In his palace, Magus gloats at his prisoner, Adam Warlock. “Power!” Magus roars. He explains to Warlock that the slightest whim becomes actuality with but a thought. Grievous wrongs are righted by a mere urge; the clay of reality is molded in dreams. Even one’s darkest fantasies are realized by a subconscious that knows no bounds. It is the ultimate freedom; a blessing that cannot be shared. For there can be only one God! And this God is thoroughly enjoying his newfound status, he gleefully stresses to Adam. He explains that he sculpts the final stages of his long sought vengeance – revenge against a reality that denied his own. Adam is in his clutches, while the universe’s mightiest heroes vainly battle his cosmic clones. He notices that even the nefarious Thanos teeters on the brink of defeat.
But most satisfying is the fate Magus has in store for their precious dimension. It is close to being absorbed and changed into a universe that only his dark psyche could imagine. Magus shall forestall just retribution until Warlock has witnessed that come to pass. Savoring Adam’s agony makes all of Magus’ efforts worthwhile. In despair, Warlock contemplates that Magus is adjusting too quickly to omnipotence. What hope is there of defeating him?
Reading his mind, Magus swiftly provides the answer to this question: None. For one cannot resist the divine! His takeover of Warlock’s actuality, using his now missing Cosmic Containment Units, would take hours more to accomplish. Which reminds him… he must ascertain who purloined them and deal with the thief most harshly. However, other matters now have a higher priority. Such as making Warlock’s universe his and turning it into the nightmare he always knew it could be. “Say goodbye to your reality, Warlock,” he whispers.
On an asteroid drifting high, above Earth, Dr. Strange announces to his fellow mystics, Scarlet Witch, Shaman, Dr. Druid and Agatha Harkness that they have failed; the Magus has won this round. “But Earth….?” Shaman wonders.
In Galactus’ ship, the minds of the four telepaths, Professor X, Psylocke, Jean Grey and Moondragon finally return to the corporeal world, after assisting the Earth’s population resist to the mental attack of the Magus. Xavier dismally reveals that he already feels the Earth metamorphosing into something unrecognizable. Jean asks him what they can do.
At the exact same moment, on the moon’s surface, a desperate Thor asks the Watcher the exact same thing. “Nothing, Thor,” the Watcher replies – at least not in this dimension. As Thor is bathed in light and unwittingly teleports away, Uatu explains that Thor now returns to a realm where his might may yet alter this dark fate. He secretly prays he succeeds.
“What the devil…?” Thor exclaims as he is teleported back at the Galactus’ starship. Seeing both Thor and Dr. Strange and his band of mystics simultaneously returning to the ship, Moondragon commends them on their great timing. Psylocke tentatively suggests that maybe now they can… “Wait!” Dr. Strange cuts her off and reveals that still another returns. In a flash of blinding light, Galactus reappears, together with Gamora. “Returned from a fool’s errand…” Dr. Strange quips. “What gibberish do you speak, mortal flea?” Galactus confronts him, gritting his teeth. Moondragon asks Gamora what happened. “Don’t ask…” Gamora replies.
Dr. Strange is certain that if Galactus checks his telemetry, understanding will dawn on him. Energy levels in the target dimensions, alterations in his own reality, Galactus notices. He admits that he has grievously erred. Their prospects have gone from dim to ebon. He can see no other option but to aid Strange’s allies in a last ditch attempt to derail the Magus’ plans before he settles comfortably into omnipotence. He asks Strange if he and the others will join him in this suicidal endeavor.
Observing their meeting from his palace, Magus acknowledges Galactus’ would be an excellent move under any other circumstances. Galactus hopes that cluttering the battlefield with cannon fodder will allow him a clear shot at Magus. Galactus hasn’t realized he too now ranks among the easily victimized, Magus notes with unconcealed glee. But he’ll soon learn, he concludes – even now he joins what is left of the fray taking place in the outer courtyard. Only four of the initial assault force remain to be taken over by Magus’ dark doubles: Thor, Psylocke, Hulk and Captain America. Magus is confident that the fools will see Galactus’ arrival as the cavalry arriving just in the nick of time. A childish notion, Magus snickers – there is no salvation to be found within these dire straits! He realizes he has all the little tin soldiers set up exactly as he wants them: the game is over. Time to tidy up!
Indeed, Galactus and the rest of the heroes join the others on the field. Magus snaps his fingers… and suddenly his army of evil doppelgangers vanishes in thin air. Surprised, the heroes wonder where the bad guys went. Magus snaps his fingers again… and all of Magus’ adversaries are detained within a huge sphere of energy, including the mighty Galactus. Magus relishes: now his house is at last in order! “Behold God’s trophy room!” he scoffs, observing his collection of prisoners. He wants all the cosmos to see that his is the will and none should dispute this claim!
Drunk with power, Magus thinks of himself as truly unique. There has never been anything under the stars like himself – nor ever will be! “Boastful shadow,” a disgusted Warlock grunts, insinuating Magus’ status as his own alternate version. Magus informs him that is all about to change. With a touch, Warlock shall cease to be… and all trace of him ever existing will be obliterated. None will remember Warlock simply because he will never have been! “Who then will be the shadow?” Magus growls, an insane smile plastered on his face.
Suddenly, the door explodes and Thanos emerges in the threshold. “He who has always been such,” Thanos responds to Magus’ rhetorical question. “Thanos!” Warlock exclaims in surprise. “The original,” Magus recognizes at once – he realizes that his thrall has fallen before Thanos’ rage. Thanos provokes him that, in doing so, his doppelganger has also sealed Magus’ fate. Magus retorts that’s a claim that rings hollow in the light of recent circumstances. Thanos reminds him that appearances are deceiving. “Advice from the king of deceivers?” Magus quips. In this matter he speaks the truth, Thanos insists and stresses that it’s all over for Magus.
“Is it now?” an ironic Magus casts doubt on his claim. He quips whether in Thanos’ world alone he should surrender supreme power and throw himself upon his tender mercies. Grinning deviously, Thanos argues that is the wisest course open to him. Impudent dolt, Magus hisses. Thanos would dare mock him? Does he realize what it is that Magus has become?
“I am God!” Magus suddenly bursts out in rage and the room is lost in an onslaught of blinding light. Using his divine power to manipulate Thanos’ body, Magus commands him to bow to him. Thanos complies but still clarifies he doesn’t do so willingly – and only for the moment. Still defying Magus, he alerts him that reality is not what he perceives. “Reality?” Magus exclaims and repeats the word three times, at loss, as if struggling to process the concept. Thanos manages to break out of Magus’ grip and instantly unleashes his energy blasts on him, while arguing that reality is a thread… which has escaped Magus’ grasp! “And so the weave of your tapestry begins to unravel!” Thanos roars as he punches Magus in the face.
“No!” Magus howls and violently pushes Thanos off of him. Pummeling his head in a fit of rage, Magus accuses Thanos that he lies! He challenges him to admit the falsehood of his words! He should not go to perdition with an untruth on his lips! “I do not…” the defeated, fallen Thanos can barely muster the strength to utter. “LIAR!” Magus again growls in accusation.
Suddenly, he hears another voice provoking him: “Is this too a lie, Magus? A shade who refuses to fade into oblivion.” It is Warlock who has somehow set himself free and moved quickly and unexpectedly, now grabbing hold of Magus’ Infinity Gauntlet-laced hand. “One that foolishly seeks to pit its will against my own?” Magus scoffs and struggles to pull away his hand. Warlock announces that he is now in contact with the Infinity Gauntlet. The power was his long before Magus dreamt of usurping it. Warlock is confident that the Infinity Well remembers his touch! But it will be the force of personality that wins this fray – a challenge he gladly answers.
“Bravado from a vessel with neither good nor evil within,” Magus taunts him. Will is not affected by such abstracts, Warlock retorts. Magus insists that he cannot prevail against his own darker half! He describes himself as pure animus; he is the depths from which greatness comes. Warlock corrects him: he is destruction and greed; from such ashes, no Phoenix will rise. He stresses that all citadels are built on the ruins of what has come before. Magus asserts that is the way of the world: out of the flames springs tempered steel. Warlock retorts that the Magus’ fire burns too fiercely. Slag is the height of your creativity, Magus grunts.
As the two combatants vie for the Gauntlet, contained in a bubble of extraordinary energy, a weary Thanos seizes the opportunity to walk away, when suddenly a terrifying explosion of colossal proportions occurs, shattering the asteroid that housed the Magus’ stronghold. Now desperately holding onto fragments of the demolished asteroid, the heroes are at loss. Seeing Thanos, a flabbergasted Captain America asks him what happened. A clash of would-be gods, Thanos explains. Cap wonders what he’s talking about. Thanos suggests he looks for himself and behold either salvation… or Armageddon.
Captain America gasps in shock as he and everybody else observe Magus and Warlock, both still claiming the Gauntlet, now flowing in outer space, wincing, their faces locked in an expression of hatred. While their mêlée escalates, their verbal skirmish continues uninterrupted. Magus stresses that good and evil are joint partners in the drive that is life. Without that union, a man is just barely capable of sentient awareness. Cannot Warlock already feel Magus’ dark will overwhelming his meager efforts? Warlock scoffs that what he senses is the empty clang of words without conviction to give them mass. Corruption such as Magus will never summon the inner resources needed to overcome its own base nature. “We shall see,” Magus replies.
Amidst the sea of floating debris, Galactus watches their duel in awe, perceiving a disruption of the reality flow. He realizes Warlock and Magus lost control of that aspect without the… He urges himself: he must…
Suddenly, reality loses cohesion and everyone’s form begins to degenerate rapidly. In those horrible moments of suffering, Galactus musters his strength. “To me my vessel!” he howls in agony… and everyone is teleported back in the safe interiors of Galactus’ spaceship.
With everyone still reeling from the nightmarish sensation, Thanos quickly stands up and congratulates Galactus: “Expertly accomplished, world killer.” However, he reminds him this is only a temporary reprieve. “Quiet, fool!” Galactus imperiously demands. He assures him he knows what must be done. Thanos wonders if he also knows their chances of outrunning this disturbance are minimal. “Does annoying Thanos have an alternative course of action to suggest?” Galactus retorts. Thanos replies negatively. “Then let silence reign,” Galactus suggests as his ship moves as fast as possible away from the wave of deconstruction.
Meanwhile, Warlock warns Magus that their conflict rends asunder the prize they both crave. Magus is excited: then, in victory he shall rebuild from the wreckage! “Yes, I said victory!” he revels. Warlock’s concern is the weakness that he sought! It is the clink in Warlock’s armor that shall undo him! He encourages him to open his arms wide and embrace the Stygian darkness! “No!” Warlock screams – it cannot end like this; nor shall it!
Magus asks him if this is some kind of desperate trick, when suddenly an explosion of searing light sets the two adversaries apart. Magus wonders what is going on here. He has difficulty focusing his cosmic perceptions to the circumstance. As Warlock floats, his eyes smoking of raw energy, he informs Magus that reality is playing diabolical tricks on him. It shifts and alters faster than mere corporeal senses can perceive. He tells Magus that now is the time to learn the folly of his ambitions… and behold the truth! Howling those last few words, Warlock yanks his head back as a deluge of phantasmagorical energies gushes out of his body and begins to assume a certain form. “No! It can’t be!” Magus shrieks – Eternity and Infinity together?!
Indeed, an amalgamation of the two cosmic entities towers over Magus in all its breathtaking mass. “Now who is the fool, Magus?!” the Infinity/Eternity entity mocks him. In his ignorance, Magus thought he had imprisoned a single astral entity – that he bound it in his will. Did he truly think that the aspect of All There Is was divided into manageable sections form his convenience? Had he no inkling that Eternity and Infinity are but different sides of the same coin? If so, his plans were doomed from the start. Warlock urges Magus to open his arms wide.
In Galactus’ ship, the planet-eating giant informs the others that his sensors show the core of the disruption imploding; outer manifestations should triple within the next few seconds. Nova wonders of their chances of outdistancing the blast. “Nonexistent,” Galactus replies. Mr. Fantastic, who has just reunited with his wife, Invisible Woman, notices that the readings are going off the scale. A pity, Thanos interjects – they’ll never know who won… Warlock or the Magus. Though he thinks in the end it little matters. “Oh Reed…” Sue whispers as she holds onto Reed. “Sue, I…” Reed mutters… and then everything is lost in a bang of purest, sweltering light.
Sue closes her eyes, preparing for the end… and then opens her eyes again, in surprise and disbelief. “Impossible!” she spontaneously exclaims – she and the rest of the Fantastic Four are back at Four Freedoms Plaza! Reed wonders how. “Who cares?” the Human Torch retorts. Thing agrees: “We’re alive!”
In similar fashion, the Avengers have been transferred back to their headquarters. Trying to come to terms with what transpired, Captain America presumes that Warlock won his battle. Thor agrees he must have: he doesn’t feel any different. Hercules confesses he has little taste for such cosmic conflicts.
Simultaneously, the X-Men find themselves back in their mansion. Professor X remarks it’s highly unsatisfying: it is not enough to know the war is won without fully understanding its outcome. “Amen”, Wolverine concurs. “Give me a one-on-one slugfest any time,” he quips.
In his apartment in Greenwich Village, a lone Dr. Strange realizes that, unfortunately, existence is not prepackaged into such easily digestible bits.
In outer space, observing the Earth, Silver Surfer wonders “What now?” Reality is saved – but is it once again ruled over by one whom he cannot bring himself to trust?
In Galactus’ ship, a surprised Nova asks her master whether he means Warlock is now god. Galactus reminds her that to the victor went the Infinity Gauntlet and all its power. It is a situation that must be carefully investigated. However, Nova wonders: didn’t Warlock give up ultimate power once before? Galactus affirms that; however he might not be so willing a second time.
In Mole Man’s castle in Monster Island, Warlock lies still in a bed. Thanos and the Infinity Watch observe his status. The Titan conjectures that it must have taken every iota of his will power to set things as right as he could. Pip notes that Warlock even got his Space Gem back. Moondragon points out that this time Warlock wasn’t able to universally wipe away the memories of what has occurred. That’ll mean trouble down the line. None Warlock need worry about, Gamora argues – not as long as he remains in catatonic state.
The childlike Drax admits he isn’t sure what went down. Can anyone explain it to him? Thanos explains that he and Warlock gave Magus a taste of godhood – just a taste. They knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the lure of the Infinity Gems, gathered together for the taking. It was obvious from the start he was playing a larger hand than he already held. It was also quite apparent that he didn’t have complete control of the situation. His double of Thanos always appearing at the edge of things proved that. The creature stank of betrayal and ambition.
As Thanos realized they were under constant surveillance, a surreptitious trap was set. Using the replication system on his vessel, he produced a reasonable but powerless facsimile of the Reality Gem. At best, Magus merely had the illusion of omnipotence, no more. Moondragon realizes that, without that aspect, Magus was vulnerable. But too intoxicated with the power he did possess to notice, Thanos adds. Pip realizes that Warlock never had the Reality Gem, did he? Which means it really does have a guardian whose true identity remains a mystery to everyone but Adam. Thanos asks Moondragon if she figures Warlock coming out of his stupor. “No, but…” Moondragon begins to say when Thanos interposes by asking her if her mental powers are picking up any brainwave activity from Warlock.
Pip suddenly announces they’ve got more company. Eternity has materialized in the center of the room. Gamora figured they might be seeing him. Eternity explains that once again he is reality and in debt to the man who lies beside them. But that changes little of this universe that is him. He hereby reinstitutes the restrictions set upon the Infinity Gems. “The gratitude of kings, huh?” Moondragon quips. Eternity announces that the power that the Living Tribunal represents will never again allow the Gems to work in unison – no matter what the crisis.
Eternity bids them farewell as he vanishes. Pip quips that that was short and sweet – kinda like himself. Moondragon remarks that at least it takes some of the pressure off the Infinity Watch. Gamora agrees: without the temptation of godhood being the end goal, maybe their Infinity Gems won’t be such a coveted prize. “I would not count on that if I were you,” Thanos disagrees. Gamora promises she won’t. However, she heard what he said about Adam not reviving. She retorts he is wrong. Thanos wonders that, if he is, what will Warlock awaken as?
“Meaning?” Gamora asks him. Thanos explains that Warlock now carries within him darkness without benefit of light to cut through the shadows. If he comes around, he may prove a more heinous villain than Thanos himself ever was.
Pip wonders what happened with Magus; did Adam waste him? Thanos asks him if he thinks of his friend, Warlock, capable of such an act. Pip replies that, under the circumstances, yes. Thanos surmises that perhaps before the original Infinity Gauntlet affair, he might have. Not now: today’s Warlock would never be so wasteful. “You don’t mean Adam…” Pip exclaims. “Yes, I do,” Thanos interrupts.
Thanos announces he will be departing now, before his presence becomes known to outside forces – that is, if they have no objections. Gamora retorts that, if they did, he’d still leave. She admits that the Magus would’ve succeeded in his mad quest were not for Thanos’ intervention. Thanos reminds her that would not stop this world’s champions from attempting to pound him into submission, given half a chance. And rightly so, Gamora quips. Still, she admits he’s changed from the cold and distant creature that raised her. Different even from the man who came here yesterday, seeking help.
Snapping Pip’s cigar in two, Thanos argues that Death has rejected him. Like it or not, Thanos of Titan is now one of the living. As Thanos sits down on his teleportation vehicle, he reminds everyone that life is change. Gamora assures him she’ll pray next time they meet, it will not be as enemies. A sentiment I fully share, Thanos replies, only to add that man of hers is too wily a foe. Gamora retorts he’s not her man. “Whatever you say, Gamora,” Thanos scoffs and teleports away, bidding them farewell.
Gamora wishes him to also fare well. Pip grouches that the man’s no good, treating a good cigar that way! That’s sick! Standing over her dear Adam, Gamora encourages him to sleep and mend. They all have need of his strength. “You said it, lady,” Drax remarks.
The realm where the spirits the Soul Gem – the Gem Warlock wears on his forehead – snatches go to spend eternity. For most it is a place of peace and harmony, resembling a provincial landscape, with trees and mountains. But not for Magus. Sitting on a rock, Magus laments that he was so close. The entire universe within his grasp and he let it slip away. He vows that from this emerald haven he shall make his comeback! He shall raise a psychic army that will usurp Warlock’s control of the realm. First Soul World and then the stars!
Seeing two beings crossing his path – Autolycus and Judge Kray-Tor – Magus decides that these two will be his first recruits; the vanguard of his destiny! Magus extends his hand and then comes near… only to pass right through them! The two beings also appear to be oblivious to his existence and keep on with their chat. “So that’s what I told her…” Autolycus mumbles. Judge Kray-Tor asks him what she said. “Exactly what you’d expect,” Autolycus replies and the two beings move on, fully unaware of Magus’ presence.
Magus groans that can’t have happened – unless… He realizes this is a world of souls! He is but the darker corner of that which is Warlock. Not a full spirit in itself! In this sphere, he cannot even cast a shadow! Not even a shade! Nothing! Less than nothing, he realizes in despair and buries his face in his hands.
In his lonely planet, Thanos glares at the scarecrow modeled after him, and asks himself what he is now: hero? Villain? Neither? Maybe just wiser. The Magus would have held firm to ultimate power had he gained a solid grip on it. He would not have subconsciously surrendered it like Thanos in days past. “Now?” he wonders – who knows? Gamora was correct; changes are taking place within him. He notes in sarcasm that even old dogs can learn new tricks. With insight one’s horizons widen. As he always said, knowledge is power. The lessons he learned is the one true victory. Perhaps now he could retain ultimate power were he to gain it again.
Sitting on the front door stairs, Thanos wonders: does he still crave such an exotic dish? He suspects future events will answer that rhetorical query. Yet, still other, more pressing questions remain, the most important being who stole the Magus’ Cosmic Containment Units. In the rush of victory and its accompanying bedlam, he doubts that any but he have given this mystery much thought. He can think of only one viable suspect. The Magus was created when Warlock used the Infinity Gems to expel all good and evil from his self to become a better supreme being. All good and evil, he ponders. Today the evil was soundly defeated. However, he realizes that unfortunately, one day the universe will have to deal with Warlock’s good side. He fears that may yet prove to be the greater threat.
Somewhere in space, a female figure is meditating, floating in lotus position among dimensions, gleaming and glowing brightly, while the Cosmic Containment Units dance around her. Warlock’s good side is ready.