The Winds of Watoomb are ravaging a several-block area of Manhattan, near an asylum for the criminally insane. And now, lightning birthed in magic erupts from a yawning rift between dimensions. While the winds blow civilians and police officers about, a bolt of lightning almost strikes Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America. Natural or mystical, a lightning bolt is still a lightning bolt, and another strikes a tree, which begins to fall towards a police officer. ‘NOOO!’ the frightened officer calls out. Although he is not Thor or Hercules, or the Incredible Hulk, Captain America is simply a man, honed to physical perfection - a human fighting machine. But, what a man can do - Captain America will do, and he lunges forward to the officer, the tree has fallen on his leg, then lifts the leg off and holds it overhead.
‘Thank the Lord you were here, Cap - but Ryan’s leg is still broken -’ another officer says as he goes over to Captain America, who replies that is the least of their worries. ‘It’s liable to take everything we can do - to see that there aren’t more candidates for that graveyard next door!’ Cap points out, motioning to the old graveyard across the field. Detective Simons rushes over to Captain America and asks him what is happening here. ‘You wouldn’t believe me’ Cap replies. ‘Try me’ Detective Simons challenges. Cap reveals that one of the asylum’s inmates - Xandu - got hold of a mystic talisman called the Wand of Watoomb, and that these hurricane-force gales are the Winds of Watoomb.
Detective Simons announces that he heard that Spider-Man, the Scarlet Witch and some cloaked guy were here earlier. ‘If you must know - they’re pursuing Xandu, into what they call the Death Dimension’ Captain America replies. ‘You’re right. Maybe I don’t believe it’ Detective Simons replies, before asking Captain America why he isn’t with the others who are chasing the madman. Attempting to shield himself and the detective from the winds, Cap replies ‘I wasn’t on the short list’. ‘Huh?’ Detective Simons asks. ‘Forget it’ Cap replies, while Detective Simons declares that they will be okay when the typhoon, or whatever it is, blows over. ‘Won’t we?’ he asks. ‘On the contrary, Detective - fierce as they are - I’m afraid the Winds of Watoomb may prove only the harbinger for something worse!’ Captain America announces.
If a potent sorcerer were to cast a spell at Cap’s shoulder, he would find himself blinking into the very Death Dimension of which the Star-Spangled Avenger spoke. What he would think of the view would depend on his inclinations. In the horrid dimension, Xandu sits at his throne, beside him, the actual ruler of the dimension, Melinda Morrison. Spider-Man a.k.a. Peter Parker, Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch and Dr Stephen Strange are their servants, their faces gone, replaced by skulls. ‘Am I fanning you hard enough, Master Xandu?’ Spider-Man asks as he waves large palm frond over Xandu and Melinda. ‘Here is your drink, Master’ the Scarlet Witch calls out as she appears with two glasses.
‘Hurry up with it then, Scarlet Witch!’ Xandu orders, while he tells Dr Strange, who is sweeping the floor, to swing the broom harder, ‘Or I’ll make you lick up the dust in front of Castle Skull’. ‘Yes, O Xandu’ Strange responds. Xandu touches the Scarlet Witch’s hair and tells her she really needs to do something about it. ‘Don’t you agree, my Melinda?’ Xandu remarks. Of course Melinda is unable to speak and stares blankly ahead. ‘I will wash it at once, Master’ the Scarlet Witch tells Xandu, who replies ‘Wash it? I meant that you should set fire to it’. ‘Whatever you desire, Master’ the Scarlet Witch replies as she walks away, while Xandu tells her to put a match to those other two bags of bones while she is at it. ‘Yes, Sire’ Wanda replies as Strange and Spider-Man follow her.
‘Ah, dearest Melinda, I only wish you were able to witness this humiliation of my enemies, instead of merely -’ Xandu begins, before a voice calls out ‘Is this what you’ve finally sunk to, Xandu - turning some of your dead subjects into parodies of those you’ve captured?’ the real Dr Strange calls out from where he, Wanda and Spider-Man are being restrained in magical bonds nearby. ‘I suppose you’re right, Dr Strange. After all, I have the real things here. I need no animate corpses to resemble you, even for a moment’s amusement’ Xandu replies, before pointing the Wand of Watoomb at the reanimated skeletons resembling the heroes, ‘Be dead again!’ Xandu tells them, and they melt into dusk, while wailing ‘Yes, Masterrr…’ as they fade away.
‘You’re still as mad as a hatter!’ Dr Strange tells Xandu, asking him if he has forgotten that he and Melinda Morrison cannot exist for long together in the Death Dimension, otherwise it will start to tear itself apart, as it did last time. Xandu smiles and replies ‘Because Melinda and I share a single death between us, you mean - which unbalances this world, renders its very elements unstable?’, to which he declares that is exactly what he wants to happen. ‘What we want, eh, my love?’ Xandu remarks as he touches Melinda on her shoulder. ‘She cannot hear you, o Xandu - having gone rigid the instant you appeared in our sphere - but we heard you - and I, for one, do not like what I heard!’ a demon exclaims as it steps forward, flanked by several others.
The demon adds that it does not intend to stand aside and see their universe destroyed, which causes Xandu to raise the Wand of Watoomb and tell the demon that it will not stand at all - because it will long since have ceased to exist. Xandu fires energies from the wand at the demon and its cohorts, they do not scream or feel pain, these demons who once ruled the Death Dimension. For can creatures made of death truly live? But, whatever semblance or shadow of life there was in these ones, is suddenly no more. ‘Does anyone else have any complaints?’ Xandu asks. He gets no response, so states ‘I thought not’, while the Scarlet Witch tells Dr Strange that he was right - Xandu is mad. ‘We always thought, at least, that he loved Melinda - but what he’s done to her is a mockery of love’ Wanda points out.
‘Silence, mutant! I do love Melinda - above all else!’ Xandu booms. Wanda tells him that they are empty words, as Xandu knows Melinda cannot exist long on Earth because she belongs among the dead. ‘You tell him!’ Spider-Man exclaims, while Wanda continues, pointing out that Xandu endangers Melinda as well as this whole world, just by being here. ‘SILENCE, I SAID!’ Xandu booms as he releases energy which knocks Wanda backwards into a bunch of bones. ‘If he’s hurt her!’ Spider-Man exclaims, while Dr Strange tells Spider-Man to take it easy and to let Xandu talk. ‘I have a hunch he’s just dying to tell us what he’s up to’ Strange adds.
‘Only you matter to me, Dr Strange - because only you have the breadth of mind to fully comprehend what I am about to accomplish’ Xandu begins, as he stands up, energy glows from his hands which he raises overhead, as images of the Earth that the heroes have sworn to protect from harm, and of the Death Dimension, symbolized as a perfect skull-visaged sphere, appear before him. Xandu reveals that through the wand he has learned that once near the end of each millennium, the conditions are right for these two planes to be merged, coalesced into a single world, but with the Death Dimension dominant. As the two images merge together, Xandu declares that the Earth, in short, will be totally subsumed into this domain of the dead.
Xandu boasts that in the new world, the dead will rule the living, Melinda will be the titular sovereign of the dead, and he will rule Melinda. ‘Surely you, of all men, can appreciate the supreme irony of it, Strange - a man once relegated to the Death Dimension will become the eternal ruler of both the living and the dead!’ Spider-Man declares that it is a good thing Xandu is a full-time nutcase, or he might start to get worried. ‘He is insane, isn’t he, Stephen?’ Wanda enquires, to which Dr Strange confirms that he is a lunatic, but a lunatic in total command of one of the most powerful talismans in the universe.
Xandu raises the Wand of Watoomb high over his head and it glows with energy. Xandu declares that all question of his sanity, or lack of same, are beside the point, for the moment when conditions will be right for the merging are but an hour away, and the unfettered power of the Wand of Watoomb, unleashed fully for the very first time, will be its divine instrument. ‘There will be no more Earth - no more Death Dimension - just a baleful new world I shall call…XANDU!’ the wizard booms. Wanda asks Stephen if even the wand can even possess that much power, to which Dr Strange replies that he has never known it to, and suggests Xandu must have discovered new depths. ‘He’s sunk to new depths, all right - and it looks like the only person around here who could possibly help us stop him - is in another plane of reality!’ Spider-Man exclaims, referring to the blank Melinda Morrison.
A group of demons approaches Xandu, ‘You have conquered us, Xandu - yet you mean to make us kings of this world to come?’ one of them asks. ‘Subject only to myself, as shall we say, emperor’ Xandu adds, telling the demons that he thought that might appeal to them. ‘But wait, there’s more!’ Xandu exclaims as he casts the Wand of Watoomb at the heroes, freeing them from their bonds. ‘It’s got to be some kind of trick…’ Wanda suggests, while Spider-Man leaps towards Xandu, ‘Yeah, and I’m sure he’ll be glad to explain it to us - if he can manage to talk with the Wand of Watoomb jammed down his throat!’ Spider-Man adds, but Dr Strange tells him to wait. An instant later, Spider-Man falls to the ground.
‘He’s falling!’ Wanda shouts, while adding that her hex bolts aren’t affecting Xandu, either. Dr Strange remarks that Xandu would never have released them if he hadn’t known the wand would keep them from him. ‘But why bother letting us go - just to make fools of us?’ Spider-Man enquires, while the demons close in, and ask Xandu to let them deal to the heroes. ‘That is precisely why I freed them, demon. I desired to toss you a bone, so to speak - by giving you a royal hunt with these three humans-morsels as both quarry and prize!’ Xandu declares, adding that he has tormented them with the knowledge of the end of their world, and so he has no more use for them.
Xandu fires bolts of energy from the Wand of Watoomb towards the heroes, ‘Run, you pitiful fools - you shall have but the briefest of leads - before I unleash my hellish hounds!’ Xandu declares as Strange, Wanda and Spider-Man rush from the energy bolts, towards the barren surroundings of the Death Dimension. ‘Oh no! Not another bad guy who’s read “The Most Dangerous Game” one time too many!’ Spider-Man mutters, while Dr Strange tells his friends that they have no choice but to flee, or else the bonds from the wand will disintegrate them like it did the demons.
‘Now, Master Xandu?’ one of the demons calls out as they are eager to chase the heroes. ‘Just a few moments more, my monstrous little minions’ Xandu calls to the demons, while thinking to himself that he will do anything to keep them occupied and less rebellious while he prepares his final spell. As Dr Strange flies alongside Wanda and Spider-Man, he is told by Spider-Man that he should feel like he has to stick with them. ‘At least you can fly…’ Spider-Man remarks, to which Dr Strange replies that he can’t fly high, or far, in the dead, oppressive atmosphere of this realm. ‘Even if you could, you wouldn’t abandon us! We live or we die - together!’ the Scarlet Witch exclaims, while Xandu releases the demons. ‘NOW! KILL!’ he tells them.
‘Some head start!’ Wanda mutters while Dr Strange picks her up and carries her across a river, following Spider-Man who bounds through it, and the demons reach the edge of the water. Strange suggests that they may be able to gain some distance by cutting through the miasmic swamp, while Spider-Man asks ‘What is this stuff, anyway? Can’t see through it - can barely run through it!’ he declares, adding that it is like slogging through maple syrup. Dr Strange tells Wanda and Spider-Man to veer off, while he will keep levitating straight ahead, and with any luck, the demons will follow him. ‘And, as the one most used to different dimensions, I’ll have the best chance to lose them later’ Dr Strange adds.
‘Will you listen to this guy, Web-Spinner?’ Wanda calls out to Spider-Man, who replies that he does detect the odor of burning martyr. ‘Sorry, Doc! Like the lady said, we’re gonna make like the Three Musketeers - and if you let Captain America tag along, he could’ve played D’artagnan!’ As the three heroes run along the side of a murky body of water, a large tentacle suddenly rises from it, and wraps around Wanda’s waist. ‘I think somebody’s stocked this lake!’ Wanda calls out. Spider-Man sees Wanda in danger and realizes that his spider-sense never gave so much as a tingle. Dr Strange manages to fire a spell at the creature, but the tentacled beast starts to resist them. ‘I might as well have left my hex bolts in my other cape!’ Wanda jokes.
Spider-Man rushes forward with a large pointed branch that he collected from a tree, and declares that it is time he took up spear fishing. Wanda points out that she has a bit of magic she can call on, thanks to the training she received from Stephen and Agatha Harkness, and she cats the magic in bolts at the creature, which seems to earn her a bit of respect, as the creature starts to retreat. Spider-Man lands on the creature, ‘All ashore that’s going ashore!’ he exclaims as he stabs it with the sharp stick, causing it to release Wanda, who makes it back onto land. ‘OOG! It’s just like I lanced the world’s biggest boil!’ Spider-Man mutters, while Wanda alerts him to another tentacle approaching.
The tentacle grabs Spider-Man, and Wanda tells Strangte that they have to help him. She begins to act, but Strange tells her to get up onto the ridge, and they climb up the small cliff, while Spider-Man struggles with the creature and mutters’ Why don’t you both just mail in your notes?’, before Wanda and Strange push a large boulder from the ridge down into the water, squashing the creature. ‘Wonder what the rest of it looks like’ Spider-Man remarks as he gets out of the water. ‘If you want to go scuba-diving and take a peek!’ Wanda tells him. ‘Point taken’ Spider-Man mutters, before motioning to the demons who have gathered nearby. ‘I don’t think those guys back there are just looking for a place to hold a rave!’ Spider-Man declares, as they carry on their race to safety.
‘The joke, it would seem, is on me’ Dr Strange tells his companions. ‘Care to let us in on it, Stephen?’ Wanda asks. Strange remarks that he is the upside-down “fool” on his tarot cards, as he sent Captain America away, and yet, on this world, a human fighting machine would be a decided asset. Wanda just suggests that they keep moving.
Back at the throne room, ‘We were meant for one another, wand - you and I - you the raw, unfettered power - and I, the wielder and shaper of that power!’ Xandu boasts as he holds the Wand of Watoomb overhead. Xandu declares that through their efforts, magic shall prove science wrong, that two objects can occupy the same space at the same time - if they are forever combined into one.
Back at the swamp, ‘Such a hunt we’ve not had since we ruled this sphere, brothers!’ one of the demons declares as they pass the remains of the tentacle-creature. ‘Aye! Our other prey soon panicked and betrayed their presence…but our rending will be all the sweeter when we finally catch up to them!’ another demon declares. But, when the demons have passed the water, Spider-Man, Wanda and Strange burst from it, gasping for breath. ‘If I’d had to hold my breath another second - I’d have exploded!’ Spider-Man declares. Dr Strange explains that his shield-spell protected them beneath the surface, but that the liquid is so vile that it ate the shield nearly all away. ‘And I wondered why I spent all those hours in the Avengers West pool!’ Wanda remarks.
Dr Strange announces that the demon ex-lords are out of sight, but Wanda points out that it won’t take the demons long to figure out that the three of them double-backed and tricked them. ‘Then there’s only one place left to go’ Spider-Man suggests. ‘Right. And we all know where that is…’ Dr Strange begins, before turning and pointing at Castle Skull. Wanda and Spider-Man turn to it, while Wanda quotes “Step into my parlor…”, to which Spider-Man exclaims ‘Hey, Witch-lady…that’s supposed to be my line!’ as the three heroes begin their journey back to the aptly named castle - which consists of a huge skull shaped cavern at the top, and large tusks protruding from it.
And, inside the castle, ‘Closer my twin spheres…ever closer!’ Xandu exclaims as he continues to observe the two images of the Earth and the Death Dimension moving closer together. ‘Until you become one - and that one does homage to -’ Xandu begins, when suddenly, Melinda stands up, ‘Xandu…’ she whispers. ‘Melinda, beloved - awakened - just as I’ve prayed you would!’ Xandu exclaims as he turns to Melinda. He takes her hand and gets down onto one knee, asking ‘For, what does it profit a man to rule a world - a universe - without the woman he loves at his side?’ However, Melinda tells Xandu that cannot be, and reveals that in her dreaming state she saw visions of the new world that he plans, and that it is unremittingly evil. ‘I’m dead -’ Melinda begins, but Xandu replies ‘Not to me, my love - and not here!’
Melinda remarks that she has been back and forth so many times now - between death and life - that she is not even certain what being dead means, any more. ‘But don’t break down the barriers between the two states. Look at me! I’m walking proof of the catastrophe that can cause!’ Melinda tells Xandu, who replies that he can see Melinda is upset, nearly hysterical, but that she will see the wisdom of his actions, once the deed is done. Suddenly, ‘That’s a deed that will never be done!’ Strange exclaims as he, Wanda and Spider-Man burst into the throne room. ‘You - here?’ Xandu exclaims, surprised. Wanda tells Spider-Man to watch out, as she wants her and Strange’s spells to strike Xandu simultaneously. ‘Whoops, sorry!’ Spider-Man replies as he swings in front of the magical energies.
Xandu tells Spider-Man that it would have made no difference, while he holds the Wand of Watoomb. Dr Strange and Xandu approach each other, both fire energies at the other. ‘Call off this madness, Xandu!’ Strange calls out. ‘Don’t you see you’re bringing the Multiverse to the brink of disaster?’ he asks him. Xandu replies that worlds must ever draw near the cliff’s edge of calamity, to achieve the next step in their state of being. Dr Strange frowns and points out that this is no evolutionary step, but cosmic blasphemy. He adds that even Melinda’s awakening shows that the barriers are starting to buckle, like walls under stress. ‘Help me put them back up- or risk the destruction of both dimensions!’ Strange tells Xandu, who continues to release energies from the Wand of Watoomb as he declares that he does risk it, that he risks everything for love, even the end of the universe. ‘Two worlds - or one - for love - what does it matter to me - unless I reign, with Melinda beside me?’ Xandu shouts.
‘You’ve got true love all mixed up with lust for power, Xandy!’ Spider-Man exclaims as he leaps into the air to dodge some rubble that is thrown up by Xandu’s energy blasts. Spider-Man suggests to Xandu that Dr Strange could find him a nice quiet dimension off in a corner somewhere, where he and Melinda could - but he doesn’t finish his sentence, as Xandu interrupts, boasting that he must rule, otherwise he will let the heavens crumble. Wanda suddenly alerts Dr Strange to the fact that the spheres representing the two worlds are touching on their outer curves. ‘Then we may have already failed!’ Dr Strange replies as he continues to release magic energy. He declares that they can only go on fight, striving, until they fall - and with them - the last vestige of the Earth they knew.
At that moment, back on Earth, Cap decides that the storm is getting worse, and notes that the center seems to have shifted slightly from the asylum to the church graveyard across the field. He makes his way over to the graveyard, and reminds himself of what Dr Strange told him about Xandu and the Death Dimension, and realizes that this could be bad. Looking up at the sky, Steve tells himself that he doesn’t believe for a second that the leering skull face overhead is a chance cloud formation. He wonders of Strange and the others. ‘By now, they should have -’ he begins, before hearing a strange sound - and looking at the graves, sees the undead rising from them. ‘Oh, no! Dead people clawing their way out of their graves by the dozens - by the hundreds’ Cap tells himself, watching as they shamble towards the streets like the cast of a George Romero movie. ‘And nothing between them and the city beyond - but me!’ Cap tells himself. ‘Well, get ready, Captain America. Get set for the fight of your life - or maybe your death!’
Back at Castle Skull, ‘Keep on coming, Strange - you and your interfering friends! Magic - mutant hexes - spider-enhanced muscle - none of those things will long save you - let alone prevail over Xandu!’ the mad wizard boasts. He laughs as he announces that on this night, after the age-long struggle between life and death, the dead shall inherit the Earth!’ While Wanda, Strange and Spider-Man continue their assault, Captain America is surrounded by the zombies. Melinda stares blankly away, and Xandu raises the Wand of Watoomb overhead….