Avengers (3rd series) #11

Issue Date: 
December 1998
Story Title: 
…Always an Avenger!

Kurt Busiek (writer), George Perez (penciler), Al Vey & bob Wiacek (inkers), Tom Smith (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterers), Greg Schigiel (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

A pensive Scarlet Witch returns to Avengers Mansion. Lost in thought about the knowledge she gained from her visit to Agatha Harkness, she is shocked to discover that the Mansion has been busted up, and Jarvis is a prisoner, at the hands of several long-dead Avengers: Hellcat, Thunderstrike, Captain Marvel, Mockingbird, Dr. Druid, the Swordsman, and, most shockingly, Wonder Man. The deceased Avengers swiftly take the Scarlet Witch down. At Central Park, several heroes try to bust through the Grim Reaper’s force field in the wake of the Avengers Day Parade, but no one has any success. Inside the force field, the other current Avengers are trapped in the Grim Reaper’s Hell on Earth. The Grim Reaper gives a recap of his and Wonder Man’s history, explaining why he hates his brother so much, and reveals that Wonder Man is the link to the other Avengers being back on Earth, and that he is going to let the world drown in his despair as he absorbs the despair people are feeling at the possibility of their Avengers being lost once more. Back at Avengers Mansion, the Scarlet Witch tries to make sense of the strange events unfolding before her, and remembers her dead friends, before reaching out to them with her powers, confusing them, and confronting Wonder Man briefly when he cannot bring himself to hit her. The deceased Avengers take their leave, and Agatha Harkness appears suddenly, forcing the Scarlet Witch to remain at Avengers Mansion, even though she wants to go to Central Park and help her friends. Help arrives though - in the form of the deceased Avengers, their forms restored to their natural appearances, they set their friends free, and join them in battling the demonic hordes that the Grim Reaper unleashes. At Avengers Mansion, Agatha encourages the Scarlet Witch to reach out to Wonder Man and to her feelings for him, to let them flow to the surface. Wanda tries hard, and recalls various encounters with Wonder Man over the years and how she has always felt for him. But, in doing so, this begins to bring Wonder Man back from the dead, thus severing his link to the deceased Avengers. As they begin to fade from the land of the living, Thunderstrike asks Thor to check on his son, while Hellcat appears to regret her suicide, and Mockingbird tries to relay a message she wants the Avengers to give to Hawkeye, but she doesn’t have time. Thor confronts the Grim Reaper one-on-one, while the Scarlet Witch finally admits she loves Wonder Man, and gives in to that realization, thus bringing him back to life, completely. Through a rift into Central Park, Wonder Man attacks his brother, and eventually pulls him in to reality. Later, Iron Man is admitted to hospital for injures and the Avengers suspect the Grim Reaper will be put in an asylum, while they are happy for the Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man, who are spending time together - under the watchful eye of the jealous Vision!

Full Summary: 

Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch is lost in thought as she drives down the West Side Highway into Manhattan. There are no radios or TVs at Whisper Hill where she has been visiting Agatha Harkness, and the radio in her classic car has been long defunct - so Wanda doesn’t know how the Avengers Day parade went. Wanda reaches the private warehouse that the Avengers use as a garage, hoping the celebration was a success - but her mind is mostly occupied with what she has learnt today.

Wanda has learnt that her power, long assumed to be an uncontrollable disruption of probabilities, according to Agatha Harkness is the ability to channel mystic energy, chaos magic, which can indeed cause the effects she is so familiar with, but with enough time, enough concentration, Wanda can do more - imposing her will over the wilderness of the world, over nature. The thought of it makes her both exhilarated and nervous. Wanda parks her car in her allocated space, and makes her way through the large garage down to the subway tunnel which has transport for taking Avengers to the river, or to the Mansion.

Taking the tube to the Mansion, Wanda recalls how Agatha also told her that the reason she has been able to summon the late Simon “Wonder Man” Williams back to life, is that he loves her more than life itself - that Wanda is his anchor to the world of the living, and that to permanently bring him back to life, all Wanda has to do is return that love. But Wanda isn’t so sure. Arriving at the elevator which will take Wanda up from the basement tube to the Mansion proper, Wanda never got to see any of the Police cordons surrounding the Avengers Mansion.

A pity that, for as the elevator dings open at the ground floor, Wanda goes wide-eyed at the scene which greets her: ‘Come on in, Wanda - we were just getting started!’ exclaims the ionic Wonder Man, arms outstretched, motioning to the destruction - and odd assemblage - surrounding him. ‘What? Simon - Swordsman - Dr. Druid -? But this…this isn’t possible!’ Wanda gasps.
Indeed, several deceased Avengers flank Wonder Man - Dr. Anthony Druid, Eric “Thunderstrike” Masterton, Jacques Duquesne a.k.a. the original Swordsman, Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse-Barton, and Mar-vell the Kree Captain Marvel. Reanimated from the beyond, their bodies remain corpse like. Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler sits, tied to a chair, and Mockingbird, holds her battle staves to his throat, as he tries to mumble something to Wanda, but his mouth is taped shut.

Wanda declares that she doesn’t know what is going on here, or who they really are, ‘But the men and women you’re posing as are all dead!’ she shouts, ordering them to set Jarvis free. Wanda’s hands instinctively come up, ready to cast a hex, until she catches the glimpse of something - someone - out of the corner of her eye - Patsy Walker .a.k.a. Hellcat, who swings down on a chandelier and scratches Wanda across the face with her clawed boots. ’What’s the matter, Red - not happy to see your old pal Hellcat?’ Patsy exclaims. Wanda screams a bit as Patsy’s claws strike her.

Wonder Man tells the others to be careful, informing them that the Scarlet Witch is more powerful than they know. ‘You worry too much!’ Captain Marvel exclaims as he blasts Wanda into some rubble, pointing out that however powerful she has become since their time on Earth, she cannot use her powers is she is off-balance. ‘Or better, yet - unconscious!’ Mockingbird snarls as she rushes over to Wanda and cruelly smacks her in the head with her battle stave. Wanda tumbles to the ground, wearily exclaiming that this makes no sense. ‘What happened to…Avengers?’ she asks. ‘My dear girl, we are the Avengers. Or we are now at any rate’ Dr. Druid boasts, explaining that they took this mansion as their rightful spoils. ‘And as for our predecessors, well…’.

Central Park, where, only hours ago, it was the place of festivities and joy, as throngs of well-wishes crowded in to watch the Avengers Day ceremonies. But that was before the Grim Reaper showed up, and now, behind the mystic force-wall that forced dignitaries, newsmen and onlookers alike from Central Park, the Avengers are trapped inside - in a very different Central Park. Eric Williams a.k.a. the diabolical Grim Reaper grins as he looks at the Avengers - chained to pyres of tormented souls. ‘Now this feels good!’ he shouts. ‘None of you understand do you? You probably can’t - none of you know what it’s like to be the bad son - to never be good enough no matter what you did!’.

Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America, Thor, Tony “Iron Man” Stark, Vance “Justice” Astrovik, Angelica Jones a.k.a. Firestar, along with Reserve Avengers Dr. Hank Pym a.k.a. Giant-Man and Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp, are helpless, while the Vision’s holographic image appears distorted in the projector that the Grim Reaper holds in one hand, while his scythe clings to Thor’s helmet. Vance looks at his teammates and sees that Iron Man is slumping awkwardly, and is so still that Vance cannot tell if he is breathing or not. ‘I know he was badly injured - but I hope that’s all, that our battle with those resurrected Avengers hasn’t put him any worse off!’.

(Shown with various flashback illustrations, narrated by the Grim Reaper)

‘Well I know what it’s like! I know what it’s like to be beaten by my father - to be ignored, in favor of Simon, the good one!’ Eric shouts. He tells the Avengers that he used to try to loosen Simon up, to shake him out of his goody-goody attitude, but it never worked. ‘And I knew what that said about me!’. The Grim Reaper tells the Avengers that he was a bad - rotten from birth. ‘I went on to become a hoodlum - a mobster, while Simon got Dad’s company!’ Eric reminds the Avengers that even Simon messed up - when he embezzled and got caught. ‘Everyone thought I’d done it!’.

‘And what did he get for his crime? He got given super powers and died a hero, saving the lives of the Avengers!’ The Grim Reaper snarls that he got powers too - to avenge Simon, but he died too, in time. Except, Simon came back, a hero, once again, and served as an Avenger. ‘Not me! When I died…I came back as a monster!’. The Grim Reaper remarks that his sins weighted him down, further and further and further, turning him into a mockery - while Simon died again, and came back, and again, always forgiven, always getting another chance. ‘How I hated him for that!’.

The Grim Reaper reveals that, in recent months, as Simon fluctuated back and forth between life and death, the fires of hatred grew within him, ‘And I knew I could breach the barriers he’d weakened - breach them myself - and bring at least the essences of others along with me!’

(Present / Reality)

The distorted form of the Vision declares that the Grim Reaper’s stories are warped, causing the Grim Reaper to snarl at the android he has always hated. ‘I knew then that I could bring the Hell I’d suffered all my life to Earth - and I did!’ he exclaims, ignoring the Vision’s statement. The Vision continues, remarking that Simon was never the favored one, ‘He’s told us…how he always felt unworthy…felt that he had to prove himself…but never could!’. The Grim Reaper tells the Vision to shut up and exclaims ‘To think I once thought of you as my brother, too - just because your android mind has Simon’s brain-patterns!’.

Eric shouts that Simon had it all - ‘And I had nothing!’ He exclaims that the Vision’s yapping holographic form isn’t any more substantial than Simon’s on-again/off-again energy form, and shoves his scythe through the projector, causing the Vision’s holographic form to vanish. ‘And it’s my time!’ the Grim Reaper announces as he turns back to the Avengers, exclaiming that he cannot hold it in any longer - can’t suffer his pain while Simon gets everything - all the second chances. ‘I’ve got to share it!’. He boasts that he will, for although his realm, his little Hell on Earth - is small, at the moment ,but as the world is watching their heroes lie helpless, they will despair, just as he has. His eyes narrow as he reveals that the more people despair, the more that will feed him, and the larger his Hell on Earth will get - and then the world will share his pain. ‘The world will drown in it!’

Indeed, outside the dome covering Central Park, the hosts of the Avengers Day Parade - Megan McLaren, Chili Storm and the Stunt Master - are keeping the world in the loop, while other heroes attempt to crack the Grim Reaper’s force field. The Stunt Master announces that the world watches in horror today, fearing that the Avengers, so recently restored to them, will be lost again. Chili reports that there is still a chance, as New York’s other heroes try to break in and free the Avengers. The Human Torch exclaims that even his nova-bursts aren’t getting through, as the youngest member of the Fantastic Four blasts the force field with his powerful flames. Mr. Fantastic announces that the protonic canon is not having any more effect than any of the other weapons he has tried, while the Thing pounds the green energy field with his fists, encouraging everyone to keep it up, ‘We ain’t licked yet!’ he exclaims.

Invisible Woman tries her power against it, declaring that as they are fighting a force field, she should be able to project her own force field into it, to shut it down, only to discover that her power just splashes out against it. Spider-Man and Daredevil swing about near the top of the force field, and Spider-Man exclaims that there has to be some weak spot. Daredevil replies that he cannot sense anything except smooth endless force.

Megan McLaren of Channel 3 approaches Mr. Fantastic and asks him if he has an estimate of when the Avengers will be freed. Mr. Fantastic replies that he doesn’t know, explaining that they have thrown everything in the Fantastic Four’s arsenal at it - and he cannot think of anything else to try. Mr. Fantastic’s words send a shudder through the crowd watching. Some of them give in to despair - and thus, the force field - Hell on Earth - pushes outward.

Meanwhile, back at the darkened Avengers Mansion…the Scarlet Witch sits, tied to a char, her hands wrapped behind her so she cannot conjure a hex - the dead Avengers stand around her in a circle. They have been very specific, telling her how the Grim Reaper loosed them, and now they are bringing his pain - his despair - to the world. They have told Wanda how they will murder millions, ravage cities and destroy monuments - but first, she will die at their hands - and they will display her broken body to the crowds outside. But Wanda has said nothing to them in reply.

The Scarlet Witch knows these men and women - these heroes. She worked with them when they were alive - and grieved for them when they died:

Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree, dead of cancer after a lifetime of heroism. ‘You lived, Witch - you lived when we died!’ the Honorary Avenger exclaims.

The Swordsman, who laid down his life to save the woman he loved, Mantis. ‘You got the glory - and all we got was a cold grave!’.

Dr. Druid - murdered, his body then burned almost beyond recognition. ‘Well, we’re taking back what we’ve earned - what you’ve had!’.

Hellcat - Committed suicide after being driven mad by her demonic husband, Hellstorm. ‘We’re taking out share! Our right!’ Patsy exclaims.

Mockingbird - Died saving her husband, Hawkeye, from the dread Mephisto. ‘The world will know our pain, Wanda Maximoff!’

Thunderstrike - Sacrificed himself to contain the evil of the Asgardian Blood-Axe. ‘They’ll know our pain - and despair!’.

Then there is Wonder Man. He died preventing an alien invasion of Earth. Wanda looks at him as he stands silent, apart from the others, and Wanda remembers his kindness, his devotion to her over these past few months. Wanda thinks about what Agatha said to her - not about loving him, which seems foolish to Wanda, but about her powers and how they work - how if she concentrates, she can direct nature. Wanda closes her eyes - and concentrates. Hard. She feels the power seething within her - but she doesn’t release it.

The dead Avengers look worried. ‘What…’ ‘Something…’ ‘My head…’ ‘My heart…’. Wanda concentrates harder. Beads of sweet drip down her face, as Wonder Man suddenly detects something in his head also. ‘Something - something wrong!’ Captain Mar-Vell exclaims. ‘No…something right!’ Hellcat declares. ‘What are you doing, Wanda? WHAT?’ Wonder Man shouts at Wanda. ‘Whatever it is - it won’t work!’ he exclaims. ‘Oh, won’t it?’ Wanda replies, looking at Simon straight in the face, she exclaims ‘You’re not yourselves! Any of you!’.

Wanda exclaims that the things they are all saying are not coming from the Avengers she knew - but from the Grim Reaper. Wanda admits that she doesn’t know what he has done exactly, but she can feel it. ‘He’s created bodies for you - brought back your spirits - but they’re all tangled up, all knotted with his anger and pain!’. Wanda exclaims that she doesn’t care what the Grim Reaper has done to them, because she knows the truth - that deep down, each of them are Avengers to the cores. ‘And I’m going to reach those cores! I’m going to break you through to yourselves!’.

‘NO!’ booms Wonder Man, raising a fist, he snaps ‘You were a tool - a dupe! My resurrections weren’t your doing - they were Eric all along, just to sucker you in! I’ll kill you - knock your head clean off!’ he shouts. ‘If you really want to, Simon - I can’t stop you. Go ahead - kill me!’ Wanda replies. But Wonder Man’s hand doesn’t move, so Wanda continues talking to him, telling him that if he is really the Reaper’s creature, if everything he has said and done since she brought him back was a sham, then he will have no trouble killing her.

But Wonder Man’s hand stays frozen, ‘What are you waiting for, Simon? Kill me if you can. WELL?’ Wanda shouts. The dead Avengers suddenly glow green, and Simon goes wide-eyed. Moments later, outside Avengers Mansion, confused Police officers and civilians watch as the deceased Avenger take flight across the darkening sky. ‘Oh man. I don’t know what that’s all about - but I’m betting it’s not good!’ one of them exclaims.

Back inside, the ropes binding Wanda bend to her will like wheat in a stiff breeze, and she raises her hands, now free, before rubbing her sore wrists as she exclaims that she has to tend to Jarvis, then find the Avengers. ‘NO!’ a voice booms. ‘Huh? Who - Agatha?’ Wanda gasps as she sees Ebony step into the dim light, followed by the aged sorceress. ‘I don’t know how you got here from Whisper Hill - but my place is with my teammates!’ Wanda exclaims. ‘No, child. Your place - for the safety of the world - must be here!’ Agatha informs her former pupil.

Back near Central Park, Chili Storm announces that the heroes’ efforts continue to try and break into the force field, while her co-host, the Stunt Master, has now joined the efforts. ‘For on-the-spot coverage, I turn you over to Megan McLaren’. Megan announces that the Stunt-Master is going to use his jet-assisted stuntcylce 2000 - ‘He’ll be WHAT?’ gasps the Invisible Woman, interrupting Megan. Spider-Man and Daredevil express their concern for this also, and the Stunt-Master speeds through the air towards the force field, exclaiming that he cannot sit by and watch, that he has got to try and do something. The Human Torch flies up near the Stunt-Master, ‘Wait! You can’t -’ he begins, but the Stunt-Master isn’t listening, and admits that his jet-thrusters probably are not enough, but that he has to try.

The Stunt-Master’s efforts are pointless though, as he smashes into the Grim Reaper’s powerful force field. Crowds of people watch on as he bounces backwards, ‘Got him!’ the Invisible Woman exclaims as she catches the Stunt-Master in a large bubble, ‘What was he thinking, trying something like that?’ she mumbles. The Thing tells his teammate that the Stunt-Master was just trying to help, like the rest of them. He points out that the Stunt-Master didn’t do any worse than the rest of them, when, suddenly, he notices the deceased Avengers arrive. ‘Oh man. Those are the guys who tore outta here earlier - I hope this ain’t more bad news!’ he exclaims as the deceased Avengers fly through the force field.

‘ERIC!’ shouts Simon as he and the other deceased Avengers drop to the ground. ‘Ah, you’re back?!’ The Grim Reaper exclaims, before asking them if they destroyed Avengers Mansion. ‘Did you destroy the UN? Quickly - tell me what you’ve huh?!’ Eric begins to ask, stopping when he sees Thunderstrike throw his mace. ‘Why tell you, Reaper - when it’s much easier to show you what we’re here for!’ Thunderstrike’s mace shatters the chains binding Thor. Dr. Druid uses his psionic powers to untie Giant’ Man’s chains, Captain Marvel fries Iron Man’s chains, The Swordsman slashes Captain America free, Hellcat unties a surprised Justice’s chains, while Mockingbird uses her staves to set Firestar free, and Wonder Man helps the Wasp, before turning to his brother and telling him that he made one mistake. ‘I’m sure you thought it poetic to use us as your puppets - but we’re AVENGERS!’ he shouts.

‘And Avengers will oppose you - to the bitter end - and beyond!’ Simon exclaims as Avengers past and present stand together. Restored to their human appearances, the deceased Avengers stand strong and proud as they were when they were alive. Wonder Man tells his brother to surrender. ‘You only started being the Grim Reaper because you thought I was dead - that the Avengers killed me. But those times are over - we both know that. Let use help you - let’s put an end to all this enmity’, Simon exclaims.

‘NO!’ screams the furious Grim Reaper. ‘This isn’t going to turn into one of your triumphs! Not another chance for Simon to play the hero and Eric to play the heavy!’. The Grim Reaper casts his scythe about, green energies rise from the ground, and he exclaims that there will be no more second chances, no more comebacks. ‘You’ve got to suffer as much as I have - and you will!’ Eric screams, declaring that as long as he can still rend the fabric between realms, and bring through the denizens of the other side, the Avengers have no hope at all. ‘I can bring through as many as it takes - as many as it takes to slay you all!’ the Grim Reaper shouts as horrid demons emerge from the green energies.

‘You’re wrong, Reaper! There’s always hope!’ exclaims Thunderstrike as he and the other past and present Avengers begin combating the demons. ‘He is correct, madman!’ exclaims the Swordsman. ‘The Avengers stand for that hope - fight for that hope…’ ‘And they never -never - give up!’ Captain Mar-Vell exclaims, blasting the demons with his energies. Iron Man exclaims that it isn’t that easy, and even though he blasts the demons with his repulsor rays, Firestar notices that Iron Man cannot even stand. ‘But he’s still fighting - with everything he’s got!’ Angelica exclaims, amazed.

Justice fights near his girlfriend and exclaims ‘Thunderstrike - Mockingbird - all of them! They died - they made the ultimate sacrifice - but now, they’re…’ his voice trails off, and Angelica replies ‘Yeah, Vance - they are. You know - I think I’m starting to understand what you see in these guys!’.

Back at Avengers Mansion, ‘What do you mean, Agatha? The battle’s out there! I’ve got to go to them - got to help them!’ Wanda exclaims. Calmly, her voice never raised, Agatha replies ‘Ah, my child…there is still so much you don’t understand!’. Agatha remarks that Wanda spends so much time in turmoil, thinking about what she should be doing, instead of trusting her feelings and simply being what she is. ‘Your true battle…like all battles, ultimately…lies in here’ Agatha remarks, placing a hand on Wanda’s heart.

Wanda watches the aged witch intently, listening, as Agatha explains that she must reach out to the man - ‘To your Simon. For the Reaper’s power in this plane is bound up in him’. Wanda hangs her head, and replies that she thinks she understands. ‘You said the boundaries between life and death were weak. Due to Simon’s being stuck in-between, and the Reaper’s using that. So if I can close that rift - bring back Simon fully - then the Reaper’s power will be broken’. ‘Not quite, my pet, not quite…but it’s as good a place as any to start’. Agatha replies.

Wanda concentrates once again, and the power flows from her heart - wild and untamed - and she reaches through it, thinking of Simon, sending her thoughts out to him - she can see him - she’s even with him, across the distance, she can see him fight the Grim Reaper ‘Give it up, Eric!’ he shouts. ‘NEVER! It’s my time, Simon! My turn! I won’t be cast aside again!’. Wanda realizes that it is like Agatha said - she has to love Simon to bring him through - has to return his feelings - and so she casts her mind back….

(Wanda’s memories, shown with various flashback scenes)

Wanda recalls how kind Simon was after his first resurrection - kind and attentive. ‘You really think the Avengers’ll like these Christmas presents, Wanda? I’ve been gone so long -’ Wanda interrupts, walking alongside Simon, carrying several gifts, and assures him that they will love them. Wanda reminds herself that she was married back then - married to a man who shared Simon’s brain patterns. Wanda recalls how, in battle, Simon was so nervous, so vulnerable, despite his power - so similar to the Vision.

Wanda’s mind flashes back to a more recent memory - Morgan Le Fay’s world, where Simon was so devoted, so solicitous. Wanda knows for sure that Simon loves her - she has always known that. Even when she wouldn’t admit it to herself - Simon is a good man, and all she has to do, is love him back. Wanda tries to make herself - but hard as she tries…she doesn’t know if she can.

Back in Central Park, things take a strange twist, as Simon seemingly implodes in a purple glow. ‘Ah, I feel it now, feel what’s happening, it’s your Scarlet Witch - and she’s just doomed you all!’ the Grim Reaper exclaims with delight as his brother vanishes. Thor looks on, concerned, as Thunderstrike begins to glow, ‘I feel - so strange - what’s going on?’ he asks. The Grim Reaper reveals that the Scarlet Witch is trying to pull Simon back - to break his link to the world of the dead. ‘But he’s the doorway for the others - he’s the key - so she’s just cost you half your strength!’. Thunderstrike turns to Thor and asks him to check on his son. ‘Make sure he’s okay - tell him I love him…’.

The current Avengers try to keep the demons at bay still, while looking on at their deceased friends. ‘Hellcat!’ Captain American shouts as a desperate Hellcat whispers ‘I never realized…I’d miss life so much…’. A teary-eyed Mockingbird exclaims that she thought there would be more time. Giant-Man and the Wasp look at their long-time West Coast Avenger teammate as she tells them that they have to reach Hawkeye for her. ‘Tell him that he - that he -’ she begins. ‘Tell him what, Bobbi? What?’ Janet asks. ‘Tell him he’s got to…’ too late, Bobbi vanishes. ‘Captain Marvel!’ gasps Justice as the Honorary Avenger vanishes. ‘Swordsman…’ exclaims Iron Man. ‘They’re gone - all gone!’ Firestar exclaims as she flies past the vanishing Dr. Druid.

‘But I’m still here! I’m still here!’ shouts Grim Reaper, explaining that the others had no anchor once their gateway was gone. ‘But I’m still linked by Simon - by my hatred, by my pain - and that means I’VE WON!’ he boasts, until, Thor booms ‘I say thee NAY, Reaper!’, and shoves demons aside easily with his hammer, ‘Those heroes you did use - those memories you did despoil - they were our comrades! Our brethren! And for that, foul one, I swear to thee - there will be a reckoning!’. With that, Thor thrusts his hammer at the Grim Reaper, hard - energies crackle all around. ‘Whoa…’ gasps a gape-jawed Justice. ‘That’s our Thor. He gets mad real good, don’t he!’ jokes the Wasp.

Back at the Mansion, Wanda concentrates - every muscle clenched, her head pounding - and Simon hovers before her - but she cannot bring him all the way through. Calmly as always, Agatha tells Wanda to relax. ‘Stop tormenting yourself…’ Exhausted, Wanda replies that if she lets up, then she will lose him. It is at that very moment that Wanda sees it - realizes her mistake - she cannot force herself to love - Simon, or anyone. But deep within her, she has always returned his feelings, always been attracted to his shy smile, his embarrassed chuckles.

But Wanda has denied the feelings - walled them off. She was married to the Vision after all - and when that was over, Simon was too much like the Vision in his tentativeness, his masked vulnerability. She cannot force love. Can’t push it. She knows she must let go - let go and let the feeling out - allow herself to love him - and in that very moment as Wanda’s heart makes that bond, Simon is brought back to life. The purple haze fades, and Simon lies naked in the darkened room. ‘S-Simon…? Wanda whispers. ‘Wan…Wanda…’ Simon replies, wearily. Wanda scuttles across the floor and grabs Simon, wrapping her arms around him, she exclaims ‘It worked! You’re here! You’re whole! It’s over…’. but Simon replies ‘N-no, Wanda…it’s not over yet…’.

Indeed, it isn’t, as back in Central Park, Thor’s hammer and the Grim Reaper’s scythe clash together. ‘Do you feel it, Thor? I grow stronger - stronger!’ the Grim Reaper exclaims. ‘The power of a world’s fear - a world’s despair - flows into me - and not even you can stand against it!’. Thor admits that the Grim Reaper is strong, but resists him still. Thor speaks with his strong Norse language, and is suddenly interrupted by the Grim Reaper, ‘OH, shut up, Thor!’ Eric Williams exclaims as he smashes Thor backwards with a powerful swipe of his weapon, surprising Thor himself.

The Grim Reaper stands atop of a mound and boasts that he cannot be stopped, cannot be defeated. ‘It is my time - the Grim Reaper rules supreme!’. But Thor tells him that one doesn’t think one fall determines a battle. ‘Thou hast won nothing!’ he tells him. ‘I still stand against thee. The Avengers stand against thee!’. The Grim Reaper is kept busy arguing with Thor that he doesn’t notice a purple haze appear behind him. ‘Come on, Thor! Come up here and get knocked down again!’ the Grim Reaper challenges him, when, suddenly, a flesh colored hand reaches out from the purple haze. ‘Eric…’ he exclaims, startling the Grim Reaper, who shouts ‘No! No - you can’t do this! The world has to feel my pain - my despair!’

From Avengers Mansion, Wonder Man holds on to his brother, through the rift of purple haze, ‘You never despaired, Eric. Otherwise, you’d have done on - you wouldn’t be here anymore!’ Simon exclaims. ‘No - you hung on as surely as I did. And you know why. It’s not hate at all, not hate that’s driven you over the years - to defend my memory, to bring me back - it’s been twisted by your ordeal - by your madness - but hate wouldn’t be strong enough to keep you this close to life!’.

Wanda and Agatha watch on as Simon begins to pull Eric through the rift and into Avengers Mansion - the Grim Reaper appears in his true human form now, as Simon remarks that, when they were both kids, their father beat them both, never accepted either of them, and through it all, no matter what their differences, they clung together, and not out of hate - ‘You admitted that once, so admit it again’. ‘No - NO -’ Eric struggles in his brother’s grasp. ‘Yes, Eric. Yes….’ Simon tells him. ‘I - I…’ Eric begins….

Later, after the madness has settled, Thor is speaking on the phone, ‘That is most good to hear. I thank thee, Dr. Foster’ he remarks, before announcing to Captain America, Justice, Firestar and Jarvis that Iron Man is resting comfortably, and while his injuries are severe, he will recover with proper rest. Jarvis is relieved, and exclaims that he had been fearing the worst, before asking if that is it. ‘Everything’s all right again?’ he asks. ‘Pretty much’ Vance replies, explaining that as soon as the Reaper stopped struggling and Wonder Man pulled him through the rift, all that hellish landscape vanished. Angelica explains that they got Iron Man to medical attention and answered the reporters’ questions, ‘Well, answered as well as we could, considering’.

Jarvis asks how the Grim Reaper’s love for his brother could twist him like, turn him to such violent hatred. Captain America explains that Eric apparently always saw Simon as his good self - as if they were linked, and Simon’s food deeds made up for Eric’s crimes. ‘When Simon died, Eric became the Reaper to avenge him - and when Simon came back, they were opposed - the link was gone’. Cap explains that without a “good self” to cling to, Eric became more and more irrational and self-hating, leading to his love curdling into jealousy.

Captain America assures everyone that Eric Williams will get that second chance he wanted, as he is in custody, and will end up in an asylum, not in jail. The Wasp exclaims that Eric isn’t the only one who gets a second chance, and tells her friends to take a look in the living room. ‘Well, well. That’s something to see, isn’t it?’ Giant-Man remarks as everyone looks at the Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man, curled up on the couch together beside the fireplace, a fire roaring to keep them warm also - and the Vision’s holographic form, stands behind them and stares….

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Firestar, Iron Man, Justice, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision (all Avengers)

Giant Man & Wasp (Reserve Avengers)

Captain Marvel, Doctor Druid, Hellcat, Mockingbird, Swordsman, Thunderstrike (all Deceased Avengers)

Wonder Man (Recently resurrected Avenger)

Agatha Harkness


Edwin Jarvis

Grim Reaper

Megan McLaren (Reporter)

Chili Storm & Stunt-Master (hosts of the Avengers Parade)



Human Torch II, Invisible Woman, Mister Fantastic, Thing (all Fantastic Four)

In Grim Reaper’s Flashbacks:

Simon Williams / Wonder Man & Eric Williams / Grim Reaper at various points in their lives

Beast, Captain America, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision, Wasp, Wonder Man, Yellowjacket (all Avengers)

In Scarlet Witch’s Flashbacks :

Scarlet Witch & Wonder Man

Count Nefaria

Story Notes: 

The title to this issue is a follow on from Avengers (3rd series) #1, completing the famous saying Once an Avenger…Always an Avenger!

The Scarlet Witch visited Agatha Harkness in Avengers (3rd series) #10.

As at the time of this issues printing, the Avengers that were deceased consisted of: Dr. Druid, Gilgamesh, Hellcat, Mockingbird, Swordsman, Thunderstrike, Wonder Man, Captain Marvel I, Jocasta, Marrina, Two-Gun Kid, Whizzer, Yellowjacket II.

Avengers that die following this issue include: Ant-Man II, Hawkeye, Jack-of-Hearts and the Vision.

Avengers that have since been resurrected include: Hawkeye, Hellcat, Jocasta, Marrina and Wonder Man.

Captain Marvel a.k.a. Mar-Vell, the Kree warrior died of cancer in Marvel Graphic Novel #1: The Death of Captain Marvel. He was then posthumously made an Honorary Avenger.

Doctor Anthony Ludgate Druid was one of the more unconventional members of the Avengers. As well as being one of the members whose tenure was rather short. Years later after turning power-mad he was shot by Nekra at the behest of Daimon Hellstrom. [Druid #4]

Hellcat a.k.a. Patsy Walker Baxter Hellstrom only spent a little time with the Avengers, but during that time became close to most of the then current roster, before she joined the Defenders, remaining there for years as one of the core members. When she retired from the Defenders with her second husband, Hellstorm, she later became immensely depressed and committed suicide in Hellstorm: Prince of Lies #14, though her voice was heard on a radio transmission in #15, vowing to return.

Barbara “Bobbi” Morse Barton, better known as Mockingbird the wife of Hawkeye, was killed by Mephisto, sacrificing herself so Hawkeye would live. [Avengers West Coast #100]

The Original Swordsman, Jacques Duquesne, died while saving his beloved Mantis in battle. [Giant-Sized Avengers #2]. His reanimated form would later marry Mantis.

Thunderstrike a.k.a. Eric Masterton sacrificed his life after being possessed by the Bloodaxe in Thunderstrike #24.

Avengers Day celebrations took place in Avengers (3rd series) #10, until the Grim Reaper attacked.

Iron Man’s injuries that Justice refers to are sustained from events in Iron Man (3rd series) #8-10.

Wonder Man’s first death took place in Avengers (1st series) #9. He was resurrected in Avengers (1st series) #156, and died years later in the classic Force Works #1.

What Mockingbird was trying to say is: “I thought - I thought there’d be more time! Avengers - you’ve got to reach Hawkeye for me! Tell him that he - that he - tell him he’s got to -help Daimon - Patsy Walker is going to be used by Mephisto as a pawn to kill him!’ [Thunderbolts Annual 2000]

Hellcat is resurrected in Thunderbolts Annual 2000, and once again rejoins the Defenders, and later registers under the Super Human Registration Act. [Defenders (2nd series) #1, She-Hulk (4th series) #8]

Wonder Man remains alive to this day. He rejoins the Avengers on a full-time basis later in Busiek’s run, and dates the Scarlet Witch for some time until they realize that they are better off as friends.

The Dr. Foster that Thor speaks to is Dr. Jane Foster, who served as “Donald Blake’s” nurse for years. Thor and Foster are close friends, and even after Thor dropped his “Donald Blake” guise, Jane often helped out the Avengers, even joining Captain America’s Secret Avengers during the “Civil War”.

The Grim Reaper next appears in Avengers (3rd series) #0, 20-22.

Issue Information: 
Written By: