In the alien village, Colossus, still recovering from wounds received in an early battle, exits Zsaji’s hut, only to witness the beginning of the end: Galactus has begun to devour the planet! He is not afraid… except for Zsaji. Entering the hut again and gazing at the comatose Zsaji, he thinks that if the end must come, he wishes it to come now, while she lies in coma-like sleep. He did not truly know beauty, nobility and selfless compassion until he met her. Is it just that her healing touch – her very life-energy flowing into his body – laid bare the depths of his soul to her? No, he cannot believe that. Even when first he saw her, somehow he knew that she was the one in all the universe he could truly love. And yet… she loves another!
Exiting the hut again, he thinks it’s strange, but it doesn’t matter. He wants nothing in return for his love. It is not some commodity to be bartered. He cares only that Zsaji is well and happy. If she must be with another… he is content. He decides he’s got to fight for her love above all. “And let him who threaten it – even Galactus himself – beware!” he roars. Energy crackles around his body and his flesh becomes supple, living steel – and Colossus strides toward his destiny.
Meanwhile, high above Galactus’ mountain, Storm, borne aloft upon tornado-force winds, soars. Menacing storm clouds gather at her silent bidding, and, at her command, their fury hammers down on Galactus, who is standing atop a mountain peak, in front of his newly-assembled machine, his arms all extended, terrible energy emanating from this site.
Watching this, Wolverine mumbles it’s unbelievable: Galactus is still standing after Storm’s attack! Moreover, Magneto notes, Galactus didn’t even seem to notice. If they cannot so much as gain his attention… Professor X calls him to silence! He swore to Captain America that they would hold out against Galactus until his return – and they shall! They must! Henceforth, they are in combat communications mode. He will give all orders telepathically; they must obey at once! He then begins giving out his orders: Rogue is to take to the air and attack at once; Nightcrawler and Cyclops are to follow up Rogue’s offensive.
Cyclops realizes that he’s never seen Professor X this intense before: it’s because he knows this is suicide. Scott bets Xavier knew all along it would come down to this – that’s why he seemed harder, colder, more authoritarian from the moment they got here. He’d mellowed out so much in the last couple of years, it was sort of a shock. But it makes sense now, he realizes: it must be hard to send one’s children to their deaths! He suddenly discerns that something has appeared out of thin air near the machine – possibly a defensive drone.
Rogue is the first to approach this mysterious sphere released from Galactus’ machine. Storm warns her to be careful. Rogue reckons she’s ready for everything: if it’s dangerous, it’s best she’d take it on first. She’s hard to hurt! However, the sphere generates two funnel-like energy shapes, one of which deflects Storm’s lightning bolt and the other strikes at Rogue. While Storm grabs the now unconscious Rogue in mid-air, Magneto electromagnetically hurls a chunk of rocks against Galactus’ drone, only to see it repelled by its defensive shield. Magneto realizes in despair that the merest toy of Galactus blunts their offensive. Trying to penetrate the drone’s shield with his blasts, Cyclops urges Magneto to keep hammering at it.
Suddenly, the high-flying device releases a blast against Professor X, barely missing him. Nightcrawler calls after him. Xavier tells them not concern themselves with him and just attack! Wolverine assures Kurt that Charles will live and urges him to skrag that thing! Kurt instantly teleports and rematerializes on top of Galactus’ drone, which he derisively calls a “cosmic flyswatter!” Seeing this, Cyclops orders him to teleport his butt back down here, now: his stunt is too dangerous! Kurt retorts he will not do it before he disables this thing’s sensors and strikes it with his fists. However, the drove quickly drives him off of itself and Nightcrawler goes flying in the air. Logan tells Xavier that Kurt bought them a chance – maybe with his life! Now what? Charles tells Magneto to stand ready and Cyclops to release a full-force optic blast. On his command… they are to strike!
At that instant, Hawkeye, Wasp and Captain Marvel observe the developing battle from the distance of the alien village, when suddenly an explosion of tremendous proportions occurs. Hawkeye is appalled: it was like a baby nuke! He wonders what happened. Captain Marvel admits she doesn’t know, but if that was the X-Men up there, they’re dead for sure! A shocked Janet wonders if they should head up there now. Hawkeye believes they’d better wait for Cap and strike as a unit.
Meanwhile, at the fortress once called Doombase, recently conquered by Captain America’s forces, the heroes frenziedly rush into their flying vehicle. Mister Fantastic urges them all to hurry: no telling how long the X-Men can hold out! “Yeah! Where’s the rest of the alphabet when you need?” Spider-Man quips. The now human Ben Grimm wonders where Captain Marvel and Hawkeye are. As the heroes enter their aircraft and hastily fly away, Cap explains that these two went back to the village earlier to bring Wasp’s body to the base for a decent burial. He hopes they have the good sense not to attack Galactus before they all arrive!
Noticing how sullen Hulk is, Thor asks him if he’s unwell. It would seem the gloom of Niffelheim hangs in the air about him! Hulk admits he’s had better days. Thor believes that if it’s that Hulk doesn’t fit in the plane chairs that depresses him, then he should count himself fortunate. Thor thinks they were made for insect men… or by trolls, for torture! If it is the impending battle that’s troubling Hulk, he should think: what greater chance for glory has man or god ever known? More even than Ragnarok, this was the battle Thor was born millennia ago to fight! Hulk, too, is a warrior-born: a taste of battle and the berserker battle-lust shall rise in his soul!
Hulk, however, doubts it: he lost that when he gained the intelligence of his human side – Bruce Banner – and now he’s losing that, too! He’s not savage enough or smart enough to be a relevant factor!
In another part of the aircraft, a smirking Human Torch smugly remarks that he doesn’t know what everybody’s worried about! How can they lose? He’s here! Ben tells him to do a favor and shut up! Here they are heading for the big rumble for all the marbles and he isn’t the Thing! He’s useless! He feels like he’s letting everybody down – not to mention the whole blamed universe! Johnny tells him to cheer up. At least, he’s better looking as Ben Grimm… well, a little, anyway! He urges Ben to smile or he’ll give him a hotfoot on the seat of his panties!
“Beat it, brat!” Ben rejoins. On Earth, he can’t change back to human at all. Why does he have to do here where he’s needed most as the Thing? If he can change back and forth, why can’t he control it like the Torch – why?! Slamming his fist against a surface out of frustration, though, he abruptly changes back into his Thing form!
Ben is shocked and exhilarated to see he’s the Thing again! He’s so happy he even likes the Torch! Indeed, he lifts him up in the air, squeezing him tightly! “Yeoh! Lummox! Put me down!” Johnny screeches. He can see the headlines – “Affectionate hug slays Human Torch en route to battle – universe is destroyed as a result!”
Noticing how Spider-Woman is looking intently at Thing and Torch, Iron Man thinks that this new broad is weird. She’s awfully quiet, does a lot of staring at folks and never cracks a smile. She turned up out of nowhere. She claims to be one their side, but maybe he’ll just keep an eye on her. Besides, she’s got great legs! Still, he admits the two of them have one thing in common: they’re both strangers here. A lot of guys have worked with Iron Man before – but that was when Tony Stark was in this suit.
Jim thinks they’ve started to realize there’s a different guy in here now – and they got their doubts. They’re keeping their distance; they don’t quite trust him yet. It doesn’t matter – as long as he’s got this armor, he’s one bad dude… especially since Richards souped it up! As soon as that fight starts, he’ll show them – show them the real Iron Man! James Rhodes is Iron Man, now and forever!
Suddenly, he sees a hyperkinetic Spider-Man bouncing all around the interior of the airship and wonders if he’s gone nuts! Thing chuckles that maybe he “flipped out!” “Hey, watch where you’re going, dog-breath!” Torch grunts. Spider-Man excitedly informs them he’s got his webs back and, to prove his point, shoots some web right into Johnny’s face! Johnny angrily warns him to watch what he’s doing! “I am!” Spidey assures him – isn’t it wonderful?! “No!” Johnny strongly disagrees, while trying to burn Spidey’s web off his face. He wonders where Peter got this stuff. It’s even harder to burn off than his old webbing – which won’t keep Johnny from frying his buns in a minute after he gets off! Peter responds by taunting Johnny.
Captain America scolds Spider-Man and tells him to settle down, while urging the Human Torch to do the same thing. Spider-Man repeats that he’s got his webs again! Ever since Mister Fantastic cannibalized his web-shooters to repair Iron Man’s armor, Peter has felt like a one-armed man… or a seven-foot spider! He reveals it’s the costume – somehow, it’s got built-in web-shooters! They fire when he thinks about it! He insists that’s not all; this suit does anything! “Watch this,” he tells them and, just by the power of his thought, the lower part of his costume is miraculously rendered short-sleeved! “There! Short sleeves for summer!” he jokes.
Reed admits he’d love to examine the costume in his lab sometime… if there is “sometime” ever again… if he ever sees his lab again. “Listen to me!” he chides himself. He sounds like a defeatist. He apologizes. Spider-Man certainly seems chipper considering what they’re about to face. Peter admits that, when he thinks about it, the whole trip boggles his mind – so, he’s given up pondering the imponderables. He has trouble understanding modern art! Who can figure all this ultra-cosmic stuff? He’s just taking it as it comes!
“And what about me?” Reed contemplates, as he pilots the aircraft, seated next to Captain America. Can he simply take it as it comes? No – he can’t help “pondering the imponderables”, searching for meaning in all this. He keeps hearing the Beyonder’s words echoing in his mind: I am from beyond. Slay your enemies and all you desire shall be yours. Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish!
At face value, the whole thing is absurd. Why would a being so far removed from them and so powerful as the Beyonder bring them across the universe for a stupid, simplistic “good-versus-evil” gladiatorial contest? Is he a mad god? A cosmic idiot? And why them? Why this odd collection of beings, mostly from Earth? And why Galactus? He doesn’t fit. Human beings and even gods may be tempted, but Galactus is a force of nature – no more capable of having enemies than a hurricane or an earthquake. Why is Galactus here? There must be more to this… but what possible purpose could there be? He thinks Galactus must be the key!
“Reed! Heads up!” Cap suddenly screams next to him – they’ve been hit by something! Reed immediately activates the auto-stabilizers and the retros, but explains they’re too low. Cap tells everyone to brace themselves for crash landing!
Surprisingly, though, the ship does not crash land, as somebody below, on the ground, cushions their impact by grappling it before it crashes. As Hulk exits, followed by the others, he realizes it was Colossus: he buffered their landing! Seeing Piotr squirming in agony, Reed surmises he aggravated his injuries in the process. Colossus insists he’s all right. Cap retorts that Colossus is going to have to be all right. They’ll need his strength. It’s do or die, now!
The heroes gather around the roots of the mountain on top of which Galactus and his machine stand. Reed explains that Galactus’ machine is sending out power-tendrils to rip the planet apart before reducing it to bio-spheric energy. One of those must’ve nicked out their ship; they have only seconds before the world-burn starts! “Let’s go!’ Cap urges everyone and they begin climbing the mountain. Colossus discerns a crater nearby, from the explosion he saw on his way here. He wonders if the X-Men died there. He wants to do nothing but search for them – yet he cannot. He must not, for the sake of the living – for Zsaji.
The heroes begin circling in on Galactus and also locate Captain Marvel, who is trying to intercept Galactus’ high-flying defense drones. Monica warns them to be careful with the defense drones. She thinks one of them blew up here, right after it was damaged. “Now she tells me!” Iron Man huffs. Mister Fantastic urges him to concentrate on avoiding them, get past them and attack the world-devouring apparatus! Jim believes this will be a cinch with his new radar and in-flight dodging computers! Jetting off in the air, he manages to get near the machine and blasts it.
An astonished Reed realizes that Iron Man got through! He damaged the machine! Incredible beyond belief: they have a chance! They can win! “Wait…” he suddenly has an epiphany. “That’s the answer – that’s it!” he exclaims. Cap decides they’ve got the advantage and urges everyone to press on. Ben can’t wait to get his mitts on Galactus. Reed, however, urges them to stop! Ben is puzzled: what does he mean, stop? Reed explains they can’t go through with this. At last, he sees a purpose here – a meaning to the universe for this insane conflict. They must not stop Galactus!
Suddenly, a wave of sheer force emanates from the machine and hurls everyone back as leaves in the wind. Hurled back with everyone else, Captain America urges them to come up ready, regroup and renew the attack! As they get back in their feet, the Torch suggests they do it. Thing tells them to wait and asks Reed why he doesn’t want them to fight. Reed reminds them they’ve already damaged Galactus’ machine. They’ve done the impossible; that means this fight isn’t hopeless! They can win… which is precisely why they must not fight! They must let Galactus win! Cap wonders what he’s talking about; he isn’t making any sense!
Reed insists he’s making perfect sense. For the first time this whole thing makes sense to him. He sees a possible purpose in it. This is a chance to rid their universe of the threat of Galactus. All they have to do is let him win this contest. If the Beyonder, indeed, grants his wish, Galactus will be freed of his planet-consuming hunger at long last! “And if the Beyonder reneges?” someone asks. Reed believes that, re-energized by consuming this world, Galactus will attack and force the Beyonder to pay up – or be destroyed in the attempt. Any way they look at it… the universe wins. Countless billions who would have eventually fallen prey to Galactus will live in peace!
Spider-Man can’t help but wonder: why them? Why were they picked to decide the fate of the universe? “Why not us?” Reed retorts. He reminds him they picked themselves. Besides, beings of Earth seem to have a knack for being pivotal in the cosmic scheme of things. Ben asks him if he’s sure about this. Reed replies he is. Johnny assures Reed he’ll do what he tells him but…
Suddenly, Reed vanishes in a puddle of light before their eyes! He’s gone – and so are Galactus and the whole mountaintop with him! “Now what, Cap?” Spider-Man wonders. At loss, Cap admits he doesn’t know… but for once, is open to suggestions!
At that moment, several million miles from the surface of the battle planet, in the awesome, solar-system-sized construct that is the homeworld of Galactus, Mister Fantastic, who has just been teleported there, gazes in wide-eyed wonder. The interior of this ship pulses with life… with living splendor. Mountains, seas, forests; a world of inconceivable vistas of beauty; built, not created. He is overwhelmed!
Seated on his throne, Galactus welcomes him to his world. Reed replies he’s honored to be acknowledged by Galactus. Galactus wonders if Richards would like to view his own home. Reed admits he would, very much! “There!” Galactus says and an image from Reed’s home on Earth is projected before him. Reed sees his wife, Sue, and their son, Franklin, in the kitchen, smiling at each other. Reed confesses he misses them. Noticing Sue’s pregnant belly, he realizes she hasn’t had the baby yet. “No,” Galactus confirms. He asks Richards to listen to him and think well on his words.
Meanwhile, in a maximum security containment inside what was once his own fortress, Doctor Doom sits unmoving, as if turned to stone. Not long ago, he dared to invade the homeworld of Galactus, seeking knowledge, power, opportunity; a way to conquer Galactus and perhaps the Beyonder as well. But Galactus discovered him and expelled him – harshly – reducing the once mighty Doom to a tattered, charred ruin.
Suddenly, though, Doom has an epiphany: the world ship is the way! Galactus’ home itself is the way he seeks! At last, he sees! He must be free at once, before opportunity evades his grasp! His armor’s power is drained – thus, they left it on him, also fearing, perhaps, the many booby traps awaiting anyone who would dare attempt remove it. But Doom is ever prepared: at once, he activates his point-singularity power-supply, concealed in his right ankle, and again he wields power!
Now re-powered, he easily blasts off the door of his containment and marches outside. Doom passes by various cells and cages that contain his lackeys. Seeing him, the Absorbing Man implores him to free them! Doctor Octopus also calls after him! Doom reveals he has no use for them now… save for one!
In another room, Doom releases Klaw from his containment. Klaw, the mad master of sound, a being of living sound-energy, whom he found in Galactus’ home, is the one Doom needs. Klaw realizes Doom narrates his life as he goes on; is he being taped? Doom admits that everyone utterance of his must be recorded for posterity! Klaw himself is a ‘recording’ of sorts, due to the time he spent as a wave of vibratory energy coursing through the walls of Doom’s homeworld. He orders Klaw to come with him. “Where to? Toodle-oo, toodle-oo!” Klaw wonders. To the lab, Doom replies – he’s going to dissect Klaw! “Oh, good!” Klaw enthuses.
Meanwhile, Colossus is searching in the crater for the missing X-Men. He will not give up hope until he finds their bodies. If they are dead, there must be some evidence. He will search till he drops!
Suddenly, an optic blast – Cyclops’s – bursts its way through some rocks. Colossus witnesses the X-Men blasting their way through a layer of rocks. He realizes they are alive! “Ah reckon so!” Rogue replies. Piotr is delighted: he was tired of digging! Cyclops explains that, because of the enormous energy it apparently contained, they suspected that the flyswatter might explode when they blasted it, so Magneto pulled a thick layer of Earth and stone overtop of them for protection. Xavier admits the blast still very nearly killed them. “And now?” Piotr wonders. Xavier senses Cap’s people have returned to the village; they will do the same.
At the village, Captain America points at the incoming X-Men and realizes they survived, after all! Nearby, Wasp explains that Zsaji apparently saved her; she thinks it took a lot out of her, though. Spider-Man sees Hawkeye making another arrow and asks him of it. “One last one… with Galactus’ name on it!” Clint explains.
Colossus sees Zsaji, now apparently well, rushing out of her hut. “She has awakened! Thank the stars!” he exclaims. He greets her… but Zsaji passes him by and rushes by Human Torch’s side. Johnny dismissively tells her he’s kind of busy now. He’s just too worried about Reed to deal with anything else right now. The Thing remarks that doesn’t she understands Johnny’s words, but he thinks she reads him.
Cap suggests they could just stand ready, until Galactus appears again. If he does, Hulk stresses. What if he decides to wait a few months? Time is nothing to him. Captain Marvel proposes they get some spaceworthy vessels from Doombase and mount an assault on his homeworld. Ben intervenes and reminds them that Reed said not to fight Galactus, so they aren’t going to do that! “Right, Torch?” he aggressively asks him. “Well, I guess, Ben, but…” Johnny mumbles. Iron Man demurs that isn’t here to die sitting on his hands! Ben angrily assures him he can arrange for him to…
“Hello, everybody!” Mister Fantastic suddenly greets them all, returned from Galactus’ ship. Ben asks him what happened. Not much, Reed replies. They had tea. Galactus told Reed that Reed was a “force of the universe,” just as Galactus is. That Reed is a “universal champion of life,” just as Galactus is an instrument of death. He also showed him Sue and Franklin. “And the kid?” Ben enquires. Reed reveals that Sue hasn’t delivered yet. She looked fine – but Galactus didn’t say much about the baby. Ben admits he doesn’t know what that all adds up to, but whatever he says, they’re with him! “Right, kid?” he asks Johnny. Torch is affirmative but hopes that Reed… “He means right!” Thing tells Reed of Johnny, cutting him short.
Reed thanks Ben and Johnny for their support. He doesn’t know what to say. He’s more convinced than ever that it’s right to let Galactus do what he must. And if Reed’s a “champion of life”, does it not make sense to allow Galactus to slay them so that countless billions will live? Or was he telling Reed that he must fight to preserve even the relatively few lives here? He just doesn’t know…
Ben believes that one less orange monster isn’t going to matter much to the universe. Reed shouldn’t worry about Ben championing his life. He turns to the Avengers and defiantly states that they aren’t fighting… or at least not until Reed says so. Hawkeye protests this is a real crock; they’ve got to fight! “Quitters! Cowards!” he berates them. Ben challenges him to come here and say that! There is no heavy, cosmic reason that says he can’t bust Clint’s head! Johnny interjects and points them at the mountaintop: Galactus and his machine are back! It’s starting again!
“All right, listen up!” Cap announces and everyone gathers around him. He reveals that he is going to fight. The rest of them can come or not as their conscience dictates. Wasp assures him they’re with him. Cap is satisfied. He then shakes Professor Xavier’s hand and tells him that, despite their differences, he and his people did them – and the universe – a great service earlier. Xavier insists it was an honor. Cap hopes that Charles, his X-Men, and Magneto will come and fight side by side with the Avengers now. No one here will deny they’ve earned as much. “Enough talk! Let’s go!” the always impatient Hulk intervenes.
Moments later, at Doombase, Doom watches at a monitor and realizes that the battle against Galactus still rages. Excellent – there is still time! In another monitor, he observes that the Beyonder has opened his portal again – perhaps to more closely observe what transpires, sensing the awesome significance of the next few moments. Perfect, Doom remarks – but he must work quickly. The dissection must be completed and his apparatus assembled in mere minutes!
He walks into a room, where Klaw is being dissected on a table. “Doctor Doom’s dissecting room, oom, oom…” Klaw chants. He reveals that cutting doesn’t hurt when you’re made of solidified sound! He asks Doom if he may speak poetry into his tape recorder. Without waiting for a reply, he begins reciting “Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe: “The tintinnabulations of the bells, bells, bells, and the ringing and the singing of the bells…”
Elsewhere, the heroes again climb the mountain and launch a group attack against Galactus. Thor pushes everyone to march onward! Spider-Man realizes that Galactus is fighting them directly now; no more drones. He thinks that’s a good sign! “On the other hand…” Spider-Woman exclaims as Galactus releases a tremendous blast the impellent force of which sends everyone flying backwards.
Cap realizes that maybe Galactus is weakening, but he’s still no pushover! Hulk angrily snarls that neither is he! He’s getting sick of this… he’s going to smash Galactus once and for all! He quickly jumps closer within Galactus’ range – but then, Galactus zaps him and Hulk drops to the ground with a scream.
Suddenly showing up with the rest of the Fantastic Four, Mister Fantastic urges the Torch to hit Galactus before he can finish the dazed Hulk. Reed then instructs Ben to start undercutting the mountain and sever the anchor rods and probe wands sunk into the rock from that machine. Ben tells him to consider them severed and begins punching away. Reed informs Cap that Galactus used enormous amounts of energy transporting his homeworld here, and he’s sure he hasn’t fed for months. His power is almost depleted – they can take him!
Cap is glad Reed’s here, but wonders what made him change his mind. Reed explains that he thought about what Galactus said, and he’s still not certain that in the cosmic scheme of things what they’re doing is right, but he realized just how badly he wants to see his baby born. He wants that more than anything... and he’s going to fight for it!
Now taking the lead in the heroes’ new group attack against Galactus, Reed instructs Iron Man to hit him head on: his armor can withstand those ion beams Galactus is projecting. He then tells Rogue to go in after Iron Man and hit high – but watch for energy beams from Galactus’ eyes! He also tells Spider-Man to get behind Galactus, and Ben and Thor to close in quickly! “Got him!” Iron Man announces as he blasts Galactus’ trunk at close range. “Yow! That was close!” Spidey exclaims, barely escaping being crushed by one of Galactus’ feet. Cyclops realizes that the way to Galactus’ machine is clear and begins blasting at it! Iron Man joins in and urges them to trash it! “For glory! For victory!” Thor heartens his comrades.
Reed desperately urges them to leave the machine alone and get Galactus – capture him! Disable him if they must – Galactus must not escape! “Hurry!” he screams at them in despair, seeing them at loss. However, he immediately realizes it’s too late: Galactus is getting away, flying upwards in the sky! Reed exclaims he’s gone – they failed! Iron Man wants to know what the big deal is. Clint insists they won: they trashed his machine and drove him off!
Reed retorts they lost! He explains to them: right about now, Galactus is entering his world-ship. He’ll probably take a moment to look around – his last look. He doesn’t need this machine to devour a world; it just makes the energy absorption far more efficient. Under the circumstances, Reed is sure Galactus will make do without…
Just then, he tells the others he sees the beginning! Observing Galactus’ intensely glowing ship, Reed explains he’s devouring his own living world – perhaps the greatest energy source in the universe. Moments after he’s finished, this godforsaken planet will be next! They won’t be able to stop him this time! Then, he’ll probably consume the sun, too! He’ll want every iota of energy available in case he must do battle with the Beyonder! Reed concludes by stating, in full certainty, that they’re dead men!
Energy beyond ken seethes in the void and the sun seems dim by comparison. In the center of the nimbus of fundamental force, Galactus prepares to drink in the Power Cosmic. Watching from Doombase, Doom gives his command: Now! These lenses he’s fashioned from Klaw’s body so perfectly, singularly attuned to the energy of the world-ship will steal the power and draw it here to him!