A young blond man tries to lift a hammer up and fails. Another young blond man takes his place. As he touches the hammer, thunder and lightning crackle and he lifts the hammer. He did it! he exclaims in disbelief.
An old one-eyed, red-bearded Thor agrees. The young man has been reborn worthy. He is older than most. But even before his time, there is a legend that the sky was full of stars. A sea of them and now there are so few. Where did they go? And why is there one fewer every year? Look in his hand. It was the All-Father who plucked the stars from the heavens and from each forged their hammers. They all have different names. He will name his – but they all serve the same purpose: Justice! the assembled Thors shout.
The Thors are the law, the old one continues, just as the All-Father intended. What does he do now? the young Thor asks. He tells him to bend his knee, for God is watching. They kneel down before a graven image of Doom. And from now until the end of days they shall labor to do his work.
The other Thors, among them a Beta Ray Bill, welcome their newest member. A Storm Thor warns him of the change that will come first. Old Thor warns of physical and mental challenges. It is no easy thing to become a Hammer of God. Especially if you come from humble beginnings. Beta Ray Bill explains he is asking where their new Thor is from.
Higher Avalon, the new Thor stammers. A kingdom in good standing with the throne, Bill replies pleased. He takes it that he knows his histories. Yes, the young Thor replies. Taking him into a bear hug, old Thor demands he tell them the story then.
Young Thor’s narration:
There was nothing. Followed by everything. Swirling, burning specks of creation that circled life-giving suns. God Doom created the light. Then there was Earth. The firmament cooled and he raised up a land, this land – the world – and upon it he set his kingdoms.
End of narration.
Young and old Thor walk up the castle’s battlements. Old Thor asks if he ever travelled beyond the kingdom where he was born. Only for the testing, the boy replies. It’s not uncommon, the elder man agrees. The borders of each kingdom are clearly defined. Travel between them is very often discouraged by requiring special dispensation from the local baron. There are good reasons for this. Not all kingdoms are as peaceful as Higher Avalon. Many kingdoms crave the heavy end of the hammer.
From their high seat in Doomgard, they allow no breaking of God’s laws. Doom demands order and order pleases him. Does he want to please Doom? he asks his new brother. Yes, he replies happily. Well then, this is the world and there are sinners in it. Let them do justice!
The Kingdom of Utopolis.
A wilderness where three teenage Moloids, Dragon Man and Bentley-23 are examining a recent rift. A plane lands and out steps Minister Alex Power. Are they sure of what they found? he asks them. One of the Moloids replies that they are sure they found something but, as they started examining it, they knew they needed to call the experts. They didn’t even know something like this was down there until the earthquake uncovered it. It wasn’t an earthquake, Dragon Man corrects them.
Bentley, wearing a space suit and holding a line, tells Alex they are ready. He and Dragon Man head downward. One of the Moloids warns Alex that as you go downward gravity reverses. Alex jumps into the water and uses his own control over gravity to counter the effect.
They emerge head down on the other side of the lake. The others follow and one of the Moloids asks the Dragon Man what he meant that it wasn’t an earthquake. He’s been mapping and comparing the seismic activity of each kingdom. He continues that there is megatons of evidence that this world is not a naturally occurring construct, but rather a composite of some other kind.
Alex interrupts gently, pointing out what Dragon Man is saying is the evidence doesn’t point into the direction of an earthquake. He figures it’s a cover. A ruse so the good people of Utopolis don’t freak out when they learn another Hulk got loose on the mainland. Bentley figures he’s right.
They reach the partially buried object. Dragon Man notes its subatomic structure is unusual. At first glance he would guess it’s some fabricated exotic matter. Alex orders them to dig out the spaceship.
The young Thor and the old Thor are flying (old Thor in a flying chariot drawn by his two goats). Old Thor explains the All-Father is God of the world. But the world the young man knows - the kingdoms – extends only from the great ocean in the northern hemisphere to the badlands in the south. Their home, the precinct of Doomgard, lies west of Doomstadt and Castle Doom itself. Look down! Below them lies Higher Avalon from which the young Thor hails and the impetus for today’s justice.
The young Thor marvels how different it looks from up here. The old Thor tells him new found power leads to new perspective which will lead him… well. There are almost one hundred major and minor houses, Higher Avalon being just one. They have jurisdiction over all of them. Even his former liege, Baron James Braddock, waits for them to deliver God’s justice. The boy recalls seeing the baron once as a boy, how he waved at them and seemed above them. As the older Thor muses about stations in life, they reach a red island, the Bar Sinister.
They enter the throne room guarded by Sinister clones. The original Sinister languishes on his throne. Ah, the law, he greets them. How very trashy.
Old Thor reads the summoning: Baron Sinister has been summoned to Castle Doom to answer to the crime of discord. Are they sure they have the right man? Sinister asks. Old Thor suggests he resist. And on the off chance he will be found guilty, will there be sentencing as well today? Sinister asks. The high court has been assembled to bear witness, he is informed.
Old Thor tells the younger one to writes the words. He writes some runes on the ground -fehu – nautiz – uruz - to transport them to Doomstadt. They teleport away with Sinister who decides to give his audience a show.
They arrive at Castle Doom, which is guarded by Galactus.
A crowd is present. Sitting in a Thorne at the roots of the World Ash Yggdrasil sits Doom, next to his consort Susan Storm. At his feet sits their daughter Valeria. To his side is the accuser Baron James Braddock and in front of him is his right hand man, Strange, Sheriff of Agamotto.
Strange announces that he serves as the arbiter of the proceedings. Unless there is divine intervention, his judgment is final. He is the law. Baron Sinister has been charged with discord by the House Braddock. Strange has been shown evidence showing that Sinister has secretly and illegally aligned himself with Hyperion, Baron of Utopolis, in opposition to Higher Avalon.
Sinister calls the accusations laughable. He has no desire to take part in some game of intrigue. There is another problem with this story: there is an ocean between their kingdom and his.
James Braddock points out they know Sinister has hired the Iron Pirates as couriers. Sinister calls that a lie and demands proof. Are there any other charges?
Young Thor asks old Thor if things are always this formal. Old Thor explains within the borders of their kingdoms, as long as they follow Doom’s laws each Baron rules absolutely. But disputes between kingdoms are the court’s domain. Sometimes skirmishes are resolved so amicably that formal alliances are formed. Like the one between Konshu of upper and the Panther God of lower Egyptia. Often they are settled unevenly. There are winners and losers in the court of Doom Such as the former Baroness Pryor, unseated and contained by the absent Baron Summers. And then there are the conquered. The Horsemen all once had their own kingdoms. Now they bend their knee to the Baron Apocalypse. Is it always this formal? Yes, until it is not.
Sheriff Strange comes to the final charge. Sinister has also been accused of libel. Oh that, Sinister shrugs. All he said was she (referring to Brian Braddock’s wife Meggan) looks like a cow. Lady Meggan is with child! Brian shouts. His? Well that’s even worse, isn’t it? Sinister remarks.
Strange finds him guilty and demands he pay restitution in gold or territory. Sinister refuses and demands to meet his accuser in the arena. As a baron this is a luxury afforded to him. Braddock can refuse, of course, but the charges must be withdrawn. Strange angrily admits that is the law. Sinister goads Braddock. James announces he will gladly fight. Sinister reveals he was talking to his brother Brian. Or would he rather return to the fields of Avalon? Sinister needles. Milk more cows? Furious, Brian shouts he will fight. James warns him, this is no game and asks him to be careful Sinister is more than he seems.
Soon the two combatants stand in a small arena holding stun sticks. Thors stand in a circle around the arena. Sinister calls Brian a strapping young lad who could beat him to pulp with a normal stave. Brian agrees he’s strong enough. Well, now he’s made him curious, Sinister remarks. He attacks amateurishly, leaving himself wide open and Brian beheads him with his stave in one smooth movement.
He presents himself as victor to the crowd, turning his back on the body. James shouts a warning as the body gets up and the severed head remarks: “Consider my thirst for curiosity quenched.” The body viciously kicks and hits the surprised Brian who falls. The body grabs the stave while the head continues talking. Does Lord Brian already know if the child is a boy or a girl? Will the lady name it Brian or perhaps Brianna if it is a girl?
The body reattaches the head. He would hope not. Sentimentality is sickening enough but burdening a child with the name of their failed, dead father? That’s just so common. With a scream, he raises his stave, ready to strike over James and Meggan’s horrified protests.
However, the lethal blow is held back by a forcefield. Emperor Doom himself has intervened, to everyone’s surprise. He orders everyone on their knees. Instantly, they obey.
He cares little for their petty disagreement, yet Doom has saved young Lord Braddock. Perhaps gratitude is in order? Higher Avalon sits below the kingdom of Manhattan and is long rumored to be the most favorable conduit for reaching the Silent Chamber. Brian has heard this, yes? The Silent Chamber where thieves and heretics work to cast Doom down from his throne. He has, Brian replies. Did he know, Doom continues that when faced with confession, there is one name they whisper… Braddock. He will tell him where he might find this hidden citadel!
Brian apologizes but he doesn’t know. If one is given full dominion over a kingdom, is not all of it his domain? Doom asks. If he sees nothing, if he says nothing, if he does nothing… what good is he? He finds him at fault. Doomed. His eyes, his tongue his hands and feet all are forfeit.
James tells him to wait and admits it was not his brothers the prisoner spoke of, it was him!
Sheriff Strange pronounces him guilty and orders the Thors to place the Baron under arrest.
Doom slams his fist down. A baron of one of his kingdoms has betrayed him. A cancer that cannot be allowed to remain. Pull the entire house down! The entire royal family is to be publicly— Victor, Susan interrupts him gently and puts her arm on his shoulder: mercy. He puts his hand on hers and agrees.
He pronounces that Brian is elevated to Baron and warns him to serve Doom better than his brother did. Furthermore, he orders Baron Sinister to be publicly whipped and the former Baron of Avalon removed from his sight.
Two Thors grab James, who tells Brian to do well and apologizes. He thanks Doom for his mercy. The mercy was for the innocent, Doom pronounces. He has none for him. He gets the Shield. James and the Thors teleport away.
The meeting is over. Sue asks Valeria if she is coming. The young girl replies she has to talk to Sheriff Strange first. Strange hopes that Valeria’s news is mundane. He has had enough excitement for the day. She reminds him the two offices they hold represent the dueling ideologies of her father. Strange is the law while she is the left hand, the Foundation. Science called discovery and religion called Doom, he adds. In the past, their two independent branches have had their shares of disagreements, which is why her father created certain protocols in the case of future ideological disagreements. She believes they have just had such an incident. Minister Powers uncovered something… interesting. Alex Power joins tem. Couldn’t help himself, he jokes. He just loves bright shiny things.
They step outside and walk past Galactus. Like much what lies below the surface of this planet, this object is made of some fairly exotic stuff. Structurally different from what they’ve encountered before, but well within what she would call the realm of possible matter.
Sitting atop Galactus’ hand, Val’s brother Franklin waves at them.
She tells Strange there is something he and the law would call impossible. Possibly heretical. Carbon dating puts the age of the object sometime well before the cre—
Strange interrupts her. If true, this is schism. He will send agents to seal off the site and she will recall her team, suspending all research activities immediately. He is invoking quarantine.
A high wall two hundred and fifty feet high and sixteen thousand miles long, protecting the kingdoms from the horrors outside. Built by God Doom’s hands, old Thor tells the rookie. As good a place as any for a man to die, James Braddock announces. He decks himself out with pieces of armor and weapons.
Young Thor tells him he saw him from the street once as a boy. He looked up and imagined him a god or at least something greater than man. And now he gets to see him fall. Look how far he’s come, James replies. He has absolutely no desire to see such a thing, young Thor assures him. Then this will be a lesson for him, one he should remember for all his days: There are no great men above reproach. Just God and his whims to which they are mercy.
Old Thor hands Braddock his helmet and tells him it’s time. Any last words? When they come to pull you down, don’t let them drag you down. You jump and take as many of the bastards with you as you can! He jumps down and lands on the other side.
What’s that he smells? a gravelly voice comes from the mists. James switches on his energy sword. Fresh meat so sweet. Carve you up, pass you out. More shadows come closer. Yeah, I’m gonna share you with the others, the Venom hisses but only on one condition. I’m keeping your brains for myself. He is followed by a zombie horde. James beheads the first zombie. More zombies fall upon him.
The Shield holds not just the zombie hordes back, but also the seasonal migration of the drones that are the Annihilation Wave and the self-improving Ultrons. Old Thor tells the young one that they and the sentinels who guard the Shield have lost many, defending it over the years. It is no small burden, this calling of theirs as he is now learning. Aye, the young man replies shocked.
Old Thor informs Sheriff Strange that it is done. Baron James died well for someone who this morning had the world at his feet. It was the will of God, wasn’t it? Strange points out. Who are they to question such a thing? Old Thor replies, if that will be all, he wishes to return to the great hall at Doomgard. He longs for the loving embrace of mead. But Strange needs one more thing of him. He needs an old hand for this problem. Schism. They’ve suffered a breach and it must be contained.
Thor asks if the heretics of AIM have once again— Strange interrupts this has nothing to do with seditious conspiracy stories spun by Advanced Ideas Mythologies. This is real. There is an object… He needs it quarantined and later examined. He hands old Thor a scroll with his eye seal on it.
He and the rookie Thor join the Foundation members at the discovery site of the life raft. Quarantined? Young Thor asks. Old Thor explains God fears the loss of believers. Quarantine is for things that cause doubt.
One Moloid assures them they stopped as soon as word came down. A bit too quickly, if they ask him. Lots of interesting stuff here. Hard to keep his hands off it, he reports regretfully. Old Thor wans him not to touch.
What does he mean, doubt? young Thor asks. Old Thor explains it’s a chaotic world. Sometimes things occur that seem to contradict the godhood of Doom. Are they real? young Thor asks.
The Moloid, in the meantime, becomes more entranced by the ship and finds something interesting.
Unaware of this, old Thor continues, the question isn’t are the real but do they matter? There is an order to this world and this order has a name. It is Doom and there is nothing in the shadows that can threaten his reign. If there was, they would stand against –
The Moloid touches a panel on the ship. Stop! Thor shouts but there is a flash of light and a hatch in the ship opens. Old Thor orders the others to stay back. What is it? Young Thor asks, what does he see? His god-doomed grave! the old man groans and orders the young warrior and the Moloid to run. Moments later, a spear coming from the ship impales him. Tell the sheriff they found death! he orders. Fly, brother, fly!
He raises his hammer and calls the lightning. Moe weapons come flying from the inside of the ship and kill him, thanks to Terrax and the Black Swan. The other members of the Cabal watch silently.
What is this place? Thanos finally asks. Not any place in their native galaxy, Maximus decides as they leave the craft. The Reed Richards from Universe 1610 remarks they are alien, so the design they stole worked. He’s also accessed the Raft’s diagnostics. The compression of all space-time might have led to some kind of external distortion while they were in stasis, but there is something very wrong with these readings.
Proxima Midnight brings a Moloid as prisoner Thanos grabs him and demands to know where they are. This is Doom’s world, he replies, which he made to test both the faithful and the unforgiven. The firmament created with his own hands. Thanos demands a name.
The highborn call it Latverion, believers call it God’s kingdom, but everyone else calls it Battleworld.