Marvel Comics Presents (1st series) #172

Issue Date: 
January 1995
Story Title: 
USAgent(1st story)<br> Scarlet Witch(2nd story)

1st story: Dan Abnett (writer), Fred Haynes (penciler), Hector Collazo (inker), Madonna (letterer), Frank Lopez (colorist)

2nd story: Dan Abnett (writer), John Czop (penciler), Scott “Pond Scum” Elmer (inker), Madonna (letterer), Frank Lopez (colorist)

Michael Krager (assistant editor), Richard Ashford (editor), Ralph Macchio (group editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

1st story:
The USAgent desperately tries to control the powerless Hex-Ship as it plummets towards the Mandarin’s fortress. He orders the Scarlet Witch and Spider-Woman to abandon ship, and soon crashes into the fortress in spectacular display. His troubles aren’t over though, as he is attacked by several soldiers. With his photon-shields disabled thanks to the anti-tech field, USAgent finds a makeshift shield as he prepares for the battle.

2nd story:
The Scarlet Witch is thrown about in the disabled Hex-Ship, and soon she and Spider-Woman abandon ship at USAgent’s direction. They find the parachutes and drop from the Hex-Ship, where they see it soon crash into the Mandarin’s fortress. Scarlet Witch directs Spider-Woman to go and find USAgent, while she thinks she knows where Iron Man is, and crashes down through a window, into the Mandarin’s throne room.

Full Summary: 

1st story:
The Pegasus Hex-Ship with three members of Force Works and their associate, the Recorder, inside has lost axial stability, the gyros, the peripherals and the liveware synch. ‘Lost pretty much everything except my lunch’ John Walker a.k.a. the heroic USAgent tells himself, while he realizes the Pegasus is pushing to breaking point as it plummets towards the Mandarin’s fortress up ahead. ‘I’m gonna make my own front door’ Johnny decides, but he has a feeling he is not going to walk away from this one. The liveware headset strapped to Walker is meant to link him to the flight control computer, but all he is getting is feedback from the fritzing systems, and it hurts. Johnny recalls that as Force Works were en route for a showdown with Mandarin, the Hex-Shup hit some technology nullifying field, then the power went down and they started to drop like a stone.

Johnny throws the liveware headset behind him, as it is not doing him any good. Johnny reminds himself that he told the Scarlet Witch and Spider-Woman to bail, so he hopes they have. He sees the Recorder lying motionless in the back of the Hex-Ship and realizes that the anti-tech field blanked him like it did the Hex-Ship. It is just seconds to go now before the Hex-Ship slams into the Mandarin’s fortress. Johnny hopes to try one more thing, and hauls the control stick back, hoping to coax a little more lift out of the wing surfaces to bring him in cleaner, more level - for all the good that it will do.

An instant later, the Hex-Ship crashes into the fortress in spectacular display. Everything inside the Hex-Ship is thrown about, including USAgent and the Recorder. USAgent emerges from the rubble, and realizes that he is in one piece. As he walks out of the Hex-Ship Johnny tells himself that Stark built it well and realizes he got enough lift out of the Hex-Ship to punch through the wall of the fortress like a bullet, rather than going splat against the rocks. ‘Still, my head’s gonna be running for a week’ Johnny thinks. ‘If I live that long’ he adds, as he suddenly sees several Chinese soldiers up ahead.

‘In the name of our lord the Mandarin…take the intruder!’ one of the soldiers shouts in his native Chinese. Johnny doesn’t understand what he is saying, but can guess what it is. ‘Shield ignite!’ Johnny commands, but he is surprised when his photon-shield does not appear. ‘Ah well…just have to get my hands dirty’ the hero decides, as he punches one of the soldiers back. More soldiers attack from behind, however. There are dozens of them, all so blindly loyal to the Mandarin that they don’t give a darn about the hurt that USAgent is going to do to them, although Johnny recognizes that they have the weight of numbers on their side, which will count in the long run. USAgent is not going to make it easy for them.

USAgent smacks one of the soldiers away, and the soldier drops his shield, which bounces towards USAgent. Johnny picks the shield up and reminds himself that he has been in some tight spots before, too many to count and he always came out okay. But Johnny tells himself that now Iron Man is missing, Century has run out on the team and the Scarlet Witch and Spider-Woman may or may not have survived the crash. ‘End of the road, maybe? We’ll see’ Johnny tells himself, while realizing that he could be the last member of Force Works alive. The soldiers have his back to the wall, a no-win play, just the kind of odds that bring out the worst in him. ‘I may be going down…but I’m gonna take as many of them with me as I can’ Johnny snarls as he prepares to face off against the army….

2nd story:
Inside the Pegasus Hex-Ship, which has just fallen to one side, twisting like a dropping stone, the Scarlet Witch falls inside the vessel, and her shoulder throbs as he slams against some high-tech equipment. The powerful Scarlet Witch hears the warning alarm, but only for a moment as it shuts off - which is not something that is supposed to happen. She gets to her feet and realizes that all of the ship’s systems are dead, which she finds odd given that the Pegasus is the most advanced transport vehicle ever to roll out of the Stark labs. The Scarlet Witch knows that the safety parameters and fail-safes should cover any contingency. ‘There’s no way on Earth this is a malfunction’ the Scarlet Witch decides.

As Force Works’ leader, the Scarlet Witch tries to get a better understanding of what is going on, and calls out to Spider-Woman and USAgent and asks them what is going on. The USAgent replies that there is a system-wide power failure, and that they are in free fall. ‘Explain! How can this be?’ the Scarlet Witch asks. USAgent replies that all he knows is that they have flown into some kind of anti-technology field which has killed their systems. ‘We’re going down hard!’ he announces. The Scarlet Witch turns her attention to the motionless Recorder, Force Works’ mysterious associate, and sees that he is also a victim of the anti-technology field. As USAgent tries to steer the Hex-Ship he announces that they are not going to be airborne much longer. ‘Another sixty seconds tops!’ he calls out, before seeing the Mandarin’s fortress up ahead. ‘I guess if we are going down, I’ll just park us where we’ll do most good’.

USAgent tells Scarlet Witch and Spider-Woman to grab the parachutes and get out. ‘But -’ Spider-Woman begins to protest, but the heroic USAgent just frowns and tells them to do it. The Scarlet Witch urges Spider-Woman to come with her, and they struggle to get aft as the ship spins out of control. ‘Sometimes it helps to have a friend who can stick to the wall…even if that wall used to be the floor’ Scarlet Witch thinks to herself as Spider-Woman clings above her, and pulls her up, while various things fall around them. Crawling through a small space, the Scarlet Witch announces that the chute stowage is back there.

The two friends strap themselves into the parachutes, but Spider-Woman tells the Scarlet Witch that she doesn’t like leaving USAgent behind. The Scarlet Witch tells her that they don’t have a choice, while trying to convince herself that she is right, as she is team leader and this is the way it has to be. ‘While there’s still a chance for some of us to survive and defeat the Mandarin…we must take it’ the Scarlet Witch tells herself as she and Spider-Woman drop from the Hex-Ship, falling into a blinding cyclone of wind that buffets them like falling leaves.

The Scarlet Witch sees the Pegasus crash into the fortress in spectacular display, although she and Spider-Woman are too far away to hear the noise. ‘Oh, Agent. Have we just lost you, too?’ the Scarlet Witch wonders, worried. She knows that Spider-Woman cannot hear her over the howling wind, so she signals to the crash site itself, as she wants her to go and find USAgent and see if he survived. Spider-Woman signals that she understands, and the two friends break away from each other, with Spider-Woman controlling her fall towards the crash site, and the Scarlet Witch falls towards the bulk of the fortress proper. ‘Where are you, Mandarin?’ the Scarlet Witch wonders.

The Scarlet Witch drops as silent as a ghost, fury building within her. She sees that the fortress is ancient and foreboding, the stone gives nothing away. Below her, she detects something unnatural, and senses the focus of magical energy with every fiber in her being. It is a staggering concentration of eldritch power, and as she drops towards a window, she readies her hex power, knowing that their terrible foe must be below them, and with him, perhaps, Iron Man.

‘I was right. God help me’ the Scarlet Witch tells herself as she crashes through the window and falls down into the Mandarin’s throne room. She hopes that she has the strength to finish what she has started. ‘WHAT?’ gasps the Mandarin as he looks up from Iron Man and sees the Scarlet Witch. Her power radiates from her and the Scarlet Witch warns the Mandarin to back off - or die…!

Characters Involved: 

1st story:
USAgent (member of Force Works)

Recorder II

Chinese Soldiers

2nd story:
Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman II, USAgent (all Force Works)
War Machine

Recorder II

Ancestor, Old Woman, Warfist (all Avatars of the Mandarin)

Story Notes: 

The other stories in this issue are:
(3rd story) Lunatik in his first appearance, “Pain and Penalties”
(4th story) Vengeance in “I Found my Heart in San Francisco”

Aside from Iron Man, Spider-Woman II was the only member of Force Works not to receive a tie-in story to the “Hands of the Mandarin” crossover told from her point of view. Presumably this is because she received a three-part story in Marvel Comics Presents (1st series) #166-168.

This issue marks the end of the Force Works stories which ran through Marvel Comics Presents (1st series) #166-172.

Marvel Comics Presents (1st series) would be cancelled with #175.

A short lived second series of Marvel Comics Presents would be launched in 2007, most notably featuring a twelve-part storyline focusing on Weapon Omega II and Omega Flight.

1st story:
This story takes place within the pages of War Machine (1st series) #9, Iron Man (1st series) #311 and Force Works #7 and ties into the “Hands of the Mandarin” crossover.

This story is narrated by USAgent and told from his point of view.

2nd story:
This story takes place within the pages of War Machine (1st series) #9, Iron Man (1st series) #311 and Force Works #7 and ties into the “Hands of the Mandarin” crossover.

This story is narrated by the Scarlet Witch and told from her point of view.

Inconsistency: When the Scarlet Witch drops into the Mandarin’s throne room, Iron Man and War Machine are both present in their armor. However, when she crashes through in Force Works #7, War Machine has already vanished, and Iron Man should not be in his armor.

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