Avengers (3rd series) #0

Issue Date: 
July 1999
Story Title: 
Our Top Story Tonight

Kurt Busiek (writer), Stuart Immonen (penciler), Wade von Grawbadger (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterers), Tom Smith (colorist and separations), Gregg Scigiel (assistant editor), Tom Breevort (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

For Wizard Entertainment: Gareb S Shamus (chairman/CEO), Fred Pierce (president/COO), Patrick McCallum (editor-in-chief), Ian M Feller (productions manager), Darren Sanchez (production director), Steve Blackwell (design manager), James A Walker (designer)

Brief Description: 

The current affairs show, “The All-New It's Amazing” is doing a feature on the return of the Avengers, and the recent difficulties the team has been facing. The reporter skims over the Avengers' disappearance in the Onslaught disaster, and recounts their battles with the Squadron Supreme, the Grim Reaper and Pagan. They talk about new members Justice and Firestar, who are watching the report, before the report mentions the Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man and the Vision. The Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man are listening to the report in a Quinjet as they land at the facility housing the Grim Reaper – only to discover it has been trashed, and that robots took the Grim Reaper. The report discusses the troubled battle against Pagan, and how the Avengers think there is a connection between Pagan and the Triune Understanding. Jonathan Tremont and Triathlon over the Triune Understanding are watching the report, and Triathlon wants to send a message to the Avengers in response to their views of the Understanding, but Tremont tells him they will handle the Avengers another way. Trouble brews in Manhattan when the terrorist faction called the Flaming Sword kidnaps a senior-vice president of Osborn Chemical for crimes of “deplorable chemical abuse” of the third world. Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Firestar and the Vision arrive on scene and engage the terrorists, and their associate, Firebrand. The Vision liberates the kidnapped vice president, while Thor challenges Firebrand. The Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man arrive on scene, and their might combined with Thor defeats Firebrand, and the terrorists surrender. Reporters gather around the Avengers, and ask them about the Triune Understanding, and whether the Avengers support the mutant conspiracy, after all, they harbor three members on their team. The feature on the team concludes, and the Avengers are unaware the report was watched by Ultron. He boasts that the Avengers' troubles are nothing compared to what he will bring to them, but Ultron himself has been watched by an unseen figure, warning him of his own troubles to come.

Full Summary: 

A darkened chamber somewhere in New Jersey, where a metal hand twists a knob, and a cold voice utters 'A distasteful way to keep an eye on my foes, but -', and is answered by a soft burst of photons, and a tinny, saccharine fanfare, as a small screen busts to life, and two presenters appear. 'Good evening, America, and welcome to “The All-New It's Amazing” - the TV show about what's happening in this amazing world of ours'. The male host introduces himself as returning host, Mac Sanders, and refers to his new co-host as Diane Cummings, the only cast member to appear not only on the classic “Star Kings” TV show, but on “Stark Kings: A New Dynasty”, “Star Kings: Border Outpost” and “Stark Kings: The Lost Crusade”, as well. Diane smiles and thanks Mac, declaring that it is great to be here, and what better way to kick off their new run, with an in-depth, up-close-and-personal look at their amazing world's most popular heroes – the Mighty Avengers! With that, a team image of most of the present line up bursts onto screen – Captain America! Iron Man! Thor! Scarlet Witch! Vision! Justice! Firestar!

Archival television footage appears on screen, firstly showing a group of heroes including Captain America, the Vision, Black Panther, Hawkeye, Wasp, Giant Man, Wolverine and Mister Fantastic, as one of the announcers remarks that it wasn't that long ago that the Avengers were seemingly lost to them after years of heroic exploits, and the team disbanded after the apparent deaths of their key members in a battle with the cosmic being Onslaught. But the heroes survived, as heroes do, and the team reformed and has been making a splash in the news ever since! More recent footage appears on screen, of a Quinjet floating on water, and Warbird, Hawkeye and Thor battling Hyperion, Skylark and Whizzer, while the Scarlet Witch has fallen into the water. Further footage depicts Wonder Man, Captain America and Iron Man going up against the Grim Reaper, before a third shot of Thor, Wonder Man and the Beast against Pagan appears. 'Whether they've been battling the Squadron-Supreme, mind-controlled heroes of another world, to prove their bona fides, preventing longtime foe the Grim Reaper from bringing about a literal Hell on Earth in Manhattan's Central Park, or standing against the destructive rampages of the violent and demonic Pagan in Texas and Times Square – the Avengers have captured the world's attention like never before!'

Mac Sanders smiles and states 'And what a group they've been, as well!' He points out that this incarnation of the Avengers boasts big names like Captain America, Thor and the armored Iron Man, and longtime mainstays like the Scarlet Witch and the Vision, while Diane Cummings adds that the team also includes newcomers like Justice and Firestar. She announces that these newest members of Earth's Mightiest Heroes have received mixed reaction from the public so far, and that both are former members of the New Warriors, and Firestar has amassed high Q-Ratings, especially among teenage boys.

'Oh, great – look at this!' Vance Astrovik a.k.a. Justice mutters as he hobbles to a sofa in his apartment, assisted by Angelica Jones a.k.a. Firestar, as he has a broken leg. The television is set up in front of the sofa, while Diane Cummings reports that Justice, who has been sidelined after being injured on a recent adventure, has won less adulation from hero watchers. 'Whether it's his onetime manslaughter conviction, or his obvious overenthusiasm at team press conferences -' Diane continues.

'This is national TV, and they're telling everyone I'm a geek. A geek and a foul-up!' Vance complains to Angelica, who tells him not to let it bother him. 'You know it wasn't your fault you were injured – it was the Black Knight's mistake. You even saved the whole team, against the Doomsday Man!' Firestar reminds her fiancé. 'Yeah, Angel – but that's not what the reporters see, is it? They just see a starstruck kid, overwhelmed at finally making the varsity...' Vance's voice trails off, and Angelica reminds him that he has been working on that. 'And I thought I was doing okay, too. Not that I'm going to be able to prove myself much more – to myself or anyone else – not with this stupid broken leg'.

The hosts smile as they prepare to move on to other members of the Avengers. 'But not all the drama's being handled by the younger set, eh, Diane?' Mac points out. Diane agrees, and reports that one of the hottest topics on internet super hero discussion groups these days is the startling developments in the intensely private lives of the Vision, the Scarlet Witch and the recently reborn Wonder Man! As archival footage of the Vision and Scarlet Witch appear on screen, one of the hosts remarks that for years the mutant Scarlet Witch and android Vision had been happily married, after a controversial romance, but that in recent times, that union seems to have been dissolved. They add that Wonder Man, who had been reported killed in a space battle, began appearing as part of the reformed team's battles, first, apparently, as a ghostly manifestation, and then in battle with the Grim Reaper, Wonder Man's brother, ironically enough, he was permanently resurrected. Footage of Wonder Man and the Wasp facing off against the Grim Reaper appears on screen, before it switches to a black and white recording, of Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch evading reporters. 'Look guys, no offense, but the lady and I would like to be left alone!' Wonder Man exclaimed in the recording, as one of the hosts states that Wonder Man has now been “keeping company” with the lovely Scarlet Witch, though the couple have not exactly been forthcoming.

The reporters continue, as one of them announces that what has been at the heart of the speculation and gossip, is the fact that the Vision's android mind was originally based on recordings of Wonder Man's brain. 'So has she switched from the copy to the original? From brother to brother? Or... is it something else?' one of the hosts asks.

A Quinjet lands outside a facility, and inside the craft, Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man tells Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch that he is really sorry about all this, he never meant to drag their private lives into the spotlight like this. The heroes emerge from the Quinjet, and Wanda tells Simon that it is not important, and points out that after years of anti-mutant hysteria, she has very little concern for what the public thinks of her. 'It's your brother Eric that matters now. What do the doctors say?' Wanda asks. Simon tells her that they are not hopeful, but he has been bitter and withdrawn ever since they captured him, brought him back to the real world. Simon adds that his visits don't seem to help, but Eric is his brother, he can't give up, he feels responsible for his insanity, in part. 'Just like I feel guilty about coming between you and the Vision -' Simon begins as he holds the door to the facility so Wanda can enter, as she interrupts him and reminds him that she has told him before, he shouldn't be, as she and the Vision had their own problems. 'And all any of us can do – is be true to ourselves, and fight for what happiness we can -' Wanda states, before they see facility personnel strewn about a partially-destroyed corridor. 'The hospital! It's been trashed!' Simon exclaims.

Wanda checks the medical staff and informs Simon that some of them are still alive. Simon tells her to do what she can for them, while he calls for the ambulances. 'Doctor Janssen?' he calls out as he finds the female doctor, and crouches beside her, asking her what happened here. 'Robots – burst in, attacked – couldn't stop them – but your brother – the Grim Reaper – they – they took him!' Doctor Janssen reveals to a shocked Wonder Man.

The news special on the Avengers continues, as Mac Sanders reports that the Avengers have been no strangers to controversy, whether it stemmed from the Hulk being a founding member, or the recurrent battles with the government over control of the teams' activities. Diane Cummings declares that6 today is no different, pointing out that it was only recently that the Avengers failed to defeat the destructive Pagan at the Triune Understanding's new Texas headquarters, and the battle seemed to implicate the Understanding itself in the attack. Footage of Thor and Firestar battling Pagan appears on screen, followed by an interview with Iron Man, where he is asked: '- saying the Understanding had their own temple wrecked, Iron Man? That seems a little -', to which Iron Man remarked that he was not saying that at all. He explained that they have a lot of unanswered questions about the Triune Understanding, but that they are not accusing them of anything, and that they came to the Triune Understanding on the trail of a dangerous super-villain, a trail that led directly here. The recording of Iron Man adds that the Avengers were disappointed that the Understanding chose to block any further investigation, and they hope that the Understanding will reconsider that stance.

This recording is watched by Jonathan Tremont, leader of the Triune Understanding, as well as some other Triune members, and the organization's own super-hero, Triathlon. 'Of all the -' Triathlon begins. 'And to think I actually used to admire that armored creep!' He adds that they should call a press conference, and tell Iron Man to shove that innuendo up his circuit boards. But Tremont tells Triathlon no, and points out that as the Understanding's “resident super hero” it is only natural for him to think confrontationally, but the public squabble is not the Triune way. Tremont tells Triathlon that he may be rest assured that the Triune Understanding will deal with the Avengers' slanders in its own fashion.

Back in the news studio, Mac states that despite the public perception that Iron Man's remarks were only meant to detract from the Avengers' failure against Pagan, the teams' approval rating has been at record highs since their return. 'Even with three mutants on the team. This is -' Mac begins, to which Diane touches her earpiece and excuses herself for interrupting, but that she has to break in, as she has received word from New York that the Avengers are going into action, and that by special arrangement with the Maria Stark Foundation, the Avengers' financial supporters, “It's Amazing” is going along to. She continues, reporting that the situation, according to what they have been told, is that a senior vice-president of Osborn Chemical has been kidnapped by the eco-terrorist group the Flaming Sword, and they have threatened to kill him unless Osborn ceases their “deplorable chemical abuse” of third world nations, and because they are holding him at Osborn's Manhattan plant, the Avengers were called.

At that moment, a sleek Quinjet soars across a darkened Manhattan, and inside, Iron Man tells his teammates that he has gone up against the Flaming Sword recently, and can expect them to have state of the art weaponry. He is about to add something else, when the Quinjet is shot at. Down below, the armed Flaming Sword members have gathered, as has someone who appears to be made of pure energy, who exclaims 'Hah! The crypto-facist soldiers of bbthe status quo dare to defend their corrupt masters – and so they shall share their fate! So shall all who oppose us!' But from the wreckage of the flaming Quinjet, the Avengers – Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Firestar and the Vision – emerge. Iron Man carries Captain America through the air, while the others can all fly, and Iron Man adds that, as he was saying, the Flaming Sword also have Firebrand on their side, and he is a pretty rough customer, as they have just seen. Iron Man explains that underneath all that revolutionary cant, they are a bunch of phonies, using eco—concerns as cover for grand-scale theft.

'Then choose thou each a foe, Avengers – and let them know that the Avengers have arrived – and their foul villainy shall not be permitted to stand!' Thor booms as he slams his hammer into Firebrand, knocking him back. While Firestar blasts her opponent with a beam of microwave energy, Cap kicks his foe into another and remarks that he doesn't think they should have brought along the hover-camera, pointing out that they are here to do a job, after all, not put on a show. Iron Man fires an energy blast downwards and tells Cap to ease up, as a little publicity won't hurt. He reminds Cap that the world was badly shaken after Onslaught, and it is good to have the chance to show them that the Avengers are back on the job.

'And there you have it, folks! The Avengers in action – and you are there!' comes the commentary from the “It's Amazing” studio.

'Back off, heroes – or I give the order, and there'll be one less corporate weasel in the world!' exclaims one of the Flaming Sword operatives.

The screen depicted to viewers of “It's Amazing” now appears to have a red tint to it, and one of the announcers tells viewers not to adjust their sets, there is nothing wrong with the color. They report that what is being shown is the Osborn sub-baseement, where Charles Standish is being held by the Flaming Sword seen through very special circumstances. 'Huh? Who -?' one of the terrorists asks as he stands over a wide-eyed Charles Standish, as the Vision materializes through a wall. The Vision is responsible for the video feed, being fed directly from his optic circuits. The Vision advises surrender to the terrorists, pointing out that they have made their statement, and virtually ensured an investigation into Osborn's overseas practices, but he will not allow Mr Standish to be harmed. 'The robot!' one of the terrorists gasps. 'Gun him!' the other exclaims. The Vision sighs and states that he will use his density-changing ability to disrupt their biological systems, and his solar eye-beams to neutralize their weapons. 'The result will be the same' the Vision points out as he does both of those actions, taking the terrorists out.

The newsfeed switches back outside, as the Vision informs the others that Mr Standish has been rescued. Lightning flashes in the sky and rain pours as Thor dodges a blast from Firebrand. Thor informs Firebrand that his prisoner is his no more. 'And by my hammer – thou shalt be the next to fall!' Thor booms, but Firebrand calls Thor a mythological sham and tells him those words are empty. 'You control the weather, and you think you can fool people into thinking you're a god! But I'm Firebrand – I am the unfettered fury of the world itself, crying for justice!' Firebrand declares. Thor admits that Firebrand is powerful, but reminds him that he faces the true God of Thunder and Lord of the living lightning. 'More, more! I walk through volcanoes, fool – lightning can't hurt me!' Firebrand declares as surges of lightning strike him. Suddenly, Wonder Man flies into the fray, carrying the Scarlet Witch, who casts forth crimson energies. 'I'm sure you could knock this guy silly given time, Thor – but let me see if I can't speed things up a little!' Wanda calls out as the energies strike Firebrand, 'Eh? What -?' Firebrand calls out, as Wanda tells him that it is called hex power, and that she is merging it with the energy his body is made out of. She adds that the plan was to take control of him, but it seems she is not experienced enough with her new abilities to do that.

Thor tells Wanda that it doesn't matter, and assures her that her arcane power has done enough already, as Firebrand is writhing and struggling against her power, giving him the time to use his hammer to shatter the bounds of reality, to open a rift between dimensions. 'And with Wonder Man's assistance -' Thor points out. 'I got you, Thor -' Wonder Man responds as they both slam into  Firebrand, sending him through the dimensional gulf, where he won't be bothering anyone. As Captain America and Firestar continue to battle the Flaming Sword members, one of them announces their surrender.

Mac and Diane continue to report on the Avengers, and one of them states that another Avengers case is successfully concluded, while another points out that there is still time left so they will stick around as the police take the terrorists away and the press arrives. '- no fatalities?' someone asks as police and ambulance officers arrive on scene, followed by reporters and camera crews. ' - recovereda shipment of valuable radioactive isotopes the Flaming Sword were apparently stealing -' someone else remarks, while a third asks if they will face trial. The Avengers gather before the camera crews, and Thor announces that they will retrieve Firebrand once suitable confinement hath been prepared. 'What about the Triunes?' one of the reporters calls out. 'Is your hostility religious bigotry – or just incompetence?' the reporter enquires. 'Iron Man's comments about the Flaming Sword – is he against environmental causes?' another reporters asks. 'And the mutant issue?' a third calls out. 'You harbor mutants – does that mean you support the mutant conspiracy?'

'What?' a surprised Captain America remarks in response to the questions. Thor declares that he thinks these questions are unseemly, while Iron Man remarks that he doesn't believe this. 'We just stopped a terrorist threat – and you're sandbagging us?' he asks the reporters. 'So, Wanda – you feel harbored?' Firestar asks. 'Rarely' Wanda replies. Captain America addresses the reporters by telling them that the Maria Stark Foundation will issue a full release on what happened here tonight, but as for the rest, the Avengers have no intention of dignifying such scurrilous questions with any response whatsoever.

'And that's our show, folks!' Mac or Diane exclaims. 'Tune in again next week, when -' they add, but the transmission to Ultron's location ends when the powerful robot gets up from where he has been watching the reporter, and remarks 'How rich – the mighty Avengers, my most hated enemies, assailed by the jackals of the press. How...troubled they must be. And yet – whatever troubles they think they have now, they are little more than illusion – for the threat of Ultron looms above them once again – and distracted as they are, by the time they realize it – it will be far, far too late!'

But Ultron is not the only one to be watching enemies tonight, and as his electronic laughter echoes from the walls of his lair, he appears to be unaware that he, too, has been watched, as another robotic voice from a separate location remarks 'Ultron, Ultron, Ultron. You always did count your chickens before they were hatched. But it won't be long, not long at all – before you discover you have troubles of your own!'

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Firestar, Iron Man, Justice, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision, Wonder Man (all Avengers)

Alkhema (unidentified)

Mac Sanders & Diane Cummings

Flaming Sword members

Charles Standish
Doctor Janssen
Hospital staff
Emergency personnel
Camera crews

In archival footage
Black Panther, Captain America, Giant-Man, Hawkeye, Mr Fantastic, Vision, Wasp, Wolverine
Scarlet Witch & the Vision

In video recordings
Firestar, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Warbird , Wasp (all Avengers)
Hyperion, Skylark, Whizzer II (all Squadron Supreme)

Captain America, Iron Man (both Avengers)
Wonder Man
Grim Reaper

Thor, Wonder Man (both Avengers)

In paparazzi footage:
Scarlet Witch & Wonder Man

Story Notes: 

This issue was originally available free with issue #95 of Wizard Magazine.

This issue takes place between Avengers (3rd series) #18 and #19.

This special issue also includes a four page history of Ultron.

Many of the Avengers were seemingly killed during the Onslaught debacle.

The Avengers returned in the “Heroes Return” storyline, and the team was re-formed over the course of Avengers (3rd series) #1-4.

The Avengers fought the Squadron Supreme in Avengers (3rd series) #5-6, battled the Grim Reaper

in Avengers (3rd series) #11 and went up against Pagan in Avengers (3rd series) #14-15.

Justice was convicted of manslaughter after killing his abusive father in New Warriors (1st series) #26.

Justice was injured in Avengers (3rd series) #16 and helped save his teammates from the Doomsday Man in #17.

The Scarlet Witch and the Vision were married in the classic Giant-Sized Avengers #4. Their marriage was dissolved after the Vision was taken apart and rebuilt without his emotions in West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #42-45.

Wonder Man was killed in battle in Force Works #1, was conjured by the Scarlet Witch in Avengers (3rd series) #2, and returned to life in Avengers (3rd series) #11.

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