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1st Story: Howard Mackie (writer/plotter), Ajames Brock (penciler/plotter), Roy Richardson (inker), Jack Morelli (letterer)
2nd Story: Dwayne McDuffie (writer), Dwayne Turner (penciler), Chris Ivy (inker), Rick Parker (letterer)
Mike Rockwitz (colorist), Evan Skolnick (assistant editor), Gregory Wright (managing editor), Mark Gruenwald (editor), Tom DeFaclo (editor-in-chief)
Hawkeye visits the injured Dollar Bill in hospital, although Dollar Bill was hoping for assistance from Daredevil, he shows Hawkeye a video recording of the show he films with the odd Madcap. In the footage, Hawkeye sees Madcap performing strange stunts in an alleyway, before being attacked by some super-powered enhanced men with weapons for hands. Dollar Bill seeks Hawkeye's assistance in finding Madcap, and Hawkeye agrees. Hawkeye tracks the men who kidnapped Madcap to a punk club called the Scuzz. Before long, he finds himself falling into a basement, where he is confronted by the men who kidnapped Madcap, and Madcap hanging upside down. Hawkeye battles the men, and the female member of their group called the Power Tools, while a scientist hidden in a room nearby is frustrated that his henchmen didn't capture Daredevil for him. Madcap is freed by Hawkeye, although in the process experiences some physical pain, which is not something that ordinarily happens to him, and battles the woman, called Handsaw – who slices off his arwm. Hawkeye breaks into the room where the scientist is hiding – the scientist is Dr Karl Malus, formerly of Power Broker Inc, who is furious that Hawkeye has ruined his chance to learn the secret of Daredevils' athletic prowess, and the invulnerability of Madcap. Malus initiates a self-destruct, and after Madcap uses a hypnotic suggestion on Handsaw, forcing her to fight her teammates, while Hawkeye and Madcap escape as the self-destruct counts down. They reach the safety of outside, only for Madcap to return to the basement to retrieve his severed arm. He escapes unharmed, but once again feeling a strange pain. After re-attaching his arm, he leaves in search of Karl Malus, while Hawkeye laments that Daredevil was not able to sort this out.
As super powered criminals begin to arrive back at the Vault following the assault on the super hero community, Iron Man supervises the training of the Vault Guardsmen and their new armor. Dozens of criminals are returned to the Vault, and Iron Man and Captain America have words as they watch over the returning villains, before the Avengers depart, leaving Iron Man to continue with his supervision work. When the Wizard arrives at the Vault, Iron Man is attacked by Klaw, enabling the Wizard to get to his briefcase containing his costume. Iron Man battles the solid-sound creatures that Klaw creates, and is eventually able to defeat Klaw. The Wizard puts up a fight, until one of the Guardsmen confronts him – and captures him. The Guardsman takes the Wizard into a room full of other Guardsmen, where he removes his helmet, revealing himself as Frank Ensign, the Guardsman that the Wizard nearly killed when he broke out of the Vault. Frank then knocks the Wizard out, and he is later placed in a cell, resigned to his existence here at the Vault.
'Mr Bill, I think Hawkeye here is just the man to help you' a doctor smiles as Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye enters a room within a hospital. 'Him? Who the heck is he?' the patient, sitting up in the hospital bed, with one arm in a sling and dark glasses covering his eyes, asks. 'He's not Daredevil! I specifically asked for Daredevil! I didn't think it was too much to ask!' the patient, who is known by the name Dollar Bill, exclaims, before asking 'What did you say your name was again?' Hawkeye introduces himself and explains that he is an Avenger. 'You have heard of the Avengers, I presume? Captain America, Iron Man, Thor... we've saved the world a few dozen times, and -' Hawkeye begins, before Dollar Bill reaches behind himself and mutters 'Yeah, yeah, yeah! I read the papers sometimes!' and complains that he supposes Hawkeye will have to do.
Dollar Bill holds up a videotape and announces that his boss needs help – quickly. He informs Hawkeye that everything he needs to know is on the tape, before asking Hawkeye if he has ever heard of the “Madcap Comedy Hour”. 'Not really' Hawkeye replies, before Dollar Bill explains that it is a Cable TV show here in New York, and is real popular with the yuppies. 'You sure you're an Avenger?' Dollar Bill asks. 'I've been out of town for a while' Hawkeye mutters, before suggesting they go to the videotape. Dollar Bill then throws the tape at Hawkeye.
on videotape recording.
Flames surround the mysterious Madcap, who sings a song about burning up for love, while grinning widely. Madcap is standing in a large drum which several homeless people are gathered around to keep warm as they huddle in an alleyway. Madcap addresses the camera, greeting his audience, he explains that he is deep in the heart of Hell's Kitchen, looking for his old buddy, Daredevil. 'Wish he'd make an appearance so we can put this show in the can' Madcap adds, before leaping from the burning drum, declaring that if Daredevil is not going to show up, then he might as well get out of this can. 'I go through more costumes this way' he jokes, tossing his burnt hat away, he remarks to a wide-eyed homeless woman 'Pardon my appearance, madam, but I assure you – it's quite temporary!'
Madcap removes his clothing, save for his boxer shorts, and rubs his body down with a cloth, announcing that he is as good as new – not that he was too good to begin with. He explains that it is all part of these pointless powers he acquired after an accident with a tractor trailer. The young man begins to change into another costume and remarks that he doesn't know why he was the only one to survive, doesn't know why he got these stupid powers – all he does know is that nothing really matters – life is just a cosmic practical joke played on them all. Madcap tells his audience that the point of this week's show is the same as that of every other week – there is no point to anything!
Suddenly, a dark van appears in the alleyway and two men step from the van. 'Except... maybe... for that guy's head!' Madcap exclaims, motioning to the new arrivals, before he bounds towards them, deciding to take a closer look. Madcap greets the two men who wear matching dark khaki-colored suits with white shirts, and shades covering their eyes. He welcomes them to the Madcap Comedy Hour and asks them what he can do for, to or on them. 'You're coming with us – now!' the blond man exclaims. Madcap turns to the camera and motions at the men, 'Ooh-whoo! I'm going with them! Tough-guys, aren't they?' he remarks, adding 'As though I'm going to interrupt my show for two rejects from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie! What a laugh -' before the blond man reaches out and grabs Madcap by his neck. 'Guess that's all for this week, folks!' the blond man remarks into the camera, before he drops Madcap to the ground and begins punching him off screen. Madcap gasps for breath and calls out 'Until we meet again, this is Madcap and Dollar Bill saying -' Madcap begins, but doesn't finish his sentence as the other man smashes a large hammer into the camera.
Dollar Bill announces that those hand guys bounced him around pretty good, and then drove off with Madcap. He adds that he knows Madcap appears to be obnoxious and a menace to society – which he is – but he isn't too bad a guy, and he is about to sign a deal for the show to go syndicated. 'You think you think you can help him?' Dollar Bill asks. Hawkeye turns away and smirks while replying 'I can try'. Dollar Bill exclaims 'Gee, thanks! I don't know what I'd do without you, Mr Eye' before quietly asking the doctor if he is sure he doesn't know where Daredevil hangs out.
Later that night, Hawkeye stands opposite a nightclub called Scuzz. He watches the club and thinks to himself that whoever kidnapped Madcap is no genius – it was the simplest thing in the world to trace the license plate of the van which was in plain sight on the video straight to this club. He enters the club and looks around at the punk-like patrons and wonders if it was time he changed his costume – in this crowd, he is dressed downright conservatively. He takes a seat at the bar and wonders who would have thought he could do some undercover work dressed like this! 'What'll it be, sweet-cheeks?' a large woman with pink hair working behind the bar asks. 'Sweet-cheeks?' the shocked Hawkeye utters. The woman tells him that she ain't got all day, and that this ain't no museum. 'Whatta ya drinking?' she asks. Hawkeye replies that he will have the specialty of the house. 'One house special coming up -' the woman announces as she pulls one of the bar taps, which suddenly causes the chair Hawkeye is sitting on to fall backwards, and he falls through a panel that slides open in the floorboards. '- or should I say, going down?' the woman behind the bar jokes.
Hawkeye is caught be surprise, and realizing he has no time to think, he positions himself so that he lands on his feet, and grabs his bow and arrow in the process, holding them ready to fire. Hawkeye glances behind him and discovers Madcap hanging from a shackle connected to the ceiling. 'Hello there!' Madcap calls out. 'I'd say it was nice of you to “drop in” but that would be predictable – and I hate being predictable' he adds. 'Madcap, I presume?' Hawkeye asks. 'Never presume! When you presume, you make a pres out of you and me!' Madcap jokes. 'A what?' Hawkeye asks, turning around to see the two men from the video recording have surrounded him, along with another man. 'Okay, chump... the doctor will see you and your freaky buddy now' one of them announces, before telling Hawkeye ti put the arrow away.
Hawkeye glances to one of the walls in the room, where he can hear a voice projected over an intercom: 'No! No! No! You fools! He's not Daredevil! I told you I wanted Daredevil!' It is vital to my experiments that I have Daredevil! Kill him...and bring me Daredevil!' the voice instructs the men. 'Gee, everyone's so picky today!' Hawkeye frowns. 'Funny you should say pick, bowman – the name's Pick Axe! My buddies are Vice and Triphammer. The Dame's Handsaw!' the blond man from the video declares as he lunges towards Hawkeye – his left hand appears to be in the form of a large axe. Pick Axe adds that he doesn't know why Hawkeye is here, and frankly, he doesn't care – the boss says to kill him, which means he is as good as dead. Hawkeye kicks the man with curly hair and a right hand in the form of a vice in the stomach as he fires an arrow across the room and replies 'Don't take this wrong – what was the name again? Nose Picker? Well, I've heard all this before – and I'm still around to take out you and all your handymen!'
The arrow darts around Triphammer as it releases a sonic pulse, causing Triphammer to clutch his ear with his human hand, as Hawkeye uses his bow to block Pick Axe's attack, as Pick Axe brings his axe-hand down towards Hawkeye. Hawkeye then pushes forward, slamming his bow into Pick Axe's face. Hawkeye calls out to Madcap and tells him to hang loose – no pun intended – and that he will have him free before you can say Avoirdupois. Hawkeye fires two arrows at the cables restraining Madcap – the arrows pierce through the cables, but in the process Madcap is shocked by a powerful surge of energy. He cries out, but drops to the ground and smiles, 'That actually tingled!' he jokes, before thanking Hawkeye. 'Allow me to lend you a – hand?' Madcap begins, before his right hand is sliced off by a saw connected to the woman called Handsaw. 'You ain't gonna be lending nobody nothing, shmo!' Handsaw exclaims.
'Disarming little woman, aren't we?' Madcap replies, turning to Handsaw, smiling he tells her that, as a matter of fact, he only has eyes for her. Handsaw grins and tells him that it was a nice try, but the Doc knows all about his freaky eyes – which is why she is wearing these glasses, which will prevent them all from going looney. Handsaw then lunges at Madcap and tells him to stand still while she slices him, but Madcap leaps up and away from Handsaw. 'Toro toro, you big bully!' Madcap exclaims. Hawkeye looks over to the wall, where a large window can be seen as the mysterious doctor calls out over the intercom 'KILL THEM! KILL THEM!' Hawkeye fires an arrow towards the window, 'Put a lid on it, pal! I'm not going to die until I learn who's behind the curtain!' Hawkeye exclaims, joking that he will bet that it isn't the great and powerful Oz.
The window crashes inwards, and the mysterious doctor ducks for cover, before he turns and looks out the window. He wears a white jacket and has dark hair – he introduces himself as Dr Karl Malus, formerly of Power Broker Inc. Dr Malus complains that Hawkeye has ruined his chance to learn the secret of Daredevil's uncanny athletic prowess and the invulnerability of the clownish freak Madcap. 'You will pay – you will all pay – NOW!' Dr Malus shouts, as a prerecorded voice announces a self-destruct sequence. Hawkeye decides that he better wrap this up. 'Have a nice Trip-Hammer – see you next fall!' Hawkeye jokes as he extends his leg out behind Triphammer, knocking him over. 'Say your prayers, little man!' Handsaw snarls as she grabs Madcap by his throat and raises her saw-hand above her head. 'Okee-dokee!' Madcap replies, before reaching out and removing Handsaw's glasses, he then declares 'Now I lay me down, you sneak – into my eyes I hope you'll peek – if you'll look real real deep – you'll discover killer sheep!' Madcap tells her, as Handsaw's eyes suddenly turn blood-shot.
With 30 seconds left until self-destruct, the Power Tools regroup and gather around Hawkeye, who raises his bow and arrow. Hawkeye tells them that he will put his bow and arrow away if they put away their hands – then they can all get out of here before this place blows sky high. But suddenly, Handsaw lunges towards her teammates, 'BAAA – kill!' she shouts, dropping down on Vice, repeating 'Kill...kill...' over and over again. There is only 20 seconds left, and Madcap declares that it is time to run. 'Sorry about Saw-Girl! My powers usually make people have fun. Her brain must be warped!' Madcap exclaims as he makes a run for it. Hawkeye decides that he best get out of here himself. He looks into the lab where Dr Malus was, but finds it empty. He turns back to the Power Tools, but discovers they have taken off, too. Hawkeye follows Madcap out of the basement beneath the Scuzz Club, and tells Madcap to keep going, as the place is going to blow.
'Oops' Madcap remarks, looking down at his severed arm, he turns back to the Scuzz Club, announcing that he can't leave without his arm – he knows it like the back of his hand. 'Madcap, no – you'll be -' Hawkeye calls out, before the basement beneath the Scuzz Club explodes. Hawkeye shields himself from the explosion, before frowning, thinking that no one could have survived that. 'He was annoying, but he could kind of grow on you...too bad he -' Hawkeye thinks to himself, when suddenly, he goes wide-eyed, as a voice shouts 'YOWIE! YOWIE! YOWIE!' - it's Madcap, who emerges from the Scuzz Clubb, most of his costume has been burnt away, he reconnects his severed arm and tells Hawkeye that something about the doctor's machinery made him feel tingly again when it blew, and decides that he has to find him. Hawkeye holds his mouth, retching at the smell of Madcap's charred flesh. Madcap then leaps off, calling out 'Oh, Karl! Where are you, good doctor?' Hawkeye frowns and motions at Madcap while asking 'Why me? Why not Daredevil?'
This is “The Vault”, the United States government's maximum security installation for the incarceration of superhuman criminals. A few weeks ago, five of the world's most evil men, unwittingly led by the Asgardian God of Evil, launched an all-out terrorist assault on Earth's super heroes. Their first movie was to engineer a mass escape from this previously impregnable prison complex – but while the first move in their scheme was successful, ultimately their Acts of Vengeance failed. In the meantime, the vault has been repaired, and Iron Man was just unveiled his plan to keep the Vault from ever being breached again. 'Well, gentlemen, what do you think?' Iron Man asks as he stands before several unarmored Guardsmen, while a re-designed green Guardsman armor stands alongside Iron Man.
Iron Man informs the Guardsmen that this is Tony Stark's latest invention, the Guardsmen Mark I armored environmental suit, and that once they have mastered it, they will be more than a match for any super-powered prisoner who dares challenge them. 'All right!' one of the Guardsmen exclaims. Iron Man announces that the rest of the suits are still in the loading dock, and tells the Guardsmen that after he has familiarized them all with the new armor's systems, they will go down and suit-up. Iron Man adds that unlike the old suits, these run by extremely short-range broadcast power, and that power strips run throughout this complex. Iron Man informs the Guardsmen that their new suits have only a fifteen-minute reserve power supply but the extra space this leaves in their armor allowed Mr Stark to add several new weapons systems. 'And the broadcast power systems'll keep the new armor from ever being used outside of these walls' Iron Man thinks to himself. Suddenly, another Guardsman enters the room and reports that the prisoners are starting to come in. Iron Man excuses himself and suggests to the Guardsmen that they study the specification books until he returns.
Outside, members of the Avengers – Captain America, Quasar, Thor, Wonder Man, the Wasp, and the Vision, along with the Fantastic Four's Thing and Human Torch are supervising the transfer of the dozens of super-villains captured in the past few weeks. Some are escapees from this prison, others are here for the first time. Among them are Titania, Flying Tiger, Eel, Nekra, Quill, Rhino, Absorbing Man, Screaming Mimi and Angar the Screamer. All of them have discovered that, whether served hot or cold, vengeance is a bitter dish, indeed.
Several hours later, a jet takes off and Captain America tells Iron Man that it is the Fantastic Four leaving. 'Now that we've got all of the prisoners safely behind bars, the rest of the Avengers are about to take off, too' Cap adds, before assuring Iron Man that he would be glad to stay behind and help him with the other prisoners who will be coming in today. Iron Man tells Cap that there is no need, as once he has the Guardsmen up and running, they will be able to handle it all by themselves. 'I know that... your boss... feels responsible for the jail break here. Could you tell him for me that we appreciate the work he's done to make this place secure again?' Cap asks. 'He'll get the message' Iron Man replies. 'I imagine he will' Cap mutters as he runs to join the other Avengers who are preparing to depart in the Quinjet. 'I've gotta work on my cover story' Iron Man decides, watching the Quinjet take off, with Thor, Wonder Man and the Vision flying alongside it.
Later, Iron Man is finishing up giving the Guardsmen some information about their new armor's primary systems. He suggests they suit up and take the armor for a spoin, when an announcement reports that a retriever vehicle is arriving and that there is a prisoner on deck. Iron Man remarks that this should be the last interruption and tells the Guardsmen that they will be ready to handle the next one themselves, as he rushes out to the deck.
Waiting on the deck are several soldiers who carry rifles and stand around a man in grey overalls. One of the soldiers tells Iron Man that they have caught the Wizard. Hands tied behind his back, the Wizard thinks to himself 'They didn't catch me; I teleported right into their transport vehicle!' He assumes that Loki did something to his teleportation system. 'This clown popped into the back seat of our ship, with his costume locked in a briefcase on his lap' another of the soldiers adds. Iron Man takes the briefcase from one of the soldiers. 'This whole thing was a little too easy. It stinks of a tr-' Iron Man begins, before he is attacked with a surge of energy that slams into him and knocks him over.
The villain known as the Klaw appears behind Iron Man and tells the Wizard that they are getting out of here. 'And you're gonna show me where my share of the money is' the Klaw declares. The wizard grabs his briefcase as Klaw tells him to hurry up and get his costume on, but the Wizard struggles to get the briefcase open. Klaw throws his arms up and tells the Wizard to take his time – as Iron Man is no match for his power. Iron Man gets to his feet and recalls that Klaw claims to be composed of “living sound”. Two large triceratops created by the sound rush towards Iron Man, who decides that Klaw's constructs look awfully solid – before both of the sound-triceratops slam into him, and knock Iron Man into the air.
'Yeah, definitely solid' Iron Man realizes as he sits up and watches as the sound-triceratopss stampede towards him. He decides that these are no match for his repulsor rays to lock onto, and using a harmonic analysis is able to lock onto the sound-triceratops, and releases a uni-beam that projects an interference pattern, which causes the triceratops to lose their cohesiveness, and fade away. Iron Man turns back to Klaw and the Wizard and decides to give them a little taste of the same medicine. Klaw looks back at Iron Man and remarks to the Wizard that Iron Man is more powerful than he thought. 'So let's just see how powerful that is!' Klaw exclaims as he releases a large sound-fist that slams into Iron Man and knocks him over yet again. Iron Man tells himself that he hasn't been hit that hard since he fought the Wrecker, and decides not to fool around with Klaw.
Iron Man initiates a fourier analysis, and his scan indicates that Klaw is an extremely complex set of sinusoidal components, so it will take a moment to solve this. 'I'm coming for you, Iron Man!' Klaw shouts, while Iron Man's scan struggles to find the frequency – until suddenly: 'Got it!' Iron Man exclaims, and releases a beam that slams into Klaw and takes the villain out. Iron Man wonders where the Wizard has gone, but to his surprise the Wizard has opened his briefcase and is now in his costume, 'Right here, Iron Man!' the wizard calls out. Iron Man tells him to give it up – and he isn't going to tell him again. Suddenly, 'Back off, Iron Man' a voice calls out – its one of the Guardsmen, who walks over to the Wizard and declares 'The Wizard belongs to me!' Iron Man asks the Guardsman if he can handle him, then the Wizard is all his.
'You dare send another one of these toys at me? I'll turn this one into scrap just like I did the last -' the Wizard begins as he uses some sort of energy-enhanced punch against the Guardsman, but the Guardsman throws up an energy-dampening field to block the attack. He then grabs the Wizard by his wrists, 'And as for these power gloves...' he begins as he crushes the Wizard's hands and throws him against a wall. 'What else you got?' the Guardsman asks. 'Anti-gravity discs!' the Wizard responds as he hurls several discs at the Guardsman, who responds by blasting them with an energy beam. 'Say goodnight, Wizard!' the Guardsman declares as he grabs the Wizard by his shirt and slams his fist into the villain's helmet, knocking him out. The Guardsman turns to Iron Man and tells him that the armor is fantastic – as good as his. 'Don't you believe it' Iron Man replies.
Shortly, after the Wizard has been disarmed, the Guardsman leads the Wizard, who has been stripped down to his briefs, into a room where other Guardsmen are waiting. The Guardsmen tells his colleagues that the suit works. 'The suits do. But you wouldn't be any match for me man to man' the Wizard snarls. 'Is that so? Gimme a minute' the Guardsman replies, and suddenly, his armor peels away, revealing a man in a blue jumpsuit beneath the armor, he removes his helmet and asks the Wizard if he remembers him. 'My name's Frank Ensign. You almost killed me when you broke out of here' Frank exlcaims, before slamming his fist into the Wizard's face and knocking the villain out. 'What happened to him?' Iron Man asks as he enters the room. 'He fell down' Frank smiles.
This compound, it isn't Ryker's Island, or Alcatraz – this is the United States government's maximum security installation for the incarceration of super-human criminals. But those imprisoned here have another name for the place. They call it the Vault. And they are all but resigned to the one inalterable fact of their existence here – there is no escape. Clutching the bars to his cell, the Wizard narrows his eyes and frowns....
Handsaw, Pick Axe, Triphammer, Vice (all Power Tools)
Scuzz Club patrons and staff
Dollar Bill (unseen)
Triphammer, Vice (both Power Tools)
Captain America, Iron Man, Quasar, Thor, Vision, Wasp, Wonder Man
Human Torch II, Thing (both Fantastic Four)
Absorbing Man, Angar the Screamer, Eel, Flying Tiger, Klaw, Nekra, Quill, Rhino, Screaming Mimi, Titania, Wizard
Guardsman Prime / Frank Enssign
Dollar Bill was a supporting character in the original Defenders series, appearing in a number of issues from Defenders (1st series) #51 through to #75. He then appeared in Daredevil (1st series) #234 before his appearance this issue, which remains his final appearance to date.
These four members of the Power Tools have not appeared outside this issue.
The subplot about Malus's machinery causing Madcap pain and Madcap intending to find Malus was never followed up on.
This story ties into the “Acts of Vengeance” event.
The Guardsman Prime Frank Ensign was almost killed by the Wizard in Avengers Spotlight #26.