‘Yeah, Torch - this is the Thing and Ms Marvel now’ Ben Grimm a.k.a. the Thing, leader of the Fantastic Four, his rock-like form transformed into an even rockier appearance announces. ‘Ben!’ Johnny Storm a.k.a. the Fantastic Four gasps. Standing next to the Thing, is Sharon Ventura, a.k.a. the new Ms Marvel, crying, her body has been transformed, too, into one resembling the Thing’s original transformed body. ‘Oh, no!’ the final member of the Fantastic Four, the Inhuman called Crystal, gasps. The heroes are in the Wakandan palace of the legendary Black Panther. ‘I guess Crystal didn’t warn ya when she called ya in Aqiria!’ the Thing points out. ‘No - no she just said - get here fast!’ Johnny replies, before telling Ben that he is so sorry. ‘Skip it, kid. Mutatin’ ain’t nothing new ta me! But -’ the Thing begins, as Sharon shouts ‘Bu Ms Marvel’s the NEW freak on the block - and she’s already crazy!’ Sharon bursts into hysterics, while Crystal tells her that they will find a way to turn her back.
‘Have you ever found a way to turn Ben back? Not even Reed Richards could do that! No! I’m cursed! My life’s doomed to get worse and worse!’ Sharon screams as she starts to run from the chamber. ‘That’s what I’ve been thinking about my life - but I’m the boss! I can’t say that!’ the Thing tells himself, before he, Johnny and Crystal go over to Sharon, and Ben asks her to remember her honor. ‘Whatever happens you’re among friends!’ he assures her. ‘Sure! Crashing the Panther’s backyard, you even got you a new uniform out of the deal!’ Johnny points out, reefing to Sharon’s blue and white costume in the same colors as the Fantastic Four uniforms, with a large “M” on her front. ‘Whoopee…’ Sharon mutters, before Johnny asks Ben where T’Challa is, anyway. ‘In the next room, kid, but - I ain’t had a chance ta tell ya -’ the Thing begins to say.
And, as Johnny bursts into the next room, he is shocked to see T’Challa a.k.a. the Black Panther sitting down with the Fantastic Four’s greatest foe - Doctor Doom! ‘Ah! The inimitable Human Torch!’ Doom remarks, acknowledging the young hero as he enters the room. ‘My guest, just as you are, Von Doom’ T’Challa remarks, while informing Johnny that Doom has come seeking his aid in recovering his homeland. ‘You have never suffered the indignity of being overthrown, T’Challa - but as a fellow monarch, you understand the peril such instability can cause one’s people!’ Doom declares. ‘Horsefeathers!’ Johnny shouts, as he tells T’Challa that Doom’s only interest in the Latverians is how often they’ll kiss his foot. Johnny adds that Kristoff is no better - the same, in fact, because he thinks he Doom, but that putting the real one back won’t help anybody. ‘Ummm…you needn’t worry, Johnny - I quite agree!’ T’Challa announces.
Calmly, T’Challa remarks that monarchs do share a bond, a bond those who do not rule can never know, and he must consider his people’s welfare, not just his personal inclinations, but that Wakanda’s bonds to the Fantastic Four and Avengers are also strong. T’Challa gets to his feet and tells the Fantastic Four that once Doctor Doom has departed, he intends to accompany them back to America, to aid them in their time of trial. ‘A not unexpected response, T’Challa - but America beckons me as well, now I’ll accompany you!’ Doom announces. T’Challa turns back to Doom and points at him, ‘It’s not for you to invite yourself, Doctor!’ he declares. ‘Your former rank entitles you to courtesy, but - so does my current rank!’ T’Challa points out. ‘Oh, yes?’ Doom replies, and like heat-lightning on a mid-summer’s eve, bright scarlet veins of blood explode inside the helmeted eyes, as Doom declares that his rank was earned through personal triumph, not inheritance from a failed father. ‘Whatever official Latveria may say, I remain its master because I AM DOOM!’ he shouts.
And then, the clenched fist buries itself behind the royal robe, as Doom bows before T’Challa, petitioning his understanding once more, he claims that he is naturally impatient at his time, for he has far to go before Kristoff falls to him. Doom adds that America is one of his destinations, and asks T’Challa if he may accompany him. T’Challa announces that T’Chaka, his father, was a great chieftan, and that as proof, Doom will note that he taught him the proper manner for a monarch. ‘Yes, you may go with us!’ T’Challa responds. The Thing tells T’Challa that they should not get carried away, to which T’Challa points out that safe passage is a cornerstone of international relations, so it is not too much to grant. The Thing tells Doom that he is luckier than he has any right to be. ‘Now that Latveria won’t vouch for ya, we’da been on yer butt the moment ya left Wakanda!’ the Thing adds. Doom goes over to Crystal and Ms Marvel, ‘How astounding! But as it is, Ms Marvel and I can continue our conversation in a civilized manner!’ Doom declares. Crystal tells Doom that she doesn’t know what that was, but she can guess. ‘So she’ll pass, Doom’ Crystal declares.
So, it is with something like silence that the Panther’s fabled sky-craft leaves his hidden jungle, and inside the sleek craft, the Thing recalls how America cut a deal with Doom once, and he wonders if they will let them at him once he leaves T’Challa. ‘The way America has dealt with Captain America, I wonder if they’ll condemn Doom’ the Black Panther thinks to himself. As Sharon sits in the back of the craft, hanging her head, Crystal quietly tells Johnny that Doom doesn’t worry her as much as Sharon does. ‘I’m with you’ Johnny tells his ex.
But, silent or not, the sky-craft is spotted and tracked in its flight by a satellite, and reported to the land that put that spy satellite in space - Latveria! Kristoff slouches on the throne, resting his head in his hand, as a man in a suit stands before him, holding some papers up, while a guard stands nearby, the man in the suit decides that he will never understand how this boyish figure gained the personality, no, dare he say it, the soul of Doctor Doom - but those who question the master understand full well the consequences. ‘The impostor lies to America, master!’ the man in the suit announces. Addressing the man as Brinkman, Kristoff declares that he knew the impostor would eventually. ‘He will find that Doctor Doom is far ahead of him…’ Kristoff boasts.
As the heroes arrive home, swooping low over Manhattan, where a parade is currently taking place. The streets are lined with thousands watching the procession, as the sky-craft lands on the rooftop of the waiting Wakandan Embassy. The door to the craft opens, and the Black Panther steps out, followed by the Fantastic Four and Dr Doom. One of the officials waiting on the rooftop welcomes the great chieftain. ‘Your decision to visit us was wonderful news indeed!’ he exclaims. The Black Panther thanks N’Baru, and remarks that as the colonial literature would have it, the natives here seem restless today. ‘Surely something more wonderful than my arrival has occurred’ he suggests. N’Baru informs the Black Panther that an attack by an alleged alien spacecraft that decimated part of the city was foiled by the hitherto-persecuted mutants of America. ‘It was? You didn’t tell us, Crys!’ the Thing exclaims. ‘I wasn’t involved, Ben!’ Crystal exclaims, adding that those X-people were doing all right, and after Quicksilver, she tries to avoid mutants.
Johnny tells Crystal that he doesn’t think her loony husband is a good representative of all mutants, but he does see her point. Johnny asks if the X-Men are in the parade, but N’Baru informs him that it is the group known as X-Factor. ‘Yeah?’ Johnny replies, as he and the others lean over the edge of the rooftop to look down on the parade, while thinking that some of them know X-Factor are the original X-Men. ‘A parade! What a good idea! A parade’s just what we need right now! Let’s go see it, Sharon’ Crystal smiles. ‘No…’ Sharon replies. Crystal takes the rocky-hand of her new friend and tells her that she can’t say no. ‘I know you want o be a part of the new FF. And we’re going - right, Ben?’ Crystal exclaims. ‘Uh, sure! Sure! If mutants can get a parade, it proves anything can turn out okay!’ Ben declares. Johnny reminds Sharon that every cloud has a silver lining, while Sharon frowns and thinks to herself ‘I want to die…!’
But, Ms Marvel follows the others to the street, if only because she has to have someone to lean on now. They stand behind the barricade, as police officers march along the street, streamers fall from the sky and a car is driven down the street, with X-Factor members Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman and the Beast waving at the people who have come to see them. ‘See? Humans love heroes, Sharon!’ Crystal exclaims. ‘To my complete disgust, Inhuman!’ Dr Doom declares. The Black Panther tells Doom that he may leave at anytime. ‘Gladly, Panther! I’ll -’ Doom begins, when suddenly, ‘Look out!’ the Black Panther exclaims as blasts are fired from above, down at the Fantastic Four, Doom and himself. ‘What?’ the Human Torch gasps, while civilians begin to run for their lives. ‘The Panther sensed the menace even sooner than I did!’ Doom declares. ‘That’s great, Toaster-Face! Especially since - they’re yer storm troopers!’ the Thing declares as the approaching storm troopers move closer and one shouts ‘Death to the impostor!’ as they continue to fire their weapons. ‘Not mine now, you grotesque imbecile! They follow the orders of he who usurped me!’ Doom points out as he fires a blast of energy back at the storm troopers. X-Factor turn their attention skyward as the Black Panther suggests to Doom that he shouldn’t have trained his troops to be mindless lackeys.
The Human Torch remarks that it is fun to see Doom on the receiving end of this for once, but points out that so is everyone else. ‘I knew this parade was too good to last, team! They’re firing into the crowd! Enough people have been hurt already!’ Bobby “Iceman” Drake calls out. ‘We’ve got to stop them!’ Jean Grey a.k.a. Marvel Girl exclaims as she takes flight. ‘It’s good to have you back out in the open, Marvel Girl’ the Human Torch calls out as he flies alongside her, while the Black Panther leaps up with them. He prefers not to speak when he hunts, and simply attacks the storm troopers on their flying devices. Doom continues to fire energy at the storm troopers, and Scott “Cyclops” Summers unleashes his optic blasts. Crystal announces to Johnny that she is going to churn the air around the storm troopers, when suddenly, a blast strikes both Sharon and Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast. Cyclops and Crystal call out to their teammates.
Back above, the Human Torch goes about melting the storm troopers’ weapons. ‘The impostor is the most dangerous man alive! He must be returned to Latveria!’ one of the storm troopers exclaims. ‘Not while he’s under the Panther’s protection’ Down below, Iceman asks the Beast to stay put, as they are more than enough to handle these goons. ‘Just promise me you’ll do nothing - let us handle it!’ Iceman declares. ‘I…promise’ the Beast responds as he and Ms Marvel take cover behind a nearby building. ‘Why aren’t you fighting, monster?’ the Beast enquires. ‘Because…I’m a monster! Why aren’t you?’ Ms Marvel responds. ‘I…I…promised Iceman…I promised’ the Beast replies. ‘These goons must be stopped!’ Cyclops shouts as he fires a powerful optic blast, striking three of the storm troopers, as Cyclops points out that this is absurd, for in protecting the crowd, they protect Doom. ‘What’s Doom doing with the Fantastic Four, anyway?’ Cyclops asks. ‘I’m touched by your devotion to justice and fair play’ Doom mutters as he fires another blast at the storm troopers. ‘Put a sock in it!’ the Thing tells him as he rips a lamppost from the sidewalk and hurls it towards several storm troopers, knocking them back and destroying their weapons.
‘So the Fantastic Four have taken in a new Ms Marvel -’ Jean Grey thinks to herself as she flies around the storm troopers above, tossing them about with her telekinesis, and nearby, Iceman rides an ice-sled and at the same time blasts several storm troopers, wrapping them in freezing cold ice, while he thinks to himself that “Marvel” is a popular name. ‘Jean sure started something when she chose it’ he decides. Crystal creates a burst of energy and knocks back several storm troopers while announcing that the tide is turning, the people are safe - the people and Doom. ‘Gather the wounded!’ one of the storm troopers declares. ‘The master must provide a new plan!’ the storm trooper points out as the troopers pick up their wounded comrades and make escape on what flying devices they have that were not destroyed.
The crowds of people turn to watch as the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Doom and X-Factor gather together. “The master?” Doom quotes, while Crystal puts an arm around Sharon and tells her that she has to pull herself together. Cyclops goes over to the Thing and asks him what has happened to he and Ms Marvel? The Human Torch switches his flame off and tells X-Factor that he hopes they saved the city from something real nasty. ‘Because they won’t like what we had to do here!’ he points out. ‘Nastier than you could guess, Johnny!’ Jean exclaims, before Johnny asks what the story is with the Beast, and why he hung back. ‘I can answer that, Torch!’ Cyclops calls out, to which Doom declares ‘I’m sure you can, Cyclops - but before your teams waste time on history, I want to speak to X-Factor about the future!’ Doom tells the mutant heroes that whatever they think of him, he is the rightful monarch of a sovereign land, and points out that they have seen the madness which grips the child who usurped him.
Doom continues, announcing that he needs allies to reclaim his people’s birthright. But Cyclops tells Doom to save his breath, as teaming up with him is the last thing X-Factor would consider. ‘Don’t you DARE! Don’t you dare adopt that tone with me! I have fought you, yes, but always with honor! I am not to be dismissed like a begging dog!’ Doom exclaims. ‘And I am weary of being polite!’ Doom declares, turning to Ms Marvel and the Beast, he fires some energy at them, which surrounds them like a fist, capturing them. The Thing calls out to them, while Crystal remarks that she thought Doom was stripped of all his weaponry except his armor. ‘Is Iron Man helpless with only his armor?’ Doom replies. ‘No! The suit of Doom will suffice me until I regain my throne, because it must suffice me!’ Doom explains, before warning the heroes that if they lift one hand toward him, he will crush the life from these two he has captured. ‘But lift your hands against the Latverian Embassy - level it and all within it, at my command - and I shall release your friends unharmed.
Doom informs the heroes that they have one hour to avenge his honor, and with that, he fires a blast at the ground around everyone, and he vanishes, with Sharon and the Beast in tow. ‘He took them down the hole!’ the Thing exclaims. The Black Panther tells the Torch, who had returned to his flaming form, to switch if flame off, otherwise the methane from the ruptured sewer lines could ignite. ‘Holy cow! You’re right! What a sense of smell!’ the Human Torch remarks. The Black Panther explains that his first visits to the cities beyond Wakanda imprinted civilization’s odors forcefully. The Black Panther leaps down the hole, while Jean Grey telekinetically lowers herself down, and Iceman creates a slide for Cyclops and the Human Torch to slide down. ‘So much fer ya doing Doom a favor, T’Charlie!’ the Thing calls out. The Human Torch notices that one part of the tunnel has been blown in, that Doom has blocked it. ‘No problem!’ Cyclops declares as he fires an optic blast, shattering the rubble blocking them, while Jean uses her telekinesis to move the rubble so that it doesn’t harm anyone. Cyclops remarks that the Thing could clear the way, he is sure, but that levitation and optic blasts will do the honors today. The Thing tells Cyclops he has done good, but points out that tunnels under Manhattan run everywhere. ‘Follow me, Ben! Tracking is the Black Panther’s speciality!’ the Black Panther declares as he makes his way down the tunnel.
Maybe, but Doom has moved fast, because he knows where he is going, and as the Beast and Ms Marvel are levitated behind him in the energy fist, Doom sees some sort of hidden elevator in the wall ahead. As they ride the elevator up, Sharon wonders why Doom picked the Beast and her - was it because they were together, or because they didn’t fight back before? She wonders where Doom is taking them - and supposes that it isn’t t the Latverian Embassy, so he must have anther refuge readied. ‘Oh my God!’ Sharon gasps as a door opens and Doom leads them into a large laboratory, filled with all sorts of technological equipment. ‘This is Reed Richards’s lab - the one Ben locked up! We’re inside the Fantastic Headquarters!’ Sharon announces. ‘Indeed we are, monster! When the Russians inserted listening devices into the American Embassy in Moscow during its construction, they were unwittingly duplicating the merest fraction of my most daring stratagem!’ Dom boasts.
Doom continues, announcing that he caused a whole range of devices to be secreted in these walls, and monitored everything here until his overthrow. ‘But if I can’t benefit from them now, Kristoff shall not!’ Doom declares. He tells his prisoners that whether their friends agree to his terms or not, this is absolutely the last place they will look for them. Doom points out that Reed Richards ran extensive security checks on the construction crews, but he offered to fulfil their dreams. ‘Nothing is denied Doctor Doom! Nothing!’ Doom declares. ‘Least of all the fruits of Richards’s fumbling experiments!’ he adds as he places Sharon and the Beast on a platform, which a green energy shield is raised around, trapping them. ‘You two will be secure enough in this stati-cage, despite its lack of lethal screens!’ Doom explains, before turning to one of the machines in the lab.
Inside the cage, Sharon starts to cry again, while the Beast calls out to her: ‘Monster, you’re inna FF right? You’re strong…like the Thing? So smash us outta here!’ But Sharon replies that she can’t, as she doesn’t know how. ‘Ya mean ya won’t!’ the Beast tells her, while pointing out that the machine Doom is playing with has something to do with neutrons or neutrinos, that it is dangerous, like Apocalypse’s Ship, and it will kill people. ‘But it’ll be our fault!’ the Beast points out. Sharon sits slumped forward and tells the Beast that if it bothers him so much, he should do something about it. The Beast replies that he can’t, as he promised, and something is wrong with him, as everything he uses his strength, he gets stronger, but then he gets dumber, and so he promised. He reveals that he is scared he will get so dumb that he won’t be able to think at all. ‘I hate being dumb! I hate it!’ the Beast exclaims. ‘We’ve all got problems’ Sharon points out.
Angrily, the Beast grabs the surprised Sharon and begins shaking her, ‘Problems? You stupid monster, you can do sumthing and make sure we don’t all have problems - all the people inna world! They’ll all be hurt if Doom uses that neutro-thing! DO SUMPIN!’ the Beast shouts. The Beast gets up and looks at the energy wall, remarking that Iceman said the smart thing is for him to do nothing, but he wonders if the smart thing for the world is that he does something. ‘No! Wait!’ Sharon calls out as she gets to her feet. ‘You made your point!’ she exclaims, stepping to the energy wall, she announces that she will do something, and the energy hisses as she steps through it, ‘Something only a MONSTER can do!’ Sharon exclaims.
At that moment, Doom turns from the machine, ‘Eh? Someone else is using my hidden elevator!’ he declares as he notices the elevator light. He turns a weapon to the elevator, supposing that it must be the accursed Fantastic Four and their allies. ‘They’re a bigger threat than I have them credit for being, without Richards’ Doom admits. He announces that no threat is bigger than that posed by the nega-neutrino displacement diaphragm. Suddenly, ‘Wrong!’ Sharon calls out as she emerges from the energy wall. ‘Impossible! Even the Thing couldn’t escape a stati-cage!’ Doom gasps as he turns to her, the energy field fading. ‘He’s escaped a lot of traps people thought were too tough. And if he can, I guess I can!’ Ms Marvel boasts. ‘But he would recover more quickly - and talk much less!’ Doom points out as he fires a blast of energy at Sharon, knocking her back. ‘And he would respect the power of Doctor Doom!’
As Sharon falls at Doom’s feet, Doom turns his attention to the Beast. ‘What about you? The second-rate Thing is down - do you wish to pit you powers as a third-rate Thing against me, or will you use your third-rate intelligence and return to your cage?’ Doom enquires. ‘NO!’ the Beast shouts as he leaps forward - but Doom raises his hand and fires a blast, striking the Beast, who falls to the floor. ‘Then you leave me no choice!’ Doom declares. He knows that the Fantastic Four will be upon him momentarily, and decides he has no time to waste with mere mutants. He places an energy field around the Beast, who growls, and bursts forth from it. Savagely, the Beast smashes the equipment, roars, and as Doom is knocked to the floor, prepares to toss some of the broken equipment at him, when suddenly, X-Factor, the Fantastic Four and the Black Panther enter the lab. ‘Beast!’ Cyclops calls out. ‘Stop him!’ Jean exclaims, while Doom declares that he has gone mad.
The Beast tosses the equipment towards the heroes, who leap aside. Cyclops points out that the more he uses his strength, the worse off the Beast will be. ‘Easy for you to say’ the Thing replies as he dodges the equipment. The Beast pummels the ground, as Ms Marvel gets to her feet. ‘Stop him, Double M!’ the Thing declares. ‘She’s not moving, Thing!’ Cyclops points out. ‘I know…I know!’ the Thing replies as he leaps at the Beast, and holds him as he thrashes about. ‘He’s growing too strong only the Thing can handle - Doom - no!’ Iceman calls out as he sees Doom grab Crystal. ‘CRYS!’ the Human Torch exclaims. Doom shakes his fist at the Black Panther while he his other hand holds Crystal by the throat. ‘Panther! Give me safe passage out of here or the girl dies!’ Doom threatens, boasting that, above all else, he must remain free. The Black Panther realizes that Doom’s iron grip has stolen Crystal’s consciousness.
Cyclops fires an optic blast, despite the Torch telling him to wait. The blast strikes Doom who exclaims ‘An excellent shot, Cyclops! But once again my armor protects me, damping the impact of your blast!’ As his energy field surrounds himself, Doom tells the Panther to make his decision - now. The Black Panther tells Doom that he knows his answer. ‘I will not allow the woman to come to harm. You may leave this building under my protection’. Doom releases Crystal and Jean goes over to her to help her up. Cyclops, the Black Panther, Iceman and the Human Torch move closer to Doom and the Black Panther warns Doom that from this day forward, he is his prey. ‘I have given you every consideration as a fellow monarch, but I will not suffer such ingratitude!’ the Black Panther declares. ‘You are learning how to be King…’ Doom remarks.
Doom continues, ‘Note that a king does not depart surreptitiously - unless necessary - so I shall not be using my hidden elevator!’ Doom declares, before instructing the Human Torch to open the door for him. The Thing releases Beast, and Iceman and Jean go over to their friend, while Cyclops watches the Human Torch create a small flame to unlock the door. Jean reports that she is holding Hank telekinetically, while Cyclops points out that at least the infiltration of Four Freedom’s Plaza has been exposed. The Thing walks over to Sharon, who has turned her back to the others, and continues to cry. Ben asks her why she is crying, and realizes that she is just lost to hopelessness. ‘Ben - I’ve been a fool! The biggest fool who ever lived!’ Sharon announces. ‘Huh?’ Ben asks, confused.
Looking at her hands, Sharon asks ‘What are my problems compared to the Beast’s? My body’s been torn apart, violated and mutated beyond belief - but my mind wasn’t touched like his! And I’ve always prided myself on my mind!’ Sharon exclaims, adding ‘The only thing that could hurt that was me - and I was right on the verge of doing it, because I felt so bad! But he’s been a mutant al his life - suffered for it all his life - and still, he was trying to do good, right to the end!’ Sharon stands tall and asks ‘Who am I to do - to be - any less?’ The Thing puts a hand on her shoulder, ‘Ya mean -?’ he begins. ‘Yes! No more moaning!’ Sharon exclaims, before declaring. ‘Let’s get on with being the Fantastic Four!’