Solo Avengers #19

Issue Date: 
June 1989
Story Title: 
1st Story: Desert Doom - 2nd Story: The Vanities of Philip Whitehead

1st Story: Howard Mackie (writer), Ron Wilson (penciler), Don Heck (inker), Jack Morelli (letterer), Paul Becton (colorist)
2nd Story: Sandy Plunkett (writer, penciler, colorist), Scott Hampton (inker), Gaspar Saladino (letterer)
Mark Gruenwald (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

(1st story)
Hawkeye pursues the criminal called Orb into the Mojave Desert. Orb evades Hawkeye for some time, before Hawkeye finally catches him and knocks Orb out, although in the process, Hawkeye's sky-cycle and Orb's motorcycle are destroyed. With Orb injured, Hawkeye creates a makeshift stretcher and carries Orb through the sweltering desert, and begins to suffer exhaustion as he is unable to find water. They both fall off the edge of a cliff into a ravine, where a large dome is placed. They enter the dome and find water. Orb rests, and pulls a gun out of his boot, ready to shoot Hawkeye in the back, when suddenly, a strange tree with faces attacks him. Hawkeye frees orb from the tree, before they are both apprehended by Plantman, who has them dragged towards a plant with large teeth!

(2nd story)
The Black Panther is hosting a fundraiser party on an island off the coast of Africa. Among the guests are an old friend from college, Philip Whitehead, who mostly keeps to himself, observing the party, writing in his journal and enjoying interaction with T'Challa. When the party ends, everyone is aboard a jet, heading back to Wakanda, when the engines fail and the pilot is forced to land the jet in th ocean. No one is harmed, and lifeboats take everyone to shore, where they set up camp. Philip cooks up some herb that T'Challa gave to him, T'Challa is thankful that they grow in abundance here, and tells Philip a story about a shaman who would perform rituals to bleed people of their pain, and how every ten years that pain would take the form of a hideous creature that the King of Wakanda would have to destroy. T'Challa explains that he hadn't been keeping track of the cycle – but that the creature has returned. He drinks the herb potion and heads off into the jungle to stop the creature. Philip hears blood-curdling sounds, and notices that T'Challa did not drink all of the potion. In the jungle, T'Challa finds the creature and they begin to fight. Philip eventually catches up to T'Challa after drinking the rest of the potion, and when the creature has cornered T'Challa after shoving its talons into his shoulder, Philip comes to his rescue, dropping down on the creature, distracting it, and enabling the Black Panther to slay it, reducing it to ash and bone. But T'Challa is in danger, as there is no cure for the poison seeping through his body – until Philip sucks the venom from his shoulder. Forty-eight hours later, T'Challa is in Paris to give Philip's wife the journal that Philip was writing in while at the party – the venom that he sucked from T'Challa's body had killed him. The Black Panther leaves, remembering a poem that his old friend loved so much.

Full Summary: 

1st story:
The Mojave Desert:
'Put it in park, pal!' Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye calls out from his sky-cycle as he chases someone riding a motorcycle across the sandy terrain. The person he chases wears a red and white costume – and their head appears to be one large eyeball! 'You've had me chase you across half the state of California, but now you can consider yourself officially caught!' Hawkeye declares as he readies his bow and arrow. 'None can catch the Orb!' replies the mysterious being on the motorcycle, informing Hawkeye that they will not be stopped from reaching his destination – not while he has his motorcycle beneath him. 'Gee. I was hoping we could see eye to eye on this – but in case you hadn't noticed, this isn't exactly a motor scooter I'm on, fella!' Hawkeye calls back as he fires his arrow, but misses, as Orb pulls his motorcycle up. 'You still can't outmaneuver me! This is my terrain!' Orb boasts, while Hawkeye thinks to himself that this guy has an ego as large as his head. 'Too bad he doesn't have a brain to match!' Clint thinks.

Hawkeye readies another arrow and decides that enough is enough, he wasn't bargaining for the great race when he answered that bank robbery in progress call back in Los Angeles. 'Time for some fancy shooting' Clint thinks, as he fires several arrows at once, but Orb still dodges them, surprising Hawkeye. 'This refugee from a billiard game called himself the Orb. I vaguely remember seeing him in the Avengers' criminal files' Hawkeye reminds himself, recalling that Orb is strictly small time in the overall scheme of things – no one he should have trouble stopping in the open desert. But they have been off the road for more than half an hour, and he doesn't even know where they are anymore.

Orb rides his motorcycle into the air, and Hawkeye readies another arrow, with a suction cup on the end. 'It's time for you to be put behind the old eight ball – because this chase stops now!' Hawkeye exclaims as he fires the arrow. 'What the -?' the surprised Orb calls out as the arrow's suction cup latches onto his large eyeball face. 'Just your every day suction-tipped arrow' Hawkeye calls back, joking that he started practicing with them when he was just a wee tyke. 'No! What are you doing?' Orb shouts as he is yanked backwards off his motorcycle, as Hawkeye remarks that no self-respecting super archer would be caught without one of these, as they are very handy when attacked to a steel cable. 'UMPH!' Orb groans as he lands on the ground. 'Scratch one cue ball!' Hawkeye tells Orb as he lowers himself down on the sky-cycle.

'You mock me too much, Avenger! Many men have learned to fear the might of the Orb!' Orb calls out to Hawkeye, who sarcastically tells Orb that he will have to wait until he lands so he can see his boots are shaking. Orb responds by firing an energy blast from his large eyeball face, which strikes Hawkeye's sky-cycle. Hawkeye realizes he miscalculated and leaps to the ground. He admits to himself that he didn’t think the eye blasts would pack so much punch. The sky-cycle falls to the ground, out of control, while Hawkeye rolls as he hits the ground, remembering how Captain America taught him this move. 'Orb! Look out!' Hakweye calls over to Orb, who is caught unprepared as the sky-cycle lands near him, and knocks some rocks towards him, one of which strikes his large eye, cracking it open, Orb passes out.

Hawkeye brushes his arms, the sand was harder than it looked. He decides to check on Orb, as he took a nasty blow to the head. Hawkeye knows that he better be careful Orb is not playing possum. As he looks down at Orb, he sees a deformed face beneath the eyeball helmet, and Hawkeye decides that must be the reason he wears the goofy helmet. Hawkeye checks Orb's vital signs, they aren't bad, but he is pretty badly banged up. Hawkeye realizes that if Orb has a concussion he will need medical attention, but looks over to where Orb's motorcycle is lying, busted. Clint is annoyed that both the sky-cycle and the motorcycle are out of commission and wonders what he wil do now.

Fifteen minutes later, Hawkeye has wrapped some bandages around Or'bs head, and tells him that if he can hear him, he wants him to know that he is going to get some help. Hawkeye creates a makeshift stretcher out of some of his special arrows, and announces that he is going to get them out of here. As Hawkeye pulls Orb behind him on the stretcher, under the harsh beating sun. 'Why am I talking to him? He's unconscious, not deaf! I might as well talk to the scorpions' Hawkeye mutters.

An hour later, Hawkeye continues to pull Orb behind him, and gives  him a  word of advice – that next time, if he is having someone chase him into the desert, to do it at night, it is much cooler that way. 'Instead, here we are in the middle of nowhere with the hottest part of the day still to come. Not to mention the lack of water'. Sweat pours down from under Hawkeye's mask, and he sees a cactus, which gives him an idea. He aims an arrow towards the cactus, and tells himself that if he remembers his Ronald Reagan movies correctly, the cactus is the desert water fountain, so a well-placed arrow should do the trick. He fires the arrow, and it hits the cactus with a FWIIIP. Hawkeye goes over to the cactus, but whe he pulls the arrow from it, no water pours from the cactus. 'Mr Reagan couldn't have been lying to us, could he?' Hawkeye asks.

