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Avengers Forever #8: Review

Jul 1999
?, ?

Story Name:

The Secret History of the Avengers

Review & Comments

3 stars

Avengers Forever #8 Review by (June 28, 2010)
The Space Phantoms there were trying to take Hawkeye, Songbird and Yellowjacket to Immortus, and may also have been planted to keep them from meeting Hawkeye, Moondragon and Thor in the original story. Because of the theory in my Comments on #6, I believe the Immortus who sent the Phantoms was the same-time Immortus as the one with Thor and co. Avengers #269, the Terminatrix story in Avengers Annual #21 and Avengers: The Terminatrix Objective #2-3 will be covered in #9 when we hear Kang's life story. Immortus's direct involvement in Avengers West Coast #48, 50-51, 53, 55-56, 59-62 plus the Timequake story in What If #35-39 will be mentioned in #10 when we learn more about the Time-Keepers. There were also 2 other appearances by a Space Phantom before Avengers Forever:- Rom encountered the original Phantom while trapped in Limbo in Rom #19. The Phantom wanted to use Rom's Neutralizer to escape from Limbo. Calculus of the Young Gods brought a Space Phantom from Limbo to Earth in Spectacular Spider-Man #168-170. He employed him in an elaborate scheme to cause Spider-Man and Avengers to defeat a dangerous magical black cloud.

If he is the same as Captain Britain's Merlyn then he is effectively a god. In Avengers #106-108 the Phantom explained that his plan reached back to Captain America #113. He impersonated Madame Hydra then, and captured Cap to check his suitability for use as Vision's body. At the time Cap was trying to restore his secret identity, and Phantom used advanced technology to make the world forget that Cap was Steve Rogers. As briefly mentioned here Immortus was also interested in the Celestial Madonna (Mantis), and Mantis was shown her own origin at the same time as Vision was in Avengers #133-135 and Giant-Size Avengers #4. When Immortus married Vision and Scarlet Witch, he also married Mantis and a Cotati in the form of her dead lover Swordsman, whose union would later produce Sequoia, the Celestial Messiah. This story included the history and first appearance of the plant-like Cotati. Note that the monkish Libra of Avengers Forever also featured in this story as the father of Mantis. Iron Man adopted a mentally-controlled suit in Iron Man #262 to counter paralysis. Supreme Intelligence wasn't dead. He was revived in the Imperial Guard limited series. Immortus's appearances before Avengers Forever that are not described here include:- The Western adventure with Immortus and Kang in Avengers #141-143 was covered indirectly in #4-6, and will reappear next issue from Kang's point of view.

Immortus's mind-control of the Space Phantom explains why the Phantom claimed to have his own agenda in Avengers #2 and 106-108. Immortus revealed (to Avengers but not to Kang) he was a future version of Kang in Giant-Size Avengers #3. Thus when Kang was dissolved in the timestream at the end of Avengers #143, Immortus pretended to vanish from existence too. The deal between Immortus and the Time-Keepers was revealed in Thor #282. At this time Immortus claimed Avengers #10 happened before the deal was made. He also explained that he didn't really die in Avengers #143. Thor #282 also revealed that (the) Space Phantom worked for Immortus, and introduced his other servant Tempus. Hercules hadn't yet made his first real Marvel appearance in Thor (Journey Into Mystery) Annual #1. Merlin too hadn't yet appeared with Human Torch and Thing in Strange Tales #134. However he had cropped up in pre-Marvel comics such as the 1950's Black Knight series.

But he would need the Forever Crystal to do it, otherwise he would just create new desirable timelines without erasing the old ones. On this basis the Time-Keepers must have sent him to get the Forever Crystal before all his other appearances. (But it is strange that they hired him to do a job without the necessary tool in the first place.) Set against this is the fact that his actions against Rick Jones in Avengers Forever #1-2 logically post-date the Kree-Skrull War. I propose another split. Immortus in #3 doesn't actually refer to the events of #1-2. I suggests as far as he is concerned #3 happens right at the start of his career. This frees #1-2 to fit anywhere in his timeline after the Kree/Skrull War, even just before #7-12. Given that Immortus operates from Limbo outside of time, he didn't necessarily carry out his actions in the order they were published. But in this issue the appearances of Immortus that the Space Phantom relates are basically in the published sequence. The Phantom mentions Thor #282 outside his description of Immortus's life, but in the issue in question the mention of Avengers #143 is obviously compatible with the publication sequence. Many appearances contain such references. The only action of Immortus specifically stated here as being out of timeline sequence is the splitting of Vision/Torch, and this action was not previously published. Immortus' death in Terminatrix Objective is another obvious exception. I have just added Avengers Forever #3 to that select list. It remains to be seen whether Immortus's appearances that are not dealt with here could occur out of sequence.

There is a question of when in Immortus's career does Avengers Forever take place. It is generally assumed that his actions in #7-12 take place after all his previously-published appearances (except Avengers: The Terminatrix Objective which shows his death). But his appearance in #1-3 is from much earlier because here he gains the Forever Crystal which he needed to perform some of the feats in earlier appearances. The earliest use of the Crystal documented here is splitting the Human Torch and Vision before Avengers #57. This occurs later in Immortus's life than it appears, out of comic-publication sequence. Immortus is described as using Vision's attraction to Scarlet Witch for his purposes. But then, after Witch's twins are born, he goes back to split Vision and Torch because he needs the Torch to undermine the Vision/Witch connection. I.e. Immortus's interference doesn't create the Vision, but retains the Torch. This would place gaining the Crystal before before Immortus influenced the government to capture Vision in West Coast Avengers #42, the start of his plan to split Vision and Witch. We have seen Immortus use the Crystal to delete the 50's Avengers timeline in #5. In the notes on #5 in this issue it mentions that he also needed the Crystal to delete other timelines in Avengers West Coast #53-61. This is one of the things Avengers Forever was designed to explain. In my Comments on #6 I suggested Immortus used the Crystal as far back as the Western adventure in Avengers #141-143. The actions of Kang using Immortus's technology in the 3-novel sequence X-Men & Spider-Man: Time's Arrow also smack of the Crystal. However, consider that this issue claims that the Time-Keepers hired Immortus to prevent undesirable timelines even before Avengers #2.

In Avengers #2 it was shown that a Phantom can't send a god (Thor) to Limbo. So how did Phantoms imitate Hercules (and possibly Merlin) in Avengers #10? Previously (e.g. in both versions of Official Index to Avengers) it was claimed that Immortus used Dire Wraiths trapped in Limbo to impersonate Hercules, etc. Either the Phantom risked not sending Hercules to Limbo, or possibly he's lying to big himself up, and it really *was* Dire Wraiths in #10. Nowhere in Avengers Forever does it mention that in Avengers #143 Immortus claimed to vanish into non-existence when Kang dissolved in the timestream then, because he was an older Kang that now couldn't happen. Immortus's explanation in Thor #282 of why he didn't die with Kang is somewhat confusing, sounding like either there are multiple alternate-reality copies of Immortus or there are multiple Kangs all of whom lead to the same Immortus. I understand there is only one copy of Immortus, with no alternate-reality versions, because he exists in Limbo outside the timestreams. So it couldn't be that only one version of him died. Confusingly in Avengers #267 Kang found a dead Immortus in Limbo, before discovering that there *were* multiple alternate-reality Kangs. But in #269 not-dead Immortus said that only one of them would grow up to be him. Thus the Kang who died in #143 needn't be that one. (But Avengers Forever #9 will explain how the dissolved Kang survived anyway.)

Hulk and Iron Man only appear here in flashbacks. This issue describes the basic the history of Immortus plus those parts relevant to the Vision. Further elements of Immortus's story will be covered in the next 2 issues. This issue explains why he sometimes acted as an enemy of Avengers, sometimes as a friend. It also sorts out the conflicting comments on the origin of Vision. Immortus's mind control of Space Phantoms is of course a handy trick to explain why the Space Phantom claimed to be, and thought he was, an alien invader in his early appearances. I am left with unanswered questions about Space Phantoms, who have been made to seem more like Skrulls now. If a Space Phantom can shapeshift to a synchro-stick, and imitate a dead person without sending anyone to Limbo (as some did in #5), does he actually need to send a living person to Limbo to copy him? Or is that signature move just a tactical option to prevent the imitated person from exposing the Phantom as a fake? On the other hand what is clear is that an imitated person experiences nothing while in Limbo. The clearest evidence of this was in Avengers #267-268 where Avengers wandering in Limbo came across the succession of inert bodies of the Avengers that Space Phantom imitated in Avengers #2. This could explain why in #2 of this series Libra doesn't know that a Space Phantom impersonated him (for a long time) in Force Works.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers Forever #8 Synopsis by Rob Johnson

Six Avengers plucked from various times (Captain America, Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell), Giant-Man, Hawkeye, Songbird and Wasp) escaped from Immortus's castle in Limbo, leaving a 7th Avenger Yellowjacket behind, and all they have to show for it is a synchro-stick. Returning to the time-Sphinx they got from Kang to keep Rick Jones hidden from Immortus, they found Rick had left in a chronosphere. And they don't know that Yellowjacket has made a deal with Immortus.

Immortus previously used synchro-sticks to show Avengers parts of history. Hawkeye tries to make the stick talk to him. But when he gets rough with it, it reveals itself to be a Space Phantom. As were the previous versions. Space Phantom's power to replace people won't work outside time in the Sphinx, so he's trapped. It turns out this was the first Space Phantom that Avengers met, in Avengers #2. For some reason he is Immortus's favourite. They persuade him to tell them all about Space Phantoms and Immortus, which takes up the majority of this issue.

I have included lots of background information directly into this description, for 2 reasons. They are more integral to the story than in earlier issues. And if I had relegated them to the Notes section, the Notes would have been bigger than the main description.

Phantom explains that beings who get trapped in Limbo slowly forget their previous existence and turn into Space Phantoms. They can't escape from Limbo, except when Immortus sends them on missions, mind-controlled to believe whatever cover story he has told them. Captain Marvel uses his cosmic awareness to check that this Phantom isn't mind-controlled in this way.

The planet Phantus, home of this Space Phantom, was an illusion generated by Immortus in Thor #281-282. It was part of a scheme to get Thor to deplete the time-travelling power of his hammer Mjolnir, thus depriving the Avengers of a handy method of time-travel. This was part of Immortus's overall plan to keep Avengers under control.

Soon after Kang became Immortus and settled in Limbo to study the multiverse, he was recruited by the 3 Time-Keepers to safeguard 7 millenia of the timestream. One of the things they wanted him to do was destroy the Avengers, at least as a group. In Avengers #2 he sent this Space Phantom to turn the Avengers against each other, mind-controlled to believe he was the advance scout for an alien invasion. Then in Avengers #10 he allied with the Masters of Evil, sending Phantoms disguised as Merlin, Hercules and the biblical Goliath against the Avengers. When the plan failed, Enchantress reversed time back to before the Masters of Evil met Immortus, and sent the main Marvel universe down an alternative timeline when they turned his alliance down. Which is why Avengers don't remember this adventure.

At this point Immortus took a shine to Avengers and persuaded Time-Keepers to let them remain together as long as he kept them in check. However the Time-Keepers didn't like the way Avengers intervened in the Kree-Skrull War in Avengers #89-97, especially the way Rick Jones manifested the Destiny Force (what the Kree Supreme Intelligence called the Human Evolutionary Potential in #1). They showed him how this would allow humans to spread through the galaxies, either as conquerors or by outcompeting other races, sometimes resulting in galactic destruction. Immortus strook a new bargain with them, to keep humans confined to Earth. The alternative is to destroy humanity completely.

This was what he was doing in 2 alternate realities visited by the 7 Avengers in #4-6:- manipulating the survivors of the future War of the Worlds so they wouldn't pursue the 'Martians' into space; deleting a timeline where the exposure of a Skrull impersonating Richard Nixon would lead to xenophobic assault on alien races. But he couldn't achieve this 2nd effect before gaining the Forever Crystal in #3, nor the 1st effect without leaving undesirable alternate timelines.

As well as Rick Jones, the Time-Keepers were also worried about possible powerful children of Scarlet Witch. Immortus conceived of a scheme to prevent such children by arranging a barren marriage for her with Vision. Vision was already attracted to the Witch. Immortus led up to it with a plan to bolster Vision's self-confidence to do something about it.

He sent Space Phantom to work with Grim Reaper in Avengers #106-108 to tempt Vision with Captain America's body. We are now told this was designed to make Vision realise he didn't need a human body to be human. Then in the saga that ran from Avengers #131 to Giant-Size Avengers #4 Immortus gave Vision a past by showing him he was the Human Torch, and officiated at the marriage of Vision and Scarlet Witch.

But the Witch frustrated Immortus's plan by magically giving birth to twins in Vision & Scarlet Witch v2 #12. Unknown to her they were actually fragments of Mephisto's soul, which Mephisto sent Master Pandemonium to reclaim. However the Witch's bond with her children was too strong, so Immortus decided to weaken it by destroying her link to Vision. He arranged for the US government to dismantle Vision and rebuild him as an emotionless machine in the issues leading up to West Coast Avengers #45. He sent a Space Phantom to impersonate (the dead) Prof Horton and deny any connection between Vision and Human Torch in West Coast Avengers #44 and Avengers West Coast #48.

As part of this scheme he went back to before the creation of Vision and used the Forever Crystal to split Torch's body into 2 alternates, but keep them both in the same timeline. Thus Ultron could use one body to create Vision, leaving another body to get buried in Sub-Mariner #14. The revival of this Torch in Avengers West Coast #50 was the last straw for Scarlet Witch, allowing Mephisto to absorb her 'children' in AWC#52.

The Space Phantom next comments on the Kree/Shi'ar war known to us as the Operation: Galactic Storm crossover beginning in Captain America #398. Once again Avengers were interfering in galactic affairs, and Immortus took subtle control of Iron Man via the mental link to his suit. His intervention allowed the Kree Supreme Intelligence's plan to decimate his own race to succeed, as it would have done without the Avengers. However the same intervention caused Iron Man to lead some other Avengers in killing the Supremor in Avengers #347.

The Time-Keepers were unhappy again. They foresaw that Avengers would now be joined by the Shi'ar Deathcry (which actually happened in Avengers #363). They predicted that her description of the Shi'ar's cruel rule over the Kree would spur Avengers to attack Shi'ar, leading eventually to the Interstellar Avengers Corps and the Terran Empire seen in #1. They wanted to destroy Earth, but Immortus persuaded them to give him one last chance.

Immortus foresaw the coming of Onslaught (and presumably the disappearance of Avengers into the Heroes Reborn universe). He figured he only had to keep them occupied until then. So he devised what we call the Crossing/Timeslide crossover ending in Avengers #395. He himself impersonated Kang, with Space Phantoms taking other roles such as Moonraker/Libra (which is why Libra denied any knowledge of it in #2). Immortus increased his influence over Iron Man, causing him to commit murders. As Kang he suggested that he had also been responsible for Hank Pym's breakdowns, but Space Phantom says this was a lie.

This brings us to the current situation. Immortus tried to kill Rick Jones when he regained the Destiny Force in #1, to stop Time-Keepers from just destroying humanity. Time-Keepers want to keep the universe safe from mankind.

At this point Immortus and Yellowjacket secretly arrive. Yellowjacket has used Limbo's insects to find fellow insects that Avengers inadvertently brought with them to the Sphinx. Immortus zaps the other Avengers without them realising who has done it.



Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel


(Clint Barton)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)


(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Giant-Man (Scott Lang), Immortus, Songbird, Space Phantoms.

> Avengers Forever: Book info and issue index

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