Avengers #334-335 and Thor #434 (July-August 1991)

These two issues launch “The Collection Obsession,” a six-part biweekly storyline (much like “The Superia Stratagem” in Captain America that started this month) that features a new threat from beyond the stars, Thane Ector (seen above), who is a large enough threat that the Watcher does that think he’s not supposed to do (but often does anyway). Also, in the new issue of Thor, Kevin Masterson comes clean with Captain America regarding being the new God of Thunder (as we saw in the last issue).

In Avengers #334 (and its cover), we welcome the pencils of Andy Kubert, making his one and only appearance on this title, but we will see him again for a turn on Caps’ own book at the end of the 1990s. The story begins on the moon, where Quicksilver and several Inhumans investigate a crash landing of a vessel, which contains a distinctly unfriendly Thane Ector and his crew, known collectively as the Brethren.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Cap is training with several of his teammates, including Hercules spotting for Rage… until Sersi walks in and distracts the Prince of Power.

When Rage drops the weights and blames Hercules, Cap has to break them up, but is then distracted himself, albeit for a better reason: a truncated distress message from Quicksilver, followed by the sudden appearance of Crystal and Lockjaw.

She explains that Quicksilver and the others are trapped within an impenetrable force field, and even Uatu the Watcher seems concerned; after Cap offers to let her rest, she refuses, asking for help, leading Cap to affirm that no Avengers is ever left behind.

Gee, Cap seems pensive while flying to the moon to rescue several superpowered individuals from a mysterious force strong enough to contain them? Very perceptive of you, Widow.

After Black Bolt and Gorgon fail to break through the force field, Medusa tells him the Avengers will prevail, but Cap wants assurance from his teammates first.

Once they manage to break through the force field, the Avengers move it move it

…while Black Widow once again shows off her powers of obviousness.

As the injured Quicksilver tells his fellow heroes, Thane Ector and his allies quickly disappear, choosing to focus their conquest on Earth. When Cap wants to investigate the wreckage of Thane Ector’s ship, Uatu intervenes. (Imagine my shock.)

Now that, above, is a pensive look!

Having warned them of the danger, Uatu accompanies them inside the wreckage—but only to watch, he is careful to say, while also answering a question about his size that no one asked.

The Avengers find shrunken civilizations all around the ship, which can led to only one conclusion: The ship belongs to none other than Brainiac the Collector, and he is no better off for having captured Thane Ector and the rest of his Brethren.

Avengers #335 sees the beginning of penciller Steve Epting’s long tenure on the title (before he handles most of Ed Brubaker’s first run on Captain America), and opens with various team members issuing status reports about Thane Ector’s attacks on major Earth cities. The last one is given by Cap, who vows to avenge the lives already lost (and affirms the group’s mission to tackle the threats no single hero can face alone).

The Avengers confront Ector in Paris as he praises the fury of his companion Lady Sybyl (not to be confused with Lady Sybil), which earns him a sight of the mighty shield…

…which Ector returns with an insult. (Rude.)

After Ector demonstrates his power by killing a human—ooh, so impressive—he turns his attention to Sersi, drawing Cap’s counterattack (and Sersi’s concern).

Cap displays his capacity for defiance and perseverance that has frustrated many a more powerful being, and Ector is duly impressed…

…but after Cap compares him to other “petty tyrants,” Ecto takes it back.

Cap keeps fighting, against all odds, but eventually falls to Ector, who then takes Sersi as his prisoner and vanishes again, leaving the rest of the Avengers to gape at Cap’s still form. (Will our hero bounce back by the next issue? We shall see.)

Presumably before this story began, in Thor #434 Cap welcomes the God of Thunder to Avengers Mansion, where he struggles with the security system. (Gee, that sure is a nice title for a story…)

Actually, this Thor has not been a member for very long, which Cap seems to realize. (Mayhaps it is that he no longer speaketh so elegantly?)

After Cap “figures it out,” Thor transforms into his new mortal form, Eric Masterson, whom Cap knows from earlier.

Eric explains how he was first merged with Thor to save his life—similar to how Thor and Donald Blake co-existed in the early comics—and then was granted “control” of Thor when Odin banished his son for “killing” Loki. But Eric knows full well the unique history he shares with Cap as well, the latter having wielded the hammer long before Eric did.


Avengers (vol. 1) #334, July 1991: Bob Harras (writer), Andy Kubert (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), John Costanza (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Avengers (vol. 1) #335, early August 1991, “Bloody Encounter”: Bob Harras (writer), Steve Epting (pencils), Tom Morgan and Tony DeZuniga (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Both collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: The Collection Obsession.

Thor (vol. 1) #434, July 1991: Tom DeFalco (writer), Ron Frenz (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Mike Rockwitz and Ed Lazellari (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Collected in: Thor Epic Collection: The Black Galaxy.

PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #332-333, Thor #433, Amazing Spider-Man #348, and X-Factor #66 (May-June 1991)

ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #387-388 (July 1991), Marvel Comics Presents #80-81 (July 1991), Infinity Gauntlet #1-2 (July-August 1991), Captain America #389-390, Darkhawk #6, and X-Factor Annual #6 (August 1991)

NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #336-337, Alpha Flight #99-100, and Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #26 (August-September 1991)

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