1602 #6

Issue Date: 
March 2004
Story Title: 
1602 – Part Six: Alarums and Excursions

Neil Gaiman (writer), Andy Kubert (illustrator), Richard Isanove (Digital Painting), Todd Klein (letterer), Scott McKowen (cover artist), Joe Quesada & Nick Lowe (editors), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (Publisher)

Special thanks to Nanci Dakesian and Kelly Lmay

Brief Description: 

Stephen Strange’s astral form has been transported to the moon by the Watcher, where he learns that the entire universe – and more – is in danger due to a person from the future having come into his past. That forerunner must be found and returned to his time or all will perish. The Watcher shows Strange what he knows but forbids him from telling anyone for as long as he lives. In the meantime, Jean Grey has transported their ship to Latveria where the Witchbreed and Fury’s people start an attack on Otto von Doom, aided by the Fantastick Four, who manage to make their escape, and finally by Matthew’s companion Donal, who changes into the Mighty Thor. When Doom tries to kill Reed and his friends with his golden globe, it blows up in his face, disfiguring him. In the meantime, Petros returns to Domdaniel only to be imprisoned like his sister and the Inquisitor. The stake waits for all three of them.

Full Summary: 

Stephen Strange crouches on the surface of the Moon. A voice informs him that he cannot help him to his feet but, if he imagines himself standing, then he will be standing. A moment later, Stephen is on his feet. Good, the stranger decides and informs Stephen that they are talking with their minds.

Strange demands to know where he is and who the stranger is. An angel? A demon? The stranger hesitates a moment before deciding that he can answer all three of these questions. He is neither angel nor demon. He is a Watcher and they are on the Moon.

What’s happening? Strange asks. The Watcher muses for a bit and then asks him to rephrase his question to make it more specific and thus answerable.

Well, the Watcher said he owed him an explanation, Strange replies. What is he doing on the moon? What manner of creature is the Watcher? Those were the wrong questions, the Watcher chides him, but he shall answer them. Strange is on the moon because he needed to talk with him. He is a Watcher, one of many Watchers. They observe events across the universe and they do not interfere. And he owes Strange an explanation. In the last month, he has pushed his mind. He has spoken through Strange’s mouth as though he were him.

Was he the one who made him certain that the world was ending? Stange asks as they walk across the moon, with only the Watcher leaving footprints. Is he helping him to save it? The survival of one world or even of one universe would not impel him to action, the Watcher replies. But it is true that this planet now has much less than half a year before the temporal stresses destroy it entirely. He has discussed matters extensively with the other Watchers. Originally, most of them were of the opinion that the para-temporal fault line would initially merely destroy that world. Obviously, it would then expand destructively in all directions at the speed of light, before consuming everything.

After his last report, however, they were forced to reinspect their fundamental principles. They concluded that the destruction of this universe, while still bounded by the speed of light, would occur within an expanding simultaneity which would, pretemporarily, have begun immediately, following the initial nanoseconds of this universe. And it would then expand outward from this universe – they call it 616 – to engulf all the others.

Strange doesn’t understand and asks the Watcher to explain it more simply. Simply? Very well. If Strange’s world dies now, it will take everything with it. Not only this universe, but all the other universes as well, Everything there is, will end. Or rather, to put it even more simply, everything will never have been.

What is making this happen? Strange demands. The Watcher explains his hypothesis. In a little more than four hundred years from now, somebody will build a chronal engine, powered by an unstable simultaneity, which will, on its translocation to this era become a microscopic simultaneity. The forerunner could be seen as an infection, which the universe must create antibodies for, which then destroy the host organism. If the universe can be perceived as an organism. Does he make himself clear?

No, Strange, apologizes, but he doesn’t understand the Watcher’s concepts. To him they are just words. The Watcher attempts to make it more simple. All other methods of time travelling the Watchers have observed until now make use of the various pliable properties of time. They treat time as a river. An event roughly four hundred years from now on the other hand, will simply punch a hole through time, a little more than a dozen years ago, and deposit something in our recent past. It is the arrival of this something which begins the current cycle of destruction.

What manner of something? Strange asks. Almost certainly a human being, the Watcher replies. The Watchers believe that the damage to the fabric of time began with the arrival of this entity, whatever it is. He doesn’t know? Strange asks. The Watcher admits that he wasn’t watching. He blames himself although his colleagues tell him that his failure was inevitable. Something may have stopped him. Who would stop him watching?

The universe follows certain laws. And like Strange he is a creature of the universe. Some laws he understands. Some he does not. He is young as they reckon things. This is a young solar system and it is the only one he has watched. And here is something else he does not understand:

Everything has its season. In spring, the world brings forth blossoms, in cherry season you get cherries. But a season has dawned over three hundred years early: a season of heroes and marvels. His own conclusion – several of his colleagues laugh at him – is that the two are connected. That the universe fights to save itself. To save everything the heroes have come. The hypothesis his staider colleagues prefer is that the arrival of the entity they refer to as the forerunner is, in itself, the signal to the universe for the seasons of marvels to begin. And that entity’s arrival also created the simultaneity.

Strange asks that he said that he wasn’t permitted to interfere. Yes. But bringing Strange there and telling him all of this obviously is interfering. Why?

The Watcher replies that he has consulted with his fellows. The consensus is that if the totality of all universes came to an end, there would be nothing left for them to watch. And that would be… regrettable. Thus, the smallest amount of interference may be permitted. The simultaneity must be closed. The forerunner must be returned, or destroyed.

And how does he do that? Strange wonders. How does he find this forerunner? Where is this simultaneity he keeps talking about? The Watches decides to show him. He will see what he knows through his eyes. Strange will know everything, but he is still a Watcher. And he is still bound by the codes and oaths of his kind. There is only one injunction he must lay upon him. While he lives, he may say nothing of what he knows to any soul. He may not act in any way upon what he knows. Like him, he is only condemned to watch.

Lying in a back alley, Strange mutters the words… only to watch…

Elsewhere, Angel is taking to the air, musing that their ship is travelling fast, almost too fast. For the folk on the ship, as long as they stay out of the wind they are comfortable more or less, although some say they find it chilly. For him, he is at home there in the sky. And what is one-winged lad when compared to a whole flying ship? He would hazard that they are covering thirty, perhaps even forty miles in every hour, a speed that even he could not keep up for long. And every hour brings them closer to Latveria, and closer to Doom.

He lands, as he muses that now he thinks of the Witchbreed as his people, they are hopeful, but also scared. They go to release prisoners. They go to reclaim stolen weapons. They go to fight a just war. And perhaps they go to their deaths. But if they die, it will be a death of their choosing, a good death, if such a thing can be. They follow rivers and hills, small villages and farms. Sir Nicholas knows Europe like he knows his own face, and he is their navigator. Below them people are horrified to see the flying shot.

Douglan, his man, is loyal to Fury, although like all of them he is scared. They avoid cities and towns where they can. Master Grey says that, while he can keep the ship moving, he doubts that he could raise it again, so they travel without stopping, hour after hour towards the south and towards the east. Some of them have slept below deck but John Grey has not slept and neither has their leader, Carlos Javier, who sits besides the boy and feeds his power with his own.

Walter curiously watches John and Javier. Scotius rudely addresses him, demanding to know where he was. He was flying, Walter replies, to stretch his wings. Getting in his face, Scotius states that he isn’t meant to draw attention to himself. He thinks their flying ship is doing that perfectly well on its own, comes the reply. Scotius snaps at him to just get dressed. He is a disgrace, parading about, near naked like that.

Fury, steps between them, asking Scotius to tell Carlos that they need to get higher. The Austrian Alps are ahead of them. Latveria will be beyond them. With Scotius gone, Walter asks why the other boy hates him. Why? Fury replies. He’s scared and he’s jealous. He thinks she likes Angel, and that troubles him.

She? Walter asks, not understanding. Who is she? Fury looks at him flabbergasted, then changes the subject, stating that he needs to talk to all of them about fighting tactics. They’ll be in Latveria in hours. They know that Doom has cannons and explosives. They do not know what else he may have. Walter is to tell the others to meet Fury in the Captain’s cabin.

What about Master Grey and Master Javier? Angel asks. Fury tells him to leave them be. They are keeping them in the air. He doesn’t know how they do it, be he does not want them distracted. And, he orders him to put his shirt on.

Doomstadt, the deep cells. Benjamin Grimm is trapped inside a cell that barely deserves the name; it’s more like a hole, tall as a man. He can’t sit, only stand. He can’t properly move his arms. It’s been a week since Doom sent down food. But there are only two things he could do now. And one of them is to give up and die. And the other is to push himself as far as he can against the wall on his left and then throw himself, as hard as he can over to the right. He does so. Doom thinks he’s mad. That there’s rock below him and above him and on every side of him. And he is right. And in the years they’ve been imprisoned there, he has done this a thousand times and each time Doom punishes them all. He does it again. But there is a crack. In the rock face, there is a crack that was not there before.

Doomstadt. The high cells. The old man Donal asks agitated what is happening. Matthew tells him to hush, he is listening. He’ll tell him soon. How can he hear? the old man wonders. Again, Matthew tells him to hush and let him listen. Otto’s talking.

In the courtyard, Otto von Doom arrogantly asks the Inquisitor’s messenger Petros why he should believe him. Because he tells the truth, the young man replies. There is a flying ship coming here! It is manned with Witchbreed creatures and demons. They seek to make war on Otto.

There has never been any love lost between Latveria and the Inquisition, Otto reminds him. Did not his own Grand Inquisitor condemn the breeding studies of Otto’s father as heretical? If he did, then think of this as his olive branch, Petros suggests. If this business of flying witchbreed is true, then why has he not heard of it, Otto asks.

Their ship moves too fast, the young man explains. It is outpacing Doom’s fastest messenger.

A messenger pigeon lands on Doom’s arms. He reads the letter, remarking that he has some very fast messengers. And it seems that Petros is telling the truth. Now, he thinks it would be best for all of them if he were to remain here in safety until these pirates are dealt with, eh? He calls upon his guards which immediately try to arrest Petros… only to find him long gone. An interesting trick Doom muses.

One guard informs him that the thing in the dungeon has started again. When the boat creatures are dead they’ll deal with him permanently, Otto decides. Reed will be heartbroken… of course but, still, hearts can be mended. Now, they need cannons and archers and vulture fliers. He wants all the cannons they have primed and loaded. And he wants them aimed at the sky.

Again, Ben Grimm smashes against the walls.

Donal asks Matthew what he heard. It sounds like a miracle is on its way and will be blasted from the clear sky before it ever reaches them, he responds grimly. Donal asks if the cart that brought them to the castle is still here. It’s in the courtyard, Matthew replies. If they’d moved it, he would have heard. Can he get out there? Out of this cell? Can he get them down to the courtyard? He is asking the impossible, Matthew replies. So that’s a “no?” It’s more of an “I’ll try my best.” Matthew replies as he begins to stand up.

Seeing the flying ship, Doom orders his men to wait until they are closer. Then he gives the order to fire. The shot misses the ship – barely – and Hank cries in triumph. If that is all they have to contend with, the battle is already won. Fury warns him it’s not going to be that easy. Their first ask has to be to take out the cannons.

Javier informs Jean that he has to help the others through this. She must keep the ship aloft on her own. And it has to keep moving. He doesn’t know how much cannon-damage it can take and still stay whole. Weak but determined, Jean replies that she’ll do whatever she has to do.

Javier gathers the others. The first order of business is to get them all down there and destroy their foes’ weapons before they blow them from the sky. He orders Angel to carry Scotius. Once he’s got him down, he’ll come back for Sir Nicholas. But he’s only a… Walter begins. Only a human? Nicholas asks. Perhaps, but he’s dangerous enough in his own way.

Angel flies Scotius upward, telling him he thinks that Walter hates him. And he has given Walter no cause to love him. Bu he has no plans to drop him. Watch out! Scotius suddenly calls and fires an optic blast at something behind Walter – a vulture. Walter thanks him. Scotius curtly orders him to get him down safely.

Javier turns to Robbie Drake, asking him if he can create an ice-bridge from the ship to the castle top. Robbie is doubtful. It’s too far. He needs the air to be wetter. If only there was rain, he could do so much. He can still deflect cannonballs, Javier decides while he shall be in the minds of the cannoneers, showing them their ship as lower or higher than they believe. But some may still slip through, so for now Robbie and Henry shall stay here to defend the ship.

Against what? Hal asks doubtfully. Javier has not taught him to catch cannonballs. Against them, Nicholas shouts.

An army of vultures attacks from above with spears. Henry grabs one by his spear and throws him back at the others. This is living! he announces. What are they? Nicholas wonders aloud. Doom’s creatures, comes Javier’s reply. While they fight Jean struggles not to give up, repeating to herself mantra-like from those who have much to give much is demanded.

In the dungeons Ben Grimm finally tears off his chains.

In Doom’s bedchamber, Natasha begins plundering. It’s not that the most dangerous woman in Europe imagines for a moment that Otto von Doom will lose this battle but she doubts that such an opportunity will come again soon. And besides, he is beginning to bore her. Suddenly, the strange invisible column in the room shatters and Natasha is struck down by something unseen. Whore comes a voice from nowhere.

Elsewhere in the dungeon Matthew remarks that he doesn’t know what manner of monster Doom keeps in his basement, but they owe it their thanks for loosening the bolts that held their chains and for what it’s done to this wall. With the help of the chains, Matthew manages to tear out the window.

How will they get down to the courtyard? Donal wonders. With a broad grin, Matthew remarks that they have two options. They could call a guard, talk him into opening the cell door, overpower him, go down through the castle, hiding, fighting, all that, but it’s an awful lot of work. So let’s do it the easy way. He grabs Donal, wraps his chains around himself and orders the other man to hold on very tight as he jumps.

In another cell full of water, the invisible woman takes the hand if its prisoner, her brother John. “My poor brother,” she announces. “He is a monster to keep you so, and use you so.”

With uncanny acrobatic skill, Matthew jumps downward, somersaulting and using walls to slow his descent. Elegantly, he lands.

Within the castle, John Storm frees Richard Reed from his cell with a burst of flame.

Right, they are down, Matthew announces. So what exactly do they do now? He needs his stick, Donal states as he sees their cart. Is that all, Matthew asks. He could have got him another stick. No, no, he couldn’t, Donal replies as he grabs the stick. Not like this one. This is the treasure of the Templars. Brought to Jerusalem by the Norsemen eight hundred years back. It may not do anything. It may all be legend…

Doom’s guards choose that moment to appear, threatening the two that they are dead men. No, they’re not, Donal replies. In all probabilities, Doom’s guards are. They are dead while he shall be damned. He orders Matthew to close his eyes. Pointing to the bandage in front of his eyes, Matthew announces that there isn’t really much point in that. Then cover your ears, the old man orders, and may Lord Jesu have mercy on his soul. He smashes the stick to the ground.

Even with his ears covered, the crash of thunder is deafening; louder than the cannons, louder than the monster in the dungeon… it leaves him disoriented, thinking he can still smell the ozone lightning flash. That was close, he thinks as the rain begins to pour from a previously cloudless sky…

On the ship, Robby happily exclaims that there is rain, enabling him to now use his powers properly. Hal wryly remarks that Bobby can identify rain correctly. A miracle. Now if he may draw his attention back to matters at hand… Icing up, Robby asks Henry if he has ever seen an icestorm. When the rain is freezing, but still water. It doesn’t turn to ice until it touches the ground and then it ices all it touches. Uh, no comes the reply. Then watch, Iceman tells him as he begins to ice up the rain. With frozen wings the vultures fall.

From the ground, Scotius observes that the ship is trembling, meaning Jean’s in trouble. He orders Walter to get him back up there. Walter refuses due to the frozen rain. They’d tumble from the sky like Doom’s men.

On the ship, Javier holds the falling Jean, while Fury cries in triumph that the cannonfire has stopped. They have won! Which will be very comforting if the ship crashes and kills them all, Dougan observes.

On the battlements, a furious von Doom orders his men to fire the cannons but they can’t in this storm. Most of the cannons have been destroyed, the rest are encased in ice. The vulture fliers are dead. What shall they do? Shall they hide? Shall they flee? Flee? Doom grabs the man who asked that question by his cowl. He should send him back to the birthing pens that spawned him. If the storm is their doing, he points at the ship, they have given him lightning which is all he needs to ensure victory.

Otto? It’s over, comes another voice. It is that of Richard Reed, now finally reunited with his three friends. A flying Jonathan Storm reminds him angrily about how Doom kept him under a waterfall. He imprisoned his friends in the darkness. He made his sister ornament his vile bed-chamber. Doom stutters that he doesn’t understand. She set them free the invisible Susan Storm explains. As he said, Reed repeats. It’s over.

Doom holds the golden globe and smirks. They don’t understand, he boasts. He has the weapon. He orders Reed to tell them. Tell them what he is holding. It’s from another world… or another time. All he needs is the lightning and the four shall die first. They shall die so sweetly

Lightning strikes the ball and Doom’s eyes begin to widen in panic. There’s a flash of an explosion and a burnt Doom, holding the remains of the globe, lies on the ground. Susan cries out in horror at seeing his mutilated body. Reed holds her invisible form and tries to comfort her. Doom is dead or as good as. She should cry if she needs to.

Mayhap he should tread on him, stomp up and stomp down till there ain’t be nothing left of him, Ben grimly suggests. Reed suggests he save his feet. He warned him, poor deluded fellow. Did he say that ball-thing was from the future? Benjamin asks. He would have thought that was obvious, Reed muses. The only thing he doesn’t understand is the lightning storm. It violates everything he understands about weather. Either he needs to go back to first principles or there is an anomaly he has failed to allow for. Looking up, Jonathan exclaims what in the name of a hundred demons is that?

That referring to the mighty Thor flying in the air, holding the ship aloft with his strength.

That, Reed hypothesizes, in the absence of any other evidence is his anomaly.

Thor carries the ship to the castle. Spying Reed, Fury cries out that it’s good to see him. Reed instantly gets to the heart of the matter. They must talk. There are several things that are troubling him. To begin with, let them posit that Time is fluid but static… Climbing down, Fury tells him soon.

Matthew approaches Fury, telling him they never met by daylight before but he is…
He knows who he is, Sir Nicholas interrupts him, but who – referring to Thor – is he? He’s the treasure of the Templars , Matthew replies. And he’s also Fury’s secret weapon. Or perhaps he’s carrying it.

The stranger introduces himself as Thor of the Thunders --: Mighty, my Mjolnir: Fighter of Frost-Giants, Stronger than Storms. And the old man. Where would he be? Nicholas asks. That’d be him too, Matthew explains. It’s a bit complicated.

Hal climbs down the ship, carrying Javier who states that their pilot is unconscious and does not wake. Can Thor carry them back through the air to England? From what he’s told him, probably not, Matthew replies. He could get them through the sea though. If this hulk is still seaworthy it could work, Robby muses. Captain Grimm climbs aboard, announcing that he can make her seaworthy and sail her into hell, if he has to. Susan adds that he is the finest Captain alive. Who said that? Robby asks confused.

Matthew tells Fury that he has to fit a lot of fellers into that boat, so he will make his own way home. Has Fury got the diamond on him? He thought rescuing him from certain death would be payment enough… Fury points out. That’s all very well, but a man’s got to eat, Matthew replies. Not to worry. They’ll put it on his slate eh? He wishes the others good luck and tells Thor goodbye. Donal too, if he’s in there. He jumps off the battlement while Thor takes the ship to the air. Interesting, Sir Reed comments to Fury, but has he ever thought of doing things the easy way? For example warm water rises Why not fill a canvas with air and then heat it with a brazier?

With them gone Natasha stumbles upon the hurt Doom, a look of horror on her face as she beholds his formerly handsome countenance. Hide my face, Natasha he begs, hide my face.

Domdaniel, Spain, an exhausted Petros has come there, announcing that the Witchbreed have succeeded in their attack on Doom. He watched the castle fall. He continues that James has arrived in London. He has imprisoned the warlock Strange and all of Fury’s associates. Fury himself has been proclaimed a traitor. There is a price on his head. He must have run five times across Europe in the past few days…

Suddenly, a web is thrown over him as a voice announces that he is condemned from his own mouth. The newcomer commends the Toad and asks if there are any more of them. Just the three, the Toad assures him. Good, the stranger decides. Then Petros shall join his sister and the former grand inquisitor at the stake in the courtyard. And the Toad has bought his life. Burn him, burn him now, the Toad cries eagerly. Burn them all! And the look in the eyes of the inquisitor is unfathomable.

Characters Involved: 

Nicholas Fury

Stephen Strange

Matthew Murdock

Donal / Thor

Carlos Javier

Hal, Jean “John” Grey, Robby Drake, Scotius Somerisle, Werner (Javier’s Witchbreed)

Richard Reed, Susan Storm, Johnnie Storm, Ben Grimm (Fantastick Four)

Grand Inquisitor


The Toad

The Vatican’s agent

Count Otto von Doom


Doom’s Guards



Fury’s soldiers

The Watcher

Story Notes: 
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