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Kurt Busiek (writer), Steve Epting (guest penciler), Al Vey (inker), Tom Smith (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Albert D (letterers), Marc Sumerak (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief)
Warbird, Iron Man and the Vision are battling an alien robot left behind on Earth after the Maximum Security event, before being requested to attend to another alien disturbance, forcing Warbird and the Vision to delay their date once again. Photon and Triathlon spend some time with Jack of Hearts, who is back on Earth for the first time in years, while the Wasp is worried that something big is headed the Avengers' way. Hank Pym runs some tests on Wonder Man, who has suffered no lasting effects after Nefaria's ionic bomb detonated around him, however the Scarlet Witch is not happy with Pym when he casually reveals that Wonder Man will be vulnerable so long as Nefaria can tap into other ionic beings. Before the Scarlet Witch can press the issue, the Wasp requests to speak to Pym alone. She conronts him about his being so withdrawn, and he tells her he will try and work through his issues, before walking away. When the Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man head upstairs, they find Jarvis having trouble with a woman at the front door who is demanding to speak with Triathlon. Triathlon joins them all at the front door, and the woman identifies herself as Peggy Chandler, and demands to know what Triathlon has done with her husband. The Wasp and other Avengers gather in the living room and watch video footage of the hero called 3-D Man, Peggy Chandler's husband, who has now vanished. Triathlon explains how he got his powers from the Triune Understanding, but Mrs Chandler points out that they are the same powers her husband had. At the same time, the Triune Understanding Council has a meeting to decide what to do with the Avengers. Triathlon assures Mrs Chandler that he will look into the possible connection between he and her husband, when the Avengers are attacked by Pagan and Lord Templar. Templar announces that he plans to re-educate the Avengers and turn them into his foot soldiers. A battle ensues. Pym picks up the priority distress call on his communi-card, but when he turns and rushes back to Avengers Mansion, he is attacked – by someone claiming to be Hank Pym! The battle rages on, with the Avengers doing their best, but their enemies are powerful. Thankfully, Warbird, Iron Man and the Vision soon arrive to assist their teammates. To complicate matters, the Wasp answers her commi-card when Captain America calls her from Slorenia, where he needs the Avengers ASAP. The Wasp refuses to send the Avengers he requests, but before they can debate the matter, Cap ends the communication, as men are in danger. Photon, being the fastest Avenger, offers to go, and takes off. With innocents in danger in Slorenia, the Wasp decides to relent, despite Iron Man telling her they must defend the Mansion from Templar and Pagain. The Wasp commands Iron Man, Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch to take a Quinjet to Slorenia, leaving the others to carry on fighting their enemies. Photon arrives in Slorenia and meets up with Captain America, who motions to the Bloodwraith – who is now amighty giant looming over Slorenia!
Manhattan, early evening. There is a mighty BKROOMM as Iron Man a.k.a. Tony Stark is knocked backwards by a surge of powerful energy. For days, the Avengers have been on the go, rounding up alien menaces for extradition to space. Most are gone now, but a few stragglers remain behind, by accident or design, and it falls to Earth's Mightiest to deal with it. 'Iron Man! Are you all right?' Carol Danvers a.k.a. Warbird asks as she and the android Vision drop down nearby. 'I just didn't expect his face to open up like that! I'll be fine' Iron Man replies. It has been a long day already, and it is not over yet! 'Well, heads up, guys – because whoever – and whatever – our little playmate here is – he's not going quietly!' Warbird declares as the large robot-like alien looms over them. His faceplate open, he introduces himself as Ten-Thirtifor, and explains that he was convicted of rebellion, of independent thinking, stripped of his rank as a holocaust specialist and exiled. 'But this planet – is my answer' Ten-Thirtifor declares.
The Vision informs Iron Man that he has interfaced with the Mansion records, and has now placed their foe. The Vision reports that he is an Autocron, a form of machine life. The Vision adds that Machine Man placed a report on them some time ago, and states that they are vulnerable to sonics. 'Oh, they are, are they?' Iron Man replies.
Ten-Thirtifor opens some strange device connected to his hand and announces that he will call in an invasion fleet, win a world for his empire, and then they will have to reinstate him. But even as his hand-apparatus begins to hum, Ten-Thirtifor cries out in agony as Iron Man blasts him with a sonic ray. 'A couple thousand decibels of high-frequency sonics! Don't much like it, do you?' Iron Man asks Ten-Thirtifor, while thanking the Vision for the tip. Ten-Thirtifor drops to the ground: 'Must... conquer... planet... destroy... organics...' he utters, announcing that neutralizers will absorb the attack, and prepares a vertigo-inducer. 'You're kidding, right? You can barely stand, let alone -' Iron Man points as he Ten-Thirtifor prepares to use the vertigo inducer on him. 'Here, Iron Man – allow me!' Warbird calls out as she swoops down and slams her fist into Ten-Thirtifor, knocking the alien backwards.
Shortly, Ten-Thirtifor has been defeated and lies motionless as Iron Man, the Vision and Warbird gather around him. The Vision states that Ten-Thirtifor is no longer a danger, and remarks that he regrets he was less than effective against him. 'But his defenses against phased attacks -' the Vision begins, as Carol tells him not to worry about it, as they got the job done. 'That we did' Iron Man agrees, before contacting Avengers Mansion, and reports that they have contained the bogey and that SHIELD troops can come pick him up. Iron Man asks if there is anything else. The Wasp a.k.a. Janet van Dyne is on monitoring duty and she informs him that there is a report of a small band of extra-terrestrials who have taken hostages near Times Square. 'But I can send some of the others -' the Wasp begins, but Iron Man tells her that they will do it, as they are nearby. As the trio take flight, Carol tells the Vision that it looks like they are going to have to put their dinner date off again. 'Yes. So it seems' the Vision agrees, before telling Warbird that he is looking forward to their rendezvous, but that their duty as Avengers come first. Carol is confused, 'I only agreed to go out with him on a whim – but I can't tell whether he's completely repressed – or just the most centered, self-confident man I've ever met'. As Carol flies behind her teammates, she decides that as time goes on, she is getting real interested in finding out which it is.
Meanwhile, at Avengers Mansion, Edwin Jarvis is in the kitchen, where Jack Hart a.k.a. Jack of Hearts and Monica “Photon” Rambeau sit at a table, and Delroy Garrett a.k.a. Triathlon leans against some cupboards. Triathlon asks Jack what he is going to do now that he is back on Earth for the first time in years, to which Jack replies that he doesn't know. He remarks that Moondragon went back to Los Angeles, while Tigra went to Chicago to look up friends, and Starfox went home to Titan. He points out that Photon has her parents in New Orleans, but that there is so much he wants to do, he doesn't even know where to start.
'Some coleslaw, Sir?' Jarvis asks, handing a dish to Jack, who thanks Jarvis, adding that he wishes Quasar had made it back. 'He was really looking forward to coming home – and to be exiled in space like that – a host-body to Ego the Living Planet!' Jack exclaims. Jarvis then asks Jack if he wants another cheeseburger. 'Like he even had to ask...' Monica utters, sipping her drink. 'You bet, Jarv! It's heaven, eating Earth food again – and yours is sensational!' Jack exclaims.
Janet stands in the shadows of the doorway to the kitchen and frowns, deciding that she doesn't like this. 'It seems calm, but not relaxed – like it's the calm before a storm' Jan tells herself, and that she has been getting the feeling that the storms are getting bigger.
As the Wasp frets, down below in one of Avengers Mansion's basement labs, Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch watches as Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man climbs out of some large scanning device. 'What's the verdict, Doc? Am I back in the pink?' he calls out to Dr Henry Pym a.k.a. Goliath. 'Recovered from whatever Nefaria's ionic bomb did to me?' Simon asks. Pym tells Wonder Man that he seems to be. 'Your system absorbed the shock of ionic spasm better than Atlas's, from what I can tell – and the calcium-boron infusion seemed to help, too' Pym remarks, adding that he will have to let the Thunderbolts know about that. Wanda puts a towel around Simon's shoulders, and he thanks her, before asking if there is anything they can do to keep him from getting mentally taken over again like he was with Nefaria. Pym replies that he doubts it, for as long as Nefaria can tap into other ionic beings and impose his will on them, Simon will be vulnerable. 'What?' Wanda calls out. 'So does this mean, Doctor Pym, that the Avengers can't protect their own? Or is it that you just don't care?' Wanda asks.
Pym is surprised by Wanda's tone and he tells her that he didn't mean to sound callous, and assures her he will work on it. Suddenly, 'Wanda, Simon. Why don't you pop upstairs and get some of Jarvis's burgers before the Jack of Hearts scarfs them all – I'd like to talk to Hank alone for a minute' the Wasp tells her teammates as they turn to her.
Upstairs, Jarvis is at the front door, where he tells a woman that the Avengers aren't available at the moment. 'Don't hand me that! I've come all the way from New Mexico and I won't be brushed aside! I'm not leaving – not 'til I've talked to Triathlon!' the gray-haired woman exclaims. 'Madam, I'm afraid I have to -' Jarvis begins, as Wanda and Simon approach him, Wanda asks him if there is a problem. Jarvis tells Wanda that there is no problem, before explaining to the woman that the Mansion is not open to the public. He adds that if she would like to send a message to an Avenger, she can contact the Maria Stark Foundation, who will forward it on. 'Forget it – I won't be -' the woman exclaims, when suddenly, Triathlon enters the foyer. 'What's all the ruckus?' he asks. 'THERE HE IS! Let me in – I have to know -' the woman exclaims, pointing at Triathlon. 'Madam, really -!' Jarvis declares, while the woman pushes past him. Triathlon announces that he will talk to her. 'It's not like we've gotta go fight the Red Skull or anything. What's up, Madam?' Triathlon asks. The woman introduces herself as Peggy Chandler and announces that she wants to know where her husband is – and what Triathlon has done with him! 'Your – HUH?' Triathlon replies, confused.
Back in the lab, the Wasp stands behind Hank, who is slumped over in his chair, and doesn't look up at her. She tells him that she is worried, as he has been getting more and more withdrawn, less emotional, less demonstrative – almost mechanical. 'Even Triathlon's noticed' she points out. Jan tells Hank that, as his lover, she wants to help, and that as team leader she can't just let this slide. 'What's going on, hon?' Jan asks. Hank tells Jan that he is sorry, that he doesn't want to alarm her, or worry her. 'But if you'd like me to act more open, more spontaneous...well, I'll try -' Hank begins, before Jan tells him that she doesn't want him to “act” any particular way, she just wants to know what is going on with him. Jan adds that he has been strange ever since their mission in Costa Verde, and that she doesn't want it to blow up in their faces. 'I'm distressing you' Hank replies, before standing up and putting his hands on Jan's shoulders, telling her that he doesn't want to do that, that he wants her to feel safe, not threatened. Hank informs Jan that he will go for a walk and think about how his actions have worried her. 'I'll find a solution' he assures her, before turning and walking out of the lab. 'What... was that?' Jan wonders.
Soon, upstairs, Wanda, Wonder Man, the Wasp, Photon, Jack of Hearts and Triathlon are gathered in a living room with Mrs Chandler, as black and white slides are shown of the adventurer called the 3-D Man, battling some bank robbers. Mrs Chandler explains that he had three times the strength, speed and stamina of an ordinary man, that he was a super hero in the late 1950s, and also her husband, Hal Chandler, and he has been retired for years. 'Three times the power, huh? That sounds familiar – though I'm a little more juiced up than three times an “ordinary man”. But...' Triathlon remarks. Peggy Chandler reports that her husband is missing, vanished, and now here is this new hero, with his powers, his symbol. Triathlon tells her that he wishes he could help her, but that he has never heard of any 3-D Man. Triathlon explains that he got his powers when the Triune Understanding showed him his inner strength, awoke the triple-power within him. 'Yes, the self-help group' Mrs Chandler remarks, before she starts crying, and explains that she got their literature, read Triathlon's interviews, but the Triune Understanding first appears eight months after Hal vanished. 'Where did they get his symbol? How did they give someone his powers?' she asks. Triathlon tells her that he honestly doesn't know. 'They never – they never mentioned him'.
In Calleyville, Texas, at the World Headquarters of the Triune Understanding: 'Thank you for coming, gentlemen' announces Jonathan Tremont as he sits on a platform within the headquarters. Several men in suits are gathered around gim. He informs them that he has called this meeting of the Triune Council to discuss the Avengers. 'And with all due respect, Mister Tremont – it's past time we did so' one of the men calls out. He reports that recruitment of new followers to the Understanding has been down over the last few months, and he believes that is directly related to their altered polcy towards the Avengers. The Council member points out that they engineered public distrust of the team, made it seem as if they were persecuting them. 'And it gained us great public sympathy – and converts' the Council member adds. 'But when we allowed criticism to stop when Triathlon joined, and recruitment correspondingly slowed'. Tremont addresses the member as Michaelson and tells him thaty it is easy to gain sympathy when an enemy appears to be bullying you, but that it is not a strategy that can always be pursued. Another member suggests that they should pull Triathlon out, that way, they could keep bashing the Avengers, and play Triathlon up at the same time.
Tremont addresses that member as Vicente and tells him that he doesn't think Triathlon would willingly leave, and points out that it was a happy accident that Triathlon joined, and he believes it is better for their publicity profile for him to remain. 'We could give him that same spotlight solo. But we must have converts, gentlemen. We must' Tremont declares, announcing that the threat is real and that it is coming – 'I feel it drawing closer every day' he remarks. Tremont instructs a member of the Council called Karjee to start a public relations campaign, that the Understanding will embrace the Avengers, thank them for their stalwart defense of Earth during the recent alien crisis, and by doing so, they can subtly take the opportunity to remind the public of the Avengers' failures, and how opinion of them has improved since Triathlon joined. Karjee tells Tremont that they will need an event, something to call attention to the matter and for them to tag their comments to it. Tremont tells the Council members not to worry, as he believes he can arrange that.
