Avengers (3rd series) #66

Issue Date: 
June 2003
Story Title: 
Red Zone – part two: Infections

Geoff Johns (writer), Oliver Coipel (penciler), Andy Lanning (inker) Chris Sotomayor (colorist), RS & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne (letterer), Marc Sumerak & Andy Schmidt (assistant editors), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

At the CDC lab, Dr. Foster briefs Iron Man and the Black Panther, who promise help from Stark Industries and Wakandan Science respectively, with Iron Man and the Panther arguing about Wakanda not sharing its secrets previously. They are thrown out by Secretary of Defense Dell Rusk, who refuses to cooperate with the Avengers. Before leaving, the Panther swipes two blood samples, leaving one to the suspicious Iron Man, while secretly keeping the other. In the camp with the afflicted people, Warbird tries her best to organize evacuation, a difficult task with hospitals too scared to accept the ailing. The other Avengers have entered the Red Zone, battling their own fears and insecurities. The Scarlet Witch discovers the entrance to a secret bunker and to their horror the heroes learn that this is caused by a biological weapon created by the US government.

Full Summary: 

C.D.C. lab 45:
“In less than two hours, one of the world’s rarest diseases has infected over five hundred men, women and children.” Dr. Foster continues describing that they believe they are dealing with an abnormally fast necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria. Symptoms of NF usually take days to form, but this strain is showing itself within minutes. The skin and connective tissue around the muscles are eaten away almost immediately upon infection. Without treatment, death is a certainty And even with treatment like amputation there are going to be complications. Toxic shock syndrome, Lymphedema. This isn’t just a fluke of nature. It’s a weapon. They are facing the worst bio-terrorist attack in history, Dr. Foster announces.

Any idea who’s responsible? he asks Iron Man. Targeting a monument like Mount Rushmore? the Avenger asks rhetorically, suggesting several potential culprits: HYDRA, Al-Qaeda, AIM. They already have Avengers on scene. So how can they help here? Dr. Foster suggests any additional funds Stark could get for the CDC, to buy more antibiotic cocktails and outside testing would be invaluable. The boys in Washington are moving slow. He doesn’t know why their requests aren’t being treated with more urgency, but… Iron Man is sure they can make an arrangement.

They can do more than give them money, somebody else, namely the Black Panther , interrupts. There have been several cases of necrotizing fasciitis in his country of Wakanda. Their version of the CDC has been developing an enzyme that kills Group A streptococci on contact. They haven’t quite perfected it yet…

Why in God’s name hasn’t Wakanda shared that kind of information? Foster asks sharply. Because that’s not the Black Panther’s way, Iron Man points out coolly. And when has Stark Enterprises opened all of their door for the “betterment” of mankind? the Panther retorts. When has the United States? Turning to Foster he adds that every institution has its secrets. But in times of emergency, Wakanda’s are always available to anyone that needs them.

A sharp command orders them to leave the premises immediately. Secretary of Defense Dell Rusk enters and announces that the Avenges have no business here. He turns to one of the men accompanying him, Agent Gyrich, and reminds the man that as their UN liaison it was his job to inform Rusk that the team needed access. He failed to do so. Gyrich protests that he told Rusk. They tried to notify his office, but…

Iron Man intervenes to remind Rusk of the seriousness of the situation. They are trespassing, Rusk replies curtly. The Avengers are no longer sponsored by the United States and therefore no longer guaranteed access to any of their facilities. Iron Man protests that protocol is hardly a priority now. The Black Panther spells it out more bluntly: people are dying.

Rusk commands his men to escort the Avengers outside. America can take care of its own problems. Calling the kettle black? the Panther asks ironically before announcing there has been enough foolishness.

He jumps at the Secret Service men and takes them out. Stopping mere inches in front of Rusk, he informs him that they will see themselves out. He calls to Foster that the enzyme files will be available for download momentarily and apologizes for the interruption.

Rusk stops Gyrich from leaving as well by placing his hand on Gyrich’s shoulder. They should talk, doesn’t he think?

The two Avengers are on the roof of a building. Iron Man ventures that, while Rusk may be a jerk, why did the Panther antagonize him? He is going to be lucky if he isn’t brought up with charges of assault. They can’t, the Black Panther replies off-handedly while not even looking at Iron Man. He’s a diplomat. Nice, Stark comments sarcastically. The Panther retorts that he uses everything to his advantage. Whether anyone agrees with him or not, Iron Man will have to admit that he always comes through. He produces one of the blood samples the scientists were analyzing. He’ll send it to Wakanda. See what scientists can learn.

Iron Man yanks the sample away, announcing that he will take care of the second opinion. The Avengers can’t let this fall into the wrong hands, can they? He flies off with the sample. The Panther produces a second one he previously hid. So predictable, he scoffs.

Six miles South of Mount Rushmore is Custer State Park, where the infected have been brought to be treated. General Feaster, Warbird, Ranger Hawkins and several others in protective suits are surveying the site. Warbird asks Dr. Chu how much they have. Not much, he replies, stressing the need to evacuate. The cloud may have slowed down, but it is beginning to move again. Everyone caught in the cloud will be infected.

Warbird asks the general where the Rapid City choppers are. Not all of them are coming, he explains, and adds that most of the hospitals are refusing to take any Red Zone patients. They don’t know how contagious they are.

They enter a tent full of afflicted. They can’t be blamed, Warbird admits. They are scared. One sick man weakly grabs the arm of the general’s suit. Feaster panics. Hawkins tries to calm him and the general shouts that if it the virus can eat through skin, it can eat through the suits. He begins to flail.

At ease, Warbird orders him and shoots him with some energy effect she produces with her power. She explains that she sterilized his cellular structure. He’s going to be fine. Now, if Rapid City won’t help, he is going to need to find other hospitals that will.

When the general is gone, Dr. Chu remarks that if she was able to sterilize General Feaster why can’t she go to the zone and… It was just show, Carol explains. Redirected sunlight to settle him down. Hawkins asks what if Feaster really is infected. Then so are they, she replies, after some consideration.

Within the Red Zone around Mount Rushmore:
Cap’s team of Avengers carefully makes its way. Vision remains standing in front of several corpses. The Scarlet Witch finally touches the shoulder of her ex-husband and tells him that she knows it’s hard but they have to move on. The Vision admits that all of this death frightens him. There’s always a level of fear when facing something like this. Something that attacks humans. Disease. It can ravage the Earth. Kill everyone… leaving this Android alone. She takes his hand and leads him back to the group.

Captain America notices that the air is getting thicker. Satellite images aren’t very clear. They must be getting closer to the source. American technology at its best, She-Hulk jokes. No, Russian satellites, he admits. They actually have better views of America than they do. U.N. membership does have its advantages, she concedes.

Ant-Man notices the sweat on her forehead and asks if she is all right. She feels nauseous, Jen admits. Well, she is looking a little green, Jack of Hearts jokes feebly.

The next moment, she slumps and falls to the ground. “Nice Jack,” Ant-Man states sarcastically. The next moment, She-Hulk runs amok and hits him. Jack still doesn’t understand and Cap tells him to stay away from her and start taking the situation seriously. Cap asks if Jen is all right. She apologizes and admits she feel claustrophobic in this suit. Jack suggests she take it off then. The air smells bad, but her body probably is as immune to this crap as his. Cap disagrees, not knowing how wise that is.

Vision notices that the Scarlet Witch is focusing on something. She explains that the layout of some trees near them is too structured. They were planted. They are hiding something. She asks the others to stand back and unleashes chaos energy. A trap door is revealed. Jen opens it and they walk down the stairs to find dead soldiers… and something even worse.

This didn’t come from any terrorist, Captain America states in horror as he looks at the words “United States Bio-Weapons Lab 13”. This came from us.

Characters Involved: 

Ant-Man II, Black Panther, Captain America, Iron Man, Jack of Hearts, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Vision, Warbird (all Avengers)

Henry Gyrich

Dr. Bill Foster (former Avenger)
Foster’s CDC staff

Park warden Tony Hawkins
General Feaster
Dr. Chu

Secretary of Defense Dell Rusk
Secret Service Men

Written By: