The Avengers: Peril in Pittsburgh
Fifteen years later, one of those men—Joseph Conroy—still fondly remembers the day that Thor came to town. “I was shift foreman that night,” he tells a group of fellow steelworkers. “An’ when the Thunder God left, I found this tiny chip o’ Uru what’d flaked off. I been carrying it as a good luck piece ever since.”
Unfortunately for Conroy, his luck runs out shortly thereafter when he is intentionally tossed into a cauldron of molten steel, setting off a chain of events that would ultimately bring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to Pittsburgh in a double issue of The Avengers that was released by Marvel Comics in 1980.
One of those Avengers is already on hand in the Steel City as the narrative unfolds. As fate would have it, Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark has journeyed to Pittsburgh in order to inspect the Paretta Steel Mill, which the billionaire industrialist is considering purchasing. Stark has brought along Simon Williams, a.k.a. Wonder Man, who momentarily owned the facility as part of an inheritance from his father.
It is during their tour of the factory that Joseph Conroy—who had just gotten Wonder Man’s autograph for his young daughter Annie—meets his unfortunate demise. Conroy’s decent into the boiling cauldron inadvertently tips the crucible, sending a river of liquid metal to flood the area and trapping numerous employees in its path. Before Tony Stark is able to sneak away and change into Iron Man, however, Wonder Man decides to play hero and rescue the steelworkers himself.
In honor of their fallen comrade—who everyone assumes has been the victim of an accident as opposed to foul play—a solitary ingot fabricated from the liquid lava that took Joseph Conroy’s life is placed in a makeshift memorial at the site of the Paretta Steel Mill. Whether due to a thirst for revenge or the tiny chip of Uru that Thor left behind in 1965, the evaporated remains of Joseph Conroy regenerate and burst through his grave marker in the humanoid form of living molten slag.
Wonder Man, joined now by Iron Man, attack the monster—nicknamed Inferno—but the strength of the creature is too great for the superheroes to handle. With no options remaining, Wonder Man activates an emergency beacon given to him by the Avengers, which sends a signal to New York City and a surprised Ms. Marvel and Captain America.
Although Inferno has the memories of Joseph Conroy, he is not a mere reincarnation of the former steelworker but a creature solely intent on revenge without any feelings or sympathy for those who stand in his way. Thus while Iron Man and Wonder Man are not able to physically defeat Inferno, they still must run damage control and rescue the various innocent civilians caught in his path.
The distraction also enables Inferno to track down one of the two men responsible for the death of Joseph Conroy—Tim Turpin, who literally tossed Conroy into the cauldron of molten steel. Turpin begs for his life, explaining that he was only following the orders of Vince Paretta, owner of the plant, but Inferno shows no mercy as he kills Turpin nonetheless.
In downtown Pittsburgh, meanwhile, a group of passersby have noticed something unusual above them. “Look, up in the sky!” a man exclaims. “It’s a bird!”
“It’s a plane!” a woman quickly chimes in.
“What’re you, high or somethin’?” a second woman rhetorically replies. “That’s an Avengers’ Quinjet!”
Captain America and Ms. Marvel—along with Vision, Wasp, Beast and the Falcon—have indeed arrived in Pittsburgh in answer to Wonder Man’s distress signal, and are immediately directed to the Liberty Bridge, where Inferno is in hot pursuit of Vince Paretta. Joined by Wonder Man and Iron Man, the Avengers attempt to stop the creature but are again thwarted by its raw strength.
Inferno is able to escape up the Duquesne Incline and disconnects a cable car, sending it down the hillside as another distraction. The Avengers realize they have no choice but to save the passengers, allowing Inferno to arrive at the Mount Washington home of Paretta unimpeded.
It turns out that Vince Paretta has been using his steel mill as a money laundering front for the Maggia crime syndicate while also operating a crooked numbers racket on the side. Joseph Conroy had discovered his boss’ criminal activity and threatened to report Paretta to the police, so Paretta ordered Tim Turpin to kill Conroy before that could occur.
The Avengers, meanwhile, overhear Paretta’s confession to Inferno, and Captain America quickly informs the steel mill owner that he will be taken into custody once the creature has been defeated.
Inferno, however, simply turns and walks away from both Vince Paretta and the Avengers, apparently deciding that his mission has come to an end without the need for more death and destruction. With the memories of Joseph Conroy still running through his mind, he heads towards the Three Rivers of the Steel City and drowns himself. But thanks to the Avengers—as well as a small chip of Uru from Thor’s hammer—the death of Joseph Conroy will not go unanswered, with justice ultimately prevailing instead of revenge.