Back at Avengers Mansion, Triathlon tells Mrs Chandler that he will look into this, and remarks that if there is a connection, he wants to know about it as much as she does. But as he starts to finish, the Avengers all look up and around, 'The Mansion – shaking!' the Wasp exclaims. 'But -' she starts to say, when suddenly, 'PREPARE AVENGERS! PREPARE TO FALL!' booms the villain Pagan as he breaks through the wall of Avengers Mansion, followed by Lord Templar who hovers above him. The Avengers move into action, as Triathlon instructs Jarvis to get Mrs Chandler to safety, and for him to stay with her. 'Yes, Triathlon – and this is private property!' the Wasp calls out, before ordering the Avengers to show the villains the door. 'You got it!' Wonder Man agrees as he and the others move towards the villains – only for Lord Templar to cast some energy at them and knock them all back. 'Fools. Have you not yet learned that you cannot prevail against my limitless might?' Lord Templar asks. Landing hard in her insect size, the Wasp surreptitiously triggers a circuit in her cuff, sending out a general alarm as she reminds Lord Templar that the Avengers have chased him off before, and boasts that they will do it again, before asking him to tell her what spurred him to drop in on them tonight.
'Simply put, Ms Van Dyne – you do' Lord Templar responds. 'Pagan here is obsessed with destroying you – but I think you can be put to a better purpose' Lord Templar exclaims. 'YOU DO NOT NEED THEM, MASTER! YOU HAVE PAGAN!' the large villain calls out. Lord Templar tells him to be silent, before a memory flashes through his mind as Lord Templar reveals that when he captured Pagan after the Avengers were unable to contain him, he imprisoned him in his celestial stronghold, and there, they had many conversations, most of which, he is sorry to say, consisted of Pagan insisting he would crush the Avengers. 'Very repetitive, I assure you' Lord Templar remarks, before explaining that he has come to see the Avengers as a distraction, his quest is to establish peace and universal law across Earth. 'And you blind people to those goals, with your very public championing of individual effort and personal glory. Accordingly – I have decided to capture and re-educate you into my foot-soldiers, just as I have done with Pagan' Lord Templar explains, before informing Pagan that he can act now.
'YES, MASTER!' Pagan roars as he moves forward, raising his fists overhead. 'No! Don't let him -' the Easp calls out, but, faster than anyone would have thought possible, Pagan's fists come down, and the titanium-steel reinforced floor beneath them shatters, and the Avengers fall downwards. Even the Wasp is caught in the downdraft created by Triathlon, the Scarlet Witch, Jack of Hearts, Photon and Wonder Man as they plummet downwards.
A few blocks south, and a few minutes ago, Henry Pym wanders, lost in thought until, there is a beeping sound. He pulls his Avengers ID / communi-card from his lab coat pocket, 'The priority alarm! I'd better get back -' Hank exclaims. He turns around and begins to run – when suddenly, someone punches him in the stomach and he collapses to the ground. 'What – who -?' Hank asks as he looks up and sees someone crouching in front of him. Someone very familiar. 'Hi there, I'm you!' the other Hank declares. 'And you've got something I want. Namely – your life!' Needless to say, Henry Pym will not be making it back to the Mansion tonight....
In one of the Avengers' sub-basements, Lord Templar tells the heroes to surrender, that they will make it far easier on themselves. 'Not a chance, Jaundice-Jaws!' Triathlon exclaims as he slams his body against Pagan, while the Wasp blasts Pagan with her sting. She calls out to Photon and tells her to try and shut Lord Templar up, as her energy forms are best equipped to deal with him. 'Already on it -' Photon begins as she streaks towards Lord Templar – but she us suddenly knocked back when she strikes him in her energy form. 'I should have passed right through him! What on Earth is he made of?' Photon wonders. 'HAH! YOU HIT HARD, WONDER MAN! BUT PAGAN HITS HARDER!' the villain shouts as Wonder Man, in his ionic form, strikes out at the Avengers' foe. 'Maybe so, maybe no – you're still going down though!' Wonder Man replies, before calling out to Wanda and asking her to hex this bozo good. Wanda tells Simon that she is trying, but that she doesn't have time to concentrate or tailor a hex specifically to him, and her simple hex-spheres aren't doing much good.
Lord Templar continues to hover over the others: 'Really, my gaudy assailant – this is absurd. You merely feed me more power' he tells Jack of Hearts, who blasts him with energy. 'Seems like it – so far, anyway!' Jack declares, 'Can't blame a guy for trying though, can you?' he adds. 'YES!' Pagan booms. 'YOU ATTACK THE MASTER! SO PAGAN WILL -' the behemoth begins as he lunges at Jack – only to be blasted away by Warbird and Iron Man as they fly towards him. 'Got your back, Jack!' Iron Man calls out, announcing that they came as soon as they got the alert, and adds that the Vision is on his way, but he couldn't match their speed. Turning to the Wasp, Iron Man asks her what happened here. 'How did you let them damage the Mansion so badly?' he enquires. 'How did we “let them”? Iron Man, you can't be -' the Wasp begins to reply, before her communicard goes off. 'Huh? Another priority alert, from – Captain America?' the Wasp exclaims as he appears on her communicard. 'Wasp – thank heaven I reached you -' Cap exclaims, before stating that he is in Slorenia with SHIELD, and that they have a situation. 'The Bloodwraith is here – and we need the Avengers – ASAP!' Cap declares.
Iron Man and Photon look over at the Wasp as she listens to Cap, who tells her that he needs Wanda for sure, plus Hank or Iron Man and as many others as she can spare. 'Cap, I'd love to, but we've got -' the Wasp begins to reply. 'Sorry, Jan! No time! There are men in harm's way, and I've got to go!' Can calls out as he trudges across the ruined terrain along with a dozen SHIELD officers. 'Just get here as soon as you're able to! Cap out!' The Wasp looks annoyed: 'Blast...' she begins, while Photon points out that she is the fastest so will go. Even as she speaks, Photon is converting into light and streaking eastward. Iron Man turns to the Wasp again and tells her that they have to defend the Mansion. 'I grew up here! It's my home!' he exclaims. 'Iron Man -' the wasp begins. 'We've got to!' Iron Man shouts back at her. 'I -' the Wasp begins as the Vision arrives on scene. 'There's no choice. Cap says there are innocents in danger – and that's more important that any building – even this one' the Wasp points out as the Avengers stand ready against their two foes. The Wasp then instructs Wanda, Wonder Man and Iron Man, as Hank isn't here, to go join Cap, while the rest of them hold the line here. 'Jan -' Iron Man begins to protest, but the Wasp, flying right in front of his face, reminds him that she said go. 'NOW GO!' she shouts at him.
Minutes later, the damaged Avengers Mansion shudders from the force of the Quinjet that launches from it, and below, Warbird, the Vision, the Wasp, Triathlon and Jack of Hearts face Lord Templar and Opagan. 'All right, everybody – it's down to us now. Stay alert, watch each other's backs. We defend each other – we defend our home' she commands them. As if in answer, laughter curls out of the shadows, a low, cold laughter that sends an involuntary shiver down the Avengers' spines. 'Really, my dear Wasp. You could not defeat either of us alone' Lord Templar tells her he and Pagan stand in the shadows. 'What hope do you have, with a fragmented team – against the two of us?' he asks.
Slorenia: 'I'm here, Cap!' Photon announces as she drops down beside he and the SHIELD officers. Cap turns to Photon and tells her that he is glad to have her, asking if there are others coming. 'I... think so' Monica tells him, before remarking that she is confused. Monica tells Cap that the Black Knight told her about the Bloodwraith – that he is just a psycho with a sword, tough, but not a major menace. 'Why do you need a whole team to stop him now?' she asks. Cap points across the ruined land of Slorenia: 'Over the next rise, Photon. Take a look – that's why' Cap explains under the red sky of Slorenia, an enormous Bloodrwaith stands like a giant holding a flaming sword, he turns his attention to Captain America, Photon and the SHIELD agents....
Goliath, Iron Man, Photon, Scarlet Witch, Triathlon, Vision, Warbird, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers)
Jack of Hearts
Pagan & Lord Templar
Karjee, Michaelson, Vicente and other Triune Understanding Couincil members
In Slideshow images:
In flashback image:
The alien menaces are a reference to the recent Maximum Security crossover event.
Jack of Hearts returned to Earth following the conclusion of the Maximum Security crossover.
Quasar was lost in the Maximum Security crossover also.
The mission in Costa Verde took place in Avengers (3rd series) #28-30.
The Triune Understanding engineered public distrust of the Avengers as seen in Avengers (3rd series) #15, 19 and 24.
The Bloodwraith last appeared in Avengers Unplugged #6.