Inside Stark Tower, Wolverine is drinking milk straight from the carton, when he senses Aunt May standing on the other side of the fridge door. She feels he should show some consideration to others and use a glass, but Wolverine asks her what if he plans on drinking the whole thing. Before she can respond, May’s nephew, Peter Parker, arrives to inform Wolverine that Cap is calling from the helicarrier. He says it’s important. Wolverine gets up and leaves, leaving Aunt May fuming. She pours the milk down the sink, causing Jarvis to remark that he’s aware Mister Stark can probably afford it, but it does seem a little wasteful.
Cap is with Luke Cage and Spider-Woman, and their images appear on a large screen. Cap asks if there’s anyone else there, but Spidey replies that it’s just them. Should they get the Sentry? Cap doesn’t think that’s necessary. He tells them that they have an escapee from the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. He left less than two minutes ago, so if they look out the tower window, they should see him pass by. Surely enough, they see an armored form rocketing past.
Cap informs them that it’s the evil Tony Stark who they’ve been keeping in stasis. He’s used an advanced Life Model Decoy to form a suit of armor. He’s quite formidable, he warns, so they’re on their way. He’d like them to engage Stark and keep him occupied until they arrive. “Sounds like a plan,” says Spidey. “Shall we?”
Moments later, Spidey is carrying Wolverine with his armor’s metal arms. Logan thinks his suit still looks stupid, despite its advantages. As they approach Stark, or Iron Maniac, as he now calls himself, Wolverine asks to be released and he drops towards his target. He lands beside Stark and slashes his adamantium claws down the back of his suit. He wants to make it quick. Stark likes the sound of that, as it’s how he prefers to kill his victims.
Stark turns and grasps Wolverine by the throat. Stark tells him he’s a pain no matter which dimension he is in. He’s going to enjoy killing him again. He squeezes tighter, and tells Logan that he knows he can’t break his limbs but, if he tries hard enough, he’s sure he can rip the flesh of his indestructible adamantium bones. His suit’s molecular structure changes and the fluid metal enters Wolverine’s pores. Some oozes from his nostrils. He threatens to pop Wolverine like a balloon, but Spider-Man has other ideas.
Spidey swings down and kicks Stark in the back, forcing him to release Wolverine. Stark recognizes the costume and congratulate Parker on finally starting to apply himself. He’s pleased that he’s now using his brain for something more than silly remarks. Spider-Man replies that it was actually his dimension’s Tony Stark who built the costume for him… the one who’s not an evil jerk.
Stark is disappointed. From his right gauntlet, a weapon emerges; a very sophisticated-looking piece of hardware. He begins blasting at Spidey, but Parker uses his agility to dodge his fire. He asks what the deal is. Does he not have a spider-sense in his dimension? Does he know how hard it is to actually shoot him? “I’m totally awesome!”
Stark continues shooting to no avail, but this distraction has allowed Wolverine to recover and he once again slashes at Stark’s armor, receiving a wound to his side as a result. A weak Wolverine tells Stark that he doesn’t have enough to put him down, but Stark holds his gauntlet out and aims a small device on the palm of his hand at Logan’s face. “I assure you I do,” he replies.
Before he can fire, however, Spider-Man comes to the rescue. He webs up Stark’s facemask, but Stark lifts the mask and says he is only delaying things - not preventing them. He grabs one of Spidey’s metallic arms and uses it to spin Spidey around, using him as a swatter to hurl Wolverine off the building. Spidey manages to squirm free and he heads after his colleague, grabbing him as they fall. Unfortunately, by the time he has a hold of him, they’re too close to the ground and they hit it hard, just managing to roll with the impact at the last moment. However, they’re in a bad way, and Stark descends to join them immediately. Onlookers are helpless as Spidey wonders, “Weren’t the rest of the Avengers going to show up and help us?”
At the hospital, Curtis Doyle is finally awake and eating jelly. Dr. Hill opens his door and asks to speak with him. She is sorry to inform him that his injuries mean that his spine isn’t going to heal. He’s paralyzed from the waist down and will never walk again. Curtis is shocked. When he took on the role of Freedom Ring, he never expected this. Dr. Hill tells him they will keep him a couple more days for observation and then he’ll be discharged. She apologizes again and leaves.
(two days later)
Troy takes Curtis home in a wheelchair and offers to help him with whatever he needs. Curtis, still understandably upset, replies that he just wants to be left alone. Once Troy has gone, Curtis takes the cosmic ring from its box and looks at it. “Stupid ring.”
He slips it on and says that at least he’ll never have to make a sandwich. One appears in his hand and he takes a bite. He then realizes it might have more useful benefits. He concentrates hard and wills himself to stand up. Soon, he is upright. He stretches his arms out wide and shouts, “Yes!!”
He then walks around his apartment as if his injuries had never happened. He calls for Troy, but he’s already left the building. He then notices his neighbor peeping through his doorway again, and this time Curtis figures he’s not letting him get away with it. He marches over and bangs on his door, ordering him to open up. He turns the handle and finds that the door isn’t locked. Gingerly, he enters
Once inside, he is confronted by Troy, and Curtis asks what he’s doing in his neighbor’s apartment. Troy beckons him to come on inside and sit down. He explains that this is his apartment. Curtis takes a seat and replies that Troy’s starting to freak him out. He knows where he lives and this isn’t it. Troy replies that the thing is, this is his apartment, but he’s not Troy.
His body begins to change and, in a moment, the green form of an alien Skrull stands before him. Curtis is surprised to say the least. He saw something about the Skulls on the news. The Skrull corrects him, and explains that he’s not there to hurt him. He was sent to Earth specifically to spy on the Avengers, but shortly after he arrived their mansion was destroyed and they disappeared for months. He decided to remain there, halting communication with his people. He likes it there. As far as him spying on Curtis, he admits that old habits die hard. He watches all the people on their floor using Skrull technology. He knows everything that goes on.
Curtis is finding this hard to take in. He asks if he’s just supposed to take his word for it. He’s a freakin’ alien and he’s been spying on him. He then stops, and asks, “Everything?” The Skrull says he’s been spying on him for months and he’s yet to hurt anyone. He asks Curtis if he still wants to be a super hero. Curtis isn’t sure he can be, and asks how much the alien knows. He replies that when Curtis got the ring, he focused all his equipment on his apartment. His neighbors’ problems no longer interested him. He understands that Curtis is crippled and also knows what the ring can do. He finds it very impressive.
The Skrull continues to explain that he’s been thinking about trying the super hero thing himself. When the Avengers were gone, he was thinking about using the name Avenger. He has powers. He doesn’t think he could use that so he has gone with Crusader. He could use a partner. Curtis asks why not something like Changer or Disguiser. Crusader has nothing to do with his powers. The Skrull replies that it’s why he chose it. Freedom Ring might as well be ‘Take my ring and my powers go away.’ He never understood why people named themselves after their powers. It tells their opponent too much. If they knew he could change shape, his advantage would be gone.
He asks Curtis if he’s in. Curtis pauses for a moment before saying no. He thinks that after last time he’d be a fool to try again. Plus, he doesn’t exactly trust the Skrull just yet. The alien replies that he’s not crippled. The ring fixed him. As long as he has the ring, he isn’t crippled. Has he thought about what else he could do to his body? Curtis asks what he means. The Skrull tells him that he fixed his legs, but could he improve them? He could make himself stronger; strong enough to take a punch from the Abomination without getting hurt. He asks Curtis to follow him to the roof.
Soon, they are both on the building’s roof with the Skrull now in humanoid form again - the one he normally uses. His clothes then change into a purple/grey costume and Curtis transforms into Freedom Ring. The Skrull says that before, Curtis used the ring on external stuff; walls, guns, cakes, hot tubs etc. Now he should focus on the internal. If Curtis can make himself powerful, he shouldn’t need to worry about forming the right thing at the right time. He won’t have to worry about blocking a punch - just taking it and giving them his own back.
He asks Curtis if he can focus on making his legs stronger, maybe invulnerable. Curtis concentrates and replies that he can actually feel something working. The Skrull then punches him in the stomach and asks Curtis if he can feel anything. “Nope,” replies Curtis. He creates a baseball bat in the Skrull’s hand, asking him to try that. He smashes Curtis over the head. The bat breaks in two and Curtis doesn’t feel a thing. Curtis is eager to try something else.
Two full weeks of practice follow, with Curtis lifting cars, bending metal girders and beating up on the Skrull, who makes himself look like the Abomination. Curtis feels he can actually do this, and the Skrull informs him that he has some equipment set to monitor emergency channels. They should see if there’s anything that requires their attention.
Iron Maniac has defeated Spider-Man and Wolverine. He calls out to the crowd who look on. “Where are the Fantastic Four? The X-Men? The Avengers? They send more police to me. This is comical!” Hiding behind an overturned vehicle, an officer gets on the radio. He informs dispatch that Iron Man’s gone crazy. Spider-Man and Wolverine are down, possibly dead. They have wounded cops and civilians and they need more backup now!