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Roy Thomas (writer), Dave Ross (penciler), Tim Dzon (inker), Steve Dutro (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist), John Lewandowski (assistant editor) Nel Yomtov (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)
Four long-deceased notorious humans are resurrected in new forms with appropriate abilities, by the diabolical Satannish to be part of the Hangman’s new Lethal Legion - their orders are to destroy the Avengers West Coast, one by one, then, they will all be brought back to life. At Avengers West Compound, Hawkeye announces that he is stepping down as leader of the team, and the Scarlet Witch is unanimously voted in as his replacement, much to Wanda’s surprise. After the meeting, Mockingbird and Hawkeye discuss planning to have a baby, while Spider-Woman and Wear Machine hang out and the Scarlet Witch oversees the rebuilding of the Compound, causing USAgent to storm off as none of them are interested in him, he wonders why he hangs around them anymore anyway. He goes to a run down part of town and roughs up some gang members who are hassling a druggie, before meeting a woman in a convenience store who asks him to walk her back to her car. Three blocks later and still no car, Walker realizes something is up, and he’s right as the woman kisses him, before transforming into her true form, Cyana, one of those resurrected by Satannish, and by kissing him, has just injected USAgent with poison. However, Walker’s system is able to fight off the poison, which is when two of the others, Coldsteel and Zyklon, attack him, Coldsteel physically, and Zyklon by using deadly gas. However, USAgent fights back defiantly, and tries to contact his teammates until realizing his call might not go through as his comm-card is damaged. When he finds a car, which is proceeds to hotwire, to make a getaway and clear his head, he is then attacked by Hangman and Axe of Violence. A free-for-all ensues, with all of the Legion adding to his injuries, Walker is injected with more poison and receives a potentially deadly punch in the back of his head, just before the Avengers West arrive. The Legion are not allowed to attack the Avengers as a group, so after causing a fire to explode, they make their getaway. War Machine and Hawkeye deal with the fires, before joining the women who have found USAgent - who may or may not have just died in Spider-Woman’s arms….
Birth. Re-Birth. To these four, they are one and the same…as writhing molecules congeal torturously around four pulsing points of sentient light…slowly, they take shape…and find voice.
Indeed, in one of the many dimensions of Hell, four souls find new physical form, ‘It is good to be alive again after so long!’ a large, bulking metal being exclaims. ‘After all these years!’ a blonde woman with an axe in the place of one of her hands agrees. ‘Bah! Compared to mine, your corpses were still warm!’ a blue-skinned exotic-looking woman declares, before asking who brought them back to life, and with such seeming power at their fingertips. ‘Or, in my case, instead of fingertips!’ the axe-handed woman remarks.
A man in some kind of green armor with gas floating around him exclaims ‘Yes! To breathe in air and to breathe out the -’ he is interrupted by the larger metal man, who exclaims ‘That stink! I know that infernal stink!’ The green man is shocked, ‘YOU!?’ he shouts. ‘You?!’ the metal man replies. ‘I never dared dream I would get another chance at you!’ the green man remarks. The two face each other, ready for a fight, as the metal man boasts ‘I smashed you once before - and this time, I shall not allow you the luxury of suicide!’.
Suddenly, a massive hand cuts down between the two, knocking them aside on the cliff edge where they all stand. ‘STOP!’ booms a powerful voice, to which the blue-skinned woman remarks this might be whoever it is that brought them back. The giant hand belongs to one of the myriad of Hell-dimension rulers, Satannish, who turns to a man holding a noose, standing above the others, higher up on the cliffside, and asks him how he likes the foursome - his new Lethal Legion.
‘You have to ask?’ the noose wielding man replies. The face on Satannish’s stomach grins and declares ‘You had better like them - because they’re all you’ll get!’. Hangman reveals himself and remarks that, after getting rid of the Night Shift team he would rather go solo. ‘No way the Hangman is baby-sitting these two-time losers’ he declares, causing Satannish to lunge towards him, ‘Oh? And how many times have you lost your soul, human?’ the horrid demon asks, reminding Hangman that he is giving him a final chance to recover his soul, before ordering him to be quiet as he makes the introductions.
Satannish introduces the bulky metal men as Coldsteel, the scantily-clad blue-skinned woman as Cynna, the axe-handed woman as Axe of Violence, and the green man with the gas as Zyklon. ‘You won’t welch on our deal, Satannish?’ Hangman asks as he stands by his team. ‘If we do this job for you…’ Hangman begins, to which Satannish replies ‘You’ll all regain your souls - even your lives!’ ‘All right, you’re on!’ Hangman exclaims as Satannish begins to transport the Lethal Legion out of Hell. Satannish reminds Hangman to attack his appointed prey singly, to pick them off one by one. ‘Oh. And make them feel pain before they die. If they feel pain, I’ll feel pain. And I like pain’….
Meanwhile, inside what’s left of the Palos Verdes Compound, home of the Avengers West Coast, the California-based branch of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The team is engaged in a meeting, where founding member and long-time leader Clint “Hawkeye” Barton announces that, it hurts him to say this, but he is quitting. He assures his friends and teammates that he will stick around as member of the team but effective today, he is stepping down as chairman. Barbara “Bobbi” Morse Barton a.k.a. Mockingbird, Clint’s wife, looks at her husband proudly as he says that.
Johnny Walker a.k.a. the USAgent leans back in his chair casually, and remarks that now that is over, can they got on with any important business? This causes Julia “Spider-Woman” Carpenter to quietly ask Walker if he cannot forget his feud with Hawkeye just this once. ‘Don’t you see how hard this is for him?’ Julia asks. Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, one of Hawkeye’s dearest friends, asks Clint if he is sure about this, while Jim Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine points out that Hawkeye has been an Avenger longer than any of them except Wanda.
‘That’s partly why I’m hanging it up’ Clint replies, reminding his teammates that he and Bobbi started this franchise years ago, and have now decided that they need a bit more time to themselves. ‘Hear hear!’ Mockingbird exclaims, smiling. Clint adds that it is no secret that in Demonica he went pretty much to pieces when Bobbi was captured. ‘As a leader, I made a good frantic husband’ Clint points out, before announcing that as his last act for chairman, he would like nominations for his replacement.
Mockingbird tells her teammates that, for the record, this was wholly Clint’s decision, but that she is in total agreement, before announcing that she nominates the Scarlet Witch as their new chair-whatever. ‘Me?’ asks a surprised Wanda. ‘You’re not going to refuse, are you?’ Bobbi asks. ‘I suppose not - but I never thought about anything like that’ the Scarlet Witch remarks.
USAgent quietly tells Spider-Woman that he is real busy, but that if she wants to nominate him, he could probably manage. Spider-Woman doesn’t respond to Walker, instead she tells Hawkeye that if there are no other nominees, then she moves Wanda be elected by acclimation. ‘Any more candidates? No? Then all in favor of the Scarlet Witch…’ Hawkeye remarks as Spider-Woman, Mockingbird and War Machine all raise their hands in agreement. ‘Looks like she’s got the job!’ Julia exclaims, but Rhodey points out that USAgent is abstaining. ‘What a shock’ mumbles Mockingbird.
Spider-Woman puts her arms around USAgent and strokes the side of his head, teasingly suggesting that he change his mind before Hawkeye decides to stay on. Johnny looks at Julia and frowns, before raising a hand and declaring that he will make it unanimous. ‘Speech, Wanda - speech!’ one of the heroes exclaims. A rather sheepish Wanda replies that they all know this is not something that she sought out, but that she will do her best to live up to their confidence in her. ‘Is that enough? I’ve never been very good at making speeches…’ Wanda remarks.
Clint tells his friend that was fine, and declares that if there is no further business, then the meeting is adjourned. The Avengers leave the meeting room and head outside, while Rhodey remarks that he would almost rather have stayed inside than come out to all this destruction. Julia agrees and remarks that it seems like it is taking forever to get the Compound cleaned up, before telling Rhodey that she did toy with the idea of nominating him as leader. Rhodey thanks Julia, and remarks that he did his time as CEO at Stark Enterprises, so he doubts that he wants to be boss of anything for a while.
While Wanda surveys the construction workers repairing the vast damages to the Palos Verdes Compound, Bobbi remarks to Clint that Wanda is awfully pensive, and offers to go over and talk to her, but Clint holds his wife back, remarking that Wanda is a big girl, before telling Bobbi that he thought for a second she was going to tell the others that they have decided to try and have a child. Bobbi replies that something are their own business, and as she kisses her husband, suggests that they get down to business tonight. ‘Anytime…’ Clint mumbles as they kiss passionately.
Spider-Woman tells War Machine that he knows what he means about responsibilities, informing him that her parents are due in town from Peru in a few days. Julia explains that she never saw much of her parents when she was kid, and them coming here has reminded her that she doesn’t want Rachel to grow up without an absentee mother either. ‘Your folks are probably sorry about it, too’ War Machine tells Spider-Woman, adding that the funny thing is, we don’t realize until it is too late. ‘I know’ Julia replies, telling Rhodey that is why she wishes he could bring himself to talk to Tony Stark, ‘You two were too good of friends’ she points out. Rhodey replies that is between he and Stark, before telling Julia that he has to go.
USAgent thinks to himself that everyone is ignoring him as per usual, and wonders why he hangs around to carry the losers anyway. ‘There’s got to be some better way to spend my time today’ he thinks to himself as he gets into his car, deciding to go and put the slam on a few of the bad guys. For he knows just where to find them!
Underneath a bridge, some thugs have surrounded a druggie, demanding that he pay them now. ‘I’m strapped people - no bull!’ the druggie replies. ‘I told Geezer you was a bad credit risk!’ one of the thugs remarks, before another declares: ‘Carve ‘im!’ The thugs pulls out their knives, to which the druggie pleads with them and exclaims that he will pay them back tomorrow. ‘Tomorrow’s been called off!’ exclaims one of the thugs as he is about to attack the druggie, when suddenly, he gets some rocks thrown at him. ‘What in the -?’ he exclaims. Everyone turns around as Johnny makes his presence known. ‘The name’s USAgent! And the first guy who calls me Captain America is gonna wish he hadn’t!’ the hero warns the low-lives.
‘We ain’t calling you nothing’!’ one of the thugs shouts as he and the others raise their guns. ‘Nothin’ but dead!’ another of them declares as they open fire. USAgent of course blocks their shots with his trusty shield, and thanks them for giving him an excuse. He leaps into the fray, kicking two of the thugs over, while grabbing another by his neck. One of the thugs pulls a large knife on USAgent, to which Johnny exclaims ‘First a gun - now a knife - really come loaded don’t you?’. ‘Get outta my face man, or I’ll -’ the thug exclaims, until Johnny asks ‘What face?’ as he shoves the thug face-first into a brick wall.
The remaining thug unleashes countless gunshots at Johnny, who ducks and covers himself with his shield, before he manages to reach his attacker, punching him in the face then the stomach, Johnny warns him that he is lucky - lucky he didn’t feel like getting real angry. With the thugs lying unconscious at his feet, Walker turns to the druggie, ‘You! Lowlife! I just cancelled your bill!’ Johnny tells him, before warning him to get out of her while he “gift-wraps” these guys - in case the cops ever show. ‘Yes, sir!’ the druggie replies before scampering away. ‘Thirsty work’ Johnny decides as he notices a convenience store across the road.
Shortly, Johnny leans on the counter inside the store, sipping a drink as the owner tells him that things are better here than in his native country. ‘Here only crook rob you - not police’ the shop owner remarks. ‘Three cheers for America the beautiful’ USAgent exclaims as an extremely scantily-clad woman enters the store, asking the owner if he has any julep 100’s. Johnny checks the woman out while she makes her purchase. Johnny asks the woman if she feels safe strolling around this neighborhood dressed like that, to which the woman replies ‘Not half as safe as I’d feel if you walked me back to my car’.
But as they walk along the rubbish-strewn sidewalk, the woman exclaims ‘Oh, darn! And I was so sure I’d left it right here! Somebody must have stolen it!’. An unimpressed Johnny replies that it has been three blocks since he stopped believing she even had a car, and asks her what her story is. ‘Make it good’ he warns her. ‘Is this good enough?’ she asks as she kisses Johnny on the lips. Johnny doesn’t really respond, so the woman asks him what the matter is. ‘Is it true what they say about all you guys who wear trunks over your tights?’.
Johnny pushes the woman away from him and asks who she is and what she is after. Suddenly, the woman begins to transform, blue skin begins to appear as she exclaims ‘They call me - Cyana! You know - as in “cyanide”!’ she grins, before asking Walker if that gives him a clue as to why she kissed him. Johnny bits his lip, then cries out in pain as he realizes that Cyana has poisoned him. ‘And the Hangman said you were a slow study’ Cyana remarks, to which Johnny, in between tears, exclaims ‘Hangman? That’s all I wanted to know - till you tell me where I can find him!’ and lunges at Cyana, who is surprised that Walker has shrugged off her kiss.
‘I’ve shrugged off worse! Now let’s see what you do with this!’ Johnny exclaims as he lunges at Cyana, his shield ready to smack her up. Cyana calls out to Zyklon and Coldsteel, who step out from the shadows. ‘Calling in reinforcements, huh?’ Coldsteel asks. Cyana tells her teammates that she is feeling generous. ‘Must come from picking up this slang so fast’ she supposes, before offering to share this kill with both of her teammates. But Zyklon tells Cyana that she failed, so it is his turn now. But Coldsteel tells Zyklon to keep out of his, and boasts that he is the one they named tanks after as he slams into USAgent, who blocks his attack with his shield.
Cyana mutters that she should have scratched USAgent when she kissed him, then she wouldn’t need the help of either of her teammates, while USAgent is thankful that steel fists will not dent his vibranium shield. However, Walker discovers that Coldsteel is faster than he looks as Coldsteel shoves him into a brink wall. Johnny collapses on the ground while Cyana exclaims that he counts as her kill. ‘Only if he had died at once!’ Zyklon remarks, ‘Which as you see, he did not’.
‘I’m gonna -’ Walker begins to say, as Zyklon bombards the hero with the deadly gas, ‘You are going to die, American! The moment you must take a breath!’. Walker covers his mouth, while the villains continue to argue about who can claim him. ‘No! He’s mine, I tell you’ Cyana exclaims, while Zyklon boasts that he will have USAgent dead before he so much as inhales. Suddenly though, Johnny makes his way through the gas without inhaling any and grabs a hold of Cyana’s wrist and flings her into Coldsteel, knocking him over. ‘Women! I always said they are only good for breeding!’ Zyklon exclaims.
Johnny rushes through the gas until he is clear of it and wonders what is going on here, as those three are acting like they are in some kind of killing contest, with him as the sacrificial lamb. Walker boasts that he could handle any one of them, maybe even two, but if he is going to go one-on-three then he needs a plan.
Coldsteel looks up at Zyklon and tells them that it is his fault. ‘We knew what to do with your kind when we captured them!’ he exclaims. ‘And we returned the favor, Coldsteel!’ Zyklon replies. This causes Cyana to ask them to stop fighting old battles. She points out that they have been at cross purposes, but now they have to unite to execute the Avenger. Zyklon replies that Cyana is right, and points out that they do now want to revert to the hands of Satannish. Suddenly, Zyklon notices where USAgent is escaping to.
Down an alley, Johnny tells himself that he is being stupid, and decides that little use he has for the rest of the Avengers, they are still a team. ‘Lord knows I’ve bailed them out of enough scrapes the past few months!’ he thinks, before grabbing his comm-card and deciding that it is time for a little payback. ‘Yo - Avengers West! Anybody read me?’ he asks, before realizing that his communications card has been bent, and supposes it was Coldsteel’s fist that caused that. Johnny realizes that there is no way of knowing if he got through to them, before deciding that he will handle this on his own after all.
However, Walker can feel the poison creeping through his system, and knows that all the running and fighting will just make it reach his heart sooner. ‘What I need is - a ride!’ Johnny tells himself as he sees a car, and shoves his fist through the window, enabling him to open the door and climb in. As he starts to hotwire the car he remarks that it has been a while since he has done this, before noticing something out of the corner of his eye. Johnny realizes that it has snaked into the front of the car, through the grill, where suddenly, whatever it was pulls out the motor of the car and takes most of the hood with it.
Deciding he better take a look, USAgent puts his head out of the window, only for a thick noose to be tossed at him and wraps around his neck, yanking Walker out of the car at an extremely fast speed, Johnny smacks into a brick wall, face first. Walker lands on the ground, blood streams from his nose and mouth while the Hangman stands over him, telling Axe of Violence that he has served up her victim, now she can carve him. ‘I’m more the chopping type, actually’ Axe of Violence remarks, before telling Hangman that she appreciates the hand, since one of hers is otherwise occupied! And with that, she lunges at USAgent, who manages to pull himself together in time to block the axe with his trusty shield.’ What is this - open season on USAgent?’ the handsome hero wonders.
‘Nice blow - but not fatal!’ Hangman tells Axe, before announcing that he declares USAgent an open target to any of the Lethal Legion. The Lethal Legion gather around Hangman as Cyana remarks that a portion of a kill is better than nothing. Walker holds his shield up while Axe of Violence hacks away at it and asks what this is to them, some kind of game? ‘I’m not exactly in the mood for playing!’ Johnny declares while knowing that he needs to get a little breathing space if he is to go on breathing. ‘Knocking down a wall usually works!’ he decides as he uses his incredible strength to bring a brick wall down upon the Lethal Legion.
Zyklon manages to force his way up out of the rubble and hovers above it, declaring that will not help USAgent escape from an airborne death as he releases more gas upon Walker, who begins to cough, but manages to evade it still. However, Axe of Violence pushes Cyana out of her way she screams that she wants a piece of him, and slashes her axe about wildly, nicking Walker just below his ribs. Walker is thankful that his outfit is partly weapon proof, otherwise, he may have received more than just a graze.
Cyana realizes that Walker is exposed, and lunges at him, injecting poison into his wound which she boasts will finish him off. USAgent flinches and realizes that he cannot take much more of this, he does however find the strength to smash what is left of his shield into Axe and Cyana, knocking the nasty women back. ‘There’s still life in him!’ Axe snarls, to which Cyana points out that makes him the better prize.
Suddenly though, Coldsteel comes up behind Walker and smashes him in the back, forcing the hero to the ground. ‘He is mine!’ the bulky villain exclaims, while Hangman tells him that this is a joint kill, but that his hands may be the first that dispatches him if he so wishes. ‘I wish!’ Coldsteel replies as he holds USAgent by the head, ready to use his hand, as a fist, to smash Walker in the head. ‘Go ahead - but remember - it took four of you!’ USAgent exclaims defiantly.
Suddenly, a Quinjet arrives overhead, its lights shine down into the alleyway as War Machine descends, ‘It’ll take a lot more than that, Agent!’ War Machine exclaims, while Hangman notices the Avengers. ‘Is that now what we want?’ Coldsteel asks. ‘Not all together!’ Hangman replies. ‘Well, here is one we need not worry about again!’ Coldsteel boasts as he smashes USAgent hard in the back of the head.
Hangman congratulates Coldsteel and the others for a first outing, before remarking that their means of avoiding a full-scale confrontation with the Avengers might be a bit more pedestrian - however, loud. Hangman presses a small device, and an explosion in a nearby building ensues. Inside the Quinjet, Hawkeye suspects that the hovering ship nearby caused the blast, while Mockingbird remarks that the creeps down below sure picked their shots, as the building is going up like a paper factory.
A large craft lands near the Lethal Legion, and Hangman tells his team that they have to admit one thing - for those who serve him by killing those hewants killed, Satannish does provide the very best in state-of-the-art getaway cars. With that, Hangman and the Lethal Legion make a quick getaway.
The Avengers West Coast are left with the raging fire, which Hawkeye and War Machine put out by knocking down a few buildings to smother the fire and keep it from spreading. Clint does this by firing arrows and pulling the buildings down, while War Machine uses his armor’s enhanced strength to do so.
Wanda, Julia and Bobbi look for USAgent, and when they find him, Bobbi exclaims that he isn’t moving. But Julia exclaims that she saw him breathe, and crouches down beside him, asking him if he can hear her. ‘Maybe…’ Johnny replies wearily, ‘Maybe what?’ Julia asks, while Wanda suggests she keep Walker talking. ‘Maybe…a good thing you didn’t back me…for chairman…you’d just have to have a new election…’ USAgent utters before passing out. Julia covers her face, a look of shock spreads over Clint’s face, War Machine hangs his head, Wanda looks sullen, while Bobbi doesn’t show her feelings. Is USAgent dead or alive….
Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman II, USAgent, War Machine (all Avengers West Coast)
SatannishHangman IIAxe of Violence, Coldsteel, Cyana, Zyklon (all Lethal Legion)
ThugsDruggieConvenience Store ClerkConstruction Crew
This issue takes place post Infinity Crusade.
Hangman II was involved with the Night Shift team most recently in Avengers West Coast #76-79, “Infamous Monsters of Hollywood”.
Hawkeye and Mockingbird founded the West Coast Avengers back in West Coast Avengers (1st series) #1-4, after the Vision, chairperson of the Avengers at the time, decided that a second branch of the team should be active.
Hawkeye was beside himself when his recently-reunited wife Mockingbird was captured in Avengers West Coast #95.
The Avengers West Compound has been decimated over the last few issues by Ultron [Avengers West Coast #89-90], Goliath III [Avengers West Coast #93], Morning Star & Klaw [Avengers West Coast #94] and Quantum [Avengers West Coast #97].
Spider-Woman’s comment about her parents coming to visit is a reference to the upcoming Spider-Woman (2nd series) mini series.
While the Scarlet Witch, a long-serving Avenger [since Avengers (1st series) #16] finally takes over as leader, it is short lived, as the team is disbanded / quits in Avengers West Coast #102. However, a somewhat hardened Scarlet Witch is invited by Iron Man to become leader of the new team, Force Works, which she accepts. However, during the course of Force Works, Iron Man constantly disregards Wanda’s leadership. Shortly after Force Works disbands, the Scarlet Witch is among the Avengers who travels to the “Heroes Reborn” universe. Upon her return though, and once the Avengers is restarted, she becomes the team’s deputy leader under Captain America, the two making a rather excellent combination, and lasting for quite some time.