Issue Date: September 2005
Story Title: True Believers - conclusion
Staff: Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Adrian Alphona (penciler), Craig Yeung (inker), Udon’s Christina Strain (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Randy Gentile (letterer), James Taveras (production), Jo Chen (cover artist), Mackenzie Cadenhead and C.B. Cebulski (editors), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
Runaways created by Vaughan & Alphona
As Excelsior search for the runaways in their new craft, Ultron whisks Victor Mancha into its mainframe and gives him a history lesson. It explains how it was scrapped by its creator, Henry Pym, and placed in a scrap yard. It was found by Victor’s mom, Marianella, who rebuilt it from scraps of metal she found. Ultron created Victor as a son for her, but it had longer term plans for him. Ultron expected Victor to ultimately join the Avengers and provide it with the means by which his old enemies could be destroyed. Ultron takes Victor back to reality, and Vic discovers that in the five minutes he spent in cyberspace, he has defeated the runaways. Gert manages to persuade Victor to help them, and so he attacks Ultron. Nico then encases the robot inside a diamond, but Ultron frees itself quickly. Nico orders Karolina to blast a hole in the ceiling, and Excelsior witness the blast and arrive to help out. They attack Ultron, and Darkhawk uses his darkforce to destroy the menace. The runaways make their escape once again, as Turbo prepares to take the rap for failing to bring them in. Suddenly, their mystery benefactor appears behind them. It’s Rick Jones. He informs them that he is trying to help the runaways avoid all the crazy stuff he had to endure when he was a teen. He still wants them found, but he also wants Excelsior to go full-time to protect Los Angeles. The city is now unprotected since the Pride was destroyed. Everyone is okay with this, except for Chamber who disappears. Later, he visits his friends and it is revealed that it isn’t Chamber after all. Whoever it is seems to be creating a new Pride.
The Excel glides through the air carrying Excelsior through the night skies. Phil Urich is piloting the craft, as their ‘Secret Santa’ has configured the controls to make it handle like his old goblin glider. Turbo would like him to slow down a little, but Julie Power wants more speed. Ricochet is with Turbo. He’s feeling a little airsick.
They are searching for the runaways, and Turbo calls Chris Powell who is on monitor duty back at their base. She asks if he’s seen any sign of supernatural activity in the area, but Chris hasn’t spotted anything yet. Turbo is feeling a little annoyed that her plans for the group aren’t exactly working out as she planned. She devised the operation to show young people that there are healthy alternatives to dressing up in costumes, but that’s pretty much all they’ve done so far.
(meanwhile, in cyberspace/flashback)
Victor Mancha suddenly finds himself in cyberspace. Ultron has taken him inside the memory of their networked mainframes to provide him with a little history lesson. The first scenario he creates shows Hank Pym creating the first Ultron robot. Ultron considers Pym evil, as well as his fellow West Coast Avengers, who destroyed countless incarnations of his firstborn; including its model.
The next scene shows where Pym unceremoniously deposited Ultron’s remains on a scrap yard. It was forced to stare at an old clock for what seemed like an eternity as its CPU was still active. By studying the clock, he learned that if it was ever going to punish his father and his cohorts, it would have to learn patience. Years later, its plans were set in motion when it saw a young woman stealing materials from its resting place for one of her architectural projects. Victor recognizes her as his mom.
Ultron begged Marianella for assistance, and being the superstitious type, she thought it was some kind of prophet like the beheaded John the Baptist. She confided in it that she was physically unable to have children, and barred from adopting because of her felonious past as a drug mule. Victor tells Ultron that his mom was not a criminal, but Ultron simply replies that crime is a human construct, and one that he would do well to forget.
The scene changes once again to show Marianella and Ultron standing before a work-in-progess version of Victor. Ultron had promised Marianella that in exchange for gathering supplies to help him construct a new body for itself, it would build her an immaculate creation. Utilizing her DNA, it soon began work on its most spectacular invention; a fully-grown cybernetic/human hybrid.
(reality - present)
“Wait,” Victor asks, “I’m a cyborg?” Everything slots into place. He realizes now that it’s why his mom wouldn’t let him fly, and was going to remove him from East Angeles High. He can’t pass through metal detectors without making the things go off like the Fourth of July. Ultron says that he can’t go through them yet, but eventually, the nanites that make up his skeleton will mature and metamorphose until they are indistinguishable from his human cells. By the time he reaches adulthood, the Avengers will be unable to discern that their newest member was once half-machine.
This is a lot to take in, and Victor is having trouble understanding. Ultron continues to inform him that it told his mom that it would fill his brain with enough false memories to make him believe that he had lived a full life as a real human boy. What it failed to tell Marianella is that it also gave him a deep-rooted love of ‘superheroes,’ and the fervent desire to one day become one himself.
Victor’s latent electromagnetic abilities were meant to activate upon his first exposure to powered beings on a trip to New York it programmed him to take on his twenty-first birthday. Ultron had calculated a 98% certainty that the Avengers would asks him to join their organization. After years of loyal service, he would have access to their most guarded secrets which Ultron would use to destroy his father, and every other misguided ‘champion’ on the planet.
The story continues. As Ultron waited patiently waited to activate his sleeper switch, his mother took on a third job to afford a modest room for Ultron far off the grid; the last place its enemies would think of to look for it. An old-fashioned telephone was its only link to the outside world, and through it, Ultron learned of the unfortunate circumstances around Victor’s premature development.
It forced Marianella to participate in one last-ditch attempt to obfuscate his true origin and purpose, but it’s Doombot failed in its purpose. This, Ultron concludes, is why it must wipe Victor’s hard drive and restart his education… after he destroys the creatures responsible for this most unfortunate detour. Victor replies that he won’t hurt these people, but he is whisked back into reality to find the runaways all but defeated at his hands.
(reality - present)
“My boy… what do you think you’ve been doing for the last five minutes?” asks Ultron, rhetorically. Gert is wrapped in one of the warehouse roof’s steel supports, whilst Chase lies on the floor, unconscious. Ultron commands Victor to squeeze the life out of Gert, and he is about to carry out his orders before Gert tries to reason with him. She explains that if he’s still in there, then this is his time to be a rebellious little snot. Victor replies that he will obey his father, but Gert reminds him that Ultron killed his mother. She thinks he can delete the fifth commandment from his morality file.
Victor is shocked to hear of his mother’s death. Ultron leans over to him and says it never required a motherboard, and neither will he. “404 error processing. I… I am nothing…” answers Victor, “I am nothing like you!” He turns and blasts Ultron in the face with a burst of electricity. Gert is freed from her constraints and drops to the ground. Ultron is unfazed by his assault, and asks him not to make this harder than it has to be.
Nico thinks this is a good idea. She motions her Staff of One towards Ultron and says, “Shine on you Crazy Diamond.” The staff glows as Ultron is suddenly encased in a block of diamond. Gert asks her if she’s okay, and Nico thinks it depends on her definition. Doom might have been a fake, but she thinks his blast broke a few of her ribs. Karolina notices Molly about twenty feet away, zonked out. Chase is also injured, having had his arm pulled out of its socket by ‘Mr. Roboto’ when he tried to save Gert. Victor helps him up and apologizes. He assures them he had no control over his body.
Nico isn’t interested in his excuses. Her staff needs time to recharge, so she suggests they motor before Ultron gets free. Unfortunately, at that exact moment, the diamond smashes into countless shards, and Nico quickly orders Karolina to blast a hole in the ceiling. Karolina is concerned about draining all her energy in one shot, but Nico barks at her, “Don’t question me, dammit!” Karolina apologizes, and focuses all her power onto the high roof. The blast tears a hole in it, and her alien rainbow energies shoot into the night sky.
Ultron wonders what she was trying to accomplish with that stunt, and so Nico explains that this is what kids always do when they want to attract a crowd; they turn on the searchlights. Sure enough, Excelsior is quickly on the scene and dropping through the new hole. Ultron? exclaims Turbo. Oh crap, adds Ricochet.
Turbo quickly takes control, and orders Chamber to get the civvies out of there. She then orders Lightspeed to shield up and try to draw Ultron’s fire. She does this, and is immediately blasted by Ultron, which knocks the wind out of her. Old Lace carries Molly to safety on its back, as Ricochet begins hurling his discs at Ultron. The nefarious robot tells them they are soulless animals; slow and inaccurate. Their extinction is inevitable.
Turbo asks Ricochet to throw an E.M.P disc at her, but he’s already anticipated this move. He tosses one in her direction, and she uses a turbocharged boot to propel it at Ultron. The disc hits home, and Ultron screams as his electronics are fried. However, it quickly recovers, and replies, “Nothing… but a flesh wound.”
Suddenly, through the entrance comes Chris Powell, only now he is wearing his armor. He informs Ultron that it isn’t made of flesh, which means he doesn’t have to play nice. Ultron asks what he is, and Chris replies that he’s Darkhawk. He thought he could retire, but because of freaks like Ultron, that can never happen. He adds that there’s a war going on; a war between good an evil, and in war, their elders may give the order, but it’s the young who have to fight. He punches Ultron, and then opens his chest plate to blast Ultron with his darkforce. Ultron lets out a stream of binary code, as its metallic body begins to tear apart.
Outside the warehouse, Victor is anxious to get back inside to avenge his mother. Chamber blocks his path, and says he can’t go back. He should leave the old ultraviolence to his highly trained Droogs. Gert holds Victor back, and says that Ultron’s way out of their weight class. They need to get back to the Leapfrog. Chamber holds his hand up, and tells them he can’t just let them walk off with a hostage. Gert replies that Victor’s not a hostage; he’s an orphan. Unless Chamber wants him to end up in Social Services, a ring of hell that makes what’s going on inside that warehouse look like Disneyland, he should let them go. Chamber stares back at her, considering his options.
Inside the warehouse, Phil Urich descends on a rope, only to find the battle ended and Ultron’s body parts strewn over the ground. He asks what happened. Ricochet replies that Chris went postal again, but this time it was in the right zip code. Julie can’t believe they actually beat Ultron, but Turbo is more concerned with the whereabouts of their little fugitives. Chamber enters the warehouse rubbing the back of his neck. He informs Mickey that Nico conked his gourd with her walking stick before making the lot of them disappear. He asks if they should go after them, but wonders if it be wiser to remain there until they’re certain the big can opener can’t reassemble itself. Turbo reckons he’s right. They should stay until they can contact S.H.I.E.L.D. or someone to handle what’s left of Ultron. When their sponsor calls, she adds, she’ll take the fall for letting the runaways slip away.
A voice from behind her tells her not to sweat it. She turns to see a young man enter the warehouse. Phil is aghast. “No way. Is… Is that Rick Jones?” Julie isn’t sure who Rick Jones actually is, so Ricochet explains that he was one of the first teenage sidekicks who used to run with the Avengers.
Rick apologizes for missing the fireworks, but even with the tracking device he had installed in the Excel, they were too fast for him. Phil knew he recognized Rick’s voice. He owns all his CD’s, he tells him. Turbo asks if he’s the guy who offered their group a million bucks. Rick replies that some of his investments he made with royalties from his book finally paid off. When his ol’ pal Captain America told him about the Pride’s kids running away, he decided to use his windfall to help make sure they didn’t have to endure all the crazy stuff he did in his teens.
He apologizes for all the secrecy, but he wanted to be certain that Excelsior were helping for the right reasons, and not because they felt bullied into it by the Hulk’s best friend. Julie asks about the Excel. Rick explains that she’s an old quinjet prototype that Tony Stark souped up during one of his lunch breaks. Ricochet asks if he’s there to take it back.
Rick explains that he still wants them to track down the runaways, and holding Ultron’s head in his hands, he adds that as they can see, this goes a lot deeper than they first thought. California is becoming increasingly dangerous, and unless a few experienced peacekeepers start taking on these threats, more novice heroes are going to show up trying to make a name for themselves. So, he asks, are they interested in getting back into the game full-time?
Phil is surprised at his suggestion, and Mickey says it would mean continuing to operate in uniform. Darkhawk tells her that they’re adults now. They can handle the responsibility. Julie adds that she hasn’t gotten a single callback to any auditions so she’s certainly got the free time. Ricochet reckons if everyone else is in, then so is he. He asks Chamber what he thinks, but when he turns, he notices Jono has left the building.
Chamber enters another building and in his best faux-English, he informs three friends that he’s returned victorious. One of his friends says he can’t believe they fell for his accent. He sounds worse than Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Another guy wearing a ‘Magneto was right’ T-shirt replies that he’s only jealous ‘cause he only sounds British when reciting lines from Python. A female companion presumes that the Minorus’ old chameleon glamour worked, then. Chamber holds the glamour in his hand, and suddenly Chamber’s image fades away to reveal a slim black male in his place.
He tells them it worked like a charm, literally. His fact-finding mission was a success, and he was able to keep Turbo and her fellow noobs away from their young enemies. When the proverbial dish is finally cold enough, revenge will be theirs to serve. “Long live the Pride.”
Outside the warehouse in the rain, Molly is now awake and the runaways prepare to climb back into the Leapfrog. Karolina tells Victor that she’s sorry. She knows how it feels to find out you’re not who you thought you were. Victor replies that he doesn’t care what he is. Monster, android, whatever. He just wants his mom back. He looks at Gert and says they have some kind of time travelling thing, right? They have to go back and fix this. Gert tells him that her future self used up all the machine’s fuel making her leap back to them, and she doesn’t think whatever it runs on has been invented yet. They can’t change what happened, just what happens next. She places a comforting arm on Vic’s shoulder as he closes his eyes in disappointment.
As he enters the Leapfrog, Chase turns to Nico and says that if they’re letting that thing join the crew, then he’s officially not the dumbest guy on the team anymore. Nico replies that Victor’s more dangerous on the streets than he is in the hostel with them. Chase doesn’t like this whole ‘keep-your-enemies-closer’ strategy of hers. Victor was programmed to disintegrate people like them. Nico replies that most kids are programmed by their ‘rents. That doesn’t mean they have to do as they’re told. Chase says that Junior ain’t other kids. He may be acting cool now, but what if he blows a gasket and tries to ice his girlfriend again? Nico says that if that happens, they’ll go back to Plan A… and rip his damn heart out.
Karolina Dean, Molly Hayes, Nico Minoru, Chase Stein, Gertrude Yorkes (all Runaways)
Darkhawk, Green Goblin, Lightspeed, Ricochet, Turbo (all Excelsior)
‘Chamber’ and three friends
Hawkeye, Iron Man, Dr. Henry Pym, Wonder Man (all West Coast Avengers)
Ultron’s chair and the clock were first seen in Runaways (2nd series) #3.
There are a couple of references to the classic British comedy team, Monty Python here. Ultron’s “Nothing but a flesh wound,” is taken from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), as uttered by the Black Knight when King Arthur cuts off both his arms. Monty Python’s comedy routines are eminently quotable, and people often (annoyingly, in pubs) copy their high-pitched English accents when repeating them.
Shine on you Crazy Diamond is a song by Pink Floyd, written as a tribute to founder member, Syd Barrett.
A 404 error is commonly found on the internet when a page is unable to be found.
Mr. Roboto is a song by Styx from the album Kilroy was Here (1983).
The Droog reference comes from the novel and movie, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, which stars a young man named… Alex.
Rick Jones first appeared in Incredible Hulk (1st series) #1 and spent some time as the Hulk’s sidekick. He has since appeared alongside the Avengers, notably in the Kree/Skrull War, Avengers Forever and more recently with Genis-Vell.
One of the pseudo-Chamber’s friends is wearing a ‘Magneto Was Right’ T-Shirt, first seen during Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run.
Dick Van Dyke is an American actor best known for his role in the musical, Mary Poppins. More recently, he has starred in the television series, Diagnosis: Murder. His role as Bert in Mary Poppins brought him a certain notoriety due to his strange English cockney accent.
The proverb the fake Chamber is paraphrasing is ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’