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Mark Waid, Al Ewing & Jim Zub (writers), Sean Izaakse (artist), David Curiel (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Cory Petit (letterer), Mark Brooks (cover artist), Nick Bradshaw & Jim Campbell (variant cover artists), Carlos Lao (graphic designer), Alanna Smith (assistant editor), Tom Breevort (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (president), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Avengers created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
The fight between the Avengers and the Lethal Legion rages on. Hawkeye joins in the battle, while Red Wolf tries to make sense of what is transpiring and find a way forward. In the Antarctic, Rogue is still struggling with killing Corvus Glaive and snaps at Lightning when he tries to offer a suggestion. Along with Hercules and Thor, they take a moment to rest, and Hercules tries to give Rogue some words of comfort, before Lightning heads off to the Avengers Auxiliary HQ. At the hospital in Manhattan, the Beast has discovered the apparent cause of Jarvis' condition – an alien pathogen. He sets about trying to work on a cure. Back in New Mexico, the Avengers are all caught up in smaller individual battles against the Legion members, while Red Wolf plans to get to the pyramoid before the Legion members can. Hawkeye is reluctant to let this happen, but when Red Wolf assures Hawkeye that he won't die, Hawkeye assists him in his plan – which works, and Red Wolf touches the pyramoid, before vanishing, ending up in the Grandmaster's games room, where he is trapped in a large crystal, like Human Torch, Black Dwarf and Frene the Other. The Grandmaster then releases the final pyramoid – at the hospital where the Beast is looking after Jarvis. The pyramoid stirs some spirits who start to cause trouble in the hospital, while Jarvis wakes and shouts 'It's a lie'. The Challenger has a plan of his own, and releases his final piece – the Hulk rises and is full of rage....
The Valley of Doom:
“You cannot take the path until you can see it” Red Wolf thinks to himself, recalling that his mother spoke these words of wisdom to him when he was a boy. Right now, though, he is backed up to the edge of a deep ravine, by an outlaw who aims a pistol at Red Wolf and exclaims 'Whoa there, Sheriff Red Wolf. I've still got one bullet in the chamber and it's got yer name on it'. The outlaw is missing a tooth in the front of his mouth, he grins and calls out 'Take one more step an' ye'll see... honest injun'.
Red Wolf remembers that his mother always had grace and poise, even in the face of ignorance and hate and tells himself that her example kept him true, especially in times of great strife – she taught him how to look at things.
In New Mexico, Red Wolf looks out over a battlefield and assesses his next move – he knows that his path today will be hard to find. He has just arrived on scene with Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye, and before them is an all-out battle between a squad of Avengers and the Lethal Legion. Emily Guerrero a.k.a. Synapse dodges the attack of Mentacle, while Jan van Dyne the Wasp flits about in front of Captain Glory, who is unable to strike her. Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man clashes with Drall, while Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch and Jericho Drumm a.k.a. Doctor Voodoo find themselves up against the Blood Brothers. 'Are you two a sight for sore eyes!' Sam Wilson the Falcon calls out as he swoops over to Hakweye and Red Wolf. 'Even dressed for the occasion. What's the plan?' Hawkeye replies.
Falcon tells the new arrivals that if the baddies get the glowing pyramid up in the air, Earth is kaput! 'Why am I not surprised?' Hawkeye mutters, before firing an arrow towards Molyn the Metal Master. 'What a pitiful attack, you worthless -' Molyn begins, before he starts coughing and spluttering as the arrowhead releases a gas around him. 'Wahoo! Wolf, didja see that?' Hawkeye smiles at his companion. 'Yes. I'm looking' Red Wolf replies, as he tells himself that the path is there.
Meanwhile, in the Antarctic: 'Let's stop for a sec. Double-check our coordinates' Rogue suggests to her team as she flies over ice-cold water, carrying the corpse of Corvus Glaive behind her. Miguel Santos a.k.a. Lightning flies alongside in lightning-form, while Dr Jane Foster a.k.a. Thor pulls Hercules behind her, who carries the unconscious Ebony Maw. 'How much farther, my friends? I tire of this icy bleakness. I need a roaring fire and spicy meat to satiate my heroic hunger!' Hercules calls out. The heroes drop down on some nearby land, and Thor tells Hercules that they are all tired and hungry, and that he should just be happy he doesn't have to walk. Lightning suggests that they should have waited for Voyager, as she said she was coming back to get them. 'Go wait for her if you want. Ah'm not stopping you' Rogue tells him. 'I just figure it would be more efficient if we -' Miguel begins, but Rogue snaps at him: 'Ah don't care what's efficient, Lightning! Ah just wanna make these bastards pay!'
Rogue then looks down at Corvus' weapon that she holds in her hands and apologizes to Miguel, who look at her with side-eyes. 'That was harsh. I know you mean well' Rogue tells Miguel. 'Rogue...' Miguel begins, rubbing the back of his head, before Hercules goes over to her and puts a hand on her shoulder: 'John Storm was one of us. His heart burned bright and inspired us all. You avenged him well' Hercules tells her. Rogue hangs her head and tells Hercules that she knows, but that she still feels empty. 'That's the warrior's curse' Hercules remarks, hanging his head. 'The hold inside us that will never be filled'. Miguel offers to zip back to Avengers Auxiliary Headquarters and find out where Voyager is, or get Toni to send a Quinjet to pick them up. 'Okay' Rogue agrees, before Miguel switches to his lightning form and darts away. Hercules grins and tells Rogue and Thor that he likes boy. 'He fires forth as if thrown by Zeus himself. Let's see Mjolnir do that, eh Thunder God?' Hercules jokes. 'Hmmph' Thor mutters.
Meantime, at Lenox Hill Hospital: 'You treacherous little malefactor. I found you!' Hank McCoy a.k.a. Beast exclaims as he looks into a scope that magnifies a strange little creature. Nadia van Dyne a.k.a. Wasp stands nearby as Hank tells her that they ruled out radiation and alien energies, but did not rule out alien pathogens at the quantum level. 'And thus' the Beast exclaims as he flips back through the air, away from the scientific equipment and to the bedside of the gravely ill Edwin Jarvis. 'At that size, Dr McCoy? How can one exist? I mean, I can, but -' Nadia begins, as Hank tells her that the key word is “alien”, meaning it is not limited in the ways terran diseases are, which is why he didn't spot it earlier. He adds that any or all Avengers who have recently travelled off-world might be carrying it benignly. The Beast remarks that certainly, one of them unknowingly infected Jarvis, but the way Jarvis' concussion required his diseases defenses that made him uniquely vulnerable to its effects.
The Beast asks Nadia if he can have her assistance in helping Jarvis. 'Of course! I'll do anything!' Nadia replies. 'Good' the Beast declares as he suddenly shoves a needle into Nadia's arm. 'OW!' Nadia exclaims. The Beast reports that they have to concoct a vaccine against something they have never seen before, and in order to do that, he needs to see if Nadia is fighting it off. He places the sample he extracts from Nadia under the scope and exclaims 'Triumph! Your bloodstream is indeed battling this super-powered sub-microorganism as well – meaning that emulating your internal chemistry gives us the best chance for a cure!' the Beast tells Nadia as he pours a liquid from one test tube to another. Nadia urgently tells the Beast to hurry, as Jarvis' vital signs have suddenly plummeted!
Back in New Mexico, it has taken Red Wolf a moment to see it, as the battle around him is chaotic – but this isn't chaos. 'I was inside your mind before you even touched this primitive projectile, human! Such physical attacks are useless against -' Mentacle begins as the Wasp dodges his attack, and swoops back around behind him, before suddenly increasing her form to her default human size as she slams a fist into his headpiece: 'Yeah? How about distractions?' she asks him. 'Do those work?' the Wasp asks. Red Wolf notices that it is a pattern, a series of tells. 'Could you please just calm down?' Wonder Man asks as he grabs Drall's sword and tries to keep her at bay. 'fight back, curse you! Attack me!' Drall shouts at the pacifist. Red Wolf knows that there is a way that animals fight when they face certain death – with a frantic, desperate, terrified savagery, but he sees none of that in play from the Legionnaires, to a one, they are cold, fearless, cunning – not suicidal.
Hawkeye fires more arrows towards the Metal Master who remarks that he is coming around to this mode of attack, that it is like performance art. 'May I have a turn?' he jokes. 'Hey! Give that back!' Hawkeye calls out as the Metal Master uses his power to snatch Hawkeye's bow from his hands – but before he can take possession of it, Falcon slams down on Metal Master, 'Come on, man. Be nice That's all Hawkeye has in the world' Falcon jokes. Captain Glory has found where Roberto DaCosta has been recovering after an encounter with Mentacle and tells him that he is out of practice. 'Too long behind a desk?' he asks. Captain Glory opens fire with an energy blast, but Wonder Man flies down and grabs Roberto, pulling him to safety and telling him that the Legion don't want to talk, he has tried. 'Did you try champagne?' the weak Roberto asks. Red Wolf continues to watch the battle as Avengers and Legionnaires are thrown about. He knows that the Legionnaires want to claim the pyramoid and move towards it without hesitation. Drall, Mentacle, Captain Glory and the Blood Brothers fight on, while Metal Master is currently unconscious. Red Wolf realizes that the Legion know something about the pyramoid that the Avengers don't.
'I mean it! Walk away or get a bullet in the face!' the outlaw shouts at Red Wolf, who tells himself that fear and courage both make the heart race – they fuel the fire of one's actions but can also make them blind to their own mistakes. Red Wolf decides that if one can slow their racing heart, take in the world around them and see truth, then the way forward is clear. He stands his ground, and the outlaw suddenly looks worried, Sweat trickles down his forehead, he trembles as he attempts to pull the trigger. 'I – I mean it...' he calls out, before Red Wolf lunges at him.
Red Wolf tells himself that it is just having the will to take it, and suddenly asks Clint to give him covering fire. Hawkeye turns to his friend and asks him what he is going to do. 'You heard Falcon. If our enemies take the pyramoid, Earth is one step closer to destruction. So... I'm going to collect it' Red Wolf announces. Clint looks shocked: 'You heard what happened to the Torch! You touch it, you die -' Clint begins, but Red Wolf smiles at Hawkeye and tells him that if he vanishes from this place, he will find a way back. 'You've known me longer than anyone in this time has, Clint. We are brothers' Red Wolf remarks, before asking Clint if he trusts him. While Wonder Man is still trying to peacefully subdue Drall, the Wasp flies past them, and Hawkeye pauses, he frowns, then mutters 'Damn it'.
Hawkeye looks out through the battle field and tells Red Wolf that he can see a clear run coming up. He asks him if he is ready, and Red Wolf tells him that he is. He remembers punching the outlaw in the face, and starts to run, as Hawkeye fires some arrows and tells Red Wolf that when he gives the word, he is to break right. 'Gonna break you, you little -' one of the Blood Brothers remarks as they loom over Red Wolf. 'Fire in the hole!' Hawkeye calls out, and Red Wolf breaks right, as the arrow strikes one of the Blood Brothers, knocking him into the other. 'He's going for the pyramoid!' one brother shouts. 'Stop him!' the other exclaims, as Red Wolf is reminded that his parents taught him how to look, to read the world around him, to read the truth in people. And he never forgot this.
'How... how'd you know?' the outlaw, sprawled out on the ground asks as Red Wolf picks up his gun. 'I looked' Red Wolf replies, opening the gun up, he sees only two bullets in the chamber.
Falcon sees what is happening. 'Red Wolf? What's he -?' Falcon calls out to Hawkeye, who tells Falcon to trust Red Wolf. Red Wolf leaps into the air, reaches out for the pyramoid and knows that if he dies today, it won't be from this. The pyramoid then seems to explode, and Red Wolf with it, lightning up the sky over New Mexico. 'NO!' Falcon shouts 'Damn it – we could have stopped them without -' Facon declares, but Hawkeye tells him that Red Wolf didn't want to take the chance, and adds that Red Wolf was right – this way their “pyramoid” is out of play. Hawkeye fires an arrow into the battlefield, and Falcon asks him when he became so callous. 'First Banner, now this? That man was your friend -' Falcon begins. 'He's not my friend, Falc' Hawkeye replies, before turning to Falcon and smiling: 'He's my brother – and he gave me his word. Red Wolf is not dead. And wherever he is now...I'm betting the Torch is there, too'.
The Grandmaster's cosmic game room, where the Grandmaster and Challenger look up at four colored crystals that hover above the game room, Red Wolf is inside one, as is Johnny Storm the Human Torch. Frene the Other from the Lethal Legion is inside one, and the Black Dwarf from the Black Order is in the fourth. 'I'm starting to think your obstacles are more trouble than they're worth' the Challenger remarks. The Grandmaster tells him not to worry, as the Avengers will soon learn that this game cannot end in a draw. 'Much as you might wish it...' he adds. 'Careful, Gast' the Challenger warns the Grandmaster, adding that he may decide to forfeit the game. 'Then I'll die a winner' the Grandmaster smiles. The Grandmaster comments on how well his Lethal Legion have fared compared to the Challenger's Black Order. 'The advantage is clearly mine...and thus, I claim the finaly pyramoid – the decider. The quintessence' he announces as the pyramoid hovers before them, and he remarks that he knows just where to put it.
Back in the hospital, Nadia announces that it is working, thjat Jarvis' heart and brain waves are growing stronger. 'Let's not count our chickens, Nadia. This is a delicate procedure, and -' the Beast begins as he checks some readings before he hears something: 'Is that screaming?' he asks. Out in the corridor, the final pyramoid has been placed – it is the pyramoid of the soul, of magic and spirit, so where better for it than among the dead and dying? Hospital staff and patients run in fear, 'Please – please don't look at me like that!' someone calls out as a spirit rushes towards him. 'Mom? You – you died!' a woman calls out as the spirit of her mother looms over her. 'Pierce my ears and call my drafty...' the Beast gasps.
The Challenger remarks that such a location will summon the Grandmaster's “obstacles” in force, and suggests that they may even try to claim it, which he thinks is an amusing strategy, and reminds the Grandmaster that he has strategies of his own – a piece held in reserve.
The Beast tells Nadia that they have to get Jarvis out of here, but Nadia declares that moving him could kill him – when suddenly, Jarvis comes to. 'Lie... it's a lie...' Jarvis utters.
The Challenger adds that he has something else for the “Grandmaster” - he has vengeance – he has rage. 'What are you doing?' the Grandmaster asks. 'Reaching out with my mind. Setting a direction. Making an offer' the Challenger smiles.
The ruins of the mount in Arizona, where something green looks towards the opening of the ruins.
The Challenger asks the Grandmaster if he knows what rage is – not the pain of betrayal, the hurt of being wronged by a friend.
'It's all a lie! A lie!' Jarvis shouts, sitting up in bed.
The Challenger grins and exclaims that pain is loud, it roars and bellows, it only wants to be left alone to heal – or to die.
Jarvis falls backwards, and Nadia announces that he is flatlining.
The Challenger adds that rage is silent, cold and cannot be stopped – and it never, ever dies.
At that moment, from the ruins, a mighty green figure lumbers out of the shadows and into daylight – Dr Bruce Banner – the Immortal Hulk!
Falcon, Hercules, Thor IV, Wasp III (all Avengers)
Beast, Doctor Voodoo, Human Torch II, Rogue, Scarlet Witch, Synapse II, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers Unity Division)
Citizen V VII (US Avengers)
Hawkeye & Red Wolf
Black Dwarf, Ebony Maw (both Black Order)
Corvus Glaive (corpse)
Blood Brothers, Captain Glory, Drall, Frene the Other, Mentacle, Molyn (all Lethal Legion)
Hospital staff and patients
This issue is narrated by Red Wolf.
The Hulk was seemingly killed by Hawkeye in Civil War II #3.