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Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato & Will Conrad (artists), Rain Beredo (color artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letters & production), Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo (cover artists), Lauren Sankovitch (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
In Paramus, New Jersey, Iron Man has his hands full dealing with a giant robot called Ultimo which, unbeknownst to him, is after his armor. He calls for backup and the Avengers arrive quickly by traveling through a wormhole in their ship. Unfortunately, they don’t know about Ultimo’s powers and they attack the robot, which responds by channeling their energy back at them. Dr. Strange wraps up Ultimo in the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak and Iron Fist brings it down to the ground. Wolverine slashes at it once it’s down, but a second smaller robot appears and grabs him. It quickly slices Wolverine’s throat, takes a sample of his blood and rockets off into the sky. Even Ms. Marvel isn’t quick enough to catch up with it. It emerges that Ultimo was sent there by Norman Osborn and his agents of A.I.M. Once they realized that they wouldn’t be able to retrieve Iron Man’s armor, they used the second robot to grab Wolverine’s DNA. For the Avengers, the danger isn’t over, as Ultimo begins to explode.
The Avengers head over to one of Stark Resilient’s satellite laboratories in Paramus, New Jersey via Quinjet wormhole. When they arrive, they see a very large robot blowing things up. Iron Man is already at the scene. Spidey asks if they can, just for once, get themselves organized and go to a movie or something. Luke Cage replies that if they get this wrapped up quickly, he’ll take them all out after.Ms. Marvel leaves their craft and flies towards the danger zone, calling out to Iron Man. He says “hi” and reckons he could do with a little help as he flies away from another blast from the robot, which he explains is named Ultimo. As he tries to explain that there’s a lot of military history involved and warn Carol not to hit it, the rest of the Avengers pitch in, leaping from their craft to Iron Man’s horror. Wolverine relishes the challenge, but Spidey could do without this. Iron Man calls for them to stand down, but they’re concentration is on the large killing machine before them.Power Woman crashes into its head feet first, as Spidey webs up the rest of its face. Iron Fist hammers it with his channeled power and Luke Cage uses its neck as a football. Dr. Strange uses his magic to explode its innards as Wolverine drops down, slashing it along its length. Stark’s warning comes too late as Ultimo responds by blasting them all away, rather painfully. Only Iron Man, who uses an energy shield and Dr. Strange, who quickly casts a protective spell around himself, escape unhurt. He explains to Ms. Marvel that Ultimo absorbs kinetic energy and sends it back at you. You can’t just hit it directly. “Like me with energy,” she replies. “Exactly,” says Iron Man, “But the big robot version.”
Mockingbird is listening in and radios everyone to stand down from direct attacks. Luke asks what they’re supposed to do. Dig a big hole and throw it in? Dr. Strange opens his arms wide and tells everyone he’s got this. Magic fills the air as he uses the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak to wrap the robot up tight. Spidey asks if there’s someone inside, to which Iron Man says there isn’t usually, but this is a new design. When Spidey then asks if it’s sentient, Tony again isn’t sure but informs him that Ultimo is usually remote-controlled, at which point Spidey asks by whom. Tony is trying to locate the signal but it’s being blocked. It could be A.I.M. or anyone. It just showed up, maybe just to make his life miserable but probably for industrial espionage. Spidey asks Wolverine how many well-placed stabs it takes to get to the center of a giant robot. “Let’s find out,” he replies as he slashes away at the robot’s thick skin.
Spidey wonders what kind tech they’ll discover inside and, when Wolverine opens it up a little, Spidey is impressed. They have some really advanced stuff percolating in there. The robot fires a blast of energy, which Spidey narrowly avoids, and Mockingbird asks Iron Fist if he can help Ultimo take a seat. Danny is already on it and he smashes one of its feet, which knocks it off balance. As Wolverine continues slashing, the robot crashes to earth. Luke ushers Jessica out of the way, but she assures him that she can see the giant falling robot for herself.
Once it’s down, Wolverine rushes towards its head, but he doesn’t see what’s behind him. Iron Man tries to warn him, but a smaller robot emerges from within Ultimo’s body and grabs Logan around the arms with metallic tendrils. It quickly uses two sharp blades to slice his throat. Blood spurts, which shocks Ms. Marvel. The blades then pick up a small container and catches some of the spurting blood inside it before attaching the canister to four small egg-shaped modules. Spidey asks Iron Man what it’s doing. Tony replies that he’s scanning and believes it just took a blood sample.
The modules turn out to be tiny rockets and they kick into life, sending the canister skywards. Ms. Marvel follows immediately but, as she gets within grabbing distance, it increases its speed and shoots away from her. The Avengers follow in their ship and Mockingbird asks where the hell it went. Carol has to admit that it’s gone. It was faster than her. Iron Man is unable to track its signal and, as Spider-Man brings someone out of a damaged building, Tony asks why people are still standing around when he called for a full evacuation of the entire facility. Iron Fist kicks the robot holding Wolverine and it releases its grip. Wolverine, furious, lashes out at the robot and at Ultimo too. He plunges his claws inside and something explodes.
(15 minutes earlier)Watching on television monitors are some agents of A.I.M. They watch the team battle Ultimo and one of them mentions that they identified Dr. Strange. They weren’t prepared for a mystical attack. A colleague asks them to keep the sensors up. They can salvage this. The first one says that the Avengers got there too soon and his colleague reckons they must have some kind of new transport technology. However, every second Ultimo fights this battle they up their chances of discovery.
Another agent seated at a computer calls over to his boss that it’s his call. They have not reached their objective and now the Avengers are on target ahead of schedule. Abort or continue? On a walkway above them, Norman Osborn looks down. He is flanked by Gorgon, Madame Hydra and Superia. He replies that he wants that armor. He was promised Tony Stark’s armor. The agent replies that they may have lost their window. Osborn’s face wrinkles into an annoyed scowl but he tells them to stick with it.
Madame Hydra tells him that it’s too early to risk the Avengers tracking them there. Osborn asks one of the agents, a doctor, if the Avengers can track them there. He replies that every second they delay retreat increases the chance of discovery. They should never underestimate Tony Stark and his technologies. His colleague then informs him that Ultimo is down and asks Osborn what he wants them to do. Gorgon suggests Osborn’s passions are getting ahead of him and Madame Hydra urges him to pull the plug.
Osborn turns and tells them that they are free to leave, go back to their old lives and their old ways. Gorgon can go back to his series of failures. They can go back to Hydra, A.I.M. and the Hand all fighting for the same piece of the small pie and all failing under the thumb of Tony Stark or Captain America. He says they made a pact; a promise to a new goal. Superia adds that they are either they are part of H.A.M.M.E.R. or they are not. Do they believe in his leadership?
They are interrupted when a scientist informs them that they have Wolverine. They don’t know how long they can hold him. Should he attempt genetic extraction? Gorgon seems excited by this news. “His mutant DNA?” he asks. Superia adds that this would be a goldmine, especially the keys to his healing factor. Osborn asks him to retrieve it and the agents below switch to Plan Nixon - biological extraction. Everyone watches the screen as Wolverine’s throat is cut and his blood is shot into the sky towards their secure location. They see the Avengers give chase but soon being forced to give up. A broad smile spreads across Norman Osborn’s face. “Well done gentleman. See? And you wanted to run.” He sees Spider-Man on his screen bringing someone out of a building and he asks for their skin to be flayed from their bodies.
(present)Back in Paramus, Iron Man notes that a concussive chain reaction has been remotely detonated. “Everyone get out of…” he warns as the robot begins to self-destruct in a series of explosions. With his shields at 5%, he gets the hell out of there and tells everyone to duck for cover.
Luke Cage, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Iron Man, Mockingbird, Ms. Marvel, Power Woman, Spider-Man, Wolverine (all Avengers)
(in flashback)Gorgon, Madame Hydra, Norman Osborn and Superia
(on screen in flashback)Luke Cage, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine (all Avengers)
Daredevil and the Thing appear on the cover but not in the actual issue.