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Kurt Busiek (Plot), George Perez (Art), Al Vey (Finishes), Tom Smith (Colors), Richard Starkings & COMICRAFT (Letters), Tom Brevoort (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)
Beast visits Avengers Mansion to see his old friend, Wonder Man, who has recently returned from the dead. Beast, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch and Vision go out to a jazz club to celebrate while Captain America, Thor, Firestar and Justice head over to Washington D.C. to investigate Lord Templar, who earlier that morning held Congress hostage and told the public that he has connections to the world government. Justice feels extremely unsure of his place among the Avengers but Firestar does not share the same feelings and is able to convince Justice temporarily that he belongs here more than anyone else. The four at the jazz club discuss Wonder Man’s past, because Wonder Man is uncomfortable being an Avenger, after all the things he did before he died. Pagan attacks Time Square and the team defends the city but makes little progress in defeating him. Captain America and the others aid the other Avengers but are defeated. Content with his superiority, Pagan leaves but, before he does, he clues in the Scarlet Witch that there is connection between he and Templar. Captain America is angry over the team’s failure, which angers the Scarlet Witch, who blames it on Captain America’s failure in leadership. While the Scarlet Witch confronts Captain America, Beast tells Wonder Man not to worry about his past, for his heart will lead him on the right track as it has in the past.
Time Square is mostly known for its bright lights and variety of entertainment, but tonight lights flash from the top of police cars and the loudest sounds heard are gunshots. A large group of police officers hide behind their vehicles, as they shoot at their large opponent, who is dressed in armor from head to toe. Their opponent, who calls himself Pagan, laughs at the officer and tells them that they cannot stop him with guns. He picks up a truck and says neither the police nor soldiers can stop him, for he can do whatever he wants. No one in the world is safe from him. An officer comes to the side of the sergeant, whose name is Pete, and tells him that he has gotten word that the Nation Guard is coming. Pete, however, is not relieved and wonders what the National Guard can do to help. They need heavy hitters like the Avengers or the Fantastic Four, who he is calling right now.
Several hours earlier: At Avenger’s Mansion, Edwin Jarvis opens the front doors to the mansion to be greeted by the lovable, bouncing, blue Beast, who announces that he is home. The Beast, carrying a bouquet of roses, leaps over Jarvis and asks where he is hiding. Jarvis is astounded, as Beast begins to bounce all around the foyé in search of his old friend. Pictures fall off the wall as Beast tells his friend to come out from wherever he is hiding. Jarvis welcomes Beast back, though he is sure that the former Avenger and former X-Man cannot hear him.
Captain America and the Scarlet Witch walk down the halls of the mansion. Wanda tells Cap that she is glad he made it back okay and trusts that everything worked out well in his latest solo adventure. Cap tells Wanda that it did, in its own way. He congratulates Wanda on her agreement to serve as deputy leader. He cannot imagine a better candidate. Suddenly, the Beast leaps over the two and tells them to watch out, because he is coming through. He greets Wanda and tells Cap that he loves what he has done with his wings. As Beast continues to bounce around, Cap tells him to be careful, because Jarvis has rearranged the furniture while he has been away. Beast crashes into something and Wanda tells Cap that it wasn’t furniture.
Cap and Wanda enter the next room and laugh to see Wonder Man on the floor and Beast on top of him, kissing the surprised man on the lips. Simon gets up and picks up the Beast, who asks him if something is wrong with his breath. Simon readjusts his sunglasses and tells Beast that he called up the X-Men but was told that he was holed up somewhere working on something called the Legacy Virus. Beast tells Simon that this is correct. However, at the moment, he is running a computer simulation and, even with the mainframes at Muir Isle, that could take a whole day. So he hit the “run” button and booked a flight for the United States to see his old pal.
Beast gives Simon the roses. Simon thanks him and Beast jokes that the roses match his red eyes, but adds that Simon couldn’t have really thought that Beast would let his old friend return from the dead without throwing him a party. Vision enters the room and Beast greets him. Vision tells Beast that it is a pleasure to see him again. Beast tells the Avengers that the time for chit-chat is over, because time is being wasted. He begins to dance and tells the team that they are going to party. Simon tells Beast that it would be easier to stop a tornado right now, so they might as well have a good time. Simon then asks Wanda and Vision if they would like to come. Vision politely declines and says that he has other plans.
Simon is disappointed, because he hasn’t had a chance to talk to Vision recently about something important. Wanda tells Simon that they cannot go out tonight anyway. Lord Templar was sighted in Washington D.C. earlier that day and she has arranged for the team to check it out. They won’t be back until late. Cap intervenes and tells Wanda that the whole team does not have to go. Since Simon, Vision and she have plans, he will take Justice, Firestar and Thor to investigate. Wanda begins to interject but Cap continues and says that he will contact their federal liaison to make arrangements. Cap leaves and tells them all to have a good time. On that note, Vision excuses himself.
When they are alone, Beast tells Wanda that he thought she and Vision were one of those couples that would always be together but time wounds all heels, as they say. Wanda tells Hank that it is complicated but Hank laughs and tells Wanda to get kidnapped by her evil duplicate from another dimension and then she can talk to him about complicated.
Several hours later, Simon, Wanda and Hank reach a jazz club and take their seats. Hank tells Simon that this place is the “bee’s knees” and asks him how he found it. Simon tells him that his dad took him here once when he was a kid and that is how he fell in love with jazz music. As a kid, he would sneak into the city to listen to the music. Wanda tells him that it is hard to imagine him as a kid. Simon tells her that he was a skinny, little math brain, who snuck out on school nights to listen to Miles Davis, Tommy Flanagan and Dizzy Gillespie. He even saw Thelonious Monk here on one of his last performances.
While Simon and Hank begin to talk about Thelonious Monk, Wanda pictures Simon as a kid but something else catches her eye. She sees a silhouette of a man at a bar, which seems familiar. She walks closer but realizes that it cannot be. She excuses the man for interrupting her and he faces her. The man, who Wanda does not know, asks if there is something she needs. Wanda apologizes and tells the man that he looked like someone she knew. Suddenly, the man’s voice changes to a much familiar one and he tells her that she does know him. The Vision takes off his holographic disguise and apologizes for disturbing her. Wanda is shocked and didn’t realize that Vision could do such a thing still. Vision tells her that he has had the capacity to turn into his Victor Shade persona for some time now. He does not use it in the mansion but finds that it is less startling to humans outside.
Wanda is about to take Vision to her table but he tells her that he does not wish to intrude. Wanda tells him not to be silly and takes him by hand to Simon and Hank, who are glad that the Vision changed his mind. Vision tells Simon that he often comes to the jazz club, because he finds the atmosphere relaxing and the combination of precision and improvisation in the music is pleasant. Simon is excited to hear Vision says this and tells him that it makes them seem more like brothers, even if they are screwy ones. Vision tells Simon that it shouldn’t be a surprise, as his mind was based on Simon’s brain patterns and this isn’t the first time they have expressed the same tastes.
Brandi, the waitress, brings more drinks and Beast tells her to keep them coming, because they are going to get nice and drunk tonight. Brandi smiles and reminds Beast that he ordered virgin piña coladas, which are non-alcoholic. Beast tells her that he knows and that they will use their imagination. Brandi tells Hank that she is sure he will and that she will be back.
Beast tells Vision that he thinks that Brandi likes him but then notices Vision drinking and tells him that he didn’t know he did that. Vision tells Hank that he simulates drinking, as he does eating. It is not as sufficient as absorbing solar energy but he is able to convert the mass into energy quickly and he also finds that it makes people around him more comfortable.
With that said, Simon tells the three that there is something that he wants to say now that all of his closest friends are here. He has some serious issues that are bothering him. He vaguely remembers the stuff that happened months before he died but he knows that odd things happened, such as meeting his dead mother in Mephisto’s Netherworld, but now his mom is alive and well in Paterson, New Jersey. He also remembers being violent and even attacking Wanda. Nearby, a man at the adjacent table tells his companion that the Vision is a robot but the Beast is a mutant, which means that the woman must be the Scarlet Witch. He wonders if the other man is a mutant too. The woman with the man asks who cares. They are Avengers, which makes them cool. She just wishes what they are talking about that is so serious.
At the table, Simon tells the others that he cannot expect forgiveness for what he has done. Wanda asks Simon why he wants forgiveness. The Avengers knew at the time what he was going through with his powers out of control and his emotions in turmoil. That is regrettable, but he is not a bad man. Besides, it wasn’t long before that when she flipped out and became the Dark Scarlet Witch and rejoined Magneto. The Vision, whose “death” had been partly the cause of her flipping out, had tried to take over the world under the control of the supercomputer Isaac. Their friends did not condemn the two of them, so they will not condemn Simon.
Simon thanks Wanda for what she is saying but notices that there are several things she is not mentioning. He remembers killing people, like the creature Angkor and at least one of the gang members that were terrorizing the city. Wanda tells Simon that Angkor and the gang members were killing people. Also, there was an investigation after Simon’s death and the authorities decided that he had acted to protect people. He was cleared of all charges. Simon tells Wand that he doesn’t buy it. Years ago, he embezzled money from his own company but it was widely assumed that his brother did it. It ate away at him until he had to either admit it to the world or drown in shame. He was forgiven but he doesn’t want his actions to be swept under the rug because a judge doesn’t feel like pursuing thing or because he didn’t want to jeopardize the city’s relations with the Avengers. He wasn’t under anyone’s control, like Wanda and Vision.
Wanda tells Simon that she wasn’t under anyone’s control. She was upset like him. Simon tells her that it is true, but how many people were hurt when she was out of control? Not that many. He cannot say the same and back then he left the Avengers so no question of a team court-martial came up. Now that he is back, is he fit to be an Avenger? Beast tells Simon that this is an ethical dilemma. However, the fact that he can ask that question goes a long way to supply the answer. Simon thanks Beast, but is not sure that he agrees. Simon then asks the Vision what he thinks since they share the same brain patterns, though Vision is more logical than him. However, the Vision zones out and Simon has to call out to him again. Vision snaps back to attention and apologizes, for he was listening to the music.
Meanwhile, at Nugent Technologies in Old Tappan, New Jersey, Hank Pym workers late at night on his newest piece of work. A colleague named Tracy enters the room and asks Hank if he is working another late night. The bosses must really be putting pressure on him. Hank greets Tracy and tells her that he hadn’t realized that it was late. He was caught up in the pheromone transmission algorithms as part of his insect-communication work. There is not pressure, though, for his contract calls for pure research alone and no practical application. Tracy is surprised to hear that and tells Hank that there is a huge push at the administrative level for the rest of them to be ready for whatever he is working on. Hank tells Tracy that it isn’t possible. Even if the company wanted to use the research, they couldn’t without his permission.
However, Tracy and Hank do not realize that at the moment they are being monitored by a figure Hank would find horrifyingly familiar. A metallic hand types away on a console, as the being eavesdrops in the conversation. In a metallic, raspy voice, the being realizes that this new development is very unfortunate. He wants Tracy Spencer transferred immediately and orders that all personnel should know that Dr. Pym is off-limits. He does not want anyone to suspect anything; not when Pym is so close to giving him what he wants.
In Washington D.C., the Avengers walk down a long hall full of congressmen. Justice thinks to himself that these men and women drop their jaws when Thor and Captain America walk by. What do they think when they see Justice? They must wonder who he is and what he has ever done. An aide, who is leading the Avengers, brings the team to congresswoman Fairfield, who witnessed the appearance of Lord Templar. Fairfield tells Cap that Lord Templar phased through a wall and held them prisoner for half an hour. He only made small talk and alluded to a new balance of power. He then left as abruptly as he came.
As others wonder if Templar is interested in running for Governor of Minnesota, Illinois or New York, Cap tells Fairfield that Templar claimed to have relationship with the world’s governments. Fairfield says that she knows and that is what the media has been asking about recently. As far as she knows, Templar has no connections to the United States government, but polls show that the public does not believe that. Cap tells her that it doesn’t mean much. He had public manipulation problems recently.
Justice whispers to Firestar that she seems relaxed and asks if this bothers her, being treated like stars by Congress. Firestar tells Justice not really and then asks why. Justice tells her that he almost suggested quitting the team the other day. He was comfortable with the New Warriors but, now with the Avengers, he is jittery all the time and he doesn’t know if he can cut it. Firestar takes Justice aside and tells him that this was his dream since when he was a kid. Justice says that he knows but isn’t sure that he is up to it. Firestar asks Justice if this was some villain like Psycho Man or Mesmero sucking his confidence, what would he do? Justice says that he would fight it. Firestar tells him that he has to fight here too. He is ready for the Avengers and she knows no one else more suited than him. He fought Terrax and the Juggernaut. He shouldn’t give up on his dream.
Cap receives a priority call and excuses himself. He checks his call and finds that it is from the Scarlet Witch. Wanda tells Cap that there is trouble in New York and, from the looks of things, they will need the whole team.
Present: Wanda, Vision, Simon and Hank reach the site where Pagan has attacked. The villain sees them and tells them that the National Guard could do no more than the police. Wonder Man tells Pagan that they are the Avengers, who have a pretty good record against jokers like Pagan. Wonder Man is about to charge but Wanda tells him not to. Beast takes off his shirt and makes fun of Pagan’s clothes and chains, wondering if this is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Hulk all dressed up for Broadway. Wanda tells Wonder Man to hang back and let the rest of them get Pagan’s measure before they send in the have hitters. Wonder Man agrees, but notices that Wanda’s chaos spells are not affecting Pagan, who laughs and tells the Scarlet Witch that she is an idiot.
Beast lands on Pagan and tells him that children can be raised all properly but they still act as if they were raised in a barn. He and Pagan’s mother are very disappointed. Beast leaps off, as Vision charges Pagan to thrust his intangible hand into Pagan’s chest. Pagan knows that Vision plans on solidifying his hand in his chest and dares the man to do it. Vision does so and is repelled back by a massive force. Wanda realizes that there was some sort of energy backlash and it seems that Pagan is tougher than he looks.
Wonder Man tackles Pagan and tells him that he is the next best thing to Thor, which is enough to take him out. Pagan punches Wonder Man away and Beast tells Wanda that it must have hurt. Wonder Man regroups his wits and tells Vision that the last person to hit him that hard was Count Nefaria. He asks Vision if he is going to build up speed by gliding and then turn diamond-hard at the last minute on top of Pagan. Vision tells Simon that it was his intent. Wonder Man offers to help and Vision agrees. Behind them on the massive monitor that overlooks Time Square, a news report is on about the events that morning when Lord Templar appeared at the Capitol building. Polls reveal that 54% of the nation believes in Templar’s claim that he has allied with the government.
Beast, Wonder Man, and Vision charge at Pagan. Beast notices that Pagan is getting bigger. Pagan tells Beast that he can do whatever is necessary to destroy them. No one can stop him or chain him. Wanda believes Pagan, because the boys’ attacks are not doing much. She can also sense an odd energy around him. Wanda asks Pagan what he wants. Is he only here to wreck Time Square? Pagan tells Wanda that there is no need for her to know. Pagan looks at the monitor image of Lord Templar and tells the Avengers that not even Lord Templar, that sneering fool, can stop him. Wanda is confused and realizes that Pagan is referring to Templar as if he knows him.
Wanda notices that Beast was right; Pagan is getting bigger. However, she cannot find the source of his extra mass. Suddenly, Mjolnir strikes Pagan in the chest and the Avengers looks into the sky to see Thor, Firestar and Justice. Thor reclaims Mjolnir and tells Pagan that his terror shall end now. Justice telekinetically lands Cap next to Wanda, who tells Cap that Pagan is contained for the most part, but there is one problem. Rather rudely, Cap tells Wanda that he can see that and that Pagan should never have been allowed to make so much damage in the first place. Thanks to that, they have a potential disaster on their hands.
Cap tells Firestar to look for injured and for Justice to close off all broken gas and water mains. Thor and Wonder Man should take down Pagan. Wanda tells Cap that physical force isn’t the right thing to use but Cap ignores her and charges into battle. He tells her to use her hex power to lessen the probability of an explosion or to remove the air from around Pagan.
Wonder Man attacks Pagan but does not see Thor’s hammer heading straight for the monster. Mjolnir strikes Wonder Man by accident and, when the light from the energy is gone, Wonder Man is nowhere to be seen. Pagan laughs at the Avengers’ incompetence and tells them that since he has proven his mightiness; he shall now leave. With that, he digs a tunnel through the ground to make his escape. The tunnel collapses after Pagan, so Cap sends the Vision after the creature.
Thor finds Wonder Man naked in the side of a building and asks him if he is hurt. Wonder Man tells Thor that only his pride is. However, he wonders what Pagan’s point was besides “no one can stop me.” It seems that the full Avengers roster was enough to scare him away. Angry, Cap tells Wonder Man that he should have known better than to get in the way of Mjolnir. Simon apologizes but explains that it has been a while since he and Thor last trained together. Vision returns and tells Cap that Pagan has swiftly escaped and not even he can see through solid rock. Cap tells the team that this is the second time in a row that a villain has escaped them and he does not like it. Behind him, an angry Scarlet Witch thinks to herself that she does not like it either but, somehow, as she gives Cap a dirty look, Wanda doesn’t think outrage and a clipped tone will fix things.
Shortly at Avenger’s Mansion, Cap talks to Duane Freeman, who tells him that this is the third time Pagan struck today. First, he attacked the Golden Gate Bridge and, then Branson, Missouri. No one knows why, though. Cap tells Duane that Pagan will be one of the Avengers’ top priorities and they promise that today’s debacle will not happen again. Wanda hears all of this and wishes that it were true but the team is a mess. Vision is withdrawn, Thor is often absent, Justice and Firestar are isolated and there is more. This is largely a failure of leadership. Cap has been wrapped up in his own concerns that he has expected the team to run smoothly. The reason that they didn’t follow procedure is because they haven’t been drilled to know it instinctively, just like how Simon isn’t used to coordinating with Thor. They haven’t even practiced together yet. Wanda gets Cap’s attention and tells him that they need to talk.
Outside, Simon asks Beast if he really has to go so soon. Beast tells Simon that he would stay if he could, but duty calls him to cure the Legacy Virus. Beast then asks Simon if he is sad about the fight with Pagan or the stuff spoken in the club. Both, says Simon. Beast tells Simon that he will get another chance at Pagan and, as for the other thing, well, believe it or not, Beast was pretty bitter himself once. After he first left the X-Men and mutated into his current form, it took a while for him to accept himself. After a while, he realized he didn’t need an intellectual explanation but rather an emotional one.
Beast tells Simon that he is a good man with a good heart. He should just let things sit for now and eventually his heart will let him know what to do, just like when he owned up to the embezzlement. It will be the right choice; he’ll see. Beast leaps over the gates of Avengers Mansion and tells Simon that he needs to get back to Westchester to catch a Blackbird to Muir Isle. Beast says goodbye and leaps away.
Captain America, Firestar, Justice, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision, Wonder Man (all Avengers)Beast, Hank Pym (former Avengers)
Congresswoman FairfieldDuane FreemanEdwin JarvisTracy Spencer
Various jazz club attendeesVarious members of congressVarious New York City police officers
On monitor:Lord Templar
Parts of this story were narrated by comic book versions of Kurt Busiek and George Perez.
Wonder Man was fully resurrected in Avengers (3rd Series) #10-11 by the Scarlet Witch.
Vision and Scarlet Witch officially ended their marriage in Avengers (3rd Series) #4.
The Avengers battled Lord Templar in Avengers (3rd Series) #13.
At the time of this story, the Beast had left the X-Men shortly after X-Men (2nd Series) #79 to research the Legacy Virus.
Vision could turn into Victor Shade since Avengers Spotlight #40.
Wonder Man met his mother in Mephisto’s underworld in Wonder Man #22. He threatened the Scarlet Witch in Wonder Man #18. The Scarlet Witch became the Dark Scarlet Witch in Avengers West Coast #55. The Vision was dismantled in Avengers West Coast #42 and was controlled by Isaac in Avengers (1st Series) #255. Wonder Man killed Angkor in Wonder Man #12 and killed a gang member in Wonder Man #16.
Captain America recently dealt with a Skrull imposter in Captain America (3rd Series) #4-7.
Justice and Firestar were reunited with the New Warriors in Avengers (3rd Series) #13.
Pagan and Lord Templar’s relationship will be fully revealed in Avengers (3rd Series) #50.