Avengers West Coast #56

Issue Date: 
March 1990
Story Title: 
Darker Than Scarlet (1st story)

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

Brief Description: 

The Scarlet Witch has imprisoned Wonder Man, Wasp, USAgent and Agatha Harkness and boasts at how she has switched sides, and is now anti-human, while her friends are very puzzled as to Wanda‘s sudden change. Meanwhile, Hank Pym explains to Human Torch and Ann Raymond what has been happening with Tigra, and learns that indeed she is missing, which is watched by Immortus. The Human Torch and Ann Raymond go in search of Tigra, while Hank gets a strange pair of visitors - Quicksilver and Lockjaw! While searching for Tigra, the Human Torch is witness to a government agent bringing the Avengers West Coast an eviction notice! Iron Man decides to take a few days off, when the emergency signal goes off and he is called back to Palos Verde. Hank also received the signal which leads him to Wanda’s cottage. En route, he recalls a recent meeting he had with her, in which he tried to examine her powers, learning that her powers have grown at an incredible rate so that she can now do things with a retroactive affect. Before Hank can reveal his presence, Magneto appears. Hank makes his entrance and holds Wanda at arms, only for Quicksilver to come to his sisters rescue, making it a family reunion unlike no other, while the rest of the heroes still remain helpless.

Full Summary: 

‘So this is power! What a pleasing thing it is! How foolish to have so long denied myself its pleasures!’ exclaims Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, decked out in a new red and black costume with a pink cloak, as she stands before four of her friends, or rather, as she calls them, her “former friends”. Wanda looks at them, held in place by a force field, and tells them that it is unfortunate for them that they did not see fit to encourage her in realizing her full potential, and warns them that they will now pay a terrible price for that mistake.

Wanda’s former mentor, the aged sorceress Agatha Harkness, urges Wanda to listen to her and tells her that she is not in control of herself, that the tragedies of the past few weeks have unhinged her mind. ‘Save your breath, old woman!’ the handsome John Walker a.k.a. USAgent tells Agatha as he struggles to break the force field and exclaims that the Scarlet Witch has gone off the deep end, and there is no way they can bust out of this force field.
Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp, is Wanda’s long time friend and she urges Agent to keep trying, before turning to the heroic Wonder Man beside her, Simon Williams, and remarking to him that Agent said he was dead. Wonder Man replies that he thinks he was, adding ‘And believe me, as someone who’s been dead once before, I know the feeling only too well!’

Wanda grins. ‘Of course you were, Simon,’ she remarks, before boasting that death is of little consequence to one with her power. The Wasp is shocked, and tells Wanda that she cannot create or restore life. ‘You’ve never had that kind of power!’ Wanda agrees, before pointing out that she does not need the power to resurrect when her natural gift of altering probabilities means she can reshape the universe at will. Wanda explains that as such, it is true Simon did not survive the destruction of this house that they are in, far above the surface of the Earth, but that it was child’s play for her to restructure reality to create a place where this house was not destroyed, and therefore Simon was not killed.

The Wasp is even more shocked, and exclaims that Wanda has never had that kind of control over her power before. ‘You could never predict exactly what your hex would do!’ The Scarlet Witch simply replies that the limitations she once knew matter not at all - what matters is that they are no more. Wanda boasts that her power now functions at its full potential, and she needs only to think to make the slightest whim reality. ‘And what say you to this, sweet Simon?’ Wanda asks, smirking at Wonder Man. ‘Does this transformation please you?’ she asks. ‘Please me? How could it? I… don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Simon replies.

Wanda puts a hand on Simon’s chest and tells him that of course he understands, and exclaims that for years he has loved her from afar. ‘But I was married to the android Vision. A marriage no longer viable…’. Simon is confused, but Wanda asks him if it pleases him to see her not only free of the Vision, but free also of such petty moralities as once encumbered her. Simon is startled as Wanda begins to dig her long finger nails into his chest, leaving claw marks, and ripping open the top of his costume. Wanda tells Simon that he is very handsome, ‘Did you think I never noticed?’ she asks him, before also asking if it thrills him that she no longer hides her appreciation. ‘Wanda…what…don’t…No!’ exclaims Simon.

A few minutes ago…Dr. Hank Pym makes his way through the Palos Verde Compound, home and headquarters to the Avengers West Coast and hopes that Tigra is all right, for with all the craziness of the past few days, he hasn’t been able to look in on her as often as he would have liked. But en route to his lab, he is interrupted by the Human Torch and Ann Raymond. Hank smiles and asks them how they are today. The Torch replies that they are fine and that there is no sign of trouble at this end since the confrontation with Loki. Hank remarks that he doesn’t expect that they will be hearing from Loki for a while now, before asking if there is anything else to report.

The Human Torch replies that there is nothing sinister, but that he had been wanting to ask Hank about a strange little creature that he saw on the mansion grounds the other day. The Torch explains that it was only about six inches long, but that it looked like some kind of orange cat. ‘Cat…?? Oh no!’ exclaims Hank, before rushing off to his lab. Entering his security codes, Hank hopes that it isn’t what he thinks it might be, but knows that he has left her unattended for so long, that it just possible - Tigra’s escaped!’ he gasps as he sees the small tank has been broken out of.

The Human Torch and Ann Raymond come up behind Pym, and Ann is slightly confused. ‘Tigra? But, Dr Pym, isn’t she one of the Avengers?’ Hank replies that she is, but that lately, Tigra has been going through some changes, and offers to explain since the Human Torch has never met Tigra.

(Shown with flashback images)
Hank explains that Tigra is really Greer Nelson, who was once a costumed crime fighter known as the Cat - but that was before a race of humanoid Cat People transformed her into a truly feline super hero, and some time back, her feline attributes seemed to be coming into predominance. Hank reveals that the Cat People supposedly cured her, but lately it has all started again, and a few nights ago, Tigra attacked him on the Compound grounds. Not wishing to hurt her, Pym reveals that he zapped Tigra with Pym Particles from his own body which altered her atomic structure, and she was shrunk down to the size the Torch saw her as.

Hank tells the Torch and Ann Raymond that he brought Tigra back here to the bio-lab in the hope of discovering some way to restore her humanity, but then everything went crazy, and this is the first chance he has had to look in on her. Examining the cage, Hank deduces that Tigra must have broken out of the cage after something caused the automated feeding system to malfunction.

Elsewhere, watching Hank Pym’s troubles, the uber-powerful Immortus remarks ‘”Something” Doctor Pym? Say rather, “Someone”!’, before boasting that it was he who caused the equipment to malfunction. Immortus grins wickedly and wonders what the Avengers would say if they knew that every nuance of their small lives are being manipulated by the Master of Time. ‘If you could comprehend for even a moment that no thought, no action has ever been truly your own!’ Immortus remarks that the Avengers are pawns, they always have and always will be, pawns in a great game whose final outcome will see the very universe reshaped to his will. ‘But now…the time has come to turn my attention once more to the Scarlet Witch!’

Hank tells Torch and Ann that they are going to have to find Tigra, for if she is left to run free, then there is no telling what damage she might do - to herself as well as anyone she comes into contact with. The Human Torch agrees and asks if they should alert the others. Hank replies that he can take care of that, and informs the Torch that the Wasp went to Wanda’s cottage to check up on her, and that he will see if he can locate Wonder Man and USAgent, then they can start searching the grounds. The Human Torch, followed by Ann Raymond, begins to take his leave, telling Hank to keep in touch, while a solemn Hank is very angry, and thinks to himself that if it isn’t one thing, its another.

He tells himself that if any harm has befallen Greer because of this, he will never forgive himself, after all, the two of them were getting pretty tight for a while before Jan came back. Suddenly, a blinding light appears in the lab, and a voice calls out to Hank, startling him. A humanoid figure appears alongside a large animal-like being, and the voice exclaims ‘Doctor Pym…I would have word with you!’ ‘YOU!’ Hank shouts, surprised.

Outside, Ann Raymond, the wife of the deceased Toro, looks up to the sky and asks the Human Torch if hr sees any sign of Tigra. The Torch calls back that he doesn’t, not that the really expected to, for the creature he saw was very small and very fast, but motioning to the gateway, he exclaims that he sees something else of interest - some kind of motorcade approaching the Compound. Ann rushes over to the large gates and exclaims that the Torch is right, and that they have pulled right up to the gate, before wondering who they are.

‘You there! Are you an official representative of the Avengers?’ a man asks Ann as he gets out of his car. The Human Torch drops down beside the man and informs him that she is not, but he is. The man replies ‘Good’, before remarking that he doesn’t know who is in charge of the group at present, but thrusting a piece of paper at the Torch, the man tells him to give his leader this. ‘A notice of eviction! But I thought the Avengers owned this Compound!’ the Torch exclaims.

Meanwhile, Iron Man streaks across the skies, thinking that it is going to feel good to get out of his armor for a while, what with one thing and another, it seems like years since he has the chance to be himself, ‘Iron Man is a role I’ve accepted as part of my lot in life - I even enjoy aspects of it…but this hi-tech suit is a façade, and the real man needs his time in the sun!’ Iron Man decides to make himself a little promise, that he is going to put his armor into its special attaché case and forget it is there for about a week. But as Iron Man lands at a building, the Avengers emergency signal goes off, so he quickly turns and streaks back towards Avengers West Compound, thinking that his vacation will have to start tomorrow.

Back at the Compound, Hank Pym stands under a tree near Wanda’s bungalow and wonders to himself if it can really be possible that the house was torn from its foundations and hurled into space, for he doesn’t see any indication of such violence. But he realizes that would fit in precisely with what he started to discover about Wanda’s powers - an investigation that was interrupted by the insanity with Master Pandemonium.

Wanda tells Hank that she doesn’t understand what it is he wants to test her for, to which Hank explains that he wants to check for something that happened the other day when she caused that machine gun to misfire. Hank remarks that there may be any number of ways that could have happened, like the firing pin jamming or the bullets becoming defective, which is why he wants to narrow down the possibilities in order to understand the nature of her powers. ‘I want to determine how and at what point you make a highly improbable event a 100% certainty’.

Wanda motions to the bar of titanium steel and asks how it is going to allow Hank to test her powers. Hank explains that he has run a series of checks on the bar, right down to the sub-atomic level, and there are no fault lines in the structure and it is under 400 pounds of pressure right now. ‘All you need to do is point at it’. Wanda replies that will unleash the power of her hex, before reminding Hank that he knows she cannot control the precise manifestation of her mutant power. ‘You don’t need to!’ Hank replies as Wanda points at the titanium, when suddenly the titanium explodes.

Wanda goes over to where Hank is at a computer console, and Hank smiles, assuring Wanda that is pretty much what he expected to happen, before motioning to the scan on the monitor. He explains to Wanda that the top screen shows the rod as it was when he tested it for imperfections, and the bottom screen shows the same rod a millisecond after Wanda pointed at it. ‘By comparing the two - ‘ Hank begins, until he is interrupted by Wanda, who asks if the two images are not the same.

Hank turns back to the console and remarks that he must have cued up the wrong image on the upper screen, but realizes that it is the correct image - which means only one thing! Hank exclaims that it cannot be though, for if the test is right, it means Wanda not only caused a retroactive flaw in the steel rod, but somehow, her powers changed his previous readings, showing that the flaw had been there all along. ‘But that’s impossible! We know your powers don’t work that way!’

Hank sneaks along the shrubs beside the windows and reminds himself that he didn’t get to follow up on that test, but that it appears Wanda is far more powerful than she has ever been before - and if the information he was just given is true, then they may be in serious trouble.

Inside, Wanda asks Simon what the matter is, ‘You don’t seem to be enjoying my attention!’ The USAgent declares that he doesn’t believe this, and shouting at Wanda, he points out that Wonder Man has been her partner for years, and asks how she could hurt him like that. An anguished Wasp turns to Simon and whispers ‘Simon…are you…?’ ‘Don’t ask, Janet. Just don’t ask!’ Simon replies quietly.

Wanda turns her attention to USAgent, and putting her hands on his chin, she comments on his outrage, and asks if it could be that he is jealous of Wonder Man. ‘Could it be you wish such special consideration for yourself?’ ‘Don’t!’ Walker begins, when suddenly, Magneto enters, telling his daughter to desist, for this is neither the time, nor the place for such petty cruelty. Wanda acknowledges her father and asks him if his work elsewhere is complete.

Hank peers through one of the windows, and upon seeing Magneto realizes that everything he was told is true, everything fits together. Hank recalls that when they captured the Wizard, he revealed that Magneto was part of the criminal enclave bent on destroying the Avengers - but Magneto was not there when the final gambit was played out. Hank deduces that Magneto must have been here, as he obviously saw Loki’s vengeance scheme as a way of reclaiming the Scarlet Witch while she was emotionally vulnerable. Placing his hands on the wall of the building, Hank thinks to himself that they will have to go with plan A after all, and as Pym Particles begin to flow, he hopes that this is all timed right…

…as suddenly, the wall behind the Scarlet Witch convulses, ‘The wall!’ Wanda exclaims. ‘Former wall, Wanda!’ Hank declares as the wall crumbles around him, and entering the room, he boasts that his shrinking power can open a nice big hole by reducing the material, though it does make a bit of a mess. ‘Hank!’ exclaims the Wasp upon seeing her lover. Magneto warns Hank to stay back, informing him that he has what he has come for, so there is no need for conflict between the two of them.

‘I think I’ll be the judge of that, Magneto!’ Hank declares, ‘”What you came for” happens to be my teammate!’ ‘Ex-teammate!’ Wanda declares, and exclaims that her father has returned to her life just at the right moment, for in the past few weeks she has come to clearly understand the position he has held so long. ‘A final confrontation is coming, Doctor Pym. A day when mutants and humans will once and for all settle the question of who is to be dominant on this planet we share!’ Wanda adds that when that day comes, she stands with mutantkind.

Hank reaches into his pocket as he tells Wanda that he is sorry to hear her say that, and using his powers, the weapon that was held shrunken inside his pockets is enlarged, and pointing it at her, Hank declares that loyalty to your own kind is one thing, admirable perhaps, but allying yourself with a terrorist and mass murderer like Magneto is something he just has to put a stop to.

But before Hank can fire the gun, ‘I think not, Doctor!’ exclaims someone as they speed past the brilliant scientist, then circles around Wanda and Magneto. ‘What…is it?’ Wanda wonders. ‘Could it be…?’ she asks. Magneto declares that, ‘Of course it is, Wanda! Who else possesses a fleetness of foot to rival the most fleet of man’s inventions? Who but the mutant known to the world as…Quicksilver!’ As the helpless Avengers and Agatha Harkness look on, Wanda expresses her joy at her brother’s arrival. ‘Father…dear sister…it is good to be with you again!’ Pietro exclaims, adding that it is good to be once more along his fellow mutants, ‘As we set forth at last on the path that will make us MASTERS OF THE WORLD!’….

Characters Involved: 

First story:
Human Torch I, Iron Man, Dr. Hank Pym, Scarlet Witch, USAgent, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers West Coast)

Agatha Harkness
Ann Raymond



Man with eviction notice

In Flashback Images:
Dr. Hank Pym

In Flashback:
Scarlet Witch
Dr. Hank Pym

Story Notes: 

The second-story in this issue features a reunion between Captain America and the original Human Torch. Sersi and Iron Man also feature in the issue.

This issue comes with an “apology” from writer John Byrne regarding the appearance of Tigra appearing in the “Atlantis Attacks” crossover, when really, at that time, she was reduced to a real cat, and therefore should not have been present. Byrne clears writer of the issues Tigra appeared in, Mike Higgins, of all responsibility, as it was Byrne who told Higgins which characters he could use.

The Avengers battled Loki during the “Acts of Vengeance” [Avengers West Coast #55]

The Human Torch had a brief encounter with the miniature Tigra in Avengers West Coast #52.

Hank Pym shrunk Tigra in Avengers West Coast #49.

The Avengers West Compound used to belong to 1920’s actress Moira Brandon, whom Hawkeye and Mockingbird made an honorary Avenger upon her death. [back up story in Avengers West Coast #100]

Master Pandemonium attacked and revealed the true origins of Wanda’s children in Avengers West Coast #51-52.

Wanda caused the machine gun to misfire in West Coast Avengers #43.

The Wizard was captured in Avengers (1st series) #313, and the final battle (“Acts of Vengeance”) was seen in Avengers West Coast #55.

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