Palos Verdes Compound, the home and headquarters of the West Coast branch of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers. It has only been a short span of days since they faced what may well have been the greatest threat of their careers. But fate, it seems, is not ready to let the heroes rest, for at this moment, a very anxious woman sits in their living room. ‘Please…I’ve travelled all the way from New York! It’s taken weeks, I’ve spent my last cent…you’ve got to help me find out what really happened to my husband. If you don’t…I’m sure I’ll go mad!’ she exclaims, rubbing her bandaged hand.
The woman begins sobbing into her hands, which is when Johnny Walker a.k.a. the USAgent crouches down beside her and tells her to calm down and take it easy. ‘The Avengers were created to help people in distress’ the handsome hero remarks, before telling the woman to explain her story to them slowly and clearly. Simon “Wonder Man” Williams smiles and remarks that he would never have expected their resident fascist to have such a sweet bedside manner, before asking what the deal is with this woman, if she needed the Avengers, why didn’t she just get in touch with the East Coast branch in New York.
Janet Van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp replies that there is no way to know until she explains her story. Janet adds that the robot groundskeepers found the woman after she tried to climb the South wall. Doctor Hank Pym points out that is apparently when the woman hurt her hand, adding that she has been more or less hysterical until a moment ago. The ghostly Vision points out that the woman has calmed enough to speak again. The Scarlet Witch a.k.a. Wanda Maximoff sits on a couch while her teammates stand behind her. She says nothing.
The woman reveals that her name is Ann Raymond. ‘And my husband was…is…Thomas - you may know him better as Toro, the partner of the original Human Torch!’ she announces. ‘Toro?’ USAgent asks. The Wasp exclaims that Toro is dead - ‘Isn’t he?’ she then asks, adding that the Sub-Mariner reported him killed in a battle with the Mad Thinker. Ann replies that is what she understood too, revealing that Prince Namor actually came to her after witnessing that battle and told her Toro had died a hero’s death. Ann adds that she believed it to be true for years - that is until she heard about what happened to the Vision.
‘The Vision?!?’ shouts the Scarlet Witch, frowning. ‘How could my husband’s present situation have anything to do with your husband, Mrs Raymond?’. The Vision tells Wanda to calm herself, as she is sure Mrs Raymond has a logical reason for her statement. ‘Calm myself? How can I calm myself when the whole world has gone completely insane!’ Wanda shrieks, anguish on her face, she asks if it isn’t bad enough that she has had to see her husband dismantled and mind erased, before a group trying to use her to find a way to possess all other mutants on Earth used the Vision’s condition to lure her into their clutches, and now this mad-woman wants to implicate the Vision in the death of her husband.
Wonder Man puts a hand on Wanda’s shoulder, telling her to calm down, he points out that Mrs Raymond is not saying that the Vision has anything to do with the death of Toro, and that they must hear her out. Simon notes the anguish in Wanda’s voice, like claws raking at his soul, he wishes there was some way he could help her. ‘Get your hand off me, Wonder Man!’ Wanda snaps furiously, striding out of the living room, she declares that she came back to the Avengers only because they promised this time to do something to help the Vision. ‘If listening to this woman’s babbling is your idea of help, then it seems the wisest thing the Vision and I can do is depart - forever!’
The Wasp calls out to her friend, but the Vision asks Jan to let him deal with this, admitting that although he is no longer able to give Wanda the emotional succor she needs, Wanda is still his wife, and his duty therefore lies with her. Hank looks rather nervously back to Ann, apologizing for Wanda’s display, he asks Ann to tell the rest of the Avengers her whole story. Ann replies that she can tell them as much as she knows, as much as she saw and as much as the Sub-Mariner told her. ‘My husband had retired as a crime-fighter…for years we lived in suburban contentment….until one day’ Ann begins.
(Shown with flashback illustrations)
‘It says here…Torch was killed somehow - with the Fantastic Four the sole witnesses! Thomas Raymond exclaimed while reading an article about it in the newspaper. ‘Please darling. Keep out of this!’ Ann pleaded - but he couldn’t, and the newspaper gave the location of Toro’s former partner’s funeral. Tom went to pay his last respects. Thomas had spoken so often of the Torch, that Ann knew just what her husband would have been thinking: ‘So long buddy. I’m sorry I never got the chance to repay you for everything you gave me in life’.
Thomas called Ann after the service to inform her that it was all over, short and sweet. Thomas told Ann that it was funny how there were no other super heroes here, as he thought Captain America would have at least come, since they were in the Invaders together. That was the last time that Ann would ever speak to Thomas. According to what Tom told the Sub-Mariner, he was spotted just outside the cemetery, where a mysterious stranger approached him and exclaimed that he must speak with him, as it concerned his friend’s death.
Apparently, Tom was surprised to be recognized, so he accompanied the mysterious stranger - who turned out to be the super-villain known as the Mad-Thinker! The Mad-Thinker proceeded to drug Toro’s coffee, and Tom passed out.
Ann informs the Avengers West that the Mad-Thinker needed Toro’s flame powers as part of some scheme he was involved in with Egghead and the Puppet Master. Hank exclaims that he remembers that, as Egghead went on nationwide TV, threatening to black out all of America’s power. ‘So Toro got drawn into that mess too, did he?’ Hank asks, before the Wasp tells Mrs Raymond to continue with her story. Ann replies that there is not much more to tell, revealing that, somehow the Mad-Thinker brainwashed Tom, and made him think he was actually the Torch. She adds that it was the Thinker who’d tried to use the Torch to destroy the Fantastic Four, that was when the original Torch died.
(Shown with flashback images)
Ann remarks that while Tom was under the Thinker’s control, he found himself in battle with the Sub-Mariner, and while Prince Namor managed to free Tom of the Thinker’s influence. Tom then saw the Thinker trying to escape in a rocket ship, and used his own flame to propel the ship, driving it into a volcano.
At first, Ann didn’t know any of that, though. She only knew her husband was late coming back home. So when twenty-four hours went by with no further word from Tom, she drove out to the place named in the paper, where she found the cemetery closed, locked and badly overgrown. Ann proceeded to ask around town, and was told by a barber that the old Quaker Hill cemetery had been closed for thirty years now. ‘If your husband came up to a funeral it couldn’t have been there!’. Everyone Ann asked gave her the same answer, but when she got back home, the Sub-Mariner was awaiting her.
Ann explains that together, she and Namor pieced together the story, and figured out that the whole funeral was part of the Mad-Thinker’s plot, and the other mourners were probably being controlled by the Puppet Master. The Wasp flies closer to Ann and agrees that that theory makes sense, adding that there was a memorial service eventually, but at the recommendation of the Fantastic Four, but no attempt was made to recover his body from where they had left it. Janet adds that as far as anyone knew, the Torch was still in the Thinker’s desert lab.
Hank Pym remarks that according to the version of this story that the Vision was given by Immortus, it was there in that lab that Ultron-5 found the Torch, and began the process of turning the fallen android into the Vision. Ann announces that she had read in the papers that the Avengers recently found out the Vision is not the original Human Torch, so she thought, hoped, if all that was wrong, then perhaps the Sub-Mariner was wrong too, maybe that it wasn’t Tom who died in the Volcano, but the real Human Torch.
The Wasp flies over to Hank and asks her lover if he thinks that could be possible, to which Hank admits that, at this point, he is ready to believe anything. Hank points out that since the Thinker was able to restore the Torch to life in the first place, there is no reason he couldn’t have done it again. Hank adds that if that was the case, it still doesn’t answer where Toro has been all these years.
‘You will help me, won’t you?’ Ann asks, ‘You’ll help me find out what really happened to my husband!?’ Hank assures her that they will do what they can, before turning to Janet and asking her to escort Mrs Raymond to one of the guest rooms, as no doubt she could use some rest. Janet agrees, and asks Ann to come along with her. Holding her wounded hand, Ann follows, while USAgent turns to Hank and asks him if he actually believes that poor woman’s fantasies. ‘No’ Hank replies, at least not all of it, not without cross-checking some of the details with the Sub-Mariner at their East Coast Mansion, then they will see what is to be seen.
