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Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato & Will Conrad (artists), Rain Beredo (color art), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letters & production), Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo (cover artists), John Denning (assistant editor), Lauren Sankovitch (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Yesterday, Luke Cage returned to Avengers Mansion, having searched for his wife and child. He used a camera crew to get his plea for her to return out to the media, and then gave a heartfelt speech which seemed to leave some protestors wondering if they were there for the right reasons. At that moment, Jessica returned much to his relief and they headed inside. He and Jessica had a heart-to-heart, but the upshot was that Jessica didn’t feel she could live at the mansion. It was way too dangerous for their daughter. However, she also felt that he was more interested in being an Avenger than he was a father. This put Luke in a terrible position, and nothing he could say could dissuade Jessica from deciding to leave, with or without him. Iron Fist asked them to come to a briefing held by Captain America. There, he informed everyone that the Phoenix Force was on its way to Earth and they believed its target was the girl named Hope living on Utopia. They needed to get her off the Earth. Several Avengers weren’t sure this was a good idea (Ms. Marvel and Wolverine in particular) but Cap insisted he had to try. He asked the team to accompany him to Utopia. Jessica decided she had to take care of her baby, so she left whilst the rest took the Helicarrier to Utopia. There, they watch Captain America try and explain things to Cyclops. As expected, Cyclops isn’t agreeable to them taking Hope and he attacks Cap, who orders his team into action.
(S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier)The Avengers are gathered aboard the Helicarrier. While they wait, Mockingbird asks Spider-Man what that was all about with Spider-Island. Before he can answer properly, Iron Man asks them to be quiet. He is more concerned with the matter at hand. He looks at images of Captain America and Cyclops, who are speaking on the beach below. Wolverine and the Black Widow are by his side. Natasha asks him not to worry. Cap will be able to talk some sense into Cyclops. Wolverine disagrees, but Iron Man asks them to have faith. Logan asks what planet he’s living on. Stark says that he knows Logan and Scott have had their falling out, but he has hope. Logan replies that Scott has Hope. That’s why they’re even in this mess.
As they chat, they see Scott blast Captain America with his optic beam. “Damn,” exclaims Natasha. Captain America looks up at the Helicarrier’s cameras and says, “Avengers assemble!” Red Hulk tells his colleagues that they heard the man. “Move move move!” As everyone leaps from the Helicarrier, high above Utopia, Red Hulk tells them to fight smart. Fight the fights they can win, don’t think of their opponents as friends or X-Men but think of saving the world. They must put their opponent down because they will do likewise. If they are not successful the world will not exist tomorrow. “Be successful!”
(Avengers Mansion, yesterday)The team is seated around the dinner table. Someone asks Victoria Hand what they are going to do about the protestors outside. She asks them not to engage them. Cap’s orders. Spider-Man says he has a question. Did he hear right that Wolverine runs a school now? Logan swigs from a beer bottle and replies, “Yup.” Spidey is amazed. A school. With children. What rational person on this or any other planet would let children anywhere near him? Logan pauses a moment, knowing Spider-Man is winding him up and then tells him he liked his old costume better. Spidey says that actually hurt.
Ms. Marvel asks if anyone’s heard from Jessica Jones or Luke Cage yet. No one has, and Dr. Strange admits that he’s rather worried about them. Wolverine reckons they’ll be fine, but Mockingbird doesn’t think it’s like either of them not to call or something. Iron Fist stands up and says he’s going to talk to the protestors. Spidey reminds him that Captain America said to leave them alone, but Danny replies that he knows how to talk to people. He knows these people. Spidey asks Bobbi if Iron Fist isn’t a filthy rich billionaire. She replies that he’s the kind who thinks he knows how to talk to protestors. Danny reminds them that billionaires are people, too.
As he steps outside, he spots Luke Cage standing there with the protestors. A camera crew films him and a reporter aims her microphone in his direction. He tells the reporters that if she’s live on air he will talk to her. He turns to the camera and says he just needs to talk for a second. He asks Jessica, if she can hear him, to come home. He’s been up two days looking everywhere for her. “Please come home.” A blond-haired reporter asks about Norman Osborn, but Luke turns and warns him to get his microphone out of his face. He’s trying to talk. Besides, the fool is in jail. He asks if they don’t get it. He turns back to the camera and says that Osborn was playing them. That’s what he does. He gets under your skin and tells you this thing that you are most afraid of. He tells his audience that no one in this house is looking to do anything bad to them. He’s right there. Flesh and blood, just like them. Who do they think the Avengers are?
He points out a guy in the crowd holding a sign and asks if he really thinks he’s gonna do something to hurt him. He hasn’t got anything to do with him. He tells the crowd that nothing’s going to get better if they hang around there. They should go home, fix their own house and if everybody gets their own house in order, then all of a sudden it’s a pretty decent place to live. All of a sudden they ain’t so mad at everybody else. They should stop blaming everyone else and stop blaming them. He is there because he made a situation that sent his wife and child away from him as far as they could get. He closes his eyes and holds his forehead, admitting that he didn’t even know he wanted a wife and kid, and now that’s all he wants. If someone tells him what to do, he’ll do it. He’ll make it right. He asks Jessica, if she can hear him, to come home and let him know they’re okay.
As he speaks, he notices Jessica approaching him. Squirrel Girl is by her side, carrying Danielle. She asks him what the hell he’s doing. Luke thanks goodness they’re okay. He holds her hands and asks where she’s been. Jessica asks if they can go inside. Luke asks about the baby and she assures him that she’s fine. They head inside, and Danny asks everyone for coming. The protestors, having listened to Luke’s heartfelt comments, stand silent, not knowing quite what to do next.
Inside, they head to their room and Jessica asks Doreen if she can go say hi to everyone and get something to eat. Once alone, Luke cuddles Danielle. Jessica tells him that she’ll start. She tells him she had to go. Luke replies that he thought she was dead. She apologizes, but Norman Osborn had threatened her and nothing was more important than getting her to safety. Luke tells her he thought he’d got to her. Are they doing this together or not? Jessica looks up and says that nothing is more important than the baby. Luke tells her he knows, but she replies that he knows that he thinks he does. He asks what that means.
Jessica tells him that she feels that, going by his actions and actions alone, the Avengers are more important to him. Being Luke Cage is more important to him. She asks what they are doing at Avengers Mansion with a baby. Can he really tell her with a straight face that this place is as safe as any other place in the city? Really? What part of it makes him feel safe? The protestors? The Nazi robots? The homicidal maniac with the indestructible retractable claws? She feels their lives are different now and the baby changes everything. Every time he or she leaves the house, it’s not like they’re just going to work. They’re not going to 9 to 5 jobs. They’re going to war. When people go to war, she adds, by definition, no matter who they are or where, there’s a chance they’re never coming back. Luke replies that people die crossing the street every day, but she says that people die fighting various colored Hulks every day, too. Which does he think there is a higher probability of happening to them?
Luke remains silent, listening to each word she chooses. She tells Luke that she loves him. She hated doing what she just did and hates every word coming out of her mouth. Luke asks what she wants him to do. She tells him that the baby cannot live there. It makes her a target every day and she can’t live without the baby. Luke bows his head and replies that he can’t live without the baby either, or her. “So… you’re leaving?” he asks. “I have to,” she replies. “Come with.” Luke hugs Danielle all the more.
As Iron Man returns to the mansion, Luke tells Jessica that other people get to have their careers and families, but she says they are not other people. She feels they are kidding themselves. She didn’t ever think she’d be married… or have a baby. There wasn’t even a hint of a clue she’d do any of this. Now, they get homicidal maniacs threatening to get them and they can’t do it. Luke says he can’t believe she just up and left, but Jessica replies that she freaked. “So… you’re leaving the Avengers?” he asks. Jessica tells him that she has to. Luke asks where that leaves him. Jessica tells him that she wants him to have everything he wants in life. Everything. But, what does he want? Iron Fist appears at the door and informs them that Captain America is downstairs and he’s calling a big meeting. He wants everyone. Something important is going down.
(soon)Over twenty Avengers are gathered to see what Cap has to say, including Wolverine, Vision, She-Hulk and Captain Britain. Cap tells them that he wishes he had better news and a better reason to be at the mansion, and everything he is about to say is of course at the highest level of top-secret information. He is counting on their discretion. He doesn’t want anyone speaking to the press. Ben Grimm asks what the rub is. “Who knows what the Phoenix Force is?” he replies. Storm gasps and immediately turns to leave. T’Challa calls after her but Cap asks him to let her go. She knows where she has to be. Storm exit’s the building and takes to the air without looking back.
Cap continues to explain that the Phoenix Force is coming to Earth. “As we speak,” adds Iron Man. Cap says they believe its target is a young girl on the mutant island of Utopia. Jessica has no idea what the Phoenix Force is, so Iron Man creates a holographic display above his gauntlet and informs her that, in layman’s terms, it is a cosmic force of destruction that lays waste to everything in its path. Jessica’s frowns and sighs that she knew he was going to say that. Doctor Strange asks what the plan is.
Cap explains that Tony Stark and a hand-selected specialty brain trust will be working to figure out how to intercept or contain the force. Thor will be leading a crew into space to try and intercept, whilst the rest of them will be heading to Utopia right now to extract the girl off the island and off the planet. Ms. Marvel warns him that Cyclops isn’t going to like it and Ben adds that he isn’t sure he does. Spider-Woman asks why. Cap replies that there are mutants who may view the Phoenix as something of good fortune. He’s not willing to take the chance to find out if they’re right. He is hoping that reason and logic will prevail. Carol says she doesn’t think he understands Cyclops’ relationship with the girl and the Phoenix thing. Cap replies that he does. “He’s going to eyebeam you off his front lawn,” she warns. Cap assures her that he’s aware that might happen.
Wolverine is with Carol. He’s certain that Scott’s reaction will be just that. Cap assures him that he will try everything in his power not to let that happen. But, in case it does, he’s going to need the rest of them to suit up and get ready. “Hulk?” he says. Red Hulk clenches his fists and tells them to be ready for a full-scale mutant attack and be pleasantly surprised if one doesn’t happen. He knows that for some of them this might mean fighting friends and people they admire, but they’re talking about stopping the end of days. Everything they’ve been fighting for will be all for naught unless they do this thing. “Ragnarok on Earth,” adds Thor. “Exactly,” says Red Hulk.
Cap turns to Luke, Jessica, Spider-Man and Giant-Man and says that they are not enlisted and he can’t make any of them do this, but he needs them. He needs them to fight the fight all the way to the end. The world needs them. He turns to the rest and says Avengers assemble.” Luke looks at Jessica. She lifts up Danielle to his face and Luke kisses her on the forehead before Jessica turns and leaves the mansion.
(later)The Avengers leap from the Helicarrier towards Cyclops and his Utopian stronghold. Luke leads the charge and he is not a happy man.
Black Widow, Luke Cage, Captain Britain, Sharon Carter, Dr. Strange, Giant-Man, Hawkeye, Iron Fist, Iron Man, Mockingbird, Power Woman, Protector, Quake, Red Hulk, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Storm, Thing, Thor, Vision, War Machine, Wolverine (all Avengers)
Squirrel Girl and DanielleBlack Panther, She-Hulk
Jarvis and Wong
(in flashback)Luke Cage, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Ms. Marvel, Power Woman, Spider-Man, Thing, Wolverine (all Avengers)
Victoria HandProtestorsReporters and camera crews
(as holographic images)Captain America and Cyclops
This is part of the AVX crossover. Captain America’s conversation with Cyclops can be seen in Avengers vs. X-Men #1.