Avengers (7th series) #11

Issue Date: 
February 2019
Story Title: 
The Strength and Conviction of Phillip Coulson

Jason Aaron (writer), Ed McGuinness & Cory Smith (pencilers), Mark Morales, Scott Hanna & Karl Kesel (inkers), Erick Arciniego (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Cory Petit (letterer), Ed McGuiness & Marta Gracia (cover artists), Alan Davis, Mark Farmer Matt Hollingsworth; Carlos Pacheco, Aneke & Jason Keith (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: 

Captain Marvel encourages Ghost Rider to keep up with his study of super villains, as it will prove useful to him. Ghost Rider struggles with the study and wishes they could just be out fighting the villains instead. In the Savage Land, Jen Walters is not overly impressed with her date with Thor, who appears more interested in watching dinosaur fight and drinking mead. Jen wonders if Thor meant to ask She-Hulk out and decides to leave. Thor manages to stop her leaving by telling her that he does want to get to know her, he already knows She-Hulk, but it is Jen that he is intertested in. Jen shifts into She-Hulk and they kiss. At Avengers Mountain, the Black Panther is holding a summit with heroes representing several nations – Shaman, Captain Britain, Sunfire, Sabra, Arabian Knight, Collective Man and Ursa Major. The Black Panther explains that the purpose of the sumit is to find a more cooperative way for them all to work going forward, especially considering how dangerous the world has become lately, and now that SHIELD is no longer in operation. All of the heroes seem interested in cooperating, except for Ursa Major, who is determined that the Winter Guard will never work with other heroes. He is particularly aggressive to the Black Panther, and asks him if he knows what happened in Alaska with Namor and his team. The Black Panther admits that he does not. Ursa Major decides that the time for talk is done and lunges at the Black Panther, who uses the technology of Avengers Mountain to teleport him away. The heroes return to their discussion, talking about what matters they should focus on, before Sunfire raises the mysterious Alaska incident again, but the Black Panther reassures everyone that he does not know what happened. The Black Panther reveals to the other heroes that he fears something bad is happening in the halls of Washington DC, and that it is going to set off an explosion that ignites powder kegs around the world. Meanwhile, Phil Coulson is holding a mysterious person with ties to the Avengers and Black Panther hostage. Coulson wants information from them about the Black Panther, but everything his captive tells him he thinks is a lie. Phil reveals to his captive what happened in Alaska – the Squadron Supreme of America made their debut and defeated Namor's forces. His captive tries to talk to him, but Phil isn't interested, and shoots the mysterious suited man in the chest.

Full Summary: 

In a dark room, Phil Coulson, formerly an Agent of SHIELD and also formerly dead, holds a gun in his hand. 'I idolized them. All of them. Even the ones you've never heard of. To such an obsessive degree' Phil states, revealing that when he was a kid, he used to make little note cards charting their powers and his educated guesses at their origins. He spent so much money over the years on vintage Captain America trading cards. 'So embarrassing' he mutters. 'I'm only telling you this now because I know you'll never tell anyone else. And besides... I don't idolize super heroes anymore. I grew up... about five seconds before I died'.

Phil declares that all the adoration bled right out of him, through the gaping bullet wound in his chest. 'He even murdered my car. What a sick little man' Phil remarks, 'Wherever you are, Deadpool, I owe you for Lola' Phil mutters, deciding that he should be thankful, too, because if he hadn't died as part of some ridiculous super hero war, he wouldn't have seen the light.

Phil continues, explaining that he  wouldn't be where he is today, with the strength and conviction to do what needs to be done to protect this country. 'Though I suppose that doesn't answer your question, does it? What you really want to know is... why am I holding this gun? And why am I about to point it at your face and pull this trigger? The answer is simple. Because of the Avengers'.

Meanwhile, at Avengers Mountain:
'So you're saying you've never once changed the oil in this thing?' Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel asks Robbie Reyes the Ghost Rider as she checks under the hood of his mysterious car. Robbie sits nearby and informs Carol that he tried to one time and the car nearly bit his arm off. 'I really wouldn't go poking under that hood if I were you, Ms Carol' Robbie warns her. 'I sleep in the same mountain as this thing. If your Hell Charger's exhaust is poison or its glove compartment is a gateway to hell, I'd really like to know' Carol replies, to which Robbie informs her that the trunk is the gateway to hell. 'Okay, see now you're being a helpful Avenger, Robbie Reyes, you never know when a working hell portal might come in handy' Carol tells Robbie, who remarks that he could use one right about now, as he never knew being an Avenger would come with so much homework, as he looks up from a electronic device.

Carol tells Robbie that she remembers Steve's super villain quizzes. 'Stilt Man. His battle suit's telescopic legs contain powerful hydaulic rams. Weakness: he's on stilts' Carol tells Robbie, adding that those quizzes have probably saved her hide more than once, and suggests to him that he study like his life depends on it – because it does. Carol notices some tentacles among the machine parts of the engine, 'Is that a carburetor or an egg sack? Or maybe both?' she asks. 'Yeah, but I already...' Robbie begins, to which Carol tells him not to say it – she doesn't want to hear again about how he single-handedly defeated the Final Host. 'You saved the world one time, kid. Congratulations. I bet even Spider-Man has saved the world more than you' Carol declares, before telling Robbie that if he wants to be excellent – really excellent – at what he does, then he needs to be excellent every day in every part of his life – that's how the great ones do it. 'You think Captain America ever complained about homework?' Carol asks.

Robbie turns back to the device in his hands, 'Mephisto. Why does that name sound so familiar?' he asks, before muttering 'Why can't we just go fight the fish people again? Where is everybody else anyway?' Carol turns to Robbie and informs him that Black Panther is having a big important meeting upstairs, and warns him not to disturb the meeting, while their house-guest Blade is recuperaring in the infirmary. 'He's a vampire. I wouldn't disturb him, either' Carol remarks, adding that if Tony was here, she would gladly let him disturb Tony, but he and Steve are off handling personal business. Carol then tells Robbie that she is going to have a conference call with eight different intergalactic leaders, so he can't disturb her, either. 'Wasn't there a talking Gorilla swinging around here the other day? Or hey, what about Thor and Hulk?' Robbie asks. 'Uh, yeah, they're off on a... super-secret mission' Carol replies, suggesting to Robbie that he hit the books while he can, and not to worry, as the next major disaster will be coming along any second now. Carol then flies off out a hatch.

On their super-secret “mission” Jennifer Walters the She-Hulk and Thor sit in the Savage Land and look out as two dinosaurs fight. 'More mead?' Thor asks. 'Uh, no. No, I'm good on mead' Jen replies, frowning, her cup still full. Jen then asks Thor if this is where he brings all the girls he asks out. Munching on a drumstick, Thor tells Jennifer that he doesn't understand, and asks her if this isn't pleasing to her. 'No, it's great, I mean...who doesn't wanna go on a date in the Savage Land?' Jen replies. Referring to the dinosaurs, Thor asks Jen if there aren't enough battle dragons and tells her that he can have Ka-Zar summon more if she likes. 'No, it's a fine amount of battle dragons just fine' Jen assures Thor. Resting her head in her hands, Jen remarks 'Turkey legs, mead and dinosaurs. Suppose I should've known that's what a date with Thor would be like'. She quietly adds that she is starting to see why Thor has been single for so many centuries. 'Ha! Thor has a grand idea! Let us give mead to the dragons!' Thor shouts, grinning. 'Final Host… please come back' Jen mumbles.

Back at Avengers Mansion, in the lush landscape of the Eden Room, several Iron Man type robots act as servants as T'Challa the Blakc Panther stands before a long table, where several heroes are seated. Fresh fruit and vegetables are laid out before them. T'Challa begins by telling his guests that he doesn't need to remind them that these are times of unparalleled danger and division for their planet – they know that better than anyone. He explains that is why he has gathered them here – as they are the greatest heroes the world has to offer. He thanks them for accepting his invitation to this international super-summit and tells them that he sincerely hopes that today can be the beginning of a new age of cooperation between them all. Seated around the table are the Collective Man from China, Brian Braddock a.k.a. Captain Britain of the United Kingdom, Dr Michael Twoyoungmen a.k.a. Shaman from Canada, Japan's Shiro Yoshida a.k.a. Sunfire, Ruth Bat-Seraph known as Sabra from Israel, and Navid Hashim a.k.a. Arabian Knight, of no fixed country but operating out of Saudi Arabia.

As the Iron Man robots pour drinks for the guests, Shaman asks T'Challa to start by telling them how he convinced Stark to provide the waitstaff. 'No convincing required, Shaman. Tony should not leave his laundry laying around if he does not wish me to put it to use' He then asks his guests to eat and drink, remarking that this need not be a formal affair, and that they are all colleagues here.

T'Challa smiles as he tells his companions that if they are going to continue in their chosen profession of saving this world from those who would do it harm, or oftentimes from itself, then it is his humble opinion that they they must all make a more concerted effort to reach beyond their countries' borders and work together – and that begins with him. He states that as King of Wakanda and newly elected Chairman of the Avengers, he wanted to promise them all here today that his resources will always be available to his allies. Sunfire is wearing a white suit and his traditional make over his face as he points out that those are quite considerable resources – from the vibranium mines of Wakanda to this impressive new headquarters they see around them, teeming with Celestial technology – not to mention the clandestine network of special agents they have heard he has been building. 'So please, do tell us, what does it take to be an ally of the newly anointed King of the Avengers?' Sunfire enquires.

T'Challa reminds the heroes that for years they all relied, one way or another, on the sprawling, global infrastructure of SHIELD, and for better or worse, that infrastructure has been dismantled. He assures the heoes that he is not trying to re-create SHIELD but merely to build a support network for the Avengers and for all heroes who fight the same fight, like Sunfire in Japan. Captain Britain remarks that he thinks cooperation is the key word here, and tells the others that they all know T'Challa hasn't been known for his openness over the years. 'No offense' he tells the Black Panther, before suggesting to the others that if T'Challa is willing to put aside the past so they can all build a bettre future together, he for one doesn't want to be left out. 'Please, no Brexit jokes' Cap mutters. Arabian Knight tells the others that their very oceans have become conteted, and that Namor has truly lost his waterclogged mind this time, so if they can't all work together, then there is a chance they will drown alone. Sabra announces that she agrees with the Arabian Knight and tells the men that they cannot do Namor's work for him by tearing each other apart. She acknowledges that they will never all agree on everything, but that there must be a mutual respect between them and sharing of information.

'Haaa! Look at Sabra and the Arabian Knight! Even the Jew and the Muslim are agreeing! How touching!' a voice calls out. Everyone turns to the other end of the table, where Major Mikhail Ursus a.k.a. Ursa Major sits in his bear form, a mess of fruits and vegetables in front of him. 'How damned pathetic' Ursa Major snarls. 'The Panther dangles his shiny toys in front of you lot and you all start lining up to kiss his vibranium ring. Come put your hand near my mouth, kitty cat, and see what happens to it' Ursa Major mutters, before boasting that the Winter Guard doesn't need his help or his intel, and they sure aren't about to give anyone theirs. 'Be wary. The bear is quite drunk' the Collective Man whispers, while the Black Panther tells Ursa Major that this is exactly the sort of territorial thinking that led to the Avengers and the Winter Guard clashing during the fight to save Hydropolis. He adds that he fails to see how an ongoing adversarial relationship would be beneficial to either the Winter Guard or the Avengers, especially as Namor's attacks continue.

The Black Panther reports that details are sketchy, but three days ago there was yet another incident off the coast of Alaska. 'Ahaa! So now  we finaly come to it! You didn't bring us here just to bask in your coronation and eat a few scraps from your table! You need something from us!' Ursa Major remarks. 'Major Ursus, haven't you been listening? We all need each other' Shaman remarks. 'No, he doesn't' Ursa Major replies. 'He's the Black Panther! He never needs anyone or anything! Until now!' One of the heroes tells Ursus that he is out of line and to stand down, but Ursa Major asks T'Challa to tell him he is wrong. 'You don't know what happened in Alaska, do you?' Ursa Major remarks. Calmly, the Black Panther admits that he does not, and asks Ursa Major if he does. 'Heh, I know there's a very conspicuous absence from this all-inclusive “summit” of yours. Why is there no one here from the United States? The country with more super heroes than I've got ringworms. Yet not a one of them is sitting at your table' Ursa Major points out. S

The Black Panther frowns but continues to listen as Ursa Major notes that not even Captain America is here, and he hears he is not so popular with his own government these days. 'You have a problem, Lord Avenger. A very big star-spangled problem. You just don't know how big yet, do you? And you want us to help solve it for you' Ursa Major points out, before telling T'Challa, on behalf of the Winter Guard and the good people of Mother Russia, to kiss his furry ass. 'This is why you never invite a bear to a dinner party' Arabian Knight comments. Sabra covers her face and mutters that she had hoped they would at least make it through the appetizer course before the first fight. 'At least it's not us' Arabian Knight tells her. Sabra agrees and suggests there might be hope for the world after all. 'Not looking like it' Arabian Knight replies, while Ursa Major just laughs, and the Black Panther stares at him.

Back in the Savage Land, Jennifer sits with her arms folded, looking at the ground, while Thor looks away from her. They sit in silence, before Thor tells her 'That boulder looks quite imposing. Would you like me to lift it?' he enquires. Jen ignores that comment and asks him if he meant to ask out the Hulk. They both turn and look at each other, to which Thor announces that he senses this is not going well. 'I'm teleporting home' Jen tells him as she gets to her feet.

Back in the mysterious darkened room, Phil Coulson holds up a small photo of Captain America which he has set on fire. The figure sitting in the shadows tells Coulson that he doesn't understand, as he doen't work for the Avengers. 'I work for the same people you do' they remark. 'Don't die with a lie on your lips, son' Coulson responds, adding that he knows that hasn't been their normal way of life for a very long time, it is certainly not what SHIELD trained them to do. 'But try telling the truth for a chance. I'm finding it quite exhiliarating' Coulson remarks, declaring that Tony Stark is a loudmouthed jerk and Captain America is a traitor. 'See how easy that was?' he asks. The unseen figure tells Coulson that the truth is, he was hired by General Thunderbolt Ross, the same as he was. 'I am on your side, I swear to you. I believe in this project in every way, but you know the thing Ross says about Captain Rogers and the rest of the Avengers can't be true' they add.

Coulson tells them that the truth can be hard to swallow sometimes, he has nearly choked on it himself a few  times. 'Including the truth about you my friend. And your employer, the Black Panther' Coulson reveals. 'Agent Coulson. Phil. We've known each other a long time and worked together for years.  Please believe me. I have no idea what you're talking about -' the unseen figure tells Coulson, who interrupts by announcing that he is going to shoot them in the leg now.

'ENOUGH DAMN TALK!' Ursa Major roars as he stands up, asking what the hell problems talking has ever solved. 'You're way out of line, Ursus' Captain Britain declares, while the Collective Man warns him to sit down, or else he will make him sit down. 'You bunch of blundering half-wits want peace on Earth? Then let's make it happen right here. I maul every last damn one of you! And then you stay the hell out of the Winter Guard's way! There's your peace!' Ursa Major shouts as he starts to run across the table, 'I'm starting with you, your highness! What do you say to that?' Ursa Major asks. Calmly, and without moving, the Black Panther utters 'Transport one to Siberia' and before Ursa can strike the Black Panther, the angry bear vanishes. Black Panther apologizes to his guests for the disturbance and tells them that they shouldn't allow this unfortunate business to detail their summit, as they have much to discuss. He then instructs the Iron Man drones to clean up the mess. As the drones begin to clean up the spilled food, the heroes gather their chairs and Arabian Knight tells Black Panther that he should have at least punched Ursus, as he has never seen a bear fight a panther. 'He definitely had it coming' Sabra remarks.

Captain Britain remarks that Ursus was KGB, and points out that he is no drunken buffoon, meaning that was quite intentional, he was goading T'Challa. 'Good on you for not taking the bait' he adds. The Black Panther explains that when he extended an invitation to the Winter Guard he had hoped Crimson Dynamo would attend, but he imagines they sent Ursa Major very much on purpose, and that it appears they will find no allies in Moscow. The Collective Man reveals that he hears this new Red Widow is calling the shots. 'Damn Red Room. Every monster they turn out is somehow always worse than the last' Arabian Knight comments. Sabra points out that that corner of the globe is in a fair bit of chaos now, and asks the others if they have heard about what is happening in Romania with these new vampire insurgents. Captain Britain suggests that it is Atlantis where they need to be focused, as every ocean in the world has become a battleground. 'Something must be done about Namor and his -' Captain Britain adds, while Sunfire remarks that the bear asked an important question before he was sent off to Siberia. 'What did happen in Alaska?' he enquires.

The Black Panther stands up and walks away from the table as he reports that Namor's forces attacked a Roxxon oil drilling platform and apparently were very quickly and efficiently repelled – but not by the Avengers and not by the Winter Guard – not by anyone in this room. 'Then by whom?' someone asks. 'I am not used to saying what I am about to say...but I have absolutely no idea' the Black Panther admits.

'Lady Jennifer, wait!' Thor calls out back in the Savage Land as Jen strides away from him. 'This is not what I intended' Thor tells her. Jen turns back to him and tells him clearly he intended to ask She-Hulk out, but unfortunately, they are kind of a package deal, and right now, they both want to smash his face in. 'So for your sake, Thor, I'm leaving' Jen declares. 'It was you' Thor tells her. He swears by his father's eye that it was Jennifer with whom he wished to spend this time. He admits that Thor is sadly better versed in the art of hurling his mighty hammer than of hurling words from his mouth. 'But I... I only wish to better know you, my lady' Thor reveals. Thor tells Jen that he knows why she smashes, but not why she smiles, or that which makes her spark and burn on the inside, other than the gamma radiation, of course. He tells her that he wants to know where in all the heavens she longs to visit, what grand cosmic wonders she has yet to behold – and he wants to take her there, and sit in the shadow of that awe-inspiring wonder, and still not be able to take his eyes off her.

'Am I enamored with your Hulk? With a hade giantess who could seemingly tear me asunder with her bare hands if she so desired? Aye, most verily. But you are speaking to a god who considers the greatest day of his immortal life to be the first one he ever lived as a mortal man. 'Tis the she inside the She-Hulk who truly fascinates me. Tis you I long to...' Thor begins, before Jen, now transformed  into She-Hulk, touches his face and tells him to stop talking, as they embrace and kiss, while the dinosaurs continue to fight behind them.

Back at the summit, the Black Panther tells his guests that their world today is rife with powder kegs, you can see them in every corner of the globe, waiting to explode. He remarks that he can deal with powder kegs – that is the job. But what worries him the most is the explosions that he cannot see coming. Black Panther assures the others that he does not know what happened in Alaska or what it means, nor does he know what is transpiring in the halls of Washington DC – he just knows that some within the United States government no longer consider their nation an ally of the Avengers – beyond that, all he has are questions. 'Together, we must find some answers, my friends – for all our sakes. Or the explosion that ignites all the powder kegs around the globe...may come from where we least expect it'.

Back in the dark room, Coulson stands over his hostage, who is tied to a chair and now has a gunshot wound in their leg. Coulson, please...' the unseen figure calls out. 'When SHIELD folded, you went to work for the Panther. You're a spy for the Avengers. They sent you to infiltrate Ross' team. To infiltrate the United States government and report back. How am I doing?' Coulson asks. 'No. No, I...' the mysterious figure begins, but Coulson tells them not to bother lying, as they have telepaths on staff and they know everything – everything the Panther doesn't. Coulson asks his captive if he should just come right out and tell them what he sent him here to find out – 'Would you like to know what happened in Alaska?' he asks, boasting that the Squadron Supreme of America happened – it was their trial run – and they passed with flying colors – bloody colors, mostly' Coulson announces, remembering how Hyperion chained Orka up with his own anchor.

Coulson continues, reporting that the Avengers will know all about the Squadron Supreme of America soon enough, but on his terms. 'Phil, please... I don't know what's happened to you... if you really did die, or how you came back, but...' the captive begins, telling Phil that they know this isn't him, this isn't the sort of man that he is. 'The sort who would tie you up and shoot you, you mean? Because why? Because I always seemed like a nice guy? Remembered your birthday? Never raised my voice? Because I'm from Ohio? I was an agent of SHIELD for years. Don't be naive' Phil declares, before deciding that his captive isn't – because they worked for SHIELD International Review, he has seen their file. 'You know exactly who I am' Phil tells them, realizing that they are just stalling him. 'Until what? You can wiggle your way out of those ropes?' Phil asks.

The mysterious figure informs Phil that they did that ten minutes ago, 'I've just been hoping I wouldn't have to kill you' they remark. Phil raises his gun to his captive and tells them that they don't get to be the hopeful one here, that's his job. 'Lights' he calls out, and suddenly the already dark room is plunged into darkness. There are some crashing noises, a scuffle, then several gunshots and a thud. The lights turn back on and Phil stands over the unmoving body of a man in a suit, and Phil utters 'God bless America'.

Characters Involved: 

Black Panther, Captain Marvel VI, Ghost Rider V, She-Hulk, Thor (all Avengers)

Captain Britain
Ursa Major
Collective Man
Arabian Knight III

Agent Phil Coulson
Unknown figure

in illustrative image:
Hyperion (Squadron Supreme of America)
Orka (Defenders of the Deep)

in photograph:
Captain America

Story Notes: 

This issue has the Legacy number of Avengers (1st series) #701.

Phil Coulson died in Deadpool (4th series) #31 and mysteriously returned last issue.

Written By: