‘Gather now ye seven brides!’ bellows the aged Deviant known as Ghaur, who is the Priest-King of the subterranean race, worshippers of the Elder God Set. Today, he seeks to snatch victory from the jaws of bitter defeat, and to see his dreams of global subjugation brought to grim fruition. Ghaur watches, as one by one, the women he has chosen as brides to his unborn God file through the echoing chamber, all dressed in a white leotard with a flowing white gown and white slippers, the Seven Brides of Set gather in front of a large horde of Deviant warriors.
Firstly, there is Storm a.k.a. Ororo Munroe of the Uncanny X-Men, believed dead by the world at large, Ghaur learned of her when she and her teammates sought to oppose the Serpent Society. The jade-giantess, Jennifer Walters a.k.a. the She-Hulk is next. She-Hulk was chosen as a Bride of Set when she battled alongside Spider-Man against the villainous Abomination. The petite Tandy “Dagger” Bowen, partner of Cloak and mistress of the shining life-energy that gives her her name was chosen when she stood against the Sons of the Serpent.
Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, who has the mutant power to warp probabilities was detected by Ghaur as one of many who once wore the dread Serpent Crown of Lemuria. Next there is Jean “Marvel Girl” Grey of X-Factor, who was snatched out of the Beasts hands when Ghaur detected her telekinetic power, and believed he had a use for it. Andromeda, daughter of the Atlantean warlord Attuma, himself an unwitting dupe of Ghaur, is a member of the disbanded Defenders team, and was chosen by Ghaur as a Bride of Set when he saw her lead her rebel forces against her father’s troops in the South Atlantic. Finally, Susan Storm Richards a.k.a. the Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four was marked as a Bride of Set when she and her teammates battled against the Atlantean invasion of Manhattan.
In a slow and stately procession, the seven women walk, their measured steps the rhythmic unison of the mindless, until, ‘OH!’ Dagger gasps as she trips over. A Deviant instantly picks Dagger up by the scruff of her gown, ‘On your feet, female! Do you dare risk the wrath of Ghaur!?’ the Deviant booms. ‘Please…I can’t…I can’t…’ Tandy mumbles, until Ghaur shouts ‘Hold! There is something amiss here…’ and approaching Dagger, he looks into her eyes and shouts ‘Blind! Bu all the ancient fires of Hades, the female is blind!’. Ghaur exclaims that he chose Dagger for the powers of the life-force harnessed within her, but did not anticipate this physical flaw.
A bizarre looking Deviant approaches Ghaur and asks him if it even matters now, pointing out that since the humans did not slaughter the Atlanteans as they planned, the resurrection of Set cannot now occur. ‘Remind me not of things I already know!’ Ghaur snaps backs, holding Dagger up by her neck now, as he admitting that it is true the blood sacrifice of the Atlanteans was part of his original plan, and without it the plan wavers on the brink of obliteration - but there still remains one tiny spark of hope - ‘And the Seven Brides shall serve in fanning it into a raging inferno!’
Meanwhile, high above America’s eastern seaboard, a brilliant cometary shape streaks through skies made black by the lingering smoke of war - it’s the original Human Torch! ‘Whichever Gods are looking out for me…they sure picked an odd time to bring me back into the world!’ the Torch thinks to himself, recalling how the Avengers told hi that it has been over forty years since he was last fully active, except for that brief encounter a few years ago with his young heir apparent, the present day Human Torch of the Fantastic Four.
The Torch tells himself that the memory of fighting the young Human Torch is so strange, so confused, that it seems more like a dream now. ‘I wish I could say the same for the war zone the world seems to have turned into’ the Torch thinks to himself, remarking that it is hard to believe the Atlanteans attacked them, as not long ago - actually, quite a while ago really, Sub-Mariner - Namor - was an ally, even a friend to him. ‘But even something as strange as this war would have a long way to go to be as downright weird…as finding myself allied with an android who until recently actually thought he was me!’ the Torch tells himself as he flies down towards a facility, where, in a meeting room inside, that very android - the Vision - is meeting with several other heroes.
‘My friend…it has now been nearly eight hours since my wife was abducted…’ the ghostly Vision tells the assembled heroes - some of his Avengers West Coast teammates - Wonder Man, Iron Man, and the Wasp, three of the Avengers - Captain America, Thor, and Quasar, along with Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy, a.k.a. the Beast, formerly of the Avengers, now a member of X-Factor and Sersi of the Eternals. The Vision continues, stating that judging from the reports gathered by their fellow super heroes, it would seem Wanda’s kidnapping was not a unique event, as at least four other women are known to have been taken. ‘And thanks to the Beast, we at least have an idea of who is responsible’
‘Indubitably!’ Hank exclaims, announcing that it was the Deviant Ghaur who took his partner, Marvel Girl, so it doesn’t take a holmesiam intellect to deduce he was behind the other abductions. The Vision, while Wonder Man a.k.a. Simon Williams, his “brother”, stares at him, and thinks to himself ‘Look at the Vision! So cold, so uncaring…the woman he supposedly loves has been whisked off to - Lord only knows where…and he’s discussing it as calmly as he would the weather report!’ Simon frowns at this. Captain America speaks up next, announcing that if they assume the Beast is correct, then at least they have a lead. Turning to Sersi, Cap explains that is why he asked her to join them as she has had dealings with Ghaur before. ‘Correct’ the glamorous Eternal replies, informing everyone that her race has been at odds for the Deviants for millennia. ‘Perhaps we have here a chance to terminate that war once and for all!’ Sersi exclaims ruthlessly.
The Human Torch enters the chamber and exclaims that he is all for that, as he has seen too may wars in his short lifetime. ‘Torch…glad you’re back, old friend!’ Captain America greets his Invaders and All-Winners Squad teammate, while thinking to himself that it is so strange to hear the Torch’s voice again after all these years, as he had gotten use to thinking the Vision was all that was left of his old comrade in arms. Captain America points out that the rest of the Avengers are off helping clean up the last of the so-called Serpent Cult, and driving the few Atlantean stragglers back into the sea. ‘Our task seems obvious - find and rescue the missing women!’
Suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘If they’re still alive, Cap!’. Everyone turns and sees the Thing, as Captain America tells the super strong member of the Fantastic Four that he doesn’t care for the sound of that. ‘What do you know that we don’t?’ Cap asks. ‘Maybe nothing…but maybe a lot!’ the Thing replies, before announcing that his teammate, the Invisible Woman was one of the ladies who have been snatched. The Thing announces that Mr. Fantastic discovered the whole point of the Atlantean invasion was a double-cross, explaining that the “blue-skinned suckers” were supposed to get killed fighting all of them so they would be some kind of blood sacrifice as part of jump-starting some nasty “customer” called Set. ‘Reed’s afraid the women may have been picked as substitute sacrifices!’
‘Set, yes…we’ve got quite a bit on him in our computer’ Cap announces, before Thor declares that he does not need the mechanical memory of the computer, as both he and the Thing have fought against Set in bygone days. Thor announces that Set is an Elder God, even older than Thor’s own immortal race, the Asgardians. Thor explains that Set’s dark mind has been seen in many of the ills which have on occasion vexed Earth, such as causing the evolution of the accursed Serpent People, and it was by Set’s command that the Serpent Crown was forged. ‘Yeah, sounds like he should be number one on our hit-list!’ the Thing exclaims.
Thor remarks that the Thing’s humor does little to conceal the black truth of the words, ‘Set must be found and once more banished to the nether realms where lately he has languished, or all our battles will have been for naught!’ Thor declares, adding that the time is nigh to carry their crusade beyond the ken of mortal man.
A short time later, four hundred miles off the craggy coastline of New England, and far beyond the present awareness of the Avengers, Andromeda speeds through the deepest depths of the ocean with ease, ‘Stay close, She-Hulk!’ she calls out to her companion, who follows, wearing an oxygen mask, both women in scant bathing suits. Andromeda points out that if they become separated now, it will be a serious impediment to their task. ‘I know that!’ the She-Hulk replies, while thinking to herself ‘Just as I know I should not be here! Should not be helping Ghaur!’. Jennifer realizes that she cannot stop herself - although she can think, speak and even act just as she normally would, except when it comes to trying to resist Ghaur, then some sort of override kicks in. ‘I might as well be a passenger in my own body!’ she tells herself as follows Andromeda, deeper down into the ocean.
‘This way, She-Hulk!’ Andromeda encourages Jennifer, revealing to her that they are entering waters long unexplored and long feared, even by the boldest of her Atlantean people. The warrior-duo soon approach a chasm in the ocean floor, and Andromeda explains that this is the clustered stones her ancient forebears named the Altar of Neptune’s Wrath. Andromeda explains that their legends tell this was once a place of worship, and that here old Atlanteans pledged their faith to the great God of the Sea, until a time came when they turned away from Neptune, turned instead to worshipping a seven-headed serpent God - ‘We know now that God was…Set!’
Floating above the well-like chasm, Andromeda reveals that when Neptune learned of the Atlanteans’ blasphemy, he smote this place, and the Atlanteans involved were killed or dispersed. ‘But the legends say the fury of Neptune’s assault was so great, Set was briefly shattered. A piece of his immortal life-force was trapped…down there!’ Andromeda reveals as she begins to swim down through the chasm. ‘And that’s where we have to go, huh?’ Jennifer mumbles. ‘Swell!’ she exclaims before suggesting that she goes first, ‘I’m the one who’s supposed to be darned near indestructible!’
Andromeda allows She-Hulk to pass her, but warns her to be careful, explaining that if the legends are true, there are more than treacherous currents and crumbling masonry to fear here, for Neptune also set a giant sea-beast to guard the piece of Set’s life-force which they now need to retrieve. ‘Like I said…swell’ She-Hulk mutters. Both women are unaware that, indeed, a giant sea-beast is watching, while She-Hulk continues to lead the way downwards, thinking that all she has to do is figure out what a piece of some Elder God’s life-force is supposed to look like, when, suddenly, she sees a glowing energy ball wedged into a slab of rock.
‘A piece of life-force, or I don’t know my legendary objects!’ She-Hulk jokes, before realizing that it is wedged in firm. ’Still, there’s more to my being the Hulk’s cousin than a former sharing of hue’ Jennifer jokes as she begins to tug on the life-force, which she manages to easily pull from the slab of rock, and she realizes that this seems almost too easy. Andromeda arrives on-scene, and soon both women are tossed about in the chasm as the releasing of the life-force container caused the sea-beast to be released, and it’s giant tentacles thrash about as it overwhelms Andromeda and the She-Hulk.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, city of the big shoulders, and, at the world renowned Museum of Cultural Antiques, where Marvel Girl, dressed as stylish as always, sits in the office of a museum curator, who tells her that this is an honor, before admitting that he had not heard of her father before she telephoned him this morning, but for her father to have willed this fabulous gift to them… he trails off. ‘Yes…Daddy knew you have the largest collection of Lemurian artifacts here’ Jean replies, and motioning to the artifact remarks that her father wanted to be sure that this museum got the crowning piece.
‘Well, I’m just overwhelmed!’ the curator exclaims as he continues to examine the crown through a magnifying glass, remarking that he can tell just from the craftsmanship that this is easily one of the most ancient pieces ever unearthed. Jean asks the curator if he understands the codicil to her father’s grant. ‘I must be allowed to inspect the security measures you will be taking to protect the piece!’ Jean reminds the curator. ‘Of course, of course!’ the curator replies, opening a door, he asks Jean to come with him so he can shoe her their display vaults. ‘We’re really quite proud of them!’ he boasts. Leading Jean down some stairs, the curator motions to the vault and the security guards in front of it, explaining that no one is allowed to even approach the first security station unless they are known to these men personally. ‘It’s all right, boys. Miss Grey is with me!’ the curator announces.
Approaching a station in the wall, the curator explains that this s the combination retina and palm print scan, that the vault door has no actual combination, only the correct scanning of either himself, or only two other people can open it. The vault opens after analysing the curator’s retina and palms, and entering the vault proper, he declares that the vault is areal piece de resistance. Several large metal beams protrude up from the floor through the ceiling of the vault, and the curator explains that each of the display modules is set atop these hydraulic lifters, so patrons on the floor above can view the objects through impenetrable plasteel domes.
Motioning to another panel on the wall, the curator explains that each of the hydraulic columns can be raised or lowered from this particular panel, and demonstrates by bringing one of them down now. As the platform lowers, the curator motions to the ceiling, explaining to Jean that below the floor level a steel plate closes over the opening. The curator is about to explain something else, when he is knocked in the head by an invisible ball, rendering him unconscious.
The Invisible Woman shifts to her visible state, and exclaims ‘I didn’t like doing that, Jean’, adding that the man did nothing to deserve being clubbed by one of her invisible force field spheres. ‘I know, Sue…’ Jean agrees, ‘But you can no more stop yourself following Ghaur’s orders than I can!’. As she begins punching some codes into the console on the wall, Jean remarks that all they can do is go along with this plan of Ghaur’s, and wait for the first chance to break free. As the plasteel slides away from the display unit, Jean suggests they get the Lens of Power back to their “master”. Susan turns herself, Jean and the artefact invisible and they sneak past the guards with ease, on their way back to Ghaur’s base.
Meanwhile, back off the coast of New England, a fisherman on a trawler calls out to the skipper, announcing that something is fouling their nets, when, all of a sudden, the gigantic sea-beast rises from the ocean floor, its tentacles flailing about above the water - with the She-Hulk wrapped firmly in one of them.
Twelve minutes later though, a Quinjet containing Captain America, Wonder Man, Beast, Sersi, Iron Man, Wasp and the Vision soars across the sky, ‘There! The source of the SOS we picked up is dead ahead! Someone announces. ‘Oh my stars and garters!’ the Beast exclaims as they see the horrific giant sea-beast attacking the fishing trawler. ‘What in the world is that thing?’ the Wasp gasps. ‘It’s big, and it’s mean, Wasp. That’s about all we need to know!’ Iron Man tells his friend as he drops from the hatch into open air, where he flies towards the monstrous sea-beast.
Tony “Iron Man” Stark thinks to himself that it feels strange to be back with the Avengers again after so many months away, especially with them thinking that it is not he but someone else in the armor this time. He tells himself that the hardest thing about having the world believe the original Iron Man to be dead is having to carry on a variation on that deception with his friends. He recalls that most of the Avengers guessed it was him in the armor a long time ago, and since they know he is not dead, he has had to convince them he hired someone else to be Iron Man. Tony tells himself that this is not the time or place for such ruminations, and reminds himself that according to the SOS they monitored, She-Hulk was battling the behemoth, but now he cannot see her. ‘What am I going to do with this overgrown sushi platter?’ he wonders.
Iron Man decides to start with the most direct approach, and deduces that the monster’s armor plate looks as tough as battleship steel, ‘But is it tough enough to take my repulsor blasts?’ he wonders as he unleashes the powerful energies on the beast. ‘I guess that’s a “yes”!’ Tony tells himself as his plan proves unsuccessful. Tony tries something a little less spectacular this time - and sends a few hundred thousand bolts directly into the sea-beasts outer shell. The monster doesn’t like this, and flails about even more, and as one of its tentacles pass Iron Man, Tony sees She-Hulk trapped in the tentacle. ‘That answers my questions about She-Hulk’s whereabouts!’ Tony tells himself.
Iron Man watches as the She-Hulk is dragged under the water once more, so he activates his suits waterproof seals and dives in after his friend, who is now without her oxygen mask, but Jennifer is giving the tentacle of the monster a healthy battering. Tony tells her to keep fighting, and remarks that she may not have been able to handle the sea-beast on her own, but their combined strength should be enough. At that moment though, She-Hulk turns her punches from the sea-beast on to Iron Man, smacking him in the face.
Meanwhile, the Quinjet now hovers above the water, and Captain America announces this is as close as he dare come, what with the creature thrashing about. ‘You didn’t really need to get this close, Cap!’ Wonder Man replies, flying towards the sea-beast he points out that he can cross to it under his own power, and smacks the creature hard. Beast and Sersi watch closely, and Hank points out that the creature is no more bothered by Wonder Man’s blows than it was by Iron Man’s repulsors. Hank remarks that Sersi is alleged to possess the powers of transmutation, and asks her if she can transmogrify the sea-beast into something less dangerous. ‘Like a kitten, perhaps?’ Hank suggests.
Sersi replies that she has never tried to change anything so huge, and declares that the strain would almost certainly kill even an Eternal such as herself. The Vision steps forward, telling Sersi that there is no need to endanger herself in such a fashion, and taking flight, he points out that his android form is greatly altered from its original condition, but his powers remain the same as they ever have. With that, the Vision becomes intangible and dives into the sea-beasts body, and floats through the creature’s entrails at minimum density so as not to harm it.
However, when the Vision reaches the sea-beasts heart, he enters it, shifting his density slightly back to normal, which causes the sea-beast to roll over, as the Vision rendered it unconscious. Iron Man blasts up from the ocean, carrying the now unconscious She-Hulk, Wonder Man flies over and asks what happened to Jennifer. Iron Man replies that he had to stun her to keep her from ripping him open. The Vision flies over and joins them as they fly back to the Quinjet, and Iron Man announces that he only saw She-Hulk, while reminding everyone that the SOS said there were two women being attacked by the monster. ‘Where’s the other woman?’ he wonders.
Where indeed? The other woman, of course, Andromeda - swims swiftly through the water nearby, with the life-force of Set in her hands, she approaches an air-lock, which opens for her. Andromeda passes a Deviant guard and calls out to Lord Ghaur, announcing that she has the fragment of Set’s life-force. ‘I can see that!’ Ghaur replies, before asking where the She-Hulk is. Andromeda explains that she left her battling Neptune’s guardian. ‘Her power gave me the chance I needed to slip away’ Andromeda explains. ‘Hmmm…the cold-blooded logic of a warrior, and thus I am left with only six brides for our God. Again, I see the edges of my great plan begin to unravel!’ Ghaur declares, clenching his fists.
But Ghaur declares that he will not allow another set-back to dishearten him, and exclaims that if Set only has six wives, then he shall only have six sons. ‘Seven would have been netter, but six will have to suffice!’. Ghaur then remarks that all that remains is to await the return of the two brides he sent to the human city of Chicago, and once the Lens of Power is brought to him, nothing further can stand in his way.
Back at the Quinjet, the Avengers watch as Wonder Man and the Beast try to hold She-Hulk down on the fishing trawler nearby. ‘LET ME GO!!!!’ She-Hulk screams, declaring that she must return to Ghaur and serve Set. Simon struggles to hold She-Hulk’s arms back, exclaiming that she is too wet, and asks Hank if he can hold her while he shifts. ‘For the briefest of moments!’ the Beast replies, adding that She-Hulk is way out of his league.
Several of the trawler fishermen watch, ‘Man o man is this ever something to tell my kids!’ one of them exclaims. ‘First the Avengers save us from a sea monster, now they’re fighting one of their own members right here on our deck!’. One of the other fishermen remarks that they aren’t fighting her, but trying to hold on to her. ‘Didn’t you hear her? She’s in the power or someone called “Gore”!’
Sersi tells Cap that this is going to avail them nothing, and advises him to release She-Hulk and let her return to Ghaur. ‘I can follow her telepathically back to his lair’ Sersi explains. Cap asks Sersi if she is sure about that. ‘If Ghaur should block your mind-reading ability…’ he begins, but Sersi assures him that Ghaur cannot do that, and admits that it is true she cannot read the mind of a Deviant such as Ghaur, there is no known way he can prevent her tracking the thoughts of any being less telepathically adept than herself. ‘And whatever her physical prowess, She-Hulk is no telepath!’
And with that, Hank and Simon release Jennifer, who immediately dives into the water once more, ‘Look at the speed of her!’ the Beast gasps. Captain America replies that there is no time for levity, and orders everyone to the Quinjet. Once inside, the heroes follow She-Hulk who they can see below, and Cap explains that She-Hulk will lead them to the master of this mess.
Meanwhile, back at Ghaur’s base, ‘FOOL!’ the overlord shouts as he slaps Dagger in the face. ‘OW!’ Tandy cries as she falls to the floor. Bearing over Dagger, who rubs her face, Ghaur tells her that she must concentrate the full power of her light daggers into the most slender beam, the barest pin prick. ‘Now get up and try again!’ he demands. ‘Yes, master, but it’s so hard…so hard…I’ve never tried to focus power like that…without seeing what I’m doing!’ Dagger replies, before a Deviant informs Ghaur that the other two Brides have returned. ‘Good! Good!’ Ghaur exclaims as he marches over to Jean and Susan, asking them if they have the Lens. ‘Of course. Obtaining it was…no problem’ the Invisible Woman replies as she carries the Lens of Power.
‘Excellent! We shall yet see this day end in a triumph for the followers of Set!’ Ghaur boasts, before motioning to a pedestal and asking the Invisible Woman to place it on the pedestal. Sue does as requested, and Ghaur examines the Lens of Power, boasting that, before the hour is struck, they shall see a new age aborning in the world. ‘Set will rise! And I pity the power, human, Deviant or Eternal, that dares to stand against him!’
At that moment, less than a mile away, Cap, Wonder Man, Beast, Iron Man, the Wasp and the Vision follow Sersi through the ocean, and Simon exclaims that this is incredible - ‘I knew Sersi’s powers were pretty amazing…but to turn us all into water-breathers just by thinking about it…!’. the Beast smiles, and tells Simon that it is not so amazing really. ‘She is the Sersi of legend, after all. The one who turned Odysseus’s men into pigs and then back into humans!’ he points out. Hank declares that the Eternals maintain a constant conscious control over the most minute detail of their physiology, and in doing so, they have become intuitive experts on anatomical functions. ‘As remarkable as this seems, it is literally child’s play to someone with Sersi’s skill!’
Captain America calls out to the Avengers and asks them to assume attack formation, before motioning to the structure before them and asking Sersi if she is sure that this is Ghaur’s base. Sersi replies that she is, and even if it wasn’t the place where she has tracked She-Hulk to, she can detect countless Deviant minds inside. ‘Very well then…Iron Man, would you care to announce us?’ Captain America asks. ‘Sure thing, I’ll just scoot on over and…knock!’ Iron Man replies as he stands outside the wall of the barnacle-like base and blasts it open with ease.
Water begins to fill the first room, knocking several Deviants out of the way, the Avengers leap into the base, ‘Hit ‘em, Avengers!’ Captain America orders, before asking Sersi to use her powers to seal their point of entry. ‘And change us back to air-breathers!’ he adds. Sersi complies, while Iron Man and the Vision begin the battle already, as they were not subject to Sersi’s transformation, they tear through a grouping of Deviant’s. And although Iron Man admits that they are tough stuff, he doesn’t need much more than brute force to knock them over in flight. The Vision passes an arm through one of the Deviants, as effectively as he did against the sea-monster, rendering the Deviant unconscious. Captain America orders Simon, Janet and Hank to fan out, ‘Don’t provide them with a close-packed target! We’ve got surprise and power on our side, but they outnumber us at least ten to one!’ he exclaims.
At that moment, in the main chamber, Dagger tosses her light powers into the Lens of Power, ‘Your life-energy will invigorate and renew the fragment of Set!’ he exclaims as energy from the Lens of Power begins to pour into Set’s fragment, while the other six brides stand and watch. Suddenly, a Deviant enters, announcing that they are being attacked by humans. ‘What?’ Ghaur exclaims, before ordering Storm to go and deal to them.
Back where the battle rages, the Wasp tells Captain America that she doesn’t like this. ‘To quote a cliché: it’s too quiet!’ Cap tells the Wasp to stay on full alert and be ready for anything, when suddenly, ‘Anything, Captain America? Even me!?’ booms Storm as she appears, casting lightning at Cap and the Wasp, knocking them off-balance, before casting a torrential downpour upon them. ‘She’s lashing at us with a small-scale hurricane! Who is this woman?’ the Wasp shouts. Cap holds his shield up to protect himself and the Wasp and replies that her powers match those of Storm of the X-Men. ‘But they’re dead!’ he exclaims.
Cap declares that he cannot hope to beat her head on, and explains to Jan they he is going to try a double-care, and tosses his shield against a wall, where it proceeds to rebound across the room, causing Storm to try and follow it’s moves, but Storm exclaims ‘Not good enough, Captain!’ and remarks that her lightning may not be able to harm his indestructible shield, but it can still knock the shield from the air, which it does so as Storm casts her powerful mutant abilities against Cap’s shield, causing it to fall mid-air. At that moment, the Wasp flies up to Storm, ‘Maybe so, but a double dare means Cap’s maneuver was just a distraction to set you up for my Wasp’s sting!’ Janet strikes Storm in the neck with her sting, and Storm falls to the ground. ‘She’s down and out, Cap! But…was it just me, or was that a bit too easy?’ Jan asks. Cap replies that he had the same feeling. ‘It was as if she didn’t want to fight us…wanted us to beat her!’
Nearby, the Beast follows a Deviant while assuming that the whole point of this exercise must be the resurrection of Set, and admits that mysticism is somewhat out of his normal metier, but he knows enough to realize there are certain constants he might utilize to his advantage, ‘And this gentleman’s iron gauntlet could just be one of them!’ Hank decides as he lunges at the Deviant and rips the gauntlets off him.
Not far away, an exhausted Dagger exclaims that she can do no more, ‘Then take a break, kid!’ Wonder Man shouts as he flies past Dagger and smashes the Lens of Power, ‘While I do a little breaking of my own!’ he jokes, remarking that he knows not what this lens is for, but that he can bet it is something non-kosher. ‘NO!’ bellows Ghaur, who rushes over to the life-force energies of set, ‘A curse on his house to a thousand generations!’ Ghaur thinks to himself, realizing that there was not enough life energy infused within the fragment, and Set now trembles on the very brink of life, but cannot come though. ‘Unless…the Scarlet Witch!’ Ghaur thinks to himself as he grabs Wanda, and drags her over to the podium, supposing that her mutant power might be enough to turn the tide.
Ghaur calls out to the other Brides and orders them to stop Wonder Man. Andromeda and She-Hulk lunge at him, while Marvel Girl and Invisible Woman stand nearby, ‘WANDA!’ Simon calls out to the Scarlet Witch, while wondering how he is supposed to fight off all of these women without hurting them. She-Hulk tells her friend to do what he has to do to stop them. ‘We can’t help ourselves!’ she exclaims.
Ghaur picks up Set’s life energy and declares that they must act quickly, as already the fires of life being to dim. ‘From this dais I have preached the coming of the Age of Set. It is fitting this should be the place from which that age commences!’ Ghaur orders the Scarlet Witch to go up a small flight of stairs, where a small platform is at the top, and tells her to use her power to change the shape of reality and to warp the fabric of probabilities. ‘Make the energy injected sufficient to the task!’ he orders. ‘I will try…’ Wanda replies as she raises her hands above her head and pink energy begins to flow.
Ghaur stands with the Scarlet Witch on the small raised platform, where down below the life energy begins to glow brighter. ‘It is working! The fragment grows…grows…grows!’ Ghaur shouts. Suddenly, the Beast enters the chamber, declaring ‘And as we all know, rapid growth can be most unhealthy for a young Godling…so let’s see what we can do to slow it down, shall we?’ he suggests, as he strikes the iron gauntlet which he know has on his wrists into the growing life-force. ‘Iron being anathema to thins mystic…’ Hank begins, until suddenly he is thrust backwards by a massive surge of energy.
‘He rises!’ Andromeda exclaims. ‘Set rises!’ Jean declares as they turn their attention to the stage. ‘AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!’ Captain America calls out to his allies. ‘It looks like things have just gone from bad to worse!’ he announces as he and the others arrive in the chamber, where the seven-headed green serpent Set has risen from the life-energy. ‘A valiant attempt, Beast…’ the Vision remarks, ‘But in the end, not quite good enough’ Captain America points out, reassuring the Beast that he doubts anyone could have made much of a difference at this point. ‘Don’t try to soften the blow, Cap. I blew it! And the whole world is going to pay for my failure!’ Hank laments.
The Brides of Set that remain standing - Jean, Andromeda, Invisible Woman and She-Hulk - gather around the smoke where Set rises from, and the Scarlet Witch shields her eyes on the platform, as Ghaur declares that the Beast speaks the truth, ‘Set rises! The age of humankind is forever at an END!’….
A blank screen of an empty cinema looms over two women who sit across from each other, half-empty popcorn buckets and soda bottles line the aisles. ‘Hell there, Avenger-watchers! I am Jennifer Walters, better known as the Sensational She-Hulk, and across the aisle from me is that darling of the jet-set, one of the founding members of the Avengers themselves - Janet van Dyne, the Wondrous Wasp!’. ‘You’re too kind, Jen!’ the Wasp replies, before addressing an “audience” and remarking that there is not a lot of Avenging to be done today, so she and Jen have decided to kill a couple of hours playing one of their favorite bachelorette party games - “Rate the Hunks”.
The She-Hulk explains that they will flash some archival footage of their fellow male Avengers and then rate each of them by their hunkiness, on the standard 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. Jan exclaims that a 1 barely qualifies for manhood, let alone hunkdom. ‘Avoid them at all costs!’ she exclaims, remarking that she is talking about major league barf-bags like Attuma and Thanos. Jan adds that a 2 is just a minor league barf-bag but you would still go to considerable effort to avoid them - like the Mole Man, he would be a definite 2. ‘A 3 you’d make a little less effort to avoid, and a 4 even less than that’ she explains.
She-Hulk remarks that 5’s are just on the threshold of hunkiness, that they are guys you would look at if they were standing in front of you, but you wouldn’t go out of your way to look at - Magneto being a good example. Jan points out that a 6, on the other hand, is someone you would go out of your way to look at, but they would still have to do a lot for you before you’d let them get paw prints on you, while a 7 is a definite hunk, ‘Someone who you wouldn’t kick of the Jacuzzi just for eating crackers‘.
The She-Hulk jokes that an 8 is a guy you would actually supply with the crackers if he said he wanted to take a splash in the Jacuzzi with you. ‘We’re talking definite appeal here, a minor-league hunk’. She explains that a 9 is a major-league hunk - someone definitely worth risking your reputation for. Jan smiles that the perfect 10 is a guy who’s Godly in his hunkiness, someone who you would do anything - anything for. ‘Okay, I’m panting to get started, let’s get down to cases!’ the She-Hulk exclaims, as she and the Wasp turn their attention to the giant screen, where the first image appears:
‘Let’s start at the top’ Jan remarks as an image of Thor appears, ‘Here’s a perfect 10 if ever there was one. Thor…Godhunk of Thunder!’ she exclaims. The She-Hulk agrees, but remarks that she wishes Thor didn’t act like he knows he is. ‘Thos could literally get any girl he wants!’.
An image of Iron Man appears on-screen, and the She-Hulk remarks that it is hard to tell how hunky he is under all that armor, especially with the muscles molded right into the metal. ‘Still, he acts pretty cool, so sight unseen, I’d give him a 7’ she exclaims. The Wasp reveals that she does happen to know what Iron Man looks like under al that, ‘and I can tell you he puts Tom Selleck to shame. Definitely a 9’.
Captain America shows up next, and She-Hulk exclaims that Mr. Avenger himself, for a little guy, certainly has the body, the looks, and the moves to put everybody who isn’t a God to shame, and reveals that her only problem with him is that he doesn’t ever hang loose. ‘For me, that knocks him down to an 8’. The Wasp tells She-Hulk that she is being unfair, and exclaims that Cap is another perfect 10 ‘And he’s not even a God like Thor. Human beings can’t get any yummier than him!’
Quicksilver is next up, and the She-Hulk remarks that he may be one of the fastest men alive, but now with the ladies though. Jennifer admits that she has never met him, but from what she has heard, he is a creep. ‘I’ll give him a 4’. The Wasp remarks that Quicksilver has always had his share of problems but it isn’t like he is repulsive or anything, ‘I’ll give him a 5 - he has great legs’.
‘Up next is our battling bowman Hawkeye!’ the Wasp remarks, admitting that his obnoxiousness used to really irk her, but as he got married and became leader of the West Coast branch of the Avengers, that seemed to really mature him. ‘He’s kind of cute, sometimes funny, and has great biceps. I’ll give him an 8!’. She-Hulk remarks that Hawkeye used to get her really riled too, but she never had to put up with him as long as Janet did. She adds that she admires his guts running out into the battlefield with nothing more than a bow and arrow. ‘He’s got a cute tush - let me give him a 6’.
The Prince of Power, Hercules appears next, and the Wasp calls the Lion of Olympus a big-time blowhard, though admits that his looks could give Thor a run for his money, but his personality is very annoying. ‘I can’t see giving him more than a 7’. ‘You’ve got to be kidding! Herc is hunkier than Thor, and not only that, he really knows how to party!’ the She-Hulk exclaims, before remarking that she doesn’t believe he is dead either, and declares that when he shows up on their doorstep again, she is going for him in a big way. ‘10!’ she announces.
The Black Panther is next up, and She-Hulk exclaims that the African Prince is one of the richest guys in the world, and although she hasn’t hung out with him that much, she can tell he is a real charmer, so she gives him an 8. The Wasp declares that no one has the moves that the Black Panther has - not even Cap. Jan adds that the Black Panther has a wonderful accent. ‘And talk about animal magnetism - ow! He’s hot! A definite 9!’.
The ghostly Vision appears next and She-Hulk exclaims that she doesn’t know what the Scarlet Witch ever saw in the android. ‘I mean, toasters are fine, but who’d ever want to marry one? He gives me the heebie-jeebies. A 1!’ she declares. The Wasp remarks that the Vision isn’t that bad, he simply takes some getting used to, and before he was lobotomized, he was almost likeable in a Spock-like way. ‘Even now I’d give him a least a 3’ Janet remarks.
The Wasp is almost flustered when the Black Knight appears on the screen, and admits that she really likes him, adding that he is quite good looking too. She explains that Dane was really into her for a while, but for some reason he reminded her too much of her ex, Hank. ‘Let me giver him a 7’. She-Hulk remarks that she found the Black Knight a little stiff - no pun in tended - and it was bad enough when he played the cold scientist, but then when he started spouting all that medieval lingo… ‘Forget it! I’d give him about a 5’.
She-Hulk motions to the Falcon, who appears on screen next, and she exclaims that she was told he holds one of the shortest memberships of the Avengers on record. Jen admits that she has never worked with him herself, and doesn’t recall saying more than a few words to him. ‘Well, he’s no Captain America, I’ll give him a 5’. The Wasp remarks that the Falcon is a really nice guy, and has a real cool subtle coolness that she admires, before announcing that she gives him a 7.
‘Presenting the first actor-Avenger!’ the Wasp jokes as Wonder Man appears on the cinema screen. Jan declares that she likes Wonder Man better in person that in his films, where he has this big macho image, when in really he can be quite sensitive. ‘He’s a real hunk’s hunk - an 8’ Jan exclaims. She-Hulk remarks that Wonder Man has a great body, and one of the best haircuts on the team, but that his weird eyes turn her off. ‘He ought to go back to wearing shades! Really!’ the She-Hulk exclaims, adding that until he does, she can only give him a 7.
As Starfox appears on the screen, the Wasp exclaims that she never trusts a guy whose parents named him after the God of Love. ‘Eros, indeed!’ she exclaims, before admitting that she personally knows that Starfox really shows a girl a good time, but that he is simply a little too sleazy for anything more than a fling, so she rates him an 8. Jennifer agrees that Starfox is cute, but that guys who are constantly on the make really put her off, and with his pleasure stimulating mind-power, you can never know if you like him as much as you think you do, or if he is manipulating you, so Jennifer gives him a 6.
When the scantily-clad Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner shows up on the screen, the Wasp remarks that there is something about him that has always spooked her, as he is such an intense, imposing figure, but she can see how women might really find him sexy, but he simply doesn’t do much for her, so she gives him a 6. Jennifer admits that she doesn’t know Namor very well, but that she finds him pretty hunkish, what with that nice sleek build, his penetrating eyes and those wings on his ankles which are cute. ‘Sure wish the rest of the Avengers had his taste in costumes!’ she declares, before rating the Sub-Mariner an 8.
Janet and Jennifer both make gag-reflexes when the next Avenger appears on screen - Doctor Druid! The Wasp exclaims that, in her opinion, Druid is the worst Avenger they have ever had, and that there is not one thing about him that she likes. ‘Wait - yes there is - I like how he used his cloak to cover up his pot-belly!’ Jan exclaims, before giving Doctor Druid a 1, and admitting that she would take Mole Man over Druid. The She-Hulk declares that Druid is number one on her hate-parade also, ‘His haughty attitude, that snooty Boston accent, that stupid goatee - yuck!’ Jen exclaims that she hopes Druid stays lost in that time-warp forever. ‘Next video clip please!’ she snaps.
When Mr. Fantastic appears on the screen, the Wasp remarks that he wasn’t an Avenger for very long, but an Avenger is an Avenger. Jan reveals that she has always had a thing for brainy older men who smoke pipes, so Reed is definitely high on her list. ‘I love men who have no idea how sexy they are’ Jan exclaims, before rating Mr. Fantastic a 9. The She-Hulk declares that she really loves Reed, but as she was a member of the Fantastic Four also, she has a real hard time dissociating Reed from his wife, the Invisible Woman, and that Reed seems so ineligible for fooling around, that she is at a loss. ‘Let me give him a 4, okay? It’s his favorite number’.
Gilgamesh the Forgotten One is up next, and the She-Hulk remarks that the Eternal is right up there with Thor, Hercules, Namor and Wonder Man as one of the strongest male Avengers. She points out that he seems nice enough, but that there is a certain sadness about him, which she finds depressing, so rates him a 7. The Wasp explains that she doesn’t know Gilgamesh at all, and they only met once, but she knows what Jen means about the sad quality. ‘I’m somewhat attracted by the strong silent types - they really bring out my mothering instinct!’ Jan exclaims, before remarking that he has to do something about his silly code-name and taste in clothes, but gives him a 7 also.
‘Oh. Him. The USAgent’ Janet mumbles when the handsome USAgent appears next on the screen. Janet declares that she doesn’t know what to make of the USAgent yet, as he has a hunkish enough body, but there is something off about him, ‘He’s like Cap minus the compassion’ Jan suggests, adding that he make her uncomfortable, so gives him a 3. She-Hulk declares that she has yet to meet USAgent, but that if she were Cap, then she would sue USAgent for copyright infringement. ‘He’s more of a Cap-clone than I am of my cousin, Bruce!’ Jennifer exclaims, before remarking that USAgent looks a little taller than Cap, so by looks alone gives him a 5.
‘And now for the newest Avenger, Quasar!’ She-Hulk exclaims as Quasar appears on the cinema screen. Jen declares that she likes Quasar, and points out that he is really trying to make the grade, not to mention is definitely on the cute side, and reminds her a bit of a young Cap. ‘He’s okay, nothing special. I’d rate him a 6’. The Wasp agrees that Quasar is cute, but that younger guys are not her cup of tea, and that her main impression is that Quasar is really thrilled to be an Avenger. ‘He’s got definite future hunk potential, he’s not there yet, I’ll give him a 6’.
The cinema screen switches off, and Jen tells Jan that is every male Avenger, except for her cousin the Hulk, whom she would feel weird rating, and Jan’s ex-husband Hank, who she thinks Jan might have trouble rating. Jan adds that there was also the Swordsman who was the first Avenger to die in action, who was before She-Hulk’s time. She-Hulk asks the Wasp if she has any closing comments for their audience. ‘Only that I hope everyone had as much fun as I did playing “rate the hunk” Jan grins, before exclaiming ‘Please don’t tell the boys what we said about them - I’d be so embarrassed!’.
‘Geronimo!’ USAgent a.k.a. the handsome Johnny Walker, thinks to himself as he dives from a Quinjet into open air above a nameless Pacific atoll. Johnny wonders why people say that when they bail out of a plane, as that was the name of an Indian chief. ‘What’s the connection? I bet he never bailed out of a plane’ John jokes, before supposing that Geronimo was a fearless warrior, willing to leap where lesser men feared to look. ‘I can relate to that’ Johnny boasts, declaring that he lives for danger, for fighting the good fight, and for making this world a safer, freer place. ‘In fact, I’m America’s secret weapon in the war against tyranny!’
Johnny wonders if he is going to find a tyrant to stop on the atoll beneath him, ‘Or are those wimps in the Avengers sending me on a stupid snipe hunt?’. As Walker opens his parachute, laser fire bursts up towards him from the small island below. ‘A laser show, just for my benefit, I’ll betcha’ he remarks, before deciding that this might pan out after all. ‘Hope so’ he tells himself, remarking that all the Avengers ever do is sit around the hacienda and relate to one another. ‘I’m just not the California type’.
The mysterious assailant hones in on USAgent, and the laser fire gets closer, lucky Johnny blocks a blast with his trusty shield, not worried at all that the laser may be able to penetrate the shield - but his parachute is another matter, and one of the laser blasts rips through it. ‘Okay, snipe, you got me. I’m falling to my doom already’ Johnny mumbles sarcastically, but he has located the area where the laser blasts are originating, so swings his body in mid-air closer to that area, and as he begins to free-fall after getting rid of his parachute, he remarks that, after falling to his doom, he is going to pay the sniper a visit, ‘And stuff that laser-blaster of yours up one of your body’s seven natural openings. Your pick’.
Johnny tucks his muscular body up behind his shield so he doesn’t take all the impact himself, while wondering if you shout “Geronimo” when bailing out of a plane with a parachute what it is you say when you jump out without one. ‘Sitting bull?’ he supposes. As Johnny reaches the jungle below, he decides that the fall hasn’t been that bad so far, and uses his shield to protect his face from the trees. ‘Always loved trees. Used to have a clubhouse in the old peach tree in the back yard. Had a rope I could swing off, just like Johnny Weismuller, had the best Tarzan yell in the whole county, too’ Johnny exclaims, recalling some of his childhood, though he wishes his Pa hadn’t torn the old club house down.
Finally, Johnny lands on the leafy ground with a thud. ‘Quite the little jungle here. Reminds me of the one of Gilligan’s Island’, he remarks as he makes his way through the lush green jungle. Johnny recalls that he was eighteen when he learned that island was just a Hollywood set, ‘Man, it seemed so real - well, it could have been for real. Hawaii Five-O was filmed in Hawaii, wasn’t it?’ Standing behind a tree and peering around it, Johnny thinks that he hasn’t had time to watch TV in years. ‘I hear there isn’t much on worth watching anyway…except for maybe the remake of the Twilight Zone’ he remarks, as he sees a large silver and red robot-sniper stride past him, and decides that it look like something tight out of Rod Sterling.
‘What do we got here…a robot…or a jerk in a tin suit?’ Johnny wonders, knowing that he would prefer a robot, for he has fought jerks in tin suits before, and a robot might actually put up a decent fight. Johnny picks up a decent-sized rock and as he does so remembers the “Rock ‘em sock ‘em” robot set and how he and his brother used to spend hours making them and going at it. ‘Now that was one swell toy. Haven’t thought of that in years!’. Johnny throws the rock towards the robot - or jerk inside a tin suit - and remarks that his brother Mike is such a guy, and who taught him a lot - everything from skipping stones across a creek to Rolling Stones’ “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out”.
‘I wonder what “Ya-Ya’s” are?’ Johnny mumbles as he dodges a laser blast from his opponent who has spun around, seeing USAgent. Johnny realizes that “Ya-Ya’s” are probably something dirty, and remembers how his Ma said rock’n’roll was the Devil’s music, although she finally did admit some of the Beatle’s stuff was okay. Johnny begins to run down a clearing in the jungle as his opponent follows him, blasting him with laser pellets, while Johnny wonders what his Ma is up to right now. ‘Probably worrying about me, mother’s always worry’ he decides, knowing that he should write her and let her know he is okay, but he never finds the time.
Johnny is thrown to the ground by a blast from his attacker, and after regaining his balance, Johnny tosses his shield up in the air, while supposing he could phone his mother, and wonders what long-distance to Custer’s Grove in Georgia would set him back. ‘Custer’s Grove…my hometown…named after the General was massacred at the Little Big Horn’ Johnny reminds himself as he shield tears through part of his opponent’s weaponry. ‘Was it Sitting Bull who killed him? No’. Johnny remarks.
The robot - or jerk in a tin can - makes its/his way towards Johnny, who recalls that it was Crazy Horse who killed General Custer, and John remarks that Crazy Horse is a great name, and recalls that it used to crack him up whenever he heard it. ‘Wonder what he did to get a name like that? Made his horse gallop funny? Made a war cry that sounds like d the whinny of a horse?’ With his shield firmly in the grasp of his foe, Johnny picks up a large rock, and decides that maybe, Crazy Horse was a wild man when t came to fighting a bucking bronco, an untameable beast. ‘Nah, why should Indian names have any more meaning than English names?’ Johnny wonders as he leaps at his opponent and smashes the rock in its/his face, while grabbing back his shield.
‘My name, for instance, what does “John Walker” mean - “Man who walks to the john”?’ USAgent wonders as his enemy tosses him aside. Johnny falls to the ground. ‘John Walker can’t walk…stand first’ he tells himself as his enemy looms over him. The robot / jerk in a tin suit brings a hand down towards Johnny with a powerful slam, but John dodges backwards,’ Handstand? Handspring…winter fall…somersault’ Johnny mumbles to himself. ‘Salt…pepper. White…black. Good…evil. Never had trouble telling the two apart’. Johnny exclaims as he dodges the villain’s fist by springing backwards then leaping up at the robot / jerk in a tin suit and smacking his shield into the head. ‘Ma and Pa taught me well…rest their souls’ Johnny remarks, before wondering why he said that. ‘They’re not dead. That was just a dream I had. A nightmare. They’re alive. Same as me!’. Johnny remarks that if his parents were dead, he doesn’t know what he’s do. ‘Probably go crazy…blow up…lose my head!’ he remarks, when, as if on cue, his opponent blows up after numerous bashes to the head.
Johnny is thrust from his foe due to the force of the explosion, and when the smoke clears, he sees an unkempt man in army clothing hanging from a tree branch. Wondering where he came from, Johnny supposes that the man must have came from the tin suit. ‘Nuts, I thought it was a robot. Rock ‘em sock ‘em - rockabye. Rockabye baby on the treetops’ Johnny remarks, before deciding that was a horrible nursery rhyme, and that it must have scared babies. The man drops from the tree and Johnny nabs him, before tying his hands behind his back and marching him towards a clearing where the Quinjet has just landed.
‘USAgent!’ a voice shouts. It’s Doctor Pym. Johnny carries the remains of the tin suit helmet with him and once they are all aboard the Quinjet with the soldier tied up, Hank Pym remarks that the helmet looks familiar, and recalls that some of the High Evolutionary’s storm troopers wore that design. ‘Guess the joker was never told the Evolutionary War ended months ago!’ Hank remarks. As they leave the atoll, Hank remarks that this reminds him of the Japanese soldiers stationed on remote Pacific Islands during World War II who never got the word the Axis powers surrendered. ‘What do you think, USAgent?’ Hank asks. Johnny replies that he remembers seeing something about it on “Gilligan’s Island”. ’What?’ Hank replies, confused.
However, as they fly over the island, both men are unaware that down below on the beach is another Storm Trooper….
Baja, Mexico, now the kind of place you would like to find yourself lost in for two days - especially if you are a perpetually thirsty homo mermanus…an Atlantean! Six such wanderers are currently dragging themselves across the scorching desert land, all gasping for water, and unaware that they are being watched from above.
‘Two days in this God-forsaken desert without water!’ one of the Atlanteans mumbles. ‘Except for what little we have left in our helmets’ the Atlantean carrying a chest points out. ‘Breathing from the same water for two days is like smelling used underwear for a weak!’ an Atlantean carrying a sack of some sorts mutters. ‘If only we could be granted a reprieve of some sort from this abominable…heat?’ one of them gasps, as suddenly, their mysterious follower drops down to the ground, scorching flames surround her, ‘And what, pray tell, are you silly bots doing…so far from home?’ asks Bonita Juarez, more commonly known as the astounding Firebird!
‘She’s on fire. I don’t believe out of all the surface-dwelling super-powered scum there are, we had to run into one who wields fire!’ one of the Atlanteans mumbles. ’Why couldn’t we have run into Iceman? Or Blizzard? Or Jack Frost even!’ another gasps as they all stop in their tracks in front of Firebird. The comely Bonita smiles as she introduces herself firstly by her given name, then telling the Atlanteans that they may feel more comfortable calling her Firebird, before asking them again if the Pacific Ocean is that way, why they are heading in this direction?
‘Don’t you realize there’s a war going on?’ Bonita asks. ‘All too well, I’m afraid, air-breather’ one of the Atlanteans replies, before informing her that they are a scouting detachment of His Majesty Attuma’s imperial Panamanian assault armada. He reveals that they encountered the traitorous Namor the Sub-Mariner and his armored ally, Iron Man, during their battle in the Panamanian Canal zone, but soon found themselves detached from their unit and badly damaged. ‘We struck ground and started inland to fight bravely in the name of Atlantis…then…uhm…a sandstorm caused us to lose our bearings…and…uhm…we’ve been wandering aimlessly since…’ the Atlantean explains.
‘Oh my! We can’t have you doing that now, can we. Who knows how much unmitigated damage you might cause‘ Bonita replies, whispering to herself ‘…to yourselves!’ as she stares on of the nervous Atlanteans down. ‘I HEARD THAT!’ one of the other Atlanteans shouts, raising a weapon he points it at Bonita and roars ‘How dare you impugn the warrior-heart of a Lemurian shark trooper elite!?’ He fires his weapon, but Firebird stands her ground, replying ‘Oh, far be it from me to cast any aspersions on your noble “warrior’s heart”, Lemurian’ she replies, before excusing herself as she disperses the molecular integrity of the plasma blast that the Atlantean fired at her.
‘A little cushion of hot air should be just about right for you, my over-zealous friend!’ Bonita exclaims as she casts the Atlantean aside with ease by forcing hot air upon him. ‘You will pay for this effrontery, wench!’ another of the Atlanteans exclaims, rushing at Bonita with sword in hand. ‘Did you say wench or stench?’ Bonita replies casually, remarking that only one of those two would be appropriate from what she can tell. ‘Maybe a desert sirocco will take care of that?’ she suggests as she envelops two sword-wielding Atlanteans in steam.
‘The time has come for you to bleed, fire-witch!’ one of the others shouts, to which Firebird, floating just a couple of inches above the ground now, and ever so calmly, she remarks ‘Believe it or not, you boys are beginning to make me angry’. One of the Atlanteans suddenly finds the water in his helmet boiling, and the sword in his hand melts. ‘How!? HOW!?’ he screams, clearly not linking Firebird to his sudden predicaments. ‘Ooops. Have to learn to maintain my concentration a little better…’ Bonita remarks sarcastically, also releasing the Atlantean from the hot air cushion, he falls to the ground, landing head-first in the sand.
Bonita turns to the remaining two Atlanteans and remarks that they seem to be a little more rational. ‘Or at least a little less masochistic’ she points out, before asking if they are beginning to understand what someone with her abilities could do to people with their liabilities. ‘Yes! Oh, yes!’ the two remaining Atlanteans exclaim in unison. ‘May I ask you something else then, and receive an honest answer? Bonita asks. ‘Yes! Oh, yes!’ they exclaim eagerly. Practically smiling, Bonita asks her question: ‘Even if your race were to win this ridiculous “war”, what would you do with your conquests?’. The two Atlanteans look at each other, puzzled, they shrug their shoulders.
Hours later, about thirty-two miles away, the six Atlanteans climb into their craft, which Bonita remarks has been repaired and has had its weapons sacrificed, along with their water supply refreshed. ‘Now you will do as we discussed?’ she asks them as their craft prepares to descent into the ocean. ‘We will continue westward and away from the vicinity of all fighting until after the situation between our peoples has been settled’ one of the Atlanteans replies. ‘You’re learning’ Bonita smiles, and suggests that they look for an island named Tahiti. ‘You might like it’ she tells them.
With the Atlanteans well out to sea now, Firebird smiles as she takes flight, ‘All’s well that ends well, I guess…’ she tells herself, wondering if perhaps she should check and make sure no Atlanteans are trying to conquer the LaBrea Tar Pits.
As the Atlanteans watch Firebird fly away, one of them asks ‘Tahiti? What is that?’. Another replies that it is a small tropical island filled with lush landscapes, crystal clear seas and beautiful, bountiful surface sirens. ‘We will crush them under out Atlantean might and show them the ferocity of a true warrior born!’ one of the others exclaims. ‘NAAAAH!’ they all exclaim in unison.
‘I am the Watcher, and I observer not one Earth, but many!’ the omnipresent cosmic being announces as he turns his attention to the Earth designated Earth-712, otherwise known as “Earth-S”. On this earth, an alternate reality, the Serpent Cartel, servants of the demon Set, used the dread Serpent Crown to take control of the United States - but fortune’s wheel turned again, and the Goddess who was Set’s foe appeared to a sorceress imprisoned by the Cartel.
Indeed, Arcanna Jones, sits in her cell, wearing only tattered garments, the usually glamorous Arcanna lights up when Gaea appears before her. ‘Be of good cheer, Arcanna!’ Gaea exclaims, before informing her that her friends Nighthawk and Power Princess are now in this very building, intent on rescuing her. ‘The time of your deliverance and that of this world from the grasp of Set is at hand!’ Gaea announces. Arcanna asks about the Serpent Crown, remarking that the Cartel used it to enslave all her other friends in the Squadron Supreme. ‘How can we fight that?’ she asks.
Gaea reveals that the Cartel no longer has the Crown, explaining to Arcanna that it was stolen by the Avengers, champions of justice from another Earth, and that Set tried in vain to use the Crown to ensnare the mind of the Avenger known as the Scarlet Witch, only her mystical training enabled her to resist it. Gaea shows an image of the Scarlet Witch resisting the Serpent Crown and points out that so long as the Avengers retain the Crown, the Cartel’s opponents at least have a chance for victory.
Arcanna asks how Nighthawk and Power Princess managed to escape Set’s control for long, to which Gaea explains that neither of them was taken by surprise like the other Squadron members, for Power Princess’s training in mental discipline on her native Utopia Isle enabled her to withstand the Crown’s power. Arcanna understands, and remarks that she can imagine how Nighthawk managed to resist the Crown’s control, ‘The intensity of his will has always been rather frightening!’
Nearby in the facility, the very man that Arcanna is talking about stands grimly in the sanctum of the Serpent Cartel, the handsome Kyle Richmond is an unexpected infiltrator! Standing next to Kyle, also not revealing who she really is, is Zarda a.k.a. the Power Princess, looking very inconspicuous, the watch members of the Cartel being bossed around by the new leader. ‘But, Mr. Gideon!’ one of them remarks. ‘No excuses!’ Mr. Gideon snaps back, ‘You’re talking to the leader of the Cartel now, not one of our junior members!’. Mr. Gideon tells the older man that they must have been mad to let him be President, much less trust him with the Serpent Crown. ‘Get back to the White House and wait there until you hear from us! And you better pray to Lord Set that the Squadron gets the Crown back!’ Mr. Gideon bellows.
Mr. Gideon turns to Kyle and asks him to stay here, remarking that they could use a mind like his during this crisis. ‘Very well, Gregory’ Kyle replies, addressing Mr. Gideon by his first name. Kyle turns to Power Princess, addressing her as “Ms. Debussy” and assures her that he will attend to matters here. ‘It appears the moment of truth has arrived’ he points out. ‘Yes sir, Mr. Richmond’ “Ms. “Debussy” replies as she take her leave. Gregory watches “Ms. Debussy” leave and tells Kyle that he admires his taste in assistants. ‘Have her stay’ he suggests. Kyle realizes what Gregory is insinuating and replies that she has other business to deal with, while thinking to himself that no one should underestimate her, as there is a lot more to her than her looks.
Indeed, as “Ms. Debussy” enters a ladies restroom elsewhere in the building, and emerges as Power Princess. Zarda makes her way to her teammates’ cell, and bashes the door down with ease. ‘Zarda!’ Arcanna exclaims with relief. Power Princess tells Arcanna to come quickly, and remarks that she has taken care of her guards, but in the process believes that she has set off every alarm in this place. Arcanna tells Zarda not to worry, ‘I’ve been ready for this a long time!’ she exclaims as she uses her powers of illusions to make herself appear to be wearing her costume.
Back in the boardroom, the Cartel members hear the alarms go off, ‘What’s going on now?’ one of them grumbles, while Mr. Gideon orders them to stay here while he goes to find out what’s going on. ‘It should only take a few minutes!’ he exclaims as he rushes out the door. ‘Indeed it should’ Nighthawk thinks to himself, before pressing a device inside his jacket pocket which releases knockout gas into the room, rendering the Cartel members unconscious.
As Mr. Gideon rounds a corner, his arrogance turns to cold gear, as he sees Arcanna and Power Princess overpowering his security guards - Arcanna blasting them with magical energies, and Power Princess punching them up, so he bolts back to the boardroom, however, upon entering the boardroom, he finds it plunged into darkness, and his fellow conspirators lying unconscious on the floor. ‘I’m…I’m alone…’ he whispers. ‘Not alone, Gideon!’ booms Nighthawk, clad in his blue costume as he appears from behind a door. ‘Nighthawk! No! It can’t be!’ Gregory gasps.
Reaching for his gun, Mr. Gideon fires it and tells Nighthawk that he is too late, and cannot stop him now. ‘What? Where did you go?’ he wonders when his laser fire strikes nothing of importance. ‘Here!’ Nighthawk exclaims, appearing behind Gregory, he kicks him in the wrist, causing Gregory to drop thee gun. Nighthawk tells Mr. Gideon that it is over for him and his dark Cartel. Rubbing his sore wrist, Gregory exclaims ‘No! The whole nation is mine, you hear - even the Squadron Supreme - are no more than slaves!’
Nighthawk grit his teeth and retorts ‘The nation is a temple of liberty - not your personal property! And the Squadron are heroes, embodying the best in the human spirit - not immature buffoons to be twisted at your whim! Do I make myself clear, Gideon?’ Nighthawk asks, grabbing Mr. Gideon by the collar of his shirt. Gideon simply faints out of sheer terror.
Shortly, Nighthawk reunites with Arcanna and Power Princess after the Cartel’s security force has been taken down. Arcanna then casts a spell, liberating Professor Iman from the dimension in which the Cartel had trapped him. Then, with Gaea’s help, the Arcanna and Professor Iman jointly cast a spell, freeing everyone in America from Set’s control. Since the Avengers have the Crown, Set could not resist this spell.
(Narration panel by the Watcher describing events in Avengers (1st series) #149)
Meanwhile, the other Squadron Supreme members including - Hyperion, Doctor Spectrum, Cap’n Hawk and Whizzer - soon regain their own wills, just as one Avenger - the Beast - made a desperate attempt to convince them to abandon the Cartel - disguised as the President himself! The Avengers then used a dimensional transport device to return to their own Earth, taking the Crown with them. The Squadron proceeded to go on national television, with Hyperion as their spokesperson, to denounce the Cartel and its puppet President -the power of the Serpent Cartel was broken at last.
The Squadron return in triumph to their headquarters, with their America free, Arcanna is joyfully reunited with her husband, Philip Jones, and the Squadron is free from Set’s control - all seemed well once more - on the surface that is…. ‘So, Kyle, does this mean you’re returning to your Nighthawk career full time?’ Hyperion asks his friend. ‘I’m afraid not’ Kyle replies, reminding his friend that he began as a vigilante, acting outside the law to bring about justice, but the contradiction in that disturbed him more and more - and it still does. ‘That’s why I entered politics. I can do more for justice working within the system’ he explains.
Hyperion replies that it is so strange, for he used to be so opposed to Kyle’s vigilante philosophy, but now he isn’t so sure. He adds that he and Zarda have been discussing how much evil the Serpent Cartel perpetrated acting outside the law - and it has made them realize how much good the right people could do if they took over the nation instead. ‘Hyperion! You can’t be serious!’ Nighthawk gasps. ‘Very serious. But don’t worry, Kyle. I’d never do such a thing unless it proved absolutely necessary - unless some national emergency arose far, far worse than even this one!’ Hyperion announces.
But Nighthawk feels a sharp chill as if he has looked into his own grave…and eventually, that emergency will arise - and with the best intentions, the Squadron Supreme seized control of the government to deal with it. And Nighthawk lost his life in overthrowing his friends dictatorship…thus by setting such an example, perhaps Set won this day after all….