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1st story: Tom DeFalco (story), Mark Bright (pencils), Joe Rubinstein (inker), Janet Jackson (colorist)
2nd Story: Dennis Mallonee (writer), John Ridgway (artist), Paul Becton (colorist)
Jack Morelli (letterer), Mark Gruenwald (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)
Hawkeye finds himself on a strange island wearing nothing but boxer shorts and without his bow and arrow. He recalls his recent adventures as he makes his way through the jungle, dodging arrows that are fired towards him, before eventually finding his own arrows and bow. He continues to narrowly avoid getting killed as he works his way through various other booby traps that he encounters in his search for Trick Shot – when he eventually finds Trick Shot, Hawkeye realizes that Trick Shot doesn't seem to want to kill him, which he is confused by, as he thought this was supposed to be a death match. The situation becomes clear when Hawkeye learns that it is a death match – only it is Trick Shot who wants Hawkeye to kill him. Trick Shot reveals he has cancer, and doesn't want to die a slow death. Trick Shot believes that since he trained Hawkeye, Hawkeye owes him one. Hawkeye refuses, and when Trick Shot begins to cry, Hawkeye offers to help. Meanwhile, Silver Sable learns that Trick Shot has kidnapped Hawkeye and worries for his safety.
(2nd story)Wanda is at her home in Leonia when she gets an unexpected from Melinda, who is in quite a state of despair, believing that she is being stalked. Wanda tries to calm the hysterical Melinda down, before Melinda begins her story, starting with her original ordeal with Xandu, and how she was dead until a spark within Wanda returned her to life. Wanda recalls this battle, while Melinda explains that afterwards she returned to California, where she met John Kowalski, and they were in love, but one night, a drunk driver struck John and other civilians, only John didn't die – he took the lives of the dying, and Melinda realized she had fallen in love with Death. She ran from him and prayed she would never see him again, but she has been hunted by Death these past few months. Suddenly, there is a tapping at the window – Death has arrived in Leonia. Wanda rushes to her children's room when she hears a scream, and finds John Kowalski holding one of her sons and Wanda threatens him. Kowalski assures Wanda that her children are fine, before telling her that she has cheated death more than once, and that by threatening him, she has issued a challenge. Wanda, Melinda and Death appear in a transformed landscape resembling a warzone. Wanda counters Death's attack with a hex, before the landscape changes to another war. Death tells Melinda that he can take her now, too, but Wanda vows to protect Melinda. To defeat Kowalski, Wanda takes the role of Death and casts energies upon him. She prepares to destroy him, but Melinda throws herself onto Kowalski, begging Wanda not to kill him, as she loves him. Wanda is returned to normal, while Kowalski tells Melinda that he has three years to prepare a successor, otherwise he will be like this forever. They embrace, while another apparition of Death watches them. Reality returns to normal, and Wanda is greeted by her husband, the Vision. She tells him that she has just learned even in death, there can be a love that never dies.
'I'm burning up! And the ground's so hot! Must have died and gone to – nah! My head hurts too much! I can't be dead!' Hawkeye a.k.a. Clint Barton thinks to himself as he finds himself wearing nothing but his white boxer shorts on a beach. His costume isn't the only thing missing – his bow and quiver are gone, too. He wonders where he is, and jokes that this certainly isn't Kansas. The last thing he remembers was being in Paris, he had gone there because of Trick Shot – the guy who taught him archery – he had challenged him to a death match, but when he arrived, Silver Sable arrested him for Trick Shot's murder. Clint remembers that he had managed to escape Sable when he ran into Trick Shot himself – alive and breathing. Clint supposes that Trick Shot hit him with a hypodermic arrow, because he went straight out. Clint knew that Trick Shot was holding a grudge, but wonders why he went to so much trouble to kidnap him. Making his way off the beach and into a nearby forest, Clint comes across his bow and some arrows laying on the ground. 'Well, well, well. Look what the Easter Bunny left me' he jokes, when suddenly, he hears someone coughing.
Clint realizes that he best get moving, he moves forward and taps the arrowheads so that the shafts lift into his hand, grabs the bow, then fires the arrows – straight towards some other arrows that are fired towards him, blocking them. Clint decides that this must bw the start of Trick Shot's death match, and boasts that Trick Shot is in for more than he bargained for – a lot more! Clint picks up his quiver and the rest of the arrows, then calls out into the jungle: 'Heads up, Trick! In the words of good ol' Rambo: “I'm coming for you!”' Clint quotes, before he begins to check the arrows, they all seem okay, but Clint doesn't want any surprises.
Meanwhile, inside her castle, Silver Sable is in an office, where the Minister reminds her that thev French government hired her to neutralize a professional assassin, but her plan to use the Ameican archer Hawkeye to lead them to Trick Shot has failed – and now she has lost Hawkeye as well. 'Quite true, Minister, but -' Sable begins, before another man enters the room, he excuses the interruption, before reporting that operatives have just learned that a man fitting Trick Shot's description has just charted a boat to one of the uninhabited Greek isles. 'Excellent!' Sable exclaims, before instructing the man to notify the assault force, as they leave immediately. But Sable is actually concerned, and thinks to herself that this is not good, as she knows what Trick Shot is capable of doing – and if Hawkeye is still alive, he has the fight of his life on his hands.
Back in the jungle, 'Come out, come out wherever you are!' Hawkeye calls out as he walks through the jungle – only to step in a snare, which pills him into the air. 'What the -!?' Hawkeye calls out, as he finds himself hanging upside down, the arrows all fall from the quiver. 'Very funny, Trick! Very -' Clint begins, before he notices more arrows that are fired towards him. 'Geez! Is this how you treat all your guests?' Hawkeye asks, firing the arrows he managed to save at the arrows that approach him, 'The very least you could've done was offer me a cup of coffee before you tried to kill me!' Hawkeye jokes. He then pulls himself up on the rope and announces that he is real mad, as there is absolutely no excuse for bad manners. 'If you want to get down and dirty – you picked the right guy!' he shouts. Trick Shot is hiding in some shrubs nearby, 'You hear me?' Hawkeye calls out as he fires some more arrows, which strike the tree near where Trick Shot is hiding.
Hawkeye notices Trick Shot, who starts to run, 'Yeah! Guess you got the point!' Hawkeye shouts as he chases after Trick Shot, while thinking to himself that something is real wrong here. Clint comes to a cave, which is surrounded by three tall cliffs. Clint knows that Trick Shot is easily his equal with a bow, and wonders why he is holding back. He realizes he has come to a dead end, unless the cave leads somewhere. He supposes that Trick Shot has to be somewhere nearby, and assumes that Trick Shot scounted the entire island before bringing him here, knows the terrain, whereas he doesn't. Clint wonders if Trick Shot wants him to enter the cave, when suddenly, an arrow is fired towards him – narrowly missing his side. 'Wha -? How'd he get behind me?' Clint wonders, realizing that he has to find some cover, fast, as he sees Trick Shot at the front of a nearby opening. With no place to go except for the cave, Clint enters it, and decides that if he can get out of the sunlight, Trick Shot won't be able to target him properly.
Clint rounds a bend in the cave, and is grateful that the break in the wall will protect him – before he peers around the corner, and notices that it wasn't Trick Shot who fired at him – it was a dummy! 'That means -' Clint thinks, before the cave is sealed in by a large metal door that slides own over the entrance. 'Swell! He used one dummy to trap an even bigger dummy!' Clint thinks to himself, deciding he can scoot under the door before it fully closes – but he's too late. 'How come those guys in the movies always make it out in time?' Clint wonders, before the cave is plunged into darkness. 'Great. Now what am I supposed to do?' Clint wonders, before a light comes from the other end of the cave. Clint rushes to an exit that appears, and supposes that Trick Shot is out the other side waiting for him. 'Okay, fella – get ready because here I -' Clint thinks to himself, but has he runs out the opening, he finds himself sliding down a slippery slope, straight into a lake.
'That does it! That does it!' Clint shouts, standing up in the shallow water, he tells Trick Shot that he has had enough of his screwing around. 'If it's a fight you want – come out and face me like a man!' Clint exclaims. 'No need to shout, kid! I'm right here!' Trick Shot replies, sitting atop a tree that is growing out of the lake. Trick Shot tells Hawkeye that maybe it is time they settled things once and for all. 'Go ahead, kid! Make your move!' Trick Shot declares. Clint reaches into his quiver, but finds it empty. 'What's the matter, hot shot? Need some arrows?' Trick Shot asks, before a quiver full of arrows is dangled before him. 'Think you can reach it before I put this arrow through your heart?' Trick Shot asks, readying an arrow.
Hawkeye wonders why Trick Shot is just talking, why he doesn't shoot him and get this over with. 'He ought to realize by now that he can't rattle me!' Clint thinks to himself, before tossing an arrow head at Trick Shot, who is startled and falls off the tree. 'Let's Rock n' roll!' Hawkeye shouts, before deciding that was too easy, as the Trick Shot who trained him would not have allowed himself to be distracted like that, wouldn't have lost his balance or given him time to reach this second quiver, which Clint grabs, and readies another arrow, wondering what is going on, why Trick Shot doesn't pull out all the stops. 'C'mon, old man! There's no way you can escape me now!' Hawkeye shout, before two arrows are fired towards him from under the water. 'Nice try, Trick' Clint remarks as the arrows miss him.
Hawkeye tells Trick Shot that he really appreciates all the trouble he has gone through to rig these traps, 'But I've got a flash for you, fatso...you just lost game, set and match!' Hawkeye exclaims as he spins around and shouts 'I have you now!', as Trick Shot rises from the water, several feet behind Hawkeye, who aims his arrow towards him. Trick Shot tells Hawkeye that he is impressed, especially as he must have felt that last trip wire under all that mud and silt. 'You're good' Trick Shot admits. 'Almost as good as me' he boasts. 'Better, Trick. Much better' Hawkeye replies. Hawkeye then lowers his bow and arrow and asks Trick Shot if he is satisfied, tired of playing this stupid game. 'It's obvious you never intended to go through with this death challenge' Hawkeye remarks, pointing out that Trick Shot kept passing up too many chances to kill him. 'Don't be a sap, punk!' Trick Shot calls back, readying his own bow and arrow, he declares that Hawkeye lowering his was a dumb mistake. 'You're dead, kid! You hear me – you're dead!' Trick Shot declares as he fires an arrow, but Hawkeye fires one back just as quick: 'Then, so are you!' he exclaims.
'You missed!?' the shocked Trick Shot shouts as he turns to the arrow that Hawkeye fired – now stuck in a tree trunk close to his head. 'That's impossible! You never miss!' Trick Shot calls out. 'You did too, Trick! WHY?' Hakweye shouts. 'This ain't fair!' Trick Shot exclaims as he trudges through the water over to Hawkeye, revealing that he set this whole thing up so that Hawkeye would be forced to kill him. 'You can't fail me now!' Trick Shot declares, he takes a swing at Hawkeye, but Hawkeye steps back, avoiding Trick Shot's bow. 'I watched you! Tested you! I sent paid killers up against you – and you beat 'em all!' Trick Shot complains. 'YOU NEVER MISSED! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO KILL ME! KILL ME!' Trick Shot booms as he tries to attack Hawkeye again, but Hawkeye blocks the bow with his own.
They stumble backwards towards the edge of the lake, and Trick Shot tells Hawkeye to do it now, or he will beat him bloody. 'You don't have any choice!' Trick Shot warns him. 'Why? WHY?' Hawkeye asks, slamming his bow against Trick Shot and knocking him back 'What the heck is wrong with you?' Clint asks. 'What's wrong with me? I – I'm dying! I have cancer!' Trick Shot reveals. He begins to cry as he explains that he has cancer and does not ewant to end his days wasting away in some stinking hospital bed or jail cell, as he is a hitman, has lived his whole life by the eay of the arrow, and he wanted to go out fighting. 'You owe me, kid! It's your duty to kill me!' Trick Shot tells Hawkeye, reminding him that he was nothing when he found him – nothing – but he trained him, gave him the necessary skills to become an Avenger – and the world's greatest archer. 'All you are, you owe to me!' Trick Shot exclaims, telling Hawkeye that he has to kill him.
'It's the price I demand for all I've given you' Trick Shot tells Hawkeye, who looks at his bow, then snaps it in half. 'No way, pal! Some debts just can't be repaid!' Hawkeye relies. Trick Shot falls to his knees on the shore, 'You were my last hope! The only man who could've beaten me in a fair fight!' he pleads. Hawkeye puts his arms around Trick Shot, who asks 'What am I gonna do now? I just can't face this kinda slow dying' he remarks. Hawkeye tells Trick Shot that they will find a way, somehow, they will find a way. Hawkeye offers to do whatever he can to help – after all, he owes him that much.
2nd storyThe night air is chill and damp. A woman with dark hair huddles into her long green coat and cautiously turns her head. She knows she is being followed. Of late, the man never speaks, never approaches her closely. But he is always there, sometimes out of sight, always a palpable presence. The woman thinks that in her brief light, she has escaped him once, and fears that she will not be able to do so again. She knows that she needs the help of a friend – someone who will be able to both perceive and to understand her difficulty. She walks on faster.
In Leonia, New Jersey, in the home of Wanda a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, and her android husband the Vision. Wanda is wearing her classic pink costume and stands before a mirror examining herself. 'Ahhh Wanda... your babies have not left you with your girlish figure' she decides, wondering whether she should give up on the idea of getting it back. Wanda wonders if it is a mistake to try to wear her old costume, as there is much to be said for a more mature look. 'Still, if my husband prefers me as I...' she starts to say to herself, interrupted by a sudden knock at the door. 'Who could be calling so urgently this late in the evening?' Wanda asks herself, noticing the fierce rapping on the door. When she opens the door, she finds the woman in the green coat, who exclaims 'Wanda! Thank goodness you're home! I was afraid even to stop and call!' 'Melinda? This is a surprise!' Wanda responds.
Melinda asks Wanda to help her, and declares that she may be the only one who can. Wanda realizes that Melinda is shivering, but it is not even that cold. She tells Melinda to calm herself, for whatever it is, hysteria will not help. 'I know...' Melinda replies, adding that it may be that nothing will help. Wanda tells her to hush, and Melinda remarks that Wanda has been kind to her before, and she needs a kindness now. Wanda informs Melinda that her husband isn't home, he is at a baseball game, but that he would agree to letting her stay for a time – for as long as she likes.
Wanda leads Melinda into the living room and tells her to sit and dry her tears. 'Tell me about it' Wanda asks. Melinda replies that she is not sure where to begin. 'No! That's not true! I do know where to start. It begins with Xandu!' Melinda declares, and Wanda frowns. 'Xandu...' she utters as her mind wanders back. 'I was dead, Wanda! I know I was! But my lover was a sorcerer, and he wouldn't let my body return to the dust' Melinda reminds Wanda. 'You remember. It was your spirit Xandu stole to rekindle the spark of life within me'. Melinda adds that if not for Spider-Man's help, Wanda might have become her – that was Xandu's hope, but that didn't happen, and because Wanda's spirit prepared the way, Melinda was able to live again.
Sipping a hot drink that Wanda has given to her, Melinda remarks that Death, it seems, is reluctant to surrender his grip on those who have thought to escape him, and Melinda continues her story:
Flashback images, narrated by Melinda in the present:After Melinda and Wanda parted company, she returned to her home in California, and there she met a wonderful man named John Kowalski. He was knowledgeable, straightforward, totally charming in his directness and his simplicity. Melinda found herself falling in love, and she was certain that her affection was returned. One evening, as they walked home from a movie in Westwood, there was an accident. A drunk driver. A sidewalk – the driver plowed into several people. Melinda was thrown aside by John, and he was the last to be hit, head-on, with enough force to kill. But John Kowalski didn't die – he was already dead!
Melinda watched, in rising horror, as John Kowalski stirred himself, and moved down the row of the injured and dying, taking the lives of the dying, one by one. Mercilessly, with no sympathy for those who were merely suffering. Melinda knew then that she had fallen in love with Death! John Kowalski is another name for Death! Melinda fled from him that night, terrified to think what it was he might have wanted from her. She prayed that she would never see him again.
Present:'But I haven't been spared, Wanda!' Melinda sobs into her hands, revealing that she fled from city to city and John - Death – has always been there, watching her, never speaking to her, never making any effort to explain. She tells Wanda that she has been haunted by Death these many long months, and now she wants it to end. 'I'm alive! You can see I'm alive! Why can't accept that, and let me live out my time in peace?' Melinda asks.
Suddenly, Melinda looks up to a window, and sees a shadowy figure standing outside. 'Why can't he... no! He's here!' Melinda exclaims. 'Where? I can't see anything -' Wanda begins, when suddenly, a cry can be heard elsewhere in the house. 'The children!' Wanda gasps. 'Oh, Wanda! What have I done?' Melinda utters, while Wanda rushes out of the living room, 'Wait here!' she calls back to Melinda. 'I'm so sorry' Melina cries.
'Kowalski!' Wanda screams as she rushes up the stairs. 'Show yourself to me!' Wanda exclaims, before bursting into her sons' room, where she finds Kowalski holding one of the twins in his arms. 'How dare you? My children! Those lives spring from me!' Wanda declares, scowling at Kowalaski. 'Do they? What of it?' comes Kowalski's response. He tells Wanda to posture and threaten all she likes, but that there is nothing she can do that will affect him, for her powers affect probability, and there is nothing more certain for a human being than death! Wanda informs Kowalski that she is more than human – she is a mutant witch and can hurt him. 'And I will do it, unless you put my son down, now!' Wanda warns him, raising her hand she starts to cast a hex. 'Very well' Kowalski replies, putting the boy back into his crib. Kowalski claims that he was merely curious about the nature of children born of magic. 'There is a void here in this one, that reminds me very much of myself' Kowalski remarks.
Kowalski informs Wanda that, in any case, her children were in no danger, as their time has not yet come. 'You on the other hand, have cheated me more than once. A pattern, I observe, that repeats itself among your family and friends' Kowalski remarks, declaring that he has had enough of it. 'In threatening me, you have issued me a challenge, Scarlet Witch. I accept!' Kowalski exclaims, as an image of his true self – Death – appears behind him.
As Melinda joins Wanda, John Kowalski remarks that the question of whether the beautiful Melinda belongs properly to life or death can wait, and instructs Wanda to prepare herself for battle. 'War they say, is hell!' Kowalski declares as the landscape around them changes, and all three appear in the middle of a raging battlefield.
Motioning to one of the deceased soldiers lying on the battlefield, Kowalski remarks that Death wears many faces, and his is only one. 'But each face has a special destiny. Mine has been to suffer nearly fifty years for my sins of life' John explains, asking the Scarlet Witch if she understands war. 'Do you know how many souls there were that died in this war alone?' Kowalski enquires, as his spirit form hovers over the body of the dead soldier. 'I have seen war. Through the eyes of each of them. Their lives have become my own' he announces, boasting that, through them, he claims his due. The soldier springs to life, and opens fire at the Scarlet Witch. 'NO!' Wanda screams, casting a hex sphere, she deflects the bullets. 'You play with shadows, Kowalski! Whatever tricks you conjure, I can dispel!' Wanda warns him, adding that phantoms are no threat – they are not even real. 'They are real to me. Every death has meaning, Wanda. If only to the one who dies' Kowalski replies.
The battlezone changes to another war, and Kowalski tells Wanda that perhaps she is right. 'My war was one you never lived. If it ever became real to you, it was only through the stories you heard as a child. There have been others' Kowalski remarks, before Melinda gasps 'Wanda...' as Wanda realizes they are in Vietnam. A chopper above fires an explosive to the ground near Wanda and Melinda. Wanda tells Melinda to run, 'This is no game!' she exclaims. 'I don't understand...' Melina begins, before Kowalski, standing on a rise nearby, the image of Death behind him, asks Melinda if it is enlightenment that she seeks, then he can offer that to her, as well.
'You will never take her!' Wanda shouts. She declares that she is through fighting shadows. 'Now I am fighting you!' Wanda warns Kowalski. 'Very good! Perhaps you do understand!' Kowalski responds. He tells Wanda that the only way she can defeat him is by changing the rules of this conflict. 'Your game, not mine. But it is death who rules here. And if I am to be beaten... then someone must take my place...' Kowalski explains as the landscape changes once more, and Wanda casts a hex sphere directly at Kowalski, striking him, which in turn causes Wanda's form to change, as she appears as Death.
'Kowalski... your time has ended. I see that now' Wanda-Death announces as she continues to pour the hex power at Kowalski. 'Wanda?' Melinda calls out. Kowalski falls to the ground, and Wanda-Death stands over him, telling him that he is weary, tired of the mantle that he has borne. 'There is no further need of you. I freely take it from your -' she starts to say, but an urgent Melinda cries 'Wanda! Oh, Wanda, no! I love him!' Wanda-Death turns to Melinda: 'What?' she asks. 'I love him! You can't take him from me!' Melinda pleads as she rushes over and throws herself onto Kowalski. 'Love...?' Wanda-Death asks. 'You love him...' Wanda remarks as she returns to her true appearance. 'Yes, I love him! Didn't you hear me? I told you that from the start!' Melinda exclaims. Death is completely separated from Wanda, who watches as Melinda tells Kowalski that it is all right, and that she understands. 'I was frightened! I'm so sorry. Can you forgive me?' she asks. 'There's nothing to forgive' Kowalski replies. They stand up, and Death moves closer to Kowalski, who stands behind Melinda, as he tells her that all he wanted was a chance to experience happiness, for he never had that in life.
'You've given it to me, John. That, and love. That it should come to me after death is a miracle beyond my dreams' Melinda replies. They turn to each other and John puts his hands on Melinda's face, 'It was all I ever wanted to give you' he tells her. Melinda tells him that she knows, before asking how much time they will have. 'I have three years to prepare my successor' John replies. 'Three years... or an eternity together, my love!' Melinda utters, as they kiss, while the manifestation of Death stands over them. Wanda looks at them, but a haze spreads around them, and a voice calls out 'WANDA!'
'Oh, Vision! You startled me!' Wanda gasps as she looks over and sees her husband standing between their sons' cribs. The Vision informs Wanda that the ballgame went into extra-innings, but the Mets were victorious, and adds that the Black Knight sends his regards. The Vision notices that Wanda seems distracted, and asks if there is something wrong with the children. Wanda looks away from her husband as she tells him that the children are perfectly safe. 'Whatever happened, I would have seen to that'. They both look down at their sons, and Wanda tells the Vision that she learned a wonderful thing tonight. The Vision puts his hand on Wanda's shoulder, and she places her hand on his, announcing that she learned even in death there can be a love that never dies.
And elsewhere, Melinda and Kowalski continue to embrace, as Death looks on.
Silver Sable II
2nd story:Scarlet Witch & VisionTommy & Billy Maximoff
MelindaJohn Kowalski / Death
In Wanda's memory:Scarlet WitchSpider-Man
In Melinda's story:MelindaJohn Kowalski / Death
Hawkeye's history with Trick Shot was chronicled in Solo Avengers #5.
Hawkeye fought assassins hired by Trick Shot in Solo Avengers #3.
2nd story:Wanda's adventure with Melinda and Spider-Man took place in Marvel Fanfare (1st series) #6. A follow-up of sorts was chronicled in Secret Defenders #6-8.
John Kowalski was the protagonist of the title War is Hell and eventually became an aspect of Death.