Avengers Annual 2000

Issue Date: 
May 2000
Story Title: 
The Cat Came Back!

Kurt Busiek (writer), Norm Breyfogle & Richard Howell (artists), Tom Smith (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterers), Tom Brevoort (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Following her resurrection, Patsy Walker appears on a television program where she recounts her life, death and return, before being reunited with Hedy Wolfe, who is now in control of Patsy-Hedy Entertainment and wants to take Patsy back to Centerville. Patsy agrees, and is surprised to learn her old home town has been transformed into an amusement park and tourist attraction. She is reunited with many of the townspeople including her brother Mickey and friend Tom Hale, before meeting the mayor, Mayor Nicholas, and Russell Dabioa who is in charge of resort management. She finds something strange about hidrm, before the tour of Centerville continues and Patsy and Mickey return to their old home. Patsy is troubled by all of this, and goes for a walk to clear her head. She is reunited with more old friends, but sees some sort of demon control over them. She runs from them, and her Hellcat costume appears. They continue to chase her, so she seeks sanctuary on top of the church. But when Hellcat looks out over the whole of Centerville, she sees that the entire town has been covered in some sort of demon curse. At Avengers Mansion, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch and Iron Man are having a training session when they receive a telepathic order from Moondragon, informing them that Hellcat requires their assistance, and she orders them to meet her, and sends them the coordinates. The Avengers comply, and their former teammate soon meets them. Iron Man starts to argue with her, before Moondragon reminds them that she is afforded all the privileges of an Avenger, before revealing that she called in extra help – and on cue, Hawkeye along with his Thunderbolts teammate Songbird join the team. The heroes arrive in Centerville, where Patsy, seemingly undisturbed, greets them and tells them that Moondragon picked up on distress from a nightmare she was having. The Avengers turn to leave, before the Scarlet Witch casts a spell that frees Patsy and Hedy from the serpent-like demonic possession they had fallen under. The Avengers escape to a hill outside Centerville, where Patsy and Hedy explain what has been going on. Hedy is distraught that she could allow her town to be taken over by demons. Hellcat tells her old friends about the “demon sight” that she has developed, and that she sees demon activity in the amusement park. They rush to the amusement park, leaving Hedy behind, and after making their way down a trapdoor, they find the Sons of the Serpent have set up a base. They see seven people in the middle of a strange circle as a priest casts some sort of spell, and a cloaked figure sits on a throne. Two of the Sons of the Serpent discuss how Centerville is the perfect place to build an army, before they are alerted to the fact that the Avengers have arrived. The heroes use this moment to crash into the chamber, where Hellcat recognizes the voice of the leader on the throne as he orders the Sons of the Serpent to attack. Her suspicions about Daboia proved correct as he reveals himself, and transforms into a large snake demon. The Avengers engage the Sons in combat, before another surprise is thrown at the heroes – the group called Salem's Seven appear and start to battle the Avengers, too. The Scarlet Witch remembers seeing Salem's Seven die, but the group has now returned, and are relentless in their attacks against the Avengers. Hellcat and Hawkeye prove the most effective against Salem's Seven, and are able to free the other Avengers, and rally them to fight on. At the same time, Hedy, who followed the Avengers, finds the chamber, and sees Daboia in a room off to the side, where he is summoning forth a powerful serpent demon. The demon attacks the Avengers, and captures them. Daboia boasts that his master will be pleased, which Hellcat overhears and is confused by, as she thought Daboia was in charge here. Hedy starts to topple a brazier which the ghost-like demon serpent is emerging from. The brazier spills out into a pentagram where Daboia stands, and he then vanishes, while the demon-serpent and Salem's Seven disappear moments later. The Avengers are free, and the Sons of the Serpent surrender. The Scarlet Witch warns that while the immediate danger is over, the threat remains. In the aftermath, Hellcat thanks her old friends for their help, and they depart. Patsy walks down the main street and decides that she will stay in Centerville for now, and realizes that the power struggle between satanic beings that led to her being freed from Hell might have something to do with what is going on. She doesn't see Mayor Nicholas watching her from his office, where he realizes that to Patsy Walker's eternal regret she will soon discover the truth.

Full Summary: 

Chapter 1: “...And We're Back!”
Two television hosts of the show “The All-New It's Amazing” smile at the camera recording them as Mac Sanders tells viewers that he hopes they enjoyed the commercial break and that everyone got back from the bathroom or the fridge in time. He introduces himself, before his co-host, Diane Cummins, introduces herself, and reports that “It's Amazing” has something very special for the viewers now. Their next guest is less than 25 years old, but she has already been a pop-culture sensation, a super hero... and a corpse! 'And now she's a best-selling author! Please join her in welcoming... PATSY WALKER!

 The audience applauds as the svelte red-haired Patsy Walker approaches the hosts and sits beside them on a sofa, 'It's good to be here' Patsy tells them. 'Good to be anywhere, I'd think – if the stories you tell are true!' Mac replies, adding that, as Diane said, Patsy has had some extraordinary experiences, and has written a book about them, just out from Empire Books in hardcover, and burning up the sales charts. He holds a copy of the book - “Gidget Goes to Hell” up.

Images of Patsy Walker comic books are shown as Mac smiles and admits he hasn't had a chance to finish Patsy's book, but that Patsy tells a hair-raising tale indeed. He reminds Patsy that she was first known to America, and is still best known, as the teenager next door, along with friends like Hedy Wolfe, and starred in a popular line of comic books, plus games, dolls and even a short-lived TV series. 'Wasn't it strange growing up like that?' Mac enquires.

Patsy explains that it seemed normal at the time, but that she didn't have anything to compare it to. Diane remarks that one of the most unusual aspects in all of the Patsy Walker comics was that the people in them were all real – Patsy's friends and neighbours. 'Why, even your high-school teacher had her own series!' she adds. Somewhat forlorn, Patsy states that it was her mother who wrote and licensed the material – and she was... thorough. 'She had plans for a media empire built around me – and she signed up everyone in Centerville!'

'But after high school, things took a startling change for what America thought of as “the typical teenager”, right?' Mac asks. Patsy agrees, and states that she married her highschool sweetheart, Buzz, and although their marriage didn't last, Buzz was appointed the army's liaison to the Brand Corporation, and while there, she was drawn into the adventures of a mysterious creature known as the Beast.

Patsy explains that at first they thought he was a monster, but he turned out to be a hero. Patsy reveals that their paths crossed again when the Beast joined the Avengers, and she found herself accompanying them on a mission – one that gave her an opportunity she had never dreamed of, where Captain America asked her if she could play Cat. Patsy explains to Mac, Diane and the viewers that the Avengers had found a costume once worn by a superheroine known as the Cat, and Patsy then wore it as Hellcat. Patsy mentions that she had always been athletic and agile, but that as Hellcat she flourished, and the Avengers offered her membership, but she only became a reserve member at the time, opting instead to travel with the Titanian priestess Moondragon, who helped train Patsy and hone her abilities.

Patsy continues with the recount of her history, revealing that when she did take up with a super team again it wasn't the Avengers, but rather a team that fought just as hard, just as heroically, but never got the same kind of public notice – a team called the Defenders. There, she served alongside Nighthawk, Valkyrie, the Hulk, Dr. Strange, Hellstorm, the Gargoyle and even the Beast. Patsy adds that it was while with the Defenders that she met and fell in love with Daimon Hellstrom, and they eventually married. 'And that's when tragedy struck, isn't it?' Mac asks.

'That's a fairly melodramatic way to put it – but I guess if you didn't live through it, it does sound like melodrama' Patsy responds, adding that she and Daimon were happy for a while, but that in certain circles, her husband had been known as the Son of Satan – and that was a name with more truth to it than most people would believe possible. Patsy explains that in time, Daimon's heritage, his demonic nature took him over. 'And I... I went insane' Patsy reveals, recalling how she was put in a straight-jacket and locked into a padded room, and how through her madness, she blamed Daimon, blamed what he'd become, and she wanted to strike back at him, to hurt him, and so she found a way.

The incredible history of Patsy Walker continues to be chronicled as Patsy reveals that she drew to her a mystic entity named Deathurge, and with his help, she killed herself to punish Daimon Hellstrom, but that even in death, she was still linked to the world of the living and could reach out to it, channeling her voice through a radio, where she hinted that the place she was in, she can leave it and get a new body. Patsy announces that she realized she had been a fool, and but for all she said, she couldn't find her way back to the real world, not without help, and then, recently, she was saved by the Thunderbolts. '...and, well, here I am! There's more to it than that, of course, but it's all in the book – which I'm told is selling quite well, even though some stores are stocking it in the “fantasy” section...' Patsy concludes her tale. Mac declares that t is a little much to believe, even in a world that has gotten used to spider-men and super-powered mutants. 'But what the public cares about, it seems, is that it's a hell of a read!' Mac remarks, before asking Patsy what her plans are, and what she will do now.

Patsy replies that she isn't sure, and reveals that since her return, she has been getting her legal status back in order with the help of the Maria Stark Foundation, and writing her book, which her publishers wanted to get out as fast as possible, and now, she has been thinking about going back to school.

Diane smiles and informs Patsy that they have a surprise for her that just might change her plans. 'If you'll just look to the left...' Diane begins, motioning to where a well-dressed woman with black hair stands.

'Really, Patsy. You never call, you never write...' the dark-haired woman declares. 'HEDY!?' Patsy exclaims. She gets to her feet and embraces Hedy, as they kiss the air at the side of each other's cheeks. 'Hedy Wolfe! What an incredible surprise!' 'Kiss kiss! It's been a long time since those high school dances, Pats' Hedy remarks. 'But here – let me get a look at you! Hmm... not bad... considering you've been through hell' Hedy jokes, adding that Patsy never did have any fashion sense. 'And that hair...!' Hedy declares.

Patsy remarks that Hedy hasn't changed a bit, before asking her what she been up to. 'Are you on husband five still, or is it six by now?' Patsy asks. 'Now there's the Patsy Walker I remember' Hedy replies, before revealing that when Patsy was... gone... and with her parents deceased, she became the head of Patsy Walker Properties, Inc, which is now known as Patsy-Hedy Entertainment. 'I wanted to call it Hedy-Patsy but the Board overruled me' Hedy adds, informing Patsy that they have been very busy in Centerville, which is in fact why the “It's Amazing” people asked her to be here. Hedy throws her arms into the air and declares that they have arranged for a gala event – for Patsy's first-class, no-expense-spared triumphant return to Centerville! 'Well, ah -' Patsy begins, but Hedy tells her to wait and see what they have done with the old place. 'You won't believe your eyes!'

Chapter 2: Our Town
'I don't believe it!' Patsy exclaims as she and Hedy are driven into Centerville. A sign reads “You are now entering Centerville, population 3,428”. 'Told you!' Hedy declares as Patsy stares out the window at the amusement rides and billboards in the town. 'You've turned Centerville into an amusement park?' Patsy asks, wide-eyed. 'Please – we like to think of it as a destination resort' Hedy explains, revealing that the town had been in an economic slump since the comics got cancelled and Patsy's mom's gravy train ended. 'But I'm an inventive gal, and I had licenses to everyone in town – so she made the right connections, brokered the deal, and turned Centerville into the ideal vacation spot for people who want to experience the perfect middle-American small town. 'It's – it's -' Patsy begins, speechless. 'I know – it's just divine, isn't it?' Hedy declares, as they pass the gate, where a host welcomes them to Centerville, America's heartland-next-door.

