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Kurt Busiek (Plot), John Romita Jr. (Art), Al Vey, Mark McKenna and Chris Ivy (Inks), Tom Smith (Colors), Richard Starkings and COMICRAFT’s Albert Deschesne (Letters), Mark Sumerak (Assistant Editor), Tom Brevoort (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)
On the planet Selandiar, Thor and the Avengers Infinity team demand to speak with Empress Lilandra and the rest of the intergalactic council about the imprisonment of Earth. The Avengers meet with Lilandra and learn the nature of the Maximum Security program. After consideration, Lilandra tells the Avengers that she will bring up their case to plea to the council. While the Avengers wait for a reply from the council, Moondragon addresses her concern over the Ruul, whom she does not trust. Quasar and Jack of Hearts reminisce about Earth, while Starfox reveals to Tigra that his home planet, Titan, is also affected by Maximum Security, since it is in the same solar system as Earth. Ruul warriors attack the Avengers and use a knock-out gas that is absorbed through the skin to even knock out Thor. When the Avengers awake, they find themselves imprisoned. To their horror, they discover that the Ruul are the Kree, who are being led by the Supreme Intelligence. The Supreme Intelligence reveals his plan to them and also tells them that he is going to frame the Avengers for wiping a Shi’ar world of all life. On Earth, U.S.Agent gains federal authority to commandeer the alien prisoners and all of Earth’s heroes against the alien threat.
In his loud and dominating voice, Thor warns the steward in front of him not to take his words lightly. In the name of Odin and Asgard itself, he demands so speak with Empress Lilandra immediately.
It is dusk in the part of the stellar system that Thor is in. He stands tall and firm on the orbital spaceport that serves Selandiar, the council planet of the intergalactic powers. At his side stand Tigra, Starfox, Quasar, Moondragon, Photon and the Jack of Hearts, collectively known as the Avengers Infinity squad. A group of uncomfortable and nervous welcoming committee, made up of guards and dignitaries, stand before them.
The steward, who is uncomfortable after Thor’s outburst, tells the thunder god that he appreciates his concern and his intensity, but he has to understand that the Imperial Majestrix Lilandra is a busy woman, who has no time for unscheduled meetings. Thor glares at the steward and asks the man if he must use his hammer to force a meeting with Lilandra. Photon cuts off Thor’s angry threats and gently asks the steward to tell Lilandra that the Avengers from Earth have come to see her.
Upon hearing that they are from Earth, the steward tells the Avengers to wait patiently for a moment and then has a hushed radio conversation with someone on Selandiar. After the conversation, the steward directs the Avengers onto a transport craft, which will take them to the surface of Selandiar where the Majestrix will meet with them.
The Avengers board the ship and it takes off towards Selandiar. On board the space station, a group of Ruul delegates watch as the ship heads towards the council planet. One delegate turns to Kerem and says that he does not understand why they do not ambush the Avengers like they did to the Skrullian mutants and their human leader, which will prevent them from ever meeting Lilandra. Kerem explains that the Avengers came openly with no hostility. There was nothing they could do. However, he is assured that the “great one” will have a solution to this new problem.
A brief time later, the delegates from the intergalactic council meet in the ceremonial parley hall, where Lilandra waits standing in front of her throne. The doors to the hall open and the Avengers enter in single file. Lilandra greets them with a smile on her face and gives them her good wishes and those of the intergalactic council. She tells them that they may approach. The Avengers enter deeper into the room, which grows cold and silent. However, the Avengers feel the hostility coming from the ambassadors. They ignore the hate and walk on.
Lilandra states first that they have met in peace and respect, and then asks them to state their business. Photon politely begins by saying that they have come to discuss something they have heard about Earth. However, Moondragon cuts Photon off and yells at Lilandra for quarantining the Sol system without warning or discussion. Furthermore, she has transported criminals to Earth, which is an inhabited planet. Moondragon demands that Lilandra explains herself.
The smile fades on Lilandra’s face and she warns Moondragon to have care, for the council will not accept any disrespect. However, she will explain herself nonetheless. Humanity has had a long history of interfering with the politics of the intergalactic races. Humans have been unrestrained, uncontrollable and have extended their will to other cultures and civilizations. Sometimes humanity has helped other races, sometimes they have harmed. This makes them unpredictable. The intergalactic powers have a right to defend themselves. The council the Avengers see before them assembled to make a decision, which led to embargo Earth and make it a prison planet. The criminals will occupy the humans and Earth will contain the prisoners without having the time to become a further threat to the rest of the civilized universe.
Quasar asks Lilandra if she considers the embargo fair. Lilandra simply states that the decision was reached by the council and their traditions and laws. Photon asks Lilandra about who spoke for Earth. “I did,” says Lilandra.
A still angry Moondragon asks Lilandra what would happen if she invoked Arin’nn Haelar, which is trial by combat. Lilandra explains that the custom Moondragon just mentioned is a Shi’ar law. The decision was a council decision, so there is no recourse. Photon tells Lilandra that she knows deep down inside that this is not right. Lilandra knows them and cannot condemn humanity like that. The council must allow humanity to be heard.
Lilandra pauses for a long time and then apologizes to Photon. She tells the Avengers that her heart goes out to her and the rest of humanity, but the council was fairly held and the result unimpeachable. However, she will bring up humanity’s appeal to speak to the council but, until then, their meeting is over.
The Avengers are ushered into the quarters reserved for visiting dignitaries and await word from the council. In a room, Quasar sits and drinks from a golden jug and sadly watches a hologram of the planet Earth. Jack of Hearts knocks on his head and asks the non-reactive man what’s up. Quasar apologizes for his wandering thoughts and tells him that he has been away from Earth for such a long time, except for one brief visit. He recently decided it was time to go home and now he may not even get to go there now.
Jack tells Quasar that he knows how he feels. He has not been to Earth in a while and he has been thinking about the same stuff. The weird part, however, is that when he thinks about the stuff he misses the most, the things that come to mind are stuff like Nedick’s hot dogs. Quasar puts his empty jug down and says that he misses Vernor’s ginger ale and kielbasa. The two begin to reminisce about what they miss, including the Mets, the Simpsons, Coney Island and Michelle Marsh.
Down the hall, Tigra and Starfox sit in another room. Tigra tells Starfox that she is worried that if the embargo stays, Earth will never be free. Starfox tells her that he is worried also. Tigra tells him that he is a good guy, but he is not even from Earth. Starfox tells her that the whole solar system is locked up, including his home planet, Titan, which means his family is also imprisoned. Tigra apologizes for her earlier comment. Starfox tells her not to be, because the lockdown seems specifically targeted at Earth. In times like these, it is natural to only think about your home.
Even further down the hall, Moondragon tells Photon and Thor that she sensed sincerity and sadness from Lilandra. She would help if she could. Moondragon continues and tells the others that she herself does not trust Lilandra’s advisors, who the tentacle-headed aliens were, called the Ruul. She cannot telepathically read them, because their psychic defenses are too high.
Photon tells Moondragon that she does not know if it matters. The council is probably not going to be swayed by them. She asks Thor what they are going to do next. Thor tells her that they are going to find allies, perhaps the Rigellians or the Starjammers. They could attack those who are imprisoning Earth from the outside or he could raise the armies of Asgard in humanities name. However, first they must give the council the opportunity to act in an honorable manner.
Moondragon interrupts Thor and apologizes, but tells him that they have company. She unleashes a psychic bolt from her mind, which whips around a corner and hits an alien in hiding. The spy falls, but Moondragon is not sure if the device in its hand was a surveillance device or a weapon. Thor stands over the alien and asks it what its purpose was. Before slumping unconscious the alien tells the three that they must be dealt with and won’t live out the night.
Photon senses movement behind them and warns Thor and Moondragon to watch out. She sends out a blast of photons at a group of armed aliens behind them, who are quickly taken out by the three heroes. Thor becomes angry at the treachery, because they are here under the assurance of safe conduct from Lilandra. Moondragon tells her companions that more will come to make sure they do not plead their case. She mentally summons the others, for they must take action now.
The seven heroes regroup and head toward the council hall to awake the councilors from their beds and demand answers from them. As they proceed, however, Jack of Hearts peeks behind him and tells the others that the aliens are not kidding around. He turns around and blasts away the attacking aliens, while Moondragon uses her telekinesis to shield her and Jack.
Moondragon realizes they are Ruul, because their attackers do not have the same mental defenses as the other version of their species they met in the council hall. She tells the Avengers that the Ruul attackers operate on instinct and emotion. She cannot affect them with her telepathy. However, she senses something else about them. Before Moondragon can reveal the secret of the Ruul, one of the aliens punches her in the face and knocks her out. Jack of Hearts and Photon come to her aid.
The Avengers attack their enemies, but are soon wrapped up in their tentacle arms. Jack of Hearts grows weak and realizes that the Ruul are energy absorbers and are absorbing their power. Before Photon can say anything, a tentacle wraps around her mouth and she is pulled down to the ground. Starfox, Tigra, Quasar and Thor are able to hold their ground. Thor tells Jack of Hearts that he shall have no fear, because the Avengers fight at his side and the Avengers will not fall.
As Thor utters his words to Jack, gas begins to fill the room, which catches everyone by surprise. Quasar tells the others that he was caught by surprise and got a lung full. Tigra and Starfox begin to caught and fall to the ground with the already unconscious Jack of Hearts and Photon. Quasar falls and Thor is the only one left standing. He tells the Ruul that his lungs are not like the lungs of a mortal. He shall fight on until the Ruul free the Avengers.
The Ruul begin to chuckle and, in English, they tell Thor that they are fully aware of his power. They know that he can go for days without breathing. That is why they used a gas that is absorbed through the skin. Upon hearing this, Thor’s knees begin to feel weak. His thoughts become dizzy and unclear. His vision blurs and darkness overcomes him as he falls to the floor unconscious.
In her home in New Mexico, Peggy Chandler sits at home and watches the news as she reads the latest issue of People Weekly. The news reporter tells the audience that he is reporting from Houston, Texas after the evacuation of New York City and Atlanta. Satellite images show that the Ego-mass has spread over most of Canada, the west coast and as far south in the United States as San Francisco. Most of the Midwest is now gone. In Europe and Asia, similar reports are coming in.
Peggy looks at the television and sees the Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Goliath, Vision and Triathlon fighting an army of aliens in Manhattan. The report is about to switch to commentary from Triathlon, when Peggy has enough. She slams her People Weekly, which has a feature article on Triathlon, onto her coffee table. She tells herself that, if the world dies, there is nothing she can do about it. However, if it doesn’t, she wants answers and she is going to get them.
She puts her coat on and grabs her keys. She walks past her scrapbook, which is littered with newspaper clippings about the mysterious 3-D Man. She calls her sons and leaves them messages on their answering machines. She packs a bag and leaves. If the airports are closed then she will use the highways, even if she has to drive all the way to New York City.
In an unknown location, Thor wakes up and his first instinct is to flex his muscles. However, once he does, he is shocked by a feedback system. Thor opens his eyes more and finds that he is shackled by a machine in the center of a room. As his feet are Quasar and Jack of Hearts, who are also shackled and on their knees. Behind him are the restrained Photon, Moondragon, Tigra and Starfox. The former two also have their eyes covered.
Starfox apologizes and tells Thor that if he knew he was awake then he would have warned him about the shackles having some sort of feedback system, which turn their powers against them. Thor wonders why the Ruul have imprisoned them instead of killing them. A wall to the chamber slides away and a green light washes over the Avengers. An ominous voice is heard.
The Supreme Intelligence tells the Avengers that their deaths would not best serve the plans he has. Moondragon realizes that what she sensed was true. The Ruul are the Kree. Flabbergasted, Moondragon asks the Supreme Intelligence how it is possible. The Supreme Intelligence tells Moondragon that it is quite simple and, since he is in a good mood, he will explain to her how it happened.
The Supreme Intelligence begins by telling the Avengers that the Kree’s greatest victory can be found in their greatest failure. The Kree were once a formidable and dominant warrior-race. However, they were at the end of their evolutionary path. Other races would soon leave the Kree behind them and this was unacceptable. He arranged a war with the Shi’ar and made sure a Nega-bomb would be built. The bomb was detonated in the middle of the Kree Empire and the Shi’ar won.
The Kree were enslaved, but the nega-radiation would jumpstart the Kree evolution. It would take millennia to show results, but the Supreme Intelligence is eternal, so he could wait peacefully. As it turned out, he did not have to wait. Ironically, it was the Avengers who gave him the key to victory. A group of time displace Avengers were sucked into a conflict between Kang, Immortus and the Time-Keepers. The Avengers won and Kang destroyed the Time-Keepers.
In the end, the Supreme Intelligence gained what everyone was fighting for; the Forever Crystal. The Forever Crystal is a cosmic artifact with the ability to bend time to the wielder’s will. He used the crystal on the Kree, which led to countless millennia of evolution to pass in moments. The outward appearance change was not the most significant, though.
The Kree gained the power of forced evolution within them. They could reshape themselves to adapt to any circumstance. Simply put, they can now tailor their bodies to their will. Now the Kree have become powerful warriors and crafty thinkers who can change to succeed in any environment. The Forever Crystal disappeared and fell through time again, but it had already served its purpose.
The Supreme Intelligence was left to put his plan into action. The unrecognizable Kree were now free to integrate themselves into the affairs of the intergalactic council under the ruse of the Ruul. He then used his immense mental abilities to free Ego the Living Planet from his imprisonment. Then, he sent Ego on a rampage throughout space to force events along a path he had predestined. Soon, Earth became a prison planet, like he wanted it to be.
To quarantine the system, watch towers were erected to encircle the system. These towers would create a barrier that was impenetrable. However, these towers were built and controlled by the Ruul. The towers too were just preparation for another event. It was the Supreme Intelligence’s intent to transport the Ego-Spore to Earth without the council’s knowledge. He intended for Ego to break free and to absorb the Earth. That is why the council cannot look at Earth too closely. The Supreme Intelligence tells the Avengers that their deaths would seem far more than a coincidence and would make them scrutinize the imprisonment of Earth far more than he would want them. It would better suit the needs of the Kree if the council found the Avenger’s “brain-blasted shells” on a Shi’ar world that has been scoured of life.
Thor is in disbelief over what the Supreme Intelligence has said, but the Kree being continues. The council will find them as murderers and menaces and will take no action as Ego expands and destroys Earth. That will forever end any human challenge towards the Kree. This will ultimately lead to the downfall of the council, though. The Earth will eventually overtake Ego, because the Kree have planted power-spires all around Earth. Once the spires are activated they will drain away the power of the reborn Ego, leaving him a slave of the Kree. The power that will be taken from Ego will be transported to the watchtowers and will become a weapon of the Kree. The Kree will be unstoppable and no one will be able to stop the reestablishment of the Kree Empire!
With that said, the panel closes and the Avengers are left alone once again. Horrified, Photon tells her companions that they can’t let the Kree get away. They need to get word to Earth to let them know what is coming. Weakly, Quasar tells Photon that he is trying, but the feedback bonds are keeping him dizzy. He cannot use his Q-bands at full strength. However, if he can just get one microburst out, maybe it can reach Earth and the Avengers.
At Avengers Mansion, Captain America and the Avengers look at U.S.Agent, Duane Freeman, Valerie Cooper and Henry Gyrich in disbelief. U.S.Agent tells Captain America that he is serious. The alien council isn’t trying to imprison the people of Earth. They are trying to kill humanity. However, he is not going to let them do that and, more so, he has the authority to make it stick. S.T.A.R.S. already has the alien criminals who are willing to fight for them and, under federal authority, he is hereby commandeering the Avengers and as many of Earth’s other heroes as they can find. They are taking the war to the enemy and are going to shove their plans down their “stinkin’ alien throats!”
Jack of Hearts, Moondragon, Photon, Quasar, Starfox, Thor, Tigra (all Avengers Infinity)
Captain America (former Avenger)Goliath, Scarlet Witch, Triathlon, Vision, Warbird, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers)U.S.Agent (S.T.A.R.S.)
Imperial Majestrix Lilandra Neramani
Duane FreemanHenry GyrichValerie Cooper
Peggy ChandlerVarious alien assassins, delegates and guards
This story is part of the company-wide Maximum Security storyline. It continues from X-Men Unlimited #29 and concludes in Maximum Security #3.
The Avengers Infinity squad’s adventures can be found in Avengers Infinity #1-4. On the Wasp’s request in Maximum Security #2, they came to seek aid to get answers.
This is the first and only mentioning of other planets besides Earth being affected by the Maximum Security program. Previously, it seemed that only Earth was being imprisoned and not the whole solar system, including Starfox’s home, Titan.
Though Mr. Busiek tries to build up the suspense and makes the revelation of the Supreme Intelligence being in charge a shocker, the Ruul being the Kree was already revealed in Maximum Security #2. However, this issue is the only issue in the crossover that contains the entire plan of the Supreme Intelligence.
A group of Avengers from various time periods in Avengers history collided with Kang and the Time Keepers in Avengers Forever #1-12.