Avengers Midwest

Trade Paperback #1
...And There Came a Day!

The adventures of the first team of Midwest Avengers…

Volume 1, Issue 1
The Avengers hand a humiliating defeat to Aries of the Zodiac Cartel as he attempts to hold Daley Center hostage for ransom.

Volume 1, Issue 2
The Avengers thwart a bank robbery by the supervillains named Twist and Shout, whose powers allow them to distort distance and space.

Volume 1, Issue 3
The obligatory anti-drug issue. An old friend of Lia’s shows up to ask for help, which leads the Avengers into a trap set by the Zodiac Cartel.

Volume 1, Issue 4
One-Eyed Jack uses his powers to win tickets to a Dazzler concert, where they save Alison Blaire from a stalker.

Volume 1, Issue 5
The Avengers are asked to find a renegade superhero named Luke Cage, who is wanted for murder. He convinces them he didn’t do it, and together they fight Pisces and some Zodiac thugs.

Volume 1, Issue 6
The Avengers are called to Iowa, where the Hulkbusters are getting their butts kicked. They fight the Hulk, only to subdue him with the aid of Mentor’s amazing mutant powers, but Bruce Banner manages to convince them to let him go.

Volume 1, Issue 7
Storms gather over Lake Michigan, and the Avengers must work to stop the Cult of Uggthultu from awakening their dark master.

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Issue #1
To Catch a Pack Rat!

With G-Force stepping down as chairman of the Midwest Avengers, Vision and the Scarlet Witch got on a conference call with them to remind them that they needed to handle his replacement internally, so before the end of the week they needed to hold a vote to figure out their next leader. As well, they’re dealing with the fact that Mayor Washington wants to hold a big press conference to show them off to the city. He’s declared October 1st as “Avengers Day” in Chicago, with a big parade, floats, and the works.

While they’ve spent the last few days squabbling over who will be in charge, with Cadmus and Deadly Nightshade being the loudest about the whole thing—Cadmus thinks his divine heritage gives him a mandate, while Nightshade is claiming seniority—the day of the press conference comes without a decision being yet made. The mayor needs to talk to them before the conference, privately. Rather than take a quinjet the five blocks to Daley Plaza, they decide to walk, getting some amusing interactions with the local populace. Lowrider turns into a motorcycle and gives Nightshade and Render a ride, while Cadmus jogs and Walker rides a spirit horse (uses his telekinesis to levitate).

Mayor Washington reveals to them that he had planned on giving them the key to the city—a solid gold key cast from a century-old mold that they’ve only made a dozen or so of since the city was founded. Unfortunately, it’s been stolen! He knows it’s a lot to ask, but the cost to cast another would be damaging to the city budget and make him a bunch of enemies, as well as embarrassing him publicly since they wouldn’t have time to cast another key before the ceremony. Would the Avengers be willing to look into the theft and get the key back? Of course they would!

The police at the crime scene give them a little hassle, but Walker convinces them that they’re all on the same side, while Nightshade and Cadmus interview the cops that were injured in the theft and Lowrider and Render check out the vault. They gradually piece together that the crime was committed by a petty thief calling himself Pack Rat, a guy who used to be a janitor at the Chicago Field Museum until he stole a kree space laser and knocked over a couple of banks. Since then, he’s been stealing and repurposing old villain tech and alien objects to turn himself into a real super-criminal, but he kind of sucks at it. Nightshade remembers that the kid who was peeping on Dazzler at the concert they attended earlier in the year (see Midwest Avengers, Volume 1) had gotten his invisibility belt from that guy. Walker’s telepathic probing of the witnesses also revealed that the thief was suffering from some sort of personal guilt.

The only tracks led through the sewers, where Cadmus got into a fistfight with some Morlocks. Nightshade remembered that the Chicago Morlocks weren’t necessarily hostile, so she used her pheromone powers to calm the situation down while Walker used his control over nightmares to confuse the Morlocks. Once the situation was calmer, the Morlocks pointed the way that the guy they were after had gone, then told the Avengers to stay the hell out of their home from now on. Cadmus was unapologetic.

They managed to find Pack Rat’s secret warehouse lair. Render and Lowrider sneaked into the building while the others waited below. The scouts managed to find the golden key and seized it before Cadmus got impatient and came tromping up the ladder. While Nightshade and Walker tried to talk him out of it, Pack Rat heard them bickering and slammed the trapdoor shut, creating a barrier between the two groups. Lowrider confronted the tech-based villain and tried prying up the trapdoor, but it was too heavy for his scout-class superstructure. Cadmus had no such problems and bashed the thing open, climbing up and dragging the ladder along with him to use as his improvised weapon… leaving Nightshade and Walker behind in the sewer.

Nightshade parkoured her way up into the warehouse, while Walker levitated up and bound Pack Rat with telekinetic coils. Render stripped most of the technical knowledge out of Pack Rat’s brain, but he still managed to overcharge his magnetic gauntlet to send Lowrider flying out of the warehouse and into the Chicago River. Cadmus ended the fight with a massive blow to Pack Rat’s jaw that put the sadly overmatched second-stringer out of the fight. As they looked around the workshop, Walker found a photo of a woman and child; clearly, Pack Rat was suffering some sort of repressed guilt over the abandonment of his family.

Lowrider was having trouble getting out of the river until four burly guys tossed him a chain and hauled him out. A bit of banter later, they revealed that they were looking for Pack Rat too, since he had stolen something from them. The naive Cybertronian agreed to lead them right to Pack Rat’s warehouse. When they arrived, the four men immediately started tossing the place, looking for their “heirloom.” Walker argued that Pack Rat was a criminal, and all of his things needed to go into lockup; if they wanted their stolen possession back, they could get it through official channels.

The leader of the four men wasn’t very happy about that and told the “injun” to back off, as well as “the skirt” when Nightshade spoke up too. Tensions were running high when they finally found what they were looking for—a plain-looking crowbar. Nightshade’s eyes widened—she had seen it before, in the hands of…

The Wrecking Crew!

Before their eyes, the four men transformed into the Wrecker and his pals—Bulldozer, Piledriver, and Thunderball! Now, things were getting serious…

Next time: Wrecked!

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Issue #2
Wrecked!

The heroes square off against the Wrecking Crew, who taunt and insult them. Cadmus is enraged when they call him a “cheap knockoff of Hercules,” provoking the Greek demigod to acts of terrible wrath against them, knocking out Bulldozer in one shot. Walker in Dreams demonstrates that the Crew’s weak point is their minds when he turns their subconscious guilt for their criminal actions against them. Thunderball seems the most affected by such guilt, while the Wrecker is barely phased.

Lowrider accidentally makes things worse when he uses his corrosive laser against the Wrecker, only for the villain to absorb the blast into his mystical crowbar. Lowrider isn’t from around here, so he had no idea of the Crew’s powers. However, the Wrecker’s arrogant bragging draws Render’s ire; the mutant hero warns him about underestimating others before using his power to start draining the mystical force from the Wrecker’s crowbar.

Hurt, confused, and with their power source waning, the Wrecking Crew flees, vowing to settle the score later. With Pack Rat’s warehouse in flinders because of Cadmus’ vainglorious method of battle. Nightshade was separated from the rest of the Avengers by the damage, and would not find her way back to them for some time.

(GM Notes: Cadmus produced doom dice like crazy because of his Growing Dread Limit. The Wrecking Crew used 2d12 to end the scene with them escaping directly because of how many dice he pumped into the doom pool. Nightshade’s player was absent this week, so her character was knocked out of the fight by the heavy hitters wrecking the scenery.)

Once the Wrecking Crew had been sent packing, the heroes turned back to find that Pack Rat had freed himself from his bonds while they weren’t looking and was quite irate at having his collection destroyed. He fished a strange spheroid out of the rubble, claiming that it was a Kree gamma bomb—and that he would use it to level the city, since no one deserved nice things if he couldn’t have them!

Walker used his telepathic talents to put Pack Rat to sleep, and Lowrider disarmed the (mostly not working anyway) bomb. The whole thing was dealt with quickly.

Before they could get far from the site of their battle, however, the Avengers were witness to a strange sight. A glowing hole tore open in the air, out of which levitated a garishly-clad man identifying himself as Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme. He claimed to have been drawn to their location by a disturbance in the fabric of space, a powerful locus of mystic energies. When Lowrider denounced magic as mere trickery, Cadmus and Walker both backed up Strange’s claims of being a wizard.

Strange explained that he had been preparing to travel to Grol’eth, a forsaken city in a dimensional nexus, to prevent the escape of a cosmic horror called Uggthultu. The stars were becoming right for the creature to resurrect itself, an act that would lay waste to Chicago and threaten all of Earth. The “locus” he needed to help seal the barriers was the key to the city, an object infused with the hope and faith of millions of Chicagoans.

Cadmus was prepared to let Strange take the key and go into battle alone, but Walker offered for the Midwest Avengers to accompany him into the dimensional nexus. Strange gladly agreed to the help, since having defenders along would free him from having to split his attention, and opened the portal to Grol’eth. The journey was odd but uneventful.

Arriving in the cyclopean city, Strange began the ritual that would seal the gates of Uggthultu’s tomb for another generation, but the heroes found themselves under attack from the city’s inhabitants, strange blue-skinned wolf-like creatures that seemed to be able to slip between the cracks of reality itself. They were soon joined in their battle by a black-cloaked woman wielding a mystical staff; calling herself Mother Dark, she claimed to be a servant of Uggthultu dedicated to raising her dread master from the deeps.

The battle took a hard turn when Cadmus nearly gave into supernatural fear produced by Mother Dark’s spellwork, but Render was able to regain their momentum when he severed the hounds’ connection to the dark dimensions beyond normal time, forcing them to fight fully in three-dimensional space. Lowrider’s technological attacks punched through Mother Dark’s magical shields, making her intrigued with the strange metal man, and Cadmus finally recovered from his unnatural terror with Walker’s psychic help.

Realizing the battle was against her—and disarmed of her mystic staff by Cadmus—Mother Dark swore vengeance and retreated back into the Darkforce Dimension, escaping the heroes. Strange finished his ritual and gave the now-expended key back to the heroes, thanking them for their aid. He offered to wipe their memories of the dread city of Grol’eth, lest it haunt their dreams, but they refused, preferring to face their own demons rather than run from them.

Returning to Earth, they found Deadly Nightshade waiting for them and hurried to make it back to Daley Plaza in time for their press conference. They found a very relieved Mayor Washington waiting for them, and a very angry Councilman Vrykolak, who warned them that they had made an enemy today by siding with the mayor.

Far in the future, a man watched an ancient recording of the event while his personal computer intelligence informed him that it was very likely that the time anomalies threatening his empire were a result of a new Avengers team being formed. The man swore that he would not let his empire be destroyed by these new Avengers. So swore… Kang the Conqueror!

Next time: Jailhouse Rock!

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Issue #3
Jailhouse Rock

The heroes have been asked by Mayor Washington to take a tour of Skraggmore Penitentiary, a maximum security prison opening outside Chicago soon. The prison is unfinished but it still houses a few criminals, as well as three supervillains: Hydro-Man, the Living Laser, and the Mad Thinker. Warden Killbane notes that he doesn’t think much of superheroes, but he rapidly changes his tune when the facility comes under attack right after the heroes have an unpleasant conversation with the Thinker.

Returning to the surface, they find the prison under attack by one of the Mad Thinker’s Awesome Androids. Cadmus is nearly knocked out by it before Render uses his mutant power to disable its adaptive circuitry. Nightshade gets the local staff to safety in time for Cadmus to pick up a nearby helicopter and dice the Android to pieces with its rotors. Fearing that the Thinker might have taken the opportunity to escape, they rush back to his cell—only to find him still safely locked up and smug in that they’ll never figure out his scheme in time to stop it.

Lowrider’s cybernetic senses reveal that the Android’s defeat released a low-grade radiation that is familiar to the Avengers database. It seems to be similar to the energy released by the Evil Eye of Avalon, an artifact encountered by the Black Knight in the distant past and supposedly buried beneath Mount Wundagore. The Avengers briefly consult with Hawkeye and the Black Knight via comm, before deciding to take the Peregrine to the Balkans and see what’s happening at Mount Wundagore.

Upon arriving, they find a camp set up in the shadow of the mountain populated by locals being forced to mine out the mountainside by AIM troopers. Cadmus wants to charge right in and lay waste to the area, but Nightshade notes that a lot of people are likely to be hurt if they do that. Instead, the group splits up; Cadmus goes to act as a distraction while the rest lead the workers to safety. Cadmus devastates several dozen AIM troopers alone before their “specialist,” a cybernetic scientist called the Fixer, shows up to help… rather poorly. Cadmus beats the hell out of him with his own tech-pack before Fixer decides discretion is the better part of valor and flees.

The others begin leading civilians to safety before being jumped by one of AIM’s mercenaries, the assassin called Bullseye. He manages to badly wound Nightshade and strain Walker’s telekinetic shields before Lowrider hits him in the face with a steamshovel. Render uses his power to steal Bullseye’s uncanny sense of aim while Nightshade amps up his fear response, convincing him that the loss is permanent. Bullseye nearly kills Render before Lowrider and Walker take him out with a combination of low-tech assault and telekinetic battery.

With the AIM scientists scattered and the two most powerful foes dealt with, the team reunites and begins to make their way up to the dig site.

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Issue #4
The Evil Eye Opens

Having defeated Bullseye and the Fixer, the heroes make their way up Mount Wundagore to the site of the AIM archaeological dig. Deadly Nightshade stays behind to guard the prisoners and take care of the villagers while the others infiltrate the dig site.

Lowrider notes the high levels of radiation in the dig site, so the heroes sneak up on knock out a couple of AIM scientists to take their radiation suits. Cadmus and Lowrider are immune to the local radiation for their own reasons, so Walker and Render wear the suits to avoid the horrible mutagenic effects of the radiation. Render suggests that they tie Cadmus’ hands and make a gambit of him being a prisoner to get inside the base before starting a fight. Lowrider changes into vehicle mode and they bring him in as the “prisoner’s” “confiscated vehicle.”

Inside, they find MODOK examining the Evil Eye of Avalon in a huge eldritch machine with several dozen AIM scientists accompanied by the notorious mercenary called Taskmaster as well as the Hydra agent called the Grim Reaper. Their gambit is clever enough to fool the average AIM goons, and they get close enough for Walker to use his mental powers on one of them. Dominating his mind, Walker convinces him to shut down the machine so that he can seize the Evil Eye with telekinesis.

As soon as the Eye leaves the machine, MODOK demands that his “drones” kill the intruders, and battle is joined. Taskmaster and Grim Reaper try to take on Cadmus, only for Taskmaster to get taken out by the Olympian’s massive strength and tactical genius. AIM scientists are knocked out left and right, but MODOK collapses the tunnel before Lowrider and Walker can escape with the Eye.

To get away from the battle, Lowrider and Cadmus flee into a chasm deeper into the mountain, following the trace of a strange signal that would be imperceptible to any merely human sensors. In the meantime, Render finds an experimental AIM exo-suit and dons it, wading into AIM goons.

Seeing the battle turn against him, MODOK tries to flee in a hidden shuttle. Cadmus clings to the shuttle and beats it as it flies away, damaging the thrusters enough to send it toward the ground. MODOK abandons the vessel to fly away under his own power, and Cadmus must choose between pursuing the villain or keeping the rocket from crashing into innocents on the ground. In the end, the bellicose son of the god of war decides to save lives and lets MODOK escape. Render finishes off the remaining goons and worries about fighting the Grim Reaper, but the Reaper decides to flee in order to inform his masters about this setback (and because Cadmus managed to break his collarbone before running off).

Underground, Lowrider and Walker have an encounter with a strange man calling himself the High Evolutionary. He warns Walker that a war is coming between humans and mutants, and that he and his New Men intend to ride out the storm safe underground. For driving the intruders from “his” mountain, the Evolutionary extends to them an offer of friendship: should they ever need his advice or aid, they have but to call and he will respond.

With MODOK fled and the villains captured, the heroes interrogated their prisoners. The AIM scientists revealed that they were responding to a bunch of weird energy signatures cropping up across the planet. Something is causing objects possessing cosmic power to flare up to potentially dangerous levels. The next such object is in Denver, Colorado.

Walker decides that he has the mental strength to control the Evil Eye and attempts to bond with it, using its immense cosmic power to augment his already potent mental abilities. Render observes that his own physical abilities are somewhat lacking, so he chooses to keep the experimental exo-suit as an edge over his foes.

The group loads their prisoners up onto the Peregrine and make for the United States, stopping briefly at the Triskelion to turn in the villains. They have a quick meeting with “Dum-Dum” Dugan and the acting director of SHIELD, the Contessa la Fontaine. After having their request for intel denied (since none of them have SHIELD clearance), they take off for Denver!

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Issue #5
A Six Pack of Problems

After a several-hour flight to Colorado, our heroes are closing in on the source of the cosmic energy emissions—when suddenly their quinjet is fired on by missiles! Some quick maneuvers from Lowrider brings the Peregrine in for a shaky landing and the Avengers decide to make the rest of the journey on foot to avoid being shot at.

The road they travel leads them to a gated fence in the middle of nowhere, and when Cadmus tries to approach the gate, he is fired upon by concealed machine gun turrets. A short battle later, Nightshade is able to discover that the turrets are automated… and are the property of SHIELD. Apparently, this is a SHIELD facility that they’ve stumbled onto.

Bypassing the gate leads them to a small hidden town, designed to look like a small town from the 1950s. There are signs of recent battle everywhere, and only a single survivor that they can find, a badly wounded SHIELD agent named Julie August. She informs them that the other agents were captured by a group of superpowered mercenaries called the Six Pack.

Walker and Cadmus have heard of these mercenaries before, though they don’t seem to be traveling with their usual leader, the mystery man called Cable. Instead, they are currently being led by Cable’s second-in-command, Domino. Telling Agent August to stay hidden, they make their way toward the SHIELD facility concealed by the town.

On their way, they hear a gunshot and the sound of a radio cutting out. They choose to investigate and find a green-clad warrior. Calling himself Solo, he radios to his teammates for advice—before blowing up the street with concealed explosives and dropping everyone but Cadmus into the sewers. Cadmus and Solo have a raging battle that ends only when Cadmus knocks a building onto the teleporting mercenary.

In the meantime, the other Avengers are exploring the sewers to get away from the battle over their heads, which might well bury them alive. They find an underground vehicle garage, guarded by two more members of the Six Pack: the career criminal named Anaconda, and the former SHIELD agent turned supervillain called Constrictor.

Deadly battle ensues, with Anaconda doing some damage to Lowrider and Constrictor bruising Nightshade, only for the heroes to turn the tide. Nightshade distracts Anaconda with a bone spur to the back, giving Lowrider the opportunity to punch her lights out, while Walker uses his telekinesis and newfound cosmic powers to drive Constrictor nearly mad with guilt.

Cadmus catches up to the others and they storm the SHIELD base, finding a wrecked hangar filled with hostages guarded by the man-monster Grizzly. The mercenary and Cadmus trade barbs for a moment before Grizzly charges the demigod—almost gutting him in one stroke!

With Cadmus down for the count and the rest of the team still bruised and beaten from their previous encounters, the battle turns desperate. Nightshade leads the SHIELD agents to safety while the remaining heavy-hitters take on Grizzly. In the end, Lowrider shows his Decepticon pride by beating Grizzly to a bloody pulp.

Cadmus is badly wounded and the others recommend that he stay behind for medical treatment, but he pushes on regardless of the pain. They make their way through the facility, using the codes that Walker telepathically stole from Constrictor in order to bypass the subverted security systems, and finally reach the lab at the heart of the complex.

A sole remaining scientist points them the way to follow the villains, who are currently escaping, but Walker and Lowrider have suspicions about his information. They quickly ascertain that the scientist is actually a life model decoy, reprogrammed to give them false directions, and cut through the lab to free the real scientists before pursuing the remaining mercenaries.

The Avengers reach the exit to the surface just as Domino, Solo, and Deadpool are escaping on motorcycles with the object they stole. Lowrider transforms and rolls out, Nightshade and Cadmus on his back, while Walker takes to the air using the Evil Eye’s cosmic power to bring himself aloft.

A heart-pounding chase ensues. Cadmus breaks Deadpool’s neck—but the Merc With a Mouth seems only mildly perturbed by this development. Nightshade tries to use one of her bone spurs to puncture Domino’s tires, but a lucky break sees the spur get stuck in Lowrider’s chassis instead. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Lowrider takes the opportunity to sideswipe Domino’s ride, almost knocking her off her bike. Solo opens fire on the group, spraying bullets wildly.

Fed up with the chase, Walker gives in to the cosmic storm welling up inside him and unleashes the full power of the Evil Eye against the Six Pack. Domino’s motorcycle is blown to scrap, and the mercenary herself knocked cold. Deadpool and Solo stop, ready to fight to the end, but Cadmus sees the object that has fallen out of Domino’s saddlebags—the Siege Perilous, a mystical portal that allows its user to face his own weakness.

Unable to stop himself, Cadmus activates the Siege Perilous, drawing both himself and Walker into its depths. When the magic mirror vanishes, Deadpool and Solo curse their failed payday and grab Domino before teleporting away.

Lowrider and Nightshade are left alone in the mountains, with no idea where their teammates have gone…

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Issue #6
Like Clockwork

It has been a week since Cadmus and Walker in Dreams vanished into the Siege Perilous, and the world has seemingly gone mad. Outbreaks of cosmic energy across the world have kept all of the major superhero teams jumping through hoops just to stem the tide of damage. The New York Avengers have been drawn into a parallel dimension because of a power surge through Doctor Strange’s Eye of Agamotto. The West Coast Avengers are busy fighting horrific cosmic energy constructs.

The remaining MIdwest Avengers are scrambling to pick up the slack. Deadly Nightshade remains at Avengers Tower in Chicago to coordinate the relief efforts, even though she would love to be looking for her lost teammates. When a cosmic energy surge strikes just outside Chicago, she asks Lowrider and Render to look into it.

Arriving in a small, deserted town an hour’s drive outside Chi-Town, they find a glowing cosmic anomaly being studied by a strange figure in boxy metal armor. Render greets him, and the strange figure warns him that the area could be dangerous. When Lowrider changes to humanoid form, however, the armored figure attacks! Declaring himself Rom, Spaceknight of Galador, he decrees that no Decepticon will harm the people of Earth.

Shots are fired and words exchanged, but Render manages to talk Rom down. When Lowrider declares that he is the last of his kind (as far as he knows), Rom is moved to sympathy. Rom explains some of his reasons for being on Earth, namely that he is trying to protect humanity from an alien menace called the Dire Wraiths, and that he feared the cosmic anomaly he sensed was a Dire Wraith intrusion. However, now that he and Lowrider can share information, he realizes that it’s actually more like the energy signature from the singularity contained at the heart of the Shi’ar Empire: the M’Kraan Crystal!

The trio decides to experiment on the anomaly and gather more information. Once it is exposed to Rom’s neutralizer, the anomaly collapses—and from it emerge Cadmus and Walker! Cadmus has learned many lessons about teamwork from his time in the Siege Perilous, and Walker has merged his body with the Eye of Avalon, purifying it and becoming a being of cosmic energy. Rom manages to pinpoint the origin of the cosmic energy surges: Chicago itself, namely the famous Field Museum. Rom offers to help, but the heroes instead ask him to continue patrolling and help protect people from the surges.

Rushing back to Chicago, the heroes find the city wracked by terrible earthquakes. The Field Museum is under siege by the police, who are facing off against Klaw, the Master of Sound, and Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man. Cadmus charges in and is knocked flat by Klaw’s power, while Walker uses his cosmic power to good effect. Cadmus recovers and wraps Klaw up in a hanging banner t slow him down, then Lowrider takes Klaw out by ramping onto him and spinning his wheels until Klaw’s mutable body turns to jello.

Render analyzes the Absorbing Man’s powers and finds that they are mystical in nature. Realizing that Creel is arrogance to hide an inferiority complex, Cadmus taunts the villain into becoming so angry that he steps onto a weakened section of terrain and falls through into the sewer, dropping tons of rubble onto himself in the process.

The heroes rush into the museum and split up to cover ground more quickly. Render quickly realizes that someone is trying to gaslight him when the exhibits come to life and rushes to the climate control center to find the source of the minty-fresh hallucinogenic gas in the exhibit halls. In the meantime, Lowrider is ambushed by an upgraded version of the Mad Thinker’s Awesome Android and is faring quite badly against it.

Cadmus is fighting off severe hallucinations when he receives Lowrider’s distress call. Forced to choose between hunting down the villain that assaulted his senses and helping his friend, Cadmus chooses teamwork over vengeance. Walker more easily fends off the psychic assault and uses his vast telepathy to hunt down the source.

Render bursts into the control room to find himself face to face with Mysterio, the master of illusions, who attempts to poison him with concentrated hallucinogenic gas. Render avoids the poison and starts using his powers to disable Mysterio’s gas producing machinery. When Walker phases through the wall behind him, Mysterio’s mind breaks under the mutant telepath’s psychic assault all too quickly.

Meanwhile, the Awesome Android 2.0 is proving too tough to beat up, so Cadmus and Lowrider attempt an unusual strategy. They kick up clouds of dust into the Android’s sensor array then start trying to overwhelm its logic circuits with bizarre behavior, acrobatic stunts, and direct optical assaults. The Android’s thought matrix is finally overwhelmed, shutting it down—though not destroying it.

By the time the heroes reach the exhibit hall that is the origin of the terrible cosmic energy wracking the world, the Mad Thinker is already there, seizing the shard of the M’Kraan Crystal for his own. An epic battle against a cosmically-empowered Mad Thinker ensues. Lowrider is nearly killed by the force brought against him, and Cadmus and Render are badly wounded in his initial volley. Walker’s new cosmic power protects him from the blast—but only just barely.

The universe stands on the brink of destruction, and only the Midwest Avengers can save it!

Walker binds the Thinker in a cosmic-empowered telekinetic coil while Render focuses the totality of his mutant power on draining the crystal. Once the Thinker is bound, Cadmus leaps in to do what he does best: smash things. Walker knocks the crystal out of the Thinker’s hands, leaving him merely mortal once again, while Cadmus keeps up the punishment, pounding on the Thinker until he is broken and bloody. Combining their powers, Walker and Render drain the last of the power from the crystal shard, keeping it from detonating without the Thinker’s willpower to contain it.

As the shard fades from existence, Dum-Dum Dugan and the agents of SHIELD burst in, realizing that they are too late to do anything but pick up the pieces and put the Mad Thinker back in his cell. Though the Avengers are disturbed at how easily the Thinker seems to have escaped Skraggmore, they allow themselves a moment to revel in their victory.

Somewhere down the timeline, Kang the Conqueror observes the events as they unfold, musing that this “Walker in Dreams” could be the cosmic anomaly that threatens his reign. Kang schemes… but for now, the Avengers have won!

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Issue #7
Judge, Jury, Executioner

The Midwest Avengers have come together to decide their new chairman. In the wake of the near-destruction of Earth by the M’Kraan Crystal, definitive leadership is more important than ever. After a short debate, a vote is held and Deadly Nightshade is elected to the position unanimously! A conference call to New York informs the main branch of their decision, and Captain America himself congratulates Nightshade on her awesome new responsibility.

No sooner has the video call to New York ended than a phone call comes in on the private line. Nightshade’s father is on the line. He informs his daughter that some shady people have come around their house looking for her, and he would like her to come home to discuss things. Nightshade invites Walker along but decides that the rest of the Avengers might be too conspicuous. Nightshade reveals her real name—Lia Yancy—to Walker, and he reveals his age. Lia is surprised to find out that Walker is only 19.

While Lia and Walker are gone, JARVIS (the Tower’s artificial intelligence) picks up a police radio call for help. Though JARVIS acknowledges that it sounds like it might be a mundane police matter, Cadmus and the others decide to go check it out from sheer rainy-day boredom. On the scene, they find themselves confronted by a hostage crisis at a bank. The perpetrator seems more like a psycho than a supervillain, but the Avengers offer their aid anyway.

At the Yancy homestead, Walker is introduced to Lia’s parents, Dan and Maya Yancy. Dan is a burly older man who used to be an Army mechanic, while Maya is a Hmong woman who met Dan during the Vietnam War. Dan is a gearhead who loves rebuilding old engines, and Maya is a sharp-tongued (if tiny) woman who fixates on the idea that Walker is Lia’s boyfriend. Over dinner, they explain that one of Lia’s old gang buddies, a thug named Jason Mong, has been coming around because he thinks Lia has something to do with his brother Johnny’s disappearance.

At the bank, Cadmus manages to talk the shooter into letting him inside, while Lowrider and Render sneak in the back way. Cadmus finds that the hostage taker is scared to death that someone is after him, and he intends to protect himself by surrounding himself with innocent people. Clearly the man is deranged. Lowrider senses explosives; the hostages have been wired up with dynamite vests!

Before the heroes can act decisively to end the threat, a new player enters the scene. Dressed like a British bobby from the 19th century, save for a black hood and a Libra symbol emblazoned on his chest, the newcomer claims that he has come to take the shooter to stand trial before “a higher court.” The shooter freaks out and begins spraying bullets at the new arrival and Cadmus alike.

Lowrider begins putting out a jamming signal to keep the dynamite vests from going off, while Cadmus flings the shooter amidst the hostages, figuring that a man so determined to live won’t set off explosives while he could be hurt by them. The black-clad intruder proceeds to turn into a dozen copies of himself and try to capture the shooter for himself! The ensuing battle was short and indecisive; Render disabled the detonator, and Cadmus definitively tied up the shooter, but the mysterious multiplying man escaped after declaring Cadmus an enemy of the court for turning a criminal over to the mundane authorities.

Back in the suburbs, Nightshade and Walker have left the Yancy home, only to be confronted by four men getting out of a Cadillac. Lia recognizes one of them as Jason Mong, the thuggish older brother of the boy she used to pal around with. Jason makes some veiled threats; he heard a rumor that Lia had become a cop, and since his brother vanished, he’s wondering if maybe she had something to do with that. After a gun is drawn, Walker decides that enough is enough and unleashes his cosmic might against the thugs. A short curb-stomp battle later sees Jason asking for a truce and apologizing for his behavior.

He asks Lia and Walker to come with him back to his place so he can show them what made him think she had something to do with his brother’s disappearance, After he dismisses all but one of his thugs, the heroes agree. On the drive over, Jason mentions that a new consortium of criminals is rising to power in the city, and that he recently told them off. He had thought that maybe Johnny was payback for that, but the guy in charge of the new organization denied it. Considering that Johnny had gotten out of “the life” after he got back from prison, Jason wanted to believe him, especially since the alternative was all-out war.

At Jason’s warehouse, he showed Lia and Walker a grisly sight—a severed arm that had arrived on his doorstep a few days before. It was clearly Johnny’s arm, since Lia and Jason both recognized the tattoo, but Jason was holding out hope that his brother might still be alive. Before Johnny had vanished, he started talking about “them”—some mysterious threatening group that was “coming to get him.”

Johnny had said that Lia might be able to help him, but since Johnny had gone missing right after that, Jason assumed she had something to do with his disappearance. The only thing in Johnny’s apartment that had been a clue was a piece of paper scrawled with a weird symbol and “Lia?” written below it. Lia’s blood ran cold at the sight of the red M that was the symbol of the Brotherhood of Mutants—the gang she had run with for a while after running away from home.

Walker used his psychic senses to get a glimpse of how the arm had become severed. Johnny had been in some sort of old-time courtroom, with a red-and-black clad older man wearing a powdered wig presiding as judge. The jury box had been filled with twelve men wearing uniforms like those of old British police, their faces covered with black hoods, while a burly black-armored man stood nearby with an enormous axe. As the judge read off the sentence, judging Johnny as a petty thief, the executioner raised his axe to cut off Johnny’s hands… leaving Walker reeling and vomiting from the horrible memories.

As Nightshade and Walker leave, the others get hold of them and catch them up on what’s been happening. The other group has a lead from helping the police earlier, someone named Connor DeSoto. They agree to meet at DeSoto’s office, finding that he’s a bail bondsman and that he’s still in his office, working late. DeSoto invites them in, grateful that someone’s finally looking into his complaints.

Apparently, DeSoto used to be a parole officer until his department got downsized. Now he operates a bail bonds office to help get small-time criminals back into their lives and out of the system, where they’ll just be turned into hardened criminals. He also works with a community outreach for education programs and church groups to help reform men and women who have spent much of their lives in jail. Recently, many of his “boys” have been going missing, to the general apathy of the police.

The Avengers concur that their two cases are related, and that this may well go deeper than any of them suspect. DeSoto also mentions a new criminal syndicate growing in Chicago to replace the old and decaying Mafia, run by a man named Morelli. Because of all the violence against parolees and ex-convicts, a lot of former criminals are deciding to sign up with Morelli’s outfit for protection if nothing else.

After promising DeSoto they’ll look into it and leaving his office, they find themselves confronted by a black limousine and an invitation—by none other than Jack Morelli! They agree to meet with Morelli at his home, and are chatted up by his secretary, Candi, on the way over. Candi reveals that Morelli knows Nightshade’s secret identity and that he’s looking into everyone else as well.

Morelli’s mansion is impressive, surrounded by security and filled with wealth. Jack Morelli himself is a young man, only in his 20s, but with a powerful charisma. He has a frank discussion with the heroes, where he admits that these vigilantes they’re hunting have been impacting his organization too. He wants them dealt with, and he’s willing to hand useful information over to the Avengers in exchange for a “gentleman’s agreement”: if they stay out of his business, he’ll stay out of theirs.

Nightshade and Walker agree that Morelli’s outfit is a matter for the police, not them, and he gives them the information. He had intercepted a package from Jason Mong’s place—Johnny’s other arm. Lia’s hope that her old friend might still be alive slipped, but Walker still believed that he might survive. Morelli’s men tailed the guy that dropped off the package, losing him at a waterfront district that’s a known front for the Zodiac Cartel.

Nightshade cursed herself for a fool! With the Libra symbol on the chest of the multiplying man, the Zodiac Cartel should have been an immediate thought on her part. Still, it had been months since any of the heroes had seen the slightest sign of the Zodiacs, so it had been easy to forget about them.

Vowing to take down these vigilantes, no matter their ties to the Zodiac Cartel, the Avengers departed Morelli manor and hit the streets.

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Issue #8
Final Judgment

Our heroes pursue Jack Morelli’s lead to the Chicago docks, where Nightshade’s old criminal contacts indicate there are several warehouses acting as fronts for the Zodiac Cartel. Walker’s keen psychic senses pick up the feelings of distress from one of them, so they send in Lowrider in stealth mode to investigate.

Inside, he doesn’t see the Judge or his kangaroo court, but he does see three members of the Zodiac Cartel—Virgo, Cancer, and Gemini—directing a dozen or so masked thugs to unload a truck bearing the markings of SHIELD. Additionally, they have a SHIELD agent tied up to a pillar nearby as a hostage. Lowrider scans the crates being unloaded and finds that they’re filled with SHIELD Mandroid armor.

Nightshade quickly makes tactical decisions—as the leader of the Avengers, it’s her job, after all. She orders Lowrider to cut the power and Cadmus and Walkerto go in the obvious way, while she and Render come in behind the thugs to free the SHIELD agent and remove their leverage. Before they can move, a fourth Zodiac—Pisces, but not the one they’ve fought before—enters from a trapdoor that leads to the river below. This doesn’t change the plan, and they move as one against the Cartel.

Cadmus storms the doors right after Lowrider cuts the power, throwing a crate into Gemini’s face; according to his low-grade psychic ability to sense emotions, she is a robot, and therefore the most dangerous member of the enemy group. unfortunately, the crate merely explodes around her and she ignites her jet thrusters to launch herself at Cadmus. He expected such a riposte, however, and sidesteps to allow her to brain herself on a support pillar before punching her through the roof and out of sight.

Cancer screams a battle cry and charges the vaguely-seen shape of Cadmus, lashing out with his claws. Cadmus headbutts him, sending him reeling back, while Walker reaches out and fills the minds of all of the villains with terrible nightmares—their worst fears made manifest. The attempt just slides off Virgo’s mind, even as stray bullets bounce off her skin. Cancer drops screaming, and most of the thugs break and run, leaving only a few behind to spray bullets wildly into the air in all directions. Render is pinned down by bullets, while Nightshade takes one in the chest as she tries to rescue the SHIELD agent.

Pisces seems badly shaken by her encounter with terror, but she responds by channeling that fear into rage and lashing out against Walker with the river below, controlling it like a mighty waterspout. Walker uses his newfound cosmic mastery to enhance his telekinesis, redirecting the waterspout back at its creator in twin jets, crushing her beneath its force.

Virgo decides that enough is enough and makes a run for it. She isn’t getting paid enough for this. She tries to burst through the far wall of the warehouse, but Walker sics Brother Coyote on her, dragging her back inside; though the spirit-being’s teeth can’t penetrate her seemingly unbreakable skin, she can’t escape the canine’s powerful grip. Cadmus brings down the house on the remaining goons, leaving only one conscious enough to surrender.

Before they can take any of the Cartel into custody, however, the floating figure of Aries appears in the air above them. He chides Virgo for a job poorly done and brings forth some sort of strange ankh-like object. In a flash of overwhelming light, he and the rest of the Zodiac Cartel vanish, leaving their hirelings behind to face justice. Walker and Lowrider can both sense that Aries has somehow manipulated time itself, freezing the moment long enough to take his crew to safety.

In the aftermath, the heroes free Agent Mack Donoghue from his bondage and find out that the Cartel killed his partner when they hijacked the truck they were guarding. The Cartel only left him alive because they thought he had the activation codes for the Mandroid armor. Seeing Nightshade’s dire injuries, he offers to call in a SHIELD medical team, since Walker has clearance. He also shares a bit of information about the Cartel members the Avengers just fought. He also informs them that the Judge’s servant can’t be Libra of the Zodiac Cartel, since there is no Libra currently.

On hearing that the heroes are looking for the mysterious vigilante called " the Judge, " Mack tells them that SHIELD doesn’t have a lot of information—just that he only seems to target criminals who are actively trying to redeem themselves. He suggests a profile, though; given his mode of dress and speech, and his attitudes on criminal punishment, he’s probably holing up somewhere related to the period and the justice system. Nightshade looks into it, being a Chicago native, and finds a memorial hall constructed on the site of the old Chicago Hall of Justice, just outside the World’s Fairground from 1883. The group travels there post-haste.

Arriving on the grounds, they find the bailiff—who calls himself " the Jury "—waiting for them. He declares that Cadmus should turn himself over quietly, and Walker touches his mind to discover that the Jury is himself merely a pawn of a powerful telepath. The Jury tosses a disc of some kind onto Cadmus’ chest—and the mighty Olympian vanishes! The Jury runs back into the memorial hall, and the Avengers follow.

Inside, they find that the Jury has split himself up into dozens of copies and leads them on a merry chase through the maze-like halls of the building. Nightshade is repeatedly humiliated and harassed by the multiplying fiend, but through her haze she realizes that the layout of the building can’t possibly be natural. Lowrider follows her directions to discover a machine that seems to be altering the interior layout of the building through psychic vibrations, and he and Render work together to take it out.

With the building no longer so confusing, Walker reaches out to the mind of the Jury and yanks out the mind control he is suffering under. As his duplicates rejoin and he collapses, they unmask him to reveal the face of Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man! When Jamie comes to, he can tell them that the last thing he remembers is being with his team, X-Factor, about a month before. He asks them to not kill any duplicates of his they find and then limps off to get out of the crossfire since he’s still feeling weak.

Down below, in a dank oubliette, Cadmus contemplates Nightshade’s request that he not destroy the building this time. Instead, he gingerly pries open the bars of his cell, getting some nasty electrical burns in the meantime, and stalks his way to freedom. Past the last door of his dungeon, he finds himself in an old-style courtroom, presided over by a black-clad judge and a jury box filled with identical men. Standing on a nearby podium is a guillotine, freshly sharpened and waiting for its next victim.

The Judge orders Cadmus to take a seat—and Cadmus refuses. The Judge attempts to sway him with a powerful will, but the Greek demigod proves indomitable. Sneering that he will face judgment one way or another, the Judge orders his Executioner to make Cadmus kneel. Cadmus turns to find himself face to face with an old “friend”—Skurge, the Executioner of Asgard. It’s been millennia since the two of them faced each other on the battlefield, and Skurge is looking forward to a rematch.

Cadmus yanks the guillotine out by its rope to turn it into a makeshift weapon while Skurge charges with his mighty axe. The two of them share a few blows, the battle’s outcome anyone’s guess, when the other Avengers burst in. Walker disables the Asgardian with a powerful mental bolt, and Skurge drops, cursing Cadmus for a coward. The Jury is similarly disabled by Walker’s powers. While Render tries to get a read on the Judge, Nightshade has grown tired of the game and goes for a killing strike with her lethal bone spurs.

The Judge collapses out of his podium, bleeding and cursing, when Walker realizes that he’s just another puppet. Render tears the influence out of the man’s mind, and they decide to rush him to Avengers Tower for medical treatment. Before they can take the Executioner into custody, a portal opens in the air to reveal a beautiful woman that Cadmus recognizes as the Enchantress. She pleads with Cadmus—demigod to demigod—that he can’t allow Skurge to be “sullied” by being taken into mortal custody. Nightshade agrees that they lack the facilities to cage someone as dangerous as the Executioner, and they permit Enchantress to return him to Asgard… though they doubt that he will face a truly pleasant return.

The Avengers manage to find out that the “judge” is a justice of the peace from Peoria who’s been missing for almost six months, likely dominated by the real culprit all this time. Walker decides to journey into the justice’s dreamscape, hoping to trace the connection from his wounded mind back to the source of this evil. Using his vast telepathy and cosmic powers, he brings along the rest of the Avengers. Within the man’s mind, they find themselves slipping back over a hundred years, to an old courtroom and a guilty verdict. The man being sentence is Herman Mudgett—also known as H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer.

The memory changes when Mudgett turns to confront Walker, declaring that as he was judged and found guilty, so too has he returned from the grave to make sure that everyone who “should” go to hell winds up there. He will thwart all of the redemptions he can—and will make sure any would-be heroes come along to the Pit with him as well.

A terrible psychic battle ensues, Walker pitting his will against that of a hateful ghost. Lowrider doesn’t really believe in ghosts, but something is there that he can shoot a corrosive laser at, so he does. Render tries to attack the source of the ghost’s power—his hate—but finds it too strong for his abilities. Seeing spirits trapped within Mudgett’s form, Cadmus charges the hateful spirit and tears him asunder, freeing the trapped souls. A final spike of power sends the ghost screaming back to hell.

Walker manages to pluck a stray thought from the discorporating spirit, finding that several of his intended victims are still alive. The Avengers rush to the holding cells and find Johnny Mong, Nightshade’s old gang buddy, among the living—if missing both arms. He might never be the same, but at least he’s alive.

A few days after the battle in Avengers Tower, Walker wakes from a fitful sleep to find himself facing a red-skinned man with horns. The devil-like figure informs Walker that the Avengers have thwarted his plans, something that he doesn’t take kindly to. While he cannot yet manifest on the mortal plane, dreams are no bar to his power. Walker asks his name, to which the creature responds, “Mephisto,” before departing.

Walker wakes in a cold sweat, knowing that his trials as a shaman are only just beginning.

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Issue #9
Time After Time

Walker in Dreams has spent several days training with Damien Hellstrom, the so-called Son of Satan, in mystical ways to protect his mind from intrusion, when his retreat is disrupted by a call to duty. The Avengers are called to Liberty Park where a glowing portal has appeared in the air. Just as they arrive, a withered old man comes tumbling through. He claims to be Rick Jones, an ally of the Avengers, come back from the distant future to save the Hulk. He gives the Avengers his time travel device, a small crystal-filled box, just before finally dying of extreme old age.

The heroes seek out Bruce Banner and find him just in time to see him drawn away by a powerful chronal distortion. They follow Dr. Banner and find themselves in ancient Egypt, facing down soldiers serving a tyrannical pharaoh called Rama-Tut. The Avengers discover that the “green goliath” has been captured by the pharaoh, who has many wondrous powers and “magic artifacts” that the heroes recognize as weapons from the distant future.

The Avengers make contact with the resistance, led by a powerful blue-skinned outcast named En Sabah Nur. Together, they storm the pharaoh’s secret lair and find another captured group of superheroes, the Fantastic Four—but a Fantastic Four from a time before the heroes’ own year of 1984. They free the family of the future and fight Rama-Tut, discovering that he is actually a time traveler named Nathaniel Richards, a distant descendant of Reed Richards from the 30th century. Rama-Tut escapes, leaving Egypt in the hands of En Sabah Nur and freeing the Hulk—only for him to disappear into the time stream once more!

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