Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Destiny War - Secret History!


I frankly doubt my abilities to fully relate the story to follow. Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco luxuriates in the boundless complexities which the time-traveling Kang and his kin have wrought in the Marvel universe, with numerous contradictions and oddities of exposition put forth over the decades. Attempts to explain and put right a complicated history only serving to further add to the complexity, and this story does no less.

With the destruction of the 50's Avengers timeline Captain Marvel and Wasp barely escape back into the times tream and  aboard Kang/Rama Tut's Sphinx-like time ship where Rick Jones awaits them. He is confused by images which have been parading on the various screens in the ship showing Immortus acting out throughout time and space and in places where previously his presence had not been known, such as the creation of the Human Torch.



Meanwhile Giant-Man and Captain America are working to help the Black Panther and his crew of Martian-fighting Avengers (Thundra, Killraven, Living Lightning, and a pregnant Jocasta). They enter Wakanda and discover that the caves which once held vast stores of Vibranium have become occupied by a mysterious woman-like creature called Mourning Glory and her insect like offspring. She has made use of the Vibranium to allow her children to thrive and now as Jocasta gives birth to the child fathered by Machine Man the Vibranium help makes that possible. With so much new life around them, the Black Panther makes the hard decision to stay and husband that life rather than seek out further vengeance against the Martian invaders.

Meanwhile (again) in the Old West, Yellowjacket, Songbird, and Hawkeye try to investigate their anomaly while staying away from the unfolding story with Kang and the western heroes Rawide Kid, Kid Colt, Ringo Kid, Night Rider, and Two-Gun Kid which ran in its course earlier in Avengers lore. They find new monsters created by Kang and further learn that their own ranks have been invaded by a Space Phantom posing as Songbird. But they survive and return to the Sphinx.


The Avengers then make the decision to invade Limbo and the castle fortress of Immortus. They are constantly plagued by images which seem to show pasts they are not familiar with and hope to find the answers in Limbo. Limbo proves to be quite confusing, changing at nearly every moment and the team becomes separated. Hawkeye runs into Tempus, the giant time warrior of Immortus. Cap encounters versions of Nick Fury. Yellowjacket has to come to terms with the truth that he is in fact Hank Pym and his response to that truth will prove dangerous. Songbird has her demons to conquer and guilt as her former life of crime haunts her.


But each overcomes their challenge. Hawkeye grows to giant size to smash Tempus, Cap takes some heart from his talk with Fury (revealed to be Libra), and Songbird and Captain Marvel strike up a romance, which Genis-Vell says will be theirs in his future. But Immortus discovers them and they rally to leave Limbo and despite enormous odds and a giant army escape back to the Sphinx, though Hawkeye does bring with him a Synchro-Staff from the lair of Immortus. Yellowjacket is left behind but makes his own plans with Immortus to bring down the team which he thinks threatens him.


And now it gets really confusing. Hang on to your hats amigos.

What is titled nothing less than "The Secret History of The Avengers" rattles the cages of nearly everything in Avengers lore we think we know as settled fact. To begin with, the Syncrho-Staff liberated by Hawkeye turns out to be a Space Phantom. Up to this point, the Avengers had believer there to be only one Space Phantom and now they learn there are a multitude, Phantoms becoming created whenever anyone is isolated inside Limbo for too long a time (which itself is a conundrum). The Space Phantom tells the Avengers that Immortus works for the Time Keepers, a trio of aliens from the distant future who work to prune the timestream and who regard the Avengers as one of the most dangerous threats to the cosmos. Further it is revealed that the Phantom's earliest battle against the Avengers in the second issue of the comic was the first foray by Immortus against the team. The Avengers then learn for the first time of their initial encounter with Immortus himself which to that point had been wiped from time by the Enchantress of the Masters of Evil. They learn that Thor's hammer had been deprived of its time-traveling ability in an effort to limit the Avengers' ability to travel in time.

Debut of the Space Phantom -- Never what we thought he was...ever.
The Avengers learn that in the distant future Earth will spread through the universe and the Avengers will inspire an army of soldiers which will conquer throughout space. This is the future the Time Keepers wish to stop and they push their agent Immortus to make it so. Further they learn that the Scarlet Witch and the Vision were nudged into a romance to stop her from having children destined to become powerful nexus creatures able to rock the cosmos. And all the myriad stories concerning Mephisto and other such demon like types had been a concoction to this end. They learn that the Vision is not created from the Human Torch's body, but rather a doppleganger body created by Immortus. We learn more that the foray into space by the Avengers against the Kree-Shi'ar War was manipulated by Immortus again and the Avengers who took upon themselves to kill the Supreme Intelligence were under minor mind control. The entire bewildering saga of teen Tony Stark after the Onslaught battles was a concoction by Immortus to control the team.

Everything almost they knew about themselves proves to only half-truths and just as they attempt to get their heads around the news Immortus and the traitorous Yellowjacket appear and knock the team out.

Whew!


I love Kurt Busiek, but even I was getting addled by the constant rejiggering of past stories in this yarn. He's a master of this kind of thing, as was Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas before him, but there is so much Marvel lore being re-knitted in this story that it all rather boggles the mind. I'm a reader steeped in Avengers history (pre-2007 that is -- couldn't tell you squat about the current situations) and I was constantly having to reach into my deepest recesses to remember all the myriad story lines Busiek and Pacheco touched on here. They truly attempted to fold all the material in to a seemingly-coherent whole but who knows yet if it was the truth.


More to come, much more.

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