Avengers (5th series) #6

Issue Date: 
April 2013
Story Title: 
Zen and the Art of Cosmology

Jonathan Hickman (writer), Adam Kubert (artist), Frank Martin (Color artist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Dustin Weaver & Justin Ponsor (cover art), Daniel Acuna (variant cover art), Jake Thomas (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch (editors), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

Tony Stark and Steve Rogers have asked Shang Chi to speak with Captain Universe to try and get to the bottom of what happened to her and why she is on Earth. Teasing her host out using some nice, warm pie, he manages to speak to her and he informs her that her name is Tamara Devoux. He explains that he wishes to find her earliest memory in order to find out just who she is. Meanwhile, Spider-Man (actually Doctor Octopus in his body) is in the kitchen eating Sam Guthrie’s food when he and Sunspot enter. They have a little argument before Spidey departs. Shang Chi uses associative recall to try and get to the bottom of Captain Universe’s appearance. He calms Tamara down and asks for her earliest memory, which turns out to be not just one bright light, but two. He soon determines that she was in a car crash and he asks her to recall if anyone was with her. She explains that her daughter, Ella, was also in the car. She finds the memory painful and asks how long it has been since the crash. Shang Chi informs her that it’s been ten years. She’s been in a coma for ten years and they don’t know what happened to her daughter. The anguish causes Tamara to retreat and for Captain Universe to emerge once more. They join Tony and Spider-Man. Tony is with Blackveil and working on his translator. He believes that Adam’s real name is Blackveil but, when Captain Universe speaks to him, Tony realizes she can understand him. Captain Universe then informs him that his name is not Blackveil but Nightmask. She allows them to understand what he is saying. What he says appears to be a warning. He says that the system is broken and that it’s coming. The White Event is coming. They look out of their window and see the sky filled with a bright light.

Full Summary: 

Captain Universe is sitting cross-legged across from Shang Chi in a large room. She explains that there was nothing, followed by everything. Swirling, burning specks of creation that circled life-giving suns. And then... we raced to the light. That is his story and therefore her story, as all the stories are the same, in that all the stories are hers. She asks if he understands. Shang Chi replies that he does, in the manner that such things can be understood. He adds that they all have some bits of celestial uniformity. They are composed of the afterbirth of the universe, of her who bore them all. “I am mother,” she replies.

Shang Chi tells her that the others, specifically Anthony and Steven, asked him to spend some time with her regarding some… delicate issues. So, as appreciative and grateful as he is, personal illumination is not the path he wishes to travel today. She asks if they are not all the same path. Shang Chi changes tack and asks to speak to her. She replies that her host is broken. Everything is broken. He tells Captain Universe that her being here is significant. So, she has been scanned, prodded, probed and questioned and yet, no one understands why she is here. He thought their problem might be that they are talking to the wrong person. He needs to see her. Even if she is weak and broken. “What if she doesn’t wish to manifest?” she asks. Shang Chi opens up a box and holds a pie out in front of him. “Tell her I brought pie,” he replies.

Captain Universe’s mask begins to dissipate and a face emerges from within. She is confused and asks where she is. She blacked out again and lost time. Who is he? “Is that for me?” she asks, looking at the steaming pie. He tells her that it is. He introduces himself as Shang Chi and asks her to remain calm. To breathe. He explains that today he is going to help her find out who she is. She happily takes the pie and replies that she doesn’t remember anything at all. Nothing. Shang Chi informs her that she is Tamara Devoux.

He passes her a fork as she asks how he knows that. Tamara doesn’t feel right. Is he sure? He tells her they are sure. Her name not feeling right is no surprise. Sometimes who they have been their entire lives gets wiped out in a single day or by a single event. So it’s not really important to recall all the subtleties of who she used to be. They should start with what was left. He asks her to tell him her earliest memory. Tamara replies that she remembers a light and then a crash. Shaking violence and then nothing.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Spider-Man is having a snack. Sam Guthrie and Bobby Da Costa enter the room and Bobby asks what he thinks he’s doing. Spidey asks if it isn’t obvious. He’s saving the world. “Cool,” replies Bobby. “The ongoing adventures of the world’s first illiterate super hero.” Spidey says they clearly haven’t been at this game long enough if they think that, and why would they? Bobby tells him that the container he’s eating from clearly says ‘Sam.’ Not Spider-Man. ‘Sam!’ Spidey has another bite and replies that he tends to overlook things.

Bobby explains that he has all that food professionally prepared. He hired a specialist which led to hiring a nutriotionalist which led to hiring a microbiotic chef who comes in once a week to cook all of Sam’s food. He’s on a special diet. Sam, arms folded, tells Spider-Man that he wants to get up to speed without bulking up. Spidey passes him the container and tells him that it’s disgusting anyway. As he walks away, Sunspot tells him that everyone thinks his new costume sucks. Sam adds that he’s trying to be bad when he ain’t at all. Spidey turns. “Yes, well… I spit in that,” he remarks. Sam tells Bobby that he hates the guy now.

Shang Chi continues his chat with Tamara. He asks if the light and then the crash is her earliest memory. Can she not remember anything surrounding it? She replies nothing. He tells her that’s fine. If it’s acceptable to her, he would like to try some associative recall which involves them focusing not on what she saw, but on the other things that might have been happening at the same time. This should hopefully unlock other things in her memory. He asks if that’s okay. Tamara thinks so, so he asks her to close her eyes both there and in her mind and imagine that she is floating in water. Everywhere at once and nowhere as well.

He speaks in a calming, reassuring manner and tells her that it’s safe, serene and perfectly calm. He then asks her to open the eyes in her mind and see the earliest memory she has. Lock that image and step outside of it. She can then focus on that light she saw. She tells him that it’s not one light. There were two lights. Shang Chi tells her she’s doing well. Now, with that fixed in her mind, he wants her to stop seeing and focus on her other senses. She should think back and see if she remembers anything or hearing any sounds. Tamara recalls her hands holding something tight and, struggling with the memory, she remembers tires squealing.

Shang Chi asks if she was in a car. Tamara suddenly becomes agitated and remembers being there. “Oh, God!” She cries. “We’re gonna crash!” Shang Chi assures her that everything is fine. She is outside of this moment. She controls whether they stay inside this moment or move forward to another one. However, he suggests that they stay inside this one. Can she do that? Tamara replies that she’ll try. Shang Chi then asks her to concentrate and asks if there is anything else she can make out. Tamara informs him that she thinks she can hear something else. She thinks it sounds like crying.

Shang Chi asks her to listen to what she can hear. Is there someone else in the car with her? She tells him that there’s someone behind her but she is looking ahead at the lights. Shang Chi asks her to just turn her head. Was there someone else in the car? In her memories, she turns and sees a young girl clutching a Storm doll. “Yes,” she replies. “A little girl…” Her voice becomes a whisper. “My little girl.”

Meanwhile, Spider-Man goes to chat with Tony Stark, who is with Blackveil and tells him he’s going to have to do something about those children… the annoying, ill-mannered ones. Tony says he needs more to go on. “Bomb boy and solar flare,” replies Spidey. Tony asks what they did this time. Spidey informs him that they were in the kitchen when they decided to rather rudely confront him about eating the leftovers in the refrigerator. Tony asks if it was his food. Spidey says no. He asks if it was theirs. Spidey says possibly, but it was an honest mistake. His point is, is that he doesn’t think he should be spoken to that way by infants. “Then don’t eat their food,” replies Tony. “The system is broken,” adds Blackveil in his own language. Spidey asks Tony if Blackveil can understand what he’s saying. He informs Spidey that he’s making solid progress on his translation package, but he doesn’t think so. Spidey leans into Blackveil and calls him a super freak. “It’s coming,” replies Blackveil.

Shang Chi continues his session with Tamara. He asks what she can tell him about the girl. Does she know her name? She informs him that she’s called Ella. She’s six years old and her father didn’t want either of them. So, they made it on their own. Just her and her little girl. She loves milkshakes and the color blue. Tamara remembers now and asks if she can see her. Shang Chi says he has to tell her something and wishes her to remain calm. She should listen and try to understand what he’s saying. Tamara replies that she already knows. She was hurt in the crash.

She struggles as she recalls painful memories. She says that she missed her seventh birthday. Seven is her favorite number and she promised… She states again that she wants to see her. Shang Chi replies that yes, she was hurt and in the hospital when she gained... when she became the universe. As of right now, they don’t know what happened to her daughter. It seems that the records don’t… Tamara asks how long. How long has it been? “Ten years,” replies Shang Chi. “You were in a coma for ten years.” Tamara cries and instantly withdraws from herself allowing the universe to regain control. She screams. She then becomes calm and says that there was nothing, followed by everything. Swirling burning specks of creation that circled life-giving suns. And then we raced into the light.

She adds that the host is broken. Everything is broken. Shang Chi admits that he doesn’t understand. Captain Universe informs him that the Earth is significant and is the axis around which the multiverse spins. Here, the life and death of everything will be decided, so it is here she needed to become sentient. Shang Chi asks why. Why here? She replies that it’s because she is broken. Because she is dying, just as she is.

Tony is still working on his translator and not understanding why his program cannot decode it. Shang Chi approaches with Captain Universe and tells him he needs to speak to him. Tony asks for a second. He’s on the verge of figuring this out. “Hello mother,” says Blackveil in his own language. “Nightmask,” replies Captain Universe. Tony looks around and asks if she can understand him. “Do it again.” She asks what he means. Tony asks her to say it again. “Nightmask,” she replies again in builder machine code. Tony says she understands him. She knows his name. Blackveil. Nightmask says his name in his own language. “Blackveil,” says Tony yet again. Captain Universe informs him that she knows his name but clearly his machines do not. She changes the computer images to read his real name, Nightmask.

“The White Event,” says Nightmask. “The system is broken. It’s coming.” Captain Universe tells them to hear it with their own ears and she allows Nightmask to speak in English. He repeats what he just said but this time, Tony, Shang Chi and Spider-Man can now understand him. “It’s here. The White Event. The White Event,” he says. They look out of their windows and see the sky filled with a bright white light. “The White Event.”

Characters Involved: 

Cannonball, Captain Universe, Iron Man, Shang Chi, Spider-Man, Sunspot (all Avengers)


(in flashback)
Tamara Devoux and her daughter, Ella

(as a doll)

Story Notes: 

The title appears to be a play on Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel which was published in 1948.

A full translation of Builder Machine Code is provided at the back of this issue.

The New Universe, a separate comic imprint to Marvel’s mainstream output, was created in 1986. All super powered “Paranormals” gained their abilities through a mysterious White Event, which bathed the Earth in a blinding white light for less than 2 seconds. Though the populace never learned the origin of the White Event (or that it indeed was the cause of the rise of paranormals), the readers eventually learned it was the result of an accident regarding the Star Brand.

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