[Outside Avengers Mansion]
There is a young man walking along the sidewalk of seventy-first
street. His brown hair is a bit mussed, and his clothes speak of a
middle-class family, perhaps one that is struggling just to get by.
His denim jacket is worn and frayed at the cuffs, and his jeans show
tell-tale signs of rough treatment. To any passerby he would be the
epitome of nondescript, and he prefers to keep it that way. No one
needs to know, after all, that he isn't just wandering through the
area. He's returning to his new home.
When Chris Powell told his brothers and parents that he was moving
out, they were crestfallen. When he told them he was moving into a
bigger place with some friends, they demanded to meet said friends.
He was almost heartbroken to inform them that he could not bring them
by, not just yet. They understood and accepted his words, but that
did not make it any easier.
In truth, Chris was not sure he made the right decision. He wanted
to safeguard Queens, where his family lived, but he also found
himself enjoying the role of Avenger more and more. He wanted to be
home and he wanted to be at the Mansion, and he could only do one. He
could not very well continue to go missing for weeks on end, after
As he rounded the corner, Christopher Powell glanced around, ready
to transform into Darkhawk if the security check at the gate so
required. The Fifth Avenue entrance to Avengers Mansion was rarely
deserted, but there were so many costumed people coming and going
half the time that nobody ever thought to pay attention to the
unmasked faces that lurked around the gates.
Of course, he did expect certain things when he showed up at the
gate. He expected people taking pictures and posing absurdly, as the
tourists often did. He expected anyone that saw him go in to ask him
when the tours started -- a question he still could not answer -- and
how much the fees were to enter the Park. He expected the faux brick
that covered the security eye to fold down and scan him, as it was
programmed to do, and he expected the gate to open with the briefest
swipe of his identicard, as it was programmed to do. Unfortunately,
none of that happened.
Instead, Chris was treated to the puzzled stares on the faces of
tourists, and people carefully avoiding the golden gate that lead to
Earth's mightiest. They spoke in hushed tones and gestured toward the
front door, drawing Chris' attention. When he looked, he understood.
Two men, dressed in what looked like modified FLAK gear stood on
either side of the door. They wore helmets emblazoned with silver
skulls, and they looked very, very angry. To Chris, only one detail
about the men made any difference.
He had never seen them before.
Pressing his identicard against the gate's locking mechanism, Chris
grunted as nothing happened. He turned toward a middle-aged couple
just behind him and smiled.
"I work with the support staff," he said, flashing his
identification fast enough that they would miss his armored headshot,
but see that it was official. "Do you folks have a cell phone I could
honey?" the woman said, nudging her husband. He handed
over the phone without taking his eyes of the helmeted men, and Chris
quickly dialed a familiar number.
"Hello, you have reached the Fantastic Four emergency help line. We
are currently dealing with an emergency of our own, but if you would
like to leave your name, affiliation, and the state of your
Chris waited for Reed Richards' voice to stop before turning away
from the couple and whispering into the phone.
"This is Darkhawk, and I'm in public right now, out of my suit, so
I can't talk long. I think Avengers Mansion is under attack. Repeat:
I believe Avengers Mansion is under attack."
Hawkeye, Masque, Le Peregrine, Wonder Man, Darkhawk, Firebird, and
the Beast. Seven diverse and gifted individuals. Seven daring heroes.
Seven members of one of the world's most elite super teams. They are
Earth's Mightiest Heroes, standing united against threats no singular
hero may stand against. They are the Avengers!
Writer: Josh Greer
Webmaster & EIC: Liam Gibbs
[Avengers Mansion: Assembly Room]
"You can't be serious about this," Wonder Man said, eyeing his
siblings carefully as the goons the Grim Reaper had dubbed his
Steelskulls shoved and guided the various Avengers to their seats
around the table. They had all regained consciousness slowly, and
once they were all awake, the Reaper and the Crimson Cowl had been
kind enough to divulge their plan.
"You Avengers are guilty," he said, a sinister grin spread across
his face. "At least, in my eyes. Catherine and I have decided to give
you a fair trial, though. Prove that you are innocent in the
destruction of my family, and I will let you live. Fail to prove
that, and you'll die, one by one, and nobody will be the wiser."
All that was missing was the over the top, evil laugh of a Bond
villain and Simon's disgust with his brother would have reached its
peak. The Reaper had chosen Firebird to play the prosecution, and the
Latina Avenger did not look pleased about that. They all knew that
she had no other choice in the matter, though, and nodded her
forward. Catherine, apparently set to sit as judge, perched herself
on a throne created by her own prehensile cloak.
