The now seemingly endless wait for the next Marvel Cinematic Universe film has got me thinking about the larger Avengers property in the movies, and what Marvel Studios can do with it now that the long-simmering Thanos storyline has finally come to an end. And if you ask me, there’s only one choice: 1986’s “Under Siege,” by writer Roger Stern and artist John Buscema.
The story was brewing for over a year, and finally came to a head at a time when the team was at one of its most fractious points, under the leadership of the Wasp, heading up a team that included veteran members Captain America and Captain Marvel, new recruit Sub-Mariner (whose decades of battling mankind was causing the team’s approval ratings to sink), resident scientist Black Knight (perpetually hiding a crush on the Wasp), and an increasingly disgruntled Hercules, who was finding it harder and harder to live with taking orders from a woman.
Little did the Avengers know that all around them, conspirators lay in wait, villains and spies placed into motion by Baron Helmut Zemo, son of their old enemy Heinreich Zemo, who had gathered together the largest and by far most powerful version ever of the Masters of Evil, an assemblage of the most dangerous villains the Avengers had ever faced.
Filled with heavyweights like the Wrecking Crew, the Absorbing Man, Mister Hyde, Titania, Moonstone, Blackout and Goliath, this team of heavy hitters outmatched the Avengers top to bottom, especially after the Sub-Mariner is forced to leave the team due to marital issues. And worse, Baron Zemo slowly and carefully plots his moves against the team, noting Hercules’s insubordination and preparing to use it to his advantage, such as when he sends a disguised Wrecker to go out drinking with Herc and needle him about his lady boss:
What’s Zemo’s plan? Simple but brutal. A straight-up home invasion, taking over Avengers Mansion when only their faithful butler Jarvis is home, then lying in wait as the Avengers return one by one. And as villainous plans go, it’s damned effective.
When the Wasp and Captain America realize what’s happening, they try to prevent Hercules from running off half-cocked, but Herc (who had been drugged by another Masters of Evil spy in one of his many trips to the tavern) refuses to take the Wasp’s orders and barges in, only to be beaten unconscious by the Masters. It’s ugly.
Forced to follow his lead, Captain America also gets captured, while the Mansion is sealed off from the outside world, preventing further rescue attempts.
This leaves Wasp on the outside, trying to recruit some superhuman assistance, including new Ant-Man Scott Lang, and finding themselves vastly outpowered by the likes of the Absorbing Man and Titania, sent to the hospital to finish off the comatose Hercules.
Things are even grimmer back at the Mansion, where Baron Zemo tries to break Cap’s spirit, first by destroying his few mementos from the war, and then by viciously beating a helpless Jarvis.
This is the kind of big story you can only tell once, and no one has ever topped Stern and Buscema in combining high-stakes drama with a really personal vendetta against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s currently available in trade, and who knows? Maybe in theatres someday down the road.