Secret Avengers (1st series) #24

Issue Date: 
May 2012
Story Title: 
The Descendants Part Three: Core Beliefs

Rick Remender (writer), Gabriel Hardman (artist), Bettie Breitweiser (color art), Chris Eliopoulous (letterer), Arthur Adams & Laura Martin (cover artists), 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: 

The Avengers have split up and are having trouble adapting to the strange underground environment. As Father calms down conflicted parties within his cabinet, Captain Britain is attacked by Lady Deathstrike, only for the Human Torch to come to his rescue when she has a group of cyborgs attack him. Elsewhere, Valkyrie and the Black Widow try and protect the young boy Parvez, but the Swine and the Urn are on his trail and nothing will stop them from succeeding in their mission to recover him. Meanwhile, Hawkeye and Beast are ambushed by two members of the Deathlok Legion, Miss America and the Wasp. Miss America shoots Hank at point blank range, and the Wasp takes down Clint after he refuses to kill her. She then takes them to a cell where Clint tries to take care of his friend. The Urn manages to catch up with Valkyrie and begins to drain her life force as the Black Widow recovers from injuries caused earlier by the Swine. Back in the cell, Clint is shocked to see Ant-Man alive and well and ready to help. Meanwhile, at the Lighthouse Station, Flash Thompson receives an alert and considers using the Venom symbiote to try and resolve matters.

Full Summary: 

(There’s no such thing as paranoia; the real situation is always much worse than you imagine - Hunter S. Thompson)
Captain Britain is above the underground city, swearing out loud as his costume interacts with the unusual environment. He feels every circuit in his armor chirping in mathematical language, mistranslating stored magic into a deafening frequency. The city below is forcing a dialogue with it and his armor is agreeing to its terms of surrender. He has no option but to take the armor off-line, make do with the energy he has stored and pray he doesn’t run into trouble. As he passes a tall building, trouble doesn’t waste time in running into him.

Lady Deathstrike leaps off the building and cries out that he is unwelcome in the Core. She slashes at him, ripping through his helmet with her razor-sharp claws which go right through to the bone. She attacks quickly; too quickly for Captain Britain. She performs a perfect rhythm of incisions and Cap begins to descend rapidly. He struggles to get a hand on her. All his strength is useless. As they drop, they collide with a large statue of Father and come to a halt. Deathstrike calls to several other robots that Brian is ‘one of them…’ there to destroy them all. Cap assures them that he isn’t there to hurt anyone. He’s just looking for a friend. “You will find none here, human spy,” replies Deathstrike as she leaps at him once again. Brian knows that he can’t beat her straight on. He must use his head instead. He moves to the side as she leaps and grabs the back of her jacket. He then throws her far into the distance, telling her that, if she wants a fight, she’ll have to find someone else.

Unfortunately, he is now surrounded by robots including several Visions. They grab him but, as he tries to fight his way through them, one of the Visions phases its hand inside Brian, shorting out his armor. Luckily, Jim Hammond is on hand to help out. He sets the robot on fire and it releases its grip on Brian. He tells them that they will release his friend and do it with haste. To his and Brian’s surprise, the Visions bow down and each calls him ‘grandfather.’ “Mr. Popularity,” jokes Brian. He asks Jim if he has something to tell him. Jim replies no, but he intends to find out.

In their headquarters which stands high above the city, a meeting is being held between Father and his high command. Gathered around his table are Emperor Doombot, Lord Ultravision, the Origin and several other robot versions of Nick Fury, Skullbuster, Machine Man and a Kree Sentry. Emperor Doombot is quite outspoken. With a clenched fist, he states that he’s had enough weakness and enough hiding. The Avengers have discovered them and they will learn they killed Ant-Man. “War is upon us!” Fury doesn’t think the Avengers are a war they can win… not until the plan is in place. Doombot has had enough planning. He says Life Model Decoys like he can hide in the human’s midst all their lives. The Society of Doombots will not tremble in the shadows.

The Kree Sentry agrees with Emperor Doombot. He and his Sentinaughts are ready and strong enough to overcome the remaining mutants. The Origin also feels the Adaptoids are prepared. They have adapted and improved upon most every Avenger’s power set. Lord Ultravision reminds her that it was she and her fellow Adaptoids who led the Avengers to them in the first place. The leader of the Machine People agrees with him. He will not lead his people into war to cover their folly. Skullbuster states outright that the Reavers aren’t going to follow any Sentinaught dogs into war. If anyone’s gonna destroy Xavier’s slugs, it’s them.

Father asks them to cease their delusion. This is no democracy. He didn’t call them there to hear their opinions. He called them there to give them their opinions. They have worked too long to hastily march to war now. They need to be sure they can remove those who would likely stop them before initiating ‘the event.’ He says there will be no more deliberation at this point. He returns to the business of the Avengers. There are only a handful in the Core and the scrambling field will make any communications in or out impossible. They will not be able to call for help.

He places a hand on Lord Ultravision’s shoulder and says he is right. The tactician sees the need to gain advantage before war. Ultravision replies that, once the Avengers have their forces massed, they will be mighty foes. Father takes a seat and adds that, once they learn what they plan to do, they will come in full force. So, they must cut them down from within, now, while they are unaware and occupied with other matters. Emperor Doombot shakes his fist and tells his ‘father’ that they have already discovered them. This is folly! Father warns him not to be the standing nail the he is forced to beat down. He should trust his father. He always has a plan.

Outside, young Parvez dashes alone through the streets. The Adaptoids are on his trail, but they are wary not to hurt him. As they land, they are about to follow Parvez inside a building when a voice from inside says, “Adaptoids. Adapt to this!” Valkyrie runs and stabs the Urn in the chest with her sword and the Black Widow tosses a smoke bomb to cover their tracks as they escape with the boy. Despite this, they know they must recover the boy. Father will kill them if they disrupt the plan.

Hawkeye tussles with the android Wasp. They crash through a window, with Clint telling himself that this isn’t the Janet he knew. It’s just a thing with her face; a reanimated corpse set on crushing his throat. He tries to ignore his emotions and take her down. He shouts at her that they can help her. Whatever they’ve done to her, she should remember that she is one of them! The Wasp kicks him away and says she is not and she is also not the one who needs help.

Elsewhere, Miss America tries to connect with Beast, but his agility keeps him from harm. He jokes that she hasn’t looked this good since World War II, and asks if she can stop being a terrible cyborg long enough for a chat. “Destroy all Avengers,” says Miss America, coldly, as she pulls out a weapon. He looks up to see it a moment too late and she fires at point blank range. Clint sees the shot from a distance and his heart drops as Hank falls. He immediately fires an arrow which captures her in a web as it hits home. “Get away from him,” he cries.

Clint blames himself. He left Hank to take care of Janet. He looks down and finds him not moving. He has to get him out of there. However, as he thinks, Janet, now tiny, zaps him on the neck causing him to cry out in pain. He grabs her and pulls out his knife. He then pins her down ready to strike, but finds himself torn. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to make that decision as Miss America smashes him on the head from behind. All he can think as he falls is that he hopes Pym doesn’t see Janet like this.

(meanwhile, orbiting Earth’s atmosphere)
Flash Thompson sighs as he thinks about how he grew up wishing he was Spider-Man and globe-trotting the world on great adventures, but instead he’s stuck in the space station, alone. He’s been given lots of chocolate to eat as he waits in order to keep his blood sugar up, and this also helps with the withdrawal cravings he gets for the symbiote that he’s convinced everyone he doesn’t really need. Suddenly, an alert comes through. It states that the team’s location is blocked and all homing beacons are shrouded. Flash’s attention is well and truly grabbed and he remembers that Cap said to call if anything went sideways. He said he’d bring in help. He looks across to where the symbiote resides in a small capsule.

(the Core)
Valkyrie and the Black Widow have managed to get the boy to higher ground. Natasha can see in his eyes the pain that he’s gone through. Valkyrie prays that Eric O’Grady has some idea what they’re up against and how to get out. She notes that the city is blanketed in a disruption field and that it’s difficult to get a solid lock on his homing beacon. She operates her wrist communicator and asks it to translate to Punjabi. She then asks Parvez what happened to his mother and to him. Tears well under his eyes as he replies that the man killed her. The old man. Then her friend saved him but they found them. She gives him a hug and assures him that it’ll be all right. She tells him she was orphaned herself and knows what he’s feeling. She adds that they will protect him from the bad men and promises that no one will hurt him again. And they will avenge his mother.

Inside the Core, Father occupies himself with rebuilding damaged robots. Lady Deathstrike informs him that the Deathlok Legion has apprehended Hawkeye and Beast, but against his wishes they have mortally wounded McCoy by shooting him through the chest. The Wasp then gets in touch via a video monitor and informs Father that she has stabilized McCoy, so nothing is compromised. He congratulates her on her work and asks her to get out there and locate the others. She will have a new directive shortly. He is pleased that things are dropping into place. The fools have no idea.

The Wasp, having placed Clint and Hank into custody, orders all Deathloks to break into squads and scour the grid. Clint informs her that Hank is bleeding out. Whatever happened to her, if any part of Janet Van Dyne is in there, she should care for him. She replies that his life is not an objective, but Clint asks her to turn around and look at him and tell him she feels nothing. “Look at him!” The Wasp offers a cursory glance inside the cell but walks out, much to Clint’s annoyance. He shouts at her to come back or he’ll crush her. Hank weakly tells him he is pleased their chat about his temper took root. He’s shocked she didn’t return. He is the definition of unflappable.

Valkyrie and the Black Widow go on the move and soon come across a lot of blood. Valkyrie says she saw the deathglow around the team before they left, but she sees it prior to so many missions. She leans down and finds a tiny part of Eric’s uniform. She fears the worst. She thinks they need to get the boy to safety and find a way out of there. Unfortunately, the Swine and the Urn have caught up with them and the Swine tells her that there’s only one way Avengers leave. “Dead!”

Valkyrie raises her sword and asks what they’ve done to Ant-Man. Black Widow says she’ll make him talk. The Swine replies that anything she can do… he can adapt. She kicks out at him but he evades the strike. He then grabs her head and smashes it into the ground.

Valkyrie throws her sword at the Urn, stating that she has no misgivings about killing a machine. “We are true life,” he replies before grabbing the sword in mid-flight. He tells her that her prejudice reinforces their mission’s necessity. He will add her sword’s strength to his urn. However, as he tries to absorb the energy, he immediately reels in pain as the sword lights up. Valkyrie grabs both Natasha and Parvez and heads away, saying that Dragonfang’s gifts will not be stolen by the fetid likes of him. As for his claim to the rights held by the living, his actions speak to the contrary.

High in the air, Captain Britain and the Human Torch fly between the high buildings. Brian informs Jim that the portal to Otherworld is scrambled. He can’t get them out of there. Jim replies with a hint of sarcasm that magic is temperamental and frequently useless. There’s a shocker. Brian says he can understand an android’s dismissal of magic, but he should keep in mind that he is a man of science as well. He was a physicist and the thought of magic made him laugh. However, one day while dying in the street, he was saved by Merlyn. Jim asks if he means Merlyn, as in Camelot, as in Sword in the Stone? Brian tells him that Merlyn had it in his head that he was fated to be the great hero. “Was he right?” asks Jim. Brian doesn’t feel it’s for him to say. He’s always altering the terms of use, testing him in different ways. He’s never satisfied.

Jim reckons he’ll stick to technology. As they continue their flight, Brian explains that magic is just the power source for the technology in his armor... the levels of which are determined by moral fiber and nobility. Jim quips that all he’s hearing is that his ability to deal with threats will fluctuate on his mood. Hardly the sort of terms he wants to march into battle under. He asks him to go ahead and float around on Merlyn’s magic, working on his nobility. He has to get to the bottom of this. He roars away leaving Brian to consider that like everyone from Hammond’s generation, he’s sodding arrogant.

As Black Widow recuperates, Valkyrie stands on the edge of the building looking at a huge black tower in the distance. She says that it’s emitting the same frequency as he teleportation pad in Pakistan. It should be an exit. Natasha thinks it’s worth a look. She’ll go, figuring Valkyrie’s bad at stealth. Valkyrie turns to her and reminds her of her injuries. She’ll go and investigate whilst she and Parvez stay hidden.

She leaps towards the building but, as she moves through the air, she is grabbed by The Urn who quickly gets his huge hands around her throat. He tells her that she denies him as a living being and would kill them under her boot like a bug. She will not define the fate of the Descendants! He begins to drain her life force and fill his urn with her essence.

Back in the cell, Clint informs Hank that he’s stopped the bleeding. He asks him not to die. It’ll make him look horrible. “And…” replies Hank, weakly. “And I’m sorry I screamed you at before, okay?” replies Clint. Hank jokes that it’s not his fault. He’s overcompensating for never being seen as A-List. Clint looks down at his friend and tells him that maybe he’ll let him die there after all. “No,” comes a voice from behind. “No Avenger is going to die in this pit while the Irredeemable Ant-Man draws breath!” Clint gasps as Ant-Man grows to human size.

Characters Involved: 

Ant-Man, Beast, Black Widow, Captain Britain, Hawkeye, Human Torch I, Valkyrie, Venom (all Secret Avengers)

The Origin (Skulk), The Swine, The Urn (Adaptoids)

Inhabitants of the Underground City

Lady Deathstrike and Father

Emperor Doombot, Nick Fury LMD, Sentinaught leader, Lord Ultravision

Android version of Machine Man, Miss America, Skullbuster and the Wasp

Story Notes: 

Hunter S. Thompson was an American journalist who wrote the books that ultimately became the movies Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary, both starring Johnny Depp. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2005.

Jim Hammond was created by scientist Phineas Horton and served as one of the Invaders alongside Captain America during World War II.

Written By: