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John Byrne (writer), Paul Ryan and Tom Palmer (artists), Bill Oakley (letterer), Christie Scheele (colorist), Howard Mackie (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief)
Responding to an emergency call, half of the West Coast Avengers (Dr. Pym, Wasp, Vision and the Scarlet Witch) have come to New York. With Hydrobase destroyed, they meet with Avengers reservist, the Falcon, in the underground complex underneath Avengers Park. They receive incoming messages of random super-villain attacks all over the United States but, before they can make some sense of it, they find themselves under attack too when the Blob, Pyro and Avalanche arrive at the park and start a fight. At first, the two groups seem evenly matched but the Avengers eventually gain the upper hand, though not before many statues in the park are damaged during the battle. Pyro tries to stir up more trouble when he uses his status as a government agent to order the local police officers to arrest the Avengers. However, the duly arrival of Captain America spares his teammates further trouble, as he explains that the three mutant are no longer with Freedom Force but operate as free agents. However, when the numerous bystanders and civilians start a fight about whether the Avengers should be arrested or not, the villains use the distraction to escape. Having recently undergone a series of traumatic events, the Scarlet Witch is not quite in her right state of mind, perceiving the Vision to still be her loving and caring husband, rather than the cold and emotionless version of his former self that he has become after being dismantled and reassembled. In a secret conference room, a mysterious stranger meets with six of the world’s most reknown criminals - Dr. Doom, the Kingpin, the Mandarin, Red Skull, Magneto and the Wizard. While he is actually the driving force behind this alliance and having organized the majority of the recent super-villain attacks, the stranger keeps acting the part of each villain’s personal servant or lackey, pretending that everything was their idea and not his own. Elsewhere, the alien Nebula approaches an Earth scientist by the name of Dr. Harker, wanting to make use of his latest invention.
“Has the whole world gone mad?” the Wasp exclaims, as she stares at the two dozen monitors in front of her. One of them shows Thor fighting the Juggernaut, another displays footage of a battle between Iron Man and the Wrecker. There are pretty much the same images on all the other screens - reporters standing in front of some damaged buildings, reporting live from battle-sites where some superhero and villain recently fought each other.
Answering his ex-wife’s question, Dr. Pym says that it’s not happening in the whole world, but only in the United States. Whereas the Vision and the Scarlet Witch continue to gaze at the monitors, Avengers reservist, the Falcon, asks Dr. Pym if he has any idea what’s causing all the recent attacks. However, the scientist has no other, saying that he’s no psychiatrist and never really understood the criminal mind.
Not satisfied with this answer, the Wasp asks if that really is the best Dr. Pym can offer and whether it could be some mind altering device causing bad vibes that causing all these attacks. It’s the Vision who replies instead, saying that the super-sophisticated scanners at the Avengers’ East Coast headquarters detect nothing out of the ordinary. The Wasp responds that it was a joke on her part and remarks that the Vision's computer mind apparently isn’t equipped for humor.
At that point the Falcon interrupts, saying that it’s no time for quips, after all Hydrobase has been destroyed, which is why they now have to operate out of a sub-basement headquarters underneath Avengers Park. The Scarlet Witch reminds him that the Avengers have found themselves in worse situations before and always triumphed, before turning towards the Vision again and looking at him with love in her eyes.
Dr. Pym re-assured Wanda that they will win again, no matter what the odds. However, he is not as sure as he pretends to be and is still concerned about the Scarlet Witch’s status - a few hours ago she was completely unresponsive, and Dr. Pym suspects that she is not in her right state of mind. Indeed, instead of the cold, ghostly version that the Vision was shaped into by recent events, Wanda sees her husband of old, loving and caring, in his green and yellow costume. A bit irritated by Wanda staring at him, the Vision asks if she is alright, as such voicing the question that neither the Wasp nor Dr. Pym dared to ask.
Elsewhere, in a dark room, a handsome man wearing a three piece suit sits on a throne between two pylons of fire. Somehow he is able to observe the Avengers from afar, and he comments that there are many more questions troubling Dr. Pym, but he will find no satisfactory explanation - at least not this side of the grave. Sensing that all his “guests” have arrived, the man rises from his chair and illuminates one corner of the dark room with a mere gesture, revealing a door leading into the next room. As he proceeds towards it, the man is quite satisfied with the events he has set in motion and plans to accelerate the process so that the “accursed Avengers” will finally be obliterated. Opening the door, the mysterious man enters a meeting room where six of the world’s most dangerous criminals have gathered: the Wizard, the Kingpin, the Mandarin, Dr. Doom, Magneto and the Red Skull.
The man greets his “guests” and apologizes for having kept them waiting. Addressing the man as “lackey,” Dr. Doom reveals to have just arrived himself or else he would teach him how unwise it is to keep Victor von Doom waiting even for an instant. The Red Skull is not so forgiving - he has been in the meeting room for several minutes already, and states that once he might have sent the man to the camps for such an affront to the Red Skull. He then goes on asking the man, whom he apparently too thinks to be his servant, to explain the purpose of this meeting as it’s not his custom to “languish in the company of common criminals.”
The other villains are outraged - the Wizard asking why he should himself be judged by a Nazi, the Mandarin feeling quite offended and the Kingpin stating that no criminal charge against him has been made stick. Magneto agrees with all of them, and threatens the Red Skull that a man who styled himself after Hitler’s whelps should feel fortunate enough to breathe the same air as...
Magneto is cut short by the mysterious host of the meeting, who reminds everyone present that this sort of bickering is unworthy of men of their stature and that they shouldn’t waste energy on pettiness when they have much greater things to accomplish. Dr. Doom declares the words of the “hireling” to be wise and asks him about the progress of their plan. However, before the man can answer, the Red Skull stands up from the table and orders him to be silent. First, he says, there is a matter to be settled, as the Wizard “insulted the master race” and needs to apologize. Again a fight is about to erupt as the Wizard has no intention to take back his words, and Magneto stands by his side, saying that the Red Skull represents everything that is vile and loathsome in the world. The Red Skull reaches into his jacket and draws his gun, while pointing out that there was a time when “mutant mongrels” such as Magneto were boiled into soap.
The handsome man jumps in between the two combatants, keeping them from attacking each other. Once more, he begs for the assembled villains to put their personal differences aside, as there will be enough time to sort these things out once they have established the new world order. The Kingpin and Dr. Doom agree, and Magneto states that he too will listen... for now. The Wizard makes another hollow threat towards the Red Skull, but falls silent when the Kingpin asks him to spare them his bravado.
Finally, the assembled villains have calmed down enough for them to hear their lackey’s report on the progress of the plan. The mysterious man says that all goes perfectly; all over the nation, villains and heroes who never faced each other before have been fighting for no apparent reason, thus weakening everyone. It’s time to set the “final stroke” in motion, the man says, as he leaves the conference room through the door that he entered it. Once alone in the dark room, though, he says to himself that the six villains are just pawns in the “game of the gods” that’s being played.
Meanwhile, a helicopter landing in New York’s Central Park scares some of the civilians talking a stroll. Three members of Freedom Force step out of the helicopter, and immediately the Blob knocks one of the civilians over to show the gathering crowd not to mess with them. Pyro asks his teammate not to waste his power, but the Blob doesn’t respond to that advice too well, telling Pyro that he should not talk as if he was in charge of the operation. Avalanche confirms that nobody is in charge while Mystique is grieving, and that they are independent now.
When Avalanche uses his power to bring an approaching car to a halt, Pyro congratulates his teammate on his good recovery from the wounds he received at the hands of the Reavers. The mutant trio proceeds into Avengers Park and, upon reaching the monument that is made up of statues of the founding members of the team, the Blob impatiently asks where the real Avengers are. Pyro calms down his teammate - they were told the Avengers would be near and, if they are, they must have a means of monitoring the park.
Indeed, a few floors below, an alarm goes off, alerting the Avengers that someone with super-powers has entered the park. Changing the settings so that the computer screen display images of the people currently in the park, the Avengers identify the three members of Freedom Force, and they ponder what the reason of their visit might be. Dr. Pym voices his concern, after all Freedom Force is composed of known criminals to serve out their time as government agents. The Wasp agrees, a lot of the Avengers’ current problem involves highly placed government officials saying rude things about superheroes, and Wanda too thinks that it might be an official visit. The Vision considers it highly unlikely that the three members of Freedom Force would arrive unannounced and uninvited without some official purpose, and he offers to calculate the precise odds, which the Wasp says is not necessary. Next, the Vision reaches the conclusion that the most efficacious way to deal with the villains’ arrival would be a direct one and, before the others can voice their objections, he rises through the ceiling.
The Vision passes several levels of the complex until he reaches the surface. Rising behind the three members of Freedom Force, he asks if he may be of assistance. The three mutants are a bit startled by his pale-white appearance, but the Blob recalls a recent briefing on the Vision being “turned inside out.” The Vision confirms his altered appearance to be a result of his being rebuilt, and explains that he functions in the same capacity as before. He then repeats his offer to be of assistance, to which the Blob replies that he should “whistle up the rest of the Avengers” and to “tell ‘em Freedom Force is here to can their buts for ‘em.”
Calmly, the Vision responds that his programming in the vernacular is somewhat sparse and asks the Blob to rephrase his statement in less colloquial English, earning himself a punch in the face by the annoyed villain. It sends the synthezoid flying into the statue of Captain America, which is damaged and knocked over.
Below, the other Avengers have followed the exchange on the monitor screens, and they quickly rush to an elevator platform to join their teammate topside. Along the way up, the Falcon asks how much they know about Freedom Force and Dr. Pym replies that it’s not enough. The mutants started out as villains of the X-Men and, if they weren’t dead, he would actually call them for a rundown on the villains. As it is, they only know some superficial stuff, such as the Blob being able to manipulate his mass, rendering himself virtually unmovable. However, he doubts that this ability would pose a danger to the Vision.
The events above, though, prove Dr. Pym wrong. The Vision turns himself diamond-hard and attacks the Blob, but bounces harmlessly off him and is knocked backwards into the pedestal of another statute. The Blob grabs the synthezoid by his costume, when suddenly the large monument of the founding Avengers, right in the center of the park, shifts to the side, revealing a stairway to the underground complex. The Scarlet Witch, the Wasp, the Falcon and Dr. Pym emerged from the underground complex and join the fight, though are immediately knocked over when Avalanche shakes up the ground underneath their feet, turning it into a wave of rocks. As they try to get up, the Avengers find themselves surrounded by Pyro’s flames. Dr, Pym calls out for his teammates to spread out, while they had to bunch together to come up through the access way, they don’t have to stay that close to each other anymore.
The Wasp is the first to follow her lover’s advice, as she circles around Pyro and then aims for his shoulder with her sting blast. Quite angry, Pyro aims at her with his other arm, trying to burn her in mid-flight, though the Wasp evades his attack. The Falcon flies in to the tiny Avenger, and slams his wing in Pyro's face, almost stunning him. Pyro calls out to Avalanche for help, but the Falcon doesn’t consider him a thread, as he knows that Avalanche’s power only works on non-organic materials. For exactly that reason, Avalanche does not aim his vibrations at the Falcon himself, but at his artificial wings, causing him to crash into another Avengers statue, ironically his own.
While Avalanche gloats on the Avenger’s defeat, Dr. Pym secretly sneaks up behind him and reaches for one of the many miniature weapons stored in the pockets of his costume. After making it grow back to its regular size, Dr. Pym fires a gas pellet at Avalanche, who is then covered in a cloud of some acid gas. The Scarlet Witch gestures to combine her power with the effects of the gas, causing the ground to collapse under Avalanche.
Nearby, the Vision congratulates his wife on her performance as he goes up for another round against the Blob. He becomes intangible and reaches into the Blob’s chest for his heart, but the mutant laughs at the synthezoid’s efforts. Further increasing his own mass, the Blob is able to trap the Vision’s arm in his own body, and as he turns around, the Vision is hurled along, crashing into another of the many statues in the park.
Looking at the damaged property all around, the Scarlet Witch says that this is going all wrong. They should have been able to defeat Freedom Force with ease, yet the three villains turn all the Avengers’ moves against them. Wanda fails to notice that Avalanche, despite being half-stuck in the ground, aims with his left arm at the huge monument behind her. His vibrations cause a statue of Thor to topple over towards Wanda and, with so much going on at the same time, she is unable to focus her hex on to protect herself. Fortunately, the Falcon spots his troubled teammate and flies by to take her to safety, before she is being crushed by the falling statue. As he flied with Wanda towards the edge of the park, Avalanche chases after them.
Meanwhile, Dr. Pym is having troubles of his own, as he finds himself being targeted by Pyro’s flames. The Wasp comes to help, though, explaining that she didn’t think logically when she last attacked. She now doesn’t aim for Pyro himself, but uses her sting-blast to sever one of the fuel lines on his flame throwers. Dr. Pym realizes that this was the right idea, for the mutant is only able to manipulate flame but not create it. He then reaches for another device in his pockets, and clogs up the flame projector on Pyro’s other hand with a flame retardant foam. No longer having any fire to manipulate, Pyro has no other choice but to fall back and let his teammates lead the offensive.
Elsewhere, an elderly man is taking home the groceries he just bought. He observes a few kids playing in the streets. They pretend to be medieval knights, using paper bags for helmets and lids of trash bins as shields while they battle each other with wooden swords. The man, a scientist by the name of Harker, admires the children for being able to get lost in a joyful world of fantasy that they no longer notice the cold bleak streets around them.
As he enters his apartment, he hopes that Polydyne will approve the funding for his compressor unit soon, as that will enable him to transform the world and nobody will have to live in squalor ever again. The older man’s arrival is duly expected, not only by his cat, but also by a female, blue-skinned alien. After greeting Dr. Harker and introducing herself as Nebula, she says that she is most interested in his compressor unit and the power it can create.
In Avengers Park, the Wasp is chasing after the incapacitated Pyro, and Dr. Pym thinks that they are finally making some headway. However, the Vision finds his solar energy beam to be of no use against the Blob, it only harming the Blob’s costume but not the villain himself. Dr. Pym rushes to his teammate’s side and, after shrinking the fire extinguisher he used against Pyro back into his pockets, he touches the Blob’s bare chest and uses his Pym particles against him. The startled Blob shrinks to ant-size in the matter of seconds but, when Dr. Pym tries to pick him up he finds that he made a grave error. At this reduced size, the Blob’s density is so great that he becomes too heavy for the ground to support his weight. The Blob crashes through the pavement, passes the subway tunnels underneath the park and plummets further down, leaving Dr. Pym quite concerned if gravity might stop the villain’s fall before he reaches the Earth’s center. The Vision, however, reminds his friend that the Blob is virtually indestructible - whereas their fellow Avengers are not.
Indeed, at the entrance of the park, Avalanche has caught up with the Falcon and the Scarlet Witch and with his seismic power, he shakes the Falcon’s artificial wings apart. Both him and Wanda fall down to the street, observed by numerous civilians and police officers who have sealed off the park. As he prepares to finish off his two victims, Avalanche tells the cops to “stay out of this, and you might stay alive.” Hovering behind him, the Vision says that the same holds true for the villain - if he leaves his two teammates unharmed. Avalanche turns around, somewhat surprised to see the synthezoid, as the Blob was absolutely sure that he could handle him. Still, this leaves Avalanche to try out something he had been wondering about. As the Vision’s body is a mix of biological and mechanical components, Avalanche lets loose his vibrations, and the Vision’s insides are shaken and damaged.
As the synthezoid plummets to the ground, muttering about his need to initiate repairs of the massive internal damaged, the Scarlet Witch cries out his name in fear and panic. She tries to rush to her husband’s side, but Avalanche grabs her by the arm and tells her that he is unaware of the full extent of her power, but she should not use it to fix the synthezoid. Disgusted, Wanda wrests her arm from the villain’s grip and declares that, even though he may be a fellow mutant, her place is at the side of her husband. She then kneels down to the lifeless synthezoid, praying that he is not dead.
The innocent bystanders, however, try to grasp the meaning of the Witch’s words - some even think that she sounded “like she’d rather be fightin’ on the side of them muties”. Wanda’s expression changes from concern to anger, as she searches for Avalanche, who is responsible for her husband’s condition. Angrily, she declares that he will learn the extent of her power now, and with one gesture, she causes manhole covers to explode upwards around her opponent.
In the conference room, the six assembled villains and their so-called lackey observe Wanda’s outburst and the rest of the battle between Freedom Force and the Avengers on huge monitors. Dr. Doom suggests for them to take an active hand in the conflict, as Freedom Force apparently lacks the training and teamwork needed to encounter a well-trained strikeforce such as the Avengers. The mysterious man gives him right on that, however he also reminds Dr. Doom that Freedom Force are acting on their own – unlike the many other recent attacks of some super-villains, Freedom Force were not hired by their conclave.
The Red Skull responds that considering their current performance, they shouldn’t consider hiring them in the future - never has he seen such pathetic fighters, after all “even a member of the mongrel race such as the Falcon seems able to hold his own against them.” The Skull suggests that they do something immediately, before an Avengers victory serves to shore up the damages to their resolve they have already worked. The “lackey” confirms this order and leaves to investigate their alternatives, as he claims. However, secretly he thinks to himself that he won’t rush things as there is still a chance of Freedom Force inflicting fatalities on the Avengers, especially upon those two who were present at the “genesis of my shame,” Dr. Pym or the Wasp.
Back at the battle, the Falcon has engaged Avalanche in a fist-fight, and Pyro has managed to get one of his flame projectors working again. Dr. Pym protects himself with transparent shield and, with the Wasp and the Scarlet Witch also closing in on them, the two mutants realize they are losing and need to try something else. Looking around, Pyro notices a group of police officers who are holding back the civilians from getting too close to the combatants. He decides to try to use his status as a governmental operative and orders the cops to arrest the Avengers, leaving the policemen quite puzzled and unsure what to do – after all, it is an order from a government agent.
A voice from above corrects the police officers on that. It’s Captain America, standing on a ladder that’s hanging from a helicopter. He explains that originally Freedom Force were enlisted as a special task force in response to the mutant situation, but he just learned from Washington a few hours ago that there’s been some kind of upset in Freedom Force’s membership and that currently Pyro, Avalanche and the Blob are free agents.
The bystanders have followed Cap’s every word, and some of them are quite angry that Freedom Force tried to make them think that the attack on the Avengers was a government operation. Others , though, think that maybe the government should arrest the Avengers, as they have been causing “nothing but trouble” since they set up base ion new York... and a fight breaks out. Both the Avengers and the police try to keep the opposing civilians from harming each other.
While this was not exactly the effect that Pyro had in mind, he and Avalanche decide to use the moment to their advantage. Avalanche clears an escape route for the two of them, literally parting the streets in front of them, holding everyone back long enough for the two mutants to reach the helicopter they arrived in. Avalanche briefly wonders about the Blob, but Pyro says that it’s his own fault that he let Dr. Pym defeat him. They take off and fly towards the city, hoping to lose any potential pursuers between the sky-scrappers ahead.
The Falcon ponders following them but deems taking care of the wounded civilians wore important. To this, the Scarlet Witch adds that there’s no need to follow the villains, as their helicopter is still within the range of her hex power. Just as she prepares to gesture, the Vision’s cold and monotone voice reminds Wanda that the random nature of her power might cause the helicopter to crash into a populace area of the city and do more harm than good. Seeing her husband alright, him having been able to repair the internal damages, Wanda is relieved and runs over to embrace him. She doesn’t notice nor care that the synthezoid doesn’t respond accordingly: he just stands there – motionless, tolerating the Scarlet Witch’s arms around his body, but not raising his own to return the gesture.
Behind them, Captain America curses, as this distraction bought Pyro and Avalanche just the time to make their getaway. He says that he’ll contact Washington so that Freedom Force will deal with their errant members themselves. Dr. Pym considers this “another round we’ve lost,” and the Falcon adds that they still don’t know what’s really going on and who is behind the increase of unprovoked attacks on them.
In his throne room, the mysterious man has followed the Avengers every word and laughs at them. As far as he is concerned, the Avengers will only grasp the full portent in the moment of their death.
Captain America (Avengers)Dr. Pym, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Wasp (all West Coast Avengers)Falcon (Avengers reservist)
Avalanche, Blob, Pyro (all Freedom Force)
numerous bystanderspolice officers
Loki (in disguise)Red SkullKingpinMagnetoMandarinWizarda doombot
on computer monitors:Iron Man, Thor (both Avengers)JuggernautWrecker
The battle between Thor and the Juggernaut occurred in Thor (1st series) #411-412.
Iron Man fought the Wrecker in Iron Man (1st series) #251-252.
The Vision was dissected ands rebuilt in West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #42-45. While his memory banks were restored, his mind was no longer based on Wonder Man’s brain patterns and he lacked any emotional connections to the data stored in his memory.
The artificial island, Hydrobase, was destroyed in the previous issue by Dr. Doom’s robots. The Avengers first rented some of Hydrobase’s space in Avengers (1st series) #262, when the FAA rescinded the team’s landing permit in the heart of Manhattan. Later, in Avengers (1st series) #278, the team entirely moved to the island after Avengers mansion had been damaged during an attack of the Masters of Evil. Hydrobase served as the East Coast Avengers’ headquarters until it’s destruction. Due to the many supervillain attacks, only Quasar was present when Doom’s robots attacked and he was unable to stop Hydrobase’s demise.
The west coast branch of the Avengers received a distress call about Hydrobase being attacked, and half of the team went to New York in Avengers West Coast #53. Obviously, they came too late to help. Even before the distress call the Vision had already decided to re-join the east coast branch, reasoning that the two Avengers teams were not evenly balanced in terms of power. Following this issue, he remains in New York instead of returning to California with his teammates.
Following the Vision’s dismantling and the discovery that their children were not real, but partially figments of her own imagination and desire to have offspring, the Scarlet Witch entered a catatonic, unresponsive state in Avengers West Coast #53. She only “woke up” during an attack by the U-Foes when Hank Pam said that the Vision was in danger.
There are several clues to the true identity of the mysterious man, who was revealed to be Loki in Avengers West Coast #55. He seems to have some magic based powers (allowing his to cast a scrying spell to observe the Avengers), and his hatred for the Wasp and Dr. Pym is based on them being founding members of the Avengers, who originally formed to fight Loki. Additionally, his speech pattern is not that of an average person; for example he referred to the United States as “the land called America.”
In Uncanny X-Men #254-255, Freedom Force helped to defend Muir Island against the Reavers. During the fight, Avalanche was seriously injured by Lady Deathstrike, whereas Destiny was killed by Legion. Following these events, team leader Mystique took a leave of absence to mourn her lover’s passing.
As revealed in the next issue, Dr. Doom didn’t participate in the villains’ meetings himself, but sent one of his doombots to cover for him.
The X-Men sacrificed their own lives while fighting the Adversary in Dallas. As the entire incident was recorded by a camera team and broadcasted on national TV, the world believes the mutant team dead, even though they were secretly resurrected by Roma. [Uncanny X-Men #225-227]
The subplot about Dr. Harker’s invention started in Avengers (1st series) #306. Eventually, Nebula used the device in one of her mad schemes, endangering the entire universe. [Avengers (1st series) #314-318]
As revealed in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #369, Mystique eventually returned to Freedom Force and reprimanded her teammates for their rash actions. She also was able to track down the Blob and found a means to undo the effects of Pym’s shrinking gas.