The Dream Dimension, domain of Nightmare, Lord of Horror. Nightmare himself watches through a viewing portal and exclaims ‘Well, well. Sometimes dreams do come true. Six sleeping precognitive scattered across the globe share the same vision…Hercules returns!’ Nightmare declares. ‘The mortals thought you died in battle against mad Hera to save their world…but someone’s found you alive and brought you back…enhanced? Or is that…insane?’ Nightmare remarks as he watches a projection of an enraged Hercules. Nightmare smirks and exclaims ‘Ah, Lion of Olympus. Will you finally show your true colors…and gift the world such nightmares only a god can inspire?’
Nightmare grins wickedly as he exclaims to his demons ‘Prepare yourselves, my pretties…for the fool is about to set our plate with the most delicious horrors in millennia!’. Suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘So proud, Lord Nightmare? What terrors do dreams inspire…next to the true void?’ Amatsu Mikaboshi asks as he moves towards Nightmare, his clawed fingers extended. ‘Darkness, entropy…the naught before creation! Behold KING CHAOS!’ Mikaboshi declares as he slices Nightmare’s chest open.
‘K-Kking Chaos? You f-f-finally make your move…but why kill me? We’re p-p-practically brothers’ Nightmare gasps. ‘Your darkness is where I thrive. Whatever you p-plan…I can help!’ Nightmare declares, before reaching up and asking Mikaboshi to give him his heart back. Nightmare’s heart remains on two of Mikaboshi’s fingers, and the Chaos King replies ‘Fool. Your mere evil…still needs creation to thrive. But now this honor. In the great return…to non-existence itself…Lord Nightmare falls first!’ And with that, Mikaboshi destroys Nightmare’s heart, and Nightmare shrivels up.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Doctor Voodoo the Sorcerer Supreme feels the impact of Nightmare’s demise, and groans as he eats his breakfast. On Utopia, home of the Uncanny X-Men, Emma Frost also receives some psychic feedback. ‘Emma! What is it?’ Cyclops calls out. She replies that she doesn’t know, but that something just shifted, or broke. At Atlas Foundation Headquarters, the Uranian is playing tennis with Gorilla Man when he keels over. ‘What, a million voices calling out as one?’ Gorilla Man asks. ‘Not quite, more like a single horrific howl…followed by a clarion loud enough…to wake God himself!’ the Uranian replies.
Meanwhile, in New York City, there is a cloud formation as dust and debris, trees and civilians are swept aside as Hercules appears! ‘Attend my words, mortals! For I am Hercules…Lord of Olympus…God of Heroes…come to warn you of your doom!’ Debris continues to sweep across the city, as civilians seek shelter. ‘The Chaos King is at hand!’ Hercules booms. ‘All true heroes must awake!’ he calls out. ‘Okay! I’m awake! I’m awake!’ Spider-Man exclaims as he slams into the side of a building. ‘And face the first and final menace!’ Hercules exclaims, while Mister Fantastic, the Human Torch and the Thing are knocked about as they try to enjoy a barbeque. ‘I’ll show ya menace, ya dumb lug!’ the Thing exclaims.
‘Or endure the end -’ Hercules begins, before someone throws a take-away coffee cup at him. ‘Aww- shaddap!’ the civilian exclaims. ‘…of all…?’ Hercules utters, before turning to the civilians that are gathering around him. ‘God, huh? I got serious issues with you!’ one of the civilians calls out. ‘God? Please. He’s just another super-jerk who’s gonna slap around a buncha other super-jerks - and leave us to pay the cleanup bill!’ another exclaims. ‘How can you say you’re God? That’s offensive! I’m offended!’ another civilian shouts, before announcing that they are tweeting about this right now.
Hercules approaches the civilians and tells them to listen to him: ‘The August Star of Heaven comes - the greatest threat the Multiverse has ever seen -’ he begins. ‘We hear that every time Galactus shows up!’ one of the civilians scoffs. ‘You don’t understand -’ Hercules exclaims as he slams a foot down on the ground, sending the civilians backwards as the ground splits around them. ‘Whoops’ Hercules exclaims. ‘Yow!’ one of the civilians calls out, before Iron Man swoops down: ‘Okay, big guy…this is the Avengers’ show, now’ Iron Man exclaims. ‘Whoa! Iron Man! Uh, could I get your autograph or something?’ the civilian asks as Iron Man catches him.
Hercules looks around as various heroes gather around him - Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, the new Captain America, the Thing, Wiccan, Stature, Luke Cage and others. ‘Now, if you really are Hercules, welcome back’ Iron Man begins, adding that they thought he was dead, though he admits that is not uncommon in their profession. ‘But you’re giving off energy readings like nothing my old pal Herc ever generated -’ ‘Whoa! Captain America? Luke Cage?’ the civilian Iron Man is holding calls out. ‘Enough, dude. Man’s still talking!’ Luke Cage tells the civilian.
Iron Man continues, telling Hercules that until they can verify that he is who he says he is, ‘I’m going to have to ask you to come with -’ Iron Man begins, but energy flows around Hercules, and Luke Cage tells everyone to get back: ‘He’s fixin’ to pop!’ he exclaims, before suddenly: ‘Take five, quote-unquote heroes…we’ve got this!’ Amadeus Cho exclaims as he and his companion Delphyne Gorgon appear on-scene courtesy of a Bannertech teleportation field. ‘Amadeus. Should have known you were in on this somehow’ Iron Man exclaims. ‘Someone had to be!’ Amadeus exclaims. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Iron Man asks.
‘You Avengers thought he was dead. So you poured a forty for him and went to bed’ Amadeus replies. ‘I don’t drink’ Iron Man declares. ‘Wev’ Amadeus mutters, while exclaiming ‘I, on the other hand, being a real friend, risked my very soul to collect the ancient artifacts that turned me into an omnipotent god capable of bringing Herc back from the alternate bubble universe to which his stepmother Hera had exiled him!’ ‘Oookay. But you don’t look so omnipotent to me’ Iron Man replies. Amadeus explains that kind of power would destroy the mind of any mere mortal who possessed it longer than two hot minutes, which is why he channeled all that energy into Hercules when he returned. ‘Now are you gonna let me talk him down or do you wanna see what happens when a god explodes?’ Amadeus asks, motioning to Hercules who is covering his head as if in agony.
‘Hey man, it’s me. Don’t speak!’ Amadeus calls out to Hercules. ‘Amade-’ Hercules begins, as energy blasts between them. ‘Whoa! You gotta focus, buddy!’ Amadeus tells his friend. ‘You’re a freaking super-god now. Your slightest move could sink the Titanic!’ Amadeus exclaims, before assuring Hercules that it will not be like that, as he is right here with him. ‘And we’re just gonna…chill’ Amadeus declares. Delphyne reminds Amadeus that “the big oaf” has not “chilled” in three thousand years. ‘Don’t know why you’d expect him to start now’ she remarks. ‘Delphyne. Support. A little. Please?’ Amadeus whispers.
‘We going in?’ Luke asks. ‘No’ Iron Man tells him. ‘You trust the kid?’ Luke asks. ‘No…’ Iron Man tells him. ‘But Hercules does’. Amadeus approaches Hercules who is now crouched on the ground. ‘Hey’ Hercules smiles. ‘Hey’ Amadeus replies. Hercules pats Amadeus on the back. ‘Okay, shoulder almost broke. So you’re back to your normal hamhandedness’ Amadeus remarks. ‘So yeah, you’re welcome’ Amadeus begins, before there is a flash of lightning-like energy, and Hercules, Amadeus and Delphyne vanish. ‘Whoa!’ Luke Cage exclaims. ‘Thought we weren’t going in’ he adds. ‘I didn’t do that. And given Herc’s new power levels…I shudder to think who did’ Iron Man adds.
At that moment, Hercules, Amadeus and Delphyne find themselves in front of the Council of Godheads. ‘Amadeus Cho!’ one of the Council booms. ‘Hercules, son of Zeus!’ another declares. ‘You have trifled with powers forbidden to mortals - and gods!’ another announces. ‘Kneel before the All-Fathers of Earth…’ another tells them. ‘…and prepare to be judged by the Council of Godheads!’ another exclaims. ‘Hooboy’ Amadeus mutters. ‘All-Fathers, eh? Finally…I don’t…have to…hold back!’ Hercules shouts as he begins attacking the Council of Godheads with his incredible brute strength.
‘Heresy most foul! Brothers! Smite him down!’ one of the Council exclaims as Hercules punches him in the face. The Council begins attacking Hercules together, but his resists their attack: ‘If you cared about anything but guarding your own privileges…if you used a fraction of your power against the true threat that faces us…but no! You’re as fickle and foolish as my own father ever was!’ Hercules exclaims as he continues to punch his way through the Council. ‘Stay your hand, friend Hercules, and listen to -’ one of the gods exclaims, but Hercules ignores him: ‘But today…your reign ends!’ Hercules exclaims as he punches the god.
Amadeus sits down as Hercules battles the Council. Delphyne approaches Amadeus and asks him if he is all right. ‘He’s - he’s out of control!’ Amadeus exclaims. ‘That’s his natural state. You just noticed?’ Delphyne jokes. ‘But just five minutes ago, when we were in New York, everything was -’ Amadeus begins, while Delphyne tells him that he changed Hercules when he brought him back. ‘Gave him more power than his mind can bear’ she exclaims, before pointing out that if the threat of which he speaks is true, they may still have reason to celebrate rather than eviscerate him for the deed.
‘Okay, I’m gonna pretend that’s Amazon for “I love you”’ Amadeus tells Delphyne, when suddenly, there is a burst of energy that knocks Hercules back ‘Who dares -’ Hercules begins as he looks around - before being knocked on the head by a familiar hammer. ‘ENOUGH!’ Thor booms as his hammer returns to his side. ‘Thor, what took you so long? ‘Amadeus asks. ‘Shut up’ Thor tells the child.
‘You too, Odinson?’ Hercules asks. Thor tells the Lion of Olympus that he stands with him, and that it was he who helped the boy bring him back to this world. ‘But if you would lead us, you must control yourself’ Thor tells him. ‘Fine!’ Hercules exclaims as he takes to the air. ‘Herc - wait!’ Amadeus calls out after him, but Hercules doesn’t respond.
Instead, Hercules flies around the world: ‘Heroes of Earth…open your eyes…and show me your colors!’ In Wakanda, Central Africa, the female Black Panther radios the Avengers, informing them that they have a desperate situation in Wakanda, that the populace has been seized by mass insanity. ‘Immediate assistance is requested!’ she exclaims. At Avengers Tower, Captain Steve Rogers tells the various assembled Avengers that they are receiving reports like this from all across the globe, including here in America. ‘As soon as people fall asleep…they go berserk’ he explains, before asking for solutions. ‘How do we stop this?’ he asks.
Doctor Voodoo announces that this stinks of Nightmare, the Lord of the Dream Dimension. He adds that the Eye of Agamotto does not sense Nightmare’s presence. ‘Perhaps this is the threat that creature calling himself Hercules was talking about?’ Doctor Voodoo suggests. Hawkeye stands next to Mockingbird and exclaims ‘Wait. So we’re depending on Hercules to save our hides now? Doesn’t that mean we’re all screwed?’
On Utopia, Archangel is discussing his former fellow Champion with Cyclops. ‘I’m not saying I don’t trust Herc, Scott…but that doesn’t mean he usually gets things right, if you know what I mean…’. At Atlas Foundation HQ, Venus tells Namora that Hercules is cute. ‘and about as smart as a cat. A very dumb cat’ Namora declares. At the Baxter Building, the Thing remarks to the Human Torch ‘You really wanna know what I think? If you wanna know what beer just went on sale at Costco, Herc’s your guy…but end-of-the-world-follow-me-into-battle stuff? Not so much’.
Hercules claps his hands together - and an instant later, in Central Park, various heroes appear, dazed and confused. Captain Rogers, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namora, Wolverine, Quasar, Moon Knight, Captain America, Iron Man, Archangel, Spider-Man, Colossus, Valkyrie, Luke Cage and others all look around. Hercules, Thor, Amadeus and Delphyne then appear, as Hercules shouts: ‘You call yourselves heroes? Today you earn your name. Now listen that you may know our enemy…” he begins, before announcing that their enemy was named “Amatsu Mikaboshi” by the Japanese - Lord of Darkness and Chaos. ‘But he is far more than a mere god. Indeed, he was the whole universe before the beginning of everything…and he longs to return to that condition”.
Hercules informs the heroes that Mikaboshi destroyed Mount Olympus, striking down Father Zeus himself, before laying claim to the slave gods of the Skrulls, marching across creation, slaying alien pantheon after alien pantheon and adding to his armies. ‘His aim is nothing less than the destruction of all of reality, piece by piece, until he is once again the only thing in existence‘. Hercules explains. Archangel and Namora look at each other while Hercules exclaims that he has heard their laughter and their sneers, and doesn’t care. ‘For I know now far better than you ever will…what a fool I have always been! But hear me, friends. With these eyes now so wide open…I have chosen you. Because as infinitely strong as I have become…I need you’.
The heroes all stand and look at Hercules as he reminds them that he was sired by a god, but has walked among mortals these thousands of years, and knows that they were born to foolishly reach beyond all reason - to stand together in the impossible fight - and turn back apocalypse once and for all. ‘You write that for him?’ Delpyhne asks Amadeus. ‘Nah. That’s pure Herc. He split an infinitive and everything’ Amadeus replies. ‘Now, heroes -’ Hercules begins as a portal opens, and the heroes find themselves lifted from the ground. ‘Are we flying?’ Spider-Man asks. ‘Sure looks like it’ Wolverine mutters. ‘Good. So long as it’s not just me’ Spider-Man exclaims.
Hercules tells the heroes that he has granted them each a fraction of his power, so that they mare stare down oblivion and against its eternal no, shout “YES!” - and with that, Hercules leads Thor, Wolverine, Captain Rogers, Mockingbird, the Black Widow, Multiple Man, Wiccan, Venus, the Beast and the others towards the portal. ‘Through the portal, friends!’ Hercules exclaims, while Spider-Man asks him where they are going. ‘Nightmare’s realm! For there, I sense Chaos King’s first attack!’ Hercules replies. ‘Hence the nightmarish demons. Gotcha!’ Spider-Man exclaims as the heroes engage the demons in combat as they enter the portal. ‘And stay out!’ Spider-Man shouts as the demons begin to flee. ‘Huh. Look at ‘em go. That wasn’t so tough!’ the Thing remarks, to which Thor points out that the demons were not fighting. ‘They were running!’ he announces as a huge monstrosity approaches the heroes, a the large tentacled creature with a large gaping mouth full of sharp teeth - Nightmare‘s abode!
Hercules and Thor tear their way into Nightmare’s abode, while Hercules shouts ‘Do you hear our footfalls, Chaos King?’, and Thor adds ‘The champions of Earth come for you! Tremble at our -’ he stops himself as they enter the realm and find Nightmare’s body lying in a pool of blood. ‘Gone…’ Hercules whispers. ‘…and the Lord of Dreams slain…’ Thor adds. Hercules senses something and tells the heroes to beware. ‘Odin’s beard…what is this madness?’ Thor asks. ‘Who else but the Chaos King, brother Thor…he has claimed the powers of Nightmare…to destroy any mortal mind he touches!’ and with that, the heroes of Earth find themselves with tentacles latched to them, as they float motionless through space….