Avengers (7th series) #10

Issue Date: 
January 2019
Story Title: 
The Battle for the Right to be Called... Earth's Mightiest

Jason Aaron (writer), David Marquez, Ed McGuinness, Frazer Irving, Adam Kubert, Andrea Sorrentino (artists), Justin Ponsor, Erick Arciniego, Frazer Irving, Matthew Wilson, Giada Marchisio (colorists), Virtual Calligraphy's Cory Petit (letterer), Ed McGuiness & Marta Gracia (cover artists), Alex Ross; Arthur Adams & Paul Mounts; Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Jim Campbell; David Finch & Peter Steigerwald; Ron Lim & Paul Mounts; David Marquez & Romula Fajardo Jr; Ed McGuiness & Marte Gracia; George Perez & Jason Keith; Skottie Young (vairant cover artists), Carlos Lao (graphic designer), Alanna Smith (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (president), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Avengers created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

A KGB officer arrives at a labor camp in Siberia to free Ursa Major, as the Russian government is restructuring the Winter Guard. Darkstar, Vanguard and the Red Widow are sent to the Ural Mountains to convince Dimitri Burkharin to suit up as Crimson Dynamo again. Darkstar tells him that they have been assured things will be different this time around, and that the government wants him to lead the team. In the South Pacific, Namor and his Defenders of the Deep team attack the facility known as Hydropolis, as Namor demands that humankind leave the ocean now and forever. At Avengers Mountain, Gorilla-Man picks up  the distress call from Hydropolis and starts to contact the Avengers, who are all out on personal matters. Ghost Rider and Iron Man are having a car race, during which Iron Man promises to make a hoverchair for Ghost Rider's younger brother. Captain Marvel and Thor are cleaning up the fallen Helicarriers under the ocean by hurtling them into the sun, and Thor asks Captain Marvel if she will text She-Hulk to find out if she is interested in him. She-Hulk is currently in Wakanda with Black Panther, who has organized a press conference as a test to see whether she can get through it without hulking out. Captain America is in Washington DC where General Ross approaches him, unhappy that the Avengers are now international operatives with ties to Wakanda. Ross realizes that without the Avengers and SHIELD, the US government has no links to any super powered team. The Avengers arrive at Hydropolis, where Namor continues his speech about humans destroying the ocean. A fight naturally breaks out, complicated by there still being Hydropolis personnel aboard the facility. Namor's team proves a good match for the Avengers, but the fight changes with the arrival of the Winter Guard, whose number also includes Chernobog, Perun and Vostok, the team wanting revenge on Namor for the deaths of some Russian nationals when Namor was in the Black Sea. The Avengers and Winter Guard keep out of each other's way as the teams work to fight back Namor's forces, the battle is observed by the mysterious Red Widow, who reports the goings on back to her supervisor within the Russian government. Matters intensify when Perun and Chernobog, both Russian gods, argue about who should deliver the final blow to Namor. The two teams fight now, as the Piranhas, members of Namor's team, swim towards some civilians and are about to eat them – until Namor kills the Piranhas and orders his team to retreat. The Avengers and Winter Guard briefly argue, until the Red Widow tells the Crimson Dynamo that they are pulling out. The Crimson Dynamo doesn't take kindly to being told what to do by her, but she threatens him, and they vanish. The Avengers then work to clean up Hydropolis and rescue remaining civilians, while in his office, General Ross receives a visit from a mysterious agent, who has a solution for the government's need of a super team. The agent is Phil Coulson, and he introduces General Ross to the Squadron Supreme of America. Later, Ghost Rider returns to LA where his little brother is enjoying his hoverchair that Iron Man created for him. Ghost Rider receives a visitor in the form of Odin, who attacks him, blaming him for the death of the Starbrand. Ghost Rider explains to Odin that it was accidential, as the Stabrand appeared insane. They briefly fight, before Odin takes the blame for Starbrand's death, as he is the one who killed the Celestial one million years ago. Odin gives Ghost Rider a brief history of the Avengers team from one million years ago, and some cryptic information about Riders before him. Ghost Rider then takes Odin for a ride in his car, while in the far reaches of space, Loki is being tortured by the Celestials. Wolverine arrives, which suprises Loki. Wolverine gives Loki information about some troubles to come, before Wolverine attacks the Celestials with his mysterious cosmic powers, and sends Loki careening through space, telling him that the Avengers need to assemble some more members. Finally, in Romania, the Wasp, now an Agent of Wakanda, arrives at a castle where Blade is imprisoned and asks him if he would like to join the Avengers.

Full Summary: 

Siberia, in a secret Soviet-era corrective labor camp called the Last Gulag, a helicopter has landed within the barb-wire fence camp, where a small cabin sits. A young KGB officer stands in the cabin, and in his native Russian announces 'Sir, I have here a letter of pardon, signed by the Minister of Justice and the President himself'. The young officer reports that it is a full pardon of every crime on his record. 'Even going back years to -' the officer begins, before someone sitting across the room shouts 'Crimes? Nobody called them crimes when we were doing them. More like “valiant missions to protect the Motherland”. What are these supposed crimes, boy?' the voice asks. The young officer clears his throat as he replies 'Sir, well, among other things, it says here that you, ah... murdered four of your commanding officers. And... consumed their remains?'

'Lies! Slanderous lies! It was five officers!' the voice responds, adding that he never ate the bastards, just tore them apart with his mouth, is all. 'Yes, Sir' the officer responds. The voice declares that a pardon isn't good enough – he wants all these ridiculous charges completely expunged from his record. 'Of course, Sir' the officer replies. The figure across the room pours themselves a glass of vodka and adds 'Except for the dead officers. Leave those in. Good for my rep'. He then asks the officer if there is vodka on the helicopter he came in. 'Yes, Sir. I was told to bring a... very large supply' the officer replies. 'For your sake, I hope it's the good stuff, and not the toilet brew they've been giving me here for years' the mysterious figure declares, before asking the officer where they are headed.

'Directly to the Kremlin, Sir. The others will be waiting' the soldier announces. The figure across  the room knocks back the vodka – he is Major Mikhail Ursus, better known as Ursa Major. 'Heh. It's about damn time' the large bear mutters, before asking the soldier 'They gonna let us do it right this time? And keep politicians out of our fur for a change?' 'I'm told his Excellency has taken a great personal interest in this project' the soldier responds. 'Yeah, I just bet he has' Ursa Major mutters, before asking 'So who the hell else has Moscow suddenly remembered is still alive?'

In the Ural Mountains of Western Russia, Dimitri Bukharin frowns, while Laynia Petrovna a.k.a. Darkstar tells him that she understands his reluctance, but that she has been assured this time will be different. 'The faces of the puppet masters are always different. But that doesn't change matters much for the puppet, does it?' Dimitri responds. 'Tell them I said no' he instructs Darkstar. 'No, I take that back, Laynia. Tell them I said hell no' Dimitri exclaims.

Darkstar tells Dimitri that she doesn't imagine the Executive Security Committee is used to being spoken to in such a manner. 'Likely not. Not since I resigned. Let them come arrest me if they want. I'm easy enough to find' Dimitri mutters as he walks down a path lined by a forest covered in snow. 'You call this east to find?' Darkstar's brother, Nikolai Krylenko a.k.a Vanguard asks as he and Darkstar follow their longtime teammate. Behind them walks a mysterious woman in a red cloak.

Darkstar explains to Dimitri that this isn’t the old day of the Soviet Super-Soldiers, that Moscow isn't looking for a puppet – they want him to lead the entire operation – they will even make a new Cabinet position for him – Minister of Superhuman Defense. 'Heh. Russian super-minister. They really must be desperate' Dimitri remarks, before asking what their quiet guest from the Red Room has to say about this. Darkstar informs Dimitri that in her experience the Red Widow doesn't say much of anything at all. She adds that the Red Widow's presence is a requirement of the Committee, but that she will follow his orders. 'No, more likely she'll slit my throat if I get out of line' Dimitri replies.

'Please, Dimitri, you know we need this' Vanguard remarks, asking Dimitri if he has heard about the recent attacks in the Black Sea. Dimitri sighs and mutters that this thing is happening whether he likes it or not. 'The world is a more dangerous place than ever. Russia needs her greatest heroes' Vanguard declares. 'And the Winter Guard needs you, Dimitri' Darkstar adds. Dimitri comes to a stop at a clearing and motions to where a large red armor stands. 'No, my friends. You don't need Dimitri Bukharin. You need the Crimson Dynamo'. Bukharin adds that he hopes he can remember where he left the key, before asking his companions to tell him who they are going up against this time around.

The South Pacific, the international undersea biosphere called Hydropolis, normally underwater, has been lifted up to surface level by the incredible strength of Namor, the King of Atlantis who shouts 'Attention, trespassers! Leave these waters and never return!' Namor declares that the oceans of Earth are hereby off-limits to all but their native inhabitants – now – and forevermore. Water pours into Hyrdopolis through broken part of the dome, and with the water comes several warriors and horrifying deep-sea creatures. 'The King has spoken! Break his one simple law and you will know the wrath of his Defenders of the Deep!' shouts the Atlantean warrior called Andromeda. With her is the terrorist jellyfish called Manowar, and the mindless man-fish-eating machines called the Piranhas, Bloodtide the Water Witch, Echidna the mother of monsters, King Crab, the world's most powerful crustacean, the aquatic psychopath called Tiger Shark, and the human killer whale known as Orka, who holds a large anchor overhead as he looms towards the scientists, warning them to get back to their dirt – while they still can. 'But we're a peaceful research facility. We've never -' one of the scientists calls out, before King Crab grabs her and hurls her out of the dome and into the ocean. Tiger Shark suggests to the humans they move a good bit faster, as the Piranhas are getting hungry.

Meanwhile, within Avengers Mountain in the North Pole, a computer alarm signals a priority alert. Gorilla-Man swings through the facility, 'Hey! Is anybody gonna answer that? Hello? Ah, hell. Where the crap is everybody?' he asks, as the priority alert sounds again. 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm coming. Keep your drawers on' Gorilla-Man mutters, before hanging upside down he calls out 'Hey, computer! It's me!' The computer responds by recognizing his voice pattern as “Ken Hale, Gorilla-Man, Avengers Butler”. Gorilla-Man isn't happy with this, 'Stark and his damn jokes. I'm not the butler. I'm a special agent of -' Gorilla-Man begins, before the priority alarm sounds again. 'What's the damn emergency? And where in the damn hell do I find the damn Avengers?' Gorilla-Man snaps.

Two of them are on the Pacific Coast Highway, Robbie Reyes a.k.a. Ghost Rider is in his car as he speeds along the highway, 'So remind me, Mr Stark, what do I get when I beat you?' he calls out as his flaming car inches ahead of the red car driven by Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man. 'A state of the art repulsor powered wheelchair for your brother, I believe was the bet, based on the same tech that powers this car' Tony responds, adding that he is such a nice guy that he will make the wheelchair happen for him even when Ghost Rider loses. 'Sorry, Mr Stark, but no tech in the world is a match for pure old-fashioned hellfire horsepower' Ghost Rider calls back as his car speeds onwards, before he tells Stark that he will still try to use his hell charger to get a message to his father. 'What was it you wanted to tell him?' Ghost Rider asks. 'Let's start with “Hi, Howard, I made a car faster than the Ghost Rider. You finally proud of me, yet”?' Tony mutters, before they both receive the Avengers priority alert. 'Ah, crap. Guess the race will have to wait' Ghost Rider points out as he turns his car, speeds down the side of the cliff and onto the Pacific Ocean. 'I don't think so, kid. Last one to the Mountain's a rotten Avenger!' Tony exclaims as his car transforms into a small jet and he flies out across the water.

Meanwhile, on the Atlantic sea floor, at a Helicarrier graveyard, Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel and Thor swim among the wreckage. 'So...you and Jen' Carol calls out. 'Can we not speak of this?' Thor responds. 'Why not? Everyone else sure is' Carol responds as she hurls a large ball made up of wreckage towards Thor, asking 'So it's really a thing? Thor and the Hulk? The titanic team-up you never exected?' Carol asks. 'Nay, it is not a...thing. We have not even embarked upon a proper date' Thor replies as he uses his hammer to strike the large ball of wreckage – sending it careening upwards out of the water. 'You haven't asked her out yet? What are you waiting for?' Carol replies. 'You believe if I were to ask her out...she would say aye?' Thor enquires. 'Good Lord! It's like I'm cleaning up underwater SHIELD garbage with a god who's in grade school' Carol mutters, before asking Thor if he wants her to text Jen and ask her if she likes him. 'Would you?' Thor enquires as the wreckage ball reaches space, hurtling towards the sun. Carol remarks that she has never seen a dude in more desperate need of a wingman. 'Captain Marvel to the rescue' she jokes, telling Thor that means after they are done throwing all this trash into the sun, the tacos are on him. Suddenly, they receive the Avengers priority alert. 'Never mind the tacos, I guess' Carol mutters, to which Thor asks her if she can still dispatch the text.

In Wakanda, Jennifer Walters the She-Hulk is with King T'Challa a.k.a. Black Panther, who tells her to close her eyes and open her mind as he has shown her, then tell him what she sees. Jen closes her eyes, 'I... I see... my own sweet face smiling back at me with a calm and confident grin' Jennifer responds, lying, as what she really sees is an abstract green face with glaring red eyes. T'Challa and Jen walk alongside each other down a corridor and T'Challa tells Jen that for all their sakes, he hopes that to be thev truth, as this next test is not for the faint of heart. 'Hit me with your best shot, T'Challa. I can take it' Jen replies, referring to the suit she is wearing, she tells T'Challa that she isn't sure why he got her all dressed up if he is about to throw her into a roomful of angry rhinos. 'That's not exactly what I had in mind' T'Challa replies as they arrive at a lobby where representatives of the media industry have gathered, T'Challa informs Jen that her challenge today is to make it through an Avengers press conference without Hulking out. 'Oh God' Jen utters. A representative of Roxxon News asks T'Challa if now that he has the Avengers at his beck and call, that makes him the world's only one true super-power. 'Will the Avengers submit to international oversight?' another reporter asks. '...and I quote “Toadies of an African warlord”' another reporter remarks. T'Challa and She-Hulk suddenly receive the Avengers priority alert 'Well, darn' T'Challa remarks, as another reporter asks the King how he responds to reports that some in Congress want to sever diploamatic ties with his administration over this so-called 'Avengers-gate”. 'Looks like the questions will have to wait' She-Hulk points out.

Washington DC, where Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America stares up at the statue of Abraham Lincoln. General Thaddeus Ross approaches him and calls out 'Black Panther, chairman of the Avengers. Let me ask you something, Steve...how exactly do you think that will go over in the halls of power in this town?' Steve tells General Ross that he could make a pretty good guess, but he held out hope he would be pleasantly surprised. 'Believe me, there was nothing pleasant about this for us. Especially since the man who wears our flag on his chest didn't even bother to give us so much as a heads-up' General Ross declares, adding that they had to see it on the evening news, like they were all a bunch of working slobs in Nebraska. 'Here's another news flash for you, General. I don't work for you' Cap replies, adding that the Avengers don't work for any country – they fight for the Earth.

'That makes for a nice bumper sticker, Cap. But as far as we're concerned around here, the United States of America is the Earth, and if the US government can't trust the Avengers anymore...well, then I'm afraid...' General Ross' voice trails off, as Cap turns to him: 'Let me stop you right there before you finish that threat. You can trust us to be the Avengers' Cap assures General Ross, warning him that if he decides that is something that he seriously wants to get in the way of, then he can promise him that his old friend the Hulk will be nothing compared to what he can turn into. Cap turns and walks down the stairs, as a soldier asks General Ross if they should act, but General Ross tells the soldier to let Captain America go – that the Avengers are officially lost to them. General Ross remarks that it looks like it is time for plan B. 'This is Thunderbolt Ross and I'm making the call. Bring in the Agent' he announces over an intercom.

Cap is on his motorcycle, weaving in and out of the cars as he receives the Avengers priority alarm. Cap acknowledges the call and asks where the closest teleporter is. The computer informs him that it is in the Wakandan Embassy in Dupont Circle. Cap reports that he is on his way and asks if there is something on the other end that he can punch a whole lot.

Back in the South Pacific, 'Tell your governments! Your navies! Your energy companies that turn the oceans black! Tell them they're no longer welcome upon these waves!' Namor shouts as he continues to tear apart Hydropolis. 'And if they don't like it, tell them they can talk to me!' Namor adds, when suddenly, 'All right, Namor. Let's talk' the Black Panther calls out as he arrives inside Hydropolis with Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel and Ghost Rider. With Andromeda, Tiger Shark and the rest of his team at his side, Namor informs the Black Panther that he has nothing more to say to the likes of him or his flunkies. 'Flunkies? Who says flunkies? How old is this guy?' Ghost Rider asks, while Cap assures Namor that they have been doing everything they can to broker peace with Atlantis, even after he killed those Roxxon gunmen in their cells and damn near killed Stingray, his own friend.

Namor frowns as he replies 'Executed, Captain. Those Roxxon murderers were rightfully executed. But not by me. By the ocean itself. And I have no more friends from the surface' Namor adds. The Black Panther moves closer to Namor and looks him in the eyes as he remarks that it isn't the ocean he sees terrorizing innocent people here – it's him and his team of psychopaths and criminals that he dares to call the Defenders. 'Says the greatest criminal of them all. A man who has vowed to see me dead' Namor replies, while announcing that the people of Hydropolis are trespassing. 'And so are you. Take them and never return' Namor declares. Black Panther tells Namor that that they will evacuate Hydropolis and go in peace – for now – but that thev world will not abide this. 'You know that. You cannot lay claim to the oceans of the entire -' the Black Panther begins, interrupted when the Piranhas move towards some Hydropolis personnel, who scream in fear. 'No! Stand down, Piranhas. We are not butchers' Namor states. 'Tell that to Stingray. And if you can't control your people, Namor, we'll have to do it for you' T'Challa warns Namor.

Suddenly, Thor's hammer is thrown at one of the Piranhas, knocking it back from the Hydropolis personnel. 'They drew first blood! Now it's on!' King Crav exclaims as he moves towards Thor and She-Hulk. 'Hulk is mine!' Orka calls out as he raises the large anchor towards She-Hulk. 'Hey, I wanted Hulk' King Crab replies. Orka tells him to shut up and kill Thor. 'Fine, but then I'm cutting in' King Crab calls back. Cap's shield slams against Tiger Shark as he tells Namor not to try and blame the Avengers for this. 'Wanted to eat your smug face for a long time, Cap! Let's do this!' Tiger Shark snarls, while T'Challa tells Namor that Cap is right, he brought this on himself. 'Damn it, I warned you people, Panther, to never interfere in aquatic business again. And I also promised...there would be no further warning!' Namor shouts as he hurls a large piece of equipment towards the Black Panther. 'Imperious Rex, you Wakandan bastard!' Namor roars.

The Black Panther's claws slice through the equipment before it strikes him, and tells Namor that it is not Wakanda he has to worry about, before ordering the Avengers to take Namor and his allies down. 'Sorry, you heard the boss. It's back to the aquarium you go, Little Mermaid' Iron Man tells Echidna, who has wrapped her body around him. Echidna boasts that in a thousand years no one has built  a cage that can hold her, the mother of monsters, and warns Iron Man that she will crack him open like an oyster. 'Ah, hell. I got the ancient magic one. Where's Thor? Can we switch?' Iron Man mutters, as King Crab suddenly wraps a pincer around Thor's neck. 'Don't know whether to bludgeon you or eat you, monster!' Thor calls out. King Crab laughs and warns Thor that he plans on doing both to him. The Piranhas swim after more of the Hydropolis employees, 'Aaahh! Giant piranahs! Swim for your lives!' one of them shouts.

Orka and She-Hulk grab each other's hands, trying to force the other backwards. 'Why does it burn when I touch you? What the hell kinda Hulk are you?' Orka asks. 'Worst kind! Kind that burns and smashes and explodes! And even worse, sues!' She-Hulk responds. Manowar has tangled Captainv Marvel up, and as she fires an energy blast at Manowar she calls out to Andromeda: 'This isn't like you! Hanging with super villains and giant killer jellyfish? Don't let Namor's anger drag you down!' Carol pleads. Andromeda asks Captain Marvel if she doesn't think Namor's anger is justified, and introduces her to her good friend Bloodtide. 'She was the happiest little girl in Atlantis until your pollutants ravaged her flesh, mutating her into the water witch you see today' Andromeda replies as Bloodtide rises from the water, her dishevelled appearance looming over Ghost Rider who calls out to the Avengers, telling them that he could use some help. 'Do you feel the rage of the sea, little surface demon? You will. And all the death you've given it will be returned to you a thousandfold' Bloodtide warns him as she creates hallucinations of large sharks which swim towards Ghost Rider. 'Guys, I've got zombie sharks over here! Guys!' Ghost  Rider calls out.

'Look at what you're doing, Namor. Look at what you've become!' T'Challa calls out as he drops a small disc in front of Namor, that explodes, distracting Namor and enabling T'Challa to move away from him. 'These people are all going to die because of you' T'Challa calls out. 'No, T'Challa. You're going to die and they're going to watch!' Namor shouts angrily, before being knocked back by Captain America's shield, which slams into him. 'You wanna kill an Avenger, your highness? I'm right here. Come kill me. Old friend' Cap remarks to Namor, as his shield rebounds off Namor and slams into Tiger Shark's face. Namo moves towards Captain America and the Black Panther and tells them that this is not a game, that the old rules no longer apply – this is the new order of the world, and if the ocean's defenders must go to war to preserve it, then war there will be. 'You say you're looking for a war, fishface? Well, guess what? One just showed the hell up!' Ursa Major roars as he and the rest of the Winter Guard drop down into Hyrdopolis! The Crimson Dynamo introduces the team and announces that they have come for justice. The Crimson Dynamo states that Namor of Atlantis is under arrest for crimes against the Russian people in the Black Sea. With he and Ursa Major are Darkstar, Vanguard, the Red Widow, Vostok, a Soviet-era synthezoid, Perun the Slavic god of the storm, and Chernobog, the monstrous Slavic god of darkness.

Ursa Major drops down near the Black Panther and tells him to stand aside and let a real animal take it from here. He instructs Perun and Chernobog to take Namor into custody and not to worry about being gentle. 'Aye! With pleasure!' Perun responds, while Chernobog grins and remarks that he hopes Namor does resist. Namor leers at the new arrivals as he calls out 'Avengers, Russian super-soldiers, let the surface world send all the armies it wants! Their carcasses will litter the depths!' Perun and Chernobog move in closer and Perun tells Namor that he should speak with more care when he addresses the gods. 'Man or Hulk or god, I care not! You are all just air and bones to me!' Namor snarls.

As observed by the mysterious Red Widow and later reported back to the official she answers to, a huge brawl breaks out. Ursa Major steps in and frees Thor from King Crab, while Ghost Rider burns a hole through the zombie sharks, and Darkstar flies towards Bloodtide. There are some impressive displays of power, but not enough bloodshed for the Red Widow's liking. The Avengers are surprised by the sudden intervention of the Winter Guard, they are happy to have some assistance, though, as Namor's Defenders may be wild and undisciplined, but they are still an impressive gathering of freaks and killers, and as the Red Widow notes, they are in their element. The Crimson Dynamo fires a blast of energy art Manowar, freeing Captain Marvel who flies down to Andromeda and punches her in the face. Vanguard slams his shield into Echidna's face, which loosens her grip on Iron Man. The Red Widow notes that the Avengers and the Winter Guard seem to stay out of each other's way, at least to begin with. She watches as Vostok fires a beam of energy at Orka, knocking him back from She-Hulk. During the battle, the Red Widow observes from a platform nearby, staying out of the way. When the unseen official asks her how she would rate the new Winter Guard's performance, she tells him that they are not ready, but that she will get them there, she can make them the strongest Winter Guard the world has ever seen, but she recommends being allowed to kill one or two to inspire the others. She offers to list her choices in order of personal preference, but the official tells her that will be all for now.

The battle rages, as Crison Dynamo bursts through Manowar, and Darkstar and Bloodtide fire energies at the other, countering each other's attack. Crimson Dyanmo then notices the Red Widow sitting on the ledge, not involved in the battle, and wonders what she is doing. Perun and Chernobog suddenly punch Namor, 'Now you meet your end, Atlantean! At the hands of Perun, Lord of the Storm!' Perun calls out. Chernobog frowns and tells Perun to stand aside, and not to come between he and his meat. 'This kill belongs to Chernobog' the god of darkness claims. 'What? You dare!?' Perun asks, grabbing Chernobog's fingers he remarks that he knew it was a mistake to allow his presence here. 'If you cannot control your black heart...' Perun begins, as Chernobog warns him that if he does not remove his hand, he will show him his very red and stil-beating heart. 'You cloud-humping louse' Chernobog snarls. 'Defend yourself, you cur!' Perun shouts as he pulls away from Chernobog and raises his axe. 'Blow it our your stormhole, Perun! I will gut you like an infant goat!' Chernobog booms.

Iron Man and Crimson Dynamo fly towards Perun and Chrnobog, as Crimson Dynamo tells them to stand down. 'You went double god, Dimitri. Never go double god' Iron Man remarks. 'Someone stop them before they kill us all!' Crimson Dynamo calls out, as She-Hulk suddenly slams her fists to the ground, roaring, 'Stupid gods stop being stupid!' which creates a seismic shock that knocks Chernobog and Perun backwards.

At the same time, a soldier informs General Ross that there is an air-reconnaissance report from over the Pacific, where it appears all hell has broken loose at Hydropolis as the Avengers, Namor's Defenders of the Deep and the Russian Winter Guard are fighting each other. The soldier asks if they shoud intervene, but Ross asks how he proposes they do that, as SHIELD no longer exists – all their Helicarriers were sunk into the ocean. He adds that the USA doesn't have any super-bastards on the payroll – not yet at least. 'Where the hell's that agent? Get him in here!' General Ross shouts.

'You hurt our gods I take a chunk outta yours!' Ursa Major warns the Avenges as he grabs Thor and puts his claws to Thor's face. 'Gagh! Do you bathe in vodka, beast?' Thor asks as he struggles to free himself. Vanguard tells Captain America to stay out of their way, that the Winter Guard will handle this, and attempts to punch Cap, who blocks the punch with his shield. Cap frowns and reminds Vanguard that he has seen how the Winter Guard handle things – he has the scars to prove it. She-Hulk knocks Chernobog back while trapping Perun in a headlock, before Crimson Dynamo blasts her in the back with an energy beam and tells her 'You've stopped gthe gods! That's enough, you monster!' This causes Iron Man to fly up behind Crimson Dynamo and warn him that nobody talks that way to their Hulk. Dynamo spins around and fires a blast at Iron Man, asking him when he will learn that he doesn't own the entire world. 'I'm definitely a major shareholder, Dimitri. And as usual, you're looking awfully bad for business!' Iron Man replies as he fires an energy blast back.

The Black Panther dodges energy hoops that Vostok fires at him. The peculiar synthezoid remarks 'Great shall your glory be, Motherland proud and free! Bulwark of friendship for nation an man! Flag of the people since freedom began!' Ghost Rider finds where Red Widow is sitting and climbs up to the ledge, asking her if the seat is taken as he could use a little break. Red Widow responds by shoving an energy blade through his side. The Piranhas swim towards where two of the Hydopolis employees have sought safety on a floating platform. Captain Marvel and Darkstar fight mid-air as they fly towards the civilians, 'Get off of me, Darkstar! We've got to save those people!' Captain Marvel exclaims. 'I can save the whole lot of them in seconds Danvers, if you'd just get over your pompous self and -' Darkstar begins, before a fist bursts up through one of the Piranhas. It's Namor, who then grabs the other two Piranhas and crushes their throats, before calling out to his Defenders of the Deep and informing them that they are leaving, warning them to join him in the depths, or join the Piranhas. Almost immediately, the Defenders sink back into the ocean.

'He... he killed his own men!' someone shouts, while Crimson Dynamo points out that now his Defenders are getting away. Iron Man suggests that he worry more about his own side now, as She-Hulk and Thor close in on Perun, before the two teams regroup, with Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and She-Hulk facing down Vanguard, Darkstar, Crimson Dynamo, Vostok, Ursa Major and Red Widow. Ursa Major tells the Avengers that this is their fault, and if they staayed the hell out of their way, Namor would be in a Russian cell right now. 'Last I heard, that's where you were, Ursa Major' Cap remarks, before telling the Winter Guard that if they are working for the Kremlin again, how long do they think it will be before the Kremlin betrays them and puts them right back behind bars. Ursa Major and Vanguard scowl at Captain America as Ursa Major declares that they work for the Russian people. 'Go back to Wakanda, Avenger, and leave our country's business to us' Ursa suggests.

Iron Man turns to Crimson Dynamo and tells him not to go down this track again, as they all know where it leads. 'I see why they brought me back, Stark. You people have lost your grip on this planet. So now it's up to us go find out. And that starts here to-' Dynamo replies, but suddenly, the Red Widow exclaims 'No today'. 'She speaks?' Dynamo asks. 'Yeah, she stabs, too' Ghost Rider jokes, clutching his wound. Red Widow announces that they are pulling out, that this operation is finished. 'I didn't give that order. Maybe you've forgotten, Widow, but I'm the leader of -' Crimson Dynamo starts to say, before the Red Widow tells him to get his ass back to Moscow and not to make her detonate his suit right here in front of everyone. An instant later, the Winter Guard vanishes.

The Avengers look out over the ocean and Carol asks what happened – 'Did we just win?' 'The world just became a more dangerous place. That's what happened' Iron Man replies. 'Yes, especially for us' Captain America remarks. T'Challa reminds the Avengers that no one ever said this job would be easy, or even possible, which is why they are all here – because none of them should be possible, either, and nothing less than the utterly impossible is what he asks of them every time they answer the call. The Black Panther points out that these are dark times, and are only trending further into darkness. 'If we're going to keep this planet intact long enough for its people to pull themselves back into the light, we'll have to do it one impossible day at a time' Black Panther states as the heroes begin the clean up of Hydropolis, rescuing the remaining workers, putting out fires and removing debris Ghost Rider and Iron Man ferry passengers across the ocean, while Thor lifts the mighty Hydropolis out of the water and into the air.

Two large ships move towards Hydropolis as Thor places it back down in the water. The ships have Wakandan flags alongside flags with the Avengers “A” on them. Gorilla-Man is aboard one of the ships and points at Hydropolis as T'Challa tells his team that today was unlike any other, and tomorrow will be more of the same – but that is their job description, that's why they stand together. 'If the world needs something to believe in, then let it believe in the power and promise of our most sacred words... Avengers Assemble!' T'Challa exclaims.

Washington, where General Ross sits in his office late at night, and looks up from his desk as the Agent arrives, and stands in the shadows. 'I have to sat, General...I'm a bit surprised to be here, especially since I'm not really an agent of anything anymore' they remark. 'And I'm a bit surpised to see be seeing you, to be honest. For all sorts of different reasons, eh? But here we are, son'. The old man looks at photos of the Winter Guard and the Defenders of the Deep and tells his new arrival that their country has a serious problem. 'And you're going to help us with the solution'. He points out that they have lost SHIELD, and now they have lost the Avengers, too, just in time for the whole world to go straight to hell. 'And we are not accustomed to losing around here. I'm counting on you to deal us a winning hand'.

The Agent in the shadows starts to open the door to Ross' office and tells him that he believes he has done that. 'If you'd like to see your cards...' he begins. Ross laughs and remarks that he had a feeling that the Agent was the right man for the job. 'Welcome to the deep state...Agent Coulson!' General Ross exclaims. Agent Phil Coulson smiles and replies that he is happy to be back. Five costumed individuals enter General Ross' office and Phil Coulson remarks that he is proud to present this country's newest and greatest heroes – Hyperion! Nighthawk! Speed Demon! Doctor Spectrum! Warrior Woman! - the Squadron Supreme of America!

Later, in East LA, 'Robbie! I can fly!' Gabe Reyes calls out from the hoverchair that he sits in and speeds around their apartment. 'Tell Iron Man he's my favorite Avenger ever!' Gabe calls out. Robbie tells his brother that he will do that, and warns him not to fly too high. As Robbie heads towards the door, Gabe asks him where he is going, as he just got back. 'You gotta go to you new job again?' Gabe asks. Robbie tells Gabe that he just has to go outside, that he thought he heard somebody messing with the car. 'Okay, Robbie! You smell like fish!' Gabe calls out as Robbie leaves the apartment and enters his garage. Robbie thinks that with his luck, somebody will try to steal this stupid car and the hell charger will eat them alive. He looks at the car and realizes that there is still so much he doesn't know about the car and his connection to it – even with the Avengers trying to help him figure it out. It used to be that you couldn't shut the car up, and now it won't talk at all, like it's almost afraid. Robbie wonders what the hell could scare a car possessed by the soul of a dead serial killer, though.

Suddenly, Robbie lights up as Odin appears before him and shoves his staff into him. 'There's the murderer I seek!' Odin calls out. 'What...the hell?' Robbie asks as his Ghost Rider appearance manifests. 'Spirit of Vengeance! Many years ago we may have been comrades, but now it is Odin, All-Father of Asgard who comes seekin vengeance!' the old god exclaims: 'Against you, Ghost Rider of Midgard! For what you did to...' Odin begins, before Ghost Rider opens his mouth, releasing a powerful burst of flame that knocks Odin backwards. 'Whoever the hell you are, you've got the wrong damn Ghost Rider!' Robbie replies. Odin recovers and assures him that he is the Ghost Rider he seeks, that he has seen his sins though the ether, him and his demonic hel chariot. 'Did you think no one in the heavens would know the evil you had done?' Odin asks. 'I'm guessing I don't really know. Maybe you wanna fill me in before you try to murder me again?' Ghost Rider replies, unsure about what is freaking him out more – that this hipster grandpa just stabbed him with a spear, or that he didn't die.

Odin fires a blast of energy from the staff and shouts 'You are gthe murderer, demon! And I will cut you down just like you did him! Like you stabbed the Starbrand!' Ghost Rider is knocked back by Odin's energy blast, butb gets to his feet and asks 'Starbrand? That crazy guy who attacked me in Africa? You're even crazier than he was, old man!' Odin remarks that the Starbrand and the Rider always were at each other's throats, but he never thought it would come to this. 'He was your brother in arms since the dawn of this world!' Odin adds, raising his spear again while fiery bonds try to restrain him, Odin declares that nothing is more imporant than family, and in the name of the Starbrand condemns Ghost Rider to die, and may some other gods somewhere have mercy on his cursed soul.

But, before Odin can strike with his spear, Ghost Rider calls out 'Wait!' Odin's spear is inches from Ghost Rider's head as he tells Odin that he didn't kill his Starbrand friend, at least, he didn't mean to. Ghost Rider explains that Starbrand was out of control, attacking him for no reason, attacking everyone around him, and that to try and stop him, he gave him the penance stare, which he didn't even know he could do, and Starbrand just blew up. 'He blew up and died' Ghost Rider explains. 'Lost control? This...was just before the coming of the Final Host?' Odin asks. 'Yeah, yeah, I suppose it was. I guess hw knew that was just about to happen. Maybe he was trying to warn me' Ghost Rider suggests. 'Of course he was. He was terrified' Odin points out. Odin adds that the terror drove the poor mortal insane, and realizes that it wasn't Ghost Rider who killed him after all. 'It was I. For it was Odin the All-Fool who buried the fallen Celestial one million years ago...and began the...' Odin begins, before suddenly vomitting and keeling over. 'Dude. Are you drunk?' Ghost Rider asks. 'Only enough to make a fool of myself. Which is suddenly not nearly drunk enough' Odin replies, before asking Ghost Rider to help him up and fetch them a drink.

Shortly, 'A flaming woolly mammoth. You're joking' Robbie remarks as he sits next to Odin, who holds a drink in one hand. 'The All-Father of Asgard does not jest' Odin replies, adding that he leaves such frivolous matters to his impudent sons. 'So Thor and Loki are the funny ones in the family. That says a lot' Robbie remarks, running a hand through his hair. Robbie is shirtless, a bandage wrapped around his wounds and Odin tells him that, as a Rider, he should know his legacy, sordid as it may be. Robbie informs Odin that he is different from other Ghost Riders that he has met – he never made a deal with the Devil, he just died, and that crazy possessed car brought him back. Odin tells Robbie that the Riders are always different, yet always the same in one important regard – they all made a deal, whether they remember it or not, and sooner or later, something dark and terrible will come lumbering out of the shadows, looking to collect. 'The only question is...will there be anything left to your mortal soul by then?' Odin asks. 'Or will you have given it all to the vengeful monster inside you?' Robbie goes wide-eyed at this comment and asks Odin whatever happened to the Rider with the woolly mammoth.

in flashback images:
Odin remembers his teammates and informs Robbie that they rode together for many years, alongside the rest of their wondrous compatriots, the mightiest warriors of the ancient Earth, mortals who were as noble and powerful as gods, and also a wizard – many grand and glorious adventures they shared in those savage, primordial days, and many fearsome foes did they face in sense-shattering battle – battles that shaped the world as they know it today, quite literally. But as for what ultimately became of those great heroes of Midgard's dawn...

'... I would not speak of it. Not now' Odin remarks, adding that it has only been a million years, and the wound is still too raw. 'Damn. And I thought the fish guy was old' Robbie replies. 'Aye, I am old. Too old to have made such a drunken spectacle of myself this night' Odin admits, asking Robbie to promise him not to tell the Panther. 'Only if you promise me we'll do this again, Mr Odin. I wanna know more about the Riders who've come before me. The Starbrands, too' Robbie replies, adding that he wants to know  everything, especially the mistakes they all made – ones he can hopefully avoid. 'I'm way too young to die twice' he jokes. Odin stands up and tells Robbie that he will know far more about the Starbrand soon enough, as this realm is never long without one, especially in trying times like these. 'Let us hope the Brand chooses wisely, though that has not always been the case. Or else your recent experience may prove valuable after all, young Rider of Los Angeles'. Robbie looks up at Odin confused and asks 'Experience in what?' to which Odin responds 'Killing Starbrands'. He looks over at Robbie's car and tells him that he would ask one more favor before he takes his leave. 'Wait. Don't tell me' Robbie mutters.

'Yeah, I've got a god as my co-pilot!' Ghost Rider exclaims as he speeds his car across the top of a mountain range. 'I thought you said this chariot was fast! I've ridden goats faster than this!' Odin exclaims. Odin tells Ghost Rider that his first lesson in being a Rider is that the only force that can slow him down is himself, and that if he wishes to survive being a hel-damned monstrosity, he has got to know when to give the monster free rein. 'You want monster fast, huh?' Ghost Rider responds, before telling Odin to hang on to his butt and he will do him one even better – 'This is Avengers fast!' Ghost Rider calls out as he speeds onwards. 'Ha! Now this is more like it! We may make a survivor out of you yet, boy!' Odin jokes, to which Ghost Rider tells him that he has never been anything else.

Meanwhile, in the far reaches of space, Loki screams as he is tortured by a cosmic energy blast. He looks up at his tormenters and asks them if this is really the extent of their plan – to drag him out into the outer reaches of nowhere and torture him. 'Until what? I realize the folly of my evil ways, apologize for unleashing the Final Host and spend the rest of my days performing cosmic community service?' Loki asks, announcing that he had expected a bit more imagination from the Celestials. Over a dozen of the nigh-omnipotent Celestials tower over Loki, who stands on a small asteroid. One of the Celestials fires another blast of cosmic energy at Loki, who screams once again and mutters that the Celestials have no sense of humor, either – or gratitude, and tells them that they should be thanking him for saving their entire pompous race, and for giving Midgard back its precious Avengers. 'Let them believe I'm the villain once more. I'm damn well used to it' he adds, admitting that he has always had more of a knack for devilry than do-goodery, but this latest escapade was a bit of both.

Loki claims that the Avengers don't have the wherewithal to know why he did what he did, but that the Celestials should. 'You giant bloody bastards should know... about the war that's on the way... the war to end all realms... and with it, the rise of the -' Loki calls out, interrupted when someone calls out to him 'I know why you did it'. Loki turns around and is surprised to see a certain someone standing behind him 'You? What in the hel are you doing here? How are you possibly here?' Loki asks. 'I know what you think's coming, Loki. But I'm here to tell ya... you're wrong. It ain't gonna be as bad as ya think' the other figure calls out. 'It's gonna be a helluva lot worse' exclaims Wolverine a.k.a. Logan, can of beer in hand. 'You meddling half-wit. First you block my efforts at gathering the Infinity Stones, purely for safekeeping, of course -' Loki begins. 'Right. That's definitely what you were doing' Logan replies, drinking his beer. 'Then you come all the way out here just to taunt me. I thought you were supposed to be Canadian' Loki mutters.

Wolverine tells Loki to believe it or not, but he is actually here to help him – and that it sure looks like he could use some right now. Wolverine looks up to the Celestial called Arishem the Judge and asks him if they still have a deal. 'Don't be a fool. A mere mortal cannot converse with the likes of...' Loki replies, only for Arishem to give Logan the thumbs up signal. 'That's impossible' Loki gasps. 'For your sake, you damn well better hope not' Logan replies. 'Correct me if I'm wrong, but cosmic matters of this sort are usually far above your hairy little pay grade' Loki adds. Logan smirks and tells Loki that used to be the case, but the eons do funny things to a man. 'Eons? But you're not...' Loki begins. 'From around here? No, I ain't' Wolverine replies, crunching his now empty can of beer, he tells Loki that this is what they call a period of profound cosmic significance, as that watery mudball they love needs all her cosmic defense systems on deck, so here he is, making deals with space gods. 'What deal? What is this?' Loki enquires.

Logan reveals that it is a trade, and that he told these Celestials he could help them burn that horde infection right outta their Final Host bodies – in exchange for him. 'Only problem is...I got no intention of helping 'em. Ain't my place. And I think they just figured that out. So get ready to run when I give the signal' Logan remarks as he suddenly appears with fiery cosmic energy around him, telling Loki that he did good work in getting the Avengers back together, but that his work isn't done, not be a damn sight. 'Like I said, the future is one bonafide flaming $#%&-storm. Hell, I oughtta know' Logan remarks, adding that he thinks he is one of the reasons why – one of many. Suddenly, as the cosmic energy ripples around Wolverine, he pops his claws and visions appear – of Iron Fist battling ninjas, Punisher holding a sword, and Man-Thing holding Thor's hammer. Namor with an army of sharks, and Moon Knight leading an army of zombies. Malekeith laughing as a world burns, Hyperion crushing Captain America's shield, and Ursa Major roaring, while several hands appear to be holding up the Starbrand symbol.

Wolverine streaks towards the Celestials on cosmic energy, 'In case you're still wondering, SNIKT was the signal, Loki! So run away home, little god!' 'Oh, and tell the Avengers something for me!' Logan calls out, while Loki drops to the ground, 'A Phoenix Wolverine? What in the name of...' Loki mutters, as Wolverine instructs him to tell the Avengers that they got some more assembling to do. Loki starts to scream as the asteroid begins to plummet out of space.

Elsewhere, 'Control to Agent Van Dyne. Do you have eyes on the target?' a voice radios Jan Van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp, whose wings glow blue as she flies through the night, 'Negative, but, uh...there are a few somethings that definitely have eyes on me!' Jan replies as she is pursued by several bats. The voice over the communicator tells the Wasp that if she has been spotted to abort the mission and get to her extraction point. 'Yeah, that's not happening. Not while I still have my stinger blasts' the Wasp replies as she blasts one of the bats under the moonlight of Romania, specifically the Carpathian Mountains, in the region that was once known as Transylvania. 'If you'd wanted somebody who'd cut and run at the first sign of trouble, you probably sholdn't have hired a founding Avenger' the Wasp responds over her communicator. As the Wasp approaches a castle, several vampires emerge from the shadows. 'The guard bats have spotted something! An instruder! Sound the alarm!'

The Wasp flies past the vampires as the person on thev communicator informs her that the Avengers are busy in the Pacific right now and there are no other agents available to back her up. 'Understood. This is Wasp, Agent of Wakanda...going in' the Wasp responds as she enters the castle, dodging various vampires and blasting them with her stinger as well. The Wasp reports that she is meeting plenty of resistance, and that the evac team should be prepped, because if the target is here, they will be coming in hot. 'That was not the plan, agent. You were only meant to lay eyes on the target and report back' the Wasp is told, while one of the vampires annonces that Castle Dracula has been invaded. 'Yeah, probably should have told you. I'm not reall a “have a look-see” kinda lady. I'm more a “sting everything in sight” sorta gal' the Wasp tells the person she is in contact with.

The Wasp's contact reports that satellite scans show the target directly ahead with more guards on the way. 'Get him and get out of there!' they shout. 'Copy that' the Wasp acknowledges, 'Drain her blood for the maste!' a vampire calls out, while the Wasp flies towards a cell, passes through the bars and reports that she has eyes on the target. 'Is he responsive?' her contact asks. 'Let me see' the Wasp responds as she hovers before the Vampire Hunter known as Blade, who is restrained with his arms above his head. 'Hey, Blade. How'd you like to join the Avengers?' the Wasp asks. 'Get me my swords' Blade replies. 'Good answer' the Wasp tells him.

Characters Involved: 

Black Panther, Captain America, Captain Marvel VI, Ghost Rider V, Iron Man, She-Hulk, Thor (all Avengers)
Chernobog, Crimson Dynamo V, Darkstar, Perun, Red Widow, Ursa Major, Vanguard, Vostok (all Winter Guard)

Andromeda, Bloodtide, Echidna, King Crab, Manowar, Namor, Orka, The Piranhas, Tiger Shark (all Defenders of the Deep)

Gorilla-Man, Wasp (both Agents of Wakanda)

General Thunderbolt Ross
Agent Phil Coulson

Doctor Spectrum, Hyperion, Nighthawk, Speed Demon, Warrior Woman (all Squadron Supreme of America)

Loki, Odin

Gabe Reyes

Arishem the Judge, Eson the Searcher, Gammenon the Gatherer, Oneg the Prober, Ziran the Tester and other Celestials

KGB Officer
Hydropolis scientists
Press conference attendees

in vision:
The Hand, Iron Fist, Malekith, Man-Thing, Moon Knight, Punisher

in illustrative image:
Agamotto, Black Panther, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, Lady Phoenix, Odin, Starbrand (all Avengers 1,000,000 BC)

Story Notes: 

This issue has the Legacy number of Avengers (1st series) #700.

The Winter Guard originally debuted in Iron Man (3rd series) #9 with a roster consisting of members of various now defunct Russian super teams. In Hulk (2nd series) #1, the team was restructured to consist of only four members – Darkstar, Crimson Dynamo, Ursa Major and Red Guardian. If one of those members was killed or quit, another operative would be brought in to take the mantle of that role. This issue returns the team to a larger team beyond those four members.

The Winter Guard – Darkstar, Vanguard, Ursa Major and Crimson Dynamo – were last seen in Weapon X (3rd series) #20-21. It appears that some time has passed since that appearance, given Crimson Dynamo needs to be convinced to rejoin the team, and Ursa Major is in a corrective camp for his “crimes”.

First appearance of Red Widow II.

Vanguard took up the mantle of Red Guardian VIII in Darkstar & the Winter Guard #3. He returns to his Vanguard codename this issue, but remains wearing a Red Guardian costume.

Chernobog debuted in Incredible Hulks #621 and made one further appearance in Thor God of Thunder #2.

Vostok was originally called Sputnik and was a founding member of the Supreme Soviets / People's Protectorate, and then the original Winter Guard team, although he vanished and was last seen in a flashback panel in Darkstar & the Winter Guard #2 when several heroes vanished into Limbo – he was not one of the heroes who subsequently returned and had not been seen since.

Perun was also a founding member of the Supreme Soviets / People's Protectorate, although he did not join the original Winter Guard. At some time he became involved with the Winter Guard though, as he was one of the heroes who disappeared in a flashback scene in Darkstar & the Winter Guard #2 when several heroes vanished into Limbo – he was not one of the heroes who subsequently returned and had not been seen since.

Andromeda is a former member of the Defenders and longtime supporting character to Namor.

Manowar debuted in Fantastic Four Unlimited #11, and subsequently appeared in New Thunderbolts #1, #3, #5-6, #18.

Echidna has only previously appeared as one of the Doom Maidens in Fearless Defenders #11-12.

The Piranhas and King Crab first appeared last issue.

Bloodtide has previously appeared in New Thunderbolts #1, #3, #5-6.

Starbrand attacked Ghost Rider in Africa in Marvel Legacy #1.

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