Avengers (3rd series) #51

Issue Date: 
April 2002
Story Title: 
Prisoners, a Love Story

Kurt Busiek (writer), Brent Anderson (guest penciler), Tom Palmer (guest inker), Tom Smith (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne (letterer), Mark Sumerak & Jeff Youngquist (assistant editors), Tom Breevort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

A captured Wonder Man is brought to one of the camps where Kang’s prisoners are held. He recalls how Earth surrendered to Kang, and how he was captured - before being reunited with the Scarlet Witch, also imprisoned. Powerless thanks to Kang’s technology, the Scarlet Witch shows Wonder Man how she has been helping the sick and injured. Later, they watch as two prisoners jump the guards and steal their hover-deck, and manage to make it over the prison walls. This results in two other prisoners’ deaths though, and when the escaped prisoners are re-captured, they, and four others, and killed by firing squad, to deter others from trying to escape. The Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man discuss at length their relationship since Wonder Man was resurrected, and how things got too “comfortable”. In the end, they both agree that they should be very good friends, before they come up with a plan so that Wonder Man can escape and rejoin the fight against Kang, though the Scarlet Witch wants to remain and help the prisoners. The next day, they put that plan into motion, the two managing to break through Kang’s technology which keeps them powerless, returning their powers to them, the Scarlet Witch surrenders, while Wonder Man battles the guards, only to be re-captured, and is later seemingly killed by firing squad. The Scarlet Witch plays along, with Wonder Man’s ionic power protecting him from the blasts, and the Scarlet Witch’s spell rendering him invisible, he says goodbye to the Scarlet Witch, before leaving through the gaping hole in the prison that he made earlier, worried for the Scarlet Witch, but ready to rejoin the fight.

Full Summary: 

Simon Williams a.k.a. the long-serving ionic Avenger known as Wonder Man is chained by high-tech restraints not of this time. He is led from a ship as alien-like guards watch over him, armed with electro-tasers should the Avenger try to escape. Simon knows he has been brought to Los Angeles, and tells himself that everything seems to have happened so fast. ‘Move, you!’ one of the guards shouts, whacking Simon with the taser.

In Illustrative Flashback - takes place after Avengers (3rd series) #49, narrated by Wonder Man
‘It started - or ended, that might be more appropriate - when Kang destroyed Washington. I don’t know how he did it - some sort of future-weapon from his time, it must’ve been - but it left most of the buildings standing - while killing every man, woman and child in the city. They had no chance, no hope of escape. They were dead in seconds’.

It was after that, when Kang’s image appeared over every city in the world, announcing: ‘The Avengers defied my order to keep the battle - our war for dominion of the Earth - on the battlefield. They assaulted my command center. And now the country that harbours them has paid the price!’ Kang declares that the world has seen another demonstration of the power at his command, and offered them a choice. ‘You may surrender - lest you fear such power being turned against you’.

Simon recalls that many nations surrendered within days, but Kang made the Wasp, acting for the Avengers, surrender first. She had no choice - she couldn’t risk him hitting New York or Los Angeles next. Still, the President had been gotten to safety, and the Wasp would not divulge his location.

Not everyone accepted the surrender, of course - and Kang “pacified” rebels in numerous cities. And the war went on in the un-surrendered nations. Kang didn’t use the city-killer on them, preferring to fight them head to head. But Kang did say that any surrendered nation that took up arms against him would feel the bombs as retribution.

As for the world’s super heroes, some were captured - or surrendered - to save innocents from death - like She-Hulk, Darkhawk and the Fantastic Four. Some managed to say free though, like Wolverine and Spider-Man. And some - like Wonder Man - managed to stay free for a while, only to be brought down eventually.

‘”Wonder Man”, they called you. Hah! Some wonder you are now, eh?’ one of Kang’s soldiers mocks as Simon is led to a large grey building. Simon is told not to move, as a guard removes the shackles, and places a suppressor-collar to inhibit his superhuman asininities. ‘Attempt to break free - and you die!’ another guard warns him. With one final shove, the guards send Wonder Man stumbling out into the yard. It is a prison camp, for those who resisted the new regime. They look at Wonder Man warily. They are hungry, dirty and scared.

Suddenly, a voice cries: ‘SIMON?!’ Wonder Man turns around, and sees Wanda Maximoff - a.k.a. his beloved Scarlet Witch - running towards him. ‘Oh, Simon!’ Wanda calls out. They embrace, and Simon tells Wanda that he didn’t know she would be here. ‘I was taken out in space…they shipped me down here, weeks ago…’ Wanda reveals. Simon tells Wanda that he was caught while making a raid - stealing food and supplies for a rebel group he had been working with in the hills. ‘I tried to cover their escape -’ Simon remarks, while Wanda tells him that she is so happy to see him alive.

The next day, Simon settles into routine - what routine there is, anyway. The guards do not put the prisoners to work - they are just stored until Kang is done collecting. Wanda spends her time in the medical tents, doing what she can. Wanda tells one injured prisoner to hang on, as the doctor they have is working hard and will be here as soon as he can. Simon does his best to help out - fetch water, carry food - what Kang’s forces provide for the sick and what the healthy prisoners can spare.

But Simon can see how hard this is on Wanda. The two long-serving Avengers take a break, and sit down together with a shot drink. Wanda quietly tells Simon that her hex powers still work - at least she thinks they work, because they are magic, and the suppressor-collar’s technology cannot block it all. I’ve got a trickle of it - I use it to keep some of the worst cases alive until they can be treated’ Wanda reveals. She tells Simon that sometimes she thinks the camp authorities know she is doing it, and they let it go. ‘They’d rather have live slaves for Kang than corpses. So long as I’m not too showy, they look the other way’.

A few days later - and there is some excitement in the camp, as one of the guards skims low to the ground on his hover-deck - and two of the prisoners attack him! One grabs the guard and pulls him off the hover-deck, while the other steadies the deck. ‘Hah! Skimmed too low, you bastard!’ one of them shouts, before the two manage to get on the deck and gain altitude. ‘All right!’ Did you see that? Way to go, guys - way to show them!’ Simon exclaims, smiling. ‘Oh, no. No, they didn’t!’ Wanda gasps.

Simon asks Wanda what the problem is. ‘They took that guard down clean as anything - they’re already over the wall!’ he exclaims But Wanda tells him thay they wont get far, and hangs her head as she says ‘And even if they did - just watch. Just watch’. Suddenly, two more guards appear overhead on a hover-deck, with two prisoners. They call out over the wall of the camp to the escapees: ‘Attention, prisoner-designate Gordon Michaelson, prisoner-designate Luis Fernandez - surrender immediately, and no one will be punished for your actions but you yourselves. Continue your attempt to flee - and prisoners-designate Raymond Campell and Constance Burkhalter will die in your stead!’

On the other wise of the wall, the two escapees have crashed their hover-deck, and look back at the prison. ‘No - no!’ one of them shouts. ‘No - we won’t go back! Won’t be taken!’ the other exclaims. ‘We’ll get free - join the rebels!’ They begin to run, and the Scarlet Witch covers her face. ‘Oh, no…’ she whispers, before Kang’s men shoot the two prisoners on the hover deck.

Later, the escapees are caught, and four more prisoners are chosen. Wanda tells Simon that it is always double the number of whoever tries to escape, if they keep running after the warden. The two escapees and four others are tied to a wall, while Wanda, Simon and the other prisoners are held back from the area by an energy field, and several of Kang’s men line up like a firing squad. ‘You - you did this! You! That was my daughter they dragged out after you! My Connie! She was only 14!’ a man shouts at the escapees. ‘I’m - I’m sorry’ one of them replies. ‘I couldn’t - couldn’t take it any more -’ the other exclaims, before the firing squad ready their weapons - and shoot. Simon comforts Wanda, who presses up against him.

Two nights later, Simon and Wanda sit and look up at the night sky. ‘Look at it. It’s the same moon it was a month ago, but the world is shines down on - it’s so different’ Wanda remarks. ‘And I don’t know if it’ll ever be -’ she begins, but Simon tells Wanda not to talk like that, not to think like that, and strokes her face. ‘Things will get better. Kang will be beaten’ Simon assures her. ‘The resistance is out there - including some Avengers, even Thor. The President’s still free. Things’ll be okay. You’ll see’ Simon assures her. They embrace, before looking into each others eyes. ‘Oh, Simon…’ Wanda utters, before they kiss passionately.

They break away, and look at each other in silence, before Simon asks Wanda what is wrong. Wanda turns away, before looking back at Simon and telling him that it was easy before. ‘Things were…comfortable, and it seemed all right to be…to be comfortable. But now, with all this going on - with the world like it is, it just seems so - I don’t know how to say it’ Wanda exclaims. ‘What we had - it’s over. That’s what you mean, right? It’s been over for a while, but we pretended - and now it seems wrong to pretend - to be anything but honest with each other -’ Simon replies.

‘You - you understand?’ Wanda asks, surprised. ‘I was so afraid -’ Wanda begins, but Simon interrupts, telling Wanda that he understands, he just didn’t know that Wanda felt this way too. Simon helps Wanda up off the ground, and remarks that things were fine in New York - they were together, and they were good for one another. ‘But things happened and time passed - and when we had to separate - me in LA, you still in New York - it didn’t really bother you, did it?’ Simon points out. Wanda pauses, before telling Simon that it didn’t.

The Scarlet Witch turns her back to Wonder Man once more, assuring him that she did love him, and still does. ‘But when we first got together…I was so lonely, so confused. That intensified it, magnified my feelings…’ she begins. ‘It turned love into passion. Something we both felt, but something that burned out too fast’ Simon adds, telling Wanda that, for him, it was that Wanda had always been the perfect, unattainable woman. Wanda puts her hands on Simon’s chest and tells him that she would die for him, that he must know that. ‘I do love you’ she tells him again. ‘And I love you, too. It’s just - what it turned out to be - it wasn’t the kind of love either of us thought. More like -’ he begins, ‘More like what we really are is old, old friends’ Wanda smiles.

‘You know, I like that sound of that’ Simon remarks, smiling back. They sit back down, and look back up at the moon. ‘For so long, I couldn’t tell you’ Wanda remarks. ‘How do you tell someone who loved you even beyond death that, well, thanks, but…’ her voice trails off, as Simon points out that Wanda brought him back to life. ‘It would have seemed so…ungrateful…’. Wanda laughs a quiet, rueful laugh. And it is the most beautiful thing Simon has heard in weeks. Simon wipes a tear from Wanda’s face and asks her ‘And…the Vision? Do you still love him?’

‘Yes. Yes, I think so. But he’s moved on. And that’s good - that’s good for him. I’ll honour that’ Wanda declares, before asking Simon if there is somebody else in his life. Simon replies that there isn’t, and that is not important. ‘What’s important right now is how we’re going to get out of here’ he exclaims. ‘Get out? But -’ Wanda begins, but Simon interrupts, ‘You powers’ he tells her. ‘You said they’re only a trickle, but maybe they’d be enough to overcome my collar. I can break free, free you…’ he suggests. ‘But even if we could -’ Wanda begins. ‘We can’t take the whole camp with us. And even then, he’s got an entire country hostage…’.

The next day, everything is normal. Just another day in sunny So-Cal. Another day in paradise. Suddenly, ‘NOW!’ shouts the Scarlet Witch as Wonder Man shifts into his ionic state, and uses his incredible strength to break the collar on Wanda’s neck. ‘Go, Wanda! Go!’ Simon shouts, before he breaks his own collar, and Wanda uses her powers to knock the guards off their hover-decks. Simon then flies towards the outer wall - and smashes his way through in spectacular display.

Of course they did not know what was on the outside of the camp - not before they made their move anyway. Now, they see several guards standing before them. ‘Just like we thought’ Simon tells Wanda as both of them rush forward. Simon adds that the guards are well trained and fast. ‘But they’re not going to give us any trouble, are they?’ he exclaims, as he bashes through them easily. ‘Hardly’ Wanda agrees as she knocks one of the guards back with a burst of hex energy.

But, suddenly, another hover deck appears overhead, with two more guards holding two prisoners. ‘Attention, prisoner-designate Wonder Man - prisoner-designate Scarlet Witch!’ they call out. ‘Wh-?’ Wanda begins, looking upwards. ‘No…. No!’ she exclaims, hanging her head, and covering her face, she tells Simon that she is sorry, but she cannot do it. Wanda falls to the ground: ‘I surrender - I surrender! Punish me - kill me - but don’t hurt anyone else!’ she begs. Guards surround Wanda, while, up above, another hover deck looms over Wonder Man, with a guard pointing a weapon at another prisoner. He tells Wonder Man to surrender immediately and no one will be punished for his actions except himself. ‘Continue your attempt to flee -’ the guard begins, but Simon interrupts him: ‘Come and take me!’ Simon shouts. ‘You’re so tough, you’re so powerful - come and take me yourselves! Be men! Men, not cowards hiding behind threats! Take me if you can - but come at me, not someone else!’

Suddenly, another group of warriors lunge at Simon - different to the guards, these are some kind of special squad, and are armed with some sort of taser. ‘You watching, Kang? You seeing this? This is how a man fights, Kang! How a man deals with his enemies!’ Wonder Man booms as he flies towards the warriors. ‘Face to face!’ Simon shouts as he swats his opponents away with ease. Simon realizes that the guards are designed to beat him, but knows they have never fought him before. He hits them harder than they were expecting and does not let up. For a minute, Simon even thinks that he might win. ‘No weaseling, Kang! No hiding behind hostages!’ Simon exclaims as he punches another of the warriors.

But suddenly, some sort of energy cannon on the camp walls blasts Simon. He supposes that the weapon has similar components to the energy-collars, as whatever it is rips right through him. Simon can’t breathe, he cannot move - and the warriors attack him again. ‘You…you watching…Kang…?’ Simon utters as he reverts to his regular form, and the warriors all begin to smash him with their weapons.

