On the outskirts of the alien village where Captain America and his forces have taken refuge, a mysterious, furtive figure suddenly steps out of the shadows and confronts the heroes. It is a young woman with long strawberry blonde hair, dressed in a black costume with a white spider shape in the chest, complete with gloves and mask. Seeing the intruder, the heroes rush to her direction. The Human Torch is the first to reach the gatecrasher and demands to know who she is. She introduces herself as Spider-Woman. Turning to the others, Torch invites them to see what he’s found. “A girl!” the Thing huffs. Captain America is surprised: the woman speaks English, she’s from Earth… But she’s a different lady than the Spider-Woman they knew!
Hulk wonders how she got here. Mister Fantastic reminds him that the Beyonder used fragments of many planets to build this world… he assumes Spider-Woman was on one of them. Spider-Woman explains that people from a whole suburb of Denver suddenly found themselves here. She asks who – or what – is the Beyonder. Iron Man explains that he’s the dude who brought them here – them and some heavy-duty bad guys – to fight! He assumes the Beyonder was bored one day…
Spider-Woman reveals she saw evidence of the fighting. That’s one reason she tracked them here. She wants to help. Hawkeye wonders what makes her think she can help them. “Well, I’m strong!” Spider-Woman asserts and to demonstrate this, lifts a huge rock with minimum effort. Captain America hesitantly acknowledges that she is but… Spider-Woman supposes they’re worried she’s a spy; one of the bad guys, here to stab them in the back! Cap, however, doesn’t think Doctor Doom would bother with treachery. He’s got too much raw power at his beck and call.
Watching their interaction from behind a rock, Spider-Man sees Spider-Woman tossing away the boulder as easily as he could have – at least. He wonders if she sticks to walls, too. And he wonders if he can sue her for infringing on his shticks! He should have gotten a patent or trademark or something…
Captain America tells Spider-Woman that strength is not enough. This little war is dangerous business… Spider-Woman suspects it’s no less dangerous for the spectators… she might as well pitch in! Iron Man interrupts them, wondering about a noise. Captain Marvel realizes the ground’s shaking… as if something big were rumbling towards them!
Suddenly, the Wrecking Crew invades the village, in charge of an enormous rig and indiscriminately open fire. Human Torch screams to everyone to look out and flies in the sky. Captain America urges his companions to get the villagers out of the rig’s path! Wrecker emerges at the top of the vehicle, carrying the lifeless body of the Wasp. He announces that’s a present for them from the Wrecking Crew and tosses them Wasp’s body: “Catch!” The villains quickly depart.
The heroes rush by Janet’s side. Hulk surmises the Wrecking Crew must have found her out there, somewhere, alone. Johnny wonders how bad it is. Grabbing Janet’s body, Jennifer tells him that it looks like she’s been shot. And that fall… the way she landed… Cap suggests they take her to the healer’s hut. Maybe she can do something.
Inside Zsaji’s domicile, they lay Janet’s body on a mattress. Jennifer realizes she’s not breathing – no pulse either. She begs Zsaji to help her. Hawkeye realizes that Zsaji doesn’t get the words She-Hulk is saying but he thinks she gets the drift. Cap is confident that, if anyone can help Jan, it’s Zsaji. Zsaji holds Janet’s head and begins to work her magic on her. Jennifer keeps pleading her to help Jan… bring her back…
Suddenly, Zsaji stops treating Janet and turns away, bowing her head in grim silence. She-Hulk wonders what she’s doing. “Get back here and help her! Do you hear me?!” she screams at her. Interpreting Zsaji’s gesture, Thor deduces that no one can help Jan now. Hawkeye realizes the Wasp is dead!
Seconds later, outside the hut, the heroes confer, raging about what happened. Hulk promises they won’t get away with this! She-Hulk swears they’re going to pay, all of Doom’s toadies – especially the Wrecking Crew! The Thing suggests they go get them! Thor agrees.
“No!” Captain America intervenes. He asks them to listen to him: while they are off getting even, what if Galactus starts to use that world-eating machine he’s building up on that mountain? Then every living thing on this world, including these innocent villagers and those people from that suburb of Denver, will die! They’ve got to stay right here, ready to attack him. They may have only seconds to react when it begins. “Why wait?” Hulk wonders. He suggests they hit Galactus now. Then they’ll go crush those other murderous scum! Captain Marvel retorts that attacking Galactus is a lot like suicide. Hulk suggests they fight it out and see!
Cap suspects that Doom is trying to goad them into slugging it out with Galactus. Thor elaborates on this hypothesis: and once the victors – or victor – emerges, bone-weary and bloodied, Doom would attack, giving no quarter. Hulk suggests it’s going to come to that anyway. “Maybe…” Cap admits – but they’re going to wait and see. He wants the villains’ hides as much as any of them – and he swears to do it, if they get the slightest chance. But right now, they dare squander not an inch of their strength. Unpleased with this decision, She-Hulk walks away.
Meanwhile, half a world away, Cyclops, Rogue and Wolverine rocket homeward, leaving an inferno of exploding volcanoes below them. Wolverine tells the piloting Cyclops to watch where he’s going – those aren’t sparklers out there! Scott asks him to be quiet; Professor X is communing telepathically with him. Xavier congratulates Cyclops. It’s remarkable that the three of them were able to drive away four of Doom’s most powerful
lackeys. Cyclops informs him that Wolverine sustained minor injuries – for him, anyway! No sweat given his recuperative powers. They’ll back at Magneto’s fortress in approximately eighty-two minutes. “Negative!” Xavier retorts. He orders Scott to change course and pursue Doom’s task force. He debriefs him that Nightcrawler, Storm, Magneto and Xavier himself are boarding a second skycraft right now. They shall converge with Scott and the others and intercept the target craft. They have a chance to trap the Molecule Man, Titania, the Absorbing Man and Doctor Octopus before they can rejoin their allies; they must not let them slip away!
Inside the four villains’ aircraft which is heading back to Doombase, the Absorbing Man inquires of the Molecule Man’s condition: “How’s the wimp?” Titania is surprised he asked: “Don’t tell you give a rat’s patoot!” The Absorbing Man explains he’s just making conversation! Titania struggles to awaken the Molecule Man: “Hey, milksop!” She realizes he’s out cold. “What do you expect, Titania?” Octopus remarks, while piloting the aircraft. The way Wolverine sliced Owen, he’s lucky to be alive. Titania and Absorbing Man had better see to it that he doesn’t die… or Doom will have them disintegrated! Titania scoffs him: but he’ll forgive Octopus, huh? “Fat chance! Drive faster, jerk!” she urges him.
Hundreds of miles away, in the vast fortress called Doombase, Volcana watches helplessly through a monitor and sees her beloved Owen lay unconscious and gravely injured. She announces to Klaw that her little Owie is hurt! He needs her! She’s got to go to him! Klaw replies that he can’t help her. He’s as mad as loon!
Volcana quickly rushes into the Enchantress’ private chambers. She knows she is a sorceress; she could use her magic to transport Volcana to her Owen! “Yes…” the Enchantress agrees… but why would she do it? Because she needs her to, Volcana replies. Volcana can’t fly a ship – she doesn’t even have a driver’s license for a car! And Ultron won’t help her; he only takes orders from Doom.
The Enchantress blows her off: it takes much energy to transport a body as bloated as Volcana’s! She cannot be bothered! Volcana begs her to do it! The Enchantress is amused – and next, doubtless, Volcana shall try threatening her, she deduces. She warns Volcana that if she does this thing for her there will, of course, be a price… “Name it! Anything!” a desperate Volcana complies. “Rash words, mortal wench… and later you shall deeply regret them!” the Enchantress ominously announces and then uses her magic to teleport Volcana.
At once, Volcana finds herself whisked away, teleported inside the flying aircraft, much to everyone’s surprise. Titania asks her how she got here. Volcana explains she made a deal with the Enchantress. “What?!!” Titania roars. Ever since they were little girls back in Colorado, Volcana has done a lot of stupid things over a lot of wimpy mama’s boys, but this one takes the cake! “Oh, shut up, Skeeter!” Volcana snaps and takes the unconscious Molecule Man in her arms. “Owie, my poor cuddly-wuddly baby!” She tells him he’s here. She’s going to keep him all warm and safe till they get back home… then Doctor Doom or somebody will make him all better! Titania is sickened by the way Volcana mothers that twerp! She also reminds Volcana that her name’s “Titania” now – even to Volcana.
Octopus suddenly warns them all to brace themselves for evasive maneuvers; they’re under attack! The villains’ aircraft finds itself ambushed by the two X-Men skycrafts. One of them fires at the villains’ ship. Octopus announces they’re going to crash and asks them to hold on!
Seconds later, their airship indeed crashes down and all the villains hurriedly evacuate. The Absorbing Man mockingly congratulates Octopus on his evasive maneuvering! Octopus tells him to shut up and asks Volcana on Molecule Man’s condition. Volcana thinks he’s stable. He’s not bleeding anymore. “Oh, my poor, poor Owie!” she whimpers. Octopus deduces they have time then to kill these annoying dolts. The Absorbing Man believes that’s the first time Doc Ock ever said anything he likes. He immediately absorbs the properties of some rocks. A raging Volcana ‘fires up’ and announces she’ll get the one with the claws!
Cyclops and Nightcrawler begin engaging Titania. Cyclops warns Nightcrawler to be careful; Scott’s own optic blasts are deflecting from Titania’s indestructible body. Kurt is amazed: she does not quite believe it! Rogue cuts in and tries to make her move on Titania, but the villainess pummels her away. “Dumb broad always leads with her chin!” Titania sneers at her.
The Absorbing Man sends rocks flying against Magneto, which the latter repels. He wonders what scum like Magneto is doing hanging around with the X-Men. Sure, they’re outlaws… but he thought Magneto was big time! He has mass murder raps, manslaughter, terrorism, probably everything! He’s one of them! On second thought, he decides that a creampuff like Magneto belongs with those losers! Elevating himself in the air, Magneto swears he will pay for this insolence!
Volcana fires a blast against Storm but misses the flying mutant. “Almost got you! Sooner or later…” Volcana hisses. Watching Storm being attacked by Volcana and simultaneously approached by Doctor Octopus, Xavier telepathically warns her. Try as he might, he cannot piece their enemies’ minds together. The Enchantress has sealed them against him. He’s got to concentrate on coordinating their attack – but the noise and confusion is overwhelming.
“Storm!” he suddenly screams, seeing her snatched by one of Octopus’ tentacles. Wolverine goes to her aid, but the Absorbing Man, whose body is now made of stone after he absorbed some, intervenes: “C’mere runt!” Without hesitation, Wolverine slices off his right arm with his claw: “Outta my way!” The villain screams in panic, holding his torn arm. “You little slime…!” Volcana growls and blasts Logan. Xavier telepathically alerts Cyclops to stop her. Scott immediately blasts her. Xavier examines Logan and realizes he’s alive; they reacted in time. He then orders Magneto to aid Storm against Doctor Octopus. He instructs Storm to create rain and frigid temperatures around Wolverine and then strike with all possible force against Titania.
Rogue gets there, first, though, and pummels Titania with a rock. “You sneaky…!” Titania shrieks. Rogue admits may be stronger than she is but Rogue’s got all these charming warrior skills – that’s not sneaky, but smart fighting! Hurling the boulder against Titania, she decides it’s about how she uses her head other than for worrying about which side she should be on. She’s already made her choice when she joined the X-Men and she’s sticking with it – mostly because waffling was getting her face bashed in a lot!
Volcana realizes this isn’t working out – they’ve got to get out of there. She tells her comrades to run for it – Volcana herself will cover them! She instantly releases enormous quantities of volcanic blasts against her foes. Professor X orders Magneto and Rogue to erect some stones and shield them. Before he has to explain to Storm what she has to do, Ororo releases cold winds and rain to counterbalance Volcana’s blasts. Xavier asks them all to hold on; Volcana can’t keep this up for long. Neither can they, Storm points out. Magneto scoffs that this is no challenge for his magnetic powers. Rogue is glad to hear that!
Volcana’s distraction provides the villains with enough time to depart with their aircraft. Seeing them getting away, Rogue realizes they blew it. Perhaps, Professor X replies, but they lost nothing, save one of their ships – which matters little – and they gained much. They coalesced as a fighting unit passing their greatest test to date and he thinks they proved themselves beyond a doubt. As she heads back to the skycraft with the others, Storm has her own, private thoughts on the matter. She thinks it was Xavier who was tested – and though they did well today, she still has many doubts about his ability to lead them in combat.
At that moment, inside the enormous construct that is the homeworld of Galactus, Doctor Doom conducts an increasingly desperate search. He realizes he is but a burglar, rummaging about in another being’s home, seeking to steal some priceless things. He wonders: what choice does he have? He needs a key, a way. His armor’s sensors have led him to prize after prize – hundreds of thousands of devices, which in the hands of a man as brilliant as himself could provide power to conquer galaxies! Yet, all of them combined are not enough to defeat Galactus – let alone the Beyonder. He insists that there must be a way! He realizes he has spent too much time here; how much longer can Galactus fail to sense Doom’s presence? He asks himself if he’s afraid. He tries to suppress his fear: he tells himself it’s merely excitement. Fear is for lesser men. He shall press on!
On the planet’s surface, far below, Galactus perseveres in his endeavors, though plagued by a vague feeling of unease. He pauses, looking around, sensing the entire world and everything upon it at once. Volcanic eruptions, fifteen thousand miles away attract his notice. They are spreading, growing even more violent. He sighs. It seems he must take time to repair this damaged planet before devouring it – a nuisance…
His concern about the volcanic upheavals nearly causes him to overlook another matter of seemingly relative insignificance – as Galactus has a sense of something out of place, somewhere in his home, something small. He pinpoints the anomaly – Doctor Doom – seizes it in an energy field and expels it, not very gently, from his home, his vast spaceship, sending Doom skyrocketing back to the planet below. Satisfied, Galactus turns his attention toward quelling the massive eruptions.
Sometime later, the villains return to the Doombase. Volcana hopes Octopus can help Owen. He’s a doctor, isn’t he? Carrying the unconscious Molecule Man, Octopus corrects her: he’s a nuclear physicist, not a medical doctor. He’ll take Owen to his chambers, then it’s Volcana’s problem… and Doom’s, if he ever returns. Desperate, Volcana asks Ultron if he can do something. Ultron reveals there are alien medical machines in the central infirmary. He is capable of operating them. However, he must have orders from Doom to do so. Volcana urges him to go ahead; Doom would want him to help Owen! Ultron repeats he can act only upon orders from Doom!
The Enchantress appears and professes she could help Owen with but a wave of her hand… for a price! “You filthy…!” Volcana snarls upon seeing her. She asks her what she wants from her. Nothing, the Enchantress cackles – Volcana has already bargained away all she possesses! “Witch! I’ll kill you!” Volcana shrieks and makes to lunge at her. Titania restrains her and advises her not to make it any worse. She tells her to just go take care of her man. Now confronting the Enchantress, Titania explains that Volcana is her friend and for some reason she likes that wimpy runt. Titania herself is tired… hungry. Right now, she’s going to eat, clean up and get some rest. Then, unless the Molecule Man’s all better, Titania is going to tear the Enchantress’ leg off and stuff it down her throat! The Enchantress is amused.
Nearby, a terrified Absorbing Man wonders what he’s going to do with his torn arm. If he changes back to human, he’ll bleed to death. But he can’t stay in his stone form forever. How is going to eat? Maybe if he just holds it in place when he changes it’ll be okay… but maybe not. His absorbing power is magic. He doesn’t even know how it works. He decides he’s got to try it. He doesn’t have a choice. As he turns back to human, he releases a terrible scream from the pain… and is relieved to see that it worked. It hurt like the devil but the arm stuck – although it’s sore. He feels like he’s going to puke. He decides to lie down.
Elsewhere in the fortress, the Wrecking Crew are about to place the Lizard in a cage. Just then, the Lizard wakes up and begins to scream and make spastic movies, trying to escape. Wrecker warns his teammates, who are carrying him, to look out; the stasis-ray must’ve worn off. The Lizard rants and raves that they killed the Wasp!
Bulldozer is surprised that this stupid freak cares they gunned down the Wasp. Suddenly, the Lizard sets himself free and grabs Bulldozer, his legs making a firm grip around his throat. Bulldozer begs the others to just get the Lizard off himself! Piledriver reckons he will and punches the Lizard away from Bulldozer and into the cage. Thunderball congratulates his teammate and pulls the switch, trapping the Lizard. Wrecker believes that’ll hold him. Even Thor couldn’t break out of that cage! Thunderball hopes it better hold him; that Lizard’s nuts. The foursome leave the screaming Lizard behind, unaware they are being watched by Klaw.
Moments later, Bulldozer tells his Wrecking Crew teammates to go ahead; he’ll chow down later. He’s beat. He enters his private quarters, thinking how that scaly maniac darn near ripped his throat out. Whatever Doom wants him the Lizard for, Bulldozer hopes it’s worth it. And he hopes it’s painful! With no window in these quarters, he is suddenly bemused to feel a breeze. Approaching the bed, he sees a huge crack on the wall and wonders, in amazement, how that got here. “Uh-oh…” he suddenly suspects.
She-Hulk sneaks out from a corner of the room and tells him that “uh-oh” is right! She’s here to discuss a certain little murder! Bulldozer angrily retorts she’s discussing nothing with nobody! He’s going to butt her right through the bulkhead! She-Hulk scoffs that he’s real strong. He could probably give Spider-Man a good tussle in an arm wrestling match… which means he’s small change to her! With this, she wallops him and sends him crashing against the wall. She tells him she likes a fair fight, but not this time! The Wasp never had a chance either, did she?! Hearing the noises, the rest of the Wrecking Crew enter the room and see She-Hulk beating Bulldozer within an inch of his life. “Get her!” Wrecker shouts.
Elsewhere in the fortress, Titania walks in a corridor, only to see a huge crack on the wall. She realizes somebody was in too much of a hurry to bother with doors… someone strong! She has no problem following the trail, going through several openings in crashed walls. She then hears a noise up ahead – sounds like fighting. However, when she walks into the actual fight scene, she finds it looks like slaughter! “Not bad,” she scoffs, seeing how She-Hulk beat up the entire Wrecking Crew. She wonders: now that the preliminaries are over, is She-Hulk ready for the main event? “You! Doom’s musclewoman!” Jennifer growls. Titania introduces herself and tells She-Hulk to remember her name. She’ll be using it soon when she’s begging with her life!
Narrowly avoiding one of Titania’s kicks, Jennifer kicks her back and sends her flying upwards. Undeterred, Titania slams a huge part of metallic equipment on Jennifer’s head and swears her she’s going to lick the floor for what she did! She Hulk’s going to kiss Titania’s boots… just before she buys it!
Octopus and the Absorbing Man enter the room. Octopus is surprised to see it was just one of them, just She-Hulk. From the din, he’d assumed they were under all-out attack! The Absorbing Man remarks that the Wrecking Crew looks like they’ve been through a gravel crusher; She-Hulk must be a one-dame army! Titania warns them to stay back: “She’s mine!” The Absorbing Man tells her he’s sorry but he’s in the mood to crack an Avenger’s head!
Meanwhile, in a chamber far removed, the Enchantress sits in sullen reverie. She can hear that the echoing thunder of battle gives way to dull, rhythmic thuds followed by shrieks of agony. She presumes they’re burgeoning some wretched fool to death. Perhaps it would be amusing to watch… but then changes her mind: “Fie upon such dull sport!” She’d rather stay here and think about Thor. She’d thought him dead – but he lives, and thus too do her dreams of seducing him, corrupting him, molding him into a darkly majestic consort fit for the queen of evil! With him at her side, all Asgard would be at her feet! All things seem possible when endless tomorrows lie ahead – but do they? Or are they destined to perish along with this mortal rabble? Even the lives of gods seem so fragile here…
She suddenly hears a noise from the main gate. A terribly wretched, beleaguered Doom walks in. She asks him what happened to him. She reminds him he has forcibly linked their fates to his own and urges him to speak. She would know the significance of this. What jeopardy has he placed them in? What are his plans? “Do as you will… it is done… finished…” Doom barely has the strength to mutter, before he staggers his way inside his quarters and collapses to his bed.
Elsewhere, the tables have turned and the villains are now ganging up on She-Hulk, savagely beating her with every weapon imaginable. Titania sneers at her and urges her to beg like a dog; she wants to hear it! Not that it will do her any good, the Absorbing Man scoffs. Suddenly, Jennifer stops moving moving altogether. “She’s had it! Now what?” the Absorbing Man wonders. Octopus suggests they kill her! Thunderball agrees. “All together now…” Titania snarls.
At that moment, hundreds of miles away, Captain America sits on a rock, observing Galactus on the mountaintop. Galactus had that machine of his completed for hours. Steve wonders why he just stood there all the time. And why now is he tinkering with it again? Has something about the planet changed, requiring adjustments? Why doesn’t Galactus just get on with it and put an end to this waiting?
Hawkeye interrupts his reflections and announces that She-Hulk is missing. Nobody’s seen her all day. He thinks everyone knows where she went. He stresses she can’t take the villains alone – she needs them! Cap repeats they stay here. Hulk also shows up and reminds Steve that She-Hulk is his cousin. He begs him to just let him, alone, go after her. Cap wishes he could but the answer is no. Hulk supposes Cap wouldn’t consider putting it to a vote. Cap clarifies his heart would vote “yes” in a minute. Too many innocent lives are at stake here, though. Many more than the few people on this planet. They’ve got a universe depending on what they do here. They can’t allow themselves the luxury of making decisions with their hearts.
In the village nearby, the wounded Colossus limps painfully through the streets. He has had enough lying around. He’s begun to feel guilty, like a shirker. He decides to find Zsaji. If she gives him one more of her treatments, maybe the pain will ease enough so he can work and perhaps fight again. He sees Zsaji coming out of the hut where the Wasp’s body lays awaiting burial at dawn – if there is a dawn. His heart leaps just to see her – she is so beautiful. He calls after her… and then suddenly sees her collapsing. Taking her in his arms, he sees she’s so pale, barely breathing. Full of concern, he wonders what’s happened to her.
Not far away, Professor Xavier speaks telepathically with Captain America. He explains his X-Men and Magneto are stationed only a few miles from their position. They are ready, willing and able to help. If he wishes, they will take Cap’s vigil, freeing him to do what he must. They shall counterstrike immediately should Galactus take action against the planet in the absence of Cap and the rest, and they will hold fast against him until the others return. He begs Cap to accept their offer. Cap tells him it’s a deal. Turning to the others, Cap announces the situation has changed. He’ll explain later. “For now… let’s go get those butchers!”