Hawkeye trudges along, carrying Orb on the makeshift stretcher still, he supposes that he should have watched more 'Death Valley Days” or joined the boy scouts for just this eventuality. Hawkeye begins to grow tired, he knows that he can joke all he wants, but if he doesn't find some water or some help soon, then they are in trouble. Hawkeye comes to the edge of a ridge, 'Well, buddy, let's see what's over hill number 343!' he jokes, before, exhausted, he slips over the edge and tumbles down the ravine, dragging Orb with him. They come to a stop in front of a strange dome that protrouds from the desert. 'I know we're not in Oz, because this is no Emerald City' Hawkeye remarks. 'But a giant dome might have to do in a pinch' Hawkeye jokes, as he crawls closer to the dome, wondering if he can find a doorbell or a Munchkin to let him in. He touches the dome, and a panel slides open. 'Guess they don't have to worry about burglars in such a safe neighborhood' Hawkeye jokes.

Hawkeye drags Orb into the dome, telling him that he doesn't know what they are going to find in the overgrown bubble, but it has to be better than dying in the desert. To Hawkeye's surprise, he finds a lush jungle and a flowing river. 'This is either a hallucination, or we've died and gone to Club Med!' Hawkeye exclaims, while Orb, now awake, point to the river. 'Water!' he exclaims. They go over to the river and begin to drink, 'Doesn't taste like a hallucination' Hakweye decides, while wondering what this place is. Orb also drinks from the river, and can feel his strength returning already. He cleanses his wounds and places the bandages over his face, before resting on the river shore to gather his wits.

Orb knows that Hawkeye thinks he is injured worse than he really is, as he was knocked out for a very short time, and received this annoying head wound. Orb doesn't notice strange faces appear in the tree he leans against. Orb reminds himself that he has been through worse and survived, but wishes his helmet laser had not been destroyed. He wraps the bandages around his head again and then pulls a gun from his boot. 'Not that it really matters. Now that he's gotten me to safety, getting rid of him will be as easy as -' Orb vows, when suddenly, he screams as more strange faces appear, like odd fruit, dropping from the tree branch. They make strange SLERP noises, and vines suddenly wrapv around Orb, who can't break loose. What's more, the tree is stinging his wound. He screams again and calls out to Hawkeye for help.

'What? Thought this place was too good to be true' Hawkeye frowns as he spins around and sees Orb held prisoner by the tree. He raises an arrow and tells Orb that he can't let him suffer like this, that he will put him out of his misery. 'No, Hawkeye! No! It doesn't hurt that much!' Orb calls out. 'Don't! Please, no! Don't!' he exclaims, as Hawkeye fires the arrow – which strikes the tree, just above Orb's head. The tree lets out a roar, and releases Orb. Hawkeye pulls Orb away from the tree, 'Thought an acid tipped arrow would make you less appealing – though I don't know how you could be less appealing' Hawkeye remarks, adding that he doesn't think Orb trusted him just then. 'I trusted you enough to put your gun back in your boot. After I removed the bullets' Hawkeye tells Orb, adding that he knows how attached one can get with lethal weapons.

'Now we'd best be -' Hawkeye begins, when suddenly, two green humanoids emerge from the bushes, they grab Hawkeye and Orb. 'Don't both struggling, Hawkeye! You are completely surrounded and at the mercy of the pernicious PLANTMAN!' declares Plantman as he steps towards Hawkeye. A female plant-creature stands behind Plantman, who looks angry, and tells Hawkeye that not only has he disrupted his work, he has injured one of his prize specimens. 'Now you must die! Goodbye!' Plantman exclaims as his plant-creatures drag Hawkeye and Orb towards a thick plant with a large set of teeth, that looms above them. 'Wait a minute! Can't we talk this over? Maybe a little villain-to-hero banter?' Hawkeye asks. 'You tell me how you'll conquer the world, I'll tell you I'll stop you with my very lifeblood. Did I say blood? I mean blood' Hawkeye calls out. 'Do something, archer!' Orb pleads as they near the creature. 'I'm thinking, I'm thinking!' Hawkeye exclaims.

2nd story:
Mahkarra, a small island off the African mainland, where a weekend has passed like a dream for the fortunate dignitaries who have attended a party here. This brief idyll has allowed them to relax and laugh away from the pressures of state, while their host, T'Challa, has charmed them with his wit and tales of adventure. How easy  do they forget that it was the financial distress of Wakanda's neighboring country, Zambia, that served as the impetus for this gathering.

Once the weekend comes to an end, a jet streaks away from the island. Among the passengers is Philip Whitehead, who observes the others as he recalls that Zambia is in the grip of a devestating drought and is in need of sympathetic friends to help mounting pay mounting debt to the World Bank. Philip Whitehead thinks that T'Challa can be rest assured, as in two hours they wil land at Wakanda International Airport, and the only complaint among the guests is that the weekend ended too soon. Philip Whitehead makes notes in his journal while watching the important men and women unwind aboard the jet, indulging in their light flirtations and posturings. He thinks that it is a shame Rene couldn't come, as this is her crowd, she is The Duchess. 'And I? Just a struggling writer. If I hadn't become friends with T'Challa at Princeton, I wouldn't be here at all' Philip thinks to himself. 'To think a man such as he, a super hero and king, could have shared with me, such a passion for the poetry of Rikle and Auden and Bly.

T'Challa approaches Philip and tells him that he should not be working, that he should be relaxing instead. Philip tells T'Challa that he is just making an entry in his journal, and reminds T'Challa that socializing is not his strong suit. T'Challa asks Philip to give Rene his best when he gets back to Paris. Philip watches as T'Challa walks away and wonders how their lives could have turned out so differently, as T'Challa has covered so much ground since their college days. 'My achievements seem so...insignificant by comparison' Philip decides. Suddenly, his meditations are brought to an abrupt halt when the wings of the jet explode! The passengers are tossed about aboard the het, 'What the -!' one of them shouts. 'God – we're going to crash!' another gasps. T'Challa tells his guests tro stay calm and to keep their heads close to the floor as he rushes towards the cockpit, thinking that it is strange how he tells his guests to stay calm when he is close to panic himself.

T'Challa addresses the pilot as Stogie and asks him what happened. Stogie informs T'Challa that both engines have exploded, and stability is bad so they are going down like a rock T'Challa asks if the wings are still intact, and points out that they are over water. 'Just keep her nose up, then' T'Challa instructs Stogie, before speaking over the intercom to his guests, informing them that they are forced to make an emergency landing on water. He instructs them to grab onto anything stable, as they will be coming down hard. T'Challa tells Stogie to pull the plane up, as they are dropping at too steep an angle. 'If his Lordship thinks he can do a better job, he's welcome to try...if not, he should strap his big fat lip inta the co-pilot's seat and shut up! It's gonna be rough...' Stogie replies, before the jet lands on the water with a mighty splash. 'Stogie! You beautiful son of a -' T'Challa begins, interrupted when the pilot reminds him that the intercom is still on. 'Ah, of course. Friends...I'm happy to announce that we are alive' T'Challa reports, adding that debarking begins immediately.

Inflatable rafts are boarded and much of the luggage is salvaged before the jet sinks into the lagoon. Fires are kindled on shore and slowly laughter begins to fill the twilight as shock and fear give eway to relief. Around one fire, Stogie announces that the radios have been fixed and reports that they should have copters here by dawn. Another man asks T'Challa where he has been. 'Rather rude of you to disappear like that' he adds as T'Challa emerges from the jungle. T'Challa calls the man Colonel and apologizes. Stogie asks T'Challa what is up, pointing out that he looks as grim as a ghost. T'Challa looks at the sky as he remarks that he couldn't figure out what caused the engines to explode. 'But look at the stars. Their alignment – the time's come. He's among us once more' T'Challa remarks. T'Challa thinks that he has been so long in the white man's world, he has lost touch with the rhythms of nature, and many might pay as a consequence.

T'Challa approaches Philip and asks him why he is by himself again. 'Oh! T'Challa! You're beginning to sound like Rene' Philip replies, adding that he thinks better when he is alone. T'Challa sits at the fire and takes a pot from it as Philip asks him what he has been cooking for him. T'Challa explains that it is herbs and they are lucky they grow in abundance around here. 'We are?' Phillip asks. T'Challa informs Phillip that these are power plants, givers of vision. T'Challa asks Philip to listen as he tells a story.

in story:
In the outback of Wakanda, there lives a shaman, one that people come to when their hearts are filled with grieving. He lulls them into a trance and bleeds them of their pain. It is said he traps the pain in an ancient drum, which becomes a receptor of sorts, for all their suffering. Those who perform this ceremony become healed, whole once more – but pain like that can't simply be made to vanish, only transformed. So, every ten years a venomous beast, a supernatural incarnation of all that suffering manifests on the material plane – and it is for the King of Wakanda to best this monster.

T'Challa informs Philip that traditionally, the king would prepare for the ordeal with days of fasting and purification, but other concerns distracted him, so he is not prepared. 'If there's any way I can help...' Philip offers, but T'Challa tells him that this potion is their best hope. He begins to drink from the pot of herbs and explains that it has a strong psychotropic effect and it will allow him to enter a realm of consciousness otherwise inaccessible to humans – it is in that world that he may find the means necessary to win this fight. There is a terrible scream, and the wide-eyed Philip exclaims that he has never heard such a blood-curdling sound. ' that your monster, T'Challa?' Philip asks, but gets no response, as T'Challa has vanished.

'He's gone, like the proverbial wind. And I'm left here about as useful as a bump on a...' Philip thinks to himself before glancing at the pot and noticing that T'Challa left half the potion. Philip realizes that this presents him with a dilemma. If he wanted to be of any help to T'Challa, he would take the potion – it is the chance he has been waiting for, to go beyond his narrow limits. He remembers a quote: “I grow old. I grow old. Shall I wear my trousers rolled? I shall part my hair behind. Do I dare? Dare to eat a peach...?” as he holds the pot in his hands.

Deep in the interior of  the jungle, cold mist wraps around the Black Panther's legs and the jungle night welcomes him like an old friend – he is back in his element. T'Challa realizes that his pulse rate is up, the natural amphetamines in the herbs are hitting his blood system. The Black Panther begins to perceive the powerful emanations that surround all living things as a glow, fluctuating strong or full, according to their vitality. It's like having a sixth sense – and T'Challa knows that he will need it tonight. He swings down into a deep, dark part of the jungle, where the fog dampens T'Challa's other senses. When the monster nears, he will feel it like a cold dagger in his soul.

The Black Panther spins around and discovers the jackal-like creature squatting behind him, obscene and leering. The Black Panther catches his breath as those two yellow eyes lock onto his own – they are filled with the kind of hate and animal madness only suffering can instill. T'Challa tells himself that there is an aura of such pure evil about it – he wasn't prepared, but he knows he doesn't have a choice. The Black Panther has never run from an enemy, and isn't going to start now – but as he leaps back from the creature's claws, he's too slow, and the creaturev strikes him with a solid blow to the chest – but he's too slow again as the creature grabs the Black Panther by his wrist, and slams him into a tree. T'Challa is unable to twist around in time. He feels that his ribs are fractured and knows that he will never beat this creature with brute force. He hopes that his eyes can attune themselves to its energy field and find a weak spot – he thinks he has and with that, he has a chance.

A quarter mile northeast, the now shirtless Philip Winchester makes his way through the jungle. He can hardly believe he is doing this – but the herbs – he's never felt so alive, so sure of himself. He wonders how he could have been content all those years sitting behind a desk. Suddenly, he hears a piercing shriek, only this time is sounds like laughter. He swings from a tree on a vine, and recalls that he always wondered how he would handle himself in a life-and-death situation – he supposes he will find out pretty soon. It's easy enough for him to follow the direction of that cry, as if it cut a tunnel through the night. Within minutes, he finds T'Challa up against the creature, whom he thinks looks like something straight out of Lovecraft. Philip notices that T'Challa seems winded, and is waving a broken branch about, wondering how he hopes to defeat the creature with that.

'Futile! Great father! How can I fight something that turns to mist at will?' T'Challa wonders as the creature dodges his attack. He supposes that he will have to catch it off guard, drop back and let it come after him. The creature returns to a solid state, so T'Challa stands his ground as the creature moves forward to attack – he waits until it lunges – and then strikes the creature with the branch – only the branch breaks in two, and the creature moves behind T'Challa, shoving its claws into his shoulder. T'Challa cries out in pain as the talons inject venom into his body. Philip watches in shock as T'Challa stumbles, hurt badly. 'God help me, there's no turning back now' Philip realizes as he suddenly leaps from the tree where he stands onto the creature's back. 'Philip! No!' T'Challa calls out, wondering how he could have done that, but deciding that it doesn't matter now, as Philip has bought him a few precious seconds, and as the creature knocks Philip back, it turns from T'Challa, who grabs the splintered branch, and while the creature looms over Philip, it turns solid. T'Challa's muscles coil with animal certainty as he leaps at the creature and drives the branch into the creature's vitals.

The creature howls, and blood-spackled skin begins to decay, and the spirit that animated the horror departs, leaving behind a pile of bones and ash. Philip gets up and goes over to T'Challa, telling him that he was great. He notices T'Challa does not look well, ad T'Challa reveals that there is no antidote to the poison he has been injected with. T'Challa motions to the claw marks on his shoulder, and Philip announces that when he was in the Scouts they taught him to treat snake bites by sucking the venom out. He holds up a keychain which he can use to make incisions over the bites. 'Naturally, I always carry a key chain for just such an eventuality' Philip tells T'Challa, who  falls backwards and tells Philip not to do it, that he doesn't know what he is doing. 'As usual, T'Challa, you're right. But I can't just sit by and watch you die' Philip replies as he leans over the Black Panther as the jungle night closes in.

Forty-eight hours later, T'Challa is in Paris. He gazes out a window, recalling that there is a stanza from a poem Philip used to love, but he can't remember it. The room is silent, save for the occasional sound of brittle pages being turned in a journal that Rene Whitehead reads. 'It ends rather abruptly, Mr T'Challa. How exactly did Philip...' her voice trails off. T'Challa turns to her and reveals that it was the creature's venom, a far more potent kind than any found in the real world, but Philip couldn't have known that. 'I see...' Rene replies. T'Challa informs her that Philip sucked it from his system and the posion passed directly into his blood through the capillaries in the mucous membranes of his mouth, and his tolerance was not great. He died saving my life...' T'Challa assures her.

'Yes, that sounds like Philip. Perhaps that's the burden of all artists – to suffer the distance between the perfection of their ideals...and the imperfection of their being!' Rene remarks. She rings a small bell and tells T'Challa that Philip was certainly always trying to close the gap, and it made him foolish sometimes. T'Challa remarks that Philip was a brave and noble man, but Rene tells him that Philip was a little boy who wanted to be a super hero. 'Just like you. Now please, goodbye' she declares as she sits down on a sofa, leans into it and covers her face, while the Black Panther remembers that poem:

“Who has turned us around this way so that were always whatever we do in the posture of someone who is leaving? On the final hill that shows him his whole valley one last time who turns and stands there lingering- that's how we live – always saying goodbye”.

Characters Involved: 

1st story:


2nd story:
Black Panther

Philip Whitehead
Rene Whitehead


In Black Panther's story
A shaman

Story Notes: 

1st story:
Orb a.k.a. Drake Shannon first appeared in Marvel-Team Up (1st series) #15, and has made very ocassional appearances up until this issue, his most recent being Ghost Rider (1st series) #63.

2nd story:
Only appearance of Philip Winchester.

Written By: