'How does that saying go? “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Yeah, I'd say that's right, based on my recollections of events then... and comparing them to what's happening now... despite how muddy my memories are after so many years' Andre Gastrde a.k.a. Ghost Dancer thinks to himself as he remembers fighting alongside the original Whizzer, Jeff Mace who served as Captain America at one time, and the Emerald Warlock, while finding a similarity in some super beings today – Quicksilver, Captain Steve Rogers, Doctor Voodoo – and the Emerald Warlock, who is still active to this day.
It began with something they all thought they had seen the end of in 1947, two years after the war's end – a call to arms – and those being called to fight were magicians, like him, by one of their own.
Manhattan, in a bar with a Pacific Island theme, people go about their business drinking and socializing. A man with hair graying at the temples and wearing a long safari-style jacket stands next to a booth shrouded in darkness. He holds his martini up as he tells those sitting in the booth that he knows they have not seen much of him lately, and now here he is coming to them for help. He admits that it feels like forever since he was last here at The Bar With No Doors. 'By all accounts, you're seen at the Stork Club far more frequently' a woman with white hair points out. The man in the safari jacket calls her Agatha and tells her that Walter Winchell exaggerates in his column, and claims that he has only been there once or twice. 'Well, you're back... and I'm guessing you're more than Dakor the Detective Magician now. All spiffy in your uniform so y' are' another at the table remarks. 'US Army. It's been my life for a good while, actually' Dakor responds. 'Well, it doesn't take a mage or a seer to tell... that your new life requires our participation' Agatha remarks calmly.
Dakor offers to cut to the chase, and explains that he enlisted, but couldn't sit around – and as Major Alan Dakor, he used his talents fighting magical Nazi menaces for the last few years of the war. 'Sorry, dry throat' Dakor interrupts himself, taking a sip of his martini, before explaining that since V-J Day, he has been hunting down any Nazi magicians who have gone to ground, and he has been told to form a team for this latest venture, and they have already been assigned a name – the Department of the Uncanny – and he wants them all to join. 'Y'got me atten'chun' a man with a white pattern over his face and short dark hair wearing a reddish-orange suit called Andre Gastrade, also known as the Ghost Dancer, replies. Agatha Harkness looks sternly ahead at Dakor as she replies 'Join a department? A unit? What a ghastly notion'. The third person sitting at the table wears a green suit and smirks as he replies 'Aye, folk o’ the craft are a solitary bunch' – his name is Declan Dane, the Emerald Warlock.
Declan adds that he can barely stand to look upon himself, and that it is a good thing he has pretty girls like Agatha here to do the job for him. 'Oh, Declan, you old rogue' Agatha replies, to which Declan tells her to admit that she is madly in love with him. 'Silly, I could never love you as much as you love yourself. So why bother?' Agatha asks.
Ghost Dancer suggests that they are lost from the topic at hand, suggesting that since Dakor came seeking help, he should be given their attention. 'They must love you back on your island with that fun-loving personality 'n all. A right bon-vivant, so y' are' Declan snarls. But Dakor thanks Ghost Dancer and tells him that he is right, that there isn't a lot of time. He continues his story, revealing that Hilda von Hate, a she-witch of the SS is one of the most gifted witches he has ever had the misfortune to encounter. He explains that she got out of Germany early in 1945, he saw her vanish himself – he thought she found a dimensional fissure off Earth, and that he had lost her.
Dakor supposes that Earth has a lingering appeal, because a report from Ghost Dancer says that Hilda sequestered herself on the remote island of Tani. 'Mr Serious and Mr Helpful. The Ghost Dancer has many dances' Declan states, joking that any good conjurer has a few. Agatha glances at Declan and asks him if he ever stops talking and warns him that she has a good mind to slip a spell of enchanted silence into that gin rickey he is so keen to have. 'Aw, there I was thinking my Irish brogue and twinkling eyes were starting to get to you, Agatha' Declan replies. 'Oh, they are, just not in the way you'd like them to' Agatha responds, before telling Alan Dakor to continue. Dakor explains that von Hate has conquered the island and set herself up as a queen, and now the locals are enraptured in some sort of mystic state – not unlike zombieism. Ghost Dancer tells the others that zombies are a helluva thing, while Dakor states that they want Hilda, obviously, that she has to be brought to justice.
Dakor then reveals that the US government is very keen to obtain Hilda von Hate's mind-control ability, or at the very least, destroy it and prevent the Russians from getting it. 'Hence the race against time you mentioned, Dakor. I was wondering what the rush was all about' Agatha remarks. 'There. Evil Nazi. Bad witch. That's my pitch' Dakor tells the others. 'Oh, and the gratitude of the American government, blah, blah, the usual' he adds, before asking the others if they are in.
Three hours later, in a fighter plane over the Caribbean. 'I wasn't expecting costumes' Declan Dane remarks as he sits opposite Frank Joyce a.k.a. the Whizzer, who explains that the top brass wanted them as interference. He looks at the Ghost Dancer who sits next to him, and several soldiers look around at the super-powered beings aboard the plane. Captain America is among them, and he adds that in case there are non-magical defenses, the brass want them concentrating on what they are good at. Agatha Harkness looks up at Captain America and addresses him as Mr Mace – Jeff – and tells him that she knows they are in good hands, and that he is a credit to his predecessor. Captain America looks over to Agatha and asks her how she knows that is his name. 'That's not common knowledge' he adds. Declan Dane tells Captain America that now he is in the world of witches and warlocks – they deal in uncommon knowledge. Agatha tells Jeff not to worry, that his secret is safe.
'I'm sure it is, Ma'am' Captain America replies. “Ma'am”? Agatha replies. 'Heavens, I'm not an old lady yet, am I?' she asks. Captain America ignores that comment and tells his guests that as none of them are American, on behalf of his government, he thanks them all for helping. Agatha reveals that this isn't her first time – she did her bit during the war, and Declan Dane declares that as far as he is concerned, evil is evil. He adds that he isn't proud of Ireland's neutrality during the war, but now he is putting his hex where his heart is. The Whizzer turns to Ghost Dancer and asks him what his powers are. Ghost Dancer explains that there isn't much difference between one mage and another, but that he uses talismans more than Agatha or the Irish, but apart from that, it's all the same. 'I can see a man's life from his birth to his last day. That's some heavy juju, man. I tell ya' Ghost Dancer adds. Whizzer asks Ghost Dancer if he can see his life, to which Ghost Dancer asks him if he is sure he wants to know. 'Yeah, I'm not afraid' the Whizzer replies, arms folded.
Ghost Dancer looks ahead, and states that Robert Frank is the Whizzer, that he has some years ahead of him, but the last few ain't going to be happy for him – but before that, he will have great love and happiness, which is more than some who life forever get to enjoy. 'So count that as a blessing' Ghost Dancer suggests. 'Err, I guess I will, thanks. Love, huh. Hope it's with the girl I have in mind' the Whizzer remarks, before asking Ghost Dancer if he knows his own death, too, and that that must be a weight on his shoulders. 'Non. That's the one thing I can't see' Ghost Dancer admits. Suddenly, Dakor emerges from the cockpit and tells everyone that they are up, as the pilot has reported that they will be over the island soon. 'I hope you all know how to use a parachute' he adds. 'Parachute? Y'been hanging around with the norms a wee bit too long, Dakor' Declan replies, before laughing and announcing that the last one down there buys the whiskeys, as he teleports away in a puff of smoke.
Shortly, a battle is underway as Hilda von Hate unleashes magical energy while the Department of the Uncanny, thrown together though they are, fight against her with a cohesion that surprises even them. The Whizzer runs around the outside of the battle zone to keep everyone contained, while Captain America knocks back several locals that are under von Hate's control. Declan punches one of the locals while casting a spell, and Agatha, Ghost Dancer and Dakor all prepare their own spells, throwing out hexes and trying not to get their brains devoured – Hilda von Hate is a hell of a foe – and Hell is where their combined efforts send her... or so they think....
On the veranda of an old villa surrounded by a lush jungle, Declan Dane sits opposite Andre Gastrade and tells him that the damsels look delicious. 'Not the first time you've said that, I bet, you old rogue' Andre replies. Declan laughs and tells Andre that he has a point, but that he has never said it about the damsel fruit, though. Declan then tells the Ghost Dancer that he has changed. 'I've aged, Declan. Mainly I've aged' Andre replies. 'And you traded in being the “White Priest” of Obeah for being a fruit farmer?' Declan asks. Andre replies that it is small holdings, but that it gives him something to do – damsels, green figs and chunnub. A woman approaches them and holds up a bottle, asking Declan if he would like a drink, telling him that they have a fine local rum. Declan tells Mrs Gastrade that he is sure he would, but that he quit drinking a while back, before remarking that Andre has a few surprises up his sleeve, too. 'I thought after nine centuries, I should give it a rest' Andre responds. He adds that it was meeting Grace here and marrying her that began his decision to draw back from the magic.
