Manhattan is no stranger to the dark side of life. This night, the figurative has become literal as the city is awash in cascading waves of tangible dark energy. It is when the light is drowned by the onslaught of darkness that the city’s protectors come out. Champions such as Peter Parker aka the Amazing Spider-Man, and Robbie Baldwin the New Warrior called Speedball.
‘Uhm…hey, Web-Head - how about we take a rain check on this one?’ Speedball enquires as he bounds along a bridge, while Spider-Man swings behind him on webbing, as the darkness splashes towards them. Spider-Man tells Speedball not to be such a coward. ‘Just because we have absolutely no clue what’s going on all over Manhattan is no reason to be worried’ he remarks. ‘Be a mensch and leap into the terrifying unknown with a swashbuckling reckless abandon!’ Spider-Man urges the younger hero. ‘And half-an-ounce of common sense?’ Speedball mutters, before telling Spider-Man that he is his hero, his role-model.
‘Usually I have one foot in my mouth - now I can have it knee-deep in gunk that looks like this side of the Arthur Kill!’ Speedball declares as he bounces about on his kinetic energy, trying to stay away from the darkness. Spider-Man tells Speedball to try and not let the darkness wash over him, as there is no telling what it is made of. ‘Sorta like the special sauce on a Big Mac, huh?’ Speedball jokes, before telling Spider-Man not to worry about him, as his kinetic field is as much a part of him as body odor is to the Hulk. ‘You do live dangerously, toothpick’ Spider-Man remarks as they drop down to the cars on the bridge, where the darkness is sweeping towards. Spider-Man tells Speedball to just do his best to avoid this garbage until they can figure out what it is.
Suddenly, a blonde woman in a red convertible car become stuck, as the darkness washes around her vehicle’s tyres. ‘Uhm - hmmm - Mr Spider-Man - help?’ she calls out, but Spider-Man doesn’t hear her, and swings on by. Suddenly, a beam of energy is fired at the darkness as it creeps up the young women’s car. The hero called Darkhawk drops down beside the car and pulls it away from the blackness. ‘I have you, Miss. My force blast cut you free’ the hero announces. ‘Ms’ the blonde woman corrects him. ‘Excuse me?’ Darkhawk asks. ‘Ms. Uhm…you called me Miss. It’s Ms. Uhm…Dunham’ Laura Dunham, the girlfriend of the New Warrior called Nova explains. ‘You sort of saved my life and I’m rambling right now, huh?’ Laura mutters, looking at Darkhawk, who replies ‘Uh-huh’. Laura replies that she is sorry, and explains that she is scared out of her mind. Darkhawk tells Ms Dunham that he knows how she feels, before excusing himself, as he thought he saw Spider-Man and Speedball as he was gliding in a second ago. ‘They may need a helping hand from Darkhawk!’ the hero exclaims as he releases a cable from his armor and glides upwards.
‘You were saying about that kinetic field?’ Spider-Man asks Speedball, the two of them trapped by the darkness. ‘No one likes a wisenheimer, Spidey’ Speedball mutters, as they fail to free themselves. ‘You guys okay?’ Darkhawk calls out as he glides towards them. ‘No, Darkhawk, we’re not’ Spider-Man replies, when suddenly, there is a FZEECHAK sound, and Speedball declares that he would know that sound anywhere. He looks up to see Angelica “Firestar” Jones, his teammate, hovering over them as she releases her microwave energy to free Speedball and Spider-Man from their bonds. ‘You guys okay?’ Firestar enquires. ‘Of course we are, Firestar’ Spider-Man replies, before telling Angelica that he likes her new costume.
Examining the dark matter that as surrounded them, Spider-Man declares that whatever it is, it couldn’t take a concentrated burst of Firestar’s microwave emissions. ‘Neither can I’ Speedball exclaims as he examines his butt, which is smouldering from Firestar’s energy beams. ‘Sterile for life, I just know it!’ Speedball declares. On top of a pillar on the bridge, Darkhawk drops down beside the others and asks them what is going on here. ‘What is this stuff?’ Firestar asks. Spider-Man tells the newcomers that they know as much as he and Speedball do at this point. ‘Was this gunk afraid of Firestar or something?’ Darkhawk enquires, adding that it looks like black jello but moves like a greased third grader.
Everyone turns to Spider-Man, who asks ‘Well, what are you all looking at me for - I don’t know what’s happening any more than you do!’ He then asks ‘What am I supposed to be, the Super Hero Encyclopedia or something?’ Speedball looks sideways and mutters ‘Well, you being the most experienced and all, we just assumed…our mistake, really, having faith in you…’, to which Spider-Man exclaims ‘Enough with the digs! All I know at this point is how I felt when that black goo was wrapping me up’ Spider-Man declares, asking Speedball if he felt it, too. ‘Angry, frustrated, tense - like it was feeding off all the darkness inside of us?’ Speedball suggests. ‘Or we were feeding off of it?’ Spider-Man suggests, adding that it must be affecting everyone else like it did to them.
Spider-Man announces that they need the bigwigs for this - the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange - suddenly, he is interrupted, as a voice calls out ‘And maybe a helping hand from the new kid in town - TURBO!’ the young man proclaims as he hovers in the air above the others, kept afloat by the discs at his ankles and feet. Wearing a one-piece blue spandex costume, and an oversized visor, he drops down next to the others. ‘Wait a minute - I met Turbo - and he was a she!’ Firestar exclaims. ‘They got an operation for that kinda thing, Red’ Speedball remarks quietly. ‘She is Turbo, Firestar - but so am I!’ the male Turbo announces. ‘Whatever. Really. Listen kid - if you can help, fine - but don’t slow us down!’ Spider-Man exclaims. ‘Believe me, Spidey - if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s slow!’ Turbo boasts as he leaps off the bridge pillar.
‘I’m sure your girlfriend’s thrilled to hear that’ Speedball jokes as he leaps from the pillar also, bounding through the air on his kinetic energy. Firestar takes to the air as well, while Darkhawk glides along on his cable, and Spider-Man swings via his webbing. ‘”Spidey”. He called me. I get no respect’ Spider-Man mutters to himself, before calling out to the younger heroes: ‘Okay, Warriors - let’s go get ourselves killed!’, to which the new Turbo shouts ‘Awwwl-right!’, smiling as he flies along.
Just south of the Brooklyn Bridge where the champions of light have gathered, is the factory Crash-Pad of the New Warriors, where among the conflicted desires of youth and adulthood, darkness has gained a foothold. ‘Ouch!’ Nova a.k.a. Rich Rider mutters as he is punched through the roof of the Crash-Pad. ‘Man, she hits like a mother!’ Nova exclaims, before gathering himself and propelling himself back down to the Crash-Pad at super-speed. ‘Suck it up, Rich. You may not want to go what you gotta do, but you don’t have much choice!’ Nova tells himself, adding that if he is going to do it, he has to do it all the way - and zooming back through the hole in the roof, Nova crashes into his teammate, Namorita Prentiss, who has been overcome by the darkness.
Namorita spins around and the teammates prepare to face off, as Nova tells Namorita that he doesn’t know what this stuff as done to her, but that if the only way to find out is by taking her down, then she is going down. They slosh about in the dark matter that has engulfed the Crash-Pad, while their teammate, Elvin Haliday a.k.a. Rage, who was previously knocked out by Namorita, regains consciousness. ‘What’s going on?’ he calls out, recalling that he was swept by that bosco wave, before Namorita knocked him out. ‘Nova saved my butt. That answers that. Now maybe someone can tell me - why do I feel like the Marines in Aliens did?’ Rage asks, referring to the science fiction film. The darkness moves swiftly towards Rage - and engulfs him.
Her form as black as the matter that controls her, Namorita lashes out at Nova, punching him hard in the face. Nova reciprocates and punches Namorita. ‘That’s it! I’m not gonna stand here trading punches with you!’ Nova declares, adding that whether Namorita is in control of herself or not, this fight is over. He gives Namorita a real hard punch sending her careening backwards. At the same time, Rage tears the Darkforce away from him, ‘GET OFF OF ME!’ he booms, before going up to Nova and telling him that he could feel that stuff taking him over, that he got angrier, but part of him wanted to let it control him. ‘Maybe Nita couldn’t resist?’ Rage suggests as the two walk towards the fallen Namorita. Nova replies that with all the junk she has gone through lately, he wouldn’t be surprised, before adding that he really didn’t want to hit her.
Suddenly, a mysterious figure materializes behind Namorita. ‘Oh #$%! Me! What now? Who is this guy?’ Nova gasps as a large, dark, cape floats behind Namorita. ‘I guess you could say he’s the confirmation Nita and I were looking for about Silhouette’s disappearance’ Rage explains, adding that his name is Cloak, and that if he is a part of this, then they are definitely involved with the Darkforce Dimension.
Blocks away from the Warriors’ Crash-Pad, the mutant bird-of-prey called Archangel a.k.a. Warren Worthington III tries to make sense of the madness pervading Manhattan. This is rather ironic, considering the struggle he has endured, between the forces of dark and light within his own tortured soul. Soaring between the high-rise buildings, Warren sees Spider-Man up ahead by the bridge, and Firestar, too, so assumes the New Warriors must be there. ‘Well, with all the possibilities ranging from the Fantastic Four to Code: Blue - I guess I’ll take whatever help I can get!’ Warren tells himself. He decides that they can compare notes, when suddenly, the Darkforce moves upwards towards him, and engulfs him completely.
Warren tries to escape it, but cannot. The darkness seeps inside of him, and all the recent victories - all the inner turmoil he has triumphed over - simply do not amount to much at all. He fights against it - conscious of his very will being stripped from him piece by piece. But in the end, he doesn’t - or can’t - fight hard enough. In the end, he is taken over. And in the end, a part of him, deep down inside - likes it.
Somewhere else, a very place whose existence is based on an absence of light - the truth is revealed - and with the truth, illumination. And, with illumination - understanding. In the darkness, several figures stand motionless. The missing New Warrior, Silhouette Chord is amongst them, as are the enigmatic Shroud, the scantily clad criminal called Ecstasy, the refugee from another world known as Quagmire, and the Serpent Society’s Black Mamba. The all-seeing Eye of Agamotto flits between them, before Dr Stephen Strange materializes within the darkness that he allowed himself to be taken by. Strange notes that the beings here all manifest their paragenetic abilities from the energies of this dimension, but that it is an outside force which has co-opted them.
Dr Strange notes that this force is not present in this dimensional plane at all, and that the energy present here is non-sentient, but that it has found a dimensional plane whose existence is predicated on the presence of light. Strange realizes that through a process of natural physics, it seeks to flow through into that plane, and fill the vacuum it now perceives. Strange tells himself that it has found an access, an entry way, into that dimension - his dimensional plane. Strange decides that the assault on Manhattan does not lie here, or with these people - but that it lies on Earth. Dr Strange tells himself that he must take his leave without disturbing these poor people, so as not to alert that source to his presence. ‘But this I do promise - Dr Strange will return to help you all!’ Strange assures the prisoners. As he vanishes, Silhouette opens her eyes!
It is called the most dangerous and exciting city in the world. But if you take a bite out of the Big Apple, you have to be ready to eat a worm. Think how the Human Torch and Thing of the Fantastic Four, and Sersi, Crystal and the Black Knight of the Avengers must feel. After all, the Apples they’ve eaten are now biting back! ‘What a revolting development this is!’ the Thing shouts as he tries to shake off a civilian who has been overcome by the darkness, and is clinging to the Thing’s neck. ‘Consider them as unto ants, Thing’ the sultry Eternal called Sersi suggests as she releases her powerful energy blasts. ‘Dane Whitman a.k.a. the Black Knight agrees, and as he punches on of the civilians back, points out that is why they have to step lightly. Johnny Storm a.k.a. the Human Torch flies overhead, while the Inhuman Avenger called Crystal tells Dane that she isn’t sure that is what Sersi meant.
The sky is dark, and the Darkforce energy has risen to levels above the skyscraper buildings. The moon glows green, as dozens of civilians continue to attack the quintet of heroes. The Thing asks Crystal if Sersi meant for them to step on the civilians, to which Crystal replies that she hopes not, but that with Sersi, who can tell. ‘At least this energy manifestation is not affecting my elemental powers’ Crystal declares as she uses a wind gust to gently propel several of the possessed civilians backwards. As the Darkforce begins to creep up Sersi’s body, she urgently asks Crystal if there is anything she can do to stop the disgusting material itself. The Human Torch announces that if Crystal can’t help, he would love to, but points out that if anything, the darkness is even more attracted to him.
The Human Torch continues to maintain flight, while Sersi announces that her molecular restructuring abilities have no effect on it, either. ‘Which is a shame, since this material simply does not go with my outfit’ Sersi mutters. Suddenly, the Darkforce rises and begins to engulf the Human Torch, who asks ‘Can we can the quips and find a way to give me a hand?’, while the handsome Black Knight announces that he is surrounded, too, before revealing that his neuro-sword actually disrupts this “jello”, but that he can’t keep it at bay forever. Crystal tells the Thing that the others have been engulfed, and wonders why the two of them have not been taken, too. ‘Maybe it’s intimidated by our good looks, Crys?’ the Thing suggests to his former teammate. ‘But Dane - and Johnny - what do we do?’ Crystal asks.
The Thing replies that he really doesn’t know, and wishes that Mr Fantastic was in the city, as he would whip up a frammistatsit-doohickie and solve everything. ‘But he’s not here, so we gotta figure out something - but what?’ the Thing remarks. Suddenly, ‘Easy, Mr Grimm - just look for people in high places, is all!’ Firestar exclaims as she, Spider-Man, Speedball, Darkhawk and Turbo arrive on scene. Angelica releases her microwave bursts, which free the Black Knight from the Darkforce. ‘High places, not bad, Red’ Spider-Man remarks, quietly adding that, Speedball notwithstanding, there is hope for the next generation yet. ‘I HEARD that!’ Speedball shouts, while Crystal asks Firestar to free the others, before they are overwhelmed.
However, before Angelica can get to Sersi and the Torch, a figure appears behind them. ‘Who in the name of Aunt Petunia is that?’ the Thing enquires. ‘He’s touching Sersi and the Torch!’ Speedball exclaims, before suddenly, the new figure teleports away - with Sersi and the Human Torch. ‘He took them away!’ Dane shouts, free from the Darkforce, his neuro-sword ready. Spider-Man tells his companions that he is pretty sure that was the Vanisher, a mutant teleporter, and wonders what his part in this is. ‘The Darkforce!’ Speedball announces. ‘You mean the energy some folks like Cloak use?’ Spider-Man asks. ‘And like Silhouette! That’s why she’s been missing for weeks - all of this mess is being caused by the Darkforce!’ Speedball exclaims.
The male Turbo speaks up: ‘But the Human Torch and Ms Sersi - their powers aren’t derived from the Darkforce energies, are they?’, to which the Black Knight confirms that they aren’t. ‘Then why -’ Turbo begins, as the Black Knight explains that they were taken for the same reason the Darkforce got him - they are the ones it can grab on to, the ones with doubts and anger inside them, screaming to get out, and screaming to let it in. Crystal asks why this is happening at all, to which the Thing points out that there is only one way to find out. He announces that they were headed towards the biggest mass of the gunk when they ran into each other and got ambushed. ‘So let’s keep going that way’ he suggests, adding that they will come face to face with whoever or whatever is doing this and show them: ‘It’s clobbering time!’ he shouts as he leads the way, followed by Black Knight, Crystal, Speedball, Spider-Man, Firestar, Darkhawk and Turbo, who remarks ‘I am soooo psyched to hear your say that, sir’.
Back at the Warriors’ Crash-Pad, ‘Don’t giver up!’ Nova shouts as he and Rage try to crawl away from Cloak. Rage replies that he isn’t about to, but the Darkforce keeps pulling them in. ‘Can you feel it - churning inside of you - like you wanna throw up your guts?’ Nova asks his teammate. Rage replies that he knows, that he felt it before, and boasts that he won’t give in, as he knows what he has inside of him, but that he will not give in to it. He struggles hard, and smashes his fist on the ground, declaring that he is better than that, he has to be. ‘I know that, sluggo - and you know that - but try telling it to Cloak!’ Nova replies, when, suddenly, Cloak’s body fills with a brilliant light, and his attack ends. ‘No need to, Nova. He just found out for himself’ Dagger a.k.a. Tandy Bowen announces as she appears overhead.
Dagger introduces herself and reveals that she is Cloak’s partner. She tells Tyrone Johnson that she knows this isn’t his fault, that she knows he is just being controlled by the demon inside his cloak. Tandy tells her partner that she is tired of it - tired of the flight between his darkness and her light. ‘And I can’t let any more innocent people be hurt because of that fight’ she adds. Cloak is unable to speak as Dagger’s light seeps from his body, and Tandy adds that before she lets that happen, she will feed that demon enough light to fry it forever. ‘It all ends tonight - even if it kills the both of us!’
Meantime, at the Smythers Drug Rehabilitation Clinic on the Upper East Side, ‘Oh, God - help please - no - oh no - stop!’ clinic staff call out as the Darkforce has engulfed their place of work. Doctor Strange trudges through the black mess, when suddenly, ‘By the mercy of the Ancient One!’ he gasps, as a being seemingly composed entirely of Darkforce energy materializes before him. ‘Hello Mister. Welcome to my nightmare. Welcome to the darkness. Welcome to the void. And best of all - welcome to the end of everything this pathetic #@!&ing world has to offer!’….