Excalibur (1st series) #39

Issue Date: 
July 1991
Story Title: 
Heart of the Matter – book three of “The Promethium Exchange”

Scott Lobdell (author), Mark Badger (artist), Chris Eliopoulos (colors), Brad Vancata (letterer), Terry Kavanagh (editor), Tom deFalco (editor in chief)

Excalibur created by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis

Brief Description: 

Currently Limbo, aka Otherplace, is only being kept alive by Phoenix, who keeps the Soulsword from destroying the heart of Limbo. In the meantime, her teammates and the Avengers West Coast are busy battling demons under Doom’s control while Dr. Doom finds himself attacked by a special demon, Darkoth, actually a man whose life Doom once destroyed and who is now intent on revenge. Unfortunately, Doom uses Darkoth to take out Phoenix and manages to finish the strike. His work done, or so he believes, he leaves. However, Darkoth takes up the sword, now intent on destroying Limbo, including himself, until Meggan manages to talk him out of his depression. He thanks her and becomes a guardian of the now empty Limbo while the heroes hurry away to get help for the injured Lockheed.

Full Summary: 

It takes a special man to destroy an entire dimension just to achieve a goal. Dr. Victor von Doom is just such a man. The dimension known as Limbo or Otherplace, as Doom calls it, caves in on itself after Doom uses the Soulsword on its heart, as the heroes of Excalibur and the West Coast Avengers watch horrified.

Shadowcat recriminates herself for allowing Doom access to this dimension in the first place. As everything caves in, Meggan catches Nighcrawler and Wonder Man grabs Tigra. The Scarlet Witch asks her brother Quicksilver not to worry about her and instead stop Doom. Her brother corrects her he has ample time to save her, seeing as how Iron Man and Phoenix seem to have the situation under control.

Indeed, Rachel Summers used her telekinesis to stop the Soulsword in mid-strike. Iron Man muses the Avengers should really see about getting a celestial avatar of their own.

Angrily, Doom tells her that, as long as the heart of Otherplace isn’t destroyed, it will not revert to its natural state of Promethium. And Doom won’t be able to use the eternally energizing metal to rule the Earth, Rachel finishes, which is why they refer to this as saving the Day.

Kitty telepathically asks Rachel how long she can hold the sword. Not very, comes the disheartening reply.

Doom realizes that Phoenix’s telekinetic powers are grounded in science, while this reality is governed by magic. She shall soon fall and he shall strip-mine this lifeless dimension at his leisure.

However, Iron Man also lends a hand tackling Doom. He dares touch Victor von Doom?! the villain protests. Since it’s through two layers of armor, he figures it’s sanitary, Iron Man quips.

Now this is encouraging! Wonder Man remarks, as the others get ready to help. Ten of them against one of him, is that fair? Meggan wonders. Was it fair of Doom to trick her into taking him here so he could steal the Soulsword? Kitty asks. If they hadn’t teamed up to close those portals, all of England would have been pulled into this dimension by now!

Now, Gentlemen! Doom orders and his demon army attacks the heroes. As a demon is injured, Meggan can feel his pain. But, unlike in the past, the feeling doesn’t trigger her shapeshifting.

Thanks to the Scarlet Witch’s hex demon, Spider-Man’s web ensnares demon Daredevil and Moon Knight.

Kitty muses that under Belasco, Magik and S’ym’s rules the demons looked generic. With Doom in charge, they’ve taken the shape of the “demons” that have plagued him for years.

Meggan notes that the demon isn’t a demon at all, but a man whose skeleton is laced with promethium.

Captain Britain takes out a demon Colossus whereas a demon Namor (who at least gets his catchphrase right) lifts up Iron Man as he smashes him down.

Meggan finds her pain is subduing and now has time to wonder whether that strange demon in on their side or Doom’s.

The other heroes find that the demons are getting fiercer. Captain Britain turns a Colossus demon into scrapmetal and Kitty takes out a demon Punisher with Nighcrawler’s help. Phoenix is focusing on keeping the dimension together and doesn’t notice Doom getting ready to fire at her.

Before he can, the strange demon grabs his arm and holds him back. Annoyed, Doom remarks that he first lied to him regarding Excalibur’s demise and then didn’t inform him of the Avengers’ presence. He is quickly becoming a source of irritation. And he honestly has no idea why? the demon asks. Doom doesn’t recognize him, does he? He’s the man whose life Doom destroyed.

He can’t possibly expect him to remember every life he destroyed, Doom retorts. Allow him to refresh his memory, the demon replies. The first time they met, Doom broke his arm. Like this. (Helpfully, he demonstrates) Then Doom continued, bone for bone. Setting each new fracture with Earth’s only supply of Promethium at the time. Doom broke his body, then he broke his spirit, then he recreated him in the image of an earthbound demon.

Rachel suggests somebody break those two apart, but her friends are a bit busy.

Doom replies he remembers that particular experiment. A pity he had yet to discover the metal’s use as an inexhaustible energy source. Or he wouldn’t have created him, the demon agrees. He wouldn’t have created Darkoth the demon.

Does Doom recall how he uncovered Desmond Pitt, US test pilot turned double agent, in the Latverian underground? How Doom’s castle roared with laughter as he changed a man into a monster? Through his genetic engineering and psychological programming Desmond had no choice but to serve Doom until the day he knew blessed relief and died.

He quickly, painfully discovered death held no respite. Most of his body was resurrected in this dark domain – the promethium returning to its source. He knew that one day Doom would seek out this mystical dimension to replenish his supply and he would have his revenge!

Is it everything he thought it would be? Doom asks mildly. Darkoth bristles at this, asking if Doom will laugh when he pries off the armor off his body. He does so with part of the leg armor. Or will Doom scream in agony as he crushes the fragile human shell within.

If his intent is to kill him, Doom replies, he has to pay more attention to detail. He hits Darkoth with an energy charge coming from his armor. It is now depleted but Darkoth has let go. He assumes that was his best shot? the demon asks. On the contrary, Doom warns. That was merely the opening volley. As a resident of this realm Darkoth should know that “he who wields the Soulsword is ensconced in promethium armor.” As he had armor of his own until a moment ago he held back mystical metal by sheer force of will… until now! Brightly gleaming Promethium armor covers Doom.

He fires an energy blast at Darkoth, informing him he is a fool and a whiner. Doom abhors whiners! Since the moment of his inception, Pitt has chosen to make his life miserable. First bemoaning his fate as a demon among men and now as a man among demons. Doom destroyed his life! Darktoh protests. No, he changed his life, Doom corrects him. Desmond destroyed his life himself.

Darkoth tackles him as Doom asks where he would be if he had sulked about, wallowing in self pity over the accident that scarred his features. He would have denied the world his genius!

Doom uses a judo throw and tosses Darkoth against Phoenix whose concentration is broken. As a result the heart of Otherplace is no more. All the demons are losing their features. Without the heart of Otherpalce it all turns to chaos.

Satisfied, Doom surmises everything is going just as he planned. The destruction of the heart has opened a temporary spatial vortex to Earth. Barring any unforeseen complications, all of Otherplace shall become a Promethium graveyard for his adversaries. It is unfortunate that every living being here will cease to exist. He feels Darkoth was just beginning to grasp the scope of his destiny. He leaves.

A moment later, a techno-organic arm reaches for the Soulsword but before the demon S’ym can reach it Darkoth takes it up and swings it at him. Angrily, S’ym demands the Sword. Without Doom’s iron will dominating the realm, he can once again rule it, but for that he needs the Soulsword!

While the heroes are still fighting, Kitty warns them that S’ym mustn’t get the Soulsword or they’ll be in big trouble. She means worse trouble than an entire dimension of rampaging demons made of raw promethium? Tigra asks sarcastically. Cap suggests they deal with one catastrophe at a time. Wonder Man boasts that this is nothing compared to the time the Avengers were battling Master Pandemonuim. Later, Iron Man asks him. They need to find a way to reverse the process Doom started and reconstruct the heart and return these creatures to some semblance of life or Doom will return to strip-mine the Promethium over their dead bodies.

Meggan observes that the demons they are fighting are so vicious. Lashing out blindly. As though they are just acting out all the hurt and rage she sensed earlier from Darkoth. Iron Man muses they might be able to use this.

Just as Cap has an idea, he is struck down by demons. Unconscious naturally, Nightcrawler sighs. That would have been too easy.

Darkoth changes his shape swallowing S’ym who threatens he cannot be destroyed. He will be festering inside him, planning his return. But as it is there will be no dimension to return to, Darkoth replies. As wielder of the Soulsword he is the embodiment of this dimension. If he dies, it too will die!

Meggan hears this while the others are too far away and is horrified. She realizes that Darkoth is planning to kill himself and it is up to her to stop him.

Darkoth raises the blade intent on cleaving himself in two, content that his death will shatter Doom’s plan for world domination. Meggan flies up to him and shouts he is wrong. If he kills himself, he will die a coward. And that would be a waste, because he spent all this time holding onto life! There must be a reason!

He orders her not to justify his suffering. She wouldn’t do that, Meggan replies. She thinks what Dr. Doom did was horrible. She’s sorry that he hurt Darkoth. He thanks her with a small voice. But he’s gone, Megan continues. Now the only one hurting Darkoth is himself. And that’s dumb!

What does she know about him? he demands. She’s an empath and shapeshifter, she replies, and she’s afraid she’s not very good at being either. Usually she would have changed her shape when he did. But he kept her together. Not even on purpose. Yes. He is in a lot of pan but it is only because he has so much strength. So go ahead and swallow her up. She’s been inside him already. She is not afraid.

Darkoth hesitates and suddenly the demons and the landscape are gone. Nightcrawler reminds the others that the mystical realm reflects the wishes of its ruler. Perhaps this means Darkoth is at peace.

And maybe they should take the soulsword from him before he has another mood swing Iron Man suggests, getting ready to attack as do several of the others.

That is not going to happen, Darkoth assures them. They have served their purpose, he addresses the Avengers. They helped keep this world together long enough for him to regain his senses. He teleports them back home.

He tells Excalibur he has purged this place of Promethium. Doom is no longer a threat. A gloomy Kitty tells the others not to celebrate yet, as she carries an injured Lockheed.

Darkoth tells her he’s sorry. His wounds are massive. Kitty shouts she didn’t asks for a diagnosis. Just send them home before…

Darkoth teleports them all away, except for Meggan. He cups her chin as he tells her she lied to him. More accurately she lied to herself. This strength she felt in him, the reason she recognized it has nothing to do with her empathic power. It is but a shade of the strength she carries within her own heart.

No one ever told her that before, she marvels. Then no one has ever truly seen her for what she is before, Darkoth points out. She asks him to come back with her – them. Someday, Darkoth replies. When they need him most. He wishes her goodbye and sends her home.

He puts the Soulsword into the ground. And so he sits. Protector of Otherplace. For years, he has felt alone in a dimension full of demons. Now he is completely alone but he’s regained his humanity. And he believes it was a fair exchange.

Characters Involved: 

Captain Britain, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Phoenix III, Shadowcat (all Excalibur)


Iron Man, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Tigra, Wonder Man (West Coast Avengers)

Darkoth / Desmond Pitts

Dr. Doom


Limbo demons

Story Notes: 

Desmond Pitts’ story is told in Fantastic Four (1st series) #142 & 194.

The Avengers West Coast fought Master Pandemonium in Avengers West Coast # 52 (And it wasn’t as much fun as Wonder Man claims).

Darkoth is mentioned again briefly in the Soulsword trilogy (Excalibur #83-85), but that’s about it for the character.

Issue Information: 
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