Avengers (4th series) #9

Issue Date: 
March 2011
Story Title: 

Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciler), Klaus Janson with Tom Palmer and Scott Hanna (inkers), Laura Martin with Morry Hollowell and Matt Milla (colorists), Romita Jr., Janson and White (cover), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Lauren Stankovitch (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

A month ago, Parker Robbins was in Ryker’s prison. There, he met an Inhuman named Ertzia who was once Black Bolt’s advisor. Parker befriended the man and eventually, Ertzia showed him his power. This gave Parker the opportunity he needed to escape his confinement. Once free and having used knowledge given by Ertzia to acquire two Infinity Gems, Parker uses his new powers to remove the scars from Madame Masque’s face. Meanwhile, at the site where Attilan once stood, the collected Avengers confront Iron Man and the Illuminati, asking what they are doing there. Reluctantly, Iron Man explains how they had been meeting in secret since the Kree/Skrull war and that two of the Infinity Gems had gone missing. He gets into a heated debate with Steve Rogers but Thor gets them back on track; namely finding the remaining four gems before whoever stole the first two does.

Full Summary: 

(The Raft, Ryker’s Island maximum security penitentiary, one month ago)
Parker Robbins, a.k.a. the Hood, is in his cell, talking to one of the guards outside. He says that he has a lot of money… a lot - enough to run a small country. He’s heard what the guy’s been saying to the others. He knows he’s got problems at home and he has enough money to fix that. He has something the guard needs and vice-versa. It’s a fair trade, he feels. He gets him out of there and he can change the guard’s life in every conceivable way. He asks the guard to think of his daughter… his wife. The guard orders him to cut it, but Robbins adds that he means it. He’s not the only person in prison. The guard is too. The guard asks why, with all the money he’s got, doesn’t he hire some big powers guy to break him out? Robbins thinks that’s a good idea and asks to borrow his phone.

The guard informs him that he doesn’t have to worry about it no how. Parker asks why. He replies that it’s because he’s being transferred the day after tomorrow. They‘re putting him in a regular hard-core scumbag prison. “Are you serious?” asks Robbins. “When did this happen?” The guard reminds him that because he has no real powers any more, they need this expensive high-end security for some actual super-powered criminal. There are fourteen teams of Avengers now, he adds. They’re taking down losers like him every other hour. They need the room. “How proud you must be!”

(Attilan city grounds, now)
A whole lot of Avengers are gathered in the snow, face-to-face with Iron Man and the rest of the Illuminati. Steve reiterates his question to Tony. What is he doing there? Hawkeye adds another question. What are they all doing there? Iron Man tells Steve that he’d rather have this conversation in private, and Namor adds that this isn’t the place for this. Tony gets his wish as he and Steve move away from the group for a chat. Steve hopes that this hasn’t been going on the entire time he’s been in charge. Tony asks him to calm down, and wonders how they even found them out there. Steve asks him to quit stalling to give him time to create a cover story. He demands the truth. Are he and his big brains getting together behind his back? Is he really that petty? Is he really angry that he is in charge now instead of him? Tony admits that they’ve been getting together like this since the end of the Kree/Skrull war. Nearby, Doctor Strange asks Charles Xavier if the cat’s out of the bag. He replies yes. It’s very much out.

(Ryker’s Island maximum security penitentiary, three weeks ago)
Parker Robbins is sitting in the canteen with a fellow prisoner. They are staring at a thin, pallid man at the adjacent table. Robbins asks his friend who the guy is. He replies that he doesn’t want to be part of that. Parker asks who he is and why is he sitting alone. The man replies that he’s a dangerous guy. He’s a mutant and he kills people. A mutant killer. He killed somebody right in the middle of the yard. Made him choke on his own tongue or something. Robbins asks why he isn’t in the big boys prison. His friend doesn’t know. Because he’s 150 years old? he wonders. Parker smiles.

(Attilan city grounds, now)
The Avengers and the Illuminati watch the two men talking. They wonder what they’re talking about. It’s obvious they don’t get along, but they’re the backbone of the Avengers. They should work it out like the blood brothers they are. Doctor Strange admits that their secret cabal was never a lie he was comfortable with. Reed says he knew this day would come. Medusa asks Charles to tell them the truth. They are honored heroes that deserve their respect. Charles agrees and proceeds to inform the Avengers of their situation.

Some time ago, explains Charles, the four of them and Black Bolt, God rest his soul, decided to get together and do what they could to proactively prevent catastrophes from happening. They thought that they represented a unique interest in humanity and had the obligation to share certain information. So, over the last few years, they’ve done what they could. They did this in secret because these are difficult times. This was kept from most of them… only to protect them.

The Thing is surprised. Nobody knew about this? Not even Suzie? Reed apologizes for having to let him know like this. Ben states that he was getting together with Namor all this time behind her back. “She’s going to kill me,” says Reed. “If you’re lucky,” replies Ben. Doctor Strange apologizes to Luke Cage, but adds that this happened long before the New Avengers got together. Luke thought that they said no secrets, but Strange assures him that they were not his secrets to reveal. “No secrets means no secrets,” replies Luke. Spider-Man wonders how Cap is taking this. Bad, reckons Hawkeye. This kind of thing flies in the face of everything he holds dear. He reckons the Avengers are going to need a new place to live. Thor says he will steady the ship.

Back to the conversation, and Steve says he can’t believe it. He is in charge of security for the free world and Tony tells him something like this? Tony apologizes for hurting his feelings. Steve barks back, asking if he thinks this is about his feelings “This part, here, yes,” replies Tony. Steve is furious. He can’t believe Tony’s astronomical ego. He told Tony that congress wanted to hold him accountable for all of Norman Osborn’s actions. He convinced them not to go forward, and Tony told him that would behave… be a model Avenger. Now, he discovers he’s gone behind his back and has a secret group with a secret agenda. “And you decided to be Captain America,” snaps Tony. “Let’s not start pulling at that string, the entirety of our world will unravel.”

Steve says he knows Tony isn’t doing this consciously, but the fact that he would sneak behind his back and take matters of world security into his own hands… important matters, is so disappointing. Tony reminds him that this has been going on for many years. This was going on when Nick Fury was in charge, when he was in charge and now it’s going on now. Steve says he doesn’t care what happened then. He cares what happens today. Today, Tony is telling him that someone out there not only discovered a secret that thought was the most well-kept secret in the world, but he discovered they had the Infinity gems and now he has two of them! Tony turns and sees everyone waiting on their word. “Yes,” he answers. Steve asks how this happened.

(Ryker’s Island maximum security penitentiary, three weeks ago)
The old man is on his knees, alone in the yard. Parker Robbins approaches him and asks what he’s in for. The man replies that he murdered a man. “Did he have it coming?” asks Robbins. The man says he doesn’t know. Parker offers his hand and introduces himself. The man tells him his name is Ertzia. Parker asks if it’s Bulgarian. Ertzia says he is from far away. They shake hands and Parker asks if he’s heard of him. Ertzia hasn’t. Like he said, he’s from another place. “Mutant?” asks Robbins. Ertzia replies no, before standing and walking away.

(Attilan city grounds, now)
Thor steps in and reminds the two heroes that they need to deal with the task at hand. Steve says he is right. Absolutely right. He heads back to the others, but turns and points at Stark, telling him that they will do this, but afterwards… Stark is out. He’s done. If something happens that he has to account for, he is going to. No more favors, he adds. No more special treatment. “You pay for your sins Tony, like everyone else.”

As he departs, Thor asks Tony to prove him wrong. Steve asks Doctor Strange how many gems there are. Six, he replies. Reed explains that they are soul, time, space, mind, reality and power… and he already has the latter two. Charles reckons that whoever this is, they should know that as he acquires the gems they begin to reach out. “Reach out?” asks Steve. Namor says it makes them easier for him to find them. Reed says that his gem was stolen, as was Black Bolt’s. Steve is surprised that Black Bolt was in on this too. Medusa says she was also surprised. Wolverine wonders which one of them talked. Namor asks how he dare suggest that, and Reed assures him that they told no one. Medusa adds that her husband told no one… not even her.

Logan reckons someone said something to someone. Charles adds that his friend has a power set that makes him a very acute lie detector. He’s just trying to see which one of them reacts to the accusation. “Anything?” asks Steve. “No,” replies Logan. Tony Stark says no one said anything to anyone. A pact was made and they all understood the cost. Charles informs them that, as someone who can read minds, he should add that obviously they consider that the information was… stolen, from at least one of them.

(Ryker’s Island maximum security penitentiary, one week ago)
Ertzia is in the laundry when Parker Robbins offers him a small box as a birthday present. Ertzia takes it but tells him it isn’t his birthday. Parker says sure it is. He has a present right there. Ertzia opens the box. “You said you missed yours, so…” replies Parker. Ertzia asks how he made this happen. “I told you. I’m a good guy to know,” says Parker. Ertzia seems pleased that Parker has shown him kindness and informs him that his people are the Inhumans. Parker pauses and asks his friend to take off. He returns to Ertzia and asks what he’s doing so far from home.

(Attilan city grounds, now)
Spider-Man wonders what they do now. Steve Rogers suggests that they protect the other gems at all cost. Namor adds that nothing is more important. “Teams?” asks Red Hulk. Steve reckons yes. Hulk has some ideas in this area. Spider-Woman is surprised. He has some idea about how to fight someone with power over reality? Red Hulk replies that they will beat him to the other gems and then use the gems themselves. They then use them to beat the holy crap out of the guy. Doctor Strange doesn’t think Red Hulk is aware of them level of power they’re talking about. “Costly power,” adds Namor. Hulk reckons they’re willing to listen to another suggestion, but, short of dropping a warhead on him and hoping for the best…

The heroes reckon Hulk might have a point, unless whoever it is already has the others. Spider-Man reckons that with great power comes great responsibility. They are better than whoever this dude is because they choose not to use power they cannot control and barely understand. They know it has a cost and that there is a price. Beast says that one would argue they are past that kind of talk, and Logan adds that lofty principles are pretty useless if no one is around to see you live by them. Steve tells Spidey that he’s right. They didn’t start this but they have to end it. They will get the gems and only use them if they have to. When they’re done, they will put them back where they found them. “So, gentlemen,” asks the Hulk, “Where are they?”

(Ryker’s Island maximum security penitentiary, one week ago)
Ertzia explains that he was an emissary of Black Bolt. He was a trusted advisor to the throne before he left the Earth. Parker asks where he went. Ertzia informs him that he left the planet with his people, seeking more than what they could find here. Parker asks why hestayed behind. “I am old,” replies Ertzia. He hasn’t heard from another Inhuman in a long time. He fears his people have fallen and met their fates. Parker asks for more information about the mist. Ertzia explains that the Terrigen Mists give the Inhumans their uniqueness. But, the mists are no longer on Earth. Parker asks if he can make new mists. Ertzia says no. Parker then asks what is his uniqueness.

Ertzia holds out his hand and opens it, palm side up. A pink sphere is formed which then forms into a solid object. Parker moves in close and asks what it’s made of. “Nothing you’d know of,” he replies. Parker asks what he does with it. Ertzia says he protects the king’s secrets from the world. “What kind of secrets?” asks Parker Robbins.

Parker sits alone in his cell, thinking. The guard from earlier opens the food hatch in his cell door and presses a red switch on a remote control. He asks Robbins if he meant what he said. How much money are they talking about if he gets him out? Parker asks how much it will take.

(Chicago, now)
Madame Masque is in an apartment cleaning her gun. She is surprised when the Hood appears behind her. He tells her that he’s been looking all over for her. He thought she’d still be in jail, but should have known better. She must have a good lawyer. He tells her that he did it. She looks at his face and tells him he looks amazing. How long has he been out or Ryker’s and what is he doing? Parker clenches his fist and a yellow glow surrounds his arm.

Madame Masque turns and grabs her face. “No!” she cries, “What are you doing?” Parker tells her that she doesn’t have to wear that mask anymore. She doesn’t have to call herself Madame Masque. “My scars,” she gasps. Parker says he took them away. She doesn’t have to worry about anything anymore. She turns to reveal her beautiful, unscarred face and asks what he did. Parker tells her he did it. He got the power back. He has power they can’t take away from him. The power is talking to him and it knows what needs to be done next. He holds his hands out and the two gems begin to glow in unison.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Black Widow, Luke Cage, Hawkeye, Iron Fist, Mockingbird, Moon Knight, Protector, Red Hulk, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Steve Rogers, Thing, Thor, Valkyrie, War Machine, Wolverine (all Avengers)

Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Medusa, Mr. Fantastic, Namor, Charles Xavier (all Illuminati)

The Hood
Madame Masque

(in flashback)
The Hood
Ryker’s guards and prisoners

Story Notes: 

At the time of this issue’s publication, there were four ongoing Avengers titles: Avengers, New Avengers, Young Avengers: Children’s Crusade and the Secret Avengers. In addition, some former Avengers appeared in Avengers Academy.

The Kree/Skrull war ran through Avengers (1st series) #89 - 97.

Madame Masque was arrested during the Siege storyline.

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