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Avengers Annual #15: Review

Oct 1986
Danny Fingeroth, Steve Ditko

Story Name:

Betrayal

Review & Comments

Rating:
4 stars

Avengers Annual #15 Review by (December 27, 2016)
This Annual follows Avengers #272. The (East Coast) Avengers are down to the 5 members here. Sub-Mariner just left in #272 on a leave of absence to help his love Marrina. He'll return in #282.
Captain America and Wasp are of course long-term on/off members. Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) has been in since #227, Hercules began his latest stint on the team in #250, and Black Knight rejoined in #256. At that time Starfox was the 6th member, but he left in #261 and Namor replaced him in the next issue.
After Secret Wars II the team got involved in the schemes of Kang and Immortus in #267-269. Subby got involved in Atlantean affairs again #270-272 while the latest Masters of Evil made their 1st moves, which will lead to a full scale attack on the team later.

This Annual also follows on from West Coast Avengers #13. The WCA still only have their original 5 members. Prospective members Firebird and Thing exited in #10 just after SWII. Since then they got entangled in SHIELD's problems in #11 and faced the return of their 1st big foe Graviton in #12-13.

Mystique formed her version of the Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants in Uncanny X-Men #141-142, the Days Of Future Past story, containing all here bar Spiral and Spider-Woman. She took them into government service as Freedom Force in #199 where Val Cooper added Spiral to the mix and sent them to arrest Magneto. Spider-Woman joined them in #206 where they tried to arrest the X-Men.

The Avengers fought the BOEM in An#10 when Rogue was part of that team. There Rogue stole the powers and memory of Ms Marvel, recently escaped from Immortus. Carol Danvers then became a supporting character in UXM, and eventually Binary.


Spiral débuted in the Longshot mini-series where Mojo sent her to recapture the escaped hero but she got stranded on Earth. At this time we don't know that she is the future version of Ricochet Rita Wayword also introduced in that series. (That will be revealed in X-Factor Annual #7.) After that and joining FF she cameoed in UXM#205 as a cyborg-maker, and then appeared with her team in #206 and XFa#8, but she abruptly left there for UXM#209 where she lured Phoenix to the Mojoverse (so she's not *that* stranded).

We met Julia Carpenter, the 2nd Spider-Woman, in Secret Wars I #6-12. At a loose end she joined FF thinking it was a group of good guys. (Avengers West Coast #84 will flashback to the actual joining.) She was seen in action with them in UXM#206, and XFa#8-9 where they were sent to arrest XFA's trainee Rusty Collins.

Tony Stark built the original Guardsman armour for Kevin O'Brien in IM#43 until he died in #46. His brother Michael donned the suit in #96. He left the IM series in #109 and we saw him as head of security at Project Pegasus in Av#236. He was still there in IM An#8, but he'll next turn up as head of Avengers security in Av#301.
1 reason for that may be that as well as being a research lab PP housed some captured supervillains. But in this issue the Vault has been built as a super-prison and is taking the inmates from places like PP.

Henry Peter Gyrich was imposed as Avengers heavy-handed liaison in #172. But after the failed 'trial' in #190-191 he moved on to higher things. In UXM#142 he was part of Project Wideawake which built new Sentinels.
Gyrich still kept an eye on the Avengers but they got a new friendlier liaison Ray Sikorski in Av#235
Val Cooper débuted working for the NSA with special responsibility for superhumans in UXM#176. She worked with Gyrich in #185-186 in a plot to capture Rogue which wound up depowering Storm. In #199 she formed FF and now she's here.

We'll learn the identity of the informant in WCA Annual #1. But we never hear any more about the so-called 2nd source.

Spider-Woman *has* burned her boats and *will* join the Avengers, specifically Avengers West Coast in #74 after helping them out from #70. But before then Cooper will send the Seekers after her in IM#214, and she'll guest in Spectacular Spider-Man #125-126 against the Wrecking Crew.



 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers Annual #15 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
The issue opens with Hawkeye ranting because he struck out in the 1st annual East/West Coast Avengers baseball game. It's being held in Kansas City Royals stadium, midway between the 2 coasts, to an audience of groundsmen. And it was all Clint Barton's idea. Wife Bobbi reminds him it's all in fun.

The East Coast team is Black Knight, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Hercules and Wasp. The West Coasters are Hawkeye, Iron Man, Mockingbird, Tigra and Wonder Man. The umpire is Henry Pym, Wasp's ex-husband and manager of the WCA's HQ. And he's impartial, honest!

Cap is pitching and Wasp is catcher. BK and Herc are infielders with CM covering the outfield. Their side has a 2-run lead as Wonder Man comes up to bat. He misses the 1st ball, but sends the next 1 streaking out of the ground. But Monica Rambeau switches to light rays to catch up with it and goes solid in midair to catch it. She throws it back into the stadium and streaks back to go solid and catch it again on the ground.

But Simon Williams complains that the ball had left the field before she caught it and so he should get a home run. Hank Pym compromises with a ground-rule double, and WM heads for 2nd base.

Tigra's up next. She too misses the 1st ball, but Hank doesn't call a strike on the woman he thinks of as his girlfriend. Much to the annoyance of ex-wife Jan Van Dyne. The next ball Tigra just bunts and it bounces towards Hercules who steps forward and waits for it to trickle into his mitt. But that allows her to leap over him and make 1st base. And Wonder Man steals home.

Tigra's also passed 3rd as Herc stands confused. Cap shouts to him to throw the ball the the Knight on 3rd. But the Greek Demi-God throws too hard and high. And only Hawkeye's arrow stops it hitting 1 of the few spectators. And Tigra gets home to tie the match.

Mockingbird goes next and uses 1 of her battlestaves as a bat. She sends the 1st ball streaking across the ground, but BK catches it and throws to Herc who plants his foot on 1st base. But too hard again because he causes a fissure in the ground that Bobbi has to leap over. Now it's Clint's turn to remind her it's only a game.

Iron Man is last to bat. Cap pitches, but the mutant Blob appears in the middle of the field and catches the ball. 6 more characters materialise courtesy of 6-armed Spiral's spells. They are Avalanche, Destiny, Mystique, Pyro, Spider-Woman and Spiral herself.

Mockingbird recognises (most of) them as the Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants. Pym corrects her:- Spider-Woman and Spiral weren't in that group, and they've reformed and work for the Feds. Wasp knows that this SW was a goodie in Secret Wars I. Wonder Man supplies their new name Freedom Force. (Blob even has FF on the front of his costume.)

Mystique is the leader, as she was of BoEM, and she steps up to arrest the Avengers. They hand out warrants to both teams which accuse them of treason, and have the President's signature. Mystique asks if they'll come quietly.

The response is split. Most Avengers don't trust them and want to refuse:- Black Knight (just following team leader Jan), Henry Pym, Hercules, Iron Man, Mockingbird, Tigra, Wasp and Wonder Man (remembering that he too was a reformed villain, but still knowing that the BoEM were really bad). The others favour going along to sort things out:- Captain America (respect for his government overriding his doubts), Captain Marvel and Hawkeye (remembering that he too was a reformed villain and wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt). It devolves into an argument between team leaders Jan and Clint.

But hothead Herc breaks the impasse by throwing a car at Freedom Force, which Avalanche shakes apart. Iron Man backs his play. The FF are quite happy to use force to achieve their goal. Except Spider-Woman - this isn't what she joined FF for.

Avalanche shakes the ground to knock some Avengers off their feet. Pyro sends a bird of fire against them which chase Clint and Hank into a crevice created by Avalanche, but WM flies in to save them. And Herc ploughs through debris towards the quake-mutant. Wasp fires a sting inside Blob's ear which makes him lose balance and his lunch.

Meanwhile CM blasts Spiral, but a spell cancels all her powers. CA tries a surprise attack but Spiral is ready for him with a spell which alters spacetime so he never gets any closer to her. A flung shield does close the gap, but she temporarily shifts to another dimension to avoid it.

Then Mocky, Tigra and Wasp try a joint attack including binding her arms to stop her weaving more spells. But Pyro's firebird chases them over the fissure. CA has closed with Spiral but he hears Wasp menaced by Pyro and rushes to her aid. But this Wasp is really shape-shifter Mystique who stun-blasts him.

Minute Wasp was affected by the firebird's heat and is aided by CM, whose powers are still gone. Destiny predicted what would happen and is there to cover them with a gun.

Hercules finds a water main and uses it to douse the firebird and knock Avalanche down. Wonder Man carries Hawkeye and Pym to safety and puts out a fire started by the 'bird'. Iron Man and Hawkeye then attack Blob but his body easily withstands repulsors and expels arrows.

Now Black Knight attacks Spiral, and his enchanted Ebony Blade cuts through her spells. She teleports away and he follows, but is caught in Spider-Woman's psionic web. She knocks him out before he can use his sword to cut through that.

Herc has beaten Avalanche into submission but Blob steps in to defend his friend. The Demi-God gets his fists stuck in the villain's body and Blob repeatedly head-butts him. This isn't going to hurt the immortal, but Spiral's spell renders him unconscious. Armoured Avalanche recovers and drops rocks on MB and Tigra.

Destiny now gets Hawkeye with a tranquiliser gun. And Iron Man tackles Pyro. He breaks the villain's flamethrower. But Pyro is still able to control flames already created and is threatening to overload IM's defences. But then Spiral cuts the fight short with another unconsciousness spell. However WM stops this most dangerous opponent by knocking her out. And Pyro too.

CM, Pym, Wasp and WM are the only Avengers left standing, and Avalanche, Blob, Destiny, Mystique and Spider-Woman have them surrounded. Simon Williams suggests they surrender before the powerless 2 get hurt. But Hank takes the decision out of his hands. He rushes CM towards Avalanche's fissure to hide, but Destiny zaps them.

WM attacks Blob who falls due to the accumulated blows. Wasp attacks Avalanche and knocks him down, but he stuns her with shockwaves and Mystique captures her in a box. She sends SW to assault WM while Destiny blasts him with a huge dose of tranquiliser. The combination finally fells the hero.

Mystique revives Spiral to teleport everyone out. But then realises that Captain America isn't among the prisoners. Cap has got to a telephone and has contacted the government to check that the arrest warrants are real. On learning that they are he surrenders.

The Avengers are taken to an underground court in the Colorado Rockies guarded by the green-armoured Guardsmen. Spiral has revived them and left them all temporarily depowered. (Mystique explains that Spiral didn't have the chance to do that to anyone but Captain Marvel during the fight.) The Spiral takes Freedom Force away.

The Avengers face a tribunal of their government liaison Ray Sikorski, their long-time government bugbear Henry Peter Gyrich and a blonde woman they don't recognise who is named as Val Cooper, FF's government liaison. Wasp challenges the court's authority and accuses HPG of having it in for them. Gyrich says they have the proof of the treason he's long suspected them of, testimony from 1 of the Avengers' own members.

It is alleged that the Avengers colluded with Vision in his attempt to take of the world's computers (Av#252-254), and this wasn't due to Vision being affected by Ultron's control crystal and the Titanian computer ISAAC. Also that when Grey Gargoyle interrupted previous hearings against the team (Av#190-191) he did so under their orders (as Gyrich accused them of at the time). And there's more (which we never hear about). Now that they have the current Avengers in custody the committee will go after guilty inactive Avengers too.

Gyrich says the identity of the informant will remain secret until the trial, but he's expecting corroboration from another source. They won't be formerly charged until all the evidence has been assembled, and they won't be allowed legal representation until then. But due to their special powers special measures have been taken to imprison them until in the meantime. Sikorski assures them that he'll make sure the trial is fair. Captain America protests this as a travesty of American justice, and gets a standing ovation from his teammates.

The Guardsmen take them to a new super-prison, the Vault, in another part of the Colorado Rockies. They are each placed in a cell designed to deal with their individual powers (because Spiral's spell has worn off).

In Washington Mystique berates Spider-Woman for hanging back in the fight. She says the heroine can quit but Freedom Force can be dangerous enemies to make. SW promises to do better next time, but privately does think of quitting ...

... but for the moment she'll investigate the Avengers' situation. Julia Carpenter finds out where they're held and goes to help them. But the new heroine doubts herself and decides to back out at the last minute.

Unfortunately she triggers an alarm and loads of Guardsmen come out to investigate. They'd also been forewarned by Destiny to expect Spider-Woman (so Mystique obviously knows as well). They see her in a spotlight and start shooting, but she dodges past them and through they door they came from.

She climbs down an elevator shaft and finds a sloppy guard who she threatens with his own gun until he tells her where the Avengers are. There she smashes some control consoles hoping it will do some good, and escapes more guards knowing that she can't go back to Freedom Force.

She's in luck. The feeding hatch to Wasp's cell opens and Jan flies out. And into the lock mechanism of Captain America's cell, which she disrupts. Steve Rogers takes a little persuading to actually escape.

Wasp then frees Hercules, and then opens Wonder Man's cell. Herc breaks him free of energy restraints. Soon everyone is released.

Now Guardsmen arrive and there's a free-for-all. Until Iron Man emits a frequency that freezes the enemy's armour. Because Tony Stark designed the prototype and built in a secret weakness. Meanwhile Captain Marvel has located the team's weaponry.

Soon Herc, IM and WM have smashed a way out of the mountain, and the group is on the run. Spider-Woman watches from hiding, and wonders if she could be an Avenger. The frozen Guardsmen can't give chase. And the Avengers hole up in a cave to plan their next move.

Continued in WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL #1.

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Steve Ditko
Klaus Janson
Elaine Lee
Alex Saviuk (Cover Penciler)
Klaus Janson (Cover Inker)


Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.