‘Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all’ the golden armored former Avenger Iron Man thinks to himself as he stands before four very angry members of the Californian-based Avengers West Coast. Iron Man thinks that he wasn’t really sure what he expected since he has become more dependent on his armor, but he thought that at least returning to the Avengers was a logical way to at least deal with his situation. He tells himself that as long as he is forced to use his armor so much, he might as well be putting it to good use a greater portion of the time - except he had forgotten how much things have changed here. Seemed changed and really changed.
Janet Van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp, in her pint-sized form flits beside Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man, who tells Iron Man that it is time for some serious explaining. ‘You came zooming in here as if you expected us to welcome you with open arms!’ Doctor Hank Pym tells Iron Man that he surely must have realized that it wasn’t going to be that simple. The USAgent however tells Pym ‘You said a mouthful’ before declaring that the whole world knows Iron Man was one of the founding members of the Avengers, and points out that they know he was killed and replaced with whoever is in that “tin-can” suit now.
Pointing at Iron Man, the USAgent informs him that the rights and privileges of Avengers membership do not come with the armor automatically. Iron Man tells USAgent that he fully appreciates that, and announces that he is prepared to stand for any initiation the members of the team determine necessary. The Wasp flies over to her lover Dr. Pym and asks him what he thinks. She points out that they know who used to be in the Iron Man costume, but this guy doesn’t sound like him. Hank points out that Iron Man never did sound like who was inside him, as the voice modulator built into the helmet made it impossible to know whose voice they are really hearing.
Wonder Man reminds his teammates that they know of at least one other man has subbed for the original Iron Man over the years, before USAgent declares that there is only one way to handle this, and storms off, announcing that he is going to contact Washington and get their input on the situation. A moment passes, then Hank exclaims that now the stranger in their midst has departed, they can solve this in the most straight-forward manner. ‘We know you used to be Tony Stark, Iron Man. And we know Stark isn’t dead. So tell us now…are you Stark?’ Iron Man pauses, before replying ‘I…can’t tell you. I’m sorry’.
Meanwhile, to the west and across the vast sprawling Palos Verdes Compound which is home and headquarters to the Avengers West Coast. The eerie white ghost-like Vision walks with his wife, the beautiful Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the mighty Scarlet Witch. The Vision, in his now cold and empty voice tells Wanda that it surprises him she did not wish to stay for the meeting with Iron Man. ‘I am curious as to your reason’. Barely looking at her recently-rebuilt husband, Wanda tells him that she knows he is programmed to use words like “surprised” and “curious”, but she wishes he wouldn’t, as it only emphasizes how much more robotic he has become.
The Vision apologizes and explains that it was his impression that she wished him to sound as human as possible. ‘Human? Why would I wish that, husband? Why would any mutant worthy of the name wish to associate herself with humans?’ The Vision states that Wanda is a mutant, and points out that for years she has gladly associated herself with the Avengers, most of whom are human. ‘A passing weakness, Vision’ Wanda mutters harshly, and is about to say something else when she opens the door to their quarters, and sees someone else inside. Wanda readies her mutant hex powers, when the intruder, an elderly woman holding a black cat, exclaims ‘Come, child…it has not been so long you have forgotten me, has it?’
Wanda is shocked to say the least at the sudden appearance of the aged woman, ‘Agatha Harkness!’ Wanda gasps, ‘But you’re dead! You were burned at the stake!’ ‘And a terrible inconvenience it was, my dear, even for a true witch such as myself’. Agatha replies, before remarking that she is not here to discuss that. Pointing to a cot across the room, Agatha exclaims ‘It is your children which concern me!’ Wanda goes over to her twin children and asks Agatha what she wants of them. ‘To understand them, child. To understand their precise nature’ Agatha states.
‘What nature? They are only children. Normal in every way!’ Wanda replies. ‘Normal, Wanda? With a mother who is a mutant and a father who is a synthezoid?’ Agatha declares that the children of the Scarlet Witch are far from normal, ‘And had I not been busy with the matter of my resurrection, I would have sensed as much sooner!’ Agatha adds that Wanda already knows that when she is not thinking about her children they…disappear!
A surprised Vision turns to Wanda and asks if this is true. ‘No! Of course not!’ Wanda snaps back, exclaiming how could it be true when she is their mother, so there is never a moment when they are not in her thoughts. Agatha declares that there are many such moments, and remarks that in the danger-fraught life Wanda leads as an Avenger, there are many times when her concentration must turn wholly to the task of survival - even times when the action of some miscreant has rendered her insensate, ‘And at such time, Thomas and William simply cease to exist!’
Agatha points out that Wanda has already fired half a dozen governesses, all conscientious women whose only failing was that they tried to tell Wanda this themselves. Wanda covers her ears with her hands and turning away from her former mentor and robot-husband, she shouts ‘No! No! I won’t hear this again! I…won’t…’. The Vision calls out to Wanda, and Agatha suggests to him that he hold her, for more now more than ever she needs his strength and love. Agatha adds that all her senses tell her that the worst is yet to come.
Nearby, flying over the Palos Verdes Compound is the newest member of the Avengers West Coast, the recently resurrected original Human Torch. The Golden Age hero exclaims that Dr. Pym wasn’t kidding when he told him that he would find the world a different place from the last time he saw it. The Human Torch remarks that just cruising over the country-side for the last half hour he has seen more changes than he would have ever expected to find, that it is as if he has been asleep for four hundred years instead of forty.
As the Human Torch approaches the main part of the Avengers West Compound, he thinks that “asleep” is not really the right word for his condition all those years, as he was deactivated - as close as an android such as himself can come to being dead - that is until the Scarlet Witch’s probability altering hex power turned him back on. Landing, the Human Torch excitedly declares that he is not only alive, but was asked by the Avengers West Coast to join them.
Suddenly, a woman standing by the large building calls out ‘T-Tom?’ The Human Torch turns off his flame, and stands before the woman, wearing his orange and yellow outfit, and looking remarkably well for an android his age. ‘Er, no, ma’am, I’m the Human Torch’ he informs her, adding that he supposes he should say he is the original Human Torch. The woman replies ‘Of course, it’s just…some how…when I saw you come blazing down like that…’ her voice trails off and she covers her face with her hands. The Human Torch asks her if she is okay, or if he can get her a glass of water.
The woman replies that she will be fine, that she just has to force herself back into accepting the fact that Tom is really gone. The Human Torch is intrigued, ‘Tom…? Say…you don’t by any chance mean Tom Raymond? Toro?’ The Woman replies that she does, and introduces herself as Ann Raymond, his wife - or rather, his widow. The Human Torch is stunned, ‘Toro…dead?’ Ann asks if he is all right, when suddenly, from the roof of the Avengers West Compound, dozens of demon creatures leap towards the unsuspecting mourners. Ann screams, while the Human Torch exclaims ‘Flaming fireballs! Demons!’, before they are both knocked into the large swimming pool.
Inside the Compound, the Wasp hears Ann’s scream, and Hank orders everyone outside, ‘Avengers Assemble!’ he exclaims. But en route, they find themselves attacked by the demons. An enormous green creature reaches out for the Wasp, who blasts back with her sting. Dodging the creatures enormous claws, she tells it to back off before she gives it a manicure right up to its elbow. Wonder Man fends his opponents off with his super strength, and exclaims that there are dozens of them, before asking where they came from.
Hank Pym begins firing at his opponents with a gun, ‘You know the answer to that one as well as I do, Simon!’ he calls out, before pointing out that there is only one villain who has access to demons in abundance and who would be interested in them. Pym thinks to himself that he isn’t sure if any of his weapons that he normally keeps shrunken in his pockets will be of any use against mystical foes such as this, but nevertheless he has to give it a shot. ‘You mean it’s Master Pandemonium?’ Iron Man asks as he blasts several demons, reminding his allies that the last time they saw Master Pandemonium he was swept away by the River of Oblivion - which was deep in the realm of Mephisto!
Hank Pym continues to fire away at his foes, before revealing that although that may be the last they saw of him, the Fantastic Four reported encountering him on Earth just a few months ago. Hank thinks to himself that Iron Man knowing about their last encounter with Pandemonium raises an interesting point - did Stark brief him on all his Avengers exploits, or is there something else going on here?’ Suddenly, USAgent re-enters the area and asks what in blue blazes is going on out here. The Wasp calls out to Agent, telling him to look out, as another green creature approaches him. ‘Thanks, Wasp’ Agent mutters as he casually slams his shield into the creature.
By now, the battle has made its way out towards the patio and pool, and Agent declares that it is time to finish off these creepazoids, and fast. The Human Torch and Ann Raymond emerge from the swimming pool, and as the Torch prepares to get into the battle, Ann tells him to be careful, pointing out that he is still wet. The Human Torch tells her not to worry about him, as it takes more than a quick dip to douse his power. The Human Torch uses his powers, heating up, the film of water covering his body begins to boil away, a burst of steam covers him, then he shouts “Flame On!” and he is ready for battle. In a burst of flame, the Human Torch flies into battle, boasting that he will show these demonic delinquents how he used to deal with their kind back in the 1950’s!.
The Wasp flies over to Hank and asks him if it is just her imagination, or does there seem to be no point to this battle. Hank tells his lover that she is right, as the demons don’t seem particularly intent on killing them - they just seem to want to keep them all occupied.
Back in Wanda’s quarters, the Scarlet Witch is slumped in a chair, and the Vision kneels beside her, telling her to be calm, that there is nothing to upset herself over. ‘Of course you’d say that, Vision! In your present emotionless state you can’t begin to understand all I’ve been through in the past few weeks!’ Wanda snaps back. She lists some of the things that have contributed to her attitude - seeing the Vision disassembled and his memory erased, then learning that he is not really the original Human Torch, before being kidnapped by a band of madmen and brainwashed - then to have these accusations about her children thrown at her….
Suddenly, ‘A demon horde!’ cries Agatha as demons begin to break into Wanda’s bungalow. Wanda and the Vision get to their feet, and the Vision tells his wife and Agatha to get behind him, as he will deal with these creatures. However, Agatha takes command, and the room lights up with her powers as she tells the Vision that his science-spawned powers are of little use against mystic beings. Agatha tells the Avengers to stand clear so the demons can get a taste of her witchcraft, when suddenly, ‘Save your spells, old woman!’ exclaims Master Pandemonium as he enters the bungalow.
Fire leaps from Pandemonium’s mouth and engulfs Agatha’s spells as he boasts that her powers are feathers on the wind before his own consummate powers. Agatha screams as the demon-fire hits her, so the Vision approaches Master Pandemonium, telling him that his flame cannot harm one who has no mortal soul. The Vision plunges his intangible hand into the chest of Master Pandemonium, who casually tells him that in a lesser foe, such an act would cause the heart to flutter - ‘But there is no heart within my body!’
Demons begin to pour from Master Pandemonium’s sleeves as he asks if Henry Pym forgot to reprogram the Vision with the true meaning of his name? ‘Pandemonium is the abode of demons!’ he exclaims, when suddenly, Wanda steps up to the play, ‘You boast and brag too much, villain!’ she exclaims, before pointing out that science and sorcery may have both failed, but that she is a product of both - ‘And nothing can stand before my hex power!’ With that, Wanda casts forth her mighty powers, unaware that several demons approach her children.
Wanda powers on as Agatha exclaims that it seems to be working, that Wanda is driving Master Pandemonium back. The Vision suggests that they should combine their powers, and aims his laser beam at Pandemonium also. Master Pandemonium calls out to his demons, ordering them to fall back and rejoin their master, and they do as they are commanded, returning into his large sleeves, while Pandemonium declares that their mission here is done, and in a flash of red light, he is gone.
Agatha exclaims that it is as if he was never here, as there remains not even a trace of his presence upon the mystic ether. The Vision remarks that he wonders what Master Pandemonium meant when he said that his mission here was done, to which the Scarlet Witch points out that they drove him away before - suddenly, she stops short in her sentence, glancing over to where her children are supposed to be, a horrified Wanda exclaims ’The children! They’re gone…they’re gone!’
Indeed, they are gone, and now the twin boys are held in the air by some mystical power, as Master Pandemonium sits upon his throne in a dark and eerie realm. ‘Do you hear that, children?’ Pandemonium asks them. ‘The agonized cry of a mother who has realized her offspring have been stolen from her!’ He remarks that it is a pity the children cannot appreciate the delicious irony of this situation - no more than they can appreciate the complex chain of events which has brought he and the two of them to this place and time, and thus Master Pandemonium begins to tell his tale…
(Shown with Flashback Images)
It began with the accident that robbed Master Pandemonium, then known as Martin Preston, of his right arm. As he hung there from the seat of his car, upside down, the only thing holding him in place was the seat belt that saved his life, then he appeared - Mephisto, Lord of the Netherworld. Mephisto proceeded to replace both of Martin’s arms with limbs torn from his demon slaves, however he exacted a price for his benevolence by tearing the soul from Martin Preston’s body and leaving him marked by a gaping pentagram in the middle of his torso. Mephisto then took the stolen stole and tore it into five pieces, then scattered them across the world.
Master Pandemonium reveals that he has recovered one piece, and that he now plans to replace the others - ‘I have a means in mind of far greater efficiency than scouring all the paths of darkness…a means not even the accursed Avengers can stand against!’
Back at Avengers West Compound, the other Avengers and Iron Man have arrived at Wanda’s bungalow, and find her being consoled by the Vision and Agatha Harkness. Standing amongst the mess that was left of Wanda’s quarters, Hank Pym tells Agatha that he hates to keep pounding the same point, but he thinks that in view of all that has happened, she owes them an explanation of her return somewhat more complete than “I got better”. Monotonously, Agatha replies ‘Really now, Doctor! Surely a scientist such as yourself…a man dedicated to logic…should realize none of the traditional means of executing those accused of witchcraft would work on a real witch!’
Wonder Man supports Agatha, informing everyone that there was even an episode of the old “Bewitched” television series that made the same point. Simon is about to explain what happened in the episode, when Wanda shouts ‘Are you all out of your minds? My children have been kidnapped by Master Pandemonium…and you stand about discussing television shows?!’ The Wasp flies over to her friend and assures her that they are not being hard hearted about it, and explains to Wanda that there is so much for them to understand, now the least being if her children really were kidnapped - or if they have just vanished again.
The Wasp reminds Wanda that they were together the first time one of her governesses reported - suddenly, Wanda interrupts the Wasp shouting ‘Oh, shut up!’ and swatting her miniature friend to the ground. ‘Stupid, prattling, ineffectual humans!’ Wanda shouts, ‘My babies have been stolen! Either help me find them…or get out of my way!’
Hank picks up Jan, asking her if she is okay. Jan replies that she is, explaining that her small size cushioned her like it would a real wasp, before asking what that was Wanda said about “humans”. Wanda goes over to Agatha, and addressing her formally, as “Miss Harkness”, she gabs her by the shawl and exclaims ‘You can help me! You must help me!’ Wanda points out that Agatha can open the mystic pathways and follow Pandemonium wherever he has taken her children.
Agatha gets to her feet, ‘Yes’ she replies, informing everyone that Master Pandemonium did all he could to obscure the path he took, but at the moment of arrival, she reveals she took a step to be sure she would be able to follow him if the need arose. Agatha informs Wanda that she must understand the way will be hard and fraught with great peril, so she cannot go alone. Hank exclaims that the Avengers wouldn’t let Wanda go alone, ‘The Scarlet Witch is one of us!’ Wonder Man declares, ‘Where she goes, we go!’ USAgent adds.
A bright green light fills the Scarlet Witch’s quarters and a portal opens ‘Then let the travel spells be wrought!’ the aged witch cries, ‘Let the dark corridors open once more!’ Agatha explains that the portal is open, but that Master Pandemonium has placed blocks within the aperture, so she needs Wanda’s powers to complete the enchantment.
‘BLAST!’ cries the being known as Immortus as he watches the Scarlet Witch’s predicament unfold from his base of operations. ‘Again the timelines slip from my grasp! Again the threads unravel and diverse! And Immortus is powerless to stop them!’ Immortus begins to fly through his base, remarking that the realms into which Master Pandemonium has transported the Scarlet Witch’s children is outside his scope of intervention, meaning that if anything should threaten Wanda while she was there, he could do nothing to protect her. ‘All my years of careful scheming…would have been for naught!’
Back at Avengers West Compound, Hank Pym suggests to the Human Torch that he remain here, as none of them are familiar with fighting in close areas with someone with his powers, adding that someone needs to stay behind and hold the fort. The Human Torch replies that he agrees, though none too willingly. ‘One by one then, Avengers! Tread carefully, for we know not what lies beyond the portal!’ Agatha exclaims, as the seven mighty heroes enter the green portal…
…and in an instant, they re-appear, in a green field surrounded by a forest. Wonder Man remarks that he doesn’t know what he was expecting, but this isn’t it. Iron Man points out that it all looks so peaceful, when Agatha’s image appears in the space above them, informing the Avengers that the tranquillity they see is but a mask for darkness older than humankind. Pym is surprised that Agatha is with them, but the old woman explains that she is only here in spirit, the same way that she communicated with Wanda during the period of her apparent death. Agatha warns the heroes to be cautious, as they could be attacked at any moment.
‘Not just any moment…looks like this moment!’ USAgent announces, and as the trees, ground and other natural aspects rise up to attack the Avengers, Wonder Man exclaims that the whole landscape is alive. ‘Not just alive, Wonder Man…’ begins Iron Man as he dodges a large tree, ‘…the Walt Disney nightmare is decidedly hostile!’ He adds that these things can only be more of Pandemonium’s demons. USAgent smashes his shield into an army of toadstools telling the Avengers not to waste time analyzing, but to just ‘smash them before they smash you!’
The Wasp blasts her opponent with her sting before motioning over toward the horizon, asking if there is some sort of structure over there. With a flight-pack on his back, Hank replies that there is a building, and supposes that is where Pandemonium is hiding. Wonder Man uses his incredible strength to pull up some vines, exclaiming that it makes sense, as these demonic things are fighting their hardest to keep them all away from the building. The Vision uses his solar beam to cut a path through the unliving creatures as the heroes rush towards the large building.
Arriving out front, Wanda casts forth her powers at the door, declaring that no door ever made can stand long before her hex power. She remarks that Pandemonium may have used the most impervious material known, but she can warp probabilities to make it collapse under its own weight. The Avenger stand in the doorway as Pym warns everyone to be careful, for if this is Pandemonium’s lair, he is bound to be ready for them.
‘That I am, Avengers!’ cries Pandemonium as he stands before the western branch of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. He boasts that he is ready to sweep them all out of existence, for as they can plainly see, his scheme has borne a sweeter fruit than he ever dared dream. Shockingly, in replace of Master Pandemonium’s demon arms, are the Scarlet Witch’s children. ‘Now Master Pandemonium is unbeatable…!’