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Jason Aaron (writer), David Marquez (artist), Erick Arciniego (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Clayton Cowles (letterer), David Marquez & Matthew Wilson (cover artists), Lee Garbett (vairant cover artist), Carlos Lao (graphic designer), Alanna Smith (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (president), Alan Fine (executive producer)Avengers created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
After the Red Widow has finished slaughtering every vampire loyal to Dracula, and Dracula swears that he has revealed all his secrets, the Red Widow agrees to his request for asylum and instructs Vostok to take him away. A short time later, Dracula is taken to his new home – the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine. At a prison in Russia, prisoners have been transformed into vampires and are beginning to escape. The Winter Guard are nowhere to be seen – because Darkstar, Vanguard, Ursa Major and the Crimson Dynamo have been taken out by the Legion of the Unliving and lie motionless as the Red Widow speaks with the Shadow Colonel, offering to take him to Dracula, but she will need something in return. Before the deal can be finalized, the Avengers arrive, and another battle against the Legion of the Unliving ensues, during which the Black Panther tells Snowsnake that she knows her history and offers to help her, and Blade is able to tear the Boy-Thing from the Shadow Colonel, and cuts one of the Shadow Colonel's arms off. Using the abilities of the Boy-Thing, Blade then decapitates the Shadow Colonel, while the She-Hulk errupts with Gamma energy to destroy the Rat Bomber's rats. Most of the Legion escape during the debacle, except for Sarge, who is imprisoned at Avengers Mountain. Blade agrees to remain with the Avengers, and Robbie asks him to perform an exorcism on his car, while the Legion of the Unliving arrive at the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where Dracula has already bitten a crow, and is now presented with the head of the Shadow Colonel, who he identifies as his son, Xarus, before welcoming the Legion, whom he calls his new disciples, to the Kingdom of the Vampires.
A classified location in Russia, where Dracula, strapped to a wheelchair, heavily restrained, cries as he wonders how he will be remembered after he is gone – a savior? A redeemer? An inspiring leader who united his people? He doesn't think so. He will only be remembered for the blood that was spilled in his name – enough blood for a thousand lifetimes, which is how long he feels that he has lived.
'That is all I know. Every dark secret of the last 500 years. On the coffins of my children, I swear' Dracula utters as the Red Widow stands several feet away from, the floor littered with the bodies of vampires, and thick with their blood. Two of the Red Widow's Winter Guard teammates, Vostok and Major Mikhail Ursus the bear called Ursa Major, stand at either side of Dracula, who asks to be taken away from this place, as he wishes to go somewhere – anywhere – with no more blood. The Red Widow informs him that Moscow accepts his proposal, and instructs Vostok to take him away. Vostok wheels Dracula away, while Ursa Major tells the Red Widow that he is not impressed. The Red Widow asks Ursa Major if he disapproves of her methods. 'Nah. Your methods are just fine, Red Widow, I mean, a bit clean for my tastes, but just fine' Ursa replies, explaining that it is Dracula – what a crushing disappointment the big bad lord of the bloocsuckers turned out to be.
As he is wheeled away Dracula thinks that this is far from the first time he has been stripped of his power, his crown, on occasion, he has even lost the head it sat upon. Dracula knows that there has always been a cycle to these things – new challengers arise and ultimately fall – and he would always re-emerge stronger for it. That cycle began in 1459, when a witch sank her fangs into his neck – and it ends here today, in a Russian basement – with whimpers and ruin.
Ursa Major tells the Red Widow that you hear all the scary stories about what a monster Dracula used to be. 'To see him reduced to such a blubbering, pathetic mess... I don't know. It makes you think' he adds. 'Even monsters get old, I guess' Ursa Major remarks as they watch Vosok lead Dracula away. 'And where does one put an old monster so they never look upon them again?' the Widow asks. 'You want me to eat him?' Ursa Major enquires, but the Widow informs him that Moscow wants Dracula alive – in case he should ever prove useful again. 'Well, I doubt that' Ursa sneers. The Red Widow remarks that the Count wishes to go somewhere quiet and peaceful, before asking Ursa to tell her what is the quietest place he can think of in their Motherland. 'Well... there’s one that comes right to mind' Ursa responds quickly.
Later, there is a dull glow of sunlight over a sparse Russian terrain. Trees with no leaves line a sold fence that is made even higher with rings of barbed wire attached to the top of the fence. Nuclear warning signs are attached to the fence. 'All right, get going' a voice calls out from a truck that stops at trhe fence. Soldiers standing guard open the gates, and one of them utters 'Welcome to your new home, Count. Don't let the looks of it fool you. It's exactly what you asked for'. Dracula reminds himself that he was born and murdered and reborn many times in his ancestral home of Transylvania – but that land was taken from him, one piece at a time. By conquerors and kings, and worst of all by real estate moguls. He knows that there is no going back to the old country – his castle has been put to the torch, and his people are all but annihilated – there is not place left for him now. Except for what he makes for himself. Here in the shadows. 'Nice and quiet!' one of the soldiers laughs as Dracula, free from his restraints, stumbles past the gate, and into the Chernobly Exclusion Zone in the Ukraine.
At the Sol-Iletsk Penal Colony No 9, within Russia, prisoners have been transformed into vampires and are escaping the large, sprawling prison. A voice, possibly the prison warden, can be heard over a distress call, announcing that the prison is on high-alert, that the prisoners are out of their cells and have been changed into vampires. He announces that they tore through the bars, and are tearing through everything – including the prison guards, as bulleets don't stop them – nothing stops them. A vampire leaps at one of the guards, while others simply make a run for it, and others emerge from part of the prison that explodes. 'We cannot hold the prison! Not without backup! Where are our country's greatest heroes?' the voice calls out. Suddenly, there is a powerful surge of lightning that knocks dozens of the vampires backwards. A voice from the sky calls out 'Listen to me! You boys can still wake up tomorrow, back in your cells. Or in the prison infirmary'. It's Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel, who adds 'Or you cannot take up at all. Choice is yours'. 'Come, ye suckers of blood! Come taste a mouthful of thunder!' The Mighty Thor adds as he and Captain Marvel speed towards the prison.
'Where is our Winter Guard?' the voice over the distress call asks – and at that moment, Ursa Major is struck in the face by the winged vampire beast known as the Carpathian. In the ruins of part of the prison, the Winter Guard have fallen. 'The Carpathian wants to know if he should eat the bear' the large dog with the flaming skull head called Sarge remarks as he looms over the motionless Laynia Petrovna a.k.a. Darkstar. 'I don't give a damn about bears!' the Shadow Colonel snaps in response as he looks out over the destruction before him. The Boy-Thing clings to his shoulders, while Baroness Blood stands at his side, holding a crossbow. Nicola Krylenko a.k.a. Vanguard lays face down in the rubble, several arrows sticking out of his back. The silent Snowsnake stands over the unmoving Dimitri Bukharin a.k.a. Crimson Dynamo. The Carpathian bites into Ursa Major, while the Red Widow remains standing in the middle of the carnage.
'Now spiders on the other hand...' the Shadow Colonel begins, turning to the hooded figure, who asks him if he wants Dracula, and assures him that can be arranged – but she will need something in return. 'Your life isn't enough?' the Shadow Colonel asks. 'Stick to killing vampires. You're out of your league with me' the Red Widow replies. 'So you made a deal with the old king. What kind of deal would you offer the new one?' the Colonel enquires. 'Hey! Wouldn't you like to hear our proposal?' a voice calls out. 'It goes like this: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!' Blade, Vampire Hunter shouts as he rushes into the chamber, followed by T'Challa the Black Panther, Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America, Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man, and Jennifer Walters the She-Hulk, who is currently in a massive form, towering over the others.
Blade remembers that he has been a vampire since the womb, as his mother got bit. He was born drenched in her blood, and he has only gotten bloodier since – which must be why they call him Blade. But, he is an Avenger now, fighting alongside gods and Hulks and the Black Pope and a living history museum. 'As Chairman of the Avengers, I promise you, this vampire war ends today!' the Black Panther calls out as he leaps at Snowsnake, his glowing weapon striking her thin blade. 'Who cares about the war? I want the blood of Captain America!' Baroness Blood calls out as she fires an arrow at Captain America, who blocks it with his shield as he leaps at the vampire. 'You and every other Nazi, Baroness Blood. You can settle for my knuckles!' Cap responds.
As Iron Man blasts the Carpathian with several surges of energy, Blade thinks to himself that Avengers save the world, but that isn't really his thing. 'Hey, big ugly! You kinda look like Dracula! And I feel like hurting someone that looks like Dracula!' Iron Man jokes. Blade knows that he is the guy people call when vamps need stabbing and stalking – and vamps always need stabbing and stalking. However, he admits that it feels pretty good to be outta the shadows for a change. He may get called the Daywalker, but he thinks that he had forgotten how it felt to walk in the light. 'Get her, my lovelies! Blast the brute down to size!' the Rat Bomber calls out, as dozens of rats race towards the She-Hulk – and explode around her, knocking the giantess backwards. She-Hulk cannot maintain her balance, and suddenly, Sarge leaps at her and tells her that the rats are here to pick her bones clean – after he tears all the flesh off them. 'You dog who hurt Ghost Rider? We bring someone want to meet you' She-Hulk replies.
She-Hulk ducks as a large dog called Thori leaps at Sarge, biting into him while remarking 'Thunder master say you think you better murder dog than Thor? Thor! Make thunder now!' Blade slices the Shadow Colonel's machine gun in half, and tells him that it will be his head next. 'You're pathetic, you know that, Blade?' the Shadow Colonel responds. Blade wonders if he could be some kinda hero like Captain Cornhusker or the Metal Millionaire. 'You could have been a warrior in the new kingdom. But instead you'll just be another bloodstain on my boots!' Shadow Colonel declares as he fires a blast of energy from his eyes, that strike Blade, knocking him backwards. Blade decides that he could never be a hero, and continues to engage the Shadow Colonel, blocking his punch – but a sharp stake suddenly protrudes from the Shadow Colonel's armor, straight through Blade's hand. 'You're gonna need bigger boots' Blade declares, while thinking to himself that he wouldn't be any hero – he would just be the last monster left standing – which is okay, because being the last vampire on the face of the Earth would be a good damn problem to have. Blade then drops to a knee and slices low – cutting the Shadow Colonel's right leg off at his ankle. 'Y'know, I take that back about the boots. You won't need boots where you're going, suckhead!' Blade exclaims as he lunges towards the Shadow Colonel, who topples backwards.
In Chernobyl, specifically the Red Forest, where nuclear warning signs are placed throughout the forest of bare trees. A crow lands on one of the nuclear signs. Dracula thinks to himself that this land is sacred – irradiated and abandoned. He wonders if sending him here was the Russians' idea of a joke. But Dracula isn't laughing. If they thought this land would be his coffin, then they must have forgotten what vampires do with coffins. He then reaches out and grabs the crow by its neck, before he bares his deadly fangs.
The battle outside the prison continues. Thor slams his hammer into a dozen vampires, knocking them back, while Captain Marvel fires a blast of energy through the head of another vampire. Blade tells himself that the Avengers are many things – but vampire hunters they are not. He knows that the Panther is still talking about cures, about doing everything he can to save the vampires. At that moment, the Black Panther is on the ground, using his weapon to hold back Snowsnake, who stands over him. Black Panther tells her that after their last encounter, he analyzed the fabric of her garments, so he knows she is 300 years old and from the Nara Prefecture of Japan. He adds that he knows she served the Yagu Clan before she fell, and offers to restore her honor, informing her that he has been developing some possible cures for her condition. Snowsnake makes no response, before the Panther holds up his claws, which appear as needles, and he announces that he has brought all the possible cures with him.
Blade tells himself that there is only one sure way to save a vamp – all it takes is a good stake, a steady hand and a strong stomach. 'The Fourth Reich will -' Baroness Blood calls out, to which Captain America holds up another vampire as he interrupts her: 'Lady, take it from me. You're old news'. Blade thinks that all it takes is a man like him – only there aren't many other men like him. 'You daywalking bastard!' Shadow Colonel exclaims as he kicks Blade back with his severed leg. 'You have no right to draw my blood!' the Shadow Colonel snarls as he fires another blast from his eye, which Blade dodges. The Shadow Colonel moves forward and punches Blade in the face, boasting that he is a preborn vampire, stronger than Blade in every way. He claims that he was meant to feast on the humans of this world like the pigs and cattle they are. Boy-Thing goes wide-eyed as Blade recovers and raises a fist to the Shadow Colonel while shouting 'You know who else said that? Every damn vampire I ever turned into a pile of stinking ash!'
'You know the difference between those vampires and me? I've already won!' the Shadow Colonel retorts as he fires another powerful beam of energy at Blade, while Blade suddenly yanks the Boy-Thing from the Shadow Colonel's shoulders. The Colonel screams as Blade severs his right arm, 'Nah, the difference was they had two arms' Blade jokes, as the Colonel falls to the ground, calling out for the Boy-Thing. 'Is that what you call this little guy? Man, it really doesn't like -' Blade begins, before the Colonel grabs one of his legs, exclaiming that he only needs one arm to tear Blade's head off. He then overpowers Blade, slamming the Vampire Hunter to the ground, and sending the Boy-Thing flying into the air. The Colonel's severed hand reaches for Blade's sword, as the Colonel boasts that he is going to kill Blade with his own sword. 'Doesn't that seem fitting?' he asks, adding that Blade is not even worth his fangs.
'Yeah, about those fangs' a voice calls out – and a moment later, the Shadow Colonel is slammed backwards, the front of his mask broken off by the powerful punch of Robbie Reyes, Ghost Rider. Blade, with the Boy-Thing now attached to his shoulders, and the Black Panther move in around Ghost Rider, and the trio approach the fallen Shadow Colonel. 'Guess you'll be sucking blood through a straw from now on' Ghost Rider jokes. 'That's for making me fight my friends' he adds. Blade tells Robbie that wasn't bad, and adds that he wasn't sure he would come back. He then tells Robbie to move aside so he can finish this. The Shadow Colonel looks up at Blade, who now as two large stakes connected to his wrists thanks to the abilities of the Boy-Thing. But as Blade approaches the Shadow Colonel, the Panther tells him not to do it, as the Colonel is beaten. 'Not if he's still breathing' Blade replies. The Black Panther tells Blade that they will the Colonel in. 'Your way isn't how Avengers operate' he explains, to which Blade supposes that he is about to quit the Avengers. 'No, you're not. Because you want to believe in that cure just as much as -' the Black Panther begins, before Blade uses the stakes attached to his wrists to slice off the Shadow Colonel's head, spraying blood around them.
'Damn it, Eric' the Panther mutters. Blade tells T'Challa that he does believe he will find that cure someday – but that not everybody will deserve it, and certainly not the Shadow Colonel. 'Hell, not me, either' Blade adds. The Black Panther tells him that they will talk about what he deserves when they get back to Avengers Mountain. 'Who said I was going back to the -' Blade begins, when suddenly, She-Hulk roars, and declares that there are too many, and that she has to kill all the rats at once. The Panther looks over to where green energy is radiating around the She-Hulk. He tells her to stand down, as she is errupting with too much gamma energy. 'You're going to -' the Panther begins, too late, as a gamma explosion follows.
'Boy, and we thought the Russians hated us before. We just blew up a Hulk in their backyard' Iron Man remarks as he flies Captain America clear of the radius. Carol's voice can be heard over the intercom, announcing that she has Jennifer, that she is okay – just covered with rat bites and embarassed. Captain America reports that they have lost visual on the vampires, and asks if anyone has eyes on them. 'Are there any vampires left?' Cap asks. 'Would you like to answer him?' the Black Panther asks Blade. 'Yeah, Cap. There's at least one of us here. But the Legion got away again. Or, well, most of them did' Blade replies, as nearby, Thori the dog can be seen standing over the fallen Sarge. 'Thori! King of all dogs!!' the Asgardian dog howls.
Later, at Avengers Mountain, 'We shouldn't have trusted those Russians' Captain Marvel remarks as she, Black Panther and Captain America walk down a corridor lined with cells. Black Panther tells Captain Marvel that he does not trust the winter guard, not so long as the Red Widow is in charge, but points out that they had little choice, short of a full-scale battle with them. 'Which is definitely coming at some point' Carol suggests. Captain America reminds his teammates that the Russians still have Dracula somewhere in hiding, and now they have a prison full of vampires. 'I don't like it' he tells them, before asking how they know the war of the undead is truly finished. The trio stops at a cell, lined with laser bars, and the Black Panther tells his teammates that he believes their friend here could answer that – when he feels like talking. 'What I feel like... is tearing your faces off! Open this cage!' Sarge snarls.
Elsewhere within the Mountain, She-Hulk remarks to Thor that she has gto get better at controlling her new gamma powers – as she could have killed them all. 'Nay. I would have been just fine' Thor replies. “Killed us all” Robbie mutters. 'Join the club' he adds, as he walks nearby, although Thor and She-Hulk don't react to him. Robbie soon comes across Blade, carrying several bags of weapons, and with the Boy-Thing strapped across his shoulders. 'Figured you'd be headed out' Robbie remarks. Blade replies that whatever this Dracula business is, it isn't finished, that's for sure – so until then, he guesses that he is an Avenger. Somewhat nervously, Robbie tells Blade that this is good, and admits that he has thought a lot about what he said earlier – and he is right, he does have to get this Spirit of Vengeance under control. Robbie tells Blade that he was hoping he could help him perform an exorcism on his car. 'I'm already regretting sticking around' Blade replies as he walks alongside Robbie.
But, Johnny Blaze the Ghost rider sits in another realm and grins, telling Robbie that he will see him soon – see him when he comes home.
Snow falls across the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where the decapitated body of the Shadow Colonel is slumped over in the snow, his head laying nearby. 'It was the Dhampir Blade who did this to him. But the Colonel did his part' Baroness Blood announces as she stands on a slope with the Rat Bomber, Snowsnake and the Carpathian. Baroness Blood adds that they believe the Shadow Colonel still deserves a place in the new kingdom. 'That is for me to judge. After all...he's my son' Dracula announces as he walks into view and picks up his son's decapitated head. The Shadow Colonel can still speak, and looks at Dracula: 'Father is this it? Is this the promised land I see? It's beautiful'. The Shadow Colonel utters. Dracula identifies his son as Xarus, and tells him that he did well. 'You did exactly as I wanted. We are free now. Free to rebuild, stronger than ever. Welcome home, my bloody disciples' Dracula declares as he throws his son's head over his shoulder, and extends his arms outwards as Baroness Blood, the Rat Bomber, Snowsnake and the Carpathian gather around him he exclaims 'Welcome to the Kingdom of the Vampires!'
Black Panther, Blade, Captain America, Captain Marvel VI, Ghost Rider V, Iron Man, She-Hulk, Thor (all Avengers)Crimson Dynamo V, Darkstar, Red Widow, Ursa Major, Vanguard, Vostok (all Winter Guard)
Baroness Blood, Boy-Thing, Carpathian, Rat Bomber, Sarge, Shadow Colonel, Snowsnake (all Legion of the Unliving)
Ghost Rider I / Johnny Blaze
This issue has the Legacy number of Avengers (1st series) #707.
Shadow Colonel's identity is revealed as Xarus, who first appeared in the Death of Dracula #1 and then in X-Men (3rd series) #1-6.