Issue Date: 1988
Story Title: Prometheus Mutans!
Staff: Walter Simonson (writer), Mark Bright (penciler), Mike and Valerie Gustovich (inkers), Oakley, Heisler, Parker (letterers), Evelyn Stein (colorist), Mark Gruenwald (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)
In an attempt to gather information on the Avengers, the High Evolutionary’s Purifiers reassemble the robot Jocasta. She manages to escape from her creators and makes an emergency phone call to the Avengers headquarters before being apprehended. Because the Avengers are currently disbanded, however, the mansion’s computer assembles a reserve team to answer the distress signal, consisting of the Captain, Hercules, the Falcon, Beast, the Hulk, and the eavesdropping villain Yellowjacket. These interim Avengers locate the distress call, free Jocasta, and learn of the High Evolutionary’s sinister plan to detonate a genetic bomb in the process. They follow a clue to the Pacific Ocean floor, where they happen upon a battle between the warring Atlanteans and the Lemurians. The Avengers manage to mediate a cease-fire and initiate a discussion, during which all parties learn they have been manipulated by the High Evolutionary. They unite to stop him from detonating his genetic bomb. After finding the High Evolutionary’s massive underwater mobile ship, the Avengers sneak aboard amidst a diversion. The High Evolutionary quickly catches onto their meddling, destroys Jocasta, removes Hulk from the battle, and fights the others to a stand-still. To defeat him, the Avengers use the ship’s Genesis Chamber to boost Hercules’s power beyond those of a god. Hercules emerges from the Genesis Chamber and, with his new abilities, reduces the High Evolutionary to a pile of ashes. However, with his final action, the mad scientist catalyzes Hercules’s powers, which grow so powerful Hercules ceases to exist on this plane of reality. Jocasta, meanwhile, has enough strength left to hack into the ship and detonate the bomb before it reaches its destination. She orders the Avengers to leave while she stays behind and overloads the ship, destroying both herself and the genetic bomb. With their mission accomplished, the interim Avengers return home.
“I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.”
In the vast, underground laboratory of the High Evolutionary’s Purifiers, several scientists toil restlessly on a volatile new project.
“His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his feature as beautiful.”
They finish and step back to admire their work. On the work table rests a glimmering, silver robot woman.
“I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open.”
The robot’s eyes twinkle. She thrusts her arms outward and expels two clouds of concussive gas. The scientists fall.
“His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds.”
The robot, former Avenger-ally Jocasta, runs to a nearby telephone and makes a phone call. The guards shoot her from behind, however, neutralizing her threat. Approaching her motionless body, one guard asks if she just killed those scientists. Serves them right for activating her full consciousness without the proper safeguards, the other guard says. Next time, she will not be revived until they completely clear her memory banks.
“Did I request thee, maker, from my clay to mould me man? Did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?”
Jocasta’s telephone call reaches the Avengers headquarters at their Hydro-Base off the shore of New York. No one is around to answer it; the Avengers have disbanded. The computer is forced to activate the team’s reserve-member protocols. The first to answer the call, albeit several hours later, is the Captain. However, the base’s complete vacancy catches him by surprise; if no one is there, who sent the call? He asks the computer about what happened to the active Avengers. Instead of answering, it informs him of the emergency transmission it received. The Captain listens to the message, a garbled transmission containing only four distinct words: “the genetic bomb” and “evolutionary.” The Captain identifies the caller as the deceased Avenger Jocasta, an analysis the computer mostly confirms. But that’s impossible, the Captain says. Jocasta wasn’t just killed; she was vaporized!
After the computer informs the Captain he is the only one to respond, he says he will wait for others to arrive. “Well, just don’t plan on starting any long books, Cap,” a voice says form above. The Captain turns and is excited to see Sam Wilson, the costumed hero known as the Falcon. “Sliding back into your old ways?” Sam asks. Merely passing through, the Captain replies. Sam asks why he was summoned. Captain says he is not sure. For all they know, it may be a hoax. The Falcon highly doubts this; they did receive a Code-One emergency activation.
A cosmic bolt collides with the ground immediately next to these two heroes, and from the cloud of pink smoke emerges the mighty Hercules. After greeting his former comrades, he informs them of his secretive, defiant flight from Mt. Olympus using one of his father’s thunderbolts. After hearing the Avengers’ call, he had to come. “’Tis passing dull in Olympus,” he adds. “Which way to the foemen?”
Inside the base, Sam and Steve Rogers brief Hercules on the circumstances surrounding the phone call. The possibility it was a prank disappoints Hercules, as he came against his father’s will. His disappointment quickly comes to a halt, however, when an entire wall comes crashing down. “At last!” Hercules shouts. “The enemy announces himself! Let the fight begin!”
“Cherish such cranial considerations, noble Herc!” a voice answers from behind the rubble and dust. In comes Hank McCoy, the blue-furred X-Factor member known as the Beast, riding atop the grey-skinned Hulk. “My steed and I merely found the door a trifle small for men of our ample muscularity. And besides, who can say nay to such a bellicose behemoth when he decides to enter a domicile in such a dramatic fashion?” Beast explains as he hops down off the Hulk. The Captain is frankly surprised to see the Hulk alive. Hank explains that the Hulk’s current “alive” status is to remain a secret. In exchange, Hulk has promised to lend a hand to the Avengers for this mission.
Hercules hears a suspicious noise emanating from a nearby closet. He sneaks closer and rips the door open, revealing its contents: the villainous Rita DeMara, also known as Yellowjacket! Hercules grabs her by the shoulders and, while shaking her violently, announces his vengeful intentions. Yellowjacket begs for mercy. She was forced by her old cohorts to attack the Avengers; it wasn’t her fault! If that is the case, Hercules asks why she now spies on them. She couldn’t help it; a few hours earlier, her helmet started buzzing and directed her to this island. Hank offers to fix it for her. He immediately silences the buzzer and hands it back to Rita. “In the future, mademoiselle, perhaps you should steal only those items that come with instructions.”
With everyone gathered, the interim Avengers decide to formulate a plan. Yellowjacket tries to use this as a cue to exit, but Hercules orders her to stay; he wants to keep a watchful eye on her in case her presence is more devious than she says. The Falcon asks the Captain if Yellowjacket may have something to do with their summons, but Cap doubts it. Beast concurs, but before he can finish offering his explanation why, Hulk silences him. “Don’t you ever shut up, hairball?”
The interim Avengers decide to trace the Jocasta’s phone call. Hank handles the computer work while the others stand idly by and chat about Jocasta: how could Jocasta contact them if she is dead? Hulk reminds them that he is rumored to be dead as well. Yellowjacket, meanwhile, promises not to tell anyone if they let her leave.
Beast finishes tracing the call and makes an announcement. It appears the late, lamented Jocasta made her phone call from an abandoned laboratory on Long Island. However, he abruptly stops speaking and stares ahead, expressionless. Hank, the Captain asks? A violent sneeze erupts from Hank’s nose. “Dust,” he explains, before continuing. “But the site once belonged to Stark Industries! Let’s saddle up and ride!” Hulk begins to ask if Hank intends to ride him all the way there, but Hank assures him he intends to travel by means of the Avengers’ quinjet.
Meanwhile, at the High Evolutionary’s secret Long Island laboratory, the Purifier scientists receive a definitive order from their master. Since the Avengers have disbanded, they will be dealt with as individuals instead of a team. There is no need to continue gathering information about the team. Jocasta no longer serving a purpose, is to be terminated. The Hulk comes smashing through the laboratory walls before they have the chance.
Who the heck is that, one Purifier asks? His peer replies it doesn’t matter who the intruder is; they just need to kill him. But we haven’t checked his DNA structure yet, the scientist screams. You check; I’m opening fire, the Purifier responds, grabbing his rifle. The Hulk does not budge. “Whaddaya-know,” Hulk laughs. “One smart guy in a bunch of dummies. I hate smart guys. Maybe I’ll kill you first!”
The Hulk quickly neutralizes every Purifier threat in the room, but in the process, destroys all of the lab’s machinery and computers. When the rest of the interim Avengers finally arrive, they are devastated to see all their potential leads destroyed. The Hulk insists that he did not do much of anything; everything that was in the room is still there. He just rearranged it a bit! “And besides, they were about to waste Iron Skirt here,” he adds, gesturing toward Jocasta. The Captain continues to reprimand him, but Hulk shuts him up. He got the job done, didn’t he? He even saved a treat for the rest of the Avengers. Hulk walks over to a large, metal crate and tips it off the ground, unveiling a captive Purifier. His prisoner was the only guy in the room with brains, Hulk says. He figured the Avengers might want to have a few words with him. Without hesitating for even a moment, the Purifier tells them everything he knows about their operation. As a Gatherer, it is his job to collect genetic information about humanity and give it to his master, the High Evolutionary. He details the High Evolutionary’s plan. Because mankind’s evolution has been halted by the materialistic society it created for itself, the High Evolutionary has decided to artificially jumpstart its next big step, which he intends to do with a “genetic bomb” planted on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. When this bomb erupts, it will compress a million years of biological evolution into a single moment! Mankind will never be the same.
The Captain likens this scheme to Adolf Hitler’s eugenics program during WWII. The Hulk, meanwhile, is the first to notice an alarm sounding from the Purifier’s helmet. The man laughs; he merely needed time for his suit to recharge its power supply. The information he has given the Avengers is far too vague to be useful! The Captain orders everyone to step back as the laughing Purifier self-destructs.
As the shocked Avengers stand around the man’s smoking remnants, the Hulk laments that the one time he let a bad guy live, the guy goes and kills himself. He stomps off in a rage. Beast watches him go, and begins to wonder if he was too hasty in recruiting him for this mission. The Captain concurs; the Hulk seems more dangerous now than ever. Falcon reminds his teammates they have a lady in their presence…and a fine looking one at that. Jocasta takes this cue and introduces herself, adding that she left the Avengers long ago. The Captain remembers, of course. She left just before the Avengers were going to offer her team membership. However, he does have one question for her: since the original Jocasta died in an effort to defeat Ultron, who, exactly, is she?
Jocasta explains her resurrection while the Avengers scour the Pacific Ocean using the quinjet’s sub-marine capabilities. The High Evolutionary’s Gatherers collected her surviving body parts, assembled her, and then uploaded a copy of the original Jocasta’s programming. “I know what she knew,” Jocasta says. “I am her.” The High Evolutionary must have been after information about the Avengers, she adds, and no existing resource has as much exhaustive, analytical information on them as Jocasta. Captain tells his team that this discussion will have to be shelved for now; he wants everybody on full alert. Hank asks for what, exactly? The Pacific Ocean extends too far and deep for them to find anything in time. Answers, Steve responds. They are looking for answers, and if anyone would have them, it would be the Lemurians. Not much happens in the Pacific Ocean without their knowledge.
When they arrive at the Lemurian underwater city, however, the Avengers see it is already subject to a full-scale attack! The invaders do not appear to be the Purifiers, but the Atlanteans, with whom the Lemurians often quarrel. The Captain remarks they may be witnessing the onset of an all-out war. The Avengers do not have the time to get involved. They raise the quinjet’s white flag of truce and attempt to proceed through the battlefield. Falcon poses a pertinent question: do they know if any of the fighters even recognize the white flag as a symbol of truce? A barrage of torpedoes to the quinjet answers that question, which Captain remarks should have been asked much earlier!
In an attempt to quell the fighting, Rogers pilots the quinjet toward the Atlantean flagship, which he wants Hercules and the Hulk to board. They must explain to whoever is in charge that the genetic bomb poses a much larger threat than this trivial war. As the quinjet buzzes the battleship, the Hulk and Hercules, both wearing oxygen masks, disembark and swim toward the ship’s hull. They tear an opening using their combined brute-strength and board, much to the chagrin of the Attuma, ruler of the Atlanteans. He scolds the two heroes as soon as they enter. Whether they are allies of the Lemurians or just two people stupid enough to invade the Atlanteans matters not; Attuma will see them dead simply for trespassing. He orders his guards to execute them. At least we found the right man, Hercules jokes to Hulk before the guards can attack. The two mighty heroes make quick work of these opponents.
Back aboard the quinjet, the Captain asks Lord Kro, leader of the Lemurians, a few questions via comm.-link about the current invasion. Kro insists they did nothing to provoke the attack, but Attuma seems to believe the Lemurians sent a Leviathan to lay waste to Atlantis. Beast interrupts their conversation to notify Cap of the appearance of a frightening new ship in the water. Up ahead, an advanced submarine approaches. Both the Lemurians and the Atlanteans flee from it. The new ship activates a high-powered beam and destroys most of the Atlantean fleet in one shot. Just as it turns its cannon toward the Avengers quinjet, Hercules and the Hulk swim to it and dislodge the dangerous weapon from the rest of the ship. Hercules, however, uses the opportunity to chide the Hulk about his inferior strength. Hulk begins to argue, but Hercules changes his tone and urges him to table the discussion until later; Attuma agreed to a ceasefire if they destroyed the cannon, and now that they have done their part, it is imperative they return to the Atlantean ship and mediate a discussion.
Captain moderates the discussion between the Atlanteans and the Lemurians a short while later. The Leviathan was not sent by the Lemurians, he assures Attuma. They must have been intentionally delivered false information. The Captain then states his personal hypothesis: the Leviathan was used as a device to initiate a war between the two oceanic realms so they would all congregate in one place. The Lemurian leader asks why, since none of his men were killed in the attack. Surprisingly, a voice from behind Attuma reports that no Atlanteans were killed either! Attuma gasps. Beast, however, has an explanation. According to his readings, the weapon never intended to kill anyone, but to sterilize them. Who would have done this, both leaders ask? Beast gives them the name of the man responsible: the High Evolutionary. He must be dwelling somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The two warring nations decide to unite in order to find this mad scientist.
After this extremely productive session in diplomacy, Falcon congratulates the Captain on a job well done. Nobody he knows could have united the Lemurians with the Atlanteans, he says. The Captain insists it was nothing. The danger before them is much larger than any problem between the nations, and even they see that. Falcon asks if they should reveal the Leviathan’s true identity; the Captain advises not. There is no sense risking such a tremulous union right now.
The hours slowly drift by as the Avengers scour the ocean floor with the combined forces of the Lemurians and the Atlanteans. Eventually, a scout ship phones in an unusual sighting, but before the Avengers receive the specifics, the transmission abruptly ends. They speed off to the scout’s last known coordinates. Upon arriving, however, they behold a ship so enormous it would dwarf even the mightiest of battleships. Falcon believes they will need more soldiers to confront this monstrous mobile-base. Falcon gets a lock on the ship’s bearings and projects its course ends in the Sunda Strait. The Captain and Beast immediately realize the relevance of this destination: the Gatherer they captured earlier mentioned the eruption of a genetic bomb, and what better place to detonate it than the site of one of history’s most violent volcanic eruptions, the island of Krakatoa?
The Avengers meet with Lords Kro and Attuma once more and explain their revelation. They believe the High Evolutionary intends to reactive Krakatoa and use it to spread his genetic bomb into the atmosphere. The debris would then drift down all over the planet. No person would avoid its deadly effects. Without enough time to launch a full-scale attack on the ship, the Captain implores the Lemurians and Atlanteans to create a diversion to allow the Avengers to sneak aboard the battleship unnoticed. Once there, they will dismantle the genetic bomb. Lord Kro agrees to the plan, and offers his hand in truce to Attuma. Attuma agrees to the plan, but rejects the handshake. He will do his part, but wants nothing to do with a maggot like Lord Kro!
Within minutes, the Atlantean and Lemurian armies launch their joint attack, the first in their tumultuous history. The attack disrupts the High Evolutionary just as he puts the finishing touches on his genetic bomb. He realizes his ship is under attack, but wonders who would dare stage such an assault. He orders his Purifiers to secure the sacred genetic chamber and place the genetic bomb assembly in stasis. His soldiers, he orders to their battle stations.
Outside, the Avengers dock and enter the enormous battleship via its airlock. Falcon embarks on a quick reconnaissance mission upon entry. The rest wait behind while Jocasta attempts to interface with the battleship’s computers in order to locate the genetic bomb. She tells Captain it will take time; the ship contains complex security codes which block her access. Suddenly, a squad of Purifiers storm in and tell her she just ran out of time! The Purifiers order the Avengers up against the wall. “No, really, it’s okay,” Yellowjacket says to them. “We were just leaving.”
Beast growls in response to her cowardice. “Fair damsel, your social graces do you credit,” Hank says as he begins a back-flip toward the Purifiers, “…but the Beast has always enjoyed a good donnybrook, and it would be the height of rudeness to depart this lovely vessel without indulging in one…especially against armed men!” His first kick removes one guard from the battle, while his next move, two simultaneous punches at either side, neutralizes the other two.
When Hercules finally arrives, he is disappointed to see he missed the first fight. Captain assures him more will come. Falcon returns from his recon mission and informs his team of a creepy meeting occurring in a gallery down the hall. They decide to investigate it as a team, as it might reveal something important. From the gallery’s balcony, the Avengers observe a beastly man standing on a dais riling up his followers with an impassioned speech. As he speaks, the ghastly figure of a beast projects from his head and looms over the audience. The attackers pose no threat to this holy vessel, he says. According to the High Evolutionary, the attacks must therefore be a diversion. The true threat to their vessel is already onboard. “As we revere nature and the High Evolutionary, those who would hinder his great plan must be forestalled!” He orders the Purifiers to double their patrols, and bring any captives to the sacred genetic chamber at once.
Up above in the balcony, the Captain comments on the genius of the High Evolutionary’s hierarchy. Having presented himself as their god, he has the support of his hand-picked priests, who in turn inspire fervent loyalty in their followers. Hank also notes that something about these men seems vaguely familiar. “I wonder how he chooses his priests?” he asks. A conversation between two of the animalistic New Men below answers this question. One of the priests expresses his desire to kill any stowaways they find, but his fellow priest urges him to suppress those primitive desires, lest he be returned to the genetic purifier known as the Replicauldron. Hank finds the implications of this staggering. The High Evolutionary did not just hire these priests; he created them! The Captain concurs, suddenly remembering something Thor once told him after his adventures in Wundagore.
All this talk of New Men gives Falcon an idea. Since the Purifiers believe their priest’s animal faces to be merely masks, he proposes they stir up a revolt within the High Evolutionary’s followers by exposing them as animal-human hybrids. If Beast goes undercover as one of the cult’s priests, he could suggest such a thing to the misguided droves of genetic purists. All they need to accomplish this plan are some robes, a problem solved by the fortunate arrival of two unfortunate priests.
Shortly after donning one of the hooded robes, Beast strategically waits in a corridor and begins rambling to himself as some Purifiers pass. “How wise of the High Evolutionary to place animals in charge of humans,” he boasts while the men stand within an earshot. “I wish I could see the look on the faces of our human stooges when they finally learn that we do not wear animal masks in honor of nature…but show our visages openly!” Once the genetic bomb detonates, the New Men will have dominion over the planet, Hank laughs.
Meanwhile, the Captain, disguised as a Gatherer, frantically approaches the first priest he sees and reports murmurs of treason from a group of Purifiers. The priest leaves to investigate, but as he turns the corner, he is confronted by the trio of men who overheard Hank’s speech. They address the priest with an unusual lack of respect, and with their guns leveled at him, force him to remove his hood. Sure enough, they learn his animal face is no mask at all. They shoot him in the head. As they flee to continue their genetic-cleansing, the Purifiers remark how fortunate it is the High Evolutionary never armed his priests. Hank, the Captain, and Jocasta decide to stay out of the way of the massacre once it begins. Having accomplished their goal of spreading dissension, they decide to join their teammates in searching for the bomb.
Meanwhile, the miniaturized Yellowjacket searches for the bomb amidst a horde of soldiers. “I’m so scared, I must be carrying the right name,” she says, referring to the “yellow” of her moniker. Still, the abundance of guards in this room indicates something valuable must be nearby. One of the guards detects the pint-sized interim Avenger on his motion-detector and opens fire. Yellowjacket flees. Nearby, Falcon overhears the gunshots and worries that Yellowjacket may be in danger. He is correct; as she flees, an energy beam singes her arm. Distracted by the pain, she flies right into an outstretched hand and screams for her life. The hand, however, belongs to Falcon. “Thought us winged folks should stick together!” he says as he flies her to safety.
Elsewhere, the enraged Purifiers storm into the High Evolutionary’s sanctum sanctorum, demanding his death. “You would dare?” he asks. “I could slay you with a thought but first I will know the reason for this unbelievable effrontery!” Upon scanning their minds, he learns the source of their anger: information spread by a blue-furred priest. Since no New Men of his bears blue fur, the High Evolutionary concludes his ship must have been boarded. The mutinous Purifiers slump to the floor unconscious. Suddenly, several of the High Evolutionary’s priests enter and inform him of the slaughter. The High Evolutionary informs them of the ship’s intruders, and orders the rioting deck sealed. Word of this rebellion must not spread! He then orders the ship to elevate its matter/anti-matter engines to full power; the bomb must reach its destination before the intruders dismantle it.
The battleship cranks up its throttle and surges forward, creating a turbulent wake that incapacitates most of the ships in its vicinity. Even ships on the water’s surface are tossed about by the wave. Hank notices the surge, and remarks that Casey Jones must be at the throttle. What gives? Captain realizes their cover must have been blown. Now they need to find the bomb faster than ever, and the only place they have not checked is the temple. Upon entering, however, they see advanced machinery, but nothing resembling a bomb. Beast realizes this chamber is where the High Evolutionary creates his army of New Men. Things look grim until Falcon and Yellowjacket finally return and tell the Avengers they discovered where the bomb is being built. “All right,” Captain announces. “We’ll regroup with the Hulk and Hercules! Then we’ll destroy the bomb!”
“The only thing about to be destroyed is your insipid plan!” The Avengers turn and see the High Evolutionary standing amid a large cloud of lingering pink smoke. He congratulates them on discovering his sacred Genesis Chamber, a room few ever see, and even fewer see without being subjected to its power. The Avengers will not leave this room alive. If we save the lives of those you would destroy, it will be worth it, Jocasta states as she charges at the mad scientist. The High Evolutionary dismembers her with a mere gesture of his hand. “A noble sentiment, my dear, but one that lacks the power of conviction,” he says, “especially when uttered by a robot!”
With Jocasta down, the High Evolutionary channels his attacks at the rest of the team. The Captain blocks the bulk of the energy attack with his shield. He orders Beast to find reinforcements; they cannot defeat the High Evolutionary on their own. Rita, meanwhile, hides behind a piece of machinery and rues the day she decided to keep the Yellowjacket costume.
The High Evolutionary, caught at a standstill with the Captain, commends his opponent’s skill in battle. The man would make a decent addition to his New Men; perhaps he will spare his life. Regardless, he notices the Captain’s concern for his comrades, and jokingly decides to unite them once again. With a flip of his wrist, the High Evolutionary teleports both Hercules and the Hulk into the Genesis Chamber so they can fight with their team. Their arrival allows the Captain some breathing room. He orders the Falcon to disengage and instead search for the genetic bomb, as his speed is their only chance at saving the world. As Sam flies away, he doubts the Avengers will survive the battle with the High Evolutionary. However, if he can stop the bomb’s detonation, their sacrifice might be worth it.
“Your intentions are painfully obvious, Falcon! And futile! My priests are completing the bomb now!” the High Evolutionary shouts as Sam flees. He fires an energy bolt at him, but misses, eliciting laughter from the Hulk. Enraged, the High Evolutionary manifests an omnium-steel cage that surrounds and imprisons the Avengers. He has not the time to deal with them right now, but will do so when he returns. He departs.
The Avengers waste no time in their escape. The Hulk finds he cannot bend the cage’s bars on his own, but his efforts combined with those of Hercules and Beast accomplishes the task. Hulk is quite stunned by Beast’s heightened strength. Hank, meanwhile, asks Captain if he has any ideas. He does; they will only truly defeat the High Evolutionary if they engage him on his terms, and as of now, none of them stands a chance in that regard. However, if they were to use the Genesis Chamber and boost one of their own to the High Evolutionary’s god-like status, they could defeat him and stop him from creating any other genetic bombs in the future. Captain suggests they pick the teammate with the most experience at playing God: Hercules. “Aye! By Zeus, aye!” Herc proclaims enthusiastically.
The Hulk feels slighted. “If anyone’s getting juiced-up here, it’s gonna be me,” he shouts, pushing Hercules aside. Beast tries to explain the folly of this plan, but Hulk tosses him over his shoulder. He wants to take down old Iron Pants and will destroy anyone who stands in his way. With their plan in peril, the Captain acts on the first idea that enters his mind. He gets on the ship’s intercom and announces the High Evolutionary has deserted the ship. As of now, the Avengers are in charge!
The gambit works, but the results do not better their situation. The High Evolutionary returns, with the unconscious Falcon in tow, and resumes his attack. He scolds the Avengers for escaping his supposedly unbreakable prison and now laying their grimy hands on his genesis setup. He fires a plasmatic beam at the Hulk, hoping it will tear him asunder. The Hulk, however, remains unperturbed. He marches up to the High Evolutionary and threatens to disassemble him into his component nuts and bolts. Incredible, the High Evolutionary shouts! The Hulk’s rage must make him impervious! He decides to remove him from the equation. With yet another gesture, he transports the Hulk all the way to the deserts outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. In time, the Hulk may wake up and remember how he got there…if there the world still remains.
The Captain resumes his battle High Evolutionary. He notices how drained the scientist seems. The High Evolutionary admits moving Hulk took a lot out of him, but as his regenerative powers are quite remarkable, he has no reason to worry. Meanwhile, Hank ushers Hercules into the Genesis Chamber and activates the accelerated process of evolution, using the downtime to make a few modifications to Hercules’ armor.
The High Evolutionary finally snaps. “You have pushed me too far, Avengers! I wanted to know more about you because I thought you might prove useful servants to advance the causes of mankind’s genetic destiny,” he says. “But I see now you are atavisms, violent throwbacks who can have no place in the future of the race!” Because they have violated his chamber and thwarted his plans, they must die, starting with their leader. He levels the Captain with a plasmatic blast. Next, he storms over to the Genesis Chamber, rips off its door, and tells Hercules he will kill him mercifully if he opts to surrender.
Yellowjacket, meanwhile, realizes that although her teammates stand no chance. She cannot sit idly by and watch them die; she must do something. She flies into the High Evolutionary’s ear canal and begins wreaking havoc.
Plumes of pink smoke drift out of the chamber. Hercules, already bulked up by the process, stands in the center, his face locked in an expression of utter agony. The High Evolutionary resolves to kill him before he grows any mightier. However, an acute buzzing in his ear is disrupting his concentration. Something is breaking through his armor!
Inside his ear canal, Rita fires stinger shots at whatever she sees. Although uncertain as to whether this villain contains any flesh and blood form, she assumes her attacks must disrupt something. If not, at least he will wake emerge with a pounding headache. Once the insides of the ear begin to heat up, however, Yellowjacket realizes she has been discovered. She flies out of the ear, but as she flees, the High Evolutionary zaps her from behind. “Your arrogance is beyond belief,” he tells the tiny Avenger. “After I have dealt with your other companions, I may regress you back to insect status!”
Finally, Hercules emerges from the Genesis Chamber, dons his armor, and tells the High Evolutionary he has performed his final atrocity. The son of Zeus demands retribution! The High Evolutionary cares not for his divine status. While flattening Hercules with an energy blast, he asks why he should quiver before an ancient, forgotten god when he has already elevated himself above both nature and the divine. His attack knocks the wind out of Hercules, who now lies helpless on the ground. The High Evolutionary approaches and announces that, despite the scientific implications of his transformation, he must not allow Hercules to live a moment longer.
Suddenly, Beast appears from behind and punches the overblown scientist in the back of the head. “Another one? Is there no end to these annoyances?” the High Evolutionary asks. “Do you Avengers multiply out of sight merely to plague me?” He wants to spare Hank’s life, as he possesses a genius intellect, but has no time to deal with him now. He floats out of Hank’s attack range before hitting him with an energy beam. Upon impact, it converts into omnium steel which shackles Hank’s entire body.
Hercules picks himself up. Utilizing a new power, he blasts the High Evolutionary in the back with an energy blast. Offended by the insinuation of his less-than-divine status, Hercules reminds the High Evolutionary that many of Earth’s legends tell tales of the valor of Zeus’ offspring. The High Evolutionary knows nothing of that noble trait. All of his machinations are not for the benefit of mankind, but for his own vanity! The scientist turns around and devastates Hercules with another shot. “You are powerful, Godling, but speak not to me of vanity, you who claim to be legend,” he says. “I will banish you forever from the thoughts of men, to suffer the eternal damnation of non-existence as a nameless entity! It shall be as if you never were!” Hercules is vaporized.
With all of his foes defeated, the High Evolutionary rejoices. But at what cost, this victory? Countless years of his hard work lies in ruins at the hands of these Philistines. He vows to make the survivors suffer as no man has suffered before. To his utter surprise, however, Hercules materializes out of the ambient gasses in the room, now larger than ever. “Thy wrath, little one, is as the wrath of pygmies beside the wrath of giants!” he threatens. No one has ever defeated Hercules before. He vows to keep it that way. The High Evolutionary strikes once more, this time showing no mercy. He promises to render Hercules into his component, subatomic particles, whose lifespans are far too short to even be measured by any means known to man. While powerful, the attack fails to slay Hercules; it merely sears off the bulk of his armor. He now stands before the High Evolutionary, mostly nude, save for his shorts and strange machine harnessed to his torso. His survival perplexes the High Evolutionary: no power in the universe could have withstood the destruction of the nuclear bonds between its atoms. What manner of being has Hercules become?
The battered Avengers finally regain consciousness and ask the captive Beast for answers. He explains the modifications he made to Herc’s armor. As the would not have sufficient time in the Genesis Chamber to properly evolve, Hank chose to install the machine’s master unit inside his armor, a gambit that allowed his continued evolution and development as he battled! At that very moment, Beast’s shackles disintegrate. Falcon is not surprised; he predicts the High Evolutionary’s reign may soon come to an end at the hands of the mighty Hercules.
Bemoaning his imminent defeat, the High Evolutionary scorns the Avengers for impeding his plans to elevate mankind to the level of gods. Thou should have aspired to less godhood, and more humanity, Hercules says. He vows to bestow upon the High Evolutionary the fate he intended for the Avengers. Hitting him with one final blow, Hercules begins the cellular disassembly of the mad scientist’s body. As the High Evolutionary discorporates, however, he pledges to take Hercules with him. He fires one last bolt at the overpowered Hercules before disappearing from existence.
The Avengers rejoice: the High Evolutionary is gone! Their enjoyment is put on pause, however, when they notice Hercules’s body is growing uncontrollably. It seems the High Evolutionary managed to send his genesis machine into overdrive; Hercules is evolving beyond mere godliness! They scream at Hercules and plead for him to remove the machinery, but it is too late. His form grows larger and less tangible before he simply vanishes in a flash of light. The component pieces of the machinery trickle to the ground.
Steve, Sam, and Hank share a solemn moment of silence. However, as mourning takes a backseat to accomplishing their mission, they set off to retrieve Yellowjacket and escape. The ship pitches downward as they walk; they realize it has either gone out of control, or even worse, the Purifiers still intend to detonate the genetic bomb. They ask Yellowjacket to lead them to the bomb, but she has more important news. It seems Jocasta survived, and has hacked into the ship’s computers. They are now near Krakatoa. Jocasta’s only choice is to disrupt the ship’s matter/anti-matter drive before it arrives. “It seems to be my destiny to die a violent death,” she says to the Captain. “The first time it happened, I failed to achieve my purpose. Evil endured. I have been given a second chance by the very one who would have destroyed me.” She urges the Avengers to leave before she detonates the ship’s core and vaporizes both it and the genetic bomb. “Goobye, Captain,” she says.
“Goodbye…Avenger,” he replies. The four remaining members of the interim team of Avengers head to the quinjet, defeating several Purifiers as they flee. They board the quinjet, submerge, clear the ship’s radius, and once clear, move to the surface and convert from a submarine to a jet. The quinjet flies them out of the range of the High Evolutionary’s mobile warship, which has nearly reached the volcano of Krakatoa. Just as they wonder if Jocasta can detonate the ship in time, it erupts in an explosion of nuclear force, sending a mushroom cloud into the sky.
As the cloud rises, however, the Avengers wonder if it was the ship that exploded, or the genetic bomb. It could be sending its deadly contents into the atmosphere as they watch. Captain orders Falcon to steer the quinjet into the plume and open the jet’s vents; if that was the bomb detonating, there will be nowhere to hide. Suddenly, Hank seizes up and his face locks in an expression of pain. He gasps. Hank, the Avengers ask? “I…I can feel it…ah…ah…my head!” he shouts, still wincing in discomfort. ACHOOOO! he shouts, expelling a violent sneeze. “Don’t look at me like that, guys,” Hank tells his relieved teammates with a smirk on his face. “I did say I was sensitive to dust. And trust the Beastie’s sensitive proboscis, that’s all it is!” With their mission accomplished, Cap sets a course for the United States. It is time the Avengers returned home.
Beast, Captain, Falcon, Hercules, Hulk, Jocasta (all former Avengers)
Yellowjacket (Masters of Evil)
The High Evolutionary
Various Lemurians and Atlanteans
This is the final chapter of the "Evolutionary War", a crossover that ran through various 1988 Marvel annuals. Incidentally, this was the first crossover of its kind, and the format was later used in “Atlantis Attacks,” “Subterranean Wars,” “Assault on Armor City,” and many more. This style of crossover annual was phased out in the mid-nineties when Marvel dropped the numeric numbering from its annuals and instead named them after the year in which they were published.
The opening narration is taken from chapter five of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, a masterpiece whose alternate title was The Modern Prometheus.
The last segment of this issue’s opening narration comes from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, (lines 743-745, book ten). Published in 1667 in twelve parts, Paradise Lost depicts Satan’s banishment from Heaven, his subsequent temptation of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The lines quoted in this issue appear in the preface of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and incidentally, Paradise Lost is the first book Frankenstein’s monster reads after his creation.
Jocasta was built by Henry Pym’s villainous creation Ultron in Avengers #162. Obsessed with emulating his own maker, Ultron manipulated Pym into downloading a copy of his wife’s consciousness into the robot, which he named “Jocasta” in reference to the figure from Greek mythology. Jocasta eventually betrayed her creator and helped the Avengers defeat him on multiple occasions. After Ultron’s defeat in Avengers #203, Jocasta worked with the team for a while, but eventually left after feeling unaccepted in Avengers #211 (coincidentally, it was in that very issue that the Avengers intended to offer Jocasta membership status, hence the significance of the Captain’s final words to her in this issue). Jocasta later worked with the Fantastic Four to defeat Ultron once again in Marvel Two-In-One #93, but was destroyed by her maker in the process. Jocasta's head is later found by the Avengers in Iron Man Annual #11, and her consciousness is later downloaded into Iron Man's mainframe computer. Years later she regains a body, appearing during the “Disassembled” storyline.
The Greek figure Jocasta was the mother of Oedipus. Estranged from his parents early in his life, Oedipus later murdered his father and took his mother as wife without realizing his relation to either one of them. He carved out his own eyes as atonement once he learned the truth.
Steve Rogers was using the alias of “the Captain” at this time instead of his usual “Captain America.” The government tried to force him to become a Federal employee in Captain America #332, at which point he seemingly resigned from crime-fighting. However, in Captain America #335, he emerged once again with this new alias. During this time, Rogers was replaced by John “Super-Patriot” Walker (later USAgent), but in Captain America (1st series) #350, Rogers returned to his role as Captain America.
The Falcon, real-name Sam Wilson, was Marvel’s first African-American superhero. Henry Peter Gyrich mandated he join the Avengers in Avengers #193 to bolster the team’s racial diversity. Resentful of being placed on the team purely because he was black, Sam quit immediately thereafter and worked on his own.
At this point in his history, Beast was a member of X-Factor. However, he served as an Avenger from Avengers #137-211, and stayed on the reserve list after he quit the team.
Hank’s vague memories of the Purifiers stem from his encounter with them in X-Factor Annual #3. However, he was going through his Pestilence-induced dumb phase the time, and while his intelligence was restored since then, his memories from that period in his life are blurry. In addition to having his intelligence restored in X-Factor (1st series) #31, he also regained his coat of blue fur as well as a significant increase in his physical strength.
During this period, Hulk operated under the identity “Joe Fixit,” worked at a casino in Las Vegas, and had grey skin.
In Rita DeMara’s first appearance in Avengers #264, she stole on of Henry Pym’s Yellowjacket suits and modified it to fit her own body. Janet Van Dyne, also known as the Wasp, defeated her and sent her to prison. In Avengers #271, Janet checked in on Rita in prison, but upon arriving was caught in a prison break attempt during which Yellowjacket escaped. She joined up with the Masters of Evil and attacked the Avengers Mansion in a story spanning from Avengers #273-277, almost killing Hercules in the process. She returns to the mansion in this issue only because her stolen costume instructs her to do so. Relatively insignificant to Avengers history overall, DeMara goes on to join the original Guardians of the Galaxy, spending some time with the team, before becoming home-sick, and returning to Earth, only to be slain a mind-controlled Iron Man during “The Crossing.”
Hercules fell into a coma after his beating by the Masters of Evil in Avengers #274 and was taken to Mt. Olympus to recover, where he remained until receiving his summons in this issue.
The Avengers disassembled in Avengers (1st series) #297 after Kang extensively brainwashed Doctor Druid into manipulating the team. At the end of that issue, Doctor Druid was lost in the timestream, She-Hulk quit the team, and Thor and Black Knight returned to Asgard. The events of this annual occur after Avengers (1st series) #297, but before Avengers (1st series) #300, in which the Captain forms a new Avengers team.
After their disappearance at the end of this issue, Hercules and the High Evolutionary are both transported to the Black Galaxy. Thor and the Knights of Wundagore decide to save them in Thor #406, but both characters do not appear until the next issue, Thor #407.
The skalds were Nordic poets.
“Avon Ladies” traditionally go door-to-door selling makeup and cosmetics for Avon Products, Inc.
Lemuria was once a continent in the Pacific Ocean, ruled by the Deviants, an off-shoot of humanity created by the Celestials, enemies of the Eternals. However it was sunk by the Celestials after the Deviants attacked them. Some of the Deviants managed to survive in underground caverns, in what is now known as Lemuria-East. Lemuria proper was discovered by the Atlanteans who left Atlantis in search of a new home, and settled in the North of Lemuria, and dubbed themselves “Lemurians.” Llyra is a well-known Lemurian.
The Atlanteans are an underwater race of beings that have appeared prominently throughout Marvel Comics, Namor the Sub-Mariner being one of Marvel's earliest and most well-known characters. Other notable Atlanteans include Namora, Namorita and Andromeda.
The Leviathan who attacked the Atlanteans in Avengers #291-293 was actually the honorary Avenger, and wife of Namor, Marrina.
Krakatoa is volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. Its 1883 eruption was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history. It produced the loudest noise in recorded history; people as far as 2,000 miles away heard the eruption firsthand. Over 36,417 people died as a result of its eruption. [“The Volcano that Shook the World: Krakatoa 1883.” Deborah Hopkinson. Storyworks. New York: Jan 2004. Vol. 11, Issue 4]
Thor encountered the New Men in Thor #134-135.
Casey Jones was a legendary American railroad conductor who died in an unfortunate train collision in 1900.
The joke about “Excedrin Headache Number 356” refers to Excedrin’s long-running advertising motif which depicts Excedrin solving specific, numbered headaches.
The High Evolutionary uses the term “Philistines” in the derogatory sense, referring to persons who embody anti-intellectualism and lack appreciation for the fine arts.
This issue also features a story called “Beyond Life,” the final chapter of the High Evolutionary’s eleven-part origin story.
Special thanks to Daytripper for his help with the Avengers character notes.
Issue Summary written by: Sixhoursoflucy