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Avengers Forever #5: Review

Apr 1999
Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco

Story Name:

Past imperfect ... future tense

Review & Comments

3 stars

Avengers Forever #5 Review by (May 10, 2010)
The Agents of Atlas series later revealed that a similar secret group *was* formed in the main timeline in the 50's, with Namora instead of 3-D Man. This group has now been reactivated as Agents of Atlas. It is now claimed that Crusader was actually a replacement Marvel Boy. Agents of Atlas also revealed that Venus wasn't actually the goddess but a naiad impostor, and they have renamed Human Robot as M-11. Kid Cassidy and Reno Jones had their own modern Marvel Western series Gunhawks, in which Kid Cassidy indeed died. Black Rider is a character from 40's/50's Timely/Atlas comics. A Space Phantom first appeared in Avengers #2, where he claimed to be unique. Giant-Size Avengers #4, itself the end of a continuity-fiddling sequence of issues, revealed that the Space Phantom worked for Immortus. Prior to this series there has never been more than one Space Phantom openly seen at once. Even when Thor went to the (supposed) world of the Space Phantom in Thor #281-282 the other inhabitants didn't have his ability, which he said was granted by Immortus. Given that there are multiple Phantoms it is now unclear if all the earlier appearances were the same one.

A note on this issue in #8 says that it is this current Immortus with the Forever Crystal who destroyed timelines in Avengers West Coast #53, 55 and 59. These are presumably some of the actions Kang referred to in #3 as Immortus pruning the tree of alternity. This is not a conventional time-travel paradox, because Kang and Immortus are both time-travellers. Kang didn't have to go back in time to prevent Immortus from doing the actions he had already done. He merely had to keep the Heart of Forever out of Immortus's grasp, so that he would be unable to do the actions. A task he has now failed in. Although the 50's Avengers are here relegated to an alternate timeline, the individual members are considered canonical in the main timeline. Apart from 3-D Man they have their origins in 50's Atlas comics. 3-D Man was retroactively invented in Marvel Premiere #45-47. Gorilla Man appeared in Men's Adventures #26, Human Robot in Menace #11, Marvel Boy had his own 6-issue series (with a name change to Astonishing from #3), and Venus too had her own 19-issue series. They have also appeared in modern Marvel. 3-D Man made several appearances until his power was transferred to Triathlon, who first showed up in Avengers vol 3 #8. Marvel Boy apparently died as The Crusader in Fantastic Four #165, and his quantum bands were later used by Quasar.

I was always unconvinced by the revived Captain America's code against killing. That was the norm for heroes in the 60's and later. But many 40's characters seem to lack this prohibition, even those not directly involved in the war. Similarly Cap's shock at the brutality of war in this series doesn't fit with someone who fought through WWII. This issue reveals one of the purposes of this series. It is to deal with certain continuity issues, especially those surrounding Immortus and Kang. This time it explains how Immortus could destroy alternate realities in Avengers West Coast, when time-travel can only create new ones. This issue also settles the question of whether the 50's Avengers existed in the main timeline. Of course Agents of Atlas later changed the verdict. But that's an ever-present hazard of continuity-fixing. The connection between the 50's Avengers and 3-D Man suggests to me that the 50's Avengers reality split off between 3-D Man's Marvel Premiere run and What If #9. Thus 3-D Man's Premiere adventures belong to both timelines, as do earlier appearances of Jimmy Woo, Yellow Claw and the 50's Avengers members. In the main timeline 3-D Man goes on to stories such as Incredible Hulk #251-252 and the eventual creation of Triathlon. In the alternate timeline 3-D Man's enemy Cold Warrior appears in What If #9, and the Skrull Nixon impersonator carries forward from Premiere to Avengers Forever. FBI agent Jimmy Woo recruited the 50's Avengers in What If #9 to oppose the Yellow Claw. At the end of that issue President Eisenhower disbanded them and covered up their existence. The Watcher wouldn't say whether the issue was set in the main Marvel timeline or an alternate one. Avengers Forever says that the 50's Avengers continued to work for the FBI in secret. But Immortus shows that this timeline is an alternate one anyway.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers Forever #5 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Seven Avengers, including 2 versions of Henry Pym, have been plucked from various times to protect Rick Jones from Immortus, who fears what affect Rick's latent Human Evolutionary Potential will have on future timelines. Leaving Rick safe in a Sphinx time machine that belonged to Kang, the Avengers have split into 3 teams to investigate 3 points in the multiverse where they detected Immortus's tampering. Captain America and Giant-Man went to an alternate future where Killraven and the last Avengers face a 'Martian' invasion. Hawkeye, Songbird and Yellowjacket wound up in Tombstone in 1873, where a known encounter between Kang and some other Avengers is about to take place. But they can't avoid it because their chronosphere has vanished. Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell) and Wasp have been confronted by the 1950's Avengers protecting Vice-President Nixon who has been replaced by a Skrull.

Captain America and Giant-Man continue fighting the Martians' troops the Skorpsmen, alongside Killraven, Black Panther, Crimson Dynamo, Jocasta, Living Lightning and Thundra. Some of Killraven's allies from the original War of the Worlds series are also involved:- definitely Old Skull, and probably Carmilla Frost, M'Shulla and Volcana Ash. The fighting is more lethal than Captain America or Giant-Man are used to.

Captain Marvel and Wasp have the usual fight-because-of-a-misunderstanding with the 50's Avengers (Gorilla Man, Human Robot, Marvel Boy, 3-D Man and Venus) until Marvel Boy's telepathic probe reveals they are telling the truth. Marvel Boy doesn't know the true extent of the powers of the quantum bands on his wrists. Venus's power reveals that Captain Marvel loves Songbird. The 50's group have to keep Human Robot's murderous tendencies in check. 3-D Man is receptive to the idea that Nixon might be a Skrull because he has fought Skrulls before.

The modern day Avengers have never heard of the 50's group, although they have heard of most of the members. And 3-D Man at least has survived into the modern era.

It turns out that Hawkeye, Songbird and Yellowjacket's chronosphere has been repossessed by the Kang who is in 1873 Tombstone, and who doesn't know anything about their mission. Hawkeye shocks schizophrenic Yellowjacket by trying to convince him of his real identity as Hank Pym/Goliath. But they are interrupted by Black Rider, Kid Cassidy and Reno Jones who turn out to be Space Phantoms in disguise. Hawkeye rumbles them because Kid Cassidy was already dead by 1873.

Space Phantoms turn up in the 50's storyline too, disguised as FBI agents. This time it is Captain Marvel's cosmic awareness that susses them out.

Rick Jones, monitoring things from the Sphinx, has spotted both Space Phantom occurrences, and remembers they work for Immortus. He has also noticed a major chrono-flux in the 50's area, as Immortus appears with the Forever Crystal to wipe out the timeline, because its version of Earth would be rabidly xenophobic. Rick urges Captain Marvel and Wasp to escape in the chronosphere, as they realise that they are in an alternate timeline, and this is why they never heard of the 1950's Avengers.

Carlos Pacheco
Jesus Merino
Steve Oliff
Carlos Pacheco (Cover Penciler)
Jesus Merino (Cover Inker)
Tony Kelly (Cover Inker)
Steve Oliff (Cover Colorist)
Tony Kelly (Cover Colorist)
Plot: .


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

3-D Man
3-D Man

(Chuck Chandler / Hal Chandler)
Black Panther
Black Panther

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel


(Clint Barton)

(Jocasta Pym)

(Kang the Conqueror)
Marvel Boy
Marvel Boy


(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Avengers (1950s), Carmilla Frost, Crimson Dynamo (Anton Vanko), Giant-Man (Scott Lang), Gorilla-Man (Arthur Nagan), Human Robot, Immortus, M'Shulla, Old Skull, Skorpsmen, Songbird, Space Phantoms, Venus, Volcana Ash.

> Avengers Forever: Book info and issue index

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