FILE 1: THE YELLOW CLAW

Chapter One: The Early Life of the Yellow Claw

Few records survive which contain details of the life of the Yellow Claw prior to the 1950s, which remains shrouded in mystery. We know that he was born somewhere in Mainland China around the middle of the nineteenth century, yet we do not know his real name or his exact place of birth. We also know that he had a least one sibling, who in turn had a child, who subsequently produced the Claw's grandniece Suwan. Most importantly, it is clear that he was a man of formidable intellect and it was this that allowed him to thrive for a century before the first detailed records of his life begin. The Yellow Claw was a genius in the then-fledgling field of biochemistry, and it was through his knowledge of this science that he was able to formulate elixirs, which granted him longevity. It is clear also, as we shall see, that he had mastered the equally young science of genetics and was also a gifted engineer and cyberneticist. Yet another skill he mastered early on was hypnotism, which he could use to enthral even the strongest of wills. There is also some evidence that he had at least basic knowledge of the Mystic Arts and it may be a combination of this and biochemistry, which allowed him to increase his lifespan.

When Mao Tse-Tung's revolution swept across China, it bypassed the Yellow Claw. By this time, he dwelt in an opulent Manchu palace in the foothills of the Tibetan Alps, which he had either inherited or captured, and whether he was able to retain it through the use of force or on the strength of his reputation alone is unclear. It does not matter; either way, he dwelt there with his sole remaining relative Suwan, untroubled by the neighbouring peasants who lived in constant fear of his wrath.

By the early nineteen-fifties, the ideological war between communism in the East and democracy in the West was at its height. The Chinese High Command was preparing to invade Formosa, but was stopped by the presence of the American Seventh Fleet in the Formosa Straits. They realised that an all-out War with America would mean a costly defeat, not only because of America's greater armed forces, but also because of its increasingly large population of so-called Super-Heroes such as those who made up the Front Line. The Chinese High Command was pondering this problem in Kunming in the Yunman Province when one General Mao Sung made a suggestion. He suggested that they dispatch an agent to the USA to undermine the infrastructure of its society by a carefully orchestrated campaign of terrorism. The agent he suggested was the Yellow Claw. He had heard tales of the enigmatic Claw during his stint as commander of the occupation troops in Sirang, and had been convinced that they contained an element of truth.

At first, General Chu was reluctant to believe tales of a century-old mystic, until two of his other aides confirmed that they too had heard tales of the Yellow Claw, both in Sinkians and Chinghai. Whilst they knew little of the man himself, his name was spoken in fear and dread. Deciding that the idea of recruiting this man to work for them in America had merit, General Chu despatched General Sung to find the Yellow Claw, if he existed, and hire him "at any cost". In doing so, he paved the way for an assault on America by one of the twentieth century's most dangerous supervillains...

 

Chapter Two: Enter: Jimmy Woo

When General Mao Sung and his entourage arrived at the foothills of the Tibetan Alps in Western China, he found that the peasants fled in terror at the mere mention of the Yellow Claw. Consequently, he was becoming increasingly frustrated at his failure to obtain directions to the Yellow Claw's palace.

The Yellow Claw however, was expecting him. He had used his arcane abilities and an ancient crystal sphere to predict the future and thus had foreseen the arrival of General Sung. The High Command's plans for him amused him; he decided to aid them by complying with their quest. But the Yellow Claw's plans were much greater than merely aiding the Chinese Government. Throughout his long life, he had seen the world divided, torn apart by warring countries and riddled with strife. Convinced that his genius could bring order to this wasteful chaos, he had decided to unite the world and bring about a global and lasting peace under his own rule. And he was prepared to go to any lengths to achieve this aim. For now, he would use the resources of China to carry out the task the High Command asked of him, since it suited his own purpose to topple America from its position as arguably the most powerful nation on earth. Once this was done however, even his homeland would not be safe from his machinations...

Since General Sung was having trouble finding the palace of the Yellow Claw, the Claw sent his grandniece out to meet him. At this time, Suwan was an attractive young woman apparently in her late teens or early twenties, although if she had partaken of her Granduncle's elixirs she may well have been older. Introducing herself to General Sung, she immediately aroused his curiosity. He was eager to know how the Claw had known he was approaching, and if his was really as old as legends claimed. Interestingly, when confirming her relative's age, Suwan told the General that he had learned the secret of longevity off an old Tibetan Lama. Whilst it is possible that this mysterious Lama's teachings contributed to the secret of the Claw's elixir, what is more interesting is that he is almost certainly the source of the Yellow Claw's knowledge of sorcery. It is unclear whether the Claw's ability to predict the future was due entirely to magic however, as there is some evidence that his powers of hypnotism are also attributable to natural psychic ability.

Having set General Sung on the right path, Suwan vanished, no doubt using trickery she had learnt from her granduncle. Arriving at the palace, the General and his party entered the opulent exterior as the main doors creaked slowly open unaided; as they looked around the foyer, a gong sounded. Both of these events were almost certainly calculated to increase the already considerable feeling of awe that the General's group were beginning to experience. We have already seen how Suwan greeted them, letting them know that the Yellow Claw already knew of their arrival and her subsequent vanishing act further unnerved them. Throughout this encounter, we see the Claw's strategy in keeping his visitors off-guard, giving himself an advantage over them and thus immediately gaining their respect. It is a display of almost casual cunning, which is merely the first hint of the ruthless manipulation that we will see him employ against his enemies. To further his aim of intimidation, the Yellow Claw then made his entrance and General Mao Sung came first to first with the man whose name he had whispered with terror for miles around.

The Yellow Claw was an impressive sight. He was garbed in the traditional robes of a Mandarin, giving him an air of wisdom, which was not wasted on Sung. His appearance was made more distinctive by his skin colour, which had a jaundiced yellow hue unlike that of his countrymen, and which may have been a side effect of his life-prolonging elixirs. An immaculately groomed moustache contrasted with his hairless skull, which was currently concealed beneath a hat. But most striking of all were his piercing green eyes, burning with ancient wisdom and a ruthless personality. Greeting General Sung, the Yellow Claw bade him enter his study, all the while keeping him off guard by calmly revealing his knowledge of General Sung and his mission. Sung was delighted when the Yellow Claw agreed to help him, but requested a further display of his powers. Amused the Claw decided to show off his powers of hypnotism. As General Sung looked on, the Yellow Claw approached General Sung's lieutenant. Sung was utterly certain of his men's' loyalty to him; he had handpicked them himself. But now, as the Yellow Claw met the man's gaze, Sung could only watch horrified as he pulled a revolver on his superior officer and announced his intention to kill him. Panicking, Sung begged the Yellow Claw to stop his lieutenant and calmly, the potentate broke his control. With no memory of what had transpired, the lieutenant answered the question that the Yellow Claw had asked him just prior to the demonstration: yes, he was prepared to lay down his life in the service of General Sung.

With this demonstration, the Yellow Claw had convinced General Sung that he was just the agent the Communist High Command wanted; thus, he neatly obtained the resources of the Chinese Government with which to conquer the United States of America and therefore further his own ends. He now prepared to depart for America. Suwan, realising that her granduncle ultimately planned to seize world power, refused to help him; however, intimidated by his malignant personality, and apparently subjected to a mild hypnotic suggestion, she was forced to aid him. As we shall see however, this would prove to be a grave mistake on the Yellow Claw's part.

The journey to America would take the Claw and Suwan approximately a month. As he left his palace for the first time in years in a carriage carried by his servants, the local peasants fled in terror at his passing, again reminding us of his reputation. We can only guess at exactly what he did to engender such fear in the locals, but it may be worth remembering that, as we shall see in subsequent chapters, he had become a master of genetic mutation, and would almost certainly have needed subjects to practice on... The Communist High Command had arranged the Claw's transportation to America for him. Catching an aeroplane from Tatsienlu to the coast of China, he and Suwan then travelled the remainder of the way by Submarine, a trip that took three weeks. And then, as the submarine surfaced off the coast of California, the Yellow Claw and Suwan rowed ashore and once more set foot upon American soil.

The Yellow Claw's first recorded foray into the USA had occurred in 1943, when Suwan had still been a little girl. Exactly what he had been doing there is unknown, but given that the first wave of American superheroes had arrived with the onset of World War I, it would seem likely that he was gathering information on them, since he would possibly have to face them if he attempted to conquer America. Whilst there, he learned of a plan by one Lady Lotus, a femme fatale and Axis Powers agent who had formed a group called the Super Axis. This group, which consisted of the nazi Vampire Baron Blood (real name Lord John Falsworth), the Atlantean U-Man (real name Merano), the nazi Master Man (real name Wilhelm Loehmer) and the Super-Human Warrior Woman, had been created to smash the famous war-time hero group the Invaders, but had met with defeat. All save Lotus had been captured. Shortly after this, the Yellow Claw had encountered Lotus in Chinatown, to the shock of the woman who had believed him to be a legend. Commending Lady Lotus's ambition, he had informed her that she had lost because she had struck prematurely. Realising that it was the wrong time to attack the USA, he and Suwan had returned to China, where he had bided his time. Now however, he felt the time was right which was why he had agreed to help the Communist High Command.

The Yellow Claw's new base of operations was an Old Curio Shop in the Chinese section of San Francisco. Exactly why he chose this city as the starting point for his campaign is unclear and indeed there may have been no particular reason. However, we do know that the Yellow Claw required an ally besides Suwan in his America, and he had a very specific person in mind. And given his ability to see distant events in his crystal sphere it may well be that he chose San Francisco simply because he knew that once there he would be able to find Karl von Horstbaden. Von Horstbaden, currently using the alias Fritz von Voltzmann, had been Commandant of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II and was currently one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals still at large. The Yellow Claw had learned of von Voltzmann's secret and knew that he would make a valuable ally. Contacting him, the Yellow Claw arranged a meeting at his Curio Shop. Von Horstbaden, a Nazi through and through, immediately balked at the thought of working for a member of an "inferior race", but the Yellow Claw was quick to remind him that the American Government would only be too glad to learn of his real identity and current location. Realising that he had little choice in the matter, von Voltzmann agreed. Besides, despite himself the Claw's formidable personality impressed him. Thus, the two criminals began what would be a long and fruitful association.

Even as the Yellow Claw made contact with von Voltzmann, another figure whom he would come to know well was about to enter his life, but in a far less welcome manner. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had received reports from spies in the Chinese High Command of the Yellow Claw's arrival in America. The FBI knew little of the Yellow Claw, except that he was an almost mythical figure. They assigned the case to James Woo, better known as Jimmy, whose parents had come to America from China before he was born and had told him stories of the mysterious Yellow Claw. Jimmy Woo had always believed the Claw to be a legend, and was suitably intrigued. Accepting the assignment of finding and stopping the Yellow Claw, Woo boarded an aeroplane bound for San Francisco. The Yellow Claw was aware of all of this, having seen it in his crystal ball, which he had brought with him from China. He and von Voltzmann were amused, but decided to be prepared for Jimmy Woo's arrival nonetheless. This was purely a precautionary measure, since a lone FBI agent would hardly be a match for the combined resourcefulness of a Nazi war criminal who had long eluded capture, and one of the most formidable criminal masterminds of the twentieth century. In making this assessment, both the Yellow Claw and Karl von Horstbaden were seriously underestimating the man who turn out to be one of their greatest foes...

 

Chapter 3: Betrayal:

Now established in his new headquarters, the Yellow Claw prepared to make the first strike in his terrorist campaign against the United States. He had used his crystal orb to find the perfect target, a cache of Government Secrets shortly to be collected from the Amalgamated Chemical Company by one agent Pierson of the Secret Service. The Yellow Claw wished to steal these secrets. However, he had no intention of stealing them personally, preferring to employ a lackey to carry out the task. Since von Horstbadden was too useful to risk losing, he elected to hire someone else. Once more using his crystal sphere, he located a candidate in the form of convict Rocky Miller.

Miller was currently serving a life sentence in San Quentin prison. This was his third sentence to date, and he had twenty years left to serve on it. The Yellow Claw knew that he would gladly exchange his services in return for his freedom. Gaining access to Miller was easy; the Yellow Claw was a master of disguise in addition to his many other talents and, disguised as an ancient and decrepit Caucasian, he paid a visit to the San Quentin Prison. Miller was surprised when the guard informed him that an elderly man was waiting for him in the visitors room, since he knew no one matching that description, but nevertheless decided that he had nothing better to do and agreed to see him. The Claw cut swiftly to the chase; if Miller agreed to serve him, he would engineer his escape. Miller agreed, but was still curious to know just who his benefactor was. He was amazed when the Yellow Claw muttered his name to the convict. He had once had a Chinese houseboy who had spoken the Claw's name in awed superstition, and like Lady Lotus, General Sung and Jimmy Woo before him, had believed him to be a legend. Well aware of his reputation, the disguised Claw removed his gloves, revealing to Miller his gaunt yellow-skinned, long-nailed hands. Miller was convinced. He agreed to serve the Yellow Claw.

The Yellow Claw's plan for releasing Miller was elegantly simply, but one that few could have engineered. When the Yellow Claw had studied the Mystic Arts under the Tibetan Lama, he had learned how to place people in suspended animation by means such as the so-called Lotus Vial of Dreamless sleep. The Yellow Claw now employed a variation of this technique on Miller. Whilst visiting the convict, the Claw had left him a packet of cigarettes with the Warden. He instructed Miller to smoke the one without the brand name, which he had specially treated. That night, Rocky Miller smoked his cigarette and passed into a state of suspended animation, which the prison doctors would not be able to distinguish from death. All that remained was for von Voltzman to collect the body, and bring it to the Yellow Claw's Curio Shop. The Claw awoke him, and began to give him his instructions.

Just then, Jimmy Woo arrived at the Curio shop. Based on the rumours that the FBI had told him about, he was conducting his search for the Yellow Claw in San Francisco's Chinese section, and had started by asking old friends of his whether they had heard anything. None of them had heard of the Yellow Claw's arrival, but Jimmy Woo's curiosity was piqued when his friend Lang-Su told him that Curio Shop owner Ming-How had recently sold his shop and had then vanished without trace. He decided to investigate the shop.

Ming-How had of course vanished because the Yellow Claw had killed him. As Woo entered the shop, the Claw observed him from the curtained-off back of the shop and ordered Suwan to get rid of him. Suwan confirmed the story that Ming-How had sold the shop to her Granduncle and Woo left. The Yellow Claw, satisfied with this, began to brief Miller on his task. Woo however, was suspicious. No Curio dealer he knew of allowed the Curios in his shop to become as dusty as those in Ming-How's shop had become. Deciding to stake out the shop, he was soon rewarded by the sight of Rocky Miller leaving. Since there had been no other customers when Woo had entered the shop, the man had clearly been in the back of the shop all along. Woo decided to follow him, unaware that Von Voltzmann in turn was also following him. The Claw, not convinced of Miller's competence, had sent the old Nazi along to keep an eye on him.

Arriving at the Amalgamated Chemical Factory, Woo immediately recognised Agent Pierson and realised what must be in the briefcase he was carrying. As Miller knocked Pierson out cold and seized the briefcase, Woo emerged from the shadows and pulled a revolver on him. Just then, von Voltzman struck Woo down from behind. When the FBI agent awoke, he was tied to a chair in a cellar. The gun-toting von Voltzman was ordering Miller to take the briefcase to the Claw, whilst he would remain behind to dispose of Woo. Desperately, Woo tried an appeal to Miller's sense of patriotism, crying out that the Yellow Claw was an enemy of America. Incredibly, the ploy worked. Whatever else, Rocky Miller might be, he was not a traitor. He hurled the briefcase into von Voltzman's face, intending to overpower him. The Nazi fired, mortally wounding Miller, then turned and fled as the injured man tried to continue his attack. With his remaining strength, Miller untied Jimmy Woo, and then slumped dead to the floor. As Woo recovered the briefcase, he hoped that in this final act, Miller had gained some redemption.

The Yellow Claw, watching all this in his crystal ball, was furious. Not only had Woo foiled his plan to obtain the briefcase, but also as a consequence the Yellow Claw was forced to find new headquarters. As soon as von Horstbadden returned, the Yellow Claw ordered him and Suwan to began packing the equipment into the truck he had previously obtained, and prepared to depart. Suwan, however, was ordered to remain behind. Aware that his grandniece was comely, he decided to use her as bait to entrap Woo. This would prove to be a serious error of judgement.

Shortly, Jimmy Woo and a group of FBI agents arrived at the shop. Woo demanded to know where Suwan's granduncle the Yellow Claw had gone. She explained that he did not know where he had gone, but that she was forced to work for him against her will, by hypnosis on occasion. She further informed him that he had his designs set on the whole world, and that America was just the first step. The Yellow Claw was, as usual, monitoring events in his quartz crystal and gleefully informed von Horstbadden that Suwan had done as he had hoped and gained the FBI agent's confidence. However, Woo meanwhile was not entirely convinced of Suwan's innocence and decided to once more watch the shop. Shortly, a messenger arrived from the Yellow Claw with the address of the Claw's new hideout. Suwan was torn by indecision; if she contacted Jimmy Woo, she would be free of her granduncle's schemes, but she would also be betraying her sole living relative. Deciding that she could not do this, she went to join the Claw. Woo followed.

The Yellow Claw was surprised that Suwan did not bring Jimmy Woo with her, since he had expected to be betrayed. However, although he had underestimated her loyalty, he had not underestimated Woo's resourcefulness; the FBI agent kicked the door down and came face to face for the first time with the Yellow Claw. If the Claw intimidated Woo, he did not show it. But as he ordered the mastermind to raise his hands, he began to realise just how cunning the old man was. He had clearly been expecting Woo, since von Horstbadden now emerged from his hiding place behind the door where he had been waiting for Woo's arrival, and he now pulled his own gun on the FBI man. With Woo once more tied to a chair, the Yellow Claw invited von Horstbadden to kill him any way he chose and prepared to leave. Suwan however, had other ideas. She was attracted to Woo and could not bear to see him killed. She suggested instead that the Yellow Claw could exchange his life for the government secrets that Rocky Miller had failed to obtain. The Claw agreed and Suwan left to make the deal. Von Horstbadden was suspicious and reminded the Claw that if Suwan brought the Americans here, they would both be caught. The Claw had already realised this however. Handing von Horstbadden an address, he ordered him to bring Suwan there when she returned, whilst he moved Woo to this new location.

Meanwhile, the FBI had agreed to the exchange. Suwan informed her uncle that it was to be made at pier 57 in half an hour. Whilst von Horstbadden went to start the truck, Suwan went to see Woo, ostensibly to place a hood over his head so that he could not lead the FBI back to the new HQ. Woo, having believed that she was genuine when she had told him that she wanted no part of her uncle's mad schemes, was less than pleased to see her. But all was not as it seemed. Suwan had a plan... Shortly, Fritz arrived at Woo's cell, and transferred the hooded figure to the truck. As the Claw again watched from afar, the Nazi drove towards Pier 57. When he had almost arrived, he decided it would be safe to remove his prisoner's hood. Beneath it, wearing Woo's clothes and with her mouth bound with adhesive tape, was Suwan. Braking hard, the ex-commandant of Auschwitz untied her. She explained that Woo had free himself and had overpowered her when she had gone to put the hood on him. Astounded, the observing Yellow Claw flung open the door to the back room of his hideout, and saw the open window through which Woo had escaped. The Yellow Claw had lost both Woo and his second chance to snatch the Government secrets.

Of course, Suwan had not been overpowered by Woo; rather she had untied him herself and suggested the switch. This was the first time that she had betrayed her granduncle, but it would not be the last. In fact, the pattern would begin to regularly repeat itself...

 

Chapter 4: The Mutants

Having established himself as a presence in America in the eyes of the FBI, the Yellow Claw now set out to make his first major public attack on the country. To do this, he required the assistance of specialist agents. The Claw had learned of a group of six mutants, five men and a boy, with staggering psionic powers, which he now sought to turn to his own advantage. Mutants were a sub-species of humanity more properly known as Homo sapiens superior. Although a few mutants had existed for centuries, in the form of the particular breed known as Xternals, their existence was not widely known, and it would not be until the last decades of the millennium that their population would expand massively, bringing them to the attention of a distrusting and fearful public. These six mutants were therefore an incredible rarity and a resource that the Claw refused to waste.

We know little of these mutants, including how the Claw had learned of their existence, although his crystal sphere is a likely explanation. What we do know is that they had a combined IQ of 30,000 and enough psychic ability to alter reality itself. It would seem also that they are a gestalt, since they are only ever seen working in unison. Despite their impressive mental faculties however, the Yellow Claw's own mind was a formidable weapon, and they were soon subject to his whim. Moving to a new hideout in a rocky mountainside in the Mojave Desert, the Yellow Claw began to test the abilities of his new subjects. Soon, reports were reaching the media of a variety of bizarre phenomenon including a levitating cow, a horse transformed so that it had the head of a pig and the feathers of a chicken, an invisible dog, a levitating canoe with its owner still inside it, and the transmogrification of the waters of nearby Logan's Lake into milk. Having seen the disruptive effect this mischief-making had on the locals, and the impact on the national newspapers, the satisfied Yellow Claw now prepared his mind control mutants to prepare for the main project, which was to cause massive chaos in the cities of America. Soon, pavements warped, buildings twisted and reality itself began to unravel across the USA.

Suwan however, was not pleased with this development. She was growing tired of her granduncle's terrorism and reluctantly decided to try and stop him. In order to do this, she contacted Jimmy Woo. Woo read Suwan's letter, which described the Claw's plan and the involvement of the mutants, with interest and a certain amount of relief; the chaos that had been unleashed was terrifying America but had thus far been unexplained. The FBI was desperate for a clue as to what was happening and now Jimmy Woo had been given one. With the blessing of his superior, he set out alone to the Mojave Desert and the coordinates Suwan had provided in her note. It is interesting that with America in such disarray Woo was allowed to go alone, but given his familiarity with, and determination to stop, the Yellow Claw, it is perhaps understandable that he should want to attempt this by himself. Besides, we can assume that his superior felt that he had more chance of attacking undetected if he was alone, and it seems likely that back-up was standing by in case he failed. Soon, he had commandeered a jet and arrived at the Yellow Claw's hidden base.

Suwan was waiting to let him in through a concealed entrance in the rock face, but the Claw was waiting too; whether he had known of Suwan's treachery or merely noticed Jimmy Woo's arrival is unclear, but as the agent entered his lair, Woo suddenly found his hands restrained by a pair of handcuffs which had been his service revolver moments before. The Claw now greeted his captive and introduced him to the mutants. However, in focusing his attention on Woo, the Claw had neglected to watch his grandniece, and von Horstbadden was not present having apparently remained in San Francisco. Suddenly, Suwan struck a large gong at the back of the chamber, the sound of which broke the hypnotic trance holding the mutants. Had the six been of a vengeful nature, the Yellow Claw would have been in very grave trouble; fortunately, they wished merely to escape and, focusing their minds, they teleported to an unknown location. With the Yellow Claw's plan foiled, Jimmy Woo now turned to arrest him, with his revolver restored and once more trained on the Claw.

The Yellow Claw faced this new situation in a typically cool and dignified manner, seizing Suwan and holding her before him, since he knew Jimmy Woo would not risk harming her. Backing out of the room, he triggered a steel shutter, which blocked him off from Woo, and departed, with his duplicitous relative. When Woo found an alternative route from the base, he was just in time to see an escape plane containing the pair jet off into the distance. But although the Claw had again escaped, he had at least been defeated for the time being. In the aeroplane, the Claw was chastising Suwan, but still could not bring himself to harm her. He did however issue the implied threat of grave repercussions of any further betrayal. With the mutants gone and now probably on guard against him, he decided to give them no more thought, and on returning to San Francisco he turned his hand back to more traditional forms of terrorist action.

 

Chapter 5: Cabin 361:

With Suwan's betrayal having sabotaged the Yellow Claw's ambitious plan with the mutants, he now set his mind once more upon the business of terrorism. His target on this occasion was a planned diplomatic meeting between two American ambassadors and a party of "far-Eastern officials", set to take place on the island of Honolulu. The Yellow Claw's allies in the communist high command in China had no desire for an alliance between east and west since they felt it would undermine their authority. More importantly, improved relations between these two superpowers would hinder the Yellow Claw's plans for world domination. He decided to prevent the American ambassadors from ever reaching Honolulu.

The two American ambassadors were to travel to Honolulu from San Francisco on the ocean liner S. S. Aloha. The Yellow Claw's plan was simple; he, Suwan and Von Voltzmann would gain passage on board the same ship and would dispose of the ambassadors en route. This would however require them to have an escape route from the vessel prepared, and to this end, the Claw contacted his communist allies in China, arranging for them to send a submarine to trail the ship from San Francisco in order to pick up the Claw and his two companions as and when necessary. All that remained was to book passage under a suitable alias, and his plan was complete. Once more employing his mastery of disguise, he created for himself the guise of aging Caucasian businessman Carter Wilson. Suwan was made up to pass as "Miller's" wife, and Von Voltzmann would pose as their butler. As an added precaution, the Yellow Claw had his duplicitous niece sedated; he would tell the crew that she was ill, which would also give himself and his party a valid excuse for remaining hidden in their cabin for most of the journey. With cabin 361 on board the S. S. Aloha booked, and Suwan appropriately anaesthetised, all that remained was for the Yellow Claw and his companions to board the ship.

Then fate, in the familiar form of Jimmy Woo, intervened once more. Woo was still on the Claw's trail, and was determined to bring him in. Whether by chance or otherwise, Woo arrived at the San Francisco docks just as the Claw, Von Voltzmann and Suwan were boarding the S. S. Aloha. I hypothesise that Woo was staking out the docks in order to catch the Claw should he try to leave America via this route. He must certainly have been looking for the villain and his companions, given that, despite her disguise, he instantly recognised the supine form of Suwan. Although she was heavily enshrouded in the garb of an old woman, her ankles remained bare, and it was these ankles, far too smooth and youthful for an old woman, which caught Woo's eye. Leaping to the correct conclusion, he boarded the ship in search of the Claw. The Chief of police who was cooperating with Woo radioed the ship's Captain and requested that he assist the FBI agent. With the Captain's aid, Jimmy swiftly identified his quarries as "Carter Wilson and party" from the guest list. "Wilson" had informed the Captain that his wife was ill, and had requested that food be delivered to them in cabin 361. Seizing the opportunity that this provided him with, Jimmy took the place of the steward assigned the task of delivering the food, and made his way to the Claw's cabin.

The Yellow Claw was expecting him. He had recognised his erstwhile nemesis at the docks, at the same time as Woo had identified Suwan, and had predicted that the FBI agent would come to his cabin in the place of the steward. Deciding not to waste time with games, he removed his Carter Wilson mask as soon as Woo arrived, whilst Von Voltzmann covered him with a revolver. Then, covering Jimmy with his own gun, the Claw despatched Von Horstbadden to fetch the two American diplomats. With the pair his captives, the Yellow Claw's plan was coming to fruition. The fact that he would also be able to take Woo along with him on board the submarine to dispose of at his leisure was a delicious bonus. With his three captives being watched by Von Voltzmann, the Claw radioed the communist submarine, and he and the others went up to the deck to meet the surfacing vessel. However, as they waited on the deserted deck, Jimmy Woo made his move. He had been ordered to carry the comatose Suwan, and now pretended to stagger under her weight. As he did so, he fell against an "abandon ship" alarm, setting it off and arousing the ship's passengers and crew. As they swarmed onto the deck, the Claw realised that he could not now escape with the diplomats. Congratulating his opponent, the Claw took his niece from him and along with Von Voltzmann, dived into the sea. Unable to stop him because of the crowd, Jimmy looked on helplessly as the arch-villain and his ally swam to the waiting submarine, and escaped once more.

Shortly afterwards, the Yellow Claw made another attempt at sabotage, this time by planting an explosive device at an American West Coast aircraft experimental stations. Little is known of this project, except that Jimmy Woo again foiled the Claw, managing to disarm the device, which a fellow FBI agent described as the most "ingeniously contrived" explosive device he had ever seen. There are also hints that Suwan again betrayed her granduncle to aid Woo in this victory. But by now, Jimmy' superiors were becoming sick and tired of his constant failure to actually capture the Claw and decided to take steps. He was ordered to exploit his relationship with Suwan. Reluctantly, he agreed and telephoned Suwan on a number that she had secretly given to him. Claiming to be desperate to see her, Jimmy arranged to meet her at Ching's tearoom in Chinatown, and determined to follow her after their meeting. An hour later, he had a brief cup of tea with her, then allowed her to leave and trailed her back to the Yellow Claw's lair.

The Claw's latest base was secreted beneath the streets of Chinatown and was accessible via a shaft from the road above. This shaft was well disguised, but as Jimmy watched, Suwan touched a specific cobble stone with her foot and a circle of ground sank below the surface with her standing on it. After she had disappeared below, the lift returned, and the shaft was once more concealed. Moments later, Jimmy had triggered the hatchway and was inside the Yellow Claw's base. Knocking a guard unconscious as he proceeded, he soon arrived at the door to the Claw's throne room. Inside, the Yellow Claw was in discussion with Karl von Horstbadden and the newly arrived Suwan, when Jimmy Woo kicked the door down and covered the group with his gun.

The Yellow Claw once more greeted his enemy calmly, squeezing the arm of his throne unnoticed. This sent a signal to a massive Egyptian servant named Hamud, who set off to attend his master. Within moments, Hamud had silently arrived and seized Woo from behind, disarming him in the process. Now, it was Jimmy Woo who was trapped. Despite the urging of von Horstbadden, the Yellow Claw decided not to kill Jimmy Woo at this time. This may have been because he did not want to unduly traumatise Suwan, who was still, after all his heir, even though it was obvious to both von Horstbadden and him that she had led Jimmy to them. Instead, he decided to humiliate the young FBI agent, and had Hamud force Woo into a large glass sphere, which he had prepared as an extreme escape measure. The bubble was then sealed and rolled through a hatchway into an underground stream, along which Woo rode until it reached the sea. Once floating off shore, he was able to open the bubble and, furious at this embarrassment, he began to signal to passing boats for help.

The Yellow Claw and von Horstbadden now departed from their current lair, and were soon on board a jet to take them to a new location. Despite the Nazi's objections, Suwan was not punished, although the Claw knew that she would be tormented by her conflicting loyalties for Jimmy Woo and her granduncle. With this recent encounter with Woo, the Yellow Claw realised that the FBI agent was now willing to tajke the fight to the Claw, and he elected to leave America for a time whilst the heat cooled off. He decided to leave Von Voltzmann in charge of his affairs in America, whilst he returned to Mainland China, to check up on the progress of a project which he had started some months ago, possibly even before he had been contacted by the communist high command. This scheme, if successful, would give him control over the entire population of Asia...

 

Chapter 6: Temujai:

Some months ago, the Yellow Claw had ordered the abduction of one Professor Knute Lindstrom, a leading Western chemist. Lindstrom had designed a form of synthetic flesh, presumably for use in medical research. He had christened this material "Flexus". The Yellow Claw, never one to let science be wasted on mere humanitarian causes, had learned of the existence of Flexus and had thought of a far more ambitious use for it. Whilst Lindstrom was forced to develop Flexus further in the Claw's laboratories, other slave labour was being employed to create a thousand-foot high humanoid robot, which was designed by and would be operated by another ally of the Yellow Claw, the diminutive Kharion Krowe. By combining this robotic framework with a covering of Flexus, the Yellow Claw planned to create a replica of Temujai, the Conqueror.

Temujai the Conqueror was a myth, a powerful legend in the same vein as Siva the Destroyer, or Mars the Roman God of War. The Yellow Claw believed that if he could convince the peoples of Asia that Temujai had returned and that he, the Yellow Claw, controlled him, they would raise up and follow him as an army with which to march across the world. As the completed avatar arose to tower above the jungles of Malay, the Yellow Claw ecstatically began to plan his next move.

Word of the appearance of Temujai spread quickly via intelligence agencies. Rocky Davis, a visiting helicopter pilot flying over the area, had been horrified at the sight of the golden giant, and immediately reported it to the Malaysian authorities. Soon, the news had reached all the way to the USA, where Jimmy Woo heard of the manifestation and was immediately suspicious. Deducing that the Yellow Claw was behind this, he quickly obtained permission to fly out to Malay and soon found himself in the office of Colonel Carver, head of military intelligence in that region. Carver half believed the reports of Temujai's return and was worried about the consequences of what would happen when the public found out. There would be widespread panic and rioting. With few options available to him, he agreed to let Woo investigate. Meanwhile, the Claw was watching the meeting between Carver and Woo in his quartz crystal orb and knew that their paths were about to cross once more. He would take the opportunity to stop Woo's interfering in his plans once and for all.

But the Yellow Claw had erred once more. Reluctant to slay his only living heir despite her treachery, he had promised Suwan that he would not harm Jimmy Woo. In making plain his intention to do just that, he was once again forcing her to cross him. Meanwhile, Woo had arrived in the helicopter of Rocky Davis who was acting as his guide. As they flew close to the area, Kharion Krowe, acting on the Claw's orders, made the Temujai robot seize the helicopter and deposit it on the ground, where the Claw was waiting with two armed lackeys. Deciding to let Woo witness his triumph, the Yellow Claw ordered the FBI agent and Davis to be locked up with Professor Lindstrom. He then prepared to address the visiting heads of several of the Asiatic nations, whom he had summoned to hear the words of Temujai.

As the group of dignitaries watched, Temujai rose once more above the hills and turned to address them. In a voice like thunder, he spoke:

"Go home in peace! Temujai no longer walks in a world that wants war! Yellow Claw has spoken empty words!" The Yellow Claw stared in rage and disbelief as his plans were destroyed. Once more, Suwan had cost him victory. Fearing for Jimmy's safety, she had freed both him and his fellow prisoners, and guided by Lindstrom, they had found the robot's control room. Overpowering Krowe, they had locked him in the cell, and had seized control of Temujai. With the Claw defeated, they now fled. Suwan, confident that her uncle would not harm her, remained behind to cover their escape. As they fled, Lindstrom informed them that the Claw had lost in more ways than one; the Professor had made Flexus from an unstable element, and as they fled, the robot's flesh dissolved, leaving behind nothing but a kilometre high metal skeleton looming over the forest.

 

Chapter 7A: The Microscopic Army:

With his plans for world conquest temporarily derailed, the Yellow Claw once more returned to America with Suwan to continue his terrorist campaign. If he had punished his niece for her part in his most recent defeat, we see no evidence of it. It would seem in fact that he is more interested in teaching her the folly of her actions, by ultimately killing Jimmy Woo and thus showing her that defying him is useless. Whatever the reason, he decided to return her with him to America. Von Voltzmann, as we have seen, had remained in the USA during the Claw's gambit with the Temujai robot, and had set in motion the kidnapping of one Professor Ford. Ford was a government scientist who had been working on a molecular converter, a device capable of shrinking matter. The Yellow Claw had desired this secret and Ford had been forced to turn it over to him.

The Claw's plans for Ford's technology were simple. Using the converter, he shrank a team of mercenaries down to microscopic size and sent them to steal government secrets from a room that was impenetrable to normal men. The mercenaries were actually assassins who had had to be paid impressive sums before Von Voltzmann had been able to persuade them to agree to the Claw's plan. They had additional orders that if the opportunity arose they were to capture Jimmy Woo alive. With the molecular converter having done its work, the group of hirelings set out to carry out their task. Actually gaining entry to the room was easy, as was finding the papers that the Claw had sent them to steal. But then, things became complicated. Firstly, they had no way of shrinking the papers down to their size; presumably therefore they had to carry one folded sheet each. With this slowing them up, and the fact that their small size made the room that they were rifling proportionally vast, they did not have time to flee before their crime was discovered. As a consequence, they were still in the room when the FBI, in the form of Jimmy Woo, arrived on the scene.

Woo's increasingly long history with the Yellow Claw had opened his mind to the extraordinary. Thus, upon discovering a line of tiny footprints on a desk in the supposedly thief-proof room, he immediately realised what had happened, particularly since he knew of the disappearance of Professor Ford and his research. Ordering the room to be sealed absolutely tight shut, he contacted his chief, and made arrangements to use the portable molecular converter that Ford had already constructed prior to his abduction. Woo then used this to shrink himself and had the door to the pillaged room opened just enough to admit his tiny form. Then he went in search of the thief. Jimmy had made a potentially fatal error, in assuming that the burglary was the work of a single individual. On scaling the desk, he quickly realised his mistake when the band of assassins attacked him. Fortunately, Woo was an accomplished fighter and, with the help of a nearby pen, he was able to overcome his opponents.

Von Voltzmann knew that the plan had failed as soon as he lost radio contact with the men. Angrily, the Yellow Claw realised that the captured mercenaries would undoubtedly reveal his location to the FBI. With Suwan and Von Horstbadden in tow, he was forced to once more relocate to new headquarters. Worse still, he had realised that if his agents had been captured then the FBI probably had access to Ford's technology. With the advantage lost, he decided to abandon the Professor. Magnanimously, he elected to spare his prisoner's life. As he had predicted, Woo, restored to his normal size by a second large-scale molecular converter in Ford's lab, shortly arrived and rescued the Professor. Once more, he had defeated the Yellow Claw.

Before the end of the 1950s, Jimmy Woo would foil the Yellow Claw on at least seven further occasions, often with the aid of the Claw's grandniece. Because this chronicler does not have access to the records that describe these events, I can say no more about them. But what we do know is that the Claw finally tired of his fruitless terrorist campaign and by the end of the decade he had returned to his stronghold in China, to lick his wounds, learn from his mistakes, and plan anew. With his elixirs to prolong his life, he elected to bide his time and plan more carefully. Informing General Sung that he required some years of formal inactivity to lay more thorough plans, he was able to maintain his profitable connections to the Communist High Command whilst secretly devoting his time to the pursuit of his true agenda, world conquest. Of Suwan, he had had more than enough; unwilling to kill his only relative, yet equally unwilling to tolerate treachery, he placed her in the Lotus Vial of Dreamless Sleep and left her in this state of suspended animation until he could decided what to do with her. With Von Horstbadden, he parted company for many years, but as we shall see later, it would appear that before they parted he gave the Nazi some of his life-prolonging elixirs. This was an unusual act of generosity for the Claw, but despite their constant defeats, Von Horstbadden had proven to be a dependable and resourceful ally despite his initial reluctance at their first encounter.

For three decades the Yellow Claw waited. Planning and scheming, he prepared the way for his return. Thoughts of conquest were joined also by plans of another kind; despite his longevity, he was not immortal and he needed to resolve the issue of an heir. If he could not rely on Suwan, he must find another solution. From his palace in China, he monitored the events of the world at large, keeping abreast of world events. And then, after thirty years, he became aware of an affront to his dignity that he could not and would not ignore. The time had come to emerge from isolation once more...

 

Chapter 7B: The 1950's Avengers:

During the writing of this biography, the author was visited by the notorious time traveller Immortus who, amused by a future edition of this volume, decided to reveal the details of another encounter between the Yellow Claw and Jimmy Woo, which took place in a divergent time line. Although there are many records of events from divergent realities, parallel universes and other dimensions, no record of this event exists in any form, anywhere, since Immortus himself using the Forever Crystal erased the timeline in question during the legendary Destiny War. I have included a summary of this non-event merely out of interest. Of course, ironically Immortus created yet another divergent timeline in revealing these events to me, since in the original timeline, this biography was published without this chapter...

As the end of the decade approached, the Yellow Claw devised a plan that would, in one simple move, totally demoralise America. He decided to kidnap then-president General Eisenhower. The Claw then planned to hold him hostage and demand sovereignty over one of the Eastern American states in exchange for the life of this much-loved president. He must surely have known that such an outrageous demand could not be met, and I hypothesise that he intended to kill Eisenhower when America failed to accede to his demands, thus causing widespread disarray and possibly sparking off a war with China, whom he was known to be working for. If such a chain of events were indeed his intention, a World War would certainly not be a wasted opportunity for the Claw who could then seize control during the aftermath.

Three times within the space of a month the Yellow Claw sent agents to try and abduct Eisenhower, and three times they failed. The FBI soon discovered from the captive agents whom they were working for, and decided to appoint a special bodyguard to protect the president whom they believed the Claw was trying to have assassinated. It made sense for them appoint the man who had had the most experience of the Yellow Claw's methods. Thus, they appointed Jimmy Woo. As we have seen, during previous battles with the Claw (which we can assume occurred in this divergent timeline as in the mainstream timeline) Woo was willing to go up against his foe alone, or with only the FBI for backup. But with the President's life at stake, he decided to get more powerful help in defeating the mastermind. He decided to approach the superhero community.

The Marvels, as they are often now known, first began to appear in large numbers during the 1940s, and rose to prominence often as a result of their contribution to the war effort against the Axis powers. By the 1950s, such legends as the original Captain America and Bucky, the original Human Torch, and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, had all disappeared or become inactive despite brief returns to action in the mid-1950s for the latter two. However, a second generation of superheroes had appeared to replace them it was from the ranks of these heroes that Jimmy Woo now began to search for allies. His first choice was the second Marvel Boy. Marvel Boy was Robert Grayson, the son of scientist Dr. Horace Grayson who in 1934 had travelled to the planet Uranus in an advanced spacecraft. He had been given the instructions for building this craft by a group of Uranian Eternals, an offshoot of humanity created millennia ago by the god-like alien Celestials, whom he had accidentally managed to contact by radio. Deciding that it would be safer to raise his then infant son away from the threat of the encroaching World War II, he travelled with Robert to the Eternal colony and they made it their home. By 1950, the teenaged Robert decided to return to Earth in his father's craft and use the powerful energy-manipulating wristbands that allowed him to survive Uranus's gravity to fight crime on Earth. In 1953, Marvel Boy, who had established himself as a crime fighting superhero, returned to Uranus to be with his sick father. In this divergent timeline however, he was currently back on earth and Woo managed to contact him. Marvel Boy agreed to meet the FBI agent in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Whilst travelling to meet Grayson however, members of the motorcycle gang known as the Black Dragons, who were secretly under the psychic control of the Yellow Claw, attacked Woo. The Claw had become aware that Woo was now Eisenhower's bodyguard and had decided to try and remove him from the equation. In any case, he was glad of any excuse to try and dispose of his long-time foe. As the Dragons attacked, Jimmy Woo realised that his options were severely limited; as good a fighter as he was, he could hope to defeat the gang unaided. Just then, help arrived from an unexpected source. The 3D Man was also in San Francisco and had stumbled upon the fight. Deciding to even the odds, he leapt to the aid of Jimmy Woo. Swiftly overcoming the Black Dragons, he introduced himself to Woo, but was surprised to find that Woo already knew who he was: The 3D Man was next on his list of superheroes. The 3D Man was Chuck Chandler; a NASA test pilot who had been exposed to an unknown form of radiation during his escape from an encounter with the shape-shifting race of aliens known called the Skrulls. He had returned to Earth, but had crashed and his brother Hal had gone to his aid. Chuck had promptly disappeared, cast into another dimension by the bizarre effects of the radiation. Even more bizarrely, he could return only when his brother donned his glasses, which now bore an image of Chuck. This apparently brought his brother back from the alien dimension, and merged the brothers into the red-and-green garbed 3D Man who had triple the strength of a normal human. Woo had read of the 3D Man in the FBI's files, and despite bad press towards him, he had deduced that the 3D Man was on the side of the angels and had decided to recruit him. Even as Woo explained that he needed the 3D Man's help, Marvel Boy arrived for the planned meeting. Using his telepathic powers, which he had developed in the Uranian Eternal colony, he probed the minds of the insensible Dragons and discovered that they were under the mental control of the Yellow Claw. This came as no surprise to Jimmy, who explained that the Yellow Claw was the reason for his contacting them. He promised to explain himself, but first, he wanted to recruit the others, and asked Marvel Boy to travel to Africa to locate his next contact...

