The war with Midas is over, but Stark International has been left in a shambles. Iron Man is surrounded by his friends and allies - and the woman he loves - all whom have been cured of Midas’ “golden touch”. Which means, the only question that really remains to be asked is…’What the Devil is going on around here?!’ Tony Stark exclaims as he stands before Iron Man and his friends - Madame Masque, Jack of Hearts, Yellowjacket, Jean de Wolf, Jasper Sitwell, Eddie March and Michael “Guardsman” O’Brien.
‘You? But it - it can’t be!’ exclaims Madame Masque in the arms of Iron Man. Jean de Wolf asks why it can’t be Tony Stark, remarking that she would be surprised if Stark hadn’t shown up now that the coast is clear. Iron Man agrees, asking Madame Masque who else she would expect to see at Stark International besides Tony Stark himself.
Tony tells the armored Avenger that he wants answers - not introductions - and remarks that he learnt from Nick Fury that this factory where they stand in its rubbles, was demolished by Midas, before announcing that he communicated strict orders that clean-up and renovation was to begin immediately, and Iron Man if he expected him to leave his consultant’s tole at the Salt Talks to supervise every detail personally?
O’Brien watches intently as Stark chews out Iron Man, and thinks to himself that Stark is Iron Man - isn’t he? Michael tells himself that this is more than he should even try figuring out, while Yellowjacket tells Stark that Iron Man was carrying out his orders. Tony asks his ally, Dr. Henry “Yellowjacket” Pym if he would mind explaining how, to which Yellowjacket replies ‘Not at all’ and explains that while the factory staff began reconstruction work, Iron Man called him in to cure the six people transmuted into a gold-like substance by Midas.
Madame Masque a.k.a. Whitney Frost thinks to herself that the real Tony Stark - the man she loves - is inside Iron Man’s armor, and wonders who the other Tony Stark is. ‘I’m beginning to wonder if my lover isn’t a magician!’ she exclaims to herself, before Yellowjacket motions to the unmoving Growing Man, and informs Stark that during the cure, they were attacked by the Growing Man. Stark asks where he came from to which Jasper Sitwell informs Stark that SHIELD has summoned its scientists to ascertain that information.
Stark thanks Sitwell, before turning to the others and thanking them all for assisting in what Washington tells him was a touchy encounter with Midas while he was away. Stark remarks that he will issue the order to recommence construction from his office, before telling Iron Man that he wants a full report of all this. ‘Yes, Mr. Stark!’ Iron Man replies, while Jack of Hearts thinks to himself that Stark is as hard-nosed as the come.
“Tony Stark” makes his way through the wreckage, leaving the others behind, while Madame Masque whispers to the real Tony, beneath the Iron Man armor, telling him that she hopes he has a good explanation for what just happened. ‘Why, darling, didn’t I ever mention me twin brother to you before?’ Tony replies. ‘Twin brother my eye!’ Madame Masque exclaims.
Shortly, Jean tells Iron Man that she hopes they have all made up for the things they owed him, to which Iron Man assures everyone that their debts are erased. ‘Without the eight of you, there might not be an Iron Man today!’ he tells them all. Eddie March assures Tony that it was the least he could do, pointing out that Stark developed the electro-therapy that enabled him to walk again. On behalf of Stark and himself, Iron Man thanks them all, remarking that they have shown him - through friendship - that no man need ever stand alone. With that, Tony’s friends take their leave in their own respective matter.
Addressing Madame Masque as Whitney, Iron Man remarks ‘There they go - as true friends as any man has ever known!’. Madame Masque smiles and remarks that just the two of them are left - as it was when all of this began. She then asks her lover where they go from here. ‘What is to become of us?’. Suddenly, Jack of Hearts clears his throat, making his presence known, he sits on the Growing Man’s forehead, and remarks that he realize that is something the two of them want to discuss in private, but wanted to remind them that he - the novice super hero - is still around.
Jack of Hearts tells Iron Man that after watching him in action he knows he has a lot to learn. ‘Teach me…huh?’ Jack of Hearts asks. ‘Eh? Take you on as an apprentice?’ Iron Man replies, while thinking to himself that Jack was all right against Midas’ Elite Guards, not to mention having the power to take Iron Man himself on. But Iron Man thinks that Jack is so inexperienced - ‘Of course, that is what he’s asking me for…experience!’.