Shortly, Edwin Jarvis stands behind Namor the Sub-Mariner who is talking to Hank over the communications computer. Namor informs Hank that Mrs Raymond’s story is completely true, stating that he fought a blazing being who called himself the Human Torch, but who in the end was revealed to be Toro. Hank asks Namor if he would recognize Toro, pointing out that a lot of years have gone by since they were in the Invaders together. Namor agrees, and remarks that much of his life since the Second World War was spent in an amnesiac fog until the present day Human Torch found him. ‘Still I saw no reason to doubt the story Thomas Raymond told me’ Namor asserts, adding that the fact that Toro was indeed missing when he sought out Ann Raymond to tell her of Toro’s said end adds weight to the story.
Hank supposes that pretty much finishes that part off, and decides that they are reasonably safe in assuming that it was Toro who died - and died without reason since the Mad-Thinker escaped. Simon begins to ask what they do next, when suddenly an alarm sounds. Walker announces that it is the bio-lab alarm and asks Hank if it is one of his experiments. Hank replies that he doesn’t have anything running at the moment and rushes to his lab, remarking that he can guess who must have triggered the alarm.
The three men arrive in the lab, ‘And there she is!’ Hank exclaims, motioning to the diminutive Greer Grant Nelson a.k.a. Tigra, stuck in a small glass cage. Wonder Man is shocked and has to get confirmation that it is Tigra. Hank puts his face up to the small tank, replying that indeed it is Tigra and explaining that he had to use his shrinking power on her to protect himself when she attacked him the other night, and seeing that her water dish is overturned, Hank supposes that it must have set the moisture sensor in the cage and sounded the alarm.
Simon asks what has happened to Greer, remarking that she looks different. ‘I mean…she’s been part cat, part woman for as long as we’ve known her, but…’ his voice trails off. Hank replies that the cat part is clearly in the ascendancy again, and after her friends the Cat People supposedly cured her of that tendency just months ago. USAgent points out that this explains Tigra’s behavior, remarking that according to their cook, Tigra has been hunting mice in the pantry, and the other day when he went into her quarters to question her about it, her response was most…feline.
‘You knew about this? Why didn’t you tell anyone?’ Wonder Man asks USAgent angrily. ‘I was busy!’ Johnny replies, warning Simon to watch his tone, as he doesn’t have to explain himself to anyone. ‘I only answer to the United States government!’ Walker adds. Furious, Simon stares Walker in the face, ‘Guess again, stripes!’ he snaps back, ‘You’re an Avenger now! We didn’t want you, but to avoid further government interference in our business we’ve been forced to take you - and you are gonna learn that being an Avenger means being responsible to all the other members’ Simon exclaims, adding that they don’t even know where USAgent is half of the time.
‘Where I am is on your need-to-know list only when you can see me, Wonder Man!’ USAgent shouts back, remarking that the rest of the time they don’t have the security clearance to know any more than he chooses to tell them. ‘And I chose to tell you nothing!’. ‘Oh, really?’ Simon asks, suggesting that a few broken bones might change Walker’s mind, when suddenly, the Wasp in her diminutive form flies up in between the heaving men, ‘I swear I feel like I could make a career out of breaking up the squabbles between you two!’ Janet exclaims.
The Wasp flies over to Hank, who asks her if she got Mrs Raymond settled, to which the Wasp replies she did, and took the liberty of turning on the sleep inducer in Ann’s room, as she looked like she could use a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. The Wasp suggests that they find Wanda and the Vision, and fill them in on the rest of the story….
‘And that’s all we know, Wanda. It’s not much, I’ll admit, but if it’s really true, this story of the funeral is the….ah…last nail in the coffin as far as the Vision being the original Human Torch’ Hank remarks, after explaining the rest of the story to the Scarlet Witch and Vision. The Vision announces that he agrees, and suggests also that further information concerning his exact nature might be discovered in an examination of the Torch. He adds that after all, according to what he has just been told, there were at least two occasions on which he was actually recognized as being the Torch.
Hank agrees, but adds that in their present context, he doesn’t think they can consider those as particularly irrefutable sources anymore, as one was a robot Sentinel whose prime function is to detect mutants and not androids, while the other was the supposed ghost of the original Human Torch himself. Wonder Man adds that is the weirdest one of them all, since it happened when the Vision was battling the so-called Legion of the Unliving, ‘And one of them was me!’. Simon remarks that he thinks it is a pretty safe guess everything was not as it seemed since they now know that he wasn’t dead at the time, only dormant.
Hank concurs, and remarks that Immortus was mixed up in all of that too. ‘Immortus…Immortus…this thing keeps coming back to him’ Hank exclaims, adding that the only part he is still at a complete loss to figure out is why Immortus would have rigged this colossal deception, if it was him indeed. ‘Oh, I did, Doctor, I did!’ Immortus declares from his Limbo where he watches the current goings-on of the Avengers West Coast. The diabolical villain exclaims ‘You are only now beginning to see the culmination of a plan set in motion long, long ago. A plan which, when it achieves fruition, will make Immortus truly that which I have always claimed to be - the absolute Master of Time itself!’.
Meanwhile, in a place and time much closer than the Avengers might suspect, at Anvil Pictures Studios, a receptionist shouts at a tall leggy blonde actress, ‘Look, I’m sorry, but I told you on the phone - Mr Preston isn’t seeing anyone today!’ The receptionist asks the actress to leave, otherwise she will be forced to call security. ‘No, I’ll go…but don’t think this is the last you’ve heard of this!’ the actress threatens the receptionist, telling her that when Martin finds out that she has been keeping her from seeing him, then she will never work in this town again. ‘Yeah, right’ the receptionist thinks to herself, before realizing that the boss has been awful quiet in there, and knocks on his office door, entering, she informs him that she is going for lunch and asks if there is anything he needs before she goes.
Martin Preston addresses his receptionist as Polly and replies that there is nothing, but that he wants to be left alone for today. When she leaves, he tells himself that he has much to reconsider, for so much has changed in the time he was trapped in Mephisto’s diabolical realms - things he might once have failed to consider are now clear to him. He remarks that he has been going about this all wrong, wasting time and energy on a fruitless quest, but now understands what must be done next. He clenches his fist, and a demonic arm takes the place of his human arm while exclaiming ‘Let the Avengers count the hours of their last days…when next we meet, it will be Master Pandemonium who is triumphant!’.
Three hours later, the Avengers West Coast arrive in Pleasantville - “pleasant by name…pleasant by nature” reads the slogan on their sign. USAgent stands and guards the Quinjet, while Hank meets with the Mayor of Pleasantville, who tells Hank that he appreciates his position as a noted scientist and member of the Avengers, but that what he is asking him is most extraordinary. The Mayor adds that he is not even sure if he has the power to grant the Avengers’ what they need. Hank replies that he realizes this is asking a lot, but hopes that the Mayor understands this is a potential crisis situation. The Mayor replies that he understands that just fine, but to get an exhumation order for a grave their records don’t show exists in a cemetery that closed down thirty years before the supposed funeral took place, well, he just isn’t sure such a thing can be done!
At that very cemetery, long untended, the Scarlet Witch, Vision, Wonder Man and the Wasp make their way through the eerie grounds, until finally, ‘Here it is!’ Wonder Man exclaims, motioning towards a headstone. Here lies the HUMAN TORCH the marker reads, with most of the dates obscured by overgrown grass. ‘”The Human Torch”’ Wonder Man reads, remarking that seems a little odd and asking if he didn’t have a real name. The Wasp reveals that the Torch had an adopted name, Jim Hammond, and supposes that the Thinker might not have known that.
The Wasp turns to the Vision and remarks that she wonders if the Torch is really down there, lying in a coffin after all these years - cold, immobile, but really no more dead than a car is when its motor is not running. The Vision suggests that he investigates, and begins to phase his body down into the ground, though the Wasp isn’t so sure, ‘Maybe we should…’ she begins, though the Vision assures her that it will just take a moment, adding that, in his intangible form, he will be disturbing nothing. Indeed, it only takes an instant, and as the Vision’s face enters the coffin buried six feet under, his face remains emotionless as he sees the Human Torch.
The Wasp remarks that she doesn’t like this - the Vision poking around in a sealed coffin - in a grave - an androids grave. Wonder Man is about to add something, when suddenly the Vision emerges, ‘It is him’ he announces. ‘As anticipated, his artificial body shows no sign of decomposition’. Wanda scowls as she exclaims that there is a body down there that looks like the original Human Torch, and asks what they are going to do about it. Simon replies that they have to wait for Hank, as they cannot legally open a grave without the proper papers.
Suddenly, ‘Papers? The Scarlet Witch will not be bound by human bureaucracy!’ and unleashes her mutant hex power, despite Wonder Man telling her not to. ‘Uh-oh. What’s she done?’ Simon whispers to the Wasp, who replies that there is no telling, for with Wanda altering probabilities, it could be almost anything! ‘And what was that she said about “human…”?’ the Wasp wonders, when suddenly, the ground beneath them begins to tremble - and there is a huge burst of flame that rises from the Human Torch’s grave, then something streaks off skyward. ‘Is it…could it be…?’ the Wasp exclaims, to which Simon replies that there is only way to be sure - ‘Find out what’s at the end of this flame trail!’ and with that, Wonder Man follows the flame skyward.
At that moment, back at the Avengers West Compound, a young governess runs through the Scarlet Witch’s bungalow, ‘Oh no, oh no! They’re gone again!’ she exclaims, calling out to the Scarlet Witch’s twin children Tommy and Billy, asking them not to do this. The young woman remarks that she didn’t tell their mother and father the first time this happened, as the employment agency had told her that the Scarlet Witch has been hiring and firing governesses like crazy. ‘And I can’t afford to lose this job!’ she exclaims, before noticing that it is all of a sudden getting dark. ‘The radio didn’t say anything about rain!’ she remarks, when suddenly the doorbell rings.
The young woman races to the door, wondering who it could be, as no one can walk up to the front door without the security net announcing them, not even members of the Compound staff can get within fifty feet of the house without it sounding a warning. She swings the door open, ‘Yes, who - who!?’ she gasps, noticing the midnight dark sky outside and lightning crackling behind the strange woman standing in the doorway. ‘Do not be alarmed, child’ the elderly woman remarks, stroking her cat, ‘I am here to assist you in the governing of your most difficult charges…’.
Back above Pleasantville, Wonder Man flies swiftly, thinking to himself that one thing is for sure if this is the Human Torch, his flame trail makes him a breeze to follow, as it burns three or four seconds after he passes. Simon realizes that the flame trail is rather erratic though, and supposes that the Torch is disorientated, confused. ‘I know how he feels! I’ve been dead myself! Nothing like resurrection to mess up your thinking…’ Simon thinks, before seeing the Torch just ahead of him.
Wonder Man speeds over, calling out to him, Simon shouts that he is a friend and wants to help him. The Golden Age hero turns, ‘A…friend?’ he asks, hovering in mid-air. Wonder Man reaches him and introduces himself and explaining that he is an Avenger, before realizing that the Torch has probably never heard of the Avengers before. The Torch replies ‘No’ before revealing that the last thing he remembers is a lab, the desert, and four people with fantastic powers.
Soon, back in the cemetery, ‘Look! Here they come!’ exclaims the Wasp. The Vision “smiles” while the Scarlet Witch continues to scowl. ‘Guess no introductions are need, hm?’ Wonder Man asks, ‘You all know who this is!’ he remarks as he and the original Human Torch touch down. Wonder Man pauses, before the Vision approaches the Torch, extending his hand in greeting, the Vision welcomes the Human Torch back, ‘I’m certain the world will be a better place for your return to it’ the Vision declares. The Wasp remarks that she wished someone had a camera, while the Torch hesitantly thanks the Vision, before asking ‘Don’t I know you…?’.
Later, back at the West Coast Compound, Hank Pym answers the Torch’s question with ‘In a manner of speaking…yes!’ The Torch is dressed in robes while the Avengers sit nearby and Hank informs the Torch that he has completed correlating everything they know about him, remarking that it has turned up some interesting answers about the Vision’s past. ‘What Hank? Don’t keep us in suspense!’ the Wasp exclaims.
(Shown with flashback images)
Hank remarks that the Avengers should all remember a couple of years ago when a young woman named Frankie Raye was revealed as being a Human Torch herself, adding that as Frankie told the Fantastic Four, her step-father was Professor Horton - the man who created the original Human Torch. Apparently, Horton was incensed when the youngest member of the Fantastic Four took the familiar code name: ‘He dares call himself the Human Torch! But he’s not! The Torch is dead!’ Horton apparently said. Frankie asked her step-father why it mattered.
Shortly, Horton took Frankie to an old chemical warehouse, and showed her something amazing - ‘Fools! They could have had an army of Torches to fight the Nazis!’ Horton cried when he discovered that his molds were left to rust. Horton and Frankie Raye attempted to move some of the stored equipment and chemicals, but the old floorboards have way under Frankie’s feet when she was carrying a drum full of chemicals, which she then felt slosh around and grow hot inside the drum. The next thing Frankie knew, she was engulfed in flame.
Hank explains to everyone that, somehow, the old chemicals interacted with Frankie and turned her into a Torch in her own right, and not long after, she left the Earth to become the Herald of Galactus. ‘But what has all this got to do with the Vision?’ Wanda asks. Hank asks if they remember the Sentinel who identified the Vision as being the same age as the original Human Torch, and reveals that his guess is that Ultron-5 found Horton’s molds and used them to create the Vision. Hank explains that is why the Vision seems vaguely familiar to the Torch, as for all intents and purposes, the Vision was constructed out of the Torch’s spare parts.
The Vision declares that this is all conjecture, and asks if they have no way to test the theory. Hank replies that there is the little trip that when he was known as Ant-Man, he took through the Vision some years ago, remarking that at the time, he was surprised to see parts that he recognized as World War Two vintage. Hank adds that, later, when it was “revealed” that the Vision was the Torch, he thought that was the answer.
The Wasp exclaims that it works for her, and kissing Hank and the cheek exclaims ‘You done good, sweet cheeks!’. ‘Ja-a-an!’ Hank replies sheepishly, before Jan flies a small package over to the Torch, remarking that, anticipating all this would get settled somehow, she has been a busy little wasp and has something for him. Jan asks the Torch if he prefers being Jim, to which the Torch takes the package and replies that nobody ever called him that much, so he doesn’t know if he would answer to it, before asking what is in the package. ‘Open it and see!’ Janet replies.
‘Why, it’s a copy of my old costume!’ the Torch exclaims, holding up the orange and yellow outfit and remarking that it feels different. The Wasp explains that it is made out of genuine unstable molecules. ‘All the best dressed super heroes are wearing them these days…courtesy of Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four’ the Wasp exclaims, before suggesting he try it on. A moment later, the Torch is clad in his orange outfit, ‘Wow! It fits like a glove!’ the Torch exclaims, thanking the Wasp, who tells him to call her Jan, before welcoming him to the Avengers.
‘The…you mean…you’re inviting me to join your team? I…don’t know what to say!’ the Torch gushes. ‘How about a simple “yes”, Torch? We’d be honored to have you’ USAgent states. The Torch replies that he would be honored to join, and thanks everyone, before rubbing a finger across his eye, ‘Heck! I must’ve got something in my eye!’ he claims. The Wasp tells him not to go all macho on them: ‘This is the 80’s! Men are allowed to show their emotions now!’ Janet then adds, ‘Why…I guess you’d say even an android can cry!’.
Hank tells the Torch that it is good to have him with use, remarking that they can sure use the battle savvy that he picked up in World War Two, adding that the Torch will find the world has a whole different breed of evil from the last time he saw it. ‘Nevertheless’ begins USAgent, ‘Evil is evil and it remains our job always to be - hm? What’s that noise?’ he asks, interrupted. The Torch remarks that it sounds like something circling the building overheard, to which Hank replies that it isn’t just “something”, as he would know that sound anywhere.
The Avengers West rush out of the living area and onto the patio area around their pool. ‘Omigosh! You’re right, Hank! It’s him!’ exclaims the Wasp, motioning to the sky. Everyone stands in shock as a former Avenger hovers in the air above them: ‘After all these months…’ begins Wonder Man, ‘Iron Man is back!’….