Greenwich Village, New York. A house (the Sanctum Sanctorum) which few in this vast city have ever seen yet which all could find, instinctively, had they need of its owner – the man called Doctor Strange. Turning to Wong, Strange tells him they are coming and to get ready. One among them is near death.
Just then, Namor, holding Iron Fist, Colleen Wing, and Misty Knight spill into Strange’s house. As they do, Namor tells him thank the gods he heard their call. But, quick now, close the dimensional portal behind them before… Observing vines coming out of the portal, Strange exclaims “by the hoary hosts of Hoggoth.” Using his magical powers, Strange repels the vines and proceeds to close up the portal.
Turning around, Strange asks Namor about his companions. Colleen answers that they’re okay except… Strange looks over, sees Iron Fist lying on the ground, and asks what the matter with him is. Namor tells him much. It would seem that for the past several months, all the time that Iron Fist was believed to be dead, he was in fact being held a helpless captive of the H’ylthri, the intelligent plant people of his home world, K’Un-Lun. Kneeling down, Strange looks over Iron Fist and remarks this is not good. His life signs are at a dangerously low ebb. They must act quickly, if they are to save him. Draping herself over Danny’s body, Misty begs Strange to do whatever he can. Don’t let him die, please don’t let him die. She can’t bear to lose him again.
Later, Strange tells Namor that he’s done what he can. Iron Fist’s condition is stable. But as to whether or not he will ever completely recover… That prognosis is beyond his skills to make, either as an erstwhile surgeon, or as the Sorcerer Supreme. When Misty asks if she can see him, Strange tells her yes. In fact, he believes that would be appropriate, since he sensed it was his undying love for her which served to bolster his spirit and keep him alive during his long captivity. Smiling ear to ear, Misty says his… love… Putting her hand on her shoulder, Colleen asks her could she ever doubt it. She was the first woman Danny ever really loved. They should have seen the falling out they had as a sign that something was less than kosher. When someone like Danny falls in love, it’s forever.
Once the ladies go to check on Danny’s condition, Strange asks Namor about K’Un-Lun and what the situation is there. Namor answers not good. Iron Fist’s escape from the H’ylthri damaged them enough that they were able to free those few humans which still survived. They elected to remain on that world, to rebuild their city under the leadership of Iron Fist’s old teacher, Lei Kung, the Thunderer. Nevertheless, as he saw, the H’ylthri were still strong enough to mount an attack. It was that assault they fled, on the insistence of Lei Kung, that they might bring Iron Fist to him, for proper care. It would seem his prowess is known even on that distant world.
Strange states that the balance struck between the human and H’ylthri populations of K’Un-Lun has ever been a thing most fragile. The H’ylthri had gained dominance of that world long before the human settlers came. Namor replies astonishing, he has seen much in his long life, but a world ruled by intelligent plants… Plants determined to destroy what they see as a human infestation… When Strange says that is something which could yet happen there, Namor asks what? Strange tells him they have already seen that agents of the H’ylthri have been abroad on Earth. It was such a one which impersonated Iron Fist and wound up dying in his place. Namor asks if he means to say there may still be H’ylthri on Earth. Strange states that he would not discount the possibility. He had said they seemed weakened on their own world and that they spoke of the damage done by the humans. Would it not be logical, given that they know of Earth, a world already rich in plant life, that they might seek to establish a beachhead on this planet?
At his base of operations, Samuel Smithers is holding court with his henchmen William, Benjamin and Weed. William proceeds to tell Samuel Smithers that he doesn’t know about this. Smithers asks him what it is this time. William replies t’be honest, this whole deal gives him the creeps. That walkin’ vegetable an’ the hairy guy…
Smithers cuts him off and asks what about the rest of them? Benjamin, his dear little Weed? Do they share Williams’ desires? Weed says a little bit. Benjamin adds like William said, this is all kinda creepy. Smithers asks “creepy?” Is it “creepy” that he has promised each of them a kingdom? Is it “creepy” to think that the world order is about to change. That peace will come at last to this tired old planet? Weed asks really? Him an’ the vegetable guy are really going to be able to do all that? Smithers replies all that and more, all that and more. Smithers then tells William and Benjamin to go check the perimeter again. Weed and he have… things to discuss…
Exiting the room, Benjamin asks William see? Now he’s got his guard up, and him an’ that walkin’ salad bar… Appearing from around the corner, Sssesthugar asks Mr. Potts if there was something he wished to say to him. Stammering, Benjamin says no, he, they… Grabbing Benjamin by the neck, Sssesthugar tells him don’t lie to me mammal. He forgets, he is not burdened with emotion as he is. Thus, he cannot manipulate his thinking with falsehoods. Inside Smithers’ office, Weed sits up with a start when she hears Benjamin’s scream. She proceeds to ask Smithers what that was. Smithers rubs her shoulder and tells her nothing she needs to worry about. Let us simply say she now has less competition when it comes to the division of the world…
Back inside Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, Strange tells Namor what his studies revealed in his absence. There are at least three places on Earth where K’Un-Lun makes contact with their world. One is in the mountains of Tibet. It was through this portal that Daniel Rand’s father first came to Earth and the young Rand himself returned to K’Un-Lun in the years before he became Iron Fist. The second is a vestigial opening, some years old now. As nearly as he can determine, it was used to transmit an unknown form of energy from K’Un-Lun to Earth. He has not yet learned the precise nature or purpose of the energy.
The third is the most intriguing of all, for it appears to shift across the surface of the world. It is focused in New Jersey now. Namor remarks less than an hour’s travel from there. Is this the beachhead of which he spoke? Strange answers that he would not be prepared to say, without further consideration. And there must be further consideration for, if the H’ylthri have invaded Earth, as they fear their arrival may well have sounded the death knell of all the creatures of the animal kingdom, humanity included.
Meanwhile, uptown, in the office of Rafael Scarfe, of the New York police… Tyrone King stands in front of Scarfe’s desk and tells him as he can see, it is vital to his purpose that no one yet discover the dual nature of “Tyrone King.” Scarfe asks why he has told him all this if he intends to wipe his brain clean anyway. King tells him an indulgence, Captain. He has labored long and hard on the complexities of his scheme. It pleases him to tell someone what he has accomplished. To see his eyes grow wide with wonder. Even if that wonder must, perforce, be a fleeting thing.
Scarfe tells King that he knows he can’t get away with this, doesn’t he? The same ego that compelled him to tell him his little tale drove him to pepper his plans with clues. He just couldn’t resist thumbing his nose at them poor, stupid mortals. Looking down at Pam lying on the floor, King says true. As his pretty young assistant learned, even his chosen name is a clue to his true identity. “Tyrone,” meaning “King” or “Master.” And “King” itself being but the English transliteration of his title. But now, the time for discussion is at last behind them. When all is done and finished, if he survives, he may permit him to remember once again all he has told him. If it amuses him to do so… With that, King, an Afro-American, transforms his hand into that of a Caucasians with long nails and erases Scarfe’s memory by jamming his hand into his head.
A short while later, on the Jersey side of the Hudson River… A taxi-cab driver drops Namor off in front of an estate and asks him if he’s sure this is the place he wants. As far as he knows, ain’t nobody lived in this dump for years. Exiting the cab, Namor tells him nevertheless, this is his intended destination. When the driver asks if he wants him to wait, Namor tells him that won’t be necessary. Once the taxi pulls off, Namor states that this is definitely the location of the third interface. Yet, as the cabby observed, it appears completely derelict. As he leaps over the wall and enters the compound Namor asks or does it? True, the grounds are unkempt and overgrown but this foliage does not seem as distressed as one would expect, had it gone years unattended. Plus, this growth is most unseasonal. Every tree for miles around is winter bare, yet here, inside the perimeter of this estate life and growth continue as if oblivious to the changing seasons.
Before Namor can ponder that thought for any longer, he is attacked by Wolverine. As Wolverine leaps onto Namor, he is a sudden blur of shadow and fury. He strikes as does a creature of the wild – without hesitation, without mercy. But the erstwhile Prince of fabled Atlantis is not one to fall prey to any attack, no matter how unexpected. With that, Namor punches Wolverine and knocks him backwards.
Within the span of a heartbeat, the adversaries have taken the measure, each of the other. Strengths have been assessed, weaknesses noted. Namor’s strength is far greater than his attacker’s but the other, for his part, has speed and what would seem unbridled savagery. Still, Prince Namor is not himself without a streak of utter ruthlessness. And it has not been that many years since a fearful world dubbed him the savage Sub-Mariner. As the two battle, each gives as good as he takes. After Namor rips a tree from the ground and hits Wolverine with it, a voice yells at them to stop.
Turning around, Namor sees a man perched on top of a vine wearing a trench coat, a hat and a bandanna covering his nose and mouth. The man proceeds to call them fools and murderers and to cease the senseless conflict now. After Namor asks who..., the man asks him that he doesn’t recognize him. He’s crushed. He would have thought, after their last encounter he would always remember… Namor exclaims the Plantman! Of course; he should have sensed his hand in this from the very beginning. And now he is in league with the H’ylthri?
Plantman replies not only now. Without knowing it, he has been an agent of the plant people of K’Un-Lun since the inception of his career. But he would not know the salient details of his genesis as chief apostle of the plant kingdom. He began as nothing more than a simple gardener. He worked for meager wages, always at the beck and call of foolish humans who thought plants nothing more than sources of food and pretty decoration.
After catching him using one of his inventions, one of his bosses yelled at him. He proceeded to tell him he had it with him. He’s supposed to be cutting the lawn, not messing around with that stupid “invention” of his. Smithers shot back that his invention is not stupid. All his studies prove that plants have an intelligence all their own. An intelligence on a different order from that of humans. With his device, he knows he’ll soon increase that intelligence until he can communicate with them. The boss told him that does it and then ordered him to take his fool gadget and get out of here. He’s fired!
After leaving the Evans nursery, he returned to the moldering estate he’d long ago inherited. But he never stopped working on his device, never stopped hoping. One night, as the heavens raged above him, he tried his latest modification. To his amazement, neither he nor his device seemed to have been injured by the bolt from the sky. In fact, when he tested the device again the plant moved, acting to obey his thoughts. Thus empowered, he embarked on his career as the Plantman, ultimately carrying his campaign of conquest back to his native England where Namor chose to set himself as an impediment to his plans.
Namor says this much he knows but how did he come to involve himself with the alien H’ylthri. Plantman asks isn’t that obvious? That was no random bolt of lightning which struck his first, primitive device. The H’ylthri were seeking a means to attack the world from which their greatest enemies originated. They’d created a small portal between their dimensional and their own. And his first device, crude though it was...
Sssesthugar enters on the scene and finishes Smithers’ thought for him. His first device had emitted an energy frequency which drew their attention. They saw in Samuel Smithers the perfect ally by which to establish their first roots upon this world. After Smithers chides him for interrupting his moment, Sssesthugar grabs hold of him and tells him he has been of use but that time is past. He has been in communication with the home world. He has learned the one called Iron Fist has escaped and that somehow, the one he calls Sub-Mariner is involved.
Namor states indeed he was. And he was not alone. There are powerful forces even now mustering against him. Sssesthugar replies that he is aware of this. And it is for that reason that their carefully wrought timetable of conquest must now be accelerated. As they enslaved the creature he so bravely battled, they will now enslave Namor. And, by week’s end, they will have likewise enslaved all the humans within a thousand mile radius. Once that is accomplished, there is nothing which has any hope of standing in the way of their complete domination of this planet. With that, Sssesthugar begins to wrap his vines around Namor’s body.