Looking Back on ‘Avengers: Kang Dynasty’
We unravel the time traveling despot's epic attack on Earth and the Avengers!
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In the late 1990s and early 2000s, creators Kurt Busiek and George Pérez worked hard to catapult the Avengers back to the forefront of blockbuster Super Hero comics. To that end, they not only assembled a stellar team consisting of all-stars and fun up-and-comers, but also brushed off some of the team's most compelling villains to give the likes of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Captain Marvel (then going by “Warbird”) and the rest of the crew a challenge.
Along the way, the Avengers battled Morgan le Fay, the Squadron Supreme, the Wrecking Crew, Ultron, Kulan Gath, Count Nefaria and many more. In 2000, Busiek and a group of artists including Alan Davis, Manuel Garcia, and Kieron Dwyer (Pérez had left after AVENGERS #44) gave the Avengers their toughest challenger to date: Kang the Conqueror. The adventure known as KANG DYNASTY spanned AVENGERS (1998) #41-55 and AVENGERS ANNUAL 2001 and did quite a bit of damage to change the trajectory of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
As KANG DYNASTY kicked off in AVENGERS #41, the team roster could easily be described as expansive. Captain America, Iron Man and Warbird (Carol Danvers) were some of the heaviest hitters. Thor was also on call, but was becoming more aloof. The main group also included Wasp and a mysterious stranger posing as Goliath (Hank Pym). Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Wonder Man also appeared regularly as did relative newbies Triathlon and Silverclaw. Oh, and Quicksilver decided to offer his services for a spell.
But that's not all! In an effort to take a more proactive approach to super-heroing, the Avengers had the half-extraterrestrial Jack of Hearts explore the High Evolutionary's abandoned base in the Savage Land, while Justice and Firestar were undercover in the Triune Understanding. Black Knight and Firebird kept an eye on Bloodwraith too in the wreckage of Slorenia. There was even a group out in space at a monitoring station that included Quasar, Photon (Monica Rambeau) and Living Lightning. And that's not counting reserve members She-Hulk, Black Widow, Stingray, and Hercules who also made appearances as the story continued. It would take every single one of them to fend off Kang's plans to conquer Earth in part for his son Scarlet Centurion to rule.
Acting as a kind of envoy for Kang, Scarlet Centurion landed on Earth—at the United Nations building to be exact—to announce his master's intent to address the world in AVENGERS #41. If that name sounds familiar, it's because—as Iron Man eluded to in the issue—the team had fought a version who hailed from Earth-689 in AVENGERS ANNUAL (1967) #2. This turned out to be a younger version of Kang right after his first stint as the Pharaoh Rama-Tut. In a bit of multiversal madness, there have been others from alternate realities who have also gone by the Scarlet Centurion moniker.
The person under the Scarlet Centurion guise in this story is Marcus Kang, son of the time-traveler. He wore a suit of armor with a variety of defenses and weapons, wielded an equally useful standard, and flew around on a platform. The Avengers jumped into action, attacking him upon arrival and it took a whole squad to defeat him. At that point, Kang appeared, admonished their lack of diplomacy and destroyed the U.N. building; but he did save all of the people inside.
KANG, WANNABE SAVIOR
As fully revealed in AVENGERS (1998) #42, Kang came to Earth at this particular moment in time to save the planet from a variety of terrible futures, which he showed to those assembled. One had radioactive monsters attacking from the east, another featured an attack on Mars, while yet another showcased Ragnarok. Kang offered the Earth a chance to surrender, but knowing they would not take it, explained exactly how he would not only dominate the planet, but create a superior race that would colonize other planets.
The would-be conqueror ostensibly gave Earth time to figure out their next move, but he already had a variety of plans in motion. He even explained a few of these, including his intent to attack France and Germany first. Kang also warned that any attacks on their persons or their ship would result in brutal retaliation.
BESIEGED ON ALL SIDES
While Kang and Scarlet Centurion made their presence known in the United States, another group of Avengers investigated a huge radiation spike in Russia. There they found the Presence and an army of radioactive zombies under his control. This was one of the potential futures Kang warned of.
