It's time for another installment of First Strike, recounting our favorite superheroes's first published battles with their most dangerous enemies! And for Earth's Mightiest Heroes, few were as consumed with their destruction as the vengeance-obsessed Grim Reaper!
As our comic opens, the Black Panther (just referred to as the Panther in this story) is dropping by Avengers Mansion, taking Captain America up on a recent offer to drop by and visit. However, he quickly senses something is wrong. His suspicions are confirmed as he finds several of the Avengers apparently dead, and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell happens to be on hand to arrest him. As word of the Avengers' deaths spreads, one man gloats - the Grim Reaper, who gleefully recalls the battle with the Avengers that seemingly claimed their lives. He ranted to his fallen foes that Wonder Man was his brother, and he struck down the Avengers in order to...um...avenge his sibling's death. The Grim Reaper now lies in wait at the mansion, awaiting the rest of the Avengers so he can eliminate them as well.
The Grim Reaper isn't exactly an arch-foe of the Avengers, but he's been one of their major enemies since his debut. He was one of the many Marvel villains I discovered thanks to the Captain America and the Avengers arcade game, which did a lot to get me interested in comic books. Coincidentally. he was also the villain of the first two Avengers comics I ever read, so I've always had a soft spot for the guy. Unlike some of their other foes, the Grim Reaper is almost a tragic villain who genuinely believed that the Avengers had killed his brother and refused to be persuaded otherwise. While he's no powerhouse, certainly not when compared to the likes of Ultron or Thanos, he can still go toe-to-toe with some of the Avengers' most skilled members, which is impressive. The whole "mostly dead" gimmick is overly convoluted, but the Grim Reaper's twisted logic sorta makes sense. Fortunately, this was the only appearance of his multi-colored costume - in all his later appearances, he would sport his distinctive darker outfit.