Friday, January 21, 2011


Medusa screamed incoherently as she lashed out at Deathbird. Gorgon let loose with a kick that nearly reduced Timberius to splinters. Karnak desperately tried to get the wounded Black Bolt to safety as the remainder of the treasonous Inhumans, of which there were more than may have been expected, fought the Inhumans who were loyal to the crown.

The Fantastic Four tried desperately to break up the fighting, while Ultimus and the surviving Shi’ar troopers took the side of the Inhuman traitors.

At the same time, Iron Man and Mockingbird exchanged glances, after which Mockingbird signalled Dr. Pym, Spider-Woman, and Super-Patriot to follow her and Iron Man into the heart of Atillan.

The All-Mighty had spent the weeks leading up to their debut carefully studying every known corner of the solar system. Penetrating the Inhumans’ Citadel, they knew exactly where to head for: the dungeons, where the true villain lay in wait.

“MAXIMUS!” screamed Iron Man.

“It is a beautiful battle, is it not?” cackled the grinning, trembling, sickly-looking, badly-postured figure before them.

“You instigated this civil war, and I’m guessing you invited the Shi’ar as well.” said an accusatory Mockingbird.

“I was bored with my imprisonment, as anybody would be, and so I used the excess time on my hands to push my telepathy to its very limits, first influencing any unsatisfied Inhuman, and finally reaching Deathbird, who was very amenable to my plans.” His tone and facial expression became more serious. “The Inhumans were originally bred to be not pacifist sheep, but warlike conquerors. Deathbird and I are merely helping us fulfill our true destiny.”

“A destiny which I suspect,” said Iron Man emotionlessly, “includes taking over the Shi’ar Empire and the eventual conquest of the Earth.”

“But of course!” replied Maximus, punctuating his statement with cruel laughter.

That was all Iron Man needed to hear. One second later, Maximus was choking on his laughter with his last breaths, as a blast from Iron Man’s cannon had left him in an unspeakably gruesome state.

“What have you done??” screamed Mr. Fantastic, who revealed himself after having followed the All-Mighty to their destination.

“We did what you were always afraid to do.” said Iron Man firmly.

“What you should have done when you first had the chance, years ago.” added Mockingbird.

“You’re insane!” declared Mr. Fantastic.

Mr. Fantastic’s words hung in the air uncomfortably as the All-Mighty filed out behind Mockingbird, and Mr. Fantastic was left alone in the dungeon with the bloody remains of one of his team’s most persistent enemies.

Up ahead, in the clearing where the fighting was taking place, the death of Maximus and the end of his telepathic influence had turned the tide of the battle in favor of the Inhuman loyalists and the three members of the Fantastic Four. Medusa had Deathbird bound and was beginning to choke Deathbird to death.

“Surrender, Shi’ar,” said Medusa, “or your Viceroy dies!”

“Do as she says!” commanded Ultimus.

“Now,” continued Medusa, “you will take all the Inhuman traitors with you, back to your empire. Thus, you will have the reinforcements you claim to need so badly. You are to never return here, or we shall show you no mercy. Have I made myself clear?”

“Yes...yes!” hissed Deathbird. “Now let me go...” she made contact with Medusa’s angry eyes, then added, “...please.”

The Shi’ar ships were taking off as the All-Mighty returned to the site of battle.

“You let them live?” said Mockingbird incredulously to Medusa.

“I did.” replied Medusa.

“My queen,” interrupted Karnak, who was hunched over Black Bolt, “our king shall live.”

“Too bad we can’t say the same about his brother.” snickered Super-Patriot, suddenly realizing he had just done a stupid thing.

“YOU KILLED MAXIMUS?” shrieked Medusa.

“I did.” replied Iron Man.

“MURDERER!!” she screamed as she attempted to attack him, only for Spider-Woman to ensnare her in psi-webs.

The All-Mighty knew the time had come to teleport back to the Satellite Supreme. This they did, leaving the Inhumans and the Fantastic Four hurt and confused.


Ultimus charged at Wonder Man, his momentum propelling the two of them through the opening in the ship’s hull.

While Deathbird and Korath exited the ship in search of battle, Iron Man and Shatterax fought each other on right on the ship’s bridge. Iron Man’s attack was far more vicious than their previous encounter had led Shatterax to expect, but he had greater speed and mobility on his side, enabling him to dodge Iron Man’s heavy fire...for the moment.

Outside, the battle was reaching fever pitch. “Korath,” called out Mockingbird, “I’ve been briefed on you. Your staffs may be fancier than mine, but I can still wipe the floor with you.”

“Insolent Terran! You shall regret challenging me!” barked Korath as a prelude to their clash.

Deathbird, for her part, was finding Spider-Woman and Super-Patriot a formidable double team. “Yes,” she shrieked, “fight! Fight like true warriors!” She punctuated this with a savage swipe at Super-Patriot’s chest. Her sharp claws tore into his costume, but left only scratches on his chest. Still, this did not defuse Spider-Woman’s concern for her less agile teammate. “It’s time for a more direct approach.” she declared as she tangled up Deathbird’s limbs in her psi-webs and knocked out the villainess with a good right hook.

The battered form of Shatterax went flying out of the ship and landed next to Spider-Woman. She webbed him up, too. Iron Man followed out of the ship and gave Spider-Woman the thumbs-up. And Mockingbird had Korath in a chokehold with one of her staffs.

This left only the evenly-matched Wonder Man and Ultimus still fighting. They wrestled each other on the ground for what seemed like an eternity, until Wonder Man came out on top and began strangling Ultimus. But then, Ultimus’ ocular beams zapped Wonder Man in the face, causing him to loosen his grip, which Ultimus broke free of. He punched Wonder Man in the mid-section, then picked up the blinded, flailing Wonder Man and tossed him straight into the middle of the Inhumans’ city of Attilan. Ultimus leaped in a clean arc that followed Wonder Man’s trajectory, and the fight resumed, leaving tremendous damage to several of the Inhumans’ artfully constructed buildings.

Black Bolt now knew he and the Inhumans could no longer stand by, and he whispered a simple command to the All-Mighty and the Shi’ar in front of him: “Stop!”

Of course, a whisper from Black Bolt carried the power to knock down all the combatants at once, and then some.

It was now Medusa’s turn to speak. “How DARE you humans interfere in an affair between the Inhumans’ and the Shi’ar?”

“Because,” said Iron Man, “the Shi’ar broke their pact of no longer using the Stargates and staying out of our solar system. A show of force was needed, and, no offense, but you Inhumans have a reputation for being soft.”

“That shows how little you know about the Inhumans.” came the admonishing voice of Mr. Fantastic, leading his newly arrived team.

“QUIET, BOTH OF YOU!” yelled Deathbird, who had regained consciousness and was no longer trapped in Spider-Woman’s psi-webs. “We came to the Inhumans to offer them the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Shi’ar Empire, where they could serve the true purpose they were created for by the Kree.”

“As what? Cannon fodder?” inquired the Invisible Woman tartly.

“You have no idea what our empire is facing at this moment!” was Deathbird’s reply.

Before Deathbird could elaborate, Ultimus and Wonder Man erupted from the rubble in the heart of Atillan. Ultimus had triumphed, and Wonder Man was enveloped in a cloud of unstable ionic energy. Ultimus tossed Wonder Man straight up into the sky, where an ionic explosion illuminated the grim tableau on the blue area of the Moon.

To everyone’s surprise, Wonder Man’s body turned out to be intact, and gravity brought it back down to the surface. The impact was tremendous, causing a slight quake. Then Wonder Man lay still. Ultimus strode silently to his nemesis’ fallen form and stood victorious with his arms folded and his head held high.

This was the opportunity that the Inhuman Timberius had been waiting for. He lunged at his king, Black Bolt, and pinned back Black Bolt’s arms. Deathbird then glided over swiftly on her wings, and slashed Black Bolt’s throat, leaving him powerless and fading fast.



Rachel Carpenter ran to her mother Julia’s open arms. Julia, also known as Spider-Woman, had just arrived at the Satellite Supreme along with the rest of the All-Mighty.

“Hi, sweetheart. How’s my little trouper?”

“This place is so COOL! I still can’t believe we’re gonna LIVE here!”

“Believe it, honeybunch. We’re finally living in a place that’s safe for you...and all I have to do in exchange is help keep the world safe.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the satellite, All-Mighty field commander Barbara “Bobbie” Morse, also known as Mockingbird, discussed weighty matters with Iron Man, who had just finished putting on the same special battle armor which had helped wipe out Ultron.

“The scanner has confirmed it,” said Mockingbird, “it’s a Shi’ar fleet, and their most probable trajectory has them on a direct course to Earth’s moon.”

“So much for Majestrix Lilandra keeping her word about the Stargates never being used again.” sneered Iron Man.

“Their E.T.A. is fifteen to twenty minutes. Most likely they’ll strike the Blue Area, where the Inhumans are. If we ‘port right away, we can lay an ambush.”

“Do it.”

Seconds later, all six members of the All-Mighty had assembled in the matter-transfer chamber.


Back on Earth, Mr. Fantastic was leading his prisoner, Blastaar, towards the Negative Zone portal. Blastaar had been fitted with neuro-clamps that weakened his considerable strength and prevented him from using his blast powers. But Mr. Fantastic now found himself wishing he had put a clamp on Blastaar’s mouth.

“The look on your faces,” roared Blastaar with laughter, “was worth even so humiliating a defeat. The one you call Wonder Man swatting away the Thing like a common pest – priceless.”

Indeed, Wonder Man had single-handedly defeated Blastaar in Greece just as the Fantastic Four were arriving, and Wonder Man had also refused reinforcements from the Thing in the most rude fashion possible. It took a force-field bubble from the Invisible Woman to keep the Thing from attacking Wonder Man, and it took all of Mr. Fantastic’s negotiating skills to convince Wonder Man to turn over Blastaar to the Fantastic Four. Clearly, thought Mr. Fantastic, the days of super-heroes treating each other like good neighbors were over. Much to the amusement of Blastaar, whose gloating was getting ever more obnoxious.

“You’ll have plenty of time to laugh it up in the Negative Zone, Blastaar.” said Mr. Fantastic as he operated the controls to the portal. “And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay there.”

“Clearly,” grinned Blastaar, “I need no longer expend my energy attempting to annihilate your dimension’s so-called heroes, when their destruction at each others’ hands is imminent.”

Before Blastaar could go on any further, he was whisked away into the Negative Zone, leaving Mr. Fantastic with a clenched jaw and a rising level of bile. His sulking was interrupted by the voice of a woman not his wife.

“Reed?” said honorary Fantastic Four member Sharon Ventura, “I hope this isn’t a bad time, but I’ve always been fascinated by the Negative Zone, and I was wondering if you could show me how to...”

Before Mr. Fantastic could reply, the Invisible Woman had breathlessly barged in. “Reed!” she yelled, “The Inhumans are under invasion!”


As the Inhuman Royal Family, minus Crystal who was on Earth with the Avengers, led the Inhumans’ march to face the invading Shi’ar fleet now coming in for a landing, the desired precision of the formation was not there. Karnak alone, with his keen senses, could tell from the body language of some of his fellow Inhumans, including the oft-disloyal Timberius, that they were not only pleased at the invasion, but may even have been expecting it.

But before Karnak could warn the monarchs Black Bolt and Medusa, the All-Mighty materialized in front of them. The All-Mighty’s intervention was unannounced and wholly unasked for.

“What is the meaning of this?” growled Gorgon.

The answer came not in words, but in the form of Iron Man and Wonder Man charging the Shi’ar mothership, Iron Man shooting to kill and Wonder Man ripping open the mothership’s hull. When the Shi’ar shock troopers made their landing out of the other ships, they were met with intense fire from Dr. Pym’s enormous twin guns, and the hand-to-hand combat prowess of Mockingbird, Super-Patriot, and Spider-Woman.

Iron Man and Wonder Man strode toward the mothership’s bridge, where they found themselves faced with the Shi’ar Starforce, formerly the Kree Starforce, now led by Viceroy Deathbird and including Ultimus, Shatterax, and Korath.

Iron Man locked eyes with Deathbird and said, “Go back to where you came from NOW, or else.”

“So,” said Deathbird in her piercing voice, “you Terrans have finally learned that negotiation is best left to fools. STARFORCE, ATTACK!!”


Amid the fanfare of a marching band, and with the sky dotted by a host of brightly colored fireworks, the crowd which had gathered at Cape Canaveral for the official launch of Iron Man’s new team were cheerfully ignoring the hot Florida weather as they anticipated the arrival of the super-heroes.

Then, with a flourish, the curtains parted and there they stood: Iron Man at center stage, flanked by Mockingbird and Spider-Woman on the left, Dr. Pym and the former U.S. Agent, now back to his original code name of Super-Patriot, on the right.

There were a few tense seconds where the heroes didn’t quite seem to know what to say or do, until a voice in the crowd rang out above the din, “Look! Up in the sky!”

It was Wonder Man, soaring through the air above before swooping down to the stage, making a perfect landing on his feet.

No sooner had the crowd absorbed this and gone wild when the guest of honor, the new team’s sponsor, entered stage right and the crowd went even wilder. Even among brightly garbed super-heroes, billionaire industrialist Tony Stark knew how to stand out and focus all eyes on him.

(Little did the crowd suspect that Tony Stark and Iron Man were one and the same, and that his loyal lieutenant, James Rhodes, was wearing the Iron Man armor for the occasion.)

Stark took the podium and his deep, authoritative voice boomed out of the public address system. “My friends,” he said, “tonight you are witnessing history in the making. I give you...The All-Mighty!”

At that moment, a giant banner unfurled bearing the new team’s name, The All-Mighty, while two smaller banners below it bore the team’s slogan, “Might Makes Right.” Confetti rained on the stage, the fireworks resumed, the marching band started up again, and Stark adopted a near-messianic pose that would have offended the religious protesters outside the venue even more than they already were by the team’s name.

Once the pomp and circumstance faded away, Stark resumed his speech. “This,” he declared, “is a modern super-hero team for modern times. And so, it is only appropriate for it to be headquartered where it can serve anywhere in the world, at any time. I ask you now to turn your attention to the rocket nearest us.”

With impeccable timing, the nearest rocket on the launch site came to roaring to life and blasted off. The crowd was speechless.

“And now,” said Stark, “if you’ll focus on the giant digital screens, you’ll be able to witness the launch into space of...the Satellite Supreme, from which justice shall be served.”

Television screens all over the world were tuned into the broadcasts of the Satellite Supreme’s sister satellites, as the All-Mighty’s space station separated itself from the rocket and took its place in Earth’s orbit. All but one television screen, which had been smashed by a beer can hurled with tremendous force.

“NUTS TO YA! BUNCHA CRUDHEADS!” snarled Ben Grimm from the Fantastic Four’s living room, as the other three members of what had once been the world’s flagship super-team sat around him stoically, having learned long ago that it was best to let their craggy-skinned teammate’s tantrums run their course. And in this case, they shared their teammate’s anger towards the All-Mighty, and Wonder Man in particular, even if they kept it bottled up.

Finally, Mr. Fantastic broke the silence. “I suppose I had best dispose of Blastaar sooner rather than later. Excuse me for a few minutes.”

Meanwhile, back in Cape Canaveral, the members of the All-Mighty were waving goodbye to their adoring public as matter-transfer technology teleported them up to the Satellite Supreme.

Stark wrapped up his speech. “Sleep comfortably tonight, my friends, knowing that you’re under the full-time protection of the All-Mighty. And thank you for coming. Good night.”

Stark exited stage left to rapturous applause and cheering. Waiting for him was his newly appointed bodyguard – and former lover – Bethany Cabe, who led the security detail escorting Stark to his limousine.

The limousine took off with Bethany as Stark’s only company, their privacy ensured by soundproofing.

“God, what a rush!” huffed a near-breathless Stark. “It’s times like this that I miss drinking most of all, just to bring myself back down to Earth.”

“That’s why I’m here.” said Bethany serenely.

“I can’t thank you enough,” said Stark, “for accepting my offer. A man needs to surround himself with those he trusts most.”

“And part of that trust,” interjected Bethany, “is to listen when they tell you things you don’t want to hear. I still can’t believe you called the team The All-Mighty. It’s like you’re deliberately courting controversy.”

“Visionaries have always been misunderstood in their own time.”

“You’re an educated man, Tony, so I’m sure you know the meaning of the word ‘hubris.’ You really need to chew on that for a while, and...”

Suddenly, a priority alarm built into Stark’s digital watch rang out. “They need me at the Satellite. There’s an alien invasion on the horizon!” At that moment, Stark began to fade away as the teleportation beam claimed him.

“Take care, Tony.” sighed Bethany resignedly.

“I always do.” smiled Stark, and with that, he was gone.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Thena, endowed with the wisdom of her analog Athena, used her remarkable mind to quickly calculate the runaway Seeds of Evil’s most likely destination based on their trajectory.

When the answer came to her, it was even more cause for alarm. Cronos preserve us, she thought to herself, they’re headed for the Shi’ar empire!

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ikaris coming for her, and she gasped as she dodged his attack. Had she been distracted a split second longer...

Suddenly, Ikaris began writhing in pain. Thena looked over and saw an enchanted dagger sticking out of Ikaris’s back, and a short distance away was Thanos.

Ikaris imploded and folded in on himself, eventually disappearing completely. The dagger returned to Thanos’s hand as if by command.

No thoughts were exchanged between Thena and Thanos, but it was clear to each other that they both felt that what was done was what had to be done. They turned their attention back to destroying the remaining Seeds.


With the Xunn-Zwar ships destroyed, the Eternals’ ships got out of the way of Galactus’s flagship so that it could open fire on the Xunn-Zwar’s flagship.

Cannons blazed and missiles flew as the two ships exchanged fire. But the crew of Galactus’s ship was superior at steering out of the projectiles’ path, and the ship’s shields were stronger. Seizing the advantage, Galactus’s ship surged forward and rammed the Xunn-Zwar’s ship. It then activated its tractor beam, effectively paralyzing the enemy ship.

“Avengers assemble, and prepare for boarding!” commanded Thor.

A long, transparent boarding tube quickly attached itself to the hull of the Xunn-Zwar’s ship, and the Avengers ran through the tube. Thor had ordered Hercules to take the point, for, as Hercules expressed it when he reached the hull, “Metal, no matter how strong, tears not unlike wet parchment before the strength of the Prince of Power.”

Hercules proved his boast correct, and the Avengers leaped into the ship. Thor was the second one in behind Hercules, and he quickly scanned the grotesque phantasmagoria of weapons-wielding monster warriors that made up the ship’s crew, with the Magus standing front and center. Without a millisecond to spare, Thor hurled his mighty hammer, Mjolnir, directly at the Magus’s head, distracting the Magus before he could work his deadly cosmic black magic on any of the Avengers. The impact of Mjolnir was enough to stagger the Magus, and Thor quickly picked up Mjolnir and pounced on the Magus, beating the cosmic demon relentlessly and without pause.

The crew fired their weapons at the Avengers, and once again, Hercules took the point, the rays of the crew’s pistols doing little more than tickle his impressive form. “Test thy mettle against the Son of Zeus!” taunted Hercules. The crew took him up on his challenge, and soon Hercules was fighting three monsters at once without breaking a sweat.

The rest of the Avengers joined the fray. Thunderstrike’s hammer, while no Mjolnir, was still plenty powerful when he swung it at the monsters. The Black Knight’s neural energy sword was on its next-to-highest setting, shocking unconscious any monster that crossed the Knight’s path. The Vision made himself intangible when cornered, then turned around and bashed the monsters with his diamond-hard fists. Quasar acquitted himself admirably with quantum armor and a quantum mace. Carol Danvers blasted solar heat from her hands, and the Wasp used her bio-electric powers the same way...until one monster seized the Wasp in his hand and began closing it tighter and tighter. The Wasp feared she was going to be crushed to death, when, suddenly, the Black Widow leapt onto the monster’s back, pressed her Widow’s Sting bracelet against his neck, and fired. The monster let the Wasp go, convulsed for a few second, then fell to the ground unconscious.

The Black Widow took a moment to scan the bridge, and was pleasantly surprised to see that, although this environment did not allow Crystal to exercise her elemental powers, the Inhuman princess was more than holding her own, kicking and punching with the best of them. The Black Widow saw that she need not have worried that Crystal might be too sensitive or fragile to be a true fighter.

But while most of the Avengers were winning, Thor abruptly found himself flung across the bridge and against the wall by a tremendous telekinetic push from the Magus. Before Thor could get up, the Magus fired cosmic rays from his hands, re-opening the wounds that Sersi had inflicted earlier.

The Magus was about to turn the tide of battle with the remaining Avengers, when suddenly, Thor, biting the bullet and letting the warrior madness take over, flew at him with tremendous momentum. The collision was such that it sent Thor and Magus through the hull and out into space.

But Thor was winded as a result, and the Magus began beating him savagely into unconsciousness. Once satisfied, he picked up Thor’s body and threw it with all its might. Thor went into freefall.

The Magus was about to return to the ship when his head suddenly felt like would explode. Thena had snuck up behind him and used her telepathy on him.

“GET OUT OF MY MIND!” roared the Magus.

Thena did not yield, and after what seemed like an eternity, the Magus shape-shifted back into Adam Warlock.

Warlock hesitantly approached Thena. His words to her were simple and direct. “Kill me before he emerges again.”

“No.” said Thena. “There must be another way.”

“Kill me, I beg youuuuuuaaaaaAAAARGH!” Warlock transformed back into the Magus and looked at Thena with evil intent.

Thena unleashed a stronger telepathic blast and the Magus began shapeshifting again. But the rustiness of Thena’s telepathic powers severely limited what she could do. Would that I could sort out his mind, she thought ruefully, but...

“KILL ME!!” demanded Warlock.

Thena swallowed hard and activated her cosmic beams at full force. Warlock’s body was incinerated and reduced to a cloud of ashes.

Thena did not feel good about what she had done, but for the moment there were other things to think about, such as rescuing Thor’s body. She calculated his trajectory and flew off in that direction.


Galactus knew the time had come for the final conflict. The monitor on his ship showed the roof of the Xunn-Zwar’s ship sliding open and the Xunn-Zwar avatar arising. The avatar unfolded his wings and stared ahead defiantly, knowing full well that Galactus was watching him.

Galactus exited his ship and went to confront the Xunn-Zwar avatar.

The two cosmic deities locked eyes. No words were exchanged, as they wouldn’t have carried in space, nor were thoughts exchanged telepathically. They were accustomed to this ritual, and nothing needed to be said.

Galactus made the first move, firing enormous cosmic bolts from his hands. The avatar was unfazed, and retaliated by flying straight up and then dive-bombing Galactus, who in turn fired cosmic beams from his eyes, which the avatar dodged by zig-zagging. The avatar sank its fangs into Galactus’s right arm and filled Galactus with cosmic venom. Galactus had a strong immune system, but the momentary effects gave the avatar the opportunity to slash and tear at Galactus’s midsection. Galactus rallied and grabbed the avatar by the arms. The two wrestled each other to a standstill, but Galactus was weakening rapidly from his injuries.

Thanos, watching from a safe distance, decided that there was only one thing to do. He unsheathed his enchanted dagger and carved one last arcane symbol onto his flesh. This was the crucial symbol, and it set off a chain reaction that caused all the symbols on Thanos’s flesh to glow brightly. Thanos flew purposefully towards the avatar, dagger aloft. He landed on a soft spot on the avatar’s back, and plunged his dagger with all the force he could muster.

The avatar let go of Galactus and began thrashing around wildly as the same cosmic chain reaction flowing through Thanos was incompatible with the avatar’s life energies. As with the monster the avatar had turned Ikaris into and Thanos had killed earlier, Thanos caused the avatar to implode and begin folding in on itself. The spectacle was not unlike that of a star dying. A blinding burst of cosmic crackle lit the spaceways, and then both the avatar and Thanos were gone.

The ritual was over, and it appeared that Galactus was once again the one who survived to tell the tale.


After the Avengers and the Terran Eternals had been deposited back home on Earth, Quasar and Carol Danvers sought a private place to talk.

“I think I may have jumped the gun.” she said, biting her lip.

“I’m actually relieved to hear that.” he said.

“Only time and distance will tell if it was anything more than the heat of the moment.” she said.

“So you are going back to the Shi’ar empire?”

“I feel obligated to. I know it like the back of my hand, and those Seeds of Evil that got away need to be hunted down and destroyed.”

“Well, good luck.”

“Same to you, and to all the other Avengers.”

They paused, as if they were both tempted to kiss again. But, in the end, she flew away without a show of affection.

Quasar sighed and watched her disappear into the sky. His melancholy was broken by a friendly and familiar voice.

“Hey, Quazey-Man!” said Makkari of the Eternals, one of Quasar’s best friends. “Guess what? Thena has assigned me to help the Avengers find Sersi!”

“That’s great,” said Quasar, smiling. “We have a lot to catch up on. In the meantime...race you back to Avengers Mansion!”

“You’re on!” laughed Makkari.


“But I insist!” said Thena to the Black Widow. “Since Sersi destroyed the mansion, I feel a responsibility to have the Eternals repair it.”

“Oh, all right,” said the Black Widow, “you talked me into it.”

“One caveat, however – it will take some time, as I have received word that, during the absence of the most powerful Eternals, our home of Olympia has been destroyed by Blastaar, who escaped captivity.”

Out of the corner of her eye, the Black Widow saw Moondragon approaching.

“I was told you are the current leader.” said Moondragon.

“For the moment.” replied the Black Widow. “What can I do for you?”

“I would like to join you, if you will have me.”

“If we’ll have you? That doesn’t sound like you, Moondragon.”

“I have emerged from the traumatic events of the recent past with a great deal of uncertainty of where to go with my life. I am hoping this will help me find direction.”

“Okay,” said the Black Widow, “I can’t promise you anything, but I’ll bring you up for a vote at the next meeting.”

“Thank you.” said Moondragon.

The Black Widow saw Hercules and Thunderstrike approaching her. “Excuse me.” she said to Moondragon, and walked over to them.

“The preparations are ready for Herc and I to take Thor to Asgard.” said Thunderstrike.

“And we can only hope,” added Hercules, “that they will have the means to heal him so he will emerge from his coma.”

“Our prayers will be with him.” said the Black Widow.

Some distance away, the Wasp and the Black Knight were talking.

“So are you gonna stick around and help us find Sersi?” asked the Knight.

“I guess so.” replied the Wasp, as if she wasn’t sure what exactly would be best to do.

“Hey, look,” said the Knight, “we just proved – out in space, no less – the we can all put aside our differences and work as a team. This could be the start of the greatest Avengers era ever, and I don’t want you to be sorry that you missed out on it.”

The Wasp’s mouth curled into a tentative smile. “I’ll think about it.” she said. “But thanks, Dane.” She shrank to insect size and flew away.

It wasn’t what the Knight had hoped for, but the thought that at least there was still hope for the Avengers was enough to make him grin.


In a high-tech chamber beyond space and time, Sersi was imprisoned in a tube that kept her in suspended animation. The mysterious duo who had gathered her stood watching, along with their master.

“In her volatile state,” said the master, “she might have ended up as a consort to the Xunn-Zwar’s avatar. Truly, you have averted an omniversal catastrophe. But her fellow Avengers will inevitably search for her. It is your duty to misdirect them until the time is right. Timing is everything.”

The duo nodded and went to make preparations for their next move, while the master preoccupied himself with other things. Yes, he thought, one cataclysm has been averted, but the next might be the one that cannot be stopped.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Galactus stood in his chambers, flanked by the Avengers’ leader Thor on one side, and the Eternals’ leader Thena on the other. They were all fixated on a giant holographic monitor on which they had drawn their battle plans.

“In the past, Xunn-Zwar has always relied on fleets of insectoid ships.” said Galactus. “They will be his first line of offense, along with the organic pods known as the Seeds of Evil, which he hopes to spread across the universe.”

“Our ships will be more than a match for Xunn-Zwar’s ships.” declared Thena confidently. “At the same time, I will lead a charge of Eternals to exterminate the Seeds of Evil. Thus we shall provide a clear path for this flagship to engage Xunn-Zwar’s flagship in battle. If all goes to plan, that is where you and your Avengers come in, Thor.”

“Yes,” agreed Thor, “we shall board the ship and battle its crew. I hath made it clear to the Avengers that I and I alone am to engage the Magus directly. I hath fought him before, back when he was newly born and known as Him, so I am the most qualified.”

“If I may,” interjected Thena, “I would like to suggest that you try to force the Magus outside the flagship, where I may attack him as well. I have telepathic powers similar to Moondragon’s, and I may find a vulnerable spot.”

She did not mention that, due to some unfortunate events in past centuries, she had not used her telepathic powers in a long time.

“Any assistance from thee wouldst be welcome. I am not fooling myself into thinking that I face an easy battle.” replied Thor.

“And, finally,” said Galactus, “once the army has fallen, I shall be able to engage Xunn-Zwar directly, and hopefully defeat him once again as I have in our past encounters.”

Thor turned to Thena. “My one concern,” he said, “is Thanos. I worry that he may have a selfish agenda.”

“I do not doubt it.” responded Thena. “But that is why it is best to have him where we can watch him.”


At that moment, however, Thanos was safe from prying eyes, sitting alone on the floor of a dark room, bare-chested and without his headgear, a sacred cosmic dagger in his hand.

With this dagger, he began carving arcane cosmic symbols on his own flesh. No one in the universe was better versed in the cosmic dark arts than Thanos, and he got what he wished from the ritual – to witness the rebirth of the Xunn-Zwar.

Thanos watched as the cocoon shattered and the demonically ugly Xunn-Zwar avatar emerged, growing in seconds to its full height, matching that of Galactus, and spreading its wings, which made it even more awe-inspiring.

The Xunn-Zwar avatar now reached out to the nearest planets and, by an act of will, enslaved their populations and transformed the animal life into the monstrous army that the Magus would command, and the plant life into his Seeds of Evil. Xunn-Zwar then obliterated the planets, transmuted their remains into metal, and built his fleet of insectoid ships.

Thanos felt vicariously exhilarated. It had not been that long since he had commanded similar power. But for that very reason, power interested him no longer. No, his objective now was to assist in any way he could in delivering the ultimate sentient cosmic evil into the embrace of Death. It would be his ultimate offering to the entity which had obsessed him from birth, the culmination of his devotion to Death.


“Life can be a funny thing,” said the Black Widow to Crystal as they stood in the crowded room where most of the Avengers and Eternals were awaiting their orders to proceed to battle stations. “I’ve lived a long and full life and I have no regrets...” she paused, “...but at the same time, there’s a lot of things I never did that I wish I had done – like starting a family. You’re so lucky, Crystal, to have your daughter, Luna.”

“I know you meant well by what you just said, Natasha,” whispered Crystal, “but if I start thinking about Luna, and the possibility that she may soon be motherless, I feel like I’ll burst into tears.”

“I’m sorry. I should have thought before I spoke.” said the Black Widow.

“No hard feelings.” said Crystal, wiping away a solitary tear.


“I just don’t understand it.” said the Wasp to the Black Knight and the Vision. “I thought I knew you guys. How could you join in a...a killing expedition??”

“If I learned anything from my time in the Crusades,” said the Black Knight, “it’s that the battlefield brings out the absolute worst in people.”

“Yes,” agreed the Vision, “and you were not there, Wasp, so I fail to see how you could possibly comprehend...”

“Now, having said that,” the Black Knight interrupted, “I’m not going to pretend that the Supreme Intelligence’s death-scream hasn’t been ringing in my ears non-stop, and that it doesn’t keep me up at night. But, like Sersi said, what’s done is done.”

Any further discussion became a impossible when Thor and Thena entered the room and said the words the assembled warriors had been waiting for, “To your battle stations on the double!”

The warriors filed out in an orderly fashion. But as Hercules and Thunderstrike walked past Thor, they felt as if their friend’s stern, angry stare was burning holes into them.

“You think he’ll ever forgive us?” Thunderstrike asked Hercules.

“We must have words when the battle is over.” said Hercules, who then reiterated for emphasis, “We must.”

Ikaris the Eternal paused next to Thena and sneered at her. “You know as well as I do that I should be in command.”

Thena didn’t mince words. “You arrogant moron! If you cannot rise above such petty concerns at a time like this, then maybe it is best you sit out the battle!”

“Never.” hissed Ikaris before walking away.

Thena sighed heavily and looked at Thor. This battle promised to be an even greater challenge than they had originally predicted.


On the bridge of the Xunn-Zwar armada’s flagship, the Magus postured and preened before his troops.

“The battle is nigh!” he cackled, rubbing his hands. “The blood of our enemies shall nourish our master and set the course for his conquest of the universe, after which he shall grant a generous portion of said universe to his most loyal servant, me!”

“Enemy ships within range.” said the helmsman.

“At last, the moment of truth.” said the Magus. “All ships, OPEN FIRE!”

The Xunn-Zwar’s ships, resembling giant metallic insects colored in garish hues of orange, blue, red, and green, commenced firing on the Eternals’ ships, whose coloring and design suggested silver birds of prey.

The Eternals’ ships swooped and swept, gracefully dodging the enemy fire. Counter-attacking, they were quickly on their way towards decimating the Xunn-Zwar’s fleet. Blindingly bright explosions filled the air as both sides claimed casualties, but within minutes, the heroic fleet’s victory was assured.

The heroes had won the first battle, but the war was far from over, for as the Eternals themselves flew through airless space, they could see that the swarming Seeds of Evil would be difficult targets – they were fairly small, making them hard for the Eternals’ to accurately focus their ocular beams upon. As if this weren’t enough, they had to fire from a fair distance, since, according to Galactus, proximity of an organic sentient being to a Seed was dangerous.

Ikaris, characteristically, grew frustrated and impatient, and he flew in closer to the Seeds, even as Thena yelled, “IKARIS! Get back in formation, you fool!”

As Ikaris came closer to the Seeds, they drew closer to him, attracted to his aggression like iron filings to a magnet.

Suddenly, one of the Seeds peeled itself open and unleashed a long, tentacle-like stinger that thrust itself at Ikaris’ torso, injecting him with the essence of evil.

Thena witnessed this. “Karkas, Sprite,” she telepathically ordered two of the Eternals, “assist Ikaris immediately, but be cautious.”

From a safe distance, Karkas and Sprite fired their beams at the Seeds surrounding Ikaris, blowing up the Seeds messily.

Heeding Thena’s warning, they kept their distance as Sprite reach out to Ikaris telepathically. “Ikaris,” he said, “are you okay?”

Ikaris turned around, and the answer was definitely a negative one. Ikaris had begun transforming into a monster with an appearance even more hideous than that of Karkas, the Deviant adopted by the Eternals.

With startling speed, he lunged toward Sprite and lashed out with his claws. Sprite barely dodged the attack.

“Ikaris, NO!!” he pleaded, “It’s me, Sprite, don’t you recognize me??”

Ikaris replied by striking back. But this time, Karkas valiantly put himself between Ikaris and Sprite. Despite his extraordinarily thick hide, Karkas was thoroughly disemboweled by Ikaris.

Thena did what she had to do. “Keep firing, do not allow yourselves to get distracted.” she commanded. But it was too late, as several Seeds had already flown out of the Eternals’ firing range. This meant that even if the Xunn-Zwar’s armada and avatar were defeated, the universe might still be doomed.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Carol Danvers stared blankly out the window of Galactus’s spaceship. She was back in the vast reaches of outer space, where she had always felt most at home. But it was no comfort after what she had learned just moments earlier, when all the healed Avengers assembled, along with the Eternals of both Earth and Titan, in Galactus’s chambers for what turned out to be a stern lecture from the cosmic deity.


A short time before...

“The end may well be nigh.” intoned Galactus in his regal, cavernously deep voice. “And it is YOUR FAULT, Avengers.”

The Avengers let out a collective gasp.

“Although...the one most at fault is not among you. I speak of Sersi the Eternal. She appears to be lost to us, as even my technology cannot locate her anywhere in the space-time continuum.

“Talking of time, let us go back eons ago to the birth of an ancient evil, my nemesis, the Xunn-Zwar. It was created at the same time as I, but whereas I exist as an agent of balance and order, the Xunn-Zwar exists only to serve the forces of nihilism and chaos. I have faced it and defeated it several times across millions of years, but each time it is reborn, it comes closer to victory.

“Now, let us consider the Elder, Tanleer Tivan, known to you as the Collector. When he learned he was fated to be the avatar of the Xunn-Zwar, he carefully crafted a long-range plan to ensure his destiny. First he captured the Celestials’ greatest folly, the sentient bacteria known as the Brethren. He then adopted the persona and appearance of an addled, inept eccentric so as to appear harmless to those who could stop him.

“Finally, when the time was right, he freed the Brethren under the pretense of decimating the population of Earth, but in reality it was an elaborate ruse to get the Brethren to form a Uni-Mind. Which they did, thanks to the guidance of Sersi. The Brethren Uni-Mind appeared to destroy Tanleer Tivan and itself, but in reality, Tivan was stronger, and he forced them to teleport to another dimension and merge with him, turning them into his conduit and cocoon towards his ultimate transformation.”

At this moment, Galactus went silent, and Moondragon, the telepathic human with pretensions to godhood, stepped forward. She looked ravaged and barely capable of standing.

“A few hours ago, the Silver Surfer summoned the cosmic team known as the Infinity Watch, of which I was a member, to help him deal with a mysterious object which had just manifested itself in our dimension and which appeared to greatly preoccupy his former master, Galactus.”


A few hours ago...

“Begone, fools!” belted Galactus, “I fight my own battles!”

“I sense the fear beneath your arrogance.” replied the Silver Surfer. “How could I not, when it was you who made me what I am?”

“Hey,” said Pip the Troll, “if the big guy ain’t feelin’ social, why should we stick around?”

“That make sense to me.” said Drax.

“Where is your spine, you cowards?” sneered Gamora.

“Enough prattle.” snapped Warlock. “Moondragon, do you sense anything within that ugly construct?”

“Evil,” replied Moondragon, “pure, uncut evil. It turns my stomach.”

“I shall investigate.” said Warlock. “After all, I am purged of the capacity for both good and evil.”

“You know not the forces you are toying with.” said Galactus. “Leave while you still can.”

“Try and stop me.” laughed Warlock.

Galactus went silent and did nothing.


The present.

“Wait just an apple-polishing minute!” said the Black Knight. “Why DIDN’T you stop him, Galactus? And why didn’t you just destroy the Collector BEFORE he could put his plan into motion?”

“Aye.” said Hercules. “And why didst the Collector’s kin, the Elders, do nothing to prevent his treachery?”

“I may appear omnipotent to you mortals,” said Galactus, “but I am merely a servant of the forces of order. And my destiny cannot be averted – I did attempt, in our earliest encounters, to prevent the birth of the Xunn-Zwar, and ended up causing even more pointless destruction. As for the Elders, those fools consider this all terribly amusing and will not lift a finger to help. Continue, Moondragon.”

“Thank you, Galactus.” said Moondragon haughtily.


A few hours ago...

Warlock approached the object cautiously, but caution was not enough to prevent the inevitable. Abruptly, a large piece of the object fell off, and out of the crack emerged a shaft of foul-colored light that struck Warlock point blank. A cosmic shockwave roared through the universe as Warlock’s purification was undone, and the essences of good and evil returned to him. Warlock screamed as he struggled to create balance within himself, but it was not to be.

Warlock’s skin turned purple, his hair white. He grew many inches in height, and sprouted muscles upon muscles. He turned to face the heroes, his eyes red and an evil grin spread across his face.

“And so,” he declared, “the Magus is REBORN!!

“I am grateful to you, Silver Surfer, for making this possible. As a reward, I shall end your life so that you will not have to struggle with the guilt you now feel.”

“No!” said the Silver Surfer. “I will purge Warlock of your influence, for mine is THE POWER COSMIC!!”

The Surfer unleashed cosmic bolts at the Magus, but the monster laughed them off and intoned, “You know nothing of the true power cosmic! NOTHING!!!” And with a wave of his hand, he turned the Silver Surfer inside out, allowing this grotesque travesty of the space hero a moment of helplessness before obliterating him.

There followed a few seconds where time stood still as the Infinity Watch digested the horrifying events that had just unfolded in front of them.

Drax was the first to act, charging blindly at the Magus, who calmly restored Drax to his original powerless human form of Arthur Douglas , which could not survive in outer space and exploded messily. Moondragon, Drax’s daughter, let loose with an agonized scream.

Pip tried to escape, only for the Magus to telekinetically crush him to death.

Gamora declared, “If I am to die, I shall go down fighting!” and raised her deadly knife. The Magus took control of Gamora’s arm, causing her to stab herself through the heart.

“Face the power of a true goddess born!” said Moondragon defiantly as she unleashed the most powerful telepathic offense she was capable of.

The Magus was temporarily staggered as his Adam Warlock side re-emerged to fight for control. But the Magus regained control, and turned Moondragon’s telepathic attack against her.

However, just as he was about to finish her off, she vanished.

“Galactus!” screamed the Magus, “This is your doing!”

“Indeed it is. And you know better than to challenge me, especially as your are bound in servitude to the Xunn-Zwar, who restored you.”

“Yes!” grinned the Magus. “Once my master emerges, I shall captain his vast army, and exterminate all in his path. Go and build your own army, Galactus, it shall avail you none.”

Galactus did not reply, quietly teleporting himself into his ship and setting course first for Titan, then Earth.


“Thus,” declared Galactus, “a war for the very fate of the universe dawns upon us. It disillusions me that Captain America is not among you, for it is crucial that we form an effective plan of battle.”

“I,” said Thor, “doth nominate the Wasp to lead the Avengers in the attack. She did command the Avengers for a great deal of time, and most fruitfully.”

“Thank you, Thor,” replied the Wasp, “but I nominate YOU to lead us.”

Now Hercules spoke up. “The Wasp and I hath had our differences in the past, but I doth second her nomination. Friend Thor, in thy long existence, thou hath gone to battle many more times than all of us Avengers combined. I know thee well enough to understand thy reluctance, but thy time to lead is now.”

From the expression on his face, Thor was clearly at a loss for words.

“It would be the most logical move.” said the Vision. “I calculate 92.348 % probability of victory with you as our commander.”

Thena stepped forward. “There is no place for ifs, ands, buts, or maybes.” she said. “You MUST lead the Avengers, and you WILL lead the Avengers, Thor.”

Thor stayed silent for a moment, then said only one word.


The chambers erupted into fervourous cheering.


The present.

Carol Danvers continued to play back Galactus’s revelations over and over in her mind.

Quasar approached her and asked, “Penny for your thoughts?”

“I used to be proud of having been an Avenger.” replied Carol. “Even though my stint with them ended horribly, I eventually learned to look at the big picture and see the Avengers in the context of what they stood for. But, I have no idea what they stand for? A house divided? Dupes of evil?”

“I hear you.” said Quasar. “And I was part of the roster that got duped by the Collector. Right now, I feel...worthless.”

“Me, too.” said Carol. “It’s hard to be proud of having been demoted to cannon fodder in a cosmic war.”

Quasar felt a sudden rush of insight. “Being a hero is not always what we want it to be.” he said. “Heroes often die in the course of achieving heroism. That doesn’t make them any less heroic. At least we’ll redeem ourselves for our past mistakes.”

“Thanks.” said Carol. “That makes me feel better.”

“’re welcome.” said Quasar.

“It’s strange,” said Carol, “I’ve only known you for a short time, but it feels to me like we should have met years ago.”

“I...I feel the same way.” admitted Quasar. “But then again...maybe it’s just because we know we might not be coming back to Earth. In circumstances like this, it’s not unknown for...”

Carol took Quasar’s face in her hands.

“Shut up,” she said, “and kiss me.”

And for a brief, blissful moment, Carol and Quasar believed in fairy-tale romance as they kissed and embraced.