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Avengers Annual #14: Review

Nov 1985
Roger Stern, Kyle Baker

Story Name:

Fifth Column

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers Annual #14 Review by (July 22, 2023)
Comments: Part seven of eight parts. Story falls between AVENGERS #260 and 261. A Fifth Column is a team of enemy agents going undercover to damage a society from within. FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #19 crosses over with this issue: The covers are complementary, showing the action from the opposite points of view; the meeting of the two teams is likewise complementary and most of the pages after the initial meeting are identical. The Skrulls regain their shape-shifting powers in SILVER SURFER (1987) #27.

Review: Well, we never expected this. A crazy shift of tone to a comical story suggests that Roger Stern had just watched STAR TREK’s “A Piece of the Action” and the deadline was approaching (though kudos for adding Humphrey Bogart to the mix). And we don’t see Nebula again. The story is pretty clever, the humor is a little silly at times though Stern seems to know when to put it aside. A wise move since “pattern their society after Earth culture in the 1930s” is a far cry from “pattern their society after American gangster movies in the 1930s.” And Captain Marvel does a lot of the heavy lifting while Starfox causes most of the trouble with his overwhelming desire to clarify the matter of Nebula’s lineage. Wasp and Cap show the wisdom expected of team leaders while Hercules and Black Knight do some heroic stuff. And the guest FF members don’t do very much except for Reed making with the smarts. They are seen to much better advantage in their own crossover annual.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers Annual #14 Synopsis by T Vernon
Story continues from AVENGERS #260.

A band of Skrull warriors led by Raksor attacks Klarr, the Skrull prison planet, and frees the notorious criminal Prince Dezan, who wears a metal mask to inhibit his shapeshifting powers. Many of the assault team are killed but Dezan is rescued….

The Avengers (Captain America, Starfox, Wasp, Hercules, Black Knight, Captain Marvel) are surveying the captured Sanctuary II now that the space battle has ended. The mercenaries are defeated though their leader Nebula has escaped. General Zedrao shows them Firelord, in stasis in the sick bay after his injuries (AVENGERS #260). The Avengers are concerned about Nebula. Zedrao suggests that the sensor grid on the old Imperial Power Asteroid can perhaps be modified to track the villainess. Team leader Wasp agrees to this so they head out in Starfox’s Titanian starship with Skrull escort. They jump though subspace and the modern Earthers are surprised to see World War I biplanes sailing toward them. The Skrull escort, Syrro, informs them that the Skrull colony on Kral patterns their society after Earth culture in the 1930s, even maintaining human form. The biplanes take the Avengers to a massive zeppelin; once inside, Skrulls looking like Earth gangsters try to kill them but Captain Marvel and Wasp easily subdue them. The place is called Big Casino and they meet the boss, Floyd Donahue, who resembles Humphrey Bogart in CASABLANCA. The Avengers admire the place while Starfox grows impatient. Donahue introduces the group to Prince Dezan, his special guest. Syrro explains he is a traitor to the Skrulls; Dezan warns them of a bigger threat: he describes how his former comrade Zabyk has seized control of the Power Asteroid where scientist Myrn has created the ultimate weapon, to change everything overnight. Warrior Raksor learned of the scheme and freed Dezan, the only Skrull who could stop Zabyk. Syrro and Raksor quarrel over the matter and Starfox offers the Avengers to solve the problem. This earns him a rebuke from Cap and Wasp for forgetting the chain of command. Wasp proposes a plan of attack….

A plane from Big Casino lands on the Power Asteroid claiming to have power stones that need recharging. The Skrull gangsters are Cap, Starfox, Hercules, and Dezan in disguise with the crate of “stones” containing Wasp and Black Knight; the trap is sprung and the guards are overpowered. Captain Marvel searches the base for the weapon, disrupting monitors and defensive systems as she goes….

Zabyk discovers the Avengers are aboard and panics; Myrn tells him the Hyperwave Bomb is primed, all that needs be done is to trigger the bombardment switch. Myrn has Zabyk enter the insulated armor, which only a Skrull with shapeshifting abilities can manage. Once inside the suit, Zabyk kills Myrn and prepares to rule the universe….

Making their way through the power station, the Avengers encounter Thor, leading a team of Rigellians with the same goal in mind. But an innocuous question exposes Thor and his allies as Skrulls and they are easily overpowered. Then She-Hulk rips her way through a bulkhead, followed by the rest of the Fantastic Four (Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch) to face the Avengers. It takes a few awkward moments for each team to recognize that the others are the authentic Earth heroes and they decide to join forces. Zabyk broadcasts a message to the heroes boasting of his big plans. As Dezan argues with him, Captain Marvel enters the machine to burn it out, discovers that she is in a huge dimensional interface and that interference will endanger the universe and exits the machine in less time than it takes Reed Richards to warn her not to. Zabyk hits the switch and all over the galaxy, Skrulls have their genetic codes stabilized, eliminating their ability to change shape. Zabyk is now trapped in the insulated armor, though it did not protect him. Dezan and Captain America explain that, without the ability to change their bodies, all Skrulls are equal, which would be the basis for a stable and peaceable society….

Epilogue: On their way home, the Avengers learn that General Zedrao is taking the pragmatic view of the new situation, any attempts to track Nebula have been rendered useless by the energy wave, and why was Price Dezan considered such a dangerous traitor to the Skrulls? He wanted peace….

This story is paralleled in FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #19.

The Avengers continue in AVENGERS #261.

Kyle Baker
Kyle Baker
Christie Scheele
Kerry Gammill (Cover Penciler)
Kyle Baker (Cover Inker)
? (Cover Colorist)
Layouts: John Byrne. Letterer: John Workman.
Editor: Mark Gruenwald. Editor-in-chief: Jim Shooter.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Black Knight
Black Knight

(Dane Whitman)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Human Torch
Human Torch

(Johnny Storm)
Invisible Woman
Invisible Woman

(Sue Storm)
Mr. Fantastic
Mr. Fantastic

(Reed Richards)

(Jennifer Walters)


(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau).

> Avengers Annual: Book info and issue index

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