Avengers Annual #15

Issue Date: 
May 1986
Story Title: 

Danny Fingeroth (Writer), Steve Engleheart (Co-Plotter), Steve Ditko (Penciler), Klaus Janson (Inker), L. Lois Buhalis & Kenny Lopez (Letterers), Elaine Lee (Colorist), Michael Higgins (Managing Editor), Mark Gruenweld (Editor), Jim Shooter (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Both the East and West Coast teams of Avengers have met for a game of baseball, East team versus West team, and everything is going along fine – until Freedom Force arrive at the Stadium! A battle follows, where all of Freedom Force, except Spider Woman, enjoy defeating the Avengers, which one by one they do, despite the good fight the Avengers put up. The Avengers are teleported to the new super human prison, the Vault, where they are confronted by Dr. Valerie Cooper, Henry Gyrich and Raymond Sikorsky, who inform the Avengers that one of their own have brought forward incriminating evidence that links the Avengers activities to some less than decent motivations. The Avengers are not allowed to know who is responsible for this, and are all imprisoned within the Vault. Spider Woman is given a warning to shape up or ship out by Mystique, as the Avengers’ butler worries about the team’s whereabouts. Spider Woman breaks into the Vault to try and free the Avengers as she feels bad for her part and knows the Avengers are heroes. She attacks the guardsmen and does considerable damage before she is overwhelmed and forced to escape, hoping that she did enough damage to the controls to free the Avengers, which she did, and when the Wasp escapes, she sets the rest of her teammates free. The Avengers battle the guardsmen before escaping, which Spider Woman sees and realizes she must have done some good, before wondering what is going to become of her now. The Avengers make their way to a hidden cave and plot to find out who incriminated them so they can get their vengeance!

Full Summary: 

Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, throws his fists in the air and the handsome leader of the West Coast Avengers proclaims that he hates the East Coast Avengers and that they are a menace to their country and the world. He states that as leader of the West Coast Avengers – the only true Avengers, he adds – he will not rest until they are destroyed. He kicks his baseball bat to the ground as his wife, Bobbi Morse-Barton also known as Mockingbird grabs his arm and consoles him, after he struck out and reminds him that this is a fun game. Bobbi adds that Captain America has a mean curve ball, to which Clint agrees. As they walk up to the pitch, Bobbi tells Clint to take it easy and enjoy himself, reminding him that the first annual “East vs. West” baseball game was his idea.

Clint promises his wife that he will try as Captain America calls ‘Batter up!’ The East and West Coast Avengers are at Royals Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri, the mid-point between their two coasts, where they have come to exchange ideas and information, and mostly to have a good time. With his West Coast teammates waiting on the bleachers Clint states that he is glad there was not much of a crowd to see him strike out, only some members of the ground crew. From his seat, the armored Avenger, Iron Man, tells Hawkeye that he is glad they kept the event private, for while a stadium full of Avengers fans would have been exciting, it would not have been very relaxing. Tigra tries to get Iron Man and Wonder Man to cheer with her. ‘West is best, East Coast stinks!’ Simon Williams asks Greer if that is really a cheer.

Former Avengers Dr. Henry Pym is acting as the game umpire, while his ex-wife, the winsome Wasp, is acting as catcher for her East Coast team. Janet Van Dyne calls to her teammate, Captain America and tells him that they have the West Coast team beat. The handsome icon of all that America stands for throws his ball up and tells Jan not to be so over-confident, as they have only got a two-run lead. At the in-field position, Dane Whitman, also known as the third Black Knight, asks Cap what he means by “only two runs” and mocks that with Captain America pitching and he and Hercules playing in-field, they have as good as won. The Olympian Hercules looks at the large glove on his hand and cries ‘Zounds!’ Before stating that he will never get used to the strange apparel. Cap says ‘You were saying Knight?’

Mockingbird tells Hawkeye not to feel bad and assures him that she will redeem his honor when she goes up to bat. Clint says that he may not have to wait that long, and motions Wonder Man who is up to bat now. Dr. Pym calls a strike to which Simon Williams protests, complaining that it was ‘way out’. Simon points his bat outwards and tells his opponents that he is sending the next one to downtown Calcutta. Captain America throws the ball and Wonder Man smacks it way out and he starts to run to the next base. However, Simon Williams forgot about Monica Rambeau, also known as the second Captain Marvel, who is playing outfield. Monica switches to her light-form and takes to the air, overtaking the ball before turning solid and catching it. She throws it, and turns herself back into light so she can get to her position on the field and turns solid to catch it.

Hercules congratulates his teammate on a wonderful display of skill, as do Captain America and Black Knight. Monica smiles to herself, for usually she does not like to show off her powers, and despite being a little embarrassed she admits to it being fun. However, Wonder Man tries to tell Hank that the ball was out of the stadium by the time Monica caught the ball and that it should count as a home rum. Hank contemplates the matter, while Simon suggests he disqualifies Captain Marvel from the game or make the East Coast forfeit, until the former Avengers declares the last play a “ground-rule double”. Simon gloats at his victory as the Wasp puts her hands on her hips and sarcastically thanks her ex-husband.