'Especially after Jericho Drumm set up shop. He seems to do all that I was capable of and more. So, I thought... “let him”' Andre adds. Declan asks him if he doesn't have the patois anymore, but Andre tells him that it was an act, he thought his role as the Ghost Dancer needed the added theatre. He admits that he should have spent more time with his magic and less with play-acting, before deciding that he did his bit – all the Nazi spies and villainy he has defeated in the Caribbean and South America through the years, and now he just wants a quiet retirement with sunny days and ripe fruits. 'And a wife that loves you very much' Grace smiles at her husband. 'Yes, I was just going to say that, my love' Andre smiles back, before turning to Declan and supposing that he is now “un-retired” until this current bad business is done. Declan points out that it isn't current – it's from their shared past, which is why he is here. Declan then asks if Jericho Drumm, or Doctor Voodoo as he is also known, will be here soon. 'I'm not the seer I once was... but I'd say he already is' Andre responds.
A few moments later, Andre and Declan stand in a clearing as a high-tech aircraft descends onto the island. A hatch opens and Captain Steve Rogers emerges, followed by Pietro Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver and Doctor Voodoo. Steve Rogers greets Andre and Declan, and tells Declan that it has been a while. 'It has, Captain America. A good while at that' Declan remarks as he shakes Steve Rogers' hand. Steve Rogers explains that he isn't Captain America anymore, that another man bears the shield. 'Well, for some of us, you'll always be Captain America. There, I said it' Declan remarks. 'Agreed. Wholeheartedly' Quicksilver smiles, before telling Declan that he understands he is known as the Emerald Warlock. Declan confirms this, to which Quicksilver asks 'Because you're Irish, or because of your hair?' Declan tells him that it is could be both, or neither, as he has been known as the Emerald Warlock for centuries, so at this point, his guess is as good as any.
'Hey you, been too long. I missed your face' Jericho smiles at Andre as the two men put their hands on each other's arms. 'Feeling's mutual, Jer' Andre replies, adding that he is proud of Jericho being an Avenger. Andre then thanks Mr Rogers for getting here so quickly. Captain Rogers tells Andre to call him Steve and thanks him for contacting the Avengers. 'If this in any way solves this insanity abroad in the world... let's get to it' Steve suggests, asking what they need to know. Andre reports that in 1947, he and Declan were part of a team that attacked the island base of Hilda von Hate here in the Caribbean, sixty miles yonder, and that she had an army of “walkers” - living people with their minds controlled, so they were in a zombie-like state. Declan adds that it was a zombie army, a wee one, but even so. He reports that they killed the witch, but he supposes it didn't stick, at least not according to Andre. Andre tells the new arrivals that Hilda's “walker army” was cured when they killed her, they became human again – or so they thought.
'Seems that wasn't the way of it' Doctor Voodoo remarks, and Declan agrees, announcing that people have become “walkers” all over the world – infecting other people with a bite, or even a scratch. Andre reveals his theory – that the “zombies” they freed back then weren't cured at all – they merely had the infection recede, become dormant, while they happily lived their lives, went out into the world, had little ones and grandchildren, all of them carrying the same latent “virus”. He adds that he can sense that the root cure is back on the island – Hilda von Hate, her essence or spirit, has flared back to life. Declan agrees and tells the others that he can feel her out there. 'So she returned to life and her control over her “servants” did too. Makes sense. Maybe that was her plan all along. The long game' Quicksilver suggests. Steve Rogers points out that now it is endemic – it has taken the rest of the world's heroes, including the rest of his team, all they have to contain it, each in their own unique ways. He reminds the others that these people are innocent people who have been possessed, so they need to end this before too many of them get hurt or killed.
At that moment, around the world, the other members of Steve Rogers' Unity Squad are doing what they can to protect humanity from the infected “zombies”. In New York, the Human Torch surrounds a mob of the walkers with fire, preventing them from getting to nearby civilians. In Venice, Deadpool is in a gondola that has capsized as he smacks a zombie in the face with an oar, as other zombies struggle to get to him. Elsewhere, Rogue finds herself confronted by a large group of the walkers, and in Japan, Synapse is surrounded by several zombie business men, kicking three of them in the face at once as she protects herself from them.
