Avengers (1st series) #304

Issue Date: 
June 1989
Story Title: 
Yearning to Breathe Free!

Danny Fingeroth (writer), Rich Buckler (penciler), Tom Palmer (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Christie Scheele (colorist), Howard Mackie (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Captain America, Thor and Gilgamesh visit Ellis Island which is being refurbished. There, one of the workers assisting with the refurb discusses the injustices done to his people long before any immigrants came to the United States, and acts strangely when he sees someone else in the tour group that arrived with the Avengers, causing him to run away. The man in the crowd gives chase, and reveals himself to be Puma. The Avengers intervene, and fight with Puma, who eventually reveals that the he and the young man he is chasing, Charles Littlesky, are from the same tribe, and that his uncle sent him to retrieve him, as he possesses a great power. Charles claims he doesn't have any power, that he gets headaches sometimes, but he has no power. He pleads with the Avengers not to let Puma take him. Puma creates some distraction when he knocks over a a large scaffolding, causing it to fall towards the other visitors on the island. The Avengers are forced to protect the civilians, while Puma is free to go after Charles. Charles attempts to fight back, but this releases his power, and a strange portal opens. Voices can be heard through the portal, and from it, the villains known as the U-Foes emerge. The U-Foes knock back the Avengers, Puma and Charles. The U-Foes recall their origin and how they came to be trapped in the interdimensional Crossroads. The U-Foes are surprisingly powerful against the Avengers, causing Puma to be torn as to whether he should be helping the Avengers to dealing with Charles. He decides his priority is Charles, and heads to find him, but the U-Foes go after him, preventing him from reaching the unconscious Charles. The battle is a long and tense one, with the Avengers and Puma working side by side against the U-Foes. When the U-Foes are finally defeated, Charles starts to make his getaway. Puma chases him, but Captain America stops Puma. Thor confronts Charles, who panics and escapes through a portal. Puma argues with the Avengers, before escaping them and warning that if they want to catch him it will not be that easy. The U-Foes are then taken away to the Vault, while Captain America makes an interesting remark about Charles.

Full Summary: 

The majestic skyline of Manhattan towers over New York Harbor. Much of the diverse panoply of buildings that make it famous the world over was built by American Indian and immigrant laborers – immigrants who first entered the country through this small clump of land – Ellis Island. Today, the immigration center on the island, through which poured the ancestors of nearly half the present day population of the United States is being readied as a museum of immigration. There is a buzz and hum of renovation that fills the air. But there is a grim individual who approaches the island in a hired launch, his face cloaked in shadow by his snap-brim hat – and he has little interest in such matters. He has a clear, definite purpose – one which will imperil the very lives of the mighty Avengers!

Already on the island are a group of visitors who have arrived for a special preview visit, including three mighty individuals – Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America, Thor and Gilgamesh the Forgotten One. Dressed in civilian clothing, they do their best to mix with the other civilians on the tour as Cap thanks the two of them for coming with him. He adds that when an old friend with the Interior Department offered him a chance to see the island while it was under renovation, he just had to bring along some company. Thor tells Steve that it is their pleasure, and that after the hectic pace of recent days with the battle against Super-Nova, he welcomes a chance to relax, while Gilgamesh remarks that a trip on the water to a new place can be refreshing, but he wouldn't want this inaction to last for long.

A staff member is acting as a tour guide and points to the great hall, where the bulk of arrivals were processed through a maze of bureaucratic ordeals. He adds that one could stand in this spot and listen to a dozen different languages, not unlike the way it must have sounded at the biblical Tower of Babel. The guide informs the tour group that he came here from Italy with his parents and that when a clerk sent him to be checked by a doctor upstairs, he thought he would be sent back – luckily, he didn't have tuberculosis, only a cough.

'So many who gave so much to this country came through here. You can just feel the history in these walls!' Cap remarks. Thor points out that he himself is an immigrant of sorts, from Asgard, so he spares much in spirit with those who passed through here. Gilgamesh mutters that to one such as he, who has been in the very domain of the Celestials, this place is quite meager – but he admits there is an aura of greatness about it.

Nearby, a workman mutters '“Noble immigrants” hah! Nobody wants to admit the real truth!' A woman overhears this and tells her children to move along, as the weird workman is talking to himself. 'Got a beef, son?' Cap asks as he approaches the workman. The workman looks awkward and thinks to himself 'Oh, great. Now I'm talking to myself out loud! Guess I'm more out of it than I thought!' and explains that he has got a beef – and why shouldn't he – as he is an American Indian. 'And?' Thor asks. 'And my people were here long before anybody. Those “immigrants” who came through here were just another group to come and take my people's land!' the young man exclaims, adding 'Just like foreigners, starting with the Mayflower, have always done!' He smirks and declares that this place should be called the Museum of Theft. Cap tells the young man that he understands his bitterness, as injustice was done to his people – but those who came through here certainly weren't to blame, as they were just looking for a refuge from poverty and oppression themselves.

Thor then asks the young man why he works here if this place revolts him so. Holding some buckets, the young man explains that he was desperate for money, and someone in his position can't be choosy about jobs. 'The foreman didn't ask many questions and -' he begins, before he thinks to himself 'Shut up, Charles! Don't give yourself away!', before muttering that he needed the job, but once he saves enough, he is outta here.

Suddenly, he drops the buckets and looks scared: 'No! It's him! He's found me!' the young man shouts as he turns and runs, declaring 'He won't catch me! Not if I move fast enough!' and he starts to run through the museum. 'Son – what are you -' Thor calls out as a voice remarks 'This does not concern you, Sir – do not interfere'. The man with the snap-brim hat stands at the front of the crowd and tells Thor not to interfere, before calling out to the young man.  Addressing him as Charles, he tells him that he means him no harm.

Charles continues to run though, and the man in the snap-brim hat knows that he won't stop, and Charles is faster than him. But the risk, should Charles escape, is too great, the possible consequences so serious for the entire planet. He knows that he has no choice, and concentrating hard, the man called Thomas Fireheart suddenly transforms. Painfully, stripping away his clothing, he emerges as the mysterious creature known as Puma! While tourists and workmen are distracted by Puma and his prey, Thor turns to his teammates and tells them that he is not sure what is going on here, but the Puma's status with the law is dubious, and he seems to be menacing that youth. 'Way ahead of you!' Cap calls out from behind some building equipment where he has almost changed into his costume. Thor declares that all he needs to do to prepare for battle is strike his hammer once upon the ground – and the raiment of Thor is in its proper place, as his iconic costume appears. 'Hold, Puma! We must know your motives!' Thor calls out, but gets no response, just as he expected. Thor decides that his hammer shall force Puma to answer.

Thor knows the full of impact of his mighty Uru hammer might well do the Puma fatal injury, so he hurls it merely with the intent of tripping the orange-furred creature – but so nimble is the Puma, so keen his superhuman senses, that he easily avoids the Thunder God's weapon but leaping over it, and the hammer, in keeping with its enchantment, returns to its master. 'Thor! You fool! You must delay me no further!' Puma calls out to Thor. 'Oh, no? Well, if he's a fool – then so is Captain America!' Cap exclaims as he throws his shield towards Puma – who suddenly catches the shield! 'Impossible! He caught my shield!' Cap gasps, to which Puma tells Cap not to worry – he can have it back – and hurls the shield back at Captain America. Gilgamesh tells Cap to duck, as the shield is coming too fast for him to catch it safely. Gilgamesh, still wearing his civilian clothing, then comes between some civilians and the shield, protecting them from its impact as the shield slams against Gilgamesh, and bounds off of him, into the air, where Cap leaps up and retrieves it. 'Nice teamwork!' Cap calls out to Gilgamesh, before landing near Puma and asking him to tell them what is going on here.

Nearby, Charles is struggling to get an exit unlocked, while Puma informs the Avengers that he and the youth are from the same tribe, and that he possesses great power – power that could unleash itself at any time. Puma explains that his uncle, their tribal shaman, realized this, and sent him to retrieve Charles so that he could be trained in the power's use – for his own – and the world's – good.

Charles calls out that Puma is lying, that he doesn't have any “power” and that the elders of the tribe just don't want anyone to ever leave it. Charles admits that he has headaches and acts weird sometimes, and they want to put him in some kind of tribal loony bin – and Puma is their strong-arm man. 'There's nothing strange about me! No supernatural power!' Charles exclaims.

The Avengers hesitate for a second – the young man is obviously hiding something, and on the other hand, while Puma has fought against the Beyonder in defense of the entire universe, he is also on record as a mercenary in the service of some dubious clients. 'Please! Please don't let him take me!' Charles pleads.

But, Puma cannot allow himself the luxury of uncertainty, he alone knows the potential danger of the situation, and though he hates the thought of what he is about to do, he knows that, for the greater good, he must do it. He leaps away from the Avengers, and grabs some large metal scaffolding stationed nearby – and pushes it over. The workers and tourists who have not yet fled are sorry, indeed, that they haven't, but at the first sign of danger, the Avengers spring into action, with Cap leaps to push a group of tourists aside, and Thor spinning his mighty hammer as the scaffolding falls towards him. Thor tells Gilgamesh to stand ready, and the wind created by the spinning Mjolnir carries the scaffolding into the arms of Gilgamesh 'I have it, Thunderer!' Gilgamesh calls out as he holds the scaffolding. Cap tells the civilians that he saved that they will be okay now.

But using the advantage of the distraction he has created, Puma corners his prey, and leaps onto Charles, forcing him to the ground. 'No! No!' Charles cries out. Puma tells Charles that his uncle is an honorable man, as is he, and that they only want to help him. 'That's a crock, mister! I just want to live my life, be left alone – but you won't let me!' Charles calls out, attempting to punch Puma, he merely hurts his hand. 'To attack me is futile, Charles Little Sky. Now, please -' Puma begins, but Charles shouts 'No – no! Let me go!' as Puma grabs him by his jacket. Charles' head begins to throb, and light starts to surge out of him. 'What's going on – what have you done to me?' Charles asks. 'The power that my uncle sensed – it's erupting!' Puma exclaims, wide-eyed as the energy continues to surge from Charles. 'Can't control it – feels like I'm being torn apart!' Charles calls out.

The energy radiating from Charles grows even more intense, and the Avengers stand nearby, Thor asking Puma what they can do. Puma remarks that he found Charles too late, that he is in the throes of energies the like of which he has never seen before. 'Oh, Lord! What's happening to me?'  Charles screams, before suddenly, pain still wracking his body, the very being of Charles Little Sky, the coruscating energy flowing from him suddenly coalesces into a shimmering oval – that expands, and then seems to actually hope a hole in space! The Avengers look at the portal, as Charles falls backwards. Puma tells the Avengers that he thinks he hears voices in there. 'Voices?' Thor asks, as large silvery foot emerges from the portal, 'Vector! I can't believe it! The hole actually seems to lead to Earth! Everyone, hurry up and follow me out! If it closes up again – we'll lose our chance!'

Captain America knows who is walking out of the portal – Ironclad – and tells the others that Ironclad and his partners were defeated by the Hulk, but disappeared months ago. 'And now we've returned, Captain! And I, for one, am overjoyed to be here!' the one called Vector grins. 'My feelings exactly, Vector! I thought I'd go mad in those other dimensions!' the woman called Vapor snarls. The glowing one called X-Ray points out that they are home now – to stay. 'Amen to that, X-ray! Like it or not, world – the U-Foes are back!' Ironclad boasts. Looking up at the villains, Charles gasps 'Oh, no! What have I done! What have I done!?' The strain of his ordeal suddenly overwhelms him, and Charles passes out. 'Wow! Talk about close – the doorway's fading!' Vapor exclaims as she clears the portal, while Vector notices that Charles has lost consciousness, realizing that somehow he has the portal to open and close such rifts.

The U-Foes turn to the Avenges, Vapor recognizes Captain America and Thor, but isn't sure who the others are. 'You face the Avengers, who will not allow you to return no place but to imprisonment!' Thor calls out, while Puma thinks to himself 'Oh great – now what do I do?' while Cap realizes that the Avengers now have to deal with Puma, the kid and the U-Foes! Vector tells Thor that they will never be imprisoned again. 'So swears Simon Utrecht – so swears Vector!' he shouts as he fires a fraction of his telekinetic repellor powers, proving himself capable of carrying out his vow as he blasts the Avengers and Puma out through the museum and onto the open space of the island. 

Flashback images:

But Simon Utrecht wasn't always so powerful, not in this way. The power he wielded was of a different nature – it was derived from vast wealth and equally vast ambition – ambition that sent him and his three allies into space, attempting to duplicate the flight that gave the Fantastic Four their superhuman powers, as they traveled through space in an unshielded ship, the quartet was bombarded by the same cosmic rays that empowered the Fantastic Four!

Utrecht's dream came true, as he and his cohorts returned to Earth, they gained great power – with which they sought to do evil. Several times the encountered the Incredible Hulk, and though they nearly killed the great man-beast, they were eventually defeated by him. In an escape attempt from a specially-designed prison in the southwest, Vector himself used too great a quantity of his repulsion power and hurled the U-Foes out of Earth's dimension!

They landed in the dimensional interface known as the Crossroads, where their old nemesis, the Hulk, was also stranded, and once again, they battled him, but were each propelled by the Hulk into separate danger-fraught dimensions. Though faced with fearsome threats to their lives, all of the U-Foes were able to fight their way back to the Crossroads. The Hulk was now gone, having been brought back to Earth during their absence, and although the U-Foes escaped the dangers of the various dimensions, though it appeared they would never get back to Earth – until moments ago when the portal created by Charles Little Sky appeared, and they were able to return home!


'Let's finish 'em, guys – to make sure they don't try and stop us!' Ironclad suggests to his comrades, while Puma looks up, he remembers seeing the TV reports when the U-Foes trashed the Hulk. He thinks they are frighteningly powerful and could actually be able to kill the Avengers – to say nothing of the civilians still on the island who might get in their way. Puma decides that this cannot concern him, as he has seen a sample of Little Sky's power and knows he must rescue him and return him home – yet the Avengers are outnumbered on the defensive. He wonders if he should turn his back on them, while Thor warns the U-Foes that they have chosen their own fate. 'As have you, Thor' Vector replies before ordering X-Ray to attack, 'My pleasure!' X-Ray calls out as he fires radioactive rays at Thor: 'Eat radiation, creep!' he calls out as the blasts strike Thor. Ironclad rushes over to Gilgamesh and remarks 'I don't know you from Adam, pal. But if you're an Avenger – then you get trashed with the rest of 'em!' as he slams his fist into Gilgamesh.

Puma watches, it is as he feared – the Avengers are at  a disadvantage. He tells himself that he cannot be swayed. 'Hang in there, Avengers!' Cap calls out, but before he can assist his teammates, he is blasted by Vector, who hovers above him. During his time in exile, Vector learned to fly with his telekinetic power, making him even more mobile and dangerous than ever. Deciding that everyone is occupied, Puma sneaks back towards the museum, 'Forgive me, Avengers. But the fate of our world depends on my acting now!' Puma thinks to himself as he leaps back inside the museum. 'The fur-covered Avenger is trying to get to the youth!' Vector calls out as he sees Puma leap back inside. 'I'll stop him!' Vector announces, but as he fires a blast of energy, Puma easily leaps over it, 'Wrong twice, Vector! Puma is no Avenger – and you won't stop me!' Puma calls out. Vapor follows him into the building, 'You're quite nimble Puma – but can even you breathe when I turn myself into carbon monoxide and fill your lunges?' Vapor asks.

Puma looks overcome, while Vector tells Vapor to forget him, as the boy is the dangerous one – he has the power to send them back to the Crossroads. Vector instructs Vapor to become chlorine gas and fill the boy's lungs while he is still unconscious – until he is dead! Puma falls to the ground, he realizes that the U-Foes are too much for him alone – he needs to save Charles, but he needs the Avengers help, which means they must have time to recover from the U-Foes' initial attack – time that he will have to buy for them. 'Let's see if I can do I without getting myself killed' Puma thinks to himself as he leaps after Vapor, knowing that he has to get Charles away from her. 'Nice try, Puma – but doomed to fail! He's mine!' Vapor boats. 'No! There must be a way -' Puma calls out, as Ironclad grabs him and tells him there isn't. 'I'd worry less about the kid – and more about myself if I were you' Ironclad suggests as he begins to squeeze Puma tight.

Suddenly, Ironclad is knocked away from Puma – by Thor's hammer. Puma is pleased that his plan worked, as he knows that in another few seconds he would have been a goner, but he gave Thor the time he needed to recover. Thor's hammer returns to his hand after striking Ironclad, and he starts to spin it around creating a whirlwind. 'Now, Vapor – let us see how you stand up to the whirlwind of Mjolnir!' he calls out, as Vapor is sucked into the vortex the hammer creates. Vector calls out to Vapor, telling her to hold on. He fires a blast at Thor, while noticing that Charles has woken. He alerts X-Ray to this, and X-Ray flies over to Charles, declaring that in a second he will be an overgrown french fry. Wide-eyed, Charles looks up as X-Ray flies towards him. He declares that this is not fair, and that he just wanted to be left alone.

'Oh, you'll be left alone, kid. When the funeral's over – you'll have lots of time yo yourself -' X-Ray calls out, but before he can reach Charles, Cap slams into him with his shield. Even through his shield, Cap can feel X-Ray's radiation burning him. 'You careless idiot!' Vector calls out to X-Ray, but as he moves closer to Charles, he boasts that he will take care of him. X-Ray falls to the ground with a thud, while Gilgamesh calls out 'Not if we have any say in it, Vector'. Vector raises a hand to fire a blast at Charles: 'Too late. In a second, he'll be dead!' Vector declares. 'Wrong!' someone calls out, and Puma leaps at Vector, knocking him towards Thor, who rushes into Vector, slamming his hammer into the villain. 'Many thanks, Puma!' Thor calls back.

Suddenly, Gilgamesh is near Charles and alerts Thor and Cap when he sees Charles' powers going wild again. 'Help me! Please!' Charles pleads as he suddenly opens several portals. Gilgamesh sees that there are monsters in all of the portals and recalls that when Charles blacked out earlier the portal closed. He knows it could be coincidence but unleashes his eye beams anyway, which slam into Charles and knock him out, closing the portals. 'Nice going, buddy! Now I'll just make sure – that the effect is permanent!' Ironclad shout as he appears on a nearby ledge, ready to hurl some rubble onto Charles – 'Fool!' Gilgamesh calls out as he blasts the rubble with his eye beams, shattering it, but allowing Ironclad to escape, as Gilgamesh does not want to leave Charles unprotected.

X-Ray continues to blast Thor with his power and suggests to Vector that Thor can't take them both on at once. 'I do believe you're right!' Vector remarks as he unleashes his power on Thor as well. Thor is not able to advance on his foes, but he doesn't retreat either, standing his ground as the blasts  hit him. He summons all of his immortal strength to fight off Vector's power, while using his hammer to absorb not merely the radiation X-Ray hurls at him, but all the radiation that courses through the villain's body – and as the depleted X-Ray falls helplessly to the floor, the Asgardian unleashes the stored radiation straight at Vector – and even Vector cannot repel an attack of such magnitude, and he, too, falls – defeated!

Puma alerts the Avengers to his senses picking up Vapor in a lethal, colorless form floating towards Charles. Puma points at what appears to be empty space, and alerts Gilgamesh that she is three feet above Charles. Gilgamesh senses Vapor and calls out to Thor, and without a word, the Thunderer strikes his hammer's handle down twice – and lighting fills the room – lightning which converges on and shocks Vapor back to her human form, she falls to the ground, unconscious. Puma asks about Ironclad, and Thor suggests that he might have fled. 'No, but he's trying to!' Cap calls out, before tossing his shield at Ironclad, who steps on the shield and falls flat on his face. 'So ya tripped me, big deal! I'm still strong enough to -' Ironclad begins, looking up, he sees Gilgamesh standing in front of him. 'No... you're not!' Gilgamesh declares as he punches Ironclad in the face, knocking him out.

Thor congratulates Gilgamesh and points out that all the U-Foes have been vanquished. Puma tells the Avengers that they could not have done this without his help and tells them that surely they see his uncle was right when he sent him to track Charles. Puma adds that the boy is possessed of great power granted by their gods and that he must return with him to the tribe so that they can teach him to use his power wisely. Cap tells Puma that it seems to him Charles might be a mutant, and points out that there are mutant teams that could help him as well. He suggests that Puma let Charles make up his own mind about where he will go – once he awakens. 'And if he chooses no training? If he chooses to continue on the run?' Puma asks, declaring that it is a danger to the world he cannot allow – and nor can he risk strangers training him incorrectly. Charles suddenly sits up and rubs his head, as Puma asks the Avengers to let him take Charles – or he will fight them to the death.

'That'd be your death, Puma. What would that achieve?' Gilgamesh asks. Thor announces that there is no more to discuss, and declares that they will let the boy decide himself. I cannot allow – no!' Puma exclaims, leaping over the Avengers, he gives chase to Charles who has started to run. 'Hold it, Puma!' Cap calls out as he lunges after Puma, grabs him by the ankles and forces him to the floor. 'No! He'll get away – cause untold horrors!' Puma exclaims. 'No he won't!' Thor remarks as he drops down in front of Charles, but Charles tells Thor that he hasn't “got” him – no one has “got” him! Energy starts to radiate around Charles as he announces that he is not anyone's property – not Avengers, not Puma's not the shaman's and not the U-Foes! Charles proclaims that he wants to be free, and that if he can't be free on Earth, he will do it somewhere else! With that, another portal opens and Charles steps into it, despite Thor calling out to him. 'Too late, Thor! I'm gone!' Charles calls out as the portal closes. 'Charles – please, don't!' Puma exclaims – too late.

Puma snarls at Thor, calling him a  fool for letting a being of untold power get away. 'He could be anywhere now, hurting or being hurt, frightened, alone. Most probably, though, he'll soon be dead!' Puma exclaims. Thor responds by telling Puma that if he values his life, then he should not provoke him. Thor turns to Puma and reminds him that he was the one whose mission was too important to discuss things calmly and rationally. 'Had you been willing to negotiate, to compromise, to reason – with us and with Charles – then perhaps we could have shown him the danger – and the options – before he ever opened the portal that led the U-foes back into our dimension!' Thor points out. Puma tells Thor that is easy to say in hindsight, but that he judges the moment to call for action – not talk. 'Had you not interfered, I could have  reasoned with him alone – and taken him back home, where he belonged' Puma snaps.

Cap tells Puma that his reputation is mixed at best, and they have only his word that his intentions were good. Thor suggests to Cap that they subdue Puma as well, to which Puma tells them that if they want him, they will have to catch it – as he leaps out through the large broken window. 'And that I guarantee you – will not be easy!' Puma calls back. Cap tells Thor to let Puma go, and adds that from what he recalls, there are no formal charges against him – and, whatever his motives today, he did save their lives. Thor complies with Captain America's instructions, and points out that the U-Foes must still be dealt with.

Shortly, Cap, Thor and Gilgamesh look up as a Vault helicopter takes off, with the U-Foes contained safely inside. 'It's funny...' Cap remarks. 'What, Cap?' Gilgamesh asks. 'Charles Little Sky, who was so bitter about immigrants... ended up being, himself, an immigrant in a new dimension' Cap points out. 'And he entered through Ellis Island!'

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Gilgamesh, Thor (all Avengers)

Puma II

Charles Little Sky

Ironclad, Vapor, Vector, X-Ray (all U-Foes)

Construction workers
Ellis Island staff

In flashback images:
Ironclad, Vapor, Vector, X-Ray (all U-Foes)

Story Notes: 

First appearance of Charles Little Sky, a mutant who will become known as Portal. He returns in Darkhawk #5 and remains a supporting character in that book for a time.

The U-Foes debuted in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #254 and appeared semi-regularly in that title thereafter, before becoming trapped in the Crossroads in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #305.

The U-Foes return in Avengers West Coast #53.

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