As of this supersized issue of Avengers we arrive at the conclusion of the “Operation: Galactic Storm” event, and it does not disappoint—except for Captain America, who is very disappointed in the decisions taken by some of his fellow Avengers, which will have serious consequences for years to come. If that weren’t enough, we have a couple pages from this month’s Thor, apparently pre-dating the book’s earlier installments of Galactic Storm. (Don’t think about it too much, or you’ll have a headache like I do.)
Since the last segment of this story we covered, the Shi’ar’s Nega-Bomb, with which they planned to destroy the Kree Empire, was stolen by the Skrulls… who used it to destroy the Kree Empire, killing billions of Kree. (The Kree-Skrull War is obviously not a thing of the past for them.) The double-page spread below, with art by Steve Epting, Tom Palmer, and Gina Going, captures the widespread devastation well. (For some reason, planets’ inhabitants and structures seem to have been wiped out, but the planets themselves remain largely intact.)
On the central Kree world of Hala, where Captain America was thrown out of the citadel by the Supreme Intelligence before the bomb hit, the Shi’ar warrior Deathbird is indulging in Shakespearean monologue, under the assumption that her sister Lilandra, leader of the Shi’ar, was the one who detonated the bomb. Then she sees a red, white, and blue figure…
…about whom the Avengers are also curious (having barely survived the Nega-Bomb themselves). Hawkeye (in his Goliath outfit) and Iron Man rehash the argument they started in Iron Man #279 when Tony made the decision to pursue the bomb—and potentially save billions of lives—rather than look for Cap, lost somewhere on Hala. Now that the bomb’s gone off, Tony leads the team to find their leader.
Deathbird has already found him, of course, and she begins to memorialize him as a courageous warrior before she discovers he’s alive… and contemplates a new role for him to which he forcefully objects, just before the Supreme Intelligence interrupts.
The Kree leader proclaims victory, despite the death of most all of his people—or, rather, because of it.
It gets worse: Next he explains that he manipulated both the Shi’ar and the Kree into fighting in order to wipe out 98% of his own people—for whom he obviously did not have the highest regard anyway—so the Kree could start evolving again from scratch.
Below, Cap wins the award for understatement of the year.
Meanwhile, the Avengers land outside and are stunned by the devastation, before two members of the Kree Starforce™, Dr. Minerva and Captain Atlas show up, suspecting that the Avengers helped the Shi-ar destroy their world and their race. A fight breaks out until a lone voice from the distance puts an end to it.
Oh yeah, it’s the fella you all were supposed to looking for… check that one off the list, I guess. And Deathbird and Cap showing up together does little to dispel Atlas’s suspicions, at least until Deathbird tells him the truth…
…and Cap confirms what she says. And then, in a classic detective story move, he points a finger at another character who knew the plan all along… “your lover, Minerva!” (DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNN!)
Captain Atlas, in the ultimate reaction to experiencing dishonor on the battlefield (similar to the Japanese concept of seppuku), states his intention to take his own life, over the objections of Captain America—and, in the end, takes Minerva with him, but not until he calls for the execution of the Supreme Intelligence.
Before you get sentimental about this, we discover later that this was merely a ruse to escape. But no one knows this yet, so the Avengers mourn the loss—at least before the Black Knight gets that look in his eye, and Cap has to step in to remind his team that they don’t kill.
The discussion turns to the nature of the Supreme Intelligence himself—specifically, whether he is truly alive or sentient, with the Vision arguing that the Kree leader is a lesser form of artificial life than he is, “nothing more than an extremely complex computer.” (I really wish this had been fleshed out more, no pun intended.) The lines continue to be drawn: Hercules cares not for such metaphysical details and simply wants to wreak vengeance; Crystal asserts that they cannot kill a living thing (assuming that’s what he is); and the new Thor (Eric Masterson) argues the pragmatic and preventive benefits of executing a confessed and all-powerful mass murderer.
Sersi agrees with Hercules, and while Cap agrees with the sentiment, he also appreciates the difference between vengeance, practiced specifically and emotionally, and justice, enacted dispassionately and objectively. And then Tony plays the “founding member” card again, as he did in Captain America #399, and asserts that the Supreme Intelligence is merely a machine (as Vision said) and must be destroyed to prevent further genocide (as Hercules said).
And thus starts the superhero Civil War… wait, it’s too early for that. (But the tagline “Which side are you on?” certainly fits the image below!)
There’s that issue with the team’s name again… sigh. (Superheroes can be so literal.)
In a move that surprises exactly no one, the woman named Deathbird sides with those who want to kill the Supreme Intelligence—and now it’s Tony claiming this is about justice, not revenge. (To be fair, it is a fuzzy line.) As Tony’s side departs, the Scarlet Wanda and Quasar—or, Wanda and Wendell, heh—try to convince Wonder Man and Thor to rethink things, and Thor cruelly accuses Quasar of taking Cap’s side without reflection.
Hercules gets in a last comment about honor—in the old-fashioned sense, related to shame and reputation, rather than the modern one based on integrity that Cap recognizes, as I explain in chapter 4 of my book—before Cap, with remorse and disgust, accepts that he has lost this argument.
When Tony’s team attacks the Supreme Intelligence, the Kree leader counters with simulations of their greatest foes (as he did with Cap in Captain America #400), but the Avengers prevail, destroying the screen displaying the Kree’s familiar green visage. Behind it they find the Supreme Intelligence is literally a huge brain in a vat—and a very organic-looking brain at that. This gives several members of the team pause—especially Thor, who refuses to kill a living thing—but the rest, despite doubts, support the Black Knight as he takes the killing blow.
The act has catastrophic consequences for a world already ravaged by the Nega-Bomb…
…and, if the narration is to be trusted, for the present Avengers as well. (And what about the little burst of light at the bottom right? Stay tuned, dear reader—you won’t have to wait long.)
The Avengers assemble once again, and when Cap requests a situation report, Tony is very curt, and just doesn’t want to hear it right now. Clint wants to pursue it, though, until a new arrival appears.
Lilandra arrives to claim the former Kree Empire for the Shi’ar and to ask her rebellious sister Deathbird to rule at her side, and then wishes the Avengers farewell, promising the Shi’ar are no threat to Earth.
Cap responds with a speech of his own, one that starts by calling out the Supreme Intelligence and his callous regard for life, but towards the end seems to refer to his vengeful teammates as well.
Cap walks to the Quinjet alone, a harbinger of things to come in Captain America #401, the aftermath issue in which Cap and Tony have it out. Meanwhile, at long last, we learn the secret behind that little burst of light.
“Omigosh!” we all cry out in unison. “You mean the Supreme Intelligence, who was at least partially computerized, survived physical destruction? Wow!” (Of course, this does not change the fact that a handful of Avengers acted to take a life, even if it didn’t turn out that way.)
“Siri, show me an example of denouement.” In happier times—apparently before any of this pesky space business—Eric seeks out Cap’s advice in Thor #447, but he unwisely interrupts a training session.
Despite the similarity to the previous hammer-wielder, Eric gets an impromptu negative evaluation from the boss, which changes his mind about seeking advice at this particular juncture.
Collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: Operation Galactic Storm.
Thor (vol. 1) #447, May 1992, “Strange Alliances!”: Tom DeFalco (writer), Ron Frenz (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Mike Rockwitz (colors), Rick Parker (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Thor Epic Collection: The Thor War.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #346 and Iron Man #279 (April 1992)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America #400 and Namor the Sub-Mariner #26 (May 1992)
NEXT ISSUE: Avengers #360 (March 1993)