Avengers West Coast #83

Issue Date: 
June 1992
Story Title: 
The Hyena’s Last Laugh

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

Brief Description: 

The original Human Torch receives a message from his old foe the Hyena, claiming that he has information about the Torch’s dead partner, Toro, but when he goes to the agreed meeting point, he is ambushed by the Hyena’s hirelings. He defeats them, and finds a note from the Hyena, claiming that he can restore the Torch’s lost power. Realizing he needs help, the Torch contacts the Avengers West Coast, but when he arrives at the Palos Verdes Compound, he is surprised to only find other reservists present, for one reason or another - Mockingbird, Hank Pym, the Wasp, Machine Man, Quicksilver and Tigra. The Human Torch reveals his past history with the Hyena, and the other heroes are keen to help him. However, the Torch is somewhat unsure about whether to let these heroes help him, given the seven have never worked together as a team. The Torch arrives at the Hyena’s home at the intended meeting time, where the Hyena reveals a contraption that will link the Torch’s mind up to various computer databases, where he will be able to retrieve all he needs about his dead sidekick, and in return, the Hyena just wants some information that can be of benefit to himself. The Human Torch agrees, and hooks himself up to the contraption, but when the Hyena presses a button, chaos ensues at the busy Los Angeles freeways. On one, hyenas escape from a truck, while a light plane crashes into another, and a monster-truck is out of control on a third. The reserve Avengers split up to tackle each crisis. Tigra engages the hyenas in battle, while Quicksilver and Machine Man put out the fire that the plane caused, and the Wasp and Mockingbird evacuate trapped civilians from cars and halt the monster-truck. The Human Torch soon takes off the contraption, and destroys it, luckily, as it would have caused his powers to re-ignite, and set fire to the Hyena’s home, and cause massive explosions around the city, as the Hyena has a death wish after developing cancer while in prison. His goons attack the Human Torch, but the reservist Avengers arrive to assist the Torch, and the Hyenas’ plans are ruined. The Hyena reveals that he had hoped to get revenge on the Torch by making him feel guilty about all the people he would have killed. He then passes out, but when he wakes in hospital, he learns that because he had been smiling over the past few days, his mysterious cancer has vanished, and he will now live for many years - but in prison.

Full Summary: 

Since World War Two, Los Angeles has built up the most extensive freeway system on this planet. The Hollywood - The Santa Monica - The Harbor - The Pasadena - these four highways disect the downtown area, near the place where, in 1781, a Spanish governor founded El Pueblo De Nuestra Senora La Reina De Los Angeles. Here, an ever-increasing number of high-rises may rude gestures at the much publicized earthquake statistics. And, amid the towers of steel and glass, a single, dilapidated Victorian mansion crouches like an uneasy tortoise, amid the legs of mighty mastodons.

Inside the old mansion a man calls out, ‘I’ve brought it, Sir’ as he approaches another man, who sits in a wheelchair inside a darkened room. ‘And it will do everything you requested that it do’ the man adds as he hands the man in the wheelchair a case. ‘“Requested”? Required, you mean’ the man in the wheelchair corrects his associate. He adds that it is said he hasn’t smiled since 1947. He moves out of the shadows, and his strange appearance is revealed. ‘And they’re right. But, it’s true, that old cliché - laughter really is the best medicine!’ and then, the peculiar looking man bursts into a huge smile.

Some nights later, a lone figure in an overcoat approaches a place which is the dark mirror-image of the Californian dream. Here, the bright, shiny automobiles which only yesterday were mired in freeway traffic come to the ultimate off-ramp - the auto junkyard. The man removes his overcoat, revealing an orange one-piece costume underneath. ‘Hyena! Where are you, Hyena? I’ve come - just like you asked!’ Jim Hammond a.k.a. the original Human Torch calls out, throwing his arms into the air. ‘That’s real heart-warming, ain’t it, boys?’ a thug calls out as he and several others emerge from the broken cars. ‘In this day and age, a man you can depend on!’ the thug adds. ‘And he comes alone, too - just like he was told to’ another remarks. ‘That’s gonna make our job easy - real easy’ a third, holding a knife, points out. Another orders his fellows not to do anything until he gives the signal.

Jim Hammond informs the approaching thugs that he is here because an old enemy challenged him to show up, and because he hinted that he had information about somebody who meant a lot to him. Jim asks the gang if they are here to take him to the Hyena, or if this is some kind of cheap ambush. ‘We don’t know nothing about no old buddy of yours’ one of the thugs retorts. ‘Except that he won’t be able to ID you when we’re finished with you’ another adds. ‘Get him!’ the alpha thug orders. ‘I got first dibs!’ one of the others calls out. ‘You clowns can have what’s left!’ he adds as he takes a punch with a spiked knuckle weapon at Hammond, who dodges the attack. ‘The Hyena never did have much class - but I don’t recall even him sinking as low as you characters before!’ Hammond declares as he punches his attacker, and pushes another away.

‘So you want to play, huh? Sorry, I swore I’d never use a cornball 1940’s line like that again - but old habits die hard!’ Hammond remarks as his next opponent lunges towards him some scrap metal. ‘And I die a whole lot harder’ Hammond adds as he trips the thug up, sending him crashing into a pile of cars. ‘Whoever you are, man - you got good moves, for some jerk running around in nothing but his red long johns’ one of the thugs remarks, adding that it is time to bring out the heavy artillery. He then reaches into his shirt and pulls out a gun. ‘I don’t believe this!’ Hammond declares. ‘Are you telling me that the Hyena set you clowns up to kill me - even gave you shirts with his monogram on them - and never told you who I am?’ he asks as he dodges the bullets and leaps to his attacker, punching him in the face.

Hammond tells himself that there is no use in waiting around to question the thugs once they wake up. ‘If he didn’t tell you that - it’s a sure bet you don’t know anything else that would help me’ he decides, before noticing a letter in the man’s jacket pocket. He sees that it is addressed to him, and it reads:

Torch - if you’re reading this, you defeated my hirelings without using fire, since this paper ignites if extreme heat is used near it. That means you’ve lost your flame powers - but I can help you regain them. I an also help you find the body of your deceased partner, Toro, for which you’ve been searching. If interested come to the Gingerbread House, Downtown at precisely 5:23 PM tomorrow. Come a minute earlier - or a minute later - and you will lose this opportunity forever.
The Hyena laughs last.

Moments later, the Human Torch takes his leave, but not after tying the Hyena’s thugs together for the police. Perhaps his pride is wounded, at least a little, to have been attacked by men, ignorant of who he is. Who he was, rather. And, no doubt that is precisely what the Hyena intended. Years ago, even a few short months ago, the Torch would have cried out “flame on”, and flown off through the night sky in a blinding flash of fiery light. Instead, tonight, he hops into a Toyota - a car made by people he helped defeated fifty years back, and he hit’s the freeway. As millions of men and women do, each and every day of their gridlocked lives. He heads south.

An hour later, the barbed gates of a compound on the fashionable Palos Verdes Peninsula opens wide for him. Moments later, inside, he rushes into the Avengers West Coast meeting room, ‘Avengers! Thank Heaven you could all - huh? You’re not the Avengers West Coast!’ the Human Torch shouts as he sees Mockingbird, Hank Pym, the Wasp, Quicksilver, Tigra and Machine Man gathered around the table. A box of donuts in front of them, while Machine Man a.k.a. X-51 pours Tigra some coffee. ‘Actually, Torch - in a manner of speaking - we are’ Tigra replies, before thanking Machine Man for the coffee and telling him to have a cup himself. ‘In my case, that would be singularly useless’ Machine Man responds. ‘Oh yeah, I guess it would, wouldn’t it?’ Tigra a.k.a. Greer Grant Nelson realizes.

Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff tells the Torch that it is good to see him again, while Bobbi Morse Barton a.k.a. Mockingbird adds that around here, right now, it is good to see anybody. Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp points out that the Torch looks a bit confused, to which Dr Hank Pym asks ‘Can you blame him?’ and tells the Torch that they know he sent out a call for the Avengers West, so he must be surprised to see only his fellow reservists here. Hank stands up and explains to the Torch that both coasts of Avengers regulars are on their way back from outer space, something they call “Operation: Galactic Storm”. ‘Catchy title. How do they dream ‘em up?’ the Wasp jokes, before informing Machine Man that she, Hank and Mockingbird just for in from playing back-up in upstate New York. Hank explains that Machine Man, Tigra and Quicksilver had been asked to hold the fort here, so they ran into them, while the Wasp reveals that Spider-Woman has gone to pick up her daughter, and USAgent left for a mission in the North Pole, standing in for Captain America.

‘Don’t know why I bothered flying in from Oz when Hank and Jan are doing all the talking’ Tigra smiles as she leans into Quicksilver, who reminds Greer that Hank and Jan are both natural leaders. He then adds that after tonight, he fears he will not be even a reserve Avenger. Hammond sits down around the table and supposes that Hank and Jan have cleared everything up, and adds that he presumes he wasn’t called in on “Galactic Storm” because he lost his powers, and because most people think he is dead. He thanks Machine Man when he pours him some coffee. ‘I wasn’t sure you’d want coffee - your being an android, and all’ Machine Man replies, but Jim explains that he is fully functioning, that he was designed to be a normal, if synthetic, human, and his flame powers were due to a flaw in his design back in 1939.

Jim continues, revealing that ever since his run-in with an old enemy called Master Man, recently, he can’t get hot and bothered anymore. Jan tells Jim that Hank may find a way around that, before asking him why he called the emergency meeting. Jim explains that tonight, he answered an offer of help on a personal matter, and he found himself attacked by four hoods working for the Hyena. ‘Since a torch that doesn’t burn is like a wet fire-cracker, I figured I’d better turn to the Avengers’ he explains. ‘And you found the “B” team instead’ Tigra mutters. ‘Forgive my lack, but - well, I have considerable memory-storage in my head, limbs and upper abdomen - but I’m afraid I don’t recall seeing any record of a criminal called “The Hyena”’ Machine Man announces. Jim tells him that he would, if his memory bank had taken deposits back in the 1940s.

Flashback images, narrated by the Human Torch:
As a child, the Hyena contracted a rare illness which left him with a weird, mile-wide smile - and a diseased mind. He became a home front Nazi during World War Two, which is when the Human Torch first locked horns with him. After the war, he turned into a garden variety hijacker, but he was put away for a long stretch in 1947 by the Torch and his partner, Toro.

‘That’s when he stopped smiling by sheer force of will - and he evidently hasn’t cracked one since. He -’ Human Torch begins before pausing. ‘Something wrong?’ Hank asks, so Jim apologizes, explaining that whenever he thinks of his late partner, Toro, he tends to get a bit choked up. He wonders if, under the circumstances, he should track down the Hyena alone - powers or no powers. ‘Hey, what is this? You think we can’t hack it?’ Mockingbird asks, defensively. Quicksilver tells Mockingbird that he didn’t mean it personally, and points out that it is the Torch’s decision. ‘I know - but any time I can’t do as well as Hawkeye and his trained arrows -’ Bobbi begins, while the Human Torch tells the others that they must admit, they don’t have nearly the firepower of the regular Avengers West. ‘In my case, quite literally’ he adds, before deciding that since the seven of them have never worked together, this might not be the ideal time to start.

‘It may be the only time for me’ Quicksilver remarks, revealing that he has accepted full membership in the mutant group known as X-Factor, so this will be his final appearance as an Avenger for the foreseeable future. ‘I suppose I would like to go out in a blaze of glory…er…perhaps I should rephrase that’ Quicksilver remarks. ‘Open mouth, insert foot’ Mockingbird smiles, before pointing out that it seems they all have got reasons for wanting to help Torch out. ‘No one’s mentioned the main one - that the Hyena’s a murderous criminal who needs catching’ Hank states. The Wasp tells Torch that she speaks for them all when she tells him that their help is available, if he wants. ‘Not it’s up to you. What do you say - Avenger?’ The Torch doesn’t reply, he just looks thoughtful.

Rush hour comes the next afternoon to both the downtown and its freeways. Right on schedule, it is as misnamed as ever, since the only rushing anyone seems capable of, is that of the blond, red-garbed figure which abruptly leaps from an unmoving toyota near the 6th Street off-ramp. ‘Hey! That guy who was riding with you - is he crazy or what, mister’ a man in a car calls out to Hank Pym as Jim leaps across the cars that have come to a standstill. ‘He’s just in a hurry, friend…and I misjudged how long it’d take to get us here, since I don’t often drive in rush-hour traffic’ Hank replies. ‘Well, pin a rose on you’ the man calls out. ‘Go, Torch - go! And I just pray we’re right about what you’re going to face down there - for your sake, and for LA’s!’ Hank says to himself.

Soon, Hammond comes to the old mansion, ‘This is the place, all right’ he thinks to himself, reading off some papers, he learns that, evidently, this “Gingerbread House” has been something of a cause celebre for years - half landmark, half eyesore. He wishes that he could have checked it out last night, but they couldn’t be certain there would be nobody home, and their chance to corral the Hyena would have gone up in smoke. Checking his watch, Jim thinks that the Hyena is probably lying about being able to restore his flame powers, but knows that isn’t the point. He sees that it is 5:23 right on the nose, so climbs the front steps, and enters the old house. He climbs a creaky internal staircase, and jokes that it is a good thing he wasn’t planning on sneaking up on the Hyena.

Hammond enters another room, and the door creaks as he opens it. ‘Come in, Torch… you’re every bit as prompt as I expected you to be, given the circumstances’ a voice calls out. The Hyena is sitting in his wheelchair still, hidden in the shadows. Hammond tells his old foe to cut the phony politeness, and asks why he set this meeting up. ‘It wasn’t so you could help me find Toro’s body and give it a proper burial!’ he declares. The Hyena reveals that, while in prison until quite recently, he paid certain scientists to study the Torch and his origins. ‘I reasoned that, being an android, you were still alive - and might resurface one day’. The Hyena comes into the light, his face grinning, and declares that Professor Horton created the Human Torch to be a normal man, but a miscalculation on his part caused Jim to burst into flame. He claims that his researches convinced him that, in time, the Torch’s synthetic body would adapt itself to the error that made him such “hot property” and would build up an immunity block to his flaming power.

‘So now you are nearly human, Torch - but not quite. And, because your origins give you certain inherent capabilities which may be of benefit to us both - I had my highly-paid scientists create this!’ the Hyena declares, revealing a strange contraption. ‘What in blazes is it?’ Jim asks. The Hyena explains that it is a device which, enhanced by the Torch’s brain, will allow him to tap into all the networked computer power in the Lo Angeles area. ‘Why would I want to do that?’ Jim asks, shrugging his shoulders. ‘Our researches revealed that your immunity block was triggered by your complete loss - and subsequent renewal - of blood’ the Hyena reveals, adding that with all the computer power flowing into his android body, he will be able to overcome its immunity, and flame on once more.

Arms folded across his chest, Hammond asks the Hyena why he should believe a word he says. The Hyena tells him that he must take his chance, because he will be plugged into banks of computers - FBI, CIA, police files - and with all that information at his mental fingertips, he will easily be able to retrieve all the information there is about his dead partner. ‘Toro?’ the Torch asks. ‘You’ll be able to learn everything about his adult life…the last time he returned tax forms - his credit card record - even any outstanding parking tickets!’ the Hyena claims, adding, ‘Somewhere amid the cybernetic morass, perhaps, can you truly believe there is not some top-secret government report on how he died? Perhaps even where he is buried!’

The Hyena adds that he would expect Hammond to utilize some of the information he gains access to, of course, to benefit him. ‘So that’s your motive, is it?’ Hammond asks. ‘What else could it be, man? If I had wanted to kill you, I’d have had my hirelings shoot you - yet I sent them out ill-prepared’ the Hyena points out. ‘True - and finding out the truth about Toro at last is worth any reasonable risk!’ Jim decides. He sits down in an armchair and places a cybernetic device on his head that links him to the contraption that will connect him with the computers. ‘All right. Let’s get this over with’ Jim declares, while the Hyena asks him to make sure that the device fits properly around his upper skull. ‘Right - now’ Hyena adds as he checks his watch. ‘I think I can safely guarantee, old friend - that you will remember this moment, for as long as you live’ he remarks as he presses a button on the contraption.

Outside the cloistered environment of the Gingerbread House, the world goes on…if slowly. Trailer truck driver Cleman L Slinkard III switches lanes with his big rig, as a chorus of Hollywood freeway motorists comments on his actions by tooting their horns. Then, at precisely 5:30 PM, the truck’s back door drops open, unbeknownst to Mr Slinkard - and from its innards, there issues a yowling, yipping pack of - what else? - hyenas. They bark and squeal as they make their way onto the freeway, startling the motorists. ‘What in blazes?’ one of them shouts, while a woman screams. The spotted, or laughing hyena is generally shy of human begins. But when such beasts have been starved for a few days, they will go after whatever they think they can get.

At the same instant, where the Harbor Freeway becomes the Pasadena, slow-moving, frustrated drivers suddenly spy an incongruous phenomenon rolling heavily up an off-ramp - crushing car after car with its gigantic wheels. They are called “monster trucks” and it is difficult to see how they could be put to any practical use. ‘Help!’ a man calls out as he leaps from his car just as the monster truck rolls onto it. Somebody, it would seem, has finally found one. ‘Honey, I - I can’t see a driver in that truck!’ a woman calls out to her husband as more civilians run for their lives. ‘Well, let’s not wait around till it gets close enough that you can!’ her husband suggests.

And, a mile south, the westbound Santa Monica Freeway is similarly not without its - traffic delays - as small plane crashes into the busy freeway. Cars are overturned and fires start. Miraculously, all three of the simultaneous occurrences have happened in ways that have spared lives - at least thus far. But the motorists, now becoming reluctant pedestrians, are not inclined to wager that particular trend will continue. Still, it’s not all that easy to simply walk off an elevated freeway…!

While, back in the relative tranquillity of the Gingerbread House, the Human Torch now stands, the device still connected to his head, while Hyena exclaims ‘Outside, Torch, catastrophe has struck! But soon - very soon - you will be able to go help set things right. Just be patient a few seconds more…and you may play the hero, once again!’

A Quinjet flies over one of the freeways, with Mockingbird on her sky-cycle attached to the Quinjet, she announces that every freeway running through downtown LA is at a standstill. Inside the Quinjet, the Wasp sit’s a control panel, while Machine Man, Quicksilver and Tigra are with her. ‘Correct me if you think I’m wrong, Avengers…but somehow, I doubt if this is sheer coincidence!’ Machine Man states. ‘It’s the Hyena’s doing all right - but why?’ Quicksilver asks. Tigra suggests to the Wasp that perhaps her ex-husband has come up with something. Wasp dials his number, and at another location, Hank announces that he is in the compu-van that they parked downtown earlier. ‘I had to abandon the Toyota’ he admits, before reporting that he is in contact with their mainframe back at the Compound, but that he is still having trouble getting a hold of the Hyena’s prison record, as there is some sort of static on the line. ‘I’ll let you know the second I learn anything’ Hank tells his companions.

At that moment, Mockingbird detaches herself from the Quinjet and takes flight on her sky-cycle, while Machine Man flies out of the Quinjet carrying Tigra and Quicksilver. ‘We can wait no longer! Hurry!’ Quicksilver tells the robot, who replies that his anti-gravity units and pedal turbines can effect speeds of no more than fifty miles per hour. ‘That should be enough to cover this tight area’ Mockingbird calls out, before bidding everyone good luck. ‘We’re gonna need it’ she remarks as she takes off in another direction. Machine Man drops Tigra down where the hyenas are rampaging after asking her if she is certain she wants to be dropped here. ‘Hey, anytime a were-woman like me can’t handle a bunch of hyenas!’ Tigra replies.

She lands amongst the pack and growls. The hyenas scatter, Greer’s imitation tiger-roar worked against them - except for one, whom turns on Greer, but she grabs it, and scratches its back. ‘Wolverine, eat your heart out!’ Tigra thinks to herself, but realizes that the hyenas’ jaws are strong enough to crush her skull like an eggshell. ‘If they decide to gang up on me - I’m finished. I’d better wind this up fast’ she tells herself, as she throws one of the hyenas into the pack, before she roars once more. ‘Good Lord! Are those terrible sounds coming out of that striped girl in the bikini?’ someone in a car asks. ‘Yep - and we’d better get down on our knees and give thanks that they are - cause I think she just frightened that whole pack of wild hyenas into leaping off the freeway - and it’s a long way down!’ someone replies, as indeed, the hyenas rush away from Tigra, to the edge of the freeway, and leap off it.

Meanwhile, on the Harbor-Pasadena, Mockingbird sets down with the Wasp, as the monster-truck looms ahead. Machine Man flies above Mockingbird and tells her to do what she can for the people trapped by the monster-truck. ‘Hey! I walked out on a guy who gave me too many orders!’ Bobbi calls back, before admitting that the people, trapped in their cars, do need her help. She extends her battle stave into a make-shift crowbar and starts to pry open one of the car doors, while the Wasp flies after the monster truck. ‘Huh? Pardon my scepticism, Wasp - but if couldn’t stop that wonder-wheeler - it’s hard for me to imagine how you’re going to!’ Mockingbird calls out as she ushers some people rescued from the car, to safety.

The Wasp ignores the question, but she admits to herself that she isn’t too sure about this. ‘A lot depends on whether the driver’s left me a way into his cab’ Jan thinks to herself, and as she arrives at the window of the monster cab she finds that it is not wound up completely. She struggles to squeeze herself into the cab, hoping that she can take out the driver before the truck edges even further, crushing the old lady trapped in her car beneath. ‘There! I’m in!’ Jan exclaims as she passes through the small gap in the window. ‘Now, buddy - suppose you apply your breaks real hard, before I show you a wasp’s sting that -’ Jan calls out, but is surprised to find nobody in the truck. She realizes that it is being remote-controlled. Jan doesn’t have time to go life-size, she flits over to the key and hopes she can turn it, not to mention hoping that since it is in the ignition, she can still shut down this ten-ton terror. Jan is successful, and with a whole half a second to spare. She flies out of the truck, and sees Mockingbird helping the elderly woman out of the car below.

And, a short distance south, on the freeway that leads from downtown to Santa Monica, the small plane has burst into flames, and Quicksilver streaks past, relieved that his job is made easier because the pilot is not trapped inside, for if there were he would have to think twice about circling at such high speed that all oxygen is drawn away from the burning area. He does so, creating a turbine that sucks the oxygen away. ‘Nice going, Pietro! You may not be faster than a speeding bullet - but you’ll do!’ Machine Man jokes. Machine Man drops down and starts pushing the de-flamed jet to the side of the freeway, admitting that he is not more powerful than a locomotive, either, but that this should suffice until damage control shows up. Machine Man then pushes the jet into the water below, wishing that he was certain precisely what Hyena is up to.

‘Don’t look now, Machine Man - but I think I just figured it out!’ Hank’s voice can be heard via a communicator in Machine Man. ‘Dr Pym? Is that you?’ Machine Man asks. ‘Check! I finally got through to the prison where he served all that time - and it’s cleared a lot of things up’ Hank reports. He adds that whether they win or lose this mad game is mostly up to the Human Torch.

At that moment, the Human Torch looks like he is in a trance, as the device is still connected to his head. ‘Go on, man - flame on! All you have to do is want to - and you will!’ the Hyena calls out. ‘Give that battle cry of yours - imagine yourself a fiery mass - and you’ll be a living firebrand once more!’ the Hyena snarls, asking the Human Torch if he can’t sense that he is telling him the truth. ‘As a matter of fact - I’m positive you are!’ the Human Torch declares as he removes the cybernetic link. ‘That’s why I’ve been holding back these past few moments - bending every effort not to burst into flame!’ he explains. ‘What? Are you mad?’ the Hyena asks. ‘Not mad, Hyena - and no quite as desperate as you figured I’d be, either!’ Hammond declares, before grabbing the contraption from his foe, and throwing it against the wall, where it smashes. ‘What are you doing? NOOOO!’ the Hyena howls.

‘You are mad! Your loss of flame has destroyed your synthetic brain - that’s the only answer!’ the Hyena declares, telling Hammond that the device would have given him the ability to restore his power. ‘I know it would have!’ he claims. ‘So do I’ Jim replies. ‘you do? Then why -?’ the Hyena asks. ‘Because it just didn’t add up’ Jim replies. ‘As a Nazi, you could have watched untold millions die, and never shed a tear. Even as a hijacker, you lured unsuspecting truckers over cliffs - and laughed as they fell to their deaths’ Hammond reminds the Hyena, explaining that when he sensed just now that he could flame on at will, he knew they were right. ‘You think you’ve outsmarted me, don’t you?’ the Hyena tells him. ‘Maybe some leopards can change their spots - but I’m positive a hyena can’t’ the Human Torch declares.

‘But you’re wrong - dead wrong!’ the Hyena exclaims as he presses a button on his wheelchair, but nothing happens. He looks furious, when suddenly, the thugs from the junkyard enter the room. ‘Don’t know what you thought was gonna happen, boss-man - but you don’t have to worry about this clown anymore!’ one of the thugs shouts as he slams into Hammond. ‘You? Then he fooled you, too?’ Hammond asks. ‘You ain’t gonna talk your way outta this one, man - or punch your way out, either!’ another thug armed with a plank of wood declares. ‘He won’t have to, jerk! AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!’ someone calls out as Mockingbird, Hank Pym, the Wasp, Quicksilver, Machine Man and Tigra burst into the Gingerbread House.

‘This can’t be happening -’ the Hyena utters. ‘No? Then neither is this!’ Tigra calls out as she scratches one of the thugs. ‘Or this!’ the Wasp exclaims as she fires her wasp’s sting at another thug. ‘Let alone this!’ Mockingbird adds as she smacks another thug with her staves. ‘Okay, okay! We give!’ the thug calls out. Machine Man and Quicksilver stand watch over the thugs, while Dr Pym disconnects the device that would have set off the enormous store of explosives in this building’s basement. ‘You really would have done it, wouldn’t you, Hyena? Wouldn’t you?’ the Human Torch demands. ‘What are you looking for, Torch? Remorse? Of course I would have!’ the Hyena replies. With his laughing face, he boasts that there were enough explosives here to destroy this city for blocks around and that includes the freeways, which he had rendered impassable, to insure maximum carnage.

‘But you accursed Avengers - ruined it for me! You ruined it! It’s not fair!’ he howls, as he starts to cry. ‘You wanted to blow up this place - with us in it?’ one of the thugs shouts, before asking the Hyena how he would have gotten out in time. ‘Who said I wanted to?’ the Hyena replies, revealing that he was released from prison because he is dying of a rare type of cancer, and that this was to be his final act, to make the Torch responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths, because his flaming on would have triggered the conflagration that killed them. Hank reveals that they figured something like that, and upon finding out why the prison released him clinched it. ‘You wanted to make the Torch feel like a murderer - knowing that, even if he survived the blast, he’d be forever tormented’.

The Hyena starts clapping, ‘Yes! Yes! It would have been the ultimate revenge of a dying man!’ the Hyena declares. ‘But you tricked me! You didn’t want to regain your powers…’ he points out. Hammond announces that he did, and realizes he probably destroyed his one chance to become a super hero again when he resisted the change for those few fateful seconds. ‘But since we’d guessed why you wanted me to flame on - you left me no real choice’ he explains. His mouth still grinning wide, the Hyena points out that the one good thing about all of this, is that they can’t punish him for what he has done, because he is already dying. With that, he collapses forward, falling out of his wheelchair, blackness envelops him like a pool of night.

And, when his rheumy eyes open again, the Hyena finds the Human Torch, Mockingbird, Quicksilver and the others standing before him, along with a doctor. ‘Hello, Hyena…or perhaps I should say, Henry Mortonson’ a doctor greets his patient. ‘I’m…alive?’ the Hyena asks, looking around. ‘Why am I not dead? I want to be dead. And I will be - soon, very soon - and you can’t stop me - can’t punish me!’ he tells everyone. The Torch suggests to his foe that he listen to what Dr Kriggstein has to say. The doctor leans in towards the Hyena and tells him that he doesn’t know how to put this in layman’s terms, but that the Hyena’s physiology is so strange, that it was probably his very moroseness during all these years in prison that triggered the disease. ‘So?’ the Hyena asks.

The doctor explains that he must have changed over recent weeks, found something to laugh about, to feel good about. ‘That’s the only explanation I can see for why your cancer remitted so quickly - so completely’ he tells his patient. ‘Remitted? Are you saying that because I started smiling again - laughing -’ the Hyena asks. ‘- you may go on living for years’ the doctor announces. ‘Unfortunately, in a prison hospital’ the Human Torch tells him. The Hyena asks everyone to get out. The heroes turn and leave, though the Human Torch looks back at his old foe as the doctor tells his patient to try not to look only on the dark side. ‘After all, you know what they say…”laughter is the best medicine” he quotes as he closes the door on his patient, and the Human Torch walks away.

Characters Involved: 

Dr Pym, Human Torch I, Machine Man, Mockingbird, Quicksilver, Tigra, Wasp (all inactive / reserve members of the Avengers West Coast)


Dr Kriggstein

In Flashback Images
Human Torch I
Nazi soldiers

Story Notes: 

At this point in the Avengers West Coast history, Mockingbird is the only reservist who actually assists the Avengers on any missions.

Notably absent from this assemblage of Avengers West Coast reservists is Firebird, who was last seen in Avengers West Coast Annual #5.

“Operation Galactic Storm” can be seen in Avengers West Coast #80-82, among other places.

Spider-Woman and USAgent were not amongst the Avengers West Coast to go on either space mission, like their active teammates.

USAgent’s mission in the North Pole can be read in Captain America (1st series) #400.

The Human Torch lost his powers against the Master Man in Namor (2nd series) #12.

The Human Torch first battled Hyena in Invaders Annual #1 and captured him in Human Torch (1st series) #27.

The Hyena has not appeared since this issue.

This issue comes with a pin-up advertising the Avengers West Coast’s next adventure against Death Web, and guest starring Spider-Man, which commences next issue.

Written By: