A Brief History Of Kang, Part 7: To Ravonna
By Robert Clough
The two issues I'm reviewing here, Avengers #23 and 24, are not only pivotal in Kang's history, but are some of the best stories in the entire series. After his Spider-Man robot failed, he popped up for one panel in #16. That was the first appearance of Cap's Kooky Quartet, and Kang basically vowed to destroy the Avengers no matter what their makeup was. #23 is the first time we actually get to see a human side to Kang, something that puts him beyond the generally maniacal villain we're all used to.
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck
The Avengers have one of their usual quarrels, with Cap quitting the team and breaking them up. He was tired of Hawkeye's attitude and loud mouth, and Quicksilver's general surliness.
Off in time somewhere, Kang the Conqueror is watching the now broken-up Avengers, thinking that now is the right time to strike, seeing as how they're leaderless and all. He travels back to the 20th Century and quickly kidnaps the team. He sticks them in a room where they get zapped by "jolting thermo-shocks" but Hawkeye destroys the "main coil" of the device. Kang then drains the oxygen out of the room and brings them back to his own century.
Kang has problems of his own, however. He visits Princess Ravonna of an unnamed kingdom and demands her hand in marriage. Apparently, Kang allows Ravonna and her father to "rule" their kingdom, in the hopes of getting her to marry him. Yup, Kang has serious relationship issues.
Hawk, Wanda and Pietro find themselves prisoners in giant glass-like tubes. Wanda concentrates and uses her hex power to destroy her tube (draining her of energy) and she frees the others. As they wander around some winding catwalks, Kang's image suddenly appears, demanding that they surrender and serve him. He sends a small army of guards to subdue them, but as Wanda says, "An Avenger does not surrender!" Hawkeye fires a line arrow to another set of catwalks and they temporarily escape.
Kang throws some kind of suction device at them, but Hawkeye destroys it with a blast arrow, catching himself quoting his nemesis Cap as he's doing it! Kang is watching the whole thing, admiring this team, thinking "I almost regret that they have...no chance!" Kang flips a switch and turns off the lights for the team, and then paralyzes Hawk and Wanda with some "energy rays". But Quicksilver escapes! Suddenly, he hears the voice of Captain America from Avengers Mansion (Kang still has a monitor on it), challenging Kang to bring him to him. (Cap had used the "recreater" to show him who had taken the Avengers) Ravonna happens to walk in and taunts Kang to bring Cap to the future, which forces poor ol' Kang to accept the challenge. Ravonna then grabs the controls, determining where exactly Cap will land, to "make the game more interesting". And it happens to be right in front of the fleeing Quicksilver.
Pietro is overjoyed to see Cap ("It's you! You've found us! I don't know how...but we're together again!" Hmm...Cap as Pietro's father figure?) Some guards come in, but Cap and Quicksilver make short work of them (Cap: "Move, Pietro! There can't be more than a dozen of them!"). Pietro gushes again, "I did not realize...until now...how much we missed you, Cap!"
Kang is now seriously annoyed. He dismisses his guards, wanting to take on the Avengers himself. His request is answered, as Cap and Quicky charge his lair. Big mistake. Kang had a force field around the "master control panel", and Kang halts Cap's shield in mid-air, expanding it, and throwing it back at Cap. (Yup, Giant Shield.) Pietro attacks Kang again, but is zapped by the "spectro wave."
Kang takes the opportunity to brag to Ravonna, demanding that she marry him..."by right of conquest." She reminds him that the other two Avengers are still around. Kang then threatens to obliterate her city-state with his army, perched right outside its walls. She is not impressed, but her father reminds her that for the good of their people, she should marry Kang. He says that Kang loves her...in his own way. Ravonna herself admits having an attraction for him, but his bad habits, like conquering, tend to cancel that out.
While Kang waits for her decision, Hawkeye shoots an arrow right above his head, taunting him. (Good ol' Clint.) The Scarlet Witch begins to mouth off at him, too. Kang has finally had enough of waiting, and orders his army to wipe out the city....
Avengers #24 (1965)
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Kang is ranting at Ravonna for rejecting his love. The Avengers, despite hopeless odds, are confident, standing with Ravonna. Kang's legions start attacking, and the Princess announces that they'll fight to the death. Hawkeye then taunts Kang with one of his greatest insults ever, especially in the face of their certain death: "Is THIS how you got the name, 'conqueror', Kang? Sendin' a thousand divisions against one helpless kingdom? That makes you NOTHIN' in MY book!" Kang takes this seriously, saying he really didn't want to do it. The Avengers try to capture him, but he slips away under cover of a smoke-like substance.
Of course, the Avengers aren't together for five minutes before Hawk says something smart-assed to Cap, but hey. Cap plans to study Kang's assault, and attack their weak points. Ravonna likes this idea, but her chief-of-staff wants to surrender, thinking that "four primitive Avengers" had no chance against Kang's army. In one of Cap's best cornball speeches, he says that "We may be savages...but we're not quitters" and tells them that if Ravonna will fight, she won't fight alone. The chief-of-staff is ashamed, and tells them that he'll fight to the end.
Kang leads the assault and uses his "delta-ray launcher" to crack the city's defense shields. Kang's army overruns the city, wiping out the defending army and all their protective devices. Kang's soldiers penetrate the throne room, but are met by the Avengers, defending Ravonna. After a vicious battle, the team is undone by some soldiers sneaking in from a secret entrance, taking out Hawkeye and Cap.
Kang takes the throne, and throws the team into prison. He's getting ready to marry Ravonna, but one of his advisers (named Baltag) tells him that "their code" says that they must kill all conquered monarchs. Kang tells him to buzz off, saying that he can make and break the rules however he pleases. Baltag then announces that Kang's other generals agree: kill Ravonna or else! Kang is none too amused, saying that they have one hour to change their minds and beg for mercy, or they'll be killed.
Kang muses on Ravonna, thinking that her love was the first thing to give him meaning after a bunch of empty conquests. Suddenly, he is attacked by a group of assassins, but he slips away. Kang realizes that he's friendless and outnumbered, so he seeks new allies...the Avengers! He frees Cap and offers to return them to the 20th century unharmed, if they fight for Ravonna. Cap sees through the ploy and also demands that he leave Ravonna's kingdom free as well. Kang agrees, only wanting Ravonna.
Kang and the Avengers then free Ravonna and the remaining members of the kingdom, and then raid the armory. Baltag is panicking, and the other generals know it. Knowing that Kang is leading the assault, they give up quickly, hoping for mercy. After defeating assorted guards, they prepare themselves for the final battle in the control room, against Baltag. When they get there, they see it's already over, thanks to Quicksilver.
Everything seems hunky-dory, as the Avengers are sent back to their time, and Kang makes good on his promise to free Ravonna and her kingdom. But as the Avengers are sent back, Baltag frees himself, picks up a gun, and is about to blow Kang away. But Ravonna, realizing that she really does love Kang, throws herself in front of the gun,
sacrificing herself and saving him. Alas poor Kang....
This issue really showed us why Kang was so powerful and well-regarded. When he's really serious about conquest, he's pretty tough to beat. But when he's fighting the Avengers, he always seems to hold back, trying to make it more competitive because he admires them so much. I think that Kang's problem is that he's easily bored and has never found anything really worth pursuing...his life has little meaning and he senses it. But did he truly love Ravonna, or did he love the challenge that she presented to him? Here was a person who would simply not bow down before him, even upon threat of destruction. Like the Avengers, she was brave in the face of overwhelming odds. Yet there's also a sense that there was something more, that Kang was on the verge of allowing himself to change. But this was certainly not the last we'd see of Ravonna.
--Clough the Conqueror