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Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato (artist), Rain Beredo (color artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letters and production), Mike Deodato and Rain Beredo (cover artists), Lauren Sankovitch (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Norman Osborn has put together a new team of Dark Avengers, which he believes are superior to the real Avengers on every level. Unfortunately for him, at least two of his cohorts, Madame Hydra and Gorgon, are just waiting for him to fail once again so that they can take over. The real Avengers recover from their battle with Ultimo, but Iron Man for one is furious at how things turned out. He believes A.I.M. was responsible for the attack. They return to the mansion and wonder if recent prison escapee Norman Osborn is also somehow connected to this attack. They wouldn’t put it past him. Jessica tells Luke what Osborn said about him killing their baby. She’s worried sick now that he’ll follow through on his promise. Victoria Hand returns from a meeting having had an egg thrown at her by a crowd protesting outside Avengers Mansion. She runs straight into Spider-Man’s suspiciousness, which doesn’t help her mood none. She receives a message and tells the team to head to Miami where an incident is occurring. The Avengers head to their ship and go straight there, only to find that the coordinates are wrong. When she passes on the real ones, they discover that Osborn has beaten them to it and he has a new team of Avengers in tow.
(Avengers Mansion)Matt Murdock, better known as the super hero Daredevil, returns to the mansion past a crowd of angry protestors complaining about the Avengers. He wonders why they would protest the people who are actually trying to help. Are there not there enough people they can find who aren’t doing anything and maybe protest them? He enters the mansion and bumps into Squirrel Girl, who is carrying Luke and Jessica’s baby.She immediately becomes flustered when she clocks him and brushes her hair back flirtatiously. He asks where everyone is. She informs him that they’re on a mission. He wonders why no one called him, but she feels he needs to speak to Mister Cage about that. She’s just the nanny. Her scent and the contents of Danielle’s nappy offend his heightened senses. She tells him that she never got to thank him properly for saving them that time with the Nazis and Red Skull.
Matt hears her heart pounding as she speaks. She’s clearly excited. She tells him that he saved her life, but he replies that she would have done the same for him. She stares at him in awe and he nervously asks if she knows when they’ll be back. “Do you have a girlfriend?” she asks outright. Matt leans back. “Uh-oh,” he thinks. He asks how old she is, but she replies that she’s old enough to appreciate him saving her life. Matt points at Danielle and tells her that the baby really needs changing. She looks down and runs off, leaving Matt to think… ‘Squirrel Girl?’
(meanwhile over at Stark Resilient satellite laboratories, Paramus, New Jersey)The place is a mess. Buildings have been decimated and flames flicker all around as the heroes pick themselves up. Iron Man’s power cells recharge themselves as Luke helps Jessica up, asking if she’s okay. She tells him she’s fine. She’s just going over in her head all the good things about being an Avenger. She’ll let him know when she comes up with one. Mockingbird calls down from the ship and informs Iron Man that they lost its trail. It was just too damn fast. She then sees the mess and asks Tony what happened. As Dr. Strange uses a spell to clean himself up and Spider-Man removes a quickly-cast protective web that he hid under, Tony tells her that Ultimo self-destructed. They’re not dealing with chimps here.Spider-Man says he doesn’t mind getting his tuchy kicked so much as not knowing why. Actually, he adds, he does mind. Tony replies that they came for him. Ultimo came for him and was literally trying to grab the armor off his body when they showed up. Luckily, it threw the robot off its game. He tosses his helmet to the ground in anger. Luke helps up Wolverine and says that because they didn’t get the armor, they called an audible and grabbed a blood sample from Wolverine instead. Logan grunts that he’s gonna need some time to heal.
Ms. Marvel asks what Wolverine’s blood gets anyone. Tony reckons they could reverse-engineer it and his healing factor alone on the open bio-weapons market could pay big money. Tony asks, rhetorically, how far they would advance as a technological species if they didn’t have to deal with lunatics like this every ten minutes. Spider-Man asks if he should grab a broom but Tony wants to get back to Avengers Mansion so he can figure out where A.I.M. are and what they’re up to. Strange asks if he’s sure A.I.M. is responsible. Tony replies, “Absolutely.”
(H.A.M.M.E.R. headquarters, yesterday)Viper is chatting with Gorgon as they watch Norman Osborn giving the new recruits a pep talk. She asks him what he’s thinking. He replies that if he told her he wouldn’t seem so mysterious. However, he’s wondering what drives Norman Osborn. Viper reckons it’s the same thing that drives them. They know the world should be different. They know their place in the world is being withheld from them. So, they fight the tides. She asks if he’s wondering if Norman is a narcissist with multiple personalities or if he has multiple personalities and one of them is a narcissist. Gorgon says he wonders the same about her. Viper admits she is a narcissist, but she’s a self-aware narcissist. She adds that death couldn’t kill Gorgon and that makes him a narcissist’s dream.He informs Viper that Osborn wants him to dress as Wolverine and join his fanciful Avengers. Viper reckons he should do that. Gorgon says he finds it humiliating, but she replies by asking if it’s more humiliating that his own men knew that Wolverine beat him. He responds by grabbing her roughly by the throat and slamming her against the wall. “Don’t kill the messenger,” she warns. She tells him that he should follow Osborn.
When Gorgon asks what if he fails, Viper replies that he will fail. He always does. The Avengers and Spider-Man don’t defeat Osborn. Osborn defeats Osborn. The madness that makes him so successful and that drives men to follow him is also the madness that defeats him. Gorgon asks, in that case, what she’s doing there. Viper informs him that she’s waiting for him to fail. Then when he does, all this is theirs. “But then…?” he asks. She puts her arms around his neck and tells him they will blow up that bridge when they come to it.
He once again grabs her by the throat and stares at her. She glares back at him and says that if he wanted to scare her he should have gotten to her years ago. He lets her go and walks away. As he does so, Viper whispers to herself that she will watch him burn.
(now)The Avengers ship heads back to the mansion. Spider-Man points out that they haven’t been on their game since Osborn escaped from prison. Captain America said to leave it to him and as far as they know he is doing everything he can. But, it’s his fault that Osborn’s out and they all know it. He asks since when do any of them individually, let alone as a group, allow what just happened today to happen? He admits that he’s angry. Osborn’s out and it’s his fault. “Our fault,” replies Cage. Spider-Man replies that he likes to take as much blame whenever he can. He shouldn’t take that away from him. It’s his only joy.The Avengers leave the ship. Iron Fist asks if there’s any chance that Osborn is on some beach in Brazil wearing an afro wig and answering to the name Carlos Gillespie? Luke reckons there’s not a chance in hell. Ms. Marvel wonders if there’s any connection with what just happened at Stark’s to Osborn. Spidey replies that this is the point: they just don’t know. Mockingbird figures they should stop everything they’re doing, find him and shut him down. Wolverine reminds her that Rogers said he’d take care of it, but Spidey adds that he also said that this team of Avengers could do whatever it wants.
Luke realizes that Jessica didn’t leave the ship with the rest of them and he heads back inside. He finds her sitting in her seat looking worried and asks her if she’s okay. She informs Luke that Osborn said he was going to kill their baby, five seconds before he disappeared. “He said that? He said those exact words?” asks Luke. She never told him that. Jessica reckons she must have blocked it out. He places an assuring hand on her shoulder and says Osborn ain’t getting anywhere near her. “What do you want me to do?” he asks. Jessica replies that she honestly doesn’t know.
(meanwhile)Gorgon has put on his Wolverine costume and joined the others who are with Osborn again. Barney Barton says he speaks for everyone (he believes) when he says they appreciate him getting them back on their feet, but did he really just throw them together to be another take on his Avengers fetish? Osborn replies that the world needs protection, leadership and with that comes the need to be protected by them. Gorgon asks if it’s going to work. It didn’t last time. When Osborn replies that it did, Barney then asks, in that case, why was he in jail?Chiming in, June Covingham adds that most of their predecessors are dead. Osborn tells her she’s right. She can see her point of view but reckons that, for a long time, longer than she would have guessed, it did work, beautifully. But yes, he admits, crazy is crazy and it got as far as it could. But they are more powerful, more dynamic and more in touch with their inner power than any of the previous Avengers, including Captain America and his denial Avengers. Plus, they have a Hulk. “Skaar,” replies Skaar. “Skaar,” Osborn replies correcting himself.He asks Barney if he’s a better marksman than his brother, Clint Barton. “On every level,” he replies. He turns to Gorgon and asks if he is a finer warrior than Wolverine. Gorgon warns him not to dishonor him with that question. He turns back to Skaar and is about to ask about his father, but Skaar tells him not to talk about his father. Osborn tells them that, if they follow that thought pattern, each of them right to this moment, they are all deftly superior. And, he adds, just so they know, they have something they never had before. Superia asks what that might be. “A man on the inside,” he replies as they climb aboard their ship.
(Avengers Mansion)Victoria Hand returns to the mansion to find the Avengers sitting around eating. She complains that one of the protestors threw an egg at her. Dr. Strange finds all this rather disheartening, so Wolverine asks him to wave his magic twanger and make them go away. Strange begins to explain how his magic works but Wolverine quickly regrets talking to him. Spider-Man asks ‘Miss Hand’ where she’s been as they haven’t seen her in a while. “Call me Victoria,” she replies. “What should I call you?” Spider-Man replies, “Suspicious.” Victoria says she loves coming there. Always a ray of sunshine.Danny wishes to go outside and talk to the protestors but Luke says no. Everyone’s got phones and cameras and they’re just looking for him to say or do something wrong. Danny assures him that he’s a peaceful man, but Luke asks him to sit down. He reckons they can protest all they want. It’s the way they want the world to be anyhow, right? “People protesting us?” asks Danny. “No. A world where they can,” Luke replies.
Spidey asks Victoria how her lunch with Osborn went. Victoria flips out and tells him to stop it or she’ll walk out. She doesn’t work for him. She works for them! She then corrects herself, saying she works for Captain America and she answers to him! She adds that if they must know she was in a meeting with Maria Hill and Sharon Carter about how best to put together a plan to follow Luke Cage’s preemptive… Her phone rings and she asks them to hold on. She then tells them that she hopes they are fed and rested. They’ve got a thing in Miami. “Go!”
The Avengers head to their ship and take off. As it rises above the protesting crowds. Spidey calls out saying they’re going to save the world. Does anyone want anything bringing on the way back? The ship then rockets away leaving Victoria to contact her mystery caller. She informs them that she’s sending them some immediately valuable coordinates so she can buy them a head start. Elsewhere, Squirrel Girl calls in on Jessica, who has decided not to join the others. She assures her that she can take care of the baby, but Jessica, almost lost in her worried thoughts, tells her she’s got it.
The Avengers’ ship arrives at the coordinates but all they find is a farmer, his boy and a horse. There’s definitely no sign of trouble. Mockingbird thinks Hand sent them the wrong coordinates and she contact her for the correct ones. Daredevil asks who Victoria Hand is. “Cap approved,” replies Wolverine. The ship disappears and reappears at the correct location. What they see below is yet another scene of devastation.
Norman Osborn and his Avengers stand before a small crowd. Several Atlantean creatures lie dead amidst the ruins. Osborn assures everyone that the drama is over. It seems this Atlantean attack was nothing but an isolated incident and it was an honor to handle this for them. They can consider them their Avengers. Someone asks a question, and Osborn replies that they are not affiliated with Commander Rogers and his team. In fact, he adds, he’s sure Rogers will have an issue with what they have done. He adds that no one has cornered the market on how to make the world better. He turns around and looks up at the Avengers ship. “Well, speak of the devils,” he grins.
Luke Cage, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Iron Man, Mockingbird, Ms. Marvel, Power Woman, Spider-Man, Wolverine (all Avengers)Victoria HandSquirrel Girl and Danielle Cage
ProtestorsFarmer and his son
Ai Apaec (The Decapitator), Barney Barton (Trickshot), June Covingham (The Toxie Doxie), Gorgon (Wolverine), Ragnarok (Thor), Skaar (all Dark Avengers)
Miami workersAtlantean monsters(in flashback)Norman OsbornMadame Hydra
Ai Apaec (The Decapitator), Barney Barton (Trickshot), June Covingham(The Toxie Doxie as the Scarlet Witch), Gorgon (as Wolverine), Ragnarok (as Thor), Skaar, Superia (as Ms. Marvel) - all Dark Avengers
Daredevil saved Squirrel Girl from Nazi soldiers during the Fear Itself storyline.