Secret Avengers (1st series) #18

Issue Date: 
December 2011
Story Title: 
No Zone

Warren Ellis (writer), David Aja & Raul Allen (artists), Dave Lanphear (letterer), John Cassidy & Paul Mounts (cover artists), Mayela Gutirrez (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: 

One of Steve Rogers’ moles inside the Shadow Council has provided him with intel on one of their operations. It cost him his life. With help from Hank McCoy, who explains the danger that comes from multiversal transmatter, Steve, Sharon Carter and recent ally Shang Chi head to a Shadow Council base, where the laws of physics take a back seat. The trio tears through the agents guarding the place and Shang Chi stays behind to take care of things, whilst the other two head to the flight deck to stop whoever is in charge from leaving with the transmatter - a material that could stellify the Earth. They discover that it’s a version of Arnim Zola. Steve sorts out Zola in devastating fashion and takes the ship and its contents to Reed Richards to deal with.

Full Summary: 

Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, faces half a dozen Shadow Council agents. Each of them sports two long, fierce-looking, sharp blades attached to their arms at the elbow. Steve Rogers calls him on his Bluetooth and asks him to shift to extreme combat protocol with immediate effect. He asks him to incapacitate all-comers and proceed to zero point. “Incapacitate,” comments Shang Chi. As he clenches his fists, Steve adds that they’re in a sealed box. If he knocks them down, they’ll just get up again and back them into a corner. Shang Chi replies, “Yes,” and prepares for battle. “Yes?” replies Rogers. “What does ‘yes’ mean?”

Shang Chi swings his right leg out and snaps the shin bone of the first assailant. He thrusts his wrist into the chin of a second and slams his elbow into third agent’s throat. He delivers a punishing knee to the fourth guy’s stomach and kicks the fifth in the face, smashing his face mask. With five agents down, the sixth approaches gingerly. He is right to do so, as Shang Chi smashes him in the face, knocking him out with one blow. As he falls, Shang Chi calmly walks to an observation point and looks into a large room that resembles an M.C. Escher painting. Shadow Council agents wander around apparently unaffected by the forces of gravity.

(not so long ago)
Beast is with Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter. He explains to them that he’s reviewed the material and, though he’s not an expert in the field, he is shallowly versed in it. He tells them that the multiverse is a living structure. Entire new universes bubble off it every day. Not all of them have a perfect big bang and some emerge broken or malformed. These are called Bad Continua. He adds that the Negative Zone which was famously discovered by Reed Richards is an example of bad continuum. It’s big, though other continua can be only a couple of hundred miles across. They are notable for flaws in the laws of physics. A bad continuum might have gravity, for example, but water will boil at ten degrees or frozen water will turn into music instead of ice. The material inside a bad continuum will always adhere to the physics that were local to it, even if taken to another universe. This, he concludes, is called the transmatter.

Steve and Sharon Carter sprint down a corridor. Steve wonders what ‘yes’ means. Sharon reckons Shang Chi is a man of few words. What can he hear? Steve can hear bones breaking so he guesses they’re still good. He says that it’s not often he’s wished for a gun but the station hull is too thin. Sharon’s glad she brought something along with her, a gauntlet which she attaches to her forearm. Steve asks if it’s what he thinks it is. She replies that it’s a little souvenir from the old days at S.H.I.E.L.D.

(not so long ago)
Hank explains that the Shadow Council is mining transmatter in a bad continuum. This transmatter, it seems, can be electrolyzed into nuclear fusion. A two gallon can of transmatter when subjected to a child’s chemist experiment could very easily stellify Earth. When Sharon asks what that means, Hank replies that it means it could turn the Earth into a sun. As domestic machines go, he continues, it is horribly ultimate and depressingly simple. They’re going to need to speak to someone about an intramultiversal dropship.

Sharon turns to Steve and asks how they even got this material. Steve replies, with sorrow, that an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent he knew infiltrated the Shadow Council alone and offered him information in return for safe exfiltration. He was found in eight pieces on an Oregon beach, but the datachip was intact. He turns and walks away, asking her never to let him play spymaster again.

Sharon leaps at some Shadow Council agents in the Escher-style environment crying, “Satan Claw!” She tears through the agents like a hot knife through butter and clears a path for Steve. Once she’s finished, Steve quips, “I love you,” as she tells him that the place makes her eyes hurt just looking at it. And, she adds, she has no idea where Shang Chi is. However, she then spots him approaching her upside down long a staircase, demolishing another few agents as he goes. Steve takes out one more and Shang Chi tells him, with respect, that he said to incapacitate them. One does not brush a reed to the ground if you want it to stay out of your path. You snap it. He turns and kicks an approaching assailant, adding that he came to aid them in a mission of stealth, extraction and honor avenged. He resents being made his thug!

More agents approach up a staircase as he adds that they still haven’t seen the mining operation, nor a flight deck. Steve warns him of more encroaching agents, but Shang Chi already knows they are there and he deals with them in his own inimitable way. As he fights, Sharon crawls up (or down, depending on how you see it) a ladder, closely followed by Steve Rogers. She asks him to let the Master of Kung Fu work. They need to find the flight deck before they ship the transmatter back home.

They soon come to an opening. Sharon reckons that whatever Shang Chi is doing to those agents, it’s horrible. Steve reminds her that she’s the one who said to let him work. He verbally kicks himself, as the Avengers are supposed to survive through teamwork and they never seem to have any. He looks around and sees some tubes which he believes may be access tubes. Sharon notes that they’re unmarked, which explains why Steve’s inside man’s blueprints never seemed to make sense. Out of nowhere, Shang Chi appears and asks them to wait. Sharon is startled, but Shang Chi explains that one of the tubes is colder and connects to a large corridor that is open to outside conditions. “Flight deck,” states Rogers. Steve is pleased, and tells Shang Chi that he’s not there to be a thug. He’s there to be an Avenger!

They slowly make their way to the deck and drop down onto platforms overlooking the hangar. Below them they see several Shadow Council agents and a familiar hulking figure among them. “Is that?” asks Sharon Carter. “Affirmative,” replies Rogers. “Arnim Zola 4.2.3.” Shang Chi says that doesn’t explain anything to him, so Steve explains.

Zola, he replies, is a crazy man who broadcasts his mind into mechanical bodies. 4.2.3. is one of his personality updates that got locked in one android body, a broken copy stuck to the machinery. The Shadow Council is good at recruiting broken copies of things. Sharon asks what they should do. Steve replies that he has the transmatter so they’re out of choices. They need to rush them. He will take Zola so they need to make a hole for him. Instantly, the trio goes into action and start wading through agents. Zola sees them and calls for the engines to be started.

As the engines kick into life, Steve runs as fast as he can towards Zola’s craft. He is burnt as he leaps on the back of the craft, grabbing hold with one hand as it takes off. He rolls inside but is smashed by Zola who towers over him in his robotic form. He asks Rogers if he thought he wouldn’t know him or how much his drive-father hated him? Steve replies by turning and delivering a stiff uppercut. Zola’s Shadow Council agents come forward to fight for him, but Rogers uses his amazing agility, super strength and handy shield to take them out. Zola states that he will burn his world and live on the surface of a new star like the god he is! Steve replies that he’s met gods and he is just a broken phone.

He leaps at Zola and kicks him where his computer-imaged face sits. With Zola down, he stands over two pilots and informs them that he has a new destination for them, and argument would be unhealthy.

Soon, they arrive on the roof of the Baxter Building where they are met by Reed Richards. He marvels at the ship and tells Steve that Shang Chi and Sharon just arrived downstairs in the vessel he loaned them, but where did this come from? Steve grins and replies, “It’s a secret.”

Characters Involved: 

Sharon Carter, Shang Chi, Steve Rogers (all Secret Avengers)
Shadow Council agents

Arnim Zola

Reed Richards

(in flashback)
Beast, Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers (all Secret Avengers)

Story Notes: 

For someone ‘shallowly versed’ in multiverse physics, Hank seems to know an awful lot about it.

The weaponized Satan Claw first belonged to Baron Von Strucker, though there have been several models since.

Written By: