Avengers West Coast #55

Issue Date: 
February 1990
Story Title: 
The Breaking Strain (Acts of Vengeance Conclusion)

John Byrne (Writer & Penciler), Paul Ryan (Inker), Bill Oakley (Letterer), Bob Sharen (Colorist), David Wohl (Assistant Editor), Howard Mackie (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

The gathered Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hank Pym, Wasp, Hawkeye, Vision, Falcon, Mockingbird) learn that Thor is the culprit behind all of the attacks, while at the same time, Mandarin, Kingpin, Red Skull and the Wizard also learn that Loki has been duping them all along as he reveals himself to them. He Kingpin makes a quick getaway, while Loki imprisons the others. The Avengers discover where Loki is and engage him in battle, but Loki has many powers at his disposal. The Mandarin, Red Skull and the Wizard are free to escape while Loki’s attentions are on the Avengers, and the battle finally ends when Thor traps Loki beneath the ground. Thor points out that Loki is so bitter hat his actions years ago caused the formation of the Avengers that he thought a group of Earth’s most powerful villains could finish the Avengers off, but in fact it has only made their resolve stronger. Meanwhile, Immortus plays with time some more, only to discover that the Scarlet Witch is no longer centered within his trans-temporal scanner. This is because Magneto has her in space. Wonder Man and USAgent soon learn this from Agatha Harkness and travel into space to find Wanda – only for Wonder Man to be blown up. Hank Pym and the Wasp arrive back in Palos Verdes and the Wasp goes to check on Wanda, where she finds a troubled USAgent, then they are confronted by a deranged Scarlet Witch, boasting that she is going to kill them all.

Full Summary: 

High above the golden coastline of Southern California…out at the very edge of Earth’s atmosphere where the endless night begins and mother nature has allowed no place for life, the depths of space, where floats…a house. A normal, ordinary house in all respects except two – its location – and its occupants…two of the worlds most powerful and formidable mutants…Magneto, founder of the Brotherhood and his daughter, the legendary Avenger Wanda Maximoff, better known as the mighty Scarlet Witch!

Though Magneto is her father, there has never been a normal parent / child relationship between them. The Master of Magnetism looks at his daughter and notes that she is practically comatose, unresponsive, her mind closed down against the tragedies which have recently happened to her – not even Magneto using his powers to tear this house from its foundations and hurl it to the brink of space has penetrated the fog surrounding Wanda’s mind. Magneto decides that, clearly, time has come for a more direct approach, and putting a hand on his daughter’s shoulder, he calls out her name.

Meanwhile, at that very moment, three thousand miles away, in the high-tech catacombs of the East Coast Avengers headquarters, Thor, God of Thunder, speaks a single name – ‘LOKI!’ he exclaims, uttering the name of his wicked foster brother. The other Avengers in the conference chamber react to the news. Iron Man, Hank Pym and the Wasp of the Avengers West Coast, Captain America and the Vision of the Eastern Avengers, Hawkeye and Mockingbird of the Great Lakes Avengers, and Falcon, a former Avenger are present.

Captain America turns to Thor and asks him if he is sure of this. ‘Loki is the one behind the recent attacks on super heroes everywhere?’ Thor confirms this, remarking that he doesn’t know how his evil brother has coerced these villains into carrying out his will, but there can be no doubt that Loki is at the black heart of this. Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp announces that Cloak and Dagger told her it was Dr. Doom who is behind it all, while the android Vision remarks that the captured Wizard informed them that the convocation of villains was behind the recent unrest.

The handsome Clint “Hawkeye” Barton remarks that he and Mockingbird were on the Wizard’s trail. Clint’s wife Mockingbird a.k.a. Barbara “Bobbi” Morse-Barton adds that they would like to hear the story from the Wizard himself. Captain America tells Bobbi that it isn’t a problem as they haven’t turned the Wizard over to the police yet, so she and Hawkeye will find him in the number three holding cell.

There, the Wizard sits on a seat and thinks to himself that the Avengers are fools for thinking that stripping him of his helmet and gloves that they have stripped him of his powers, but hidden under a false thumbnail is the instrument that will regain his freedom. The Wizard reveals a miniature teleportation device which upon activation opens a dimensional portal allowing him to cross from the cell he is in to the central meeting chamber, as easily as stepping from one room to the next.

There, in the central meeting chamber, the Wizard sees the Red Skull holding up Dr. Doom’s mask, exclaiming that it is a highly sophisticated piece of work – though he would expect no less from a master of robotics. The Wizard asks what the meaning of all this is and what has happened to Dr. Doom. The crime lord known as the Kingpin replies that nothing has happened to Dr. Doom and remarks that it would seem the good Doctor was never a part f their group to begin with.

The Red Skull remarks that they do not know that for sure, and points out that Doom has used robot doubles in the past. The Mandarin agrees and suggests that they might have had the true Dr. Doom with them on some occasions but not on others. The Wizard glares at the Mandarin and declares that he is shocked to see him here after he cravenly abandoned him to the Avengers. ‘Do not blame me for your own shortcomings, Wizard!’ the Mandarin snaps back that when the tide of battle turned against them he withdrew and suggests that the Wizard should have done the same.

‘As I did – but not before I was subjected to sever interrogation at the hands of out foes!’ the Wizard shouts, adding that, naturally, he told them nothing, but had he not used the teleportation device to escape the cell – ‘WHAT?’ cries the well-dressed man standing back from the group, interrupting the Wizard before going over to him and shouting ‘Ignorant mortal! Say thou hast not done this thing!’ The Wizard is surprised by this sudden attack and orders the man to unhand him, calling him a lackey he asks ‘How dare you raise hand or voice to your better?’

‘Lackey, is it?’ the man asks, before tossing the Wizard easily across the chamber. Speaking with an Asgardian tone, the man exclaims that he has played the part of lackey while he created for all of them the perfect plan to destroy all the champions of Earth, but, for his efforts they have accomplished nothing – nothing that could not have been done more quickly and efficiently by the God of Evil himself! Loki has finally thrown down his disguise, revealing himself to the other villains. The Kingpin thinks to himself that this is an unexpected twist and decides to exercise the better part of valor by leaving quietly, while the Red Skull stands in shock by this revelation.

Meanwhile, as this revelation rocks the greatest criminal minds of this era, on this same day, April 14th, many decades ago, in Ford’s Theater, Washington City, in the Presidential Box…’What do you think of the play, Father?’ a rather unassuming woman asks the tall man sitting beside her. He takes her hand and replies ‘Very droll, Mother, very droll. I’m enjoying Harry Hawk especially’. The man turns to another man behind him, and addressing him as General asks what he thinks. ‘Most amusing, Mr. President!’ the General replies.

But as President Abraham Lincoln chuckles over the antics of the actors on the stage below, at his back, an actor of a different kind contemplates a tragedy in the making. Taking careful aim with the small pistol, John Wilkes Booth draws back the hammer – but the President reacts instinctively to the sound of the click and jumps up from his seat, ‘Thunderation!’ he exclaims, startling John Wilkes Booth who fires his gun into the air.

A few frenzied minutes later, a Colonel remarks to President Lincoln that it was very close. Watching the police take John Wilkes Booth away, the President remarks that he doubts that much of consequence would have happened. ‘The American people have not yet learned the art of killing Presidents. Not this President, at least’. President Lincoln turns to the General and asks ‘Well? Don’t have one of your philosophical remarks on this occasion?’

The General replies ‘Only this, Mr. Lincoln…I have long been an admirer of yours. Of your place in history. This is a divergence I almost wish I could leave undisturbed…’ The President is confused by that remark, but before he can say anything, he, and everyone around him, is engulfed by a brilliant light – except for the General, who re-enters his dimension known as Limbo, muttering that he is weary of this chase.

Immortus reveals himself, and remarks that it seems for every nanosecond since the dawn of time there are a billion alternate timelines. He declares that if he is to succeed in his goal to reinstate himself as the Master of Time he must accelerate the – Immortus’ is suddenly puzzled, and stops short in his sentence. Looking into his trans-temporal scanner, he sees that the Scarlet Witch is no longer centered within it.

Immortus exclaims that only a massive disruption of the Earth’s electromagnetic field could have displaced the focus and knows that he must relocate the Scarlet Witch at once otherwise all his years of scheming will be forfeit. Suddenly, the West Coast Avengers Wonder Man, alias Simon Williams, enters the scan field. Immortus wonders if it is possible the scanner has not drifted but somehow Wanda has been relocated without the scanner compensating.

Back on Earth, Wonder Man lands at the site where once stood a house and wonders what happened here. The aged witch, Agatha Harkness steps forward and informs Wonder Man that she will be able to answer that. Simon sees Wanda’s former tutor and exclaims ‘You were supposed to be watching over her while she was in her helpless condition!’ Holding her cat, Ebony, Agatha replies that she was doing just that when she was lured outside the cottage by the sound of an approaching visitor. Agatha reveals that the moment she stepped off the porch the house was torn from its base and hurled skyward faster than she could conjure a spell to stop it.

Wonder Man asks Agatha where the house has gone, when suddenly John Walker a.k.a. the handsome yet arrogant USAgent strides up beside him and informs his teammate that the house is up about thirty miles and down range about ten. Simon asks Agent if he was here too and why he didn’t do anything. ‘Not that I have to answer to you’ Walker begins, before informing Simon that he wasn’t here, but he just got back from dealing with the Mole Man’s monster just in time to see the last glimpse of the house as it headed skyward. Agent explains that he checked the Compound’s auto-mated tracking system and found out where the house went.

‘Then that’s all I need to know! I’m going –‘ Simon begins as he marches off, but Walker grabs him and tells him to “hold his horses”, assuring him that they will go after the Scarlet Witch, but that they will do it by the numbers, and with cool heads, adding that they will use one of the space-rigged Quinjet’s to get them there.

Shortly, Walker and Simon are streaking skyward in the Quinjet and Simon mutters ‘Well, this is a first! You being a calming influence in a situation, Agent!’ Walker tells Simon to belay the jabber and asks if he has a fix on the house. ‘Not yet’ Simon replies, remarking that the building is awfully small out here against the edge of space, when suddenly, the sensors at his console pick up the house.

USAgent remarks that it has to be some kind of super villain who has done this, and point out that since Simon is the one who is near-indestructible it should be he who goes to investigate. As he puts a breathing apparatus on, Simon tells Walker that he is way ahead of him, before exiting the Quinjet through a small hatch, ready to fly over to the house and check it out.

Flying over to the house, Simon thinks to himself that, apart from the location it all looks pretty peaceful so far, before wondering if Wanda is all right, for as far as he can tell the doors and windows are all closed, but he doesn’t think this place was built to be space-worthy. Simon decides that, on the off chance it is still air-tight he should look in a window before breaking in, when suddenly, the house blows up before he reaches it.

Meanwhile, ‘FOOLS!’ shouts Loki as he holds Mandarin, Red Skull and the Wizard in his power. ‘Stupid, mortal imbeciles!’ he mutters, before deciding that the greater fool is he for ever trusting the petty egos of mortals with the consummation of his grand plan. Loki remarks that he thought that by directing so-called super-villains into attacking champions unaccustomed with their powers he could rid this world of super heroes – and in the process, once and for all destroy those who have so long vexed him by their very existence!

Loki declares that the Wizard’s stupidity has sacrificed everything, adding that if his accursed brother Thor should detect the lingering energies of the Wizard’s teleportation and tap into them with the power of Mjolnir, when suddenly, ‘Say thee not “if” beloved sibling!’ Thor declares, ‘Say thee rather “when”!’ he exclaims as he enters the chamber, followed soon by Captain America, Hank Pym, Hawkeye and the others. ‘You’ve got a whole mess of Avengers come to crawl down your throat!’ Hawkeye exclaims.

‘Colloquially phrased, Hawkeye – but accurate’ Captain America remarks, before the Wasp motions to the Mandarin and the Red Skull. Thor asks where Dr. Doom and the Kingpin have gone, to which Iron Man suggests they probably made a hasty retreat. The Falcon suggests that they can take care of them later, but to paraphrase what they used to say back in his old neighborhood…’Let’s go kick some butt!’

The Avengers all leap into action, ‘Foolish mortals!’ Loki exclaims as they rush towards him, asking them if they think he can be so easily undone, pointing out that they have no idea where they even are. ‘Behold!’ he shouts as the chamber splits apart, and the Avengers gaze upon where they are, in an eerie, strange land. ‘Beard of my father!’ Thor exclaims, realizing that they are on the Isle of Silence – or a perfect imitation at least. Thor begins to say that it was in this bleak and dismal place that Loki was imprisoned when…Thor’s voice trails off as he finally realizes that there is some sense in this madness.

‘Dost thou, brother?’ Loki asks, before declaring that Thor must realize then, that in this place it is Loki who is master – master of al that is below and above, of wind and of fire. With that, a monster rises from the ground, while at the same time some strong vines creep forth and grab Mockingbird. In the air, the Wasp and Falcon are tossed about by the strong winds, while some fire engulfs Iron Man. Captain America begins fighting the monster while exclaiming that Thor is the only one who has a chance of stopping Loki so he has got to confront him head on.

Thor agrees and runs after his brother, telling the God of Mischief that it will do him little good to flee, and that the time is long past for a settling between the two of them. ‘Not yet, Thor! Not until it is Loki’s choice of time and place!’ Loki replies. A wall of ice springs up in front of Thor allowing Loki to continue fleeing while he shouts that Loki only fights when the odds are in his favor, to which Thor remarks that his sibling is playing familiar games.

Meanwhile, the Mandarin, Red Skull and the Wizard find that they can move again, to which the Mandarin supposes that Loki’s enchantment, has worn off as he is focusing all his energies on the Avengers. Red Skull has a plan, but the Mandarin interrupts him before he can say what it is, telling him not to be a fool, as they have been duped, all along this plan was Loki’s. ‘This is also his failure!’ the Mandarin adds, suggesting that they withdraw to make their own plans – each of them in his own way. The Wizard agrees with Mandarin, and points out that although Loki knocked down the walls, the dimensional interface in each door is still active, so they can return to Earth while the Avengers are occupied, and with that, the three villains escape.

The Wasp alerts her teammates to the escaping of the Mandarin and the others, but Captain America, as he punches the monster, tells Wasp that they will let the villains escape. ‘We know who they are, sooner or later out paths will cross again!’ He points out that their main goal now is staying alive, and with that tosses his shield like a discuss to break Mockingbird free from the vines. ‘Thanks, Cap! I was about done for!’ Bobbi replies.

At that moment, Thor smashes through the wall of ice. ‘Varlet! Stand and defend thyself!’ Thor shouts, suggesting to Loki that he shows that he has at least some fragments of their father in him, some small spirit of Godhood, of the nobility which is their birthright. ‘Speak not to me of nobility, Thor!’ Loki shouts, comparing it to speaking of music to someone who is deaf. ‘There is but on lord that Loki serves and that is power!’ Loki uses his power to conjure up two rock hands from the ground with which to crush Thor.

‘Brother…I say thee nay!’ Thor shouts, smashing his hammer onto the ground and causing a massive opening to appear – which Loki then falls into screaming. Thor remarks that the only reason Loki fell is because he caught him off guard, and that he knows a mere pit is not sufficient to imprison him. ‘But Thor is not yet done!’ and with that, Thor seals the opening shut, as if it was never there in the first place, trapping Loki in the ground.

The Avengers rush over to Thor and Captain America tells him that they saw what he did, and that the menaces vanished as soon as the fissure was slammed closed on Loki. ‘Is he…dead?’ Cap asks. Solemnly, Thor remarks that Loki may be imprisoned under a million tons of earth, but that Gods do not perish that easily. ‘Not even unworthy Gods such as my brother’.

Thor then explains that when he saw this place modeled in the likeness of Loki’s one-time abode, he knew what it was that drove Loki in his madness. Thor remarks that it was Loki’s actions many years ago that first brought the original Avengers together, which have long festered in Loki’s craw. Thor explains that by Loki banding together a group of Earth’s mightiest villains, he thought he could undo the Avengers – instead, he has only succeeded in strengthening their resolve. ‘Let the evil minds of the world beware! Ever and always shall the Avengers prevail!’

Three hours later, over Southern California, the Wasp and Hank are heading back to Palos Verdes in a Quinjet. Iron Man had been flying alongside but now turns away. Hank radios goodbye to Iron Man and tells him that he will see him soon. ‘Not too soon I hope, Doctor Pym! I think we could all use a rest!’ Iron Man calls back.

The Wasp leans back in her chair and remarks that another threat has ended, and this time it all started because Loki got tired of all the other villains poking fun at him at the annual bad guys picnic! Hank laughs ‘Well, something like that anyway, Janet!’ before remarking that it has always galled that it was something Loki did to make the Avengers get together in the first place, and that maybe this time it will teach Loki that they are a team that was meant to be. East or West Coast, it was more than Loki that brought them together, and it will take more than Loki to break them apart!

Jan remarks that, whatever the cause, she is glad it is over, for now at least, before adding that it would be too much to hope that this has put the kibosh on the bad guys once and for all. Hank agrees as he uses the control panel to turn the hologram disguising the hangar bay off and open the hangar bay doors. Jan wonders if this means they will need to be on the look out for Loki in the future, to which Hank replies ‘Could be’ before the jet comes to a stop and he informs Jan that he is going to check on Tigra, and asking her if she wants to come along. Jan replies that she will meet him up there in a bit, but now she wants to clean up and get into a fresh costume, adding that she wants to look in on Wanda and Agatha Harkness.

Forty-five minutes later, Jan thinks to herself ‘Poor Wanda, I wonder how she’s doing?’ and remarks that Wanda has had more grief in the past few weeks than would be fair in a life time! ‘Is it any wonder the poor thing’s had a nervous breakdown?’ The Wasp flies into Wanda’s bungalow and calls out to Agatha Harkness, but instead she is greeted by a troubled USAgent. Jan transforms to her human form as Walker collapses before her, urging her to fly away quickly.

Jan asks what is going on, where Wanda and Wonder Man are. ‘Dead! Blown to bits in outer space!’ Agent replies. ‘Wonder Man killed…but…by who?’ a confused Wasp asks. Suddenly, ‘By me, Janet!’ shrieks the Scarlet Witch as she appears before the Wasp and USAgent. Wanda, now with short hair wearing a new costume, declares that she dealt with Wonder Man as she shall deal with all of the Avengers now that her power has finally been unleashed! The Wasp is surprised to see her dear friend in this current state, while USAgent exclaims ‘Tried to warn you…now…too late…too late for everyone!’

Characters Involved: 

Iron Man, Doctor Pym, Scarlet Witch, USAgent, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers West Coast)
Captain America, Vision, Thor (all Avengers)
Hawkeye, Mockingbird (both Great Lakes Avengers)
Falcon (former Avenger)

Agatha Harkness



Red Skull

Loki’s monster

In the Past:
Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln’s Wife
General Immortus
John Wilkes Booth

Story Notes: 

The core Avengers Acts of Vengeance titles include Avengers (1st series) #311-313, Avengers West Coast #53-55, Avengers Spotlight #26-29, and an epilogue in one of the back stories in Avengers (1st series) Annual #19.

Dagger and Cloak told the Wasp it was Dr. Doom behind the “Acts of Vengeance” in Cloak & Dagger (2nd series) #9.

The Mandarin abandoned the Wizard to the Avengers in Avengers (1st series) #313.

Agatha Harkness was distracted from keeping watch over the Scarlet Witch in Avengers (1st series) #313.

USAgent (and Iron Man) dealt to the Mole Man’s monster in Avengers West Coast #55.

Loki’s comment about having super villains attacking super heroes unaccustomed with their powers in the hopes of destroying them was a great idea, and effective in many “Acts of Vengeance” issues. For example, over in Alpha Flight (1st series) #78-79, Canada’s premiere super hero team were caught up in their own war with Llan the Sorcerer, but at the same time had to deal with an invasion of American super villains like Nekra, Scorpion, Asp and Owl. While in New Mutants #85-86 Skids and Rusty faced off against Spider-Man villain the Vulture.

Hank’s comment about going to check on Tigra is because he recently had to reduce her to the size of a small cat, and keep her in a cage. [Avengers West Coast #49]

The Scarlet Witch’s grief began with the destruction and re-assemblage of the Vision with no feelings for her, then becoming possessed by That Which Endures, and the revelation that her children were nothing more than magickal constructs – the figment of her imagination bought to life by her hex powers and two parts of Mephisto’s soul, and finally being kidnapped and forced to be one of the Seven Brides of Set. [West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #42-45, Avengers West Coast #47-49, 51-52 Annual #4]

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