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Roy & Dann Thomas (Writers), David Ross (Penciler), Tim Dzon (Inker), Steve Dutro (Letterer), Bob Sharen (Colorist), Richard Ashford (Assistant Editor), Nelson Yomtov (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor in Chief)
The Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, USAgent, Wonder Man, Iron Man and Spider-Man battle Deathweb while Spider-Woman and Living Lightning protect the Liberty Party and the media – and Julia tries to conceal her identity from her ex-husband who is the Liberty Party’s public relations manager – until she loses sight of Rachel and rushes off to find her. This takes Spider-Woman to the battle site, only for Rachel, who was merely hiding, to follow her mother, and after USAgent and Hawkeye are injured, Rachel is taken hostage. This angers Iron Man because Rachel shouldn’t have been there in the first place, so he sends Spider-Woman home. Michael Galvan delivers a speech to the media about his party’s main concern – the security of the nation, and the Avengers West think something strange is going on as Galvan is talking like the Avengers are endorsing him, which they aren’t. Mike Clemson meets with a villain called the Manipulator, as they both work for the Conclave and discuss the current goings-on involving the Liberty Party, when Spider-Woman shows up, asking Clemson for his help in finding Rachel, and in return she will do one last job for him. Clemson pulls a gun on Spider-Woman, who is rescued by Spider-Man, who followed her. Deathweb show up and it turns out they are working for the Manipulator, and the Manipulator assures Julia that they will not harm Rachel – provided Spider-Woman kills Spider-Man!
Somewhere in the labyrinthine confines of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man is smacked backwards, luckily Tony Stark in his Iron Man guise is there to catch him, but also to remind him that he ordered him not to attack on his own as they do not know quite what they are facing here. Spider-Man admits that Iron Man is right, but remarks that he thought he was the logical guy to lead the charge – considering they are up against three low-lifes who have “spider” written all over them!
Spider-Man leaps back into action alongside the five members of the mighty Avengers West Coast. ‘The name is Deathweb!’ shouts the female member of Deathweb, to which Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man tells the spider-like villains that they are not going to cause any more deaths at the Liberty Party’s convention, when suddenly the woman kicks Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch over, and John Walker a.k.a. the USAgent reports that Wanda is unconscious.
The large black creature who most resembles a spider exclaims that it doesn’t matter for when this round is over, none of the Avengers will be on their feet. With that, he tosses Iron Man across the room, and Tony heads straight for USAgent and Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye, only for his boot jets to kick in at the last minute, propelling him backwards. ‘Yeah, else I’d have been squashed flatter than yesterday’s Dr. Pepper!’ Clint jokes.
Spider-Man smashes the armored member of Deathweb, but as Parker thinks he would have finished his foe off, he is surprised to see that his enemy survived the punch and is now clinging to the wall, just like him. The metal member of Deathweb boasts that he is far more than a copy of Spider-Man, as they will soon learn. The armored villain shoots something from his mouth which Spider-Man dodges, and jokingly asks if they attacked a presidential campaign only to start a spitting contest.
USAgent blocks the villains spit with his trusty shield as it begins to pour down on him. Walker then tells Spider-Man that they need to start taking the enemy seriously, as what he spit was some kind of acid “venom”, and while he was protected by his shield, the nearby wall did not survive the assault. Spider-Man agrees, and shoots some webbing into his enemy’s mouth.
Hawkeye fires a concussion arrow at the ten-foot member of Deathweb, but it barely fazes him. Clint hopes that Spider-Woman and Living Lightning are having a easier time guarding Galvan and the other delegates, when Wonder Man tells Hawkeye to leave the big one to him, as he can handle it – but the large black creature grabs Simon by the neck and forces him against a wall. It’s then that Simon realizes there is something familiar about his foe- his glowing red eyes, meaning the arachnoid has the same ionic powers as Wonder Man.
