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Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato (art), Rain Beredo (color art), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Deodato and Beredo (cover art), Taylor Esposito (production), Jeanine Schaefer (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
Norman Osborn is taking over from Tony Stark, and he hires Victoria Hand, a former accountant with S.H.I.E.L.D., to be his Deputy Director. He has plenty of work for her to be getting on with. Norman wants to know pretty much everything about who is loyal to who and who is on whose side. He fires Maria Hill, who already knows what the score is and who eagerly awaits his inevitable fall from grace. Norman then breaks the news to Bullseye that they are moving to Avengers Tower. Ms. Marvel later arrives at the tower and reports for duty. Osborn explains that he is now in charge, and Tony is history. Carol opts to resign rather than work for him, but he reminds her that she has obligations. She begins to argue with him until she notices that Ares and the Sentry are already on board with Osborn. Visibly upset, Carol departs the tower. Osborn’s next action is to visit Karla Sofen on Thunderbolts Mountain. He informs her that she is the next Ms. Marvel. Karla objects, until Osborn informs her that she will be moving to New York City. He then moves inside to where a captive Skrull is fed to Venom. Osborn gives Venom a drug which alters his physiology so that he resembles a more muscular Spider-Man. Venom is pleased with the results. The next day, Osborn takes Ares and Victoria Hand to New Orleans where he recruits Wolverine’s son, Daken. One day later, he recruits Noh-Varr as the new Captain Marvel. He assembles the team at Avengers Tower and meets with the Ghost. Osborn promises him a job and has the Ghost enter a large set of locked doors. The Ghost opens them with ease, and behind the doors over a dozen versions of Iron Man’s armor is discovered. The next day, Norman Osborn assumes the role of Iron Patriot and introduces his new Avengers to the assembled crowd. The new team comprises Iron Patriot (Osborn), Captain Marvel (Noh-Varr), the Sentry (Bob Reynolds), Ms. Marvel (Karla Sofen), Ares, Wolverine (Daken), Hawkeye (Bullseye) and the amazing Spider-Man (Mac Gargan). Meanwhile, Morgana Le Fey travels to the present from hundreds of years in the past to seek revenge on Doctor Doom.
(the castle of Morgana Le Fey, 690 AD)The sorceress Morgana stands before a large cauldron. Green smoke wafts up high past the castle’s iron chandeliers. She commands the waters of Avalon to show her where the betrayer, Victor Von Doom, has hidden from her. She utters a few magical phrases and an image appears in the water. The image is of the future. There, Norman Osborn is speaking to his cabal - Prince Namor of Atlantis, the X-Men's Emma Frost, the Norse God Loki, the Hood and Victor Von Doom. They listen to Norman telling them how it's going to be.
(Avengers Tower, today)The Iron Patriot addresses the expectant crowd and a large number of reporters. Several heroes flank him at either side as he explains how, as a species, they have yet again triumphed over those who would try to take away what is rightfully theirs. He introduces them to their protectors... their warriors... their Avengers! The crowd roars its approval with raised fists.
(one week ago)Norman Osborn stands in a hi-tech shipyard, surveying the golden helicarrier created by Tony Stark. A dark-haired woman approaches and introduces herself as Victoria Hand. She tells him that she was surprised to get his call. She thought that when S.H.I.E.L.D. went away, so did her job. Norman replies that it did. She is no longer a S.H.I.E.L.D. accountant. She is his Deputy Director. She asks of what. "H.A.M.M.E.R." he replies.
Victoria asks if it stands for something. He says that it does, and she should get to work on it. It's one of the many things on her 'to do' list. He hands her a PDA. "This is my to do list? she asks. He replies that it's the first part. They are building a new world peacekeeping task force from scratch and he imagines that she will be busy. He's adds that, as well as H.A.M.M.E.R., there will be the new Avengers, too. He wants her to start with a full list of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives at home and abroad. He wants lists. Agents, heroes, criminals, undercovers, Hydra agents, A.I.M. He wants to know the allegiances and the defectors. He also wants a list of Stark loyalists and a list of Captain America loyalists.
He continues to ask for a full report on the Fifty State Initiative. He wants Camp Hammond stripped down and rebuilt and this golden goose of a helicarrier scrapped. He also wants the useless capekiller armor and weapons systems discontinued and replaced. She can use his designs and put them into full production. The designs are on her PDA. Norman explains that before he was the man she sees before her, he was a hell of a weapons designer. He wants all the red and gold out of sight. She is his eyes and ears now and will have to make some tough decisions about some tough individuals. If she doesn't want the job, then she can speak now.
Victoria replies that she isn't sure if he's aware, but she was quite vocal about her feelings for Stark and Nick Fury, and what she considered to be a soft view on terrorism. Norman tells her that this is why she is there. She speaks her mind. He doesn't think that soft will be a word she'll be using much to describe him. "Deputy Director pays more?" she enquires. "Considerably," replies Norman. But, he adds, she will be working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of her life, so she shouldn't get too excited. "What about Maria Hill? she asks.
(Thunderbolts Mountain, Coyote Springs, Colorado - base of the Thunderbolts, six days ago)Maria Hill visits Norman at his behest. He apologizes for her having to come all the way out to see him, but as she knows, S.H.I.E.L.D. is no longer. A new organization is being established and he will be running the day to day on that. He informs her that due to her failure to detect the Skrull invasion within their ranks, and her failure to defend the world against the ground assault, her presence is no longer required. Maria says that she knows. However, she wanted to look him right in the eye in order to tell him that when he crashes and burns… and he will... she will be there when it happens. And she'll be laughing her ass off. She curtseys in a mocking fashion and leaves, silently.
As she departs, Bullseye walk into the room and Norman asks him to sit. He tells Bullseye that he did amazing work during the ground battle. Bullseye admits that it was fun. It took the edge off for a while. Norman is pleased that his new drugs are working. He held it together. Bullseye knows that this is leading somewhere, so Osborn doesn't waste time in informing him that he wants to reward him and expand their relationship. Reinvent it. They are going to move to New York. Bullseye asks what's in New York. "Avengers Tower," replies Norman. Bullseye almost falls off his chair in surprise and a broad smile edges across his face.
(five days ago, Avengers Tower)Ms. Marvel avoids the circling helicopters as she arrives at the tower. Inside, she encounters Norman Osborn who asks if she's reporting for duty. "To you?" she remarks. Norman explains that he's running the Avengers, and that she is their leader. Carol replies that she reports to Tony Stark and this is his house. Norman tells her that Stark is no longer there, and the tower is no longer his. He used S.H.I.E.L.D. funding to repair the tower after the Hulk attack and to finance the Avengers. Now he is out. His tower and everything in it is the property of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he is in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. "So..."
Carol feels like she's taken crazy pills. Why would Tony do that? Norman reckons that he didn't think this day would ever come. Carol bows her head and says that she resigns from the Avengers as Norman pours himself a drink. He replies that she is registered. She is military. He has the right to order her to take her position. Carol reiterates her resignation. Norman tells her in that case, she is under arrest. Carol becomes agitated and turns on Norman, telling him that no one worth a damn will side with him. There will be no Avengers. Norman motions behind him to where Ares and the Sentry are standing. Carol's eyes widen as she asks what the @#%% they are doing.
Ares says that he is the God of War and there are battles that must be fought. Carol points at Norman and tells Ares that he is a killer. Ares replies that so is he. Carol turns to Bob who lowers his eyes, telling her that this is where he lives. She asks what Norman promised him. "He's helping me," replies Bob. Carol can't believe it, and she tells them that they're making a huge mistake. No one responds and Carol almost tears her hair out in frustration. Ares tells her that she's putting her ego in front of her task. Carol buries her face in her hands and replies that it's not ego. She just won't do it. She won't work with him.
Osborn calmly asks her to surrender herself, in that case. They can let a military court decide. A tear forms at the corner of her eye and she takes off, smashing through a window as she takes to the skies. The Sentry says that it went badly and wonders if he should go after her. Norman asks him not to worry about it. She'll come around. Meanwhile, there are more Ms. Marvels where that came from.
Norman returns to Thunderbolts Mountain and finds Moonstone in a relaxed position. She informs him that she is meditating, but he doesn't care. He tosses Ms. Marvel's costume onto her lap and asks her to put it on. She and her moonstone are going with him. Karla asks why she can't just be Moonstone. She likes being Moonstone. Norman tells her that she will be Ms. Marvel. "I want to be Moonstone," she replies. Osborn tells her that Moonstone remains at the mountain under armed guard. Ms. Marvel gets her own penthouse in New York City with full privileges. Karla smiles. "I'm Ms. Marvel now," she replies, and Norman welcomes her to the Avengers. One thing though… she wants to be team leader.
(elsewhere)Six guards struggle to control a large Skrull who is held in place by dogcatchers’ poles. They drag him to a cell and one of the guards kicks him inside. Once he has entered, the door clangs shut and the Skrull's neck brace, which prevented him from shape-shifting, falls off. A voice from the darkness informs him that he can shape-shift again and asks him if he knows who Spider-Man is. "Who is there?" the Skrull demands to know. The voice orders him to turn himself into Spider-Man. The Skrull asks why. The voice says it's because he wants him to. Do it and he will live. The Skrull, wary of the unknown, shape-shifts into Spider-Man's form and the voice reveals its physical form. It's Venom, and he towers over the captive Skrull. The Skrull backs off, petrified, and with good reason, for Venom then eats him. Outside is Norman Osborn and he asks a guard if Venom is fed. He is told that he is, so Norman then enters the room.
Mac informs Norman that Skrulls make him gassy. One of the attending doctors passes Osborn some drugs. Osborn then tells Mac that he behaved himself during the invasion, and he promised to do right by him. He wants him to take the drug. Mac is concerned that Osborn is trying to poison him, but Osborn assures him that he is trying to make his life liveable. The drug will hopefully preserve his powers but make him more presentable. Mac replies that he likes himself like this but Osborn tells him that if he wants to get out of the mountain and meet a nice girl, he should take it. Mac warns him that if it's a trick... Osborn replies that if he wanted to kill him he'd have poisoned his dinner. Mac pauses but then opens his enormous toothy mouth wide and Osborn tosses the drugs into it.
Venom staggers backwards and roars. He falls to the ground and writhes in agony as the drugs begin to take effect. A doctor photographs Mac as he screams, but the pain doesn't last long. Osborn asks how he feels. Can he get up? Mac, now resembling a more muscular Spider-Man in his black costume, stands up. He appears to be impressed. He takes back everything he said about Osborn. Well, almost everything.
(New Orleans, four days ago)Daken approaches a Pizza Express on the pretence of getting a job and enters to find Norman Osborn sitting next to Ares, whom he introduces. Victoria Hand sits opposite them. Daken removes his shades and Norman assures him that he's not in trouble. "You have to taste this," exclaims Ares. "'Tis glorious crap." Daken ignores him and asks how he knew that he would be there. Osborn replies that he is an unstable mutant killer. It's his job to know where he is. "So there's no job for me?" he asks. Norman says that this guy has the stones to beat the hell out of Wolverine and wants to know if there's a job. Daken replies that that is between he and his father.
Norman Osborn's expression, and that of Ares, clearly show that they didn't know this snippet of information. "Ha!" exclaims Ares. Daken asks what's so funny as he drops his holdall to the floor. Ares wipes his mouth and replies that he just can't imagine a woman who'd let that ferret climb on top of her. Daken responds angrily, informing him that it's his mother he's talking about. He pops his claws, but Osborn tells him calmly that he'd like to hire him full time. Daken asks what for. Osborn smiles. "Well, tick your dad off for starters."
(the Cube, maximum security penitentiary, three days ago)Noh-Varr sits alone in a large cell, and Norman pays him a visit. He asks the Kree soldier why he is there. He is a war hero. Why is he sitting in a closed jail? What is he waiting for? Noh-Varr offers a petulant glance towards Osborn who tells him that he is fascinated by him. He came to Earth from another dimension, declared war on the planet and then, when push came to shove, he defended it. Noh-Varr asks what he wants. Osborn tells him that he wants him to be what he already is. Kree warrior. Sworn enemy of the Skrull. The stranger from another world who stood alongside us and helped save the world. He wants him to be Captain Marvel.
(Avengers Tower)The assembled crew stand around as Osborn and Victoria Hand look at a large photograph of an early incarnation of the Avengers. Osborn feels that something is missing. Victoria reckons that it's a pretty hardcore team, but Norman reckons that's what the public wants right now. No, what they are missing is a Jarvis, says Victoria. They need a full staff of housekeepers, cooks and armed guards at every door. The reformed Thunderbolts are truly disgusting pigs. She will put together a list. Osborn says that's fine, but it's the team that is missing something. It's Ares who suggests Captain America and Iron Man. Osborn quips that they'll be pretty hard gets. Ares explains that he means the symbolism. Captain America and Iron Man... the soldier and the knight. These are more than men. They are symbols that people gather behind.
Victoria informs her boss that his three o'clock has arrived, so they head down to meet him. The Ghost introduces himself, adding that he wasn't going to come, but Osborn got him an invite inside Stark Tower. It's too tempting. He hates Tony Stark and the corporate government world they live in. Osborn says that he knows. The Ghost adds that he hates what Stark represents, every sickening thing. He's going to bring all of it down. "Good luck with that," replies Karla. The Ghost also hates being condescended to, and tells her that he has the power to slip into any room, any alarm, any code. Osborn tells him that's why he invited him.
They stand before two huge doors, and Osborn asks him to get inside. The Ghost asks what's in there. Osborn admits he doesn't know, but it was Stark's and now it is his. Who better than the Ghost to open the door. The Ghost asks what he gets out of it. Osborn informs him that he has plans for him. The Ghost is surprised by this, and asks if he wants him to be an Avenger. Norman says no. It would be a slap in the face of everything he stands for. But, he has a place for him and big plans. The Ghost gets inside in seconds. Karla asks where Osborn got him from. He smells. Norman asks her to be quiet. Ares runs his eyes over Karla and says that she is a fine woman. Before she can get on her high horse, the doors swing wide, and the treasure is revealed. More than a dozen versions of the Iron Man armor in pristine condition.
(Latveria, this morning)A helicopter comes in to land amidst the ruins of Castle Doom. A crew member radios to the ground but receives no response. He tries once again and wonders why there is no ground crew. One of the crew asks Doom if he can take a picture, but a disdainful look quickly puts him off the idea. The 'copter lands and the agents jump out. One of the agents quips that it's some homecoming. Doom's people must be real glad to see him. Doom replies that if he continues to speak, there will be no end to his suffering. Doom looks around and notices a mysterious woman standing nearby. The agents don't know what to make of her, but Doom quickly assumes a defensive stance. Immediately, arcs of magical assaults fly back and forth as the agents back away quickly.
(Avengers Tower, now)Captain Marvel, Sentry, Ms. Marvel, Ares, Wolverine, Hawkeye and the amazing Spider-Man take the crowd's applause, led by their leader, Norman Osborn... the Iron Patriot. Osborn removes his helmet and informs everyone that he will lead these new Avengers into battle against anyone who would threaten their way of life. "My name is Norman Osborn and I approve these Avengers."
Ares, Bullseye/Hawkeye, Daken Akihiro/Wolverine, Noh-Varr/Captain Marvel, Moonstone/Ms. Marvel, Norman Osborn/Iron Patriot, Sentry, Venom/Spider-Man (all Avengers)
Crowd and reportersVictoria Hand
(in flashback)Morgana Le FeyNorman OsbornVictoria HandMaria Hill and several S.H.I.E.L.D agentsAresSentry/Bob ReynoldsMoonstoneCaptive SkrullVenomThunderbolts Mountain guards and doctorsDaken
(in the cauldron's image)Victor Von Doom, Emma Frost, the Hood, Loki, Namor, Norman Osborn
S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage Logistics Directorate.A.I.M., a villainous organization, stands for Advanced Idea Mechanics.
The Fifty State Initiative is a government plan to install super hero teams in every state. These include the Desert Stars in Arizona, the Order in California and Freedom Force in Montana.
Camp Hammond is located in Stamford, Connecticut, and is primarily used to train new recruits to the Initiative such as Cloud 9 and Komodo.Avengers Tower was damaged during the World War Hulk storyline, specifically World War Hulk #1 during a fight between the Hulk and Iron Man.
Norman’s final line seems to paraphrase the wording by candidates for federal office when endorsing political adverts, known popularly as Stand by your Ad.