(New York, 1959)
Nick Fury has found a stranger waiting for him at his apartment. The man quickly introduces himself as Powell McTeague. He smiles nervously and says he thinks they are meant to be great friends.
Fury lowers the sword at his throat and asks him who sent him and why. McTeague replies that there’s no need to play John Wayne for him. Fury tells him John Wayne is a draft-dodging chicken-hawk who let other men do the real fighting while he stormed the beach at Malibu for Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox. “Perhaps Errol Flynn, then…” replies McTeague. Fury asks him not to get started on Flynn. He’s still waiting for an answer.
McTeague informs that General Hill sent him on the QT. He explains that the general would like Fury to make a strictly unofficial visit to an old colleague of his. Fury knows that by “unofficial” he means that, if he screws up, Uncle Sam has never heard of him. McTeague adds that this visit is to continue his secret war on the reemerging Nazis who are committed to shoving a Fourth Reich down their unwilling throats. Fury asks if, besides the obvious, McTeague has any idea what the Skull/8 thing is about. McTeague admits he hasn’t a clue, but he hopes this little jaunt of his might shed some light on the situation. Fury takes a letter from an envelope and reads it.
(Hassenstadt, the capital city of Latveria, soon after)
The place is a tiny nation cloaked in mystery and trapped in poverty, ignorance and suspicion. It’s waiting, whether it knows it or not, for a powerful man to transform it overnight. Fury strides through the airport in his best suit and is delighted when he meets Erik Koenig, who tells him that his taste in clothes has improved. Fury says that the last time he saw Koenig he was blind drunk and threatening to climb the Eiffel Tower. “From the outside,” replies Koenig. The two men bounce off each other like they’d never been apart. Fury laughs at the fact that his climb was stopped by the gendarmes who took a poop on his party and hauled them off to Le ‘Oosegow. “Who said the krauts never let loose?” grins Fury. Koenig reminds him that Fury did, which is why he tried to climb Eiffel’s tower. “That and the eight Courvoisiers,” replies Fury.
They head off and meet up with the Blonde Phantom for drinks. Koenig informs Fury that he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1946 and was immediately vetted into the Foreign Service. Fury presumes he was hoping for maybe Rome or Paris, but instead they dumped him in Dracula’s weekend getaway. Koenig reckons Latveria has its charms, not the least of which is working with Miss Mason. Louise tells Fury she’s pleased to meet him. She’s been an admirer for years. Fury thinks that makes him sound like he oughta creak, but she adds that she’s a mother of two so they’ve both been around the block.
Fury asks what an all-American mom is doing in Latveria. Louise explains that Erik told her they’ve been fighting a clandestine war against the swarm of Nazis sweeping out of the shadows. Latveria seems to be a gateway for their comeback.
She explains that she’s been “dating” Dieter Skul, a onetime oberstgruppenfuhrer who’s been hiding out in Hassenstadt. He’s been passing himself off as Dieter Leberkase, an itinerant Dutch “marital aids distributor” (bondage paraphernalia). He was always taking phone calls in private, despite whatever in flagrante delecto he was in with li’l old her. The last time, while they were engaged in a little semi-naked kinkiness, he caught her eavesdropping which forced her to leap out of his window and into the water. She went from liebchen to liability in one fell swoop. Skul is still out there, she adds, but as far as he knows she’s at the bottom of his moat. And… he’s not getting his underwear back.
Fury presumes that she and Erik think that Skul is the tip of a Nazi iceberg. Louise says it looks that way to her. Erik asks her to show him the medallions. She hands him one and Fury informs them that his team were all hit by rats wearing the symbol back in NYC. He asks if her boyfriend Skul is trying to grab some of the Red Skull’s glory. Erik thinks that would be obvious, but Louise says Skul is strictly small time. Fury reckons they’re going to have to dig a little deeper in Hassenstadt.
They head to the Wakandan Embassy and speak with a gentleman named K’Shanei. He explains that his emperor vanished from his retreat while the U.S. State Department officials were in Wakanda. He doesn’t know who is actually responsible. Fury tells him that he knows he isn’t into coincidences any more than he is. He served with one of his emperors versus Il Duce in Ethiopia. The Black Panther was no lightweight. K’Shanei agrees. But, part of the process by which a new king is deemed worthy of the Black Panther is a spiritual retreat. “No ransom note. No calls?” asks Fury. K’Shanei says no, but the silence is a message unto itself. Koenig asks if he might be overreacting, but K’shanei responds by paraphrasing Arthur Conan Doyle. “It’s the dog that doesn’t bark that tells the story.”
Fury asks him why he hasn’t lodged a formal complaint with the State Department. He replies that it’s because they have no formal relationship with the United States. Koenig adds that they’re in the process of very delicate negotiations in that regard. K’Shanei puts it simply. He isn’t accusing the United States of any complicity. Rather, adds Koenig, the Wakandan Council is convinced that the culprit used the covert State Department visit as a diversion. K’Shanei says that they believe the fascist renaissance he and his fellows have been fighting is responsible for the abduction. Fury realizes that Wakanda has just secretly signed on to finance the Avengers. It’s time for him to call home and round up the posse.
(Washington D. C.)
Dum Dum Dugan drives General Hill and two agents to a safe house and parks up. Dugan asks him to stand back and let the agents do their job, but Hill follows them to the door and replies that he doesn’t need a babysitter. One of the agents kicks the door through and they enter. Inside, they find no one. It looks like the Nazis have someone on the inside who tipped them off. The agents continue into the building. One of them smells something funny, and his colleague’s mouth drops as he sees what’s in the next room. General Hill is brushed aside and he tumbles down the brownstone’s steps, landing with a thump.
He composes himself and enters with Dugan. The room is covered in blood and excrement. It’s a pitiful sight. They leave for the car. He tells Dugan that they’ve been betrayed. Dugan replies that it’s not the first time and certainly won’t be the last. Unseen by all, Geoffrey Syndeham, the man who posed as a State Department official in Wakanda, slinks away into the growing darkness.
Nick Fury and the blonde Phantom head through the streets of Hassenstadt. They both know that they will be nailed if they get caught there. Erik would have to pretend he’s never even heard of them. Louise mentions that their job is to clean out the rats nest without getting any attention from the police. Fury adds that, according to her boyfriend Skul’s files, whoever is bivouacked there is, and he quotes, “The poignant legacy of Herr Des Todes.” They smash into a building and Louise reckons they should rain on a little Nazi poignancy. “Herr Des Todes my keister,” replies Fury. “That’s kraut for Lord of Death… and these guys are the Hollow Men.”
They both start shooting at a group of people in the room. Louise reckons they look like garden variety zombies to her, and the last she heard they are already dead. Fury asks her to stay cool. Bullets may not stop them permanently, but it’ll sure as hell slow them down long enough for them to come up with a plan. Bullets hit home but some of them go astray. Louise asks if the Lord of Death is a fifth rate fifth columnist in New York. Fury says yes. He ran his operation in his old neighborhood of Yancy Street. He personally was with the Howlers fighting their way north through Italy when Captain America took him and his Hollow Men down. The way his kid brother told it, the blast rattled windows in Winchester.
Stray bullets hit the gas pipes behind the lurching Hollow Men and the whole place explodes. Fury grabs the Blonde Phantom and throws them to the floor to escape injury and Fury reckons that could have gone better. They hear sirens approaching. “So much for keeping a low profile,” sighs Louise. Fury says that on the upside, those old-fashioned sirens give them plenty of time to split the scene. When they get there the first thing they’ll find is the Skul’s papers. Louise takes a look at them and asks where they came from. Fury admits that they’re as phony as a three dollar bill. Erik’s got a local guy who fakes exit visas for Latverians looking to blow town. Guy does great work if you ask him. As they exit the scene, Louise asks where he was when she was single and still looking for trouble.
(the South Pacific)
A large ship moves through the moonlit waters. On board, apart from a team of soldiers are Baron Blood and Brain Drain; veterans of Hitler’s super-powered secret army. The two men have become friends since the collapse of the Reich and wait for the inevitable day of reckoning. Baron Blood leaps across the deck and tells his colleague that he can call him mad, but he smells the presence of magic. Celtic sorcery and Kabbalistic witchcraft. Brain Drain leans against the side of the ship looking across the ocean. He replies that he can’t smell a thing, but his eyes work perfectly. There is definitely something queer afoot. He believes they are about to be boarded.
Right on cue, a wave erupts from the surface carrying four passengers. Controlled by Namora, she brings Kraven, Sabretooth and Dominic Fortune along for the ride. The wave hits the ship and the four Avengers board. Kraven complains that one minute McTeague is using Fury’s credit line to fit them out in clothing, and the next they’re being dumped in the drink halfway between Australia and Madripoor. Creed blames the Englishman and Fortune agrees. Namora tells them that, as soon as they stop whining, they have fascists to fight.
Sabretooth leaps on Baron Blood, who calls him a “Yankee freak.” Creed informs him that he’s Canadian as Namora takes on Brain Drain. “Mongrel slut,” he calls her. “That’s your highness to you, peasant,” she replies. Kraven and Fortune open fire on the soldiers. As he blasts away, Kraven asks what the smell is. Fortune asks him to keep it to himself but he threw up when they hit. Fortune then turns and notices a colony of bats approaching fast.
Namora’s dominion over the lower orders stops at the shoreline. Kraven is more comfortable killing four-legged predators while Dominic Fortune has always favored the two-legged variety. Sabretooth, on the other hand, will kill anyone and anything. Baron Blood and Brain Drain stand back and let the creatures soften up the Avengers for them. Unfortunately, as they look on they see Creed savagely tear the bats apart, Fortune shoot them from the sky, Namora punch the living daylights out of them and Kraven slice and dice them with his knife.
The Avengers look up and see a flash of bright yellow light and a silhouette standing in front of it. “Like I said,” groans Creed, “It was the Englishman.” McTeague corrects him, saying he is Welsh on his dad’s side and Litvak on his mum’s. Now that’s all settled, what say they send those misguided monsters to a well-deserved hell and be done with it!