Iron Man looks at Jack and thinks that such raw power and enthusiasm needs to be directed and guided. He wonders if that is something he and the other older Avengers have been neglecting - the tutelage of their successors! Iron Man agrees, ‘You’re on!’ he tells Jack, who is excited in his response ‘Wow!’. Madame Masque remarks that she could not express it better herself, before Iron Man informs Jack that he and Whitney would like to be alone. The star-struck hero complies, by lighting up the sky with exuberant bursts of power as he takes his leave.
Shortly, Iron Man and Madame Masque enter the private office of Tony Stark in the undamaged main building to confront… ‘Your look-alike!’ Madame Masque exclaims, before asking Tony what is wrong with him, noting that Stark’s doppelganger is standing motionlessly. Iron Man opens the fake Tony Stark’s face, explaining that it is common practice for a Life Model Decoy to turn itself off once it has fulfilled its programmed function, which this one has. Iron Man lifts up his own mask as he tells Madame Masque that he has been hesitant to employ this series LMD since he was nearly slain by one that actually usurped his identity once.
Madame Masque exclaims that she understands now how there were two Tony Starks when she first met him. ‘And to think that I believed you were the impostor!’ Whitney remarks. She adds that by capturing him for Midas, she actually interceded in time to save him from a renegade robot. Whitney and Tony embrace as the cunning woman explains that was when she realized this golden mask she wears could only hide her features - not her emotions - when Tony - a man she had been assigned to kill - made her feel like a woman again.
Tony remarks that perhaps he can find a way to restore Whitney’s beauty, to which Madame Masque replies ‘If it pleases you’ before pointing out that both of them know the only thing that matters now is them.
At the site of the ruined warehouse, Jack of Hearts holds a large device as he drops down beside the Growing Man, thinking to himself that Iron Man left him on his own, so he supposes he should make himself useful, though he isn’t sure if being a flying errand boy for some SHIELD scientists is quite what he had in mind, but he supposes that he has to start somewhere. One of the scientists asks Jack to aim the device he is holding, called a Scanalyzer, at the Growing Man’s brain area.
Jack does so, and asks what the power source is for the Scanalyzer. ‘You are, Jack!’ one of the scientists replies, explaining that they have had a full report on his uncanny abilities. ‘Swell!’ Jack replies before remarking that his father developed the most powerful fuel known to man - the Zero-Fluid - which accidentally gave Jack enough power to trade punches with the Hulk and live! ‘So what happens?’ Jack asks as the Scanalyzer does its thing, ‘I wind up acting as a human dry cell battery!’.
The scientists examine what happens, and one of them remarks that the power input is pushing the Scanalyzer to its limits, and asks Jack of Hearts to slow down, explaining that if the Scanalyzer keeps collecting data faster than its ability to process, the information gathered will be meaningless. Another scientists remarks that then they will never trace the Growing Man’s point of origin. Jack replies that he has already traced it. ‘What? Do you realize what you’re saying?’ one of the scientists asks. ‘I think I do!’ Jack replies, explaining that he processed millions of bits of information as they passed through the Scanalyzer and that he knows what each bit meant.
Jack suggests that perhaps the Zero-Fluid that turned him into a being of harnessed energy - robbing him of a normal life - hasn’t stopped affecting him. Jack tells the scientists that he could feel his mind racing ahead of the Scanalyzer, computing, analyzing instantaneously the data it would have taken the scientists computers hours - or days - to sort through. ‘But the answer man? You said you knew the answer!’ one of the scientists exclaims. ‘I do, professor! The Growing Man could have come from only one place…the Moon!’ Jack exclaims as he motions to the moon, shinning down upon them.
Seconds later, Jack of Hearts bursts into Stark’s office, exclaiming that he has got some news for him. ‘The Growing Man…he’s from the moon!’ Jack reveals urgently. Iron Man and Madame Masque watch as the LMD returns to action, ‘Well, I’ve got news for you too, mister!’ he tells Jack of Hearts, before announcing that Iron Man has told him that he will be around for a while, and warns him that if he ever flies into his office unannounced again, then he will be out so fast his head will spin. ‘B-but…’ Jack begins to reply, taken aback.
Iron Man thinks to himself that LMD is reacting to pre-programming perfectly, considering he had only seconds from the time the SHIELD scientists phoned him until the time Jack here to feed the LMD a response. The LMD Tony Stark tells Jack that since he thinks their giant “playmate” came from the moon, then he is sending the two of them to investigate. ‘What about me, Mr. Stark?’ Madame Masque asks, to which the LMD replies that, due to her former Maggia connections, he would need SHIELD approval to let her go, and they do not have time for that, so he is afraid she will have to stay behind.
Whitney replies that since she is Stark’s guest, at Iron Man’s request, she will do as he says, for now. Glancing at the LMD out of the corner of her eye, Whitney thinks to herself that she has played her role just as Tony asked her too, as someone had to stay to guard both the factory and the LMD. ‘This time, I agreed, but I’m not in love with a factory or a robot! I’m in love with a man!’ Whitney exclaims to herself, adding that she intends to share Tony’s life, not watch it from the sidelines. ‘Now all that remains to be found is - a ship!’ the LMD declares.
That of course is a simple matter to request the use of the special space-worthy Avengers’ Quinjet, after all, Iron Man was responsible for designing, building and donating a small fleet of similar ships for use by himself and his teammates in the Avengers. Jack tells Iron Man that stripping the ship of all non-essential mass was a good idea, and announces that they are right on course with enough oxygen and fuel for both reconnaissance and their return to Earth. Iron Man repliers that Jack’s “computer mind” enabled them to dispense with several banks of data analyzers brought their weight down.
Iron Man remarks that while Jack can evaluate incoming data, he cannot fly a Quinjet, which Iron Man can, through an armor modification he has been itching to try some time now. Iron Man explains that, theoretically, by linking his armor’s computers directly to the ship, he should be able to pilot it mentally and take over from the auto-pilot. The armor modification works, and a short time later, the moon is in visual distance. Iron Man recalls how the Growing Man was a Stimuloid, created by Kang the Conqueror, and remarks that they ran a universal-scan after Kang’s death and the scan was certain that he had
no lunar base, at least not in this century.
Suddenly, as the Quinjet goes into lunar orbit, Iron Man and Jack of Hearts are attacked! Jack clutches his head as he feels a screaming inside his head, as if his brain is on fire. And as the ship is fired upon, Iron Man, due to being connected to the Quinjet, feels whatever the ship feels. As pain overwhelms him, Tony begins to black out, knowing that without his guidance, the Quinjet will crash - which it does, striking the moon hard and creating a loud sound, while trailing fire in its wake. The Quinjet caroms across the moon’s landscape for several kilometers, until finally to a stop amidst a cloud of slow-settling lunar dust.
However, two anomalies are instantly and glaringly obvious - firstly, the sound of the forced landing, for in the vacuum of space, there should be no sound, and secondly, though the Quinjet’s hull has been seriously ruptured, Jack of Hearts is able to breathe. Jack notes that Iron Man is unconscious from the shock, but alive, he thinks. Jack also sees the hole in the hull and realizes that the oxygen supply should be streaming out - but it’s not, and as he goes over to the hull, discovers that there is air out here. ’Air! On the moon??’ he exclaims, surprised, when suddenly, a blast strikes Jack, sudden and striking, it hurtles Jack from the ship to the lifeless lunar surface, where he lands at the feet of three brightly dressed beings….
‘The Crimson Dynamo bids you crawl, American….like the costumed cur you are!’ exclaims the man beneath the red armor. His companion, the glamorous Laynia “Darkstar” Petrovna tells her comrade that they are well aware of his passion for melodrama, but that this is not the time or place. Jack of Hearts notices the Russian accents, and asks them what they are doing here, not to mention why in blazes did they attack him. ‘Nyet!’ exclaims the Crimson Dynamo as he motions to the Russians damaged vessel, he declares that it was the Americans who attacked them, downing their ship from its orbit.
The Crimson Dynamo announces that days ago, they detected signals from the moon’s Blue Area, explaining that they now know reports of an atmosphere here are true, and adds that it was the atmosphere that saved them and enabled them to prepare for the second attack. Jack gets to his feet and tells the Dynamo that he is nuts. ‘If we attacked you, then who punched a hole in our ship?’ he asks. Dynamo begins to reply, but Jack declares that it doesn’t compute. ‘Whatever got you, got us too! But just what was it?’ he exclaims.
Laynia declares that there can only be one answer, that they were simultaneously attacked by the very object which they were seeking - the source of the mysterious signals detected on Earth - ‘THAT!’ the powerful young mutant exclaims as she motions to the enormous object looming before everyone’s astonished eyes. Words can only begin to describe it as it sits past the two destroyed vessels. It is silver, elipsoid, alien - but the human term which comes closest is simply…EGG!
‘What is that?’ Jack asks, shocked. ‘We thought you might know!’ Crimson Dynamo remarks, before the other Russian, wielding a hammer and sickle and known as Vanguard, grabs Jack by his collar and suggests that perhaps it is a bomb, something the American’s government lost and sent him to recover. But the always-reasonable Darkstar tells Vanguard that that couldn’t be true, pointing out it is illogical for why would the Americans turn such a weapon on their own kind? Referring to Laynia’s time with the Champions, Vanguard points out that Darkstar has lived with them, ‘You tell me why Americans do anything the way they do!’ he exclaims. ‘I cannot understand them - but I can destroy them!’.
Jack asks Vanguard to take it easy, and asks Darkstar to tell him to back off. ‘I don’t want to hurt him!’ Jack points out, when suddenly a voice exclaims ‘But I do!’ It’s Iron Man, who tells Vanguard to put his hammer and sickle, before unleashing a blast, knocking the Russian over, as Iron Man declares that he is awake, angry, and wanting some answers.
Darkstar approaches Iron Man and asks him if he was aboard the American ship also, before asking him why he attacked. ‘Vanguard was not -’ she begins, until Iron Man interrupts, telling Darkstar that he knows she is a defector who came in from the cold and joined the Champions, but that now she has gone back to Moscow and sided with some second-rate Thor, ‘And worst of all - with that murderous scum the Crimson Dynamo!’ Iron Man opens fire on the Crimson Dynamo as he declares that the Crimson Dynamo once murdered a woman named Janice Cord - a woman Iron Man loved.
‘If that’s not reason enough to attack - I don’t know what is!’ Iron Man exclaims, but as his blast strikes the Crimson Dynamo, Darkstar tells the Avenger that he is making a terrible mistake. ‘Then I’m making it with him, beautiful!’ Jack exclaims, remarking that three-to-one odds are more than even he is willing to bet on. Iron Man tells his protégé that they should narrow the odds down, and run towards Dynamo and Vanguard, with Iron Man declaring that Dynamo is his. ‘Fine with me, teacher!’ Jack replies.
‘Come ahead, arrogant one! You started this, but Vanguard will cut you down to size!’ the cocky Russian boasts, while Crimson Dynamo exclaims that he will demonstrate why the armor of the Crimson Dynamo is the pride of Soviet technology. ‘Sure you will, Red - when they reassemble the pieces!’ Iron Man exclaims as he throws a punch at the Crimson Dynamo, while Darkstar hovers in the air behind him, telling the Avenger that he doesn’t know what he is doing. ‘Lady, that’s what you think!’ Iron Man replies.
Exasperated, Darkstar exclaims ‘Men! Always pretending they know what is right - what is best!’ before reminding Iron Man that they fought together as allies, facing and defeating the evil Modok, ‘Yet you would forget that - forget a trust forged in the fires of battle - and instead let your rage blind you to the truth!’. Darkstar exclaims that she will not allow that, and uses her powerful Darkforce to bind Iron Man, demanding that he will hear her out.
The Darkforce clamps around Iron Man, squeezing him like a vice, Tony begins to find it hard to breath, and he knows that he heart will not be able to take much more of this kind of strain. Unaware that she might actually be killing someone she only wishes to stop, Darkstar intensifies the Darkforce, while the Crimson Dynamo exclaims that he will finish Iron Man off. ’Are you mad, Dimitri? I wish to reason with him - not destroy him!’ Darkstar tells her teammate in their native Russian, therefore, the meaning of Laynia’s words is lost on Iron Man, who reverses his armor’s magnetic field, thus repelling the Darkforce.
Unfortunately for Darkstar, no one has ever done such a thing to her and she is overcome with pain as the Darkforce cries out. Disrupted, Laynia is rendered unconscious. Iron Man turns to Dynamo, calling him a killer, he declares that nothing stands between them now. ‘Nothing but power, Avenger!’ Dynamo replies.
Meanwhile, Vanguard lashes out at Jack of Hearts with his hammer, ‘You missed!’ Jack exclaims, causing Vanguard to lunge with his sickle now, but Jack dodges him again and remarks that Vanguard’s masters should have had him practice with those toys of his before they turned him loose. Vanguard retorts that he has no masters. ‘Unlike you, I serve my country willingly - not because they pay me!’ he exclaims. ‘Spare me the ideology, Captain Kremlin! I may be just a poor little rich kid - but there’s no price tag on the power of Jack of Hearts!’ Jack exclaims as he blasts Vanguard with his energies.
‘You know nothing of power, American!’ Vanguard replies, explaining that he has yet to reveal the true strength imbued in the overlapping symbols of the Worker’s State. ‘The power to turn the aggressive might of an enemy…back upon him!’ Vanguard exclaims as the power that Jack unleashed upon him flows back towards Jack, who as the power smacks into him, thinks that he could never have imagined his power would hurt like this.
Iron Man goes over to Jack and asks him if he is all right, ‘Except where I hurt!’ Darkstar has regained consciousness and asks Iron Man and Jack of Hearts if they will listen to her now, before asking Iron Man what the name of the Crimson Dynamo he knew and hated is. Iron Man replies that his name was Alex Niven, though his real name was Alex Nevsky. ‘Then look upon this Crimson Dynamo - unmasked!’ Darkstar exclaims as the Crimson Dynamo removes his helmet.
Iron Man is confused, and admits that he has never seen this man before. The Crimson Dynamo introduces himself as Dimitri Burkharin, the new Crimson Dynamo. Darkstar explains to Iron Man that the armor of the Crimson Dynamo belongs to the State, to be worn by those deemed worthy. Laynia informs Iron Man that Alex Nevsky disappeared, and the armor passed to Yuri Petrovich, until he chose to use it for his revenge. Laynia also informs Iron Man that he is wrong about her, for she was never a defector, but that his government simply allowed her to remain with the Champions thanks to the Black Widow and Colonel Fury.
‘Bah! We waste time with fools such as these!’ Vanguard exclaims, pointing out that the egg is still to be examined. Crimson Dynamo remarks that he must repair their ship and contact Moscow for instructions But as Vanguard strides towards the egg, Iron Man tells him to wait, as he can hear the same sound they heard before they were attacked in their Quinjet. Vanguard replies that he hears nothing though, and Jack informs Iron Man that he doesn’t hear it either, more like a throbbing in his head. Iron Man replies that it must be a sub-sonic signal, picked up by his helmet amplifiers, and tells Jack that sound is meant as a warning, and declares that if they are to avert a possible disaster, then they better move now.
As they fly towards the egg, Jack remarks that he has a feeling the trio on the ground are not going to like this, and Crimson Dynamo alerts his teammates to the Americans, ‘Heading us off - trying to reach the egg first! I knew they couldn’t be trusted!’ he exclaims. Iron Man alerts Jack to a glowing portal that has appeared on the egg’s side, and remarks that the sonic scream is coming from within. Jack adds that he would bet this is where the Growing Man came from too, to which Iron Man exclaims that it is there job to stop history from repeating itself and to protect the Russian heroes, by going inside the egg and stopping whatever new menace it’s hiding before it comes out.
With that, Iron Man and Jack of Hearts enter the egg, and the sonic scream stops as the portal closes behind them. ‘They - they’re gone! Disintegrated!’ one of the male Russian heroes remarks as they look at the egg. ‘That was the Iron Man I knew!’ Darkstar exclaims. ‘He sensed the menace of the egg, and sacrificed himself to save us!’. Vanguard asks why an American would do such a thing for a Russian, to which the new Crimson Dynamo replies that perhaps because the word “hero” is separate from one’s nationality….