Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Avengers #80 (9/70)

A wary man in a trenchcoat stalked the rainswept streets of New York at night, as a tomahawk flew by his head, embedding itself in the telephone pole he leaned against. A red-skinned savage in native dress scowled as he rushed toward the man, a war stick in his hand, and a wolf at his side. "Can't get away! No matter where I run, I turn around and see-- his shadow!" From out of the coat an automatic handgun was drawn, but all the shots missed their mark. The gunman bolted the scene, knocking over a passerby in his flight... but this was no ordinary pedestrian. "I cannot resist investigating this further, as--THE VISION!" The Android Avenger became immaterial, allowing his "coat, skin-like gloves, and rubberoid mask" to tumble off him like a second, collapsing form.

In the distance, the guman had fled into a dead end alleyway. "It is too late for you, Jason Birch-- too late for you to do anything-- but die!!" The Native American brute seized his prey, lifted Birch over his head, and was about to toss him down a construction hole when the Vision intervened...

"What? A man-- passing thru the very pavement beneath my feet! But, you will not save your friend's treacherous life!"
"That one is hardly my friend-- yet a human life is not to be lightly taken-- as I, who am not human, should well know!"

The self-proclaimed Red Wolf remained on the war path, even as his prey escaped. Through variable density that allowed the Vision to become diamond hard or ghostlike at will, both this American Indian vigilante and full-bred wolf were laid low. Both were escorted to Avengers Mansion, though Vision had just announced his resignation last issue.

Captain America and Iron Man were set on bringing down the new Zodiac group. Black Panther was more concerned with organized crime. "No gaudy masks-- no colorful costumes-- just a creeping, insidious evil-- which corrupts everything and everybody it touches! Right now, it's waging battles every day for the minds-- the bodies-- the very souls of kids like the ones I teach-- and it must not win!" Goliath (the once and future Hawkeye) thought that should be a police matter, which Scarlet Witch saw as being callous. Cap decided, "What I see, Avengers, is that we're on the verge of splitting into factions-- thereby losing our united power! We've got two urgent causes vying here, and..." the surprise return of Vision offered a third.

Red Wolf was stirring, as well as stewing. "You have kept me from the mission for which I was born-- the mission I crossed a continent to fulfill! I had business with the man you took from me-- deadly business! I see now that you are one of the far-famed Avengers! But that will not save you from me! Nothing will!" Well, Captain America's cool head could, as he talked Red Wolf into recalling his motivations...

"...of certain yesterdays, and of words spoken in unthinking ignorance... when the only world an Indian boy knew was bounded by mountains, by blue skies, and by my own unspoken dreams..." Even in his youth, Red Wolf thought, "What fools the Anglos are! They think their way is the only way-- their law the only law! They rush across the desert in their big cars, and they see nothing!" He knew the war dances his people would perform for the white man, but also the ones none may ever see-- the Dance of the Red Wolf! "They told of Red Wolf-- the warrior who came from the sky in days of old to lead the people... and they told how he would come again, when the need of the people was greatest-- and how none would stand against him---!"

As he grew, the boy lost hope over years lost to unanswered prayers. "There-- is no Red Wolf!" He recognized there were some good whites, as well as evil ones like Cornelius Van Lunt. The young man's soul was too restless to stay at home, so he traveled "half a world away," where he was nearly killed as a soldier in war. "When his wounds healed, he worked many weeks atop the steel girders of New York--- where the death-taunting Mohawks dance---!" The desert called to him, so he returned home, where he found Van Lunt and Birch making a "final offer" for his father's land. "Get out of here-- before I kill you!" That night, Van Lunt sent Birch and another thug to pull a drive-by, slaughtering the youth's parents. "They are dead-- both dead! And who shall avenge their deaths-- for they are only Indians-- ONLY INDIANS! Where are you now, Red Wolf-- now that your people have need of you?"

"Half feverish" from a flesh wound, the youth staggered to a hogan, where he found garb used in the Dance of the Red Wolf. "Up the people's sacred mountain," the youth danced in isolation, until a wolf-headed man appeared to him from out of his fire. "The Red Wolf who shall arise this night lives not in the sky-- not in the hollow of the moon-- but in the heart of one of the people! In you, young one! YOU are-- Red Wolf!"

The youth was stalked by a she-wolf on his way back down the mountain. "Back! It cannot be meant that I fall prey to the beast whose name I bear! Go! I do not want to fight you--! She attacks! Now, I must strike-- with all of my might! But why must it be thus? Why? WHY??" As his tomahawk drew blood, Red Wolf questioned the reason why the Spirit-Wolf allowed their confrontation. In answer, he found her cub. "He is a sign-- a living omen of the mission I must fulfill! And he shall be called-- Lobo!"

After months preparing himself, Red Wolf returned to the city-- to construction-- and to find Van Lunt & Birch. "They think they are safe here from the heavy hand of vengeance! Little do they dream they are watched in the glare of the sun-- and in the glow of the moon!" This was to be the night Red Wolf struck, first at Birch. "From that time, Van Lunt would live in fear-- though not for long--!"

The Vision ruined that plan, and though he was pleased to keep Red Wolf from being labeled a murderer, he yet knew remorse. The Avengers had dealt with Van Lunt three issues previous without resolution, after all. Regardless, others still wished to focus on the Zodiac, while Captain America did his typical deliberation. "Who's to make that judgment, Thor? You? Iron Man? Or must each man weigh them both, in his own heart? ...Point is-- we run around calling ourselves Avengers-- Yet, when this man comes before us with something to avenge-- a wrong that shrieks to heaven for vengeance-- we turn a deaf ear-- because his cause isn't world-shattering enough for us!"

Black Panther incredulously thought that meant Cap was siding with him, and when Cap explained it to him slower, he huffed "You already know my choice! But I can better act-- alone!" Hey, English isn't his first language, okay? Goliath, Vision and the Scarlet Witch would choose to aid Red Wolf. "I spoke before in scorn of the Avengers-- but I was wrong!" Cap further confounded with, "And, incongruous as it may seem, I'll stay with the search for Zodiac!" Vision later confided to Red Wolf, "I wonder-- have I returned to the ranks of the mighty Avengers-- only to see them go their seperate ways-- for all time??"

"THE COMING OF RED WOLF!" by Roy Thomas, John Buscema & Tom Palmer.

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