#1 - Choices
“The Avengers West Coast must be re-established!” Janet Van Dyne states with all her determination in the Avengers Meeting Room. In front of her three other fellow Avengers are a bit startled by her vehement reaction. Her ex-husband, Giant Man, the Black Widow, recently returned to action after a short period of retirement, and Iron Man, another founding member.
“Jan, wouldn't it be better if we would concentrate in having the Avengers back on track, with a full roster and such, without dreaming of resurrecting our West Coast Branch?” Iron Man asks the question, after having read in Giant Man's eyes the same objection, but willing to draw upon himself Jan's displeasure at being contradicted, not to put more strain in her relationship with her ex-husband.
“I have already contacted enough members to get the Avengers back on track, Tony” the Wasp replies “We have one probation member in, four reservists back in the fold and possibly the Sandman, if we can clear up his position, after we discovered he's never gone back to crime for real. * So don't bother about the team. The re-opening of the West Branch is needed, though, after recent events”.
(* as seen in AVENGERS CREW # 4, Alex)
“Are you referring to the fact that the Avengers Crew had to be put in danger, going into action already twice in a very short time?” Natasha asks, having guessed Jan's concern. After all, she has worked with the Crew in one of those two crises. *
(* in AVENGERS CREW # 2, Alex)
“You've read my thoughts, Tasha! It's a shame that the team has been in such a state of flux that the Crew's intervention has been required!” Janet points out.
“You have to admit that there were reasons, though. With Cap missing and Wanda in ...” Hank Pym starts to object, but Jan cuts him off.
“We've had even worse situations to deal with in the past, and that's never been reason enough not to try and keep the team in its best shape! The presence of another Branch would provide help in case that one of the teams should suffer yet another of such cases, not to mention it would give us the chance to be more effective!”
“We have all tried our best, Jan ... at least we weren't vacationing in Acapulco!” Hank snipes back, piqued by the evident reproach in Jan's tone.
“Jan, those same arguments were not taken in consideration when the East team disbanded the West” Iron Man interjects “Are you sure this is the best course?”
“The East team didn't disband the West, Tony” Natasha states, calmly, but with just a hint of resentment in her voice “We all voted ... and you voted for the disbanding yourself, if memory doesn't fail me!” *
(* in AVENGERS WEST COAST # 102, Alex)
“Well, let's cool down, now!” Jan says, sighing “I apologize if it sounded like I was considering you directly responsible for the recent lack of organization”. She pauses for a moment, staring at the other three in the eyes, while lingering a bit more on Hank's turned face, until he shifts and their eyes meet for a second. “I wasn't there when you disbanded the team and I would have opposed that if I had, but that's a pointless argument. What I want you to see now is that we can make it work. And that it'd be so much better ...”
“I actually agree, Jan” Tony states “It makes really sense, with our full membership of nearly forty members, to have at least twelve or more active at the same time”
“I agree as well ... by the way I did oppose the disbanding at the time!” Hank says, looking at Jan.
“I know you did” she replies, as their eyes lock another time.
“Have you considered, though, how many of said members have never worked together? Can we risk some recent slacks in coordination to happen again? We may have a broad membership, but some of them have actively worked with the team for brief stints and only with certain members” Natasha asks.
“Good point, Tasha ... and that actually moves us toward my intended idea.” Wasp nods “While the Avengers West Coast should act as an independent unit, they could also be in charge of training the less experienced members of our roster. Their facility should not only serve as their Headquarters, but as a Training Center for all members that need that”
“This is a great suggestion, Jan” Tony Stark approves “So do you plan to have a rotating schedule where every member will stay at the Avengers West Compound for training with other members he's not familiar with?”
“Not every member ... just the newest recruits and the ones who have had a very short stint, plus some special sessions for members that have never actually cooperated, to improve our teamwork”. Jan answers.
“This is all very interesting” Hank adds “And my main objection would have been only to think about the East roster first. But you tell us you have that covered, Jan, and I don't have the slightest doubt you have! So why this meeting, if you have planned it all?”
“Because I want it to be a shared decision. At least of some senior members. I'd have contacted Thor and Cap, too, if I knew their current whereabouts, which I don't” Jan answers, while trying to understand what's going on with Hank, shifting constantly from supportive to opposed.
“I can't see why you included me, then” Natasha says “I've not a very wonderful record as teamleader and I'm not a senior member”
“You always sell you short, Tasha!” Tony smiles at the red-haired spy “What about the Vision?”
“The Vision has disappeared shortly before the Diablo affair” Jan replies “And even though we haven't heard from him since, I think it's not that hard to guess what's going on in his mind and where he could be ...”
“Yeah, I was sure he would go after Wanda in some way” Tony nods.
“So now that we are all friendly and agreeable, what's next?” Hank seems a bit impatient, as if he wanted to leave, while instead he would just prefer to discuss more personal matters with Jan.
“We need to find a leader for the Avengers West!” Jan says “I mean to take back East Coast leadership, I think you've guessed that by now. For the West Branch Clint would be my first choice, of course, but since he's out there playing with the Thunderbolts, and I won't comment on that, I'd thought you would take it, Tony. You've been always a strong supporter of the West project”.
“I am tempted, Jan, sure. But right now, the same reasons that are keeping me away from the Avengers won't allow me to devote too much time to the re-establishing of the new team, much less taking care of the training part. So I'm afraid I can't do that.” Tony says.
“Hmmm! Tasha?” Jan asks.
“I've never even worked with the West Branch, Jan” Tasha is clearly going to refuse “And I don't think I'm qualified for leadership. I can lead, but I'm mostly a solo player. Not to mention I have some SHIELD assignments to take care of. I could hardly set up a new team.”
“With the Vision absent and Wanda gone mad I don't see who else we could ask” Janet ponders “Any suggestion?”
“Maybe Monica?” Tony asks.
“Unavailable” Jan grins “or better, already taken!”
“Tigra is the only Avengers West founder left, since Jim Rhodes is not active these days” Natasha points out “But I doubt she would consider that”
“Well, no offense, and I'm probably the only one who shouldn't say this, but Tigra is not exactly the leader type. Although I know that could have been said of me in the past, too” Jan says.
“Are we sure Clint wouldn't jump at the occasion?” Hank asks, having remained silent for a while, following a thought and noticing how he's the only one present who's not been asked ...
“I think we should hear from him before we decide” Tony says.
“I'll take care of that. Gimme a couple of days to get in touch with him” Natasha stands up.
“Agreed, in the meantime we can focus on another important matter” Tony says “That is: who will sponsor the West operation? And where the Avengers West will settle?”
“Why do I have a feeling you have already an answer for that?” Wasp asks, smiling.
“You're dead right” Tony replies “But I need to call a couple of persons. So let's adjourn this until Tasha checks on the Hawkster”
“Can we talk for a moment, Jan?” Hank asks soon after Iron Man and the Black Widow have left.
“Of course, Hank. Is this Avengers business or personal?” Jan replies, feeling suddenly the tension rising again.
“Both! Why haven't you asked ME if I was interested in leading? I can see asking Tony, but you thought of Tasha, completely discarding the possibility I could accept without even trying”
“You? You've always been saying how you don't like the hero biz and that you want to devote more time to your research ...” Jan is surprised.
“To lead a training facility would actually be a more research-oriented situation. But I don't think those were your true reasons ...” Hank shakes his head “Say it! You don't think I'm cut for leadership in the Avengers! Why then I'm the only founder who's never been in charge?”
“I hadn't thought about the fact the training aspect would appeal to you, Hank. I'm sorry” Jan replies “But you're wrong about my reasons! Why would I think you're unsuited? You even lead the West team for a while, with me ... not officially, but ...”
“There! You've said it! Never officially. Maybe it's time to change that!” Hank picks up his helmet, heading for the door.
“Wait, Hank! I'm sorry I didn't ask ... But I can still tell the others ..”
“YOU can still tell the others ...? Listen to you, Jan, the big, proud and efficient leader of the Avengers, conceding to this walking failure, as you perceive me, this little chance!” Hank snipes back, his face reddening.
“Hank, this is not personal! No link to what is happening to us! Why can't you see that? I do NOT think you're a failure! Are you still worried about Acapulco? Those things happen, you know!” Jan is hurt by Hank's words.
“Then why did you drop me for that Paladin guy?? And why are you still thinking I'm exaggerating this? I read it in your eyes” Hank says.
“I'm sorry ... I was angry, nervous ... I don't know why I did that. But this is not about chairmanship of the Avengers West, isn't it? This is you trying to prove yourself worthy. To prove it to me! And I can't let you use the Avengers West just as a tool in our little personal war!” Jan is exasperated.
“We'll see about that. You're not the only one who has a say in it!” Hank answers, then he leaves, slamming the door.
Jan feels the tears well in her eyes as she stares at the closed door, but then she fights them back, murmuring a silent prayer that Clint would somehow accept to be back as West Coast leader.
“Penny for your thoughts!” Natasha asks to a brooding Clint Barton, as she seats across him in the anonymous fast food.
“Hi, Tasha! It's good to see you” Clint smiles at her.
“I haven't seen you smile that way for a long time. This time with the Thunderbolts is really doing wonders with you. Any thing I should know?” she adds maliciously.
“I thought you were a spy, Tash!” Clint grins “Not a gossip fan. I'm more concerned about the reason why you asked me to meet with you. Is there any trouble with the Thunderbolts? Are the Avengers going after them again?”
“No, nothing like that” Natasha shakes her head “But what I have to tell you is both good news and bad news”
“The bad news is: Simon has turned out to be a fake ... a demon working for Satannish. And while the Avengers tried to free Wanda from that devil, she transformed into a twisted version of herself. She calls herself Nexus, now. She's powerful and ... deranged.” Natasha states. *
(* a quick recap of the events in AVENGERS # 1-3, Alex)
“Wanda? Are you setting up a rescue team? You can count me in!” Clint is hurt by this, more than he can say.
“No, we don't even know where she is. If she is on Earth or still in Satannish's realm.” Natasha answers.
“Satannish! Again!” Clint clenches his lips, staring outside the window and fighting his inner turmoil.
“I knew this would bring back painful memories to you.” Natasha gently brushes his cheek, making him turn her way “I'm sorry, for Wanda, for you, for Bobbi!”
“Every time I think I can start ... living again, past that pain, not forgetting, just accepting her death, something brings her back to me ... And now, Wanda!!! She's like family to me! Why can't this just stop happening, Tash?”
“It won't, and you know it. But you can learn with each passing day how to live with it. I know I have” she answers.
“Do you still think about him, the Red Guardian, your dead husband?” he asks, suddenly remembering how she's not a Widow just in name.
“Sometimes, when I get to dance again. When I can be lost in the memories of our first years together ... which happens very rarely. Or when I set my eyes on the men I've loved ... and still care about” she adds as her beautiful eyes stare into his.
A few moments of silence pass as they simply stand motionless, her hand resting on his.
“What's the good news, then? Before we get too nostalgic” Clint is the first to break the silence.
“Jan wants to restart the Avengers West Coast. And we wish for you to lead them once again” she says.
“The Whackos? Again? This IS unexpected!” Clint replies.
“The Avengers West can't be the same without you, Clint. Will you consider that?” she asks.
“I ... I'd love to, Tash! But I have responsibilities with the Bolts! I can't just march in and promise I'll save them and then drop them as soon as I get a better chance at shining!” he replies “You don't imagine how I would LOVE to be back. But I can't, really! My place is with the Bolts, now!”
“I see your point ... and I didn't actually think you would have accepted. But I needed to ask ... and someone had to tell you about Wanda, so ...” Tasha smiles.
“Thanks for coming, Tash! Really! And tell Jan and the others I'll be with them, at least in my heart. And maybe some day I can be there for real!” Clint's face is serene.
“You're right when you say the Thunderbolts are doing you good” Tasha stands up “Take care” she murmurs, kissing his cheek - And I do hope Moonstone won't break your heart. Or she will make the worst mistake of her whole life! ... and the worst of enemies: me! - she thinks while leaving.
“I have good news, folks! We have a sponsor and a new base for the Whackos!” Tony Stark states as the meeting starts. We can fly there to look at the facility when we see fit. But first, how did your trip go, Tasha?”
“As expected” the Black Widow says “Clint feels obliged to keep his word to the Thunderbolts. And I can't blame him. I would have done the same in his place”.
“Clint is a man of honor!” Iron Man nods, then turning to the Wasp, who is unusually silent “But this leaves us with a big unresolved question: who will lead and set up the Avengers West Coast? And where is Hank, by the way?”
“Hank ... I don't know. Maybe he was delayed ...” Janet answers, unconvincingly, as both Tony and Natasha exchange a worried look.
“I am here. You know I wouldn't miss this. I was just ... waiting for someone” Giant Man says, entering the room, and glancing at Janet in a challenging way, mixed with an unspoken apology.
“Well, I have explored new possibilities” Jan says calmly, hiding her doubts “And I've come to the conclusion that we have a perfect leader for the Whackos available, in this very room” Then , turning to Giant Man “Hank, will you accept the position?”
“I'll be glad to!” he says, surprised, already sure that he'd have had to fight for it.
“Really? I hadn't thought you'd want to” Iron Man comments “But I'm glad you do!”
Natasha doesn't say a word, but she and Jan somehow share a silent look that says they know better.
“Any idea on the roster?” Tony asks.
“Sure! Actually more than one! If we have to be a training facility, we have a lot of members who would be suited for that! But I have taken the liberty to contact someone who I definitely want in.” He stands, heading for the door and opening it.
“Hi all!” the furry and feline form of Tigra enters the room.
“So, did you get tired of your good time with Starfox in outer space?” Iron Man asks.
“That was something!” Tigra smiles “But when Hank called me and told me we're re-opening the Whackos I couldn't refuse to help!”
“I'm glad you're back, Tigra!” Jan says “And that you will help Hank with this project!”
“Now I think we should just take a look at the new setting for the team, as per Iron Man's arrangement” Natasha concludes.
“I was surprised. I thought you didn't want for me to lead the Whackos!” Hank tells Janet as they are heading for the Quinjet, staying apart from the others.
“I thought you were right, that you deserved this chance. And, as you said, you're the only founding member of the Avengers, who's never been officially teamleader” she answers.
“Just that?” he asks.
“I trust you, Hank. I don't want you to think that I consider you unsuited for this. But, please, don't read anything more in this ...” she explains.
“Of course ...” Hank comments, his face tightening ...
“HYDROBASE???!” Jan, Hank, Tasha and Tigra exclaim as they exit the Quinjet upon an artificial island, set on the surface of the Pacific Ocean, a few miles off-shore.
“I know the first time around it didn't go that well” * Iron Man says “But this new project has been perfected after the first one failed. It has labs, a lot of space and, most of all, we won't endanger civilians!”
(* the AVENGERS were based on Hydrobase way back in AVENGERS # 285-313, before the facility was destroyed in the Acts of Vengeance, Alex)
“I agree with you, Iron Man!” Hank adds, looking around. “We will need a whole new Crew here!”
“Someone is already here!” a voice introduces the arrival of the man who's made Hydrobase his life's goal: Dr. Walter Newell, the Avenger reservist known as Stingray, with his wife Diane at his side.
“Newell! Are you still willing to trust the Avengers to ruin your baby?” Tigra asks.
“I have to admit it took some ... convincing arguments for me to have him agree” Iron Man says.
“One of which has been the training aspect of the Avengers West Coast. This is a research facility and training is a portion of research. Plus, I can take some training myself, since my activities as a hero have been sporadic at best!” Stingray says.
“But who's paying for this? The base and the facilities ...?” Jan asks “Iron Man, don't tell me Mr. Stark is funding this, too”.
“Actually not. It's me!” the regal voice of Prince Namor, surprises them all “Or better a clause of the agreement with which I sold Oracle to Stark-Fujikawa. * I specifically set the stage for Walter to have his dream back. But you don't have to worry, Fujikawa has no control on the project. I do!”
(* as NOT seen in HEROES FOR HIRE # 19, why didn't he tell us this at the time, I wonder?, smiling Alex)
“Hey! This is actually a big surprise. Are you planning to join, Namor?” Giant Man is excited by all the possibilities now opening to his team.
“I'm tempted, but I have other responsibilities too. Let's say we will discuss this later” Namor answers.
“I think this is a perfect setup for the Avengers West” Jan comments “Now it's just up to you, Hank, as to which members you want to call in”
“I'll stay until a core membership is gathered” Iron Man states.
“Thanks, Iron Man ... and to all of you! We still miss a few things, and we still have to find out who will join ... but I'm glad to announce you that the AVENGERS WEST COAST are back!!!” Hank says.
Next: You might want to check AVENGERS # 5 to know what line-up the Wasp has prepped for the East team and to discover what new project is going to start soon, spinning from there. Then another check at AVENGERS CREW # 5 for some situations that will have repercussions in our book and others that will lead to the launch of another new project. Finally be back here in AVENGERS WEST COAST # 2 to know what people will answer Giant Man's call. Some will stay, some won't, but they will all get involved in the first battle of the reborn Whackos!!!
Author NotesThis issue is not your usual # 1, but I felt it was needed because of two main facts: a) the way Marvel unceremoniously disbanded the Avengers West Coast the first time around (something I didn't like at all, but still I couldn't fail to address); b) Hawkeye is tied up in Thunderbolts and his absence had to be touched as well, since Clint is the symbol of the Whackos.
So I hope you have liked this characterization issue, and the answers it brings, as well as the development of some personal dynamics, especially between Janet and Hank. Plus, this little new twist (the training aspect of the Avengers West) will let me bring along a lot of unused Avengers, and maybe even some new faces ...
Let me know what you think!!!