Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Avengers #269

TITLE: Avengers #269

PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics

COVER DATE: July 1986


23 pages


As much as I love The Avengers, I have a soft spot just as big for Kang. To me, he's the classic comic book villain with just the right touch of crazy and Machiavellian tactics that he uses in his never ending quest for power. Throw in a healthy dose of time travel, and you've pretty much created a character made just for me.

And I haven't even touched on the fantastic visuals yet. Who else but a world conquering villain could pull of a green jump suit with purple gloves and thigh high boots. It shouldn't work, but add a purple diving suit helmet and it all just comes together against all odds.

If I was to put a list together of my top ten Avengers stories of all time, I can think of at least four right off the bat that feature Kang, including my all time favorite Avengers Forever and the better than it had any right to be first story arc in Young Avengers.

This particular storyline involves Kang attempting to get rid of all of the divergent timeline Kangs that are floating around out there. And when you mess around with time travel as much as Kang, you're bound to create one or two thousand. This is the last part of this story, and like the cover promises, it's Kang versus his future self, Immortus. Will the Avengers survive this clash of time-traveling titans?

Read on...

The Once and Future Kang!
  • Writer: Roger Stern
  • Breakdowns: John Buscema
  • Finished Art: Tom Palmer
  • Letterer: Jim Novak
  • Colorist: Christie Scheele
  • Editor: Mark Gruenwald
  • Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Now seeing as how this is the third issue of a three part story, and our heroes are trapped and at he mercy of Kang...isn't it time for some super-villain boasting and pontificating? I believe that's actually part of the union laws for would-be world conquerors.

Not one to disappoint, Kang delivers...

and delivers...

and delivers...

In the interest of brevity and keeping my audience awake, we're going to give you the cliff note's version of Kang's speech, which basically recaps his history from his origins to present day.

For those gluttons for punishment out there, click over here or here for Kang's history in all of it's unabridged glory.

For everyone else, it goes a little something like this.

Born in the peaceful and enlightened 31st century, Kang is a young man who craves the glory of battle. Finding a time machine, he heads back into Earth's distant past and sets himself up as the Pharaoh Rama-Tut where the Fantastic Four ruin his sweet gig and force him fleeing into the future where he encounters Dr. Doom in the 20th Century.

Inspired by his meeting with Doom, he travels to the war-torn and savage 41st century and uses his knowledge of technology to set himself up as Kang the Conqueror for the first time. He's soon bored however, and decides to test his mettle against Dr. Doom. Instead, upon returning to the past, he meets the Avengers for the first time.

It goes without saying that the Avengers win, but Kang would be back a couple of times. On one of those occasions, the Avengers found themselves in the 41st century as Kang works on conquering one of the last kingdoms not under his control. Through a twist of circumstance, the Avengers find themselves working with Kang after one of his lieutenant's demands the death of Ravonna, a princess of the newly defeated kingdom. The only problem is that Kang has fallen in love with her. She jumps in front of a laser blast meant for Kang, taking her life and saving his, but at the same time leaving him a broken man.

After a couple of other super-hero scrapes, Kang finds himself in Limbo where he stumbles upon the abandoned fortress of Immortus. Using his technology, he's able to snatch Ravonna from the time stream the moment before she died. Joyous though their reunion may be, Kang is unsettled as he learns that all of his machinations through time have created thousands of divergent timeline Kangs.

That pretty much brings us up to speed for this issue, as Kang has been successful in eliminating all but one of his inferior counterparts. The icing on the cake is that he has captured the Avengers as well, and he has them trapped in a stasis beam so that they may see him eliminate his last double and solidify his title as Kang the Conquerer!

Like any good superhero team, the Avengers did not just sit idly by while Kang boasted. Hercules has been busy the whole time straining against the stasis beams. He eventually weakens them just enough that Captain Marvel is able to transform to energy, which overloads the machine and sets the Avengers free.

It's game on as the two big powerhouses of this lineup, Namor and Hercules, team up to deliver one heckuva punch. Through the wall Kang goes, with the rest of the Avengers in hot pursuit.

Before we get all caught up in the heat of battle, there's still the second Kang to be dealt with. Fortunately for the Avengers, it would appear that the recently snatched from time Ravonna has her own agenda as she pulls a gun on Kang.

Torn between two Kangs, she pleads with Kang II to not go after Kang I. Her words are wasted, as Kang could never let a slight like he's suffered go unanswered. Realizing that she has lost Kang(s) forever, she turns into the arms of a mysterious figure. Another Kang, perhaps?!

Back into the heat of battle, we catch up with the Avengers trying to defeat Kang, who is holding his own against Earth's mightiest heroes quite well. Using this to his advantage, Kang II appears from the shadows and aims his blaster square at the back of Kang I.

It's all for naught, however, as Kang I tampered with his blaster before, just in case something like this came to pass. It did, and now Kang II is no more, leaving just one Kang to rule them all!

End of story, right? Let's hold the champagne in reserve for a few more seconds, as the real puppet master reveals himself.

It turns out that Immortus has been pulling Kang's strings all along, nudging and tricking him into doing Immortus' bidding without Kang ever realizing it. Now that all of the false Kang's have been eliminated, Immortus reveals that there is still one more...himself!

That's right, Immortus is Kang too. Immortus has always been a bit of a mysterious, whose side is he really on, time traveller, so it makes sense. Ravonna claims that Immortus is everything that was ever good about Kang, who is still so full of hate at this time.

Kang has heard enough however, as he lunges forward to grab the Psyche-Globe from Immortus's grasp, which he claims holds all of he memories and knowledge from every version of Kang that has ever existed. Kang will have that power, but in the classic case of be careful what you wish for, it's all too much and an insane Kang goes running from Immortus' fortress into the blank expanse of limbo.

Successful in his quest to eliminate the thousands of Kangs, Immortus resolves to reclaim his role as ruler of Limbo. The Avengers are still unwilling to let the murder of a thousand Kangs go unanswered, but Immortus is beyond such moral trivialities when the balance of all reality is at stake.

With the wave of a hand, the Avengers are sent back to the 20th Century, leaving Immortus alone with Ravonna, his one true love.


By all rights, this issue shouldn't have been as enjoyable as it was.

Over half of the issue was devoted to flashbacks of previous stories. Those flashbacks deal with nothing less than time travel and divergent realities. Throw in multiple versions of one time travelling character and you have the recipe for a confusing mess.

Like Kang's costume, however, it defies the odds and works. The first half is admittedly a little slow, but given how the recap of Kang's origin takes us on a whirlwind tour of some of the best of Marvel continuity, I gave it a pass. It doesn't hurt either, as we have the immensely talented John Buscema and Tom Palmer supplying the visuals. Their take on the Avengers, as well as the flashback guest stars of Dr. Doom and The Fanstastic Four, are pitch perfect. For me, when I think of the Avengers, it's Buscema and Palmer's versions that instantly pop to mind. Luckily for us, they gave us 45 issues of Avengers glory to feast upon.

By the time Immortus reveals himself, the action takes hold and Roger Stern manages to tie everything together perfectly, giving us some great Kang on Kang action in the process.

I know I've probably said this before, but re-reading this issue really make me miss the fact that the old Avengers have been m.i.a. for so long. With the heroic age right around the corner, I'm hopeful that we'll get back to a little bit of that same spirit that made the old 70's and 80's issues so much damn fun. It would appear that the relaunch of The Avengers is going to have Kang back front and center, so that's definitely a step in the right direction.

All characters are artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics

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  1. Roger Stern is really undervalued as a writer, I think. You hardly hear anything about him, but from the late 1970s-mid 1980s he wrote some of the best runs of Avengers, Spider-Man, and Dr. Strange ever. As you point out here, he was a master of tying together old continuity and multiple storylines, and always very entertaining. In a way, he was had a lot of the positives you got with Claremont without the writing tics that always plagued Claremont's stories.

    --Thelonious Nick

  2. A few years back I got my hands on an import of the 40 years of the Avengers DVD set Marvel released. As I ploughed through hundreds of issues over the course of a few months, it became a bit of a trademark of Kang's appearances that they would have to be accompanied by a précis of his long and convoluted history. Fine if he's turning up every few years in a manner which would just confuse the crap out of any new readers, but it became vey weary having to trudge through this everytime Kang/Immortus turned up. I guess this is the pitfall of such a complex character, especially one who has never transferred to a non-comics medium.

  3. That's a really clever observation about the Roger Stern and Chris Claremont, Nick. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. The two of them together probably account for more than half of my favorite comic book runs up until the early 90's.

    I love Kang stories, Eldron, but even I don't think I could do a marathon run of them. All good things in moderation. I would, however, eat my own official Kang replica purple thigh-high boots to see him visualized on the big screen. I don't think it'll ever happen though, so I'm probably safe.