California! Knows How to Party!

Eponymous Kid

L.A. Story

This issue's cover depicts a scene that doesn't occur inside! The entire team is looking at Avona's body in the morgue with solemn expressions on their faces. Mulholland holds Avona's heart in her hands, as if she'd just removed it herself. Oh, and some of Avona's vertebrae are on the table beside her. This will make just a little more sense later.

Our star for this issue is Magdalena Marie, alias Veda. She was born Magdalena Marie Neuntauben, to a German father and a Mexican mother, but dropped her last name for show business, since nobody could pronounce it ("Noon-tow-ben", for the record). The interviewer asks her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Well, when she was in third grade she did a social studies report on Korea. She learned about tae kwan do and orphans, and fell in love with both. We then see little Maggie practicing karate (she didn't understand the difference at the time) with adults. That's when she decided that when she was an adult, she would do karate and help orphans. "It's a very 'nine-year-old' thought to have, isn't it?" Anyway, she started training and eventually won a bunch of tournaments. Then she caught the eye of a modeling agent, and after that branched off into Hollywood as a model-actress who could do all her own stunts. Cut to Maggie doing a John Woo-style "firing two guns whilst jumping through the air" stunt in a movie.

Here's the thing: with the very first check she got, she started a charity. After that, she started taking whatever offers paid the most and funneling it back into, well, orphans and karate. "Movies, money, fame... all of it was in service to what I actually wanted to do." Cut to Maggie teaching a bunch of children tae kwan do. Anyway, all of it went to the kids. She taught them tae kwan do, and she taught them charity. She went all around the world and helped orphans and helped build orphanages. She's not the diva you hear about on tv. She only pretends to think she's a princess. She's a simple girl, and she loves her kids. The scene shifts to Maggie volunteering, painting the walls of an orphanage.

The interviewer finds this all very interesting, but a thought occurs: they aren't really her kids, are they? She obviously loves children — has she ever thought of having any of her own? Maggie has a worried, almost confused look on her face. The question seems to have caught her by surprise. For the moment, she doesn't have an answer.

Back in the present day, Maggie, as Veda, commands the golems she summoned from the concrete, her "babies", to kick some ass. The theme for this issue's quotes is motherhood. Mark Twain describes his own mother as an extremely big-hearted woman, William Makepeace Thackeray says that "mother" is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children... and infamous prima donna Isadora Duncan laments the "price we pay for the glory motherhood." These are all superimposed over Veda and her babies contending with the Zobo outbreak. Zobos are clearly technologically-based, but it turns out the name is a portmanteau of "zombie" and "hobo", due to the fact that they appear to have been transients in life. Veda thinks both "zombie" and "hobo" are a little insensitive to their condition.

She's singing a different tune when two Zobos concert their efforts and tear one of her golems apart. Summoning more soldiers, she mutters under her breath that she felt that. Heavy thinks she's overreacting. These things are trying to kill them, what did she expect them to do? Anyway, she's also concerned that there seems to be more of them than last time. Heavy agrees, and contacts the rest of the team to see if they've noticed anything like that on their end. In Culver City, Supernaut uses his sensors to take a live tally, and discovers exactly twice as many of them as there were on Rodeo Drive the day before. Logically, that's probably the case in Century City and outside the Order's HQ, too. At HQ, Anthem counts 150 total (with 123 still standing right now). Pepper gets the numbers from the Rodeo Drive incident, and oddly enough it was 75 on the nose. Veda uses her "multisight", seeing through the eyes of all her "babies" at once, to confirm that they've got 150 in Century City, too. Back outside HQ, Aralune, who used her powers to grow to giant size, wonders what the point is in bringing people back to life with cyber tech if all they do is break stuff and bite people.

Inside, in the morgue, Mulholland talks to Avona's body. The SHIELD ME took out her heart, apparently to weigh it or something. She's holding it in her hands and sitting at the edge of the slab. She says she's sorry that she got fired, and that she didn't deserve to get murdered. I guess I was wrong when I figured her death for a suicide; Avona seemed kind of unbalanced to me. Mulholland says she's going to try to figure out what happened to her. She's holding her heart because she's hoping that will help her form some kind of connection to Avona. That her powers would sort of kick in or something and let her get to the bottom of this. Avona's heart glows in Mulholland's hands, and she finds herself face to face with the dead woman's ghost. Avona says hi, but only scared Mulholland.

Back outside, Anthem wants to know if they can get Calamity to come in. He underestimated the zobos, and it's getting pretty bad. Pepper reminds him that he gave Calamity the day off. Besides... she can't find him. He's gone off the grid. Supernaut hears this, and doesn't like the sound of it. Anthem wants to know what he has to say. Supernaut says he's just got a bad feeling about it, when suddenly SHIELD agents arrive via jetpack. Soon, the Zobo outbreak is contained. Veda crouches over the body of one of her downed golems. She feels it every time they get killed. Heavy tries to comfort her, but she'll be okay. It just... it just hurts a little. Back at HQ, Anthem's coordinating the clean-up effort and giant-sized Aralune is moving the zobo bodies by the armful. The city council representatives who had told Anthem to vacate last issue ask if it's safe to come out. Anthem assures them it is... and they're positively outraged by what's happened. There's freaking robot zombie bodies cluttering the streets. This tears it — the Order is to move out immediately.

Inside, the Order's senior staff (Anthem, Pepper, Heavy, and Kate Kildare) conduct a meeting. Apparently they're more concerned about the Zobo problem than the eviction notice for the moment. I'm just now noticing that Heavy has a brace on his arm. The Gargoyle really messed him up. Heavy's seen these tactics before, when he was in the military. Poking and prodding at enemy defenses to find an opening. "Not taking the killshot, but... looking for it." Pepper brings in hard data: each attack is farther away from the last. This is definitely a test of some kind. Anthem agrees with both of them. Each attack occurs at roughly the same time, with double the numbers of the last one. He characterizes it as very "military", but wonders who could be doing it or why. Pepper uses a holographic projection to outline several suspects, and none of them are very promising. The Red Skull. MODOK and A.I.M. The High Evolutionary. Baron Strucker and HYDRA. Apocalypse. Dr. Doom. Some of the greatest threats ever faced by humanity. This is a brand-new Stark-sanctioned superhero team. Who wouldn't try?

Anthem doesn't like the sound of that. Moving on, they have the issue of Calamity having gone missing. Pepper can't find him... and she's very good at finding people. After all, remember what Milo said about the dataspine last issue? You can find anything, anywhere in the world. Heavy notes that Milo seemed to know something about this. He'll have a chat with him after the meeting. Anthem finally brings up the eviction matter. Kate comes forward with the existence of Becky's sex tape and its inevitable leak to the media. Mulholland walks in to say that Avona told her one of the other fired teammates had something to do with her death, so they have to round them up.

Anthem can't believe this. "Do I have to do this for a year? Can I quit? Because I do. I quit." Pepper seems to share this sentiment, throwing her arms up in resignation. Elsewhere, in a hole-in-the-wall bar, our friend the M.A.N. from S.H.A.D.O.W. finds Jamal Peoples, formerly known as Maul, drinking his troubles away. He sits down next to him and says he's a hard man to find. Jamal doesn't want to deal with this right now. If he wants to talk about the Order, he's not allowed to say a goddamn thing. They made him sign nine different non-disclosure agreements before they let him leave. The M.A.N. from S.H.A.D.O.W. doesn't want to hear what he has to say about the Order. There's nothing Jamal could tell him that he doesn't already know. No, he's here to hire him. Jamal's interested, asking if the money's good. "Hell no, it's the military. But if you play nice, you might get to kill Henry Hellrung." Jamal likes the sound of that. He's in.

Being that Jamal is the only one of the fired team members we've seen thus far, he's also our only suspect to date in Avona's murder. I don't remember how this worked out, but I've got a feeling he wasn't involved. Anyway, Anthem has a video conference with Tony Stark. He counsels him on managing a team of dynamic personalities and such. Anthem asks if he's still going to meetings. Of course! He's Tony Stark, he's in meetings all day. After Tony hangs up, Anthem sullenly says those aren't the kind of meetings he meant. This isn't a good sign.

Later, the team assembles in the medical bay or whatever to receive intel on the zobos based on what SHIELD scientists have observed in the captured specimens. The head scientist takes care to note that for every answer they have, there's a dozen "I don't know"s after it. That, and any "how" or "why" would be speculation and extremely premature. Essentially, the Zobos are exactly what Calamity had characterized them as — medically dead people reanimated through technological manipulation. He also notes that they're operated by cellular signals. Aralune is surprised to hear that they're sort of like phones. And that's really the situation; their control signal is hidden on the cellular band.

Anthem and Heavy want to know if they can pinpoint where the signals are broadcast from. Veda wants to know who they are, and, well... they appear to actually have been homeless people prior to their deaths. People who wouldn't be missed, who nobody would notice if they went missing. They've actually managed to identify a few of them via tattoos, service records, fingerprints, etc. Veda says they need to be looking at homeless shelters, shantytowns, and missions that are near cell towers. Turns out they'd thought of this; Mercy Mission on Skid Row is between three cell tower convergence sites. If this investigation's going to get off the ground, it'll probably have to start there. Unless they can turn something up before the end of the day, their only choice will be to shut down the cell network entirely. Heavy isn't a happy camper about this... or the fact that Calamity's still missing.

Next thing you know, Anthem touches down in a trailer park and asks for directions to Carl Crenshaw's place. He really hopes Milo is wrong about this. He finds the door open, and walks inside to find James in his civilian clothes. Playing a game on Carl's Wii. James hopes he isn't late for anything or whatever. It's still supposed to be his day off, it hasn't even been 12 hours since he was told to kick back. He says he thought he'd use the time to check up on Carl Crenshaw, they got to talking... he's not in trouble, is he? James seems to pick up on Anthem's concern, and assures him they've just been hanging out. Carl even offers Anthem a beer, but he doesn't drink. Anthem says they've got a situation that's about to boil over, and before he knows it James has changed into the Calamity costume. He says goodbye to Carl and they head out.

I love this scene. The end of last issue was a terrific cliffhanger, because you just didn't know what Calamity was going to do. You didn't know what you wanted him to do. Now, we see that he didn't, you know, beat him to death, he actually made friends with him. But the tension isn't over yet — we won't find out why until next issue.

That night, Veda and Anthem head for Mercy Mission. Veda lectures him about the area. The local fire department actually has "Skid Row" on the side of their trucks. Now, the area is notoriously undeveloped... but there are supposed to be ten thousand people living here. And the streets are empty. Apparently while Anthem was fetching Calamity, she did some research. She says hospitals kick out the uninsured, still sick, still in their gowns, and drop them off here. "What's happening to L.A.'s homeless out here, Henry?" He says they're being turned into war drones, but then realizes that was a rhetorical question. That line was funny, but it also got across that Anthem has a lot on his mind and isn't really on his game right now.

Veda rants about whoever is behind the zobos clearly thought that because these people were homeless, they were somehow less than human. That it meant they could get away with it. Anthem tells her that she needs to be able to handle this, but she insists that's exactly what she's doing. She's fighting injustice, she's avenging people who had their humanity stolen from them. "Handling this" is why she signed up for the Order in the first place. Opening the doors to Mercy Mission, they find robotic arms at operating tables... and no bodies. Anthem contacts Aralune and Mulholland, who are waiting outside, to stand down. Veda asks if he's okay, but he's just tired of having to call Tony all the time to clean up after him. Calamity rushes to Anthem's side, confirming that they're the only ones around... and that there are morgue slabs downstairs.

Heavy says they need to bring SHIELD in to take this place apart. And it's probably a good idea to bring Stark in on this, too. Downstairs, Anthem belays that last order. He finds a familiar pair of sunglasses at a sophisticated computer terminal. Supernaut recognizes them as belonging to the M.A.N. from S.H.A.D.O.W. This just got personal.

SHIELD agents arrive soon, and Veda tries to comfort the confused and aimless team by saying she just called her money manager and bought the Mercy Mission. At least people will be taken care of again.

Back at her interview, Maggie says that she can't have children. She got sick when she was little, and... she can't. This is probably how the Order lured her to the project, with the promise of being able to create her own "babies." But that's not important. Every day, 384 kids who would otherwise be starving wake up in a warm bed in one of her shelters, where they receive a hot meal before going to one of her organizations schools. As far as she's concerned, that means she saves the world 384 times before most people get out of bed. "How many times have you saved the world today?"

Next time: To Live and Die in L.A.