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IN THIS ISSUE: Althorrat summarizes a spellbinding tale of alternate Marvelosity! Spoilarity ensues!

Yes, I am shamelessly stealing borrowing this format from Quizro. And you know what they say about imitation. (It's all lies. Really.)

Title: What if the Avengers Had Never Been?
Release Date: June 1977
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciler: Gil Kane
Inker: K. Janson
Heroes: Iron Man, Wasp, Giant-Man, Thor, Rick Jones
Villians: The Incredible Hulk (sorta) and Namor, the Sub-Mariner

The Watcher, as we all know, has a fetish known as latex voyeurism, meaning he is obsessed with playing Peeping Tom to the general superhero community. So it should be no surprise that in this issue, he describes for us a veritable orgy of do-gooders in the formation of The Avengers. The original Avengers, for those unaware, consisted of Iron Man, Thor, Giant-Man (also variously called Ant-Man and Yellowjacket), Wasp, and the Incredible Hulk. However, soon after being recruited, the Hulk grew angry with his human allies, and left. In "our" universe, the remaining Avengers resolved to find and subdue the Hulk to prevent him from wreaking havoc on the world. With the help of Rick Jones, they found him (in the middle of the New Mexican desert, for some reason), and attempted in vain to capture him. The Hulk fled, only to be attacked by the Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. A battle raged between the two, but discovering neither could defeat the other, they called a truce, and vowed together to destroy humanity. Naturally, their first step was to tell the Avengers exactly where they were so they could have a good ol' fashioned whompfest. The Avengers eventually beat the duo, though they only truly succeeded in breaking them up.

So it was -- IN OUR WORLD! (I love saying that.) But what if the Avengers had not been unanimous in their decision to pursue the Hulk? WHAT IF?

In an alternate Earth, Giant-Man objects: After all, he says, the Avengers are not conscripts, but volunteers. If the Hulk wants to leave, he reasons, he has every right to. Thor agrees, causing Iron Man to have a few choice words for him. His mighty deity dignity offended, Thor returns to Asgard to battle evil brewing there. Giant-Man feels that without such a powerful ally, he and his wife the Wasp are useless to the team, and "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" are no more!

Iron Man, still determined to stop the Hulk, contacts the Green Leviathan's only friend, Rick Jones. As in the normal Marvel universe, Rick agrees to help, and Iron Man takes on the Hulk alone. Unable to defeat him or convince him to stop his rampage, Iron Man retreats to form a new plan of action. Meanwhile, the Hulk runs into the Sub-Mariner, and events proceed pretty much the same. The two team up and contact Iron Man, challenging the Avengers to a fight. Iron Man is afraid to admit the Avengers no longer exist, so he agrees to the fight. Now he must face the combined might of the Incredible Hulk and the Sub-Mariner by himself!

Or does he? The engineering genius that is Iron Man's alter ego, Tony Stark, spends the next 48 hours building three new suits of "transistorized armor" for Rick Jones, the Wasp, and Giant-Man. They agree to help him, and begin trying out their new armor - but their inexperience causes them to accidentally damage the armor. Stark's natural short temper is made shorter by his fatigue, and he rages at them, causing all three to give back the armor and leave him alone once more.

Desperate, Iron Man charges his armor to far beyond normal tolerance, hoping that the increased power will be enough to stop two of the most powerful beings on Earth. At first, things go well for him, but the Hulk and Sub-Mariner wear him down, until he plummets into the water, where Namor pummels him to within an inch of his life. All seems lost... until the new Iron Avengers appear!

Once again, things are looking good, but the Hulk and Sub-Mariner's energies are nearly limitless, and once again they wear down the Avengers, who are dependent on their batteries for their powers. Finally, the Iron Giant-Man's energy is completely exhausted, and without it, he can't even breathe. In desperation, Iron Man transfers as much energy as he can into him, and the re-energized Iron Giant-Man flies back into action against the Hulk, pounding him with blow after blow.

Meanwhile, after a brief game of cat-and-mouse between the Sub-Mariner and Rick Jones, the youngest member of the new team tries in vain to fight the Prince of Atlantis, but fails miserably. Namor throws him from a great height to smash into the rocks below. But the Hulk, hearing Rick's terrified cries, bounds up to catch him. Then, in a fury, he attacks the Sub-Mariner, fighting him to a stand-still.

But the victory is bittersweet: for in giving Giant-Man the strength he needed, Tony Stark tapped into the power source of the device which protected his weak heart. Without that energy, his heart stopped beating altogether - and the Invincible Iron Man was no more.

Cool Quote:

(after Iron Man was defeated, before the other Avengers arrived)
Hulk: Hey! He's lying so still! Is he--?
Namor: Dead? Of course! And now that my Imperial rage subsides I am... saddened. He was valiant! At one point he had beaten us both!

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