Greer Grant Nelson a.k.a. Tigra is the next up to bat, though she misses the first hit, which Hank declares as a “ball” much to Jan’s annoyance, as the Wasp thinks to herself she would complain more if Hank wasn’t her ex with whom she was trying to stay friends with. On the next pitch however, Greer manages a small hit though the ball rolls towards Hercules. The Olympian laughs at Greer’s attempt and tells the werewoman that she should have more strength than that. He leans over and states that all he has to do is wait for the ‘feeble little thing’ to get to him, while Captain America calls over to Hercules, telling him that he needs to charge and grab the ball, which is when “puny, feeble” Tigra leaps over Hercules and makes it to first base.

Thanks to Greer’s strategy, Wonder Man makes it back to home base, as Tigra runs to second base. Cap calls over to Hercules again, telling him to throw the ball to Dane as he still might have a chance of tagging Tigra out. The super-strong Olympian is rather confused at this point and it takes him several moments before he actually throws the ball to the Black Knight. However, Hercules throws too high, and propelled by his strength, the ball flies straight past the Black Knight, who makes a valiant attempt at catching the ball, albeit unsuccessfully, and it heads towards the grounds keepers at a lethal velocity. The men are frozen in fear and cannot move, but are saved by an arrow, shot by Hawkeye, which knocks the ball from its course.

Holding his bow, the archer is proud that he was of some use today, while Bobbi congratulates Tigra who managed to tie the game. Mockingbird takes her turn to bat, using her battle-staves which, Hank asks her if she really wants to use instead of a normal bat and Bobbi says that she does. The Wasp calls out to Captain America, telling him to show Bobbi who is the boss, and trying to make a joke, Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America says that he heard Bruce Springsteen was, before adding that he was born in the USA too, and throws his “Yankee Doodle Special”. Mockingbird hits the ball, and Dane Whitman makes another leap, this time stopping the ball. He throws it to Hercules, telling him to catch it and ‘step on first’. Hercules does as he is requested, but literally steps on the base so hard that it shatters the ground, causing a small hole, which Bobbi leaps out of just in time.

Bobbi asks how she was supposed to get onto the base when she was busy leaping over the fissure, and she announces she is ‘going to brain that Hercules’, before her husband reminds her of what she told him earlier. ‘Yeah right, a fun game’ she mocks. Iron Man steps up onto the plate now, and winds up, ready to bat, and Captain America throws the ball – to the Blob?
‘Yeah the Blob’ replies Fred J. Dukes, the immovable mutant mass, who catches the ball in his hand and crushes it. After the Blob, six other figures appear thanks to a teleportation spell by the mysterious six-armed Spiral. They are Raven Darkholme, also known as the deadly Mystique, Irene Adler, the blind precog Destiny, St. John Allerdyce, the flame controlling Pyro, Domic “Avalanche” Petros and Julia Carpenter, the new Spider Woman. Together they are known as Freedom Force, a government controlled mutant task force, five of them were once members of the second incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Mystique congratulates Spiral on getting them all here as planned as Mockingbird asks what the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are doing here. Hank Pym announces that they are not the Brotherhood anymore and that Spider Woman and Spiral were never part of the Brotherhood, and that apparently the other five have gone good, all of them working for the Federal Government now. Wonder Man backs up what Hank says, announcing that they are called Freedom Force, but adds that he wouldn't trust them. Mystique introduces herself and walks up to the Wasp, informing the Avengers that they are here to arrest them!

The two leaders of the Avengers teams ask what they are under arrest for and Freedom Force hand out to the warrants, as Destiny read the Avengers their rights. Reading the warrants, the Avengers learn that they are to remain in Freedom Force’s custody while they are escorted to the Federal Penitentiary in Colorado, where they will stand trial for treason – as ordered by the President! Mystique grins wickedly as she asks Earth’s Mightiest Heroes whether they are going to come willingly or whether they have to be “persuaded”.

The Avengers group together as the Wasp proclaims she never believed the Brotherhood reformed and adds that she thinks the warrants are phonies. Janet wonders to herself why Spider Woman is with Freedom Force considering she aided the heroes during the Secret Wars! Iron Man tells his teammates that Freedom Force are thugs and they shouldn’t have to put up with this, while Captain Marvel, ever the voice of reason, reminds the her teammates of how much bad press they have been receiving lately, suggesting the co-operate with Freedom Force. Hercules tells Monica that there is no co-operation when it comes to evildoers. Hawkeye grist his teeth and reminds Hercules that he started out on the wrong side before he joined the team, and since then he has changed so much, adding that they should perhaps give Freedom Force a chance, thinking to himself that if Freedom Force are legit then it will make him look like a bad leader in front of Wasp and Captain America. Hawkeye’s wife tells him that he was never evil and that he cannot let Freedom Force bully them this way.