'Will you be wanting the cart, Ms Wolfe?' the driver of the car asks as he parks the car. 'Of course, Groves' Hedy replies, before she and Patsy get into a cart to drive around the city. 'C'mon, Patsy – what do you think so far?' Hedy asks. 'Well, “divine” wasn't actually the word I had in -' Patsy begins, before Hedy speeds away, telling Patsy not to be a party-poop. 'Let's go downtown!' Hedy exclaims.

'Cheese and crackers! You restored it – just like it used to be!' Patsy gasps as she looks at the stores along the street. 'Sure – every detail! There's the Fashion Plate, and Krautmann's Sodas – though since old Mr. Krautman passed on, there's someone else running it -' Hedy begins, as a man standing in the doorway calls out 'Hiya, Patsy-Pie!'

Smiling, Patsy gets out of the cart and rushes over to him. 'Tom Hale!' she exclaims. 'And Nan!' Patsy adds as she sees Tom and his wife. 'Actually, I've gone back to “Tubs” - too much ice cream, you know' Tubs points out, before informing Patsy that some other pals have been waiting, and motions to a group standing nearby. Patsy smiles when she sees her brother Mickey, Hedy's father Mr. Wolfe, an old friend Rod and her old teacher Miss Bliss. Teary-eyed, Patsy embraces Mickey and tells him that it is so good to see him – to see them all. 'Hey, how do you think we feel, Patsy? We thought we'd lost you forever!' Mickey tells his sister. 'You  know, Hedy, I'm starting to like this...' Patsy begins, before Hedy motions to two men standing nearby in suits. 'Well, then, let me introduce a couple of unfamiliar faces...' Hedy begins.

The introductions continue as Hedy stands before the men in suits, firstly Mayor Nicholas, from Coloardo but since being elected, has really helped to get the town on its feet. Hedy then moves to Russell Daboia, Patsy-Hedy Enterprises' executive in charge of resort management.

'Good afternoon' Mayor Nicholas addresses Patsy. 'Greetings, Ms Walker – it's a pleasure to meet you in the flesh...' Daboia takes Patsy's hand and kisses it. Somewhat taken aback, Patsy realizes that Daboia's lips are cold. But before she can do more than register that fact, Mickey drags Patsy back into the cart, 'C'mon, Pats – there's still more to show you' he exclaims, adding that he and Nan Hale will join them. 'Sure, Mickey. Next stop – the attractions!' Hedy declares as she drives the cart towards the amusement rides. 'You had to start with the merry-goo-round? You gotta do something about that, Patsy – I'm not a little kid any more...' Mickey protests when they stop at the merry-go-round ride. 'Like any of us are who we were back then. Mickey...' Nan remarks.

They drive on to the next ride, 'Oh, now this one I like – Hedy's Wolfe-At-The-Door House of Horrors! It's so you, Hedy!' Patsy tells her old friend as they pass the haunted house. Hedy smiles and reveals that she has been trying to get it changed, maybe to Hedy's Hall of Mirrors. 'That'd be appropriate, too!' Patsy points out. 'Ahem. Let's go on, shall we?' Hedy declares, as they drive on, passing Miss Bliss' Classroom Cut-Ups, and Tubs' & Nan's Petal-Tubs boat ride. Patsy takes in the hotels, shopping areas, restaurants, and eventually, Hedy asks 'So, Patsy – do you love it, or do you love it?' Hanging her head, Patsy tells Hedy that she doesn't know, explaining that it is a little too much to take in at once, and adds that she is tired from the trip. 'Well, we can't have that!' Hedy replies, before she drops Patsy and Mickey back at their old home. 'You get some sleep, Patsy – so you're fresh for the gala ceremony tomorrow!' Nan calls out to her old friend. 'Thanks, Nan!' Patsy calls back, before going over and sitting on a swing in the yard. 'The old house...the whole town... it's exactly the same' Patsy thinks to herself, deciding that it is great to see everyone, but that she doesn't know if she likes being merchandised all over again. She decides that something isn't right, but that she can't put her finger on it. She wants to take a stroll to clear her head, but as she gets up, Mickey pops his head out of one of the upstairs windows and asks his sister if she wants some company. Patsy tells her brother that it is okay, that she will be fine. As Patsy leaves, Mickey watches her, and his eyes narrow.

Strolling down the sidewalk of one of the town streets, Patsy admits that it does feel good to be back, even with Hedy being as overbearing as ever. 'But I can't help shake this feeling... it's almost like... like panic!' Patsy thinks to herself. She looks at some old comic book covers featuring her that are in a the store window of Ye Olde Comic Shoppe, and realizes that part of her wants to just run, to get as far away from here as possible.

'Patsy?' someone calls out, tapping Patsy on her shoulder. Patsy swings around, as an older man apologizes. 'I didn't mean to startle you -' he begins. 'Specs!' Patsy smiles. 'I just saw you walking, and thought I'd welcome you back' Specs remarks. 'That's real nice of -' Patsy begins, before a blonde woman calls out to her. 'Susan!' Patsy declares. 'And – Miss Meeke?' Patsy adds as she sees a woman with glasses. 'It's Mary Grant now – and you remember Donald, right?' Mary asks. More townspeople gather around her, cheerful, smiling, but there are more and more of them, and they stand so close to Patsy. 'Uh -' Patsy begins, as the uneasy feeling in the pit of Patsy's stomach flares up into full-blown fear, and there is sudden heat behind her eyes. 'What I'm seeing – cheese and crackers!' Patsy thinks to herself, as she suddenly sees the townspeople as demons. 'C'mon, Patsy!' one of them calls out. 'Walk with us!' another exclaims. 'We'll get a malted!' one of them offers. 'Talk over old times' another suggests.

'Excuse me! I'm not – not feeling well! I've got to -' Patsy begins as she pushes through the crowd and starts to run away. 'No, Patsy! Wait!' someone calls out to her. Running down the sidewalk, Patsy wonders if that was some sort of hallucination, and tells herself that, either way, she would feel better if she could get out of these stupid high heels and into her Hellcat costume. Suddenly, to Patsy's shock, her Hellcat costume materializes on her. 'I – I just thought about it – and it appeared! Am I – going insane again? Or has something happened to me?' Patsy wonders, looking at her costume. 'Patsy!' 'Wait!' 'Come with us!' the townspeople call out as they lunge at her. There is no more time to think, and Patsy feels an old confidence, an assurance, come flooding back, and she leaps into the air, dodging the townspeople. She tells them that she knows Centerville prides itself on being a a friendly town, but that this is ridiculous. Hellcat warns them to back off, but then she sees them again, the faces of her neighbors and friends, people she has known all her life, and she can't fight them, so she runs, telling herself that she has to get clear, find some place they can't follow her, some place she can catch her breath and think.

Hellcat races towards the church, and in seconds, she is climbing up its faded clapboard walls, her claws propelling her easily, but the townspeople are still after her. They surround the church. 'Like something out of Night of the Living Dead!' Patsy thinks to herself, realizing that eventually they will find a way in, and up to the bell tower. But she decides that she is safe for the moment. 'It can't be an hallucination. There are really demons in Centerville! And I've got to find out what they're up to – and stop them – before they endanger Mickey, or Hedy, or -' Patsy stops herself, mid-thought, as she feels the heat behind her eyes again, and looks back out over the town. 'Oh, no! I'd thought – I'd assumed it was just the people chasing me, that they were some sort of demonic attack squad!' Patsy thinks to herself, recalling the red glow that she saw around them, when she saw their true nature – but now she is seeing the glow coming from every house in town – Hedy's, her own – everyone's! Patsy realizes that these demons, whatever they want, whatever they are after, they have possessed the whole town. She tells herself that this is more than she can handle alone, and that she needs help – serious help.

Chapter 3: Enter: The Avengers
Avengers Mansion, Manhattan, headquarters to Earth's Mightiest Heroes:

Inside the combat simulation room, three of the core Avengers – Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America, Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch and Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man – are engaged in a training session. 'I'm a little... tied up here!' Iron Man calls out as thick cables wrap around his armored body. 'We are both are, Iron Man! The room's got us pinned down!' Captain America declares as he flips backwards through the air and dodges some weaponsfire with his shield. Cap tells Wanda that she is the only one free to act. Wanda replies that she knows, and she is trying something new – with the metal spheres that hover before her, she can suffuse them with chaos-magic, concentrate, and send them flying across the room – which she does, and they strike the shut-off switch. A computer recording announces that termination has been activated, and that the combat sequence is shutting down. Iron Man drops down beside his teammates and congratulates Wanda on her nice work, before telling Cap that he still can't believe some of his moves. 'You make the rest of us look like beginners'. Iron Man adds that he is glad Cap had the time for a workout, and that he still thinks it is a shame Cap felt the need to take a  leave of absence.

Cap declares that the current team is doing pretty well from what he read in the papers, and explains that he just stopped by to update some files, write up his clashes with the Hatemonger and Count Nefaria. 'But things look like they're in good hands' he adds. Wanda tells Steve that it is a pity the others aren't here to see him, and asks him how he is doing. Cap replies that he is keeping pretty busy, but doing all right. He admits he does miss working out with the team, but claims that it is not the time for him to come back.

Suddenly, 'Captain America! Scarlet Witch! Iron Man! Attend my words!' a telepathic voice booms. 'Huh?' Cap asks. 'MOONDRAGON!' Iron Man shouts as they look up and see a projection of Moondragon hovering over them. Moondragon informs the Avengers that Patsy Walker – Helllcat – requires their aid, on a matter of grave importance. She reports that she is projecting spatial cooordinates into their minds and instructs the Avengers to rendezvous there within the hour. 'Do not fail me! Moondragon out!' the haughty woman ends the telepathic message, and fades from view, without giving her former teammates a chance to ask questions.

Soon, Cap, Wanda and Iron Man are inside a Quinjet, streaking through the sky. Iron Man comments that he will never get used to that woman's arrogance, pointing out that she didn't even tell them what kind of danger Hellcat is in. 'Just, “get moving, Avengers – here's the address!”

Of all the -' Iron Man begins, before Wanda tells him that in a minute he will be able to gripe at Moondragon himself, because according to the onboard sensors, she is here. Indeed, Heather Douglas a.k.a. Moondragon phases through the Quinjet, where she tells them to head west, that they must reach Centerville with all due speed. 'Now wait a -' Iron Man begins, turning to Moondragon, who reports that Patsy attempted to contact the Avengers via her Avengers Communicard, but that the outgoing signal was jammed. Moondragon reveals that she maintains a low-level awareness of her former charge and sensed her distress, so contacted her telepathically. 'Moondragon, you can't just -' Iron Man starts to say, but she interrupts him once again, 'I am an Avenger, am I not?' she declares. 'Inactive, but with full privileges including the right to call on the team in an emergency?' She gets no argument from Iron Man, so continues, reporting that she could sense in their minds that they were the only three at Avengers Mansion, so she called in assistance, and they should be arriving – now.

'Hawkeye and Songbird!' Iron Man exclaims as Clint “Hawkeye” Barton and Melissa “Songbird” Gold pull up alongside the Quinjet on a Skycycle. 'Hi, gang – got room for two more?' Hawkeye asks his former teammates as they open a hatch, allowing the skycycle to enter the Quinjet. 'Uh, Hawkeye – I could wait -' Songbird whispers, but Hawkeye tells the former villain to relax and that she will be fine. Hawkeye reports that Moondragon only called her, but that he figured to bring Songbird along, that it would be a good idea to give her a little face time with the Avengers and let them get to know her. 'I, uh – hello, Sir' Songbird greets Captain America, shaking his hand. Wanda tells Clint that is no problem, but asks why Songbird particularly. Rubbing the back of his head, Clint tells his friend that he doesn't know exactly, before pointing out that this isn't the subject at hand. 'Me and the Thunderbolts didn't bust Patsy outta Hell just to see her get done dirty by some earthside schmoes – so let's get going already!' Hawkeye exclaims.

Shortly, the Quinjet descends in Centerville, 'This is Centerville – but – there's a crowd waiting for us?' someone asks as several citizens have gathered in the middle of town where the Quinjet lands in the dead of night. Cap, Wanda, Iron Man, Moondragon, Hawkeye and Songbird exit the Quinjet, and they find Patsy, Hedy, Mickey and Mayor Nicholas amongst the townspeople. Patsy tells the Avengers that she is really embarrassed about this, but that they came all the way out here on a wild goose chase. 'Nothing's wrong – in fact, I'm having a great time!' Patsy declares. 'You're saying I was mistaken?' Moondragon enquires. Patsy smiles, 'What can I say? I must have been having a nightmare – that's what you psychically picked up, and responded to. Sorry!' she declares. 'Not quite so perfect as you thought – huh, Moonie?' Hawkeye jibes Moondragon, who scowls. Wanda starts to turn and usher the Avengers back into the Quinjet. 'Well, we're sorry to bother you then, and I guess we should just go – BUT I DON'T THINK SO!' Wanda shouts as she spins back around and casts a carefully-crafted hex, which disrupts the essences latched onto Patsy and Hedy – and snake-like demons reveal themselves. 'Demons! I thought so!' Wanda exclaims, before instructing Moondragon to levitate Patsy and Hedy, along with the Avengers.

And so, Wanda holds onto Patsy's shoulders reassuringly as they, Hedy, Cap and Hawkeye are telekinetically lifted through the air by Moondragon, who flies behind them, while Iron Man and Songbird fly nearby. 'Let's go somewhere we can talk!' Wanda tells everyone. Soon, they all land on a hill outside on the outskirts of Centerville. Cap asks Patsy if she can tell them what happened, and Patsy replies that she thinks so, and begins to recount the recent events. '...and they eventually cornered me and captured me – and you know the rest...' Patsy's voice trails off. 'Well, as long as it's demons, kid, at least you're keeping it in the family!' Hawkeye jokes. 'Clint!' Wanda snaps at her friend.

'I... I did this! Let it happen!' Hedy utters. 'Let me town be taken over by demons! I've got to set this right!' she declares. Cap tells her to take it easy. 'We'll take care of it, never fear'. Patsy's Hellcat costume materializes and she tells Cap that she knows how Hedy feels, and that she might be able to do something about it. Hellcat informs her friends that since her return she has apparently gained a new power or two – the ability to manifest her costume, and some sort of “demon-sight”. 'And from what's showing me – the brightest glow – the highest concentration of demon activity – is down there, in the amusement park' Hellcat announces, adding that from whatever they are up to, it is centered right there.

Hellcat motions past the tunnel of love ride called “A Date with Patsy”, and the heroes take off in that direction, 'Let's go, Avengers!' Cap instructs the team, while telling Ms Wolfe to wait here until they give the all-clear. He tells her that she should be safe as long as she stays well away from the action. 'Yes... safe...' Hedy utters.

Within minutes, the Avengers have arrived at the amusement park, and examining his surroundings, Hawkeye declares that this is nice, top-flight workmanship and materials, much ritzier than the carny he used to work at. 'Yes, Hedy always did go for the best' Hellcat remarks, before suggesting that they focus. She reports that the emanations are strongest coming from the roller-coaster – or, more accurately, from underneath. A quick search guided by Hellcat's “demon-sight”, and the team locates a trapdoor. Iron Man opens it, and, led by Cap, the Avengers cautiously head down a long, winding staircase, further and further underground, until, they stand on a floor which has a glass window down to the chamber beneath, where someone sits on a throne, fires burn, and seven individuals are laid out in a circle as spirits hover above them, with strange designs around them, while others stand around the circle. 'It's – the Sons of the Serpent! But – what are they doing?' Hellcat asks. 'It looks like some kind of mystic ceremony' Moondragon points out. 'No duh, moons. I think we figured that from the signs and sigils and braziers and the zonked folks with the ghost-shapes flying over them – not to mention the funky priest-guys watching the whole shebang! What was your clue?' Hawkeye remarks.

Moondragon doesn't dignify Hawkeye's comment with a response, while Iron Man tells the others that he is puzzled, as the Sons of the Serpent were always just a white supremacist group, not any kind of mystics. 'They've never been known to use magic before!' Iron Man adds. The Scarlet Witch points out that they are certainly using it now. Serpent spirits writhe above the ghosts that hover over the civilians, as two Sons of the Serpent guards stand nearby, 'Hah! This is so easy – so perfect!' one of them remarks to the other. 'The fools actually line up – pay for the privilege of vacationing in the perfect American town – and while they sleep unsuspecting in our hotels, we bind them to us, entwine their astral forms with our serpent-demons'. The priest standing in amongst the civilians utters an incantation, while the other guard agrees: 'Yes, Caswell – and then they return to their homes, where the force within them will spread, ensnaring others – and soon, we will have an army of sleeping servants – an army we can awaken'. Both guards join in with the incantation: '...and as the first serpent drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, so shall we drive from this land the unfit – the foreign-born – the inferior!'

Suddenly: 'No, snake-brothers! We have an emergency!' another in the Sons of the Serpent costumes exclaims, rushing into the chamber. He addresses the figure sitting on the throne as Great Leader and reports that the Avengers were not fooled. 'I came here from the town square as quickly as I could! They saw through the deception, freed the girl – and now they're on the loose and investigating!' 'Well, he got that right, at least. So, have we heard enough?' Iron Man asks. The Avengers all frown, and Hawkeye declares 'You bet, Shellhead. More than enough...'

Chapter 4: To Smash a Serpent
'Avengers -' the Scarlet Witch calls out. 'ATTACK!' Captain America shouts as they crash through the window and drop down into the chamber. 'They are here! Quickly, serpents – venom-staffs out!' the serpent-leader commands. 'Yes, great leader!' one of the Serpents replies as they all raise their staffs. 'That voice -' Patsy thinks to herself, before the leader pulls back his hood, revealing himself as Daboia as he orders the deaths of the Avengers. 'It's Daboia – clammy lips and all! He ran the resort business – he could have infiltrated demons everywhere! Well, buster - here's where you get defanged!' Patsy thinks to herself. In moments, the battle is joined. The Sons of the Serpent fight with the desperate fury of true fanatics. Cap smacks his shield against his opponents, while Hawkeye fires his arrow. Wanda casts a hex, Moondragon blasts her foe with a telepathic bolt. Iron Man fires some repulsor rays as Songbird unleashes her sonic scream, and Hellcat kicks her opponent, knocking him back.

It soon becomes obvious to Daboia that his followers are not capable of defeating the Avengers, even an irregular grouping such as this, and that they cannot even be counted on to withstand the Avengers for long. 'But no matter – for I have far greater benefactors than they suspect – and I am not without resources!' Daboia then transforms into a large snake-like creature, and cackling sibilantly, the thing that called itself Russell Daboia gestures towards seven silent, robed figures that observe the uneven combat, and in a moment, they stand revealed, unrobed, as something far more than human. The seven individuals move towards the surprised Avengers. 'What in -?' Cap begins, as Wanda exclaims 'Witch-beings, Captain America!' and reveals that she has fought them before. 'They are called Salem's Seven – but I saw them die!' Wanda declares. 'As Hellcat died, Scarlet one? And others before her? Death is not the barrier you think – especially not for our dread master!' the Salem's Seven member called Gazelle points out.

Salem's Seven have the advantage of surprise, and they seize it as Vakume steals the air from Hawkeye's lungs, while Hydron keeps Moondragon from concentrating, bringing her mental powers to bear as he blasts her with a powerful stream of water. Thornn's explosive spines rattle Iron Man, even though his armor, knocking the Avenger over, while Reptilla's coils menace even one as agile as Captain America, who struggles against her. 'DIE, frail human!' Reptilla screams. Songbird creates a hastily-constructed sound barrier, but Gazelle easily leaps over it and kicks Songbird in the head. 'You're a big boy, aren't you?' Hellcat remarks as she darts around the large Brutacus. 'The Avengers aren't that easily beaten – and you and your “dread master” Daboia can take that to the bank!' she tells him. 'Bah! You know nothing of Brutacus, fleet one – or of the being we serve!' Brutacus responds. As she is still bombarded by the water stream, Moondragon warns Hellcat to watch out, as Brutacus is faster than he looks. 'And one swipe of those claws -' Moondragon begins. Hellcat thanks Moondragon, and reminds her that she is not her pupil any longer, and can handle herself.

Hellcat dodges Brutacus's claws and latches onto his hand, knocking him into Vakume and Hydron. 'I... see that, Patsy' Moondragon admits. 'Yeah, and you not only put down water-boy, there – but that creep harassing me, as well!' Hawkeye points out as he then fires and arrow at Gazelle, knocking her out, he returns the favor, freeing Songbird. Cap slams his shield into Reptilla's neck, while Iron Man gets the upper-hand against Thornn and blasts him. Cap tells Iron Man that he has always wondered whether offering Patsy that costume was irresponsible of them. 'And it probably was! But she's beaten everything that challenged her – even death – so I guess we weren't too wrong' Iron Man replies. Suddenly, 'Do not pat yourselves on the back too swiftly, Avengers! I am Vertigo – and this is myt power!' the short-haired woman in the white dress announces as Cap and Iron Man lose their balance and drop to their knees. And in moments, what respite the Avengers might have had, is taken away. 'You cannot detonate all of my spines, scarlet one – not forever!' Thornn exclaims as Wanda uses her power to prevent the spines he fires towards her from even reaching her.

'This is madness' Wanda thinks to herself. She knows that Salem's Seven were witches, but that they were individuals, and Gazelle was even kind. But now, Wanda tells herself that they are just viscious. She assumes that when Daboia drew them back to this plane, he must have negated their wills and controlled them. 'You soar above the fray, female! But that only makes you a target for Hydron!' Hydron calls out, blasting Songbird with a stream of water. Moondragon finds herself under assault by Vakume, she is spun around and around, and utters that a brain-bolt would be all it would take to shut down Vakume's mind, but that she has probed it and there is nothing there. Hawkeye punches Gazelle, while Hellcat finds herself tangled in some of the Sons of the Serpent henchmen's arms. She kicks Reptilla in the face and tells Hawkeye that it looks like they are in trouble. 'Looks like! So – time to lie down and die, you think?' Clint replies. 'Like fun it is!' Hellcat declares.

'The fools!' the snake-transformed Daboia declares. 'Even those idiotic racists – they fight for us. As if we cared about the color of a man's skin, or the place of his birth. It was so easy to infiltrate them, as Daboia- to dupe them into serving our cause, spreading our taint through the land!' Up on the floor above, Hedy Wolfe looks through the broken window. She followed the Avengers, unable to stay away. 'Daboia? That thing – is Russell Daboia? But – he came so highly recommended!' the wide-eyed Hedy gasps. Hellcat leaps over some of the Sons of the Serpent thugs, 'That's the spirit!' Hawkeye calls out to her as he grabs Gazelle and throws her into one of the Sons of the Serpent goons. 'We might not be as strong or tough as some of the others – but we're fast and we're tricky!' Hawkeye exclaims, telling Hellcat to just keep moving and bust things up. Hawkeye fires an arrow at Thornn and continues giving Hellcat instruction, suggesting she make some room for the others to work and then maybe they can get a rally going. Hellcat tells Hawkeye that she hears him and that priority one, as far as she is concerned, is getting Cap and Iron Man back into the game! She appears behind Vertigo and smacks her hand into the back of Vertigo's neck, knocking her out and freeing Cap and Iron Man from her thrall.

'Man!' Iron Man exclaims, rubbing his head. 'I agree, Iron Man! But we've got another chance – so let's take advantage of it!' Cap suggests, throwing his shield ahead of him, he knocks out several of the Sons of the Serpent goons. It starts this way, sometimes. Two Avengers on the offensive – and then four – and their attackers' ranks break, and the others join in. Iron Man knocks down Brutacus, while Songbird creates a sonic hammer which she slams into Vakume, freeing Moondragon. 'There you go, Moondragon!' Songbird calls out, while telling herself that she is fighting alongside the Avengers. Moondragon thanks Songbird, as the heroes come back together, back to back, the seven stand united, and inevitably, the cry rings out. It's not clear who shouts it, their battle-cry, and it doesn't really matter. 'AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!' someone calls out, and as the Sons of the Serpent and Salem's Seven surround the Avengers, the heroes fight on with renewed vitality, renewed purpose. Though they are outnumbered, perhaps outpowered, and it is still not clear who will win this battle, one thing is clear – if the Avengers fo down, they won't go down easy. Cap and Hellcat strike out with physical combat, while Hawkeye fires an arrow, and the others unleash their respective powers.

The serpent-Daboia watches, 'Hmmm. If I lose this beachhead – if I stumble – I will be punished most severely'. He goes behind a curtain and tells himself that Salem's Seven might still win through as they are holding their own, and they are most tenacious. 'But I can't be sure. And I cannot take the risk of being wrong'. He gestures at a small fire which turns green, and sits in the center of a pentagram. He assumes this position of protection and power and begins a chant, a chant that was old before mankind walked upright, hissing the words, the smoke in the brazier sways to the cadence of his speech, thicken and reach out back into the chamber, as green spirit-like serpents move towards the surprised Avengers. 'Holy cats!' Hawkeye exclaims. 'Tell me I'm not seeing what I think I'm seeing!' he asks the others. The ghost-like snakes strick, wrapping themselves around the heroes. 'But they're smoke! They're -' Hellcat begins, while Cap tells everyone to keep fighting. 'If they can touch you – you can touch them!' he declares.

But it is not that simple, as the demon-serpents move like blurs, like lightning, and are one moment as insubstantial as ghosts and the next as constricting, as entangling, as steel cables! The Scarlet Witch tries to concentrate, to cast a hex, but she can't breathe as the demon-serpents wrap around her mouth. 'Perfection!' Daboia hisses from behind the curtain. 'My master will be plwased with tonight's triumph!' he calls out. Hellcat's vision suddenly goes dark, but she heard Daboia's comment, and is confused. 'His master? I thought he was the master!' she tells herself. Still the Avengers struggle on, wrapped in the demon-snakes, which Daboia watches through mystical senses. Iron Man's exoskeletal might loosens their eldritch bonds, enough for the others to breathe  again, for a moment, at least. Moondragon uses telekinesis to force their assailants back, while Captain America's shield cuts through solid smoke – only to see it re-form again.

Daboia thinks that the Avengers are truly legendary, and realizes that, given time, they might free themselves. 'But that is time they'll never have!' he declares, preparing to cast one more spell – which will result in their deaths. But even as he intones a new chant, 'Oh, no you don't Daboia!' exclaims Hedy as she enters the area behind the curtain. 'Not in my town!' Hedy shouts as she tries to tip the brazier over. 'What? Who?' Daboia asks. Hedy admits that she doesn't know anything about magic, but understands that those snake things are coming from the brazier, so it is probably important. 'If I can spill it -' Hedy begins, as he tips forward ever so slightly. 'NO!' Daboia hisses. 'YES!' Hedy screams as she tips the brazier over and fiery liquid spills from it. 'But the First Serpent!' Daboia utters as the liquid spills into the pentagram where he stands. 'Oh, and Daboia? Speaking as the CEO of Patsy-Hedy Entertainment – YOU'RE FIRED!' Hedy exclaims as the pentagram is partially burned away, the thing called Daboia sees to his horror, as if he had a heart, it would sink. 'All the slithering gods have mercy! The forces at play here – without the protection of the pentagram, they'll backlash on meeeeeeee' Daboia screams as there is a sharp retort, a smelling of sulfur and carrion, and Daboia vanishes.

With Daboia's absence, the spells he casts are cancelled, and Salem's Seven suddenly vanish. 'Then that leaves only the Serpent-Sons' Iron Man points out as the heroes, free from the demon-serpenets, gather themselves. After a moment, the heroes stand before the Sons of the Serpent members. 'Come on! We can -' one of the Sons begins. 'Uh -' another mutters, before they all throw down their weapons. Hawkeye remarks that it looks like they are done here, before asking about all the people who got possessed in the town and the tourists that went home carrying demons with them. Wanda explains that with the demons who caused the possessions banished, those spells should be broken, too. She adds that she will double check, but that her expectation is that the threat they posed is over.

Epilogue: Shadows Linger
And so it is. The next morning, the authorities arrive to take charge, and the Sons of the Serpent members are rounded up. 'Thanks again, Hawkeye – and everyone – for your help' Hellcat smiles as she shakes Hawkeye's hand. 'Hey, de nada, cat-lady!' Hawkeye replies. 'I don't suppose you'd have another one of those Cat costumes lying around, Avengers? After all, I did save the day' Hedy remarks. But Iron Man apologizes to her and assures her that was the only one. And soon, Cap, Wanda and Iron Man depart Centerville in the Avengers' Quinjet, while Moondragon takes flight in another direction, and Hawkeye and Songbird leave on the skycycle. 'There they go' Patsy thinks to herself, as she walks away from the crowd that has gathered, her costume disappears and she is in civilian clothing once again. 'And here I stay' Patsy tells herself, unsure if they are going to dismantle the amusement park, shut down the resort business or what. Patsy admits that she doesn't care one way or the other, and decides that she is staying here in Centerville, that she can enrol at Centerville University and try to pick up the pieces of her old life – but she can't leave, not yet. Patsy walks down a sidewalk and tells herself that she isn't sure what is going on – but something is. She reminds herself of the new powers she has, and how she was freed from imprisonment in Hell because of a power struggle between satanic beings. She decides that it is not unlikely that one or more of them is playing some deeper game, manipulating her to their own ends.

Patsy is unaware she is being watched through a window above street level as she continues down the sidewalk, as she recalls that Daboia was not the mastermind behind the whole demon-possession, and while he is gone, what if his “master” still has plans for Centerville? And what if he is still here? Patsy wanders past the mayoral offices, lost in through, as Mayor Nicholas stares down at her. 'She suspects – suspects that not all is right here, at least' he tells himself, deciding that it doesn't matter what she thinks she has gotten into, for the truth is far, far worse – as to her eternal regret, she will soon discover!

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch (all Avengers)
Hawkeye & Songbird (both Thunderbolts)

Hedy Wolfe
Miss Bliss, Donald Grant, Mary Meeke Grant, Groves, Nan Brown-Hale, Tom “Tubs” Hale, Rod, Specs, Susan, Mickey Walker, Mr. Wolfe

Nicholas Scratch
Russell Daboia
Brutacus, Gazelle, Hydron, Reptilla, Thornn I, Vakume, Vertigo II (all Salem's Seven)

Civilians in Centerville
Sons of the Serpent cultists
Police officers

Mac Sanders & Diane Cummings

on various Patsy Walker comic covers:
Patsy Walker
Hedy Wolfe
Buzz Baxter

In Hellcat's memories:
Patsy Walker at various stages
Buzz Baxter
Beast, Captain America, Iron Man, Moondragon, Scarlet Witch, Vision (all Avengers)
Dr. Strange, Gargoyle, Hellstorm, Hulk, Nighthawk, Valkyrie (all Defenders)

Atlas, Charcoal, Hawkeye, Mach-V, Moonstone, Songbird

Story Notes: 

Patsy made her debut in 1944's Miss America (1st series) #2, before featuring in hundreds of romance type comics of that era, including several named after herself: Patsy Walker (124 issues, 1945-1965), Patsy and Hedy (110 issues, 1952 – 1967), Patsy and Her Pals (29 issues, 1953 – 1957) and a Date with Patsy (1 issue, 1957). Within the Marvel Universe, these stories are considered fictional writings by Patsy's mother, based on Patsy's childhood.

Patsy's marriage to Buzz was chronicled in flashback scenes in Avengers (1st series) #144 and in Amazing Adventures (1st series) #13-15, which is where Patsy met the Beast. 

Patsy's adventures with the Avengers began when she appeared as a mystery character in Avengers (1st series) #139, and became Hellcat in Avengers (1st series) #144. She became a reserve member, and left the team in Avengers (1st series) #151 (in the comics she left to train with Moondragon, but behind the scenes she was written out for editorial reasons). Patsy was given full membership status in Avengers (1st series) #305.

Patsy took up with the Defenders almost immediately after leaving the Avengers, first working with the team in Defenders (1st series) #44, becoming one of the core members until her departure in New Defenders #125, in which she and Hellstorm married.

After leaving the Defenders, Patsy appeared only occasionally, mainly as a reserve Avenger, while spending her time as an occult investigator alongside Hellstorm.

Patsy's insanity began in the Hellstorm: Prince of Lies series. She committed suicide in Hellstorm #14, and her voice was heard on a radio in Hellstorm #16. However whatever the plans were for Patsy's return in a new body, this story was abandoned.

Patsy appeared with other dead Avengers in Avengers (3rd series) #10-11, as did Mockingbird, who made a cryptic remark which the Avengers thought had something to do with her own rescue. Hawkeye and the Thunderbolts travelled to Hell in Thunderbolts Annual 2000, thinking he was saving his wife, instead, when they returned to Earth, it was Hellcat who he had rescued, which was partly orchestrated by Mockingbird.

Prior to this issue, Hedy's only in-universe appearances were in Fantastic Four Annual #3, Avengers (1st series) #144 (a flashback) and Marvel Fanfare (1st series) #59. She subsequently appears in the Hellcat mini series, and in the Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat series.

The art in Chapter 2, by Richard Howell, resembles the old art style of the Patsy Walker comics. Richard Howell also wrote and illustrated the Hellcat story in Marvel Comics (1st series) #59, also set in Centerville.

Tom “Tubs” Hale (also called Tom Noles and Tubs Wilson) was one of Patsy and Hedy's childhood friends in the old Patsy Walker comics. In Marvel Fanfare (1st series) #59, Tom and Nan Brown got married, as still evident this issue. They also had at least two children together. Now appearing in the Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat series, Tom is gay, owns a queer bookstore and has rekindled his friendship with Patsy.

Hawkeye knows, but doesn't remember, that as seen in the Avengers Forever mini series, Songbird will become an Avenger in the future.

Salem's Seven died in the Vision & the Scarlet Witch (2nd series) #3.

This story continues in the mini series, Hellcat #1-3.


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