Avengers 173 was cover dated July 1978 and was on sale April 1978, sharing the spinner rack with All Star Comics #73, Black Panther# 10, DC Comics Present #1, Howard the Duck #26, Justice League of America #156 and The Man Called Nova #20.
Threshold of Oblivion was written by David Michelinie and drawn by Sal Buscema and opens with Iron Man chairing a meeting at Avengers Mansion. The majority of the team from the last couple of issues is gone so the roll call in this issue is Iron Man, Captain Mar-Vell, Golden Age hero the Whizzer and T’Challa: The Black Panther. Iron Man brings everyone up to date with the situation as he see’s it. Several Avengers have vanished, one by one all are unable to be found. As an emergency measure Iron Man is summoning former and reserve Avengers with Yellow Jacket, Wasp, Black Widow and Hercules arriving.
To make matters worse, the Avengers no longer have any security clearance and are unable to contact anyone using their communications frequencies. When Iron Man uses a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. frequency known only to Tony Stark, Nick Fury tells him that as long as the Avengers are without their priority status, S.H.I.E.L.D. have severed all ties with them, leaving them with no resources to solve the mystery of the missing Avengers.
In the suburbs, Michael waits. He watches the Avengers flailing around and the Guardians of the Galaxy (in their only appearance in this issue) guarding and protecting young Vance Astrovik. Michael tells Carina that all is happening according to his needs and he is soon to take proprietorship of the universe itself. Carina is sent away so Michael can concentrate and she begins to glow and it appears she is going to try to stop Michael, but she doesn’t she in fact believes in him now.
Michael searches the universe, seeing the Watcher, Odin of Asgard, Mephisto, Zeus of Olympus and even Eternity itself are completely unaware of his presence. He learns of Carina’s betrayal and confronts her, only to see love in her eyes and in his and realises he wants to and can do nothing. At the Mansion the temporary Avengers begin to go their seperate ways. Thor and Wonderman arrive, just as Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Yellowjacket vanish, as does Hercules and Black Widow. There’s a bit of an odd subplot with Thor not recognising Wonderman and not having been involved in the team’s last few adventures, even though he was in those issues. Black Panther, before he vanishes, suggests contacting Drydock and asking the Guardians of the Galaxy to help search for the missing Avengers. The only Guardian is Vance Astro who advises them that there is a 3 cubic metre construct in orbit
Using the Guardians’ teleport system, the Avengers are sent to the construct in space. Vance comments on the Avengers going to an area the size of a telephone booth. Inside the significantly larger interior, the missing Avengers and hidden inside tubes. In front of the tubes, monologuing about staying under ‘his’ radar, is the Collector, who proclaims that the Avengers have in fact, completed his collection.
Notes: A issue light on the Guardians of the Galaxy, with the only time we see the team being Michael’s search and the only scene with any of them in is a phone call to Vance Astro. But it does finally push the Korvac story forward and introduces the Collector into the mix. Michelinie is a good writer and seemlessly takes over from Shooter, but the art suffers in Perez’s absence, leaving the comic very much in a house-style limbo, but over all this is classic Avengers doing what classic Avengers does best.