Secret Avengers (1st series) #22

Issue Date: 
April 2012
Story Title: 
New Life

Rick Remender (writer), Gabriel Hardman (artist), Bettie Breitweiser (colorist), Chris Eliopoulous (letterer), Arthur Adams & Laura Martin (cover artists), VC’s Clayton Cowles (production), John Denning (assistant editor), 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: 

In Pakistan, a terrorist attempts to blow up a crowd of innocent people. As his bomb explodes, a woman manages to suck up the flame inside of her. Without even thinking, she manages to multiply the flames and blow it back out, killing many people in the process. This event is picked up on by the Secret Avengers, now located in space and with Captain Britain as a member, and a group of sleeper agents called the Ideal, the Urn, the Origin and the Swine. These Adaptoids work for a mysterious figure known only as 'Father.' Both teams head to Pakistan to seek out the woman and there the Avengers are surprised and defeated by the Adaptoids. They take the woman back to their employers but Ant-Man manages to sneak aboard the Ideal’s trouser leg to track their movements for the Avengers.

Full Summary: 

(Dera Ghazi Khan district of Pakistan)
A red pickup truck rolls into town with a driver and one passenger. The driver says that fighting the Jihad is never easy. It demands sacrifice. It is the surest way to paradise. His passenger replies that he is ready.

A woman carrying her child looks for food to prepare for her husband’s return that evening. Behind her, the passenger has now exited the vehicle and is walking nervously towards the market place. Spotting his unusual behavior, two officers asks him to provide his name and where he comes from. He reaches inside his jacket and flicks a switch on a homemade bomb strapped to his torso. “Allah is great!” he cries before setting off the bomb. It explodes violently, but everyone is stunned when the woman turns towards the flame and sucks it into her mouth. Shocked officers approach her and ask if she was harmed. She pauses a moment before unleashing it all back into the street. Many people are burned to death instantly. Parvez begins to cry as a man walks towards her carrying a gun. She asks what she has done and her son asks what happened. “God’s will,” replies the man as he smashes unconscious with the butt of the rifle.

Four agents pick up on the event in Pakistan. Dr. Leivian (The Ideal) is treating a patient in Manhattan, The Origin is in the City of the Dead, The Urn is on an Isreali building site and the Swine is a Mexican cop in the process of arresting someone. They all leave what they are doing immediately and make their way using their ability to fly, towards Pakistan.

(meanwhile, in London, England)
Captain Britain is flying over Buckingham Palace watching a man named The Riot in action. He has used his powers to pull innocent people together into one giant human-shaped creature. The Riot moans about how the Queen and her pigs feed at the trough of decadence whilst the lower classes go hungry. “We will starve no more,” he adds. “We will eat the rich!” Captain Britain tells him that using this mob against their will to attack their Queen is hollow pageantry that solves nothing. The Riot blasts him through the palace walls where he lands before the Queen. Brian realizes that he’s using the people as biomass for power and he’s gathering more every second. He needs to find a way to take him down without injuring the crowd.

He kneels before the Queen and apologizes for the intrusion. She tells him not to apologize for fighting to protect his people. “Now get off your knees and defeat that hooligan,” she advises. Brian flies off, figuring that for the Riot to lose his strength he needs to separate him from the crowd. He flies straight at him and grabs him by his jackets lapels. He tells him that he understands the frustration of the people but he’s using their misfortune to further his cause, not theirs. The Riot calls Cap a bloody prat. As long as he’s on this Earth, the masses of humanity will flock to his call for anarchy. Cap creates a portal and replies that, in that case, he will not remain on Earth. Saturnyne will best decide how best to keep his influence away from others.

He emerges on the other side of the portal near the Starlight Citadel and welcomes the Riot to Otherworld… his new home. As he enters the large chamber, one of the members of the Captain Britain Corps exclaims that he has returned past the hour of their meeting. This is unacceptable. Another asks if he brought them a gift and Meggan says they have much to discuss. As he lands, she informs him that on Earth 9 the Spirit of Forgiveness has freed the world of consequences and on Earth 919 Jericho Drumm has bonded an Infinity Gem to an Eye of Agamotto. The Riot looks around astonished. “Madness…” he sighs.

Brian then receives a call. Meggan is a little upset that they haven’t spent much time together but he promises they will have a date night soon. He has to take the call. “It’s a good job you’re good looking,” she replies. Brian walks away and answers. On the other end of the line is Captain America who instantly whisks him from Otherworld via the Pymporter. Brian almost looks surprised to see him there but Cap says the machine takes some getting used to. He welcomes Brian to the Avengers and offers to show him around.

Brian asks where exactly he’s been shown. Cap replies that it’s called the Lighthouse - the Avengers’ brand-new super-secret space station. He was trying to keep Pym and McCoy out of trouble but he finds what they’ve done here amazing. Brian sees Ant-Man, Black Widow and Valkyrie seated around a large table in the center of the room and Hank using his agility to swing around the pipework near the glass ceiling. “Fee-fi-fo-fum. Do I smell the breath of an Englishman?” asks Hank. He lands and Brian tells him it’s unfortunate that his mutations are still frozen at the ever imposing ‘Big House Cat’ stage. Hank replies that he’s a hit with middle-aged divorcees. He hugs Brian and says he was delighted he accepted the invite. Cap’s a gem of a leader and, if he ever needs a motivational speech, he’s really good at that.

Steve Rogers replies that he’ll play it too uptight to detect the sarcasm and then explains that he is stepping down as leader of covert operations. Hank quips that he begged Steve to give them another shot to make him love them. Steve says the love is intact, but his current responsibilities are spreading him a bit thin. He’s brought in someone well suited to take over. Brian turns to the assembled heroes and says that with the exception of the new Ant-Man he’s met everyone, but he’s read… things, about him. Unfortunately, Brian’s got the wrong end of the stick. He tells them that Captain America has offered him the reins of their unit and, with great pride, he accepts. “Brian, please… a world,” says Steve Rogers. “Our world,” continues Brian, “seems to be in constant peril. I hope together we can pre-emptively put a stop to some of the chaos…” His speech is cut short when an arrow with gunge on the end hits him in the smacker.

Hawkeye appears and tells him they’re going to, which is why Cap put a time-honored Avenger in charge of this delicate detail. He advises Brian that a little peanut butter will get it off. “You’re very helpful,” he replies. Clint doesn’t wish to make a speech as he reckons his record stands. Brian replies sarcastically that shooting things with accuracy is far more impressive than ‘Protector of the Omniverse.” Clint replies that reciting his resume doesn’t earn many camaraderie-points but Brian asks if smacking around the new boss would. Black Widow and Valkyrie recognize their conversation for what it is - pack dogs jockeying for position. Valkyrie reckons if men behaved like this in Asgard they would be sent to polish dung from true warrior’s lavatories.

Hawkeye asks everyone to sit down. He informs Brian that they are a covert squad tackling delicate international and interdimensional threats. He feels that Brian’s time with MI: 13 and his position in Otherworld is why he wanted him on their team. Brian appreciates his warm welcome but he has one small point to make. He says that an enormous space station is not employing stealth. Hank informs him that it’s not that the Lighthouse is enormous, but that they are very very small. Hank looks up through the clear ceiling and sees the massive head of Henry Pym peering inside. “Hey. Is that Brian Braddock in there?” asks Pym. Brian looks up and asks if he is giant-sized. Pym explains that, as Hank said, they are as small as ants. He’s glad he can hear them speak. He was a little concerned that transporting a microscopic person on radio waves from another dimension might scramble their brain’s delicate electrodes. “Did he just say I might have been given brain damage? Hank replies that he was exaggerating.

An alarm then sounds and a red light flashes nearby. Natasha sits at the computer’s controls and explains that she’s picking up a large blast of organically magnified energy in the Dera Ghazi Khan district of Pakistan. There are several hundred casualties. She does a sweep for mutants but draws a blank. “Who will we vilify in their absence?” quips Hank. Natasha adds that she’s mapped the energy stain and it leads to a series of mountain caverns. “Terrorists. A cakewalk,” Clint remarks. Ant-Man points out that they’d be sneaking into a foreign country and hunting a living bomb. Clint asks him not to worry. He’s in charge now. He’s in sturdy hands.

Meanwhile, the villainous Ahmed and his companion have their captive tied to a chair. Ahmed holds the boy. His companion tells the woman that she is a tool; a gift to aid their holy work and they know how to make good use of such gifts. He says she drank the fire, multiplied it and decimated half the village. How did she come to acquire such an endowment? A guard removes her gag and she gasps for breath. He hopes she can do it again at a time of his choosing in order to ensure the boy’s safety. She tells him that she doesn’t know where the fire came from. She begs him not to hurt her son. She will try and do as he asks. The man says he did not ask her to try. He asks Ahmed to cut the boy but the woman begs him not to do it. Without thinking, she inhales the fire from a candle in the middle of the table and the man realizes that seeing the boy in peril activated her power. They should begin the planning. They’re going to town.

Before they can plan anything, they turn to see Hawkeye, Ant-Man and the Black Widow standing there. The guard has a mouth full of gunge, the same type that Brian had earlier. Clint reckons these gentlemen would just hate being slapped around by a provocatively dressed woman. Natasha rubs her clenched fist into the palm of her other hand and says they’ve certainly got that look.

Moments later, the villains have been defeated, as all the Avengers arrive on the scene. Hank uses a translator to speak to the woman and he tells her she’s safe. She asks if they are with them. Hank asks who. The woman points behind him. “Them!” she replies. Hank turns to see four strangers descend into the cave. They clearly mean business. Hank immediately fires off an arrow which explodes against the Ideal and Beast leaps at the Urn. He stands in front of the Origin who asks him to keep them away from her. The Diminutives are arriving. Her back boils with red and yellow pustules. Before Hank reaches him, the Urn uses an optic blast to fire him backwards into Natasha.

Valkyrie faces the Ideal. He quickly adapts to her and tells her that the antithesis inversion is completed. She ushers the souls of brave warriors to Heaven… he now summons damned souls from hell! She is quickly enveloped by demons, which claw at her, disorienting her. Meanwhile, the Swine adapts to Captain Britain’s powers. Brian, seeing half their squad fall in a matter of seconds, realizes that this is because they have never trained together. They don’t have a routine. He admits he might be glad to see Hawkeye fail, if he wasn’t paying for his brazenness. The Swine informs him that he has adapted and amplified him. He knows Brian’s strength is determined by confidence. As he kicks Brian away he informs him that purity of motives gives him ultimate confidence.

Captain Britain calls Hawkeye and informs him that they are adapting to science and magic. They need to regroup. Clint fires arrows at the Urn and replies that they can’t do that until they get the civilians to safety. The Urn manages to get within touching distance of Hawkeye and he places his huge hand over Clint’s face. Electricity flows through Clint’s body and he screams in pain. “Now I add you to the Urn,” his opponent says. Valkyrie is unable to assist as the demons torment her. She tells them they have been summoned by twisted science. “Abandon this realm!” Hank sees her distress and leaps at her, pushing her clear of the demons over a rocky precipice.

The Origin curls up in a ball and her pustules open to reveal tiny versions of the Secret Avengers, around six to eight inches in height called the Diminutives. They exist to kill the Avengers. The Urn, meanwhile, stands over Hawkeye and says that the residuals of his mind are chaotic and will not fuse with the other voices. But, they do show that the Adaptoids are correct. Execution is the only solution for an Avenger. He fires an explosive arrow at the Black Widow and she is thrown from her feet. The Diminutives attack Ant-Man and so Hawkeye tells him to go to Plan B. He shrinks from sight as Hawkeye warns the Origin not to approach the innocent woman or he’ll fire on her. She keeps going so Clint fires, only to see the Diminutive Captain Britain intercept the arrow. “My son,” she cries as the arrow rips him in two. One of the other Diminutives says, “They killed brother.”

The Origin picks up the woman and says he died that they might liberate the woman and child. Remember your pain, she tells them, so that they might have their revenge against the Avengers. With the woman captive, they fly away, leaving the Black Widow to wonder how they’re going to track them. Clint asks her not to worry. There’s an Avenger on the case. Ant-Man radios in from his position inside the Ideal’s trouser leg and says next time they do Plan B, Clint can be the one climbing into their enemy’s pants.

The Adaptoids call their employers and says they have their targets and are coming home. Their employers are gathered in a small room. Lady Deathstrike says she is elated that they have found two high-breeds but the second part of the news makes her anxious. The Avengers were also trying to acquire them. 'Father' asks her to attempt a smile. Lost children soon return home. “What of the Avengers?” she asks. Father tells her that the Avengers will find them, they will kill some of them and the event will begin. The Nick Fury android says it’s about damn time.

Characters Involved: 

Ant-Man, Beast, Black Widow, Captain America, Captain Britain, Hawkeye, Valkyrie (all Secret Avengers)

The Ideal (Dr. Leivian), The Origin, The Swine, The Urn (Adaptoids)

City of Dead locals, handcuffed prisoner and the Ideal’s patient
Pakistanis including Yalda, Parvez, Ahmed and police officers

Queen Elizabeth II
Captain Britain Corps

Lady Deathstrike and 'Father'

Android version of heroes and villains including Dr. Doom (Emperor Doombot), Jocasta Nick Fury, Sentry 459, Vision (Lord Ultravision) and the Wasp

Story Notes: 

Steve Rogers handed Hawkeye control of covert operations in Secret Avengers #21.1.

MI: 13 is a British organization formerly called The Department. It uses many super heroes to carry out missions including Captain Britain, Pete Wisdom and the Black Knight.

Though she is not named in this issue, Parvez’s mother is named Yalda in the next issue.

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