‘I died as all things do and there was peace. Rest. Reward for a life spent in service of others. I didn’t miss life.’
Mar-Vell recalls dying, surrounded by his heroic friends after a battle with cancer. All the while, Thanos was laughing at him, amused at the irony, laughing as Mar-Vell struggled against the world and its weight. Thanos was suffocated by the weight of his unfinished business, always cheating his lover Death to find a return. It was a self-inflicted torture, but not one that Mar-Vell suffered from. Nevertheless, he was torn away from his slumber and returned against his will. Now, he sees the cause he is to fight for and he is glad to be home.
On Hala, Mar-Vell and Ms. Marvel kiss passionately. Elsewhere, Hank McCoy uses a defibrillation on James Rhodes’ heart. Fortunately, the electric shock works and his heart rate becomes stable. Thor congratulates Hank on his fine work. Brian Braddock sighs with relief, but walks away saying that, fortunately, not all of them are incompetent. Thor follows him and gives Cap a pep talk. He reminds Brian that he did what he thought was right in the face of a terrible foe, but Brian replies that he derailed the mission. He lost his confidence and, with it, his power. He damns Merlyn and his test. He moans that the people who have total confidence are the bad guys. Every pig intent on domination is always so bloody confident. “Enough mewling,” replies Thor. He tells Brian that his challenge is to listen to his heart, not change its fabric. He should see himself for what he is… a noble man. Placing a hand on Brian’s shoulder, he adds that once he does he will see that there is nothing in the heavens that can match his strength.
As they speak, a hole is blown in their wall and Brian is knocked to the floor. Through the gap flies Captain Mar-Vell, followed by the Protector and Ms. Marvel. Mar-Vell’s senses blaze and his perception of time slows down. His cosmic awareness awakens. A singing choir in his mind reminds him to protect the land that grew him. The choir perforates his anxiety.
Thor, his torso bandaged heavily, warns Mar-Vell, whom he believes to be an impostor, that he has chosen the form of his deception unwisely. Mar-Vell reckons this is his chance to prioritize the Kree people over the humans… by killing the foreigners. As he continues his advance, Thor throws Mjolnir, which narrowly misses Mar-Vell. He is left unprotected as Mar-Vell smashes him in the face, gloating that he sees his attacks through seventeen thousand dimensional perception streams. As Thor crashes through a wall into a room where numerous other Avengers are gathered, he thinks about how his conflicted memories of these people is so vivid it overwhelms his heart to see them. Memories of a far-off world where they fought together side-by-side. A world where they cared for him as he died and stood by his deathbed.
He spots Hank McCoy and tells him it’s good to see him. Hank is shocked to see him in the flesh. Mar-Vell recalls how Hank was a good person, good to other humans, but always against the Kree. He evades Hank’s flying foot and punches him hard, despite telling Hank that he still remembers him slaving day and night to cure his cancer. Whatever Hank’s intentions, he’s earned a clean death. From behind, the Vision tells Mar-Vell that inhabits the body of his former ally, but his mind is clearly broken. He plunges his hand into Mar-Vell’s chest and solidifies it a little. Mar-Vell cries in pain but then smacks his nega bands together and forces the Vision’s arm out. He warns Vision that his density manipulation cannot stop him.
Valkyrie asks Ms. Marvel what this madness is all about, but she replies that it’s not madness… it’s loyalty. She knocks Val unconscious with a vicious left hook. Mar-Vell orders them to gather the weak and injured. The minister has requested a public display. Noh-Varr asks about the others. “Too powerful to risk,” replies Mar-Vell. He then destroys the Avengers’ ship, looking forward to his forthcoming test; one last opportunity to show his allegiances to his true family. ‘I am Mar-Vell,’ he thinks to himself. “My name will be redeemed.”
The Supreme Intelligence addresses the Kree populace, appearing on a large screen in the planet. Unknown to the Kree people, his actions and speech is being manipulated by a Kree Minister. He informs them that their splendor approaches. They must ignore the cold process of pure logic and, instead, listen to their hearts. They must trust in their Supreme Intelligence and in their greatest hero, returned to them in their hour of need to redeem his past betrayals. Mar-Vell’s image appears on screens and around high-rise buildings. The Supreme Intelligence tells them that Mar-Vell was strong enough to bend death’s grip and has strength enough to ensure the Kree grasp their rightful place as lords of the cosmos.
He adds that Mar-Vell has staved off an invasion of human interlopers determined to redirect the Phoenix to their own world and steal the Kree destiny. The execution of the survivors will be transmitted to all worlds. Its message will be clear. The Kree ascension is now and those who stand in its way will fall. They, as a people, are in terrible danger.
Thor asks Vision if he has located their companions and whether the Kree dogs have begun their evacuations yet. Vision replies no, informing Thor that they welcome the Phoenix’s arrival. He feels that something is amiss. Since their arrival, he has detected a dull hum in his binary limbic system and auditory cortex. He has been unable to decipher it but it might have something to do with the insanity he is detecting all over Hala. But, he adds, it won’t matter. The Phoenix will be there in a matter of hours and the Kree will welcome their doom with open arms.
Captain Britain, Valkyrie and James Rhodes are in a guarded cell. James wakes up and asks where they are. Brian asks him to relax, explaining that they are on Hala and in prison. Valkyrie adds that his injuries are severe and he must not dislodge Beast’s sutures. He asks weakly where his War Machine armor is. Val informs him that it’s in the wreckage of the Quinjet. James can’t believe it. They have a wrecked Quinjet, are trapped in prison and they lost his armor. “And they plan to execute us,” adds Brian, “Soon, and the Phoenix is headed here.” James sits up and says wow. He really thought a suicide mission to fight the damned Phoenix Force was as bad as things could get, but they all managed to make things worse.
Mar-Vell pours himself and Ms. Marvel a drink and admits that he’s having a difficult time processing all this. In his heart he still has the fear of dying. It’s as if no time at all has gone by from the moment of his passing to now. Carol, looking out over the city, replies that she can’t begin to imagine. Mar-Vell says that it’s impossible to grasp just how much time has elapsed. “And your cancer?” asks Carol. He replies that it is preserved. His cosmic awareness confirms it. The power of the Phoenix surges through him and it’s frozen the cancer inert. He assures Carol that he isn’t going to leave her again. He’ll be fine. They raise their glasses and clink them together. “We all are,” he adds.
Carol informs him that she listened to the tapes he made before he died a thousand times. His voice haunted her. He was so concerned that he would be washed away by time and that no one’s heart would hold him, being forgotten terrified him more than death did. Mar-Vell replies that the tapes were a vanity. He wanted someone to remember him more than as just as a warrior but as the man he was. Carol cries as she recalls listening to the tapes. She always loved him as a dear friend, but now… She closes in and kisses him tenderly. Watching from afar on a monitor is the minister, ensuring everything is going smoothly.
Meanwhile, Vision, Thor and Beast, being carried by Thor, leave their ruined ship and head to Hala. Vision explains that whilst he is confident he can counter this strange broadcast, it will only be in a limited area around him. Thor wonders if perhaps Mjolnir is a better solution, but Beast simply sighs. “Yes. Go beat the mind control out of the Kree population Thor,” he remarks. Vision tells them that the broadcast is beyond mere mind control. It is a complex code with specific subliminal instructions keyed to the genotype of the Kree. Beast points out that even if they do free the Kree people and somehow divert the Phoenix, it will return to its original trajectory. “Towards Earth,” adds Thor.
They know that if they fail, Hala will be destroyed, so they need to convince a planet of brainwashed Kree to evacuate in the next hour. Vision asks what of Mar-Vell and his companions. Thor replies that the situation is too dire for compromise. If Vision cannot free their minds and they stand against them, they will do what is necessary.
Down below in the city of Hala, a man points to the giant Phoenix in the sky and asks his daughter, Jal-Ha, if she can see it now. She replies yes and asks him what it is. He explains that the bird travels the cosmos bringing evolution to the worthy. It will give them new strength. As he speaks, Vision descends and informs them that they are in great peril. They must hear his words and let them dispel the terrible lies in their minds. He activates the signal’s counter measures and orders them to evacuate by any means necessary or they will die. The people nearby understand his words and realize the danger they now face. They begin to panic and run.
Vision is suddenly downed by a blast from Mar-Vell. He flies towards the group and tells them that he underestimated them. “Never again.” He smashes Thor and Noh-Varr asks Hank to come peacefully. Carol adds that he will not like the alternative. Mar-Vel tells Thor that he is sorry for their predicament, but Thor stands up and replies that he isn’t sorry yet, but it will come. He swings Mjolnir and draws blood from Mar-Vell’s mouth as it connects. As Mar-Vell recovers, Thor says that the form he has taken was a close friend to him. He molests his memory by stealing his visage. He kicks Mar-Vell in the face and raises his hammer once again. He warns Mar-Vell that seeing his proud face distorted in this way raises such a fury in his soul that he will smash his features from his skull. He brings down his hammer with great force, crushing Mar-Vell’s head into the ground.
He then raises Mjolnir and summons lightning from the heavens. He tells Mar-Vell to prepare for Hela’s frigid embrace. He deserves no better. “Perhaps,” replies Mar-Vell, “But the Phoenix will decide my fate.” He brings his nega bands together and blasts Thor, leaving him unconscious on the ground. He then grabs him by the arm and drags him to where the sound of gunfire can be heard. When he rounds a corner, he sees a pile of dead bodies and a group of Kree soldiers with smoking guns standing over them. When he asks what transpires, the soldiers kneel before him and one replies that the deserting civilians had been corrupted. They have been seen to. Mar-Vell looks at the bodies which include Jal-Ha and her father and is clearly shocked.
“I died as all things do and there was peace. Rest. Reward for a life spent in service of others. I didn’t miss life.”