Avengers West Coast #54

Issue Date: 
January 1990
Story Title: 
The Troubled Earth

John Byrne (Writer & Penciler), Paul Ryan (Inker), Bill Oakley (Letterer), Bob Sharen (Colorist), David Wohl (Assistant Editor), Howard Mackie (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

Iron Man, Wonder Man, USAgent and the Human Torch are attacked by one of Mole Man’s creatures, before Wonder Man and the Human Torch deal with Mole Man on their own. Hank Pym, Wasp and a catatonic Scarlet Witch are attacked by another of the Mole Man’s monsters only to be unknowingly rescued by Magneto, who does not want his daughter harmed. Loki watches all of the Avengers West fighting for their lives and the civilians around them, though the Avengers triumph. Upon returning to Palos Verdes, they have a video-conference with the East Coast Avengers and both teams decide that with all the strange attacks lately indeed someone is out to destroy the Avengers.

Full Summary: 

‘Now! Now! Attack! ATTACK!’ screeches the grotesque villain known as the Mole Man.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, California, down a busy center city street. ‘Hey…did you feel something?’ a woman asks. ‘The ground…the trembling…’ another passer by exclaims. A man declares that it is an earthquake and urges everyone to run. Suddenly, a woman begins pointing furiously and exclaims that it isn’t an earthquake, but something much worse – an enormous monster suddenly bursts up from the ground, collapsing the road and sending cars flying.

At that moment, the super hero Wonder Man, otherwise known as actor Simon Williams flies above the streets of California thinking that there is no sign of the U-Foes. ‘I don’t get it – those creeps are about as inconspicuous as – well, the Fantastic Four! But now it’s as if they’ve just dropped off the face of the planet!’

Suddenly, Simon sees the strange goings-on downtown. ‘Holy cow! Where did that thing come from? It’s as big as an office block!’ Simon exclaims, noting that it is very much alive, before wondering if Iron Man has seen it. Seeing his teammate from the Avengers West Coast fly past, Simon remarks ‘Guess so’, while the armored Iron Man thinks to himself that searching for the U-Foes is going to have to wait, for that monster is a clear and present danger!

Soaring towards the unknown monster, Iron Man decides that he doesn’t want to start blasting at it with his repulsor rays, for if he knocked it over, he would be in danger of adding to the damage it has already done. But Iron Man knows that the micro-servo motors in his armor give him about eighty-five tons of lift, so positioning himself carefully as he calculates the beasts’ center of gravity, Iron Man manages to fly underneath it and lift it high into the air, where he begins to carry it clear of the city.

As he carries the massive monster, Iron Man thinks that he is still left with the question of where to put the creature, as he has to get it well away from inhabited areas, but he doesn’t want to just dump it in the sea – at least not until he has had a chance to run a records check and find out if anything is known about this monster. Iron Man’s sensors indicate a small flying object approaching him, and seeing that it isn’t Wonder Man, he thinks it might be one of the U-Foes – instead it is his arrogant teammate, USAgent, flying on an air-cycle.

Iron Man is surprised to see his teammate, and remarks to John “USAgent” Walker that he has been conspicuous by his absence for a while. The handsome USAgent replies that it hasn’t been without good reason, before asking what that thing he is carrying is, as it has wrecked half of L.A. ‘Not quite’ Iron Man replies, before admitting that it has proven to be something of a problem. Iron Man informs Agent that, so far, his internal computers have turned up nothing on the creature’s nature or origins.

Walker asks Iron Man why he doesn’t just kill the thing, pointing out that he must have enough power in that tin suit of his to do it. Iron Man asks if that isn’t a trifle rash, before remarking that they have both read enough science fiction to know that this might be a confused alien, perhaps even an extraterrestrial child. Iron Man decides that if that is the case, to deposit the creature in the shallow water just of shore, which he does, and it lands with a massive splash. Iron Man then uses his repulsors to create a breakwater that will keep the monster’s splashing from flooding the beach. When he finishes, Iron Man asks USAgent if he has seen any sign of Wonder Man.

Wonder Man is at the site of the creature’s arrival and remarks that it doesn’t take a thinking machine to guess that the creature came from the hole, and peering down into the massive hole Simon decides that it must go down and back for a couple of miles, so he supposes his best bet is to back track the creature to its point of origin. ‘Want some company, Wonder Man?’ asks a voice. Simon turns to see the original Human Torch hovering above him.

Simon asks his teammate if he feels up to it, pointing out that he suffered rather badly at the hands of the U-Foes. Human Torch explains that although it is true X-Ray bombarded him with radiation, it had only a temporary effect on his artificial body, so he is fine now. As both men fly down into the hole, Simon declares that this is great, as he was wondering how he was going to find his way around, remarking that it is getting darker the further away the get from the street.

The Human Torch’s body lights up a lot of the tunnel, and Simon thinks to himself that this is amazing, as he had gotten used to working alongside the Vision, thinking of him as human even though he was so cold and robotic, but the Human Torch is another matter, so lifelike in every respect, it is hard to believe he was put together in somebody’s lab – and fifty years ago at that!

The passage opens up and levels out so Simon and the Torch are able to walk, and the Torch asks Simon how deep he thinks they are. Wonder Man replies that they have come forward about a mile, before seeing some movement up ahead and exclaims that they are not alone down here. ‘Flaming fireballs! Monsters!’ exclaims the Torch as he and Wonder Man become under attack from several horrid creatures.

The Torch asks what they are, as he has never seen anything like them. As Simon smashes one of the creatures, he remarks that they look like baby brothers to the big one that Iron Man took care of, before wondering where they came from and why they are all of a sudden attacking. ‘Why?’ comes a strange voice. ‘Because it is my will that they do so! The will of the Mole Man!’

At that moment, some miles to the East, an Avengers Quinjet streaks above the Rocky Mountains, guided by its infalliable autopilot. In the back of the advanced plane, Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the winsome Wasp asks her former husband / current lover Doctor Hank Pym how the Scarlet Witch is doing. ‘Not too well, Jan’ the good scientist replies as he examines their friend and teammate, pointing out that Wanda Maximoff is completely unresponsive again – as if her brain has simply been switched off.

The Wasp asks the former Giant Man if he cannot bring Wanda out of it as he did once before. Hank remembers how he did it, by telling Wanda that the Vision was in danger – but now the Vision has decided to remain in New York with the East Coast branch of the Avengers, before pointing out that he doesn’t think that kind of “shock therapy” should be repeated anyway. Jan begins to ask what they can do for her friend, as they cannot just leave Wanda that way before seeing something out the window – an enormous three-headed flying monster.

Hank exclaims that the automatic avoidance system in the Quinjet is keeping them clear while the Wasp wonders where the creature came from – suddenly the creature shoves one of its massive clawed feet into the Quinjet which doesn’t have time to diverge from it, and shattered into several pieces, the jet begins to fall. Hank uses his Pym Particles to shrink Wanda down to wasp size and asks Jan to fly her clear – but Jan tells him that she is not leaving without him as she doesn’t want to lose him again. Hank tells Jan to be reasonable as there is no point in all of them getting killed, but before he even has time to reduce Wanda in size, the Quinjet is forced to the ground, landing everyone safely.

Hopping out of the Quinjet, the Wasp asks Hank what he did. Carrying Wanda as he keeps an eye on the three-headed monster, Hank replies that it wasn’t him, that some sort of magnetic field grabbed them and pulled them down in one piece. Hank adds that it is probably something to do with their “little” playmate up in the air and announces that the creature is coming towards them again. Hank hands Wanda over to Jan and tells her to take cover, as there is one last chance he has against this creature. ‘Hank! What are you going to do?’ asks Jan, but Hank tells her not to ask questions, ‘And for God’s sake don’t distract me!’ he mutters, adding that his timing has to be just perfect – and as the massive creature flies down for the kill Hank unleashes a barrage of Pym Particles upon it, reducing it dramatically in size.

The small creature flies around in front of the Wasp who exclaims that Hank shrunk it down to the size of a sparrow and tells him it was wonderful. Hank tells Jan to put him up for sainthood later, and informs her that there is a rangers station nearby so she should fly over and alert them to their situation while he looks after Wanda. Jan transforms to wasp size and as she begins to fly away asks Hank if he is sure he will be all right alone. ‘If another monster comes along…’ she begins, to which Hank assures her that he has a small arsenal shrunk down in the pockets of his jumpsuit.

With the Wasp gone, a man garbed in red and purple hiding behind a tree thinks to himself ‘Yes…fly away now Janet van Dyne, bring transportation. Your former husband will be safe in my care for now…as will my daughter!’ It is Magneto, who thinks soon enough the Avengers will learn the true objective behind the events they have seen unfold before them this day, but it does not suit him yet that they learn he is the true architect of these grand plans.

‘And so you think, mutant’ a well dressed man remarks to himself as he watches Magneto via some kind of viewing portal. ‘For it is part of my scheme that you be so deceived’ the man adds, wondering how else to bend to his purpose the six greatest egos on Earth other than by causing each to believe that they alone are the mastermind behind the intrigue, and all others, including himself, but slaves to his wishes. The man adds that it is even amusing to play out, for a while, the role of lackey, before turning his attention back to the Avengers.

‘Okay, Mole…explain yourself!’ Wonder Man orders his opponent after he defeats his monsters. Wonder Man points out that normally the Mole Man restricts himself to bugging the Fantastic Four, and asks him why he has come to L.A. ‘Why? You dare ask such a thing? You who led the assault on Monster Island?’ Mole Man exclaims.

(Shown with flashback images)
Mole Man reveals that he had once again returned to his former home, seeking peace in this troubled world, but some so-called super heroes were not about to let him find the tranquillity he craved and attacked him. Miraculously though, he survived their assault, and it was then that he decided to strike back with the mightiest creatures of his subterranean realm – Giganto the largest creature to ever walk the land, and the flying Tricepalous, dispatched to attack the Avengers in the East.

The Human Torch tells the Mole Man that this is all some kind of mistake, for the
Avengers have not attacked him. ‘I swear it!’ Mole Man is taken aback by the Torch speaking, ‘Your voice…you do not sound like Johnny Storm…what pitiful trick is this? Whatever it is…it shall not work!’

Back outside, Iron Man flies around Giganto who is on the move again. USAgent joins Iron Man in the air on his air-cycle, telling Iron Man to do something as Giganto is heading toward the beach. ‘I can see that, Agent’ Iron Man mutters, before declaring that his original position holds, he wants to know what this thing is before they do anything drastic, and advises John to do the same. ‘Would you now?’ Agent mumbles in reply, before telling Iron Man that he can sit around ruminating all day, ‘I’ve been trained to act’ Walker points out, before declaring’ And act I shall!’

John Walker positions himself at the monster’s eye-level, then fires his sky-cycle’s rockets at full blast, causing the monster to stop in its tracks. However the use of the rockets pushes John far away from the beast, but he is well skilled in the use of his air-cycle so he is able to fly back quickly to see if his plan had the desired effect. John ascertains that it has. All John does now is cut in the afterburner and the flare from the engine makes the creature cower back. ‘He’s too stupid to realize I didn’t really hurt him!’ John exclaims – until suddenly Giganto’s large hand moves quickly and swats USAgent.

John begins to fall to the water, as does his sky-cycle, ‘Didn’t even see it start to move!’ Agent exclaims. Agent begins to say something else when Iron Man swoops down, ‘I’ll make you a deal, Agent – if you don’t say “how can anything so big be so fast”… I won’t say “I told you so”!’. Iron Man grabs USAgent before he hits the beach and flies back into the air, suggesting that they find a reasonable way to sort out this mess.

At that moment, ‘All right! Enough is too much!’ exclaims Wonder Man as he shoves two monsters aside, his costume tattered after all the fighting. Wonder Man approaches Mole Man and exclaims that there is only one way to convince him that the Avengers had nothing to do with the attack on Monster Isle. Mole Man tells Wonder Man to keep back, ‘I warn you! My staff…’ begins Mole Man, until Simon interrupts, declaring that he knows Mole Man’s staff is full of all kinds of electronic contraptions and enough power to fry a small herd of elephants.

Simon informs Mole Man that he isn’t going to do anything to stop Mole Man from using his staff on him, when the Human Torch cries out ‘Wonder Man, no! He’ll kill you!’ ‘Maybe’ Simon replies, ‘But that’s a gamble I’m willing to take!’ The handsome Wonder Man stands defiantly before the Mole Man and exclaims ‘Well, Mole? I’m not going to do anything to defend myself. Does that prove we mean you no harm?’ ‘NO!’ shouts Mole Man as he unleashes a powerful blast upon Simon, who is knocked backwards across the cavern.
The Human Torch flies over to his teammate, but Simon declares that he is okay, as he doesn’t think Mole Man used the full power of his staff. Simon tells the Torch to keep back, as this is the only hand they have and he is going to keep playing it until Mole Man believes him. Mole Man keeps casting his staff at Simon, knocking him back over and over again.

‘Believe you, Wonder Man?’ Mole Man eventually asks, ‘Why should I believe you? Why should I doubt the evidence of my senses and believe it was not the Avengers who attacked me?’ ‘Because we had no reason, Mole!’ Simon replies, ‘No more than we had reason to attack the U-Foes – but somebody managed to fool them into thinking we had – just as somebody has obviously fooled you!’ Simon tells Mole Man to think about it, ‘Would I really stand here and take this punishment if I wasn’t speaking the truth?’. ‘Perhaps…perhaps not’ Mole Man replies, before deciding that if there is at least a chance that what Wonder Man says is true, then he should withdraw to consider it. ‘The Mole Man is no one’s dupe!’ Mole Man blows into a small whistle….

…And at that very moment Iron Man and USAgent watch as Giganto heads back out to sea. Iron Man informs Walker that the hyper-sensitive monitors in his helmet are picking up a sonic signal of some kind, on a frequency too high for human ears to detect, as if somebody is calling their “friend” home. USAgent points out that the creature is submerging itself in the water, so Iron Man remarks that it looks like he shouldn’t have worried about the monster drowning, as it seems quite comfortable in deep water.

Iron Man decides to go after the monster, so he suddenly drops USAgent into the water, telling his teammate that he can swim back to shore and joking that the surf is in his favor. ‘HEY!’ shouts Walker as he lands in the ocean. Iron Man activates the seals in his suit before diving into the water, realizing that their strange visitor is as quick under water as it is on land, for it has already disappeared, although noticing the gaping hole in the seabed, Iron Man remarks that it is easy enough to see where the monster went.

One hour later, Doctor Pym, Iron Man, Wonder Man, USAgent, Human Torch and the Wasp have gathered in their meeting room and are watching a news reporter who announces that, in Washington, the House Committee on super hero activities continues to debate the instrumentation of the Super Powers Registration Act. Hank tells his teammates that there is pretty much no doubt now that these incidents are related, adding that he doesn’t think he would be too paranoid to say that they are up against a consolidated effort on the part of the bad guys.

Turning to another monitor, Hank asks Captain America what he thinks. With the Vision and Quasar at his side, Captain America replies that he concurs, and adds his own observation – the attacks on people like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and others in the super hero community seem more random and less organized. Quasar remarks that Captain America is right, informing the Avengers West that other super heroes are being put through the ringer too, but it almost seems like a smoke screen.

The handsome Quasar points out that the major loss has been on the Avengers side, with Avengers Island being destroyed, and now the Palos Verdes Compound being badly damaged. Hank agrees with Quasar, remarking that they are left with one unavoidable conclusion: ‘Someone is out to destroy the Avengers!’

Characters Involved: 

Human Torch I, Iron Man, Doctor Pym, Scarlet Witch, USAgent, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers West Coast)
Captain America, Quasar, Vision (all Avengers)

Loki (in disguise)
Mole Man

Mole Man’s creatures

Susan Baker (News Reporter)

In Mole Man’s Flashback:
Iron Man, Vision, Wonder Man (all Avengers West Coast)

Mole Man

Story Notes: 

The core Avengers Acts of Vengeance titles include Avengers (1st series) #311-313, Avengers West Coast #53-55, Avengers Spotlight #26-29, and an epilogue in one of the back stories in Avengers (1st series) Annual #19.

The U-Foes attacked the Avengers West Coast in Avengers West Coast #53.

Hank managed to get Wanda out of her catatonic state for a short time in Avengers West Coast #53.

Johnny Storm is of course the other Human Torch of the Fantastic Four, an opponent Mole Man is very familiar with.

Written By: