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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)
The Avengers are in Memphis, Tennessee, working to help demolish some old warehouses for charity and also to rebuild their reputation after their humiliating defeat to the media’s accusations. Back in New York, Silverclaw receives a letter about an old legend, involving her and her village in Costa Verde. The Avengers go with her to Costa Verde and, along the way, she reveals her true origins as the daughter of a mortal man and a goddess, specifically Peliali, the goddess of the earth. The Avengers find the Kamekeri village transformed into an ancient city by the sorcerer Kulan Gath, who immediately tries to scare the Avengers away. The Scarlet Witch and Goliath discover that there is a mystic field around the city that transforms everyone in the city into one of Gath’s minions. Later that night, Silverclaw has a nightmare and realizes that Gath is after the power of the Earth, which is her mother. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the Avengers, they are being watched by a mysterious figure in the shadows.
Deep in the jungle, the first rays of light hit the city. Light pours into the highest tower, illuminating all the icons, idols, ironbound chests and gold that litters the room. In the center of the room is a massive bed, surrounded by curtains. A naked, old man wakes up and stretches in his bed. He feels his joints crack and knows he is old. However, that is something he does not think about much. Magic has kept him alive, though his youth is long gone.
Kulan Gath pulls away the curtains and claps his hands. The doors to the room open as guards and female servants enter, all dressed in loincloths and golden jewelry about them. The women comb his hair and tie it while dressing him in his raggedy purple robe. They attend to him as they should, for they are his. A servant then places his miter on Gath’s head and he leaves them without saying a word.
Gath makes his way to the balcony and spreads his arms out to rejoice in the sun. For a moment, the world makes sense and the old ways prevail, but then he hears a buzzing in the air and he looks up to see a plane fly past the city. His face suddenly turns sad as if he is full of sorrow. Then in his cracked voice he declares that it is “long past time…”
In Memphis, Tennessee, Warbird hears the crowd below her cry out in applause as they see her speed through the air with her fists glowing of energy. Warbird smashes through an old warehouse that’s been marked for demolition and thus begins the Avengers’ new public relations gimmick. The warehouses that line the river have been an eyesore for the community for years, but now they shall be no longer.
Bobbie, a news reporter, tells her cameraman to make sure he is getting everything as the Wasp flies by the camera lens. Jan tells Goliath that he is up, and then Iron Man. Goliath, who has grown to his giant size, kneels by the building then deduces the best point of the building to strike. When he does, he thrusts one side of his body into the building.
As the crowd cheers, Iron Man flies overhead and tells Hank that he gets an “A” for accuracy, but he people came for a show, so the Avengers might as well give them one. Iron Man uses his repulsor rays to blast a part of a warehouse. She-Hulk jokes that she should have worn on her “daring outfits” if the people wanted a show. She then lifts one end of a building and asks Jan where she wants it.
Jan tells She-Hulk to put it through the loading docks and then calls to Triathlon through her headpiece, since he should have been out by now. Triathlon races in the building three times the speed of a normal man and takes out the most central pillars, but tells Jan to call him overenthusiastic. Worried, Jan tells him to get out, but Triathlon tells her to back off, since he knows his limits.
Jan tells him that she is not concerned with his limits, but the fact that the building will crash down any second now. On the ground, a reporter worries that they are too close, but they are in no danger as long as the Scarlet Witch has anything to say about it. On the rooftop across the street, Wanda Maximoff tells Jan that she would like to hold the building up, but she had to prepare for her hex and the current one is supposed to make the building collapse inward, not make it stay up.
Upon hearing this, Jan calls to Triathlon as the building collapses. Once the dust clears, she flies to the rubble, but finds Triathlon fine and dusting himself off. “Yes, Miz White Anglo-Saxon Protestant?” asks Triathlon jokingly. He tells her that he may have shaved it close, but that is where triple peak human speed comes handy. Jan grows to normal size and tells Triathlon that he scared her half to death. Triathlon says he knows and then again jokingly asks her if she has any more “darkie labor” for him. Jan tells him that he knows that it is just his idea of humor, but there are reporters here.
Warbird flies over to Goliath and asks him if it isn’t a little too obvious. Goliath asks her what she means. As the two join the rest of the group Warbird tells them that the Avengers just looked bad after the protests against them and the bad press. They are here now with an all-new line-up and Iron Man arranges press work to make them look good. Wasp smiles and says it may be obvious, but Warbird has to admit, its working.
For the next half hour the Avengers mingle into the crowd, shake hands and sign autographs. Later, they meet with the project leader from Stark Solutions to unveil the new plans. The man reveals a model of the new civic center that the Maria Stark Foundation will put up in place of the warehouses. As the audience makes applause at the model, Mr. Hogan, the project leader, continues to speak. He says that the center will serve the needs of thousands of people when it’s done. He then personally thanks the Avengers for demolishing the buildings, but for also attending the $5000-a-plate dinner that is being held that night. Warbird turns to Jan and the two women share a smile.
Back in New York, Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler, watches the live coverage as a reporter asks how much the Avengers are being paid to demolish the buildings, only to be told that they are doing it for free. As the Wasp explains that Tony Stark paid for their dinners, Jarvis thinks to himself that things are going smoothly. He pulls out a batch of Jan’s favorite tea cookies from the oven and thinks how great it is that the team has weathered their public relations problems.
As Jarvis looks out the window to see the rain, he thinks of how Triathlon and Duane Freeman, their security liaison, are Triune Understanding member, the group that the Avengers believe have been orchestrating their recent problems. Jarvis wonders if the Triune got what they wanted was the pantry entrance opens up. Jarvis’ sponsor student, Lupe, who should be at Empire State University, runs into the kitchen with a letter in her hand and a distressed look on her face. Lupe tells him that she needs to talk to him. Jarvis looks at her telegram, but does now know what the message “The time has come” means.
Lupe explains and after that tells Jarvis that she has to leave as soon as possible, for she has no choice. Jarvis agrees, but tells her that she won’t be going alone. Jarvis calls the Avengers and explains what is going on. Jan agrees and tells the two that the Avengers will be back as soon as possible.
The Avengers return late that night and the next morning they streak off in their Quinjet. She-Hulk screams in excitement and tells Iron Man next to her that she forgot how fun it was to drive a Quinjet. Iron Man tells her not to buzz Central Park again, because they don’t want to give any early morning joggers a heart attack.
In the back, Lupe, a.k.a. Silverclaw, sits in her battle dress between Goliath and the Scarlet Witch. She tells all that she is grateful that they agreed to help her. She does now know what to expect, though. Before she can continue any further, Goliath interrupts her and asks her for some background information on the mission.
Silverclaw’s voice becomes ominous as she tells Goliath that it is fate. Her people thought it was all superstition, but she of all people should have known better. Ages ago, her people, the Kamekeri, were polytheistic. These many gods were apart of their every day lives, but one day missionaries came to their village spreading the word of Christ. These missionaries taught the Kamekeri the modern ways. In time, her people gave up the old ways and became followers of Christianity.
The Kamekeri gods were said to have then left to where gods go when they have no more followers. All went to the sky except Peliali, the volcano god, whose home was the Earth. She swore never to leave her people and it was said that she roamed the hills. Unfortunately, the people forgot her just like they forgot the other gods.
However, some years ago, a man among the Kamekeri began to study the old ways and went up the mountains to where Peliali was said to have lived. When he returned he claimed he found her, but the Kamekeri people mocked him while the Church denounced him. However, he still visited the mountains for many months, until one day he returned with a baby girl who he claimed was his daughter. The mother was Peliali.
Silverclaw continues her story and tells the team that she was given a Christian name and baptized. However, there were times when certain things happened and her father’s stories seemed true, like the time at her baptism when she turned into a puma after being submerged in the water.
Lupe then grew up as something wrong, something freakish. She did not have control over her powers and, when the other kids made fun of her, she would turn into a monkey or a snake. That did not make things better. Her father continued to study and taught her heritage to her. Hearing the stories helped her control her powers. However, every time he took her to see her mother, the caves were always empty and she began to dread the visits. She refused to believe her father’s stories after that and, one year, he grew sick and died. She was taken into the Church orphanage, which was supported by Child-Care, an American charity. The orphanage was worried about her powers, which were ungodly.
One day, a letter came from a response to Childcare’s television ads. It was from Edwin Jarvis, the butler of the well-known Stark family in America. He wanted to support a child and there were stories running that the Stark Corporation was protected by Iron Man. The orphanage decided it would be best to make her the sponsor child in case anything went wrong.
Silverclaw continues and explains that she was so happy that someone wanted to sponsor her that she immediately started writing letters back to Jarvis. She told him everything about her, except her birthright. Lupe was determined to be modern. She was the first to sneak out of the village to the city, the first to get her nose pierced, she knew the most modern bands and the American TV stars. She was also eager to attend college in the United States.
However, no matter how long she spent denying her past, she still took the ceremonial garb her father made for her when she finally was able to go to America and attend college. It was at the Costa Verde National Airport where terrorists heard about her and coerced her to do their biddings, which led to her first meeting with Edwin Jarvis and the Avengers.
Lupe still remembers her father’s warnings, though. He told her of a prophecy in which a great threat would come from “a long time past.” When that time came, only she, the child of the gods, could stand against it. She tried to convince her father that he was crazy and that no one ever saw Peliali. She called herself a mutant to be considered modern, but in the end she was kidding herself.
The Scarlet Witch consoles Lupe and tells her it will be all right. Jan turns around and offers some help to ease Lupe’s anxiousness. The Wasp tells She-Hulk that they have been in Costa Verdan airspace for 10 minutes so they should try to raise the authorities and see if they can tell them anything.
She-Hulk contacts the Costa Verdan Public Ministry of Information and explains the situation. However, the person on the other end tells the Avengers that the village of Kamekeri has never existed. Silverclaw is shocked to hear this and tells the others that it is impossible, because she was born there. Jan asks Iron Man how much longer it will be until they reach the village. Iron Man is about to tell her they are almost there when something amazing catches all of their eyes.
Below the Quinjet is a massive, ancient, elegant city that rises out of the jungle. A stunned Silverclaw is barely able to whisper that the village did not look like this when she left. As the Avengers take the sight in, Triathlon notices something else. The group looks up to see five massive hawks racing towards them with men on top of them, all armed with bow and arrows.
Iron Man and Warbird fly out the hatch to greet the men. Iron Man begins to speak to them in Spanish when one of the Hark Riders strikes the two Avengers with a lightning bolt. In English, the Hawk Rider calls the Avengers “Outlanders” and tells them to die for the glory of their master, Kulan Gath. “Looks like they habla…” jokes Warbird.
Iron Man tells Warbird that the attack was magic, but that’s okay, because he knows another language they will understand. With that said, Iron Man unleashes a blast from his glove and hits three of the riders. Jan asks the two if they are okay, but the duo tell the others to go ahead and do what they need to do.
Jan points to a plaza and tells She-Hulk to land down there. As the plane descends, the Scarlet Witch begins to feel something in her head that frightens her. Jan asks her what is wrong. Wanda’s eyes open up widely and she tells Jan that she felt something earlier so she has been trying to reach out mystically to gain a better sense. Suddenly, Wanda screams for She-Hulk to pull up right before the Quinjet is about to enter the city.
As the Quinjet flies away from the city, Wanda tells all on board that there is a mystic field around the city and, if they went through, something bad would have happened. Iron Man and Warbird are confused at what just happened, but Jan tells them to shake off their attackers and follow them, but orders them no to enter the city.
The Quinjet lands nearby with Warbird and Iron Man right behind them. Jan explains to the two that Wanda sensed a spell that would have affected them. Silverclaw wonders what the spell would have done, but Wanda has no clue, other than knowing the spell was overwhelming. Goliath walks towards the city entrance and asks anyone if they are interested in an experiment.
She-Hulk and Warbird follow them while Iron Man thinks to himself how much he dislikes magic. However, Wanda uses magic everyday so, if this even spooks her, then something is up. Goliath tells the others to keep an eye on them as the three enter the city. Warbird flies in but, as she lands, Triathlon and the others notice something horrible. The three Avengers are magically transformed into ancient warriors. Warbird, clad in a white dress with gold adorned to it, asks what a Falconer like her is doing on the ground. She-Hulk, who is wearing barely anything except some purple armor, tells Carol that she does not know, but she does feel strange in her armor.
Goliath, whose clothing hauntingly resembles his Yellowjacket uniform, calls the two women wenches and tells them that adventure is calling him, as well as booty to be found. Before the three can continue, Iron Man wraps a vine around them from outside the city and pulls them out, turning them back to normal.
Before the team can ask their colleagues if they are all right, an image of Kulan Gath appears behind them. Gath tells the Avengers to leave, for he alone has dominion of the land and the people and very soon he will harness the power of the Earth itself. He then tells the team that they should not challenge him for the fear of pain itself.
As the image vanishes as quickly as it came, Jan tells the others that they will go, but not far. They will first need to set up camp. Silverclaw is confused, as she did not notice any camping equipment in the Quinjet. Goliath gets up and tells the others that, when he and Jan decided to return to the Avengers, he decided to specially treat some large equipment so he can shrink them and take them on adventures. He pulls out one compartment from his uniform and pops it open. He puts it on the ground and it instantly grown into a metallic sleeping pod.
As Goliath makes some more sleeping pods, he explains that he has bunks, bedding, cooking equipment and food concentrate pods, as well as a fully functioning field lab. However, he never finished the power station, so they will need wood and water for fire. Jan tells Hank that she already sent Warbird, Iron Man and Triathlon to get some. Upon hearing that, Iron Man and Triathlon are out together, Wanda comments that the pairing “could be interesting.”
Triathlon fills a jug with water at a waterfall and comments to himself on how first he is a construction worker and now he is water boy. He wonders if he will be shining shoes next as Triathlon lands by him with some firewood. Iron Man asks him if they can talk, but the other man asks if he has a choice. Iron Man tells Triathlon that he knows that he has concerns about the Triune Understanding and that he was against Triathlon joining the team, but Iron Man admits that he may be wrong and does not want any hard feelings. He asks Triathlon if they can start with a clean slate and extends his hand.
Triathlon slaps the hand away and tells Iron Man that it is “mighty white” of him to ignore the way he treated the idea of black Avengers. Triathlon turns and leaves and explains that he needs to deliver water for the rich lady. Warbird watches the whole entire confrontation from a nearby cliff; however, she is unaware that on a tree above her she too is being watched.
Later that night, the Avengers sleep except Hank, who sits by the fire. Jan comes out and tells him that he should get some shut-eye. Hank tells her that he knows, but feels dizzy after going through Gath’s spell-field. Jan asks if they should run some tests, but Hank assures her that it is nothing to worry about. Jan tells him that they cannot take risks with his health again, but Hank interrupts and tells her that he is fine.
Jan is about to tell him that he turned into Yellowjacket and that is not just nothing, when suddenly a scream echoes through the jungle. Jan realizes that it is Silverclaw screaming and rushes to the girl as she crawls out of her sleeping pod. Jan asks her what is wrong. Silverclaw tells her that she was contacted in her dreams. She knows what Kulan Gath is after. He said he wanted the power of the earth. “It’s Peliali—He’s after my mother!”
Goliath, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Triathlon, Warbird, Wasp (all Avengers)Silver Claw (Avengers ally and Jarvis’ sponsor child)
Edwin JarvisHappy (Stark Solutions project leader)Various members of the media
Hawk RidersKulan Gath’s attendants
Recently, the Avengers had been suffering many blows by the media on their lack of black members on the Avengers team, as well as their inclusion of mutants on the team, who are all considered evil. The Avengers had good reason to believe that a spiritual group, the Triune Understanding, had something to do with their recent misfortunes. Eventually, harassment from the media became so bad that the team’s roster had to be reworked, which included two out of three mutants leaving and the inclusion of Triathlon, a Triune member. Iron Man was against Triathlon from joining in Avengers (3rd Series) #27 and this has caused tension between the two.
The Avengers and Jarvis first met Silverclaw in Avengers (3rd Series) #8.
Turning into Yellowjacket has shaken both Hank and Jan, because years earlier when using that identity, Hank betrayed the group and disgraced himself as an Avenger. Because of this and the numerous other identities he possessed, Hank’s history of switching costume identities has always represented emotional problems for him.