"You may proceed with your opening statements, Avenger," she said.
The glow in her eye told each of the Avengers before her just how
much she was enjoying the opportunity to humiliate them like this.
Taking a deep breath and looking to her teammates, Firebird turned
and looked right into Catherine's eyes.
"You and your brother -- the one whose hands are not bound by power
dampening shackles -- are mad."
"Objection!" barked the Reaper, unable to hid the confident smirk
upon his face.
"Sustained," answered the Cowl. "You will refrain from making
slanderous remarks in my court! Make your statements, dearest."
"Thank you, Your Honor. It all began when Simon was selected by
Baron Zemo for his ionic ray experiments
"We could be here a while," whispered Hawkeye. Beside him, Le
"Oui. I'm holding you and Williams personally responsible for this,
Barton," he added. "I've never even met this man."
"This time, Frenchy, you might be pointin' the finger in the right
The guards had been relatively easy for Darkhawk to deal with. He
had scaled the wall on the access road with relative ease and slipped
around the edge of the Mansion unseen. He transformed to his Darkhawk
form and zipped around the corner guns blazing, slamming the pair of
Steelskulls with a blast of concentrated Darkforce. Getting inside
afterward had not been any more difficult, as whomever was running
things had disabled the computers.
What Darkhawk did not know was just what was going on. As he
dragged the pair of guards inside, he expected to find another one or
two floating around inside, but there was no one to be found. He
zipped around the main floor and found nobody still. He could tell
where they had been, though. Books were strewn about the library and
drawers looked freshly ransacked in the trophy room. Nothing looked
like it was missing, but someone had gone to considerable effort to
make it appear that way. Landing at the base of the main staircase,
Darkhawk peered around.
He had a decision to make, and every second could cost someone
dearly. He had to decide whether to continue his search upstairs, or
down. It was a difficult choice as there were places in both
directions that an intruder or super-villain would find useful. When
he heard a bump in the residence upstairs, though, his decision was
made for him.
"Avengers assemble," he muttered quietly under his breath as
another thought came to mind. These soldiers were here
but where were
his teammates? Where were the Avengers?
[The United Kingdom]
It had been almost two full years since she was approached and
given the small, rectangular badge that hung from her key ring. When
it buzzed in her pocket, she had jumped so hard that she nearly drove
her car into a ditch. Her children thought it was funny, but Kelsey
Leigh did not.
That being said, Kelsey could hardly contain herself once she had
gotten the children to sleep that night. She trembled with excitement
as she dug through her closet and pulled the dusty old box out of its
place in the furthest corner. She almost cried when her eyes looked
down at the blue, red, and white spandex of her costume, the mirrored
lens eyes looking back at her like the eyes of a dear old friend. She
curled her hands around the mace she had found, eyeing the engraved
animals upon it, and sighed with relief as she felt its power surging
into her again. The griffins, lions, eagles, and the sole phoenix
engravings were as familiar to her as the faces of her children, and
she couldn't believe she had gone so long without gazing upon them.
Nobody in the world had ever heard of Britania. Her super-hero
career had been extremely brief. For a matter of days she had donned
the costume and wielded her enchanted mace against the villains of
England. Then someone had come to convince her that she was destined
for a higher calling.
"There will be a time," he had told her, "when the world will need
your talents more than England does. When that time comes, I need you
to be ready and able. More importantly, I need you to be a surprise.
An ace in the hole. That means you have to stop what you're doing and
wait. Can you do that?"
She had not hesitated an instant to say yes, and almost every
second since she had regretted it. She always felt the power coursing
through her, and ached to soar through the sky again as she had for
those few days. But he had given her every reason to wait. The
details he had shared with her told her she was making the right
decision, and now that she had been called, Kelsey knew, with
absolute certainty, that she had made the right choice.
Pulling the mask out of the box and draping it over her pillow,
Kelsey picked up the phone and made a quick call. "Carlton? I need
you to watch the kids for a few days. Why? I have something important
to do in America. Something very important."
[Avengers Mansion: The Assembly Room]
"Yes, I remember," said the Beast. His eyes were locked on his
wife, who dangled haphazardly by the neck, clutched by the folds of
the Crimson Cowl's cloak. He had watched the Grim Reaper speak at
maddening lengths, using the slimmest happenstance bits of evidence
to link the Avengers to every little bad thing that had happened to
the Williams siblings. He had also watched Firebird do her best to
combat the Reaper's madness with logic. In a fair and just court, she
would have done just that, but this was no real court. He had long
ago resigned himself to the fact that the Avengers were guilty until
proven innocent in the court of the Crimson Cowl and Grim Reaper. His
only concern just then was the safety of Trish McCoy, his wife.
"Then you remember that what he said to me drove me off that cliff,
don't you?" snapped the Grim Reaper. For the first time, the Beast's
eyes ticked away from his wife and he looked at the Reaper with an
almost sympathetic stare.
"No. I remember hearing about a guilt-ridden man that ran off a
cliff rather than face the fact that he had nearly killed his only
brother. You did that to yourself, Eric. Simon didn't do it, neither
did the rest of us. You ran off that cliff. I don't know whether you
did it on purpose or if you simply didn't realize where you were
going, but I watched Simon blame himself for your death for years
before he realized it wasn't his fault, and I won't watch him go
through that again." (1)
For the briefest of moments, the Grim Reaper was too stunned to
talk, and Simon's mouth hung agape. He recognized that look in his
brother's eye. He recognized the grief and flicker of understanding.
Hawkeye saw it too. The madness that clouded the Reaper's imbalanced
mind cleared for just a moment, and he realized how wrong all of it
was. He understood that he was doing something he should not; that he
was hurting his friends. Then Catherine Williams, the Crimson Cowl,
cleared her throat, and the madness returned.
"Your witness," the Reaper sneered, stepping back. Firebird turned
toward Hank with a thoughtful look, and smiled.
"I think the Beast has said all he needs to."
"Fine, we'll move on, to Hawkeye," snapped the Reaper, whirling on
the avenging archer. "When Nekra brought me back to life," he
snarled, "the Avengers did nothing to restore me to a normal state,
did they?" (2)
"Nope," Hawkeye answered plainly.
"So you admit it!?"
"Of course I admit it. I learned a long time ago, you can't help
people that don't want to be helped. You tried to kill Simon back
then too, remember? Tried to drain his life force so you would live
forever. Why would we help someone after they did that?"
"But you're supposed to help everyone," the Cowl said from her
scarlet throne. The mockery in her voice was more than apparent as
she spoke, but Hawkeye's eyes were locked on the Reaper and hearing
the Williams sister's voice did not distract him. "Help the innocent,
avenge wrongdoing; that's what you Avengers do. Eric was dead,
brought back to life by a mutant witch with an infatuation. He did
wrong because he was given no other choice. How can you claim he
didn't want your help?"
"There is a difference between needing help and wanting it, Cowl,"
spat Le Peregrine. The farce of a trial he was being subjected to had
long since grown tiresome. "You should know all about that,
considering the methods you used to regain your brother's favor." (3)
The Crimson Cowl's eyes narrowed for a moment as she peered at Le
Peregrine, then she smiled behind her cowl once more. "I will enjoy
killing you most of all, Frenchman."
"Almost as much as I'll enjoy seeing your death, Cowl," answered
"This just keeps getting more and more fun, doesn't it?" the Reaper
smirked. The Steelskulls he was addressing had the good sense not to
argue the point.
"One little, two little, three little Indians," mumbled Darkhawk as
he dropped the unconscious Steelskulls into the slowly growing pile.
He had apprehended and taken seven of the mercenaries now, and was
starting to recognize little things about them. The way they carried
themselves, the strategic positioning in the building, and the rooms
he found them in. The way the few that had been given a chance to
fight, fought. He recognized all of it, and it all practically oozed
Of course, Darkhawk did not believe the Taskmaster had actually
broken into Avengers Mansion. He had no reason to, for starters. It
was not his style. The Taskmaster was a teacher, sometimes a
mercenary, and little else. He did not go for the big super-fights.
In fact, he took great efforts to avoid them. He had had one or two
run ins with the team in the past, but they had been brief, at best.
Anymore, from what Darkhawk knew, he was sticking to his schools,
training goons for anyone else that needed them.
That, of course, begged the question: if not the man that trained
them, who had brought the mercs to Avengers Mansion? Darkhawk
carefully rattled off a laundry list of foes that would have
something to gain by breaking into the Mansion, but the list did not
help him answer any questions. Most of the villains would not have
the power to get in, let alone the technical expertise to shut down
the computers. The few of those that did were so cocky about it that
they would have brought super-villains with them, rather than low-
rent thugs for hire.
With only one way to find out, Darkhawk carefully and securely
bound those he had already caught, and made his way to the basement.
[Sub-Basement: Level One - Assembly Room]
"The Avengers have ruined not only my family, but the families of
all their members!" the Grim Reaper ranted, no longer pausing to hold
up the façade of a trial he and the Cowl had begun with. "Think of
how many hearts have been broken, families destroyed, just by the
passing of your members. You should know all about that, Clint," he
sneered. "Remember how much it hurt when poor little Bobbi when and
got herself burnt like a charcoal briquette?"
"You son of a--"
"Ah-ah-ah, archer. Forgetting something?" the Cowl said, wiggling
Trish like a child's toy before Hawkeye's face.
"Face it, Barton, you've lost. Individually, the Grim Reaper and
the Crimson Cowl would have never gotten this close. We would have
never gotten inside the Mansion! But together
no combination of
Avengers will be able to stop us! Together
just like family is
supposed to be, Simon."
The Reaper and Wonder Man eyed one another silently for a moment,
each of them allowing their eyes to do all their talking. Eric tried
to convince Wonder Man to join him, while Simon asked the Grim Reaper
to let go, go back on his medication. Neither man was willing to
budge, though, and after a while, both of them realized it. With a
sigh, the Reaper turned toward Simon and held up his cybernetic hand.
It blurred for a moment and reshaped itself into the scythe everyone
in the world would have recognized. "You're first then, brother. Say
hello to the Swordsman for me, won`t you?"
In response, Simon tensed and looked up at his brother for a
moment. Then he sighed angrily.
"I'm tired of this," grunted Simon Williams. His ionic red eyes
flared brightly for a second in a way they had not done in years. His
body slowly began to crackle with blue energy, and his muscles
rippled as he pulled against the manacles around his wrists. The
power-dampeners were still functioning, but Simon's unique physiology
was finding a way around them, accessing his powers even when he
should not have been able to. Within seconds, Simon's body was
glowing like Chernobyl, blue ionic energy reaching out and bathing
everyone in the room. With one sharp grunt, Simon's hands pulled
apart, shredding the shackles and giving him full use of his powers
" the Grim Reaper said, shocked by what had happened.
"I did," Simon answered. The conviction in his eyes and jaw were
unmistakable, and both of his siblings knew it. "You two want to
complain and whine about how bad we had it, try blaming yourselves
for once. None of us had it bad when Dad died. We all had our
decisions to make, and we made them, all of them bad from where I
sit. I've made amends for my mistakes a thousand times over, while
you two spent your lives trying to find a loophole that makes your
screw ups not your fault. Grow up! You made those choices! You became
the Crimson Cowl and the Grim Reaper! Nobody held you at gunpoint and
demanded it, nobody said you couldn't live normal, everyday lives!
You chose that path, now you have to walk it, and I'm tired of trying
to hold your hand all the time! You want to be the bad guy, Eric?
Fine. It's time I started thinking of you as one."
With that, Simon reeled back and directed a surprisingly sharp
punch right at Eric's jaw. Before it landed, however, the four
Steelskulls in the room and the Crimson Cowl all leapt to the
Reaper's aid. Simon was angry, but not stupid. His anger was not
blinding to him, and he understood his odds. When his fist stopped,
the Reaper actually smiled.
"Wonderful speech, don`t you agree, Catherine?" he said.
"Quite," she nodded. "Very `Holier than thou'."
"Well, you know, if the shoe fits," crackled the staticy voice of
Darkhawk as he flew into the room. A blast of solid black shot out
from his amulet and dropped two of the four remaining Steelskulls in
one shot before he landed at Simon's side and stared directly into
the Crimson Cowl's eyes. "Avenger assemble doesn't really have the
right ring, does it?" he said, leaning Simon's way.
"Think we can take them by ourselves?"
"Good thing you're not by yourselves then, isn't it?" said Hawkeye,
an arrow suddenly sliding into view of Wonder Man's peripheral
vision. Turning to glance back, Darkhawk saw the Beast and Trish
fiddling with Firebird's manacles.
"The reporter," the Reaper groaned. "You forgot to watch the
" grumbled one of the Steelskulls before he collapsed. The
other followed suit, and Hawkeye even started to look a little shaky,
but he stayed on his feet. He was ready for the fight that was to
come, even though it never came.
Instead, the Reaper shook his head. He glared at Simon briefly and
tapped the skull and crossbones on his belt, vanishing in a flash of
bright light. Recognizing the teleportation effect the Cowl used so
many times in the past, Darkhawk reached out with a bubble of
Darkforce and looped it around the Cowl's head.
"I wouldn't try that, if I were you," he said.
"You wouldn't dare."
"No, he wouldn't," said Masque, plucking her distabilizer pistol
from one of the unconscious Steelskulls and firing it at the
incapacitated Crimson Cowl. Her cloak went haywire for a moment, then
fell limp. Try as she might, the Cowl could not get the red fabric to
obey her will, and after a few minutes of trying, she raised her
"I'm receiving word that the Steelskulls that collapsed are being
treated for high degree radiation sickness," PLATO said as the
Avengers gathered around. "Their progress will be given to us as
developments occur." (4)
"And the Cowl's on her way to the Vault," Darkhawk said, slipping
back into the dining room. "CODE: Blue's holding her overnight until
a Guardsman convoy can pick her up in the morning."
"Nice work today, `Hawk," Clint said, shoveling a spoonful of corn
flakes into his mouth. Hostage situations always made him hungry for
"As for you," Hawkeye said, swallowing the bite and turning to
Masque. "The was no call for what you did. You--"
"Took care of a threat," Masque finished.
"Shot a prisoner without cause," Hawkeye corrected. "The last
person that did that got kicked off the team. I want to do a formal--"
"The Cowl was hardly harmless, Barton," interrupted Le
Peregrine. "Her cloak could have disengaged Darkhawk's Darkforce
bubble, or done any of us harm before she made her escape. Just
because the Steelskulls and the Reaper had been dealt with did not
make her less threatening."
"He's right, Clint," Simon said, earning a surprised look from
"I know he is," Hawkeye fumed. He did not like it. Masque had come
very close to crossing a line today, and it left a bad taste in his
mouth. If she was going to try and be her own person, rather than a
mildly more noble Whitney Frost, she was going to have to try
harder. "But that doesn't make it right. Not entirely." Masque said
nothing, she just gave the archer a nod.
"Now that that's settled," Simon said, "I suppose I might as well
get this out of the way."
"What is it?" the Beast asked. He had a nagging feeling in his mind
that he already knew the answer, and he didn't like it.
"I'm leaving," Simon answered. Objections shot up from everyone at
the table. Even Le Peregrine made an awkward face at the idea of
Simon leaving, but he ignored them. "Hank and Jan left because they
had things on their minds that took precedence over the team. They
left because they couldn't put all their energy into it anymore, and
and I'm doing the same thing."
"Eric," the Beast muttered. Simon nodded.
"We finally got Catherine, but Eric's still out there. If I could
get him back on his meds, maybe everything could work again.
"You can't count on that, Simon," Hawkeye said softly. "I wish you
could, but you can't."
"I know. I'm not getting my hopes up, but I have to try."
"If you need us, we'll be waiting," Firebird said, giving her
friend a warm hug. "I hope it works how you want it to, Simon, I
"It has been an experience," Le Peregrine added, holding out a
hand. Simon took it and gave the Frenchman a nod, wishing each of his
teammates a fond farewell. When Simon left, Hawkeye turned to the
wire-frame form of PLATO.
"PLATO, patch me through to Identicard 01-09-63."
"Who's that?" asked Darkhawk.
"You'll see," Hawkeye said with a clever grin.
[An Abandoned Highway between NYC and the Vault: the Next Day]
Five shots rang out through the midday air. Five sharp cracks, and
the squealing of tires was all that could be heard for miles. When it
all stopped, had anyone been close by, they would have heard the
clicking of stiletto heels on pavement, and the neumatic hiss of the
rear door of the Vault transport being opened. Nobody was around,
though, and nobody would have known.
"Hello, Catherine," said Justine Hammer, the high-caliber sniper
rifle in her hand looking very much out of place. The white streak in
her hair shone brightly as the sun hit it, and her jacket blew wildly
in the wind.
"It took you long enough," Catherine snapped. She always knew the
Fellowship would not allow her to suffer such an indignity as a stay
in the Vault, but she had expected to be freed even before now.
Unfortunately, Justine's arrival was not what she had hoped.
"Yes, yes it did," Justine said, raising the rifle once more, and
firing a round directly through Catherine's left eye. The result was
immediate. Catherine Williams was dead.
Justine Hammer slipped around the body and opened the containment
trunk between the cab and the rear of the transport, withdrawing the
vaunted cloak of the Crimson Cowl. She examined it carefully for a
moment and smiled.
"Red always was my color
Next Issue: The Avengers head to the Savage Land to lend a hand to
our old buddy Ka-Zar! Who is it that Hawkeye's calling in to fill the
void left behind by Wonder Man? And THREE, yes THREE characters make
their very first AMU appearances! Be here in 30!
1. That happened back in the first Vision & Scarlet Witch limited
series! (and some West Coast Avengers tales just afterward)
2. Also in Avengers West Coast, but the number eludes me at the
3. Catherine conned Eric off his meds in order to make him evil
again! It happened back in issue 460!
4. Wondering where PLATO came from? Check out last issue!
5.) For more of Justine and the cowl, keep an eye on the pages of