Secret Avengers (1st series) #13

Issue Date: 
July 2011
Story Title: 
Fear Itself

Nick Spencer (writer), Scott Eaton (penciler), Jamie Mendoza & Rick Ketchum (inkers), Frank D’Armata (colorist), Dave Lanphear (letterer), Adi Granov (cover art), Taylor Esposito (production), Lauren Sankovitch (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

Washington is under attack by Skadi and her troops. As the Secret Avengers arrive to help repel the invasion, Beast is called away by Major Stephenson and informed that a member of Congress is still inside having ignored the evacuation order. Hank learns that it’s his old friend, Leonard Gary. He heads inside and finds Leonard in a strange mood. Lenny informs Hank that he must stay there as he doesn’t get to hold the floor much these days and has a bill that needs passing. As the battle rages on outside, statues and monuments are brought to life and they join the allies in the defense of the capital. Hank deduces that this is Leonard’s doing. He must be a mutant. Leonard laughs off the suggestion and asks Hank to operate the cameras, as he has something important to say. He wishes to speak to the world and give them hope in these troubled times. Hank relents and does as he is asked, aided by Sharon Carter who gets all the news networks on board. Leonard then speaks to his audience, quoting Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address from memory, until he is apparently killed by an explosion inside the Capitol Building.

Full Summary: 

(Washington, D.C.)
Armored Nazi machines driven by Skadi’s troops attack the nation’s capital. They blast away almost indiscriminately as their reign of terror begins. Nearby, War Machine, Beast and Ant-Man exit the Avengers Quincarrier and head to the ground, with Hank McCoy being assisted by a small jetpack.

Ant-Man as usual tries his best to lighten the situation, but the others aren’t in the mood for his frivolity, as usual. Hank says that they are the first to respond to Steve’s call but he’s sure their friends are on the way. War Machine hopes so. They need reinforcements soon as they’re not going to be able to do much against something like this. Hank sees a female soldier ducking down to avoid enemy gunfire and says he’s sure they can make themselves useful in the meantime. He grabs the woman and pulls her to safety.

Once safe, she thanks him for his assistance and, upon realizing who he is, informs him that Major Stephenson is looking for him. He said that if they saw him, he needs to report in… now! War Machine is looking for assistance, but Hank decides he’d best do as asked. He quickly heads to a makeshift headquarters where Major Stephenson is waiting for him. There, the major informs Hank that he has an awkward situation and is hoping he can help him out. He says they cleared out the leadership as soon as the invasion started, as protocol dictates, but they have a member of the United States Congress ignoring the damn evacuation order. He’s locked himself inside and won’t come out.

Hank thinks that’s strange, but points out that the major has lots of guns and bombs. He has to imagine he is perfectly capable of making his way through a two-hundred year old oak door. Stephenson replies that they believe he may be armed and, quite frankly, his men have their hands full without dealing with a House member off his nut. Hank says it’s frustrating for sure, but he hardly sees why he is needed for this. Major Stephenson informs him that the guy said he wanted to speak to ‘Hank McCoy.’ He has enough to worry about. With this kind of fire the dome isn’t going to make it an hour. Hank understands, but asks exactly which distinguished gentleman they are dealing with here. Stephenson says he’s never heard of him, but he’s from Mississippi. Leonard Gary? Does Hank know him. “Hank sighs and rubs the back of his neck. “Lenny.”

Hank wastes no time in bounding up the steps and dashing through the corridors of power. He finds the locked door and smashes it open with ease. Inside he finds an almost empty room with his old friend Lenny seated on a desk in front of the flag. “Well, it sure took you long enough ya big ugly,” he remarks. Hank says hello and says it’s funny. He doesn’t look crazy, but then it’s been a while. Leonard says it sure has and then turns to give Hank a big hug. Hank tells him it’s good to see him. “You too Henry,” smiles Leonard.

