Avengers (3rd series) #13

Issue Date: 
February 1999
Story Title: 
Lords and Leaders

Kurt Busiek (writer), George Perez (penciler), Al Vey & Scott Koblish (inkers), Richard Starkings, Comicraft & Wes Abbott (letterers), Tom Smith (colorist), Tom Breevort (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Justice and Firestar are working with their old teammates in the New Warriors to stop a mob who had connections to the AIM, and during the battle, Justice acts strangely. The Scarlet Witch struggles to deal with everything that has been happening in her life recently, and informs Wonder Man that the Vision still has his emotions. She seems torn about where her true feelings lie, but assures Wonder Man she wants to be with him. Justice and Firestar join the New Warriors at their Crash Pad HQ, where they catch up on old times and recent events, before Justice learns that the New Warriors may be breaking up. The rest of the Avengers have a meeting to discuss leadership, and to her surprise the Scarlet Witch is nominated for deputy leader. The New Warriors have tracked one of the mob members to an AIM warehouse and a full-scale battle is currently underway as the young heroes attempt to take down the arms-dealers. Adding to the trouble, Lord Templar arrives, claiming to confiscate the AIM warehouse and everything within it. The New Warriors engage Lord Templar in battle, but find themselves overwhelmed. The rest of the team is still discussing leadership, when an emergency call from Firestar comes through to them. The Scarlet Witch assumes temporary leadership of the team, and with Wonder Man, the Vision and Thor depart for the AIM warehouse, where the New Warriors are getting trounced by Lord Templar – who falls under the hex power of the Scarlet Witch when she arrives with the other Avengers. Templar decides that the Avengers would make excellent converts to his crusade against law and government, before releasing his avatars, six other version of himself which the Avengers and New Warriors must battle. The Scarlet Witch comes up with a plan, while contemplating herself in a leadership role once again. Her plan works, as Thor is able to take down Lord Templar, who flees. The Avengers and New Warriors barely have time to gather themselves before some vibranium causes the warehouse to explode. In the aftermath, the Scarlet Witch agrees to the deputy leader position, and Justice plans to tell Firestar he wants to leave the Avengers – but she gets in first and tells him that she wants to move into Avengers Mansion, while elsewhere, Lord Templar meets with two mysterious figures, as they advance their mysterious plans.

Full Summary: 

Lower Manhattan, the waterfront, where it has not been a good night for a contingent of the “Junior” Gates Mob. All they were supposed to do was muscle in on some gang territory, chase the punks off so “Junior” could take over – and it went fine, for a while. There is an explosion amongst a cluster of warehouses, and the mobsters respond by firing large weapons into the warehouses: 'Run! Run! They're right behind us!' one of them calls out. 'Correction, bunkies! We're here!' a voice exclaims as a blast of energy knocks the mobsters over – then, a large fist punches up through the dock, knocking another few mob members into the air. 'Just keep firing! They can't -' one of the mob calls out, until his weapon is blasted to pieces, while a batton is hurled towards another as he exclaims 'I don't believe it! They're cutting us down like -' while a couple of mobsters make it onto a speedboat. 'This is crazy, I told “Junior” getting intao advanced weapons was a bad idea – but does he listen? No, he says firepower's the answer to everything! And now look – we got the Avengers on our case!' the mobster exclaims.

'Just shaddup and get inta the boat, Lenny – and we'll get outta here!' the mobster waiting in the speedboat exclaims. The boat takes off, but someone in the air above calls out: 'Sorry, guys – but you're wrong on two points!' The boat and the mobsters are then engulfed in telekinetic energy, which dismantles the boat and suspends the mobsters mid-air. 'First off, you're not going anywhere!' the voice continues. 'And second, my telekinetic dismantling of your boat notwithstanding – you're not up against the Avengers!' exclaims Vance Astrovik a.k.a. Justice. He thinks to himself that this is great, and he feels fantastic. He flies back to the dock, where Angelica Jones a.k.a. Firestar, his fiancee, and members of the new Warriors are rounding up the mobsters. 'Of course – the New Warriors aren't exactly chopped liver – even when they haven't been getting headlines lately!' Justice calls out.

'Nice to hear you say that, Super-Tights!' Rich Rider a.k.a. Nova smiles as he flies past Justice, while Robbie Baldwin a.k.a. Speedball tells Justice that after he made the Avengers starting line-up, they were beginning to think that he would see a night out with his old buddies as going back to the minors. Elvin Haliday a.k.a. Rage tells Speedball that Vance and Firestar would never think of them that way. Nova tells Rage to relax, and points out that Speedball is just joking. Nova adds that it is great to have their two wandering founders back for a visit. He adds that with Namorita off in Atlantis on business, Firestar is the first spandex babe they have seen in weeks. 'Nova! Angelica exclaims. Dwayne Taylor a.k.a. Night Thrasher tells everyone that they have had enough clowning, and should call the cops about the mobsters. Justice reports that he has already called them on his Avengers comm-system which is building into his costume.

'Hey – over there!' Justice exclaims as he sees one mobster making a run for it down an alleyway. 'But he won't get far' Justice tells the others as he takes fligth after the mobster – until Night Thrasher throws a batton towards Justice, it bounces off the walls of the alleway, blocking Justice's path. 'Huh?' Justice asks. Night Thrasher explains that that mobster is supposed to get away, as they placed a tracer on him, and now that they have trashed the gang's armory, they are hoping he will lead them to their supplier. 'We didn't have time to tell you' Night Thrasher adds. 'No prob – and no harm done, right?' Justice replies, surprising Firestar that he just shrugged off a goof with “no harm done”.

Back in Avengers Mansion, headquarters of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch and Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man are relaxing in their quarters. Simon reclines on a sofa, reading a book, while Wanda hovers in a trance, crimson energies wafting around her. Wanda has recently learned that the energy her mutant powers have let her control all her life is a mystic energy – chaos energy, and that with enough time and care, she can accomplish far more with it than the simple disruptive “hexes” she is used to. In fact, it wasn't very long ago that she used the power to help Simon return from the dead, and now she is determined to explore her power, to attune herself to it, become used to it.

'Not that I'd recommend being dead to anyone – but at least there are a few upsides. When you come back, all your favorite authors have two or three new books out!' Simon exclaims, adding that he never thought there would be another Richard Stark book. Suddenly, Wanda moans, 'Can't – maintain -' she utters, before dropping to the floor. Simon sits up and tells Wanda that he is sorry if he wrecked her concentration, but Wanda tells Simon that it wasn't him – just a headache. She adds that itr is kind of hard to clear her mind at the moment after everything that has been going on – her expanded powers, Simon's return, the Vision.... 'The Vision? What about him? If there's a problem -' Simon begins, putting an arm around Wanda as she leans against the sofa. Wanda tells Simon that it is not really a problem, it is just complicated, and she isn't sure where to start. 'I told you most of it, and you saw a lot for yourself' Wanda reminds Simon.

Wanda continues, telling Simon that she and the Vision were so in love, and then his android body was dismantled and rebuilt without his memories or his emotions, for so long, there was so much pain – and then, he told Wanda that their marriage ended with his “death” and that he wasn't the same man anymore, so she finally let go. Wanda gets to her feet and walks over to a window, she stares out into the night and reveals to Simon that when they were chasing the Thunderbolts, she discovered that the Vision had not been telling her the truth – he did have all his memories back – his emotions – but he lied to her, pretneded not to – to spare her more pain. 'To spare me pain' Wanda repeats to herself. Simon gets up and walks towards Wanda, assuring her that he didn't know. 'If it's him you want – him you love – I'll -; Simon begins. 'You'll step aside? That's gallant, Simon – but it won't be necessary' Wanda assures him.

Simon puts his hands on Wanda's shoulders, but Wanda tells him that it is all right. 'If he and I haad been together when you needed me – well, things would have been different. But we weren't, by his choice more than mine. And i'm not going to chase after him now, like some silly schoolgirl. I'm a free woman, Simon. I make my own choices. And I choose -' Wanda begins as she leans in to kiss Simon, interrupted by the intercomm, over which Edwin Jarvis's voice can be heard. He pardons the interruption, and explains that the others would like her to join them in the meeting room. 'Of course, Jarvis! Simon and I will be right down!' Wanda exclaims as she pulls away from Simon, who smiles.

Meanwhile, at the East River “Crash Pad” HQ of the New Warriors, the six friends gather in the main part of the complex. 'Now, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?' Speedball asks, while Rage enquires as to whether there is anything on the tracker yet. Justice looks at a monitor and reports that there is nothing, and that it is supposed to go off in the presence of high-energy powerpacks, according to what Night Thrasher said, but there is not a peep so far. 'Oh, man! The pizza's cold!' Speedball complains as he opens a pizza box. 'Of course it is, Toothpick – we were gone for like an hour! Besides, it's delivery pizza – I think there've been whole scientific studies about how delivery pizza loses heat faster than any other known substance!' Nova declares.

Justice thinks to himself that it is funny – he has been so nervous and edgy lately, but not tonight – all through the battle, he was calm and relaxed. 'Angel! Angel, come quick! Emergency!' Speedball calls out. 'Huh? What's wrong, Robbie?' Firestar asks as she goes over to where Speedball and Nova are standing over the pizza box. 'Cold pizza! Quick, use your microwave powers – hot it up!' Speedball tells her. 'But if you microwave pizza, the crust goes all soggy' Firestar points out. 'But if you don't – it's cold!' Speedball exclaims. 'Okay, okay' Firestar complies, unleashing a microwave burst over the pizza. Nova takes a piece of the pizza and tells Angelica that she sure is upbeat these days – and that he barely recognized her with a smile on her face. Firestar agrees that she has been pretty happy these days, and reminds everyone how she had been having trouble with her powers affecting her health – but the Avengers hooked her up with Dr Pym, who gave her a special suit to wear, and now everything is fine. 'Every time I use me powers – I cure myself a little more!' Firestar exclaims, microwave energy darting about her hands. 'Hey, that's great, Angel!' one of the guys tells her

Justice looks around at the Crash Pad and wonders if it is this place – he has a lot of good memories here. Rage remarks to Firestar 'Making the papers, saving the world from the Grim Reaper annd guys like that. Getting your health fixed up – you guys are sure doing better than the Warriors have been recently'. Justice turns from a monitor which depicts an old photo of he and Firestar with Rage, Speedball, Namorita, Nova and Night Thrasher and asks 'Huh? Are the Warriors in trouble? Is something wrong?' Cheese oozing from his mouth, Speedball tells Vance that it is no biggie, but that the team has kinda been falling apart since he and Firestar left, that they have been living their own lives, not having as much time for meetings or patrols, and Rage spends all his time at that school he used to hate.

Nova remarks that it is funny – they used to have too many members, but the newer guys hardly ever come around any more, so it is pretty much down to the four of them, although Nita is due back from Atlantis soon. 'What? Why didn't anyone tell me? If we did this – if Angel and I wrecked things by leaving -' Justice exclaims, concerned. Night Thrasher tells Vance to relax, and that being a Warrior was never supposed to be a lifetime commitment, after all. He adds that Vance and Firestar are doing great as Avengers, so even if the Warriors break up, that's no crime – they are all still friends, and that is what counts. 'Yeah, but if you guys can get me an Avengers interview, I'll be your double-plus bestest friend! Huh? Huh?' Speedball exclaims. Firestar smiles at him, when suddenly, a monitor sounds. 'There's the tracker alarm! Saddle up, Warriors – let's ride!' Nova calls out.

Back at Avengers Mansion, 'Sorry we're late, everyone' Wanda remarks as she and Simon enter the meeting room, where they find Thor, the Vision and Jarvis, who is serving some tea, while Tony Stark appears on a monitor. Tony tells Wanda that it is no problem, as they hadn't gotten started. Wonder Man tells Tony that it is nice to see him up and around after all he has been through. 'Working on some new armor?' he asks Tony explains that they are just test models, and that he has been doing some research, looking for a way to reconfigure his Iron Man suit, ever since he learned that the armor has been slowly killing him. Jarvis asks Wanda if she wants some tea, and Wanda thanks Jarvis, before she sits at the meeting room table and remarks that she must be missing something: 'You're on medical leave due to your injuries, Tony – but did you call this meeting?' Wanda asks. Tony confirms that he did, and explains that he and Thor have been talking about Captain America, that he is missing and hasn't answered Communicard hails.

Tony continues, stating that he is confident Cap iis all right, and if he needs help will contact them, but point out that Cap is the Avengers Chairman, which creates a problem. Tony remarks that ordinarily he would step in as Deputy Chair, but that since he is incapacitated, he thinks they should choose a new deputy leader who can serve in Cap's absence. Thor agrees, remarking that the Avengers must be ever ready, but he needs to remove his own name from consideration, for personal reasons which must remain private. Thor states that the Avengers are all doughty warriors, all possessed of courage and skill, and any of them would be equal to the task. 'Any but me, Thor' the Vision declares. He points out that he would be considered a poor choice, considering that the last time he served as Chairman, after a period of repair, no less, he was controlled by the titanium supercomputer Isaac and attempted to subjugate the world!

The Vision fears that, accommodating as he is, their current security liaison would look askance to such a suggestion. 'Well, don't look at me! I'm not even an active Avenger at the moment – just a freeloader, here as Wanda's guest!' Wonder Man exclaims. Staring blankly ahead, Wanda points out that Justice and Firestar are both capable, but they are very new to the team. 'And – and -' she begins, her eyes suddenly darting around the table to Thor, the Vision and Simon, who are all looking at her. 'ME -?!' Wanda gasps.

At that moment, miles north, from behind the walls of an unmarked Bronx warehouse, comes the sound of battle, loud enough to batch the attention of any passerby – but fortunately for the continued health of those hypothetical passerby – there aren't many – and just as well as one of the walls blows opens. Inside the warehouse, the New Warriors are battling AIM operatives. 'Way to go, Thrash-Man!' Nova exclaims as he darts about the warehouse, smashing into AIM operatives. 'This is the source of those fancy guns – and it's all ours to bust up!' Nova declares. Justice uses his telekinesis to knock an operative away from a large weapon, while Rage battles his opponents with his fists, and Night Thrasher fires a weapon from his wrist at another. Firestar dissolves a weapon with her microwave energy and tells Nova that it may not be that easy, as the AIM is known for its advanced technology, and they have a whole arsenal to draw on here.

Speedball bounds about the warehouse and tells Firestar not to be such a worrywart. He adds that this is a blast – way more fun than fighting drug dealers, street gangs and muggers. 'Uh, not that there's anything wrong with that, Thrash' Speedball adds queitly. 'Kill them! KILL them!' one of the AIM shouts as they use a large weapon, firing it into the warehouse, he adds that they have got billions in inventory here – and if they lose it, MODOK will have their heads. 'Kill us? No offense, guy – but the day I break a sweat over a bunch of guys from an “intel inside” commercial – is the day I hang up my helmet!' Nova exclaims, blasting through the large weapon. 'Less chatter, Nova – more action!' Night Thrasher declares as he shoves a retractable blade that extends from his wrist through one of the weapons.

'This way, sirs' one of the AIM operatives remarks as he and other lead several men in suits towards the shipping and receiving depot. 'What – you expect us to run? We're armed – we'll fight! Those punk kids don't push “junior” Gates around!' the mob leader exclaims. 'You're customers, Mister Gates. We guarantee your safety while you're on the premises. You did lead the Warriors here, though – so we will be invoking the breach of confidentiality penalty clause!' one of the AIM warns Junior Gates. 'WHOA!' shouts Speedball as he flips backwards, dodging an AIM operative who is riding on a sky-cylce like device which blasts weaponsfire towards him. 'This guy's on my tail serious, guys – and his buddiies are on the way! Any chance of a hand here?' Speedball calls out. 'No problem, Speedball. Once I heave this crate through those jerks, they'll be too busy falling to bother you!' Rage exclaims as he prepares to hurl a large crate marked Vibranium Type-B anti-metal. Suddenly, Justice calls out to him, urgently telling Rage to put the crate down gently, as it is Savage Land Vibranium. Justice explains that it dissolves metal, which is why it is in a stone crate, and if it gets unleashed in here, dissolving power-packs, melting detonator guards... 'I get the picture, Vance. I'm putting it down, see?' Rage replies as he places the crate back on the ground.

'Hey! It looks like some of our buddies are trying to leave the party!' Nova calls out as he blasts towards the AIM operatives and mob members who are rushing down a corridor. Nova tells them to stick around, as they are playing pictionary later, and he knows they would hate to miss it – an instant later, there is a massive explosion that knocks the AIM operatives and mob members backwards. 'What -?' Firestar exclaims. 'Who?' Night Thrasher asks. 'Big guy alert!' Speedball calls out. 'Who's this guy?' Rage wonders. 'I don't know! But -' Justice begins, before the new arrival, clad in a metallic red and silver costume tells the young heroes that his true identity is unimportant, but that they may address him as Lord Templar in the unlikely event they need to speak to him. Lord Templar informs the New Warriors that they may depart nnow, along with those of their foes who remain conscious, for as of this moment, he is confiscating this structure and all its contents. 'My crusade is to bring peace and the blessings of universal law to all of Earth – and these armaments will aid that effort!' Lord Templar announces.

'Sorry, buster – but we've already got laws ennough to suit us, and anyone who wants weapons for a “peace crusade” - they probably shouldn't get 'e,!' Night Thrasher calls out as he and the other New Warriors gather together and approach Lord Templar. 'I did not give you a choice, my young billigerent' Lord Templar declares, while Speedball goes over to Nova, who lies among some rubble, and reports that he is still breathing, but is out cold. 'And that guy didn't even hit him directly!' Speedball exclaims. Energy glows around a raised hand as Lord Templar agrees that he did not, before warning the New Warriors that if a further show of force will encourage them to depart without further insolence, then so be it. 'RAGE!' Vance shouts as the blast strikes Rage, knocking the young hero backwards. 'Whoa, not the best way to make friends, pal! Warriors – HIT HIM!' Speedball exclaims.

Firestar and Justice unleash their respective abilities on Lord Templar, who fires a blast at Justice, causing Justice to duck for safety. Lord Templar tells the young heroes that they begin to annoy him. He states that he has no quarrel with them, not yet, but that if they persist in this pointless display, then he will treat them as he would any nuisance. Firestar announces that it is no good – her microwave bursts just splash off. She adds that she doesn't know who this guy is, or what he is up to, before alerting them to the fact that Rage isn't moving. Firestar suggets that Templar is too tough for them and that they should call the Avengers. 'No can do, honey! This is a Warriors operation – and we're not going to step on the Warriors' toes!' Justice exclaims, adding that it is Night Thrasher's call. 'Thrash...?' Angelica asks, turning to Night Thrasher. She can see him through his mask – he glowers. Call in help – on a New Warriors mission?

Meanwhile, back at Avengers Mansion: 'Me? Return to active duty? Lead the Avengers?' Dr Henry Pym asks over the monitor which displays him working in one of his labs. 'Either you or the Wasp, Hank. We tried her at your Cresskill house – but there wasn't any answer so we called you at work' Wanda explains. Hank reports that Jan is in San Francisco this week, investigating some investment opportunities. 'But I really don't know...' Hank's voice trailss off. Wanda tells Hank that it would be great to have all the founders active again, and that they only need a deputy Chairman – for when Cap is not available. All sorts of strange mechanical constructs can be seen in Hank's lab as he tells Wanda that he understands, but that super-heroing was never his first love, as he thinks he has demonstrated often enough. He adds that he is very busy these days, creating electronic comm-networks based on insect hive communications.

Hank continues, remarking that he doesn't think Jan would be up for it, either, not after what they just went through in the Destiny War. He tells Wanda that it is great to be asked, and that Giant-Man and the Wasp will continue on as reserves, but he doesn't think either of them is right for a leadership slot, not right now. Hank then tells Wanda that he thinks she should do it.  Tony is still connected to the conference call and announces that he agrees with Hank. He reminds Wanda that she has been a fine leader in the past, both in the West Coast Avengers and in Force Works – when he was trampling all over her authority. 'That's very flattering, Tony, but I really don't think -' Wanda begins, when suddenly, Firestar appears on the monitor: 'Avengers!' she exclaims urgently. 'Thank Heaven you're there! Triangulate on my locator chip – and get her as quick as you can! I'll fill you in on the way, but right now – the Warriors need me!' Firestar declares.

'Wanda? Thor asks. Wanda stands up, 'Okay, Thor – for now' Wanda replies, before telling everyone that the computer says the signal is coming from the Bronx, so they could fly there faster than getting a Quinjet out. The Vision asks if they require available reserves, and Hank tells Wanda to just say the word and he will fire up his “pager” and be there in moments. Wanda thanks Hank, but she doesn't think that will be necessary, for with Justice and Firestar already there, and with Wonder Man coming along, that is six, which should be enough, even if the New Warriors weren't there. 'Besides, whatever's going on, odds are that by the time you get here – it'd all be over' Wanda points out. Moments later, the Vision, Thor and Wonder Man, carrying the Scarlet Witch in his arms, are streaking through the air towards the Bronx.

Back inside the AIM warehouse, Night Thrasher dodges some weapons fire, while Lord Templar uses some sort of energy vortex to knock Firestar backwards. 'Laugh while you can, “Lord Stapler” any minute now, I'm gonna -' Speedball exclaims as Lord Templar grabs the plucky hero by his neck. 'Any minute now, strippling, you will finally run out of oxygen and cease prattling. This is why you so-called “super heroes” have never been effective against the world's ills – you are an undisciplined rabble, with no respect for authority' Lord Templar declares, warning the heroes that their day is done, and that where they have failed, he shall – well, he doesn't finish his sentence as he suddenly cries out in pain and keels backwards, dropping Speedball and exclaiming that his brain is on fire and his power is spasming as a crimson energy strikes him.

'That was a hex-blast, Templar – the simplest expression of the chaos-magic of the Scarlet Witch! Now surrender – in the name of the Avengers!' Wanda calls out as she appears on a ledge. 'All right!' Justice exclaims. The Avengers and New Warriors surround Templar, who announces that this shows him more respect – the world-famous Avengers presenting themselves to be bested. 'An impressive strike, Ms Maximoff – though you will not find the next so effective. Still, an effort of which you can be proud' Templar tells the Avengers that they will make excellent converts to his crusade, once they have seen the light, but that in the meantime, they must be chastised. 'Yes, Firestar told us you were raving about peace and law – and some sort of apparently-fascist crusade' Wanda calls out, before telling Templar that they have governments to let them decide for themselves how to run things – they don't need someone else's vision forced on them. 'Oh, really now, Ms Maximoff – sure you cannot be so naive' Templar replies, asking the Scarlet Witch if she cannot be certain that her government – and others – have not already come to him, begged him to bring about the harmony that they cannot.

'But enough conversation. Your breed understands nothing but force, so it is force with which I shall deal with you – in the form of – the Avatars of Templar!' Lord Templar announces as the air crackles around the new arrivals as they lunge forward, six beings resembling Lord Templar that have sprung forth from the energies around him. The Avengers and the New Warriors brace themselves, and Justice suddenly feels his stomach muscles knot and his throat go dry – he hadn't been worried before, hadn't been nervous – but now – now.... 'They're some sort of energy duplicates – but they're all different -' Wonder Man calls out as the first, large Avatar slams him into Rage, knocking them both backwards. 'They do attack most ferociously – and they strike with puissant force!' Thor calls out as he swings his hammer to create a vortex that repels his opponent's energy that is blasted towards him.

Nova flies around that Avatar and points out that they throw a mean zap, or at least this one does. He looks over tro where one is taking on both Night Thrasher and Speedball at once, and another has attacked Firestar and Justice, tapping into their power and somehow draining it and using it against them. The Vision points out that they appear to be Avatars of strength, agility, energy and more – clearly the primal embodiements, each of a single trait. The one that he is opposing seems to be electrical in nature, so the Vision turns intangible, thinking that will protect him – but as the Avatar passes through him, the Vision cries out in pain. The Scarlet Witch ducks behind some crates, which the Avatar chasing her slams its fists into. Wanda has seen that the Vision has been taken out and assumes that the Avatar affected his internal circuitry. Wanda fears that she will be next unless she gets a chance to stop dodging and throw a hex. 'Watch your back, Witchie!' Nova exclaims as he swoops down and slams his fist into the Avatar. 'And that's one Temploid that won't be quite so cocky next time!' Nova adds.

Wanda thanks Nova, who tells her it is no sweat, 'Justy come up with a way for us to take out the big boss!' he adds. Wanda grits her teeth and knows that Nova is right – she is the de facto leader here, so it is up to her to come up with a plan. 'And Iron Man's right, too – I did do all right leading the Avengers and Force Works. I was a different person then – angrier, more bitter – but I wasn't smarter!' Wanda thinks to herself, realizing that the key id Templar himself. His Avatars may be tearing them aapart, but he is just hovering there, watching. Wanda wonders if he is too smug to take part in the action, or perhaps he can't. She realizes that generating his Avatars may take concentration, and calls out to Thor, instructing him to get ready to charge in a few seconds. 'Aye, Wanda!' Thor responds. Wanda tells the rest of the Avengers and New Warriors to block for Thor, to keep the Avatars busy. 'Let 'em hurt you if that's what it takes! Just clear a path – so Thor can get to Templar himself!' Wanda exclaims.

A split-second of comprehension, and the assembled heroes act as one, engaging their multiple foes, drawing their attention for just long enough, and then, 'Whoa! Go Thor!' Rage exclaims as he sees the Norse God fly through the battle, and Justice notices an explosion nearby. 'Eh? You have the effrontery – to assault me physically?' Lord Templar asks Thor, who holds his hammer out and declares that his hammer strikes for justice. 'And in that cause – the GOD OF THUNDER DOTH DARE ANYTHING!' booms Thor as his mighty hammer slams into Lord Templar, knocking him through the air. Speedball alerts everyone to the Avatars who have jut disappeared, before noticing another explosion. Rage looks over to the crate of Vibranium and sees that the crate is starting to crack. 'This is bad!' Rage exclaims, while Templar fires another blast of energy back at Thor. 'I've allowed you to strike me once, but I shall not brook it a second time!' he boasts as the energy strikes Thor, while Mjolnir the hammer returns to its master.

'Thou allowest nothing, villain. Thou dost command great power, 'tis true. But for all that, thou art a man – and men can be beaten. I have thy measure now – and I find thee lacking!' Thor exclaims as he slams his hammer on the ground, the shockwave toppling Lord Templar to his feet. Thor rushes over and pins Templar to the ground. 'And now, thou who doth style thyself a “Lord”...' Thor begins. 'Now...nothing, Thor! I'll...' Templar begins, before Thor turns as the Scarlet Witch calls out to him. Wandam motion to the explosion and tells Thor that they have a problem here, that the stored weapons are rupturing, unleashing their energies, so they have to evacuate. 'Hah! AWAY with you!' Templar exclaims, using the moment where Thor is distracted to blast the Norse God off of him. 'Next time we meet, the outcome shall not be the same as it has been today, and I assure you, Avenger – there will be a next time!' Templar turns and blasts his exit through the wall. 'The foul miscreant doth flee! But he'll not get far! I'll -' Thor declares, but Wanda shouts 'NO, Thor!' and instructs Thor to forget about Templar for now, as they have more immediate things to worry about.

The Scarlet Witch instructs Justice to grab anyone who is unconscious or who can't fly, and then get out. An instant later, Wonder Man carries the Scarlet Witch, while Justice uses his telekinesis to levitate Rage, Night Thrasher and Speedball, and the Vision, Thor, Firestar and Nova fly by their own means as a massive explosion takes place behind them.

And, later, the Avengers are watching footage of the explosion on a monitor in their meeting room. Wanda thanks Thor and tells him that it is thanks to him that, although the warehouse was leveled, he and his hammer were able to contain the blast, and the damage did not extend much further. Thor tells Wanda that he merely did as she commanded, and that it was a wise decision. 'Though it still doth irk me that Lord Templar did escape...' Thor remarks. Wanda agrees, but points out that they did chase Templar off, and destroyed an AIM warehouse, which puts them ahead on points, at least. Firestar smiles and tells Wanda that the Warriors said she was a great leader. Justice closes his eyes, and Thor tells Wanda that the Warriors spoke the truth, and asks her if she has thought further on that matter. 'I...I don't know, Thor' Wanda hangs her head while Wonder Man and the Vision watch her. She reminds herself how she recently considered leaving the team, feeling disconnected, like she was only tied to the Avengers by her relationships, but to be deputy leader, and take a more active role, to matter on her own and not as part of a couple... 'Ok, I'll... I'll do it' Wanda announces.

And, as the Scarlet Witch begins her official tenure, checking in with Duane Freeman, the team's security liaison, to see if Templar's claims about government ties could be true, Justice sits outside in the garden, shrouded by the trees and the cover of night. He has asked Firestar to meet him here, he plans to tell her that he wants to quit and go back to the Warriors – he is happier there, and they need him. He doesn't think Firestar will mind, she never wanted to join the Avengers in the first place. 'Vance! Sorry I'm late – but before we talk about whatever it is you wanted to say, I've got news!' Firestar exclaims, and grinning, she announces that she has talked to her Dad, and that he says it is okay – and if Vance still wants to, she would like to move into Avengers Mansion! Vance is too shocked to respond.

Elsewhere, two shadowy figures stand before Lord Templar, one of whom tells Templar that he failed. 'Not so. We've tested the Avengers, and planted the idea that the world's governments are conspiring against the populace' Templar declares, adding that they may not have done so publicly, as that will come – after all, they have barely started!

Characters Involved: 

Firestar, Iron Man, Justice, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision (all Avengers)
Wonder Man
Giant Man (reserve Avenger)
Edwin Jarvis
Night Thrasher, Nova, Rage, Speedball (all New Warriors)

Lord Templar
Jonathan Tremont
Avatars of Templar

AIM soldiers
Junior Gates and mob members

In photograph:
Firestar, Justice, Namorita, Night Thrasher, Nova, Rage, Speedball (all New Warriors)

Story Notes: 

Firestar and Justice (then Marvel Boy) were founding members of the New Warriors, serving with the team for much of its history in New Warriors (1st series) #1-75.

Wonder Man returned to life in Avengers (3rd series)  #11.

The Vision was dismantled and rebuilt in the classic West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #42-45.

The Vision dropped his bombshell that he did have his emotions and memories last issue.

Iron Man learned his armor had been slowly killing him in Iron Man (3rd series) #11-13.

Captain America is busy over in Deadpool (1st seres)  #23-25.

The Vision was controlled by Isaac in Avengers (1st series)  #243-254.

The Scarlet Witch became leader of the Avengers West Coast in Avengers West Coast #98, but the team was disbanded issues later. She continued her leadership of the replacement team, Force Works, but found herself constantly undermined by and at odds with Iron Man.

Hank Pym refers to the Destiny War, which was chronicled in the Avengers Forever limited series.

The Scarlet Witch considered leaving the Avengers in Avengers (3rd series) #8.

First appearance of Lord Templar. Pagan and Jonathan Tremont appear in the shadows and unidentified. They make their first full appearances in Avengers (3rd series) #14 and Avengers (3rd series) #15, respectively.

Written By: