WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Avengers #14, by Jason Aaron, David Marquez, Justin Posnor, Erick Arciniega and VC's Corey Petit, on sale now.
Earth's Mightiest Heroes were the driving force behind Marvel's two biggest superhero civil wars. They're so much at both conflicts' hearts, it's probably safe to say that Civil War and Civil War II probably could've been avoided completely with a few difficult conversations at the team's headquarters between Avengers leaders like Captain America, Iron Man and Captain Marvel. But, hey -- where's the storytelling fun in that?
It just isn't a major superhero skirmish without the Avengers, so it makes sense that even though they didn't start Marvel's latest civil war, the team's current iteration has just jumped into the civil war between Marvel's vampires in Avengers #14.
With some help from Blade, Marvel's premiere vampire hunter, the Avengers are trying to keep peace in a global a conflict between the forces of Dracula and the mysterious Shadow Colonel that could still send the Marvel Universe into total chaos.
While the war only really erupted into open conflict in this issue, Black Panther has been quietly preparing for the battle since he took over as the Avengers' current leader.
In Avengers #10, Wasp, one of T'Challa's covert Agents of Wakanda, freed Blade him from his prison in Castle Dracula and brought him into the Avengers. A few issues later in Avengers #12, Wasp and her fellow Agent of Wakanda, the werewolf astronaut Man-Wolf, traveled to the edge of space to rescue Morbius, the living vampire, from more of Dracula's forces.
Behind the scenes, Black Panther also discussed the impending conflict with several superhero leaders including Odin, the All-Father of Asgard. While his first meeting was unproductive, Thor's father told T'Challa that a mysterious undead leader called the Shadow Colonel was gathering forces to challenge Dracula's position as Lord of the Vampires.
While the Shadow Colonel and his Legion of the Unliving don't capture Dracula in this issue, the mysterious vampires still take over his ancestral home, Castle Dracula, with napalm-carrying bats and grenade-carrying rodents. Even though their actions are confined to the parts of Romania that were once called Translyvania, their successful siege sends the worldwide vampire community, especially Dracula's forces, into chaos.
To deal with this international threat, the Avengers pair off to tackle the simultaneous crises. As Captain America and Thor try to keep the peace and save civilians in Romania, Captain Marvel and Blade deal with a plane full of vampires in Central Europe. Black Panther and Iron Man look after Wakanda's priceless vibranium supply, and She-Hulk teams up with Ghost Rider to take on the subterranean vampires of New York.
In a moment that recalls Loki's capture in the first Avengers movie, the Shadow Colonel and his monstrous canine companion, Sarge, allow the Avengers to take them into custody. While most of the team is busy interrogating the Colonel, Sarge quietly takes control of Robbie Reyes' Ghost Rider and unleashes a hellish, uncontrollable new darkness within the Spirit of Vengeance.
After establishing this tense set of circumstances, this issue ends with a withered Count Dracula officially seeking political asylum in Russia.
For most of his existence, Marvel's Dracula was an incredibly strong villain who could hold his own against the X-Men, Doctor Strange, the Hulk and the Silver Surfer. In this issue, those days appear to be a distant memory, and Dracula simply wants peace in what he calls "the humble twilight of his life." Even though the vampire civil war is already a very big deal, Dracula's arrival in Russia could be the spark that ignites an even bigger worldwide conflict.
Throughout Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness and David Marquez's run on Avengers, tensions have been rising in Marvel's international superhero community.
Namor, Marvel's King of Atlantis, and his Defenders of the Deep have started aggressively policing the world's oceans. To combat that threat, the Russian government reactivated the long-dormant Winter Guard, a team that mixed familiar heroes like the Crimson Dynamo with unpredictable wild cards like the mysterious Red Widow.
With the Avengers forging deeper bonds with Wakanda, the United States government formed the Squadron Supreme of America, a team that's a dark reflection of DC's Justice League. Led by an especially angry Agent Coulson, this Squadron has already defeated the Defenders of the Deep and seems to be on a collision course with the Avengers.
With all of these powerful factions positioned against each other, Marvel's Earth is on the precipice of a global superhuman war. The vampire civil war could be enough to push those simmering geo-political tensions into a new superhero war on an international scale.
Since Marvel's heroes already have to fight for Earth in the upcoming War of the Realms crossover, the Avengers' best road to is leading them into the heart of the vampire civil war.
The vampire civil war continue in Avengers #20, by Jason Aaron and David Marquez, on sale Feb. 20.