Monday

OMU: Thor -- Year Five

Oddly enough, the next twelve months in the life of The Mighty Thor are completely skipped over in the thunder god’s own title, leaving his activities during this period to be shown only in The Avengers and through guest-appearances in other comics. As such, Thor has no contact with his Asgardian supporting cast and operates solely as an Earth-based superhero. This also leaves his buddy Hercules and the goddess Krista rather at loose ends for the year. I must assume that Krista remains in the hospital in a coma following the emergency brain surgery she underwent after her rescue from Hades, and Hercules most likely wanders the Earth in search of wine, women, and song before eventually returning to New York City. Thor keeps busy, however, and even serves his second stint as Avengers chairman.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Hearken ye to… The True History of the Mighty Thor!


January 1966 – On the first day of the year, Thor is at Avengers Mansion with Iron Man and Captain America. They discuss news reports of an upcoming grudge match at Shea Stadium between the Thing and a mystery woman called Thundra. Having heard that Thundra kidnapped the Thing’s girlfriend, Alicia Masters, last night as the Fantastic Four watched helplessly, Thor is baffled once again by the ways of mortals. Three days later, the match ends inconclusively when the Thing unexpectedly reverts to his human form. Alicia is released unharmed shortly afterwards, and the public considers the much-hyped “battle of the sexes” to be rather anticlimactic.

Several days later, Thor is on monitor duty in the Avengers’ communications room when he receives a video transmission from the Great Refuge of the Inhumans. He is surprised to see Quicksilver, alive and well, standing next to Crystal, the Human Torch’s ex-girlfriend and a member of the Inhumans’ royal family. After greeting them, Thor goes at once to the team’s combat-simulation room, where the rest of the Avengers are training. Promising the Scarlet Witch tidings of great joy, Thor leads her and the others back to the communications room. The Scarlet Witch is visibly relieved to learn that her twin brother is doing fine and is thrilled to hear that Quicksilver and Crystal have fallen in love after she saved him from the Sentinels’ Australian base last October. However, when the Scarlet Witch reveals that she, too, has fallen in love—with the Vision—Quicksilver objects angrily, leading to an argument that makes the rest of the Avengers rather uncomfortable. After Quicksilver hangs up on her, the Scarlet Witch starts to cry and the Vision moves in to comfort her. Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Black Panther move to the other end of the room to give the couple some space. Iron Man feels the team may be a bit shorthanded now that they’ve lost both Quicksilver and Hawkeye, but Thor dismisses his concerns. The discussion is cut short when the team receives a transmission from the X-Men’s secret headquarters, which has been trashed in a battle. The mutants’ leader, Professor Charles Xavier, speaks defiantly to the villain who is filming him, but then the screen goes dark. The Avengers agree to seek out the X-Men’s mansion and do what they can to help their fellow superheroes.

When they arrive at the secluded estate in Westchester County, the Avengers quickly discover Professor X, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Iceman in the wreckage, all of whom appear to be comatose. Iron Man carries out a winged man they assume to be the Angel, only to face four rampaging dinosaurs that are under the control of a sort of Pied Piper figure who emerges from the woods. After defeating the dinosaurs, the Avengers try to capture the Piper but are stopped by Magneto, who is wearing the Angel’s black-and-white costume and laughing about how he fooled Iron Man with a pair of false wings. Announcing that he is abducting the X-Men, Magneto grabs the Scarlet Witch and uses his powers to send Iron Man crashing into Captain America, knocking them both out. The villains then escape with their prisoners in the Quinjet while Thor and the Vision are busy keeping the Black Panther from being crushed by boulders. The three remaining Avengers return to the mansion and try to recruit some back-up for a rescue operation. When the Black Knight can’t be reached, they turn next to the Falcon, Spider-Man, and Luke Cage, but none of them can be located. At the Black Panther’s suggestion, they fly out to San Francisco to seek help from Daredevil and the Black Widow. Hawkeye is there as well, but he angrily refuses their request and storms out. The Black Widow vents her frustration on the Avengers, and Thor is annoyed by all the unprovoked hostility. Nevertheless, Daredevil and the Black Widow reluctantly agree to lend a hand, and so the five heroes board the Quinjet and head back to New York.

At Avengers Mansion, Thor discusses the situation with the Black Panther, the Vision, and Daredevil, though the Black Widow seems to have other things on her mind. As the team’s butler, Edwin Jarvis, serves coffee, the Black Panther explains to Daredevil how Magneto kidnapped the X-Men as well as Iron Man, Captain America, and the Scarlet Witch. Scanning a newspaper on the table, Daredevil announces that a special conference of the Atomic Energy Commission is being held that very day in a house not 50 miles from New York City. Thor realizes it’s a likely target for Magneto, given his interest in atomic energy and its resulting mutations, so they decide to check it out. When they arrive, though, they are unable to stop Magneto from kidnapping the commissioners, as he has Iron Man, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Iceman under some form of mind-control. The Black Panther suggests that Magneto must have a lair near the X-Men’s headquarters where he kept the dinosaurs, so they head back to Westchester County to search the area. However, they are concerned by the Vision’s disappearance during the fight and fear he was captured. In the woods behind the X-Men’s mansion, Daredevil somehow detects a large cavern beneath the surface. Thor uses his enchanted hammer, Mjolnir, to smash a tunnel down to the cavern, where they discover Magneto and his hypnotized prisoners. During the ensuing fight, Thor is hit in the head with one of Cyclops’s optic blasts and knocked out cold. When he comes to, Thor finds that Magneto has been defeated and his prisoners released. The others explain that the Vision phased inside the Piper and was able to sneak up behind Magneto and take him out with a karate chop to the back of the neck. Professor X then appears, having also been held prisoner, and puts Magneto into a telepathically induced coma. Taking charge of the defeated villains, the X-Men return to their nearby headquarters, intent on searching for the Angel, whose disappearance remains unexplained. Captain America conveys the Avengers’ thanks to Daredevil and the Black Widow and offers them full membership on the team. Daredevil declines but the Black Widow accepts, causing a rift between them. Daredevil leaves in a huff, and later the Black Panther arranges for a Quinjet to take him back to San Francisco.

Soon after, a mob of African-American militants pounds on the front door of Avengers Mansion, demanding that the Black Panther come outside. Before the Avengers can react, the mob breaks down the door and opens fire with rifles. Iron Man and the Scarlet Witch drive them back, but they continue to chant that the Black Panther must return to Africa, where his people need him. As the situation escalates, a man in a trenchcoat emerges from the crowd and forces the Black Panther to worship him. The man suddenly transforms into a gigantic armored demon who calls himself the “Lion God,” then teleports away with the Black Panther, leaving the mob disoriented and confused. As the crowd disperses, the frustrated Avengers realize the people had been entranced by the Lion God just as the Black Panther was. As Captain America leaves to consult with S.H.I.E.L.D., Thor joins the other Avengers in their conference room for a strategy session. Iron Man asks Thor what he knows of this Lion God, but Thor is forced to admit that the Asgardians generally had little interest in other pantheons, so he cannot even confirm that their foe is truly a god. Suddenly, the Lion God appears, with the Black Panther his helpless prisoner, and attacks them. The demon evades Mjolnir and shocks Thor into unconsciousness with his totem-stick. Luckily, Thor revives a few minutes later and calls down a lightning strike that hits the totem-stick, apparently overloading it and causing a massive explosion. Thor assumes that the Lion God had been destroyed. The Black Widow then announces that she has decided to return to San Francisco to work with Daredevil, preferring their partnership to being a member of a large group. The Black Panther, however, affirms his commitment to the team and says he plans to remain in New York for a while.

When not engaged in Avengers business, Thor patrols New York City for crime, trying to avoid his mortal identity as Donald Blake, though it means carrying his hammer around at all times. He generally transforms himself only when Blake needs to check in on the young Asgardian woman Krista, who remains in a coma in a Manhattan hospital. As such, Thor continues to live at Avengers Mansion.

February 1966 – In the middle of the month, Quicksilver comes to Avengers Mansion to try to talk his sister out of her love affair with the Vision, which proves to be very contentious. Jarvis is serving Sunday brunch to Thor, Captain America, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision when the entire building is suddenly transported to the 23rd century by Kang the Conqueror. With the element of surprise, Kang is able to knock out everyone in the mansion. Thor awakens sometime later to find himself and his teammates in the shattered remains of a bank of stasis tubes in Kang’s fortress. Iron Man is now among them, obviously having been captured as well. They have been freed by Black Bolt, Gorgon, Karnak, and Triton of the Inhumans, while Kang lies defeated under some rubble nearby. Spider-Man then enters, having captured Thor’s old foe Zarrko the Tomorrow Man. However, as Spider-Man hustles everyone out of the citadel for transport back to the 20th century, they discover that Kang tricked them with a robot double and made good his escape. The voice of the real Kang then mocks them over the loudspeaker. As Zarrko is turned over to the local authorities, Spider-Man explains how he and the Human Torch tracked down and destroyed three chronal-displacement bombs that Zarrko sent back to the 20th century to destroy civilization, after which Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus the Mad, was able to convert one of the bombs into a crude but effective time machine. Suddenly, with a blinding flash of light, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, Spider-Man, and Jarvis find themselves back on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, standing outside Avengers Mansion. Assuming the Inhumans returned directly to their Great Refuge in the Himalayas, Thor notes that the team owes them a profound debt of gratitude. Feeling slighted, Spider-Man makes a wise-ass remark and swings away. Entering their headquarters, the Avengers find they’ve been gone for two days. Realizing that his arguments are falling on deaf ears, Quicksilver returns to the Inhumans’ hidden city.

Thor joins Iron Man, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision when the Avengers are called in by the city to make repairs to the Statue of Liberty, which was heavily damaged by a giant monster a few months ago. A mishap causes the statue’s right hand to break off and plummet toward the Scarlet Witch. The Vision swoops in to rescue her as their teammates deal with the falling debris. To the shock of the crowds watching from below, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch embrace and kiss. By the time the heroes return to Avengers Mansion, news of the romance between the mutant woman and the android man has spread like wildfire. The next day, they receive mountains of mail expressing all manner of views on the relationship, much of it negative. Some of New York’s more obnoxious residents appear at the mansion’s front door, but Iron Man and the Black Panther send them away. After a few days, the hubbub dies down.

March 1966 – When a gang of neo-Nazis goes around beating up Jews on the street, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision go out to put a stop to it. The Avengers make short work of the neo-Nazis, but suddenly they are rushed by a suicide bomber who detonates the explosives strapped to her chest and seriously damages the Vision. Cradling the Vision in his arms, Iron Man flies at once to the Long Island laboratories of Stark Industries. Thor follows and, upon arriving, changes back into Donald Blake. He then joins Tony Stark and the Black Panther in a sophisticated laboratory, where they set to work making repairs, guided by the schematics Ant-Man drew up after his explorations of the synthezoid’s interior last year. However, more suicide bombers storm the building, intent on finishing the Vision off. Captain America and the Scarlet Witch are quickly outnumbered, forcing Stark to step out to summon Iron Man to help. When Stark returns several minutes later, he suggests with a wink and a grin that Blake see if he can find Thor. Blake realizes that Stark is aware of his dual identity and has just confirmed Thor’s long-held suspicion that Iron Man and Tony Stark are one and the same man. Amused, Blake finds an empty room nearby and changes back into the god of thunder. Thor quickly uses Mjolnir to generate a whirlwind that carries the remaining four suicide bombers high into the air above the building. Rather than be captured, the bombers detonate their explosives, blowing themselves to smithereens. The Avengers are shocked by such reckless fanaticism. A few minutes later, Stark emerges from the laboratory to announce that the Vision should make a full recovery. Thor is startled when the Scarlet Witch reacts with indignant rage, ranting about the way the Vision has been treated—even by her own brother—despite his many heroic acts. The way she complains about “humans,” apparently oblivious to her own bigotry, worries Thor.

April 1966 – Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, the Vision, and the Black Panther are about to start a search for the missing Scarlet Witch when she suddenly comes striding through the front gate with an Asian woman called Mantis and their old enemy the Swordsman. Thor is intrigued when the Swordsman insists that he’s reformed and petitions to join the team (legitimately this time) as Hawkeye’s replacement. Cap tells the former supervillain to keep dreaming, but the Scarlet Witch objects, accusing Cap of being ruled by his prejudices. Iron Man is forced to concur, pointing out that the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Hawkeye, and the Black Widow were all considered “villains” before getting a shot at redemption. When Thor volunteers to take full responsibility for the Swordsman’s behavior during a probationary period, Cap grudgingly bows to the will of the majority. Iron Man asks Mantis if she wants to join the team too, but she insists she is merely the Swordsman’s companion. Glad to have another woman to talk to, the Scarlet Witch assures Mantis that she’s welcome there. Over the next week, the Swordsman accompanies Thor everywhere he goes. They battle two giant fish-men on a beach and later stop a rampaging robot. Thor is mightily impressed with the Swordsman’s skill with his blade, thinking that he rivals even Fandral the Dashing. Thus, Thor recommends that the Swordsman be granted all the privileges of Avengers membership. The team votes to induct him into their ranks and all agree to trust that the Swordsman really has reformed.

Seeing a news report of Hawkeye and the Hulk on the waterfront battling a giant creature made of electricity, the Avengers discuss the fact that the archer has returned to New York without contacting them, indicating that he really does intend to go his own way from now on. Suddenly, the Lion God smashes into the chamber, apparently abetted by the Swordsman and Mantis. Thor is furious to have been fooled by two traitors, but is immediately knocked out by Mantis using her remarkable martial arts skills. When he regains consciousness, Thor learns that the Lion God has been trapped inside an adamantium cylinder that Iron Man installed in the ceiling after the last time their security was breached. Iron Man suggests that Thor send the Lion God into another dimension before he breaks free, and the thunder god uses his enchanted hammer to do so at once. In the aftermath of the battle, Mantis explains that she had sensed a malignant force lurking around the mansion and worked with the Swordsman to lure it out into the open. They then pretended to cooperate with the Lion God, planning all the while to turn the tables on him at the crucial moment. Impressed by the couple’s daring, Thor expresses the team’s profound gratitude. Captain America is clearly still suspicious, but the others agree that, if nothing else, the Swordsman and Mantis have earned the benefit of the doubt.

May 1966 – Realizing that no one’s heard from the Black Knight in several months, the Avengers decide to return to Garrett Castle in England to check up on him. As soon as their Quinjet enters British airspace, though, they are harassed by S.H.I.E.L.D., which objects to the Swordsman and Mantis, both of whom have criminal records, entering the United Kingdom. Fortunately, the Avengers are able to clear the matter up and soon touch down in a meadow outside the castle. However, they are surprised to discover the entire structure is surrounded by an invisible force field which they are unable to penetrate. Mantis performs some kind of mystic probe and determines that the barrier was erected by Doctor Strange. Suddenly, a large group of ragged, primitive-looking men with medieval weapons streams out of camouflaged holes in the ground and attacks the heroes, knocking them out with crude bombs that release a potent toxic gas. When he comes to, Thor finds he and his teammates being held prisoner in a network of caverns, presumably beneath the Black Knight’s estate. The primitives are upset because the force field is preventing them from looting the castle’s storehouses, which is how they’ve sustained themselves since retreating underground to escape persecution hundreds of years ago. Thor realizes that generations of inbreeding has caused the cave-dwellers to become savage barbarians, but their toxic gas prevents most of his teammates from fighting back. Luckily, Thor, the Vision, and Mantis seem immune to its effects, and they hold off a giant insectoid monster long enough for the Black Panther to force their captors to surrender. The Avengers march the defeated barbarians back to the surface, where they call in medical and government aid for the lost tribe. The barbarian king informs the Avengers that the Black Knight was taken away by people in weird costumes before the castle was sealed off by the invisible wall. The heroes decide to head at once to Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum back in New York to ask him about it.

However, when the Avengers reach the sorcerer’s home in Greenwich Village, they are repelled by a mysterious force. Thor smashes down the front door with his hammer and forces his way inside, where Mantis roughs up Doctor Strange’s butler. They catch of glimpse of the Black Knight in an interior room, having apparently been turned to stone, and assume that Doctor Strange is responsible. Before they can react, though, the Avengers are ejected from the building by hurricane-force winds. Thor rages at the unseen sorcerer, saying they will return when they’ve figured out how to overcome his magic, and then the Avengers return to their headquarters, seething with indignation. Shortly afterwards, a psychic projection of Loki, still blind, materializes in the mansion to warn the Avengers that Doctor Strange is leading a cabal of super-powered misfits on a quest to obtain the six segments of the legendary weapon known as the Evil Eye of Avalon, which has the power to destroy the world. Joining the mysterious master of black magic is the bestial Hulk, whose hatred for humanity is well known; the savage Sub-Mariner, who has long warred against the human race; the Silver Surfer, the bitter alien imprisoned on Earth; the Valkyrie, who desires revenge for her defeat at the hands of the Avengers a couple years ago; and even their former teammate Hawkeye, who wants to strike back at those he believes betrayed him. Though Thor is not inclined to believe anything his adopted brother says, the other Avengers convince him that they should check it out.

Thus, Thor flies to Los Angeles, California, while his teammates cover the other five locations provided by Loki. When he arrives, he receives a transmission from the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, reporting that they were attacked in Polynesia by the Silver Surfer, who made off with a segment of the Evil Eye. With Loki’s tale apparently confirmed, Thor commences his search. He soon finds the Hulk ripping up a fountain in front of a ritzy hotel and unearthing one of the segments of the Evil Eye. Swooping down, Thor confronts the Hulk and tries appealing to him as a fellow Avenger. However, the Hulk is still harboring some bitterness over the way the Avengers treated him so he punches Thor in the face, sending him crashing into a brick wall. The ensuing brawl lasts for several minutes, causing tremendous property damage, until the two titans find themselves grappling in the demolished street. Their strength evenly matched, they remain rooted to the spot, each one’s muscles straining against the other’s for an hour before their teammates finally show up—Iron Man, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis, as well as Doctor Strange, the Sub-Mariner, the Silver Surfer, Hawkeye, and the Valkyrie. Thor is shocked to see that this Valkyrie is not the Enchantress after all, as he had been led to believe, but Brunnhilde, the former leader of Odin’s Valkyrior, whom he has not seen in over 900 years. Learning that Loki has indeed played both teams for fools, Thor and the Hulk stand down.

The Avengers and the Defenders then compare notes and realize that Thor was fighting Loki in Rutland, Vermont, last Halloween at the same time that the Defenders were battling Dormammu there. They speculate that the two arch-villains must have teamed-up. Their suspicions are confirmed when the six segments of the Evil Eye are suddenly stolen by Dormammu’s servant Asti the All-Seeing. Despite the best efforts of the assembled heroes, Asti escapes with the segments into another dimension. Almost immediately, the city around them begins to transform into a nightmarish world of horror, the people metamorphosing into monstrous demons. An image of Dormammu’s flaming head appears in the sky, announcing that he is using the Evil Eye to bring Earth into his Dark Dimension, thereby enabling him to conquer the planet without violating his oath to never invade our universe. The Avengers and the Defenders vow to prevent this at any cost. However, the transformed bystanders begin to attack the heroes, forcing them to fight back. Thor helps keep the monsters at bay while Doctor Strange casts a spell to prevent any of the 14 superheroes present from changing into monsters themselves. The sorcerer then tries to convince Captain America that both teams need to take the fight directly to Dormammu in the Dark Dimension. Cap is reluctant to abandon the earth in such a time of crisis but relents when Nick Fury and the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D. arrive on the scene. Leaving Fury and his agents to deal with the monsters, Doctor Strange casts a spell to transport the Avengers and the Defenders into Dormammu’s realm.

In the weird landscape of the Dark Dimension, Doctor Strange yells at the headstrong Avengers to keep them from blundering to their doom, prompting Thor to order his teammates to defer to the sorcerer’s expertise. Then, after beating off the numberless hordes of the Mindless Ones, the heroes find Dormammu, brandishing the Evil Eye, with Loki imprisoned in a cage of flames. To everyone’s surprise, the Watcher is also present, looking on enigmatically. Doctor Strange manages to breach the mystic barrier separating them, but with one wave of his hand, Dormammu’s augmented magic instantly renders the six Defenders unconscious. Undaunted, Thor leads the Avengers in a desperate charge, but Dormammu turns the ground under their feet into quicksand. Thor, Iron Man, and the Scarlet Witch avoid the trap, only for Thor to suddenly find himself forcibly changed into Don Blake as Iron Man’s armor dissolves. The Scarlet Witch is stopped in her tracks by a rain of sticky glue, but she manages to raise her arms enough to cast a hex bolt at Dormammu, who is distracted by Loki. The hex causes the Evil Eye to malfunction, and it disintegrates Dormammu, absorbs his mystical energies, and blasts them out again straight through Loki’s brain. Blake instantly becomes Thor again as the other Avengers are released and the Defenders regain consciousness. The Watcher congratulates the 14 heroes on their great victory, noting that, while Loki’s sight has been restored, his mind has been shattered, leaving him with the intellect of an infant. And though Dormammu’s corporeal form has been destroyed, the Watcher warns, he will eventually reintegrate himself with the aid of his many black-hearted worshipers. Doctor Strange then retrieves the Evil Eye and casts a spell that returns the two teams to Los Angeles.

The Avengers and the Defenders materialize on the same street in L.A. to find the crisis is over. The people who had been transformed into monsters have reverted to normal and are wandering around the rubble-strewn streets in a daze. Thor is glad to have his brother Loki back in his custody again. Nick Fury offers the two teams his congratulations on their victory. However, wishing to keep the existence of the Defenders a secret, Doctor Strange removes all memory of their involvement from Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as any bystanders who witnessed their presence earlier in the day. Furthermore, he combines the power of the Evil Eye with his own sorcerous might to undo all damage and destruction the world over caused by Dormammu’s scheme, leaving everyone believing they had just suffered a mass hallucination. Finally, after bidding farewell to the Avengers, Strange teleports his team back to his Sanctum Sanctorum to attend to the Black Knight. The Avengers borrow a jet from S.H.I.E.L.D. and return to New York as well. Unfortunately, since they do not arrive in a Quinjet, the Avengers are unable to deactivate their mansion’s rooftop security systems ahead of time. Luckily, the Black Panther is able to do it manually. The Scarlet Witch complains again about “humans,” and Thor is irked by her attitude. As they enter the mansion, Thor informs Jarvis of Loki’s condition and explains that he will need constant care. Since Loki has been banished from Asgard, Thor asks Jarvis to set him up in Hawkeye’s old bedroom. Thor is extremely wary at first, expecting treachery from his brother, but as time passes, Loki gives no sign of faking his mental disability.

June–September 1966 – Thor takes Loki on an extended camping trip to the rugged wilderness areas of Norway and Sweden, hoping that more pleasant surroundings will help him heal. Reminded of their childhood together in Asgard, Thor enjoys himself at first and often regales his brother with tales of their youthful adventures. However, the thunder god’s patience wears thin over time as Loki remains in a near-catatonic state.

October 1966 – Thor brings Loki back to Avengers Mansion and finds that much of the building had to be rebuilt over the summer after being destroyed in a fight with Iron Man’s old foe the Controller, who was apparently in the employ of an alien warlord named Thanos, who intends to conquer the earth. Thor has heard mention of Thanos in Asgard but is confident that when the villain makes his move, the Avengers will defeat him. As the Black Panther’s term as team chairman has ended, Thor agrees to take over those duties.

On Halloween, Mantis senses mystic emanations that portend great danger in Rutland, Vermont. Remembering the events of previous years, Thor decides they’d better check it out. When they arrive, Tom Fagan, one of the parade’s organizers, asks them to ride on a float sponsored by Marvel Comics. Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Black Panther agree, hoping to draw out the source of the unknown danger, but the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis decide not to participate and wander off into the crowd. Two hours later, as the parade is winding down, Thor is frustrated that nothing has happened. Fagan then leads the four heroes through the woods toward his house, only to suddenly reveal that he is the villain in disguise. Catching the Avengers off guard with some magic pellets, he knocks them out and takes them prisoner. When he comes to, Thor discovers that they have been captured by the Collector, but the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis have come to the rescue. The Collector activates two magic stones that produce a swarm of vampire bats that threaten the entire town, hoping to barter for his freedom. However, Mantis kicks the villain in the face and knocks him out, then uses the magic stones to make the bats vanish again. The real Tom Fagan thanks the Avengers for saving the city and offers them any further assistance he can provide. Thor asks Fagan if he would be willing to take over caring for Loki, feeling that Rutland would be a more appropriate setting for his near-catatonic brother. Fagan agrees, so the Avengers return to their Quinjet and fly back to New York. Unfortunately, the Collector escapes as soon as he regains consciousness.

November 1966 – In the morning, Thor and Captain America fly Loki up to Rutland, Vermont, and meet Tom Fagan at his new house. As Loki wanders around enjoying the scenic vistas, Fagan assures Thor that his brother will be well looked after, as he’s enlisted the help of numerous townspeople. Satisfied that they’ve found the ideal solution, Thor and Cap depart.

When Jarvis informs Thor that Iron Man has requested assistance battling Doctor Spectrum in Detroit, Michigan, the thunder god flies to the scene at once. When he arrives, though, Thor finds Iron Man, with the villain’s power prism lodged in his chestplate, on a rampage. As soon as Iron Man speaks, Thor can tell by his voice that he’s an impostor and quickly defeats him. Removing his unconscious opponent’s helmet, Thor is surprised to see a black man in the armor. A distraught white woman rushes up and kneels beside them, but Thor is distracted when two police officers bring Doctor Spectrum over. Once the villain is close enough to his power prism, it flies to his hand, enabling him to escape. Thor pursues Doctor Spectrum into the sky and they fight high above Detroit until the real Iron Man arrives on the scene. Iron Man tells Thor that the impostor is a friend of his and is in need of medical attention, so the thunder god drops into a nearby alley and changes into Donald Blake. As he examines the unconscious man, Blake learns that the distraught woman is a friend of Tony Stark’s named Roxanne Gilbert. Two more of Stark’s friends arrive in a taxi, Happy and Pepper Hogan, and identify the patient as former boxer Eddie March. Learning that March has a dangerous blood clot in his brain, Blake decides that he needs immediate surgery to save his life. Fortunately, Iron Man has defeated Doctor Spectrum and turned him over to the police, so there is no further trouble as an ambulance arrives to transport March to the nearest hospital. Blake accompanies him and volunteers to assist the emergency room doctors there. Knowing of Blake’s reputation, the hospital personnel immediately agree.

A little while later, Tony Stark enters the gallery above the operating theater, and Blake gives him some grim news—March appears to be too weak to survive the surgery. Desperate to save his friend, Stark suggests they use an experimental device called an “enervation intensifier” that brought Happy Hogan back from the brink of death three years ago. Blake is willing to give it a try, so Thor and Iron Man soon fly to Stark Industries’ Long Island facility to fetch the device from a warehouse. Once back in Detroit, Thor resumes his mortal identity while Stark sets up the device in the operating room. Unfortunately, Stark’s worst fears are realized as the enervation intensifier mutates March into a mindless, rampaging freak. In a frenzy, March topples some heavy equipment onto Blake’s walking stick, preventing him from changing back into Thor. Thus, while Iron Man goes after March, Blake directs the hospital staff to prep another operating room. Iron Man soon carries March back in, and Blake is relieved to see that his transformation has worn off. He determines that March has enough residual strength left to undergo surgery. While the delicate procedure is being carried out, Iron Man retrieves the walking stick, knowing it is Mjolnir in disguise. Later, Blake finds Stark in the waiting room and reports that March should recover, though he will likely be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. After conferring with the hospital staff about March’s course of treatment, Blake changes back into Thor and flies home to New York City.

At Avengers Mansion, Thor is shocked to learn that Captain America has been arrested for murder. Sgt. Damian Link, the team’s new liaison officer with the NYPD, comes to meet with them. However, the Swordsman soon exposes Link as Gemini, one of the twelve leaders of the international crime cartel Zodiac. He manages to evade the Avengers’ attempts to apprehend him until Thor punches him into a wall, leaving the villain extremely disoriented. Unfortunately, Gemini is rescued by the rest of Zodiac—Aquarius, Cancer, Capricorn, Libra, Leo, Pisces, Sagittarius, Taurus, Virgo, and replacements for Aries and Scorpio—using their powerful “Star-Blazer” energy weapon. The criminals escape, but Taurus leaves behind a tape recording that reveals that they plan to use a giant version of the Star-Blazer weapon, the “Star-Blaster,” to kill everyone in Manhattan born under the sign of Gemini, after which they will announce their demands. Thor, Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, and Mantis head out to track their foes down, but the Swordsman is too ill to join them. Just before midnight, the Avengers find the Zodiac gang setting up their Star-Blaster cannon on top of the Empire State Building and immediately disable the weapon. Even so, Taurus manages to fire its deadly rays at Mantis, knocking her out. Though Captain America turns up and joins the fray, Aries throws Mantis off the roof. While the Avengers are busy saving her, Zodiac escapes. Captain America assures his teammates he’s been framed, but does not accompany them back to the mansion. There, Thor changes into Don Blake and checks Mantis over. He is shocked to discover she seems to be literally healing herself while in a trance. Iron Man asks the Swordsman to tell them more about Mantis, but he knows little about her past before he met her in a bar in Saigon while he was working for a local crimelord called Monsieur Khruul.

After the Black Panther has joined them, the Avengers spread out over the city to search for Zodiac’s hidden lair. Just before dawn, Thor finds seven members of the cartel meeting with the crooked financier Cornelius Van Lunt in a warehouse in New Jersey and summons the rest of the team to meet him there. The Avengers crash through the window to take their foes by surprise, but Van Lunt slips out during the fight and seals off the warehouse, revealing it to be a deathtrap. Before the Avengers or the seven members of Zodiac can react, Van Lunt launches the building into orbit. Thor tries to smash through the side of the warehouse, only to discover the building is surrounded by the same kind of force field that Zodiac used when they held Manhattan hostage two years ago. Mjolnir passes through the field but then is unable to return to him. Realizing he will change back into Don Blake after sixty seconds, Thor dives behind some crates and hides under a tarp. The other Avengers and Zodiac are confused by the thunder god’s behavior, but Iron Man keeps them away from his hiding place. The Scarlet Witch is able to create a momentary weak spot in the field with her mutant hex power, which allows Iron Man to fly out and retrieve the hammer. Before Iron Man can get back inside, though, Libra arrives in Zodiac’s spaceplane, the Star-Cruiser, and rescues them. As soon as the force field is deactivated, Mjolnir returns to Blake’s hand, transforming him into Thor once again. The humiliated thunder god emerges from his hiding place, knowing that friend and foe alike must think he panicked and cowered in fear while bereft of his hammer. Everyone then joins Libra aboard the Star-Cruiser, and he flies them to Van Lunt’s penthouse. There, Van Lunt is revealed to be Taurus, and though he conspired with Capricorn, Gemini, and Virgo to kill off the other members of the cartel, he convinces his erstwhile partners-in-crime to put aside their differences long enough to destroy the Avengers. However, the Avengers win the fight, which ends when the Vision knocks Taurus into his swimming pool. Taurus panics, though, because he can’t swim, but the Vision makes no move to rescue him. Luckily, Mantis charges in at that moment, dives into the water, and hauls Taurus to the surface. Thor is angry with the Vision, but the synthezoid offers no defense, even when the Scarlet Witch presses him on it. Disgusted, Thor demands that Libra explain why he betrayed Taurus and saved them all. Libra admits that it was something of a mistake; he really just wanted to rescue Mantis, having assumed she was with the Avengers—because she is his daughter.

The Avengers turn the rest of Zodiac over to the police and free Sgt. Damian Link, who had been mind-controlled by the real Gemini, but take Libra back to Avengers Mansion for questioning. There, he explains how he met Mantis’s mother when he was fighting in the First Indochina War as a member of the French Foreign Legion. After a whirlwind romance, they were married, but her brother, the crimelord known as Monsieur Khruul objected to the match and tried to have them killed. Mantis was born while they were on the run. Eventually, Khruul’s assassins caught up to them and killed Libra’s wife, but he and his daughter found refuge in a remote monastery. The monks, who called themselves the Priests of Pama, raised Mantis, teaching her their unique form of martial arts. Finally, Libra admits, he left her there and returned to Europe. Consumed with rage, Mantis attacks Libra, but he subdues her, having learned the same fighting techniques that she did. Suddenly, the Avengers realize that the Swordsman has taken a Quinjet and is heading to Vietnam to take vengeance on Monsieur Khruul. Before they can follow, Iron Man must fly to Van Lunt’s property in New Jersey to retrieve their other Quinjet. When he returns, the Avengers set off, accompanied by Libra.

When the Avengers arrive at Monsieur Khruul’s villa on the outskirts of Saigon, they find the Swordsman tied to a chair. He admits he broke under torture and told the crimelord about the Priests of Pama and how to find them. Libra then leads the team to the remote monastery, but they arrive too late—all the monks have been slaughtered by Khruul’s assassins. The Avengers defeat the assassins, but Khruul flees deeper into the temple, only to be killed by the Star-Stalker, a dragon-like alien who has come to feed on the planet’s life-energies now that the Priests of Pama can no longer prevent him from doing so. The Star-Stalker shrugs off the Avengers’ initial attack, then spins a cocoon around itself in order to transform into its energy-absorbing form. The Black Panther contacts S.H.I.E.L.D. and arranges for them to deliver Zodiac’s Star-Blaster cannon, which the agency has impounded. Unfortunately, when it emerges from its cocoon, the Star-Stalker proves to be impervious to the weapon’s rays. The creature slams Thor and Iron Man into each other, knocking them both out. When he comes to, Thor finds that Mantis and the Vision figured out how to defeat the Star-Stalker and were able to kill it. Leaving the Swordsman to recover in a Saigon hospital, the other Avengers return to New York City, where Libra is turned over to the police. Unwilling to explain what happened to him aboard Zodiac’s warehouse-rocket, Thor decides to move out of Avengers Mansion. As Don Blake, he rents a new apartment elsewhere in the city. Blake realizes that the tension between his two identities has only grown over time and wonders what, if anything, he can do about it.

December 1966 – Thor goes to Rutland, Vermont, to visit with Loki at Tom Fagan’s house. The god of mischief’s condition appears unchanged. Fagan mentions that the small town is abuzz with the disappearance of a teenaged boy who was last seen on Halloween, but Thor is convinced that Loki couldn’t have had any involvement. Upon his return to New York, Thor is summoned to Avengers Mansion for a meeting with Captain Marvel and two of his friends, Drax the Destroyer and Moondragon. They are joined by Iron Man, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, Mantis, and the Swordsman, who is just back from Vietnam. Captain Marvel reports that a hidden colony on Saturn’s moon Titan has been conquered by Thanos, who has now come into possession of the Cosmic Cube and is thus a threat to the entire universe. However, the strategy session is cut short when Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Drax, and Moondragon suddenly vanish into thin air. The Avengers realize they must have been kidnapped by Thanos. Though unable to find any trace of their missing friends, the Avengers learn from the space station Starcore One that an armada of starships is heading toward Earth from the vicinity of Mars—presumably Thanos’s fleet of space pirates that Captain Marvel warned them of. Deciding to intercept the armada before it reaches Earth, the Avengers take their spaceworthy Quinjet and Zodiac’s Star-Cruiser out to meet the threat. As the battle is joined, Thor leaves the Quinjet and smashes into the command deck of the fleet’s flagship, where he takes on an army of armored aliens singlehandedly. The armada still manages to reach Earth, but the aliens suddenly lose their ability to communicate with each other when the Avengers find and destroy their central universal translator. Gaining the upper hand, the Avengers press their attack and, within the hour, the fleet of invading ships has been destroyed, with a handful of survivors in full retreat. Thor returns to the Quinjet, flush with the thrill of victory, and they soon land on the roof of Avengers Mansion.

Unfortunately, the Avengers quickly discover that Thanos has used the Cosmic Cube to shift the entire planet out of phase to prevent them from interfering with his plans. The space armada, they realize, was merely a distraction meant to lure the Avengers off Earth while Thanos caused the phase-shift. Still, Mantis is able to contact Captain Marvel and tell him what happened. Captain Marvel and Drax the Destroyer then attack Thanos, their fight soon carrying them away from Avengers Mansion as the team watches helplessly. Mantis sets off after them and, a few minutes later, the phase-shift is abruptly cancelled out. Entering their headquarters, the Avengers discover that Iron Man has returned as well, though he’s not sure how he got there. After comparing notes, they track Mantis to a nearby rooftop, where they find her with Captain Marvel and Drax. Captain Marvel has somehow defeated Thanos by smashing the Cosmic Cube, though he and Mantis give only vague and evasive answers to the Avengers’ questions. As Drax flies off into the night sky, Captain Marvel trades interdimensional places with Rick Jones, who accompanies the others back to the mansion. Not long afterward, Thor’s help is requested after Iron Man and Captain America discover a vintage cryogenic vault in the rubble of a collapsed government research building. He and the Vision carry the bulky device into one of the labs in the basement of Avengers Mansion, where Iron Man decides to have some technicians from Stark Industries examine it after the holidays. Rick then says goodbye to the Avengers and heads off on a 15-city concert tour as part of the opening act for a more famous band. Thor wishes him good fortune.

Thor and Iron Man are concerned when the disillusioned Captain America says he’s considering giving up his costumed identity, permanently this time. Before they can discuss it further, though, the mansion is attacked by Klaw and his new partner, Solarr, who have imprisoned the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis, along with Ambassador Ronald Pershing of Rhodesia, under a dome of solid sound outside. The villains are threatening to roast their hostages unless the Black Panther surrenders the throne of Wakanda to Klaw, after which he intends to declare war on Rhodesia to pay them back for the harsh treatment he suffered there last year. When Klaw proves to be a sonic illusion, Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America search the neighborhood for the real villain, but the Black Panther deduces that he is, in fact, masquerading as Ambassador Pershing. Klaw and Solarr are quickly defeated, but the Black Panther announces that he must take a leave of absence and return to Wakanda for a while. Thor grants the request and calls the Avengers to gather to toast their valiant comrade. Unfortunately, their celebration is marred when the Scarlet Witch and the Vision get into an argument about the Swordsman’s assertion that the Vision is trying to steal Mantis away from him. Thor is disturbed by the Scarlet Witch’s bad attitude of late and the dissention it has caused. The atmosphere around the mansion is still a bit tense a day or two later when Thor joins the others for the Avengers’ Fifth Annual Christmas Charity Benefit.

The Avengers respond when an intruder breaks into the lab where the vintage cryogenic vault is being stored, and they are surprised to find that he is the Whizzer, the super-fast crimefighter of the 1940s who was a member of the Liberty Legion, the Invaders, and the post-war All-Winners Squad. Thor vaguely remembers meeting the Whizzer when he encountered the Invaders during World War II. The Whizzer claims that the cryogenic vault belongs to him, but the Avengers are dubious until the module opens, revealing a highly radioactive mutant inside. The mutant smashes its way to freedom and disappears into the city. Detecting three radioactive hotspots in the area, the Avengers split up to see which one is the mutant. Thor and Mantis find him on some elevated tracks in Brooklyn and note that the mutant has started referring to himself as “Nuklo.” After a near-disastrous encounter with a speeding express train, Thor and Mantis are able to herd Nuklo back to Avengers Mansion, where they are shocked to see their teammates bringing two other Nuklos with them. The three doppelgängers merge into one, tripling his power. He scatters the Avengers with a force blast, but then the Scarlet Witch and the Whizzer arrive on the scene and trap him within a hex sphere that drains his power. As Nuklo loses consciousness, the Whizzer collapses from a massive heart attack. The Vision carries him into the team’s medical bay while Thor transforms into Don Blake to perform open-heart surgery on the elder hero. When the procedure is completed successfully, Blake reports to the Avengers that the Whizzer should make a full recovery. Later, Thor learns from the Scarlet Witch that Nuklo is the son of the Whizzer and his deceased wife, Miss America. More incredibly, the couple had taken an extended vacation to Europe after their highly radioactive baby was placed in stasis by the government, and while there, Miss America got pregnant again. She ended up delivering at the High Evolutionary’s Citadel of Science on Wundagore Mountain but died in childbirth. Overcome with grief, the Whizzer fled, leaving newborn twins behind—twins that grew up to become the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Thor is happy that the Scarlet Witch has found her birth parents and hopes that her attitude will now improve. Before stepping down as team chairman, Thor grants permission for the Whizzer to stay at the mansion while he recuperates.


Notes:

January 1966 – Thor starts off the year with a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four #133. The Avengers’ battles with Magneto and the Lion God span Avengers #110–112, with a detour into Daredevil #99 and an additional flashback in Captain America #173. The Lion God is most likely the Nubian god Apedemak, who is related to the Egyptian pantheon.

February 1966 – The Avengers are rescued from Kang and Zarrko by Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Human Torch, and the Inhumans in Marvel Team-Up #9–11. The Avengers then repair the Statue of Liberty at the beginning of Avengers #113.

March 1966 – The Avengers save the Vision from the suicide bombers in the rest of Avengers #113, during which Don Blake and Tony Stark confirm that they have figured out each other’s secret identities. Interestingly, they don’t share this information with their teammates, whose real names are known to both of them.

April 1966 – Mantis and the Swordsman turn up and help the Avengers defeat the Lion God in Avengers #114. Apparently, the Lion God never manages to return from the dimension to which Thor banishes him.

May 1966 – The Avengers and the Defenders team up to defeat Loki and Dormammu in Avengers #115–118 and Defenders #8–11. Additional information is provided in a flashback in Avengers #157, and the Avengers return home in the first few pages of Avengers #119.

June–September 1966 – Thor and Loki’s camping trip to the Scandinavian wilderness occurs behind the scenes, but they appear to be absent from Avengers Mansion during the events of Captain Marvel #27–30.

October 1966 – The bulk of Avengers #119 covers the last Rutland, Vermont Halloween Parade story.

November 1966 – Whether due to his own machinations or lingering magic left behind by Felix Faust, Loki regains his sanity almost immediately after Thor has left Rutland and realizes he has absorbed Dormammu’s mystical essence. Finding a teenaged boy sleeping off last night’s revelries, Loki transforms him into a copy of his brain-damaged self. Then, leaving the impostor in his place, Loki retreats to the Dark Dimension to plot his revenge on Thor, as revealed in Thor #232. Thor, of course, is as yet unaware of these events. The thunder god helps Iron Man defeat Doctor Spectrum and saves the life of Eddie March in Iron Man #65–67. The Avengers then battle Zodiac, encounter Monsieur Khruul, and save the world from the Star-Stalker in Avengers #120–124. Zodiac must set up their Star-Blaster cannon atop the Empire State Building rather than the World Trade Center (as depicted), since the latter towers haven’t been built yet.

December 1966 – The Avengers team up with Captain Marvel and his friends to battle Thanos and his space armada in Captain Marvel #31–33 and Avengers #125. Later, Thor and the Vision help move Nuklo’s cryogenic vault in a flashback in Giant-Size Avengers #1, then Rick Jones says goodbye in Captain Marvel #34. Klaw and Solarr attack in Avengers #126. The Scarlet Witch and the Vision’s argument is seen in one of the many flashbacks in Avengers #280. The Avengers then encounter the Whizzer and Nuklo in Giant-Size Avengers #1. Thor’s first encounter with the Whizzer and his wartime team is chronicled in Invaders #32–33.


Jump Back: The Mighty Thor – Year Four

Next Issue: Captain America – Year Five


Thursday

OMU: Iron Man -- Year Five

In the fifth year of his career as Iron Man, Tony Stark’s heart finally heals to the point where he can discontinue use of the life-support system in his armor and resume something of a normal life. Rather than giving up his superhero identity, though, he seems to embrace it fully and clearly enjoys being a man of action. Throughout the year, he acts as a core member of the Avengers while steering Stark Industries into a period of rapid growth. The return of his closest friends, Happy and Pepper, adds to Tony’s sense of contentment, which world-threatening battles with villains such as Loki, Dormammu, and Thanos cannot shake.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Now resuming… The True History of the Invincible Iron Man!


January 1966 – On the first day of the year, Iron Man starts a new term as Avengers chairman. While at the team’s headquarters, he, Thor, and Captain America discuss news reports of an upcoming grudge match at Shea Stadium between the Thing and a mystery woman called Thundra. Having heard that Thundra kidnapped the Thing’s girlfriend, Alicia Masters, last night as the Fantastic Four watched helplessly, Iron Man wonders if the Thing will be able to win the fight. Three days later, the match ends inconclusively when the Thing unexpectedly reverts to his human form. Alicia is released unharmed shortly afterwards, and the public considers the much-hyped “battle of the sexes” to be rather anticlimactic.

Several days later, Iron Man is sparring with the Black Panther in the Avengers’ combat-simulation room as their teammates look on. Suddenly, Thor enters and summons the Scarlet Witch to the communications room, promising her tidings of great joy. The Avengers are pleased to find Quicksilver calling from the Great Refuge of the Inhumans. Standing next to him on the large viewscreen is Crystal, the Human Torch’s ex-girlfriend and a member of the Inhumans’ royal family. The Scarlet Witch is visibly relieved to learn that her twin brother is alive and well, and is thrilled to hear that Quicksilver and Crystal have fallen in love after she saved him from the Sentinels’ Australian base last October. However, when the Scarlet Witch reveals that she, too, has fallen in love—with the Vision—Quicksilver objects angrily, leading to an argument that makes the rest of the Avengers rather uncomfortable. After Quicksilver hangs up on her, the Scarlet Witch starts to cry and the Vision moves in to comfort her. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Black Panther move to the other end of the room to give the couple some space. Iron Man feels the team may be a bit shorthanded now that they’ve lost both Quicksilver and Hawkeye, but Thor dismisses his concerns. The discussion is cut short when the team receives a transmission from the X-Men’s secret headquarters, which has been trashed in a battle. The mutants’ leader, Professor Charles Xavier, speaks defiantly to the villain who is filming him, but then the screen goes dark. The Avengers agree to seek out the X-Men’s mansion and do what they can to help their fellow superheroes.

When they arrive at the secluded estate in Westchester County, the Avengers quickly discover Professor X, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Iceman in the wreckage, all of whom appear to be comatose. Iron Man carries out a winged man he assumes is the Angel, only to face four rampaging dinosaurs that are under the control of a sort of Pied Piper figure who emerges from the woods. After defeating the dinosaurs, the Avengers try to capture the Piper, but are stopped by Magneto, who is wearing the Angel’s black-and-white costume and laughing about how he fooled Iron Man with a pair of false wings. Announcing that he is abducting the X-Men, Magneto grabs the Scarlet Witch and uses his powers to send Iron Man crashing into Captain America, knocking them both out. When he regains consciousness later in the villain’s lair, Iron Man realizes Magneto has him and the others under some form of magnetically-induced mind control. Fortunately, however, Thor, the Black Panther, and the Vision seem to have escaped capture, and Iron Man remains confident that they will soon come to the rescue. Nevertheless, Iron Man is unable to resist when Magneto orders his new slaves aboard an airship and then flies them to another remote mansion where a meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission is being held. After easily defeating the Secret Service agents on the scene, the entranced heroes march the commissioners to the airship. Thor, the Black Panther, and the Vision charge in, accompanied by the Black Widow and Daredevil, but they fail to prevent Magneto from kidnapping the commissioners. Thor pursues Magneto’s airship but is forced to disengage when Iron Man dangles Captain America out of the hatch. Iron Man is frustrated at being used like a puppet, but, try as he might, he cannot break free of Magneto’s control.

In his subterranean headquarters, Magneto rants and raves to the commissioners about his plan to inundate the world with radiation, thereby killing off 92% of the human race and turning the few survivors into mutants that he can rule. As the villain concentrates on taking over the minds of the commissioners, Iron Man is relieved when Thor, the Black Panther, the Black Widow, and Daredevil come crashing into the installation, though he and his fellow captives are forced to attack them. Magneto merely seems to find the battle amusing, and when he easily brings the Black Widow under his control, Iron Man gets worried. However, the Piper calmly walks up behind Magneto and knocks him out with a karate chop to the back of the neck. To Iron Man’s surprise, the Vision then phases out of the Piper’s body, explaining that he used his ability to alter his density to affect his own form of mind control. Professor X then places Magneto into a telepathically induced coma, freeing Iron Man and the others from the villain’s mental domination. The Professor is concerned when Iron Man notes that they found no trace of the Angel in the wrecked mansion, as his disappearance remains unexplained. The X-Men then take the unconscious Magneto and Piper back to their nearby headquarters. Grateful for the couple’s help, Captain America offers the Black Widow and Daredevil full membership in the Avengers. Daredevil declines but the Black Widow accepts, causing a rift between them. As Daredevil leaves in a huff, Iron Man sees an opportunity to move in on the Black Widow.

Back at Avengers Mansion, Iron Man is hitting on the Black Widow when a mob of African-American militants pounds on the front door, demanding that the Black Panther come outside. Before the Avengers can react, the mob breaks down the door and opens fire with rifles. Iron Man and the Scarlet Witch drive them back, but they continue to chant that the Black Panther must return to Africa, where his people need him. As the situation escalates, a man in a trenchcoat emerges from the crowd and forces the Black Panther to worship him. The man suddenly transforms into a gigantic armored demon who calls himself the “Lion God,” then teleports away with the Black Panther, leaving the mob disoriented and confused. As the crowd disperses, the frustrated Avengers realize the people had been entranced by the Lion God just as the Black Panther was. As Captain America leaves to consult with S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man leads the other Avengers to their conference room for a strategy session. However, it’s not long before the Lion God appears, with the Black Panther his helpless prisoner, and attacks them. After quickly taking out Thor and the Vision, the Lion God causes two lions to materialize and sets them on the rest of the team. Iron Man leaps to the Black Widow’s defense, knocking out one of the lions with a repulsor beam. However, the Lion God shoots him in the back with a blast of energy from his totem-stick, taking the Golden Avenger out of the fight. When he comes to, Iron Man finds that Thor managed to defeat the Lion God by blowing up his totem-stick with a lightning strike, which caused their foe to vanish in a burst of blinding light. Thor assumes the Lion God has been destroyed, but Iron Man isn’t convinced and decides to install some additional security devices throughout the mansion. He is very disappointed, though, when the Black Widow announces that she has decided to return to San Francisco to work with Daredevil, preferring their partnership to being a member of a large group.

When he’s not acting as Iron Man, Tony Stark works long hours at Stark Industries’ headquarters on Long Island, struggling to guide his company through a difficult transition to manufacturing and marketing non-lethal technologies. Tony also makes efforts to change the public’s perceptions of him, no longer wishing to be known as the world’s foremost arms dealer.

February 1966 – On a Sunday morning in the middle of the month, Iron Man flies to Avengers Mansion when the building appears to be the epicenter of an earthquake. When he arrives, though, he finds the mansion completely surrounded by an impenetrable force field. His repulsor rays are having little effect on the field when Spider-Man turns up, ready to lend a hand. Iron Man initially rebuffs Spidey’s offer, but when a hole seems to open in the field, the two heroes leap through it. However, they suddenly find themselves falling through a strange dimension, where they are picked up by a spaceship. The pilot introduces himself as Zarrko and recruits the two heroes to help him save the 23rd century from an invasion by an army from even further in the future. When the ship materializes in Zarrko’s time period, Iron Man is surprised to find the Empire State Building is still standing. Zarrko drops them off at a fortified citadel a few blocks away, and Iron Man and Spider-Man fight their way inside, only to discover Thor, Captain America, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision, as well as their butler, Edwin Jarvis, being held prisoner by Kang the Conqueror. Kang immobilizes Iron Man and Spider-Man with a paralysis ray just as Zarrko enters the chamber. Rather than help the heroes, though, Zarrko brags to Kang about his plan to conquer the 20th century for himself and replace Kang as the master of time. Learning that Zarrko has sent back in time three chronal-displacement bombs to strike in Greece, Japan, and Venezuela in order to destroy civilization, Spider-Man manages to shake off the effects of the paralysis ray and creep out of the chamber to find Kang’s time machine so he can stop the evil scheme. Unfortunately, Iron Man’s armor was damaged in the fight against Kang’s guards, forcing him to remain behind. When the villains realize that Spider-Man has escaped, Kang places Iron Man in a stasis tube alongside his teammates. As the tube is activated, Iron Man fades into unconsciousness.

Iron Man is revived when the entire bank of stasis tubes is shattered by a concussive blast, freeing the Avengers. They find that Spider-Man has managed to recruit Black Bolt, Gorgon, Karnak, and Triton of the royal family of the Inhumans for a rescue mission, and Kang and Zarrko have already been defeated. However, as Spider-Man hustles everyone out of the citadel for transport back to the 20th century, they discover that Kang tricked them with a robot double and made good his escape. The voice of the real Kang then mocks them over the loudspeaker. As Zarrko is turned over to the local authorities, Spider-Man explains how he and the Human Torch tracked down and destroyed the three chronal-displacement bombs, after which Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus the Mad, was able to convert one of the bombs into a crude but effective time machine. Suddenly, with a blinding flash of light, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, Spider-Man, and Jarvis find themselves back on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, standing outside Avengers Mansion. Assuming the Inhumans returned directly to their Great Refuge in the Himalayas, Thor notes that the team owes them a profound debt of gratitude. Feeling slighted, Spider-Man makes a wise-ass remark and swings away, but Iron Man is impressed with the young hero’s resourcefulness. Returning to their headquarters, the Avengers find they’ve been gone for two days. Quicksilver, it turns out, had merely come to New York to try to talk his sister out of her love affair with their synthezoid teammate, and when his efforts fail, he returns to the Inhumans’ hidden city.

Iron Man joins Thor, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision when the Avengers are called in by the city to make repairs to the Statue of Liberty, which was heavily damaged by a giant monster a few months ago. A mishap causes the statue’s right hand to break off and plummet toward the Scarlet Witch. The Vision swoops in to rescue her as their teammates deal with the falling debris. To the shock of the crowds watching from below, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch embrace and kiss. By the time the heroes return to Avengers Mansion, news of the romance between the mutant woman and the android man has spread like wildfire. The next day, they receive mountains of mail expressing all manner of views on the relationship, much of it confirming Iron Man’s worries that the public would find it bizarre and off-putting. Some of New York’s more obnoxious residents appear at the mansion’s front door, but Iron Man and the Black Panther send them away. After a few days, the hubbub dies down.

March 1966 – When a gang of neo-Nazis goes around beating up Jews on the street, Iron Man leads Thor, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision to put a stop to it. The Avengers make short work of the neo-Nazis, but suddenly they are rushed by a suicide bomber who detonates the explosives strapped to her chest and seriously damages the Vision. Cradling the Vision in his arms, Iron Man flies at once to the Long Island laboratories of Stark Industries, where he quickly changes back to Tony Stark. He is soon joined by the Black Panther and Dr. Donald Blake, and they set to work making repairs, guided by the schematics Ant-Man drew up after his explorations of the synthezoid’s interior last year. However, more suicide bombers storm the building, intent on finishing the Vision off. Captain America and the Scarlet Witch are quickly outnumbered, forcing Tony to step out, don his armor again, and lend a hand as Iron Man. Seeing one of the bombers is about to detonate his explosives right behind Captain America, Iron Man grabs the man and flies him straight up into the sky. To Tony’s horror, the man blows himself up anyway. Unfazed by the blast, Tony returns to the laboratory and suggests that Blake go find Thor, managing to confirm his suspicion that the frail physician and the mighty thunder god are somehow one and the same man. Tony also sends the Black Panther out to join the battle, confident that he can finish the procedure on his own. After hearing a few more explosions outside, Tony finally emerges from the lab and announces that the Vision should make a full recovery. He is startled when the Scarlet Witch reacts with indignant rage, ranting about the way the Vision has been treated—even by her own brother—despite his many heroic acts. Tony is disturbed by the way she complains about “humans,” apparently oblivious to her own bigotry. Unfortunately, all the suicide bombers have blown themselves up, preventing the Avengers from learning anything more about their motives. Finally, at the end of the month, Iron Man completes his term as team chairman and hands the gavel off to Captain America.

April 1966 – Iron Man and Captain America certify the Vision as fit for active duty after a series of tests in the mansion’s combat-simulation room. Afterwards, Iron Man is annoyed when the Scarlet Witch allows their old enemy the Swordsman to enter their headquarters with his girlfriend, a Vietnamese beauty called Mantis. The Swordsman insists that he’s reformed and petitions to join the team (legitimately this time) as Hawkeye’s replacement. Cap tells the former supervillain that he’s dreaming, but the Scarlet Witch objects, accusing Cap of being ruled by his prejudices. Iron Man is forced to concur, pointing out that the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Hawkeye, and the Black Widow were all considered “villains” before getting a shot at redemption. When Thor volunteers to take full responsibility for the Swordsman’s behavior during a probationary period, Cap grudgingly bows to the will of the majority. Iron Man asks Mantis if she wants to join the team too, but she insists she is merely the Swordsman’s companion. Glad to have another woman to talk to, the Scarlet Witch assures Mantis that she’s welcome there, and Iron Man certainly doesn’t object to having another sexy woman hanging around. After a week of working closely together, Thor recommends that the Swordsman be granted all the privileges of Avengers membership. The team votes to induct him into their ranks and all agree to trust that the Swordsman really has reformed.

Seeing a news report of Hawkeye and the Hulk on the waterfront battling a giant creature made of electricity, the Avengers discuss the fact that the archer has returned to New York without contacting them, indicating that he really does intend to go his own way from now on. Suddenly, the Lion God smashes into the chamber, apparently abetted by the Swordsman and Mantis. Iron Man is furious to have been fooled by two traitors and is astonished when Mantis takes out Thor with her martial arts skills. Unfortunately, he is then knocked out cold by a blast of energy from the Lion God’s hunting spear. When he regains consciousness, Iron Man sees that the Swordsman and Mantis have mesmerized the Lion God to prevent him from burning the Black Panther at the stake. Seizing his chance, Iron Man triggers an adamantium containment cell, which drops onto the Lion God, trapping him. This gives Thor a chance to use his enchanted hammer to send their foe into another dimension. In the aftermath of the battle, Mantis explains that she had sensed a malignant force lurking around the mansion and worked with the Swordsman to lure it out into the open. They then pretended to cooperate with the Lion God, planning all the while to turn the tables on him at the crucial moment. Impressed by the couple’s daring, Thor expresses the team’s profound gratitude. Captain America is clearly still suspicious, but Iron Man decides that, if nothing else, they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.

May 1966 – Realizing that no one’s heard from the Black Knight in several months, the Avengers decide to return to Garrett Castle in England to check up on him. As soon as their Quinjet enters British airspace, though, they are harassed by S.H.I.E.L.D., which objects to the Swordsman and Mantis, both of whom have criminal records, entering the United Kingdom. Fortunately, the Avengers are able to clear the matter up and soon touch down in a meadow outside the castle. However, they are surprised to discover the entire structure is surrounded by an invisible force field which they are unable to penetrate. Mantis performs some kind of mystic probe and determines that the barrier was erected by Doctor Strange. Suddenly, a large group of ragged, primitive-looking men with medieval weapons streams out of camouflaged holes in the ground and attacks the heroes, knocking them out with crude bombs that release a potent toxic gas. When he comes to, Iron Man finds he and his teammates being held prisoner in a network of caverns, presumably beneath the Black Knight’s estate. The primitives are upset because the force field is preventing them from looting the castle’s storehouses, which is how they’ve sustained themselves since retreating underground to escape persecution hundreds of years ago. Iron Man realizes that generations of inbreeding has caused the cave-dwellers to become savage barbarians, but their toxic gas prevents him and most of his teammates from fighting back. Luckily, Thor, the Vision, and Mantis seem immune to its effects, and they hold off a giant insectoid monster long enough for the Black Panther to force their captors to surrender. The Avengers march the defeated barbarians back to the surface, where they call in medical and government aid for the lost tribe. The barbarian king informs the Avengers that the Black Knight was taken away by people in weird costumes before the castle was sealed off by the invisible wall. The heroes decide to head at once to Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum back in New York to ask him about it.

However, when the Avengers reach the sorcerer’s home in Greenwich Village, they are repelled by a mysterious force that Iron Man assumes must be some form of repulsor-ray technology. Thor forces his way inside, where Mantis roughs up Doctor Strange’s butler. They catch of glimpse of the Black Knight in an interior room, having apparently been turned to stone, and assume that Doctor Strange is responsible. Before they can react, though, the Avengers are ejected from the building by hurricane-force winds. Thor rages at the unseen sorcerer, saying they will return when they’ve figured out how to overcome his magic, and then the Avengers return to their headquarters, seething with indignation. Shortly afterwards, a psychic projection of Loki materializes in the mansion to warn the Avengers that Doctor Strange is leading a cabal of super-powered misfits on a quest to obtain the six segments of the legendary weapon known as the Evil Eye of Avalon, which has the power to destroy the world. Joining the mysterious master of black magic is the bestial Hulk, whose hatred for humanity is well known; the savage Sub-Mariner, who has long warred against the human race; the Silver Surfer, the bitter alien imprisoned on Earth; the Valkyrie, who desires revenge for her defeat at the hands of the Avengers a couple years ago; and even their former teammate Hawkeye, who wants to strike back at those he believes betrayed him. Though Thor is not inclined to believe anything his adopted brother says, the other Avengers convince him that they should check it out.

Thus, Iron Man flies to Monterrey, Mexico, while his teammates cover the other five locations provided by Loki. En route, he receives a transmission from the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, reporting that they were attacked in Polynesia by the Silver Surfer, who made off with a segment of the Evil Eye. With Loki’s tale apparently confirmed, Iron Man arrives at his destination and heads to the Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, reasoning that if the Evil Eye segment had been found, it would have been turned over to the local research university for study. His theory is proven correct as he finds the object has been in the care of a local archeology professor for a few years. They are examining the segment when Hawkeye snatches it with one of his trick arrows. Iron Man goes after Hawkeye, only to get hit with a new-and-improved blast arrow. Iron Man berates his erstwhile teammate, saying he regrets ever sponsoring his membership in the Avengers, but Hawkeye dismisses his tirade as crazy talk. After damaging Iron Man’s helmet with an acid-arrow, Hawkeye uses an arrow with a powerful magnetic field to make one of Iron Man’s repulsor-ray blasts go wild. While the Golden Avenger is busy saving students from falling debris, Hawkeye slips away with the Evil Eye segment. Iron Man is still searching for the archer when a Quinjet lands, bringing Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, and a wounded Swordsman. With them is the Sub-Mariner, who has convinced Cap that both teams have been played for fools by Loki.

After picking up the Black Panther and Mantis in Indiana, the Quinjet flies to Greenwich Village, where the Sub-Mariner leads the Avengers into the Sanctum Sanctorum without incident. In a well-appointed sitting room, they find Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer, the Valkyrie, and Hawkeye, who are shocked and enraged by the intrusion. Iron Man notices the Black Knight, turned to stone, standing in a corner of the room. The Sub-Mariner informs his teammates that Loki told the Avengers that their team, which they call the Defenders, was out to conquer the world. The Valkyrie assures the Avengers that they sought out the Evil Eye so they could use its mystical power to release the Black Knight from the petrification spell placed on him by the Enchantress. Iron Man is confused, since he’d been told that the Valkyrie was merely an illusion the Enchantress used to disguise herself, but such matters are explained as the two teams get to know each other better over the next half hour. Iron Man also has the chance to apologize to Hawkeye for some of the things he said to him in Mexico. Finally, Iron Man realizes that Thor and the Hulk are still out on the battlefield and could be laying waste to Los Angeles at that very moment. Thus, Doctor Strange weaves a spell that teleports everyone out to California.

There, they find Thor and the Hulk locked in a stalemate, each one’s super-strong muscles straining against the other’s as they grapple, but Doctor Strange convinces them to stand down. The Avengers and the Defenders then compare notes and realize that Thor was fighting Loki in Rutland, Vermont, last Halloween at the same time that the Defenders were battling Dormammu there. They speculate that the two arch-villains must have teamed-up. Their suspicions are confirmed when the six segments of the Evil Eye are suddenly stolen by Dormammu’s servant Asti the All-Seeing. Despite the best efforts of the assembled heroes, Asti escapes with the segments into another dimension. Almost immediately, the city around them begins to transform into a nightmarish world of horror, the people metamorphosing into monstrous demons. An image of Dormammu’s flaming head appears in the sky, announcing that he is using the Evil Eye to bring Earth into his Dark Dimension, thereby enabling him to conquer the planet without violating his oath to never invade our universe. The Avengers and the Defenders vow to prevent this at any cost. However, the transformed bystanders begin to attack the heroes, forcing them to fight back. Iron Man helps keep the monsters at bay while Doctor Strange casts a spell to prevent any of the 14 superheroes present from changing into monsters themselves. The sorcerer then tries to convince Captain America that both teams need to take the fight directly to Dormammu in the Dark Dimension. Cap is reluctant to abandon the earth in such a time of crisis but relents when Nick Fury and the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D. arrive on the scene. Leaving Fury and his agents to deal with the monsters, Doctor Strange casts a spell to transport the Avengers and the Defenders into Dormammu’s realm.

In the weird landscape of the Dark Dimension, Doctor Strange yells at the headstrong Avengers to keep them from blundering to their doom, prompting Thor to order his teammates to defer to the sorcerer’s expertise. Then, after beating off the numberless hordes of the Mindless Ones, the heroes find Dormammu, brandishing the Evil Eye, with Loki imprisoned in a cage of flames. To everyone’s surprise, the Watcher is also present, looking on enigmatically. Doctor Strange manages to breach the mystic barrier separating them, but with one wave of his hand, Dormammu’s augmented magic instantly renders the six Defenders unconscious. Undaunted, Thor leads the Avengers in a desperate charge, but Dormammu turns the ground under their feet into quicksand. Iron Man, Thor, and the Scarlet Witch avoid the trap, only for Iron Man’s armor to suddenly dissolve as Thor is forcibly changed into Donald Blake. The Scarlet Witch is stopped in her tracks by a rain of sticky glue, but she manages to raise her arms enough to cast a hex bolt at Dormammu, who is distracted by Loki. The hex causes the Evil Eye to malfunction, and it disintegrates Dormammu, absorbs his mystical energies, and blasts them out again straight through Loki’s brain. Iron Man’s armor suddenly reappears as the other Avengers are released and the Defenders regain consciousness. The Watcher congratulates the 14 heroes on their great victory, noting that, while Loki’s sight has been restored, his mind has been shattered, leaving him with the intellect of an infant. And though Dormammu’s corporeal form has been destroyed, the Watcher warns, he will eventually reintegrate himself with the aid of his many black-hearted worshipers. Doctor Strange then retrieves the Evil Eye and casts a spell that returns the two teams to Los Angeles.

The Avengers and the Defenders materialize on the same street in L.A. to find the crisis is over. The people who had been transformed into monsters have reverted to normal and are wandering around the rubble-strewn streets in a daze. Nick Fury offers the two teams his congratulations on their victory. However, wishing to keep the existence of the Defenders a secret, Doctor Strange removes all memory of their involvement from Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as any bystanders who witnessed their presence earlier in the day. Furthermore, he combines the power of the Evil Eye with his own sorcerous might to undo all damage and destruction the world over caused by Dormammu’s scheme, leaving everyone believing they had just suffered a mass hallucination. Finally, after bidding farewell to the Avengers, Strange teleports his team back to his Sanctum Sanctorum to attend to the Black Knight. The Avengers borrow a jet from S.H.I.E.L.D. and return to New York as well. Unfortunately, since they do not arrive in a Quinjet, the Avengers are unable to deactivate their mansion’s rooftop security systems ahead of time. Luckily, the Black Panther is able to do it manually. The Scarlet Witch complains again about “humans,” and Iron Man is annoyed by her attitude. Leaving the others to deal with the nearly catatonic Loki, Iron Man returns to Stark Industries.

During a meeting with his new board of directors, Tony Stark’s mind is bombarded with a telepathic message painful in its intensity. He quickly retires to his private office and dons his Iron Man armor, hoping it will protect him. The sender of the message, a green-skinned alien calling himself Drax the Destroyer, eases off on the mental force while a flood of information washes over Iron Man’s mind, revealing that Drax was created to hunt down and destroy Thanos, the rebellious son of the leader of a colony living inside Saturn’s moon Titan. After a battle that devastated an alien planet, Drax was captured by Thanos and brought to a hidden base on Earth, but the supercomputer that runs the colony on Titan had informed Drax of Earth’s superheroes. Thus, he has sought out Iron Man to warn him of the grave threat posed by Thanos and his army of bloodthirsty mercenaries. Suddenly, Drax detects two of Thanos’s minions approaching Iron Man’s location, but the warning comes too late. The brutal Blood Brothers smash into the office and beat Iron Man senseless. When he comes to, the Golden Avenger finds himself being dragged through an underground installation by the Blood Brothers. He stuns them with repulsor rays, then tries to free Drax, only to be stopped by Thanos. Unexpectedly, Drax’s supercomputer hacks into Iron Man’s armor and fires a surge of energy through his chest-mounted uni-beam that wrecks the devices holding Drax prisoner. The grim warrior gets into a fight with the Blood Brothers and, with some help from Iron Man, knocks the savage creatures out. Iron Man punches Thanos in the head, only to find that it’s merely a robot doppelgänger. The real Thanos activates the base’s self-destruct mechanism, forcing Iron Man and Drax to evacuate. Outside, Iron Man discovers that they’re somewhere in the deserts of New Mexico. Drax thanks Iron Man for his help, then flies off in pursuit of Thanos. Assuming the Blood Brothers were killed when the base exploded, Iron Man heads for the nearest Stark Industries facility to repair his armor before heading back to New York.

Iron Man goes directly to Avengers Mansion to inform the team about the threat of Thanos, but Jarvis informs him that everyone has gone out for the evening. When he gets tired of waiting around and tinkering with his armor, Iron Man changes back into Tony Stark and goes for a walk in Central Park. He comes across the unveiling of a new statue, which is being disrupted by an old man in a dirty robe calling himself “Rasputin, High Priest of Tavi, Angel of Dearth.” The TV crew covering the event chases the old man off after he damages one of their cameras with his weird-looking staff. The unveiling continues, revealing the statue to be in the form of a hideous demon. The crowd is appalled, but Tony chuckles, thinking that such an ugly statue might even frighten off the muggers that plague Central Park. Suddenly, the statue comes to life and kills the artist who created it, then threatens the panicking crowd. Tony quickly dons his armor and intercepts the monster. After a brief struggle, Iron Man reduces the stone demon to a harmless pile of rubble. Returning to Avengers Mansion, he wonders if the old man Rasputin could have been responsible for animating the statue, but dismisses the idea as ridiculous.

June 1966 – Iron Man is with Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision at Avengers Mansion when Rick Jones’s girlfriend, Lou-Ann Savannah, shows up on the verge of exhaustion and babbling about Thanos. The young woman passes out and, while examining her, Iron Man is shocked to discover one of the Controller’s slave-discs attached to the nape of her neck. Realizing his old foe has returned, Iron Man places Lou-Ann under a device intended to partially inhibit the disc’s operation. She is still there a little while later when Captain Marvel arrives at the mansion. He quickly switches places with Rick Jones, who informs the Avengers that he, Lou-Ann, and Captain Marvel have indeed gotten mixed up with Thanos, who is planning to conquer the Earth as a stepping-stone to galactic domination. Rick switches places with Captain Marvel again as they head to the Avengers’ conference room for a full briefing. The Kree hero informs the team that Thanos has come to Earth in search of the Cosmic Cube, which the Avengers know could make him invincible. The meeting is interrupted by the Controller, who has broken into the mansion. Iron Man is knocked out in the fight and, when he awakens, he discovers that part of their headquarters has been completely demolished and he and his teammates are buried in the wreckage. As they dig themselves out, the heroes are frustrated to learn that the Controller kidnapped Lou-Ann and escaped. The Avengers notice that Captain Marvel’s hair has changed from silver to blond, but he says only that he’s had a strange experience that’s given him a new perspective. Work on reconstructing Avengers Mansion begins immediately, with most of the funding coming from the various charitable foundations Tony Stark has set up for such emergencies.

A few days later, Iron Man and Captain Marvel finish making a tracking device to help them find Lou-Ann Savannah. When Captain Marvel insists on going after the Controller alone, Iron Man decides to fly back out to New Mexico to see if there’s anything in the wreckage of Thanos’s base to give them an edge in the coming conflict. Just before arriving, Iron Man is surprised to see the Thing trudging through the New Mexico desert, but doesn’t stop to speak with him. While exploring the abandoned base, Iron Man is ambushed by the Blood Brothers and quickly realizes he is hopelessly outmatched. He tries to retreat, only to crash into the Thing in the installation’s doorway. After a vicious and destructive battle, Iron Man and the Thing finally manage to knock the Blood Brothers unconscious. The alien pair then dematerializes, and Iron Man isn’t sure if they’ve been rescued or executed by Thanos. The Thing requests a ride back to civilization, but Iron Man finds his power levels are too low to carry him any distance. Glad to know the Thing was already aware of the threat Thanos poses to the Earth, Iron Man flies off, leaving his frustrated friend to continue his lonely trek across the desert.

July 1966 – Tony is furious when the factory workers at his Long Island plant go on strike, having been convinced by labor agitators that the company’s move away from weapons production is part of a Communist plot to weaken America. He phones the union organizer, a Chinese man calling himself Gene Kahn, but their conversation is not productive. Frustrated, Tony tells his board of directors to begin the process of conducting a poll of the workers to see if they are interested in organizing, but he worries that a prolonged strike, just when the company’s fortunes are beginning to recover, could be devastating. His mood brightens considerably, though, when Virginia “Pepper” Hogan turns up looking to rejoin the staff. Pepper says that, given the worrying state of the U.S. economy, she and her husband, Harold “Happy” Hogan, agreed that she should return to work. Tony immediately hires Pepper to take over as his executive assistant. Tony then dons his Iron Man armor and goes out to speak with the workers on the picket line, but it doesn’t go well. Irritated that the workers dismissed him as a mere bodyguard, Iron Man flies into the city to confront Gene Kahn at the union offices. When he arrives, Iron Man discovers that “Gene Kahn” is none other than the Mandarin.

The battle between Iron Man and the Mandarin, whose ten alien power-rings are more than a match for the Golden Avenger’s armor, quickly spills out into the street, causing bystanders to flee in a panic. To make matters worse, the Mandarin is now using the Unicorn as his lackey, and when they blast Iron Man simultaneously, the life-support system in his armor is completely destroyed. Fearing that he is about to suffer a fatal heart attack, Iron Man abandons the fight and flies back to Stark Industries, where the striking workers jeer him as he passes overhead. Heading into Tony’s private office, Iron Man runs into Pepper and implores her to plug his armor into a wall socket, but he then loses consciousness. When he comes to a while later, Tony is surprised that he hasn’t died of heart failure. He runs a series of tests and determines that his body has finally adjusted to the synthetic tissue used by Dr. José Santini a couple years ago to repair the damage to his heart. Leaving his laboratory, Tony finds a mob of striking workers ransacking the administration building while Pepper watches helplessly. He manages to defuse the situation by pointing out that sharing ideas with Communist countries can work in America’s interest, though the workers reject his claim that they have been duped by the Mandarin. Refusing to press charges for the vandalism, Tony returns to his lab and dons an older suit of armor for a rematch with the Mandarin and the Unicorn.

Iron Man soon tracks down his foes and, during the ensuing fight, manages to dazzle them with a burst of light from his chest-mounted uni-beam. This causes them to inadvertently blast each other, seriously injuring the Mandarin. However, he somehow takes over the Unicorn’s mind and blows up a building to cover his escape. While Iron Man is busy rescuing bystanders from the falling debris, the Unicorn flies off with the Mandarin’s body. Frustrated, the Golden Avenger returns to Stark Industries, where he is surprised to find the picket line has broken up and the workers are returning to their jobs. He soon learns that the workers did their own investigating and confirmed Tony’s accusations that “Gene Kahn” was really the Mandarin. Relieved, Tony retreats to his private office and removes his armor, intent on extending the amount of time he can go without the life-support system in his chestplate. For the first time in four years, he feels truly optimistic about the future.

When a group of super-powered terrorists dubbed the Elementals seals off the Egyptian capital, Cairo, behind an impenetrable force-field, chaos erupts in the Middle East. The United Nations requests that the Avengers mobilize when the terrorists launch attacks on neighboring countries like Israel and the Sudan, but is reluctant to send the team in for fear of making international tensions in the region worse. Ultimately, freedom fighters within Cairo manage to liberate the city and defeat the Elementals, though details remain sketchy.

August–September 1966 – Tony builds a new suit of armor to replace the one destroyed fighting the Mandarin and the Unicorn, taking advantage of his reduced dependence on a life-support system. He also takes a gamble by redirecting the lion’s share of the company’s resources to an experimental space shuttle project which is nearing completion. Tony has dubbed the reusable spaceplane the Star*Reach I and hopes it will position Stark Industries as a major player in the aerospace industry. He is thrilled with Pepper’s loyalty and dedication, as she often works long hours without complaint.

October 1966 – On Halloween, Mantis senses mystic emanations that portend great danger in Rutland, Vermont. Remembering the events of previous years, the Avengers decide they’d better check it out. When they arrive, Tom Fagan, one of the parade’s organizers, asks them to ride on one of the floats. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Black Panther agree, hoping to draw out the source of the unknown danger, but the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis decide not to participate and wander off into the crowd. Two hours later, as the parade is winding down, Iron Man is frustrated that nothing has happened. Fagan then leads the four heroes through the woods toward his house, only to suddenly reveal that he is the villain in disguise. Catching the Avengers off guard with some magic pellets, he knocks them out and takes them prisoner. When he comes to, Iron Man discovers that they have been captured by the Collector, but the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis have come to the rescue. The Collector activates two magic stones that produce a swarm of vampire bats that threaten the entire town, hoping to barter for his freedom. However, Mantis kicks the villain in the face and knocks him out, then uses the magic stones to make the bats vanish again. The real Tom Fagan thanks the Avengers for saving the city and offers them any further assistance he can provide. Thor asks Fagan if he would be willing to take over caring for Loki, feeling that Rutland would be a more appropriate setting for his near-catatonic brother. Fagan agrees, so the Avengers return to their Quinjet and fly back to New York. Unfortunately, the Collector escapes as soon as he regains consciousness.

November 1966 – Following an Avengers strategy session at which the team reviews their clash in the spring with the Defenders and how they all worked together to defeat the combined might of Loki and Dormammu, Iron Man returns to Stark Industries. There, Tony receives a dispiriting call from a doctor at the Milford Sanitarium where Marianne Rodgers is getting treatment for her hallucinations. The doctor reports that Marianne’s prognosis is poor, as she continues to have “psychic visions” involving Tony and his armored bodyguard and has become increasingly aggressive toward her counselors. Tony blames himself, believing that his harsh rejection of her love last year must have pushed her over the edge into psychosis.

Tony and Pepper fly to Detroit, Michigan, to meet with Roxanne Gilbert, daughter of the late Stark Industries boardmember Simon Gilbert. Roxanne wishes to divest herself of all the company stock left to her in her father’s will, and Tony has agreed to handle the matter personally, as he feels a bit guilty for failing to save Simon Gilbert’s life when he bombed their Bay City factory. No sooner have they arrived, though, than they are attacked by the revenge-seeking Firebrand and taken prisoner. Berating the villain for his violent scheme, Roxanne confirms that Firebrand is her brother, Gary Gilbert, and Tony notes that there seems to be little love lost between them. Firebrand then sends Tony to fetch Iron Man, threatening to burn Pepper if they don’t follow his instructions. Thus, at dawn Iron Man meets Firebrand at the cemetery where Simon Gilbert is buried. They fight, but Iron Man’s armor is able to compensate for his foe’s intense heat-blasts, and he soon gains the advantage. Unwilling to accept defeat, Firebrand tries to incinerate Pepper, but Roxanne shields her with her own body, suffering severe second-degree burns. Firebrand is horrified, giving Iron Man the chance to beat him senseless. As the police arrive on the scene, Iron Man flies Roxanne to the nearest hospital.

Several hours later, Iron Man visits the heavily-bandaged Roxanne in the recovery room, where she tepidly expresses gratitude to the superhero for saving her life, though she worries that the beating Firebrand received will only increase his fanaticism. Stung by her criticism, Iron Man leaves the room. After changing out of his armor, he tries to visit her as Tony Stark, only to find that Roxanne has left explicit instructions that he not be admitted. Tony heads to his hotel room, where he has a few drinks while stewing on her rejection. He knows Roxanne still sees him primarily as an arms dealer who made a fortune supplying weapons for the Vietnam War, and he sets himself the task of changing her mind. Tired of drinking alone, Tony invites Pepper for a nightcap in the hotel bar, where they are photographed together by the paparazzi. Pepper is clearly upset about something, but Tony is too drunk to take much notice. When he receives a call from the head of security at Stark’s aerospace division in Detroit reporting that the Star*Reach I space shuttle has been stolen, Tony races from the bar, dons his Iron Man armor, and flies out to track it down. He soon locates the craft on a lonely stretch of highway along Lake Huron and discovers the culprits to be the Masked Marauder and his exoskeleton-wearing henchman Steele. Unfortunately, due to his inebriated state, Iron Man is defeated by the villains and taken prisoner. The Masked Marauder boasts of his scheme to turn the space shuttle into a nuclear missile, with which he will destroy Detroit unless he is paid a one-billion-dollar ransom. Iron Man breaks free and batters his foes into unconsciousness, though the space shuttle is heavily damaged in the fight. After the Masked Marauder and his henchmen have been taken into custody, Tony returns to the hotel, where he learns that Pepper is upset because Happy is threatening to divorce her for putting her career first and neglecting him. Tony and Pepper both try calling Happy, but he can’t be reached.

Pepper insists on continuing their business trip, so she and Tony fly to Cincinnati, Ohio, to approve the final plans for the Quantum IX Manned Orbiting Laboratory, designed to work in conjunction with the Star*Reach I space shuttle. They meet with the local plant manager, Vicki Snow, the first woman to rise to such a position in the company, and are very impressed with her. They are less taken with her head of research, Mark Scott—who is also her fiancé—as he tries to ingratiate himself with Tony only to reveal himself to be a sexist jerk. After Scott has left, Tony shows Snow a new compact power cell he has designed for the orbital platform, but Whiplash bursts into the office and tries to steal it. Tony manages to duck out and change into Iron Man. After a fight that does significant damage to his armor, Iron Man drives Whiplash off, satisfied that his foe left empty-handed. Tony and Pepper then return to Detroit to oversee the repairs to the Star*Reach I shuttle.

When Roxanne Gilbert is released from the hospital, Tony gives her a ride home. He turns on the charm, asserting that he manufactured weaponry because he believed in the war effort, but when his views changed, he refocused his company on space research, pollution control, and consumer goods. Roxanne admits that her relationship with her father has soured her on industrialists like Tony, but he points out that Simon Gilbert was an extreme reactionary, much as Firebrand is an extreme radical, and positions himself as an open-minded moderate. Even so, when they are harassed by a paparazzo at Roxanne’s apartment building, Tony threatens to destroy the man’s career if any photos of Roxanne appear in the paper. Leaving Roxanne to rest and recuperate, Tony goes to check in with Pepper before heading to the hanger where work is progressing on the space shuttle. Suddenly, the facility is invaded by Doctor Spectrum, whom Tony vaguely remembers fighting at the Taj Mahal about two years ago. Looking for a grudge match, Doctor Spectrum demands that Iron Man face him. To protect his factory, Tony slips out, dons his armor, and obliges. Unfortunately, Iron Man’s fight with Doctor Spectrum doesn’t go well, and, after being coated in a burning napalm-like substance, the Golden Avenger crashes into a wall that then collapses on top of him. Gloating, Doctor Spectrum flies off. Iron Man digs himself out of the rubble, changes back into Tony Stark, and returns to his hotel. He is disturbed to find that Pepper has trashed her room in a fit of rage and offers her a shoulder to cry on. Pepper vents about her marital problems but then starts kissing Tony. As luck would have it, Happy Hogan walks into the room at that moment. Calling Pepper a “playgirl,” Happy storms out, leaving his wife devastated and Tony feeling caught in the middle.

Doctor Spectrum attacks again the next day when Iron Man is demonstrating the company’s new prefabricated modular-construction materials for Detroit’s Mayor Cavanagh and his entourage. Iron Man notes that Doctor Spectrum and his “power prism,” which speaks in an eerie alien voice, appear to be arguing more than ever. Returning to the local Stark Industries facility, Tony is accosted in his office by Happy, who accuses him of having an affair with Pepper. Tony denies it and tries to explain, but Happy starts a fistfight. Their scuffle is broken up by Pepper, and after admonishing them for fighting like schoolchildren, she tells Happy to meet her in the conference room so they can hash out their differences. However, they are interrupted by the arrival of Eddie March, who has brought with him Ugandan economics minister Dr. Kinji Obatu. Tony is surprised when Obatu says he wishes to hire Iron Man as his bodyguard while he’s visiting the U.S. His reasons become clear when a massive gray-skinned giant with a caveman’s club smashes into the office on a murderous rampage. The giant, calling himself Rokk, threatens to strike at Tony through his closest loved ones, prompting him to think of Roxanne Gilbert. Reading Tony’s mind, Rokk grabs Obatu and flies off to track down Roxanne and kill her. Tony quickly dons his Iron Man armor and sets off in pursuit. He soon finds Rokk demolishing the health-food store Roxanne owns. However, in the course of their battle, Iron Man discovers that Rokk is merely a construct created by Doctor Spectrum’s power prism, intended to deplete his armor’s energy supplies. Doctor Spectrum reveals himself and moves in for the kill, but the alien consciousness in the power prism has decided it wants Iron Man to serve as its new host. While his enemies are thus struggling to dominate each other, Iron Man is able to escape and fly back to the factory to make repairs and recharge his systems. He phones the Avengers and requests immediate backup.

When he returns to the scene of the battle, Iron Man finds that Thor has responded to his call for help and is facing off with Doctor Spectrum high overhead. Tony is horrified to see that Eddie March had suited up in his copy of Iron Man’s armor and tried to apprehend Doctor Spectrum, only to collapse as a result of the blood clot in his brain. Quickly, Iron Man takes over the fight with Doctor Spectrum so Thor can change into Dr. Donald Blake and help Eddie. Using improvements he’s built into his armor to counter the power prism’s attacks, Iron Man quickly defeats Doctor Spectrum. After crushing the power prism under his heel, Iron Man unmasks his foe, revealing him to be Kinji Obatu. As the police take Obatu into custody despite his claims of diplomatic immunity, Iron Man sets off to follow the ambulance taking Eddie and Dr. Blake to the nearest hospital. When he arrives, he changes back into Tony Stark and rushes to the gallery above the operating theater, where Blake informs him that Eddie is not likely to survive the surgery. Desperate to save his friend, Tony suggests they use the enervation intensifier that brought Happy Hogan back from the brink of death three years ago. Blake is willing to give it a try, so Iron Man and Thor soon fly to Stark Industries’ Long Island facility and fetch the device from a warehouse. Once back in Detroit, Tony sets it up in the operating room while Thor resumes his mortal identity. Unfortunately, Tony’s worst fears are realized as the enervation intensifier mutates Eddie into a mindless, rampaging freak. Iron Man is forced to get rough with Eddie in order to subdue him, and when the transformation wears off, he carries his unconscious friend back to the operating room. Blake completes the surgery and reports that Eddie should recover, though he will likely be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Feeling guilty, Tony heads over to Roxanne Gilbert’s apartment, where he finds she has left a note for him. The note reveals that Eddie had originally come looking for Tony because his brother, Marty March, has gone M.I.A. in Vietnam, and he was hoping Iron Man would help find him. However, Roxanne has decided to go to Vietnam herself and give the matter her personal attention, as a way to repay Eddie for his self-sacrificing heroism. Tony, Pepper, and Happy return to New York, but while Tony is getting ready to travel to Vietnam, the noted “Hero for Hire” Luke Cage breaks into the factory. Tony changes into Iron Man and goes to apprehend the intruder, but Cage proves to be a lot tougher than expected and the two men get into a protracted fistfight. Finally, Cage backs off, saying he’s fulfilled his contract to test the factory’s security measures. Confused, Iron Man asks him what he’s talking about, and it soon becomes clear that Cage was duped into creating a diversion so his employer could steal the prototype spacesuit designed to work in conjunction with the Star*Reach I space shuttle and the Quantum IX Manned Orbiting Laboratory. Though Iron Man’s boot-jets were damaged in the fight, Cage manages to leap aboard the experimental plane the thief is using as a getaway vehicle. A few minutes later, Cage radios that the thief fell to his death and requests instructions on how to land the plane. After he’s returned to Stark Industries, Cage rips up the phony check he’d been given. Iron Man assures Cage that Tony Stark will reimburse him for his trouble—minus the cost to repair all the damage he caused.

Hearing that Captain America has been arrested for murder, Tony delays his trip to Vietnam and heads immediately to Avengers Mansion as Iron Man. There, he meets Sgt. Damian Link, the team’s new liaison officer with the NYPD. However, the Swordsman soon exposes Link as Gemini, one of the twelve leaders of the international crime cartel Zodiac. He manages to evade the Avengers’ attempts to apprehend him until Thor punches him into a wall, leaving the villain extremely disoriented. Unfortunately, he is rescued by the rest of Zodiac—Aquarius, Cancer, Capricorn, Libra, Leo, Pisces, Sagittarius, Taurus, Virgo, and replacements for Aries and Scorpio—using their powerful “Star-Blazer” energy weapon. The criminals escape, but Taurus leaves behind a tape recording that reveals that they plan to use a giant version of the Star-Blazer weapon, the “Star-Blaster,” to kill everyone in Manhattan born under the sign of Gemini, after which they will announce their demands. Iron Man, Thor, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, and Mantis head out to track their foes down, but the Swordsman is too ill to join them. During the search, Iron Man makes a detour to warn the Falcon of Captain America’s situation, since he’s just returned from a trip to Wakanda. Iron Man urges the Falcon to find Cap and convince him to turn himself in before the Avengers are forced to hunt him down. Certain that Cap is innocent, the Falcon soars off into the sky, following his pet bird Redwing. Iron Man then resumes his own search. Just before midnight, the Avengers find the Zodiac gang setting up their Star-Blaster cannon on top of the Empire State Building and immediately disable the weapon. Even so, Taurus manages to fire its deadly rays at Mantis, knocking her out. Though Captain America turns up and joins the fray, Aries throws Mantis off the roof. While the Avengers are busy saving her, Zodiac escapes. Captain America assures his teammates he’s been framed, but does not accompany them back to the mansion. There, Thor changes into Don Blake and checks Mantis over. He is shocked to discover she seems to be literally healing herself while in a trance. Iron Man asks the Swordsman to tell them more about Mantis, but he knows little about her past before he met her in a bar in Saigon while he was working for a local crimelord called Monsieur Khruul.

After the Black Panther has joined them, the Avengers spread out over the city to search for Zodiac’s hidden lair. Just before dawn, Thor summons them to a warehouse in New Jersey, where they find seven members of the cartel meeting with the crooked financier Cornelius Van Lunt. The Avengers crash through the window to take their foes by surprise, but Van Lunt slips out during the fight and seals off the warehouse, revealing it to be a deathtrap. Before the Avengers or the seven members of Zodiac can react, Van Lunt launches the building into orbit. Thor tries to smash through the side of the warehouse, only to discover the building is surrounded by the same kind of force field that Zodiac used when they held Manhattan hostage two years ago. His enchanted hammer passes through the field, but then is unable to return to him. Appearing to panic, Thor dives behind some crates and hides under a tarp. The other Avengers and Zodiac are confused by the thunder god’s behavior, but Iron Man realizes he must have turned back into Don Blake when he lost his hammer. The Scarlet Witch is able to create a momentary weak spot in the field with her mutant hex power, which allows Iron Man to fly out and retrieve the hammer. Before Iron Man can figure out how to get back inside, though, Libra arrives in Zodiac’s spaceplane, the Star-Cruiser, and rescues them. Once Thor emerges from his hiding place, everyone joins Libra aboard the Star-Cruiser, and he flies them to Van Lunt’s penthouse. There, Van Lunt is revealed to be Taurus, and though he conspired with Capricorn, Gemini, and Virgo to kill off the other members of the cartel, he convinces his erstwhile partners-in-crime to put aside their differences long enough to destroy the Avengers. However, the Avengers win the fight, which ends when the Vision knocks Taurus into his swimming pool. Taurus panics, though, because he can’t swim, but the Vision makes no move to rescue him. Luckily, Mantis charges in at that moment, dives into the water, and hauls Taurus to the surface. Thor is angry with the Vision, but the synthezoid offers no defense, even when the Scarlet Witch presses him on it. Disgusted, Thor demands that Libra explain why he betrayed Taurus and saved them all. Libra admits that it was something of a mistake; he really just wanted to rescue Mantis, having assumed she was with the Avengers—because she is his daughter.

The Avengers turn the rest of Zodiac over to the police and free Sgt. Damian Link, who had been mind-controlled by the real Gemini, but take Libra back to Avengers Mansion for questioning. There, he explains how he met Mantis’s mother when he was fighting in the First Indochina War as a member of the French Foreign Legion. After a whirlwind romance, they were married, but her brother, the crimelord known as Monsieur Khruul objected to the match and tried to have them killed. Mantis was born while they were on the run. Eventually, Khruul’s assassins caught up to them and killed Libra’s wife, but he and his daughter found refuge in a remote monastery. The monks, who called themselves the Priests of Pama, raised Mantis, teaching her their unique form of martial arts. Finally, Libra admits, he left her there and returned to Europe. Consumed with rage, Mantis attacks Libra, but he subdues her, having learned the same fighting techniques that she did. Suddenly, the Avengers realize that the Swordsman has taken a Quinjet and is heading to Vietnam to take vengeance on Monsieur Khruul. Before they can follow, Iron Man must fly to Van Lunt’s property in New Jersey to retrieve their other Quinjet. When he returns, the Avengers set off, accompanied by Libra. Iron Man thinks it’s ironic since he was planning to go to Vietnam anyway.

When the Avengers arrive at Monsieur Khruul’s villa on the outskirts of Saigon, they find the Swordsman tied to a chair. He admits he broke under torture and told the crimelord about the Priests of Pama and how to find them. Libra then leads the team to the remote monastery, but they arrive too late—all the monks have been slaughtered by Khruul’s assassins. The Avengers defeat the assassins, but Khruul flees deeper into the temple, only to be killed by the Star-Stalker, a dragon-like alien who has come to feed on the planet’s life-energies now that the Priests of Pama can no longer prevent him from doing so. The Star-Stalker shrugs off the Avengers’ initial attack, then spins a cocoon around itself in order to transform into its energy-absorbing form. The Black Panther contacts S.H.I.E.L.D. and arranges for them to deliver Zodiac’s Star-Blaster cannon, which the agency has impounded. Unfortunately, when it emerges from its cocoon, the Star-Stalker proves to be impervious to the weapon’s rays. The creature slams Iron Man and Thor into each other, knocking them both out. When he comes to, Iron Man finds that Mantis and the Vision figured out how to defeat the Star-Stalker and were able to kill it. Leaving the Swordsman to recover in a Saigon hospital, the other Avengers return to New York, but Iron Man stays in Vietnam. He starts making inquiries to try to locate Roxanne Gilbert so they can coordinate their efforts to search for Eddie March’s brother.

December 1966 – Iron Man meets up with Roxanne Gilbert and, along with a military escort, they set out to search for Marty March. Their trek takes them to the village of Ăn Thóc, which has been destroyed by an American bombing raid. Tony realizes that they are very close to the spot where he received the near-fatal wounds that led him to become Iron Man four and a half years ago. When the soldiers decide to return to their base, Roxanne objects and continues on into the jungle on her own. Iron Man goes after her, only to be attacked by the Japanese mutant known as Sunfire. Their fight ends abruptly when Sunfire is teleported away. Iron Man analyzes the energy signature of the teleportation beam and realizes it is a match for the Mandarin’s technology. Assuming that Sunfire has joined forces with the Mandarin, Iron Man tracks the teleportation beam to an underwater base in the South China Sea. As he approaches, however, a torpedo attack damages Iron Man’s helmet and he is forced to retreat. He flies to a Stark Industries facility in the Philippines to make repairs. Thinking it will give him a more fearsome appearance, Tony adds a nose to his faceplate.

When he returns to the hidden base, Iron Man discovers that the Mandarin has found a way to transfer his consciousness back into his own body, leaving the Unicorn apparently dead on the floor. He also finds that Sunfire is the Mandarin’s prisoner, not his partner, and Iron Man is forced to rescue the brash mutant when the base is wrecked during the battle with the Mandarin. Unfortunately, the Mandarin is able to knock Iron Man out while his boot-jets are firing, sending him rocketing into the upper atmosphere. When he comes to, Iron Man is relieved that his armor’s life-support systems engaged automatically. He then flies to the Mandarin’s main fortress in the Gobi Desert, where he finds Sunfire battling the giant android Ultimo. Working together, Iron Man and Sunfire manage to bury Ultimo in an avalanche. Sunfire then reports that the Mandarin actually activated Ultimo because the Yellow Claw had taken over his fortress during his absence, and the two master criminals are currently fighting each other within. Iron Man smashes into the fortress and is shocked to discover that the Yellow Claw has murdered the Mandarin and now claims all his rival’s lands and properties. The Yellow Claw unleashes a series of deadly attacks, but Iron Man survives them and soon finds the villain boasting about his triumphs to the Black Lama, who has apparently promised a “golden globe of power” to the winner in a war of the super-villains. Iron Man tries to apprehend them, but they escape as the entire fortress is destroyed in a massive explosion.

Exhausted, Iron Man flies back to the Philippines to recuperate. He is soon joined there by Happy and Pepper, who assure him that they’ve settled their marital problems by deciding that Happy will finally accept Tony’s offer to become the head of Stark Industries’ security division. Pepper also reveals that Happy has informed her that Tony is Iron Man, so they no longer have any secrets from each other. Tony is relieved, and they spend a day or so reviewing the company’s investments in Southeast Asia before returning to New York. Tony also makes inquiries with his contacts in the military as to Roxanne Gilbert’s whereabouts, but she seems to have vanished off the face of the earth. Though Tony is worried about her, he receives little cooperation from the military and suspects it is due to his refusal to provide them with any more weapons systems.

Iron Man is at Avengers Mansion when Captain America returns from his recent battle against the Secret Empire in Washington, DC. The team congratulates Cap on clearing his name, but he is in no mood to celebrate. Cap says cryptically that there was more to the situation than was revealed on the news, but he refuses to discuss it further. Thor soon returns from a trip to visit Loki in Rutland, Vermont, and then Mantis brings in the Swordsman, who is just back from Vietnam. A little while later, the Avengers meet with Captain Marvel, Drax the Destroyer, and their sexy friend Moondragon to discuss the problem of Thanos. Mar-Vell reports that Thanos has conquered the colony on Titan and worse, is now in possession of the Cosmic Cube. However, the strategy session is cut short when Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Drax, and Moondragon are suddenly teleported to Titan and imprisoned in a stasis field along with the villain’s brother Eros and their father, Mentor. As a creepy hooded figure enters the room, Thanos gloats about his victory while brandishing the Cosmic Cube. He then teleports everyone to some asteroids near Mars so he can show off his huge fleet of space pirates and that he holds the godlike being Chronos prisoner. Once they are back in Thanos’s observatory on Titan, Captain Marvel manages to disrupt the stasis field by briefly switching places with Rick Jones. The heroes launch a desperate attack, but it is all for naught—Thanos easily captures them again, then uses the Cosmic Cube to transform himself into a disembodied, nigh-omnipotent god. However, while Drax keeps Thanos busy, Iron Man and Captain Marvel manage to reach the core of the supercomputer I.S.A.A.C., where they try to determine a weakness in their foe they can exploit. Unfortunately, Thanos causes metal demon-creatures to form out of the structure of the building, and in the ensuing melee, Iron Man is knocked unconscious.

When he comes to, Iron Man finds himself back in Avengers Mansion, unsure of how he came to be there. Along with Thor, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, and the Swordsman, he soon locates Mantis on a nearby rooftop with Captain Marvel and Drax. Mar-Vell has somehow defeated Thanos by smashing the Cosmic Cube, though he and Mantis give only vague and evasive answers to the Avengers’ questions. As Drax flies off into the night sky, Captain Marvel trades places with Rick, who accompanies the others back to the mansion. Not long afterward, Iron Man and Captain America lend a hand when an old government research facility collapses a few blocks away. In the basement, they discover a vintage cryogenic vault and take it back to their headquarters for safekeeping. Iron Man decides to have some technicians from Stark Industries examine it after the holidays. Rick then says goodbye to the Avengers and sets out on a 15-city concert tour as part of the opening act for a more famous band. Iron Man tells Rick to let them know when he’s playing Madison Square Garden.

Iron Man and Thor are concerned when the disillusioned Captain America says he’s considering giving up his costumed identity, permanently this time. Before they can discuss it further, though, the mansion is attacked by Klaw and his new partner, Solarr, who have imprisoned the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis, along with Ambassador Ronald Pershing of Rhodesia, under a dome of solid sound outside. The villains are threatening to roast their hostages unless the Black Panther surrenders the throne of Wakanda to Klaw, after which he intends to declare war on Rhodesia to pay them back for the harsh treatment he suffered there last year. When Klaw proves to be a sonic illusion, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America search the neighborhood for the real villain, but the Black Panther deduces that he is, in fact, masquerading as Ambassador Pershing. Klaw and Solarr are quickly defeated, but the Black Panther announces that he must take a leave of absence and return to Wakanda for a while. Thor, as current team chairman, grants the request and calls the Avengers to gather to toast their valiant comrade. Unfortunately, their celebration is marred when the Scarlet Witch and the Vision get into an argument about the Swordsman’s assertion that the Vision is trying to steal Mantis away from him. Iron Man can only wonder what the Scarlet Witch’s problem is lately. The atmosphere around the mansion is still a bit tense a day or two later when Iron Man joins the others for the Avengers’ Fifth Annual Christmas Charity Benefit.

The Avengers respond when an intruder breaks into the lab where the vintage cryogenic vault is being stored, and they are surprised to find that he is the Whizzer, the super-fast crimefighter of the 1940s who was a member of the Liberty Legion, the Invaders, and the post-war All-Winners Squad. The Whizzer claims that the cryogenic vault belongs to him, but the Avengers are dubious until the module opens, revealing a highly radioactive mutant inside. The mutant smashes its way to freedom and disappears into the city. Detecting three radioactive hotspots in the area, the Avengers split up to see which one is the mutant. Iron Man and Captain America find him at a power plant in Queens and note that the mutant has started referring to himself as “Nuklo.” They herd him back to Avengers Mansion, where they are shocked to see their teammates bringing two other Nuklos with them. The three doppelgängers merge into one, tripling his power. He scatters the Avengers with a force blast, but then the Scarlet Witch and the Whizzer arrive on the scene and trap him within a hex sphere that drains his power. As Nuklo loses consciousness, the Whizzer collapses from a massive heart attack. The Vision carries him into their headquarters while Thor transforms into Dr. Donald Blake. While Blake is performing open-heart surgery on the elder hero, the Scarlet Witch informs her teammates that Nuklo is the son of the Whizzer and his deceased wife, Miss America. More incredibly, she reveals, the couple had taken an extended vacation to Europe after their highly radioactive baby was placed in stasis by the government, and while there, Miss America got pregnant again. She ended up delivering at the High Evolutionary’s Citadel of Science on Wundagore Mountain but died in childbirth. Overcome with grief, the Whizzer fled, leaving newborn twins behind—twins that grew up to become the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Iron Man is happy that the Scarlet Witch has found her birth parents and hopes that her attitude will now improve. Blake soon reports that the Whizzer should make a full recovery, and the Avengers agree to let him stay at the mansion while he recuperates.


Notes:

January 1966 – Iron Man starts off the year with a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four #133. The Avengers’ battles with Magneto and the Lion God span Avengers #110–112, with an additional flashback in Captain America #173. Tony Stark doesn’t seem to recognize Charles Xavier, so it’s possible they never met face-to-face during their joint project to capture and cure the Hulk a year ago. Instead, Mister Fantastic must have acted as a go-between, coordinating their separate efforts. The Lion God is most likely the Nubian god Apedemak, who is related to the Egyptian pantheon.

February 1966 – Iron Man, the Human Torch, and the Inhumans help Spider-Man rescue the Avengers from Kang and Zarrko in Marvel Team-Up #9–11. The Avengers then repair the Statue of Liberty at the beginning of Avengers #113.

March 1966 – The Avengers save the Vision from the suicide bombers in the rest of Avengers #113, during which Tony Stark and Don Blake confirm that they have figured out each other’s secret identities. Interestingly, they don’t share this information with their teammates, whose real names are known to both of them.

April 1966 – Mantis and the Swordsman turn up and help the Avengers defeat the Lion God in Avengers #114. Apparently, the Lion God never manages to return from the dimension to which Thor banishes him.

May 1966 – The Avengers and the Defenders team up to defeat Loki and Dormammu in Avengers #115–118 and Defenders #8–11. Additional information is provided in a flashback in Avengers #157, and the Avengers return home in the first few pages of Avengers #119. Iron Man’s solo adventures then pick up again in Iron Man #55 and following.

June 1966 – The Avengers and Captain Marvel battle the Controller in Captain Marvel #27–30. Iron Man and the Thing then join forces against the Blood Brothers in Marvel Feature #12.

July 1966 – The United Nations places the Avengers on standby as the Elementals terrorize Cairo in Supernatural Thrillers #13. Iron Man and his teammates remain behind the scenes, though.

August–September 1966 – Stark Industries’ space shuttle was named after writer Mike Friedrich’s independent publishing venture, which would produce the comic book anthology series Star*Reach about a year later.

October 1966 – The bulk of Avengers #119 covers the last Rutland, Vermont Halloween Parade story.

November 1966 – The Avengers’ discussion is observed by an out-of-phase Nighthawk in Defenders #13. In Iron Man #62, “Mark Scott” is really Whiplash using an alias. He breaks up with Vicki Snow and quits his job at Stark Industries shortly after this story. Iron Man meets Luke Cage in Power Man #17, then the Avengers battle Zodiac, encounter Monsieur Khruul, and save the world from the Star-Stalker in Avengers #120–124. Iron Man’s meeting with the Falcon is seen in Captain America #171. Zodiac must set up their Star-Blaster cannon atop the Empire State Building rather than the World Trade Center (as depicted), since the latter towers haven’t been built yet. During the Avengers’ visit to the temple of the Priests of Pama, it is revealed that Tony Stark is a fluent speaker of Vietnamese.

December 1966 – Iron Man teams up with Captain Marvel and his friends to battle Thanos in Captain Marvel #31–33, while the Avengers deal with the villain’s space armada in Avengers #125. Confusingly, three different time periods are mashed together in the first three pages of Avengers #125—Lou-Ann Savannah’s arrival at the mansion (in June), Libra being taken away by the police (in November), and Captain America returning to the Avengers after defeating the Secret Empire (in December). This is clearly done for dramatic effect. Thanos’s creepy hooded associate is, of course, a manifestation of Death, but Iron Man is not aware of this. Presumably, Iron Man is teleported back to Earth by I.S.A.A.C. Later, Iron Man and Captain America discover Nuklo’s cryogenic vault in a flashback in Giant-Size Avengers #1, then Rick Jones says goodbye in Captain Marvel #34. Klaw and Solarr attack in Avengers #126, in which Rhodesia is fictionalized as “Rudyarda.” The Scarlet Witch and the Vision’s argument is seen in one of the many flashbacks in Avengers #280. The Avengers then encounter the Whizzer and Nuklo in Giant-Size Avengers #1. This brings us up to Iron Man #71.


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