Avengers 174 was was cover dated August 1978 and went on sale in May 1978, sharing the spinner racks with Aquaman #63, Devil Dinosaur #5, Flash #264, Marvel Preview #14: Featuring Star-Lord, Mr Miracle #25 and World’s Finest #252.
Captives of the Collector was written by Bill Mantlo and pencilled by Dave Wenzel and picks up right where the last one ended with The Collector boasting about how his Avengers collection is now complete. He seems pleased that three Avengers have arrived, an olympic level archer, a man in a start of the art combat armour and the god of thunder are in front of him and are ready to kick his head in and he’s… happy about that? Ok Wasp is there too, but doesn’t really doesn’t contribute too much to the story. Well as you can imagine, there follows a fight. It’s a long fight taking up the majority of the issue, with the Collector using different tools and objects in his collection to keep the Avengers at bay. Thor, Wasp and Iron Man are defeated, leaving the only defense against the Collector as Hawkeye.
There’s a dinosaur, there’s lots of action and it’s well paced, finally Hawkeye figures out that the Collector isn’t as full of power as he boasts and wears him down, finishing him off with a stun arrow.
Hawkeye frees and revives the Avengers and they all confront the collector. The Collector gives a brief history of himself. He is an Elder of the Universe, old beyond measure. They sort of remind me of the First Ones from Babylon 5. The Collector has the power of prophecy so whilst his brothers and sisters amuse themselves (The Champion chooses sport, the Games Master chose games of chance etc etc) he saw what was coming. He foresaw the coming of the mad titan Thanos and hid his wife and daughter on a quiet world. Whilst he hid with his collection. When Thanos was defeated, the Collector relaxed, but then another newer threat arose.
Meanwhile, Michael confronts Carina and realises that while she was about to betray him, she loves him deeply. He believes her and realises that the Collector is about to clue the Avengers in to his existence and he prevents that by completely destroying the Collector and then announces to Carina “You are an orphan.”
Notes: This is an action packed issue, but all the important stuff happens in the last few pages. Michael has been a passive threat, just biding his time and waiting. Now he’s acting, with a wave of a hand destroying one of the Elders of the Universe. Now he is revealed to be a cosmic level threat and the Avenger still don’t know he’s there. It’s set out like an episode late into a series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Smallville, where the over arcing plot is becoming more and more part of each episode building towards a finale. The best is yet to come.