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1st Story: Tom DeFalco (writer), Al Milgrom (penciler), Jose Marzan (inker), Jack Morelli (letterer), Janet Jackson (colorist)
2nd Story: Chris Claremont (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Joe Rubinstein (inker), Paul Becton (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer)
Mark Gruenwald (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)
The Black Widow has infiltrated an AIM operation, but finds herself outnumbered, so tries to get a communication out for help – before she is knocked out by some AIM operatives. Hawkeye is getting ready for a date with his estranged wife, Mockingbird, when he receives a transmission, and quickly departs the West Coast Avengers Compound, at the same time Mockingbird arrives for their date. She is informed by one of the support staff that Hawkeye was called away by the Black Widow, angering Mockingbird who thinks Hawkeye has abandoned her for an ex-girlfriend. Hawkeye arrives at the location of the Black Widow's transmission, and is surprised to find himself in a mall. He is attacked by AIM operatives. At the same time, a Third Level AIM scientist has captured Black Widow, and is tinkering with a large robot, planning to programme it with the Black Widow's speed, agility and reflexes. Hawkeye manages to follow one of the AIM operatives who retreats underground, unaware that another is about to shoot him – until Mockingbird appears in the shadows, and takes out that operative, she then follows Hawkeye, maintaining a distance so he doesn't know she is following him. Hawkeye finds the Black Widow and frees her from the contraption after taking out the Third Level scientist. The Black Widow informs him she was investigating a shipment that she understands the AIM plan to use to overthrow the government – when Hawkeye opens one of the canisters in the shipment, he finds a human brain inside, before they are attacked by the large robot, unaware they are being watched on monitors by the AIM Imperial Council, who plan to kill Hawkeye and the Black Widow.
She-Hulk is nervous about appearing in the Supreme Court for the first time, representing Terry Handel in a case against the United States involving the newly enacted Mutant Registration Act. She-Hulk overcomes her nerves as she appears before the judges, and starts to set out the case, before a court attendant called McVicker interrupts her, informing her that there is an emergency and she is needed outside. She-Hulk explains to the judges that she has responsibilities as an Avenger, and they allow a recess. She-Hulk is not impressed when she has to change from her suit into her leotard in a telephone booth, before going outside and finding her old foe Titania causing trouble. She-Hulk quickly disposes of her by sending her crashing across the city. She-Hulk returns to the courtroom and continues with her opening argument, only for McVicker to interrupt her again. She returns outside, and finds Titania waiting for her, and quickly takes her out again. She-Hulk is nervous again when she goes back into court, but finds her footing – only for McVicker to inform her that she is needed again. She-Hulk returns outside and takes Titania out once more, but as she returns to court, she finds the judges have gone. She-Hulk is upset, feeling that she has let Terry Handel down. McVicker tries to offer some advice, and as She-Hulk goes outside, Titania is waiting for her once again – She-Hulk is enraged, and beats Titania, who appears quite shaken, and reluctantly agrees never to bother her again, before she is taken away by the police. McVicker tells She-Hulk that there will be another day for her to plead her case, and offers her a Lifesaver.
'Stop her! She must not esca-' an AIM agent exclaims, before Natasha Romanoff the Black Widow knocks him out, while kicking another in his helmeted-covered face. 'It's the Black Widow!' another AIM operative nearby calls out. Natasha thinks to herself that she was hoping she could take these two out and still salvage her mission, but it looks like that option is gone. Natasha sees the other AIM operatives approach her, and knows that there are only four of them, but she is certain more are on their way. She dodges a flame-thrower attack that one of the operatives uses on her, and tells herself that she has to move fast and attack before they have time to defend themselves. 'Look out! She's springing toward us!' one of the operatives exclaims as Natasha flips towards them, and kicks two of them backwards. 'Too late! Her reflexes are too swift!' one of the operatives exclaims.
Natasha decides that there are two down, and that her forward momentum should place her in the proper position to expedite the last two, as she slams her fists into their helmets, taking them out, too.
Natasha supposes that she has bought herself a few seconds at most, and reminds herself that the local authorities are no match for the AIM, so she needs major backup – but that's the problem, as from all recent reports, SHIELD is coming apart at the seams.
Making her way towards a communications system, the Black Widow thinks that she knows who she can call. She uses the device to tune into a highly classified frequency, and begins to broadcast – but mere moments later, with the Black Widow distracted at the communicator, three AIM operatives approach her from behind: 'Reach out, Widow – someone's about to touch you!' one of them jokes as they shoot her in the back of the head. The Black Widow collapses to the ground, 'Think she completed her transmission?' one of the operatives asks. Another points out that there is no way to tell, and the third declares that their only recourse is to alert their superiors and prepare an appropriate reception in case anyone shows up.
Just then, in the Los Angeles headquarters of the West Coast Avengers, 'I don't believe it!' Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye exclaims, looking in the mirror, he is wearing trousers and a white shirt, while trying to tie a tie. 'I may be the world's greatest archer and the idol of millions... but I still don't know how to tie a stupid tie!' Clint thinks to himself, deciding that he feels more like a teenager going on his first date than a man meeting his wife for dinner. He reminds himself that he and Mockingbird recently split up, but he is now hoping that they can straighten out their problems. Suddenly, an alarm sounds, and Hawkeye rushes out of his quarters, thinking that their monitors must have picked up a distress call. He wonders why it had to happen tonight, as he knows Mockingird will never forgive him if he misses this date. Clint hopes that it is a wrong number, someone in New Jersey who misdialed the area code for the Fantastic Four, perhaps!
But, as cruel and unjust fate would have it, Mockingbird a.k.a. Bobbi Morse-Barton arrives at the Avengers West Compound... at the exact time that Hawkeye departs it on his trusty sky-cycle. Clint is concentrating as he takes to the sky, and doesn't notice Bobbi's red convertible car pull up at the front door to the Compound. 'What do you mean Hawkeye isn't here?' Bobbi snaps at Carlos, informing him that Hawkeye phoned her to arrange this date. Carlos replies that Hawkeye had to leave rather unexpectedly. Bobbi leans into Carlos and shakes a finger in his face: 'Listen, Carlos... I know you're only the butler here... but I demand to know what's going on!' she exclaims. Carlos looks taken aback, and informs Mockingbird that he believes that Hawkeye received a phone call from some Black Widow person – he doesn't get to finish his sentence as Mockingbird shouts 'WHAT?' and turns, storming back to her car, 'That no good, two-timing, slimy, stinking, egotistical, obnoxious little jerk! We're barely separated and he's already looking up his old girlfriends!' Mockingbird mutters. Carlos tries telling Mockingbird that it was purely business. 'Yeah! MONKEY BUSINESS!' Mockingbird retorts.
Across town, Hawkeye descends into a shopping mall on the sky-cycle, he thinks that according to the coordinates the monitor recorded, the Black Widow is somewhere here. 'But that can't be!' Clint tells himself, knowing that Natasha's tastes are strictly Uptown – she wouldn't be caught dead in a tacky place like this. Suddenly, someone fires a gun at Hawkeye, and strikes part of the sky-cycle. 'Yowsa! I'd heard that parking places at malls were at a premium, but this is ridiculous!' Hawkeye jokes to himself as the sky-cycle crashes into the ground, and Hawkeye rolls from it, thinking to himself that if the other shoppers are this competitive when the mall is closed, he would hate to be here in the middle of the Dollar Days. As several AIM operatives move into the open space, Hawkeye fires arrows at them, 'Talk about pushy salesmen...and I didn't even bring my Visa card!' he jokes, 'I sure hope you fellas accept Arrows Express!' Hawkeye laughs.
Elsewhere, at that moment, the Black Widow is strapped to an angled table in a laboratory, 'What is the purpose of this machine? Why have I been attached to it?' she asks as an AIM operative stands nearby, plugging some cables into a large white and red robot. 'Still trying to gather information, I see. Old habits die hard...and so do old spies!' the agent remarks, warning the Black Widow that she really shouldn't be distracting him while he is making these adjustments. He adds that the transference process is difficult enough. 'Why risk adding to your agony?' he asks. Continuing to tinker with the large robot, the AIM operative tells the Black Widow that human motion is directed by a series of bio-electric pulses – pulses which can be artificially duplicated. 'Who are you?' the Black Widow enquires.
The AIM operative reveals that he is a Third Level AIM scientist, and remarks that there are quite a few levels within the AIM hierarchy which are completely unknown to outsiders, and that they will continue to remain unknown – after he has programmed his android with the Black Widow's speed, agility and reflexes – and disposed of her corpse!
Meanwhile, back in the mall, Hawkeye has taken cover behind a raised garden and fires several arrows into the AIM operatives, wondering why they are holed up in a shopping mall. 'Don't tell me they're planning to pitch their hokey outfits as the next fashion craze!' Hawkeye jokes to himself, before notices that one of the operatives is making an escape for it, luckily, Hawkeye is able to follow, dropping down a hatch the floor. 'Hey, Flathead! I've got a few questions for you!' Hakweye calls out, asking 'Where's the Widow?' but gets no response. Hawkeye asks the operative if he knows anything about tying ties, unaware that another AIM operative is following him.
The operative watches as Hawkeye follows the other operative, and thinks 'The fool didn't notice me!' and wonders how his superiors will reward him for killing Hawkeye – but before the AIM operative can fire at Hawkeye, someone else slams their hand into the back of his neck. 'Sorry, Charlie – but nobody blasts my babe's buns...except me!' Mockingbird emerges from the shadows, stepping over the fallen AIM operative's body, as she makes her way down the corridor, after Hawkeye. She tells herself that Hawkeye is lucky she decided to check the Avenger Monitor. She stays in the shadows, knowing that she has to stay hidden – she doesn't want that macho goon to realize that she was jealous of him – and the Black Widow.
At that moment, with several cables attached to her body, the Black Widow cries out in agony, while the Third Level AIM scientist congratulates her, remarking that her tolerance for pain is quite impressive. He adds that he is simply amazed she is still conscious. Suddenly, there is a series of violent explosions that erupt from the outer corridor, 'What the -? It sounds like there's a war going on out there!' the Third Level AIM scientist wonders. Then, even before the scientist can investigate, an AIM technician dramatically enters the laboratory – by being thrown through the wall. 'The authorities must have discovered our location!' the Third Level AIM scientist exclaims, deciding that he can't allow them to learn the exact nature of their experiment, and pulls out an electro-blaster that contains sufficient fire-power to repel any invader.
But even as the scientist whirls to meet his unknown attacker, an arrow is fired into the gun's barrel. 'If I were you, pal, I'd check my warranty!' Hawkeye jokes, as the gun explodes, knocking the Third Level scientist backwards. 'They just don't make electro-blasters like the old days!' Hawkeye jokes, before going over to the Black Widow and pulling the cables and wires from her, asking her if she is okay. 'I...have been better' Natasha replies, before telling Clint that it is good to see him again. 'Yeah, I'll bet!' Hawkeye replies, and as she is helped off the table, Natasha asks Clint where the other Avengers are. Hawkeye explains that nobody else was home, so he came alone. He then asks her what is going on. 'A super-spy like you oughta know better'n to try to tackle AIM all by your lonesome!
The Black Widow explains that she had no choice, and points at a shipment of canisters, revealing that she recently learned that it was going to pass through Los Angeles, and it contains something of incalculable value to the leaders of AIM. Hawkeye asks Natasha what is inside them, and she tells him that is what she came to investigate – all she knows is that the AIM believe it can aid them in their plans to overthrow the government. Hakweye opens one of the canisters and remarks that they don't seem dangerous, but as he looks into the canister, he appears shocked, and turns away to vomit, before putting the lid back on the canister. With cold, emotionless detachment, the Black Widow removes the canister from Hawkeye's trembling hand, and carefully examines its contents – a perfectly preserved human brain!
The Black Widow closes the lid of the canister, and Hawkeye, wiping his mouth, tells her that he is sorry, that caught him by surprise. He then wonders what these lunatics are doing, why they are saving brains, and where they got them from. Before the Black Widow can form an answer, the android in the room suddenly springs to life, pulling away various cables attached to its body, the android moves forward, and the Black Widow tells Hawkeye to look out, as the android is attacking. 'Sheesh! All this time I thought he was only some kinda weird wall decoration!' Hawkeye replies, before telling the Widow to move it, and find cover before the android closes in on her. 'I'm already on my way, Hawkeye!' Black Widow replies as she leaps for cover with the canister, unaware that she and Hawkeye are being watched on a large monitor.
Indeed, several unidentified people with helmets that have numbers on them stand in the shadows of another room, watching the fight on a large monitor. 'Number One, do you think it was wise to activate the Attackoid before we could test its combat functions?' Number Three enquires. Number One replies 'Of course not!' but points out that they had to do something. Number One adds that those two have learned too much, they must be eliminated, or this operation could be jeopardized. 'That would delay our timetable for world conquest!' Number Three realizes. 'Exactly!' Number One agrees. They watch as Hawkeye readies his bow and arrow, and Number One points out that is why they must take an active role in these proceedings – and declares that Hawkeye and the Widow must die at the command of the Imperial Council of AIM!
For many lawyers, the high-point of their professional career is being admitted to plead a case before the Supreme Court of the United States. It's the ultimate test of skill and talent, with consequences to match. The case being heard today is Handel vs United States, the first substantive challenge to the recently-enacted Mutant Registration Act. Appearing for the plaintiff, is Jennifer Walters, possibly more widely known as the Savage She-Hulk. She is not a happy woman. She stands in the lobby, wearing a dress suit and holding a satchel, while other court users go about their business, many looking at her. Jennifer Walters hasn't felt this nervous since she was a one-l law student at Harvard, being called on in class for the first time by the legendary Professor Charles Kingsfield. In the past, she has faced the deadliest of foes and never batted an eye. This morning, all she really wants to do is run away and hide. But then, the court attendant, informs Ms Walters that her case has been called.
Jennifer knows that Terry Handel – and others like her – are counting on her. Jennifer enters the courtroom, and thanks the court attendant, Mr McVicker, who holds the door open for her. 'There time for a quick run to the bathroom?' Jennifer asks. Mr McVicker tells Jennifer that it wouldn't help, and that everyone asks that their first time – because everyone feels the same. 'Trust me, you'll do fine' he adds. 'I'd rather fight Doctor Doom' Jennifer replies, while walking towards the lectern that stands before the judges sitting behind the Bench. Jennifer wonders if she should even be here, as she is so out of practice as a lawyer, she hasn't argued a case in ages, and her speciality was criminal law, not constitutional. But she decides, considering the circumstances, that who better to plead for kids made the next best thing to criminals simply by accident of birth.
With appropriate formality, Jennifer Walters' credentials are presented and accepted. She notes that the judges behind the Bench are quite interested in her, and realizes that one thing about being green is that she will have no trouble getting their attention – only being taken seriously. Jennifer addresses the Bench and announces that she is here to plead for Theresa Handel, of Massapequa, New York, convicted for a refusal to register with federal authorities under the terms of the Mutant Registration Act. Jennifer explains that the law mandates that American citizens be examined for the specific genetic code that demarks a condition referred to as mutancy – and should the test reveal the subject to be a mutant, register with the Justice Department, according to the nature and extent of their enhanced abilities.
Jennifer continues, informing the Bench that the government's contention is that this law is necessary on the grounds of national security. 'Ours, held in...' Jennifer begins, before a voice calls out 'Ahem!' and Jennifer looks behind her, to where Mr McVicker apologizes for interrupting, but informs her that she is needed – rather urgently.
Jennifer turns back to the Bench and apologizes to the judges, 'But my active status as an Avenger...' she begins, to which one of the judges tells Jennifer that they quite understand her unique circumstances. 'Wouldn't have interrupted...if it weren't a real emergency' Mr McVicker adds, before one of the judges announces that they can entertain a brief recess.
Jennifer follows Mr McVicker out of the courtroom, and asks him 'Why me? Can't anyone else deal with your problem? Where's Freedom Force, for crying out loud?' Jennifer complains. Mr McVicker reports that they are on a mission, while Jennifer remarks that she didn't wear a costume under her suit, and needs a place to change. 'Will this do?' Mr McVicker asks, pointing to a telephone booth. 'A ladies room would be better' Jennifer tells him, but he informs her that none are available close to hand. 'Why am I not surprised?' Jennifer mutters, before warning McVicker that she better not see anybody peek – or else. As the telephone booth begins to shake and rattle with the She-Hulk inside getting changed, a court security guard stands in front of it, and tells the gathering crowd of men to move along, that there is nothing here worth looking at. 'That's what you think, buddy!' a man calls out. 'Wow!' the security guard exclaims as he turns to see the She-Hulk in the telephone booth. 'Do you mind, do you mind!' She-Hulk snaps, poking her head out of the telephone booth. 'Nope' the guard replies. 'Beth's right. All men are pigs!' Jennifer declares.
Marching out of the Supreme Court, She-Hulk mumbles 'Lousy chauvinist misbegotten hyperhormonal monkeyboys. Wonder why I both – oh, great. My day is made. That's Mary “Skeeter” MacPherran... a.k.a. Titania!' as she sees the super-strong woman tearing a police car in two and tossing it into the air. 'Hi, Cuddles' She-Hulk calls out as she taps Titania on the shoulder. 'Remember me?' She-Hulk asks, wearing her purple leotard. 'Of course I do, Shulkie. That's why I -' Titania begins, but doesn't finish her sentence, as She-Hulk slams her fist into Titania, knocking her into the air and sending her flying several blocks away.
A police officer approaches She-Hulk, who jokes that Titania should come down across the Potomac in Virginia, and suggests to him that he sends an appropriately armed swat team over to pick her up. The officer tells She-Hulk that they will do that, and thanks her for the assist, adding that she was a life-saver. 'Anytime' She-Hulk replies, brushing her hands together.
Soon, Jennifer is back in the courtroom, standing in front of the Bench, and continues: 'It is our contention – concurred with by the American Civil Liberties Union in their amicus brief, that the Mutant Registration Act is an egregious violation of a whole host of constitutional amendments, beginning with a presumptive abrogation of the right of habeas corpus … as enumerated in Article 1, Section 9 of the preamble...' when suddenly, Mr McVicker interrupts her again, reporting that she is still needed.
Back in her leotard, She-Hulk strides down the steps, 'Some days -' she mutters, while Titania is waiting for her at the bottom of the steps: 'You ain't getting ridda me that easy, bimbo!' Titania exclaims. 'Want to bet?' She-Hulk replies as she slams her fist onto Titania's head, driving her down into the now broken concrete beneath her feet. 'I've done my job, officers... now it's your turn!' She-Hulk tells the police officers as they surround Titania.
Back in the courtroom, Jennifer notices a run in her stocking, before apologizing to the judges again. She realizes they are all looking at the run in her stocking, and decides that she is a total mess. One of the judges informs Jennifer that they have a very crowded calendar, with limited time scheduled for oral arguments. 'I know, Sir' Jennifer replies, and adds that it won't happen again. 'Pressure pressure pressure. Don't give in to it. Take a moment to gather your thoughts. Relax' Jennifer thinks to herself, before she remarks 'In our opinion, concurred with -' to which one of the judges interrupts her, pointing out that she already said that. 'ARRRGH!' Jennifer screams to herself, before continuing to address the judges: 'The Act...further denies the equal protection clause, in section 1 of the 14th Amendment'. Jennifer decides that she is back on track as she tells the judges that it is an abridgement of rights, solely on account of race, and in direct and absolute contravention of the 15th Amendment. When Jennifer hears Mr McVicker clear his throat behind her, she looks very frustrated.
Moments later, back in her leotard and outside the court again, She-Hulk slams Titania into a car, while police officers close in.
'Misanthropic microcephalic minx – too stupid to take a hint! All I need is an hour to present my case... is that so much to ask?' Jennifer thinks to herself as she runs back into the courtroom, putting her suit jacket back on, only to discover that the judges are all gone. 'Ahem!' Mr McVicker calls out. 'WHAT?' Jennifer screams at him, spinning around. Mr McVicker informs Jennifer that court is adjourned for the day, that they could not wait any longer. He then tells Jennifer that her case has been postponed to next term. 'I blew it' Jennifer realizes. 'It's my fault' McVicker replies. 'Poor Terry. How'll I tell her?' Jennifer wonders. McVicker follows her as she walks out of the courtroom, telling her that she is not to blame, but Jennifer declares that it is her case, her responsibility, and she should have known the superhero side of her life would screw things up, but she thought she could handle it.
'I wanted this case – problem is...I'm not going to be the one... to pay for my failure' Jennifer announces as she walks down the court steps. 'Wanna bet, Green-Cheeks?' a voice calls out – it's Titania, who drops a large van on She-Hulk. 'First time we met, Babycakes... I beat you to a pulp! And I'm gonna keep on doing it... every chance I get... 'cause it's so much fun!' Titania smiles, waving at She-Hulk who stands inside the van. She-Hulk breaks free of the destroyed van and moves towards Titania, remarking 'Hey, Cuddles – you know the old saw about my cousin, the Hulk, about how the madder he gets, the stronger he gets?' 'Yeah. So what?' Titania replies. 'Well – I'm not called She-Hulk for nothing. And right now...I'm real peeved!' She-Hulk scowls at Titania, leaning into her, before she starts beating Titania to a pulp with a series of WHAMS, WAKS, THUDS and BAMS.
'Had enough?' She-Hulk asks Titania, holding her off the ground by her neck, both of their clothes torn and ripped, 'Y-yes!' Titania replies. 'Learned your lesson?' She-Hulk asks. 'Yes!' Titania exclaims. 'Going to behave yourself?' She-Hulk asks. 'Yes!' Titania assures her. 'Go straight back to jail?' She-Hulk enquires. 'Yes!' Titania exclaims. 'And never bother me again?' She-Hulk asks. 'Oh. Yes!' Titania replies, disappointed. 'I hope you mean it!' She-Hulk snaps. 'Oh, I do. I do. I do!' Titania exclaims wide-eyed. She-Hulk lets Titania go, and warns her that their next rematch will be their last. The police officers who have gathered nearby place some large restraints over Titania's hands and lead her into the back of their van. 'I've never seen her like this. I wonder if she meant it...about a rematch?' Titania wonders. One of the officers tells her that if she has any smarts at all, she don't ever want to find out.
She-Hulk looks up at the steps of the courthouse, now covered in rubble and thinks that she was hoing this would be one of the proudest days of her life – so much for that idea. 'Ahem!' McVicker clears his throat behind She-Hulk, causing her to cringe, then turn to him, asking if the phrase “pushing your luck” means anything to him. McVicker ignores that comment and tells She-Hulk that there will be other days, another opportunity to plead her case. 'And other disasters to go with 'em, probably – assuming the court even allows me through the door' She-Hulk replies. McVicker tells She-Hulk that he knows she is upset, and remarks that he finds, in times of trouble, it helps to have a Lifesaver, and hands her the roll of sweets. She-Hulk smiles, remembering how her dad used to pull this same stunt, and how it worked, too, more often than not. 'It's a secret power we dads have' McVicker replies, admitting that it is not quite as flashy as She-Hulk's. She-Hulk pats McVicker on the back and tells him that he is a good man. 'I try, Miss' McVicker replies as they walk down the street together. 'Don't we all' She-Hulk remarks, before informing McVicker that she feels better already. 'In that case... ahem...' McVicker replies.
Third Level AIM Scientist
Imperical Council of AIM
She-Hulk and Titania first fought in Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #3-4, which was also the first appearance of Titania.