Meanwhile, in the auditorium, Miguel Santos a.k.a. Living Lightning lights up the large room, asking Spider-Woman if it is light enough. Julia Carpenter a.k.a. Spider-Woman replies by telling her teammate to keep it up for as long as he can. A member of the press calls out to Michael Galvan, asking him if he is okay. Galvan’s vice Wilson Lambert suggests to Michael that he let security escort him out, but Galvan asks where they would go in this black-out, not to mention that there would be nowhere safer than here, as he has two Avengers to protect him.
Julia turns to the other side of the auditorium, thinking that she can only keep one eye on Galvan, as her other is on her daughter, Rachel, who sits on a chair wearing one of Julia’s spare masks. ‘Some super heroine – dragging her eight year old daughter into danger like this!’ Julia thinks to herself, when suddenly, ‘What’s wrong with you people?’ shouts a rather angry man – Julia realizes that it is her ex-husband, Larry, who comes up behind her. ‘Yes I’m talking to you, Spider-Woman!’ he declares as he introduces himself as Galvan’s public relations manager, informing her that it is his job to keep this from turning into a disaster for the Galvan-Lambert campaign. ‘And it’s the Avengers’ job, Mr. Carpenter, to keep the two of them alive!’ Julia replies.
The Avengers also need to keep themselves alive, and the big brute lifts Wonder Man high in the air, before addressing the woman as Arachne and telling her not to worry about “the skirt”. Arachne hits Wanda again, informing the giant villain whom she calls Therak that she has to keep the Scarlet Witch from concentrating, or her hex power might turn the tide, after all they are outnumbered. ‘You wouldn’t know it by me, lady!’ Simon exclaims as Therak smashes him into the ground once more.
The handsome USAgent grabs the armored spider, and remarks ‘So the girl’s called “Arachne”, and your big buddy looks like a human tarantula, so what’s your role in this “spider squad”, tin can?’ ‘He’s not daddy longlegs, that’s for sure!’ Spider-Man jokes, before the armored spider calls them both morons and asks if they have never heard of the spiders called…Trapdoor?! With that, Antro vanishes from Agent’s grasp.
Iron Man blasts Therak with a repulsor ray and tells his teammates not to bother looking for Trapdoor, as Wonder Man is down. Tony adds that his repulsor rays jammed for a second and he needs back up in case they do it again. Antro suddenly appears mid air alongside Iron Man telling him that both the Avengers and the candidates they guard will need far more than that! Antro then leaps onto Iron Man who is taken by surprise as Antro boasts that he will rip Iron Man’s head off – and as Antro wraps his hands around Iron Man’s head, Tony thinks that whether it is Antro’s muscle or armor, he might just be strong enough to do it.
Back on the floor, someone tells Galvan that he and Lambert have to leave. ‘So that the rest of you have an excuse to go?’ Galvan asks. Wilson Lambert tells Michael that the both of them have a duty to the party, to which Galvan declares that he didn’t turn tail in ‘Nam and will not do it now. Larry Carpenter turns to Spider-Woman and asks her if she can’t make Galvan leave. ‘It’s his decision…Mr. Carpenter’ Julia replies as civilized as she can so as not to give away her secret identity to her ex-husband. ‘What did you say? Stop mumbling! I can barely hear you!’ Larry snaps back.
Julia thinks that the less Larry hears her voice the better, before turning to the Living Lightning and asking him if he is okay, as he is flickering. Miguel replies that he has never used his powers for such a long stretch, and jokes that he feels like a light fixture on the fritz. Miguel is determined to carry on, but Julia tells him he can stop, as the power comes back on. One of the media representatives asks Galvan to tell their viewers what they think is behind this attack.
Living Lightning falls to the stage and Julia asks him if he is okay, and why he didn’t tell her he would change back so fast that he would fall. ‘You think I knew?’ Miguel replies, before telling Julia that he hopes he didn’t scare Rachel – then correcting himself ‘Uh, the little girl’ so as not to give away Rachel’s presence. Julia informs Miguel that she is a pretty brave little girl, but turning to where Rachel is supposed to be sitting, Spider-Woman is horrified to find Rachel is gone. Instantly, Julia rushes away, but Living Lightning asks her where she is going, as they are supposed to stay here and guard the candidates. ‘You do it! I’ve got to find her!’ Julia exclaims.
Meanwhile, USAgent tosses his shield, remarking that Iron Man is, just barely, holding his own against Antro, so it is time they took care of “Thorax”. ‘The name’s Therak, jerk!’ Therak replies as Agent’s shield smacks him in the face. Spider-Man uses some webbing to tie a couple of Therak’s arms up and wonders who these people are and what it is they want, for they blacked out the place, and didn’t really attack anybody, just the Avengers when they arrived on scene.
Walker remarks that this isn’t getting them anywhere, so suggests that they gang up on the big guy. Arachne turns away from Wanda and covers Walker in some sticky webbing, telling him that first he must get out of this. ‘You must have me confused with Captain America, lady! I’m the one who can tear through this stuff like it was spaghetti!’ Walker boasts, when suddenly he becomes very weak, and falls to the ground, covered in the webbing. Dazed and confused, Wanda asks Arachne what she has done to Agent. The nasty woman replies that she has used neuro-toxins on him, explaining that every spider has venom glands, and they wanted to be true to their motif. Arachne then warns Wanda to wait and see what the stuff does to her.
Julia rushes down a corridor and thinks she can hear a heated battle from behind some doors, and wonders if Rachel could have stumbled in there. ‘Rachel! Are you in there?’ Julia shouts as she bangs on the doors, only for them to slide open and her to fall into the room. ‘Oh my God…!’ she exclaims upon seeing her teammates tussling with Deathweb.
Arachne grins and holding Wanda up close boasts that she might kill her like she did to that stool pigeon in New York after Antro “Trapdoored” them into his room. Arachne adds that Wanda doesn’t have USAgent’s natural resistance, so her web-toxins are liable to make the Scarlet Witch swell up so big that she explodes just like Weston did – but before Arachne can unleash her deadly powers on the Scarlet Witch, ‘If you like webs so much, have one of mine!’ Spider-Woman exclaims as she uses one of her psi-webs to latch on to Arachne then toss her across the room, slamming her hard against a wall.
Julia quietly asks Wanda if she has seen Rachel, to which Wanda thanks her teammate for the rescue. Julia exclaims that she has been going crazy looking for Rachel, but Wanda tells her that it will have to wait, and reveals that Arachne has kept her disorientated so she couldn’t throw a hex bolt, which means Deathweb are afraid of it, so hopefully she will have some effect on them. With that, Wanda casts a hex towards Therak, who falls through the floor. ‘Is this our lucky day or what?’ Spider-Man jokes.
Hawkeye remarks that if Spider-Man was more dependable as an Avengers Reservist then he would know that Wanda’s hex power caused that “luck”. Spider-Man claims that he forgot, before pulling up Wonder Man and announcing that he doesn’t look too good. Hawkeye fires a blast arrow above Therak, causing more rubble to fall down on him. Clint remarks that he has no time to rest on his laurels, and fires an electro-arrow at Antro, hoping to help Iron Man. Iron Man asks Hawkeye if this is the same one he used on Miguel in practice, a heat-seeking mini-missile that locked onto Antro and is now proceeding to disrupt his armor’s electrical system.
Antro exclaims that he must “trapdoor” away, when Therak leaps up through the floor. Wonder Man has regained consciousness and warns everyone to look out. Iron Man suggests to Wonder Man that they both take him on together, when Rachel Carpenter enters the room. Rachel takes her mask off and explains that she was hiding when she saw her mother run off. Spider-Woman tells Rachel to get back, when Antro fires some webbing at her and pulls her towards him, holding her as a hostage.
‘If you hurt her…’Julia begins, to which Antro asks why he would wish to harm her, however he thinks that the overly gallant Hawkeye is another matter, and fires some venom at Clint. Arachne congratulates Antro, remarking that a hostage may come in handy. Therak wants to fight some more, but Antro tells him not to, as they have accomplished their purpose here, and that it was time they were going. With that, Antro teleports Deathweb and Rachel Carpenter away. ‘Rachel!’ screams Julia.
Wanda announces that USAgent is still down, before going over to her dear friend Hawkeye and asking him how he is. Clint replies that the venom burns like fire, but that his harness protected his arm, well, most of it. Iron Man begins to remove it before it does any permanent damage as Galvan, Larry Carpenter and the other men enter the room. One of them asks what Spider-Man is doing here, to which Spider-Man explains that he is an Avenger’s Reservist, and offers to inform the men of what went on once they have dusted themselves off.
Julia sees Larry and wonders how she is going to tell him that she let three super powered goons kidnap their daughter. Larry reminds Iron Man that the Avengers were supposed to be guarding the convention, but instead they have been lounging about in here while the candidates were stumbling over themselves in the dark. Another of the men tells Carpenter that, from the looks of things, it doesn’t look like the Avengers were on a coffee break. Iron Man thanks the man, before explaining what has happened to them.
Moments later and minus any mention of Rachel Carpenter, the men walk away. ‘”Deathweb”? Who do they think they’re kidding?’ he remarks to the others as another of the men offers to go check outside. Spider-Man asks what the Avengers are going to do, to which Iron Man replies that he will decide in a minute, before declaring that he wants Spider-Woman to return to Avengers Compound. ‘What?’ exclaims Julia, asking Iron Man if he expects her to just hang around there while Rachel – Iron Man interrupts, pointing out that Rachel wouldn’t be in danger if Spider-Woman had stayed at her post, reminding Julia that she followed them, so Rachel followed her, and now she is too personally involved so she is off the case.
‘Like blazes I am!’ Julia shouts as she storms off. Wonder Man is about to suggest something to Iron Man when suddenly the media show up with Galvan and Lambert. Galvan informs the Avengers that security told him what happened, and that he and his running mate want to thank them. ‘With TV news crews in tow, naturally’ Wonder Man whispers. Galvan turns to the cameras and declares that this “Deathweb” gang may have gotten away – for the moment – but that they didn’t achieve their aim of disrupting this convention. Galvan declares that if the people of this country ever feel safe again, it will be thanks to the Avengers West. ‘And to Mr. Galvan!’ Lambert pipes up.
Wonder Man points out to his teammates that the Liberty Party are making it sound like they are here to endorse them, not just to guard them. Iron Man asks Simon what he expected, pointing out that they are politicians after all. Wanda holds onto USAgent and informs everyone that he is still pretty shaken, so they had better get both he and Clint to a hospital. ‘Hey – I don’t need to – ‘Agent begins, until Iron Man interrupts, declaring that they are both going.
A short time later at what seems from the outside a long abandoned factory. ‘Are you in here?’ a man shouts in the darkness. ‘Of course not’ he mutters, ‘I knew he wouldn’t be on time’ he adds, before feeling for a light switch and wondering why the Conclave puts up with this blasted prima-donna. Suddenly, a voice comes from within the shadows – ‘Your superiors “put up” with me, Clemson – because they know the Manipulator always delivers the goods!’
Mike Clemson, Spider-Woman’s former “handler” stares up at the brightly dressed man called the Manipulator and asks him if by “goods” he means that he accepts blame for the Deathweb bozos that he got working for the Conclave. Clemson tells the Manipulator that while he is making dramatic entrances surrounded by enough high-tech hardware to start his own retail outlet, Deathweb are taking children as hostages. Clemson asks the Manipulator if this is the “Super-Human Terrorist Methods” that he advertised. Clemson mutters that he could have hired a bunch of third-rate jockeys and got the same result, when the Manipulator interrupts him, announcing that he is receiving an incoming call.
