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Avengers #395: Review

Feb 1996
Terry Kavanagh, Mike Deodato Jr.

Story Name:

Time's End

Review & Comments

Rating:
4 stars

Avengers #395 Review by (September 13, 2010)
These Comment blocks are in reverse order.

At first sight her history suggests that Marianne Rodgers isn't a Phantom. But then she telepathically discovers that Stark has been under Kang's influence since before Iron Man #52. However Avengers Forever drastically shortens the period Iron Man has been corrupted. This suggests the possibility that Marianne is a Phantom replacement sent to confuse the Avengers. **** The question of whether Cybermancer is a Phantom leads to the bigger question mark over the existence of the various alternate futures. Tuc's future is never seen. How real do Cybermancer's future and the future Kang is based in have to be? What about the future scenes Rita DeMara skips through? Which includes the time (the first) teenage Luna comes from. Are the future Ultron and Wonder Man in Force Works #21-22 invented by Immortus just to tidy up Cybermancer? What happens to the possibly-Phantom captured Neut? What happens to Phantom Moonraker whom everyone, including his lover Spider-Woman, forgets about after Force Works #22 and Avengers #397? **** Finally what is the real origin of the door in Avengers basement? If it was present in the mansion as recreated by Ute the Warcher, then does that mean Ute was a Phantom? And therefore everyone else involved in the Gatherers storyline, including the current Swordsman? This is the kind of thing that happens once you start unravelling the threads.

The Anachronaut army are supposedly recruited during this story, and Deathunt's cyborgs could well be. But Apocryphus and Deathunt are part of Kang's original Anachronauts, so how does Immortus get away with employing them. Neut and Dirge only appear in this crossover, but each claims to have been with Kang for a long time. Immortus could have corrupted Stark during blackouts since the Galactic Storm crossover, and only created his Phantom duplicates in time for the Crossing. But Neut also claims to have trained Stark (during blackouts) to fight. So Immortus must have been running the full scenario for all that time. The easiest way out is to say that Dirge, Neut and this version of Apocryphus and Deathunt are Phantoms too. But that brings us to the question of Gilgamesh, who has supposedly trained Malachi and Tobias. Immortus would have to simulate years of the twins' lives. On the other hand making this Gilgamesh a Phantom absolves me from having to explain why the long-lived Eternal has aged to death. **** Phantom 'Mantis' attacks her enemies. But of these 'enemies' Moonraker/Libra and this Cotati Swordsman are known to be Phantoms too. Does the same apply to the Priests of Pama who appear here? At the very least the one who accompanies Tuc is presumably a Phantom. **** Since there is no enemy attacking Kang's empire, then Skye is probably working for Immortus (but not necessarily as a Phantom). It would make it less of a coincidence that Kang's minion Dirge has a Warwear suit like the one Skye gives Rhodey. Unless her never-revealed boss is someone else with a reason to interfere in the Crossing. In my notes on War Machine #20 I addressed the question of what Kang was doing while Immortus was impersonating him. One of the possibilities was that the real Kang was Skye's boss. This would at least make her warning that her boss was going to attack Earth in the future true, as seen in the megastory in Avengers v3 #41-54.

Having established some problems with the story as it was told, I will now consider whether the Avengers Forever retcon solves them all. And whether it introduces other questions. **** On the face of it saying that both sides of the conflict were Space Phantoms, and it was all a sham created by Immortus to distract the Avengers, excuses any inconsistencies. Nothing needs to make sense. For instance we no longer have to question the presence of teenage Luna, the spy in Kang's camp. However not everyone involved was a Phantom. Avengers Forever #8 shows that 'Kang' was Immortus, and Phantoms took the roles of Mantis, Moonraker, Malachi, Tobias and the Cotati Swordsman. The Official Index to the Marvel Universe adds Tuc and teenage Luna to that list. On the other hand, as well as the regular characters in the books, including the corrupted Iron Man, some others are real. Force Works and the relevant issues of Avengers have not yet been documented in OIMU, but the entries for Iron Man and War Machine claim some characters aren't Phantoms. This is supported by online authorities such as the Marvel Database and the Unoffical Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Later appearances prove Masque isn't a Phantom. But some less obvious people also claim reality, even though some of them have been working for 'Kang'. The list includes the Anachronaut army, Apocryphus, Cybermancer, Deathunt 9000 and his cyborgs, Dirge, Gilgamesh, Neut, the Priests of Pama and Skye. And I will add Marianne Rodgers to that list

Various characters have come from the future, and their futures don't all seem to be the same. Kang and his allies appear to occupy a future, not least because they need to use time portals to get here. Presumably it is a future where the current conflict hasn't ever happened. Stark gets tech from a future Timely Industries. One would assume that it is the future Kang occupies. But it might more logically be the future he brings Cybermancer from. But in that future Kang has won the current conflict but lost the war with his enemy, and died. The future that Rita DeMara visits has the Avengers hunted and killed by an unnamed Empress of the US, presumably Mantis after she and Kang win this conflict. Presumably this is the future they want to bring about, so presumably it isn't the one where Kang dies. A teenage Luna comes back from this future to stop Rita being killed. But she isn't necessarily the same Luna who tries to help the Avengers while pretending to work for Kang. That Luna would more logically belong to the future Kang is operating from. Tuc is also from a future. He isn't from the future we end up with. His caveboy attire doen't suit any of the other futures I have listed here. **** In the future that happens, Kang loses the Crossing conflict and is left with no defense against his enemy, so I would guess he dies in this future too. He certainly isn't seen again until Avengers Forever makes it all academic. Kang says that if he doesn't stop his enemy, the enemy will conquer Earth. Skye also warns War Machine against her employer. Whether or not they are the same being, neither ever materialises.

There are more problems with this plot than those I've mentioned in passing. **** Some of the above isn't made as clear in the comics as I have (hopefully) done. In some cases I may have imposed my own logic on the events. The most significant example is the case of Masque. Her identity and purpose isn't revealed until after Heroes Reborn is over, and may well be a retcon. But I have used that revelation to explain her actions in these issues. It is possible that Masque was supposed to be Bethany Cabe at the time of writing, with a different motivation. Whoever Masque is, I have assumed/deduced that she doesn't know what's going on beforehand, and Marianne tells her about Kang's plot after seeing it in Tony's mind, but the comics don't actually show this. **** There are elements introduced into the plot that don't go anywhere. For instance Stark bankrupts Wasp for no apparent reason, Bethany Cabe's apartment is trashed and she may have disappeared. Machinesmith does get used after he is introduced, but his presence here clashes with his activities in Captain America.

The subplots combine as Iron Man is exposed as the killer, and his bad side takes over. Tuc takes little Luna to safety. Injured Wasp enters a cocoon. Masque reaches the Avengers. Iron Man kills Amanda Chaney to protect the secrets of Force Works HQ, as Cybermancer is exposed. But Stark's good side isn't completely submerged. **** The story then splits into 2 parallel streams. In one leg Force Works and War Machine destroy the chronographic weapon, and Skye reappears briefly to tell Rhodey where the Warwear came from. In the other leg Marianne tells the Avengers that Stark was corrupted soon after leaving his teenage years. Mantis captures Moonraker. But Luna shows her hand, rescues Moonraker, and dies telling the Avengers how to use basement door. Wasp mutates into an insect form. The Avengers use the door as a time-machine to fetch uncorrupted 19 year old Tony (in the process creating an alternate reality to take him from), who helps break into Stark's Arctic bunker. Conflicted Stark rips young Tony's heart out. Kang whips out another copy of the chronographic weapon (called by a different name)! But Stark's good side wins out, and he provides tech to save young Tony, before dying destroying Kang's weapon. **** In the aftermath, Tuc brings young Luna back, teen Tony recovers and becomes Iron Man, and Cybermancer dies as we learn about her alternate future. But the big changes don't last long. Insectile Wasp and young Tony dissolve when Heroes Reborn takes over in a few months.

Several intertwined plotlines ensue. While Kang is away defending his shrinking borders, Mantis concentrates on her personal agenda while running Stark. She has her Cotati ex-husband kidnapped and transports the Priests of Pama's temple of Agaphaur (where she was raised) to the zone. (She later has her father Moonraker kidnapped too.) The removal of the temple, followed by the rest of Vietnam, is also part of a test of the chronographic weapon and its effects. Force Works investigates the missing Vietnam, which triggers Moonraker to remember his identity as Libra, and he explains Kang and Mantis's plot. Teenage Luna continues to drop hints, and also awakens Tony's good side to what's happening. Iron Man brings in Cybermancer, an ally from the future, to keep an eye on Force Works HQ and its secret basement containing the computer that will control the chronographic weapon in the Starcore satellite. Masque and Marianne Rodgers seek out Tony Stark. He imprisons them in his Arctic base, but his good side arranges to leave Marianne's telepathy intact, and she is able to let Masque know some of what's going on. Masque escapes. Bad Stark frames Hawkeye for the murders. Hawkeye's escape brings War Machine into the conflict.

The crossover kicks off with 3 events on the day of the Avengers' anniversary party which I struggle to see as physically related. Iron Man opens the Avengers' basement door. Gilgamesh dies while giving the Avengers more obscure warnings. The Priests of pama transfer Moonraker into Force Works in Marvel reality. Apart from letting Neut through twice, the Avengers' basement door doesn't seem to do Kang any good. The Avengers later use it against him. And Iron Man kills Rita DeMara and Marilla to protect the door, which is what eventually makes the Avengers realise he is an enemy. Gilgamesh's death doesn't do anything plotwise apart from the cryptic comments and introducing Neut and Kang's army. Moonraker will later give us an info-dump on Kang's plot. Moving Libra/Moonraker between realities, and altering Marvel history to give Moonraker a backstory, are way beyond what we previously knew of the Priests' abilities.

Meanwhile certain forces arrayed themselves against Kang and Mantis. The Priests of Pama foresaw what's coming, and saved the spirit of Mantis's father Libra when he died. They hid him in the person of hero Moonraker in an alternate reality version of Force Works. They also joined forces with their old allies the Cotati, and Luna's brother Tuc from an alternate future. Tuc, a Priest and Mantis's ex-husband the Cotati Swordsman try to warn the Avengers several times early in the crossover. (I'll ignore the fact that, as usual in these circumstances, their warnings, along with Luna's, are too cryptic to be any use.) Someone, probably Kang's unnamed enemy, expects War Machine to challenge Iron Man. When Rhodey lost his armour, this someone sent an operative Skye to give Jim the alien Warwear armour.

Stark set up Timely Industries in the future 2009, with technology from Kang, and brought inventions back to the present to use in Kang's project. This ignores the idea that Kang created Timely Industries in 1901, to feed advanced technology to Earth for his own reasons. Stark has time portals connecting him to Chronopolis in his secret bases in Force Works HQ and his Arctic bunker, and I would think he has one in his private lab in Stark Enterprise. There is also a dormant portal in the basement of Avengers mansion. It isn't easy to fit the origin of this portal in earlier issues of Avengers into Kang's plot. Kang and Mantis mentally control Stark during blackouts. This has been going on for a long time. 'Normal' Stark doesn't know it's happening. **** Stark has built the Starcore satellite, but it secretly contains a weapon for Kang. Kang's plan is for Stark's chronographic weapon to shift Earth out of its timeline, to an unspecified 'zone'. The shift will trigger super-mutations in much of Earth's population, and kill off the rest. It will also hide Earth from the enemy, and give Kang an indefinite 'time' to ready his new super-army for war. **** Kang going back in time to take over Stark's mind would normally cause an alternate reality. I have proposed that Kang used the Forever Crystal at the heart of Chronopolis to avoid this, and also to power the chronographic weapon. (But the current writers wouldn't know anything about that.)

The villains are based in Kang's Chronopolis, which exists throughout his empire. Luna's age is one of the clues that suggests that the shrunken empire is centred around a small group of realities in 2009 or a little beyond. It is possibly the fact that the current (1995/6) is outside this rump empire which makes Kang's forces have to use extraordinary means to get here. Luna's power, enhanced by her time-chair, is one of these means. Specific portals/doors are another. **** Kang hired Gilgamesh to train the twins to fight, and Mantis taught them to hate the Avengers. I would guess Gilgamesh (along with Kang's master-at-arms Neut) has also been training Kang's army. Kang already has some super-powered soldiers, led by at least 2 of the Anachronauts from the Citizen Kang crossover, before he starts to recruit from Earth.

The basic plot of the crossover is reasonable, that one of Kang's rival time/alternate reality powers has taken nearly all of his empire away, and he wants to create an army of superhumans to win it back. Even the 2 main additions to the plot can be justified in comic logic. Kang needs the genius of Tony Stark, and goes back in time to bend Tony to his will, probably before he became Iron Man. Mantis wants revenge for the Celestial Madonna affair, and joins with Kang to achieve their joint aims. It's in the details that things start to unravel. **** It isn't an impossible development from her previous appearance in West Coast Avengers and Fantastic Four to have Mantis embittered because the Cotati stole her child the Celestial Messiah from her. She blames the Cotati, and also the Priests of Pama, her father Libra and the Avengers for their parts in making her the Celestial Madonna. I can see what Mantis gains by allying with Kang, but I don't see what Kang gets out of it. It must be love! They raise Malachi and Tobias as their children, with Kang even making them his heirs. The twins are probably the sons of the hated Scarlet Witch and Vision, part of Mantis's revenge because Vision chose the Witch over her. But this clashes with the idea that those children were just parts of Mephisto who stopped existing when he reclaimed them. Kang also has the aid of a teenage version of Luna, the daughter of Crystal and Quicksilver, which makes her a cousin of Malachi and Tobias. Luna is really working undercover, and tries to help the Avengers. It is never explained how she managed to convince Kang and Mantis she was on their side.

I also forgot that Kang claims that his defeat now leaves the Earth defenseless aginst his enemy, who is says will be a much worse threat. But whoever he is this enemy never appears. I'm retracting my suggestion of Onslaught as a possible identity for Kang's enemy. I think it's just the mention of Onslaught in the Immortus retcon in Avengers Forever that prompted that idea. There has never been any suggestion of Onslaught being a major power across time and alternate realities. **** The timescale for Kang's influence on Iron Man has been extended back before Iron Man v1 #52, judging by Marianne Rodgers remarks in Iron Man #322. Or before his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39, since the Avengers had to go back to get the 19 year old version in Avengers: Timeslide to avoid Kang's corruption. **** I can't see why Kang would have preferred to control Hank Pym rather than Tony Stark. **** This is the last appearance of Tuc. But he is mentioned in #398, where Crystal and young Luna finally believe him to be Luna's future brother, but Quicksilver doesn't. **** I'm not sure what Force Works have been doing since Force Works #20. When Scarlet Witch left to find the Avengers she had Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter) and U.S.Agent with her. Now she turns up alone. Probably they reached New York after the Avengers left for the Arctic. Scarlet Witch says she has been via there. Maybe the other 2 are behind the scenes in the back of the hex ship. **** The crossover is usually considered to have only 1 epilogue, Age of Innocence: The Rebirth of Iron Man. But I consider that Force Works #21 and #22 form another epilogue. **** Now to move on to more general notes. First I'll try to make sense of the overall plot as it was presented at the time. Then I'll see if the Avengers Forever retcon really does resolve all the problems.

The Temporal Transposer is presumably a copy of the chronographic weapon that was housed in the Starcore satellite and controlled by the Siege Perilous program from Force Works HQ. It certainly is designed to achieve the same effect. It rather makes a mockery of the successful efforts to stop the program in Force Works #20 and destroy the satellite in War Machine #23, that there was a backup in the Arctic base. In fact this issue doesn't mention the destroyed satellite, and makes it seem like the Arctic base weapon was the one intended for use all along. Even stranger, the chronographic weapon needed to be in a satellite, and would take 24 hours to work (to achieve global coverage?), while the land-based Temporal Transposer can do the job in minutes! **** Kang's citadel is Chronopolis. The Arctic base appears to transform into Chronopolis, but this doesn't make sense. I can only think that Chronopolis materialises around the base, because Iron Man finds the Cotati Swordsman inside it, who had been taken from Earth to Chronopolis in Avengers #392. This merging happens before the Temporal Transposer is switched on. Which raises the possibility that the Transposer was actually built in Chronopolis rather than in Stark's Arctic base. And none of this explains how Chronopolis got here. Nor why, when Chronopolis disappears, the Avengers find themselves in the Temple of Agaphaur in Vietnam rather than in the Arctic. I don't think Kang and Mantis abandon Chronopolis at the end. I think they take it with them. It is the current space/time moment that is no longer of any use to them. **** I forgot to mention that a caption says that Malachi and Tobias weren't actually sons of Kang and Mantis. They were stolen from their true parents when very young. This bolsters the theory that somehow they are Scarlet Witch and Vision's children.

After Iron Man: Age of Innocence, young Tony Stark takes over as Iron Man. But the two versions of Iron Man are later merged (and Wasp de-mutated from her insectoid form) as a consequence of Heroes Reborn. This is explained in a backup story in Avengers Annual 2001. The current Iron Man remembers what happened, including killing Yellowjacket (Rita DeMara), Marilla and Amanda Chaney. With the villainous Mantis declared a fake, Steve Englehart was able to continue her story from earlier appearances into the Avengers: Celestial Quest mini-series. **** Since documenting the rest of the Crossing crossover I have more to say. I'll start with some extra comments on this issue. Then continue with a discussion of the crossover as a whole.

This is my original comments on this issue, before I tackled the rest of the Crossing crossover. **** Dissatisfaction with this storyline, especially the treatment of Mantis, led Kurt Busiek to retcon it in Avengers Forever #8, saying that it was all a plot by Immortus. Immortus has been working for the Time-Keepers for a long time, using the Space Phantoms as his agents. The Time-Keepers want to stop humanity from spreading death and destruction through the galaxy. They would prefer to destroy Earth, but Immortus has persuaded them to let him prevent disastrous possible futures by more subtle tinkering (supposedly because he has a soft spot for the Avengers). The Crossing was his latest plan, to keep the Avengers occupied until Onslaught arrived (and crippled Earth's chances of becoming a major power by causing a lot of Earth's heroes to disappear into the Heroes Reborn universe?). He impersonated Kang, and Space Phantoms took the roles of Mantis, Malachi, Tobias and the Anachronauts. Thus Malachi and Tobias were not Scarlet Witch and Vision's children. Immortus only started influencing Iron Man in the Operation: Galactic Storm crossover (much later than 'Kang' implied). 'Kang' lied when he said he had caused Hank Pym's nervous breakdowns. A Space Phantom also impersonated Mantis' father Libra, under the name Moonraker in Force Works. Avengers Forever #8 also shows a Space Phantom impersonating the Cotati Swordsman. Tuc and the grown-up version of Luna (supposedly siblings from the future) gave the Avengers warnings and took young Luna away for safety. The Official Index to the Marvel Universe #9 says that Tuc and adult Luna were also Space Phantoms, and Tuc's relation to Crystal was fabricated. I.e. Immortus staged both sides of the conflict. Maybe Immortus had his own future-based reasons for wanting young Luna safe.




 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers #395 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
This part of the Crossing crossover joins 2 legs together, continuing from IRON MAN #325 and WAR MACHINE (1994) #23.

This issue is the finale of the Crossing crossover in Avengers, Force Works, Iron Man and War Machine, along with one-shots Avengers: The Crossing and Avengers: Timeslide. It follows directly from Iron Man v1 #325.

Kang has been controlling Iron Man for a long time, amongst other things making him build a Temporal Transposer, and kill people to hide his activities.

The Avengers have been back through time to recruit a teenage version of Tony Stark from an alternate timeline, to decipher Iron Man's machinery. He is protected by a spare set of Iron Man armour, but Iron Man ripped his heart out.

The action of this issue takes place in Iron Man's secret Arctic bunker, which transforms into Kang's citadel as Kang takes it out of time with the Temporal Transposer. Kang fears someone whose arrival is imminent (possibly Onslaught). He intends to build an army of Anachronauts outside of time, to return when he is ready to confront this opponent.

Crystal keeps young Tony Stark in cryogenic suspension while the other Avengers (Black Widow, Captain America, Giant-Man (Hank Pym), Hercules, Quicksilver, Vision and Wasp (mutated into an insectoid form)) plus Century (of Force Works), Hawkeye (technically not a member at this point) and Masque (later revealed to be a clone of Madame Masque) fight Kang, Mantis, Malachi, Tobias and the Anachronauts.

Mantis tells Vision she joined Kang for revenge on him, for spurning her for Scarlet Witch, driving her to marry the Cotati Swordsman and to give birth to the Celestial Messiah. She says they have used someone he cares about (Iron Man), and others he doesn't recognise (hinting that Malachi and Tobias are his and Scarlet Witch's sons, long thought dead).

Kang says that his plan has been brewing for a long time. He first tried to bend Hank Pym to his cause, causing his many mental problems (meaning he began before Avengers v1 #59). Then he moved on to Iron Man (time unspecified, but possibly before the alcoholism of Iron Man v1 #120).

Iron Man shakes off the influence of Kang, and rescues the Cotati Swordsman. The Cotati Swordsman and the Avengers try to bring Mantis back to the side of good, but she kills (?) him. Iron Man destroys the Temporal Transposer but is fatally wounded.

Kang and Mantis abandon the now-useless citadel, and the Avengers find themselves in the Agaphaur temple of the Priests of Pama in Vietnam. Before he dies Iron Man passes on the schematics of his chestplate, to keep young Tony Stark alive.

Tuc brings Crystal and Quicksilver's daughter Luna back from where he has been keeping her safe. He makes a cryptic comment that Crystal should be able to guess who he is (a list of current Avengers characters at the back of Avengers Unplugged #2 says he is a future son of Crystal). He takes away the Cotati Swordsman's body.

Scarlet Witch (of Force Works) arrives in a hex-ship looking for them. The fate of young Tony Stark begins in an epilogue to the Crossing in one-shot Iron Man: Age of Innocence.

Although this is the final issue of the Crossing proper, it continues with some epilogues starting with AGE OF INNOCENCE: THE REBIRTH OF IRON MAN.


Mike Deodato Jr.
Mike Deodato Jr.
Frank Lopez
Ed Benes (Cover Penciler)
Tom Palmer (Cover Inker)


Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Black Widow
Black Widow

(Natasha Romanoff)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Hawkeye
Hawkeye

(Clint Barton)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Kang
Kang

(Kang the Conqueror)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)
War Machine
War Machine

(James Rhodes)
Wasp
Wasp

(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Anachronauts, Century, Giant-Man (Scott Lang), Luna, Masque, Tuc.

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