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Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Danny Miki & Crime Lab Studios’ Allen Martinez & Victor Olazaba (inkers), Justin Ponsor & Stephane Peru (coloring), Artmonkey’s Dave Lanphear (lettering), Rich Ginter (production), Molly Lazer (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
Hank Pym gives Janet Van Dyne a new serum which will allow her to go from tiny Wasp size to giant-size. She hopes she doesn’t have to use it, but it doesn’t take long for that hope to disappear. People in Manhattan are changed into Carnage and Venom symbiotes after capsules are dropped from space. The Avengers try and contain the situation, but there are thousands and it’s a difficult task, especially when they can’t use lethal force. Also not helping is the fact that Luke Cage’s crew has been transformed as well. Iron Man takes a symbiote and one of the canisters and flies to the Baxter Building to carry out test upon them. He has the computer create an antidote, but it takes time and he uses this delay to think about everything that’s happened recently and the Skrull situation. Once the antidote is ready, he flies back to Manhattan and sprays it over the affected populace. People revert to their normal forms, and Luke’s team helps out with the clear-up operation. This doesn’t go unnoticed by Ms. Marvel, who allows them to depart peacefully, despite them being wanted by the government. Tony determines that the country responsible for the attack is Latveria, and he takes both his team and S.H.I.E.L.D. on a mission to put a stop to it.
(Avengers Initiative, Van Dyne Design Studio, Soho, Day 13)Janet Van Dyne has a couple of images on screen of new uniforms for herself and Hank. Hank appears and she wonders what he wants. He gives her a small gift; an anniversary present. Suspiciously, she asks what it’s an anniversary for. He replies that it’s something he was working on before she left him in England. It’s a new growth formula.
He explains that it’s a vast improvement over the original one that made him Ant-Man and Janet the Wasp. Now, if she needs to be the Wasp she can shrink down, but if the situation calls for a giant woman, she can go right from Wasp to Woman… like that. He figured that with the new team, the new world, the Initiative and everything else, it might be nice to have the option. Janet thinks to herself that if he was so thoughtful all the time, they’d still be together. She thanks him for the gift, but hopes she won’t need it.
(Avengers Initiative, Manhattan, Day 14)The Avengers arrive to find the streets teaming with Venom and Carnage symbiotes. Iron Man’s armor carries out a scan and determines that there are over twelve thousand of them in a five hundred feet radius. Natasha asks him what the armor says. “Pretty much what it looks like,” he replies. She says it looks totally insane. Tony has to agree with her.
The Sentry is immediately set upon by several of the symbiotes, and the Avengers go into action. Ms. Marvel realizes that they are wearing normal clothes. Are these people? Ares reckons that either way, his axe will taste the blood of all comers. The Wasp asks him to hold back for a moment. She has a surprise which might help them. She then goes from her tiny Wasp size to giant-size in an instant. Despite this, one of the symbiotes in her hand tries to bite her.
Iron Man then retrieves the information from his armor. “Avengers!” he cries. “It’s a biological attack!” At that moment, the Black Widow is bitten and begins to turn into a Carnage symbiote. Spider-Woman follows immediately afterwards. Tony’s armor informs him that they are mutated organisms which match a gene splice from Max Gargan, a.k.a. Venom. The Thunderbolts files are loaded up. Tony warns everyone to leave as he cannot be affected with his armor on. However, Wonder Man mentions that he’s ionic, not flesh and blood. Ares says he is a god, and they should do well to remember that. The Sentry is unaffected, as is Carol Danvers who lets out a sigh of relief.
Iron Man contacts the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier on a priority white code. He warns them not to send any troops into New York City. Instead, he wants the perimeter of Manhattan sealed off… all of it. Janet is going crazy as Iron Man’s armor tries to locate the virus’s source. He begins to leave and Carol asks him where he’s going. He replies that it’s not an invasion. These are people of New York City. He asks her not to engage them in a physical fight. She should just try and keep them from killing each other and keep any collateral damage to a minimum. He then takes off, leaving the Avengers to do the best they can.
Out of the blue, Luke Cage comes flying towards them and inadvertently knocks Simon over. Simon recognizes him and asks what’s going on. Luke leaps straight into action against some symbiotes and replies that they were coming to help. Ms. Marvel expresses concern for Jessica’s baby, and indeed any others that might be affected. She also asks what’s going on. Luke says he doesn’t know. All he knows is - the rest of his crew ain’t doing so well. Coming at the Avengers are Luke’s team including Wolverine, Iron Fist and Doctor Strange. They are all symbiotes. “Are you kidding me?” exclaims Carol.
Iron Man flies through Manhattan trying to take in the information his armor provides.
‘Symbiote is a living alien organism that bonds with another living organism (human or animal) in order to survive. Its class name refers to its symbiotic relationships. For ancillary information hit [tab] on highlighted phasing. Host provides increased strength, speed and durability, dependent on host’s original attributes. Virus attack source located.’ “Show me,” orders Tony.
‘S.H.E.L.D. file 353-35325 EGF reports the activity of all known symbiotes and their hosts. Codename Venom: host is Mac Gargan, former alias the Scorpion. See file 45-5252. Codename Carnage: Sentry (Robert Reynolds) ripped the Carnage symbiote in two, but Cletus Kasady may not have been wearing the suit.’
Iron Man’s visual imagery brings up photographs of all the people who have at some point been either Venom or Carnage. These include Wolverine, Cletus Kasady, John Jameson and the Silver Surfer. His armor informs him that Codename She-Venom’s status is unknown, as is Codename Toxin’s. Codename Hybrid’s status is also unknown. The armor informs Tony that it has insufficient technology to analyze and counteract the virus. Tony asks it to patch him through to the Baxter Building, but no one is home. ‘Damn it,’ thinks Tony.
He flies to the Baxter Building and accesses the building using codes he has at his disposal. He wouldn’t do this unless it was an emergency, but he enters Reed’s lab with a small symbiote and a virus container to carry out tests upon. Tony identifies himself to H.E.R.B.I.E. and accesses the building’s computing power. He asks it to identify the virus components from the sample and backwards code it. He wants it to identify and produce a counter-agent antibiotic antidote. The computer scans the virus, and Tony is annoyed that he can but wait for the results to come through.
(meanwhile, in Manhattan)As the Avengers try and maintain some kind of control, Wonder Man sees Wolverine’s symbiote struggling to possess him. He asks how he’s doing. Logan replies that his healing factor keeps trying to push the thing out of him. It hurts a lot. Janet’s giant foot is causing havoc, and Ms. Marvel asks Bob, though she hates doing it, to knock Janet out before she hurts someone, or herself. The Sentry apologizes, before punching Janet hard in her symbiote face, knocking her out. “One down,” remarks Ares.
(the Baxter Building)As Tony waits for the results, all he can think about are Skrulls, and that they are already being invaded. When he tries to grab a second to think about it, something like this insanity gets thrown in his face. Ultron’s symbiotes, Cap’s assassination, the damn Thunderbolts… is it real? Is any of it real? he wonders, or is he being played? The question he has to ask himself is, is he going insane? The first thing he thought when Natasha turned into a symbiote down there was, at least she’s not a Skrull. A Skrull shape-shifts. She shape-shifts into a symbiote so he doesn’t think she’s a Skrull. Maybe this is all a trick to confuse him and keep him off his game? He made a move. They make a move.
He notes that Reed Richards isn’t in his lab. Is he a Skrull? Were they switched years ago when the Skrulls first got here, or when the Illuminati attacked them years ago, to stop this exact thing from happening? Tony is confused. They’ve got to him. They’ve set him up for the biggest fall in this history of man. He is determined it won’t happen. He will not let them take his planet or kill his friends.
As he thinks about it, the computer produces its results. ‘Virus identified. Antidote formula synthesised.’ The small symbiote he brought with him has been reverted to its true form - a small dog. The virus has been eliminated.
(back in Manhattan)Ms. Marvel struggles with the symbiotic Iron Fist, knowing that if she could open up, this would be over in no time. Of course, everyone would be dead… As the team struggles, Iron Man appears above them and sprays the antidote into the air. It begins to work immediately, and the symbiotes begin to revert to the appearance of their original hosts. In moments, where symbiotes once created chaos, all that is left is a city full of people who are scared, confused and in need of assistance.
Both teams of heroes know what they must do, and the start to help those who need it. Doctor Strange recovers quickly and casts a series of spells that soothes people’s emotional states. It’ll help people to just get home and to their loved ones. Iron man notices Clint Barton among the crowd and goes to meet him. He ignores Tony and helps a woman instead. He then turns to Tony and tells him that he thought a lot about their talk. He’s thought a lot about what happened. “You know it was you that killed Captain America, right?” he growls. “It might as well have been you who pulled that trigger.” Tony is shocked to hear this from his old friend.
Tony’s armor then informs him that it has determined the virus’s trajectory. He flies off, leaving Ms. Marvel to wonder where the hell he’s going. “Um,” says Wonder Man. “We’re supposed to arrest them, right?” he asks, in regards to Luke Cage’s team. Carol looks over and sees Spider-Man helping out a little kid. She hasn’t the heart to do it. She tells the Sentry to take the children to the hospital as soon as possible. She asks Wonder Man to try and get these people home. She then asks Ares to help put out some of the fires and put some of the property back where it belongs. She’ll try and wake up Janet. Luke’s team takes the reprieve and heads off.
(soon)Iron Man is in space and following the virus’s trajectory. He comes across a shuttle and some astronauts. He asks his armor for a full scan of the ship. He discovers more virus containers and neutralizes them. ‘A biological weapon launched on American soil.’ His armor informs him that the metallurgy and design matches that of Latverian engineer Latros Moldavia. “Doom!” cries Iron Man. Tony reckons Doom has picked the wrong day to attack American soil with a biological weapon. Before long he returns to Earth and gathers up his team and the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to take the fight to Doctor Doom.
Ares, Black Widow, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Sentry, Spider-Woman, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers)
Luke Cage, Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, Ronin, Spider-Man, Wolverine (all “new” Avengers)Maya Lopez
Innocent New Yorkers (as symbiotes)Latverian agents (in space)
(On screen)The Wasp & Yellowjacket
Venom and Carnage’s including Eddie Brock, Angelo Fortunato, Mac Gargan, John Jameson, Cletus Kasady, Ben Reilly, Wolverine
Sentry, Spider-Woman, Wonder Man (all Avengers)
(in Iron Man’s memories)Ares, Captain America, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Scarlet Witch (all Avengers)
Black BoltMr. FantasticMaria HillSkrull/ElektraSpider-ManMiriam Sharpe
Eddie Brock was the first host taken by the Venom symbiote. She-Venom was Ann Weying, who was Brock’s wife.
Also mentioned as being Venom’s at one time are Patrick Mulligan and Patricia Robertson. Patricia Robertson appeared in the Venom series (2003). Angelo Fortunato was the son of a Mafia capo and learned Spider-Man’s secret identity through hosting the symbiote. Patrick Mulligan is Toxin, yet another symbiote.
Cletus Kasady was the first Carnage host.
This issue ties in with the story that Luke tells Jessica in New Avengers (1st series) #36.