The saga of Kang the Conqueror takes an interesting twist when he returns to battle the Avengers in the twenty-third issue of that comic. This team of Avengers is different from the one he battled before save for Captain America, and technically even Cap had walked out on the team of Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver when a mysterious additional floor added itself to the top of the Avengers mansion. Investigating the trio are whisked into the future where they find Kang seeking not just vengeance but the hand of a woman he has fallen in love with, the fair Ravonna.
Cap quickly joins the fray in the very next issue, and the Avengers and Kang actually end up working together for the first time when a more deadly threat appears from the brutal ranks of Kang's own army. To save the life of his beloved Kang rejects his own ruthless ways and his men mutiny. Only the Avengers can save the day and they do, but not before Ravonna is seemingly killed.
Ravonna doesn't show up in Thor #140 when Kang resurfaces in the 20th Century. This time he is testing a new weapon, something called a "Stimuloid", but which is called by those who see it "The Growing Man". Thor faces off against this menace and Kang himself, but the battle ends when Kang escapes into the time stream yet again.
In The Avengers #69, arguably my all-time favorite Kang story begins when The Growing Man shows up to kidnap an injured Tony Stark.
The Avengers seek to defend him, but are themselves whisked into the future to find that Kang has entered a contest with the enigmatic Grandmaster for the fate of the entire Earth. The Avengers agree grudgingly to help Kang who wants the power of life and death so that he might heal his beloved Ravonna.
This trilogy is a masterpiece as demonstrated by the next installment which introduces The Squadron Sinister. This quartet of DC-lite enemies faces off against some select Avengers in a cosmic game of chess. Cap battles Nighthawk atop the Statue of Liberty. Iron Man faces down Doctor Spectrum in the gardens of the Taj Mahal. Thor slugs it out with Hyperion in the shadow of the Sphinx. And finally Goliath reaches a stalemate with Whizzer in London when the Black Knight intervenes.
The contest enters a new phase in the very next issue, when Yellowjacket, Vision, and Black Panther are shipped off to Europe and World War II to battle "The Invaders". They weren't called that yet, because this is the story that introduced Cap, Namor, and the Human Torch in that assembly. The Avengers manage to eek out a victory just barely but because the first contest was left in doubt Kang is only granted either the power of death or the power of life, not both. Forced to choose his desire for revenge on the Avengers overwhelms his love and he chooses death over the team, but is foiled when the Black Knight, not yet an Avenger, defeats him. The Avengers quickly make Dane Whitman a member.
A lot of great things in just three mere issues.
We wrap up this look at past Kang yarns with a stellar one-off. After his crushing defeat in the Avengers, Kang continues to plot and comes up with a scheme to stop the team before they even begin by traveling to World War I and killing the ancestor of Bruce Banner.
Without a Hulk to stop the Avengers will never form and Kang will rule. But he cannot get to the desired time himself so he ironically chooses the Hulk himself to do it and it is old Jadejaws who battles Phantom Eagle in the skies over France. But as it turns out Hulk himself ends up saving his own ancestor and his own life foiling Kang's schemes yet again.
But Kang ain't done, not really. More to come.