Let's get back to that List!
Today, we check out Dark Reign- The List: Secret Warriors #1, Dark Reign: Zodiac #3, and Blast to the Past for Avengers Spotlight # 26, Avengers #311, and Avengers West Coast #53. Enjoy and spread the word!
Alright. It's time to end of few Dark Reign mini-series and continue a pseudo crossover/ brief meeting.
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Let's check out that pseudo crossover thing:
Dark Reign- The List: Secret Warriors #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Ed McGuinness
In this issue, Nick Fury infiltrates Avengers Tower after having a talk with his back-up, John Garrett. He gets just a little help from Ares. Fury wakes Norman Osborn from his blissful slumber and the two compare lists before getting down to business. HAMMER arrests Seth Waters. They find a lot of evidence involving funneling funds to secret accounts and also a wierd data retrieval thing that they can't do anything with. Bullseye gets to torturing after Waters realizes Nick Fury is involved. Osborn hands that data device over to Nick Fury to look at. Seth Waters reveals his secret employer, "Leviathan," and Nick gives Garrett the order to blow off Waters' head. Nick makes his escape from Avengers Tower, again with a little help from Ares, and attaches that data device to his own computer to get the skinny on this ultra-secret spy group.
Right off the bat, we learn that this issue takes place AFTER the events of Secret Warriors #9 which isn't out at this issue's release. That's ok. It's fairly typical of the "The List" one-shots to come in completely out-of-order. The Avengers one is an even greater offender. What did we miss from SW #9? Off the top of my head, just the meeting between Garrett and Seth Waters. That meeting was set up in #8, which we've already read, so we already sort of know who Seth Waters is. For those that missed my back story info on him, he was a low-level SHIELD Agent who appeared in Cable #60 before drifting into obscurity. Waters has since left SHIELD and is working for the US Department of the Treasury, using his wife's contacts to secure himself the position.
Waters will be important later in this issue. Right now, Garrett and Waters' meeting is in the past and it raised too many red flags to ignore. To that end, Nick Fury is about to infiltrate Avengers Tower.
Yeah. Avengers Tower. It's frickin' awesome.
Nick Fury has access to a lot of old SHIELD tech which is why he's currently riding shotgun in a flying Ford Mustang. In the driver's seat is the previously mentioned John Garrett. Garrett was called in for his specific skills which are probably related to the fact that he's a cyborg. We'll see those skills employed later in this issue. For now, he's recieving some important instructions from Nick Fury. If this goes bad, Garrett is to kill Nick Fury, get in contact with Dum-Dum Dugan, and initiate the Endgame. With that, Fury jumps out of his flying car.
The special equipment he's wearing for this infiltration are going to make sure he doesn't end up a pancake out in front of the Avengers Tower lobby. He's able to grab on to the north side of the tower, find an entrance, and get inside. It's fairly standard spy stuff but it's good to see that Nick Fury hasn't lost his edge. He even has to take out to HAMMER Agents patrolling the hallway in order to get their pass card and he does it without making too much of a racket.
It's only when he uses that key card that he runs into a snag. The Dark Avenger we all know and love as Ares is waiting for him. This is make or break time. Ares and Nick have a history and we're not exactly sure if that means we're in for a fight or Nick gets a free pass.
This time, it's a free pass. Ares allows Nick entry to this very special of rooms. For that favor, Nick tells Ares to meet him the next day. Yes, this has an effect on future issues of Secret Warriors. We'll get there eventually!
This room, the one guarded by the greek god of war, is Norman Osborn's bedroom. It's time to wake the beast... errr... goblin... Stormin' Norman.
Let's get rid of the macho stuff first. Norman is just a bit flustered to find Nick Fury right beside his bed. This is why he posts numerous guards (like, maybe, a greek god of war) and pays for the best security money can buy. Nick got through it with relative ease. There's no love between these two. Norman doesn't really respect the people he's replaced. Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and Tony Stark. They all lost this job and, for that, they're losers in his eyes. Ozzy shows the super spy his "List." Since this is probably the first time it's shown on panel, let's go down that list one by one.
Neutralize Clint Barton (done)
Eliminate Daredevil (kind of done?)
Kill Namor (failure)
Kill Frank Castle (to do)
Kill Nick Fury (hey, look at that)
Neutralize Bruce Banner (to do)
Control the world (to do)
Kill Spider-Man (best for last)
Nick has heard all about this list thing. He even made up his very own list so that they could maybe compare notes. Nick's list?
Save the world
Punch Norman in the face
Have a beer
Man, it's good to have goals, isn't it?
With the tough guy stuff out of the way, Fury tells Osborn it's time to get down to business. He can always kill Fury later, after all.
So that brings us to Washington D.C. and the US Department of the Treasury. Guess who's working late hours? That's right: Seth Waters. By the time HAMMER Agents arrive on the scene, Waters has a gun to his head and is telling them what he believes are his last words. "Tell my wife I never cared. Not one damn bit."
It's funny because his wife got him this job.
Waters isn't going to commit suicide. He doesn't have the chance. There aren't just HAMMER Agents in front of him. There's also that guy behind him who knocks him unconscious before any bullets can fly through any brains. From there, it's a quick trip back to Avengers Tower for some... advanced interrogation techniques.
Ms. Hand fills us in on Seth Waters' provable crimes. Waters had twenty billion dollars funneled into various accounts. The question is: why? Also: for who? Waters' office didn't yeild any evidence. The only thing out of the ordinary that was picked up was what looks like a jump drive with a funny coat hanger on it. This was attached to Seth Waters' computer but they don't know what to do with it. Apparently, the tech is beyond them and they can't access whatever's on the device.
Norman Osborn enters the room and tries his own hand at getting information from Waters. Waters isn't intimidated by Norman Osborn. In fact, he doesn't really seem to think much of America's Top Cop. No, Waters is more interested in finding out how he was discovered. After all, he doesn't think HAMMER could have figured him out or even paid that much attention to him. He asks Norman if they found that data drive even though he knows they have just like he knows that have no way of accessing the information within. The question remains. How did they...
And then it dawns on him. Norman didn't find him out. Nick Fury did. Waters realizes that Nick Fury is watching this whole thing behind the mirrored glass. Norman takes that to mean that Seth Waters is Hydra. This isn't true and the fact that Norman's drawn that conclusion amuses Seth more than anything else. Waters is part of something much larger than Hydra. Something more dangerous.
So, what would that thing be? Ozzy knows just how to find that out. He has Bullseye get to work. Lester sits down and drops 500 toothpicks on the table. It's time for some target practice.
While Bullseye fires toothpicks into Seth's face, Norman and Nick have a little conversation.
There is absolutely no trust here, by the way. Norman is still planning on killing Fury off but not right now. There are too many unanswered questions at the moment. One of those would have to do with this unaccessable data drive. Nick asks to see the thing. Norman hesistates but hands the thing over when he realizes that Nick has no way of escape.
Once the drive is in Nick's hands, Seth Waters is ready to spill his guts out. Nick and Norman tune in to hear the name of Seth's employer. Seth gets the time to utter one word.
With that, Fury gives John Garrett the kill order and Seth's head explodes. Garrett hooked himself up to a very special gun that shot through the walls to hit its target. It also left Bullseye, who would have been next in line to be hit by the bullet, unharmed. Lester just got sprayed with blood and brains.
Osborn is pissed at the loss of an informant especially since it was on Fury's order. Nick reacts quicker than Norman. He slugs Osborn in the face and races for the door while Garrett keeps the cover fire going. HAMMER Agents are dropping left and right.
Fury smashes through a nearby window and drops onto the hood of John Garrett's car. He jumps into the driver's seat for their getaway while Garrett deals with the HAMMER choppers making their way to intercept. One helicopter slips through Garrett's fire and starts firing back at the spies. Suddenly, an axe smashes through the front of the chopper. The helicopter makes it's way in for a landing as smoke billows out from the windshield.
Which is actually sort of odd. The axe penetrates the windshield and that's about it. The worst it should do is make it hard for the pilot to see anything. Still, we've got smoke so maybe they kept vitally important systems near that windshield.
Nick's not sure what just happened but when John points out Ares, Fury knows that there's a debt to be repaid there. Garrett asks him how everything went and Nick makes a joke about crossing something off his list (it's good to punch Norman and get away with it). No, but seriously, Nick is happy with the results of this mission.
This is, like, the longest day ever. Somehow, Nick and John are able to make it to Rome before the night is done. We later learn that Nick has access to a mini-helicarrier that has access to wormholes so maybe that's the case here. Regardless, Nick still has a meeting with Ares in the morning so distance and lack of sleep aren't really a problem for the super spy.
This is Nick Fury's secret base, Pieta (in Italian, that pretty much means "pity"). In this base, Nick has the right equipment to access that data drive. He boots it up on the big monitor and gets some inside information on Leviathan. What follows is locations on Leviathan's secret bases and something called the Great Wheel. Not only are Leviathan leaders listed on this wheel but so are top ranking Hydra and ex-SHIELD members as well as peole claiming no spy groups.
And there you have it. Norman Osborn again failed to remove something from his List. Looks like this Dark Reign is cracking up already.
This issue also reprints a cool little story from Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD by Stan Lee and Jim Steranko. It's a tale where Nick Fury dreams of fighting off an alien invasion. Wacky fun. It makes us all wish that Marvel would either reprint the out of print trades of this or at least collect it in Essential form. I really wish I could read more of it. :(
Dark Reign: Zodiac #3
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Nathan Fox
Last issue, Zodiac blew up the hospital holding Johnny Storm. This happened while the villain is having sex with Death Reaper. Fortunately, Johnny was being visited by his sister (also, Clint Barton and Hank Pym) and she was able to get an invisible forcefield up to save a few people and a few heroes. HAMMER Agent Murphy was on scene trying to figure out how this all happened and reported that he was pretty sure this was connected to the other case he investigated where 100 HAMMER Agents were found slaughtered in a warehouse. Osborn met with Murphy and pretty much shut him down. Quickly after this incident, Osborn found himself facing the return of Galactus which was all based on false signals sent off by Zodiac so that his gang would have run of New York City. Meanwhile, it wasn't Galactus that Norman has to deal with. It was Red Ronin.
In this issue, Agent Murphy gets downgraded! Red Ronin attacks Times Square! Ms. Marvel discovers no one is in the driver's seat! Marsdale gets some revenge! Zodiac steals something important! The Clown and Trapster steal and kill! Johnny Storm takes down Red Ronin! Zodiac monologues to Agent Murphy, revealing all his plans and secrets, before killing the poor HAMMER Agent! Norman spins everything in a positive way and Zodiac prepares to strike again!
Woah! Woah! Woah! Agent Murphy runs through the HAMMER Helicarrier in an attempt to stop Norman from going on a wild goose chase looking for Galactus. It turns out that the Galactus emergency was based on false signals being sent out by an outdated SHIELD program simulator. Unfortunately for poor old Murphy, everyone already knows this.
Norman's team had already figured out that the Devourer of Worlds wasn't actually showing up. The problem with this is that while his team was busy worrying about a galactic emergency, someone was able to slip Red Ronin into Times Square to cause some major damage. Further, Norman doesn't appreciate someone showing up after everything is sussed out and retreading old territory. Murphy dropped the ball here and he's about to suffer for it.
Norman demotes the HAMMER Agent and transfers him off of the Helicarrier and to a more inconsquential ground position. With that taken care of, Ozzy finishes suiting up in his Iron Patriot suit and gets ready to deal with the Reddest of all Ronins.
Already on the scene is the Dark Avenger we've come to know as Ms. Marvel... but are still more comfortable calling Moonstone. Red Ronin is pretty damn formidable (it was built to take out Godzilla) but there's nothing here that should do much damage to Karla unless she gets careless and drops into tangible territory. Still, she's not here to defeat the giant city smashing robot single-handedly. If so, this book would be called Ms. Marvel and we'd all be enjoying ourselves MUCH more. No, she's simply here to get a peek into Red Ronin's cockpit.
She blasts inside pretty easily. I suppose if someone were piloting this thing, this would be the end of this battle and the rest of the issue would be aftermath. No such luck. There's no one at the wheel. Red Ronin is on a preprogrammed course of action. That changes things considerably.
Through this wreckage drives our least favorite Mary-Sue of them all: Zodiac. If you haven't been paying attention, Zodiac can do anything because he's super awesome and never drops the ball ever. Right now, he's driving his Harley through New York to fulfill his part in his masterplan while his gang engages in super crime all over the city.
You see, when the cat's away, the mice will play. The same holds true if the cat is distracted by a giant city smashing robot.
With the city's defenses scrambling from the presumed Galactus emergency to the all too real Red Ronin emergency, Zodiac's gang is able to slip through the cracks, looting and pillaging while everyone else is panicking. Zodiac calls up his teammate, Manslaughter Marsdale, to see what his man is up to. Mars has decided to spend this time getting revenge on the boxer, Bobby Chance. Chance is responsible for Marsdale's first big defeat because the man refused to renew his boxing contract with Marsdale's boss, Madame Fang. This lead to the eventual showdown with Spider-Man. It's all very interesting. Currently, Bobby Chance is getting tortured like crazy at Marsdale's hands. Zodiac approves of all of this. Marsdale is his kind of villain. The villainy kind.
Iron Patriot has arrived on the scene but isn't really making much of a dent in Red Ronin's armor. Norman's suit can't go intangible, after all. That just means he's going to be swatted around a lot. While that's happening, Osborn gets an incoming call from Reed Richards. I wonder what Reed wants?
Zodiac has been racing around a non-descript corporate building looking for a particular room on a particular floor. Once he reaches it, he has to deal with one panicky guard who thought the world was supposed to be ending. Looks like it will be for that poor guard. Zodiac pulls out his knife. I bet he makes this moment last.
The Trapster and the Clown are busy doing an old fashioned bank job. With paste guns. Trapster is old school about all of this. He's not really a killer so much as he's a crook. To that end, he's incapacitated the guards without ending their lives. The Clown? He is here to get his jollies. That means shooting the defenseless guards in the face. Trapster questions that but doesn't really stop the Clown from living it up. Being a crook allows one some moral ambiguity. While Trapster takes his share of the loot and takes off, the Clown sticks around to get his hands even dirtier.
Norman is multitasking. While he's fighting Red Ronin, he's also talking to Mr. Fantastic. Reed is pleased to see that Ozzy figured out that the Galactus thing was a hoax but tells the HAMMER Director that consulting Reed would have resulted in figuring that out that much quicker. Richards tells Norman that his team is coming to help but Norman strictly forbids the Fantastic Four's involvement.
Johnny Storm doesn't get that message. He's back to fighting strength and really needs to unleash some hell. The Human Torch hits Red Ronin straight in the chest and the robot explodes into random bits of machinery.
I also need to mention that, while Nathan Fox draws some amazingly interesting panels, he draws the ugliest super heroes in the history of ugly super heroes. Never have I ever imagined Reed or Johnny looking this grotesque. Most of the other characters come out looking ok (mostly because no-one would think Norman Osborn was that good looking to begin with) but this is a seriously ugly Fantastic Two happening in these panels.
The end of this battle has Norman on the ground with Reed. Their conversation isn't all that friendly. Norman sees this as a terrorist attack (because it is) but Reed warns the HAMMER Director of making this a witch-hunt for all the wrong people. Ozzy doesn't want to hear this and takes off with a snide comment for the road.
We're not done QUITE yet. There's the matter of figuring out why we sat through three issues of this. Zodiac shows up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, wakes up Death Reaper, and then tells her that he's got one more thing to do before this is all done.
Which leads us right back to Agent Murphy. He's left the Helicarrier and is just setting up shop at his new location. It's underground below a barber shop on fifty-ninth and Madison. After taking a quick tour of the facilities, he walks into his office to learn he has a very special guest. Yeah, Zodiac.
Even in a HAMMER base of this low priority, there's some nice defenses and a staff of fully trained HAMMER Agents. They're no match for the Clown or Marsdale. That gives Zodiac a chance to do the whole monologue thing that was so popular with villains in the past. The difference here is that he's already done everything. He just needs someone to tell to make it legitimate. He chooses Murphy because the HAMMER Agents was the guy who connected most of the dots.
Mostly, Zodiac just makes a lot of noise about the rights of super villains and how it's anti-establishment and new age and blah blah blah. Still, there are some interesting nuggets of information here.
First up: the Clown. You weren't the only one to notice that the original Clown isn't the Clown anymore. The original guy is a member of Gamma Corps. The new Clown is actually an illegitimate brother to the original Clown. Zodiac confronted the Clown about this and thought it was completely awesome. After all, identity theft is an awesome crime.
And what about Manslaughter Marsdale? Mars follows Zodiac because he believes that Zodiac got him out of his coma. We all pretty much guessed that Zodiac put him in that coma to begin with but that fact remains obscured from Marsdale. Even more, Zodiac did it because he wanted Marsdale's analgesia (inability to feel pain) and got it through a blood transfusion. It's why Death Reaper's touch doesn't seem to hurt him.
We also get why Zodiac decided to take his current path down the criminal super highway. Oh, sure, he was always going to be a super villain. What Norman Osborn did was give his super villainy a drive it wouldn't have otherwise had. It turns out that Zodiac has lots of low-tech bugs hidden around Avengers Tower. Because of that, he got an inside look at Norman's Cabal and didn't like what he heard. Norman wanted the criminals to register, get their get-out-of-jail free cards, and give up their revenge schemes and agendas. That flies in the face of everything Zodiac has ever believed in. Poor, poor Mary Sue...
Oh, there's more. This whole thing? This crazy bit of chaos? It wasn't just chaos for chaos's sake. It was set up specifically so that Zodiac could steal...
The Zodiac Key.
That's what he was running around stealing while the rest of the world was busy worrying about Galactus and Norman's people were fighting Red Ronin. Now, this key is a damn powerful device. You might wonder if Zodiac is willing to use it. OF COURSE HE IS. He's a super awesome villain that way.
With that whole reveal out of the way, Zodiac of course kills Murphy. It's gonna be pretty bloody, too.
One day later, Norman is learning about the death of a bunch of low-level HAMMER Agents in a low-level HAMMER base. The Agent telling him all this is sort of flippant, but Norman takes it pretty seriously. This week has NOT been good for him and he's going to be on television selling his version of events for at least the next week to make it all look great again. His limo driver, Dave Cannon, smiles when Norman mentions that he still doesn't know what's going on. Cannon was Zodiac's inside man, after all. He turned over information not for money, but because he really hates Norman Osborn.
Zodiac is watching television later on when he gets to hear just how Norman is working this situation out. It's certainly not by revealing the truth. That's ok by Zodiac. He's enjoying this little game.
And that was the last we ever saw of Zodiac.... or, IS it?
We can hope. ;)
Avengers Spotlight #26
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Penciler: Dwayne Turner
In this issue, the Wizard gets dropped off at the Vault, gets the ten-cent tour, meets a secret benefactor, and finds himself back in his power suit and ready to smash Guardsmen! The Vault is quickly overrun by escaping criminals and outside communication is almost completely shut down. Only one Guardsman is able to get his helmet radio up and running so that he can get a message out to the Avengers. Iron Man shows up quickly but isn't well trusted by the Guardsmen because of his past actions in the Vault. Hawkeye shows up soon after and there's even less trust from that quarter. That means super-hero misunderstanding! THAT means super-hero FIGHT! Iron Man bests the archer and the two decide to work together to rescue the Guardsmen. Once outside, Iron Man signals the bars shut and the Vault locked down and Hawkeye cements the deal by using an EMP arrow to make sure no-one is able to reopen those locked doors.
I'll let you know right now before we go full on into the Acts of Vengeance: It's all Loki's doing. Yes, that guy showing up in numerous Acts of Vengeance books in a suit is Loki in disguise. I know! It's such a surprise! I've now just spoiled a 20-year-old book like it came out last week.
In the Rocky Mountain range of Colorado lies THE place for your super-powered incarcerated criminals: The Vault. It's not a pretty prison. It's a big white block surrounded by four pillar towers. Most of the good stuff is well underground, anyway. State of the art prison systems for today's super villain, this place was a very effective prison, known for it's ability to keep it's criminals locked up tight. At this point in it's life, the Vault had only experienced one major prison escape and that was Iron Man's fault during his Armor Wars.
Now, we're going to visit its second major escape. Ready? Here we go.
It all starts with the Vault recieving a new prisoner. The Wingless Wizard. We all know and love him as the leader of the Frightful Four and enemy of the Fantastic Four. Here, he's just another prisoner that most of the Vault's guards, the Guardsmen, don't even recognize. The Vault is also getting the rest of the Frightful Four (Hydro-Man, Klaw, and Titania) but the Wizard is being fast-tracked through the system to get locked up.
People underestimate the Wizard. He doesn't have powers of his own, after all. By that criteria, he shouldn't even be IN the Vault. He should be in a regular prison. The problem is that the Wizard is super resourceful. He's used to escaping before anyone has even realized he's gone. With that in mind, Frank Ensign, the Guardsman Prime, suits up to show the Wizard to his cell. Ensign makes sure Wizard knows his place before taking the elevator down to Level Five Containment.
The Vault is anything but empty. As Guardsman Prime escorts his prisoner to the appropriate cell, they pass the Griffin, Angar the Screamer, and the Armadillo. There are cell dampeners in place preventing these super powered villains from attempting an escape. Frank is fairly flippant with his treatment of the Wizard and it's probably not that he doesn't respect the Wizard's abilities so much as he's trying to break the Wizard down for his stay. Unfortunately, his attitude just gains him the Wizard's ire. There will be vengeance later.
Once the Wiz is safely behind bars, Guardsman Prime returns to the control room, leaving the Wizard to examine his cell. Sure enough, the Wizard can't find any easy ways out. That just means he'll have to try harder. Or... maybe he'll get a special visitor. It's a man in a green suit wearing a fedora who offers him a deal.
Ensign returns to the control room. Everyone congratulates him on his speech to the Wizard. One of the Guardsmen starts talking about how powerful their brand new Guardman Armor is. They got new suits from Stane International after Iron Man broke into the Vault and deactivated his armor during Armor Wars. Frank believes the Stane armor is a pale imitation of the earlier Stark-provided suits. Soon, those Stane suits will be put to the test.
On the monitor, they see that Wizard seems to be talking to himself in an agitated fashion. It looks like he's either gone crazy or he's working on an escape. Whichever it is, Frank Ensign flies off to deal with it.
When Guardsman Prime gets there, he finds that the Wizard is back in his power-suit and has already broken out of his cell. Fully powered up, the Wizard walks all over Ensign. During the beatdown, Frank gets pushed near enough to Mr. Hyde's cell that the villain is able to pull him close and set him up for a sucker punch by the Wizard. After a bit of gloating, the Wizard leaves the defeated Guardsman and begins breaking fellow prisoners out.
The rest of the Guardsmen rush in to fight this prison break but find themselves outnumbered.
While the Guardsmen are getting their cans thoroughly kicked, the support staff is trying to call in some help. Unfortunately, the Vault's power supply cables have been cut and their silent alarms have failed. No one on the outside knows what's going on and the Vault's back-up generators are already shutting down. Warden Hardsman is confident that he was able to get a call out before the phone lines went black but, unfortunately for him, they only got a call out to Damage Control.
Communication with the outside would is almost completely neutralized. Only the quick thinking of Guardman Prime is going to save the day. Frank pulls off his helmet and starts fixing his helmet radio so that he'll be able to call out for help. His call is picked up by Peggy Carter at Avengers Island but when she asks Ensign to repeat his message, she gets no further reply.
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Penciler: Dwayne Turner
The Vault is closer to the West Coast Avengers than their East Coast counterparts so it's no wonder that Iron Man is one of the first to respond to the emergency. There's few more appropriate, either. Stark is responsible for the last breakout and is also responsible for the Guardsmen wearing inferior armored suits. Even though he's claiming that the Iron Man that had originally broken into the Vault is dead and that the current Iron Man is brand new to the job, this cover story isn't believed by many people.
For example, when Iron Man comes to Frank Ensign's rescue, the Guardsman Prime isn't exactly happy to see old Shellhead. They don't have that much time to talk. First, Iron Man has to defeat Orca. He does this with two close range repulsor blasts to Orca's head. That done, Stark successfully reconnects back-up power only to find that his problems are just beginning. It looks like the Guardsmen have all been defeated and were discarded in a pile.
Tony Stark isn't the only Avenger to show up. This book is pretty much Hawkeye's so he's going to have to be here somewhere. Instead of running to the rescue of the Guardsmen, Clint breaks into the control room to rescue the rest of the staff. He tells them that the Army has already shown up and surrounded the place. That's stopped many of the minor league villains from getting out but there were a lot of breakouts prior to the military showing up. There were also those that are even now too strong for conventional weapons to stop them.
It's the minor league bad guys that are the current problem. Barton is going to try and get these people out and they're going to have to fight through some bad guys to do it. That's ok. Clint Barton is anything but minor league. He's able to get the control room staff out without incident.
While Hawkeye is doing that little thing, Shellhead is gathering up Guardmen and defending them from the likes of Whirlwind. After that's taken care of, Tony's trying to figure out a plan to get these guys topside when Hawkeye interrupts him. The bowslinger doesn't even try to give Stark a chance to explain. He just remembers what Iron Man did last time he was here and starts firing arrows.
This is always a good time, by the way. Hawkeye made his first appearance in the pages of Tales of Suspense as one of Iron Man's villains. Granted, he was a misunderstood bad guy but it's still always fun to see these two return to their roots and start fighting each other.
Iron Man tries to explain himself and even tries to tell Clint that he's not the same Iron Man that broke into the Vault last time. That's not going to work. Clint knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man. Even though Stark's fellow West Coasters pretend to believe the lie that the new Iron Man isn't the old one, no-one is actually fooled by this. Hawkeye really sets Tony off by saying Stark is only pretending to be a cripple.
That's a sore subject for the Iron Avenger. Up until very recently, he was very much a cripple. No lying. With that remark, Iron Man stops trying to explain himself and just decides to win this battle. Since it's frickin' Iron Man, the fight is over quickly.
Iron Man holds a repulsor gauntlet to Clint's head and gives him one last chance to help out. Clint realizes that, maybe, Iron Man isn't responsible for this particular break-out and agrees to help out. He's not letting Tony off the hook, though. There's a reason these Guardsmen went do so quickly. They were in inferior gear. Because of that, Clint holds Iron Man responsible for this mess.
He's got a point, of course. So does Scarecrow who's just snuck up on him.
Scarecrow is another old villain who first appeared in Iron Man's comic. I believe he's more identified as a Cap villain at this point but it's still like old home week for Iron Man.
Since Tony just lifted every Guardman up on a platform, he really can't help Hawkeye out with this and asks Clint to take care of it himself. Hawkeye does this pretty quickly, points a nice pointy arrow at Scarecrow, and coaxes the bad guy back into his cell.
On the way out, Iron Man is handling the heavy lifting, carrying all those unconscious Guardsmen on his impromtu platform, so he's expecting Hawkeye to deal with any trouble the come across on the way. They take only one wrong turn on the way out before reaching the surface.
Once outside, Iron Man switches the Vault into emergency shutdown. This closes all the cell doors, shuts all those restraining walls, and seals off any other breaches with a titanium/concrete blend. The only problem is that this can all be countered on the inside. They need to find a way to make it more permanent.
Hawkeye thinks for a moment before pulling out a very special Pym-built arrow. Knowing Hank Pym, it's probably called the Pym Arrow. What it actually is would be an EMP arrow. When fired, it'll short out any electrical device in the area. Clint doesn't give anyone anytime to respond to the idea. He just shoots the thing at the Vault. This makes it so that no one on the inside can counter the emergency shutdown. On the outside, it shuts down Clint's hearing aid and puts the kibosh on Tony's armored suit.
Iron Man crashes to the ground in his useless armor. He tells Clint that he would have liked some warning but Barton can't hear him. Tony hopes that the rest of the Avengers show up before the EMP fails.
Again, Hawkeye can't hear him.
It's a win but I bet they don't tell their grandkids about it.
Writer: John Byrne
Penciler: Paul Ryan
In this issue, Quasar returns to Avengers Island after facing his own Acts of Vengeance and finds that the place is empty of all but support staff. Loki meets with the rest of his colleagues who all believe themselves to be the mastermind behind this plan. Avengers Island is attacked by a platoon of robots who smash through it multiple times until it begins to sink. Quasar and the civilians begin their losing battle for the Island. In outer space, Starfox infiltrates his niece's ship and sees that she has plans for a particular earthling. On earth, the Avengers support staff (and Quasar) fend off the attack but the damage is too severe to save the island. A bomb placed near the jet fuel tanks makes that end come even sooner but at least the support staff is able to escape before the island falls completely into the sea.
Avengers Island isn't a real island. I mean, sure, it's an island it's just not real. The artificial island isn't attached to the ocean floor and is supported by a large number of floatation devices. It has been the Avengers headquarters ever since the mansion was wrecked by the Masters of Evil. Captain America signed on a support staff to handle calls and look after the place when the rest of the Avengers were absent.
One of those times would be right now. Quasar flies to the island after facing a recent Acts of Vengeance-related attack of his own in his own book and finds that he's the only Avenger on site. The rest of the Avengers seem to be dealing with their own battles. Quasar heads to the communications room to see what's going on. Peggy Carter and M'Daka are already there and the three of them are soon joined by Fabian Stankowitz. The talk of the day is, of course, the Acts of Vengeance. The premise behind these attacks are that heroes are finding themselves facing off against villains they've never (or rarely) fought before.
Nowadays, a battle between the Wrecker and Iron Man, for example, would seem like the norm, but at the time it was a novelty. The same thing is happening with pretty much every hero. Spidey even went toe-to-toe with Magneto. Stuff like that doesn't happen every day. The idea was that the heroes would find it difficult facing a brand new foe but this sword cut both ways. The villain had never faced this particular hero either.
What is easy to figure out that there's a definite purpose behind these attacks. They're too focused to be random.
They're discussion is being monitored but not in the conventional sense. Remember that guy in the green suit from Avengers Spotlight? He's sitting on a throne and watching these events through some sort of magical monitor. It probably has HD and surround sound. Magic... Anyway, it'll be a while before this guy reveals himself to be Loki but there are clues all over the place.
The fun thing about this particular storyline is just how little sense it makes. No, not the actual battle strategies. The villains fighting heroes they've never faced before could be sound strategy. What is absolutely ridiculous is the fact that Loki has assembled some of the top super villains to coordinate these attacks. Each one believes he's in charge and the rest are flunkies. Loki, himself, is playing a flunkie even though he is, in fact, the mastermind. This would all work perfectly except the top villains tend to meet in a room with each other and words get said. They all believe that Loki is their servant even though they don't really know who Loki is.
Honestly? It's magic, we don't have to explain it.
In this issue, the Mandarin and Dr. Doom meet in a shadowy room to discuss their attack plans. That is two too many egos in one room. Three if Loki wasn't so damn good at playing the role of servant. Mandy and Doom both think they are in charge and so they're both at the other's throat in a verbal sense. In the end, we learn that it is Doom who is setting up the Avengers' fall.
Or at least ending their current headquarters.
While Loki met with Mandarin and Doom, Quasar continued his conversation with the Avengers Support Staff. He's learned that the other Avengers are busy facing their own threats and it's lucky that the Avengers have a support staff to take monitor duty when everyone else is too busy. Just then, Avengers Island is attacked.
These aren't your typical Doombots attacking Avengers Island. They're non-descript robots so as to not give away their maker in any identifiable way. They also have some crazy abilities. If you blow off an arm, for example, the appendage can still fly independently from the rest of the body and maintain it's attack. It makes their defeat pretty hard. Still, Quasar and the support staff give it the old college try.
As mentioned earlier, this artificial island is held up by big floatation devices. What these robots are programmed to do is to smash through the island, breaking all of the floaters. They're sinking the island.
As the battle for Avengers Island heats up, let's head off to the coldness of space. Starfox left the Avengers in pursuit of his grandniece, Nebula. He's finally caught up to her and now he's infiltrating her starship. He takes out one of Nebula's men and gets dressed up in the space thug's suit as to not attract any more attention. Reaching the bridge, Starfox overhears a conversation between Nebula and a Rigellian named Gunthar. They've talking about things Starfox hardly understands. What he DOES make out, though, is that they key to her next bid for power lies on earth in the form of a very old human male.
OK, interlude is over. Let's get back to the fight on Avengers Island!
Some of the less trained of the support staff start to show their weaknesses (Fabian Stankowitz, for example) and those holes in the defenders' armor are giving the robots even more of an advantage. Quasar is all over the field, trying to keep the Avengers support staff alive and their defense efforts going. After saving Stankowitz's life, he's off to stop a group of robots from messing with the Avengers fuel storage tanks.
With that business taken care of Wendel sends Peggy back into the communications room to try and radio up some assistance. Peggy runs back inside and finds herself facing another robot. She blasts this one out of the building easily and gets to the com room.
It's probably too late to save Avengers Island by this point. Enough of those floatation cushions have been punctured so that the island is already sinking.
The battle, however, seems to end. The robots start leaving the island, but it all seems too easy. These robots had them on the ropes, after all. Wendel expects some sort of sneak attack at any moment, but they need to use the time they've been given. He sends the support staff to see how many Quinjets they have left while he takes a look below to see what can be done to save their island headquarters.
The view underneath isn't pretty. The island is leaking air from every floatation device. Quasar uses his quantum bands to prop up the island. This will at least buy them some time to evacuate.
Above, Quinjets are rising into the air but one member of the support staff, Michael O'Brien heads back into the Communication Room to get Peggy Carter who is still hard at work trying to call in help. He's not able to get her to move until he lies to her and tells her that the Avengers are already here. I mean, look at that cover! You'd actually think more Avengers show up this issue just by looking at it!
Of course, they aren't actually here. This is just about Quasar and the Avengers Support Staff.
Quasar's got the island stabilized but that's not going to last. Remember those robots that Quasar found messing about the jet fuel tanks? They planted a bomb. It explodes and its proximity to the fuel tanks causes those to ignite. The shock causes Quasar to lose his concentration and the island starts sinking even more rapidly as it now falls into the ocean in pieces.
Peggy and Michael haven't made it to the Quinjets and fall below the water's surface. It's a good thing Quasar's around to make the save. He loads them up into a Quinjet with Jarvis and everyone flies away, watching the island sink below them.
There's a lot of regrets here but the biggest comes from Jarvis. He wishes the Avengers hadn't moved this far out. If they were still in the city, they may have had the support of more local heroes. They're headquarters certainly couldn't have sunk.
Quasar, however, sees this more as a beginning than an ending. The question remains: is it a good beginning or the type where everyone dies in the end?
Avengers West Coast #53
Writer: John Byrne
Penciler: John Byrne
In this issue, Magneto meets with Loki and sees that everything is going well. Loki waits for his 'master' to leave and then looks in on Avengers West Coast. Vision refuses to allow Wonder Man to give him Simon's brain wave patterns. Immortus looks in on an alternate past before erasing it from existance. The U-Foes attack the West Coast Avengers believing that they had something to do with the disappearance of their leader, Vector. Hank breaks Wanda out of her catatonic state by telling her Vision is in trouble. Vector shows up and talks to his teammates, telling them they were set up. The U-Foes leave and most of the team takes off to join the East Coast team to conference.
If there's one villain that John Byrne didn't understand, it was ol' Magnus. Oh, sure, John Byrne was a big X-Men fan and knew exactly who Magneto was before the All New-All Different team got together. The problem was that Chris Claremont ended up changing Magneto and making him a much more interesting and well-rounded character that to see him take on an over the top villain role again was... out of character.
Still, the old guard was gone and Magneto was on his way to being a super villain again.
In this issue, Mags meets up with his servant who we all know is Loki, but the Master of Magnetism hasn't figured that out just yet. Loki tells him everything is going great for the bad guys and Magneto takes great offense. He's not a bad guy, after all. He isn't even thinking about conquest. Magneto just wants to make the world a better place for mutants. If that means killing a lot of heroes, then... ok, yeah, that doesn't make any sense. With that, Magneto heads out to have a losing battle with Spider-Man or something.
Loki is left alone to smoke his cigarette in peace. Everything is going according to his plans. Things are just starting to take shape, though. He heads back to his throneroom and sits down to look in on the West Coast Avengers.
Let's all face it. The West Coast Avengers line-up was ten times cooler than the Avengers at this point. The West Coast team had Iron Man, Hank Pym, the Wasp, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, USAgent, and the original Human Torch. That is quite the team. Not that they didn't have their issues, of course. Vision was disassembled and put back together with no memories of his past and, presumably, without the brainwaves of Simon Williams. Wanda and Vision's kids turned out to be false and after Atlantis Attacks, the Scarlet Witch is in a catatonic state.
Simon believes that the way out of this is to reload Vision with his brainwaves. This would make Vision the man he used to be even though it wouldn't restore his memories. It would at least give him back his old personality. Kind of. It should come as no surprise that Vision turns this proposal down. After all, there's no going back. Vision wasn't a copy of Simon Williams anymore, anyway. He had grown into his own person with his own personality and credit cards. Heck, Simon is a different person that when he originally gave up those brainwaves. It wouldn't actually give them back the old Vision so much as give us a brand new Vision. We've already got one of those.
Not only does Vish decline, he also tells the team that he will be joining the East Coast team. That team is underpowered at the moment and his presence is just causing Wanda more trouble. It's time for some separation.
This scene is followed by a confusing scene in which Immortus views an alternate past timeline, where Queen Elizabeth was about to be executed so that her sister could rule. Immortus is here to study something and then deletes the entire timeline when he learns what he needs to know. This is all prelude to something that will affect the lives of the West Coast Avengers in the future. Immortus is building up to a particular storyline. It's involves the Scarlet Witch and it might not have anything to do with the Acts of Vengeance. So we'll move on.
While the Wackos try to convince the Vision to remain on their team and to stay with Wanda, Vapor from the U-Foes shows up. She turns herself into cyanide gas and tries to kill the Scarlet Witch. While Wonder Man flies in and rescues Wanda, Iron Man sucks Vapor into his armor's containment vessels. Vapor isn't easily held, however. She changes form and slips through his seals. Tony is forced to vent the U-Foe before she gets too dangerous.
No sooner is Iron Man free of Vapor than he's pulled underground by Ironclad. This U-Foe is even less dangerous to Shellhead and is sent flying in a matter of moments.
Outside the building, the original Human Torch is talking to Anne Raymond, his ex-partner's widow. Jim seems to be obsessed with the story of Toro's death and has Anne repeat it ALOT. This is not at all painful for the widow. Fortunately, their conversation is interrupted when they both watch Ironclad fly out of the main building. Torch takes to the air to see what's going on but never catches up to Ironclad. He instead meets up with X-Ray and another fight breaks out.
Vapor is still a threat. Mrs. Raymod tries running inside to check on the rest of the Avengers but is stopped when Wonder Man comes crashing through the wall with Wanda, Hank, and the Wasp in tow. These are the three Avengers that need to breath air which means Vapor could harm them the most. Iron Man and Vision are still inside, fighting Vapor. Wasp warns Anne to get as far away from the compound as she can just as an explosion goes off nearby.
While this is going down, Ironclad has finally landed. He realizes that it'll take far too long to run back to Avengers Compound and decides to cause trouble right here so that the West Coasters will be forced to respond.
The original Torch is still facing off with X-Ray but he also has a nice view of all the destruction going on. He sees flames rising in the sky over where Ironclad landed and he also sees the West Coast Compound burning. All of this just serves to distract him from his own problems and X-Ray is able to get the upper hand.
Back at the Avengers Compound, they aren't having any luck putting out the fire.
Hank decides it's time to go for broke. Wanda is still in a catatonic state but Hank believes that some sort of shock therapy might break her out of her trance. He tells Wanda that the Avengers and, more specifically, the Vision, are in danger. This wakes the Scarlet Witch up but doesn't actually help her sanity. She isn't seeing reality through the same lens that most people see it. Wanda looks in the sky and sees the Vision not in his current pale form but as he used to look. Red face, green and yellow suit. She's happy to see that Vision is back to normal but she needs to end this battle now and make out with the Vision later.
Yeah, everyone else is concerned about Wanda's words but they also need Vapor defeated. Wanda hits the U-Foe with a hex bolt that Vapor back into her human form. Fortunately for the villain, the U-Foes leader has shown up. Vector flies in and keeps the West Coast Avengers from capturing his teammate.
Only now do we learn WHY the U-Foes were attacking. After they broke out of the Vault, Vector had them split up and meet back at their old base later on. When the rest of the U-Foes arrived, they found the base trashed and video showing that Vector was killed by the West Coast Avengers. That was obviously not the case. Vector showed up late, saw this faked footage, and then learned that his teammates had run off to try their hands at vengeance. Without his leadership, however, they weren't able to make any headway.
Well, X-Ray defeated the original Torch but that's their only real victory. X-Ray believes he's just killed Johnny Storm but Vector knows that this guy isn't the Fantastic Four's Human Torch. This is an android and is basically immune to X-Ray's powers. Hammond will wake up eventually.
It's only now that X-Ray and Vapor realize that they were set up. The three aren't happy to be anyone's playthings and leave this battle to recover their missing fourth. There will be time to fight the Avengers later. For now, maybe they want to find out who played them.
The West Coasters get ready to pursue but are stopped by Hank Pym. He's just tried to contact the East Coast Avengers and got dead air. It could be nothing or it could be part of a carefully planned plot to destroy the Avengers. Hank takes off with Wasp, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision leaving the rest of the team to search out the U-Foes.
Hank Pym is worried, though. Something in his gut is telling him that this is much more serious than just leaving the phone off the hook. Something is going down. Something big.
And have once more ran out of comics. Hope you enjoyed yourself!
Until the next good time: Who Do YOU Trust?
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