The Yellow Claw was monitoring these events in his ancient quartz crystal and was concerned. The threat that Woo's newfound superhuman allies constituted to his plans could not be ignored and would require an appropriate response. He decided to continue monitoring events to see whom Woo would contact next. Meanwhile in the jungles of Kenya, Marvel Boy was searching for Woo's next recruit with the aid of Jann of the Jungle (real name Jane Hastings), an America trapeze artist and animal trainer who had inherited the mantle of Jann from her grandmother. She now dwelt in Africa, fighting for peace and justice within the jungles of Kenya. Woo knew of Jann and had deduced that she would be able to help him find the Gorilla-Man. The Gorilla-man, not to be confused with criminal mastermind and leader of the Headmen Dr. Arthur Nagan (see file "Nagan, Dr. Arthur), was Ken Hale, an American adventurer who had heard legends of a mysterious African "Gorilla-Man" and had set out to find it. On doing so he had shot it, and had discovered the curse of the Gorilla-Man when he himself had subsequently been transformed into its simian successor. Woo had heard reports of Hale's fate and hoped that he could be persuaded to put his bestial strength to use by fighting crime. Despite his initial reluctance, the embittered Hale agreed when Marvel Boy promised to use his Uranian technology to try and find a cure for his condition.

Meanwhile, Woo himself had travelled to New York with the 3D-Man in search of yet another ally, in the unlikely form of the Human Robot. This was a robot which had been built by a New York scientist, but which had been sabotaged and had gone on a homicidal rampage after killing its creator and also, appropriately, the saboteur. Its rampage had been stopped when it had fallen into the sea and short-circuited. Now, Woo hoped to retrieve and reprogram it. He was assisted in this by Namora, cousin to the legendary, but currently missing, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner of Atlantis. She had managed to locate the inert mechanical form and she hoisted it to the surface where the 3D-Man dragged it ashore. Free of the water that had disabled it, the Robot reactivated and immediately rose, murderously, to its feet. And then, overcome with feelings of love and peace, it fell over again. This was thanks to the power of Venus, the last person on Woo's list, who had just arrived as Jimmy had arranged. She was one of the Greek Gods of legend, a pantheon of extradimensional beings who had been worshipped by the Greeks of old, and who was currently present on Earth to spread her message of love. She was able to induce feelings of love in people, and could use this power to "transform any weapon into an instrument of peace". This was how she had been able to stop the Human Robot. With his group of super-humans assembled, Jimmy Woo was now prepared. As soon as Marvel Boy had reprogrammed the Human Robot and had it fitted with a limiter to prevent it from killing, he explained his reason for assembling the group, namely to stop the Yellow Claw from killing Eisenhower. Agreeing to help him, the group took the name of the Avengers.

For one month, the Avengers waited. And then suddenly, the Yellow Claw struck. He had seen the fully assembled group in his quartz crystal and had immediately set about preparing a counter-response to Woo's strategy; he had sent Von Voltzmann to recruit a group of super-humans of his own. When the super-hero population had boomed in the early nineteen-forties, a population of so-called super-villains, a term used to describe costumed or super-powered criminals, had appeared in direct response. Von Voltzmann was ordered to contact some of the most dangerous of those currently at large. The evil old Nazi had succeeded admirably in this task, using alchemical potions provided by the Claw to restore their powers and also to bind them to the Claw's will. This group consisted of: Skull-Face, a centuries-old animated skeleton of a sorcerer burnt at the stake, who had been restored to a semblance of life by a freak accident involving 50 million volts of electricity; Electro, a Russian assassin with green skin and the power to control and manipulate electricity; Cold Warrior, an anticommunist vigilante who could generate freezing-cold temperatures; and the Great Video, who had been granted X-Ray vision and the power to kill with his stare by a freak laboratory explosion. With these four agents at his disposal, the Yellow Claw now set out to kidnap Eisenhower.

The President was playing golf when the Claw made his move. Although Jimmy Woo was present with two other agents, he had not thought it necessary to bring the Avengers along. After all, as Eisenhower himself reasoned, what could happen to him on an open golf course? Just then, Skull-Face's hand erupted through the ground and seized the President's leg. The Claw's four minions had tunnelled beneath the President using Electro's power to blast out the passage. Emerging, they seized Eisenhower, disposed of Woo's two companions, and retreated back the way they had came with their struggling prize in tow. Unbeknownst to them however, Woo had also entered the tunnel just before Electro had sealed it up, and he was now following the group waiting for the chance to help the President. It was fortunate for Eisenhower that with neither the Yellow Claw nor Von Horstbadden present, they had not paid him any particular notice.

In the Yellow Claw's San Francisco hideout, Eisenhower was being greeted by his captors. He recognised the Yellow Claw from FBI files and descriptions, but he also recognised someone else; as Von Voltzmann introduced himself, Eisenhower contemptuously called him by his real name, having recognised Von Horstbadden as one of the world's most wanted Nazi war criminals. Captured by two of the world's most evil men, the president was forced to listen to the Claw's demands. As we have already noted, the Yellow Claw had decided to demand an Eastern American state, from which he promised, he would eventually conquer first the USA and then the World. From the back room, Suwan listened in horror to her Granduncle's conditions and wondered how she could possibly stop her insane relative. At which point Jimmy Woo arrived and handed her a communicator in case he was captured. His timing was perfect, for even as she concealed it within her robes, Electro wandered into the room and struck the FBI agent down.

The Yellow Claw was delighted. Not only had he succeeded in obtaining the President of the United States, but he now also had his greatest foe at his mercy. He decided to let Von Horstbadden use the techniques that he had practiced at Auschwitz upon the captive Jimmy Woo. But then the Claw made a mistake. Not entirely without compassion, he allowed Suwan to leave the room in order to spare her the sight of her beloved being tortured. In doing so he gave her the perfect opportunity to use Jimmy's communicator and summon the Avengers. Fortunately for Woo, his torture was further delayed by Eisenhower's pleas with the Claw to torture him instead; old and with a bad heart, the President felt that he should be the one to die, not Jimmy Woo. The Yellow Claw admired Eisenhower's valour, but refused; he needed the President alive, and besides he wanted Woo dead for reasons of revenge. But by this time, help had arrived, and even as Von Horstbadden advanced on the helpless FBI agent, the Human Robot came smashing through the wall. As the rest of the Avengers followed, the Yellow Claw's super-powered lackeys leapt forward and the battle was joined. As the two groups fought, Suwan took advantage of the distraction and cut through Jimmy's bonds.

The Avengers soon won the battle; Cold Warrior was rendered insensible by a blow from the Gorilla-Man, which simultaneously knocked him into Skull-Face, forcibly dismantling the skeleton. As the Great Video attacked 3D-Man, Marvel Boy, an old enemy of Video's, pushed him away and Gorilla-Man clubbed him down with Skull-Face's femur. This left only Electro, arguably the most dangerous of the bunch, who was soon overcome by the Human Robot; by absorbing and returning the Russian's electricity, the automaton was able to short-circuit him. With the President freed and the villains routed, only two things remained: The Yellow Claw himself and Fritz Von Hortsbadden. Jimmy Woo was already on the trail of his nemeses, who had fled through the back of the building with Suwan in tow. He was brought up short by the sight of the Yellow Claw sitting in the shadows waiting to be captured. As the Claw greeted him, he instinctively knew that this was a trap, but remained undecided on how to proceed. Fortunately, the 3D-Man had followed him and suddenly pushed him aside; his enhanced hearing had heard the ticking from the bomb inside what Woo know realised was a robot facsimile of the Yellow Claw. As it exploded, the Human Robot stepped in front of the 3D-Man and Woo and deflected the force of the blast. The Yellow Claw had been defeated, but had once more escaped.

Shortly after this encounter, and as noted above, Immortus erased the entire timeline during the Destiny War. We return now to reality as we know it and turn our attention to the next phase in the career of the Yellow Claw. Let us move forward several decades as the Yellow Claw emerges from isolation and returns to America to renew his campaign of terror. And as we shall see, however great a threat he had been during the 1950s, it was nothing compared to what was to come...

 

Chapter 8: Captain America

For three decades the Yellow Claw had schemed, and planned, and waited. He had learned much from his repeated defeats at the hands of Jimmy Woo and had taken many of these lessons into account during his years of isolation. Firstly, he had realised that physical combat was occasionally inevitable, although for the most part he had avoided it. This was because he felt that it was beneath a man of his dignity and should only be considered as a last resort. Nevertheless, amongst his other talents, the Yellow Claw was a master of the martial arts and could utilise these skills to devastating effect when called upon to do so, particularly since the elixirs which had kept him vital for so long had also enhanced his strength. Bearing in mind this occasional need for violence, he decided to protect himself with a suit of close-fitting cybernetic armour, which covered his torso and limbs but could also extend itself to protect his hands and head when necessary. This sophisticated carapace would prove to be a valuable asset during the Claw's new campaigns to seize power. Secondly, the Yellow Claw had learned the value of allies. Von Horstbadden had proven his usefulness time and again, but more to the point, the Claw had learned to appreciate the use of allies such as Kharion Krowe, the diminutive scientist who had built and controlled the Temujai robot for him. Although he himself was a genius in many fields of science, the delegation of such tasks left his mind free to concentrate on other, loftier matters, such as the actual execution of his plans. Finally, he had decided that Suwan lacked the vision to act as his successor as things stood; however, he still needed an heir and he could not bring himself to kill his only relative, so he resolved to do something constructive about her and began to consider his options in more detail. With one and half centuries of life behind him, the issue of an heir was easily one of his most pressing concerns. Then, just as he was on the verge of reintroducing himself to the world at large anyway, an event transpired which forced his hand and prompted him to return to America with maximum haste. Someone had created robot facsimiles of himself, Von Horstbadden and Suwan, and had used them to attack SHIELD.

SHIELD (originally Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division), was a top-secret American Government organisation set-up to combat terrorism. It was run by one Colonel Nicholas Fury, a veteran of World War II who had been kept hale and hearty thanks to a life-prolonging serum known as the Infinity Formula. SHIELD had recently been challenged by these robots, which unbeknownst to both them and the Yellow Claw had been created by Latverian dictator, notorious supervillain and robotics genius, Dr. Doom. Doom had created the robots to attack SHIELD as part of an elaborate game of "chess" which he had played with the Prime Mover, another robot that he had created to provide himself with a diversion. The Prime Mover's "pieces" had been Fury and his agents, whereas Doom's had of course been the robots. Interestingly, as a result of this apparent assault by the Yellow Claw, Jimmy Woo had been called in to assist SHIELD, and had subsequently become one of their agents. The robot Claw had been almost as cunning as the real Claw and had nearly succeeded in defeating SHIELD; it was only at the last moment, when Fury had managed to gain the upper hand, that Doom had caused the Claw robot to explode, thus revealing its true nature.

The Yellow Claw was outraged. Aside from the fact that someone had had the temerity to create an unsanctioned duplicate of him, the robot had been wearing a copy of his cybernetic armour. This implied that whoever had built it had been spying on him during his years of isolation. The Yellow Claw resolved to steal one of the surviving robots from SHIELD's flying fortress headquarters, better known as the Helicarrier, and discover who had built them. In fact, it seems likely that the Yellow Claw was a member of the elite cadre of super-villains whom Doom considered enough of a threat to regularly monitor. Over the next decade, this group would expand to include the mutant Master of Magnetism Magneto, the infamous Nazi War Criminal the Red Skull, and MODOK, grotesque leader of the terrorist organisation known as AIM, whom as we shall see, the Yellow Claw would cross swords with in the future.

With the need to travel to the USA now paramount, the Yellow Claw elected to coordinate a number of his plans. He decided that he would travel to America alone, in search of allies. Once he had prepared a base for himself, he would have his allies in the Communist High Command send equipment over from China, along with the comatose Suwan. He would then sever his links with the High Command once and for all... He would also deal with Suwan whilst in the States. He had conceived a plan staggering in both its ruthlessness and imagination, which should solve the problem of her lack of vision once and for all. The Yellow Claw had learnt that an ancient Egyptian Mummy, that of Princess Fan-Le-Tamen, was shortly to arrive in New York's Museum of Natural History. The Claw had recently decided to use his knowledge of necromancy, which he studied in depth at some point in his long life, to awaken the spirit of the ancient ruler and infuse it into his treacherous grandniece. In doing so, he would convey upon Suwan the desire for conquest, yet she would retain her memories and thus still be his natural heir. He had sent agents to Cairo to obtain the mummy, but they had failed him. However, with his own arrival in America, this was no longer a problem; rather than having the Princess brought to Suwan in China, he would instead bring Suwan to the princess in New York. Once he had carried out the ceremony that would awaken the mummy and transfer her spirit to Suwan, he would enlist his niece's aid to seize control of the SHIELD helicarrier and capture one of the facsimile androids. With all of these issues resolved in his mind, the Yellow Claw now set out, alone, to travel once more to America.

Arriving in the USA, the Yellow Claw's first priority was to obtain allies. However, before he would allow anyone to work for him, he decided that they must prove their worth. He set about testing potential lackeys with various challenges. Exactly how many candidates he approached is unclear, but we know of at least two. The first of these was the dwarfish oriental Hop Sung, an insane but talented geneticist whose speciality was causing mutations in animals. The second candidate was Nightshade. Nightshade's real name was Tilda Johnson and she was a young and immature African-American biochemist. Spoiled and petty, she was easily manipulated by the Claw, who used his reputation form the 1950s to impress her. Desperate for a mentor, she was more than eager to help him. Her particular skill lay in creating a serum that was designed with a specific purpose in mind: it transformed men into werewolves. This was of potential use to the Claw and he agreed to fund her and provide the chemicals she needed in order to get set up enough to try and meet his challenge. If she succeeded, he would continue funding her and allow her to work with him. All she had to do was kill Captain America.

Captain America was Steve Rodgers, a sickly young man who had been unable to sign-up to fight for his country during World War II due to ill health. Seeking to serve America in other ways, he volunteered to be a guinea pig in a super-soldier program, and was injected with a super-soldier serum developed by a Prof. Reinstein. The serum increased his physical prowess to the peak of human fitness. Donning a costume based on the colours of the American flag, he was given the name Captain America and became the first successful American super-soldier. He was also the last: Immediately after he received the serum, a Nazi spy assassinated Reinstein. Captain America, often assisted by his sidekick Bucky, real name James Buchanan Barnes, fought the Axis powers throughout WWII, often clashing with the evil Red Skull, Hitler's lieutenant and the menace whom Captain America had been created in response to. But although he achieved many victories, neither Captain America nor Bucky would see the end of the war. As it drew to a close, they fought a final battle against old foe and Nazi scientist Baron Heinrich Zemo. Whilst trying to defuse a missile launched by the Baron, Bucky was killed. Captain America survived, but plunged into the icy waters of the artic ocean. The intense cold, coupled with an unexpected side effect of the Super-soldier serum, cast him into a state of suspended animation, in which he remained until he was found and revived by the fledgling super-hero team the Avengers. Since then, he had resumed the fight against evil, now as a member of the Avengers and as a superhero in his own right. He had also renewed his acquaintance with old wartime ally Nick Fury and had worked for SHIELD on several occasions. Recently however, he had had a falling out with Fury and was no longer working with him. Also recently, he had acquired super-human strength.

Nightshade, possibly with the advice of the Yellow Claw, soon devised a plan with which to ensnare Captain America. Central to this plan was the Falcon. The Falcon had been a young hoodlum called Sam Wilson, who's life had been transformed - literally - by the Red Skull, who had also survived the end of the war in suspended animation and who had also re-emerged. Using a reality-altering device known as the Cosmic Cube, the Skull had given Wilson new memories, transforming him into a social worker for reasons, which the Falcon would learn shortly, but with which we are unconcerned here. Captain America had met Wilson during an encounter with the Skull, and had befriended him. Wilson had become his crime-fighting partner, adopting the code-name Falcon. Redwing, a real falcon that the Falcon could communicate with through some empathic means, assisted him in this. Nightshade planned to transform the inmates of the isolated Grimrock Prison into werewolves, since she had found that Mel Lansing, an old friend of Sam's from his days as a criminal, was incarcerated there. She allowed him to get a message to the Falcon, knowing that he would in turn bring Captain America to investigate. Seizing the prison had been no trouble, since she already had a small complement of werewolves with which she had overcome the guards, and it had then been a small matter to terrify Lansing enough to send for help.

Sure enough, as planned, Captain America and the Falcon soon arrived. Whilst the Falcon approached from the front, the Captain entered the prison from the rear. By splitting up in this way, they played right into Nightshade's hands; with the less experienced Falcon quickly subdued by werewolves and imprisoned, Nightshade went to meet her true quarry. Greeting Rogers, she introduced herself and agreed to lead him to the Falcon. Seeing his friend chained up and being tortured by werewolves, Captain America rushed forward to help him and immediately found himself locked in with Sam Wilson - just as the special serum which Nightshade had administered to him began to work. Captain America watched in horror as his friend mutated into a giant, savage werewolf, burst free of his chains, and lunged for the kill. This was the culmination of Nightshade's plan, to have the "Falcon-wolf" kill the Captain. But she had reckoned without the Avenger's fighting prowess. Captain America was probably the single best hand-to-hand combatant in the world and this, coupled with his recently acquired super-human strength, made him more than a match for the transmogrified Falcon. Even as Nightshade watched the battle from a safe distance on a view screen, she saw him begin to overcome his giant bestial opponent. She realised that she had failed. The Yellow Claw agreed. He had entered unnoticed through a hatch in the floor and was standing behind her monitoring the battle. Despite her protestations, he informed her that she would not make a suitable ally; in answer to her claim that her werewolves could kill normal men, he announced, "a man who attempts to rule without absolute power is a fool". So saying, he departed the same way he had entered, not swayed by Nightshade's tantrums and informing her that he was withdrawing her funding. Petulantly, she unleashed a shot at him, but the wily Claw neatly dodged it and vanished through the floor.

Nightshade's luck had run out. Nick Fury and SHIELD had arrived in pursuit of the Yellow Claw, whose presence in America they had discovered. Although he had fled, Nightshade would be undoubtedly be taken by them. Worse still, with no more serum left, her werewolves would revert to human form at sunrise. She decided to depart in style; summoning her pets, she led them to the top of a tower of the prison, and threw herself to the rocks below, with her werewolves following her. Only the Falcon, physically restrained by Captain America, escaped the others' fate. As Nightshade leapt, she cried out that she had failed the Yellow Claw. Hearing this, Captain America realised with dread that one of the world's most dangerous men had returned. And as the Falcon reverted to normal, Nick Fury prepared to tell them all about it...

Fury was unhappy that Captain America and the Falcon had been at the prison, since SHIELD had been planning to raid it. Rogers was disgusted by this attitude, since he felt that they were right to have responded to the Falcon's friend's call for help. Fury disagreed; several SHIELD agents had died trying to locate the Claw, and now he had escaped. Fury ordered the Avenger to leave the Claw to SHIELD. Captain America was adamant however, that he would go after the Claw. But he would do so alone, since the Falcon wanted to return to his wife in New York. Besides, Wilson agreed with Fury that SHIELD was set up specifically to deal with threats such as the Yellow Claw. So saying, the two friends and Fury went their separate ways, but both Captain America and Fury would set out after the Claw individually. Meanwhile, the Yellow Claw himself had arrived in New York. Despite Nightshade's failure, Hop Sung had passed his test and the Yellow Claw was now preparing to make his return to the USA public by utilising his new ally's skills. First however, he needed to sever a link with the past at the waterfront in New York's Chinatown. At his request, the Communist High Command had sent him a submarine and a squadron of soldiers under the command of one General Fong. By coincidence or design, Suwan had also been delivered at the same time by boat and the Claw had his men take custody of her still-comatose form whilst he greeted the General. Fong had assumed, as had his superiors, that the Claw was now ready to resume his service to China. But as he greeted the villain in the name of his masters, the Yellow Claw contemptuously informed him that he served no one but himself. As the furious Fong's men raised their weapons to slay the Claw, his own agents, hidden nearby, shot two of them down. Then, as Fong ordered his remaining troops to kill them, the Yellow Claw treated them to a display of his skills of mind control; as the soldiers looked at him, he seemed to grow bigger and bigger, overwhelming them. Seizing control of them, he ordered them to kill the horrified Fong and then each other. The Yellow knew that when they failed to report to their superiors in China, the Communist High Command would realise that he had betrayed them. He had sent a message to China. Now it was America's turn.

Captain America meanwhile was also in America, visiting friends. He was pondering the threat posed by the Yellow Claw, having previously helped Fury to defeat the robot that had attacked SHIELD. Then later that day, the Claw announced his return publicly, as giant spiders crawled from the sewers of New York and began to overrun the city, attacking the public and spreading terror and confusion. The spiders were the work of Hop Sung, whose skills in mutation lay in creating animals of gigantic proportions. Although the spiders did little actual harm overall, they injured several people and terrified the population. As Captain America pitched in and helped the police to tackle the arachnid menace, he suddenly noticed a more blatant message from the Yellow Claw; above the city, an aeroplane was scrawling a message with its vapour trail: "only the beginning". It was signed with a three-pronged Claw. Then, their purpose served, the spiders withdrew as suddenly as they had appeared, returning to the sewers in response to a television broadcast from the Claw which blanketed the city and smothered the normal broadcasts with a piercing wail. For now at least, the ordeal was over. The Yellow Claw's message to America had been sent.

As the eight-legged behemoths returned to the sewers, Captain America decided to follow them, hoping that they would lead him to the Yellow Claw. After an hour of trailing the beasts, he suddenly found that he was alone with a single arachnid corpse. The only way the other spiders could have gone was through a shiny circular door, which had clearly been added to the sewer wall only recently. As the door swung smoothly open, the captain realised that it was a trap. The Yellow Claw had anticipated his arrival and was more than prepared.

As Captain America began to crawl through the tunnel beyond the door, it suddenly began to rotate and heat up. Battered and struggling to breathe in the sudden heat, Steve Rogers may have found a way to escape, but before he could think of a way, the tunnel suddenly tilted and deposited him in a large room. The Yellow Claw it seemed, wished to deliver the coup de grace in person. As Captain America struggled to his feet, he was greeted with the site of the Yellow Claw's imposing form. Claiming to be glad of the chance to show off his fighting skills, he lunged forward, announcing his intent to kill Captain America and score a worthy victory. Back and forth the two combatants fought, but finally, the Avenger, stung by his opponent's taunts, felled him with a powerful blow. Against the Yellow Claw's armour, he knew that he had to give it his best effort and unleashed the full force of his super-strength. And then as he watched, the fallen "Yellow Claw" shimmered and changed. Under the mental control of the real Yellow Claw, Captain America had just been fighting Nick Fury.

As the Claw relaxed his hypnotic control, screens were uncovered in the hidden base, to reveal his gloating face. He had been watching from afar, and now revealed the truth; Fury had arrived shortly before the Sentinel of Liberty, and the Claw had decided to have them destroy each other. Even as the Captain had seen Fury as the Claw, Fury had seen Rogers in the same way and had also believed that he was battling the terrorist. It is an amazing feat of mental prowess that the Yellow Claw displayed in duping both men at once from a considerable distance. And now, he believed, Captain America had murdered Nick Fury. As gravely injured as he was however, Fury still lived. Unsure of his new limits, Captain America had held back even against the perceived armour of the Yellow Claw. His main concern now was to get Fury to a hospital. As the Yellow Claw deactivated the visi-screen, Captain America lifted up the unconscious director of SHIELD and carried him into the tunnel through which he had entered. The Yellow Claw however, was not prepared to let Captain America leave as easily as he had entered; a thick steel shutter now sealed off the tunnel through which he had arrived. Yet with Fury's life on the line, the Star-Spangled Avenger was fighting mad and putting the full force of his strength behind his indestructible shield, shattered the obstacle. Still however, he faced one final hazard in the form of a giant scorpion produced by Hop Sung and left in the sewer tunnel. Forced to drop Fury, Rogers was covered in searing venom from the arthropod's massive sting, and then seized in a vice-like claw. But again, saving Fury's life was uppermost in his thoughts and he shattered the chitinous appendage with his shield. With this final barrier broken and the scorpion slain, he retrieved the unconscious SHIELD director and escaped from the sewers.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Claw was preparing his next move in his main headquarters elsewhere. Despite the failure of the scorpion, he found time to congratulate Hop Sung; the giant spiders had done their work well. Now, after three decades, the moment had finally come to deal with Suwan. That night near central park, the Yellow Claw and his men, led by one Chi Foh, stole into the Museum of Natural History bearing the comatose Suwan with them. Not wishing to be inconvenienced, the Claw had sent Chi Foh and his troops ahead to slaughter the security guards. The Claw, never one to tolerate failure, was furious therefore when one such guard appeared, and challenged his presence. We see here the Claw at his most ruthless; as one of his agents disposed of the unfortunate guard, the Claw ordered Chi Foh to remove the corpse - and then to kill himself for allowing the man to have disturbed him. Then, he proceeded into the room housing the mummified corpse of Princess Fan-Le-Tamen. Whilst he prepared to awaken her from her centuries old sleep, he decided to reanimate some of her mummified retainers first. Since he only needed them to provide additional security, the techniques involved were far simpler than those required to arose the Princess herself. With these living mummies, plus two huge white skinned zombies he had also created, patrolling the Museum, he now proceeded to his main task. This would turn out to be a sensible precaution, since just at that point, Captain America and the Falcon arrived.

When the Yellow Claw and his men had approached the Museum, they had been spotted by a passer-by, who had recognised the infamous Claw. Seeing this on the news, the crime fighting pair had hurried to reach the Museum. On entering, they were immediately assaulted by the mummies. Despite the cadavers' incredible strength and unresponsiveness to pain, the pair finally managed to defeat them, and reached the Yellow Claw. As they did so, the two huge zombies seized them in unbreakable grips; they could only watch as the gloating Yellow Claw, having greeted his unexpected "guests", completed the incantation, and the mummy of Princess Fan-Le-Tamen rose from its sarcophagus. And then, staggering forward, it collapsed in a cloud of dust onto the supine form of Suwan. After thirty years, the Yellow Claw's grandniece awoke with the spirit of the Pharaohs infused into her very soul.

Just then, Captain America and the Falcon managed to break free of their captors and attacked the Claw and his men. The Claw however, was more than capable of defending himself; with the strength of his armour and his elixirs behind him, he felled the Captain with a casual backhand and the two zombies soon had the heroes subdued once more. Tying them to opposite sides of a statue with steel cables, the Claw's men then positioned crossbows directly in front of their hearts, set to fire poisoned bolts into them at a given time. Whilst all this was going on, the newly awakened Suwan was watching with glee. Although she still recognised the Yellow Claw as her granduncle, she had also adopted (as he had hoped) certain new traits from the Princess. She suggested to her delighted relative that he ensured that the cables would be bound tight enough to cut the captives. With his second objective achieved, the Yellow Claw left the Museum with Suwan, and left Captain America and the Falcon to their fate.

Elsewhere, other developments of the Yellow Claw's making were taking place. When Nick Fury had entered the Claw's sewer base just before Captain America, he had discovered that the Claw was planning an attack on the SHIELD helicarrier. Since the Claw did not wish him to sound the alarm, he had despatched a loyal assassin to kill Fury in hospital. Unfortunately however, the bulky male assassin had decided to get into Fury's room by disguising himself as a female nurse. Once inside, he intended to stab Fury with a poisoned spike on a ring which the Claw had provided him with. However, as he was entering, the Countess Valentina Allegro De Fontaine, a high-ranking SHIELD agent who was in love with Fury, was leaving. Ironically, despite the bulky assassin's build, it was thanks to his shoes that she realised that he was not a nurse - they were black, a colour of shoe not worn by nurses. The Countess was easily able to deal with the assassin, who immediately stabbed himself with the ring, thus dealing himself the Claw's price for failure. As a result of this failed assassination attempt, SHIELD now knew that the still-unconscious Fury possessed vital information. Elsewhere, another scheme was going awry, as Captain America and the Falcon managed to rock the statue to which the were tied until it fell over, snapping the steel cables and removing them from the path of the crossbow bolts in the nick of time.

The next day, the Yellow Claw struck at SHIELD. He had discovered that a group of US congress-people were due to be flown up to the Helicarrier from a New Jersey airstrip, to be shown around the facilities. It was a simple task for the Claw to have two of these people removed, and replaced with him and Suwan, heavily disguised as those they were replacing. Once on board, they eluded the tour party, removed their disguises, and made their way to the air-conditioning plant. Despite the heavy security, the Claw's cunning had allowed him to smuggle a nerve gas gun and two vials of antidote on board. He and Suwan swallowed the capsules, and then filled the air-conditioning system with nerve gas. With the entire helicarrier crew unconscious, the Yellow Claw now summoned his men, whom he had equipped with a fake American scout-craft in order to avoid attracting attention from the military. Once they were on board, the Yellow Claw ordered them to search the massive vessel for the robot facsimiles of Suwan and Von Horstbadden. He knew that once he had studied them, he would know who had created them and could exact his revenge. Which was the exact moment that his plans started to unravel.

Captain America and the Falcon had gone to visit Fury after their escape from the Museum, and he had managed to mutter enough for them to realise what the Claw was planning. Along with the Countess and Fury's long-time friend and fellow agent Dum-Dum Dugan, they had donned rocket packs and now stormed the helicarrier. The Yellow Claw's nerve gas soon overcame them, but this provided a distraction on which the Claw's entire attention was focused. Until that is, Suwan shot him in the stomach. What the Yellow Claw had done in infusing the Princess's spirit into her was give her the hate to act upon her horror at having been in suspended animation for three decades. She would still act as his successor and inherit the Earth, but she would do it without him. With her uncle mortally wounded, she turned and left.

Lying in his own blood, the Yellow Claw could scarcely believe what had happened. As painful as the bullet wound was, Suwan's betrayal hurt more. Desperately, the dying Claw crawled over to Captain America and his allies and administered spare antidote capsules to them. As they awoke, he pleaded with them to stop his niece, and then collapsed to the floor. Realising that they could do nothing for him, they set out in pursuit of Suwan. But they and Suwan had both reckoned without the Yellow Claw's force of will. As they left, he began to repeat the chant that had reanimated Fan-Le-Tamen.

Suwan was heading for the craft on which the Claw's men had arrived, where they were loading on board the robot facsimile of her. However, Captain America and his group soon caught up with her and began to attack her uncle's men. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, she began to hunt for one of SHIELD's own ships. At that point, her Granduncle's hand seized her wrist. As she struggled against his still-implacable grip, he completed the incantation and withdrew the life-energy of the Pharaoh's from her and into himself. As his treacherous relative realised what that meant, she crumbled into dust and was no more. Restored to full health, the Yellow Claw ran straight at his enemies; he knew that they would expect him to run away, but by running towards them he would confuse them. He was correct. As astonished Captain America watched, the no-longer dying Yellow Claw ran past him and onto his disguised ship. Sealing the hatch, he lifted off with the robot on board. As a final gesture, he used the ship's systems to override one of the Helicarrier's vast monitor screens and then bade his new enemies farewell; although the death of his chosen successor would necessitate new plans, he assured them that he would return. Then, his craft accelerated away, and he was gone.

Despite the death of Suwan, the Yellow Claw's return to America had met with reasonable success. He could after all, easily find a worthy successor elsewhere now that his only relative was dead. He now decided to return to China, to consolidate his plans and work on analysing the robot Suwan. Whilst there, he would receive an offer he could not refuse...

 

Chapter 9: The Super-Villain War

When the super-hero population had boomed some years earlier and a new generation of heroes including the legendary Fantastic Four had emerged, the super-villain population had expanded accordingly. One such "super-villain" was the Mandarin. Originally, the Mandarin (real name unknown) had been a highly placed government official in pre-revolutionary China, but when the Communist revolution had taken place, he had lost his position and his power, as well as the wealth that he had inherited from his late parents. Furious, he had determined to seize power by any means he could and had set out in search of weapons. Exploring the Valley of Spirits in China, he had discovered a crashed Makluan spaceship and had taken the ten rings that were used to control it. The Makluans were a long-lived race of enormous reptiles who resembled (and had indeed inspired) the Dragons of Chinese mythology [see file: Fin Fang Foom], and whose technology was far in advance of twentieth century Earth's. Armed with the ten rings, each of which had a different power including "ice-blast", "flame-blast" and "disintegration", the Mandarin had rapidly established himself as a powerful as one of the world's most powerful and dangerous criminal masterminds, whose power in China began to rival the Yellow Claw's own. However, the Mandarin had constantly met with defeat in his plans for world conquest at the hands of his arch-nemesis, the Avenger known as Iron Man. Iron Man was secretly billionaire industrialist Anthony Stark, who had originally adopted the guise of Iron Man after an injury had forced him to wear a metal breastplate in order to keep his heart beating. He had then come up with idea of pretending that Iron Man was in actual fact his bodyguard, a ruse that he sustained successfully for years. Stark's armoured alter ego had been one of the five heroes who founded the super-hero group the Avengers, who as we have seen, had discovered the frozen body of Captain America and revived him.

The Yellow Claw knew of the Mandarin, since along with the infamous Fu Manchu, he posed the greatest threat to his power in China. He had as yet never had cause to directly confront the Mandarin, but he knew that the time would come. So when the Yellow Claw, at that time once more in his homeland and now tended to by his new servant Loc Do, was approached by the mysterious Black Lama with an offer of power in exchange for defeating the Mandarin, he decided that he had nothing to lose. Despite his scepticism at the Lama's offer, he agreed to take part in the Super-Villain War.

Unbeknownst to the Yellow Claw, the Black Lama was a denizen of a parallel dimension, which existed alongside our own. In this reality, America was not one big country divided into states, but rather a motley collection of small independent countries, each with different systems of government. One such country was the Kingdom of the Grand Rapids. The man who would become the Black Lama was second in command to the throne of this country, when the previous King was forced to abdicate. Suddenly finding himself elevated to Majesty, the new King was unable to cope with the responsibilities of office, and decided to flee for a time, in order to collect his thoughts. But the international relations in his world were such that he could not leave his own Kingdom, and he certainly could not hide within it. However, despite the feudal nature of politics in his world, this parallel earth was much more technologically advanced than ours. They had managed to create an experimental interdimensional transporter, which was so far untested, but which was an ideal means of escape for the King. Using the device, he travelled to our dimension. But there was a price to pay for his journey. Such was the nature of the relationship between his world and ours that a displacement of matter or energy from one to the other would begin to cause disruptive effects. More precisely, he began to go mad. Worse still, he realised that such was the nature of the phenomenon, that if he did not rectify the situation, not only he would become insane, but so too would those around him, and eventually, the whole world. But already he was affected. In his encroaching delirium, he refused to take the obvious way out and return home. Instead, he decided to educate a denizen of our world so that they could learn to understand the advanced technology of his world, and travel there in his stead, thus redressing the balance. It was for this reason that he had adopted the guise of the Black Lama. Using this identity, he had decided to trick a super-powered individual, whose unique attributes he felt would more easily allow them to adapt to his world, into taking his place. In order to find a suitable candidate, he began his super-villain war, offering a so-called "Golden Globe of Power" to the winner as bait. The Golden Globe was of course his interdimensional transporter.

The Yellow Claw knew nothing of this, but decided to try and win the Lama's globe, since eliminating the Mandarin had its advantages anyway. Serendipitously, at the time the Black Lama approached the Yellow Claw, the Mandarin was in America, striking at Iron Man, and his castle was more or less unattended. The Yellow Claw decided to invade it. Taking the Mandarin's castle was childishly easy as he had left it completely unattended, save presumably for some automated defences that the Claw and his lackeys had easily overcome, with the aid of Loc Do, whose talents lay in machinery. In seizing the castle the Claw had thus gained access to the Mandarin's impressive array of weapons, and was in an easily defensibly location. All that remained was to await the return of his opponent.

The Mandarin was currently in another base on the Pacific Ocean floor, following a disastrous encounter with his old foe Iron Man. At the climax of that battle, his mind had been switched with that of the Unicorn (real name Milos Masaryk), a Russian agent whose costume had given him enhanced strength and the ability to fire destructive blasts form a "power horn" mounted on his helmet. Unfortunately, a side effect of this horn was an irreversible degenerative brain disorder, which was killing Masaryk. The Mandarin knew this full well, since the Unicorn had approached him hoping that he could cure his condition. The Mandarin had had no intention of doing so, but had manipulated the Unicorn into allying himself with the Mandarin. Now however, the Mandarin's sole aim was to get back into his own body before he was affected by the Unicorn's condition. In order to do this, he needed power, and he had used a teleportation device of his own design to obtain that power in the form of the mutant Sunfire. Sunfire, real name Shiro Yoshida, was an impetuous Japanese mutant who could generate blasts of tremendous heat from his hands, and also use this energy to fly. The Mandarin knew that he could use this energy to power his mind-transference apparatus. Ironically, at the time that he teleported Sunfire to his base, the young mutant was engaged in combat with Iron Man. Materialising in the Mandarin's base, he had unleashed a blast at his captor, exactly as the Mandarin had intended. The Mandarin's plan had worked perfectly and he was now back in his own body. He had also managed to restrain Yoshida. However, Iron Man had come in search of Sunfire and now attacked. Teaming up with the Japanese mutant, Iron Man once more came face to face with the Mandarin; however, the Mandarin's rings, coupled with a skill at karate which rivalled the Yellow Claw's, allowed him to defeat Iron Man, and Sunfire had been knocked out during the struggle. Abandoning them, the Mandarin now returned to China to set about dealing with the Yellow Claw, whose occupancy of his castle he knew about thanks to a visit from the Black Lama. To do this, he decided to use Ultimo.

Ultimo was a millennia-old giant robot built by an undisclosed alien race as a weapon of mass destruction, capable of methodically depopulating entire worlds. Years earlier Ultimo had attacked the planet Rajak and had destroyed its people. It had then been attacked in return by a group of Rajak merchants who had been off-planet at the time, but they had been forced to flee. Ultimo had pursued them across the galaxy, until both the Rajak ship and itself had crashed on Earth. Drained of energy, it had shrunk to from 300 feet to a height of approximately 100 feet and lain dormant, until the Mandarin had found it. He had reprogrammed it to serve him, and also coated it in a blue plastic material. The Mandarin had twice used Ultimo as a weapon, once against Iron Man alone and once against his fellow Avengers Thor and Hawkeye. After that second battle, Ultimo had been left dormant in South America, but the Mandarin had smuggled it back to China and had concealed it beneath the mountainside next to his castle. Now arriving at his castle, he immediately used a blast form his Electro-blast ring to reactivate it. As the Yellow Claw and Loc Do watched in astonishment, the giant metal form smashed its way out of the ground and rose to its current full height. As impressive as the defences of his castle were, the Mandarin was sure that Ultimo was more than a match for them.

The Yellow Claw was disgusted at the crudeness of this attack, but unsurprised; he saw the Mandarin as little more than a barbarian warlord. He had made himself familiar with the castle's weapons and ordered his men to man their pre-designated stations. He was determined to repel the Mandarin's, and Ultimo's, attack. Just then fate intervened in the Yellow Claw's favour, as a blast of atomic fire struck Ultimo, distracting it. Sunfire had arrived, having sworn revenge upon the Mandarin. However, although he was forced to leave Ultimo to deal with the mutant, the Mandarin was not wholly undone by this development. Whilst the Yellow Claw was distracted by the battle raging outside, the Mandarin would sneak into his castle through a secret tunnel, and confront him face-to-face. But the Mandarin had seriously underestimated the Yellow Claw. He had made himself familiar with every single corner of the Mandarin's castle and he was not one to be easily distracted. As the Mandarin rounded a corner in the tunnel, he discovered the Yellow Claw's first little surprise, in the form of a giant robot and a pair of hideous mutated monsters, the work of Loc Do and Hop Sung respectively. Furious at being out-thought and with the element of surprise lost, the Mandarin unleashed electro-blast, sonic blast and disintegrator beam from his rings, and destroyed the monstrous obstacles. Then, he smashed his way into his own main chambers and confronted the Yellow Claw. But the Claw had more surprises in wait. As the Mandarin approached, he rolled a mounted cannon towards him; contemptuous of such a puny weapon, he unleashed an electro-blast and disintegrator beam, only to realise his mistake as the feedback mechanism concealed with in the cannon returned the energy to its source and disabled his rings. But the Mandarin had one weapon still to fall back upon - karate. Shattering the steel of the feedback device with one blow, he struck viciously at the Yellow Claw's exposed neck, and against his attack even the Claw's cybernetic armour was no defence. The Mandarin's hand sliced deep and the Claw fell forward, components and parts falling to the ground. As the Mandarin stared aghast at the suddenly obviously robotic Claw, it exploded, shrapnel shredding his body to ribbons. Once more, as in his encounter with Captain America, the Yellow Claw had resorted to trickery to avoid physical conflict; knowing that the Mandarin was stronger, he had prepared this final trap and it had worked beautifully. Raging against his fate, the Mandarin staggered, fell, and died. The Yellow Claw had won the first round of the Super-Villain War.

Turning his back on the corpse, the real Claw ordered Loc Do to dispose of the body, whilst he went see how the battle outside was progressing. He also ordered that Hop Sung be told to improve his mutations, which the Mandarin had defeated too easily. What he did not know, was that Loc Do was secretly planning his own ascent to power; as the Yellow Claw left, his henchman pocketed the Mandarin's rings, hoping to repair them. In doing so, he would seal his own fate: at the moment of death, the Mandarin had transferred his mind into the rings and would later seize control of Loc do's body, reshaping it into a younger version of his own via the matter-rearranger ring. To date however, no documents have come to light that tell of a rematch with the Yellow Claw.

Outside the Castle, Iron Man had arrived and together with Sunfire had defeated Ultimo, burying him beneath a mountain of rubble. Sunfire now departed, to ponder on his newfound optimism that the East and West could co-operate, something that he had heretofore disbelieved. With Ultimo no longer a problem and Shiro Yoshida departed, Iron Man now prepared to deal with the Yellow Claw and the Mandarin. Inside the Mandarin's castle, the Yellow Claw was toasting his victory. Already, his lackey had removed and cremated the Mandarin's corpse and the Claw was now in charge of the castle, but he nevertheless remained cautious; he did not trust the Black Lama, and was instructing Loc Do to check the castle's defences. Yet with Ultimo obviously defeated and Sunfire gone, the Claw was not expecting any immediate attack from anyone. We can but imagine his surprise therefore when Iron Man smashed his way through the wall. The Yellow Claw was outraged at this invasion of what was now his property and he informed Iron Man that with the Mandarin now dead, the castle was his. Iron Man did not care however, since he felt justified in attacking a man who had a string of charges against him in the Avenger's own country which dated back to the 1950s. With no further ado, he attacked the Claw.

As the battle began, it was clear that the Yellow Claw was rattled; even if his obvious display of outrage alone were not proof of that, it is clear when he launched his first defensive attack against Iron Man that he was not concentrating, for as ordered a cybernetic green globule to engulf the armoured avenger, he informed him that it was a creation of his "chief mutationist Hop Ling". Whilst the Claw's concern for his underlings was minimal at best, he would not normally be so imprecise. By attacking unexpectedly, Iron Man had unknowingly achieved the very surprise advantage that the Mandarin had been hoping for earlier, and in doing so, he nearly became the first American Super-Hero to actually capture the Yellow Claw. But despite his shock, the Claw had recovered his wits just in time, and the glob was doing a good job of trying to kill Iron Man. The enormous amorphous blob had once been a frog, and like the spiders and scorpion before it, had been grown to gigantic proportions by Hop Sung's techniques. But it was a far more experimental creature than they had been, and was barely recognisable as the animal it had once been; whilst the spiders had been vulnerable to attacks from Captain America's shield, this creature was proving far more resilient. With blasts from his chest-plate "uni-beam" unable to harm it, Iron Man was forced to think harder. The beam had actually managed to damage it, but only in a localised area. Stark suddenly realised that it was not the heat from the beam which had injured it, but the electrical current which it generated. Forcing his hand free of the creature, he fired a repulsor blast from his gauntlet into a nearby furnace, damaging it enough to expose wiring, and electrocuted the blob.

The Yellow Claw made a mental note to punish Hop Sung for his failure, but the conflict had given him more than enough time to plan a more considered attack. Whilst his assistant's weapon had failed, his own would not, and he now unleashed a small army of tiny, floating robots which began to fly towards Iron Man. Although the tiny robots' guns were powerful enough to worry the Avenger, the robots wee obviously fragile and thus easily destroyed. Seizing one of the automatons, Iron man crushed it, whereupon it exploded - with enough force to pose a serious threat to his armour's integrity. Now realising the danger he faced he desperately began to try and think of a way to elude the robots long enough to destroy them. However, the Yellow Claw had achieved a phenomenal triumph of computer programming when building the little machines, for they could not only act alone, but co-ordinately. Without warning, they swarmed over Iron Man like ants, broke into his armour with astounding precision, and immobilised him. They then carried his helpless form on board a prepared rocket ship, and sat around him as the rocket launched, waiting for the countdown which they had initiated to reach zero, whereupon they would explode in unison taking the rocket, and its reluctant passenger, with them.

Fortunately for Iron Man, despite the Yellow Claw's undoubted genius, Stark was also possessed of a prodigious intellect. As the rocket flew on, he used all his strength to raise his hand to his chest plate, take hold of a charging wire, and reconnect the wiring that the robots had cut. With his armour fully powered again, he snapped his restraints, and fled from the rocket before the robots could stop him. Just as he escaped the countdown reached zero, and the robots exploded, destroying the rocket. Meanwhile, the Yellow Claw, who had heard the explosion, was toasting his second victory. When the Avenger crept up behind him and surprised him second time, calm gave way to cold fury. The Yellow Claw had had enough of this armoured opponent. He decided to have Iron Man face his most unpleasant creation.

If we are pedantic, we can assume that this creation is another of Hop Sung's, rather than the Claw's own. To iron Man however, it was irrelevant who had created it; all that mattered was that someone had. As the monstrous quadruped arthropod lumbered forward, Iron Man quickly unleashed a repulsor blast at it. Whatever the creature's carapace contained though, it was more than just chitin; the blast reflected off without even shaking the creature. Then it retaliated, with a searing blast of radioactive fire. Iron Man realised instantly that his only hope was to dismember the monster, since its blood must contain its own decontaminators. With strength bourn out of desperation he wrenched the creature apart and soaked his armour in its gore. The Claw however had anticipated this, and had had the creature's blood be made acidic. Even as the radiation was neutralized, the corrosive blood began to eat at Stark's armour. Again however, Stark's quick thinking won out; by smashing his way outside and diving into an ornamental pond, he washed the blood off, and once more set out after the Yellow Claw.

The Yellow Claw meanwhile was informing the newly arrived Black Lama of his double victory. As Iron Man arrived, he recognised the Black Lama from a previous encounter, and decided that he was the greater threat. Without hesitation, he fired a replusor blast at the Lama, which went straight through the apparition of the mystic - and shattered the side of a main generator. Reacting immediately to this, the Yellow Claw abandoned his new base and fled. Iron Man too realised his mistake and quickly departed, just as the castle of the Mandarin vanished in a massive explosion. Iron Man knew that the Lama had teleported to safety, but was uncertain about the Yellow Claw. Then as he watched, a sleek and speedy craft launched from the ground and flew off faster than he could follow. Behind it, in the vapour trail, the words "Only the Beginning" were visible, underscored by a three-fingered claw.

With the Mandarin dead and his castle destroyed, the Yellow Claw now decided to return to his own palace to re-establish himself, since the knew it would only be a matter of time before the Black Lama asked him to fight a second battle in the Super-Villain War. He was quite correct. In America, a second battle had been fought since the Mandarin's defeat, this time between MODOK and the Mad Thinker. MODOK was the leader of the terrorist organisation known as AIM, an acronym for Advanced Idea Mechanics, an organisation dedicated to world conquest through scientific means. MODOK had once been George Tarleton, an undistinguished AIM agent who had been forcibly volunteered to undergo transformation into MODOK, the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. This had resulted in a massive increase in the size of his cranium, granting him a vast intellect and powerful psionic abilities. It had also effectively confined him to a mobile hover chair designed to support the weight of his huge skull, which he could not support unaided. Although he had been created to serve as a weapon [or a mobile computer - there are conflicting reports] for AIM, he was embittered by his grotesque new appearance and had slain the upper echelons of AIM, seizing control for himself. As AIM's leader he was thus ideally suited for candidacy in the Black Lama's Super-Villain War. Having previously met with several defeats at the hands of heroes such as the Claw's previous enemy Captain America, he had elected to increase his chances of beating his opponent by using a giant robot body, which was proportional to the size of his head, into the neck of which his hover chair fitted.

The Mad Thinker (whose real name is not in any available records) was gifted with a computer-like brain that allowed him both to the duplicate the scientific achievements of others and also to predict events with one hundred percent accuracy. He had chosen to use his talents for criminal gain, but had repeatedly been defeated thanks to the incalculable "X" factor, an element of uncertainty introduced by irrational and unpredictable human behaviour. The Thinker had attacked MODOK first by sending Iron Man, over whose armour he had usurped control, against him. MODOK had defeated the Avenger and attacked the Thinker personally. He had seemingly crushed the Thinker to death and had then taken his lead and seized control of Iron Man, who was still lying unconscious at the end of the battle - or so MODOK thought. Having apparently defeated the Thinker, he now had to face the winner of the first round of the War, i.e. the Yellow Claw.

Accommodatingly, the Black Lama had teleported MODOK and his puppet Avenger from America to just outside the Yellow Claw's palace in China. MODOK decided on a two-pronged attack; he would send Iron Man on ahead to distract the Claw, then he would join the battle himself. Without further ado, the hyper-cephalic villain dispatched Iron Man to the castle. The Yellow Claw had been expecting Stark following their earlier encounter and was well prepared. As the strangely silent Iron Man, a multi-limbed "mobi-bot" scurried forward and attacked. It began by unleashing jet of flame - quite useless against its opponent's armour, but enough to distract him. Whilst the Avenger shrugged off the attack, the mobi-bot enveloped him in flexible metallic coils, and prepared to deliver a killing voltage along them. Iron man however, was too strong, and before the robot could complete its assault, he had torn it asunder. But the Yellow Claw now knew how tough his enemy was, and had prepared for this contingency. A mutated organism, which a nuclear reactor positioned near to where Iron Man was standing, had spawned now shuffled forward. The multi-tentacled monstrosity had been designed specifically to feed on metal. Yet Iron Man appeared unshaken by this revelation and swiftly plunged his fist into the side of the reactor. It exploded, killing the creature. Now, nothing remained between Iron Man and the Yellow Claw. Worse still, MODOK had now entered, having smashed his way through the wall of the castle. In his giant robot body, he was easily as physically powerful as Iron Man and the two armoured juggernauts rushed forward with the Claw between them - except he was not there. The Claw had once again outwitted his foes with illusions. The real Yellow Claw watched from his vantage point in a control room high above as MODOK and Iron Man passed through the holographic Claw and collided with stunning force. Surprised as he was that Iron Man had fallen for this ploy, he was nonetheless pleased with the victory. Activating a trapdoor in the floor, he sent the master of unconscious master of AIM to his death on the sharpened rocks far below, shattering his robot body. Then he turned his attention to Iron Man.

The events at the Mandarin's castle had caused the Yellow Claw to rate Iron Man more highly as an opponent than even Captain America. He decided to destroy him personally. However, he would not make the mistake that many villains made, which was to keep his enemy alive for the purpose of gloating; down that road laid defeat. Bringing a cannon to bear on Iron Man he destroyed him - and discovered to his amazement that it was not in fact the armoured Avenger but an android. Ironically, he had fallen for exactly the same trick that he had earlier used on the Mandarin. MODOK had not, as he had thought, defeated the Mad Thinker; instead the crazed genius had outwitted him by exchanging himself and Iron man for androids during the battle. MODOK had crushed the facsimile Thinker and had seized control of the ersatz Iron Man. What this meant to the Yellow Claw, as well as a blow to his pride at being tricked, was that although he had defeated both the Mandarin and MODOK, he now had to face the real winner of MODOK's first battle, the Mad Thinker. Initially he did not realise this, instead suspecting the Black Lama of tricking him. But the Lama himself appeared soon after the defeat of MODOK and made the truth clear to the Claw. He agreed to teleport the Yellow Claw to the scene of this final battle of the war, just as he had previously brought MODOK to China. Armed with a gun capable of generating a cocoon of resilient plastic around a foe, the Yellow Claw allowed himself to be transported.

As fate would have it, the Yellow Claw did not need to combat the Mad Thinker. Prior to his arrival, the real Iron Man had escaped from captivity and had overcome the Thinker. The Claw now had to defeat the Avenger once and for all in order to win the Lama's mysterious Golden Globe. He immediately immobilised the Iron Man within an encasing shield of solid plastic. But although the shield would have suffocated the Thinker, Iron Man was more durable. Although his repulsors could not penetrate the polymer surrounding him, he was still alive. This was easily rectifiable; the Yellow Claw now launched a missile at his opponent's prison, designed to both crack it open and kill its occupant. Just as the missile struck however, Iron Man fired his boot jets in the same direction in which it was travelling, dissipating the force of the blast enough to survive it. He was now free, and fighting mad. The Yellow Claw was now forced, at last, to engage directly in physical combat. For the first time, we see the full scope of his own armour's abilities; discarding his claw-emblazoned jacket, he mentally ordered his armour to extend, so that it now covered his face and hands. With this exoskeleton enhancing his strength to match Iron Man's own, he now joined the Avenger in combat. As Iron Man struck him, he stepped back and tore a hunk of machinery free from its housing, hurling it at Stark. Yet the Avenger's repulsors now lived up to their name and repelled the makeshift projectile back at the Claw, knocking him to the ground and deeply wounding his pride. As Iron Man went to restrain his fallen foe, the Claw, humiliated, delivered a vicious blow at his opponent.

The battle however, was nearly at an end. The Yellow Claw had seriously underestimated Iron Man yet again, and finally realised that he was outmatched when Iron Man shrugged off his latest punch and returned the strike. It was time to make his exit and abandon the Black Lama's tantalizing prize. He now realised that he should never have broken his habit of avoiding personal combat. Delivering a final double-handed strike to Iron Man's head, he stunned the Avenger long enough to make his escape and using the rocket jets in the boots of his own armour, he fled the Thinker's base and was gone. Ultimately, and totally unexpectedly, it would be Firebrand, a young flame-wielding terrorist and self-appointed champion of the oppressed, who would win the Golden Globe and, along with Iron Man, discover the truth about the Black Lama.

With the distraction of the Super-Villain War over, the Yellow Claw now decided to return to his usual pursuit, that of World domination. His next scheme would be his most ambitious and ruthless to date, and to help him achieve it, he decided to enlist the aid of an old and valued ally...

 

Chapter 10: To Destroy New York:

During the 1950s, the Yellow Claw's attacks on America had been relatively small scale; even when he had announced his return by unleashing a horde of giant spiders into New York City, very little actual empirical damage had been done, since the effect had been largely psychological. But now, the Yellow Claw decided to make an attack on America with which he intended to intimidate the entire world into obeying his rule. To aid his first full-blown attempt at world conquest since he came out of his years of contemplation, he intended to utterly destroy the city of New York. He believed, that if he were seen to be able to achieve this, no country would dare to stand against him. It is significant that New York City was his chosen target, since it was the home of the Avengers, of whom both Captain America and Iron Man were members and had the largest overall super-hero population of any America city. If he could destroy those also, he would not only be rid of them, he would have demonstrated that he was unstoppable.

We have seen already the resources and weapons at the Yellow Claw's disposal. It is also known that he had extensive funds in various Swiss Bank accounts. Potentially, he could have engineered the destruction of New York via a variety of methods. He chose instead to use a method for which he would need specialist assistance; he decided to create an artificial tidal wave and engulf the city beneath it. Such an ostentatious means of mass destruction may seem an unlikely choice, but let us consider the implications. Had the Yellow Claw destroyed New York city with a nuclear bomb, he would not have intimidated the World into obeying him, he would merely have made himself the most wanted terrorist in the world. But if he were seen to turn the very elements themselves against the city, he would achieve a much more frightening status. Such a man, it might be assumed, could not be stopped.

Having decided on this ambitious and terrible plan, the Yellow Claw now set out to implement it. He would need an undersea base of the coast of New York City, an army of men, and a super-powered flunky or flunkies to kidnap men who had the specialist skills required to engineer an artificial tidal wave. Although he still had access to criminal geniuses such as Hop Sung, he would not easily find men who could assist him in this particular task. He also needed a reliable lieutenant to whom he could delegate much of the work required to achieve his current aims. And so the Yellow Claw contacted Karl von Horstbadden, alias Fritz von Voltzman. Von Horstbadden was still in New York, and it seems likely that he had had contact with the Claw since the 1950s, since even though nearly half a century had passed, von Horstbadden appeared to have aged little. I hypothesise that the Yellow Claw had been giving the Nazi war criminal the serums responsible for his own longevity. It seems an unusually generous act on the part of the Claw, but despite their past defeats at the hands of Jimmy Woo, the Yellow Claw had found von Horstbadden to be a capable and reliable ally. With von Horstbadden agreed to help him, the Yellow Claw now began to move his plan into action. We have seen evidence before of the Claw's technology, and from this it is obvious that he had considerable financial resources at his disposal, most likely originally inherit. It must have cost him a fortune, but somehow, in the space of only a few short months, the Claw's agents, in secret, had constructed a massive underwater base off the coast of New York, just beyond the continental shelf. Relocating there from China, he now joined von Horstbadden.

The Yellow Claw's new headquarters were an impressive sight. His agents, presumably under von Horstbadden's directions, had built a veritable city beneath the waves, a golden hued technological masterpiece protected from the sea above by a massive transparent shield, crowned by a huge metal disc emblazoned with the Claw's trade-mark symbol, a yellow, three-fingered claw. The many scientists whom he employed were already at work designing the tidal wave generator, which was proceeding rapidly. The time had now come to abduct two experts who could complete the device. These experts were one Professor T'Kora and one Doctor Samuel Burley. Kidnapping Burley was straightforward and swiftly accomplished. Exaactly who carried out the abduction is uncertain, but I suggest that von Horstbadden was the perpetrator. Professor T'Kora however was more of a challenge, since he was a native of the tiny African country of Wakanda and would only be in New York briefly to give a seminar at the Nuclear Proliferation Seminar to be held at the United Nations headquarters the following week. If the abduction of Burley had failed, it would have been a simple matter to restage it, but T'Kora needed to taken in one swift and decisive move. The Claw elected to use a super-villain for the task.

Finding a super-villain in New York city was just as easy as locating a super-hero; the Yellow Claw appears to have located his pawn using a remote controlled camera which must have been incorporated into some kind of flying robot drone. It is interesting that he apparently resorts to this technological means of spying, suggesting that on this occasion, he had not brought his ancient quartz crystal orb with him to America. Regardless of the technique used, he soon got the desired result; on a monitor screen in his headquarters an image of the Sandman appeared. The Sandman was William Baker, although he preferred the alias "Flint Marko", and he was along-time criminal who had been caught on the periphery of a nuclear test whilst on the run from the police. Bizarrely, this accident, rather than killing him, had fused his form to the sand of the beach on which he had been standing, giving his body malleable properties. He could change shape, creating weapons such as clubs or axes from his sandy form and hardening it. Following a series of fights with super-heroes such as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four (with himself a member of the villainous group known as the Frightful Four [see file: The Wizard]), the Sandman was currently down on his luck, having recently been foiled in an attempt at bank robbery by two neophyte crime-fighters, Nova and the Crimebuster, real name Frank Moore, was a masked vigilante who was athletic, but not super-powered. He was very much a street level crime-fighter, of the kind who was prevalent in New York following the boom of the super-human population at the start of the decade. Nova was another matter entirely - he had potential as a big-league super-hero.

Nova was Richard Rider, a High School student who had recently and unexpectedly inherited the powers and costume of a dying Nova-Prime Centurion, a soldier of the planet Xandar. The Centurion had been fatally wounded in battle with an intergalactic butcher called Zorr, and had passed on his powers so that the recipient could defend their world against Zorr, who was still pursuing him. Young Rider had achieved this, and was now carving out a niche for himself as a super-hero. However, juggling life as a teenage and life as a hero was difficult, and Rider's fledgling career was beset by difficulties. In terms of power though, he had a definite advantage; as well as being capable of flight, he had enhanced strength and speed. And as noted, he and the Crimebuster had just dealt the Sandman a humiliating defeat, a fact that the Yellow Claw was about to turn to his advantage. For reasons unclear to us, although the Yellow Claw wanted to use the Sandman to kidnap Professor T'Kora, he did not want merely to hire him, but rather to brainwash him into carrying out the task. Indeed it is for this very reason that the Sandman was selected as the Claw's agent, since his current dejected state would make him more open to suggestion. It is odd that the Yellow Claw chose this route, since the Sandman was a known mercenary, and it seems unlikely that the Claw was unwilling to pay him. I suggest that the Claw considered Baker to be useful, but unreliable, and by mentally conditioning the Sandman, he could be more certain of success.

But a problem had now arisen. SHIELD, and Nick Fury, had learned of the Claw's return and knew that he was planning something big. With Fury sniffing around, the time to act was now; since the Yellow Claw wished to keep his identity secret, he had Von Horstbadden prepare to contact the Sandman. Von Horstbadden was to break into the Sandman's current residence, which was a small room in a lower-Manhattan hotel, and introduce himself as a Psychiatrist. Adopting the alias Heinrich von Flessle, von Horstbadden did as instructed, and persuaded the Sandman to let him help him reassert himself. One hour later, he was in the Yellow Claw's secondary base in New York Citu itself, and being subjected to the Claw's brainwashing apparatus. Forced to relive memories of recent defeats, he quickly became submissive. Monitoring events from elsewhere, the Yellow Claw was delighted and ordered von Horstbadden to send him to obtain T'Kora.

In actual fact, the Sandman was sent in as back up to a pair of hired thugs who were initially to attempt to kidnap T'Kora inconspicuously. They seized the Professor as ordered, hijacking his car with ease. However, upon throwing the driver from the vehicle they unwittingly attracted the attention of Nova, who was flying past. He tackled the guards with ease, but the Sandman was another matter entirely. Revealing himself, "Marko" savagely attacked Nova, determined both to prevent him from stopping the Sandman fulfilling his task and also to exact revenge for his earlier defeat at the bank. After a short battle, Nova was unconscious and Professor T'Kora was the Sandman's captive. He took them both back to von Horstbadden at the Yellow Claw's land base. Von Horstbadden had captured T'Kora for the Yellow Claw, but Nova was a bonus. With the permission of the Claw, the Nazi placed Nova unconscious in a death trap that the Claw's scientists had designed. He then set T'Kora to work and awaited the Claw's next instructions. These once more involved the Sandman, who was now to kidnap Burley's teenage brother Mike. Burley was refusing to assist the Claw, but it was not for the sake of blackmailing the Doctor that he wanted his brother; after all, the Claw could use his knowledge of mind-control to force Burley to aid him. Rather, the Claw wanted to blackmail Mike with the threat of his older brother's death if he did not obtain vital parts for the villain. The best way of ensuring that Mike knew the danger his brother was in was to bring him to the Claw's headquarters. Brainwashed with his new instructions, the Sandman set out to obtain Mike.

Meanwhile, Nova was awakening. The Yellow Claw, intrigued by his new opponent was observing him from behind a one-way glass panel, and now enlightened the young hero as to the nature of the trap in which he was ensnared. Nova was restrained at both his wrists and ankles, so that he hung spread-eagled in the middle of the hermetically sealed room he found himself in. If he moved his body, he would disturb the photoelectric eye focused upon him, triggering a stream of liquid oxygen from above and searing gas jets from below. Caught between fatal extremes of hot and cold, he would die almost instantly. It is unusual for the Claw to indulge a super-powered foe in this manner, since as we have seen he destroyed the Mad Thinker's Iron Man android without haste, since he felt that it was a mistake to keep such enemies alive longer than necessary, as they had a tendency to escape. As the Yellow Claw left Nova, he calmly and confidently informed him that he would return later to examine the corpse. Could it be that he was so supremely confident about this particular device that he truly believed it to be escape-proof and was willing to indulge an oft-suppressed sadistic streak? Or was he merely humouring Karl von Horstbadden, whose sadism was well documented? Possibly he merely felt that the young superhero was no threat to his experience and intellect, and that there was advantage in making an example of him. Whatever the reason, he was making an enormous mistake. Nova had been left in his armour, which was designed for the extreme heat and cold found in space, and he decided to risk testing it against the gas jets and liquid oxygen stream. Activating the photoelectric eye, he unleashed the twin forces, and as he had hoped his armour protected him, whereas the restraints holding him could not take the strain and broke.

The Yellow Claw's green-garbed soldiers immediately attacked Nova, but they were no matches for his strength. Realising that the young hero was putting the project at risk, he ordered von Horstbadden to seize T'Kora and Burley and join him aboard an escape craft. It was time to put the captive scientists to work in the sea base. Behind them, Nova defeated the last of the guards and left. Bone-weary from his ordeal, he wanted nothing more than to sleep, but in his other life as Richard Rider, he could not afford to miss another day of school. He decided to return to his class, where a surprise awaited him. By coincidence, Mike Burley was also in his class. Arrogant and obnoxious, Mike Burley was not popular with Richard Rider. Nevertheless, even he could not merely stand by and watch as the Sandman carried the athlete away. The pair battled each other for a third time. After trading blows for several minutes Nova and the Sandman were fighting atop a half-finished apartment block near the school. Nova was increasingly desperate, since his escape from the Yellow Claw's base had exhausted him before he had even started fighting Baker again. On the very cusp of defeat, he managed to dodge the attacking Sandman, who had solidified himself and had jumped off the top of the construction onto Nova, and he plunged straight into a cement mixer. Immobilised by the mixing of his sand with the wet cement, the now immobile Sandman was out of the fight, and left to the police to remove.

With his lackey gone, the Yellow Claw found it necessary to modify his plan. He did not after all require Mike Burley to come to his headquarters, since he could relay his message in another way; he ordered von Horstbadden to telephone the younger Burley and demand that he obtain essential components from his brother's laboratory. Fearing for Samuel's safety, Mike agreed, but his attempt that night to carry out his task was foiled by Nova, who was patrolling the neighbourhood with the Crimebuster at the time. Unmasking Burley, Rider had been astonished to find his prodigious classmate committing burglary, but had been unable to pursue him because he had been attacked by robot doubles of the Hulk, Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man. They had been ordered to attack him by Nick Fury, who had wanted to test the abilities of the fledgling superhero. Fury had finally closed in on the Yellow Claw, and knew that he had kidnapped Samuel Burley and blackmailed his younger brother. What he still did not know was what the Yellow Claw was up to. Nova defeated the robots, thus passing the test, and was quickly recruited by Fury who was keen to enlist super-powered help. He briefed Nova on the identity of his mystery captor, to the stunned amazement of Rider. He had heard of the Yellow Claw thanks to his recent assault on New York with the giant spiders and was almost overwhelmed at the thought of taking on so infamous a villain. Nevertheless, he agreed to help Fury.

By the following day, the Yellow Claw had obtained the final parts his captive scientists required. Whether young Mike Burley had returned to his brother's laboratory or whether the Claw had obtained them elsewhere we do not know. However he did it, Nick Fury found out, and knew that if he and Nova were to stand any chance of stopping the Yellow Claw, they had to move fast. As soon as he was joined by Nova, whom he had telephoned at home, the pair set out in a SHIELD issue helicopter to where Fury had found out the Yellow Claw's undersea base was located. But the Yellow Claw was prepared for such interference and before the helicopter even reached the sea, an army of his soldiers suddenly attacked the vehicle. These were his so-called "sky squids", a flotilla of his green-garbed guards who were equipped with jetpacks which made them uniquely manoeuvrable. Also in the attacking force were several flat robot craft, which for the moment were held back in reserve.

In his undersea base, the Yellow Claw was remarking to von Horstbadden on the irony of this conflict with Fury; the SHIELD Director sought to stop him from bringing about World War III, when in fact the Yellow Claw desired a long-lasting peace - under his direct control of course. We will return to this issue shortly, but first we must consider the outcome of the aerial battle outside. Von Horstbadden was growing increasingly concerned by the way it was going, since Nova, who could fly anyway, was routing the sky squids, and even Fury had joined him since Nova had handed him one of the squids' jetpacks. Free of their helicopter, they were just as manoeuvrable as the Claw's troops, and what Fury lacked in power, he more than made up for in skill and experience. The Yellow Claw was unconcerned by this however, since he had an ace up his sleeve and was merely awaiting the moment when he could use it to the most dramatic effect. As we have already seen, the crux of his plan to destroy New York rested on his being seen to be responsible. To this end, he had ordered the construction of a new toy, a holographic image inducer that would project a 200-foot high image of him above New York. Gleefully he ordered von Horstbadden to activate it.

The effect on Fury and Nova when they were suddenly confronted by a colossal image of their foe was distracting to say the least, which was entirely the effect the Claw had been hoping for. Whilst his erstwhile opponents were focused on his image, through which he was vowing to kill them both, the flat robot ships, which had been holding back, now swept in and fired cerebral de-programmer beams at Nova and Fury. This was a weapon designed by the Claw which would instantly render a foe unconscious. As the suddenly insensible pair began to plummet earthwards, the Claw's remaining sky squids caught them and brought them to the waiting Yellow Claw. Interestingly, when the submersible aircraft in which the sky squids transported them docked at the undersea lair, it was von Horstbadden who urged the Claw to kill them swiftly. But the Claw refused to heed his advice, preferring instead to make a more symbolic affair out of their demise. Directly above the sea base, an American Government Eye-Spy satellite hanging in space in geostationary orbit. As a precaution, the Yellow Claw had decided to use a thermonuclear warhead to destroy it before he began his attack on New York. This missile was currently being prepared for launch in a silo in the sea base, and the Claw now had Nova and Fury placed in Plexiglas "life-pods" which he then had attached to the warhead. These would keep the pair alive until the missile struck the satellite.

As Nova and Fury awoke, the Yellow Claw decided for the first time to explain his motivations to a foe. Since Fury was an old enemy, it was he to whom the Claw addressed himself: "Fury, know that I am a man of peace. To achieve peace, I must create a new dynasty, once in which I rule an ever-obedient and contented populace." I do not doubt that the Claw meant every word of this, and truly believed that the world would be better off under his rule. But in order to achieve his aim, he was willing to murder ten million people, a sacrifice which he saw not as an atrocity, but a means to a worthwhile end. Fury and Nova undoubtedly disagreed, but before either of them could voice an opinion, the missile was launched and they began to rocket towards the satellite.

At this stage, the Yellow Claw's entire plan would have succeeded, were fate not to deal an unusual hand. By coincidence and quite unknown to the Yellow Claw, the villainous Dr Sun, a criminal mastermind currently based in New York City, was also monitoring the satellite, which he needed to implement his own schemes. Sun was a Chinese scientist, whose body had long ago been destroyed, leaving him as a disembodied brain, which was currently mounted atop a cybernetic body. Alarmed at the approaching missile, Dr. Sun transmitted an override signal to the rocket, altering its trajectory. The Yellow Claw and von Horstbadden were quite oblivious to this, but soon realised that something was wrong when they saw the missile change course. Quickly, von Horstbadden checked the instrument banks and informed the Claw of the missile's new course; it was on collision for Washington DC and its neutron warhead had just been activated. Inside his Plexiglas cell, Nova was desperately thinking. Although he was sure he could break the titanium steel restraints holding his wrists and ankles, he doubted that his strength alone could deviate the missile from its deadly new course and anyway he might not be able to get free in time. Then, he suddenly realised that he might be able to deflect it through his other power - flight. Nova's ability to fly was actually due to a function of his armour, which allowed him to ride currents of electrons in the air. If he could persuade his armour to react to a current of electrons travelling away from dry land, it might push the missile in another direction. The force exerted on Rider as he carried out his plan was almost enough to crush him to death, but nevertheless it worked. The missile crashed into the sea and since the Plexiglas domes kept Nova and Fury dry, he was able to free first him and then Fury. They reached dry land, and safety, just seconds before the missile exploded.

With his attempt to destroy the Eye-Spy satellite derailed, the Yellow Claw decided to proceed with the main project. After all, even if the satellite alerted the American military to his actions, they would be unable to stop him in time. He now informed T'Kora and Burley just what they had actually been working towards, to the absolute horror of the two scientists. Samuel immediately refused to finish his task, just as the Yellow Claw had predicted. Gloatingly, he explained to Burley that to some people he was known as The Master of Men, an alias we have not heard him use before, but one that accurately describes his mind-control abilities, which he promptly brought to bear on Dr Burley. Professor T'Kora, realising that resistance was futile, had little choice but to continue his work also. Although the Claw was on the brink of victory however, Fury and Nova were closing in once more. SHIELD had captured agents three and seven of the Yellow Claw's private forces, who had revealed the location of his secret docking place in New York harbour, which was concealed beneath the shop of one Lo Sing in Chinatown. They had also revealed the password: "A new sun shall rise over men". Fury and Nova, concealing their true identities beneath trench coats and fedoras, had greeted Lo Sing with this phrase, and had gained access to the jetty beneath the shop, where a submersible had been awaiting them. They had learned the location and layout of the sea base from the captured agents of the Claw, and had had this information transmitted directly into their minds by SHIELD's ESPer machine. ESP stood for Extra Sensory Perception and the unit was specifically set up to counter telepathic criminals and to read the minds of prisoners. It had proved an essential part of SHIELD's resources in the past and was once more justifying its cost to the taxpayer; having overcome the guards who greeted them, Nova and Fury were now at liberty in the Claw's base, which thanks to the ESPer machine they knew like the backs of their hands.

Unfortunately, by the time Nova and Fury located Professor T'Kora and Doctor Burley, they were in a cell. They had completed the tidal wave generator shortly before their rescuers had arrived and the Yellow Claw was now ready to use it. Besides this, they themselves had another immediate problem, in the form of a trap built into the cell. As soon as Fury and Nova entered, a steel shutter slammed down over the doorway and water began to fill the room from a pipe in the ceiling. Since the Claw had no further need of the captive scientists, he had decided to use them as bait. Nova however merely ripped a hole in the ceiling, and set off to find the Claw whilst Fury helped T'Kora and Burley escape. The Director of SHIELD intended to return shortly, with a full SHIELD Assault Squad. Meanwhile, Nova had located his quarry. The Yellow Claw and von Horstbadden were sat in twin control chairs from where they could monitor the entire sea base. As Nova burst in, the Yellow Claw greeted him with a triumphant smirk, since he had just activated the tidal wave. New York was finished, but for Nova the end would come sooner. Activating a switch on the arm of his throne, the dais upon which it and von Horstbadden's were set raised up from the floor, converting into a fiery red mechanical "Dragon Sled" in which the Yellow Claw and von Horstbadden now attacked Nova. As the hovering "Dragon" spat flames at him Nova fled, but not through fear. He considered stopping the tidal wave a far greater priority than stopping the Claw.

Outside, Nova swam back to the surface and turned to the approaching wave. The massive wall of water seemed utterly unstoppable, yet despite the odds, Nova could only try. Flying straight into it, he desperately attempted to smash it down. Fury had arrived with reinforcements and was quick to lend a hand. A small flotilla of SHIELD craft was flying around the front of the wave firing disruptive blasts into it. By good fortune, one of SHIELD's resident scientists had recently devised an anti-hurricane device capable of firing white walls, directional signals and hydronic rays which might yet disrupt the oncoming wave. Whilst Fury and his men saw to the artificial Tsunami, he ordered Nova to find the Yellow Claw. SHIELD may yet fail and if the Claw knew how to stop the wave, it might be their only chance.

The Yellow Claw was actually about to find Nova. Realising that the young hero constituted a threat to his plans even at this late stage, he and von Horstbadden had boarded a "Battle-Dragonship" similar to but larger than his Dragon Sled. They had pursued Nova from the sea base and now intercepted him as he flew back to find them. This time, the Yellow Claw tried a new tactic for dealing with Nova; he unleashed the full force of his mind control powers through the walls of his ship and twisted the mind of his new opponent. Suddenly Nova thought he was being attacked by Dragons and thrashed in terror in the water. In fact he was being attacked by more of the Claw's sky squids, this time wearing water jets upon their backs and wielding harpoons. But unfortunately for the Claw, Fury had warned Nova of the Claw's abilities and the young man was now managing to force himself to see the truth. With the hallucinations over, he defeated the troops and smashed his way into the Claw's Battle-Dragonship. The Claw had prepared for this eventuality and now calmly greeted Nova, even as he grasped his psychogun behind his back. This was a weapon designed to induce insanity in its victim, thus utterly incapacitating them. As the Claw squared off with Nova he politely requested that von Horstbadden not interfere whilst he discussed the situation with the hero in a civilised manner.

Nova did not trust the Claw for one moment, which impressed the Claw enormously, since he had assumed his enemy to be little more than a naive teenager. Without further ado, he shot Rider with the psychogun. As the stricken lad began to writhe in internal torment, the Claw began to throttle the life out of him. However, the self-proclaimed Master of Men had made an error in subjecting Nova to such nightmarish visions; Rider had recently begun to inadvertently alienate his friends and family by running out on them to pursue his other life as Nova without explanation, and secretly he was terrified that everyone he hated was starting to hate him. As the effect of the Claw's weapon brought these fears to the forefront of his mind, Nova was snapped back to reality by the sudden shock. The Yellow Claw was astounded, and in the moment of stunned amazement that followed, Nova took the chance to punch him hard. Whilst the outraged Claw regained his feet, von Horstbadden prepared to shoot their enemy, but Nova rounded on the Nazi faster than he could react and disarmed him. Suddenly, for the first time in many, many years, von Horstbadden was afraid. In panic he fled and ran straight through the door of the Dragonship, forgetting in his terror that it was still airborne. After a lifetime of causing pain and misery, Karl von Horstbadden, alias Fritz von Voltzman, alias Heinrich von Flessle, ex-commandant of Auschwitz and the most valuable ally of the Yellow Claw, died.

On board the Dragonship, Nova was facing the Yellow Claw for the final battle. The Claw now faced total defeat, for whilst he had been occupied with Nova, SHIELD's anti-tornado device had done its work. The hydronic rays had robbed it of its impetus, and it had subsided into little more than a high tide. With New York safe and his most reliable ally dead, only escape now mattered to the Claw. But defeating Nova wads proving difficult. Although he was utilizing the full force of his psychic powers on the young man, Rider had psyched himself up to a point where he could resist the Claw's suggestion. Forcing himself forward, he began to repeatedly punch the criminal genius, hoping to batter him into submission. With things looking desperate for the Claw, he was forced to muster one last effort if he was to avoid capture. Pressing his hand suddenly against Nova's face he made him believe that he was on fire. Terrified, Nova leapt from the vessel and flew down into the cooling embrace of the waves. As he resurfaced, the Yellow Claw's Battle-Dragonship exploded. No body was visible in the waves and nor was von Horstbadden's corpse to be found, but Nova was certain that no could have survived the explosion of the Dragonship. Exhausted by his ordeal, he joined the triumphant Fury, assuring him that the Claw was gone. Ever cynical, Fury assured him that the fiend would return, but for now New York had been saved.

Although it seems unlikely that von Horstbadden survived, Fury was quite correct about the Yellow Claw. He had made his escape through unknown means and had engineered the destruction of the Dragonship to cover his tracks. I hypothesise that he fled using teleportation technology built into the ship for emergencies, which he could easily have purloined from the castle of the Mandarin during his brief occupation, since the Mandarin had long made use of such technology. With his plan for world domination in tatters and his most reliable ally dead, the Claw returned to China to rebuild his plans and scheme anew. Had he succeeded in destroying New York, he would have been guilty of mass murder on a scale undreamt of. But beside his next endeavour, the slaughter of ten million people would pale into insignificance. For what the Yellow Claw was to attempt next was tantamount to the genocide of virtually the entire human race...

 

Chapter 11: Sterilisation:

Despite his failure to destroy New York, the Yellow Claw still desired World conquest, but in addition his mind now turned once more to thoughts of an heir. With Suwan dead and him unable to countenance a successor who was not a blood relative, the obvious solution was to father an heir. With these twin goals in mind, the Claw now began to consider his options, and to devise a truly monstrous plan. Several years ago, whilst Suwan had been in suspended animation, the Claw had realised that he might never turn her to his cause. At that time he had sent out agents to approach the fathers of the most genetically perfect Chinese girls he could find, in order to arrange that should become his wives when they came of age. They were now mature, and ripe for the plucking. The Claw now relocated to an island base that he owned and which was located in disputed waters in the South China Sea. Whether he had owned this island for a long time or recently acquired it is unknown, but it would now serve as the perfect haven for his harem. He sent his agents to fetch his wives. Meanwhile, the Yellow Claw ordered work to begin at a second base, this one located in the outback of Australia. Construction began on a trio of rockets capable of docking with a small space ship that could be piloted by a single occupant, which was located on the Claw's island. Whilst all of this was occurring, scientists at both bases began work on a far more sinister undertaking; the Claw's biochemists began synthesising vast quantities of a gas capable of rendering the entire population of the earth irreversibly sterile.

The Claw's plan was this; he would make each of his genetically perfect wives pregnant and when his sons reached "manhood" they would battle each other until only one was left. The survivor of this experiment in social Darwinism would become the Claw's one true heir. He would teach all of his sons the arcane arts, so that they were even more dangerous and the lone survivor would be truly worthy of his heritage. The victor would emerge to rule Earth, which he would save from sterility by virtue of cryogenic storage banks containing genetic material from the most physically and mentally perfect humans on Earth. These gene banks were already prepared in the Claw's ship on the island. The gas would be loaded on board the three rockets and fired from the Australian base, then to dock with the Yellow Claw's spaceship in orbit. He would then release the rockets' deadly payload into the atmosphere, sterilising everyone save for his harem, safely housed in the airtight environment of his island base. The plan was perfect, but would be vigorously opposed if uncovered. For added security, the Yellow Claw had his personnel, including chief scientist Dr William Lui, cybernetically enhanced with torso implants containing explosive charges; betrayal would be punished by instant and messy death. With everything prepared, the Claw began to collect his harem, whilst his scientists finished work on the rockets and the sterilisation gas. Only one obstacle now stood in his way, in the shape of one of his future wives, Shu Han.

Shu Han had recently been brought to the island by agents of the Claw, and was utterly terrified. She had long forgotten being sold to the Claw by her parents, and had made a life for herself, excelling in athletics and science and thus exercising the very attributes the Claw was interested in. She had even won an Olympic gold medal in track and the Nobel Prize for physics. She had refused the Claw's offer of marriage, and although he legally owned her, he did not wish to force himself on an unwilling bride, and despite offers of power and wealth, Shu Han still refused to submit. This was most frustrating to the Claw, who felt that she should be honoured to marry him; with his patience running out, he gave her three days to make a final decision, before he either gave up on her, or more likely used his mental abilities to subdue her free will. With time running out, the terrified young woman used her skills to create a miniaturised radio transmitter. She then sent out a distress signal, which was picked up by a ham radio operator in Hong Kong. It would appear that the young operator had heard of the Yellow Claw, for rather than informing the Hong Kong authorities of his find, he instead sent a note across the oceans to the only group of people in the world likely to be able to stop the infamous potentate, the Avengers.

At present, the Avengers roster included the Yellow Claw's old enemies Captain America and Iron Man. In addition, founding Avenger the Wasp was also present. She was Janet van Dyne; a fashion designer who had long ago begun a romance with fellow founder Henry Pym whom she had eventually married. Pym had given her the secret of Pym particles, a little-known type of particle, which enabled objects or people to change size. She was thus able to shrink down to wasp-size, and could fly thanks to a pair of artificial wings. She was also armed with a pair of bioelectric stingers, which could deliver a painful shock to her opponents. Another long-time member was Hawkeye the Marksman, real name Clint Barton. Hawkeye was a equipped with a variety of specially designed arrows, which he could shoot with devastating accuracy. He had originally joined the Avengers after a brief stint as a costumed criminal and had since proved himself time and again. Another ex-criminal who had first joined at the same time as Hawkeye was the Scarlet Witch, a mutant who could control Cthonic chaos magic, using it to "hex" her opponents by altering probabilities. A fellow mutant, Henry McCoy, was also currently a member. McCoy, better known as the Beast and a founding member of the outlaw mutant team known as the X-Men, was gifted with prehensile strength and agility and additionally his body was currently covered in a thick layer of blue fur, thanks to his own experiments in biochemistry. McCoy's close friend Wonder Man was also on the team at present. Wonder Man was Simon Williams, another ex-criminal who had been given ionic-powered strength and the ability to fly by the infamous Nazi War Criminal Baron Heinrich Zemo, the man responsible for the death of Captain America's war time sidekick Bucky. Long believed dead, Wonder Man had actually been trapped in a death-like coma due to a side effect of his ionic powers, and had recently been awoken, after which he had joined the Avengers. The last two members of the current roster were the Vision and Jocasta. The Vision was a synthezoid, an artificial humanoid created by the homicidal robot Ultron, which had itself been created by Pym. Originally, the Vision had been created to fight the Avengers, but had soon turned on its demented creator and had joined them. His personality was originally based on that of Wonder Man, whose brain-patterns had been used as a template for the Visions during the time Simon was believed dead. However, he had long since matured into a person in his own right, and was now married to the Scarlet Witch. The Vision's ability to change his mass, across a spectrum from intangible to as dense as diamond, made him a useful and powerful member of the Avengers. Finally, Jocasta was a fellow creation of Ultron, and had been created as his bride. She too had rebelled against him, and had joined his enemies. She had strength greater than that of a human and could fire laser beams from her eyes.

This team of Avengers were engaging in a regular meeting in their New York Mansion headquarters when Jarvis, the Avengers' butler, brought them the mail, including the note from the Hong Kong radio operator. Noticing that the envelope was marked "Life and death", Captain America opened it at once. On reading its contents, a chill ran down his spine. Naturally, both Steve Rogers and Iron Man knew all too well whom the Claw once and his name filled them with dread. Most of the others knew of him by reputation. Only Jocasta, who had not been created at the time, had not heard of the master criminal. Interestingly, when filling her in on the Claw's background, Captain America states that he has fought the Claw "several times". We have seen only one such encounter, although he may have been also referring to Doctor Doom's robot Claw. Is it possible though that he had fought the Claw on another, undocumented occasion? If so, this encounter must have occurred between the Claw's participation in the Super-Villain War and his assault on New York City with the tidal wave, but since we have no other details, I shall not speculate further. Despite the Vision's objection to attacking a foe located in disputed waters based solely on such flimsy evidence, Captain America decided that they should attempt to rescue Shu Han, whose plight had been made clear in the note. They boarded an Avengers' "quinjet" and set a course for the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, on his island, the Yellow Claw was conferring with Dr Lui. The project was not only proceeding well, it was nearing completion, with almost enough of the gas synthesised to begin distribution. The Claw was delighted, but his ecstasy was soon punctured by news that an aircraft was approaching from the East; The Avengers were about to arrive. Without delay, the Claw ordered the base's protective dome to be closed and the island's defences activated. He then waited for the next development. As the Avengers landed, the Wasp and the Vision dropped from the ship and set off to enter the Claw's stronghold whilst the rest attacked from the ground. With his density reduced so that he was intangible, the Vision could fly through the wall of side the mountain into which the base was set, and was soon inside. The Wasp too had gained entry, using her bioelectric sting to break through the Plexiglas shield covering one of the base's air vents. The Claw, who fortunately for her mistook her for an insect, quickly spotted her and realised that the base was no longer airtight. This could not be tolerated, since he did not want his harem sterilising when the gas was released and he ordered his men to check all points of exterior contact. Furthermore, his suspicions had been aroused; had an Avenger entered the base?

Elsewhere on the island, the other Avengers were approaching. Forced to land in the shallows off the coast, they were suddenly attacked by a giant, cybernetically controlled jellyfish, which was most probably the work of Hop Sung. With its massive stinging tentacles and mechanical beak-like jaws, it was a formidable obstacle. But, after a fierce battle, Iron Man allowed himself to be swallowed whole, and destroyed the creature from within with a well-timed repulsor blast. Inside the base, the Yellow Claw had encountered the vision. Acting on his suspicions, he had spotted the synthezoid on his monitor screens and had decided to introduce himself to his unwanted guess. Realising how dangerous the Claw was the Vision unleashed a blast from the solar gem mounted on his forehead, through which he drew power from the sun, but the Claw had researched his opponent's capabilities and prepared a counter attack. As the Vision's blast struck the Claw, it was absorbed into a force shield that surrounded him and was returned, violently to his source. To the horror of the onlooking Wasp, the Vision collapsed, and was carried away to the Claw's laboratory.

Outside, the Avengers were still coming. They were now making their way through the dense jungle, which covered the island. Suddenly, a salvo of razor-sharp metal crescents began to fly towards them, fired from a flying launcher. The blades sliced easily through even the thickest trees, and were even capable of chipping Jocasta's metal body, which was capable of withstanding a bazooka blast. Fortunately, Captain America realised that the Death-Crescents were all being fired from one spot and soon located the launcher. Using his indestructible shield as a projectile, he shattered the mechanism, ending the threat. By now, the Yellow Claw had decided to address his visitors and activated the image inducer, which he had previously used to address Fury and Nova in New York. Now, as then, his giant image served to distract them, whilst another weapon approached. This weapon was a fleet of large robot birds equipped with rocket launchers, which now attacked. Soon however, the Avengers had destroyed the birds and finally reached the Claw's base. Combing their strength into one mighty blow, Iron Man and Wonder Man smashed a hole in the wall, and the group entered - only to be greeted with a view-screen image of the captive Vision, surrounded by laser scalpels and with his energy levels kept low by a solar siphon. Forced to surrender, they followed Dr Lui, who had been sent to greet them, and went to meet their host in his throne room.

The Yellow Claw had the group at an immediate disadvantage, since he owned the island and was outside of their jurisdiction. Adopting an affronted tone, he demanded to know why they were there. As acting chairman, Captain America acted as the Avengers' spokesperson and explained that they had come to rescue Shu Han. The Claw was amazed by this and suddenly realised that she must have sent for them somehow. Although his pride was stung by this rejection, he nonetheless decided to take this chance to get rid of the heroes so he could get on with his plan. He had Shu-Han brought to them, ordered her to explain why she was there, and then granted her freedom. Introducing the Avengers to the rest of his harem, he explained that all he wanted was to be left alone to raise a family, and asked them to leave. The Avengers did not believe his claims for one moment, but they had no choice; as soon as the unconscious Vision was returned to them, they took Shu-Han and departed. For now at least, the Yellow Claw had won. However, he knew now that the Avengers would be back. Captain America and Iron Man knew him well enough not to trust him, and they would undoubtedly return with the others. He decided to take steps to eliminate them. Once he discovered that one of the air vents had been breached, he realised that the Wasp had broken in separately, and correctly guessed that she had seen the stores of the sterilisation gas, which were kept on the island. He decided to let the Avengers learn more, so that they could be lured into a trap at his Australian base and destroyed. The Claw knew that Dr Lui's conscience could not cope with the enormity of his master's plan and that he was seeking to betray him. He therefore allowed him to escape to inform the Avengers what he was up to, and to reveal the coordinates of the Claw's Australian base, where the rockets were now loaded with gas and ready to be launched. The Yellow Claw had prepared a defence there in the form of three vicious cyborgs designated Transformer, Bludgeoner and Compressor, who had become massive armoured weapons trained to kill. Soon, Dr Lui was at Avengers mansion in America, begging the Avengers to save the children. Before he could explain what he meant, the Claw triggered the explosive implanted in his body, leaving the heroes with a smoking corpse and a set of coordinates. He then settled down to wait.

The Avengers were soon in Australia and approaching the Yellow Claw's facility. But one of their numbers was missing. The Vision had elected to remain behind, claiming that he was not yet fully recovered from his ordeal, despite having been recharged back at the Mansion. In fact, he was fully recovered, but wanted to take care of the Yellow Claw in person; just as the Avengers landed in Australia, the synthezoid was once more passing wraith-like through the wall of the Yellow Claw's China Sea island base. This was not for the sake of revenge - rather, he had detected ultra-wave radiation transmissions being emitted by the mechanical components of Lui's corpse and had identified similar emissions from himself. The Claw had had a transmitter installed inside him when he had been a captive before, so that he could monitor the Avengers at all times. The Vision had become suspicious when his recharging had taken far more energy than usual, and had deduced that an unwanted extra component was draining his power reserves. Thus, he had separated from the rest of the group so that the Claw could not monitor them whilst he faced the villain alone. The Yellow Claw had of course anticipated this, and as the Vision passed through the portal into the Claw's control chamber, an energy sphere suddenly surrounded him. Specifically designed as it had been to contain him, even at his lowest density he could not pass through, nor break through with his strength when at his highest density. And as he watched, the Claw now showed him the futility of separating from his friends to try and hide them, by activating a view screen on which an image of the Avengers appeared. We already know that he had manipulated the situation so that they would travel to his Australian base, and now as the Vision looked on, Compressor, Bludgeoner and Transformer moved to the attack.

Compressor had a pair of slabs for hands, which generated a field capable of compressing the air between them, thus generating enormous pressure, which could easily crush any one of the Avengers. Bludgeoner possessed steel hammers in the place of his hands, and Transformer had a shield at the end of one arm which could absorb any power thrown against it and return it to its source through the gun in place of his other arm, as Iron Man and Jocasta soon learned to their cost. The tide of battle soon began to turn against the Avengers. Meanwhile, on Claw Island, the Yellow Claw was preparing to enter his final phase. Fascinated by the Vision, he had offered the synthezoid a place by his side, but the Avenger had flatly refused. Unconcerned by this the Claw had instead decided to let the Vision watch his victory; ordering his wives to depart, he activated a set of controls and the "control room" suddenly lurched forward; The Claw's space craft had been built into the structure of his stronghold all along. As it began to follow a pre-programmed course, he now turned his attention back to the battle in Australia. Slowly but surely, the Avengers had gained the upper hand, and the three cyborgs were losing ground. Deciding that the deaths of the Avengers was a priority, the Claw remotely activated the explosives built into Bludgeoner, Compressor and Transformer, destroying his operatives and collapsing the cave in which they were fighting. Satisfied that the Avengers had perished alongside them, he then triggered the launch sequence of the rockets.

The Yellow Claw was now on the verge of total victory. As the three rockets docked at the front of his space ship, they began to bend at two joints along their lengths, so that the entire ship with the rockets now resembled his three-fingered claw emblem. Just then, Iron Man and Wonder Man attacked; the Avengers had survived the destruction of the Cyborgs and these two had followed the course of the rockets. Just as the captive Vision was becoming hopeful however, the pair soon found that the vessel was protected by a force field that even they could not break. And then, with the final obstacle overcome, the Yellow Claw activated the release mechanism and the dense sterilisation gas began to seep from the tips of the rockets. He was standing on the edge of absolute triumph. Then, with victory in his grasp, the Yellow Claw suddenly and abruptly met with total defeat; to his horror, the ship had broken from its pre-programmed trajectory, and was plummeting earthwards.

This was the work of the Vision. Once in the past, the Claw had been prepared to slay Iron Man instantly, to prevent the unforeseeable reversals of his fortune which superheroes where so well known for. Now, in keeping the Vision alive and on board his ship, he had provided the means of his own undoing. The synthezoid had been slowly increasing his density and mass throughout the flight, and it had now reached a point where the ship could no longer cope with the weight. Gravity had prevailed and the craft had been helpless to maintain course. They were now on a collision course with the planet's surface. With his most grandiose scheme in tatters, the Claw had only one solace left; he would not die alone. Smashing the controls, which maintained the Vision's energy prison, he seized the android by the throat. Despite the Vision's attempt to avoid conflict by becoming intangible, the Claw continued his frenzied attack, thanks to circuitry built into the forearm bands of his armour, which generated a field design to negate the Vision's lack of substance. He had designed this field after his study of the captive Vision during the Avenger's attempt to rescue Shu-Han. Now, snarling with rage and with his composure and dignity completely lost to hatred, he maintained his stranglehold on the Vision, who was struggling to free himself. Just prior to the impact of the ship with the ocean, the Vision broke free and phased through the hull. Behind him the ship, with the Claw still on board, crashed into the ocean with devastating force. As the Avengers arrived to pick him up, he informed them that the Yellow Claw was finally dead.

Unlike Nova before him, the Vision was very near to the truth. The Claw had been seriously injured by the crash and was on the cusp of oblivion. But he refused to die. With the strength of will that had previously allowed him to stay alive after being shot by Suwan, he struggled free from the wreckage and swam to shore, refusing to die. His body was severely injured and badly broken, but serendipitously, his ship had crashed into the South China Sea, not far from his Island, and it was this that he had now come ashore on. Reaching his stronghold, he used his elixirs and sorcery to drag himself back from the brink of death. Slowly, over the next few months, he rested and recuperated. And, inevitably, he began to plan anew...

 

Chapter 12: Bhagwan Sri Ananda:

As the Yellow Claw recuperated, he began to consider the flaws in his previous approaches to conquest. He decided that, rather than forcing the world to his knees, he should let them chose to worship him voluntarily. As soon as he was hale and hearty once more, he began to act upon this genesis of an idea, and soon a fully formed plan was once more in the working. The Claw knew of a legendary eastern Holy Man called Bhagwan Sri Ananda who had not been heard of for fifty years. The Claw decided to impersonate him, and with his skills at manipulation, he was soon a renowned spiritual leader worshipped by millions around the world. Heavily disguised beneath a latex mask, he had no fear of being recognised and soon he was spreading his message to even more willing followers. The conversion of millions to his ersatz crusade for inner peace was only the first part of his plan. The second was, as usual, world domination.

After several months of masquerading as Bhagwan Sri Ananda, the Claw began to make several minor prophecies, which his agents made sure came true. Having gained a reputation as a precognitive visionary, he now delivered his coup de grace and predicted the total destruction of New York City by earthquakes and tidal waves. Very soon, thanks to his unwitting disciples, he would have the power to make it happen. At the Claw's urging, Hop Sung, whose skills extended beyond genetics, had created a mind amplification device. Soon, the Claw would gather tens of thousands of his followers in the fields above his new headquarters in upstate New York ostensibly to meditate, don the helmet containing the device, and transform the waves of psychic energy from his meditating followers into telekinetic potential with which he could raise up a tidal wave and start earthquakes by the force of his will alone. He would not only destroy New York City, he would do it himself with the power of his follows' belief behind him. Soon, with a secret base in upstate New York and a disciple centre in Manhattan's upper west side, the Claw was ready. The open-air gathering had been arranged. In a few short days, the Claw would destroy New York. Then once more, Captain America entered the Claw's life.

The Yellow Claw new that as soon as he arrived in New York as Bhagwan, the media would be all over him, since his alias had become famous in a short length of time. To garner public sympathy and thus increase the number of people at his gathering, he decided to stage an assassination attempt on himself. Presumably he intended merely to dodge the bullet, but before his agent could fire from his rooftop vantage point, he was disarmed and captured by Captain America, who had spotted him whilst passing the area. The Avenger soon went down to see who he had rescued, and was introduced to the Holy Man he found. The Yellow Claw immediately suspected that the Captain had deduced his real identity, and decided to give his foe a chance to confront him in private. Maintaining his guise for the watching photographers, he invited Captain America to meet him at his disciples' centre the following night. In fact, Rogers was unaware of Bhagwan's true identity, but had nonetheless found something unsettling about the mystic. He decided to accept the invitation.

That night, Captain America met another costumed crime-fighter who would soon interfere in the Yellow Claw's affairs, in the unlikely shape of the Fabulous Frog-Man. The Frog-Man was Eugene Patilio, the son of Vincent Patilio who had once followed a short and ignominious career as the costume criminal known as Leap-Frog. When Leap-Frog had gone straight and retired his costume, it had been picked up by his teenage son, who had on several occasions used it to fight crime. Since Eugene was fairly incompetent by nature, and since the only power conferred on him by the Frog suit was the ability to jump (thanks to a pair of hydraulic springs in the soles of the boots), his crime-fighting career had been rather unaccomplished. When Captain America found him, he was attempting to rescue a man from three armed attackers, and was succeeding more by luck than judgement. Nevertheless, as the Sentinel of Liberty arrived, one of the men was reaching for his gun and would surely have killed Eugene, had not Rogers rendered him unconscious. Oblivious to this near-escape from death, the Frog-Man had began to pester Captain America for a chance to be his sidekick. However, the Avenger had heard of Eugene thanks to both the Beast and the wall-crawling super-Hero Spider-Man, both of whom had met him before. He politely declined, suggested that Eugene return to his parents, and then left. Unfortunately, during the fight, the FBI agent had panicked and run off. Before the dejected Frog-Man complied, he noticed a book of matches lying on the ground after the fight, and pocketed it.

The man whom Eugene had rescued had been an FBI agent sent to investigate Bhagwan Sari Ananda. On finding out just who the mystic really was, the terrified agent had fled, and the attackers had been sent to retrieve him. During the skirmish, one of them had dropped the book of matches, which was emblazoned with the legend "Grumpy's Diner". He decided to follow up the lead the following night. The next day, Captain America checked out the Park Slobe FBI headquarters, hoping to identify the three assailants form the night before in the FBI photo fit files. He soon found that they were internationally known professional assassins. Although he had no logical reason to make the connection to Ananda, his instincts were telling him that something serious was afoot. Later, unbeknownst to each other, the two crime-fighters each made their way into the territory of the Yellow Claw. During the evening Eugene broke into Grumpy's Diner in lower Manhattan, which had apparently been closed down by the board of health, only to find a vast hidden laboratory containing tanks of giant mutated insects beneath it. Then, as he watched, Bhagwan entered with Hop Sung, who was informing the Claw that the FBI agent whom Eugene and Captain America had saved earlier had been tracked down again and disposed off. He then greeted the Frog-Man whom he had spotted instantly. Suddenly finding himself by the Mystic's guards, he meekly surrendered. He was restrained by the guards and dragged along as the Yellow Claw, still in disguise, travelled to his disciple's centre in the upper west side and prepared to meet Captain America.

Interestingly, the Yellow Claw still believed that the Avenger knew who he was, which indicates a remarkable level of respect for his opponent. He soon ordered his aides to leave them alone and sit in his inner sanctum, where a powerful narcotic in the incense being burnt there began to slowly cloud Rogers' mind. Captain America did not in fact know the Holy Man's secret, but still did not trust him. He decided to be honest about his misgivings, but suddenly a wave of dizziness overwhelmed him. Then, as his host began to force his dominating will into Steve's mind, the familiar yet malignant contact gave Captain America the insight he needed. He suddenly realised that Bhagwan Sri Ananda was the Yellow Claw. The Claw pulled his disguise from his face and greeted his old foe once more. Now realising that the Captain had not recognised him earlier, he smugly suggested that the Avenger was past his best and should retire. Whilst this was merely a casual insult, it galvanised Steve Rogers into action. Drawing on hidden reserves of strength, he suddenly leapt to his feet and lunged at the Claw. It was to no avail; weakened as he was, he stood no chance against the Claw's karate skills and was soon unconscious at his feet. Placing a triumphant foot on his enemy's back, the Yellow Claw laughed in triumph; he had finally beaten Captain America. He now ordered his men to seize the Avenger and the Frog-Man and bring them to his underground base whilst he prepared for the gathering of his followers.

It is interesting that the Claw did not kill Captain America on the spot, given that keeping the Vision alive unnecessarily had led to his last, most total defeat. However, he had by now reached a point where, dangerous as it was, he wished Rogers to witness his victory, just as he had been forced to face defeat on his last encounter with the Avengers. Bedsides, the Captain's indestructible shield could be of value if the metal of which it was constructed could be duplicated. If the Claw's scientist failed to analyse it successfully, its owner might possibly know its secrets. He also, as we have seen, had allowed the Frog-Man to live; he suspected a link between the erstwhile amphibian and Captain America, and besides the strange boy intrigued him. Whilst Rogers was left to awaken in the Claw's dungeon, he decided to proceed with questioning Eugene. After taking a moment to refresh himself, the Yellow Claw had the Frog-Man brought to him by Hop-Sung. It soon became obvious that Eugene, who by now was so terrified that he was sobbing, not only did not pose a threat, but had blundered into the Claw's circle of influence purely by chance. The Claw decided to use him as a captive audience, and began to explain how he had survived his last encounter with the Avengers, and also his plan. Although he would not normally reveal such information to an enemy, he did not consider Eugene any threat whatsoever and he wanted to impress upon the boy what an honour being in the Claw's presence truly was. Besides, it was a pleasant diversion to be able to flaunt his intellect.

Elsewhere, once more the fates were again conspiring against the Yellow Claw. Vincent Patilio was concerned for the safety his son who had been missing now for hours, and so he contacted Spider-Man and begged him to help. Spider-Man's real name was Peter Parker, and he had gained the proportionate strength, speed and agility of a spider after an irradiated spider had bitten him. Shortly afterwards, he had allowed a burglar to escape, feeling that it was not his responsibility to use his powers to fight crime, and the burglar had subsequently killed Peter's beloved Uncle Ben. Since then, he had always held true to his belief that with great power must come great responsibility. He now agreed to look for the Frog-Man, but realised that more help might be needed. Eugene had previously informed his father that he was working with Captain America, and Spider-Man soon realised that if Captain America could not handle the situation alone, a great deal more backup would be required than just him. He set out to obtain allies. Meanwhile, in the cells of the Yellow Claw's stronghold, Captain America had awoken and was attempting to shake of the effects of the narcotic he had inhaled. Suddenly, his head cleared without warning, to his considerable surprise. This was the doing of a mysterious old man who was now in the cell with him, who had helped Rogers to focus his own mind and shake off the effect of the incense. He had not been there when Captain America had been imprisoned, and the door had not opened since, but the old man had somehow appeared. He had cause to, since he above anyone else wanted to see the Claw stopped; he was the real Bhagwan Sri Ananda. Exactly how Ananda appeared to Captain America is unclear; he had clearly used his own abilities, but whether he had actually translocated into the Avenger's cell or merely sent an astral projection of himself is unclear. Either way, not only had he restored Captain America's faculties, he had also stopped to collect his shield en route, which he now returned to him. With this on his arm once more, Captain America soon made short work of the door and was free. Turning back to the old man, whose true identity he had not realised, he was astounded to discover that he had vanished once more.

Up on the surface, the Yellow Claw's duped followers were gathering at a massive open-air stadium. Once more donning his disguise, he prepared to greet them and complete the final phase of his plan. He had soon tired of the Frog-Man and had ordered him to be deposited him unconscious outside a door leading to a holding pen in his base. The door, which covered a natural cave entrance, now opened to reveal a horde of giant frogs, which leapt towards the now-conscious Frog-Man. Hop Sung had specially bred the frogs at the Claw's bidding, purely for the purpose of killing Eugene. It is fascinating I think that during the last stages of his plan, he would take a moment to indulge his sense of humour, which we have seen before when he sealed Jimmy Woo in a glass sphere and floated him out of his base in San Francisco so many years before. However, unexpectedly, the Giant Frogs took a liking to Eugene and began to lick him affectionately. Astounded at this escape from death-by-amphibian, the Frog-Man decided to take advantage of his good fortune and stop the Yellow Claw.

On stage, the disguised Claw, flanked by robed aides, was greeting his followers. he had already used parlour trickery in the form of a trapdoor to appear suddenly on stage which had immediately impressed his ensnared disciples. Then, as he sat upon a garlanded throne and began to bless them in a persuasive tone of voice, one of his aides lowered the mind amplification helmet onto his head and he began to harness their faith. Just then, one of his lackeys flung aside his robes, grabbed the Claw's face in a gauntleted hand and ripped the latex from his face, revealing the malignant, saffron visage below; Captain America had replaced one of his men and now held the latex mask up for the Claw's followers to see the truth. However, he had made his play too late, for the helmet had already ensnared the crowd, which was quite mesmerised. The power was now building towards levels were the Yellow Claw would be able to level a city, but before he attacked New York, he would flex his psychic muscles by destroying the Star Spangled Avenger. Forming a giant ethereal Claw out of pure psionic energy, he seized Captain America in it and prepared to crush him to death. Just then, a distraction appeared in the form of the Fabulous Frog-Man and his newfound pets, which whilst hardly a serious threat, distracted the Claw enough not to tighten his psychic claw's grip. Eugene directed his "Frog Brigade" to attack the Claw's armed guards, who to his amazement were recoiling in horror. However, what Eugene had not yet noticed, was that he also had bipedal backup...

Spider-Man had made good on his promise to Vincent Patilio and had managed to track down to Eugene, in no small part thanks to Eugene himself, who had sneaked into the Yellow Claw's communication centre after taming the frogs, and had alerted the FBI to the Claw's activities. This information had been passed on to the Avengers and had found its way back to Spider-Man who now arrived with other super-powered assistance in tow. This included the Beast, whom we have met before, and also fellow mutants and founding X-Men, Iceman and the Angel. Iceman, real name Robert Drake, could generate intense cold and the Angel, real name Warren Worthington III, had feathered wings that allowed him to fly. Also along for the ride was Johnny Storm, a.k.a. the Fantastic Four's Human Torch, who could generate intense flames and could fly, thanks to the cosmic rays which had given all the members of the Fantastic Four their legendary powers. These five now joined Eugene in attacking the Claw's men. Forced to deal with this incursion, the Claw released Rogers and now unleashed pure psionic bolts at his enemies, unseating Eugene from his amphibious mount in the process and stunning the others. With no more time to waste, he then prepared to unleash the full force of the helmet's amplified psychic energy and destroy New York once and for all. And then, even as he started to release the power, Captain America's shield spun end over end across the stage and sliced the helmet in two.

The Yellow Claw had lost yet again. As he watched fuming, the crowd awoke from their trance and, now seeing whom "Bhagwan Sri Ananda" really was, started to bay for his blood. With a final glare at Captain America he took the only option available to him and activated the jet pack built into his cybernetic armour. As he streaked away, he saw Hop Sung staring after him in terror at being left to the American Justice system - once more; a failed attempt to destroy New York had lost him a valuable ally. He now returned to his island in the South China Seas to begin to scheme anew yet again. Shortly after arriving home, he received a very strange telephone call...

 

Chapter 13: The HYDRA Affair:

Shortly after returning to his island, the Yellow Claw was contacted by an eccentric American costumed criminal called the White Rabbit. She was a rich upper glass young woman who had decided to turn to crime in order to give herself something to do. She had designed a costume based on that of the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll's famous children's fantasy novel "Alice In Wonder Land" and had set out to build her criminal empire. Almost immediately, the Fabulous Frog-Man and Spider-Man had defeated her. Now she desired revenge, and had decided to contact all of the pair's enemies, hoping that they would join her. Exactly how she obtained the Yellow Claw's telephone number is unclear, although she did have vast wealth and a psychotic desire for revenge, which motivated her to go to great effort. Regardless of how she did it, she soon contacted the Oriental Potentate and suggested an alliance. The Yellow Claw did not even consider her impudence worth punishing, and merely hung up, leaving her to exact revenge with the aid of fellow small-time criminal, the Walrus. Spider-Man and the Frog-Man defeated them with ease.

Following this bizarre event, the Claw realised that he was too well known for the world to leave him alone, particularly the various intelligence agencies who wanted to bring him to justice. An unexpected telephone call from a ludicrous super-villainess was the final straw; to give himself time to rebuild his plans, he used his organisation to spread extensive rumours about his death, which his enemies seemingly believed. Having gained the luxury of the ultimate freedom, that of a dead man, he now started to plan anew. He began to be convinced that his previous mistake had been in making such grandiose plans that rested everything on one key event, be it the generation of a tidal wave, the sterilisation of earth's population, or focusing the psychic potential of a gathering of followers. He decided to return once more to the more subtle tactics that he had employed against America in the 1950s, and undermine his enemies through covert acts of terrorism. His first target would be Nick Fury's organisation, SHIELD. But he would not strike at SHIELD through conventional means; rather he would engineer a situation that would have a profound and unsettling effect on the agency's morale. Soon, he was sifting through the information his organisation regularly gathered on such affairs in search of a suitable candidate to use in his new campaign. The agent he selected was Madame Hydra.

This Madame Hydra was in fact the sixth woman to earn this title and thus command a high-ranking position in the hordes of the infamous terrorist organisation known as HYDRA. HYDRA had first arisen after the Second World War, having been conceived by Nazi war criminal the Red Skull (see file 7: The Red Skull), and birthed and reared by his oft-times ally, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (see file 5: Baron Strucker). Strucker had been dead for several years, following a final battle with his Fury, his most hated enemy. Since the Baron's demise, the organisation had floundered, splitting into factions and losing much of its once-formidable power. The original Madame Hydra had gone on to become the international terrorist known as the Viper, and the identity of the other four is currently unknown. This most recent Madame Hydra had been involved in the so-called Deltite Affair, in which advanced Life Model Decoys called Deltans, including one of Jimmy Woo, had seized control of SHIELD as part of a plan put in motion by Baron Strucker years earlier. Following the defeat of the Deltites, during which she had rebelled against them and briefly allayed herself with SHIELD, the demented Madame Hydra had been incarcerated in the Arnold sanatorium, then the Tyler Foundation for the Criminally Insane, which was were she was currently incarcerated. Now, the Claw made arrangements to have her rescued. She was perfect for his needs, given that she was a ruthless, homicidal psychotic, who by coincidence had formed an obsessive attraction towards SHIELD agent and friend of Nick Fury, Alexander Goodwin Pierce. Better still, she had been writing letters to Pierce from the Tyler Institute, a fact that he had kept from Fury. The fact was, despite her homicidal nature, Pierce was also attracted to her. With this amount of history with SHIELD, she would be the perfect agent to use against it.

The Yellow Claw sent Mai-Pan to rescue Madame Hydra, using the same teleportation technology he had previously stolen from the Mandarin. Mai-Pan was an aging biochemist that had been posted to the Claw's service by General Suing many years ago whilst the Claw had been aiding the Communist High Command. She had stayed with the Claw ever since. Now, at the Yellow Claw's bidding, she travelled to the Tyler Foundation and retrieved Madame Hydra. Mai-Pan travelled with Hydra to the Claw's Island, where she showed her to a barren rocky area and bade her wait. All she had told her was that she would lead her to her destiny; now, she gave a signal and a group of muscular female assassins attacked Madame Hydra. Hydra defeated the assassins with impressive finesse, just as the Yellow Claw had hoped. He had decided to tell her that she was his chosen heir, selected to carry on his legacy, although as we have seen, he would not seriously countenance an heir who was not a blood relation; nevertheless, Madame Hydra would not know this. Once she had defeated the assassins, Mai-Pan had informed her that she had passed the test. It seems that this was a genuine test to see if she truly possessed the potential that the Claw required her to have if his plans were to come to fruition. Having passed it, she now had the honour of meeting the Claw himself, who had ventured forth to the battlefield to meet her, and who now made his false offer to her his heir. She agreed on one condition; she wanted Pierce.

The Yellow Claw had known perfectly well that the obsessed Madame Hydra would demand this, just as he had predicted that SHIELD agents would soon arrive. Both predictions were correct, for as soon as Madame Hydra had escaped from the Tyler Institute, SHIELD had been alerted. Following a transmat trail was virtually impossible, but Fury's crew currently included an agent named Nina, who had empathic abilities and was able to summon an image of the last face Hydra had seen in her room; Mai-Pan had then been identified by SHIELD's computer as an agent of the Yellow Claw, and intelligence records reported that she had been seen relatively recently near the Claw's Island. Although Fury had believed the reports of his old enemy's demise, he decided that Claw Island was a good lead. Very soon, Fury and a handpicked group of agents including the Countess Valentina Allegro De Fontaine, Alexander Pierce and an agent called MacKenzie were standing on the Claw's Island. They found Madame Hydra easily, since she was standing deep in meditation near where the assassins had tested her. Mai-Pan was with her. Falling for this obvious bait, Pierce strode forward. Mai-Pan greeted Pierce, informing him that Madame Hydra had spoken of him often; now that she knew who he was, she sprang the Yellow Claw's trap. Suddenly, the Claw's female assassins sprang out of hiding and unleashed a volley of machine-gun fire at the SHIELD agents. Chaos was unleashed upon Fury and his party; not only were bullets firing, but energy bolts were flying from an concealed weapon of the Claw's devising and stunning the SHIELD agents on contact. Although the assassins were under orders not to kill, Fury and his party were soon unconscious and the insensible form of Pierce was in Madame Hydra's clutches. Emerging from his vantage point nearby, the Yellow Claw commanded his new ally to join him inside his stronghold, and with the assassins carrying Pierce they left Fury, the Countess, Nina and the others comatose on the hillside.

Soon, Madame Hydra was in the throne room of the Claw's new subterranean base beneath the island. The Claw had ordered the chamber to be decorated with a massive version of Hydra's emblem, which now dominated one wall to make his new ally feel welcome. By now, she had been given the chance to refresh herself in a revealing green outfit embossed with a stylised emblem of two coiled serpents. As the Claw expressed a desire for her to go forth and build an empire for him, Mai-Pan entered with Pierce. He had been dressed in a close fitting leotard and boots that matched Hydra's and which left his limbs bare. It had been a simple matter for one of the Claw's talents at mind control to turn the young agent's reluctant attraction to Madame Hydra into fully-fledged devotion, and he now was utterly devoted to his new consort. With Pierce by her side, Madame Hydra was now ready to begin. Meanwhile on the surface, Fury and his group were being rescued. Fury's new love interest Kate Neville and her fellow agent N'Gami had followed Nick after he had failed to report in. However, with the island apparently deserted, they had little choice but to leave. Fury however, swore that he would recover Pierce.

For the next several weeks, Madame Hydra and Pierce raided the neighbouring islands, slaughtering anyone younger than eleven and older than twenty-two, and taking the rest. She was assisted in this by a platoon of Hydra storm troopers whom the Yellow Claw had provided for her. Whether he had a hired a Hydra squad for this purpose or dressed his own agents in the organisations traditional green livery is unclear, but regardless Madame Hydra had her own private army, and the kidnapped youths were slowly being brainwashed and added to the ranks. On one such occasion an enraged teenager boy struggled mightily, screaming obscenities at the so-called "Demon Woman" as she was becoming known in the area. Madame Hydra decided to personally monitor this one's progress. But unbeknownst to the psychotic Hydra, she herself was at that very moment being monitored by a SHIELD camera drone. Fury had been monitoring her raids over the previous weeks and was determined to bring her in. Now, they could finally calculate her trajectory and locate her base. After a few more days, the time had come to return to the Yellow Claw's Island. The raid on Claw Island would also give Fury a chance to test the new Helicarrier, SHIELD's mobile flying headquarters. This Helicarrier was the third of its kind and had only just been completed, with help from Iron Man whose alter ego's company had been commissioned to build it. With the new vehicle ready and loaded with agents, SHIELD set out for the South China Seas.

Back in her new base, Madame Hydra was rallying her swelling ranks of troops. She decided to entertain her army with a display of her own skills, and had Pierce bring the boy who had earlier defied her on her last raid. Over the intervening days, he had been thoroughly conditioned to serve her and had been trained in the use of a sword. She began to spar with him. Soon, having easily disarmed him, she decided to let him die by her sword. Pierce however, saved him, reasoning that it would be wasteful to kill such a loyal fighter; Madame Hydra believed this without a pause, but had she been less besotted with him, she might have realised that his conditioning was beginning to fail... She was in any case soon distracted as the Yellow Claw strode imperiously into the room. The Claw informed her that Fury was on his way, to her delight since she was eager to kill him. With her new army behind her and Pierce at her side, she knew she could not lose. The Claw on the other hand new that she would, but chose not to tell her, since this was a crucial part of his schemes; as she left the base with her hordes and travelled to the Island's surface, he went to greet another new ally who had just arrived with a most important package.

On the surface, concealed ordnance rose out of the beach and Madame Hydra's army prepared to fight. As the majestic sight of the Helicarrier came into view, the deranged Madame Hydra saw her chance to destroy both Fury and SHIELD by bringing it down; as its occupants descended in jet-powered protective suits, the battle began in earnest. Early on in the battle, Madame Hydra's young prodigy whose life she had earlier spared at Pierce's bidding raised his gun and shot Kate Neville down. As Pierce knelt by the fallen agent, Madame Hydra congratulated her young apprentice, not noticing the effect of the shooting on her consort...

Down below, the Yellow Claw was meeting his new guest, Werner von Strucker. Werner was the son of the late Baron Strucker and had the desire, though not the potential, to fill his father's shoes. Several months ago, he had orchestrated an attack on SHIELD during which his underlings had faked the death of "Dum Dum" Dugan, a high-ranking SHIELD agent and Fury's oldest friend. It was Dugan, currently in suspended animation, that the Yellow Claw required, and he had arranged for Werner, with whom he had been in contact for some time, to deliver the agent's body to him, still in suspended animation. Werner had agreed. As the Claw entered the room where Werner was waiting for him, he heard the young man about to utter a racial slur at Mai-Pan, and swiftly interceded; whatever else he might be, he would not tolerate racism directed against his people and if he allowed Werner to finish, he would be unable to forgive the insult. Since he saw in Werner the potential for a useful pawn, he was swift to make this clear. With the incident thus dealt with, the Claw now explained his plan. The entire Hydra affair had been orchestrated to affect the morale of SHIELD by laying bare its weaknesses and leaving its highest echelons emotionally vulnerable. The capture and brainwashing of Pierce had been the first stage, the return of Dugan, long believed dead by Fury, was the second. The Claw had never intended for Madame Hydra to win, and knew that sooner or later Fury and his group would defeat her and raid the base. When they did so, the Claw would be long gone, and they would discover their missing teammate.

On the surface, the final stages were playing out. Fury had discovered that Kate was still alive, but was now occupied with Pierce, who had been ordered to kill him. As they fought each other with swords, Madame Hydra approached Kate with her own sword, preparing to finish her off. This was a mistake; Pierce saw her intention and suddenly his conditioning snapped. Slashing her armour away from her and snarled at her never to call him "beloved" again. Furiously, she wore to kill both him and Fury, but by now her troops had been routed by SHIELD. She had lost. The Yellow Claw however, had won. Watching on a screen down below, he explained to the attentive Werner that Madame Hydra had caused Fury and his friends deep psychological scars, just as the Claw had planned. It was now time to leave, so that SHIELD could find Dugan unhindered. The Yellow Claw, Mai-Pan and Werner von Strucker stepped aboard a teleportation device and departed to join Werner's wife at an undisclosed location, just as Gabe Jones, another of Fury's oldest friends, entered the chamber and found Dum Dum. As he was awaken and reunited with Nick, Madame Hydra took advantage of the distraction and made her own departure, of a sort; refusing to be taken alive, she triggered an explosive and committed suicide. The Hydra affair was at an end, and Fury was left wondering if the Island's owner was not so dead after all. Could the Claw really have been behind Hydra?

After this, there are no more records of the Yellow Claw's activities. His plans to undermine SHIELD were seemingly abandoned, and there are two likely reasons for this. Firstly, Werner von Strucker's life was about to come to an untimely end, as his father, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker rose from the grave with the aid of the Red Skull and slew his ineffectual offspring. Secondly, on his return, the Baron immediately began to reunite Hydra and rebuild it to the heights of glory it had enjoyed after the War. Soon after, he launched a series of devastating attacks on SHIELD as part of his revenge against Fury, his oldest, bitterest foe and the man responsible for his death. With SHIELD thus subject to such treatment, the Yellow Claw had no need to involve himself and was probably content to leave the organisation to the Baron.

We do not know what became of the Yellow Claw after that. Possibly, after nearly two centuries of life, he passed from this mortal coil and troubled the world no more. But I doubt it. After decades of terrorism and mayhem, I do not think that the Claw would pass gently into that good night. Sooner or later, records will emerge which reveal the final fate of the Yellow Claw, one of the greatest Super-Villains of the twentieth century.

 

Appendix I: The Other Yellow Claws:

A villain called the Yellow Claw appeared in Captain America Comics issue 14, in a story entitled "The Petals of Doom". I know nothing about him, except that he's nothing to do with the more famous Yellow Claw.

Dr Doom's Yellow Claw robot appeared in "The Second Doom", "So Evil, the Night", "And the Dragon Cried Death", "When Comes Black Noon", "Behold the Savage Sky", "If Death Be My Destiny" and "Armageddon", from Strange Tales (vol. 1) 161 to 167, all written and pencilled by Steranko. They are cracking stories, well worth reading if you can find either the Nick Fury TBP, or the original issues.

 

Appendix II: Yellow Claw references in full:

"Beware the Super-Axis!" from Invaders issue 41 by Glut (story), Kupperberg (pencils) and Stone (inks). The Claw only appears on the last page in two panels, but any issue of the Invaders is recommended, even post-Thomas. Besides, Baron Blood is in it. 7/10.

"The Coming of the Yellow Claw", "The Yellow Claw Strikes" and "Trap For Jimmy Woo", all from Yellow Claw issue 1 and all written by Stan Lee with art by Joe Maneely. A fine start to the Yellow Claw's exploits and some of the finest pre-FF stuff I've ever read. The Claw comes over well as a figure of menace, and his supporting cast are well developed, even the eeeevil von Horstbadden. The only problem is that all the Chinese characters are coloured bright yellow, which looks pretty strange, not to mention being a gross stereotype. [These stories are reprinted in Giant-Size Master of Kung-Fu issues 1 and 2, which are worth getting anyway for the Shang-Chi stories]. 7/10

"Concentrate on Chaos", "The Mystery of Cabin 361", "The Trap" and "Temujai the Golden Goliath", all from Yellow Claw issue 2 and all written by Jack Kirby, with pencils by Kirby and Reinman inking. With the arrival of Kirby, the Claw's adventure's suddenly become far more fantasy based, which slightly reduces the Claw's menace. However, the King's art more than compensates. [These are reprinted, in the wrong order, in Giant-Size Master of Kung-Fu issues 3 and 4]. 7/10

"The Microscopic Army" from Yellow Claw issue 3, again by Kirby and Reinman. A surprisingly poor entry in the Claw's tales. [This story is reprinted in the Golden Age of Marvel Comics TBP vol. 1]. 5/10.

The remainder of the Yellow Claw's 1950's stories are listed below for the sake of completion. This information comes from the Grand Comic Database project. The stories are: "The Microscopic Army", "Ufo the Lightening Man", "The Yellow Claw Captured", and "Sleeping City" are all from Yellow Claw issue 3, and "The Living Shadows", "The Screemies", "Five Million Sleepwalkers" and "The Thought Master" are all from issue 4. All are by Kirby and Reinman and to my knowledge have not been reprinted except for The Microscopic Army, which I have discussed above.

"What If…the Avengers Had Been Formed During the 1950s?" from What If? (vol. 1) issue 9 by Glut (story), Kupperberg (pencils), and Black (inks). A great story which is the best What If? I've read to date. Glut captures the Claw and his supporting cast perfectly. Its pretty cool to see all those fifties heroes too, especially the obscure ones like Human Robot and Gorilla Man. 8/10.

"Queen of the Werewolves!" drawn by Weiss, "The Yellow Claw Strikes" and "Night of the Lurking Dead!" drawn by Sal Buscema (pencils) and McLaughlin (inks), and "Ashes to Ashes" drawn by Sal Buscema (pencils) and Giacoia (inks), all written by Steve Englehart and featured in Captain America (vol. 1) issues 164 to 167, respectively. One of my all-time favourite Captain America stories from the fantastic Engelhart run, this story reinvents the Yellow Claw and makes him truly a force to be reckoned with. It also features the first appearance of Nightshade. Sal Buscema's Yellow Claw looks truly evil, and manages to run rings around both Cap and SHIELD until Suwan's betrayal. A classic. 10/10

"Confrontation!", "Who Shall Stop...Ultimo?", and "Battle: Tooth and Yellow Claw! Confrontation: Part 3" from Iron Man (vol. 1) Issues 69 to 71 with Friedrich writing, and Tuska (pencils) and Esposito (inks) doing the art chores, followed by "Slave to the Power Impervious" and "I Cry: Revenge!" from issues 75 and 77 respectively, both with Friedrich scripting and Jones (pencils) and Stone (inks) doing the art. I quite like the Super-Villain War, despite its anti-climactic revelation of the Black Lama's feeble origin. The Yellow Claw comes off particularly well, killing the Mandarin and almost MODOK as well, but he just doesn't seem sneaky enough somehow, so this story only gets 6/10.

"Watch Out World, the Sandman is Back!" and "Massacre at Truman High!" from Nova (vol. 1) issues 13 and 14, pencilled by Sal Buscema and inked by Infantino; "The Fury Before the Storm!", "Death is - - the Yellow Claw" and "Tidal Wave!" from issues 15 to 17 and pencilled by Infantino with inks by Palmer; and "The Final Showdown!" with art by 'Infantino et al'. All six issues by Marv Wolfman. Despite plot holes that a bus could fit through and a small continuity error (the Claw doesn't seem to recall his previous meeting with Fury), this story manages to be exciting and hugely enjoyable, with the Claw coming off particularly well. Its nice to see von Horstbadden again too. 8/10.

"Claws Across the Water!" by Shooter and Budiansky (plot), Micheline (script),Newton (pencils), and Green (inks) from Avengers (vol. 1) issue 204, and "Shadow of the Claw!" by Budiansky (plot), Micheline (script), Kupperberg (pencils), and Green (inks) from issue 205. A great story with a James Bond-feel to it, which works to the Claw's credit. He comes closer to victory than ever before and his interaction with the Vision is well done. Nice art too. 9/10.

"A Plague of Frogs" and "Is This the Way the World Ends?" both by Gammill (plot), DeMatteis (plot and script), Gammilll (pencils), and Janke (inks), from Marvel Fanfare issues 31 and 32. Great stuff from DeMatteis, especially the Frog-Man, who bizarrely acts as someone for the reader to identify to. The mix of silly and sinister is just right. The Claw is drawn better than ever before and again seems really dangerous. 9/10.

"Fears and Obsessions [The HYDRA Affair Part 1of 3]" by Harras (writing), Bair (pencils), and DeMulder (inks) from Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD issue 12 and "In Battle Joined! [The HYDRA Affair Part 2 of 3]" and "Pyrrhic Victory [The HYDRA Affair Part 3 of 3]", both by Harras (story) and Pollard (pencils) and DeMulder (inks). Oh dear. Not actually as bad as I remembered it, this story is still very, very dull. Bair's art isn't bad, but Pollard's looks sketchy and lacklustre. The script is full of things that don't really make sense, and the Claw doesn't seem to know what's going on, or why. However, the psychotic Madame Hydra is quite interesting, so I'll give it 4/10.

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