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Warren Ellis (writer), Mike McKone (penciler), Jason Keith (inker), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (Exec. Publisher)
During their weekly meeting, the Avengers learn of a strange American drone shot down in Slorenia. Captain America is reminded of a similar Nazi wonder weapon on the island of Skrekklandet in 1944. When Thor joins them, the Avengers learn he fought the mythical monster Nidhogg on the same island and realize these new drone weapons might very well be the “offspring” of the wonder weapon and Nidhogg. They follow the trail to Slorenia, where the drones that produce their own munition go crazy and attack them. The Avengers destroy them and learn that the latest generation of drones stationed at a SHIELD base in New Jersey is even more dangerous. As the team flies to New Jersey, Thor flies ahead and is attacked by the drones which “recognize” him. The Avengers barely succeed in destroying the drones, managing to piss off SHIELD who send Bruce Banner to talk with them, intending him to go full Hulk on the Avengers. Not interested in being used as a weapon, Banner outfits himself with medicinal calming skin patches which will delay his next Hulk episode. Together with Banner, the Avengers fly to Skrekklandet, where resides Hereward, the company that creates those drones. Cap and Thor confront the owners to learn they are both the grandchildren of the soldiers with whom Cap fought alongside and creatures changed by the Nazi weapon and Nidhogg. With the help of the Hulk and Iron Man’s genius, the Avengers barely manage to kill the creatures, while Wolverine kills the scientists connected. Unfortunately, they realize new weapons will constantly be created.
Slorenia, nestled between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Iraq, a country at war. According to SHIELD, the unsteady regime’s council, the Tabissara, formed a mercenary force (now also referred to as Tabissara) to attempt to take Slorenia back from the democratically elected government. Given Slorenia’s position, military aid from America was soon forthcoming.
Battling US drones, a female Tabissara soldier, Ara, swears she hates Americans so much. Another soldier, Sahv, asks her where Oksoy is, only to be informed he is dead. Drone strikes, why can’t they show their faces on the street? Because they would shoot them, he points out. Drones only cost money. And Americans have plenty of that. They have to move. Ara refuses. She wants to cost the Americans more money. He tells her they need to regroup behind the old press buildings where they hold the reporters.
An American soldier carrying something is shot. Ara asks Sahv to give her covering fire. She takes away the body’s mortar and shoots down what she believes to be a drone. Something far bigger lands nearby, struck down. Get the reporters, Ara orders.
(meanwhile)It says Stark on the front but everybody in New York knows it as Avengers Tower. Steve Rogers aka Captain America, who is currently living here, is doing push-ups. Part of him still feels as though he lives in a foreign land called the future. The city doesn’t look or smell right.
He goes to the kitchen where the Avengers’ butler Jarvis is already brewing coffee. He can do it himself, Steve begins. Jarvis tells him here his life gets a little easier because it surely is not easy outside. He asks Cap to indulge him. Also he still has… issues with the operation of the cafeteria. Steve thanks him. He looks forward to having the same conversation tomorrow, Jarvis remarks wryly. He’s an Irish boy from the Lower East Side, Cap point out. He’s never going to be comfortable with a butler. Jarvis knows, but every now and then Cap slips and lets him help him and that’s a great source of satisfaction to him.
Cap calls the team via comm. and tells them to sound off on their way in. He muses he learned how to do that but not how to operate a coffeemaker.
Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel is already flying on her way in. Hakweye aka Clint Barton announces via comm. he might be late. Cap reminds him they have one meeting a week, so get here! He might be lost, Clint adds. Cap doesn’t believe him. He also might be in a dumpster. That Cap does believe. There was a girl and some people who hit him. Tell it to the chaplain, Cap orders, and get here! “You are old!” Hawkeye complains.
Captain Marvel has landed. Jarvis greets her as Colonel Danvers, but Carol reminds him in the uniform she is Captain Marvel. Yes, but her Air Force rank is Colonel, he insists. Carol smiles and her helmet removes itself from her face.
Cap teases she’s a colonel in the Chair force. It doesn’t count as a real rank. Carol retorts that Army stands for Air Force Rejected me Yesterday. Jarvis wisely keeps his opinion to himself.
Cap asks how Carol is and if she did the new round of medical tests. She tells him he sounds like her dad but assures him she is a genetically stable fusion of human pilot and an alien soldier race from the Great Magellan Cloud. Which some days feels even stupider than it sounds.
Tony Stark chimes in via comm., telling Steve to tell Jarvis to make sure he uses the single estate coffee from Guatemala. And the Starkia. What the hell is Starkia? Cap asks. Genetically tweaked Stevia sweetener, but Stevia is a dumb name. Stevia is a dumb name, Steve repeats to Carol, who asks him if he ever thinks about killing Tony Stark. He’s not a killer, he informs her mildly, he just thinks about stomping him a bunch when nobody else is around.
Natasha Romanova aka the Black Widow and Logan aka Wolverine come in.
Still en route, Iron Man muses aloud that Captain America wants to stomp on him. Well, in Cap’s defense, he has met him, his assistant Pepper Potts drolly points out via comm. She adds the phones have lit up. Has he done something today? Why does she say it like that? Why does she treat him like a brain damaged criminal? Tony complains. She scoffs it’s like he’s been handing her the ammunition to use. He’s been good, he finally announces. Pepper explains a lot of correspondents want to talk to him today. Tony isn’t interested.
He lands on the roof of the Tower and the armor is stripped off. He tells Pepper he has to sit with his awesome and awesomely boring quote friends unquote for a while.
Entering, he asks if anyone has checked the dumpsters for Clint yet. Funny he should ask that, Steve remarks. Ah shaddap, Clint mutters as he enters, looking the worse for wear. Natasha immediately mothers him, asking who was his date last night. Did she bring a treshing machine? Don’t act like his mom, he protests. They both know why she couldn’t possibly be his mom, she replies wryly. He certainly never acted like she was.
Cap tells them to be quiet as the news report about the Tabissara’s unusual victory against Americans in Slorenia is shown. They shot down a drone with an unfamiliar design. Cap reads the word “Hereward” on the drone. Can’t be, he mutters. The report continues that Hereward, a military contractor based on the Norwegian island Skrekklandet, issued the following statement. Skrekklandet, Steve repeats and remembers…
Flashback to 1944:Several American fighter planes with Cap aboard one of them. The pilot, Lightfoote, tells him Cap is the highest ranking officer aboard. After some back and forth, the soldiers reveal that they are all rather young. Seargent Herne asks what they can expect on their approach to Skrekkladnet. Cap asks if they know about the Wunderwaffe. The Germans are building something ugly. It’s like they’ve got a hotline to hell and just order from the devil’s stores.
One of the soldiers wonders why the Germans would have a station on Skrekklandet. It’s miles from anywhere, save Finland. Cap explains the things they build are dangerous and they want privacy. So they go low. They drop him. He gives the word. They release bombs. Easy.
Herne asks why not just blast the whole place anyway. Heinrich Zemo might be down there, Cap explains, and he’d like a word with him.
Suddenly, a blast from another plane hits the other two planes, downing them. Cap grabs his weaponry and a rope and jumps. In mid-leap, he throws his shield at the attacking plane. The rope attaches to it. He climbs up to the cockpit and tosses some live grenades into it.
The American plane maneuvers into a position for him to throw his shield back and swing back. There is a flash of blinding energy and the facility is gone. As is the other plane.
Present:Skrekklandet, Captain America repeats thoughtfully. He asks Tony to do some computer research for him. The others look at Cap expectantly. What does he need? Stark sighs. Cap asks him to put up the last five minutes of this on the channel.
They look at one scene of the Tabissara having shot down an unmanned American drone. It has military US markings, as well as the name of the British company Hereward, a military contractor based on Skrekklandet.
Cap explains there was a Wunderwaffe stationed there in 1944. It exploded and fell into the ice. Just the shape of this thing stinks of the things he was fighting then, of the war and the legacy devices the Red Skull uses.
Carol tries to get intel from the Airforce and Natasha uses her SHIELD connections to try and do the same.
How well do they know Slorenia? Wolverine demands. Stark replies he was involved in the removal of the Tabissara. Good job there, Logan mocks, adding going in there is gonna be tricky. He accuses Cap of wanting to go in there and get one of those things. He warns Cap that Slorenia is a burning cesspool. Cap forgets he’s ex-army too and a good bit older than him and sneakier.
Cap replies he respects Logan but don’t tell him they are alike. Not a killer? Logan mocks. Cap was in World War II. Don’t tell him he never killed anyone.
Cap suggests those things might be time bombs. If that stuff still works, they should sell it to Apple, Hawkeye suggests. He’s got a phone three years old that’s about as connected as a rock today. Does he have a suit here? he asks Jarvis who tells him he did eventually manage to clean the vomit off. Why? Because if he knows that look on Captain Geritol’s face, they are suiting up and going somewhere he couldn’t find on a map, to do something really stupid, Hawkeye sighs.
As he walks off, Tony muses he just realized he is the only non-soldier in the room. Right, he’s just an ex-arms manufacturer in a metal death suit, Carol mocks. Totally different.
She informs Cap that the Air Force isn’t flying those things. Sounds like a line, he replies. No, if they were, she’d have just been told to shut up, Carol replies. These are autonomous devices that don’t need a pilot. They are about as smart as a mean dog. You point them at a target and they kill. And they are being used in countries by the company that made them. They don’t have soldiers in Slorenia; they outsource the entire action. They hired a corporation to fight a war for them, Cap summarizes in disbelief. Not just a building company, Natasha adds. SHIELD’s got the company structure. Name a country with an active fascist base. These Hereward people have offices there. Also? If they succeed crushing the Tabissara, they get a big chunk of Slorenia.
Carol carefully points out this is foreign policy. No, Steve announces. It’s another piece of his past. A past that still seems more real to him than any of this, coming back and trying to kill him. He was there. He was on his way to attack and the place exploded, self-destructed. He doesn’t know how, but they knew he was coming. And now here he is and now suddenly here they are too! He wants one of these things. To look at. Today.
One of which things? Thor asks as he makes his entrance. They are going hunting, Cap replies. Excellent, the Thunder God announces. What do they hunt?
While Cap tries to call up the video, Thor muses he should get his chariot. It is drawn by two mighty goats called Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder. After a successful hunt, he slaughters and eats them and the next morning… he trails off as he sees the images… they come back to life.
Here’s how things work:There is a great tree called Yggdrasil and the nine worlds hang from its branches. At the base of the world tree is a creature called Nidhogg, a vile and terrible thing trapped under the roots, chewing at the roots. Yggdrasil is a living thing that grows. That means that sometimes there’s deadwood. One day, Nidhogg bit into a weakened root. The thing crazed with freedom swarmed up Yggdrasil looking for egress and something to take out its rage on.
There are nine realms. The fifth is Midgard. Young and foolish, Thor went to Midgard alone to confront Nidhogg. He found it spawning in the ice. His pride had placed him in an impossible battle. Their worst enemy squatting out its young in Midgard snow. Thor attacked Nidhogg, which tried to protect its eggs. Lost in a berserker rage, Thor attacked again and again. It was the beginning of his fall. His father learning of this and decided Thor needed to learn humility and took him back as he killed it with a blast of energy.
He knows he killed it. Looking at the news, Thor muses these things, if you take away the trappings of a Midgard smithy, could be its spawn.
Tony wonders aloud what would happen if you threw the eggs of a magic dragon and a Nazi superweapon down the ice it and sealed it for seventy years. They are looking at the result of, right? “Norse Nazi maggot robots of death.”
Thor grimly announces that he must hunt. Cap tells him to wait. No, Thor snaps. He waited long to become a man in the eyes of his family and people. To have this thrown back in his face now? No, he hunts.
Not alone, Cap insists. That’s the point of them, right? If it wasn’t for them, Tony’d be dead. Without them, Thor wouldn’t have had any family for years. Without all of them, he’d still be in the ice somewhere off the coast of Greenland. Without them, Carol would have nobody to fly with. The Avengers brought her in from the cold, he tells Natasha.
Where’s Hawkguy’s outfit? Wolverine mumbles. He needs something to throw up in. Cap reminds him that the Avengers taught him to stand for something. Whatever he believes, Logan replies, walking away. Turning to Hawkeye, Cap remarks he is a hopeless case, but the exception has to prove the rule. Sometimes they all need to be reminded. By him because he has nothing else. They do this together.
Carol figures the Quinjet will need three hours five minutes at best speed to Slorenia. Clint wants to pilot. She is not flying with someone who learned to fly in a circus, Carol retorts.
As they change into costumes, Logan suggests they drop the Hulk on them. Black Widow muses that Bruce is doing well at SHIELD. Covered in Prozac patches, mind you…
Captain America hears them through the wall, talking about their normal world of drugs absorbed through skin and planes flying at 1600 miles an hour. He doesn’t know why he is doing this, really. Except that he has a need to confirm operational intelligence on the ground. Except that he heard the slight weak quaver in Stark’s voice when he said he’d been involved in the destabilization of Slorenia. Except that he saw the humiliation in Thor’s eyes. He realizes they were there at the same time. And didn’t know. A man in a robot suit he sometimes wants to strangle. A man who may not be a man at all, who he often genuinely fears. These are what Steve Rogers has instead of friends here in the future. And this is what he does for them.
He puts on his helmet and tells them to move. They are burning daylight.
On the plane, Natasha asks Cap why he is doing this. He explains he wants one of these things to examine and present. Present to who? Natasha insists. He’s not a cop. Technically he’s not even a soldier. He could however have gone to SHIELD. He retorts this isn’t SHIELD’s business. It’s theirs. And he’s pretty sure they got TV news on the helicarrier. They are going to know these things are in the field and since Natasha called them they are going to be on their way. SHIELD doesn’t care. He’ll find someone who does.
If he says so. Though she wonder why they aren’t going straight to Skrettlandet. He wants the thing itself first, Cap explains, to get an idea of what they are facing. And with the thing itself maybe he can force them to stop. Maybe he won’t have to attack them. Maybe he can have a day when he’s not at war. How does this plane go so fast anyway?
Because of Starkium, Tony who joins them announces. Technically it’s element 128. It should have a long chemical name, but screw it, he invented it, so Starkium. He invented a new element, Cap repeats. Sort of. His dad did a lot of the initial tinkering.
Tony sits down opposite to Cap. He was a strange one, his dad. He did a lot. Worked on the Manhattan Project. Started the business. In a lot of ways, he was smarter than Tony. Drank a lot. Shouted a lot. At him. Told him he needed iron in his spine. He did a lot. But somehow he never really did a thing. Guns. Robots. He reacts to his ghost badly.
How does he mean? Cap asks. Well, here they are, off to Slorenia. He went there with a few friends a few years back. Decided to free it. Kick out the Tabissara, turn the country over to the people. And look. He sees the ghost of the old man never interested in anything but money, bourbon and the inside of his head and he says he’s going out there. In the world. Doing good things. And here they are. Slorenia is an urban combat theater terrorized by Nazi icedragons and Tony has a reactor in his chest that keeps him alive. He has to keep trying because of the ghost. And he makes things worse and he tries harder. An endless road of good intentions and hell. He gets up. But the thing in his chest? Runs on Starkium, too, so there’s that, right?
Carol announces they are reaching Slorenian airspace. Cap asks if any of those things are in the air. Two in Tblunka emanating from a launch base in the north, Carol informs him. Would he like to go hunting? he asks Thor. He would, Thor announces. Cap asks him to get him one of those things. Thor replies he would have hunting partners. The Captain Marvel and, sadly, Stark. He is standing right here! Tony protests.
Soon the three are airborne. Iron Man warns of two defense west. Thor asks him for smoke to cover their actions. He asks Cap to strike with the ship and tells Stark he will be his dog. He’d complain about being called a dog, Stark remarks… but he has the hammer, Thor finishes.
The two Tabissara soldiers watch Captain Marvel in the air as she attacks one of those things. Thor strikes the second one with his hammer and it falls down. Where is his dog? Thor demands. Iron Man emits cables to drag the thing up with Captain Marvel’s help.
Something is wrong, Black Widow decides as they land the Quinjet. Cap tells her he wants her and Logan on the ground. Find someone to talk to. Does Clint know how to make a ground radar sweep happen? He says he can fly the plane, but…
Soon outside, Logan and Natasha stop a screaming man wearing a jacket with a Hereward logo. They just went insane, he bursts out. The ice harriers. They just dived through the ground. He needs a phone. How many? Natasha asks. Two, she is told. He babbles on. She cuts him off. They need to know how to stop or kill these things. He needs a phone, he insists. The consignment of S2 units landed in the United States an hour ago.
A giant creature emerges from the hole. Hawkeye fires blast arrows at it which explode after a set time. It works. He mocks Cap, wondering why he keeps pissing and moaning about this. Wolverine warns the man said there is more than one model. He thinks they got an extra problem.
Peering down, he announces he thinks the second one is spawning down there. He ain’t going down there. Black Widow asks the Hereford man for their fuel stores. She needs to burn babies while he goes to have a long chat with Captain America.
Cap later explains the things are fitted with a limiter that stopped them firing their weapons on base. The bad news is the updated S2s don’t have those limiters. The worse news is those models grow their munition internally. The worst news is the ice harriers S2s are on American soil. They are being stashed at a SHIELD ordnance depot. Coyle decoy field in New Jersey. Ninety miles from Manhattan.
Stark announces that he took a look inside one of these things and doesn’t understand yet a lot of what he saw. They don’t need to land, refuel or rearm. That’s why the new versions don’t have the limiters. These are endless war machines.
Clint sighs he needs more coffee. Why would anyone put these things into America? Why would SHIELD? And SHIELD would know where they come from. This isn’t “Oh no, we accidentally bought a shipment of Nazi space monster babies.”
Natasha reveals she is officially being stonewalled. Nobody at SHIELD will talk to her. And yes, she told people the Ice Harriers here went insane. Not even an acknowledgement that she was being heard. She has friends form over the border moving in to take care of the Hereward people. They’ll be fine, she adds when Cap asks about the other thing. They wasted all this time here, he sighs, when the damned things were right at home.
Tony points out that they aren’t detectives. He needs to give them a full rundown of his scans. They don’t all have giant hammers or the luxury of lucky shots. It was not a lucky shot, Thor replies insulted. They need to understand how to kill these things fast, Tony clarifies.
Have they decided on a full frontal assault on a SHIELD base? Carol asks. Did she miss a step here? Wolverine suggests they could just wait till the things go nuts, crap out a million baby monster eggs and eat everyone on the base. Or hang around until they fly up to New York and start digging. Carol retorts she didn’t say they shouldn’t do it, just that they should think about it. If the Avengers go straight in, SHIELD will fire at them. And they will fire while the Avengers are still in the air. His fast healing would be challenged by a five thousand foot drop or a missile up his ass.
SHIELD ain’t giving them a choice, Logan shrugs unimpressed. And that’s the point, Cap adds. Possibly, Natsaha muses. Possibly they need to ask why a device tested in a war theater and deemed safe enough went crazy today.
Prattle! Thor scoffs. And the Quinjet is too slow! He steps out into the air and flies ahead. Cap orders Tony after him. Tony explains he has him clocked at Mach 32. He has no chance and neither does anyone else here.
Carol asks if they have another Quinjet at the tower. Thor is fast but on a bad line. She can draw them a better line but they might need another Quinjet after. She warns them to strap down. When she said “line,” she may have meant transatmospheric curve.
Thor reaches the base in New Jersey. He knows the creature sensed him and went crazy because of his presence. He hunts alone because he is too ashamed to do otherwise.
The creatures react to him. Damn me! he swears and hits them with lightening. However, this time they survive and surround him, battling him.
The Quinjet arrives. Captain Marvel and Iron Man jump out.
Inside, Hawkeye complains that the pilot jumped out and he still does not get to fly the plane. Natasha orders him not to whine.
Outside, Iron Man tries nanotech to explode one creature but fails.
Inside the jet, Clint tells Natasha she’ll need a bigger gun to come hunting. She’s flying a Quinjet, she replies. It is a bigger gun.
Logan, Clint and Cap leave the plane. Cap asks where Carol is. Air Force to the rescue, she jokes as she covers one of the beasts that is about to attack Cap.
Cap tells Wolverine they can’t let one of them escape. They are a hundred miles from Manhattan. So he needs him to kill something, because Cap is the only saint of World War II, Logan retorts. Wolverine tears it apart with his claws.
Carol has caught Iron Man who can barely move. However, he can fire his blaster at two of the things, with Carol propping up his arms.
On the ground, Cap, Hawkeye and an exhausted Thor find they have the company of some pissed off and armed SHIELD agents. Cap tells Hawkeye to amuse them and Thor to get back to the Quinjet. They know him, Thor replies. Him probably too, Cap realizes. They hunt, Thor insists and calls Mjolnir to his side.
When one of the creatures is about to attack, Cap throws his shield at him which becomes embedded. He suggests Thor get it back. After they gather up Wolverine, they fly back to Avengers Tower.
Cap admits maybe the thing did smell Thor but they are going to have artificial intelligence in there. Maybe some combination of ancestral memory and threat mapping. Maybe when one of them learns something they all learn it, Tony suggests. Which would be interesting because none of them would ever be safe from the creatures again. By interesting he means, they are all going to die.
Wolverine muses maybe the Nazis were building something to kill Cap and his World War Two pals. What if all that needed to happen was Cap and Thor never going near them? Maybe they were coded for Cap and the flesh parts remembered Thor. What if it was all about the two of them all along?
Stark points out it was still the 40ies. He bets they couldn’t differentiate between Cap and another super soldier program result like Wolverine. Or any of them. Except for Hawkeye, because he’s a circus act. And the only people who want to kill circus acts are people who have been to the circus.
So they are looking at intelligent drones that try to kill anyone a bit different and try to make more of themselves. That’s gonna go great in New York City, Carol predicts. When are they gonna tell SHIELD about this?
Natasha figures they already know. She works there part of the time and she doesn’t trust them that much. Maybe if she were SHIELD and stashing these things a hundred miles away, she’d be sending a message about people like them living in New York. A message she thinks? Cap asks.
Several SHIELD vessels hover in the air above them. Suddenly, a small man is thrown out of one onto the roof. Are they trying to make him angry? he protests. Stupid question. Forget it, Robert Bruce Banner chuckles and greets his sometime teammates.
The Avengers are wary. Cap asks him how he is feeling. Here’s the thing, Bruce explains. Back at the SHIELD lab, they check his blood twice daily for Hulk cells. And the other guy is due an appearance pretty much any time now. Which is why he got lifted out of his lab and dropped here like a bomb.
Thor bristles at the perceived threat. Banner snaps that is the sort of thing he doesn’t need right now because the other guy will show up and shove it down his neck. Can they do the next bit like adults maybe? Cap agrees and reminds him they are all friends here.
Bruce continues there is a whole speech he is supposed to recite and they’ve got some sort of super microphone on him. They are supposed to forget today ever happened. They are not supposed to investigate, hassle or otherwise tamper with America’s partners in outsourced peace. They get that the Avengers are all upset about Nazis and the like. They’d like to remind them that Wernher von Braun was a Nazi and the US still let him put them on the Moon.
He’s also supposed to remind them that Tony was a weapons designer and Bruce himself built a gamma bomb which he thinks is supposed to mean he is worse than the Nazis.
He is supposed to say this: that the Avengers bring more trouble to New York City than they solve and them not being here isn’t always good for Manhattan either. They can’t work on the basis that the Avengers will always be here to save the city or clean up their own messes. So… these drones. SHIELD’s New York City defense system.
Tony scoffs those things go nuts at a moment’s notice. If they bring up his weaponeer past they can at listen to his expertise. Bruce reminds him he is just the messenger. They want them to either stand down or pick a fight. They know what the other guy is like. As sane as he can be, it’s the last guy that pissed him off that gets it in the neck.
So that’s the deal? Cap summarizes. They walk away or Bruce stands in front of them till the bomb goes up? Something like that, Bruce agrees and asks how bad these things are. They can’t be controlled, Cap replies. This whole thing is about massacre prevention. Bruce asks how they intend to deal with this. Cap explains they intend to go where they are manufactured and shut them down.
Cap is a bit annoyed when Bruce opens his shirt. Bruce explains he went to the bathroom before they took him away. Stuck a bunch of clonidine patches on. For relieving hypertension. He’s good for another couple of hours. Didn’t like the idea of being used as a bomb. Think they can get to where they are going before he goes off?
The Avengers get ready. Wolverine tells the Widow this is nuts. They are getting into something that would resolve itself once SHIELD’s drones kill a buncha people. Natasha sarcastically agrees. They should all try to be like him. Much better to be dumb animals. Nothing expected of them, right?
In another room: Well that’s an interesting story, Bruce remarks. Dragons and Nazis. Oh my. Is he sure he wants to do this? Cap asks. He likes it when his little episodes count for something, Bruce replies. He’s not stupid. He knows they are using him as a bomb too. But this day he chooses where he gets dropped.
They leave and Hawkeye sighs happily as he flies the plane. Cap reveals the plan to the others which is him and Thor heading right in and telling their foes they are destroying the factory, giving them a way out.
Carol and Natasha consider this demented and tactically appalling. Cap replies they have to give them a chance and they have to settle this. They would also like to know what transpired after they left, Thor adds. Carol protests angrily and Natasha points out they have Bruce Banner at the verge of an episode and he’s being talked at by Tony.
In the cockpit, Tony suggests a technological solution to Bruce’s problem like an implant. He thinks cutting into him is going to go well? Bruce asks. Some kind of regulation device that controls the Hulk cells, Tony adds. He could even control it. He wants to put a Hulk app into him? Bruce asks. The Stark-Hulk-o-matic, Tony muses.
Bruce suggests if he changes color that means he likes the idea and Tony should remain sitting next to him. They are all going to die! Natasha spells out.
Soon, they have reached Skrettlandet. The complex on the island starts to change. Someone else want to fly the plane? Clint asks hopefully as they are fired at. Carol orders Tony back and announces they are going to give Thor enough coverage for him to get himself and Cap down there. When Cap protests, Carol tells him he is outranked.
Carol and Iron Man fly outside. Doesn’t she always tell people she is a Captain when she-- he begins. Carol tells him she could shoot him right now and would get a medal. So how are they doing this? he asks. The same way as always. With lots of explosions.
Aboard the plane, Bruce warns he needs to get down sooner rather than later. Wolverine tells Cap to go. He’ll take care of him. One way or another. Natasha takes over the plane since Clint is working too slowly for her taste.
Carol and Iron Man attack the gun towers and Thor flies himself and Cap inside the complex. There, they see two shapes waiting behind an automatic door. Seems simple, Cap remarks. Thor suggest sometimes hunters are still to draw their prey out. As the door opens, they keep their weapons ready. Inside, they are greeted by two identically dressed young people who introduce themselves as Alex Herne and Debra Lightfoot, the grandchildren of the soldiers Cap knew. Debra explains they went into business together after World War II. First their parents and then they continued the company.
Outside, Captain Marvel and Iron Man are fighting for their lives.
Alex explains their grandfathers knew two things: There was a treasure in the Skrekkladdet pit and war was never going away. They enjoyed the war. They loved it. Cap protests they were good men. Good men don’t enjoy war. All kinds of men and women enjoy war, Debra replies. They also understand war as a profit engine.
Thor slams the table with Mjolnir and orders them to take them to their forges, that he may make the Nidhogg extinct! They don’t get it, Alex continues. What their grandfathers saw here showed them there would never be not war. The world is stranger than they can imagine, Debra explains, and it will always be at war. And the story handed down two generations is that Captain America taught them that. An island that breeds munitions and evolves to the point where it now produces aerial drones? They owe it all to him.
Not too far away, Bruce Banner painfully changes into the Hulk.
They were born here, Alex continues. They are woven into Skrekklandet and Skrekklandet is woven into the world. The faces of the two young people tear off, revealing a technorganic horror, even as weapons grow from the walls. They remember them both. Their real causes. Their real parents. More of the creatures burst from the walls and surround Cap and Thor.
That moment, the Hulk bursts in and tears into the creatures. After having finished them all, he informs his fellow Avengers they are stupid. Hulk is smartest one of all. He turns to the door when suddenly the creatures regroup.
Outside, Iron Man complains he’s fallen and can’t get up. Firing at the creatures, Captain Marvel tells him nothing new there. Just keep firing. He thinks he’s peed his suit. Nothing new there. Keep firing.
Help comes courtesy of an explosive arrow as Hawkeye, Black Widow and Wolverine join them after having put the Quinjet on hover and jumping out.
Logan points the paralyzed and protesting Iron Man toward the creatures, asking him to take thermal and motion takes of the building. He’s got Cap and Thor and Bruce and a lot of electromechanical activity. Two other near-human signals on a basement level. No workers or staff. Nothing here except – more creatures burst from the ground and surround them.
Shooting at them, Natasha mercilessly asks Tony if he is going to fight. Or is he going to lie there, thinking of a new food substitute to patent? Cascade failure, he replies. He couldn’t stand up in this thing right now if they paid him. Who said anything about standing up? she scoffs. God, you people! What people? he asks. They are all the same, she replies. Thor’s still waiting for his daddy to hug him. Steve’s still waiting for World War Two to end and Tony still acts like he‘s nothing but a man in a can. Fight! she orders. That moment, her leg is strafed. She’s got two, she tells a concerned Tony and resumes firing. Stop whining and get to work! she orders. He tries to find out what these things are.
Not far away, Hulk tears into the creatures. Thor is concerned that they are merely reacting. They are fighting the smoke, not the fire, he tells Cap. What they are looking for must be underground.
The crater they overflew! Cap shouts at the Hulk, who incredulously asks if he is to smash a crater now. Oh for— Cap begins to swear. Ha, Hulk chuckles, they are all stupid. He takes off. Make a hole! Cap orders Thor. The thunder god complies.
Outside, the others are surrounded. Sounds like Thor lost his temper, Natasha observes. He can very angrily mop up their remains with his hammer in thirty seconds, Hawkeye predicts. Still lying on the ground, Iron Man tells them to give him a little space. He needs to make the drones light up. Suddenly, the creatures’ eyes begin to glow and they drop.
Tony explains the raw material are 1944 technology. They still programmed and commanded stuff by radio. He’s saying he turned them off? Hawkeye asks. He used to build weapons, Tony reminds him. Finding a way to turn them off is literally the second thing you do.
They look at the building and something detonates inside. They want to check that out? Natasha suggests. Carol offers to carry her. Natasha offers to hit her.
The Hulk jumps into the crater and destroys the giant creature in there.
Thor and Cap descend to find Wolverine, who tells them he did what they should have been doing. He used Stark to find out who else was in here. He found ‘em prepping an escape vessel. He made ‘em tell him who they were. Then he killed them. Then he stood over them to make sure they were dead. Look at how he looks at him, he sneers at Cap. He is not a “good soldier,” right? He turns to Thor and tells him not to even talk to him. Logan ain’t noble enough. But he knows how to hunt. You make sure of your kill so it can’t get up and bite you. Same way you end a war. He turns away. All he did was the things neither of them did. So they look at him any way they like!
Captain Marvel flies down to look for the Hulk. She finds the dead techno organic monstrosity and finally Bruce Banner crouching there. Sorry, he informs her, the other guy took off. He killed it. But Bruce felt him realize something in its last moments. It didn’t want to be alive anymore anyway. It was something that got turned into a weapon. Whatever else it had been once. Maybe Thor’s evil dragon. But the other guy looked at it in its last few seconds and saw something that had been made into a bomb that just kept going off.
He buries his face in his hands. He’s got to hand it to them. They finally made something that cured him of a Hulk episode. They made him sick. He asks her to get him out of here or kill him. He can’t believe he did that. Propping him up, Carol points out Bruce didn’t do that. The Hulk did that, it wasn’t him. Tears in his eyes, he asks if she doesn’t get it after all those years: It’s always him!
The Avengers leave and Cap muses that the future is a foreign country. All the things he loved are buried in a century past, and all the things he hated never died. It had occurred to him, more than once, that World War Two was some tarry quicksand that never stopped trying to drag him under the ground where he belonged.
Thor stayed behind. He said he needed to conclude things and make amends. He wore that particular expression that meant that once again he was returning to that mythic home of his, and once again not as the conquering hero of his dreams.
Captain America looks down on the island and sees Thor standing there, surrounded by a wild display of lightning that tears the island apart.
Hakweye sits down opposite Cap and asks where Bruce is. Throwing up, Cap replies. He remembers their names. Bob Herne and Johnny Lightfoot. He thought they were brave men. Maybe they were just in love with war. Maybe ware drove them crazy. He’s seen that happen. He’s glad it’s finally over.
“Over,” Clint echoes. Okay, ice harriers didn’t get deployed over New York City, so they didn’t get the chance to go nuts and New York didn’t get destroyed. No more Ice Harriers means they won’t be deployed in places like Slorenia anymore. So they’ll go back to the old kind of drones which are dumb machines but manage to kill as many people. And SHIELD will figure out some other way to discretely murder the Avengers in case they get all uppity one day.
He ignores Steve’s attempt to interrupt. And every lunatic with a lab in the western world will be trying to fill the weapons gap they just made. It never ends Steve. Only old people think things end.
They won, didn’t they? Cap asks. He still doesn’t get it, does he? Clint scoffs. They avenge the dead. Sometimes that means Cap. He died in World War Two, remember? And then he came back. When Cap talks all that crap about them being there for each other, never for a minute does he think they are Avengers because of him. They don’t get to win the war. But he died and came back and that lets them believe they can at least win some of the battles.
He gets up. Who knows? Maybe that’ll be enough. Also, Steve is old. And Steve smiles slightly.
Black Widow, Captain America, Captain Marvel VI, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Wolverine (all Avengers)Jarvis
Ara, Savh (Tabissara members)SHIELD agents
Agent of Hereward
Alex Hern, Debra LightfootDrones
Via comm: Pepper Potts
FlashbackCaptain America, Thor
Herne, Lightfoote, other GIs
Slorenia is a fictional Eastern European country that became independent during the dissolution of the USSR.
Iron Man and Force Works were involved in toppling the Communist Tabissara government in Force Works #11-12.
Hawkeye and Black Widow used to be a couple for some time
Wunderwaffe is German for miracle weapon.
Geritol most likely refers to the Geritol tonic, introduced as an iron and multimineral supplement. While this was meant to be a joke at Steve Rogers regarding the era in which he grew up, Geritol tonic, which became famous due to its heavy advertisement in early television, didn’t come around until the 1950s, after Steve was on ice, and waned in popularity by the late 1970s, before Steve’s return (in terms of Marvel’s “sliding” timeline).