‘I have come for you, Franklin Richards!’ the Dark Hunter announces, flanked by wraiths, the Dark Hunter points his sword at the child. ‘Oh, man! We’re in for it now!’ the Man-Thing points out, while Howard thje Duck, Leech, Artie Maddicks and Tana Nile look on, shocked and confused, and Franklin steps backwards away from the Dark Hunter.
In an effort to find their lost friend Howard the Duck, the odd assortment of beings has travelled across the Nexus of all Realities to the enchanted kingdom of Nevernever-Narnozbia. Unfortunately, so has the mysterious Dark Hunter. ‘Hey, since when can you talk?’ Howard snarls at the Man-Thing. ‘Since now, I guess…’ Man-Thing replies, before asking ‘What’s it to ya, Feather-Brain?’ Howard shouts at Man-Thing, asking him what kind of answer that is. He shakes his fist at the Man-Thing, while Tana Nile pulls him back, ‘Sentients, please! Were I you, I would worry less about the monster’s suddenly acquired verbal skills… and more about the shadow warrior intent on harming young Franklin!’ Tana declares. ‘WAUGHHH! What kinda loony bin did we drop into?’ Howard asks.
‘I am not of this plane, fowl one…and I am for Franklin Richards only! You others are - superfluous!’ The Dark Hunter fires a blast of energy from his sword that surrounds Man-Thing, Tana and Howard, while Franklin falls to one side. Shadows swirl about the trio, calling forth their most deep-set anxieties. ‘Emotions…overwhelming…so painful’ Man-Thing calls out. ‘Forced colonization… wrong… not traitor…’ Tana utters, grimacing. ‘Waugh! Bev…no…outta Pop Tarts’ Howard exclaims. Leech pushes Franklin to one side: ‘Not worry, Franky! Leech handle Mr Shadows! Siphon his powers good!’ the Morlock boy utters - but as he attempts to do so, Leech screams and falls to one side. ‘The boy is of no moment! Like the woman, the fowl and the creature before him, he is superfluous! I am for Franklin Richards…only Franklin Richards!’ the Dark Hunter announces, while Franklin stares up at the shadowy being, wide-eyed.
Suddenly: ‘What foolishness is this?’ the Dark Hunter asks, as Artie Maddicks tries to reach into his mind. ‘Such power from one so young… but ultimately… futile!’ the Dark Hunter declares, before Artie collapses from the attack. The Dark Hunter moves towards Franklin, ‘And now, prepare yourself, Franklin Richards, for the eternal darkness…’ the Dark Hunter begins, when suddenly, ‘Oh, poo…’ a voice calls out. ‘Strange!’ Franklin declares as he sees the odd being called Strange move towards them in a glowing bubble. ‘What manner of foolishness -!’ the Dark Hunter gasps upon seeing the man with long blond hair wearing a blue dress and waving a wand about. The bubble vanishes, ‘Enough, tall dark and…well, tall and dark!’ Strange calls out. He adds that wearing black before five PM is so gauche, and exclaims ‘Your presence is an insult to my aesthetic sensibilities - begone! And take the “fleet” with you! Hmmph! Sailors!’ Strange concludes, waving his wand, the Dark Hunter falls back into the legion of wraiths, and then they all vanish.
‘Who - or what was that?’ Man-Thing asks as he and the others recover from the attack and gather around Strange. ‘That is a very good question’ Strange replies, before turning to Franklin. ‘Me? How should I know?’ Franklin replies. ‘Hmm, yes, well…I’ve managed to shoo him away for a little while - but he’ll likely be back. I suggest you all move on’ Strange points out. Howard asks Strange if he can send them back to Earth. ‘Bev must be worried sick by now’ he remarks. ‘I’m afraid not. All I can do is move you along to the next world -’ Strange announces, and waves his wand. Pink bubbles flow around everyone, as Strange utters ‘There’s no place like any-place-but-here… there’s no place like any-place-but-here…’ and then, the six vanish.
With the wave of the wand, the heroes are gone - their spirits high, their moods improving. But now, dumped with a thump, though they knew not quite how. They look around at their new landscape - lots of lush green grass, rolling hills and strange pink trees. ‘Where the #@$&* are we now?’ Howard demands. ‘Hey! Over here! Looka this!’ Leech calls out, pointing to a sign, one arrow says “Here”, the other says “There” and they point in opposite directions. ‘Oh, that’s a big help’ Howard mutters. ‘Already here, Mr Duck. Don’t need to go there’ Leech suggests. ‘Makes sense to me’ Man-Thing agrees. ‘Well, if it makes sense to Rand Freakin’ McNally, here, I guess we’ll just have t’do it!’ Howard mumbles.
So, the six start to walk, to find some place safe before it gets late. And with time on his hands, in an effort to kill it, Howard, walking beside Man-Thing, exclaims ‘Okay, Manny, spill it! Did something happen to ya t’give Ted Sallis’s consciousness control again?’ he asks. ‘Ted who?’ Man-Thing asks, confused. ‘There’s definitely something weird going on here’ Howard snaps, while Artie shakes Tana Nile’s arm and projects an image of food - burgers, fries and a drink. ‘Yes, of course’ Tana tells him, before informing Howard that they must locate food. ‘Good idea, toots! I’m kinda hungry myself’ Howard replies, to which Tana tells him that he can starve, for all she cares, but that her concern is for the children. ‘What’s yer problem, space shrew? Y’got something against Ducks?’ Howard squawks. ‘You an anti-fowlite or something?’ he enquires. ‘Why, you little…’ Tana begins, frowning, before she quickly returns to her complacent appearance, and apologizes to Howard, telling him that she is on edge, for a variety of reasons, and that he did not deserve to be spoken to in such a manner.
‘Uh….’ the surprised Howard begins, when someone shouts ‘Hey! Look at this!’ Tana and Howard turn to Franklin, ‘Check it out!’ the boy exclaims. And there stands a city, a quaint little town wityh stairs that go up and stairs that go down, and walls that meandered in a fashion so flaccid, that Howard calls out ‘This place must’ve been built by Rube Goldberg on acid!’ Franklin sees a diner ahead, and tells everyone that they should do lunch. ‘Yeah! I’ve got a hankering for a bowl of dirt, a cup of steaming swamp water and a slice of mudpie for dessert’ Man-Thing replies. Howard asks everyone of they think they should just saunter in there, to which Tana Nile asks ‘Why not?’ Howard tells her that in case she hasn’t noticed, they are not the most ordinary looking group. ‘We’re bound ta turn some heads…’ But no one pays any attention, they just continue on to the diner as Artie projects another image of food. ‘Awright, already! I get it! Y’want food!’ Howard exclaims. ‘Ya don’t gtta hit me with a holo-cast thought hammer!’ he tells Artie.
An instant later, Man-Thing swings the doors to the diner open, ‘COOL!’ Leech exclaims he, Artie and Franklin examine the diner - all of the patrons are strange, colourful, furry creatures. ‘This is so neat!’ Franklin declares as he and the others pile into a booth. ‘It looks just like the books my Mom used to read to me when I was little - look! That guy’s eating green eggs!’ Franklin exclaims. A green creature with three eyes appears, ‘How nice that you’ve come to my fabulous diner! In all the world, there’s no diner that’s finer’ he boasts, adding that they have got soup, nuts and all foods in between. ‘Why, we’ve even got eggs in red, purple and green! Name your choice of comestible, they’re all quite digestible’. The heroes look back, bewildered, before Howard announces that he would like a spinach pie, with a diet Pepsi, and no ice. The green creature looks horrified, so Franklin smiles, ‘No, Mr Duck, like this’ he remarks, before turning to the waiter: ‘The, uh, lady wants a salad. The duck wants soufflé - the big guy wants swamp muck…that was fresh ground today’. Franklin adds that the three of them will have burgers and potatoes and French fries. ‘And throw in some strawberry shakes on the side!’ he smiles.
The waiter storms away, unimpressed. ‘You do so good, Franky’ Leech smiles. ‘Your duck has his nerve…but, I’ll endeavor to serve’ the waiter calls back. Leech looks at Artie and asks him what the matter is, and why he is staring at Franky. Artie scowls and projecting a question mark, shifts it to an image of the Dark Hunter. Leech tells Franklin to look, pointing out that Artie is thinking about Mr Shadows. ‘Cut it out! Stop looking at me so funny! I don’t like it!’ Franklin shouts, pushing Artie away. ‘HEY!’ Franklin declares when Artie pushes back. Stuck between the two, Leech tells them to stop. ‘Both of you - stop it! Now!’ Tana declares. Howard snickers: ‘You heard your “Mom”, boys! Behave yourselves or I’m turning this booth right around!’ He begins to say that it reminds him of his brothers when they were kids - when suddenly, a gloved hand clamps over his beak.
Several cat-like creatures wearing police uniforms enter, ‘We’re the Cadence Police! Don’t move and don’t blink! And if you can manage it, try not to think!’ one of them calls out. ‘You’ve broken rule one! Gone beyond its parameter!’ the second calls out. ‘With your wilful misuse of iambic pentameter’ the third concludes. Man-Thing tells the others that they can take these police. ‘Lemme at’em!’ he asks. Tan Nile instructs Man-Thing to clam himself, pointing out that an imbroglio would serve no purpose. ‘Why me…?’ Howard sighs, covering his face, before Tana quietly tells him that perhaps this municipality’s goal may afford them some measure of sanctuary from the Dark Hunter. ‘Huh? You want us to get arrested?’ Howard asks, shocked. Tana tells him that it seems the wisest course of action at this juncture. ‘We certainly have the raw power to escape anytime, if need be…’ she adds.
Soon, a blue elephant pulls a prison wagon behind it, while citizens of this Here / There reality stare out their windows and start to call things out. ‘I don’t wish to shout, but you must cast them out!’ one exclaims. ‘Do the right thing, my friend! Bring their lives to an end!’ another suggests. ‘I’ve no wish to debater! It’s these strangers I hate’ a third admits. ‘They should not be here while your mother is out’ another comments. ‘I speak for the trees…’ another begins. ‘Well, this is good news - compared to those bizarros, we’re the freakin’ Cleaver family!’ Howard mutters, holding onto the bars. ‘I love “Leave it to Beaver”! Thank God for “Nick at Nite! I don’t know where I’d be without it’ Man-Thing announces, while Howard jus sighs.
Seemingly run out of luck, the heroes are taken to the prison, ’Waugh! Inta the slammer!’ Howard complains as he and Tana are placed in one cell, and the boys and Man-Thing into the one next to them. The cat-like police slam the cell doors shut. They sit in their cells until Howard calls out ’Your Gen X connection, toots…what’s up with that?’ Sitting next to him, Tana asks ‘Who are you to question a Rigellian, water fowl?’ and boasts that her race was ld before his ridiculous feathered species was born. She then apologizes to him, ‘Old programming’ she explains. ‘That is what results when you are raised to believe that your race is superior to all others. That yours is the right to run roughshod over an entire universe’. Tana informs Howard that the Rigellians live to colonize, and woe be to any sentient race that stands in their way. She adds that it got to a point where she could no longer abide their warped sense of manifest destiny. ‘I first tried to effect change from within. Through logical discourse and passive resistance, I took my message to the powers that be’.
Tana looks at the small bar-window in the cell and adds that this seemed a prudent direction, as her fiancé was the Grand Commissioner. ‘Love, it seems, does not conquer all, though. He branded me a traitor and disavowed me to the control panel’. She reveals that she fled Rigel and sought sanctuary with the heroes of Earth, whose might in battle with the Kree and the hated Skrulls was legendary. Howard laughs and covers his eyes with a hand, ‘Ymean ta tell me you came to Earth looking for the FF or the Avengers and ya got us? Ho, ho, that’s rich, I’ll say!’ He adds ‘That’s really priceless -’ but Tana doesn’t answer, she stands there, her eyes a-glisten. How could she explain, and would the duck listen? The rancor towards Howard that made her see red was a sham, for she truly felt envy instead. In worlds, they’d not made, they both have been trapped. But Howard had somehow learned how to adapt.
Howard turns back to Tana, and goes over to her, putting a hand on her shoulder. ‘Duck, er, Howard, I…’ Tana begins, but Howard tells her that it was his fault, that he shouldn’t have laughed. ‘Bev’s always telling me I’m a little too acerbic for my own good’ he explains. ‘But the children…’ Tana utters, clearly upset. They sit down on the bed in the cell, as Howard tells her not to worry, that Man-Thing is in with the rugrats, and he hasn’t seen the menace yet that could get past that walking salad if he didn’t want it to. ‘Let’s just get some rest’ he suggests. Tana leans into Howard, who thinks to himself ‘I got a feeling we’re gonna need it’.
In the cell just down the hall, the Man-Thing keeps watch, but says nothing at all. Leech and Artie lie slumped together against the wall, while Franklin lies against Man-Thing. They sleep beneath cold, watchful eyes while all around their heads buzz a squadron of flies - those flies where a-feast on the hide of the beast, which is dried out and doesn’t look well in the least. But, with empathic powers, the swamp creature knows that young Franklin Richards holds the key to their woes, and he puts a hand on the sleeping child.
The night moves along, all was quiet - until Artie wakes with a psionic shout, and projects an image of Franklin looking mean. ‘Artie! Artie, what’s wrong?’ Leech calls out to his best friend. ‘You okay?’ he asks, putting a hand on Artie’s shoulder, as the image vanishes. Artie leers at Franklin, and projects an image of an eye with a line through it. ‘What? WHAT?’ Franklin shouts. ‘Look, Franky! Artie say “Eye”…”no”, “eye no”…what he know, Franky?’ Leech asks. ‘Nothing. Leave me alone. You’re getting on my nerves’ Franklin declares. Man-Thing steps between Artie and Franklin and pushes Artie away, telling him to back off, otherwise he is toast. ‘No! Don’t!’ Franklin calls out. ‘Okay, you’re the boss - boss’ Man-Thing remarks. Franklin tells Artie, for the last time, that whatever he is thinking, he is wrong. But Artie just leers at Franklin.
‘Wrong, wrong, wr-’ Franklin begins to say, when suddenly, ‘The Dark Hunter!’ someone shouts as the shadowy wraith moves through the cell bars. ‘I have come for you!’ the Dark Hunter calls out to Franklin, pointing his sword at him once more. But, before he can act, Tana Nile reaches through the cell door bars, and grabs the Dark Hunter’s neck, ‘Stygian fiend! You shall not have these innocents while I yet draw breath!’ she shouts, throwing the Dark Hunter against the wall, he splatters about. ‘Tana Nile! But how did…uh, never mind’ someone calls out when they see Tana and Howard in the corridor, and Tana uses her strength to rip open their cell door. ‘C’mon, kids! Move it or lose it!’ Howard tells them. The kids rush out of the cell and run down the corridor, ‘Mr Shadow’s coming again’ Leech warns everyone. Howard squawks and wonders what has happened to their police protection.
‘Oh, that’s what happened’ Howard mumbles as they run through the lobby and find all the cat-like police officers lying motionless on the floor. Of course that was the Dark Hunter’s doing, and the heroes know full well that he was pursuing, but on foot, and with three children, they also know they won’t get far. They need a miracle. They need - ‘A car! Hop in, gang!’ Howard exclaims as he sees the police car in front of the station. They all pile in, with Man-Thing squashed up in the back. ‘Say, Manny…you okay? Ya look a little “mulchy”!’ Howard remarks. Man-Thing replies that he is fine and dandy, and tells them to drive. With a lurch and a bump and a rattling cough, the car with the heroes aboard motors off. They drive like the wind over hill and through valley - but the Dark Hunter follows aboard his dread galley. ‘He’s gaining on us!’ Tana exclaims as she glances back from where she is driving the car.
‘WAUGH! Floor it, toots!’ Howard exclaims as the Dark Hunter’s vessel looms over them. The Dark Hunter reaches down, ‘N-nooo…’ Franklin utters, when suddenly, ‘Huh? Artie?’ Franklin gasps, as the Dark Hunter grabs the mute mutant. ‘You are mine!’ the Dark Hunter exclaims, wrapped around Artie, he pulls the boy out of the car. ‘Artie! Him got Artie!’ Leech utters. ‘ARTEEE’ he screams out for his best friend, as the Dark Hunter’s vessel takes off. Tana looks out of the car, ‘They are gone’ she reports. ‘NOOO!’ Leech screams. ‘Not fair! Mr Shadow’s not want Artie! Him say him only want Franklin!’ Leech points out. He angrily turns to Franklin and clenches his fists, ‘Why, Franky? Why Mr Shadows take Artie? Is it ‘cause what he -’ Leech begins, as they move out of the car, but Tana interrupts him, telling him that they have no time for this, that they must follow the Dark Hunter and retrieve Artie, now.
‘Follow him? We…we can’t!’ Franklin exclaims. ‘What’s your problem, kid? He’s your friend’ Howard declares, before turning to Man-Thing who is holding himself and shivering, ‘Hey, Muck-Head! You zapped us offa Earth inna first place. Do it again, and let’s follow ‘em!’ Howard suggests. Man-Thing explains that was a fluke, that he can’t control it - and points out that he never had this power before, and he is not sure he would be able to do it again. ‘Lissen, compost heap! I ain’t letting anything happen t’that kid!’ Howard declares. ‘We’re gonna save him or die trying, let’s go!’ he snaps at Man-Thing, who exclaims ‘Look at me…I’m falling apart! I don’t think I can…’, but Howard furiously shouts ‘Do it!’ Franklin just looks at Man-Thing, who clutches his head, ‘O-kay… here goes nothing…’ he begins, and his swampy body seeps out and engulfs Franklin, Leech, Howard and Tana, engulfing them.
And, soon they emerge on another reality, filled with sky-high buildings and cars that zoom about on the streets. ‘This looks…familiar…’ Tana begins, examining their surroundings. ‘Yeh…a little too familiar. I got a bad feeling about -’ Howard begins, before he squawks and goes wide-eyed as he sees a billboard in front of him with a female duck advertising bottled pond water. ‘No freakin’ way…’ Howard uters. Leech and Franklin smile, as Leech points out that everyone here looks like Mr Duck. ‘We must be on Duckworld! This is so cool!’ Franklin declares. ‘Sez you kid…sez you’ Howard mutters, sitting down on the pavement, hands over his face. Tana looks concerned and crouches down beside him, asking him what is wrong. ‘This is your home world! You are home at last! You should be jubilant!’ she tells him. ‘Yeh, toots…I’m jumping for joy -’ Howard begins, before several of the local swarm around him. ‘Your autograph?’ one of them asks. ‘Touch his coat’ another suggests. ‘Put it on my bill’ another offers. ‘Meet my wife and kids’ a fourth asks.
Howard is confused, but Tana points upwards and suggests ‘That may provide the answer to your query’. Several more ducks gather around, ‘HOWARD! HOWARD!’ they start to chant as the gather around a large golden statue of Howard, with the plaque “The Greatest Duck of All” underneath it.
Meanwhile, Artie’s big white eyes open, but see nothing but darkness all around….