USAgent (2nd series) #2

Issue Date: 
September 2001
Story Title: 
Power Play

Jerry Ordway (writer & penciler), Karl Kesel (inker), VLM (colorist), John Workman (letterer), Mark Sumerak (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

USAgent and his STARS team arrive at the rebel Atlantean stronghold, and engage the Atlanteans in battle, while Poundcakes takes her loot after dropping off the mind-control weapons at the leader of the rebels. USAgent sees the criminal making her escape, so he engages her - but Poundcakes manages to get to an escape boat, though Agent Vries manages to climb onboard. USAgent finds Agent Mowat, who has located the mind-control devices, before the Atlantean leader confronts them, causing some of the mind-control bugs to get loose - Namor arrives, and deals to the rebel Atlantean, while Mowat collects the mind-control bugs - including the one on USAgent’s neck, which Agent Vries placed there earlier. On the speedboat, Poundcakes and Agent Vries continue to battle, before Poundcakes escapes, with her loot, on a helicopter. The speedboat, meanwhile, crashes onto the beach, though no one is harmed. Later, at the Commission on Superhuman Activities, Dr Valerie Cooper and USAgent discuss the battle with Poundcakes, and Val reveals that the Avengers picked the criminal up over Connecticut, which annoys USAgent. Later still, Agent Vries visits USAgent in his quarters, and when she kisses him, she places another mind-control bug on his neck, before USAgent asks her to leave. Vries wonders if she makes a mistake by doing this, before going to meet with Senator Warkovsky, informing him that the bug has been planted on USAgent. USAgent is in the shower, and doesn’t notice the bug on his neck, before he gets a call from Agent MacGruder, who explains that it would appear the bugs are receivers for a larger “mother” unit. Clearly under the influence of the bug, USAgent tells Agent MacGruder to get the devices ready for him to pick up. When he arrives to get them, USAgent’s squad are uncertain about this, as they were told a courier is coming to collect them to take them to SHIELD, but USAgent announces he is taking them to Seattle. Agent MacGruder wants to call Valerie Cooper, but Agent Vries stops her, and orders them to follow USAgent - before Captain America arrives, logically pointing out that it is possible USAgent has fallen under the influence of the devices. In Seattle a short time later, USAgent enters a building where the Power Broker is waiting for him - and the Power Broker intends to plant the devices on those attending a conference - an international assemblage of heads of state and captains of industry, all who will fall under his influence!

Full Summary: 

The Superhuman Tactical Activities Response Squad - STARS - is the watchdog that governs all aspects of super-powered crime and imprisonment. This operation is headed by John Walker the USAgent, and Kali Vries, a former agent of SHIELD. Right now, they and their teammates are thirty miles off the coast of Maine, deep in the Atlantic Ocean, heading towards an Atlantean outpost manned by a radical faction of the undersea kingdom’s military. Word is, these renegades are buying a caseload of alien bugs that bond to and control a host’s mind. STARS are primarily interested in the seller, a prison escapee - Marion “Poundcakes” Pouncey. But they have to breach the Atlantean defenses to get to her.

As the STARS deep-sea vessel moves towards the outpost, Farley Mowat, the elderly team member piloting the vessel does his best to dodge weapons fire, while telling the others that they cannot keep taking these hits, for while the gyro-shields are good, this is as close as they can get. USAgent and Vries put their deep-sea helmets on, and John tells Mowat to quit complaining. ‘Let’s get it on!’ Vries exclaims, while Mowat asks Allie Macgruder if the torpedo chutes are powered up. Can’t have these two twiddling!’ he exclaims. USAgent and Vries get onto their under-water vessels, and John tells Vries that hs is taking point on this, before informing Allie that they are ready.

Allie presses the launch button, while thinking to herself that Walker and Vries outrank her, in charge of operations, and Mowat, their hack of all trades and pain in the butt, but realizes that Walker and Vries have to do most of the dirty work. Allie doesn’t trust Vries - not because she was forced onto the team by an influential member of the Senate, or because she and Walker were involved some years ago, just because there is something wrong with her. ‘She has her own agenda, and it doesn’t include watching John’s back’ Allie tells herself.

As USAgent and Vries are propelled into the water, strapped to their vessels, John tells Vries to take out the Atlantean’s big guns, but to keep the causalities to a minimum. One of them blasts at a large weapon, taking it out, and sending several Atlanteans knocked backwards through the water.

Inside the outpost building, Marion “Poundcakes” Pouncey herself clutches a duffel bag and exclaims ‘What is that? Sounds like a war out there!’, before suggesting to one of the Atlatean warriors that they seal this deal already. ‘As you wish’ the warrior replies, before motioning to a chest full of gold, silver, pearls and precious gems, telling her to take them, but warning her that he cannot guarantee safe passage. Holding up a mace, the warrior asks Poundcakes if she would volunteer her special abilities in their cause. ‘Prince Namor has been overthrown, and we -’ he begins, but Poundcakes has handed him the duffel bag and picked up the chest of jewels, running towards her escape vessel.

‘Our deal is done - you got what you wanted, and I got mine!’ she exclaims. She adds that as she makes a point of not getting involved in politics, she will take the loot and leave. The vessel blasts from the outpost building, with Poundcakes thinking to herself ‘The nerve of that guy - expecting me - Marion Pouncey - ta work for free!’. Suddenly, she hears a noise on the roof of her vessel - its USAgent, who has latched on and is using his energy-truncheon to carve a hole in the roof - but as he does so, Poundcakes bursts through and kicks him over, before making a swim for it, carrying the chest of jewels.

‘You are under arrest, “Poundcakes”!’ USAgent calls out. ‘Hands off, “Mister Scuba”!’ Poundcakes replies, while John swims after her: ‘The name’s USAgent, lady, and Madonna wants her outfit back -’ John jokes, before he is painfully knocked backwards by Poundcakes’ seismic boots, which she uses to create a shockwave through the water. ‘How’d he get onto me?’ Poundcakes wonders, before USAgent is overwhelmed by several Atlantean warriors. Vries swims past him: ‘That’s okay, Walker - you flop around with those warriors - I’ll catch up to Pouncey!’ she exclaims as she follows the anchor attached to Poundcakes’ escape boat on the water’s surface, despite USAgent telling her not to.

Walker attempts radio communication, telling Vries that Poundcakes has already raised anchor. But Vries is already climbing onto the boat, telling herself to hold on. Walker radios Farley, but gets no response. ‘Where the blazes are you? Poundcakes is escaping in a speedboat! Vries is pursuing!’. Allie responds to Walker, telling him that Mowat is down in the water with him somewhere, and asks Walker if he wants her to go topside to help Agent Vries. ‘No offense, Mac, but I’d feel better with Mowat driving!’ Walker replies, telling Allie that he will go after them himself, when suddenly, he sees Farley in a nearby outpost building. ‘C’mon down here! I got the contraband, boss!’ Farley calls out.

‘Vries needs my - aww, shoot! I’m coming!’ Walker exclaims as he swims down towards the old man, who holds up the duffel bag, announcing that it is full of the alien bugs. ‘Look at them!’ Farley exclaims as USAgent swims into the room. ‘I put some blue-faced Atlantean out of commission, and grabbed them. I did good, didn’t I?’ he asks. ‘You did, Farley, but don’t let any of them float away’ Walker tells him. Suddenly, the Atlantean appears and grabs Farley: ‘Fool! You should have killed me when you had the chance!’ the Atlantean exclaims. ‘Listen, “Blue” - let the midget go!’ Walker declares, as he lunges at the Atlantean, his energy-truncheon charged. ‘Farley - time to limbo - you know the routine!’ Walker tells his teammate.

Johnny slams the energy-truncheon against the Atlantean’s fact, while telling Mowat to grab the duffel bag and gather up the stray bugs. Mowat does so, as Walker tells him that they are about to make a hasty exit before they create an international incident here. Farley reaches for the last one, while the Atlantean throws Walker over his shoulder and demands that the bugs be returned to him, boasting that he is the leader of this faction. Suddenly, ‘ENOUGH!’ booms a commanding voice, while a fist moves in front of Mowat and crushes the remaining bug.

‘Take your leave now - so speaks Namor, the Avenging Son!’ declares the Sub-Mariner as he hovers before USAgent and Farley. Namor turns to the warrior and calls him Morcan, asking him if he has abandoned the realm eternal when she needed him the most. ‘Your act of treason will be punished!’ he declares. ‘Take him!’ USAgent exclaims, grabbing Morcan. ‘No! I beg thee! Do not leave me to Atlantean justice!’ Morcan pleads. Namor remarks that Morcan shames himself, to which Walker suggests to Farley that they leave this touching scene, as they have what they came for.

‘Not all. It appears one has eluded you’ the Sub-Mariner remarks pulling one of the bugs from USAgent’s neck. ‘How’d that get there?’ Walker asks, wide-eyed, before Sub-Mariner turns his attention back to Morcan. USAgent and Farley swim away, with Farley remarking that it is lucky the Sub-Mariner noticed that bug before it took USAgent over. ‘Lucky for me, all right!’ Walker remarks, adding that Farley will have to put his thinking cap onto figure out a way to prevent that from ever happening again. Walker announces that, for now though, he needs some hear from their ship if he hopes to catch up to Vries and Poundcakes.

At that moment, on the speedboat, Vries grabs Poundcakes from behind and pulls her to the floor. ‘You are under arrest, Pouncy!’ Vries exclaims. ‘Whu -? Nice hold, toots - but yer grappling with a pro!’ Poundcakes exclaims, kicking Vries in the side. USAgent approaches the speedboat on a jet ski, informing Allie by radio that he has caught up to them, but the boat is steering itself. ‘Vries definitely needs help!’ USAgent exclaims, while Vries tells Poudcakes that she wrestled back at Camp Kirby. ‘Well, goody for you, sweetie’ Poundcakes exclaims. ‘I still beat ya!’ she adds as she pushes Allie into the water.

USAgent informs Allie that Vries is in the water. ‘Fish her out, Mac! Poundcakes is all mine!’. As Walker speeds towards the jetboat, he tells himself that Poundcakes has no place to do, as she ditched her mini-sub, and is about to beach this boat. ‘But I’ll be hanged if I’m going to chase her down on foot!’ Walker tells himself, before leaping from his jet ski, landing inches from Poundcakes: ‘End of the line!’ he tells her as he smacks her in the face with his energy-truncheon. ‘For you, maybe!’ Poundcakes replies as she kicks Walker, knocking him backwards. Suddenly, a rope ladder is dropped down above them. ‘About freakin’ time!’ Poundcakes exclaims, grabbing the ladder with one hand, while still holding on to the chest of jewels. ‘Ta ta! You better grab the wheel, sweetie, and let me book…or those rubes are going to get hurt!’

USAgent thinks to himself that Poundcakes has not got the brain power to pull of a stunt like this - not that that matters right now, as the chopper Poundcakes escaped to takes off, and the speedboat still approaches the beach full of civilians, who begin running for their lives. The speedboat then crashes through a hot dog stand - finally coming to a stop in a large moving truck, with Walker leaping from the boat just in time. ‘Damn, I’m good! A lot of damage, but no causalities…except my pride for losing Poundcakes!’ Johnny thinks to himself.

Vries and Mowat rush towards Walker, asking him if he is hurt. ‘That was awesome - like a Bond movie!’ Mowat exclaims. Walker removes his helmet and tells him to zip it and get back to the ship. Mowat walks over to Allie, who is standing by the ship, while Vries remarks that Walker still doesn’t know when to call off the dogs. ‘She’s gone, but there’s a lot of damage here’ Vries adds, declaring that they need to stick around until the emergency crews arrive, in case anyone was hurt. ‘You do that, Vries. I have a prisoner to catch!’ Walker replies. ‘They disappeared from radar, Chief - er, Chiefs’ Allie announces.

‘Like it or not, this job has a public side, too. It doesn’t look good on the TV news for STARS to hit and run’ Vries points out. ‘Well?’ she asks. Walker sighs, before telling his team that they will comb the wreckage and catch that loser Poundcakes some other time.

Later, at the Commission on Super Human Activities, in Washington DC. Dr Valerie Cooper tells USAgent that it is not like him to give up the chase, and that on the surface, it looks like his team fell short once again. ‘Senator Warkovsky’s going to have a field day with this!’ she exclaims. Walker reminds his long-time associate that Vries - the esteemed Senator’s crony - is co-leader of the team. Val points out that, even worse, Warkovsky holds the purse-strings to STARS, and the team is under-performing. ‘That reflects on all of us’. Walker assures Valerie that the team is top notch, and that he was just distracted. ‘I’ll catch up to Pouncy and -’ he begins, but Val tells him not to bother, as a few of the Avengers caught her over Connecticut.

Valerie tells USAgent that Poundcakes and the pilot gave up after destroying half of Bridgeport, and they are both in lock-up now. ‘Dammit, Val, I wanted to sweat information out of them! By now I’m sure they’ve lawyered up!’ he exclaims as he slams his fist on Val’s desk. ‘And of all people - the Avengers - tying up my loose ends? I’ll bet they had a good laugh at my expense!’ Walker shouts, angrily. Valerie assures the handsome soldier that nobody was laughing, not in Bridgeport. ‘As or the recovered “goods” - do you want Reed Richards or SHIELD to -’ Valerie begins, but John tells her that is the last thing STARS needs - more outside help. ‘Mowat’s more than capable!’ he tells Valerie as he storms off.

Later, Vries knocks on the door to USAgent’s quarters at STARS headquarters. ‘Hey, “Peach”, care to drown your sorrows?’ Vries asks, holding up a bottle of alcohol. Walker doesn’t get to answer before Vries pushes her way into his quarters, remarking that she hates to drink alone. Walker, wearing shorts and a singlet, looks at Vries oddly, while Vries tells him that she is not the enemy. ‘I’m a teammate. The Senator has his agenda…’ she begins, to which Walker asks ‘Wand what is yours, Kali?’, grabbing her by the shoulders. ‘This’ Vries smiles as she presses her lips against his.

Walker thinks to himself that it would be so easy just to fall into this again, with her, but decides that he cannot - will not - let it happen, unaware that Vries is placing one of the mind-control bugs on his neck. Walker feels her touching him, and pulls away from her: ‘John?’ Vries asks. ‘What’s your game?’ Walker demands. ‘You think I’m the same redneck kid whose heart you crushed back in basic at Fort Bragg? I’ve grown, Kali…I’ve learned to trust my instincts, and they’re telling me right now to run screaming from this room!’ John declares. ‘Trouble is, I live here. You go’ John tells Vries.

Vries looks at Walker, who tells her not to give him the puppy god eyes, as he is not buying it today. ‘John - I wish I could make you believe - I never meant to hurt you’ Vries tells him. ‘Betrayal always hurts. You know that’ Walker calls out as Vries leaves his quarters. ‘See you at work, then’ Vries replies, while wondering, with a tear in her eye, if it is worth it. ‘What I just did to that man?’. Vries tells herself to keep thinking “yes”, or else she will fall to the temptation to run back and warn him. ‘John Walker is so the same kid I loved and abandoned all those years ago’ Vries sighs.

Johnny is taking a shower - but doesn’t notice the mind-control bug on his neck as he runs a hand across his crew-cut, while thinking to himself that he would rather arm-wrestle the Hulk than go through a scene like that again. Suddenly, his comm-link goes off. He reaches out of the shower, and sees that it is Allie. He tells her to make it quick. Allie informs USAgent that she wanted to update him on those “things” they recovered from Poundcakes.

Allie explains that, first off, Mowat has detected and isolated a faint signal of some kind emanating from the pods, and that he seems to think they are like satellite receivers for a larger “mother” unit. ‘The individual bugs don’t control their hosts, but allow them to be controlled by the “mother” she explains. Walker remarks that he is willing to bet neither Hydra nor the rebel Atlanteans knew that. ‘Someone or something is trying to amass an army of drones’ he declares. ‘I think - I think -’ he begins, to which Allie asks him if he is okay. ‘I - Am all right’ John replies, oddly, while telling Allie to have Mowat gather up all the alien bugs they have at STARS and put them in a case for him. I’ll be by to pick them up shortly’ he adds. Allie tells Walker that SHIELD pulled some strings with the Commission, who are sending a courier to pick the bugs up now. Walker tells Allie not to release that package to them. ‘That’s a direct order. I will be right there!’ he exclaims.

Meanwhile, on the steps of Lincoln Memorial, Vries is reading a newspaper article entitled “Warkovsky vows defense budget cuts - Pentagon bloated says Senator”. She wonders where Warkovsky is, as she has read this paper three times already. Vries decides that the Senator is getting good press for his stand on the budget referendum ‘May not be enough to get him re-elected’ Vries thinks to herself, when suddenly, the Senator appears. ‘Good evening, Agent Vries. Walk with me’ he exclaims.

They make their way down the stairs, as the Senator asks Vries if she placed another bug on Walker as was requested. ‘I had to spirit one away from the lab, so I hope it’s not missed’ Vries replies. The Senator assures her that it will not be. ‘Not if this one takes hold of Walker. My patron wants his “merchandise” back…and that should be implemented by the USAgent himself, though not acting of his own accord’ Warkovsky remarks. Vries points out that she has proven her loyalty and asks when she gets to meet their mysterious benefactor.

The Senator replies ‘He is my benefactor, Agent Vries. As I am your benefactor’. He tells Vries that the answer is “never”, as that would be stupid. ‘And I Haven’t managed to stay in office this long by sheer luck, you know’. As the Senator throws the newspaper in the trash, Vries asks ‘What’s next for me, then?’. THe Senator tells her that, within the week, she will be the leader of STARS, and he will be re-elected to another term in the Senate. ‘This is to be our last clandestine rendezvous. I thank you for your services’ Warkovsky declares. He tells Vries to smile. ‘You get what you wanted, and I get what I wanted’.

The Senator informs Vries that there is a plane waiting to take him to his home state of Washington for some last minute campaigning. ‘Of course’ Vries remarks as the Senator’s assistants usher him into his car. The Senator tells Vries that the inauguration of a new Federally-funded convention center also waits him. ‘We’re hosting an international technology summit, and I, of course, am the keynote speaker’.

Vries walks away, thinking to herself that even though it is late, she better get back into uniform and on the job. ‘Based on what Warkovsky said, STARS should be a hotbed of activity’ she thinks to herself. ‘I just wish this all could have been done without ruining John Walker’s career?’ she wonders.

At STARS: ‘Hand it over, Mowat! That’s an order, mister!’ USAgent exclaims. ‘But boss - the SHIELD courier is due any minute and they aren’t going to be happy!’ Mowat exclaims, remarking that SHIELD said it was part of an ongoing investigation. ‘Stand aside!’ USAgent orders. ‘Chief - no!’ Allie exclaims as she rushes over to Walker, who declares that he is still in charge here. ‘Think this through first!’ Allie exclaims. Walker pushes past Mowat and opens the cupboard where the duffel bag is being kept. He tells Allie that he has thought it through, and knows that these bugs are not safe with SHIELD.

‘You’ll have to sign them out!’ Mowat exclaims. ‘You’re going to destroy them, aren’t you? That’s what this is about?’ Allie asks. ‘No. I’m taking them to Seattle’ Walker announces. Allie picks up a phone and announces that she is calling Valerie Cooper, while Mowat mutters ‘Great, Vries saw everything’ as the short-haired woman enters the room. ‘I saw enough to know Walker will be in even greater trouble if you involve the Commission!’ Vries declares before knocking the comm-link out of Allie’s hand. ‘This is serious enough for them to fire his Georgia butt!’ Vries exclaims.

Vries tells Allie and Farley to listen to reason, and announces that she will shadow Walker, find out where he is going with the cargo. Vries declares that she will make sure that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. ‘Really?’ Allie asks, before exclaiming that she is not convinced that Vries’ hands aren’t the wrong ones. ‘Things started going bad the minute you set foot in here, Vries!’ Allie declares. ‘I’d be a moron to send you after the boss alone!’ she exclaims. ‘Trust me!’ Vries tells her. ‘I’d trust him’ Allie exclaims, motioning to Captain America who enters the room. Vries is surprised, while Captain America announces that Dum Dum Dugan at SHIELD asked him to pick up the satchel.

‘Is there a problem?’ Captain America asks, remarking that Dugan said he might meet some resistance. ‘You’re the courier?’ Farley gasps. Vries salutes Captain America and introduces herself. ‘Permission to receive the satchel, Sir’ she asks. ‘John Walker just left with it, I’ll just -’ Vries begins, but Captain America tells her that they will take his ship. ‘But I -’ Vries begins, before following Captain America, and thinking to herself ‘How can I lie to him? I’ve to to be careful here, or my cover will be blown’. Captain America remarks that Dugan indicated the bugs were some sort of mind-control devices. ‘Perhaps Walker fell under their influence?’ he suggests.

In Seattle, a short time later, USAgent’s jet has landed on a helipad and Walker leaps from it, while some security guards run towards him. ‘Hold it right there. You have to have clearance to -’ one of them begins, to which USAgent holds up an ID card: ‘Here’s my “get in free” card, gents’ he declares. One of the guards apologizes to USAgent and tells his colleagues to step aside and let him pass.

Johnny enters the door to the building: ‘Okay, I’ve mad it through the maze. I want my cheese now!’ Walker exclaims. ‘I’ve brought what you wanted’ he calls out. ‘Excellent’ a voice replies. ‘You’ve changed tour appearance, Walker, but I note you are still a shill for the Commission’. The man Walker approaches tells him that the neuro-synaptic life form attached to his neck doesn’t override any of his memories. ‘You do remember me, don’t you?’ he asks. ‘How could I forget? You gave me my first taste of superpowers. Curtis Jackson. Better known as the Power Broker’ Walker declares.

The Power Broker smirks and tells USAgent that it is great to have him back on the team, albeit against his will. USAgent drops the duffel bag at the Power Broker’s feet, and the Power Broker exclaims that he will not need them, as they were a test of his loyalty. ‘I already have in place a plan to infect those who are attending this conference’ he announces. The Power Broker reveals that the conference is being attended by an international assemblage of heads of state, as well as their captains of industry, all of whom will fall under his influence! ‘Let’s get started then…’ the mind-controlled USAgent grins.

Characters Involved: 


Dr Valerie Cooper

Allie Magruder, Farley Mowat, Kali Vries (all STARS)

Captain America

Senator Warkovsky

Senator’s assistants


The Power Broker


Morcan and other Atlanteans


Security Officers

Story Notes: 

Vries planted the bug on USAgent in USAgent (2nd series) #1.

Issue Information: 
Written By: