Appearing in "Murder In Cathedral Canyon!"
- Nikolai Kutzov (Only appearance)
- Darkstar (Laynia Petrovna)
- Crimson Dynamo (Dimitri Bukharin)
- Vanguard (Nikolai Krylenko)
- Daniel Ironwood (Only appearance; dies)
- Mister Fantastic
- Invisible Girl
- Colonel Alexei Vazhin (First appearance)
Synopsis for "Murder In Cathedral Canyon!"
It Is the Fourth of July, and fireworks are exploding in the night sky as Peter Parker kisses Cissy Ironwood at her door after a date. She is enjoying herself and Invites Peter inside for refreshments. But much to their surprise, the Soviet agent known as the Crimson Dynamo suddenly smashes through the door and attacks. Catching the Dynamo momentarily off balance, Peter flips him onto the sidewalk, grabs Cissy's hand, and starts to run away. But her father is still in the house, and she shouts about it. Peter wants to get her to safety so he can change into his Spider-Man costume, but before they can get anywhere, a wall of darkness blocks their way. Then, Darkstar emerges from the building, holding Cissy's father captive in a circle of her Darkforce. Peter cannot understand why the former ally of the Champions is now back with the Dynamo, nor does he recognize Vanguard, the third figure, who is armed with a hammer and sickle. As Peter surreptitiously sticks a spider-tracer to Cissy's belt, he asks Vanguard what they want. The Soviet operative replies that they need the girl. Peter punches Vanguard in the stomach, but Vanguard uses his hammer and sickle to reverse Peter's blows and hurl him into the Crimson Dynamo's arms. Then, the Dynamo slams Peter into a wall, and the three kidnappers make off with Daniel and Cissy Ironwood.
Sometime later, Spider-Man is climbing up the Baxter Building looking for the Fantastic Four. Just as he is about to give up after finding no one there, Reed Richards' elongated arm pull him inside. Spider-Man can see that Reed has a fever, and suddenly Reed collapses. Sue rushes in and explains that he has the flu, and a few minutes later, she and Spider-Man get him to bed. Spider-Man says that he needs information that only Reed can supply. As many as 200 million lives may be at stake, he continues. Reed, now awake, offers to listen, and Spider-Man tells him about the abduction, carefully omitting any references that might reveal that he is Peter Parker.
When Peter came to, says Spider-Man, the police questioned him. He told them that Professor Ironwood had no known enemies and taught cosmology—the branch of astronomy dealing with the origin and structure of the universe. The police made Peter wait while they went through the house for clues. As he rummaged through the papers on the professor's desk, he saw a page of quantum-physics equations. Having little else to do, he began to solve them, and he became very frightened by what he discovered. Spider-Man then hands over the page of equations for Reed to peruse. Reed is impressed that Spider-Man's "friend" was able to decipher the symbols so easily because not many professional physicists could do that. It Is a formula for an uncontrolled matter/anti-matter reaction, he says, the first step toward creating an anti-matter bomb. Sue becomes dismayed at the prospect of yet another bomb, but Reed explains that this particular instrument of destruction make even the most powerful hydrogen bomb seem like a slingshot by comparison. If improperly placed, he says, an anti-matter bomb could expunge the entire North American continent. Spider-Man suggests that there Is a long way to go before the theoretical ideas in the equations are realized, but Reed replies that Professor Ironwood is the one man who could do It. He was once hailed as another Einstein, he continues, until he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era and left nuclear physios for astronomy. To be forced to work on such a project now would kill the honorable professor, says Reed as he promises to do whatever he can to help. A group of miners and other citizens of Castle Rook, Montana is celebrating July 4 with a brawl at the Star-Lite Bar, where Bruce Banner is working as a waiter. It is difficult for him to remain calm in the middle of the fight. Suddenly one of the brawlers hits him so hard that he falls out the front door. Adrenaline surges through his bloodstream, and in seconds he changes into the Hulk. But before he can destroy the bar, a shadowy figure shoots him with a tranquilizer gun, and he turns back into Banner and falls to the sidewalk.
Sedated by the narco-dart, Banner sleeps until noon of the next day. When he awakens, he does not know where he is, but when his captor enters the bedroom, Banner recognizes him as Alexei Vazhin, a Russian secret agent. Vazhin explains that they are in a Winnebago parked at a truck stop just over the Colorado state line. He is not interested in taking Banner to the Soviet Union, he says. Rather, he needs his help, his and the Hulks. Banner says he will not betray his country, but Vazhin replies that they must save the world from obliteration. Although the Soviet Union and the United States are currently in detente, continues Vazhin, there are those in the Kremlin who oppose this arrangement and view the recent signing of the SALT treaty as a sell-out. One such is General Nikolai Kutzov, who resigned his commission in protest and stole the KGB master file on Daniel Ironwood. Using forged letters, Kutzov duped Darkstar. the new Crimson Dynamo, and Vanguard Into believing that he has the full authority of the Communist Party Central Committee. Kutzov told them that the United States is about to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike, and they believe they are acting to save their Motherland. Two days ago. continues Vazhin, the three of them abducted Ironwood and his daughter, and Kutzov is forcing Ironwood to build an anti-matter bomb. Banner is appalled, but Vazhin says that Kutzov thinks this is just an ordinary bomb, only bigger. Kutzov must be stopped at any cost, says Vazhin, who needs Banner both because he is the world's foremost authority on nuclear weapons and because he is the Hulk. Faced with this appeal. Banner quickly agrees.
Several days later, as dawn breaks over the Rocky Mountains, Spider-Man jumps with a hang-glider from the Fantastic Four's pogo plane. Then, using a computer autopilot, the plane heads back to New York. Reed Richards managed to trace Darkstar's Darkforce, which leaves a unique residual energy pattern, but it took him two days of non-stop work. His computers finally located the general area where Darkstar could be found, but now Spider-Man will have to use the spider-tracer on Cissy's belt to find them. Unseen by Spider-Man, Vazhin and Banner are on horseback in Cathedral Canyon far below. Vazhin thinks he sees something in the sky, but it is gone before he can get a good look. Kutzov's big mistake, says Vazhin, was to use the KGB's North American network to provide the special materials needed for the bomb. This led Vazhin right to him. But even as they talk, Kutzov watches them on a monitor, accompanied by his prisoner, Daniel Ironwood. Kutzov says that his former comrades in Moscow have sent their best man after him. Ironwood tells the ruthless general that he cannot be forced to work on such a project, but Kutzov says that if he tries to quit, he will torture his daughter. When he is done with her, he continues, she will be alive but not even remotely human. Kutzov has sent the Crimson Dynamo, Vanguard, and Dark-star to Cathedral Canyon to intercept Banner and Vazhin. As they observe the two riders on a ledge below, Darkstar whispers that it Is strange for the Americans to send only two men after them. This hardly seems like a country preparing to start a nuclear war. Vanguard replies that all it takes is a single order to their missile forces, not a general armed forces mobilization. Nevertheless, replies Darkstar, she has her doubts about their mission. She wishes she knew more about the "miracle weapon" that Kutzov is building to eliminate America as a threat to the Soviet Union for all time. The Dynamo says that theirs is not to question but to simply do their duty and destroy those that threaten the Motherland. So saying, he opens fire with an energy blast, and Banner and Vazhin ride for cover. But the excitement causes Banner to change into the Hulk, and his horse throws him off before his weight breaks its back.
When he picks himself up, he at first thinks the horse is his enemy, but then he sees the three Russians. He rips a section of the cliff out from under them and attacks the Dynamo, who plummets to the ground In front of him. Darkstar uses her Dark-force in an attempt to keep the Hulk away, but his prodigious strength shatters the Darkforce field, causing her to scream In agony. Then Vanguard challenges him, and when the Hulk throws a punch, Vanguard deflects it with his hammer and sickle. The Hulk slams into the cliff and is buried in a pile of rocks. But before Vanguard and Darkstar can breathe a sigh of relief, the Hulk smashes his way out and attacks Vanguard again. And again, the crossed hammer and sickle counter the Hulk's onslaught. As Vanguard keeps the Hulk at bay, Spider-Man, still descending in his hang-glider, enters the battle. He off-balances the Crimson Dynamo, trying to prevent him from using the weapons in his exoskeleton. When the Dynamo picks up a rock to hurl at him, Spider-Man realizes that the Dynamo's weapons were probably damaged during the scuffle with the Hulk. So he leaps confidently onto the rock, breaks off a chunk, and hammers the Dynamo into unconsciousness.
Darkstar says the United States Is planning to wipe out Russia with a sneak nuclear attack, and Spider-Man replies that whoever told her that is crazy. Suddenly his spider-sense tingles, and he turns to see the Hulk once more attacking Vanguard. His inability to penetrate Vanguard's defense makes the Hulk increasingly angry, and the madder he gets, the stronger he gets. This time, his attack is so powerful that it brings down the entire cliff. Spider-Man grabs Darkstar to save her from the avalanche. Nimbly carrying her from rock to rock as the avalanche gathers momentum, he leaps onto a tree to use as a springboard. But the avalanche brings it down and him and her with it. After a while, the dust settles, and Spider-Man and Darkstar dig themselves out. Digging further, Spider-Man finds both Bruce Banner and Vanguard alive. Evidently, the Hulk's body protected Vanguard and then changed back to Banner.
Banner is exhausted, but he tells Spider-Man Kutzov's plan. Then Spider-Man picks up the signal from his spider-tracer, and he quickly carries Banner up the cliff, leaving Darkstar and Vanguard the task of digging out the Crimson Dynamo. In a cavern deep within one wall of Cathedral Canyon is General Kutzov's secret base. He discovered it years before, and the KGB had planned to use it to eavesdrop on the NORAD command post in Cheyenne Mountain 100 miles to the south. Detente and budget cuts forestalled the project, and Kutzov took the cavern over himself. Despite the Hulk's pummeling, the equipment, Kutzov, and his two hostages have remained intact, and the two gleaming spheres of Ironwood's anti-matter bomb are primed and ready for activation. But suddenly Colonel Vazhin, who escaped the melee outside, enters and covers Kutzov with a pistol. Vazhin tells Ironwood and his daughter to move away from the general, but Kutzov hurls a wrench and knocks Vazhin's gun from his hand. Then Kutzov bowls Vazhin over, but just as he is about to smash Vazhin's head with the wrench, Spider-Man webs up Kutzov's hand. As Banner cautiously climbs down to the cavern floor, Kutzov suddenly yanks the webbing, breaking the stalactite that Spider-Man is clinging to. Spider-Man lands on his feet, knowing that Kutzov is as strong as the Kingpin. Then Kutzov opens fire with a machine gun. Spider-Man pulls Daniel and Cissy Ironwood out of the line of fire with his webbing. As Kutzov concentrates on Spider-Man, Bruce Banner sneaks up and trips the general, letting Spider-Man get in a knockout punch.
Unfortunately, as Kutzov falls, he hits a control-panel button that activates the anti-matter bomb. Ironwood laments that no power on Earth can now arrest the process. Humanity is doomed, he shouts, and it is all his fault. When the spheres touch, the anti-matter created within them will interact with the Earth itself. Then, says Spider-Man naively, they must keep the spheres from touching. Banner replies that this is impossible because the attraction between the spheres is irresistible. Spider-Man suggests that the Hulk is also irresistible, but Banner replies that he is too exhausted to change into him. Then Spider-Man calls Banner a quitter and slaps him in the face, which has the desired effect of making Banner angry and changing him into the Hulk. The Hulk grabs Spider-Man, but Spider-Man twists free and goads him into getting between the spheres to keep them apart. But the spheres inexorably move closer together despite the Hulk's straining muscles. The onlookers start to give up hope, but the Hulk exerts himself and shoves the spheres a few inches farther apart. Spider-Man realizes that the Hulk will eventually become tired, so, thinking fast, he decides to detonate the bomb after all, but in outer space. He tells the Hulk to hit one of the balls so high that it will never come down.
The Hulk, believing he is engaged in a simple test of his strength, obliges, and the sphere is hurled at lightning speed toward the heavens. The second sphere, irresistibly attracted by the first, follows it, and in seconds the two objects are thousands of miles above the Earth. There is a titanic explosion when the spheres finally collide, but the Earth is safe. When Spider-Man congratulates the Hulk for his heroism, the Hulk thinks Spider-Man is mocking him. But before he can do anything about it, he changes into Bruce Banner and collapses. Then Vazhln suddenly picks up his gun and shoots Daniel Ironwood. Cissy is horrified at this apparently ruthless act, and Spider-Man instantly webs Vazhin up. Before Spider-Man can pound Vazhin senseless, however, Professor Ironwood himself asks him to stop. Ironwood knows his wound is mortal, but he is grateful to Vazhin for what he has done. Only he knows the secret of the anti-matter bomb, he says, which he discovered partly 'by accident. No one else on Earth is even close to figuring it out. This way, he continues, the secret will die with him. Vazhin explains that if Ironwood were left alive, the Kremlin would never believe he would not build another bomb for the United States, and they would strike first with nuclear weapons, no matter what the cost. Telling his tearful daughter that he loves her, Ironwood passes away.
Then, Banner remarks that this will change nothing at all because as long as bombs exist, they will just get bigger and better. To really change things, he continues, humanity itself must say, "No more bombs." But, he says forlornly, humanity does not have that kind of courage.
- References to Russia being the USSR, all Cold War references, and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks should be considered topical references per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616. Likewise, should reference to it being the 203rd anniversary of the United States, and Daniel Ironwood being blacklisted during the McCarthy Era.
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