Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: John Buscema
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Featured Issue: Avengers #81
From the roof of Avengers Mansion, several members watch as their fellow Avengers fly into the distance. As they disappear, Captain America wonders if this is the end of the Avengers as they know the team. With several of their friends going off and refusing to join the chosen mission, it seems as though cracks are finally starting to show in their democratic process. While the remaining Avengers depart the roof, Black Panther reminds the group that he will also not be joining them on their mission. They understand and insist that Black Panther follow his conscience, just as they must follow theirs. As Black Panther leaves, Cap wonders if he’ll actually see his friend again.
Speeding across the country, the Quinjet takes it’s cargo of Avengers towards the American Southwest. On the way, Red Wolf attempts one last time to dissuade the heroes from joining his quest. He knows that he must carry out the mission and achieve his vengeance or die trying, but the Avengers don’t need to be a part of this. If he is unable to do what must be done on his own, then he is unworthy of being Red Wolf and rescuing his tribe. Even though he exudes confidence in his mission, inside he feels shame at his apparent ingratitude. In fact, each of the Avengers harbors their own secret doubts about the actions that have lead them to this point. Vision is unsure that this was worth ending his solitary exploration over. Goliath just wants to help a man whom he feels a sense of kinship with, one that reminds Goliath of himself not so long ago. Finally, Scarlet Witch tries to understand if she joined the mission on a whim, or if there is something deeper, of which she is not yet aware, driving her to do things she can’t fully explain.
The peace of their moment is disrupted when the Quinjet is rocked by a large explosion. Someone has opened fire on the Avengers. Angling in from high above, a craft bears down on the Quinjet with lethal intent. Just as things begin to get truly perilous, Vision is nowhere to be found, having exited the craft by becoming intangible. Although he teammates are unaware, Vision has done this in order to board the opposing craft in an attempt to disable the hostile. Once on board Vision is shocked to discover that it is piloted by robots. Vision immediately takes the fight to the robots, but fails to destroy them in time. Despair washes over Vision as he sees the Quinjet struck a second time and begin to plummet towards the Earth like a flaming meteor. It’s mission accomplished, the enemy craft turns and begins to return home. Vision, so overwhelmed with rage over the apparent deaths of his friends, uses his mass shifting abilities to make himself so heavy that his own craft is unable to stay aloft and it too comes crashing down.
After exiting the crash Vision comes across Scarlet Witch, unconscious and face down on the shore of a nearby lake. Vision fails to see the assembled thugs as he rushes to aid his teammate. As a result, the pair are taken captive and driven back to the palatial estate of Cornelius Van Lunt. While Van Lunt alludes to some kind of big happening in the desert near their location, he refuses to provide any further details about why he is so desperate to acquire the Native American lands. When Vision refuses to help Van Lunt in his pursuits, whatever they may be, the synthizoid is blackmailed into aiding by the threat of violence against Scarlet Witch. With that he agrees to be Van Lunt’s personal body guard.
Elsewhere in the desert, Goliath and Red Wolf survey the land as they try to figure out how they’ve found themselves in their current predicament. Just before the Quinjet crashed, Goliath threw Scarlet Witch out of the aircraft in order to ensure her the best odds of survival. With that finished, the moment the Quinjet hit the water of the lake, Goliath took hold of Red Wolf and Lobo and grew to enormous height. This shattered what was left of the Quinjet and allowed the three survivors to make their way quickly to shore. Having gotten their bearings the trio make their way to the small village where Red Wolf was born and raised. Although he knows everyone, they seem not to recognize him and instead demand proof that he is in fact the Red Wolf foretold in the legends. Even this homecoming is broken up as Van Lunt’s men again attack the town and Goliath and Red Wolf are forced to defend the residents. His actions in the fight provide all the proof the villagers need and they vow to follow Red Wolf.
At Van Lunt’s mansion, Vision confronts Goliath, Red Wolf and the assembled villagers. Things become immediately heated between the two Avengers, resulting in Goliath knocking Vision an incredible distance away. When Vision returns, he quickly puts a stop to Goliath by use of his mass shifting abilities. Seeing that the fight is on his front door, Van Lunt, his men and Scarlet Witch all make their way to a hidden helicopter hanger in order to protect the dam they are certain the locals are trying to destroy. As they hover above, Van Lunt’s men see a group of Native American men crossing the dam and open fire, killing several. The helicopter then lands so that they man finish the men off once and for all. Van Lunt’s men failed to account for Scarlet Witch in their plans. Having freed herself, Scarlet Witch uses her hex powers to blow up the helicopter. Unfortunately it works too well and the dam suffers catastrophic damage in the process.
With his men gone and the dam about to burst, Van Lunt is left to fend for himself. As he attempts to flee Van Lunt is attacked first by Lobo and then by Red Wolf himself. The two men grapple with one another, locked in a life or death struggle in which neither man may walk away. As Scarlet Witch makes her way to safety the dam gives way, flooding the surrounding land. In spite of their efforts, all the Avengers can find is Red Wolf’s cowl. Back in the village the villagers honor the man who gave his life for the protection of the people. Just as the Avengers are about to leave, a young man enters the village with a bandage on his head, and he is warmly embraced by his uncle who encourages him to focus not on the past but only the future.
Cornelius Van Lunt