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AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 129 (November 1974) Bid Tomorrow Goodbye
AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Frank), The Vision (not applicable), The Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Mantis Brandt).
BID TOMORROW GOODBYE
Synopsis: The story picks up where we left off last time. The Avengers and the sorceress Agatha Harkness – the Scarlet Witch’s mentor – have gathered outside Avengers Mansion. Stunned crowds of onlookers have gathered as well, in reaction to the incredibly bright artificial star that appeared over Avengers Mansion like a sci-fi version of the Star of Bethlehem.
Kang the Conqueror, a frequent foe of the Avengers, appeared on the scene, saying that the star was a signal to him. A signal that the time of the Celestial Madonna had arrived and that 20th Century Earth was ripe for conquest.
NOTE: The Marvel Comics character Kang the Conqueror is a good example of ret-conning used in a SUCCESSFUL and REASONABLE way. Kang is the military dictator of 40th Century Earth and had often come back to conquer the 20th Century with his future technology.
When Kang first appeared in The Avengers in 1964 comic books were still considered to be “just for little kids.” This meant that in his early battles against the Avengers no mention was ever made of the familiar sci-fi concept that IF Kang had succeeded in taking over 20th Century Earth it would change the future so drastically that it might result in him NEVER EVEN BEING BORN.
As I said, back in the early to mid 1960s Marvel Comics administrators were still abiding by the conventional wisdom that comic books should be targeted JUST at children who were 10 or 11 or younger. Such children were not expected to see through the flaws of simplistic stories, so comic books stayed “dumb” which kept limiting their audience to little kids in a self-perpetuating cycle.
Stan Lee, whose animated corpse makes cameo appearances in Marvel movies (I’m kidding) was famous for trying to introduce more complex stories that might appeal to older audiences. Stan the Man felt comics could appeal to all ages just like sci-fi tv shows like Star Trek and many others.
Marvel thrived with that approach from the late 1960s onward. This brings us back to Kang the Conqueror’s role in the Celestial Madonna storyline. The creative team at The Avengers back then used this tale to ret-con WHY Kang attacked the 20th Century so often AND provided a reason why he could feel secure that it would not endanger his existence in any way. (Details below.)
Back to the story: The Avengers attack Kang, whose high-tech armor is beyond even Doctor Doom’s (except when other stories call for it NOT to be). That armor – as usual – enables Kang to go blow for blow with our heroes.
But Kang always projected Man of Greatness airs like the later Khan Noonian Singh in his appearance on the Star Trek television series. Kang sees himself as equal to – if not superior to – figures like Napoleon, Alexander the Great and the Caesars: men who conquered militarily AND ruled the areas conquered.
Kang often feels personal combat to be unsuited to a man of his stature and prefers to direct forces that he commands against his foes. (But there is NEVER any hint of cowardice in that. That is CRUCIAL to Kang’s character.) After awhile he summons his newest creations, a trio of Macrobots, to battle the Avengers.
After an intense fight the Macrobots defeat all the Avengers AND Agatha Harkness. For his part the Vision was defeated because once AGAIN he suffered a panic attack pertaining to half-formed memories in his android brain. (The explanation for those lies in the installments ahead.)
While Kang saturates the fallen Avengers with a certain type of energy to get them prepped for teleportation he muses aloud about his decision to rework his earlier android Stimuloids, maximizing their potential and making them Macrobots. He also states “this will occupy at least a chapter in my memoirs.”
New York cops attack Kang next but are easily dealt with, to the further horror of the assembled onlookers. The Avengers’ butler Jarvis rushes out and Kang simply shoots from his finger a paralyzing ray to freeze Jarvis in his tracks. It would be so beneath his dignity to kill a mere servant, after all.
While the now-conscious Avengers and Agatha Harkness continue being saturated in the energy rays Kang regales them and the crowds of bystanders with some exposition. He stated that the Madonna Star above Avengers Mansion let him know that the Celestial Madonna has been realized.
The distortions that the star causes in the time-stream prevented him from simply knowing in advance when it would appear despite his frequent back and forth travels through time. Kang further states that the Star is the reason he has always targeted the 20th Century for his attacks.
It heralds the completeness of the Celestial Madonna, “She who will bear the One.” The fragmentary records that survive from our time period did not name her but her offspring will control all time and space.
The fragmentary records did not reveal the name of her mate, either, but Kang is determined that HE will be that mate, and through their offspring HE will control all time and space. That control of time will enable him to negate any harmful paradoxical effects that his conquest of the past might have, like preventing his (Kang’s) future birth.
In appearing above Avengers Mansion the Star is indicating that one of the women inside is the Celestial Madonna, who as yet is still ignorant of her own destined role. Therefore, the Madonna must be either Mantis, the Scarlet Witch or Agatha Harkness. (Apparently Kang’s future technology could render even a woman as old as Agatha fertile.)
However, Kang is not aware of Moon Dragon’s recent presence in Avengers Mansion during the Thanos War.
But, as Kang observes aloud, in due time the Celestial Madonna ‘s nature will no doubt reveal itself, and he will fill the time til then conquering 20th Century Earth. Presently the Avengers have become fully saturated and prepared for teleportation. With the touch of a button on his armor Kang sends them to his secret lair.
… All but the Swordsman, that is. The Swordsman asks Kang what his plans for him are. Kang replies that his research into the past indicates that the Swordsman is too weak and blundering to be of use to him. His plans involve the more powerful Avengers like Thor, Iron Man and the Vision.
With a scornful farewell Kang teleports himself and his three Macrobots to his secret lair. The Swordsman, having already suffered being cruelly dumped by his romantic partner Mantis last time around, is driven even further toward the emotional edge by this contempt from Kang.
For a time the infuriated Swordsman tries to work out what he should do since he doesn’t even know where Kang took the Avengers. At length a mental image of the sorceress Agatha Harkness appears above him. She tells him this is the only form of her powers that she can use since Kang has placed her, Mantis and the Scarlet Witch in transparent tubes that negate their physical abilities.
Agatha goes on, telling the Swordsman that Kang has Thor, Iron Man and the Vision under some of his machines, machines which hold them in place and are doing God knows what else to them. The sorceress says that she has been able to translate some of the hieroglyphics on the wall and that they are all being held in the pyramid of the Pharaoh Rama Tut in Egypt.
She tells the Swordsman that she doubts that SHE is any man’s bride but that either Wanda or Mantis may suffer if Kang decides one of them is the Celestial Madonna. She asks him to hurry, then cuts off the contact.
After checking Jarvis to make sure he’s okay the Swordsman boards an Avengers Quin-Jet on the roof and takes off for Egypt. Along the way we get further character bits with the heartbroken and snubbed Swordsman. He reflects on how much he still loves Mantis despite her recent treatment of him.
He wonders now if Kang wants her as much as he still does. He also ponders the many mysteries of Mantis’ past and wonders if she really IS the Celestial Madonna that Kang spoke of. He recalls her time as a prostitute in Vietnam, though, and wonders how such a figure could have a known background as cheap as Mantis’ was at times.
The Swordsman contemplates their happy times as a couple, and how she even got him to stop hiring himself out for dirty jobs and rejoin the Avengers. He wonders now if even Mantis’ love was just a lie.
By now the hours to Egypt have passed and the Swordsman is advised he is violating Egyptian air space. In too much of a hurry for diplomatic niceties the Swordsman engages in a dogfight with the Egyptian Air Force, shooting down a few planes before getting shot down in turn.
He brings his crippled Quin-Jet down just outside the pyramid of Rama Tut and emerges. Agatha Harkness’ mental image appears to him again. She tells him to hurry inside, that the Egyptian pilots recognize him now as an Avenger and are radioing their superiors for further instructions.
Suddenly Agatha screams and her image vanishes. The Swordsman realizes Kang must be doing something to her and desperately combs the exterior of the pyramid looking for a way in.
Meanwhile, within the pyramid Kang rendered Agatha Harkness unconscious when the Swordsman – whom Kang’s security cameras picked up outside – addressed her mental image by name, thus revealing who had helped him find Kang’s lair.
Kang announces to the conscious but paralyzed Thor, Iron Man and Vision – plus the tube-enclosed Mantis and Scarlet Witch – that he doubts the Swordsman will be able to find his way inside this pyramid. A pyramid he himself designed.
He reminds his prisoners of how he began life in 30th Century Earth, a time of peace and serenity, and a time he hated. He longed for the years of Earth’s past when men fought and conquered each other. He invented a time machine and traveled to the distant, undocumented Egyptian past.
Once there he cowed several men into serving him and, adopting ancient Egyptian garb, conquered some territory and ruled over it as the Pharaoh Rama Tut. To keep his conquests sporting and fair he limited himself to using the same weapons that those opposing him used. He thrived at commanding armies and ruling a kingdom.
Eventually he ran afoul of the time-traveling Fantastic Four and abandoned ancient Egypt. On this trip his time machine overshot its mark and he landed in the FORTIETH Century instead of his own 30th Century.
The world then was in a virtual Dark Age – possessed of high technology but war-torn and ravaged. He found this to be more his element, so he rechristened himself Kang the First and once more impressed warriors into following him. Then in the years to come he conquered all of 40th Century Earth.
Unlike Alexander the Great, Kang would NEVER run out of worlds to conquer, since he could travel in time. The highly intelligent and cultured Kang took to temporal research, learning as much as he could about various eras of the Earth and eventually learning what limited information he could about the enigmatic Celestial Madonna and her offspring.
The temporal distortions from the Madonna Star always prevented him from isolating exactly when she would appear so he added a tracer to the Star. That tracer alerted him when the Star made itself visible.
Mantis and the Scarlet Witch taunt and threaten Kang from within their tubes but he dismisses them and reminds them that once the Madonna is revealed he will simply kill the other two ladies.
Back to the Swordsman: he puts to use some of the skills he picked up during his wandering supervillain mercenary years. Sometimes he would be paid to break into pyramids and other tombs around the world to steal relics for the black market. Swordsy isolates the key block of the pyramid and blasts his way in with his high-tech sword’s power blasts.
Inside the pyramid the Swordsman encounters another of Kang’s security measures – this one dating back over 5,000 years. It’s a figure called Amenhotep, who crossed Kang when he was Rama Tut. Kang punished him by turning him into a science-spawned vampire-type being, but with red skin and wings.
The tormented creature has gone over 5,000 years without blood and attacks the Swordsman, determined to slake his thirst at long last. The Swordsman fights the super-powered Amenhotep for a time, when suddenly Egyptian troops rush in. They were dispatched to capture the Swordsman for violating their air space without permission.
The science-mutated “vampire” attacks the easier and more plentiful targets, beginning to slaughter the men, drinking blood on the fly while he fights them. Before the Swordsman can come to their aid he happens to trigger a revolving door which locks him in a corridor separate from the soldiers and Amenhotep.
The Swordsman sees a sarcophagus standing upright and sees that his entrance to this chamber has tripped switches that begin casting light on the casket. Our hero flees the room lest any booby-traps also get sprung. After he leaves the sarcophagus opens and an unseen figure begins to emerge.
Back with Kang, the sound of gunfire from the Egyptian soldiers’ firefight with Amenhotep catches his attention. He adjusts his security cameras and sees the techno-vampire slaughtering the soldiers and cruelly marvels at how thirsty Amenhotep must have been after thousands of years of agony.
At length Amenhotep fights and drinks his way through the entire regiment of soldiers, but this exposes him to the sunlight “piped into” the pyramid via mirrors and the sunlight destroys him. Kang assumes that the Swordsman – who surprised him again by finding a way into the pyramid – must be among the slain and bloodied victims of Amenhotep.
Little does Kang realize the Swordsman is actually in a corridor behind him, where neither Kang nor the captives can see him. He silently watches, waiting for a chance to blast Kang or free the others.
Kang moves on to his next step with the Macrobots. Now that Thor, Iron Man and the Vision have been under the other rays long enough, the Conqueror seals one of them inside each of the three Macrobots, thus combining THEIR powers with the already considerable powers of those ‘bots.
Kang announces that he is ready to abandon this pyramid laboratory now, to begin conquering the world. His Macrobot/ Avenger hybrids should be able to defeat any armies or super-powered beings who get in his way.
The Swordsman prepares to attack Kang but is muffled and drawn back into the corridor. Once there a shadowy figure – the one that emerged from the sarcophagus the Swordsman encountered earlier – tells him that it is not yet time to attack Kang.
The Swordsman asks the figure why not and who he is. Stepping into the light, the figure announces himself to be … impossibly … Rama Tut, who was Kang himself.
Next time around things start to get all “timey-wimey” (for you Doctor Who fans) and pleasantly complex. +++
I’LL COVER THE NEXT ISSUE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
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