Secret Avengers (1st series) #12

Issue Date: 
June 2011
Story Title: 
The Trouble with John Steele part 2

Ed Brubaker (writer), Will Conrad with Mike Deodato Jr. (artist), Rain Beredo (color artist), Dave Lanphear (letterer), Rain Beredo and Mike Deodato Jr. (cover artists), Mayela Gutirrez (production), Lauren Sankovitch (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

John Steele is angry and threatens to snap the neck of one of Hank McCoy’s scientist assistants. Fortunately, Hank bluffs that he is a Life Model Decoy and Steele tosses him aside, allowing Hank and Steve Rogers to get the drop on him. Steve goes back inside the machine, only this time he can communicate with Steele as events unfold. They return in their memories to when they infiltrated a German castle. There, they split up, only now Steve now discovers what happened to John Steele. Cap came across the Prince of Orphans and the pair of them became embroiled in a fight with a giant Wyrm creature. Meanwhile, Steele ventured further into the castle and came across some Nazis and Shadow Council members about to sacrifice some creatures. Steele attacks, somehow knowing that he’s been involved with these people before. His attack is unfocused, and he is soon brought down. Standing over him is Aloysius Thorn-Drake, who informs Steele he was waiting for him. A ceremony is held which brings Steele back into the fold, after which the castle is destroyed and the Shadow Council disappear with Steele. By the time Cap returns, the place is deserted. In the present, both men emerge from the machine with John Steele free of mind-control. He and Steve agree that they need to something about the Shadow Council before it’s too late.

Full Summary: 

John Steele has taken one of the scientists captive. He has one arm around his throat and the other arms pushed against the guy’s head. Steve Rogers tells him that it doesn’t have to be this way. He’s trying to help him. To get answers. John replies to hell with his answers. He wants out of there or he’ll snap the nerd’s neck. Beast says that he supposes now is the time to mention that his assistants are Life Model Decoys. “What?” exclaims Gary, standing beside him. Enraged, Steele tosses the other scientists aside, which gives Steve Rogers the opportunity to lean in and smash him in the face. Steele punches back but Steve blocks him with his energy shield. “Damn you! shouts Steele, “No way you’re this fast.” Hank presses a switch and tells Steele that he’s not. It’s him that’s slower. They’re prepared for him this time.

A green mist swirls around their feet, as Steele maintains his attack. He says that first they dope him and now they gas him. They’re covering their bases. “Wrong again,” replies Steve. Behind John Steele, the Prince of Orphans forms from the mist and informs Steele that it’s mist, not gas. He kicks him in the back of the head towards Steve, who knocks him to the ground with a massive uppercut. Steele groans as the three heroes stand around him. Steve reckons that now they’ll find out what happened to him, whether Steele wants to know or not.

Steele is strapped back into the chair and the leads are connected. Hank makes his adjustments, assuring his assistant that they’re not really LMD’s. He was bluffing. Gary sighs with relief. Steve asks Hank if there’s some way, like how Steele took control of his memory, that he can communicate with him while they’re under. Hank thinks he might be able to make that happen. “Then put me back in,” says Steve.

(inside the machine - the past)
Steve talks to John as their former selves make their way through the building. He asks John to remember that this is important. They were halfway to the dungeons and they separated. Where did he go? What happened to him? Steele orders him out of his head, but Steve replies, “Don’t you want to know, John?” Pieces of his memory have been erased. Doesn’t he want to know the truth? Steele replies fine, and in that case, what happened to him? Where the hell was he?

In the past, Captain America moves stealthily along a corridor, alone. As he walks, a green mist forms before him. Cap is surprised and even more so when the mist form a human shape. The Prince of Orphans appears and tells Cap that there’s no time. He needs to run. Cap asks why, but the Prince of Orphans asks Cap to trust him. A moment later, a huge creature with teeth the size of a man’s arm crashes through a nearby wall with a German soldier hanging off one of its claws.

Another soldier flees, terrified. “Good God!” exclaims Captain America. The Prince sees Cap grab a weapon from a suit of armor and Cap tells him they have to stop the thing. “Don’t be insane,” replies the Prince. Cap ignores him and charges the creature, piercing its stomach and forcing it backwards. The creature squeals as it moves upwards, crashing through the ceiling and out of the building. Cap goes along for the ride, hanging on to the weapon “By the stones of Renk Timma… that glorious fool,” exclaims the Prince of Orphans.

Speaking through their mindlink, Steve informs Steele that this is what he was doing… running into the Prince of Orphans and getting dragged across the countryside by some Wyrm monster. While he was…? Steele tries to remember but it keeps slipping away. Steve asks him to focus. They don’t want him to remember this. He tells him to find out why. Steele crawls along a tight gap in the rock and comes out on a ledge. He looks down and sees a group of people: Nazi soldiers and costumed Shadow Council members. With them are chained creatures like the one they fought earlier.

He remembers now. This is why he split off from Steve. He heard weird things, like echoes of his own thoughts from then. But, he knew it in his bones that the Shadow Council was deep in the caverns under the castle. He knew what they were doing and who they were trying to call from beyond. It was too horrible to even think about. “Bastards…” Steele grimaces as he picks up his machine gun and aims it towards the crowd.

Steele then leaps from the edge, firing as he drops. Soldiers fall and a burning cauldron from which smoke drifted upwards is knocked to the floor. Steele knows he’s not being smart as he charges in but he does so regardless, using his weapon as a clubbing instrument whilst bullets bounce off his near-unbreakable skin. He becomes lost in his rage. He is without a plan. Because of this, he is shot from behind by a futuristic energy weapon.

Steele drops to the ground in a smoldering heap. The assailant tells him it’s nice to see him after all these years. He removes his cowl to reveal the face of Aloysius Thorn-Drake. “We were wondering when you’d arrive,” he grins. Steele reckons that would have been a good time for Rogers to show up. He now guesses he had his hands full too.

Out in the forest, Captain America does indeed have his hands full. The Prince of Orphans pulls Steve out of danger as the creature lunges at him with its razor sharp teeth. They begin to run, but Cap says they can’t just do that. They need to kill it. The Prince agrees, but asks if he has any ideas on how to do that. Cap replies he has one, but it depends on him. “I’m listening,” he replies. Cap asks if he can carry grenades while he’s in his mist form.

Back inside, Steele is now on his knees and in chains. He tells Thorn-Drake that he has to stop this. It’s crazy. Behind Thorn-Drake the chained creatures are stabbed to death one by one as he tells Steele not to be so ridiculous. They’re doing all this for his benefit. They lured him there. “Lunatic,” replies Steele. Thorn-Drake holds Steele’s head in his hand and asks if it was really that long ago that he was willing to do nearly anything to feel the master’s touch one more time? Thorn-Drake turns and walks to the centre of a painted pentagram on the floor. Steele tells Steve through the mind link that he felt it again… the dread as memories flooded his mind, because Thorn-Drake was right. He had been like him at one time and there was so much blood on his hands. A dagger floats within a vertical strip of glowing energy. Thorn-Drake grins as reality opens up and the abyss gazes upon Steele once again.

Steve tells him that he and the Prince didn’t get back for hours. The Wyrm creature, whatever hell it sprang from, was tougher than he hoped. By the time he got back to the castle again it was in ruins; almost like it had imploded. They searched the rubble for hours but there was no sign of Steele.

Steele is now out of the machine and standing at the window. He tells Steve that there wouldn’t have been at that point. He was long gone. He was off under the influence of… he can’t say what. Steve asks how he is now. Steele replies that he’s finally him again. Steve wonders if that’s a good thing or bad. Steele reckons it’s probably a bit of both.

Steve asks who the Shadow Council are. What do they want? Steele replies that they’re the original sore losers - sons of a revolution that failed a long time ago. He was running from them when they all stumbled into a portal; a path between time and space. The things they met inside changed them. As for what they want… they want it all, he adds. The whole world.

Steve asks how he can stop them. Steele isn’t sure he can. They’ve got more power buried deep in the dark than Steve can know. He spent half his life on the run from those sons of bitches and the other half under their thumbs. “So,” replies Steve. “You’d rather rot in a cell or do you want to do something about the men who stole half your life? Steele thinks for a moment before turning towards him. “What did you have in mind?”

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Steve Rogers (both Avengers)
Prince of Orphans

John Steele

Gary and his colleague (both may be called Gary)

(in flashback)
Captain America
John Steele
Prince of Orphans

Shadow Council Agents including Aloysius Thorn-Drake Mutates

Story Notes: 

Secret Avengers #12.1 follows this issue.

Written By: