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Kurt Busiek (Plot), George Perez (Art), Al Vey and Scott Hanna (Finishes), Tom Smith (Colors), Richard Starkings and COMICRAFT (Letters), Tom Brevoort (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)
Wasp and Iron Man meet with the Costa Verdan president, who wants his troops to investigate Gath’s city first. Iron Man strikes a deal with him, which will let the Avengers take charge and let the army into the city without being transformed. The captured Avengers discover that Gath plans on killing Peliali to enter the realm of the gods. His passing will destroy the world. The team breaks free and battles Gath’s men, but is backed up by Wasp, Iron Man and the Costa Verdan army. Silverclaw frees the people from Gath’s spell. Gath is about to kill her, when he is attacked by the mystery stalker. Gath stabs Peliali and ascends, but realizes that Peliali is not dead. Gath is then taken by the angry gods to parts unknown. The village returns to normal and Peliali dies, but not before telling her daughter that she is sorry and is proud of her. As the team goes home, no one notices that they have an extra passenger: Yellowjacket, the mysterious yet familiar follower.
In the Costa Verdan jungle, the Costa Verdan army lies in wait for their orders. The haunting sound of drums fills the air as the nervous soldiers listen and wait. Carlos, an older man, turns to Jesus, a much younger soldier, and tells him that he hopes they get their orders soon, because that city in the valley should not be there and the drums are driving him crazy. Jesus agrees and wonders what they are doing down in the city.
In the city in question, the entire city’s populace has gathered in the plaza before Kulan Gath’s temple. Men with hawk hoods beat the drums, while women dressed in scarcely any clothing and gold jewelry dance to the beat. Nearby, another man swings his stag into the air, releasing energy while repeating a chant. Above them all, however, is Kulan Gath, who stretches out his arms and invokes the gods.
Suspended in the air in the middle of the plaza is Peliali, who is trapped in a sphere of yellow energy. Behind her are the trapped Avengers. Goliath, who is trapped in his giant form, is crammed into a wooden cage. Chained to the front of the cage is Warbird. To either side of Warbird’s feet are Triathlon and She-Hulk, whose legs and arms are chained to a horizontal wooden beam, while a large weight is tied to each of their necks. Directly below, Warbird is the Scarlet Witch, whose hangs from her chained arms, and has a piece of metal covering her eyes so she cannot use her magical powers. Adjacent to the Avengers is Silverclaw, on another ledge, who is on her knees with her neck and arms in chains. Guards surround the whole area while the people cheer Kulan Gath at the bottom.
Gath calls out to Shuma-Gorath, the hosts of the N’garai and the Dark Gods. He introduces himself as Kulan Gath, their faithful servant, who now petitions to have a place among them as he has rightfully earned. As Gath continues to awaken the gods, he tells them that he has brought a bridge price, the lives of Peliali and the Avengers. Under her breath, the horrified She-Hulk realizes that “this looney-tune’s” plan is to kill himself and that they are his ticket to the gods.
Gath continues to call out and says to the absent gods that they can no longer deny him. He shall speak the words that will open the long-forgotten gates and then he will spill the blood of Peliali. When she dies in agony, her energy will flow to them and the Avengers and Costa Verdans will die too. Only he shall arise to take his place in the realm of the gods. However, he shall leave his last gift as a true god, which is death as the wake of his passage splits the world asunder. With that said, Gath chuckles and begins the incantation.
In Courantine, Costa Verde’s capital, the president apologizes to the Wasp but, what she is saying, is unbelievable. Jan tells him that she knows and thanks him for meeting with them on such short notice. The president tells her it was nothing and tells the Wasp and Iron Man that Costa Verde is no longer the “backwater banana republic” most Americans think. They are proud to head towards modernism, but all this talk of wizards and tribal gods is unsettling.
Iron Man, under his breath, tells Jan that they don’t have much time. Jan tells the president that she understands but, after working with Hercules and Thor she is more credulous to these things, so she assures him that they speak the truth. She explains how the team came to aid Silverclaw and how they found the village transformed into a magical city with a barrier that transformed anyone who crossed it into Gath’s minions. The Scarlet Witch used her magic to enchant some comm-chips so they could pass safely. However, Jan continues, they do now know what Gath wants, but they did see first-hand of how he assaulted the goddess Peliali and captured her. Costa Verde has troops outside the city and if they go in they will be added to Gath’s power, so she is asking one more time to let the Avengers handle this for everyone’s sake.
The president tells Jan that she speaks eloquently and he is inclined to believe her. However, he turns to General Camarro, who tells the Wasp that this is their country. With all due respect, they must investigate this themselves. Iron Man tells them that, if that is the case, then he may have an idea, though it goes against his beliefs.
Back in the city, Kulan Gath points to the sky and shoots a swirl of energy from his fingertip, which swirls around in the sky. Gath calls it the soul-siphon and says that it must be fed. He blasts Peliali with another blast of magic and the goddess screams. Triathlon tells the team that she is in a bad way and they need to get free to help her. Warbird turns to Triathlon and asks him if he isn’t going to crack a joke about how he just joined the Avengers and he is already in chains. Triathlon bitterly turns to her and says that he has noticed, but she is in chains to. “So tell me…” says Triathlon, “how do you like it?”
Meanwhile, Silverclaw looks down and recognizes one of the dancer girls. She calls out to Esme and the dancer stumbles, recognizing her name being called. Silverclaw calls out to Esme again as She-Hulk watches. Lupe tells Esme that they went to school together and used to sneak out to get soda and talk to boys. She tells her to remember. Esme stops dancing and hesitantly says Lupe’s name. Silverclaw tells Esme that this is wrong and that she has to stop. The guard behind Silverclaw shocks her with his magical sphere and she screams.
The Scarlet Witch turns to the side and asks She-Hulk what is happening to Silverclaw. Jen tells Wanda that Gath’s guards have their own magical weapons and don’t like chit chat. Behind Silverclaw, two guards speak, one saying that the ward-priests spoke of seven intruders within the city, but he only counts six prisoners. The other guard tells him that their master said he had dealt with it. He then asks the other man if he wishes to the master if he is wrong. The guard says no, but that he sill does not like it. As the ceremony continues, no one notices a figure run behind the guards in the shadows.
Above Warbird, Goliath triggers his cowl-radio and tells Silverclaw that he knows the bars and chains are magically enhanced, but asks her if the spear blast was electricity. Lowly, Silverclaw says that she thinks so. Goliath says he can work with that. He tells Warbird that the spell makes it hurt to try to shrink to ant-size but, if he can concentrate and deal with the pain, then maybe he can escape.
Goliath begins to shrink, even though the pain kicks in; however, he succeeds as the guards yell that he has escaped. The guards shoot electricity at Goliath, who tells them that they have to be faster against someone who is used to fighting Whirlwind. He jumps in front of Warbird and then out of the way as they blast at Carol.
Warbird realizes the plan. She is unsure if she can absorb magical energy, but she knows that she can absorb electricity. She absorbs the energy and uses it to destroy her bonds. Warbird tells Gath that she is sorry for interrupting, but the Avengers are free. She sends out several blasts of energy, all of which break the bonds of the Avengers and Silverclaw.
Goliath grows back to giant size and lands by the team. As he hits the ground, he feels some pain again. Wanda asks him if he is all right, but he tells her that he is fine. She-Hulk tells them that they don’t have time for a second opinion. They turn around and find an army of soldiers charging at them. “You know, maybe it’s just me,” says Triathlon, “but I’m sensing some major hostility.”
Before both sides can clash, a palace tower suddenly explodes. Several more towers explode as Warbird looks down to see Iron Man, Wasp and the Costa Verdan army charge in with tanks and guns. Jan congratulates Iron Man on his plan. Iron Man thinks to himself that it makes no sense. Wanda magicked up a comm-chip, so he ran a link to every walkie-talkie and radio in the unit to extend her spell. It’s not science or logic, but it worked.
As the troops attack, the commander tells them to take down the man at the temple. Gath screams and tells them that they cannot stop him. He has worked for a millennium and they will die at his hands before he will lose again. Gath conjures up a spell and sends a wave of magic toward the troops. It hits tank, which then transforms it and the man inside into an armored warrior atop a War-elephant. A jeep is hit, which transforms it and its occupant into a warrior atop a horse.
Goliath watches and realizes that he is overcoming the power of the talisman, one troop at a time. Triathlon tells him that it is interesting but, in case he hasn’t notice, they are next. Gath sends the magical energy toward the Avengers, but Wanda uses her Chaos Magic to deflect the attack. However, his magic is staggering. Jan asks Wanda if she can keep it up, but the Scarlet Witch says no. However, as long as Gath is preoccupied with her he is vulnerable from other sides.
Iron Man and Warbird take to the skies to occupy the Hawk Riders, so one of the others can get through. Gath hears him and tells him no. First he will crush the “feeble upstarts who calls herself a witch” and then the rest of them are next. Silverclaw leaps at Gath and transforms into a monkey for agility. As she reaches Gath, she transforms into a jaguar to take him down. She tells him that he will do nothing as long as he is trying to kill her mother. Gath tells her that the village legends may have made her a protector, but she is nothing compared to him.
Gath blasts Silverclaw away and uses his magic to transform all the civilians into demons. Goliath watches in amazement at how Gath is able to transform all the villagers at the same time. Wanda continues to hold off Gath’s minions, but wonders why Hank is not focusing on the battle.
As the demons surround the team, Triathlon tells She-Hulk that its game time and asks her if she is ready. Jen smiles and tells him to know one thing about her. “I was born ready!” says She-Hulk as she punches a demon into a group of others.
The Avengers join the battle. Wasp stings two men while Goliath takes on a whole group of demons. Warbird fights some more Hawk Riders and thinks to herself that Gath is good. He is dividing their forces, drawing him away from the temple and making sure his plan is working.
Triathlon notices that the Hawk Riders have drawn Iron Man to the ground. With all the sound and fury of the battle, he does not notice the War-elephants coming from behind. He doesn’t know if they can hurt Iron Man but, with all the magic around, he can’t risk finding out. Triathlon tackles Iron Man from behind, as the War-elephants are about to trample him.
She- Hulk picks up the two elephants and chucks them. Iron Man gets up and realizes that his onboard sensors aren’t picking up anything with all the anomalous energy interference. Iron Man looks around and is surprised to realize that he was saved by Triathlon, who has rejoined the battle.
Jan asks Wanda if she is okay and Wanda says she is fine, as she smashes a staff into one off the ward-priest’s face. She tells Jan, however, that she was swept away from Gath and no one is on his case. Gath smiles and realizes that his troops won’t be able to hold off the Avengers for long, but it will be long enough. He turns to Peliali and asks her where they were before they were interrupted. Peliali, in agony, tells him “no more.” Gath brandishes a dagger and tells her that the gate is almost open and, soon, it will be all over.
For Silverclaw, it is all a nightmare. This is her home, no matter how changed it is. Down there, no matter if she hid herself from Lupe, is her mother. Gath tells Peliali to face her death with dignity. Silverclaw tells herself that she cannot allow this to happen.
Silverclaw climbs a tower and calls down to the people of the Kamekeri. Everyone looks up and is surprised to see Silverclaw. Silverclaw tells the people that she is their protector. She is their protector and they must hear her. They follow a false master who will doom them. They need to remember Peliali and the truth. The goddess watched over them and still protects their harvests and lives. They denied her, but she still aids them. Now, she is in front of them and they can no longer deny her existence. Now Peliali needs them and they must repay their debt.
Silverclaw feels a fire burn inside of her. Gath backs away as a red energy leaves from Peliali and goes to Silverclaw. The same fire burns in the people of the Kamekeri, though it is faint. Silverclaw knows she has reached them and started a tiny spark in their minds. She feels their fire blossom into a flame, but Gath begins to yell and tells her that she has some sort of link to the people and the land, but he will silence her.
Gath is about to strike Silverclaw, but yellow and black costumed arm reaches out from the shadows and shoots Gath with a blast, as the mysterious man tells him not to be naughty. The blast jolts Gath, but it is enough for him to miss hitting Silverclaw. Warbird asks Iron Man if the power bolt came from him, but he says it did not come from him, Wanda or Jan.
However, the question is forgotten as the gate opens in front of Gath and Peliali. Peliali tells Gath that he cannot be permitted to hurt the Kamekeri. Silverclaw tells her mother to fight him and to take their strength to do it, for they are all with her. Below Silverclaw, it is true, as every Hawk Rider, warrior, civilian and demon stand united with Peliali and begin to cheer her name. Peliali tells Gath that he cannot hold her. The prison she is in is weak. Silverclaw smiles and realizes her mother will be free, but Gath screams no and tells Peliali that his time is now and he will strike. Gath raises his dagger over Peliali and brings it down.
Silverclaw screams for her mother, as a blast of energy and light knock her off the tower. Iron Man catches her and she asks if he killed her mother. Gath flies up to the now-open gate and tells his “brothers-to-be” that he is coming. Warbird tells Silverclaw that she is not sure, but something about the gate is changing and growing darker.
Suddenly from the gate, a mass of tentacles comes out and wraps around Gath, who realizes that his bridge-price escaped. The tentacles pull him into the gate and he tells his masters to give him a few more moments to secure Peliali but, as the demons pull him in, the gate closes as everyone hears Gath’s final word: “Please!”
The gate closes and there is silence. Then, Warbird asks if the sky just changed color. Silverclaw tells Iron Man to look down, for the village is back to normal. The three fly to the ground, but Goliath tells Silverclaw, gravely, that she should come down here. Iron Man catches up with Wanda and Jan as asks why the long faces. Gath is defeated and everyone is back to normal. Jan tells him that it’s fine, but tells him to look to where she is pointing.
On the steps of Church lays the dying Peliali, with a dagger in her chest. Silverclaw kneels by her and tells her mother that she will be all right, because she is a goddess. Peliali tells her daughter that the wound is mortal, but that is good to finally see her. Tears run from Silverclaw’s eyes and she asks her mother by did she hide and let everyone disbelieve in her. Peliali raises her hand to hold Silverclaw’s face and tells her that Gath was right in one thing.
The Avengers, soldiers and Kamekeri alike watch solemnly, as Peliali tells her daughter that the world has changed and passed her. She should have left with the other gods, but she could not find a way to let go. Now her presence has put her people as the target of a madman. This incident should not have happened. Peliali apologizes for neglecting Silverclaw, for that was a bad decision. But now she can go, because she has a daughter, who is the hero she should be and will one day guard these hills and these people. “…And she will do it well,” says Peliali as she dies. Silverclaw hold her mother’s dead hand to her face and tells her that she lovers her.
Epilogue:A day later, after contact between the Kamekeri Village and the Costa Verdan authorities is made, the Avengers and Silverclaw head back to New York City. Jan tells Hank that, as soon as they get back to the mansion, they are going to run tests on him to find out what is wrong. Hank begins to tell her it is nothing, but then suddenly looks straightforward and tells her that he would never think of neglecting his health or of “neglecting anything…”
Iron Man thanks Triathlon for the save the day before. He really came through in a clutch. Triathlon smiles and tells him that the thing is that Iron Man would have done the same for him. That is what they are here for; every single one of them.
Warbird turns to Lupe and asks her what is next. She half expected her to stay at the village. Silverclaw leans back and closes her eyes. She tells everyone that she is not ready yet to be protector of her people. She has college to finish first. She holds her headpiece in her hands and says that one day she will fulfill her destiny, so maybe she should concentrate on classes like Criminology, Psychology or Mythology.
Wanda tells Silverclaw that there might be another way to prepare. The Avengers are short one reserve member and asks Silverclaw if she might consider taking the spot. Surprised, Silverclaw asks them if they mean they want her to be an Avenger. Jan turns around and says that it’s a great idea. She is local and has proven what it takes. Since she is Jarvis’ sponsor child she is already part of the family. Silverclaw says that she must say yes then. “Hey, cool…” says Triathlon.
As the Avengers congratulate Silverclaw, one passenger goes unnoticed. Sitting on the back of Silverclaw’s seat is a tiny passenger. “Well, now. That was fun. But I wonder,” says Yellowjacket, “what kind of trouble can I get into next --?”
Goliath, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Triathlon, Warbird, Wasp (all Avengers)Silverclaw (Avengers reserve member and Jarvis’ sponsor child)Yellowjacket
President of Costa Verde and his advisorsVarious Costa Verdan troopsVarious Kamekeri villagers
The events Wasp tells the president took place in Avengers (3rd Series) #28-29.
The dual existence of Goliath and Yellowjacket is shocking, because both costumed heroes are Hank Pym. However, the answers to Yellowjacket’s presence can be found in Avengers Annual 2001.