Ultimates 2 #6

Issue Date: 
July 2005
Story Title: 
The Defenders

Mark Millar (writer), Bryan Hitch (pencils), Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary (inks), Laura Martin (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Tom Valente (production), Nicole Wiley & John Barber (assistant editors), Ralph Macchio (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

SPECIAL THANKS TO: Joe Simon & Jack Kirby (creators of Captain America)

Brief Description: 

Hank Pym is at an absolute low in his life. Accompanied by a mysterious man wearing a black leather jacket, Hank tells his story in a bar. While he was downtown, standing in a big crowd, he first witnessed how SHIELD surpassed his original super hero idea and finally managed to break the sixty-foot height of his formula. They used their success to create a new team of Giant Men, and Hank thinks that if there was an ounce of justice in this world, it would have been him up there. Later that day, he pays a visit to a potential new super-hero team: the Defenders. They want Hank to join their group, so they finally have someone with actual super-powers on board. Hank explains he can’t join the team as Giant-Man, but has thought up a new identity for himself: he puts on a special helmet on his head and shrinks down, now calling himself Ant-Man and can talk to ants. As time passes, Hank spends the night with Valkyrie, a nineteen-year old member of the Defenders, and they become a couple. The next day, he pays a visit to Nick Fury at the Triskelion, trying to rejoin the organization by giving Fury two new robots he built for free: Ultron and Vision Two. However, Fury is uninterested and tells Hank to walk away. As he leaves, Hank is approached by Janet. They flirt a bit, but are interrupted by an angry Captain America. Standing behind him are Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. During the discussions, Wanda flirts a bit with the Vision unit before it leaves together with Hank. As the Defenders finally get their first mission to prevent some kids stealing cigarettes in a warehouse, something goes terribly wrong. The inexperienced team gets easily beaten and Nighthawk ends up in the hospital. Hank has to use his Giant-Man powers to save the day, but with him not having his costume anymore he fights the kids stark naked, and this picture gets splashed all over the newspapers. When Hank and Valkyrie get ready to spend another night together, they immediately break up when she asks him to dress up like Captain America. Which brings us to the present day. Hank finishes his story, and the mysterious person convinces Hank to betray the Ultimates, just like he did.

Full Summary: 

Manhattan, at a battle damaged site:

When Hank Pym looks at these new Giant Men they’ve developed to help out with these kind of disasters, he really just wants to slit his wrists. Not because all the lemmings are clapping with great, big goofy smiles on their faces. Not even because he’s on his way to an interview with some new, bargain-basement super-team. Hank’s upset because they’ve broken the sixty-foot ceiling he just couldn’t crack when he was Giant-Man and, frankly, that degrades him as a scientist. Watching the Giant-Man helping out and standing in the middle of a big crowd, Hank thinks to himself that if there was an ounce of justice in this world, that would have been him up there.

Later, at Hank’s first meeting with the Defenders at their apartment…

While Valkyrie fetches some drinks in the kitchen, Nighthawk thanks Giant-Man for hooking up with them. Hank is pleased to meet ah, Nighthawk as well and hopes he didn’t hold the guys up or anything. Luke denies that, mentioning they’re still waiting on the Black Knight. He doesn’t finish work till a little after seven and the traffic’s a nightmare over the Brooklyn Bridge since they rebuild it. Valkyrie asks Hank if he forgot his uniform.

Hank explains he doesn’t wear a uniform when he’s in his normal size. The Giant-Man costume is sixty feet long and in a lock-up downtown. He has to grow full size before he can climb into it. Nighthawk is surprised to hear that and admits he didn’t know. Patsy Walker introduces herself, but everyone calls her Hellcat. She tells Hank he’ll have to excuse her for getting all flustered, but she’s never actually met a celebrity before. Luke is called Power Man, and the man sitting behind him is the Son of Stan. Last but not least is Valkyrie. Hank asks the girl what she does, exactly.

Valkyrie claims she’s kind of a female Thor, as that’s why she’s got all the Norse symbolism and stuff going on in her costume. Hank thinks that weather powers are pretty cool. Thor was amazing when they were fighting the Hulk back in Times Square. Valkyrie tells Hank he can imagine her as Thor without the weather powers. Hank asks if she’s got a magic hammer instead, but she doesn’t have that either. She can’t even really fly, but she can bench-press two-fifty and she’s something of a martial arts expert.

Hank asks the guy next to him if he’s really Satan’s son, but the guy thinks Hank must be on crack or something. As Hank drinks from his beer, Nighthawk explains to him they’re not exactly what Hank’s used to with the Ultimates and everything, but they’ve got some real heavy hitters on this team too. Doctor Strange is one of their members, but he’s on a psychic house call right now and two of the X-Men are talking about coming over once they’ve got their funding together. Hank is surprised they’re getting funding. “Sure,” Nighthawk responds. That’s why he told Hank to hang onto his receipt for the cab and any other expenses he might have. Super-hero teams are the next big thing and they’ve got eight more companies willing to sponsor them once they’ve got Giant-Man on the books.

Actually, Hank corrects, the Giant-Man powers are still owned by the U.S. government and he’s kind of in a legal dispute with them right now. Patsy wonders if that means Hank can’t join the team now. Hank admits he may not be able to join as Giant-Man, but he makes up new ideas for super heroes all the time. He takes out a helmet from his bag, and explains it’s something he cooked up a few months back wand has been tweaking for a while. As Hank puts on the helmet, Nighthawk mentions that if it’s anything noisy, they’ll have to go outside as the landlord cracked up the last time when they had a thing.

Suddenly, Hank disappears and only his jacket and clothes are left! Hank tells the Defenders to look down. He explains that this is the new super hero he’s made up. In this itsy-bitsy tiny form he’s in now, he’s calling himself Ant-Man. The helmet he wears lets him talk to ants. As the Defenders stare and are amazed, Valkyrie can’t believe they’ve finally got somebody on the team with real super-powers.

Later that night, at his bedroom…

After spending a night with the young Valkyrie, who lies sleeping in his bed, Hank refuses to feel guilty about this. Valkyrie’s nineteen years old and she was using him as much as he was using her. So what if he told her he’d introduce her to Spider-Man and the X-Men? Everyone exaggerates when they’re trying to get someone into bed. He can’t sleep. Valkyrie’s snoring and his head’s still spinning from all those vodkas they downed after the meeting. He’s only got another week until his appointment with Fury and these two Ultron robots are his last real chance of getting out of the pathetic rut he’s in right now.

After taking a look at the half-finished robots in his lab next to him, Hank puts on his helmet again and walks outside and goes to stand on his balcony, where he overlooks the night city. Hank realizes that nobody else will touch him after what he did to Janet and his face being splashed all over the newspapers. He’s got nothing else in his life right now. He doesn’t think it’s too much to expect the super heroes save him like they’re saving everybody else out there.

The next day at the Triskelion, ten minutes in meeting with Nick Fury…

While Captain Britain and his companions arrive at the massive headquarters, Hank tries to convince Fury of his plans and shows him his robots. Fury, unimpressed, reminds Pym that he already told him a million times: it doesn’t matter how many super-hero identities he creates for himself… they just can’t have him back on the team. Hank says he can appreciate that. He really does. That’s why he started focusing on these androids. They’re not quite ready yet but, when they are, Ultron and the Vision Two behind him will be as strong as any of the super-soldiers and completely under SHIELD command. He adds that Captain America may be durable, but he’s still a human being. What he’s offering is utterly expendable war machines.

Fury claims they can’t put Hank back on salary. He asks if Hank’s got any idea how close they’re being watched right now. But Hank’s not asking for a salary: he’s giving Nick these ideas for free. He’s only trying to help. Fury begs not to be embarrassed like this. They’ve got a level eight security situation and the whole team’s about to be briefed on how they’re going to respond. He asks Hank to please let it go. Hank again says he’s giving him this stuff for free. Ultron and Vision Two quietly stare at each other. Fury leaves, telling Hank to just let it go.

Janet arrives and asks Hank what he’s doing there, thinking he has a meeting with Nick or something. Hank, hesitant, claims that Fury asked him to come in and have a talk about these new robots he’s putting together, but everything’s still at the planning stage right now. They’re just talking. Janet mentions she read in the papers that Hank’s seeing somebody again, and wants to know if it’s true she’s only nineteen. Actually, Hank corrects, Valkyrie’s twenty in August but they’re really more friends than anything else. They’re both just doing a little corporate work for this Defenders team. He adds she’s a martial arts experts and looks at least twenty-five. Janet smiles that’s cool and that Hank’s looking good. Hank gently glides his fingers through Janet’s hair, giving her the same compliment and says her hair looks fantastic.

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch arrive, but also… an angry Captain America. He tells Pym to walk away and Hank excuses himself. Cap repeats himself and tells Hank to just walk away or he’ll put his head through the wall next to them. Hank takes off together with his robots, disappointed. Janet asks Steve if he really had to humiliate Hank like this, but he tries to be reasonable. Wanda stares at the Vision robot and he looks back at her. Pietro notices this and asks his sister if she was really flirting with that machine.

Later at the Big Assignment down town…

A skyscraper has caught fire and Iron Man is already on his way to save the day. Among a cheering crowd stand the disappointed Defenders. The Black Knight mocks this is just great: he wonders if there’s any point in them even showing up at this fire now. Ten minutes they’ve been trying to hail a cab and now Iron Man’s just going to waltz in there and grab all the glory. Nighthawk corrects Alex Iron Man’s going to save lives, and that’s what this is all about.

“Sure,” Alex says. Obviously, saving lives is a huge motivating factor in why he wears a costume, but he wants more. A kid notices the Defenders and asks them if there’s a role-playing convention in town. Luke is a bit ashamed now. Another guy tries to get the Knight on film but he pushes him away. He asks the folks if they don’t recognize the Black Knight from the papers. Valkyrie thinks this is just too depressing for words. She means, why is Spider-Man considered a super hero and they aren’t? What’s the line you have to cross? Hank, wearing sunglasses, thinks it’s you probably have to do something heroic. Nighthawk agrees with that. It’s all about marketing. That’s why he wants full press coverage at this warehouse situation tomorrow night.

Hank wants to know what Nighthawk is talking about. Nighthawk explains that his cousin says he knows these kids who’re going to break into a warehouse and steal thousands of cigarettes. He wants to show up in their costumes and give these little punks the fright of their lives. It only needs two ticks while he buzzes his contacts in the media.

Later that night, at a warehouse. Fame at last…

The Defenders are ready and a cameraman is present as well. He explains the deal: he gets a shot of the Defenders in action, they all get their faces in the papers. Valkyrie shows a little leg and breast; he figures he can get them all a full-color-page. Hank tells Barbara there must be a hundred of these warehouses, and believes the kids’ll probably have been and gone by the time they get there. Valkyrie tells him to stop moaning. They’ll all split up and find the kids. No problem. As they all rush into the warehouse and split up, Hank asks what happened to the Black Knight, who isn’t with them. Nighthawk mentions Alex’s caught up in traffic over by the Lincoln Tunnel, but said they should probably start without him.

Deeper inside the warehouse, the kids have already broken in. Another kid explains Ramono left the alarm off, just like he said. They’ll be in and out of the place in fifteen minutes, tops. Another kid fears they’ll never get all of these cigarettes in the car, but the leader says to just take whatever they can carry. Zippo says he’ll give them five bucks a box, so they just have to grab what they need. A voice suddenly triumphantly tells the boys that news is just in from the Surgeon General: cigarettes are bad for health. It’s Nighthawk! He gracefully jumps down, spreading his cape open and freaks the boys out who try to run and hide.

Unfortunately, Nighthawk smacks his face down on the ground and lands on one of the boys. That boy angrily tells Nighthawk to get off of him. Nighthawk tells the kid to shut up, as he thinks he just broke his ankle! Another kid hits Nighthawk’s face with a crowbar and tells him to get off his friend. More kids start to kick and punch the poor Nighthawk until he’s completely down. The kid gets up and thinks Nighthawk knocked his tooth out. Another kid wonders if the costumed fool has got any money in his costume. He checks it out and finds nothing but homemade gadgets and stuff. He also finds handcuffs and mocks his friends if Nighthawk was planning to see their boyfriends after this. Another kid has managed to find fifty bucks in one of the pouches.

Nighthawk mumbles the money’s for the cab home after his shift. The kids mock that a cab is no way for a super hero to travel. He must have a Batmobile or a Bat plane or some other stupid thing ready. They mock that if Nighthawk wants to be a super hero he’ll have to learn how to fly. They drag Nighthawk to a window and toss him out of it! He lands on a cab, scaring the driver inside.

Valkyrie uses her cellphone to contact Giant-Man, mentioning they’ve got to do something, as Nighthawk is in trouble. Hank reports he’s already on it. Another ten seconds and every ant in the harbor’s going to be swarming all over these creeps.

The kids rush out of the warehouse and their leader angrily notices Nighthawk smashed his mom’s car windshield. He suggests they get the gasoline out of the trunk and torch this stooge.

Valkyrie contacts Hank again, who’s doing his best but there’s just not enough ants around. He’s counting maybe thirty or forty, but nowhere near enough.

Meanwhile, the kids are all pouring gasoline all over Nighthawk’s body and somebody goes to get the matches.

Valkyrie begs Hank to turn into Giant-Man and help Nighthawk out. Hank defends he can’t do that because he doesn’t have his costume. Barbara warns they’re going to set the guy on fire. She comes out of her hiding place and calls out to the boys, who are surprised to see her. They rush after her and Barbara tries to run into safety, and contacts Hank for help. Hank starts rushing toward her and calls her an idiot. He finally decides to grow into Giant-Man, but is now completely naked. He spots the kids and points his hand at them, and grabs them in his palm. The cameraman is glad to see this, joking that’s what you call a front page.

The next day…
Hank is seen stark naked in the Daily Bugle newspaper, with a headline reading “Butt-er luck next time: super-hero debut descends into farce.”

Hank and Valkyrie visit Nighthawk in the hospital, and watch him being operated on by doctors. Hank reads on in the paper Nighthawk’s got a fractured skull, broken ribs, a cracked pelvis and a ruptured spleen. And he doesn’t like that frontal picture of him in every newspaper in America. Valkyrie realizes the Defenders aren’t exactly off to a great start. Hank agrees with that. He sighs, realizing the Defenders don’t really know Dr. Strange, but Valkyrie denies that. They don’t know Iceman or Colossus either, nor any other members of the X-Men they kind of hinted might be signing up. She’s not even a martial arts expert. She’s only just going for her orange belt the week after next and she failed her blue belt three times. She starts to cry, believing Hank must think she’s really sick.

Hank gently places his hand around Barbara’s back, telling her not to cry. They all make mistakes. He jokes he practically makes an idiot of himself for a living. He suggests they go home. It’s time they go find themselves a nice bottle of wine and go back to his place and pretend tonight never happened. Barbara agrees but, before they go, there’s something she’s been meaning to ask him. The timing might be a little weird, but she’s been trying to pluck up the courage since the first night they spend together. She even feels like such an idiot for bringing this up now. Hank promises her she doesn’t need to feel stupid and tells her to ask her question. Barbara takes Hank’s hand, and smilingly asks Hank if he thinks he can dress up like Captain America for her.

Later, at a bar…

Hank, sitting with someone wearing a leather jacket and gloves in a bar, concludes it’s like he said: he thinks he’s pretty much at the lowest point he’s ever been in his life. All he wanted was to be big. Now, he’s a phone call away from signing autographs at memorabilia cons. The mystery person reminds Hank he knows the best way to put a smile back on his face. Hank admits he knows. It’s time to do what the person did and betray the team. It’s just hard to believe he’s talking to the person that’s been creating all these problems for everybody. He means, it all makes sense in a funny kind of way, but he just wouldn’t have had him pegged as a traitor.

The person claims that a traitor is someone who betrays what they believe in. This isn’t a nation he believes in anymore. He never asked for Homeland Security or Guantanamo Bay or this big preemptive strike force they made the team do on a third-world country. He claims that Hank should have seen those people faces today: they were terrified. Hank wants to know what the man is talking about. The man thinks Hank hasn’t seen it on the news yet; as it’s on every channel: “we crippled a nation this morning.”

Hank takes a look at a television nearby, and sees the Ultimates and the Giant Men behind them, surrounded by lots of soldiers. In the air, Captain Britain and the others are lifting missile parts.

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Iron Man, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Wasp (all Ultimates)

Nick Fury

Black Knight, Giant-Man, Hellcat, Hellstrom, Luke Cage, Nighthawk, Valkyrie (all Defenders)

Giant Men (all the Reserves)

Captain Britain, Captain France, Italy, Spain and others

Ultron and Vision Two (robots build by Hank Pym)

Mysterious traitor

Various citizens (all unnamed)

Various thugs (all unnamed)

Various hospital staff (all unnamed)

Story Notes: 

More about the Giant Men and the other Reserves can be found in Ultimates 2 Annual #1.

First appearance of the Ultimate versions of Black Knight, Hellcat, Hellstrom, Luke Cage, Nighthawk and Valkyrie. Black Knight’s real name is revealed to be Alex, meaning he’s all new and doesn’t have a counterpart in the proper 616-universe at this point.

It’s also the first appearance of the Ultron and Vision Two robots. Another Vision gets eventually revealed in the Ultimate Nightmare miniseries, but she has no connection to Hank Pym whatsoever.

Giant-Man fought the Hulk with Thor in Ultimates (1st series) #5. When the Wasp, his ex-wife, fell in love with Captain America afterward, Hank, in a jealous mood, beat her up in return.

Issue Information: 
Written By: