Heroes for Hire (1st series) #15

Issue Date: 
September 1998
Story Title: 
Force Majeure! (Siege of Wundagore Part 1)

John Ostrander (writer), Paschalis Ferry (penciler), Jaime Mendoza (inker), Jon Babcock (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist), Mark Bernado (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Bova arrives back at the safe house on the Hudson with White Tiger and is introduced to a slightly suspicious Lord Tyger, along with his friends, the Knights of Wundagore. She is asked to account for herself and tells them that she was created specifically to hunt the Man-Beast. Tyger asks why he couldn’t have done it but the High Evolutionary interrupts him and asks White Tiger why she has been with the Heroes for Hire, as that wasn’t the purpose for which she was created. She informs him that the Man-Beast was in a prison called the Vault and escaped before she got to him. She fell in with the team and tells the Evolutionary that they could be allies against Exodus. He tells her to bring them to him and she departs for Oracle Inc., the Heroes for Hire headquarters. Upon her arrival, she tells them that she has promised their help to the Evolutionary and, after a discussion between Iron Fist and Jim Hammond, Hammond agrees to cover for them for twenty-four hours while they assist her. Lord Anon, meanwhile, finds the Evolutionary with a scepter housing Isotope E, which can be used to channel the energy, making it easier to control, which he finds particularly interesting. He is asked to make preparations to leave for Wundagore. The Heroes for Hire arrive at the safehouse where Lord Anon is spotted by White Tiger, who immediately attacks him, as she knows his scent. The Knights defend Lord Anon and the Heroes for Hire fall in behind White Tiger and an all-out brawl ensues. The High Evolutionary soon catches them fighting and has little patience to find out what happened and, instead, devolves the Heroes for Hire into subhumans before he and the Knights depart.

Full Summary: 

Another New York downpour rattles the castle on the Hudson, the safe house which is the current home for the Knights of Wundagore and, now, the High Evolutionary himself. Approaching the castle are two of the Evolutionary’s creations, Bova and Hero for Hire, White Tiger, whom Bova had been sent to retrieve. They chat before their arrival and White Tiger says she is in confusion over what has occurred at Wundagore and why her master is in this place. Bova explains that there was a war in which Exodus and the Acolytes took the citadel during one of their creator’s weak moments, forcing him to go into exile in Antarctica. She tells her that the High Evolutionary is in an unstable state, one moment having the power of a god and the next being barely subhuman.

They arrive at the castle and find Sir Ram on guard duty, who demands they halt. Bova is startled by her sword-wielding comrade but tells him she has come with the White Tiger as their lord asked. He raises his sword and invites them to enter, but says that the lady had better be prepared to account for herself. Bova turns her nose up at him, telling him there’s no need for rudeness. Inside, White Tiger is introduced to some of the Knights: Lady Ursula, Lord Tyger and Lord Gator, who stand before her impassively. Sir Ram informs her that Lady Vermin is preparing the craft, Lord Anon is on patrol and Sir Delphis is in another dimension before telling her to account for herself. Before she does, Lord Tyger leans towards her and sniffs her, saying they know all the New Men, but they don’t know her. She holds her hand outstretched and asks them to open their ears and their minds and she will tell them the purpose of her creation.

She explains that the Man-Beast was their creator’s great failure among his creations. He was drawn from the wolf but there was something malignant in his spirit, always seeking to undo their lord’s creations. Though aided by such heroes as Thor, never was the High Evolutionary able to end its existence. so she was created specifically to hunt down the Man-Beast forever.

Lord Tyger thinks about what she’s said and thinks that creating a tiger to hunt a wolf was an excellent idea, but asks her why he wished to use her in particular and not himself. Suddenly, the High Evolutionary himself interjects, telling Lord Tyger that it is because it is his will, asking if that is not enough for him. White Tiger looks very surprised to see him. The three Knights each bow before him as Lord Tyger calls him sire. He replies, saying that, yes, he is sire of them all and asks rhetorically that if he has decided to create a being for a specific purpose then who are they to question him.

He turns his attention to White Tiger, asking if she has found the Man-Beast. She replies that he was taken to the enhanced human prison called ‘the Vault,’ but escaped before she could reach him. The Evolutionary leans into her and, with some annoyance, informs her that he has seen reports of her with the Heroes for Hire. He asks to what purpose, as that was not why she was created. White Tiger stands her ground and says that they are allies and might be useful in dealing with Exodus and taking back Wundagore. “Indeed?” he says, “And you think we need allies?” he replies. White Tiger is not fazed by her creator’s stature and replies with not a little sarcasm, “Ah, then you chose to leave Wundagore when Exodus came. I was misunderstanding.” Her eyes remain fixed on the High Evolutionary and he stares silently back at her from his loftier position, knowing she has a point. He commands her to bring ‘these allies’ but to do so quickly because when they depart, they’ll wait for noone. Immediately, White Tiger takes off, watched by Lord Anon, who is patrolling the area. He has his eyes on her.

In New York City, at Oracle Inc., Iron Fist is explaining his recent adventure to his teammates, finishing off his explanation by telling them that they returned the key to S.H.I.E.L.D but he still has no idea what happened to his sister. It wasn’t the vacation he’d planned but he’d learned he has a family and is not alone. Listening to his tale are Jim Hammond, Oracle’s CEO, Luke Cage, the Black Knight, Thena, She-Hulk and Ant-Man. Luke explains things in simple terms; they are his family. She-Hulk grins and says that actually he’s more client than family so far as she’s concerned. “Love you too Jennifer,” Danny replies with a thumbs up. Suddenly, they are interrupted by White Tiger, who has returned from meeting the High Evolutionary. Her body is enlarged and, in mid-transformation, her muscles are particularly pumped from the exertion her journey has taken out of her. She begs for their help, telling them she promised the High Evolutionary, her master, that she would help take back Wundagore from Exodus.

Jim Hammond is angry and tells her that she shouldn’t have done that. They have other assignments, other priorities, other clients waiting on them. Danny asks him to hold it. He thinks that maybe it’s time they decide where their priorities lie. Are they Heroes for Hire or Heroes for Hire? Jim replies that they have obligations and if they choose not to honor them then they may as well disband the H4H. He turns and watches the fish swimming outside his window as Danny tells her a teammate has asked for help and he’s going to give it. Fifty years ago, he adds, he himself would have done the same thing. Temporarily speechless, Jim turns and tells them that he’ll cover them for twenty-four hours; then he’ll need them back there. If they’re not, he’ll disband the team and they can do as they please.

White Tiger has by now calmed down and reduced her body to its normal size. Iron Fist asks her if they can speak a moment. He tells her that he’s already been to see Misty, who told him about the confrontation they’d had. White Tiger looks embarrassed as she turns to him, saying that she is sorry. The feelings she has, love and jealousy, are strange and overwhelming. Danny says he can appreciate that but she has to understand that he loves Misty. He values White Tiger as a friend and as an ally and wasn’t aware of her feelings. He doesn’t want to hurt her but he can’t encourage her either. He asks if she understands. She slinks away from him, head bowed, replying, “That the one I love does not love me? Yes, why this should be so? No. The rest is of no importance now. My lord, the High Evolutionary needs us and we must go.”

Over at the castle on the Hudson, the High Evolutionary is performing experiments on strange creatures, using very hi-tech machinery. A large skeleton lies in a tank, filled with a green solution, and skulls and other body parts bubble away in smaller flasks around him. Lord Anon descends the steep staircase behind him but, before he gets halfway down, Wyndham asks him what he wants; he had left orders not to be disturbed. Anon doesn’t apologize, but informs him that Quicksilver has not yet come back after returning the Avengers Quinjet he had borrowed. He asks whether they should wait for him. The Evolutionary says that Maximoff has been a disappointment to him. He gave him charge over his Knights, yet he is always elsewhere, with the Inhumans, the Avengers, never where he should be.

Anon inquisitively asks what it is he is holding in his hand. Wyndham replies that it is something (a scepter) he created to house Isotope E, the only substance able to stabilize the erratic changes in his own body and that which the accursed Exodus most craves. It will allow him to channel its mutagenic properties into a beam, which makes it easier to control. “Fascinating," replies Lord Anon with a stare, his underlying malevolence managing to remain hidden. The Evolutionary stands before another huge tank with an evolved creature in it and tells Lord Anon to go and prepare for their leaving. They will not wait for Pietro Maximoff.

In the skies nearby, the Heroes for Hire are travelling in their Atlantean vehicle towards the Hudson River. Dane Whitman is asked whether he knows how to fly it properly and he replies that it’s not unlike the Quinjets he is used to. He’s still getting used to the controls but there’s nothing to worry about, though it might be safer if everyone was strapped in. Luke Cage is the co-pilot. Dane tells them that he’s been to the castle before, so he knows where they’re headed. The one thing that concerns him is coming face-to-face with Exodus again, after all, he’s learned about their shared past. Soon, as the vehicle approaches the castle, whipping up the river into a fine spray, he notices that they have a welcoming committee.

Standing guard is Lady Ursula. Brandishing a weapon, she demands to know what business they have there. White Tiger tries to calm her, telling her that these are the allies she spoke of earlier and asks for less hastiness from her. The other Knights, Sir Ram, Lord Gator and Lord Tyger, arrive and Sir Ram is surprised at their small number. From what White Tiger had said, he was expecting a battalion. Luke whispers to Danny, “Whoa! Get a load of these creature feature rejects, Fist!” White Tiger, standing before an imposing Lord Gator, informs her fellow New Men that their worth and value exceed their numbers. “You all, certainly, must be greater than you appear, yes?” she asks, again making another good point.

At that moment, Lord Anon appears having completed his share of the preparations. His scent is immediately picked up by White Tiger and Lord Anon halts, saying that he didn’t expect them to return so soon. With a growl, White Tiger immediately leaps at Lord Anon but is deflected as he takes evasive action and struck with his sword. He raises his sword and is about to kill her when Iron Fist takes him out with a foot to the chin, knocking the sword from his hand. “Attack one, attack all,” he cries. “So we believe,” replies Lord Gator as he sweeps the feet from under him.

Before any sense can be heard from any corner, an all-out brawl begins. Luke strikes Lord Gator with a right cross before the two groups of heroes find themselves standing facing from each other, aggression taking over from reason. They seemed evenly matched with the pairings being Luke Cage vs. Lady Ursula, Black Knight vs. Sir Ram, Iron Fist vs. Lord Tyger and Ant-Man/Ignatz vs. Lady Vermin. Luke yells, “Yo Fist! We need us a battle-cry! How about ‘Kick butt Heroes?” Danny replies that he should do it rather than say it.

Sir Ram is pleased that the Black Knight is at last someone to test his mettle but the Black Knight is no pushover, quickly attacking, asking Sir Ram to guess what the failing grade is. Iron Fist is swift and agile but finds Lord Tyger even more so. They leap over each other, Lord Tyger asking him if he knows the secret of a good attack? He answers his question himself. “Give your opponent no chance to counter-attack.” Iron Fist realizes he isn’t and wills himself to think faster.

Ant-Man, meanwhile, riding the deviant creature Ignatz though a little smaller than Lady Vermin and is concerned that a bio-electric blast might kill her. However, he finds he has little choice and lets her have it, shocking her with a painful blast which makes her fur stand on end and her body jerk violently. She quickly attacks, despite the pain, and uses her blasters to knock Ant-Man off his steed. Ignatz is downed but Lady Vermin can find no trace of its rider. A voice in her ear surprises her as Ant-Man tells her he got smaller and a little closer so he could use his zapper close to her brain. This time, the blast knocks Lady Vermin clean out and Scott changes to full-size, thinking that the fight seems wrong; as if someone or something is wanting them to fight. Lady Ursula meanwhile asks Luke if he is holding back but he replies that his grandma told him never to hit ladies. Of course, she never mentioned bears. He lands a left hook in Lady Ursula’s face but she barely flinches (sorry) and returns his punch with interest, sending him flying.

Inside the castle, the High Evolutionary and Bova ascend the lab’s staircase as he hears noises above. He asks if the Knights are still practicing but Bova isn’t sure. As he gets topside, he witnesses the fight and asks Ant-Man what is the meaning of this. He replies that they came there as friends and something went wrong. The Evolutionary doesn’t suffer fools gladly and wields his scepter which crackles with the energy of Isotope E. Everyone stares at him as he tells them he will set things right. He says that though the Isotope is unable to permanently cure his own body’s destabilization, he can still employ its mutagenic properties to devolve them to subhuman. With this, he blasts the Heroes for Hire who scream as the Isotope rips through their bodies.

Lord Anon is quick to point out that White Tiger attacked him for no reason. He said he defended himself and White Tiger’s friends beset upon them. Bova shows concern for her fellow New Man, asking if they should help the White Tiger as she appears to be hurt but the High Evolutionary replies that she should leave her, leave them all. She was a traitor he says and they were her tools. They leave now for Wundagore, to take back what is theirs. As he turns and leaves, the Heroes for Hire are left confused and, despite still being in costume, have been devolved into savage apes.

Characters Involved: 

High Evolutionary

Bova, Lady Ursula, Lady Vermin, Lord Anon, Lord Gator, Lord Tyger, Sir Ram (all Knights of Wundagore)

Ant-Man, Black Knight, Jim Hammond, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, She-Hulk, Thena and White Tiger (all Heroes for Hire)


(in flashback)
The High Evolutionary
The Man-Beast

Story Notes: 

The breakout from the Vault occurred in Heroes for Hire #1.

Iron Fist tells his teammates of his recent adventures which were told in the limited series, Iron Fist #1 - 3 (Jul - Sep 98).

Sir Delphis is still on Polemachus, homeworld of Arkon the Imperion.

White Tiger confronted Misty Knight in Heroes for Hire #14 and, after the briefest of scuffles, Misty told her to talk to Danny, saying that, if he felt the same way towards her as she to him, she promised she’d walk away.

The Heroes for Hire were provided with an Atlantean vehicle by Prince Namor in Heroes for Hire #5. The Black Knight previously visited the castle on the Hudson in Quicksilver #7.

The Black Knight learned about his and Exodus’ past in the Black Knights/Exodus one-shot.

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