For being one of the highest profile series that Marvel puts out, I’ve never been a huge Avengers reader. I enjoyed Jonathan Hickman’s crazy run, and have made my way through pretty much all of Brian Michael Bendis’ work on the team, but besides that, the Avengers never really stuck out to me that much. I’m more of a Defenders guy, because that team is always nuts. But I’ve been going back through some of the classic issues of the Avengers, trying to become more familiar with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. And I’ve recently come across a pretty great and insane storyline that was a lot of fun. The story usually gets called “Under Siege,” and unfortunately there’s no Steven Seagal, but it’s plenty crazy in its own right. It was written by Roger Stern, and penciled by John Buscema, and runs through Avengers #273 – #277. Technically the seeds are sown a couple of issues before #273, but that stuff featured a weird story about Namor, so I don’t think you’re missing too much if you skip them.
The team in this story is kind of a strange one. I feel like it’s really hard to find an Avengers team that’s all great. They always throw some oddballs in there. This team was led by the Wasp, and had Captain America, Hercules, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau, the hero now known as Spectrum), I suppose Namor’s on the team, and the Black Knight. Of that team, I probably know the least about the Black Knight, but between this story and reading the bonkers Captain Marvel and MI13 series, I kind of want to learn more about him. As always, the team isn’t exactly getting along, and after helping Namor deal with the sort of political coup in Atlantis, the team is back in America, and relaxing. But unfortunately for the Avengers, Baron Zemo has rustled up a group of B and C list villains to form a new Masters of Evil. Now, while my Avengers knowledge isn’t too great, I do know a bit more about the classic Avengers villains, and I would honestly put the Masters of Evil as their third best (below Kang the Conquerer and Ultron). While the team changes in every iteration, they essentially form an evil Avengers, a bunch of weird villains who team up to try and get something accomplished. I love Baron Zemo as a villain, and he’s really at top form in this story, leading this new band of losers. The rest of the Masters of Evil have villains like Yellowjacket, Moonstone, the Wrecking Crew (who are ridiculous, and I love them), Blackout, Tiger Shark, Mr. Hyde, Goliath, the Absorbing Man, Fixer, and Titania. Not exactly a who’s who of classic Marvel villainy, but they were a pretty fun group of villains. And their plan is pretty great.
The Masters of Evil essentially decide that the way to defeat the Avengers is to divide them up, conquer, and take over the Avengers Mansion. They wait until the Mansion is pretty much deserted, and storm the place, managing to get in pretty easily, and take over the Mansion’s security and defenses. Apparently Tony Stark didn’t do that good of a job on the Mansion if the Fixer can easily bypass everything. Once inside the heavy hitters on the team beat the crap out of Jarvis and the Black Knight, tying them up with little resistance. Zemo decides that the most powerful member of the Avengers they’ll have to deal with is Captain Marvel, so they trick her into coming to the Mansion and have Blackout absorb her into the dark dimension that he can control, shutting her out from Earth, and the rest of the team. Captain America also gets a strange message to come to the Mansion, but decides that it wasn’t on the level, so he goes to talk to the Wasp and they decide to investigate it. When they get to the Mansion however they find that the Master of Evil’s great plan for Hercules was the get him drunk off his ass, and it was a rousing success. Cap and Wasp try to explain the situation to the shitfaced Hercules, but he doesn’t listen to them, and smashes his way into the Mansion to start some shit. And things don’t go well for Hercules. Up until this point in the comic, things weren’t going well for the Avengers, but this is where shit gets real. Goliath, Mr. Hyde, and the Wrecking Crew just straight up beat Hercules, pretty much to death.
Around then Captain America is dragged into the Mansion, and Blackout covers the Mansion in a veil of his evil dimension, blocking the outside world from infiltrating it, and as the Wasp looks on, Hercules’ body is thrown out of the mansion, barely alive in a coma. She immediately takes him to the hospital, where they struggle to keep the demi-god alive. Ant-Man shows up just in time to help Wasp keep the unconsious Hercules safe, because Absorbing Man and Titania have shown up to finish the job. The two tiny heroes manage to defeat the duo, and keep Hercules alive, while we check in to see Captain Marvel still adrift in a dimension of darkness. Then we peek in on Avengers Mansion, where Zemo and Mr. Hyde are doing some messed up shit to a chained up Captain America. They start beating Jarvis to a pulp in front of him, then Mr. Hyde starts bringing stuff they found in Caps room and destroying them. They get his original shield and crush it, then Zemo finds Cap’s photo album, including pictures of his mom, and one of Bucky, and rips them up! This then leads to one of my favorite Captain America moments of all time. For the longest time, I wasn’t a Cap fan, I found him hokey and boring. But recently, mainly thanks to Ed Brubaker’s amazing run, I’ve gotten more into the character and really started to love him. So, Baron Zeno, son of the Nazi that killed Bucky, is ripping up Captain America’s prized possessions, and all Cap has to say is, “I’ll remember this.” Oh man. It’s great.
Back at the hospital Wasp realizes things aren’t going well, and calls in some reinforcements. Her and Ant-Man head back to the Mansion at the same time that Captain Marvel finally gets out of the dark dimension, by popping out of a weird character called the Shroud, and she blasts off to meet them. We also see Dr. Druid hanging out at home watching the news about the siege of Avengers Mansion, and he decides to come help as well. Thor shows up as well, and they launch their counter attack, burrowing in under the shell of darkness Blackout has surrounded the Mansion with. Meanwhile, Black Knight has gotten his sword back, and beats the crap out of Mr. Hyde, just as the cavalry shows up and starts taking the Masters of Evil down. Thor starts to fight the Wrecking Crew and Goliath as Dr. Druid shows up and uses his mind powers to get Blackout to drop the shell of darkness. One by one the Masters of Evil fall until the only one left is Zemo, trapped on the roof of the destroyed Mansion. Captain American and Zemo fight and Zemo pulls the old villain spite move of not taking Cap’s hand when he falls off the roof, plummeting to his…death? I’m pretty sure he doesn’t die, but the show him crumpled on the ground, and no one mentions his body. The military comes in to get rid of the Masters of Evil as the Avengers take stock of their destroyed home. The story ends with the Mansion in ruins, two Avengers and Jarvis in the hospital, and Captain America sitting in his trashed room looking through the shredded pictures of his friends and family, weeping. Downer.
This was a really fun story, with some seriously dark moments. I loved Baron Zemo and his group of misfits, and how easily they managed to sweep through the Mansion. And while there were some great moments with the other heroes, it’s really a shining example of a great Captain America story. He does everything that he can to save his team mates and his home. And man is what Zemo does to him crushing. I’ve seen villains do some messed up things to heroes, but having Cap tied to a chair, forcing him to watch while he rips up his most prized, irreplaceable possessions is one of the most straight up evil things I’ve ever seen a villain do. It’s a great story, and if you have any interest in the Avengers, you should check it out.
“Under Siege” was written by Roger Stern and Illustrated by John Buscema