After defeating both Spider-Man and Wolverine in combat, Iron Maniac decides to head to the Baxter Building. He figures Mr. Fantastic will have the equipment necessary to allow him to return to his home dimension.
As he rockets skywards, Freedom Ring is there to halt his progress. He smashes him, causing Iron Maniac to fall backwards. Crusader flies after him as he falls, but Curtis realizes the error of his ways. The rocket pack Crusader is wearing is a creation of the cosmic ring and, once out of range, it fades away, leaving Crusader with nothing to prevent his rapid descent. Curtis flies down and catches him using his own rocket pack, as Iron Maniac lands heavily on the sidewalk.
Crusader morphs his hands into solid diamond-shaped hammers and attacks Stark. However, his momentum is used against him, and he is dumped unceremoniously into a nearby wall where he reverts to his normal Skrull form. Stark knows how to deal with his kind but, before he can do anything, Curtis flies by and grabs him around the waist. He shoots skywards once again, but Stark uses his jet-boots to divert them from their course, smashing hurling them both through a nearby building and out the other side. Curtis is severely winded.
At that moment, Captain America, Luke Cage and Spider-Woman appear aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. flying car. Cap orders him to let the boy go, and Stark does exactly that. Spider-Woman leaps from the car and tries to catch Curtis, but she is too late. The fall ends with Curtis crashing into the road, forming a small impact crater around him. Jessica lands beside him and asks if he’s okay. Curtis replies weakly that he can’t breathe. Two paramedics arrive with a stretcher to get Curtis out of there, as Cap takes on Iron Maniac face to face.
As they tussle several floors up besides a building, Cap asks what’s happened to him. Why does he hurt these people? Has he really changed that much? Stark replies that he got smarter. He wonders what they actually accomplished together. What they did was useless! Pointless! An endless cycle! He uses his armor to create a massive electrical charge, which he sends through Cap’s body. It baffles him that Cap isn’t able to see that his death in Stark’s dimension was for the better.
With Cap now falling, Luke Cage and Spider-Woman attack Stark together, but he simply grabs them both and smashes their heads together. They also drop, but fortunately Crusader uses his morphing body to create what amounts to a large airbag. Cap lands first, followed quickly by his two teammates. He looks up to see Iron Maniac heading towards him at speed, asking why they just don’t leave him alone. He slams into Crusader, thrusting his gauntlet right through the Skrull’s chest. He looks down at the gaping hole. “That’s going to… take a while to… fix,” is all that Crusader can utter as he collapses, just as Freedom Ring calls to Stark.
Stark turns to see Curtis standing before him. Curtis figures he’s probably wondering how he’s back so soon, looking all clean and shiny and ready to kick his butt. He explains that it’s due to his magic ring; the one that gives him his powers. He would be surprised to know everything he can do with it. In fact, he adds, does Stark feel that? His arms are getting heavy. He can’t move. In a couple of seconds he won’t be able to stand.
Stark warns Curtis that he’s made a fatal mistake. True, Curtis has stopped him. He can’t move his body. It’s frozen. However, his armor is not. Immediately, his armor begins to form itself into metallic spikes and Stark mentally thrusts them towards Curtis. One spike rams itself right up through his chin and out the top of his head. Many more slice into his body, lifting him clean off the ground.
He regains control of his body as Curtis’s life ebbs away. Stark is then hit on the back of the head by Cap’s shield, which he throws with great accuracy. This fractures Stark’s skull and knocks him unconscious. His armor melts away into the ground. Jessica looks at Curtis and is shocked. Luke Cage bends over his inert body and delivers the tragic verdict. He’s gone. Cap is speechless. He picks up Curtis in his arms and says that he doesn’t even know who he was, but he saved them all. Spidey then arrives carrying Wolverine under one arm. He makes with the quips as he arrives, asking if they missed any of the fun parts. One backwards glance from Captain America tells him all he needs to know, and he quickly apologizes.
(days later, Cypress Hills Cemetery)
It’s the day of Curtis Doyle’s funeral. All Curtis’ friends are there, and Troy feels it’s nice of the super heroes to attend his funeral. Jeffrey clenches his fists, asking how he could do this. He meets somebody and thinks he knows them, and they turn out to be a freakin’ super hero?! He never really got to know Curtis, and he feels terrible. Daphne asks Troy if they ever found the ring. Troy replies no, they don’t know where it is.
Meanwhile, Crusader is at his apartment sporting the cosmic ring on his own finger. He is flanked by two young Skrull females who are tending to his every need. “Not bad…” he grins, “Not bad at all…”
There is terror on the streets as the mad Skrull Titannus rips apart the place. Families run for cover, as he destroys building after building on his rampage. He grabs armfuls of road surface, which he uses as weapons, smashing them through everything that stands in his way. He is enraged, and is unstoppable as he wreaks havoc in the city.
Monitoring Titannus from the other side of the world, the two Japanese scientists, one bearded and one clean shaven, watch the Skrull’s progress by satellite link. The mental blocks they put in place appear to be working. The readings they are getting back are off the charts. The destruction Titannus is causing is reaching unfathomable levels. The bearded scientist feels that this is justified retribution for America’s unprovoked attack on their city. To think they had the audacity to tell them it had nothing to do with Titannus’ initial attack, comments one.
His colleague feels that it was an insulting display, only made worse by their government actually believing them and refusing their plans for retaliation. The bearded man adds that with the might of Titannus under their control, they can blaze a path across their continent, spreading death and destruction, until finally the United States of America will fall!
(Doctor Strange’s Inner Sanctum)
Inside Strange’s brownstone headquarters, the good doctor is relaxing - levitating whilst reading a tome which hovers in front of him. As he reads, the candles next to him are extinguished. Strange raises an eyebrow and suddenly screams in agony. The book falls to the rug below them, followed immediately by Strange himself. He kneels whilst reaching out. “Oh no. Not again!”