WARNING: The following contains spoilers for West Coast Avengers #7, from Kelly Thompson, Daniele Di Niculo, Triona Farrell and VC's Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
Ober the years, numerous villainous societies have set roots down in the Marvel Universe. Hydra is the first that comes to mind, but we've also seen Norman Osborn's cabal during the Dark Reign, as well as evil versions of the Illuminati, all vying for power.
But few have built a reputation to surpass the Masters of Evil, and by the end of West Coast Avengers #7, we become privy to yet another iteration of this sinister crew> The thing is, this time, they're managing to keep their plans under wraps... for now.
The original Masters of Evil debuted in 1964's The Avengers #6, the brainchild of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Chic Stone. They were united by Baron Zemo to be the sinister equivalent of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and since then, through several incarnations, that goal has remained pretty much the same. Including the first iteration, which enlisted the likes of Black Knight, Radioactive Man, Melter, Enchantress and the Executioner, Zemo himself has led three teams, including the most famous version (the sixth incarnation) who disguised themselves as heroes, giving us the Thunderbolts in 1997.
While Baron Zemo isn't involved in the latest incarnation (he's busy taking on the Punisher), he has indirectly influenced the group's tenth roster in a big way. In Avengers Undercover, Zemo had his third crack at the team as they tried to kill off Marvel's young generation of heroes such as Chase Stein, Hazmat and Nico Minoru in a sequel to Avengers Academy. There, he recruited Madame Masque as his right-hand woman, with Constrictor as his general and Daimon Hellstrom as his magic expert. Things didn't work out, and with an interim incarnation having since been dispatched by the Superior Spider-Man, Zemo's vision is living on through Madame Masque.
The last few issues of West Coast Avengers have depicted her as the Masters of Evil's new head, with an intention to run a secret mission in Los Angeles to kickstart their rule of the West Coast, where the big name Avengers don't patrol. Masque has Satana (Hellstrom's sister) as her magical chief, and has hired Graviton, Lady Bullseye and the Eel to help her out as well. Kate Bishop's parents, Derek (a publishing magnate) and Eleanor are back from the dead, and have mysteriously allied with Masque. Rounding out the team is the heavy-hitting M.O.D.O.K., who's gone full-villain again after a failed redemptive stint as B.R.O.D.O.K., which Kate's team shut down earlier in the series.
Kate's inexperienced and whacky roster, which includes Clint Barton, a dragon called Bridgette they freed from M.O.D.O.K., her boyfriend Fuse, Gwenpool and her lover Kid Omega (Quentin Quire), Miss America and Kate's ex-boyfriend Noh-Varr, have made it clear they're setting up shop permanently on the West Coast. They reside here and after taking on Masque's team at a derelict amusement park, barely escaping with their lives in this issue, it's clear the battle lines have been drawn.
Interestingly, Masque, who herself has a history with Kate Bishop, reiterates they're not to kill the younger Hawkeye's Avengers because this would draw too much attention from the big guns. Well, with this kind of diplomacy it remains to be seen what exactly these plans will be, especially now that there's a very personal beef existing between both groups that's sure to escalate in a full-blown turf war.
West Coast Avengers #8 goes on sale Feb. 27.