‘Simon…?’ Wanda calls out as Wonder Man is dragged through the camp. ‘Hold him up. Keep him awake!’ one of the guards orders, announcing that the Conqueror has given the order and wishes to speak to Wonder Man before punishment. A holographic headshot of Kang appears overhead, and the uber-villain remarks that Wonder Man is defeated, but tells him that he fought bravely. ‘And I admire courage…even in my enemies’ he admits, before informing Wonder Man that because he did not surrender, he will be executed, but that because he did not flee, but faced his men like a warrior, no one lese will die alongside him. ‘The woman will be placed in solitary confinement for one month, after the execution’ Kang declares.

With that, the hologram vanishes. But Simon is okay with that - it is what he expected from someone like Kang, and frankly, what he was hoping for. Simon wonder what it will look like to the people watching and supposes it will be just an explosion of ionic energy. ‘An explosion of energy and then -’ he thinks to himself, while the shackled Scarlet Witch urgently pleads: ‘Please - please don’t do this! For God’s sake, don’t kill him!’

But Wanda’s words go unheeded, and the guards unleash fire - and in a spectacular display, Wonder Man is seemingly ripped apart, until nothing but a small ionic trail remains. ‘You - you did it, you heartless monsters - you killed him!’ Wanda cries as she drops to the ground where Simon was killed. ‘Up, prisoner-designate Scarlet Witch. You are to be confined in solitary now’ one of the guards orders. ‘Just…just a moment…’ Wanda whispers. ‘I said up, woman!’ the guard snaps. Suddenly, Wanda spins around angrily: ‘AND I SAID I’LL GO IN A MINUTE, YOU MURDERER! Just give me - give me a few seconds to grieve…’.

Wanda’s eyes dart to the left as a voice whispers to her: ‘Not treating my favourite girl right, are they? Want me to klonk their heads together for them?’ Wanda smiles carefully, telling Simon that will not be necessary, and that it is nice to hear his voice, as he mind wanders back to the last night:

Flashback, last night:
‘So. You think that’d work?’ Simon asks Wanda, knowing that it was a dangerous plan - all the more so because It risked innocent lives. ‘Yes…it should it should’ Wanda replies, telling Simon that if she puts the right spell on him while her collar is inactive, then even if they put a new collar on him it will not work, at least not right away. ‘And when they shoot you…’

Illustrative Image:
It worked just like Simon and Wanda planned. Simon’s ionic powers protected him from the blast, and Wanda’s spell turns Simon invisible.

Flashback continues:
Simon tells Wanda that she could come too. ‘We could rig it so that you turn invisible too - so it looks like you’re vaporized when I “explode”!’ Simon suggests. But Wanda tells Simon that she can’t, as the only way their plan would not look suspicious is if she was there next to him. ‘And the risk is too great that Kang will go in for reprisals if more than one of us shows that kind of defiance’. They stand close together. ‘In you, he’ll honor it, I hope. But in a woman? We can’t take that chance’ Wanda declares, before telling Simon that her place is here. ‘I can help people - people who badly need it. Help keep them alive until they can be freed. Someone should stay to do that…’.

‘Wanda, I -’ Simon begins, before they share one last kiss. ‘Find the resistance, Simon. Find the Avengers. And save the world. All of us here - all of us everywhere - we’ll be counting on you’.

The invisible Wonder Man escapes through the gaping hole in the camp wall. Guards are posted there, but they do not see him, and the wall sensors have not been repaired yet. He is out, free. The Scarlet Witch takes a look backwards as she is lead to solitary confinement. ‘Godspeed, Simon…’ she whispers. Skyward now, Simon takes one look back, and takes a deep breath. And with tears in his eyes, he flies away.

Characters Involved: 

Scarlet Witch & Wonder Man (both Avengers)


Kang’s warriors
Numerous civilian prisoners

In Flashback
She-Hulk, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers)

Darkhawk, Human Torch II, Mister Fantastic, Spider-Man, Thing, Wolverine

Scarlet Centurion II / Marcus

Kang’s warriors
Various soldiers
Government officials

Story Notes: 

Part 11 of the “Kang Dynasty”.

This issue is narrated by Wonder Man.

Kang destroyed Washington, and Earth subsequently surrendered to him, in Avengers (3rd series) #49.

The Avengers assaulted Kang’s command center in Avengers (3rd series) #48.

The Scarlet Witch took part in the assault on Kang’s commander center in Avengers (3rd series) #48. In #50, it was mentioned she could not be rescued in time. This issue reveals her fate.

The Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man got together shortly after Wonder Man’s second resurrection in Avengers (3rd series) #11.

During the “Kang Dynasty”, many inactive and reserve members of the Avengers were assigned active status to deal with the numerous threats posed by Kang and his armies.

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