Avengers West Coast #75

Issue Date: 
October 1991
Story Title: 
Hostages to Fortune

Roy & Dann Thomas (writers), Herbe Trimpe (artist), Charles Barnett (inking assistant), Bob Sharen (colorist), Bill Oakley (letterer), Nelson Yomtov (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

The Avengers West Coast and Fantastic Four arrive at the new theme park, Sword and Sorcery World, where they are taking young Rachel Carpenter and Franklin Richards. The kids are overjoyed to have the theme park all to themselves for the evening, and enjoy the rides. Rachel and Franklin go on an Arkon vs. the Dragon roller coaster on their own, but when the ride doesn’t slow down, the heroes combine their might to bring the cars to a stop - only they discover the children have vanished. With the exception of USAgent, everyone else goes on the ride in the hope they will end up where the kids are. When the ride comes to a stop, USAgent finds the cars empty, and supposes the others made it to wherever the kids ended up. Spider-Woman, Hawkeye, Living Lightning, the Thing and Mr Fantastic find themselves held prisoner in the reality of Thundra’s sisterhood, where Franklin Richards is being held captive. Thundra explains that Franklin will be released once the heroes aid her against the impending battle against Arkon, after Spider-Woman attacks her, demanding to know where her daughter is. The Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, Iron Man, the Invisible Woman and the Human Torch appear on Polemachus, Arkon’s world, where he has put them under his control as warriors to battle Thundra and her Sisterhood, whom he despises. Rachel tries to escape, but one of Arkon’s men is keeping hold of her. Arkon rallies his men, and teleports them to Thundra’s reality. Thundra and her warrior women are ready, waiting, and as soon as Arkon and his troops arrive, the battle begins. Inside Thundra’s palace, Franklin escapes from his cage and begins to search for his father, whom he heard was here. When he sees women being transported to the battle via a teleporter, he leaps into the machine, and arrives on the battlefield, where he sees Rachel manage to escape from Arkon’s henchman. The youngsters reunite, and try to find their parents. The heroes are locked in battle, with Thundra’s fighting those under Arkon’s control. Spider-Woman sees Rachel and rushes towards her, while the man who was looking after Rachel sacrifices himself to save the children from an explosion. The Invisible Woman manages to snap out of Arkon’s spell when she sees Franklin in danger. The Invisible Woman creates a force field around herself, Spider-Woman and the children, to protect them all from a missile, and the impact of the missile on her force field radiates out into the armies, and frees the other heroes from Arkon’s control. The heroes are about to attack Arkon and Thundra, when they see the two warriors battle each other, and eventually, Thundra reveals that the reason she went to Arkon’s world all that time ago was to learn what he was really like, and Arkon admits that Thundra is the only woman he has encountered with such physical prowess. The two then kiss, and Arkon casts a thunderbolt which sends everyone back to their true world. The heroes materialize, with the children, on the ride, and are reunited with USAgent. Spider-Woman then reveals to Rachel that she is her mother, and Rachel admits that she had already figured it out, but wanted her mother to tell her when she was ready.

Full Summary: 

In 1955, it was Disneyland. Later, Knott’s Berry Farm and Magic Mountain got into the act with a vengeance. And now, there is a new theme park open to the public in Los Angeles / Orange county area. Or at least, in seven days there will be. The sprawling theme park stands majestically, as two teams of super heroes arrive - the Avengers West Coast, and the Fantastic Four. ‘Well, here it is, children…Sword and Sorcery World!’ announces Susan Storm Richards a.k.a. the Invisible Woman. ‘And just for tonight, it’s all yours!’ declares Julia “Spider-Woman” Carpenter, each woman holding the hand of their respective child. ‘This is radical!’ declares Rachel Carpenter. ‘Boyoboy!’ Franklin Richards calls out. ‘I wonder what all the poor civilians are doing tonight’ Clint “Hawkeye” Barton whispers as the heroes and the children enter the theme park.

‘Hey, look! “Barbarian Land”!’ Rachel shouts, before asking Spider-Woman if they can go in there. ‘Sure can, Rachel’ Spider-Woman calls out, so Rachel calls Franklin and they rush towards Barbarian Land. They are soon onboard a ride, with Ben Grimm a.k.a. the Thing, and Franklin exclaims ‘This ride’s really scary, isn’t it, Uncle Ben?’ The Thing replies that it sure is, which is why he had to go with them, so Franklin could hold his hand. ‘Hey, he’s not that much younger than me, Mr Grimm’ Rachel points out. Soon, the heroes are aboard large rip cages, riding down a river. ‘You know, I haven’t been on a really good skeleton boat ride in ages’ one of them remarks.

‘Amazing, isn’t it, Mrs Richards - the world’s first fully automated theme park. Just one little old gnome somewhere, I guess, pushing a new buttons now and then’ Spider-Woman remarks. ‘Reed Richards’ wife soon gets used to the wonders of technology, Spider-Woman. And the name’s Sue’ the Invisible Woman replies. The heroes gather together and move on through the park, as Franklin asks his mother if they can ride on the “terry-dackles” next. ‘I don’t see why not, tiger’ Sue replies. Hawkeye turns to the Thing, John “USAgent” Walker and Miguel Santos a.k.a. the Living Lightning and tells them to admit it, they are getting as big a kick out of this evening as the kids. ‘Actually, Hawkeye, I like a good old all-American mob scene when I party’ the handsome USAgent replies.

‘That’s ‘cause you can slip off yer mask, Agent, and nobody would know you from Adam West. Guys like us get to appreciate a bit of privacy, right, Lightning?’ the Thing calls out. Ice-cream cone in hand, Living Lightning points out that he has not been an Avenger long enough for anyone to recognize him either way. The heroes all look up too where Rachel and Franklin are riding on a pterodactyl ride. ‘Yahoo!’ Rachel calls out. ‘Wheee!’ Franklin exclaims. Reed Richards a.k.a. Mister Fantastic announces that he and Sue don’t get nearly enough time to spend with little Franklin as they would like, and that they will never be able to thank the Avengers West for arranging everything tonight. Tony “Iron Man” Stark tells him not to be silly, and jokes that once they knew the Fantastic Four were coming out to the Coast for a vacation, it would have taken Dr Doom to stop them.

Everyone moves on to the next ride, a sort of Loch Ness Monster, and as the Thing loads the children into the front seats, the Living Lightning exclaims that this is one ride he wants to go on. ‘After you, Johnny’ he tells Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, as he lines up to get onto the ride also. ‘You first, Miguel’ the Human Torch replies, while the Thing tells them that if they get any politer, they will never get this show on the road. ‘Gee! It’s the Loch Ness Monster!’ Rachel exclaims. Hawkeye sits behind the children and as the Thing asks if everyone is strapped it. ‘You can press the “on” button’ Hawkeye tells him. In the next seats back, the Living Lightning remarks that he was lucky, as he started out fighting a Human Torch, only to be sharing a carny ride with the other Human Torch now. ‘We’ll have to do the fire vs. lightning bit ourselves sometime’ Johnny replies.

In the final part of the ride, USAgent is sitting behind Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, who seems very distant. He taps her on the shoulder, ‘Penny for ‘em?’ Walker asks. ‘You don’t really want to know’ Wanda replies, arms folded. ‘Try me’ Walker tells her. Wanda reveals that she was remembering when she was a mother, even if her children turned out to be only in existence when she was thinking about them. ‘Sometimes the memories bob to the surface - and they hurt’ Wanda adds. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to -’ Walker begins,. Wanda tells him that it is not his fault.

Up in the front cars, Franklin tells Rachel that there is one thing he doesn’t understand - ‘How come this monster locked his nest?’ the boy asks, before then asking Rachel how come her mother isn’t here. ‘She and Dad are divorced. This is the one weekend a month I get to spend with her’ Rachel explains. ‘So where is she?’ Franklin asks. Rachel explains that her mother told her some real super heroes would take her to this park so long as she promised to keep it a secret from her Dad. ‘That’s kinda weird. You like keeping secrets from your Daddy?’ Franklin asks. ‘I hate secrets’ Rachel replies, hanging her head.

When that ride ends, the children rush off to the next one, with Rachel exclaiming ‘C’mon, there’s an Arkon ride over this way’, and Franklin running alongside, boasting that he has seen all of Arkon’s movies. Spider-Woman and the Invisible Woman follow, with the other heroes some feet back. Susan tells Julia that it is a shame she couldn’t have come here tonight as herself. ‘Tell me about it’ Julia replies, adding that as a brand new Avenger, she really wanted to meet the Fantastic Four, but was going to give tonight a miss, until she saw Rachel reading some comic books, which gave her an impulse.

Inside Julia Carpenter’s apartment: ‘…and you promise you won’t tell your father?’ Julia asked Rachel, who hesitatingly replied ‘I…promise’.

And later, at the Palos Verdes Compound, Julia Carpenter introduced her daughter to the Avengers West Coast. ‘This is the Scarlet Witch…’ Spider-Woman began, until Rachel exclaimed ‘And Wonder Man, too! He’s in the Arkon pictures!’, before Julia turned to leave. ‘Mom…?’ Rachel called out. The Scarlet Witch reminded Rachel that her mother said she had to leave her here with them for a little while. ‘Oh, right’ Rachel recalled, before telling her mother to hurry back.

And so she did, but a Spider-Woman, dropping down amongst the group an instant later, introducing herself, she told Rachel that her mother asked her to take care of her when they visit the amusement park. ‘Well…I guess it’s okay’ Rachel replied, before the heroes departed for Sword and Sorcery World.

Julia tells Susan that she hated lying to Rachel, and explains that the Avengers only went along with her idea reluctantly. She adds that she doesn’t like hiding things from Rachel’s father, however little love is lost between them these days. Julia explains that she is so torn about whether to burden a seven year old with her secret. ‘It’s a problem I never had, Julia, so I can’t be sure what I’d do in your shoes’ the Invisible Woman explains, adding that honesty really is usually the best policy. ‘If nothing else, it’s simpler’ she points out.

The children quickly approach the roller coaster Arkon vs. the Dragon ride, where Julia and Susan load the kids into the carts. Franklin asks if they can ride this one themselves, but Spider-Woman points out that it might be too frightening. The Invisible Woman suggests that it will be all right, as Reed and Iron Man checked all the rides earlier. ‘You say this “Arkon” is a real guy?’ Living Lightning asks the Human Torch, motioning at a giant statue of Arkon. Johnny replies that he is, and that the Fantastic Four tangled with him one or twice.

The ride takes off, and Susan turns to Spider-Woman, remarking that she is still not clear on why she couldn’t come here as herself. Julia replies that Rachel loves comic book heroes, and just wanted to see the expression on her face when a Spider-Woman swung in to meet her. Julia tells Susan that she lost custody of Rachel because she wasn’t able to account for her whereabouts when in costume. ‘This time, at least, if push came to shove, you people could swear Julia Carpenter was right here with you, every second, and to blazes with my secret identity!’ Julia declares. Hawkeye approaches Julia and Susan, and tells them to stop looking so serious. ‘Just look at those kids up there! They’ve got the right idea!’ Clint points out as the kids are enjoying themselves on the roller coaster, and remarks that the tops on those dragon cars are folding over them, like on other caterpillar-type rides. ‘And they’re taking the whole thing in their stride!’ Clint declares.

Down below, Spider-Woman looks up at the cart, now high above them all, and asks if it is going faster all of a sudden. Susan agrees, and points out that it seems to be accelerating from moment to moment. ‘We’ve got to stop it!’ Julia exclaims, while Susan tells her not to panic, seeing that Hawkeye has already found the emergency shut-off lever. ‘Pull it, Clint!’ Susan calls out. At the lever, Hawkeye replies that he is trying, but that it is stuck. ‘Get Wonder Man or the Thing up there!’ Clint shouts. ‘Maybe one of them can - oh, spit!’ Clint exclaims as the lever snaps. Iron Man takes flight after the speeding cart, announcing that his magnetic beam ought to be slowing the cars down, but it doesn’t work. Iron Man calls out.

‘Way ahead of you, amigo!’ Miguel calls as he uses his power to drain all the electricity from the ride’s motor - but it doesn’t work. ‘You’ve got to do something!’ Julia pleads. Miguel tells Julia not to worry, as he is going to, and points out that he can absorb a lot more voltage, really bleed this thing dry of power by turning off the pods that keep him in human form, and does so, transforming himself into the pure electrical form of the Living Lightning. ‘Is it working?’ Julia calls out as Miguel drops to his knees, assuring her that he is giving it all he has, before suddenly, Miguel collapses, and reverts to human form. ‘The ride’s still going faster - faster!’ Julia calls out. The Invisible Woman doesn’t want to risk using a force field, and the Scarlet Witch announces that she doesn’t want to use hr hex power, as she is afraid it might do more harm than good.

Reed points to the cars and announces that it is streaking past them a second time. ‘And there might not be a third - so I’m hoping aboard this cannonball express!’ Reed declares as he stretches his arms, and grabs on to the cart. ‘Reed!’ Sue calls out with concern, while the Thing tells her to take it easy, that she knows her hubby will save the kids, if anybody can. Clinging to the speeding cars, Reed tells himself that there are more “G’s” out here than he would feel if he hopped a space shuttle at Cape Canaveral. He hopes that the ride’s top is somehow protecting Franklin and Rachel from the speed, and from the wild winds. ‘Nobody could possible get to them - without exposing them to lethal forces - because nobody else in our crowd can thin himself so much that he can pass through the most minuscule join in the cars - and let himself in!’ Reed thinks to himself as he flattens his body and slides through a crack in the cover of the cart. He finds it pitch black inside.

Back down below, USAgent asks Living Lightning, who has gathered himself, if he is okay. ‘Never mind me’ Miguel replies, asking after the children. Wanda explains that they don’t know anything else, as Reed snaked his way inside, and there is nothing since then. ‘They’ll be okay. They gotta be!’ the Thing exclaims, while Hawkeye shouts ‘Wait!’ and alerts everyone to the fact that the dragon ride is slowing down. ‘You’re right. In fact, it’s coming to a stop!’ the Human Torch points out, while asking why, as it wasn’t anything any of them did. ‘Who cares? All that matters is they’re safe!’ Spider-Woman shouts. ‘Are they? We won’t really be able to tell that until -’ Susan begins, before Spider-Woman announces that the tops of the cars are opening again.

The cars arrive back down on the ground, and Reed emerges from them. ‘But - Richards! Where’s -?’ Spider Woman calls out. ‘Spider-Woman. Sue, darling - they’re gone!’ Reed announces. ‘What?’ Julia gasps, staring into the empty cars. Freed explains that when he crawled into the car, he couldn’t see, but felt around, and it was already empty. ‘Oh, Reed, it’s as if they were transported to another world’ Sue declares. ‘Now what?’ Julia asks, concerned. Suddenly, the lights all across the park go off, and the heroes are plunged into darkness. Iron Man begins to shine his uni-beam, but the Human Torch tells him to save it, and “flames on”, creating a bright flaming light so that the heroes can see around them. Johnny asks Reed if he thinks one o their old enemies might have snatched the kids, to which Reed replies that he wishes there was some other likelihood.

‘Whoever it is, he’s gonna be one sorry joker when I catch up with him!’ the Thing boasts. Reed points out that they cannot be certain it is the way to catch up, he thinks they should take the same route Franklin and Rachel did. He turns to Living Lightning and tells Miguel that he suspects this blackout is intended to keep them from getting the ride working again, and asks if he can get them up to speed. Miguel replies that he doesn’t know how much electrical power he can generate, but that he will sure try. The heroes all load into the cars of the dragon ride, while Iron Man tells USAgent to remain here, in case the kids pop up again. ‘Huh? Why me? Why not somebody more dispensable - like Hawkeye?’ Walker calls back.

‘Because we need someone with super strength back here - someone powerful enough to handle any contingency’ Iron Man explains. ‘I guess I do fill the bill, at that’ Walker replies, before suggesting to Iron Man that next time, he asks, not tells him. ‘Everybody ready?’ Living Lightning calls out as the others are all loaded into the cart. ‘Ready!’ Wanda tells him. Releasing electrical surges, Living Lightning declares that he doesn’t have a fancy war cry like the Torch, but that he thinks he can get the job done. The charges of energy feed sparks right into the tracks, and the dragon ride begins to move forward.

Someone points out that they are not going quite as fast as it was when the kids vanished, while Miguel replies that this is all the power he can provide. Iron Man tells him he is doing well, and to keep going, while using his own repulsor rays to provide the thrust they need to reach the proper speed. The Human Torch adds some flame-blots into the mix, hoping to help, and an instant later, the dragon ride carts speed along. ‘We’re really traveling!’ someone calls out. ‘Just one thing left to kick in’ someone remarks, when suddenly, as if on cue, the roof begins to cover over the heroes. ‘Whatever might happen to us, we sure ain’t gonna be able to see it!’ someone remarks as the heroes are plunged into darkness.

Back down below, USAgent looks up at the speeding ride and wonders what is keeping it on the tracks. Walker goes over to the ride when it slows down, and when the top flips open he sees that everyone has vanished. ‘Should’ve known. Now the whole bunch of them are gone!’ the hero declares, supposing that someone must have snatched them into another dimension or something. ‘So Reed Richards was right - I just hope he doesn’t wind up dead right!’ Walker adds.,

Elsewhere, ‘Rachel, where are you honey? It’s so dark - I can’t see you!’ Julia calls out, when suddenly, a light shines down on her, Hawkeye, Mr Fantastic, Living Lightning and the Thing. ‘You must’ve said the magic word’ Miguel tells his friend, while Spider-Woman wonders where they are, not to mention where the others have done. ‘Wherever we are, I’m betting it’s not Sword and Sorcery Land’ Hawkeye points out, while Reed alerts the Thing to someone up ahead. ‘Holy crow, it’s Thundra!’ the Thing exclaims as the over-sized warrior woman races towards them. ‘Sisterhood! Deactivate the trans-dimensional grid. Our guests have arrived!’ Thundra tells her women. ‘Gird deactivated, Empress’ one of them announces.

Julia asks Ben and Reed if they know this woman, before asking what she has done with Rachel. The Thing tells Spider-Woman to take it easy, pointing out that they don’t know what she’s done with Rachel, and Franklin, yet. Reed approaches the warrior woman and asks her what the story is here. ‘Did you teleport our children here before, by the same means you did us?’ Reed asks. ‘Enough!’ Thundra shouts, declaring that it is she who asks the questions here, not prisoners. “Prisoners?” Reed quotes, warning Thundra that if she thinks that is what they are, she better have even more muscle to back her up than he thinks she does. ‘I will ignore that remark, Richards’ Thundra replies, revealing that it was her machines which brought them to the Space / Time Continuum of the Sisterhood.

Thundra reveals that she took cross-dimensional control of that amusement park ride to bring both children here, for reasons she shall shortly explain. Thundra points out that, unfortunately, the only one who materialized here was the boy. ‘Franklin!’ the Thing gasps as he sees the boy inside a crystal dome. Thundra points out that is not the real Franklin Richards, but an image of him, explaining that the boy is near at hand, and unharmed. ‘That’s great for him, whoever you are - but what about my little girl?’ Spider-Woman asks as she attacks Thundra with some psi-webs, demanding to know what happened to Rachel. ‘What?’ Thundra gasps as she is bound by the webs, but only for an instant, as she then tears her way free from them. ‘Everybody grab her before she can -’ the Thing calls out, but too late.

Spider-Woman declares that she will have to take the more direct approach, telling Thundra that she doesn’t care how strong she thinks she is. ‘If you don’t hand Rachel over to me right now, I’m going to take you apart like a defective toy!’ Julia boasts, but as she runs towards Thundra, her henchwomen step in front of her. ‘Do not bestir yourself, Empress’ one of them calls out. ‘We can deal with this impatient one’ another declares, as she puts a foot out in front of Julia, tripping her up. Julia falls to the floor and asks ‘What is this place, anyway? The Planet of the Amazons?’ Julia asks. ‘Pretty close, Red’ the Thing tells her, while Reed explains that they are on an alternative Earth whose most powerful nation is this “United Sisterhood Republic”.

Mister Fantastic remarks that they have had a few run ins with Thundra back home, but that she has never needed to hide behind children before. ‘I hide behind no one!’ Thundra declares, reminding the heroes that she said Franklin Richards is being held not far away, as a precaution. ‘He is our guest’ Thundra announces. ‘We’ve heard that one before - and recently, too’ the Thing remarks, asking Thundra why she brought his favourite Godson here, and then the teams, or at least half of them, anyway. ‘WHY?’ Thundra shouts. ‘I should have thought it would be perfectly obvious to you, Ben Grimm. You and the boy were both teleported here from your own sphere - to become my husband and emperor-consort!’ Thundra smiles.

‘What? You’re still playing that old tune?’ Ben asks angrily. ‘I thought you have up on that idea, after I turned you down the last time!’ Ben shouts, before telling Thundra to cut the crud and hand Franklin over. ‘Oh yeah, and tell us what happened to little Rachel and the others’ Ben adds. Thundra explains that she cannot be certain, but believes they were all diverted to another dimension. ‘Okay, I’ll bite. Which one’ the Thing asks. Thundra grits her teeth and replies ‘To the abominable almost unspeakably depraved world of - Arkon the Magnificent!’

At that moment, ‘They are beginning to appear, my Lord Imperion!’ a voice calls out. ‘I think we have - yes! We have materialization!’ the voice shouts as the Scarlet Witch, Simon “Wonder Man” Williams, Iron Man, the Invisible Woman, and Human Torch appear. ‘Excellent’ Arkon calls out as he approaches the teleport pad where the heroes have materialized. ‘And has their collective will power been wiped clean in the crossing, Vizier, so that they will stand-still as mindless statues?’ Arkon enquires. ‘Precisely as you have commanded, Sire’ the Vizier replies, while Rachel Carpenter is being held in the arms of one of Arkon’s men, and she calls out ‘Where’s my Mommy, Mr Arkon? I want my -’, but the old man tells Rachel to be silent.

Arkon wishes that he could have captured all ten of those within the ride so ignominiously named after him. ‘Still, these five will have to do’ he decides, adding that if all ten had been drawn instead to that she-devil Thundra’s world, as she intended, their cause might have been hopeless. The Vizier tells Arkon that now they have canceled out any advantage Thundra might have hoped to achieve. Rachel calls the man holding her Mr Shigaru and asks him why those bad men are doing this, to which Shigaru tells her to hush, as the Imperion will be angry if she interrupts his conversation with the Vizier. ‘I don’t care! I want to know where my Mommy is - where Franklin is! I want to go home!’ Rachel shouts.

Arkon goes over to the Scarlet Witch and touches her on the face, while assuring Rachel that he means her no harm. ‘I would no more hurt you than I would the lovely Scarlet Witch, whom I once felt I loved’. Arkon adds that he has need of the Scarlet Witch and her friends, and as well for Rachel, for the moment at least. ‘And I said I don’t care. I’m going home!’ the girl shouts as she leaps from Shigaru’s arms and starts running down a corridor. ‘Stop her!’ Arkon booms. ‘I have her, Imperion!’ Shigaru assures him as he rushes after Rachel and picks her up. Arkon warns Shigaru that if the child eludes him again, he will be sent to the atomic mines of Polemachus. ‘Yes, Imperion!’ Shigaru declares. ‘You let me go!’ Rachel shouts as she struggles to break free.

‘Now that we are done playing with children, we can revive our new warriors and being our total subjugation of the world ruled by the Sisterhood!’ Arkon booms, motioning to the Avengers West Coast and Fantastic Four members. Arkon declares that the very word “sisterhood” is an abomination unto his ears, and recalls that it was until recently that he was unaware of its very existence. ‘We would still be, if Thundra herself had not headed a delegation from her own future world to our present one’ Vizier points out, to which Arkon tells him not to speak Thundra’s name to him. ‘A world ruled by women is a loathsome enough thing. One ruled by that woman is intolerable’ he adds. ‘It is true she was not properly deferential to you, Imperion’ the Vizier points out.

“Deferential?” Arkon quotes, reminding the Vizier that Thundra had come to demand tribute. ‘By the Atom-Gods, I’ll not rest till she is my personal slave!’ Arkon declares, while announcing that thanks to Polemachan science, when Thundra waylaid ten Earth heroes for the war they have declared upon each other, five of them were drawn here instead. ‘And we shall make ample use of them!’ Arkon declares. The heroes march single-file past Rachel, who calls out to Wonder Man and Iron Man, asking them what is wrong. ‘Don’t let this big baboon order you around! You gotta fight back!’ she urges them, but realizes that it is no use, as they cannot hear her. Rachel then begins to cry, while Arkon orders Shigaru to keep the child out of harm’s way, and out of his way also. ‘By the way, what is a “baboon”?’ Arkkon asks.

‘I have no idea, Sire’ Shigaru replies, to which Arkon exclaims ‘No matter!’ and announces that the de-memorization process undergone by the Earth warriors will not last long, so their surprise assault on “that woman’s world” must be launched at once. Arkon turns to the Scarlet Witch and touches her face, ‘Dear Wanda…my lovely mutant, still garbed in the crimson that so becomes you. If I believed you still had some slight feelings for me, I would spare you - and make you Imperiess of Polemachus’ Arkon tells her, but he knows she would merely despise him for sending her comrades into battle, to kill or be killed by other comrades. Arkon decides that it is best to proceed with his original plan, and orders his warriors to give the salute. Wanda, Wonder Man, Iron Man, the Invisible Woman and Human Torch all raise their hand and shouts ‘Hail, Imperion’, saluting Arkon.

‘Good! If that could be implanted wordlessly in your brains, so could loyalty to me’ Arkon decides, before ordering Vizier to open the doors, as he wishes to address his legions. The Vizier opens the doors, and Arkon stands on a balcony overlooking a large arena where his men have gathered. The warriors are clad in all sorts of armor and hold various weapons, and Arkon tells them that they are about to begin a sacred crusade against a sphere which threatens their homeworld with female domination. ‘Our battle of battles with the United Sisterhood Empire of North America begins - NOW!’ and with that, there is a flash of energy, and everyone vanishes.

‘Lord Arkon is a murderous male fool - if he truly imagines he will catch us unawares! We shall meet his myriads with multitudes!’ Thundra declares, flanked by her captive heroes, and her army of warrior women on the sprawling land outside her palace. Thundra tells the Thing that if he survives the day, she will offer him a second chance between marriage and imprisonment. ‘If you think we’re gonna fight for you, Thundra, yer tiara’s on too tight!’ the4 Thing replies, but Spider-Woman exclaims that she will fight for Thunfra, that she will do anything to get Rachel back. The Thing tells Spider-Woman not to worry, assuring her that she will get her kid back, if it takes this whole blamed sisterhood army to do so.

‘At least you haven’t started bluffing us with threats to hurt Reed’s boy’ Hawkeye tells Thundra, but Mr Fantastic tells Hawkeye that is because he knows Thundra too well, and quotes Francis Bacon, who said “He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune”. Reed adds that Thundra may hold Franklin hostage, but that he doesn’t think she would really hurt him, not matter what they do. ‘You may - or may not - be right about that, Richards’ Thundra replies, when suddenly, there is a burst of energy from the sky, landing on the battlefield across from Thundra, her army, and the heroes. ‘However, Lord Arkon and his marauding forces have just arrived - and are you equally certain about them?’ Thundra enquires.

Riding a large green beast, Arkon moves his army forward, telling them that this is the hour that tries their souls. ‘We have traversed both space and centuries to face a determined enemy upon its own soil’ he calls out, telling his men not to be swayed or weakened by the fact that their foes are female. ‘And when they recoil in defeat, give them no quarter - for if you fail or falter, you shall surely receive none. Arkon holds up a scarlet thunderbolt and states that it is the signal for the beginning combat, and he hurls it towards the Sisterhood, where it lands with a THROOM. ‘Attack, men of Polemachus!’ Arkon booms. ‘Attack, soldiers of the Sisterhood!’ Thundra cries out, as both armies rush towards each other.

‘Hey, what kind of deal is this?’ Hawkeye asks as his brainwashed teammates attack him. ‘What gives? The rest of the rescue crew is fighting for the other side’ the Thing declares. Reed out that you can see it in their eyes, that they have been brainwashed somehow by Arkon. ‘If we don’t fight back, they’re liable to kill us!’ Reed adds.

Within Thundra’s castle, Franklin rushes about, telling himself that he has to get out of here and help his mommy and daddy. ‘Good thing that bad lady’s cage had the bars so far apart’ Franklin thinks, but points out that everybody is too busy to be watching him anyway. He comes to where several warrior women are gathered, ‘We are in position, sister!’ one of them calls out to another, who is controlling a very large weapon. ‘The turn of a wheel will teleport you all to the enemy’s rear in an instant’ she tells them as she prepares to aim the weapon. Franklin recalls that one of the guards said his daddy and Uncle Ben are here, and supposes that they are outside. He rushes towards the beam as it begins to fire. ‘What? Stop him! He’s interrupting the flow!’ one of the sisters exclaims.

An instant later, Franklin materializes outside. ‘Whoa! That felt funny!’ he tells himself, before wondering where his daddy and everybody else is. Franklin soon realizes that he is on the other side of a bunch of people fighting each other, when suddenly, he sees Rachel who is still being held by Shigaru, behind some rocks on the battlefield. ‘That big man’s holding her’ Franklin tells himself, as he sees Rachel waving at him. Rachel suddenly kicks Shigaru, and breaks free of his grasp. ‘I’m outta here!’ Rachel exclaims. The youngsters rush towards each other, and Rachel exclaims ‘Franklin, they got the grown up’s hypnotized!’, to which Franklin asks ‘Who does, Thundra?’, but Rachel tells him that it is Arkon.

‘Stop them!’ both Arkon and Thundra cry out in unison, while nearby, Spider-Woman finds herself up against the mind-controlled Invisible Woman. ‘Huh? For a second there, I almost thought I saw - what am I thinking of? Of course that couldn’t have been Rachel and Franklin - not here on the battlefield’ Julia decides, urging herself to get her mind back on the so-called Invisible Woman, whose force field repels Spider-Woman’s psi-web like a duck shakes off water. Julia decides that it is eerie fighting the Invisible Woman, even if she is being controled by someone else. ‘Outta my way, Wonder Man!’ the Thing exclaims as he punches Simon, despite not liking doing so. Iron Man fires a repulser ray at the Thing, before Hawkeye fires an electro-arrow at him to even up the odds by screwing up Iron Man’s mechanical innards for a minute. ‘You knocked down Iron Man - with an arrow?’ Thing mutters as Iron Man falls from the sky.

The Scarlet Witch fires a hex bolt at Mister Fantastic, causing him to recoil the arm he wad extending towards her, while Hawkeye explains to the Thing that Iron Man could have repelled it magnetically, but that hr was counting on his reactions being slowed by his condition. ‘Looks like you figured right’ the Thing tells him as he grabs Iron Man, deciding that it is a good thing they took him out, as Reed is not having much luck against the Scarlet Witch. The Thing adds that if he lets go of Iron Man then they could be in bad shape themselves, so he won’t let go. ‘In fact, I’m gonna use the John Wayne school of psychology on him’ Ben adds, before shouting ‘Wake up Tin Man - and shape up - or I’m gonna turn you inta so much scrap!’.

Julia suddenly glances across the battlefield once more, and is certain she saw Rachel, or at least her head, bobbing up behind a nearby rock. Despite it leaving her wide open to an attack by the Invisible Woman, Julia decides to go after her daughter, and turns from Susan, and races towards the rock, while Susan fires several invisible bolts at her, but none of them strike.

Behind the rock, Rachel puts an arm around Franklin and tells him not to be scared. ‘They’ll come for us - I know they will’ she assures him. ‘Who’s s-s-scared? I just got something in my eye’ Franklin claims, but wishing their parents would get here soon. Tanks wage war against warriors nearby, when suddenly, Shigaru appears behind the children, and tells them to stay where they are, as there are tanks everywhere. ‘It’s that guy who was holding you!’ Franklin exclaims, while Rachel tells Shigaru to get away from them, and suggests to Franklin that they make tracks. Shigaru tells them not to, and states that he doesn’t want to harm them. ‘Lord Arkon ordered me to protect you and I will -’ he promises, when suddenly, a missile is fired at him as he steps in front of the children.

‘Shigaru!’ Rachel calls out as the man falls to the ground, just as Spider-Woman reaches them. ‘Thank God you two are safe!’ Julia exclaims, as she ushers them onwards. ‘But Shigaru -’ Rachel exclaims. ‘Go…children…’ Shigaru calls out, weakened. ‘I saved you…just like I was supposed to’ he utters, before warning them: ‘Look out…’ is all he manages to say, before passing away. ‘He’s dead. But what was he trying to say?’ someone asks, when suddenly, another missile is fired at them. ‘Good Lord!’ Julia gasps as she manages to put up a small psychic web, there wasn’t enough time to create a fully formed web. She hopes what she created will take the brunt of the force, and tells the kids to get under here. As the missile explodes, Julia crouches down over the kids.

Julia falls over, and Rachel stay with her mother, while Franklin sees his own mother and rushes towards her, ‘That bomb hurt the Spider-Lady!’ he tells her, but when he gets no response, he begins shaking the Invisible Woman, asking her what is wrong. ‘You act like you’re asleep - only you’re walking around’ Franklin declares, while Julia explains to him that someone has hypnotized her. This causes Franklin to start crying, ‘No, please, you’ve got to wake up. I need you to wake up!’ Franklin exclaims. ‘Can’t you hear me, Mommy? I need you to wake up. I need you…’ Franklin calls out, while Spider-Woman sees another missile headed right for them, and tells Franklin to get down.

‘No! I won’t let it! I won’t let it strike my child I tell you!’ the Invisible woman cries, throwing her head backwards, she has freed herself from Arkon’s influence. ‘I won’t!’ Susan shouts again as she throws a force field around herself, Julia and their children. ‘Mommy’s back!’ Franklin declares, while Rachel points out that the missile will still hit them. Susan stands, arms folded across her chest, as the missile explodes against the force field, which holds in place. ‘I…guess I threw everything I had into that one’ Susan remarks, before realizing that the field’s vibrations, are combining with those of the explosion, as if the two are multiplying on each other. Indeed, a ripple effect spreads outwards, and Susan points out that could have a devastating effect on everything outside the force field.

‘I just hope our guys are okay out there. Somebody else will have to worry about Thundra, Arkon and company’ Julia remarks, as the shockwaves of the force field and missile impact, radiating around the armies. ‘Wow, I haven’t felt that big a wind since -’ Hawkeye begins, before telling the Thing that it looks like their sleepwalkers are starting to come out of it, as Wanda, Simon and Iron Man regain their senses. ‘Where…?’ Wonder Man utters, to which the Thing tells him that if he is going to ask the hard ones right off, they are liable to be here all day. ‘You okay, Tin-Tod?’ the Thing asks Iron Man, who replies that if this is still the Arkon ride, he is fine. ‘Oh, it’s an “Arkon Ride”, all right - only not the one at Sword and Sorcery World’ the Thing replies, while the Living Lightning points out that some of their teammates are taking longer to recover than others. ‘Do you wake up at the same speed as everybody else, Lightning?’ the Thing asks him.

Clint goes over Wanda and starts shaking her, deciding that he doesn’t know whether he should do this, but that they could be swamped by two whole armies any second. ‘Snap out of it, Wanda!’ Clint tells his dear friend. ‘We need all the super heroes we can get!’ he adds. ‘Hawkeye? Where are we?’ Wanda utters as she wakes, while the Thing mutters that, as a kid named Dorothy might have said on a bad day, “Kansas it ain’t”. Wanda, Iron Man, Wonder Man and the Human Torch gather together, and none of them are impressed. ‘It’s all coming back to me now!’ Wanda exclaims. ‘To all of us, Wanda’ Iron Man tells his friend. ‘We’ve been had’ Wonder Man exclaims, while the Human Torch announces that somebody is going to be real sorry about it.

Looking across the battlefield, the young hero sees that Franklin and Rachel are safe with their respective mothers for the moment, until Arkon and Thundra manage to rally their troops, of course. On his beast, Arkon calls out to his army: ‘Be men, my warriors! Regroup your ranks and smash the female furies that oppose us!’ he orders them. Thundra swings her chain about and tells her Sisterhood to regroup and drive the hated male invaders back to their own world, or else destroy them. ‘Base cowards!’ Arkon shouts as he hurls a thunderbolt at some of his own men. ‘If Arkon must slay a few of you to restore manhood to the rest, then ‘ he begins, only to be knocked from green beast. ‘By the Atom-Gods!’ he shouts. ‘Who dares?’ he asks, landing on the ground, he looks up: ‘You!’ Arkon gasps.

‘Who better to unseat the Imperion of Polemachus than the Empress of the United Sisterhood?’ Thundra smiles. Arkon gets to his feet and Thundra suggests they no more depend upon armies, but upon themselves, for the outcome of this battle. ‘Done!’ Arkon exclaims. ‘No thunderbolts, no weapons’ Thundra tells him, and Arkon agrees: ‘Just Arkon against Thundra - to the death!’ Arkon declares.

The heroes have regrouped, and the Human Torch reports that they have pretty much knocked the fight out of both sides. ‘It was a lost less us, Torch, than your sister’ Living Lightning points out, while Wonder Man punches one of Arkon’s soldiers, and asks where are the two glory-hounds who started this. ‘Over there - and they seem to be keeping it going all by themselves’ Reed points out as he motions to where Arkon and Thundra are facing off head-to-head. ‘Good grief!’ Wanda exclaims. ‘They’re going at it like a couple of hockey players! We’d better -’ Hawkeye begins, but Reed tells him to wait, and supposes that Arkon and Thundra have got the right idea. ‘This was their war - no one else’s - so why not let the two of them finish it?’

With her chain wrapped around her fist as she punches Arkon hard in the face, she calls him a pig, and explains that she only stole the children as a way to influence Ben Grimm. ‘And you had to interfere!’ Thundra shouts as she smacks Arkon back with her chain. ‘Do you think I am a fool, woman?’ Arkon asks, before grabbing her by the throat and pulling her down towards him, ‘I know you wanted the monstrous Thing as a consort mostly for the raw power he would add to your forces - for you knew that once we had met - a clash between us was inevitable!’ he booms as he punches Thundra hard in the face.

Arkon punches Thundra in the stomach, and the warrior woman curls upwards, and he tells her that never before, in all his days, has he found a female so powerful that he must fight her physically, but that where she is concerned, he must make an exception. Thundra holds her ground, and Arkon calls her insolent. ‘And you are unbelievably arrogant!’ Thundra shrieks back. ‘Your ambition knows no bounds!’ Arkon tells the warrior woman. ‘You would reduce my empire to a Polemachan protectorate!’ Thundra exclaims, while Arkon reminds her that it was she who first materialized in his dimension. ‘How else could I learn what Arkon the Magnificent was truly like?’ Thundra enquires.

The Avengers West Coast and Fantastic Four continue to watch the warriors in battle, while Hawkeye suggests that they should break this up. ‘Right! C’mon, people, it’s clobbering -’ the Thing begins, but Reed tells him not to, as the fight is nearly over. ‘How can you tell?’ the Thing asks his friend. ‘Trust me on this’ Reed replies.

‘What? You came to Polemachus - out of curiosity about me?’ a very surprised Arkon enquires. ‘And am I really the first woman you have found worthy of physical battle?’ Thundra replies.

‘That’s it, I can’t take no more!’ the Thing exclaims as he rushes forward. ‘You and me both’ Hawkeye agrees, despite Reed telling them to wait. ‘Wait for what?’ the Thing asks. ‘Til they hijack Vegas for a place to spend their honeymoon?’ he asks, declaring that he is wading in and busting heads. ‘Lord Arkon, I must -’ Thundra begins, but ‘Allwo me, Empress!’ Arkon tells Thundra as he wraps a hand around her waist and fires a thunderbolt at the ground, stating that it is time they were gone to more congenial spheres.

‘They’re gone!’ the Human Torch gasps as the smoke clears from the thunderbolt. ‘Just as well. A few more seconds and we’d probably had to coover the kids’ eyes, right, Grimm?’ Hawkeye asks his friend. ‘Yeah, right’ the Thing mutters.

‘Our Empress has left us behind with that - man! And now we begin to fade - to reappear at the Citadel of the Sisterhood!’ one of Thundra’s warriors exclaims, as she and others begin to fade. Arkon’s men begin to fade as well, with one explaining that they are being drawn across the void of time and space by Arkon’s Vizier.

‘Yes, best come back home, warriors - before our Imperion turns you into footmen to serve his newfound lady!’ Vizier calls out, seemingly pleased that it may be nice to know peace on Polemachus at least for a little while.

On the battle-ravaged field, the heroes gather together, with the Invisible Woman stating that leaves nobody here but them, the Earth people. ‘Thank Heaven!’ Spider-Woman exclaims. ‘But where did Arkon and that tall lady -’ Rachel begins, before Franklin announces ‘Thundra’, ‘Yeah, Thundra - what happened to them?’ Rachel concludes. The Thing replies that he doesn’t know where they went, but can sure as heck guess what they are doing right about now. ‘Ben Grimm!’ Julia exclaims, frowning. ‘Huh? Oh, yeah. They’re off plotting against us, that’s what they’re doing’ the Thing mutters, before Spider-Woman asks how they get back to Earth.

Ben claims that he has been thinking about that, and explains that when Thundra last snatched him, whatever it was keeping him here didn’t last long, and as everyone begins to fade, he points out that it doesn’t look like Thundra has improved that much. One of the kids exclaims that they are disappearing, but they are told that it is all right, explaining that they are just going home.

Back at Sword and Sorcery World, USAgent is standing outside the Arkon ride, and sees the train cars speed to the platform. ‘Looks like it’s time to roll out the welcome mat’ John decides, and standing on the platform, is greeted by his teammates and the Fantastic Four. ‘Everybody okay? How about the youngsters?’ John asks. Julia tells her teammate that everyone is fine. ‘All but maybe Ben’s ego, huh, Reed?’ the Human Torch whispers. Reed just tells him not to be smug, while Julia and Susan walk away from the rest of the group.

‘Maybe you’re used to this kind of thing with your child, Sue, but - well, it’s the fist time it’s ever happened to me. This showed me you were right, before. I’m going to tell Rachel that her mother is Spider-Woman’ Julia announces. Susan tells her that you never get used to seeing your child in danger, but that she thinks she is making the right decision. ‘Good luck’ Susan tells her.

Julia turns back to her daughter and crouches down beside her, ‘Rachel, honey…you’re really okay, aren’t you?’ Spider-Woman asks her. ‘Sure, it was scary - but it was fun, too’ Rachel replies. ‘That’s good. But now I - I’ve got something to tell you about Spider-Woman. She - I mean - I - I’m really your mother’ Julia announces as she pulls up her mask. ‘I know’ Rachel smiles back. ‘You knew? But how long? Did I say something that -?’ Julia asks, but Rachel explains that she always knew, just as soon as she swung in wearing her spider-suit. ‘But you didn’t say anything’ Julia points out. Rachel replies that she didn’t want to spoil her secret, if her mother wanted to keep it. ‘I’m real glad you decided to tell me, though’ Rachel says.

‘You know something, Rache? So am I’ Julia tells her daughter as they embrace. ‘Something in your eye, Ben?’ the Reed asks his teammate when he sees him rubbing his eye. ‘Huh? What’s wrong with you, Stretch? Don’tcha know a tear when ya see one?’ the Thing retorts. Reed turns to Iron Man and tells him that the Fantastic Four better go, but assures him that they will see the Avengers West again one of these days. ‘Probably when Arkon and Thundra gang up on us, right?’ Iron Man replies. The Human Torch smiles and tells Living Lightning that if he gets back East, he will give him a tour of what is left of Coney Island. ‘Sounds good’ Miguel replies.

The Scarlet Witch goes over to the Thing and puts her arms around one of his, telling him that she couldn’t help noticing he looks pretty glum, considering their side won. Ben replies that it isn’t that, and explains that it’s not that he wanted to hook up with Thundra, but it still hurts to realize she was mostly after him for his muscle to help her against Arkon. ‘Well, like they say, there’s plenty more fish in the bowl’ Ben mutters, to which Wanda tells him that is advice they can all use from time to time, adding that it sounds as if Ben is well on the way to feeling good about himself again.

‘You really wanna know what’d make me feel good, right about now?’ Ben asks. ‘Yes. What?’ Wanda replies. ‘Just - this!’ the Thing declares as he picks up a concrete trash can and hurls it towards the large Arkon construct which looms down over the amusement park ride. ‘Nice shot…but you’re going to have to pay for that, you know’ Wanda points out as the trash can shatters the Arkon image’s face. ‘We all pay for our sins, Witch-Lady’ the Thing replies, now carrying Franklin on his shoulders. ‘Which lady, unca Ben?’ the boy enquires. Wanda smiles, while the Thing tells Franklin to come on, and he will buy him a slurped, as the heroes head home.

Characters Involved: 

Hawkeye, Iron Man, Living Lightning, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman II, USAgent, Wonder Man (all Avengers West Coast)

Rachel Carpenter

Human Torch II, Invisible Woman, Mister Fantastic, Thing (all Fantastic Four)

Franklin Richards


Members of Thundra’s Sisterhood
Mr Shigaru
Arkon’s army

Story Notes: 

This issue marks one of the few times the Scarlet Witch references her children.

Living Lightning fought the original Human Torch in Avengers West Coast #63.

Error: on page 15, Mister Fantastic’s word balloon in panel four comes from Wonder Man.

The Thing turned Thundra down, again, in Fantastic Four (1st series) #303.

Dorothy didn’t quite say “Kansas, it ain’t”, but that’s the basic idea.

Error: on page 44, Rachel calls out ‘Mommy, Daddy! I’m disappearing!’ - this is presumably supposed to be Franklin.

Arkon and Thundra return in Avengers (1st series) #358.

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