Tigra frowns and proclaims that she isn't going to let Freedom Force coop her up in a cell for any reason, as the Black Knight announces he will stand by Wasp as she is his leader. Hank Pym reminds himself and the others that he is no longer an active Avenger, but when he was he says they always knew what to do with super villains. Wonder Man is a reformed villain also, and wonders if the Avengers can pass judgment on them, before deciding that he knows good from evil, proclaiming they should fight. While Captain America remains silent, somewhat in disbelief that Freedom Force are government agents, which makes it harder for himself to turn he and the Avengers over to them. He wonders what choice they have, as Freedom Force are agents of the government, and the Avengers have no right to oppose them when they have done nothing wrong.

Mystique steps forward and remarks on how the Avengers have turned into Earth’s Mightiest Debating Society, before asking them if they have made up their minds. Janet and Clint step forward and announce they have, Jan tells Mystique that the Avengers reject Freedom Force’s authority and refuse to come along, while at the same time Clint proclaims that it is under protest, but the Avengers agree to come along! Janet and Clint turn to face each other immediately, and Jan spits out that what they just said doesn’t say much for a unified front! Clint protests feebly as Mystique sneers as the amusing predicament the Avengers are in, and again she asks for an answer!

Hercules heaves a pitcher cart at Freedom Force, telling them this is their answer, and that he hopes it is clear enough. Avalanche uses his seismic powers and shatters the cart apart, protecting his teammates. Hercules announces to Freedom Force that that was just the first thing he hurls at them, and that if his teammates will not join him then he will fight them alone. Iron Man announces that he is with Hercules and will stand up against Freedom Force. The Australian Pyro tells his teammates that this is a stroke of luck and Blob asks Mystique if they get to fight the Avengers now. Mystique proclaims that as the Avengers have assaulted government authorities, Freedom Force may use whatever force necessary to subdue them!

While not everyone in Freedom Force is enthusiastic to battle the Avengers as the three male members. Spider Woman frowns and reminds herself that the Avengers are good people, and that she wanted to join a team just like theirs, but Freedom Force is not like the Avengers, for they are still evil. Reluctantly Julia tells herself to do her job today – but tomorrow…. The young heroine’s thoughts are distracted by Avalanche as he gestures towards the ground, knocking several of the Avengers off their feet. Nearby, Avalanche’s close friend Pyro startles another group of Avengers with an image of a fiery bird.

Elsewhere on the stadium playing field, the enigmatic Spiral faces off against Captain Marvel, who thinks she can take Spiral out with a few energy blasts. Spiral informs Monica that she is called one of the most powerful Avengers, so she will have to use one of her most powerful spells against her! Spiral does so, startling Monica who finds her powers negated, and that she cannot turn into energy, thus she is helpless! Captain America sees Monica in trouble, and remembers the Avengers files said Spiral was incredibly dangerous, so he decides to sneak up on her.

Nearby, the Blob smashes the air around his obese body, trying to catch the Wasp, who flies into Fred’s ear and sets off stings. The Blob cries out at the pain the stings cause as the Wasp jokes about the build up of earwax in his eat. Blob starts to spin and can hardly stand up! Meanwhile, Spiral notices Captain America as he approaches, and she tells him that he is too late to help Marvel, before casting a spell on him.

Pyro’s firebird forces Hawkeye and Hank Pym to fall down a fissure that Avalanche created. Pym rips off his shirt as it gets caught on fire, while the two longtime Avengers fall down the pit, where they will be crushed by the falling rock! Suddenly, Wonder Man appears above them and pulls them to safety. Back on the ground, Hercules tells Dominic Petros that no matter how much earth he crumbles, Hercules will not be moved! But Hercules struggles to reach his opponent, who boasts that no one can get to him when he doesn’t want them too!

Meanwhile, Captain America has fallen victim to Spiral’s time and space manipulating powers, as he takes one step after another but gets no closer to the time-witch! However, the ever-resourceful Steve Rogers throws his shield at Spiral – with unsuccessful results as the time-witch merely teleports herself to another dimension for a split second, allowing for the shield to pass through her. Spiral smiles as she begins to add an element of pain to her spell on Captain America – until Wasp, Mockingbird and Tigra attack her from the sides! They grab Spirals arms, for without them she cannot weave her spells!

But Pyro is onto them quick, and sends his firebird after the girls, who have to leap over the fissure, thus releasing Spiral from their grasps. Janet Van Dyne returns from insect size to her normal height as the heat seriously affected her. The powerless Captain Marvel tends to her leader, while Captain America lunges at Spiral, who was kept busy by Bobbi, Greer and Janet long enough for him to break out of the spell. He starts attacking Spiral physically with his shield, even as he hits the powerful Spiral over and over again he tells himself that it is wrong to be fighting federal agents. He begins to think of some other plan to deal with Freedom Force, until Pyro’s annoying firebird attacks Wasp again.

Cap rushes over to Wasp to help her, when she suddenly strikes him down by shooting him with a stun blast gun! Wasp tells Cap that he should never leave himself open to an attack, as she changes into Mystique! Mystique’s confidant, Destiny, corners Captain Marvel and the real Wasp, warning them she can predict any move they are going to make on her. Wasp knows Monica’s powers are not working and she is still weak from the flames – Destiny has them trapped!

Meanwhile, Hercules finds a water main, and breaking into it he douses Pyro’s firebird with the water, before attacking Avalanche with the water as well. Elsewhere on the playing field, the tremors have stopped with Avalanche being knocked out, Wonder Man sets Clint and Pym down on the ground while he tends to a blaze Pyro started in the stands, trapping the groundsmen. Hawkeye realizes that Freedom Force will do anything to distract them, however he thinks the Avengers are putting up a better fight than what Freedom Force expected. Seconds later, Wonder Man has carried the groundsmen to safety and uses a maintenance truck to scoop up dirt to smother the flames.

Nearby, Blob has recovered from Wasp attack, but Iron Man fires a repulsor ray at him, though Blob proclaims that he can take the repulsor ray all day. Hawkeye shoots several arrows into the obese mutant’s arms, which unfortunately for Hawkeye just fall out, enabling Blob to grab Iron Man who tried to sneak up on him. Iron Man didn’t realize the Blob could move so fast, and as he struggles free, he uses his powerful chest laser to help. Blob stumbles back from the pain, which Iron Man believes should keep Blob immobilized for a while before looking for someone else who needs his help.

The handsome Black Knight currently faces off against Spiral and is doing quite a good job of it, much to Spiral’s surprise, as Dan reveals his enchanted sword seems to be able to cut through Spiral’s magic fields. Black Knight suggests to Spiral that as her powers are useless against him she surrenders, but the time-witch proclaims that with the slightest gesture she can teleport away from him – which she does! But Dane is quick to find Spiral, announcing that he will follow her wherever she goes! The Knight turns a corner – and finds himself trapped in some sort of web! Dane thinks his sword can cut through it as Spider Woman jumps up beside him, telling him that she too doesn’t know whether or not he can cut through her psionic web, but that she is not going to let him find out and Julia knocks the protesting Dane out. Spiral extends one of her six hands to Julia as she congratulates her, but Julia mumbles a weak ‘Thanks’ but thinks to herself that she wont shake any of Spiral’s hands, for she is ashamed of what they are doing here!

Meanwhile, Hercules leers over the fallen Avalanche and tells him that it is not his wish to continue pummeling him, and Hercules asks Dominic to just acknowledge that he has been bested – unless of course he needs further convincing! Avalanche passes out before he can finish saying he surrenders. Blob steps up and tells Hercules that perhaps he should surrender. Hercules is surprised to see ‘the misshapen villain called the Blob’ and he guesses Spiral teleported him here. Trying to defeat the Blob, Hercules punches the mutant mass – only to find his hand stuck inside the mounds of Blob’s flesh. Hercules is shocked by this, and Blob attempts to knock the Olympian out with a head butt, however Hercules can withstand more than a head butt – but perhaps not the spells of Spiral, which quickly take Hercules out of the game.

Since recovered, Avalanche attacks Tigra and Mockingbird, mocking them as he topples them over with his seismic powers. Whereas Hawkeye finds himself visited by Destiny, though he boasts that he could load and fire before she even pulls the trigger! Irene Adler informs Earth’s Mightiest Marksman that she thinks otherwise, for she knows his every move, even before he does – but he does not know hers! And Destiny shoots Clint with a tranquilizer gun.

Meanwhile, Iron Man faces off against Pyro, who is draining Iron Man’s power reserves as the armored Avenger tries to approach St. John Allerdyce through the flame. Pyro proclaims that he can keep making the flame hotter and hotter – until Iron Man gets close enough to disconnect Pyro’s flame-thrower. As Pyro points out, the flame-throwers merely create a flame for him, and once it is created he can control it! As Pyro increases the temperature of the flame again, Iron Man tries to get one last punch in – but stops in his tracks – thanks to Spiral!

Suddenly, Pyro warns Spiral to watch out, as Wonder Man dives in, knocking Freedom Force’s most dangerous member out. Pyro proclaims that he is still a force to be reckoned with, as Wonder Man takes a punch at the Australian mutant. Spider Woman smiles at Wonder Man’s success, but her happiness is subdued when Mystique orders her to ‘stop standing there like a fool’ and help end the battle. Bitterly, Spider Woman follows orders and joins the remaining Freedom Force members – Mystique, Destiny, Avalanche and Blob in surrounding the four remaining Avengers.

Mystique reminds the standing Avengers that Captain Marvel and Hank Pym are powerless, while the Wasp is weakened, and even Wonder Man cannot defeat all five Freedom Forcers! Raven Darkholme suggests that they surrender and avoid further needless violence. Wasp proudly boasts that the Avengers will never surrender! Monica thinks to herself that while her powers are gone, she still must face this like an Avenger and tells Janet that she is with her, while her ex-husband tells her he is not sure what he can do, Janet just looks at him. Finally, Wonder Man tells his teammates that they have been luck so far and that he doesn’t want to surrender – but perhaps they should before anyone gets hurt!

Hank tells Simon that he appreciates what he is trying to do, but that he has mad up his mind, and with that he and Captain Marvel split from the group, running for cover in a trench, while Wonder Man kicks Avalanche. Destiny proclaims she knew there was a high probability that this tactic would be tried and shoots Hank and Monica down with the tranquilizer gun. Enraged, Wonder Man leaps to the Blob and pounds repeatedly at his head, proclaiming this is all a joke! Already shaky from the Wasp’s attack on his ear canals, Fred J. Dukes succumbs, shattering the ground as he lands.

The Wasp meanwhile is summoning all her remaining strength for a concentrated attack on Avalanche, who falls back, stunned, though inadvertently sending chunks of earth flying up at the Wasp, whom Mystique then catches in a small box, grinning as she does. Again, Mystique turns to Spider Woman and asks her why she isn't attacking. Julia puts on a fake voice as she tells Wonder Man he cannot possibly defeat Freedom Force, that he should give up now and physically hits him. Wonder Man tells Julia that he hardly felt the hits, but he will return in favor. Julia however is a lot faster than Simon and manages to dodge his fist – but not the tranquilizer shot from Destiny who approaches from behind.

Mystique orders Julia to finish Wonder Man now, and with a plank of wood in her hands, the young woman wonders why she has to do this, but nonetheless she lashes out at Wonder Man’s head and the last Avenger is now defeated. Julia proclaims that she did it and asks Mystique if it was good enough for her. Mystique replies that it wasn’t, but that they will talk about it later, for now she has to revive Spiral so they can all be teleported West. Destiny tells her friend that she should be proud of herself, leading the group that defeated the Avengers is no small feat.

Raven thanks Irene, adding that for all their power, the one Avenger she was worried about most was Captain America, for he is the most resourceful – scanning the field of fallen Avengers as Spiral wakes up, Raven is shocked to see Captain America is not among them, that he must have escaped! Destiny proclaims that she can divine where Captain America is – and as it turns out, he is not far away!

In a far corner of the stadium in fact, Captain America is talking to the Secretary General who informs him that Freedom Force is under the authority of the Executive Branch and that they have been ordered to arrest the Avengers. Captain America asks why the Avengers were just not subpoenaed, to which the Secretary replies that he is sure those in charge have their reasons.

On the field, Spiral dances a spell to nullify the Avengers’ respective abilities, and subsequently teleports them from the field. Back on the phone, Captain America asks if the Avengers are supposed to trust Freedom Force, people who just tried to kill them, and trust the people who sent them?! The Secretary tells Cap that he is overreacting, to which Steve cuts him off and replies that he will go along with the nonsense for now, but adds that even he has his breaking point. Mystique and the other now revived members of Freedom Force walk up to Captain America, Raven announces she has come for him, to which Captain America tells her he will come along peacefully, but on the inside he is enraged, the anger in his eyes gleans and he firmly tells himself that someone will answer for this!

The Rocky Mountains, moments later, where deep inside one particular mountain, the Avengers and Freedom Force materialize after Captain America’s surrender. Here in a chamber, hollowed out of the mountain itself. The Avengers are revived by one of Spiral’s spells, and they are depowered and confused, unsure of where they are and what they should do next. One thing remains certain however – that they are surrounded by enemies, for on one side stand Freedom, while all around the chamber stand armored guardsmen, with weapons held up towards the Avengers.

Behind the heroes, at the front of the chamber stands a man who hates the Avengers with a passion, Henry Peter Gyrich, the former liaison between the Avengers and the U.S. Government. Seated by Gyrich is the Avengers current liaison, a man called Raymond Sikorsky, a man the Avengers thought of as a friend, though now are not so sure about. A blonde woman sits with Gyrich and Sikorsky, but the Avengers are uncertain of her identity.

Spiral gloats at how the Avengers have been made powerless thanks to her, the Avengers realize that their powers are gone, to which Captain Marvel asks the six-armed time-witch as to why she didn’t do this at the start of their battle. Mystique and the rest of Freedom Force, besides Spider Woman of course, laugh and Raven Darkholme informs Monica that it is because none of her teammates would stand still long enough for Spiral to do so after they saw what she did to Captain Marvel. Mystique tells Monica not to worry, as hers and her partners powers will return eventually, as Spiral was not ordered to permanently nullify them. Mystique adds that that will happen after the Avengers are all found guilty. Spider Woman cringes and admits to herself that she is so ashamed, and that she wants run over to the Avengers and stand with them – but she is scared of the consequences.

One of the guardsmen orders the Avengers to take their seats, as Spiral conjures up another teleportation spell, she tells the Avengers that since Freedom Force have performed their patriotic duty, they must leave. ‘Have a nice day’ she mocks before the seven members of Freedom Force are gone from the chamber.

The procession begins, and Gyrich introduces the blond woman to his right as Doctor Valerie Cooper a member of the National Security Council and government liaison to Freedom Force. After addressing Sikorsky, Gyrich tells the Avengers that he, Valerie and Sikorsky are here to conduct the preliminary hearings in the Avengers trial for treason. He starts to say something else before Wasp cuts him off, telling Gyrich that he can begin by explaining the meaning of all this, and asking him how he could dare send criminals to apprehend them and bring them to ‘this raccoon lodge court!’ Jan reminds Gyrich that they are the Avengers, a force for good in the world, no matter what his personal biases may be.

Gyrich raises his voice and starts pointing his finger at Jan, telling her that the Avengers are not a force for good and that he has suspected their malevolence for sometime, and now he finally has the proof he needs to put them all behind bars! Captain America shouts back, demanding to know what this “proof” is. Valerie asks if a sworn testimony that the Vision’s attempt when he was the Avengers leader to take over all the world’s computer systems was not a product of some “temporary insanity” but premeditated and planned long in advance by the Vision and several Avengers in this very room is proof enough. Valerie suggests that the Avengers remember the last time Gyrich conducted hearings concerning the Avengers misconduct, the Grey Gargoyle “coincidentally” attacked New York and the Avengers subsequently defeated him, thus being named the heroes of the day. Valerie tells the Avengers that she has a sworn testimony that they were in league with the Grey Gargoyle, that he was working as the Avenger’s agent to discredit the hearings!

Sternly, Valerie tells the Avengers that the aforementioned instances are not the worst of the crimes that she, Gyrich and Sikorsky will prove them collectively responsible for, and adds that soon they will begin rounding up the culpable inactive Avengers. Gyrich smiles and thanks Dr. Cooper, telling the Avengers that they have hours of testimony against testimony given under oath, testimony that is so much more ruinous since it was given by one of the Avengers very own!

Shock and disbelief spreads through Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as they wonder who of their own could have done such a thing. Gyrich tells them that the informant’s identity is classified pending corroboration by a second party they believe will soon come forward, adding that they will be confronted by their accuser at the trial itself. Sikorsky talks for the first time thus far, telling the Avengers he wants to apologize for the treatment that they received today, before adding that the charges are serious – Gyrich cuts Raymond off before he can say anything else.

The West Coast Avenger’s leader snaps back that he has some serious charges like unlawful arrest and denial of constitutional rights that need to be addressed, adding that if it isn't the three in the booth who are out to get the Avengers, then they have been duped! Valerie tells Hawkeye that no one has been duped, and that the charges against the Avengers are very serious and the executive office wants them cleared up. Gyrich informs the Avengers that due to the nature of the charges and the potential danger inherent in the Avengers special abilities, they will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the public welfare.

Sikorsky tries to reason with Gyrich, telling him that the Avengers record contains as much good as bad, and asks if they really have to treat them – Gyrich tells Raymond that they do, and that he will be able to say his own piece on their behalf at the actual trial. Raymond boldly tells Gyrich that if he doesn’t get to say his own piece, then the executive office will hear about it, loudly! As the hearing progresses, a symbol of America ponders what is going on around him, and wonders what his next move is to be.

Meanwhile, across the continent, Washington DC to be precise, Spider Woman faces her own accusations. Mystique is mad at Julia, and the two women are alone, as Raven tells Julia that when Val Cooper insisted they take her, an outsider, into Freedom Force, she had her doubts, but was willing to give her a go. Mystique tells Julia that she saw how much she hesitated during the battle today, and informs her that it could have cost them the victory, adding that they can not afford for the government to look upon them unfavorably.

Mystique tells Julia that if she thinks she is too good to work with Freedom Force because they all used to be outlaws then she can just leave, before reminding Julia of the handsome salary that she gets paid, and the fact that Freedom Force may not always be working within the law. Raven points a finger at Julia and tells her that she would then have some very dangerous enemies. Spider Woman apologizes and tells Mystique that she promises it will not happen again, but deep inside herself, she knows she cannot stand it any longer.

Back inside the Rockies, Captain America leaps up from his seat and shouts that he cannot stand it anymore, telling the government agents that everything they are saying is the exact opposite of everything America stands for! That they are telling the Avengers they are guilty until proven innocent, which is injustice! Voice raised, Steve Rogers lists the wrong-doings to the Avengers that have transpired today before asking if the President really knows what is going on – that personal vendettas are being carried out under the false label of justice! Captain America stands by his belief in the American Dream, before denouncing this as a nightmare.

The other Avengers break their silence as they congratulate Cap, but their brief moment of triumph is stopped by Gyrich who cries ‘the cheerleaders can put their pompoms away!’ Gyrich assures them mockingly that they were all moved by Captain America’s speech and that when full charges are brought, they will all be able to ensure legal counsel, but until that time they are to remain in Federal custody. Wasp demands to know when the trial will take place, to which Gyrich replies they do now know, but that she will be the first to know when it does. Gyrich declares the hearing adjourned before ordering the guardsmen to take the Avengers to…the Vault!

A short distance away from where the hearing took place, still within the Rockies sits the new top-secret government containment center for super powered criminals - the Vault. A large crew of highly trained guardsmen mans the prison and it gleams with newness and hums with power. It has been open for less than a week and awaits its first shipment of super powered criminals from around the world. Eleven of its cells are already filled however.

Captain America is trapped within a smooth-walled spherical cell that spins every time he tries to get a foothold, all his gymnastic skill and combat knowledge are useless. The Olympian Hercules’ cell is lined with two-foot thick adamantium, which will not yield, even to his godly might. The Wasp has been searching her cell continually for a small opening to escape through, but there is none to be found. The handsome Black Knight has his sword taken from him, without it, no special cell is needed to hold him, while Captain Marvel is kept continually sedated by tranquilizing gas, thus stopping her from changing her form.

Despite Iron Man’s armor being back in working order, the electricity draining nodules that line his room enable him to do very little other than sit up. Tigra scratches at her cell as she tries to keep her dual personality under check while trying to decide whether the person that betrayed them, or Gyrich is the worse of the two. Hawkeye does not search for a way out, but sits and blames himself for the dissension in the Avengers ranks that cost them the battle, before being thankful for Sikorsky intervening so they wouldn't have to unmask. Hawkeye’s wife Mockingbird wishes she could tell her husband that it is not his fault, but Captain America’s good soldier attitude! Wonder Man swears revenge while being suspended in a stasis-field, and Dr. Pym sits in his cell, remembering why he quit the Avengers, but even so, he is still in as much trouble as the others are!

Meanwhile, at the Avengers Mansion in New York City, their Butler, Edwin Jarvis answers distress calls for the missing Avengers. Currently he is explaining to someone that they are away on a “confidential mission”, but to himself he wonders if the Avengers are even alive, and secretly he wishes the Fantastic Four were here to help! The luxurious grounds of the West Coast Avengers Compound are silent, save for the roar of the nearby surf.

Half a mile outside the Avengers cells and outside one of the secret entrances to the Vault, four guardsmen are playing a game of cards. On a rock overhanging the guardsmen, a lone figure watches them…Spider Woman! Julia sarcastically tells herself that she knew the Avengers were being held prisoner, and so sneaking into Mystique’s files to find out where this place is, before traipsing back across the country to get here…but what to do now? Julia reminds herself that she came to play heroine – to help the Avengers! Cynically she tells herself that she forgot a couple of things – like there is only one of her, and she has no plan, not to mention all of Mystique’s threats!

Julia asks herself how she could possibly live with herself if she doesn’t for the Avengers – or is she overreacting? Julia wonders if it is like Mystique said, that the federal agents are just acting tough? Julia stands up on the ledge and decides that she cannot risk everything, not yet, and that she will wait until she is really needed, maybe even come back with help. Julia realizes that Mystique has won this one. However as Spider Woman departs, her foot triggers a concealed security device! Julia is stunned as lights blare, and sirens explode into high-pitched wailing!

The guardsmen stop their card game at the sound of the intruder alert, this will be their first big test, and they can’t let whoever it is get past! One of the guardsmen wonders who even knows about the existence of the Vault as Spider Woman sees dozens of reinforcements arrive on the scene. Julia tries to blend into the shadows until the give up their search, but its too late as a spotlight catches her! The guardsmen realize it is Spider Woman and one of them comments on how Destiny said she might try something like this. As bullets fly towards her, Julia dives to dodge them, before crawling along the side of the cliff, telling herself that she may as well try and free the Avengers now as she will never get another chance after this! With that, she enters through the secret passageway the guardsmen left open.

Julia arrives at an elevator shaft, and with her superhuman strength she easily forces the doors open, before figuring the Avengers are kept below, and descending down the cable. Upon reaching the bottom, Julia finds herself in the guardsmen’s locker room. One of the guardsmen is putting on his uniform, worried about how the boss will react when he learns he slept through the sirens! Spider Woman approaches the young man and after grabbing his gun tells him his boss will understand, but that he will probably be less understanding about him letting an intruder get hold of his weapon! The guardsman is scared of Spider Woman as she asks him where the Avengers are being held, adding that she will know if he is lying, while telling herself that she wont really, but it sounds tough. The guardsman stutters that they are down corridor six, but that she will never get past the security. Julia thanks him before knocking him out and running towards corridor six.

Shortly, Julia clings to the roof of a room full of guardsmen and guesses the Avengers must be kept here, as there are more guards than she can count! Julia worries that she will never get past the security, before spying a video console displaying the Avengers in the cells, with a set of controls next to the screens. One of the guardsmen tells his colleagues to be on the look out for Spider Woman as she has infiltrated the facility and probably headed down here.

Julia drops from the ceiling, making her grand entrance, and immediately starts fighting the guardsmen, and at the same time ripping apart some of the machinery, hoping that she will at least cause some damage to the compound. Julia throws a huge chunk of machinery at the guardsmen as she realizes she has now lost the element of surprise and that the guardsmen are going to get their act together soon enough. Julia decides she has to make herself scarce and as she exits the compound she hopes she was able to do some good for the Avengers, especially as she has just screwed up her own life.

Spider Woman’s actions have had an effect, and in the Wasp’s cell the feeding slot opens. Jan realizes that mealtime was just an hour ago and that the back-up partition has not slid into place. She thinks it could either be the perfect escape route or the perfect set-up so they can claim they had to kill her while she was trying to escape. Jan wonders if there is a system malfunction, and transforming to her insect size takes the risk and flies through the slot.

Outside, Wasp decides it mustn’t be a trap as she hasn’t been blasted to bits by lasers yet, and figures she has to free the others somehow. She arrives at Captain America’s cell and realizes it is sealed with the same electromagnetic locking systems all the cells are, and enters the keyhole, where she starts tearing at the circuitry inside it. She must have touched a wrong wire, and quickly leaps out of the keyhole, returning to full size with the shock of the electric current. Captain America runs out of his cell and asks Janet how she got free, her reply is that she doesn’t know, but they have to free the others!

Captain America hesitates, telling Jan that as objectionable as all of this it, he still has a hard time with the idea of breaking out, reminding Jan that they are dealing with the U.S. government, even if it is the unpleasant side. Wasp tells Cap she understands his problem, before reminding him of the perversion of the law and telling him that they need to get the others and then they can decide what the right thing to do is – as free men and women! Cap tells Jan she has made her point, and they begin freeing the others.

Wasp does the same thing to Hercules’ cell as she did to Cap (though without shocking herself this time), and Hercules now free uses his strength to break Wonder Man out of the stasis chamber. Simon needs a moment to get his breath, before he is needed top use his strength in freeing the others. Minutes later when the others are all freed several guardsmen arrive on the scene, ordering the Avengers to surrender. Iron Man finishes recharging his armor from some power cables and immediately charges his way through the guardsmen.

The other Avengers all join in the battle, where Captain Marvel realizes that she cannot shock them because their suits are too well insulated. Iron Man has one other idea as to how to stop the guardsmen quickly, and turning a small dial on his glove, a high-pitched sound fills the chamber, which subsequently freezes the guardsmen’s armor. Inside the armor, Tony remembers how he designed the prototypes for the suits when the government introduced them, which they also duplicated the fail-safe devices he installed so they couldn’t be used against him. ‘Thank heaven for bureaucrats’ he says.

Meanwhile, Captain Marvel, in the form of invisible radio waves searches throughout the complex for the Avengers weapons. Upon finding them she turns into electricity and blasts a hole in the wall, where she calls out to her teammates. A minute later, the three physically strongest Avengers, Iron Man, Wonder Man and Hercules, smash through a side of the Vault and the Avengers run out of the cliff side. Captain Marvel passes through and disrupts the Vaults electromagnetic systems before joining her teammates.

As the Avengers run through the forest, Hawkeye tells the group fliers to stay on foot, as they are detectable in the air. Behind a tree, Spider Woman sees the Avengers rush past her and she realizes she did help to free them, before reprimanding herself for acting without a better plan. Julia is glad she did what she did, and hopes she hasn’t screwed her life up completely, as she doesn’t have much of a future with Freedom Force. ‘Wonder if I have what it takes to be an Avenger’ Julia asks herself…. Still running through the forest, Hawkeye tells everyone it looks like they are going to make it, as Tigra says she wants to rip Gyrich’s eyes out. Mockingbird tells Greer that they will get their own back one-day.

Meanwhile, back at the Vault, one of the guardsmen tells his fellows to find the Avengers, as another tells him they cannot as their suits are still stiff and the tracking devices are down. Another one remarks that they were up against the Avengers – who could be anywhere by now!

A short time later, in a darkened cave, the Avengers, desperate for shelter, recover deep within it, and the falsely accused team pans by the flickering light of one of Hawkeye’s flare arrows. Wasp takes lead and tells everyone that their first priority is to find out who betrayed them and why, and after that they can decide their course of action, as they are the Avengers, and everyone raises their hands into the air as they cry they will have their vengeance!

Characters Involved: 

Black Knight III, Captain America, Captain Marvel II, Hercules, Wasp (All [East Coast] Avengers)
Hawkeye, Iron Man, Mockingbird, Tigra, Wonder Man (All West Coast Avengers)
Dr. Henry Pym, former Avenger, current West Coast ally
Edwin Jarvis, East Coast Avengers butler

Dr. Valerie Cooper, Freedom Force liaison/ Member of National Security Council
Henry Gyrich, former Avengers liaison
Raymond Sikorsky, Avengers liaison

Avalanche, Blob, Destiny, Mystique, Pyro, Spider Woman II, Spiral (All Freedom Force)

Groundskeepers at the stadium
Guards at the Vault

In Flashback
Captain America, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Vision (All Avengers)

The Grey Gargoyle

Story Notes: 

The conclusion to this story is in West Coast Avengers Annual #1

Julia Carpenter, the second Spider Woman, first appeared in Secret Wars #7, following that she was inducted into Freedom Force to repay a debt to an old friend, Dr. Valerie Cooper (as revealed years later in Avengers West Coast #84, her origin issue). Julia hated working with Freedom Force, as evident this issue and her other appearances with the team [X-Factor #8-10, Uncanny X-Men #206] following her brave actions this issue she appears in Iron Man (first series) #214 where Iron Man helps her restart her life. Sometime later she aids the Avengers West Coast and joins the team in AWC #74, serving capably with the team until Force Works #22.

Henry Gyrich has hated the Avengers since he first became their team liaison in Avengers (first series) #181. The Avengers have disliked him from this moment too, when he cut down their twenty-plus size roster to a mere seven members. His tenure did not last very long, and had been replaced by various others over time. In recent issues of the current Avengers series, Gyrich has returned to being their liaison, however on a more trustworthy level.

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