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Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Leinil Yu (artist), Dave McCaig (color art), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne (letterer), Irene Lee (production), Molly Lazer (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
The Avengers, particularly Luke Cage, are in a state of turmoil following the revelation that Elektra is a Skrull and Spider-Woman has seemingly betrayed them. Luke accuses Peter Parker of being a Skrull and the two men lock horns as Peter tries to defend himself. Meanwhile, the Owl has gathered together a few villains and tries to sell them Deathlok, who he has appropriated from S.H.I.E.L.D. He tells them that they could either use him for their own purposes or simply dissect him for parts. He just wants the cash. A man then appears working for the Hood and informs the Owl that Deathlok isn’t his to sell. The Hood then uncloaks himself and shoots the Owl. The messenger informs the assembled villains that this is what happens when you don’t get permission from above. Elsewhere, the Avengers return to New York City where they split up. Luke and Jessica have a domestic argument. He is suspicious of her actions of late, and with the Skrull idea lodged in his head, he isn’t about to trust anyone. Elsewhere, Wolverine heads to a seedy bar where he inadvertently comes across the Hood and his messenger in the back room. He attacks the Hood, after overhearing a conversation about using Deathlok against the Avengers, only for the Hood then to cloak himself and turn the tables, getting the drop on Wolverine.
(flashback)At Avengers Mansion, Captain America has the new line-up of Avengers standing at attention before him as Jarvis sorts out the drinks. He tells them in no uncertain terms that their powers mean nothing to him. They are just tools with which to defend oneself. When Hawkeye points out that he’ll put his bow up against his fist any day of the week, Cap looks at his bow and says it’s nice. Did he make it himself? After Clint replies that he did, Cap takes the bow and breaks it over his knee. He then punches Hawkeye in the face, knocking him over, and stands on him. The other Avengers are shocked, but Cap explains that Hawkeye is going to learn to fight, and fight well: so well that his bow and arrow will be the thing he is least known for.
(present - Chicago)Iron Fist tells Clint that he showed some major skills back in Japan, and asks where he learned to fight like that. “Captain America,” he replies. They both agree that he was the man. The Avengers are in a hotel room wondering about the plane crash that they recently survived, when a news report appears on screen. On-screen text explains that New York’s midtown has been shut down by Ultron’s attack and that the Avengers have engaged the robot.
A feminine face appears and explains that it is the Ultron interface. It explains that it was created to replace humans and wanted to take this moment to say goodbye. A reporter informs the audience that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been contacted and they say that the Ultron situation has been resolved. The Avengers were the primary team on the field. They await word on who these Avengers are, since the conclusion of the registration war that broke out among the super hero community.
Wolverine asks for the television to be turned off, and Clint remarks that at least the Avengers are too busy over there to be chasing them. Picking up where he left off earlier, Luke asks Spider-Man if he’s a Skrull. The two men lock horns as Luke’s paranoia exert itself. Spidey threatens to leave if Luke feels this strongly about it, but Danny tries to calm Luke down. He points out that Spider-Woman was the Skrull, only for Wolverine to say that she wasn’t. Logan figures that she took the Skrull body to Tony Stark. If she was looking to cover up the fact that she was a Skrull, they’d all be dead, or close to it. Luke reckons they still have a Skrull problem, and is prevented from getting close to Spider-Man by Danny.
As Spidey is half-way out of the window, a knock on the door distracts them. With Doctor Strange using a spell to keep the Avengers hidden, Maya answers the door in her dressing gown. It’s room service, and the guy is surprised that she has ordered all the food he’s brought just for herself. Once he leaves, the Avengers appear once again and Logan asks Luke and Peter to calm down. They’ve gone two days without food or sleep. Peter would like some bad guys to punch. Clint agrees. “Where are the bad guys?”
(Hell’s Kitchen - New York City)Inside a warehouse, Leland Owlsley, otherwise known as the Owl, has several weapons aimed at him. He grins as he assures those present that their guns aren’t necessary. He’s only after cash. He makes the introductions. Those present are Madame Masque, the Crimson Cowl, Jonas Harrow and the Wizard. The Owl allays Madame Masque’s reservations about being there by assuring them that this isn’t a sting operation. It is an auction, open to the highest bidder.
Before they start, however, he informs them that, if anyone starts any funny business, such as shooting him and stealing the object from under him or the winner, they should know that there are already bounty contracts on all of them. He adds that after the transaction is complete, he will lift the contracts. If the contractors don’t hear from him within twenty-four hours, then the pin is pulled. It’s in their best interests to keep him breathing.
The Owl then reveals his prize. Pulling a cover off a liquid-filled tank, he reveals Luther Manning: Deathlok. When Madame Masque asks if he’s alive, the Owl clicks a button a remote control and an electrical charge is sent through the tank. Deathlok growls; clearly able to feel the pain. The way the Owl sees it, the technology that made him this early model cybernetic Mandroid is worth just as much as having him as a controlled pet. So, the owner could either leash him or dissect him for the technology - making back ten times the money.
Suddenly, a bald man then appears and informs them that this transaction hasn’t been authorized, and the item isn’t Owlsley’s to sell. He has a message. From now on, if any of them wish to make a transaction like this, or if they need to do business together, they’re going to have to answer up.
The assembled villains wonder who the guy is, and the Owl asks why he is there. The man replies that it isn’t any of his concern. It’s who he’s representing that is important. Owlsley angrily replies that he can tell whoever he represents that he doesn’t answer to anyone. He didn’t answer to Wilson Fisk or to the fool Hammerhead. He certainly doesn’t answer to him.
The bald man replies that what should concern him is why he is there. Owlsley goes with it and asks why he is there, then. A newcomer whispers in his ear. “You’re here as a cautionary tale.” The man then rises into the air, a man wearing a red hood and cloak, shooting from pistols in both hands, puncturing the Owl’s chest in several places.
The Owl drops to the ground and the villains shoot aimlessly at the perpetrator. He disappears in an instant, though the bald man remains. “You-you killed us!” remarks one of the villains. The man explains that there is no bounty on their heads. The Owl had no money, no crew and was using a rented truck. He unloaded the Deathlok cyborg himself. He adds that Owlsley got out of jail three days ago and killed three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to steal it. He did it without permission. This is what happens to people now if they don’t get permission. “Permission from who?” asks the Crimson Cowl.
(Doctor Strange’s Sanctum)Jessica Jones is talking to her baby when Doctor Strange teleports the Avengers back to his home in Greenwich Village. She asks them if they’re okay, and Luke says he’ll tell her later. Jessica asks if the woman with them is Maya. Luke introduces them, pointing out that Jessica should look at her when speaking as Maya is deaf. Maya asks if she can take the baby, and Jessica allows her to hold her.
Clint tries to give Maya her Ronin costume back, but she says she doesn’t want it. It has served its purpose. She wants Clint to have it in thanks for the rescue. He can keep it until it’s no longer needed. Jessica then notices that Spider-Woman isn’t with them and asks where she is. No one can provide an answer. Wolverine tells her that they can’t trust each other anymore, though Strange reminds him that he cast a spell of intention over them and everyone is above board as far as he’s concerned.
Luke tells the Avengers that if they have to leave then they can. He can’t stop them. However, he asks if they can all meet for dinner the following evening. It’ll give them a day to clear their heads. If they return then they can start to put together a plan.
Wolverine and Spider-Man depart, along with the others. Jessica asks Luke what happened. He doesn’t wish to talk right now, but Jessica demands an explanation. He remains silent and Jessica asks if he’s mad at her. Again, no response. Jessica asks how much support is enough for him. She’s swallowed every part of herself doing the right thing. How much of herself is she supposed to suppress in all this? How much of herself does she have to change?
Luke finally says that she’s changed a lot. “Because I had to,” she replies. Luke mentions that she hasn’t had a drink. Jessica points out that they’ve got a kid. “Uh-huh,” he continues. “And all of a sudden you love me.” Jessica is surprised by this one, and asks what the hell is wrong with him. He looks her in the eye, suspiciously. “$#%@ you,” she snarls.
(meanwhile)Wolverine heads to a bar and speaks with the bartender, Hank, who he knows. He asks where all the regulars are. Hank reckons they’re probably out robbing, seeing as all the heroes are too busy beating each other up. He asks Logan who he’s looking for. Logan replies that he’s just there to see what’s new in the world. Hank points out that it cost him three grand to buff the claw marks out of his bar from the last time he was there to see what’s new in the world. Logan says he just wanted to know what he’s heard. Hank tells him he’s going to get him killed pulling things like this.
Logan points out that there isn’t anybody there. Hank replies that they’re in the back. “Who?” asks Logan. Hank realizes that Logan isn’t there for what he thinks he is. Logan pops his claws and stabs them into the bar and begins to slice. Hank thinks about the cost and informs him that Parker Robbins is back there. Logan asks who he is. Hank informs him that he is known as the Hood.
Wolverine makes his way into the back and overhears a conversation. Two men are discussing Deathlok and what they might do with him. One of them considers pointing Deathlok at Avengers Tower. Wolverine kicks the door in and finds Parker Robbins seated next to the bald man. Both are eating and drinking. Robbins quickly grabs his hood and becomes invisible. Wolverine leaps at his but he disappears before his claws connect.
His first target disappeared, Logan then grabs the second, the Hood’s messenger, and tells him that his friend can cut it out with the invisible #$%#@. He can smell his stink. The Hood reappears again, walking on air, with both pistols aimed at Wolverine’s head. He tells Wolverine that he’s pretty sure that’s himself he smells.
Luke Cage, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Ronin, Spider-Man, Wolverine (all Avengers)
Echo/Maya LopezJessica Jones and her babyWongHank
Crimson CowlDeathlok/Luther ManningJonas HarrowMadame MasqueThe OwlThe Wizard
The HoodThe Hood’s messenger, JohnS.H.I.E.L.D capekiller
(in flashback)Captain America, Goliath, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Wasp (all Avengers)
(on screen)Ultron interface
Luther Manning was the first Deathlok, and first appeared in Astonishing tales #25.
The Hood first appeared in the Max title, The Hood #1 in 2002.
John's name is revealed in the following issue.
The news report about the female Ultron depicts events currently running in Mighty Avengers.