Meanwhile, Attuma lead an Atlantean attack on Prince Edward Island while an army of Deviants blasted through China. The time traveler explained to his son that facilitating all of these threats would exploit the Avengers' weaknesses. However, by AVENGERS #44, Stingray defeated the Atlanteans, Thor bested Presence, and Warbird took down the Deviants' champion. Kang still had other plans.
THE PYM PROBLEM
Leading into KANG DYNASTY, readers had seen one version of Hank Pym keep another in stasis in a shrunken lab. During the fight with the Atlanteans, the free Hank Pym surprised everyone by joining the fray in his Yellowjacket costume, which he wore during his nervous breakdown way back in AVENGERS (1963) #213.
His longtime partner, Wasp, did not have time to address her concerns with Hank because he passed out and began turning translucent! In AVENGERS ANNUAL 2001, the fading Hank asked Janet Van Dyne (AKA Wasp) to check in on the captured Pym. At Triathlon's suggestion, they took the two Hanks to the Triune Understanding where their leader, Jonathan Tremont, allowed them to communicate mentally. Basically, Pym had shut off the impetuous, erratic side that he blamed for hurting Jan. When evil sorcerer Kulan Gath hit him with a spell, Pym split into two separate beings. Tremont’s mental merging allowed the Pyms to do the same physically, making Hank whole again. Hank decided to stick with the Yellowjacket identity as a way to embrace the messiness of his past (and hopefully make up for it).
UNDERSTANDING THE TRIUNE
Kurt Busiek used KANG DYNASTY to not only tell the story of that particular villain, but to also wrap up a few other stories that he had been working on for some time. One of the major ones being the true intent of the Triune Understanding, a religious group to some, and a cult to others that produced the Avenger Triathlon. The group claimed to teach people how to achieve their true potential, but the Avengers questioned their motives. Readers knew that the Triune leader Jonathan Tremont pulled some dirty tricks, including raising anti-mutant sentiment. These lingering questions lead to Justice and Firestar infiltrating the Understanding.
In AVENGERS ANNUAL 2001, the undercover agents got word to Monica Rambeau that the Triunes were building a psychically-powered spaceship in hopes of taking on the Triple Evil. That threat appeared as a pyramid floating through space in AVENGERS #47.
MASTER OF THE WORLD
While already dealing with the threats surrounding Kang, the Avengers were stunned to see half-mile tall structures popping up from the ground to surround most of the major cities of North America. The “Master of the World” took credit for the move. As seen in AVENGERS #46, he also captured a great deal of U.S. leaders and explained that he had been alive for forty thousand years thanks to merging with a spaceship that allowed him to use the Earth's raw materials to create these walls complete with defenses and energy domes.
The Master debuted in ALPHA FLIGHT (1983) #2 and gave the Avengers trouble on more than one occasion. In KANG DYNASTY, he explained that, as the overseer of the planet, he approved of Kang's invasion because it would greatly reduce the world's population, but of course could not support a plan that lead anyone else to take over as the “orb's true ruler.” When Carol Danvers and the others finally confronted the Master in AVENGERS #48, he refused to help them, so she stabbed him in the gut so they could take control of his tech to keep the world safe.
THE TICKING CLOCK
In AVENGERS #45, after the team dealt with the first wave of Kang’s chaos, Captain America, Wasp, and a few others met with the United States government who revealed their intentions to use Sentinels to attack Kang's ship. When Cap respectfully disagreed with that tactic, the team was given 96 hours to deal with Kang on their own before the Feds unleashed the bots.
A squad consisting of Captain America, Photon, Jack of Hearts, and Scarlet Witch flew off into space to attack Damocles Base, Kang's sword-shaped ship. Though they briefly succeeded in piercing the force field, Kang blasted their ship apart. With that, the Sentinels were launched, but the Conqueror easily took control of all 75 Sentinels.
ARTICLES OF SURRENDER
In the wake of the Avengers' failed attempt to break through the Damocles Base, Kang took control of the Sentinels and attacked the Earth (as he said he would). While the Master of the World's defenses took out some of the robots, the Damocles' defenses destroyed many of the walls. The Avengers rallied together to fight off the invaders, but humanity suffered a great many casualties, including the destruction of Washington, D.C. By the end of the attack, humanity was prepared to surrender to the Conqueror. To fully rub it in, he would only accept the official signature from Wasp as head of the Avengers.
Readers will note that AVENGERS #49 is presented without any dialogue. This was part of the 2002 “'Nuff Said” campaign wherein every Marvel comic with that tag went wordless. According to a letter that accompanied the original issues, the idea was created by Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada, who were then President and Editor-in-Chief, as a challenge to their talented creators. Busiek and Dwyer had no problem conveying a crucial portion of the KANG DYNASTY story in the 'Nuff Said style.
PRISONERS OF LOVE AND WAR
With the surrender official, Kang's minions began rounding up the world's heroes and placing them in prison camps along with anyone else who opposed the takeover. While the heroes' powers were negated, the humans who attempted to escape didn't just risk their own lives, but those of randomly selected prisoners who would be killed as well. Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man wound up in the same prison in Los Angeles as seen in AVENGERS #51. They did all the good that they could, but grew anxious just sitting back and waiting to see what Kang did next.
After having a heart-to-heart talk where they agreed that they still loved one another but were not in love, Wanda and Simon devised a plan that would allow him to break free, though it would seem like he was killed. This would not only prove an important move in the larger story, but also a nice cap-off to the Wanda Maximoff/Simon Williams relationship that had been in the mix since she helped him return to life in AVENGERS (1998) #2.
TAKING A PAGE FROM KANG'S PLAYBOOK
Even with so many heroes locked up and Kang's forces seemingly defeating everyone they encountered, some Avengers remained free, offering hope to the rest. The freed Wonder Man joined up with Thor, Warbird, Quicksilver and Yellowjacket, managing to free Wasp in AVENGERS #52. They took her back to the Master's headquarters in Canada which was shielded from Kang's eyes. There, Tony Stark explained how they had figured out a way to use the Master's technology against the despot Kang to an even greater effect.
In addition to their own plan of attack, Wasp worked with the Deviants as well as the Atlanteans to attack their common enemy at a designated time across the world. Even the Presence came to help! The orchestration allowed the Avengers to plan their next move and also put Kang on his back foot, which was good considering they were in for a surprise from space.
WAR OF THE GIANTS
The group in the Triple-Evil's pyramid ship appeared right alongside Damocles Base in AVENGERS #52. Kang moved to deal with this interruption, creating a giant simulacrum of himself in space, but the pyramid ship managed to copy the technology and presented Captain America in the same scale!
At the same time, a group on the ground used the Master's defenses to blast away at Damocles Base in space while a third group—including Thor, Iron Man, Firebird, Warbird and Wonder Man—joined the space battle. With some unexpected help from Tremont, the team made their way into Kang's ship. After Warbird took out the power core, Kang sent Marcus away and stayed with the ship as it crashed towards Earth.
THE LAST STAND
Before pushing his son into an escape pod in AVENGERS #54, Kang explained that he planned on seeing his war through to the end. Having crashed on Earth, he had that opportunity, facing off against Captain America while the others helped with the devastation caused by the crash. Kang fell to the hero and was content with his legend ending thusly, but more importantly Marcus' carrying on.
Kang was distraught when Marcus appeared and freed him. Forced back into action, the father revealed that his son was but one of many Marcus clones. The others had failed to live up to his expectations and were killed. Between freeing Kang and helping Warbird infiltrate the Master's domain, Scarlet Centurion made two grave errors that the Conqueror could not abide. He dealt with his 23rd son swiftly.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
With the war over, the Avengers helped clean up the mess left behind in AVENGERS #55. They also had internal business to deal with. Warbird requested a court martial for killing the Master of the World and the team found her actions justifiable given the extraordinary circumstances. Meanwhile, Triathlon managed to give Hal and Chuck, the original 3-D Man brothers back their bodies. Oh, and those walls that popped up because of the Master's technology? They disintegrated along with all of the tunnels when the Avengers in the facility failed to enter the right code. The team also took some time to mourn the loss of their liaison Duane Freeman who had died when Washington, D.C. was attacked.
And that was pretty much it for Busiek's run on AVENGERS! Sure, AVENGERS #56 features a one-and-done with an eclectic group taking on the Elements of Doom, but the end of KANG DYNASTY tied up many of the story threads he had been weaving since the book launched in 1998. Shortly after, writer Brian Michael Bendis came in, disassembled the team and launched NEW AVENGERS!
Read the complete KANG DYNASTY event on Marvel Unlimited now.
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