On the surface of the Earth’s moon stands Uatu the Watcher. Silently, ponderously, he gazes up at the planet his home orbits. The Watcher is a being who has seen it all. For untold eons he has watched from on high. Such is his sacred duty. To bear witness. To be a living record of the Earth’s evolution. He has seen all the beauty and horror that a world like Earth has to offer. He has seen more births and deaths than he can count. More war than any other living thing. He has seen the colossal events that shook the planet, that echo through history still. And the quietest of moments, that changed its inhabitants without them even noticing. He has seen their greatest secrets. Their struggles. Their successes. Their sins. He has seen all there is or ever was. And yet with the coming of each new day, the Watcher is still full of wonder. Over what he might see next.
As silently as he observed, the Watcher returns to the ruins of the Blue Area of the Moon. Machines older than the sun and infinitely more powerful come alive around him. However, it is not his mere machinery that leads him to where he needs to be or what must be seen. It is a feeling. An innate sense for where and when the world is on the verge of changing. As always, the Watcher gives himself to that feeling. But today… today that feeling tells him for the first time in his very long life… that he won’t be going anywhere. And in that moment, he knows. He knows what he will be watching today. And for a second he feels a twinge of what he has seen on the faces of so many others at times like this. Uatu the Watcher knows fear.
Still, he does not blink. He does not run. Still, he watches without flinching. Because some things cannot go unseen. He is the Watcher. And he will keep his eyes open wide… until he can see no more. Glancing over his shoulder at the one who watches him, the Watcher speaks. “I see you.” A moment later, a massive explosion rocks the Watcher’s facility and the Watcher watches no more.
Elsewhere, late at night, a convertible sits parked next to an Avengers’ Quinjet at a Cebulski’s Steakhouse restaurant. In a booth within sit four friends, soldiers in arms in the world of the super-powered, though for the moment all dressed in civilian garb. On one side sits Steve Rogers and Logan, each known as Captain America and Wolverine. On the other sits Nick Fury and Natasha Romanov, the latter of whom is known by many as the Black Widow.
When Steve declares that he cannot eat another bite as he’s about the burst, Logan mocks that he’s liable to get stabbed if he lets that meat go to waste. It’s “meat night.” He should stop worrying about his figure. Hearing this, Natasha interjects that it’s a good steak but the best meat is from an animal you hunt and kill yourself. Next time it’s meat night, she’s taking them to hunt bear. Sneering at this, Logan replies that he’s eaten bear before. No bear in the world tastes like his rib eye. He hasn’t eaten Russian bear, she counters. If he had, he wouldn’t be so short.
It’s a really good steak, Steve admits. But he’s stuffed. He’ll have to get up at dawn just to run it off. To this, Logan asks when has he ever not gotten up at dawn just to run? Smiling, Natasha asks “old man Rogers” what was the best steak he ever had. Steve begins to muse but before coming to a decision the answer is given for him. Christmas 1944, Nick answers. Bastogne.
Continuing, Nick explains how they’d been under siege for almost a week, when out of nowhere a cow came running into the midst of a firefight. Once it went down, them and the Germans were basically fighting over who could get at it first. He had never seen Bucky fight harder. That night he butchered it for them. God knows where an army brat who grew up in Virginia learned to butcher a cow. Some grunt from Texas fixed up a grill from a burned-out Jeep. It was the first good meal they’d had in month that didn’t come out of a can. And the last anything they’d have for days. By the time they finished eating, he swears the whole damn cow was gone. Tip to tail. They gave the bones a proper military funeral. They slept like babes that night, even with mortars falling all around them. At least he did. And they fought like hell the next morning. Steve here took out two Panzers himself.
Bastogne, Steve says aloud, now remembering the tale. That was the best steak he ever had. Smiling, Nick adds that that was the best steal anyone’s ever had. Hard to top that. To this, Natasha opines that it would’ve been better if it’d been a bear.
The memory of the past is shattered by the technology of the present, as a mobile phone rings. As Steve answers it, Logan takes the opportunity to grab the last of the captain’s steak. Having trouble understanding what he is being told, Steve instructs Thor to slow down. Say again? Recognizing something has happened, the Black Widow calls for their check. Is he sure? Cap asks Thor. Is that… even possible? Okay, calm down. They’re on their way.
As the other three rise from their booth, Nick waves to them that they should go ahead and save the world. He’ll handle the tab. Actually, Cap begins, he might want to come with them. Apologizing, Nick replies that Steve knows he doesn’t do that sort of thing anymore. That baton’s been passed. He wouldn’t ask, Cap replies, if it didn’t sound like they might need him on this one. That bad a fire, huh? he asks. Where at? Told on the Moon, Nick agrees that’s never good. All right, he finally replies. But he’s driving.
Five minutes and 238,000 miles later, the foursome are in Fury’s flying convertible automobile, approaching the Moon. A small force dome holds in their atmosphere, while the tires have fanned out like horizontally to facilitate flight.
Soon the foursome are in what was the Watcher’s outpost, joined by Iron Man and Thor. Calmly, Thor explains that he was flying through the cosmos, on his way to Midgard, when something struck him in the face. It was blood. There was blood… floating in space. Then he noticed the smoke on the Blue Area of the Moon, coming from the Watcher’s lair. He came inside… and found this. He had Mjolnir circle the moon many times. There was no one else to be found. Whoever was there, whoever did this, they had already fled… like craven trolls.
Raising his hand to interject, Iron Man asks Thor to hold up. They shouldn’t go making assumptions and calling anybody trolls, not until they’ve weighed all the options. For all they know, this could’ve easily been some sort of accident. He means, look around. He couldn’t tell them what most of this stuff does, and he’s the smartest guy he knows. There could’ve easily been an explosion or… When Cap softly interjects, speaking only Iron Man’s given name, the golden Avenger admits that he knows what it looks like. He just doesn’t want to say it, okay? Something this big? He means, not until they know for sure.
Then he’ll say it, Fury says. It doesn’t take a super-genius to see what happened there. The Watcher was murdered. Below, at the feet of the six assembled heroes, stands the apparent corpse of the Watcher. Lying in his own blood, the Watcher seems to have a single wound to the center of his forehead, with both of his eyes removed from their sockets.
Kneeling down to the Watcher’s wrist, Captain America asks if they should check his pulse, only to then ask if he has a pulse. Do they know? Still regarding the whole body from his feet, Iron Man reports that he’s getting no energy readings whatsoever from the body. He’d say that means he’s almost certainly dead. Yeah, there’s that, Wolverine agrees, and the giant hole in his forehead. Ignoring the attempt at dark humor, Iron Man asks who or what is powerful enough to put a hole in a head that size? Thanos? Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube?
It was a gun, judging by the blood spatter, the Black Widow answers. She should know. She’s seen a lot of blood spatters. If they were lucky, there’s still a bullet lodged in his skull. When Wolverine asks what the hell kind of gun could do that, Cap answers the kind they need to find. Quickly. Spying something noteworthy, Fury voices that the Watcher’s eyes are gone. Both of them. Carved out post-mortem, he’d say. What kind of person takes another man’s eyes? Examining the body more closely, the Widow asks if that’s a sign. Did he see something he wasn’t supposed to? ‘Tis madness is what it is, Thor opines.
Considering something else, Cap asks Wolverine if there are any scents he can follow, but Wolverine replies that there’s nothing. Just them. Air’s antiseptic. His crazy machines must keep the place scrubbed clean. Speaking of machines, Iron Man interjects, he doesn’t think eyes were the only thing their killer took. Shining a light on the rest of the area, Iron Man says that the damage isn’t just from a fight. This place was ransacked, quickly and crudely. Looks to him like there are all sorts of items missing. Weapons, super-tech, who knows what they’re talking about. He knows just enough about the sort of things the Watcher kept there… to be very afraid right now.
So, Cap considers aloud. They’ve got a killer on the loose, armed with a gun that can kill a Watcher. And now he’s loaded with enough stolen super-tech to do God knows what. Don’t forget about the eyes, Wolverine reminds him. Turning to Fury, Cap asks if he sees why he asked him to come along. He needs SHIELD on this, Fury replies. And SWORD and everybody else. They will, Cap agrees, but something this big… they need to take point on this. Except the Avengers aren’t murder police. When Fury replies that neither is he, Cap retorts that he’s as close as they’ve got.
Thoughtfully, Fury pulls Cap apart from the rest of the group, placing his arm on his shoulder. Calling him Steve, Fury tells him that he must realize the list of people who even knew the Watcher existed, let alone who could’ve done this, is extremely short. And not all the names on it are bad guys. This investigation… could lead to some very dark places. Some was murdered, Cap replies bluntly. Will he help him find it? For a moment, Nick Fury silently lowers his head, considering his reply.
Elsewhere, underground, below the ruins of the Necropolis, the Wakandan city of the dead, T’Challa, king of Wakanda and the Black Panther, sits in his control center, surrounded by monitors. He may have heard, an electronic voice informs the king through the system’s speakers. There’s been a murder. On the Moon. He’s heard, the Panther replies. There was an alert from Captain America, just before he called. Though, let him guess, he knows something he doesn’t. To this, the voice replies that he knows that there are some jobs the Avengers just aren’t cut out for. This is one of them. Asked by T’Challa what makes him think that he is cut out for it, the voice replies that he thinks the Panther is used to going places the Avengers wouldn’t dare. Told that he’s not sure that that’s a compliment, the voice replies that, for him, it was. Take a look at this.
Images suddenly appear on the monitor. Images which surprise the Panther. What is this? the Panther asks. What did he just send him? A trail, the voice replies. One he’s been following for a very long time. One that goes in a lot of different directions. But only leads one place. To the unseen. To the original sin.
Far away, the speaker of the voice sits in a darkened room. In his hands he holds a small, luminescent, green object, cylindrical in shape.
He’s being cryptic, T’Challa tells the voice. He doesn’t like cryptic. This trail, he believes it leads to the person who killed the Watcher? To this, the voice replies that he believes it leads to answers, yes. Then send this to the Avengers, T’Challa informs him. He has a country of his own to protect. That’s all he’s asking him to do, the voice rejoins. Look at the files he sent him. He’ll see. This threatens everyone. He’s not interested in playing his games, the Panther replies resolutely. If the answers are all in these files, then why does he need him?
The answers aren’t in the files, the voice replies. Only the questions that need to be asked. And the places they must go in order to ask them. Pondering what he sees on his screen, the Panther haltingly admits that there are interesting places. He could never cover all of this alone. No, he certainly couldn’t, the voice replies. Stop being coy, the Panther instructs him. He’s already put together a team. He had some thoughts, the voice informs him. He’s sending them to him now. He thinks he’ll find it… a lively little mix. His eyes going wide as he reads the list, T’Challa mutters that he had better be joking.
With one hand, the diminutive Ant-Man holds the reins of the two winged ants on which he is standing. With his other hand, he waves to his new ally and asks her to cast her eyes down to him. Is she ready to get this team-up in gear? Dismissively, Emma Frost of the rogue X-Men informs Ant-Man that he shouldn’t have sent him there. Ant-Man can’t know this location. Don’t worry Ant-Man counters. With such a tiny brain, he forgets things easily. Yes, Emma replies, see that he does.
As he buzzes near her eye level, Ant-Man notes that her super-secret hideout with Cyclops is around there, huh? It’s likely none of his business, he knows, but considering he’s still a wanted criminal, their new boss must really have something on her to get her to agree to come along on this. Growing visibly angry, Emma warns Lang that one more word and she will render him incapable of speech. Alrighty then, Ant-Man replies, daring two words. With that, he directs his two flying ants toward a tunneling craft which has just erupted from the ground some distance away. He guess it’s gonna be a long ride down.
In a darkened warehouse, Frank Castle, known as the Punisher, stands before a man he has bound to a chair. Weakly, the man informs the Punisher that that’s it. He’s told him… about every last one of them. He’s lying, the Punisher replies bluntly. To this, the bound man swears that he’ll take him to where they’re buried.
He’s telling the truth, Doctor Strange voices as he emerges from the shadows. Believe him, he tells the Punisher, he sees things other men cannot. To this, the Punisher replies that he knows he’s telling the truth. The first 15 minutes were for making him talk. The last hour was because he deserved it. He’s had enough, Strange tells him. And they need to be going. When the Punisher replies when he’s finished, Strange proclaims that he is finished and with a wave of his hand the bound man disappears in a flash of crimson light.
As the Punisher begins to balk, Strange explains that he sent the man to a dimension ruled by beetles the size of Dobermans. Surely even he must approve. Get this straight, doc, the Punisher replies, brandishing his automatic rifle, if he does that again, he’ll shoot his kneecaps off. His warning given, the Punisher suggests that they get this over with.
In a space craft sit Moon Knight and the Winter Soldier. The Watcher, huh? Moon Knight muses aloud. Big bald guy who lived on the moon, right? Funny, he never crossed paths him. Or him either, he then says of the Winter Soldier. Say, what’s his connection to their boss? And are all the crazy stories he hears about him true? He could’ve sworn the guy was dead or at least…
Spector, the Winter Soldier interrupts, speaking Moon Knight’s true surname, shut the hell up. And slow down. They’re supposed to pick up their other team member right around there. To this, Moon Knight points out a female figure, floating in the vacuum of space before them, two giant swords cross-crossed across her back. Something tells him that’s her. In short order, the craft reaches the woman and Gamora, daughter of Thanos, enters the craft.
Back on the Moon, Nick Fury records his thoughts in a wrist device. Start with the obvious, he begins. Their killer… is no amateur. You don’t find your way to the moon, into the Watcher’s home base, and put a bullet in the big guy’s brain without knocking what the hell you’re doing. It was a clean kill. Neat. One shot. This was no panicked, shaky hand. This was someone who didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Their killer has killed before.
Fury’s musings are interrupted by Captain America, who calls out to the spymaster and asks if he said something. Nothing, Fury replies. What did SHIELD say? They’re working with SWORD, Cap replies, poring through spaceflight records and looking for any available satellite surveillance footage of the Moon. He’s sent Stark to help. He’s also assured them the scene is secure. He’s got Thor and Wolverine on patrol. Asked by Fury if he told SHIELD that he was there, Cap replies no. He didn’t know if Fury still was. Good, Fury says. He doesn’t know if he is either.
Hearing this, Cap pulls an item out of a pocket and suggests that this will help him make up his mind. In his hand, Cap holds a plastic bag with luminescent green shards. Widow dug these fragments out of the Watcher’s skull, he explains. They think it’s a bullet. When Fury notes that it’s glowing green, Cap agrees, then adding that he’s learned to get real uneasy around things that glow green.
Rubbing his chin, Fury begins to muse that they’re going to want to talk to Banner as soon as possible, but Cap interrupts, asking him to hold that thought. Touching the side of his helmet, he informs Fury that he has a call coming in from the FF. Sounds like they may have their first suspects.
In Manhattan, among the ruins of a street and the buildings that surround it, one of the Mindless Ones delivers a devastating series of blows to the outmatched Thing, followed by a powerful blast from its wide, Cyclops-like eye. As the civilians attempt to flee from its path, the Mindless One impossibly begins to project a thought. At first it is without structure, but then becomes one of formless surprise. Finally, a full thought is formed. I, the Mindless One telepathically projects. I!!!!!!
Appearing on the scene, Spider-Man is startled. That’s one of the Mindless Ones, he informs the still-recovering Thing. Super-strong extra-dimensional monster dudes. He’s fought these guys before. They’re no joke. He doesn’t say, the Thing sarcastically retorts as he tries to return to his feet.
I know!!! the Mindless One announces. Why he make I know? Was better not knowing! Hearing this, the Thing quips that it doesn’t seem so mindless to him. Something’s wrong Spider-Man replies. They’re not supposed to be telepathic. To this, the Thing adds that that ain’t even their biggest problem. Did he see what he’s got in his… Knowing is pain! the Mindless One bellows in their minds. Make I not know again!!!
He asked for it pal, the Thing replies, delivering a powerful right-cross. As he follows it up with a left hook, Spider-Man assists by wrapping the whole Mindless One in webbing. Even as Spidey does so, the Thing urges him to get the creature down fast, and watch his hands! However, it’s no use and the Mindless One easily breaks free of the webbing with a powerful shrug.
No!!! You’ll take I back! I… We never should have gone! We never should’ve gone to the Moon! The things we found there… changed I. Changed us. ARE changing us. Making us see. The man in the Moon knew. As he dodges a car thrown by the Mindless One, a feat which the Thing is not able to replicate, Spider-Man repeats “the Moon.” Making us know… was his revenge, the Mindless One states. With that, he raises the object he had been holding and points it at the two heroes.
Oh, hell, the Thing voices. That’s the Ultimate Nullifier. Hearing this, Spider-Man quips that, unless it is ironically named, he’s guessing that’s bad. Raising his hand, the Thing tells the Mindless One to look. They’re not its enemies. Whatever’s wrong, they can help. Just put down the Nullifier.
You can’t change what I’ve seen. What I’ve done. I was so content being a… a beast before… being a mindless monster… before I knew the meaning of sin. But now… Now SIN is all I can see. Better to see nothing at all.
With that, the Mindless One turns the Ultimate Nullifier toward its own head. The Thing has but a moment to yell “NO!” before the trigger is pulled. A giant explosion rocks the center of Manhattan, a sight viewed by the approaching flying car of Nick Fury and its passengers. In short order, as the car hovers over the scene of destruction, Cap leaps to the ground, yelling for Ben. What happened? Is everybody all right? No, Cap, the Thing replies. Not everybody.
At the center of the explosion, all that remains of the Mindless One is the intact Ultimate Nullifier and the hand of the creature which once held it. Seeing the weapon lying on the shattered street, Captain America orders for nobody to touch it until they can get some sort of containment team down there. Hands on his hips, the Thing asks what the hell’s going on? Is it true what they’ve heard? Is the big, bad guy really dead? Before Cap can reply, Nick Fury steps forward and tells the Thing that he’s going to need him and everybody else to take a big step back. This is officially a crime scene. And he’s in charge. Receiving no objections, Fury continues. Now… they have a murderer to track down. Let’s get to work.
As their craft tunnels straight down into the planet, Ant-Man says that he just wants to get this straight. They’re looking for a killer… at the center of the Earth? They’re following a lead, the Black Panther replies from behind the controls. Theirs isn’t the strangest destination.
As they leave the warehouse, the Punisher asks Doctor Strange whose plane are they using. Plane? Strange repeats. The boss didn’t tell him the details, did he? Oh, this is going to be good. Not liking the inference, the Punisher begins to object, but it is too late. A flash of crimson light later, they are gone.
In their spacecraft, with Gamora now settled in, Moon Knight announces that their course is laid in. Here they go, boys and girls. Hearing this, Gamora asks if they know what sort of resistance to expect once they arrive. Do they have backup they can call if they need it? To this, the Winter Soldier incredulously asks if she hasn’t heard. The Watcher’s dead. There’s no one watching anything anymore. They’re on their own. With that, the spacecraft departs lunar orbit.
In an empty warehouse, over a dozen Mindless Ones writhe on the floor, each telepathically exclaiming I!!! Watching this, a woman wearing a long coat informs her hooded colleague that she can’t control them anymore. They lost one today. They’re… changing too fast. As are they, the hooded man adds. The things they stole, the woman continues, somehow they’re… evolving them. They’re opening their eyes. Aren’t they? Yes, the hooded man affirms. Holding up a giant eyeball, held in a bloodied cloth, the hooded man adds that it’s not their eyes he’s most interested in opening.