The Manipulator greets his caller, who must ask him a question because he exclaims ‘Yes I do want that particular White House staffer “hassled” as you put it!’, adding that it will send the appropriate message to his boss, before hanging up on the caller. Clemson exclaims ‘You put me on “hold” while you took a phone call? I don’t believe this!’ The phone rings again, and the Manipulator tells Clemson that he must wait again. Taking this call, the Manipulator exclaims ‘What? I don’t pay you to think, man!’ Declaring that he wanted the bomb detonated before the fund raiser, then hanging up.
The Manipulator mutters that it is hard running an organization when one is surrounded by fools and idiots, before remarking “speaking of which” and turning back to Clemson, asking him if he had something else he wanted to say. Furious, Clemson tells the Manipulator not to mess with him, as he represents the Conclave, when suddenly; the members of the Conclave appear in shadowy forms on the monitors around the room. ‘Actually, Mr. Clemson – we can speak for ourselves now!’ one of them exclaims. Clemson replies that of course they can and that he was just doing his job.
One of the Conclave tells the Manipulator that they are a bit concerned about this business at L.A.’s Convention Center. The Manipulator replies by telling the Conclave that they needn’t be, for he can assure them, that everything is going precisely according to schedule. ‘Your schedule perhaps, but you know our requirements’ another of the Conclave warns him. The Manipulator replies that he does, and that he will meet them, before reminding the Conclave that his contract gives him complete control over means and methods.
Clemson exclaims that the Manipulator is being arrogant and reminds him that this is the Conclave he is speaking to here, that they have people in every major department of the government – legislative, executive, whatever! Clemson adds that the Conclave run things in this country, whatever Congress or the President thinks, and that the Manipulator is acting like they work for him, instead of him working for them. One of the Conclave interrupts Clemson by telling the Manipulator that they accept his assessment, for now.
The Manipulator thanks the Conclave before Clemson comes up behind the Manipulator and asks if he is trying to make him look like a fool in front of them all. Clemson is about to leap at the Manipulator, when the Manipulator begins to fade away, ‘I think you can manage that on your own, Clemson’ he states before disappearing. Clemson is confused, until one of the Conclave informs Clemson that the Manipulator’s imaging in their Los Angeles location was a mutual convenience and nothing more.
Suddenly, there is a noise, and Clemson asks the Conclave if they hear something – ‘Yes, I definitely heard something!’ Clemson answers himself as Spider-Woman comes smashing through a window urgently telling Clemson that they have got to talk, before asking who all those faces are on the televisions. The faces all disappear upon Julia’s arrival, and Clemson tells Julia that she must be seeing things as the screens are all blank, before warning her against coming to toss him around again.
Julia tells Mike to shut up and listen as her daughter has been kidnapped by three terrorists who call themselves Deathweb, and while she is not saying Clemson had anything to do with it, she wants his help in tracking them down. Clemson reminds Julia that she made a lot of noise about being an Avenger now, so suggests she get them to help her. Annoyed, Julia explains that she and the Avengers do not see eye to eye on this one, and offers to cut Clemson a deal – if he helps her now she will do that one last job for the Commission that he hinted about.
Clemson tells Spider-Woman that he is sorry, but he has since reconsidered his offer and decided that she is not dependable. Julia tells Clemson that it isn’t that easy, and warns him that if he doesn’t help her, then she will go straight to Valerie Cooper. ‘The Devil you will! I’ll kill you first!’ Clemson shouts as he holds a gun in Julia’s direction, only for Spider-Man to reveal his presence by shooting some webbing to collect the gun and pulling it back from Clemson.
Spider-Man tells Spider-Woman that she has nice taste in friends, to which Julia asks Spider-Man if he followed her. Parker replies that he hopped on top of her car, joking that the good-spider-guys have to stick together, and adds that he is no better at taking orders than she is. Spider-Man then swings down and grabs Clemson, asking Spider-Woman which wall she wants the low-life splattered on. Clemson holds his hands up and addressing Spider-Woman by her name asks her to tell Spider-Man that they were just negotiating.
Julia tells Clemson that she is sorry, but that he was just about to shoot her down, so how can she strike a deal with him now? Julia remarks that she will contact Valerie Cooper like she said, before reaching for her Avengers Communications Card and deciding to swallow her pride and contact the Avengers so they know where she is. But before she can contact them, her card is blasted by some venom and begins to dissolve. ‘No personal calls!’ shouts a voice from behind her, and Julia and Spider-Man turn to see Therak and Antro standing there.
Spider-Man wonders if they trailed he and Julia, and Julia wonders if Deathweb has some connection with Clemson. ‘Right the second time, girlie!’ Therak announces, to which Antro tells him to be quiet, as information is power, ‘Don’t tell them anything!’ Suddenly, the Manipulator arrives on the scene, telling Antro not to worry about their Avenger guest, after all, Spider-Woman has merely come looking for Rachel.
‘Buddy of yours, Clemson?’ Julia asks as Clemson mutters ‘So – sucked up the courage to send another hologram, have you, Manipulator?’ before remarking that he may not be able to slug or shoot the Manipulator, but that as long as he is here, he has to listen to him, to which the Manipulator interrupts, telling Clemson to shut up, and shoving his fingers into Clemson’s neck causing Clemson to being coughing, the Manipulator declares that he is not a hologram this time, because if he were, he could not mentally manipulate Clemson’s vocal cords.
Spider-Man suggests to Spider-Woman that while the enemies are squabbling amongst themselves the two of them should – but Julia interrupts him, suggesting they give the newcomer a chance to talk first. Addressing Julia as “Mrs. Carpenter” the Manipulator tells her she is very perceptive, for she obviously realized that if he mentioned her daughter’s name, then he must know where she is. Spider-Man warns the Manipulator that if he does know where Rachel is, then body guards or not he is going to talk. Spider-Woman angrily asks the Manipulator to tell her where Rachel is, to which the Manipulator replies that he will do one better than that, and suddenly Rachel’s voice is heard – ‘Mom?’ the young girl asks.
Julia looks up at the monitors, all of them displaying Rachel. The Manipulator assures Spider-Woman that her daughter is completely safe – for the moment, to which Julia suggests that it might be a video tape. ‘It isn’t Mom, I’m alive – honest!’ Rachel exclaims. ‘From the mouths of babes’ the Manipulator remarks, before explaining that her had intended to use Rachel merely to control Spider-Woman’s actions in certain respects, but that now, thanks to her being shadowed here, they have an additional security problem.
Arachne can be seen on the monitors now, holding a deadly venom filled pincer to Rachel’s teary-eyed face. The Manipulator informs Spider-Woman that her daughter will remain in Arachne’s loving, capable hands – but only if she kills Spider-Man! Julia turns to Spider-Man, who exclaims ‘I think I’m in trouble!’
Hawkeye, Iron Man, Living Lightning, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman II, USAgent, Wonder Man (all Avengers West Coast)Rachel Carpenter
Mike ClemsonMembers of the Conclave (seen only in shadows on monitors)
Antro, Arachne II, Therak (all Deathweb)The Manipulator II
Michael A. Galvan (Presidential candidate for the Liberty Party)Wilson Lambert (Vice Presidential candidate for the Liberty Party)
Security guards at the convention centerReporters and camera crew at the convention center
Deathweb are responsible for a series of election-related deaths in Avengers West Coast #84.
Hawkeye used his electro-arrow during practice on Living Lightning in Avengers West Coast #80.
This Manipulator is the second to go by that name.
Clemson was tossed around by Spider-Woman II in Avengers West Coast #84 when Julia quit working for him.