He asks Hank if he ever got to see the place empty before. Hank says almost. He was usually the first one in the guest chamber those days when Senator Bob Kelly’s anti-mutant bills never made it to the floor. Leonard replies that House guys like himself don’t take kindly to the Senate telling them what to do. Hank’s fairly certain that Leonard’s belief in civil rights has something to do with that. His friend admits he was a younger man back then, itching to fight the good fight. That son of a bitch always gave one. Hank tells him they were heady days indeed. Why don’t they go reminisce over a cup of tea? “Tea?” he asks. “I’m from Mississippi. At least offer me good food when you talk the fool to me,” he adds.

Hank tries to explain that the building won’t stand up to this kind of attack for long. He doesn’t know what this is about but they have to get out of there immediately. Leonard says that’s gonna be a problem, because he has the floor.

Ant-Man and War Machine stand alongside the soldiers in trying to defend the building, but Ant-Man knows this is bad. War Machine asks him to concentrate his fire on the left flank before asking soldiers to get any civilians out of there. He asks people to cover each other and watch each other’s backs. He then orders everyone to fall back, just before a huge explosion sends both Avengers sprawling to the ground.

Inside, Hank doesn’t really follow. The floor has been cleared. How can he continue? Leonard explains that he didn’t hear the gavel. The boys ran out of there so fast they didn’t close proceedings. As far as rules of parliament go, everybody’s present. He shows Hank a bill. It’s his bill. Some miners from West Virginia are looking for some earmark money for a free health clinic to get some regular breath tests. The Congressman in their district is in bed with the coal companies so they came to him. He gave them his word he’d see it through and that was eight years ago. Half those miners are dead now, but they kept at it and he’s finally got his bill through the damn door. Now, are they going to adjourn just because some alien God or whatever the hell it is comes knocking? “No, Sir!

Hank tells him that he admires his perseverance, but he’s sure the speaker would allow him to resume when next in session. Leonard replies that he doesn’t get the microphone much these days. The speaker doesn’t give a damn what an old man like him wants. Hank reminds him that he’s a hero. He marched with King! He’s done more than most of these political hacks could dream of.

Leonard replies that all he ever wanted was to be a history teacher. Hank didn’t know that. Leonard explains that he was working in a little elementary school in Jackson when the sit-ins started. He admits he didn’t even want to go. It was Louise’s idea. Then he was organizing. Then he was coming to Washington with the Baptist conference. People then started asking why he didn’t run for Congress. He always missed being with those kids. He missed bringing history to life for them and watching their eyes light up. He always thought he’d retire and get back to teaching, but he guesses it’s too late now.

The two men hear a loud boom up above and Hank apologizes, but they have to get out of there. The mall won’t hold out much longer. Leonard replies that Hank always was a gloomy fella. He wouldn’t give up hope just yet. He doesn’t know why they never gave them one of those Initiative teams.

As the battle rages outside, something strange begins to happen. The statue of President Abraham Lincoln starts to move from his seated position. He stands up and reaches out at some of the armored Nazi war machines. He crushes them in his hands with ease. He then hurls it towards another machine as several dinosaurs emerge and join the battle too, all brought to life from the museums and monuments in the area. A tribe of Native Americans joins the fracas, as do several war planes. Ant-Man looks at Lincoln towering over him and gasps. “Dude!

As explosions rock the Mall, a figure strides through the flames and stands before the crowd. They fall silent in his presence. George Washington, the first president of the United States looks at the soldiers present before him and then points commandingly at the enemy.

Back inside, Hank asks Leonard, “This isn’t about those miners, is it?” Leonard replies that people are scared out there. It seems to him that the best that a man like himself can do is show them business just goes on. Maybe if they see them do it, they can keep going too. Hank finds that to be a noble gesture, but then asks why Leonard asked for him. Leonard looks over at the television cameras and replies, “Those.” He explains that they left them on when they ran out, but he imagines they’ve switched over to the fighting outside by now. He needs them back... and then some, so the people can see and not be afraid. He figures that if anyone could make that happen, it would be his buddy, the Avenger. Can he do that for him?

Hank says if that’s what he really wants, then sure. First, though, he’d like Leonard to answer a question for him. “Anything,” he replies. Hank asks him how old he was when he realized he was a mutant.

Leonard smiles and says he’s heard some silly things, but Hank presses him, telling him that when one of Congress’s most faithful pro-mutant voters talks about ‘bringing history to life” - someone trained security forces seem loath to confront, and then he sees a statue of Abraham Lincoln pulverize an invading army… suspicions arise.

Leonard replies that what he’s suggesting sounds damn near impossible. A little schoolteacher from Mississippi serving in Congress; a secret mutant the whole time? Staying off all those government lists? Ducking those robots and surviving the decimation? How could he do that? Hank replies that he’s seen it before with very powerful mutants, able to bend and warp reality, not to mention he’s sure someone in his position could easily get themselves access to a power dampener so as to elude Cerebra and others.

Leonard closes his eyes and says he guesses if somebody did, and he’s certainly not saying he does, have that kind of power, they’d owe it to their country not to leave them in their darkest hour, wouldn’t they? Hank places his hand around Leonard’s shoulder and says, “So, you’re not fighting to stay here, you’re staying here to fight.” Leonard smiles and tells him he still has it all wrong. To stay there is to fight.

As Hank prepares the cameras, Sharon Carter appears and reminds Hank that they don’t have time for this. Hank replies that this is important. It’s perhaps the most important thing they can do right now. As Leonard stands before the cameras, preparing himself, Hank asks Sharon if they have everyone on board. She informs him that they have every network; BBC, Al Jazeera, you name it. Whatever this guy has to say, the entire world is going to hear it. “Good,” replies Hank, whispering, “Come on then Lenny.”

Leonard pauses a moment before thanking Mister President. He struggles momentarily and looks inwardly to his wife for strength. He composes himself and tells his audience that he’s just going to talk. He begins by saying his daddy couldn’t read but his momma could and she read to him every night. They had mobs back then - men that didn’t like what part of town they lived in. So, she read him speeches from a man who fought a war for folks like them, so they could be free, free from oppression, free from fear. Over and over she read them until he knew every word by heart. When she read them, no matter what noise he heard outside, no matter who came knocking, he wasn’t scared no more. So, he figures since he’s never been one for big speeches, maybe right now the best thing he can do is use his words… the words his momma taught him and then he taught his boys.

He clears his throat and then begins. “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation…” He continues to read the Gettysburg address verbatim as battle rages outside. Heroes fight, villains attack, brave soldiers rise and fall and both man and monument fight side-by-side. He speaks as families watch on their television sets at home, huddled together. One by one the monuments and statues slowly return to their original positions until Leonard, tears streaming down his cheeks, reaches his final phrase.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not, shall not perish from the Earth.”

As these final words come out, a fireball engulfs the House chamber where Leonard is standing and the camera feed is lost. Hank, watching from afar, sighs. “Good work, Lenny. Good work.”

Characters Involved: 

Ant-Man, Beast, Sharon Carter, War Machine (all Secret Avengers)
Major Stephenson and several soldiers

Leonard Gary
Innocent bystanders and television viewers
Nazi troops

Story Notes: 

This follows Secret Avengers 12.1 and is part of the Fear Itself crossover.

Martin Luther King is best remembered for his contributions to the civil rights movement in the United States. He led several marches in order to get the laws changed to create better equality for all.

Jackson is the state capital of Mississippi.

Louise is presumably Leonard’s wife.

Washington D.C. did not have an Initiative team, although the state of Washington did - Earth Force.

The robots that Leonard refers to must be the mutant-hunting Sentinels.

The congressman’s address of “Mister President” is incorrect for a member of the House of Representatives. While the presiding officer of the Senate is indeed addressed as “Mister/Madam President,” members of the House during debate address “Mister/Madam Speaker,” the acting (or actual) Speaker of the House.

Additionally, while Lenny is being slightly disingenuous regarding the House still being in session due to parliamentary rules, even if it were, he has not been recognized by a presiding officer, nor allotted time by his party’s leader.

Issue #14 focuses on Valkyrie. Issue #15 centres on the Black Widow. There is only a tiny Colossus cameo in flashback in that issue.

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