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Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Leinil Yu (artist), Dave McCaig (color art), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne (letterer), Brad Johansen (production), Molly Lazer & Aubrey Sitterson (assistant editors), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
Earlier today, Iron Man and the Mighty Avengers were camped outside Doctor Strange’s house in Greenwich Village, waiting for Brother Voodoo to determine whether or not anyone was inside. He came to the conclusion that there wasn’t, but Tony Stark knew that there was. He simply didn’t want to reveal this to his teammates. Once the Avengers had departed, Stark spoke to the unseen Doctor Strange through the walls of his house, asking why, rhetorically, he and his cohorts continued their rebellious stance. Once he had left, Spider-Man asked the very same question. Luke Cage’s reasons were mainly to do with his belief that there was something going on that they were unaware of. He cited something rotten within S.H.I.E.L.D, the same thing within Hydra, the recent civil war and Nick Fury’s absence among his reasons for maintaining his anti-government stance. He wanted to find out who the bad guy behind all this was. For now, though, they needed to get to Japan to save Maya Lopez. However, before they set off, Clint Barton turned up at the Sanctum and, following a brief interrogation by the Avengers, predominantly from Luke Cage, Doctor Strange used a spell to confirm that Clint was no threat to them. He decided to join the team, but not as Hawkeye. He had left that life behind. Instead, he would become the new Ronin. In the present, surrounded by Elektra’s Hand ninjas, Luke Cage tries to bide Wolverine some time to heal from his wounds by persuading Elektra that they aren’t a threat to her and her business. Unfortunately, she doesn’t buy it, and she has Maya Lopez wake up. One of her ninjas throws Maya a sword and she plunges it into Doctor Strange’s chest. A major brawl begins with the Avengers suffering against superior numbers. Elektra welcomes Maya to her new life.
(New York City, earlier today)Iron Man and the Mighty Avengers are on a rooftop, alongside some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. They are monitoring Doctor Strange’s house. The S.H.I.E.L.D. commander contacts Iron Man to find out what’s going on, but he informs them that nothing’s happening right now. Brother Voodoo is doing his thing. Carol makes a little joke, but Tony Stark isn’t in the mood at present. He thinks Doctor Strange is hiding from them. Ares is itching for battle, but Stark orders him to hold still. Brother Voodoo uses all his tricks to determine exactly what’s going on inside Strange’s Sanctum, whilst inside Strange uses his own spells to keep his fellow mystic in the dark.
After a short while, Brother Voodoo completes his mystical reconnaissance, and tells Stark that Doctor Strange isn’t inside. No one is. However, he knows that Strange is the master of the mystic arts. He knows more about what he knows that anyone on the planet. So, there may be a chance that he knows how to be home and Brother Voodoo wouldn’t know he was doing it. Stark thanks him for his efforts, but Jericho has a dig at the fact that hero is fighting hero. He wonders what the criminals are doing.
Stark decides to dismiss everyone and then informs Carol that he’ll be right behind them. The Avengers take off, leaving Stark standing before the Sanctum, which resembles a derelict building, awaiting a Starbucks renovation. He shines a beam of energy from his chest plate and removes his helmet. Presuming Strange and the others are inside, he tells them that he knows they are there, and he knows that tomorrow they won’t be. He just can’t think for the life of him why they’re doing it. They lost the war. They fought and they lost. They should suck it up and join them. They can be heroes again. They can be Avengers again.
He assures them that he won’t sell them. But, he wonders what they think they will accomplish. What kind of life is this? Are they just rebelling because they don’t know what else to do? He really wants to know. What do they think the end of this story is? If they can think of an ending better than the one he can think of, then they should tell him. He offers a final glance at the building before he places his helmet back on and roars off after his teammates.
Strange and the others watch him depart. Spider-Man is the first to ask the obvious question. “What are they trying to accomplish? Luke Cage tries to offer an explanation. He says they are going to help people the way they want to. They’re not going to work for a government whose agenda was made up by people they don’t know and whose motives they don’t know. Peter Parker replies that he knows that. He just wonders how long they’re gonna have to live like this. His life sucked before, and he can’t believe how much this sucks more. This is a ‘fighting a guy named Typeface’ level of sucking. And, he adds, poor Wong is already sick of them and it hasn’t even been a day.
Luke explains that, just weeks before Civil War went full-scale, they all first hooked up as Avengers because they were trying to stop a prison break. They headed off to the Savage Land and found out that something was really rotten in S.H.I.E.L.D. Then, they found something was rotten in Hydra, too. All of a sudden, Nick Fury disappeared and then their government turned them on each other. All of a sudden, it all went backwards real fast. He adds that he’s not just steaming because they lost the war and Cap’s dead. He’s steaming because he thinks there’s a lot more going on here. He feels manipulated. It’s like someone’s pulling his strings. S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, their secret war, the Civil War… he thinks they’re somehow connected.
Peter asks, as a group, what they’re going to do. Luke replies that they keep digging and fighting until they discover who the real bad guy is. Danny agrees that everything is upside down, but what if there is no real bad guy? What if it’s all just upside down? Peter adds that maybe it all feels upside down because they turned it upside down. What if they’re the bad guys now? It dawned on him a while back that people like Norman Osborn and Wilson Fisk don’t really see themselves as bad guys. They really don’t.
Wolverine decides to change the course of the conversation by looking at the Ronin mask and reminding them that today they are going to Japan to find Maya Lopez. If anyone doesn’t want to go, all things considered, he doesn’t think anyone will judge. But, they left her there and she needs help. No one else can do it. He’s pretty sure Cap would have wanted them to do this. Doctor Strange admits it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get out of the country. “Oy,” remarks Spidey. “I’ve got to go tell my wife.”
Suddenly, Strange is alerted by Wong to someone approaching the Sanctum. Strange creates a small mystical clearing in the wall so they can see who it is. Outside in the rain, a man walks towards the building with trepidation, carrying just a bag. Jessica Drew thinks it’s another trick, but Strange informs them that it’s no trick. It’s Clint Barton.
Danny says he thought Clint was dead, though Strange assures him that he’s not. Jessica Drew still thinks it’s a trick. Doctor Strange explains that Hawkeye came to him months back, before the war, looking for Wanda Maximoff. He told Clint that he didn’t know where she was and gave him some counsel as he tried to make his way back into the world. He had no interest in his old life. He thinks they can trust him. Wolverine snikts his claws and snarls, “Yeah? Let’s say hi.”
Moments later, Clint is inside the building which appears to be derelict. He seems resigned and tries to leave, but before he opens the door, his surroundings change and the room appears as normal, fully furnished and in good repair. Not onyly this, the Avengers are standing nearby. Clint is shaken, and asks where they came from. Doctor Strange asks if he’s all right. Clint asks what’s going on, and Strange replies that it’s a long story. When he asks if Clint found the Scarlet Witch, Clint pauses, before eventually replying no. Wolverine grimaces at him, and tells him that he’s fibbing. He can smell a fib, and he smells like he’s fibbing. To this, Clint replies that what he found isn’t going to do anyone any good. Is he lying about that? Logan says she has a lot to answer for.
Clint knows all about it, but Strange told him that there isn’t any such thing as closure. He’s come to tell Doctor Strange that he was right. He recognizes Jessica Drew, who is still suspicious that he isn’t dead. He then tells Peter Parker that he saw him $%#@ing up his life on television. He’s thinking of submitting the tape for Emmy consideration. Jessica asks how he is not dead. Clint replies by asking, “Weren’t you dead once?” He doesn’t really want to go through the whole House of M crap right now. Most of them were there. He’d rather look forward. A sudden though occurring to him, he asks if they’re supposed to be the new Defenders.
Luke steps up and tells him that he’s one of the old-school Avengers. Why isn’t he with them? Clint says that he doesn’t want to be with Stark and his Muppet Babies. He just came back to tell Doctor Strange that he’s okay. He owed him that. Cage says, “You’ll have to excuse us for thinking that this is all just a big pile of horse...” Clint cuts him off, and tells him that’s fine. They can go back to doing whatever it was they were doing and he’ll be on his way.
Doctor Strange tells Clint that he can stay, but he replies that he’d rather go. When Strange then asks what he’s going to do, Clint replies that now he’s finally found a way back into the country. He’s going to do whatever he can to honor Captain America’s worldview. The guy meant everything to him and, if he were there to stop the war, he would have. With a bullet if he had to.
Peter point out that they were Cap’s team. “Yeah?” replies Clint. “And what are you doing about it?” He asks why they aren’t storming Avengers Tower and shoving the Superhuman Registration Act up Tony Stark’s @#$. Peter quips that they’re doing that on Saturday. Wolverine adds that they’re going to Japan tonight. Cage doesn’t want Clint tagging along, but Strange tries to persuade him that they could use a guy like Barton. Cage asks if it wasn’t him who was tricked only an hour ago by his former friends. Strange asks if he would feel better if he cast the spell of Tartashi on them. It will show them purity. It will clearly show anyone who is living with deception towards them. Luke seems agreeable, so Strange casts the spell around the room. <>
As the spell does its job, Luke and Jessica’s baby laughs, and Jessica is overjoyed, as she’s never laughed before. When Peter asks what the verdict is, Strange replies that everyone in the room is pure of intention. Cage asks how he knows. Strange tells him that, if they weren’t, they’d be having a seizure right now. Clint asks what is in Japan, to which Logan replies that they have a friend there. Cap sent her into the field and now she’s in trouble. Cage agrees to let Clint come along and he tells him to get his Hawkeye on, but Clint smiles and replies that he’s not Hawkeye anymore. Peter jokes that it’s costumes only. Considering this, Clint takes a look at the Ronin mask Wolverine is holding. “What? Like a ninja?”
(Japan, now)Luke Cage speaks with Elektra, trying to convince her that she won’t win this fight. It’s not the best way to start her reign as queen of the Japanese underworld. On the other hand, he continues, she’s read the paper. They’re criminals now. That’s how it is now. “So, criminal to criminal, let’s talk.” Elektra asks him what he’s on about. He replies that they have nothing to fight over. They’re not trying to take anything that wasn’t theirs. They don’t want her territory. They’re going home to America and they’re taking Maya Lopez with them.
Elektra replies that they want Maya Lopez. Luke tells her she’ll live without her. It’s not worth the fight. It’s just bad business. Has she considered how many men she’ll lose if she comes at them like this? They have larger items on the agenda. When Elektra asks “what agenda,” Luke mentions S.H.I.E.L.D, the superhuman civil war, Hydra falling apart around her, and now all of a sudden she’s running the Japanese underworld. Everything is backwards, upside-down, topsy-turvy. He asks Elektra if she know why.
Wolverine asks Cage what he’s doing, to which Luke quietly replies that he’s talking it out. Wolverine disagrees. He says he’s letting her win. Elektra then proves him right as she raises her hand and Maya Lopez wakes up. One of the ninja’s throws her a sword, unseen by Luke and the others. She catches it and coldly plunges it into Doctor Strange’s chest. He screams as all hell breaks loose.
The Avengers go toe to toe with the ninjas, with a seemingly endless horde coming at them. Luke tells Wolverine that he was stalling her, waiting for him to heal up. Logan replies that you never stall ninjas. Luke takes on Elektra again, as the others, including the Silver Samurai, battle it out. Spider-Woman is caught with a blade, and Wolverine is slashed across the throat along with several other parts of his body. Spider-Man attempts to crack jokes as they fight, but even he struggles against so much opposition. “Welcome to your new life, Maya Lopez,” announces Elektra calmly, as Maya looks Doctor Strange directly in the eye.
Luke Cage, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Ronin, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Wolverine (all Avengers)
Echo/Maya LopezThe Silver Samurai
ElektraThe Hand ninjas
(in flashback)Luke Cage, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Ronin, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Wolverine (all Avengers)
Ares, Black Widow, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Sentry, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Mighty Avengers)
S.H.I.E.L.D. agentsJessica Jones and her babyWongBrother Voodoo
The new Ronin is finally revealed to be Hawkeye in this issue. No explanation is offered here about how he survived death during the Disassembled storyline. Clint Barton was believed to have died in Avengers (3rd series) #502 whilst attacking a Kree warship. His meeting with Doctor Strange was shown in New Avengers #26, as was his locating the Scarlet Witch on Wundagore Mountain.
Spider-Man first met Typeface in Peter Parker: Spider-Man (2nd series) #23.
The prison break at the Raft occurred in New Avengers #1. The team visited the Savage Land in New Avengers #4 - 6.
Nick Fury disappeared following his secret war, which ran through Secret War #1 - 5 and The Pulse #6 - 9. He was replaced by Maria Hill as director of S.H.I.E.L.D., who in turn was replaced by Tony Stark in Civil War #7.
Spider-Man revealed his true identity on television in Civil War #2.
The Muppet Babies were an animated version of the Muppets aged as toddlers. It was part of a phase in the 1980s where established character properties were de-aged to infant or young adult in order to freshen their marketability. The series ran from 1984 to 1991.