The Terminus Factor
Year: Circa 1990
Issues: Captain America Annual # 9, Iron Man Annual # 11, Thor Annual # 15, Avengers West Coast Annual # 5, Avengers Annual # 19
Crucial Backstory Terminus is a giant malevolent space alien/robot with a power lance. When last seen, he was hauled deep into outer space and separated from the lance by Quasar.
The Gist Tiny Terminii nanobyte bacteria evolve their way up the food chain until eventually super-duper huge space robot Terminus tries to destroy the Earth by sucking its juice with his power lance. Don't worry though: the Avengers stop him, and Terminus shrinks into a black hole. Boo-yah!
Back-Up Features A jokey "Media Watch" strip that shows news anchors reporting on Terminii/Terminus' destruction.
Part 1: Captain America Annual # 9 Captain America has some free time, apparently, and decides to accompany a certain Dr. Napier aboard a special subterranean capsule designed to sink through volcanic magma deep into Earth's crust. Somehow, however, the capsule sets off a massive explosion and only a quick rescue by a nearby Iron Man keeps the vessel from being destroyed. Unfortunately, the explosion vents long-buried particles into a nearby stream, and they quickly infect fish and the people who eat fish at a celebratory fish-fry (GO VEGAN!). Although Captain America is too tired from his near-death experience to eat, Tony Stark/Iron Man chows down and becomes an infected zombie like the rest of the townsfolk. Iron Man and Captain America have an exciting fight (honest), until C.A. realizes that exposing infected people to intense cold cures them.
Part 2: Iron Man Annual # 11 In a nearby workshop, Machine Man tries to repair the fem-droid Jocasta after her decapitation in the previous big crossover (I'll get to it someday). Unfortunately for him, the continually-evolving Terminii nanos have infected a bear, turning its flesh into metal and giving it a taste for titanium. The infected bear attacks, killing Machine Man's friend, psychiatrist Peter Spaulding. Machine Man is forced to flee to a nearby factory, which just so happens to be that of Sunset Bain (secretly "Madame Menace"). But even more just so happening is the fact that one Tony Stark is touring that factory. While Madame Menace captures and duplicates Machine Man, Tony Stark suits up and manages to stop the infected bear--though this time, it's heat that stops it instead of cold.
Part 3: Thor Annual # 15 Thor and Hercules fly to San Franciso, alerted by Tony Stark that the Terminni are attacking a nuclear power plant. There, the individual Terminii feed on the plant's energy or something (my notes are sketchy here), merge together, and evolve into a 150-foot sized Terminii robot. Hercules tries to hold it off while Thor flies into outer space to see what happened to the Terminus that Quasar left there. Thor gets gobsmacked, and outer-space Terminus steals his hammer and returns to Earth. An origin story for Terminus is presented here, but once again--sketchy notes. Try Wikipedia or something.
Part 4: Avengers West Coast Annual # 5 The original, 1940s android Human Torch gets his powers back. Meanwhile, and far more interestingly, space-Terminus and recently-evolved Terminii clash and the two 150-foot tall robots leave havoc in their wake. The Avengers West Coast (new school) or West Coast Avengers (old school) try to keep the two separated--Hank Pym even has a goofy plan involving giant mirrors that temporarily tricks them into fighting mirages. But eventually, the two merge into a single 300-foot tall new-and-improved Terminus. A.K.A., it is on!
Part 5: Avengers Annual # 19 Super-sized McTerminus heads to St. Louis, which is the center of North America and the best spot for his plan to drain the continent of its energy. Now, however, he has to face not only the West Coast and East Coast Avengers, but also the rarely-seen Great Lakes Avengers! (this is actually one of the few times I can remember Steve Rogers Captain America fighting side-by-side with John Walker U.S.Agent) Even the Avengers Assembled, however, have little luck stopping Terminus until Thor wakes up in outer space and summons his hammer back to him--since it's currently inside Terminus' body, the entire monster suddenly flies up into space. Quasar flies along to help Thor out, and manages to separate Terminus from his power lance again, which causes the Big-T to start feeding on his own body's energy until he collapses into nothingness.
The Bottom Line: Is This Worth Tracking Down? I kid because I love, but yeah, there's not really a lot here to justify the effort. It's true that these issues are cheap and easy to find online, but this is pretty standard heroes vs. giant robot stuff for the most part. The idea of the Terminni evolving each issue is kind of interesting, and I liked seeing all three Avengers groups together in the same fight. Also, the death of Machine Man supporting character Peter Spauling was a nice suprise. Otherwise though, the crossover didn't have any lasting ramifications or important character development.