Champions #14

Issue Date: 
July 1977
Story Title: 
The Creature called Swarm!

Bill Mantlo (Writer), John Byrne (Penciler), Mike Esposito (Inker), Irving Watanabe (Letterer), Glynis Wein (Colorist), Archie Goodwin (Editor)

Brief Description: 

Iceman dons a new costume, as well as a new attitude, but soon he and Hercules find themselves being attacked by their own headquarters! Instruments usually used for defense come to life somehow and engage the two members of the Champions in battle, including the abandoned Rampage armor. Meanwhile, Black Widow, Darkstar and Ghost Rider are saying goodbye to Ivan Petrovich, who is returning to Russia, but once inside his quarters aboard the ship, Ivan finds himself confronted by armed men. Nearby on the dock, a man carries a briefcase, intending to get it to the authorities, unaware he is being watched by a strange being. Black Widow, Darkstar and Ghost Rider suddenly find themselves attacked by giant mechanoid bees. Ghost Rider finds himself stung by one of the bees, but Darkstar rescues him, though he is very ungrateful. When Darkstar questions him about this, he doesn’t answer her, but thinks to himself that he hates her because the others accepted her immediately, but they have not accepted him. The man with the briefcase is then attacked by the mysterious cloaked figure, though the attacker cannot take the briefcase as there is some repellent on it. He departs, and the remaining mechanoid bees follow him. The Champions soon find the little man, stung to death. Black Widow locates his wallet and discovers that he is an Interpol agent. Back at Headquarters, Iceman manages to shut down the power, thus turning off the computer system and preventing anything else from attacking he and Hercules. He then discovers that the HQ was built with faulty materials. The Black Widow, Darkstar and Ghost Rider return home, and Iceman explains what has been going on - before Angel crashes in through a window, trying to escape danger - a massive swarm of killer bees, headed towards Champions HQ!

Full Summary: 

Los Angeles, specifically the headquarters of the Champions, where this particular night is all too quiet for the brooding man-god Hercules. Suddenly, that changes when a piece of machinery suddenly lashes out at the heroic Hercules. ‘Hounds of Hades - I am attacked!’ Hercules booms, before smashing the device before it gets him. ‘This device seeks to crush the Son of Zeus, yet t’was created to defend the Champions from attack!’ Hercules remarks, wondering what has caused madness to rule the machine. Suddenly, a electronic voice exclaims ‘Warning! Intruder alert!’ Hercules turns and sees a woman’s image on a monitor, and remarks that he knows her. ‘Thou art what Bill Foster did call a video-construct!’

‘Alert!’ the “woman” responds. Ignoring Hercules’ other comment, it simply stares silent as it receives new programming. Hercules clenches his teeth as he remarks that the woman is nothing more than pulses of light called forth by the computer to warn the Champions if there is danger. ‘Methinks the only danger here - doth lie revealed by thine own distorted image!’ Hercules adds as the woman’s image indeed becomes distorted. ‘All units! The being called Hercules is herewith designated…an intruder!’ the computer announces. ‘Intruders must be destroyed! Unit two…attack!’ A mechanical arm used in defense suddenly emerges, and smacks Hercules hard in the back. ‘Thou goest too far, machine - for now thou hast angered the Prince of Power!’ Hercules declares.

Meanwhile, in the quarters of Bobby “Iceman” Drake, Bobby is talking to himself as he gets dressed. ‘You know what’s wrong with you, Mr Drake? People judge you by your age instead of your actions!’ he tells himself, deciding that to the X-Men, the Champions, and even Darkstar, he is still just a kid - a team mascot. ‘But that stops as of now!’ Bobby boasts, deciding that his new costume is just the start. The handsome mutant stands in front of a mirror and examines his new costume - light blue all over, except for white boots and gloves, white hot pants and a white section on the chest, and a darker blue belt, with a white “C” on it. ‘Soon the whole world’s gonna sit up and take notice of Bobby Drake - the new Iceman!’

Suddenly, a piece of equipment smashes through the mirror. ‘Holy Toledo! It wasn’t that bad a speech!’ Bobby exclaims, shifting his form to ice and dodging the shards of glass, he realizes that the equipment is one of their defensive devices, which pushes through a window and proceeds to fall from the high-rise headquarters. ‘It’s about to mash those pedestrians!’ Indeed, the large contraption is close to some civilians below: ‘Omigosh, Frankie - I think we’re gonna DIE!’ one of them shouts. ‘Not if I can help it!’ Bobby exclaims, telling himself that he has never tried a stunt like this, but it should work - in theory. With that, he leaps from the window - headed downwards, he fires ice from his hands, driving an ice-pylon down before, and freezing the equipment inside the pylon.

Bobby then anchors his ice-sled down to the pylon, spiraling gently down to the street. He rushes back inside the Champions HQ, telling himself that the Police can decide what to do with the ice-pylon obstructing the sidewalk as he enters the high-speed elevator, intent on finding out who is tossing the Champions’ defense equipment out the window like a million dollar medicine ball. But, as the elevator door opens on another level, Iceman finds Hercules being attacked by the Champions’ computer. ‘But why?’ Bobby wonders.

Meanwhile, on an embarkation dock at Santa Monica Bay, The Black Widow a.k.a. Natasha Romanova, Laynia “Darkstar” Petrovna and Johnny Blaze a.k.a. the Ghost Rider stand before Ivan Petrovich. Natasha tells her friend that they got his call. ‘I thought if we came we might -’ she begins, ‘Change my mind? Sorry, princess’ Ivan remarks, to which Blaze asks if this goodbye is for keeps. ‘Nothing lasts forever’ Ivan replies. ‘You’ll learn that by the time you’re my age’ he adds, before declaring that the Black Widow and Ivan made a good team once, but that now the Black Widow has herself a new life, one he doesn’t figure into.

Natasha tells Ivan that he is wrong. ‘The Champions need you! I - I need you!’ she exclaims. Ivan tells her that the feeling is mutual, but that he has a lot of loose ends to tie up back home. ‘My kid and all’ he points out, explaining that as much as he wants to stay, he has got to find Yuri and let him know he still has a father. Darkstar asks Ivan if when he finds his son, could he tell him that Darkstar still thinks of him. ‘You know I will, Laynia!’ Ivan replies, adding that there must be some good in his son if a girl like her could have loved him once.

Meanwhile, at the far end of the pier, a man dressed in a suit walks past several crates marked ‘fragile”, and carrying a briefcase, thinks to himself that if all goes well, the authorities will have the briefcase within the hour, then they can stop von Meyer’s mad schemes before he endangers the entire world. Unbeknownst to the man carrying the briefcase though, he is being watched, by a man in a purple cloak. ‘Good! The unsuspecting fool approaches the crates!’ the mysterious cloaked man thinks to himself, adding that once those within receive his signal, the briefcase - and soon, perhaps the world - will be his.

Ivan boards his ship, telling Natasha to take care of her playmates. ‘See they wash behind their ears’ he jokes, before telling Darkstar and Blaze to take care of Natasha. ‘They don’t come any better than the Black Widow!’ he exclaims. ‘Will do, amigo. Adios!’ Blaze calls out. ‘Ivan, wait! I - I’m -’ Natasha calls out - but Ivan does now wait, and the gangplank is quickly raised behind him. Walking through the ship, Ivan thinks to himself that he cannot tell Natasha the real reason he is going back to Russia, nor about the call he received from Nick Fury, as she would have wanted to come for sure. Entering his cabin, Ivan is greeted by two men, one of whom aims a gun at him. ‘Come in, comrade! Yes, this is your cabin. We have been waiting for you!’ the assassin exclaims, while the Russia-bound ship slips out onto the night-shrouded pacific….

It leaves in its wake, an explosion on the pier, as the crates marked “fragile” suddenly explode, while the briefcase-carrying man stands near them. ‘Oh me Lord!’ he gasps, startled. The small man stumbles back, clutching the briefcase as smoke billows from the shattered crates - but, as if aware of the futility of running away, he stops and stands his ground - as death comes flying in the horrifying form of…bees! ‘The bees! They’ve found me!’ the man screams.

‘Johnny?’ Darkstar asks, after hearing the screams, and seeing something approach them. ‘I see it - and I’ve already begun my transformation - but I’m not sure I believe it!’ Ghost Rider replies. Darkstar takes to the air, pointing out that their victim clearly believes, which is enough for her, and she begins blasting the bees with her powerful Darkforce energy. ‘Woman! Wait! Stay back with the Widow!’ Ghost Rider exclaims, boasting that he is Ghost Rider. ‘And with my hellspawned power I will -’ he begins, but Black Widow swings alongside him, telling him that she is beginning to resent his attitude of superiority to the women of this team.

Natasha lands on one of the giant bees, telling Blaze that it is time he was reminded that, not only is she the leader of the Champions, but that she was being trained to fight while he was still learning to crawl! With that, the Black Widow rips the head off the mechanoid bee, and turns to face the others that fly towards her.

At that same time, back at Champions HQ, Iceman blasts the tentacles that have snared Hercules, who declares that the ice has stopped the grapplers, and thanks his teammate. ‘You’re welcome!’ Bobby replies, before asking why their own intruder system would violate its programming and suddenly attack them. Hercules replies that he has no answers, before announcing that the battle has started again. ‘Lasers!’ Iceman exclaims as one of the defense lasers blasts at them. ‘Since the walls themselves hide the danger - ‘tis the walls that Hercules shall destroy!’ the Olympian exclaims as he begins ripping apart the walls. ‘Great! A multi-million dollar HQ ripped to shreds. There’s gotta be a better way!’ Bobby exclaims.

Running down the corridor, Bobby realizes that there is, as the computer is drawing all its power from the main generator bank. ‘If I can just cut the power at its source!’ he tells himself, but as he arrives at the main generator, Bobby finds the system had anticipated this move and jammed the cut-off switch. ‘That sinks it! The computer’s turned on us! And this whole skyscraper’s become a death trap!’ Bobby declares, before something - or someone - whacks him in the back. ‘Yeeoww! Now what?’ Bobby shouts, dropping to the ground, he rubs his back and spins around - ‘Rampage? But how? He’s - no, wait! That’s his armored exo-skeleton, all right…but Rampage isn’t in it!’ Bobby realizes.

Iceman exclaims that nobody is inside the armor, and reminds himself that the armor has been stored in the lab since Rampage got smeared, and now, somehow, the computer has activated it. The armor then lunges at Bobby, striking him in the chest.

Back down the corridor, Hercules struggles once more with the steel tentacles, entwining like a serpent around him. ‘But ‘tis Hercules thou seekest to ensnare, base machine, not some helpless babe, and my patience is ended!’ Hercules booms as he rips the tentacles from the wall. ‘All units...move in! Program annihilation of the one called Hercules!’ the computer announces, as a large mechanoid approaches Hercules. ‘Then have at thee! Hercules fears thee not!’ the Olympian boasts, standing his ground.

Back at the dock, Ghost Rider notices crates all around exploding, while the bees are coming at them by the dozen. He realizes that they are after the little guy with briefcase, and that they don’t seem to mind killing a few Champions to get to him. Deciding that he doesn’t aim to be the first, it is time he used that old Ghost Rider super strength on the buzzing bozos, and does so by grabbing one of the mechanical bees, and smashing it into another. Blaze tells himself that he has to reach Widow and Darkstar, when suddenly one of the bees shoves its stinger into him.

Darkstar sees this and blasts the bee with a Darkforce beam, telling Johnny that it won’t strike him again. ‘Blast you! I don’t want your help! Stay away from me!’ Ghost Rider scolds Laynia, who immediately asks him why he hates her so. Ghost Rider stares at Darkstar, and doesn’t answer her out loud - only to himself he thinks ‘Because the Champs accepted you from the start - while they still fear me!’

Hurt and confused, Darkstar continues to battle alongside the angry Ghost Rider, while the little man with the briefcase watches them from behind a crate, when he suddenly hears a soft whispering sound. ‘I come for that which you stole from us, man!’ the cloaked being exclaims, hovering over the small man, who spins around: ‘von Meyer - walking on air!’ he gasps. ‘von Meyer? Yes, that was my human name - but now I am one who is many - and far more than human!’ indeed, the mysterious being has a strange look about him in the darkness, and removes one of his gloves - causing countless bees to swarm down and engulf the little man.

The mysterious being goes to pick up the briefcase, only to find that the little man has coated it with some manner of repellent. ‘My arm-units cannot approach it!’ he exclaims, realizing that the strangely powered youths nearby are approaching, drawn by the little man’s screams. ‘I must flee - for now!’ he declares, taking his leave, followed by a trail of bees, which leave the little man’s body.

Nearby, Natasha, Laynia and Blaze see the mechanoid bees fly away. ‘We did it! We scared them off!’ Blaze exclaims, while Darkstar motions upwards and exclaims that the bees are following something - not fleeing, though they cannot make out what the cloaked figure is. Natasha remarks that Laynia is correct, but seeing the little man lying nearby, she remarks that the bees missed what they came for. ‘The little man!’ Blaze exclaims, before asking about the briefcase. Natasha announces that the briefcase is still here, not that the little man will have any use for it now, as he is dead. ‘Killed by the venomous stings of a hundred deadly bees!’ she points out.

Laynia remarks that the little man looks like an accountant, and asks why anyone would want to kill him, while Blaze asks ‘Why the giant metal bees? Why not just a bullet? They’re cheaper’. ‘We won’t know until we - wait! Here’s his wallet!’ Natasha exclaims, pulling the wallet from the little man’s jacket, she opens it and discovers that he was an Interpol agent. Natasha exclaims that his briefcase must contain something somebody wanted - badly enough to have gone though all this to get it. The Black Widow then radios to Iceman, informing him that the need the Champscraft. ‘No answer! But he and Hercules were on HQ watch! Where in blazes are they?’ Natasha exclaims.

They are of course fighting for their lives, as Iceman dodges a punch from the animated Rampage armor, realizing that the computer is anticipating his every move, and passing it on to the armor. ‘I can’t dodge much longer!’ he tells himself, before deciding that perhaps he won’t have to for much longer, as he finds himself backed up against the power banks. He tells himself that he must duck before the armored fist smashes him into ice cubes, just at the right time - which he manages to do, and the Rampage armor gets stuck in the generator, the force of which knocks out the computer’s power source. ‘No power - no Rampage! And I’ll bet Hercules is finding his battle coming to an abrupt halt right about now!’ Bobby adds.

Indeed, ‘All…units…annihilate…’ the mechanoid mumbles, while Hercules realizes that the lights have gone out and the machine falters - then falls. ‘The battle is ended!’ he exclaims, adding that unless there is magic afoot, he cannot say how it ended. ‘No magic! Just that l’il ol’ Iceman, me!’ Bobby exclaims, carrying a glow-stick towards Hercules, who tells bobby that he is a warrior beyond his age. Bobby replies that he is glad somebody around here thinks so, and opens a panel which contains the computer’s command module, suggesting to Hercules that they try and discover why it went bananas on them.

Examining the wiring, Hercules points out that it appears the wires are burned through. ‘Yep! Looks like we’ve been suckered again!’ Bobby agrees, remarking that, just like the Champscraft, Bill Foster’s plans were fine, but their HQ is built with faulty materials. ‘Once the wiring went, so did the computer!’ Bobby adds, when an elevator opens, and Natasha, Laynia and Blaze appear. ‘What happened to the lights, Drake? You and the man-god playing hide and seek?’ Blaze asks. Natasha declares that she will handle this, and tells Hercules and Iceman that they ignored a priority alert, and asks them why. ‘Now, just hang on a second, Widow’ Bobby retorts, before quickly explaining what happened.

As the mutant hero finishes his tale, the sixth member of the Champions Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel suddenly crashes through a window, sending glass everywhere. ‘Angel!’ Bobby calls out to his friend. ‘I’ve heard of pigeons flying into skyscrapers, but this is ridiculous!’ Blaze remarks. Bobby rushes over to Warren, asking him if he is okay, while a clearly exhausted Warren replies that he flew so fast, that he had to get back to warn the. ‘They - they’re coming! Millions of them!’ he gasps. ‘Millions of what, Warren?’ someone asks. Angel tells everyone to look out the window, but upon doing so, the Black Widow tells him that there is nothing there. ‘Save yonder storm clouds, darkening the skies!’ Hercules points out.

‘Don’t you see? Those aren’t storm clouds!’ Warren replies urgently, getting up, he stands alongside his teammates at the window. ‘They’re moving against the wind!’ he cries. ‘You’re…right, Warren!’ the Black Widow replies, while Hercules asks the others if they hear a sound growing nearer. ‘Buzzing - like back at the docks!’ Ghost Rider exclaims. ‘Bees! An army of ‘em! They’re coming after us!’ Indeed, as the sky grows dark - and the city is engulfed by the buzzing swarm of killer bees….

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Black Widow, Darkstar, Ghost Rider, Hercules, Iceman (all Champions)

Ivan Petrovitch

Swarm’s bees

Interpool Agent

Story Notes: 

Ivan’ son is Crimson Dynamo III, who sought revenge against his father, but later escaped back to Russia. [Champions #7-10]
Rampage was defeated in Champions #8.

The Champions’ Champscraft had troubles in Champions #11.

First appearance of Swarm.

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