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STEELSKULLS

Membership: At least 16 unnamed armored mercenaries

Purpose: Mercenaries serving their employer the Grim Reaper (and, indirectly, Count Nefaria)

Affiliations: Atlas (Eric Josten), Count Nefaria (Luchino Nefaria), Grim Reaper (Eric Williams), the Maggia, Taskmaster, Wonder Man (Simon Williams)

Enemies: Avengers (Goliath/Hank Pym, Iron Man/Tony Stark, Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff, Triathlon/Delroy Garret Jr., Vision/"Victor Shade", Warbird/Carol Danvers, Wasp/Janet Van Dyne), Inner Guard (Benedict, Fawkes, Monmouth), Madame Masque (Guiletta Kristina Nefaria)

Base of Operations: Presumably prison, but their first and only major fight took place near Madame Masque's sanctuary in the Nevada desert, south of Las Vegas

Powers/Abilities: None...every one of the Steelskulls uses high-tech guns and weaponry. They wore body armor and helmets, and they had access to jet-packs.

First Appearance: Avengers III#32 (September 2000)

History:

(Avengers III#32 - BTS) - The men who would form the Steelskulls were all graduates of the Taskmaster's training academy, handpicked by the Grim Reaper (Eric Williams) as his personal henchmen. Provided with stylised skull armor, advanced fire arms and jetpacks, the Steelskulls trained with the Reaper in preparation for their first mission.

(Avengers III#31 - BTS) - Count Nefaria (Luchino Nefaria) ordered the Grim Reaper to deliver his daughter Madame Masque (Guiletta Kristina Nefaria) to him. In order to draw out the elusive, paranoid Maggia leader, the Reaper went to great lengths to organise a meeting of all the major Maggia figures in Chicago, where he planned to kidnap her. However, not only did the Avengers disrupt the meeting, the Madame Masque who attended also turned out to be a clone that committed suicide as soon as the Reaper tried to capture her.

(Avengers III#32 - BTS) - The Grim Reaper managed to beat the location of the real Madame Masque out of the underlings that had accompanied her clone to the Maggia meeting. Learning of the existence of  Sanctuary, a hidden base located in a butte in the Nevada desert, the Grim Reaper assembled the Steelskulls and set off. They used an advanced VTOL aircraft equiped with cloaking fields to ensure they could approach the base undetected.

(Avengers III#32 - BTS) - The craft's cloak wasn't strong enough to keep SHIELD from detecting the Grim Reaper's movements. The spy agency informed the Avengers of the Reaper's destination, figuring the team would be best suited to deal with him.

(Avengers III#32) - Moments after arriving at the base of Madame Masque's butte headquarters, the Reaper quickly ordered the Steelskulls to fan out and surround the structure. He informed them he would tell them where to strike to kill Masque's defences, which was something he had coaxed out of her men before killing them. Steelskulls squad A was about to break out their jetpacks when they were surprised by the Avengers who had been waiting for them. Seeing the heroes momentarily startled the Steelskulls, angering the Grim Reaper who called them idiots and miserable losers for freezing up. The Steelskulls quickly overcame their hesitation and joined their boss in his attack on the Avengers.

(Avengers III#32) - The Avengers tore through the Steelskulls with a vengeance. Goliath disabled five by jumping on them, the Scarlet Witch used a single hex to take out four more and even Triathlon managed to dispatch four of them within seconds. Despite the Grim Reaper barking rallying instructions, telling them to focus on hitting Goliath, the Steelskulls were unable to beat even a single Avenger. Realising he was fighting a losing battle, the Grim Reaper decided to retreat to the ship and leave the Steelskulls behind to ensure his getaway. Reaper was stopped by Vision, just as Madame Masque finally became aware of the fighting going on outside her sanctuary. She sent out her robotic Innerguard to deal with what she perceived were invaders. As the remaining Steelskulls tried to hold their own against both the Avengers and this latest threat, Count Nefaria arrived on the scene, accompanied by his ionic thralls Wonder Man and Atlas. The Count had come to collect his daughter personally.

(Avengers III#33) - Bolstered by the arrival of the supremely powerful Nefaria and his ionic slaves, the Steelskulls got back in the fight. However, in an attempt to clear the crowded battlefield somewhat, the Wasp ordered Iron Man and the other heavy hitters to focus on Atlas and Wonder Man, while Triathlon, Goliath and herself would take care of the Steelskulls. The threat of the Steelskulls was ended by Goliath, who used his size control powers to enlarge a stun blaster that knocked out the remaining mercenaries with a single volley. Eventually, Nefaria grew tired of what he considered a pointless confrontation and left with Atlas and Wonder Man in tow. The Grim Reaper also tried to flee, but was stopped by Warbird who figured he might try to sneak out waited for him inside his airship and knocked him out. In the aftermath of the fight, the Steelskulls were lying unconscious on the battlefield, surrounded by the smoldering parts of the robots that made up Madame Masque's Innerguard.

Comments: Created by Kurt Busiek, George Pérez & Paul Ryan, Al Vey.

Just how many Steelskulls there were is a bit of a guessing game, considering they all dressed the same, didn't wear nametags and had their faces covered by a giant skull. One wonders how the Reaper managed to keep them all apart. Judging from their initial confrontation with the Avengers, there were at least 16 of them. What happened to them after the fight is another unanswered question. The Avengers only took the Grim Reaper back to the Mansion for questioning, so provided they all survived the fight, it's more than likely a SHIELD clean up crew arrived to take them into custody (and the hospital).

While they were at least visually interesting, the Steelskulls really were little more than a sorry bunch of hirelings. It does make you wonder how good the Taskmaster really is at his job, considering so many of his graduates perform terribly in the field. Still, a teacher's only as good as his pupils' capacity... and when you figure he mostly recruits riffraff from society's underbelly, one can't expect too much. Still, sending inexperienced, underpowered henchmen like the Steelskulls to fight Earth's mightiest heroes and a paranoid crimelord's cybernetic cabal sounds like a sure fire way to end up dead. Well, at least they were already dressed for the part.

Profile by Norvo. Original profile by Proto-Man and Snood.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Steelskulls has no known connections to


images: (without ads)
Avengers III#32, p14, pan2 (main)
Avengers III#32, p14, pan3 (shocked)
Avengers III#33, p13, pan6 (defeated)


Appearances:
Avengers III#32 (September, 2000) - Kurt Busiek(writer), George Perez, Paul Ryan(pencils), Al Vey(inks), Tom Brevoort(editor)
Avengers III#33 (October, 2000) - Kurt Busiek(writer), George Perez, Paul Ryan(pencils), Al Vey(inks), Tom Brevoort(editor)


Last updated: 10/09/13.

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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