword, warped in from nineteen centuries in the future with a cloak to prevent detection, settles into orbit. Its purpose by now is clear.

In the Combat Simulation Room of Avengers Mansion, Goliath, or at least the man impersonating Goliath, runs a test on Warbird, who finds herself against two well-armored robots. She punches one robot, a Battroid, and Hank tells her that her punch had a 44-ton impact. That isn’t good enough, says Warbird. With all the events that happened recently and their new increased vigilance, she has to know her current power level. Once upon a time, Carol Danvers could channel the power of a star. That ability no longer exists and her power is no longer limitless. Now, she must adjust to that.

Warbird narrowly escapes the arm of one Battroid and Hank compliments her on her evasive action. Suddenly, he becomes worried when he sees Warbird fly straight towards three energy beams, meant to hurt her. She knows, replies Carol, as she flies right into the Corusci-Bars. Warbird is hit by the energy and, for four seconds, she is surrounded by seething energy, which she is able to absorb. Warbird then blasts out of the energy bars and smashes right through the last Battroids.

Hank is impressed and reports that her last attack had a 92-ton impact and that still probably isn’t her limit. She was right when she told him that her absorption of ambient energy keeps her strength, flight and photonic abilities at a high level. However, given any source of energy, she can still temporarily boost her powers. Warbird thanks Hank for the workout. Pym tells her that it was no problem and that he wants to talk with Jan and Cap about running tests like this for the whole team.

Warbird tells Hank that she is off to the showers, but, as she leaves, she cannot help but feel that something horrible is about to happen to the Avengers. She used to have precognitive powers once, but those are also long gone. Now she cannot pinpoint the feeling of her problems. In the control panel to the Combat Simulation Room, Goliath is suddenly overcome by pain and is barely able to mumble that it was the other Pym that got these pains, not him. That was how he proved the other was a fake.

In the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch ride horses though the Rocky Hills at high speed. Simon is impressed with the grace of his love and tells her that she never told him that she was so good. Wanda laughs and tells him that she grew up outdoors with Transian gypsies. She learned to ride as soon as she could walk. However, since she came to America, she has been a real city girl and hasn’t had the opportunity to do anything like this again. She thanks Simon for the trip, since a break from the Avengers is just what she needed.

Simon tells her that he is glad, but then his face becomes solemn, as he tells her that there is something he needs to tell her. His new foundation, Second Chances, wants him to do some projects and fundraising. They want him to take a more active role in helping people. Wanda thinks it is a great idea, since he has wanted to do something to reestablish his old life. However, she knows that there is a catch. Simon reveals that he would have to relocate to Los Angeles. Does she want to come with him?

Wanda looks away and casts her eyes to the ground. She tells him that it sounds nice, but to herself she cannot help but wonder that Simon came back from the dead for her, out of his love for her. How can anything compare to that? How can it not be everything that matters to her? Simon tells her that he understands. This weekend trip was nice, but she likes being deputy chair of the Avengers. He cannot ask her to leave, so he doesn’t have to go. Worried that he would shut away his own life for her, Wanda tells him that he has to do whatever makes him happy. However, neither one says out loud that this will change things. Their relationship has been a physical one. They are not talkers, meaning a long distance relationship would be difficult to say the least. However, when she thinks about separating from Simon, Wanda is surprised that it doesn’t bother her as much as she thinks it should. Wanda looks at Simon and says that she can visit him. When do they want him there? Uncomfortable, Simon tells her that he could leave directly from here. He will do that, then, Simon says, as he wonders why this isn’t harder than he thought. The two then reach a split in the trail, with two paths going in totally different directions.

At the mansion, Tony Stark demonstrates the location signals to the Wasp by displaying the current location of Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch on a holographic globe, which the team uses to keep an up-to-date tracking of all their active teammates and villains. As images of the Living Lightening, Quasar and Photon are displayed as a Monitor Squad in space, Tony shows Jan that the Black Widow is in China, on the trail of Tempest, and, thanks to Jack of Hearts, whose face is displayed over Antarctica, the Avengers have more data on the High Evolutionary than ever before.

Jan blatantly tells Tony that he is dodging the point. He recently gave his personal fortune to the Maria Stark Foundation and has gone into seclusion practically. What is going on? Nothing to worry about, replies Tony. Besides, the team is fully funded and Iron Man is still an active member, so it doesn’t impact the team. Wasp tells her friend that it isn’t the point, but Tony gives her the cold shoulder and tells her that the Avengers don’t intrude on their member’s personal lives. He then shows her another benefit of his new system. Images of Thor, Quicksilver, Captain America, Black Knight and Firebird appear in Siberia. Tony asks Wasp that who knew that when they asked the Black Knight and Firebird to monitor the Blood Wraith in Slorenia, that they would pick up trouble in Siberia? All they had to do was reinforce the two and now there is an instant investigation.

In Snezhogorsk, Siberia, a hover ship flies across the land with Quicksilver, Firebird, Captain America, the Black Knight, Thor and two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents aboard. Black Knight tells the team that there is some sort of unnatural heat turning the ice and snow to fog. While one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents changes the viewing display of the ship, the Black Knight tries to raise anyone on the ground. He sends a message to the Khystym Technical Mission and tells the team of scientists in the area that they have clearance to approach. On the monitor, a scientists in a haz-mat suit tells the Avengers that he is glad they are here. They are experiencing unexplainable radiations surges. The Russian super-team known as the Winter Guard went to investigate hours ago, but they lost contact with them. Suddenly, the three scientists on the screen are caught up in some sort of radioactive whirlwind, as the communication is lost. Cap orders the Black Knight to get out the radiation suits and meet the rest of them in the landing pod.

At the mansion, Triathlon rummages through the refrigerator, angrily mumbling something about bureaucrats, formal requests and policies. Jarvis, who is preparing lunch, asks the man if something is wrong. Triathlon apologizes for eating, even though Jarvis is making lunch, but he is annoyed right now. He started researching this man known as the 3-D Man, who disappeared right when the Triune Understanding started up. The Triune gave him powers almost identical to the 3-D Man’s, but he is getting nowhere and is not getting straight answers. Everyone seems to be ducking him and he is frustrated.

While tossing a salad, Jarvis suggests that Triathlon ask the Avengers for help. The team does offer assistance to their members in these situations. He isn’t sure, says Triathlon, as he continues to look through the fridge. Maybe if he was someone else. The rest of the team is tight with one another and he is an outsider. He ruffled feathers when he joined and he never clicked with the rest, except maybe She-Hulk, but she is gone. Besides, they all think that the Triunes are dirty and that makes things awkward. As Warbird enters the doorway, she hears Triathlon say that, when his time with the team ends, he will wind up like one of the Avengers no one ever hears about, such as Mantis, Rage or Deathcry. Saddened, Warbird leaves the room.

Jarvis apologizes for his next suggestion, but points out to Triathlon that it takes two to make a connection. Maybe he needs to reach out. Maybe, says Delroy, but he has been playing the good scout this whole time and giving 110% to prove himself to the others, yet nothing has happened. Suddenly, the priority alarm goes off, which is also heard by Warbird on the stairs, Goliath, who kneels over a toilet with medicine thrown everywhere, Vision, who is reading a variety of magazines, as well as Jan and Tony, who identifies the crisis point as the United Nations Plaza.

At the United Nations Plaza, the Scarlet Centurion descends from a portal on his hover board with his staff charged with energy. He introduces himself to the people outside and tells him that he is an envoy from a one greater than all of them. His lord has come to address their leaders and they should make way to welcome him. Two security guards pull out their guns and tell the Centurion that he is not getting in. Annoyed, the Centurion tells the guard to change his tune or suffer the consequences. A voice from behind tells the Centurion to back off or face the Avengers.

The Scarlet Centurion turns to see the Wasp, Goliath, Iron Man, Vision, Warbird and Triathlon. Iron Man tells the Centurion to calm down so they can talk. There was a guy in the same armor named the Scarlet Centurion, but he sounds too young to be him. The Centurion ignores them and announces that, though they are this era’s champions, they are nothing to him. He then unleashes a mighty energy blast from his staff, causing the team to scramble.

Iron Man orders everyone to fan out, but the Centurion grabs the golden Avenger by his helmet and tells him that he will do nothing. He then slams Warbird away with his staff, as he tells Iron Man that he has heard stories about him all his life. However, seeing him in the flesh now, the Centurion muses that he is not impressed. He will crush Iron Man, as easily as he absorbs his armor’s power right now. Iron Man is confused about the “all my life” part, but is more worried due to the fact that the Centurion has the power to back up his claims. As Iron Man’s storage batteries empty, Tony realizes that his more modern suit would have been able to resist it, but this early model of his doesn’t have the proper shielding.

While Triathlon and Wasp come to Warbird’s aid, Goliath smacks the Centurion to free Iron Man. Vision compliments Goliath and then announces he shall end this. As the Vision nears the Centurion, the villain smiles and tells the being that he knows that he will try to reach into him intangibly and then solidify to deliver a bio-shock to stun him. That won’t work while he armor is suffused with an energy-field that he cannot pass. Vision touches the Centurion and finds that he is right. However, Vision learns harshly that the Centurion’s staff can hit him while intangible, as he gets smacked away like Warbird.

Having enough of the battle, Wasp stings the man in the face and tells him that they have his measure now. She orders her team and they all move onto the Centurion. Goliath grabs the man by his arms. Wasp tells Triathlon to get the weapon, but Centurion is able to flip Goliath over and into Wasp, Triathlon and Iron Man, before Triathlon can come close. Triathlon thinks to himself that the Centurion is better than they thought. His power, precision, are top notch. He is clearly trained by the best.

The Centurion raises his staff to finish off the team, but Warbird tells him not to even think about it, as she wonders how he will fare when she absorbs the energy from his staff. Warbird grabs his weapon and absorbs the energy, much to the Centurion’s dismay. The Centurion begins to stutter, but finally tells Carol that she is magnificent. Her defiance, her determination and her beauty are unlike what he has seen before. Warbird is taken aback, as the Centurion leans closer and suggests that, when the hostilities are over, they can meet under different circumstances. Carol, however, recognizes the Centurion’s voice and she is stunned.

The Centurion is confused but, before he can ask her what is wrong, Triathlon wraps his arms around the man’s face and tells him to watch out for Carols’ big blue eyes. They will throw a man off his game every time. The Centurion unleashes a surface charge on his armor to shock Triathlon, but the man refuses to let go. While the Centurion is still blind, Triathlon tells the team to get him. Goliath, Vision and Iron Man quickly come to Triathlon’s aid and slam the Centurion to the ground, while Warbird disarms him.

Suddenly, there is a ripple of energy in the air, as an all too familiar voice orders the Avengers to stop. As the energy fades away, the Avengers see Kang the Conqueror sitting on a floating purple pad. The man apologizes for his son overstepping his bounds. Iron Man is surprised that the Centurion is Kang’s son, but Kang continues on and says that, despite the fight, his son came here peacefully and was treated badly. That is unacceptable. Uninterested in Kang’s games, Goliath reminds the time traveler that they have beaten him plenty of times before and they will do so again.

Possible, says Kang, but highly unlikely. However, the battlefield will answer that. Today there was no attack and the rules of diplomacy do not allow envoys to be treated harshly. The Avengers have no clue what they are facing, but will learn now. Kang presses a button on his intercom and orders his crew on Damocles Base to charge the main batteries and fire. In space, the massive tip of Damocles Base seethes with energy. Then, a mighty blast of energy erupts and shoots straight towards Earth from space. The blast races down from the sky and strikes the United Nations building right in the center, causing the entire building to rip apart and collapse in front of the helpless Avengers!

“Oh, my lord,” says Goliath, as the dust settles and the light and sound fade. Frantically, Iron Man tells the team that they need to move fast. There must be survivors. As the team moves, the Centurion tries to help Warbird up, but she smacks his hand away. Kang sees this and comments that this new team is an undisciplined group. Enraged, Wasp tells Kang that, in the name of the good men and women he just murdered, they will stop him. Kang smiles and, as he presses another button, he tells Wasp to save her outrage, for he has not killed anyone. Vision and Iron Man stumble off the wreckage as pink light escapes through the rubble. Suddenly, hundreds of blue orbs fly out of the wreckage, each orb containing a large group of United Nations workers, diplomats, guards, visitors, and etc.

Kang stands and tells the team that he has no interest in crushing them. This was a demonstration that he could do so easily. The fate of their planet is something far more important to discuss. He has seen the future and knows what is in store for the Avengers. Their world is doomed to be destroyed and the only hope that they have stands before them right now. “Uh-oh,” says the Wasp, “I don’t think I’m going to like this…!”

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Goliath I, Iron Man, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Triathlon, Vision, Warbird, Wasp, Wonder Man (Avengers)
Black Knight, Firebird (Temporary Active Avengers)

Scarlet Centurion II


Various people at the United Nations

Story Notes: 

Warbird’s star powers were fading by Avengers (3rd series) #1 and the Beast confirmed that they were gone in Avengers (3rd series) #4. Her precognitive powers were lost when absorbed by Rogue in Avengers (1st series) Annual #10.

This Goliath kidnapped the other Hank Pym in Avengers (3rd series) #36-37, believing that he instead was the true Hank Pym. It would later be revealed in Avengers Annual 2001 that they are both Hank Pym. After being turned into Yellowjacket in Kulan Gath’s world in Avengers (3rd series) #29, Goliath was pulled out by Iron Man, but the magic caused the Yellowjacket persona to be pulled out into a separate being, but no one noticed. This Yellowjacket, as revealed in the annual, was actually the repressed side of Hank that he feared. With the aid of Jonathon Tremont and the Triunes, the fractured Hank, along with a third buried persona, would be restored.

Wonder Man launched Second Chances in Avengers Two: Wonder Man and the Beast #2.

Wonder Man returned from the dead for Wanda over the course of Avengers (3rd series) #2-11.