Steve Rogers suggests that this is all pretty cut and dried – they get in the Quinjet and go pay Hilda a visit. Andre reveals that when they first attacked her, the island was sparsely populated, not so much nowadays, as the whole island was brought by the St Croix hotel empire, and it has been a resort since the 1970s. 'More people means more walkers – got it' Steve Rogers declares. The Quinjet approaches the island, which is packed with resort-goers. When the jet lands, Steve Rogers, Quicksilver, Doctor Voodoo, the Emerald Warlock and the Ghost Dancer emerge and leap into action. Captain Rogers instructs Quicksilver to subdue, transport and corral, so Quicksilver darts about the walkers, knocking them out, and as Steve punches a walker in the face, he asks Jericho, Andre and Dane if they have a spell that can contain the walkers. The Emerald Warlock readies a spell as he suggests that they would be better served fighting Hilda herself, explaining that if you fight someone magically, you're attuned to their energy, and more attuned means more chance of beating her.
The Emerald Warlock smiles as he adds that he and the Ghost Dancer are up for one more go-round with Hilda. 'What'cha say to that, old son?' he asks. 'I say, not so much of the “old” sure, let's send her back to Hell again' Ghost Dancer replies as he fires a surge of magical energy towards the walkers, while Doctor Voodoo announces that he has a spell that will keep the walker zombies cozy, and a moment later, dozens of them are contained in a magical field. Steve Rogers tells everyone that he will run interference for the Ghost Dancer and the Emerald Warlock as he kicks a walker backwards. 'Gentlemen...she's all yours!' Rogers tells Andre and Declan. The two sorcerers turn to the hotel and Andre remarks that he can feel her in the hotel's grand ballroom. 'Yeah, I'd say that's right. She was a show-off even then' Declan remarks.
Shortly, the Emerald Warlock and the Ghost Dancer enter the grand ballroom which is shrouded in darkness. 'Com 'on out, Hilda, me old darlin'! Declan calls out. Back outside, Quicksilver continues to speed past the walkers and throws them towards Doctor Voodoo, who then captures them in his magical containment, while telling Quicksilver to keep them coming. In the ballroom, energies glow around the Emerald Warlock's hands as he tells Hilda that it isn't like her to be shy. 'Show yourself, Hilda von Hate!' the Ghost Dancer shouts. Suddenly, a brilliant light glows before the two, and a voice calls out 'Hilda is dead still and forever more! She burns! I am something more! Something far, far finer!' the voice boasts. Ghost Dancer asks 'Who are you, then? What are you?' The voice reveals that they are known by many names – the Greeks of yore called them Erida, and the Armenians call them Sonnilion, while in old Babylonia, they were called Veltis. 'Aye, I know the feeling. Been called a few names myself' the Emerald Warlock remarks, while the voice declares that above all else, they are one thing – 'I AM HATRED!' a horrid figure with a wolf-like face, large wings and blasting energy towards the magicians booms, as the energy strikes the magicians.
Outside, 'That's it, team – Voodoo... Pietro... keep it up! Containment!' Captain Rogers calls out as he kicks a walker back, while Quicksilver races two more towards Doctor Voodoo.
The creature, Erida, looms over the Emerald Warlock and the Ghost Dancer, its many eyes glowing, and fanged teeth bared, as she utters that Hilda was vain and foolish, harnessed her power, a small amount, to serve her limited needs – but in death, Hilda left a portal here on Earth, and that connection was a doorway, it just took time to open it. 'And now you're through, you're here to stay, eh?' the Emerald Warlock asks. Erida boasts that Hilda's pawns are hers now, and their children are infecting the world.
Outside again, Quicksilver asks Jericho how he is holding up. Jericho admits that he is tiring, and declares that the Emerald Warlock and Ghost Dancer must do something soon.
At that moment, the Emerald Warlock suggests to Ghost Dancer that they use a two-pronged incantation, and Ghost Dancer agrees. The Emerald Warlock asks his companion if he is ready with his hex, and adds that he hopes he is – because the spirit they are up against isn't going to wait. The Ghost Dancer releases the Spell of Sobu Kessou, which he explains will dampen the spirit for a moment, and tells Declan Dane that the rest is up to him. The creature recoils as Ghost Dancer's spell strikes it, and the Emerald Warlock leaps towards the creature energy glowing around his hands, he shouts 'Hey, demon! Quite the list o' names ye had a moment ago... but y' ain't the only one – I go by another name, too... I'm the EMERALD WARLOCK!' Declan shouts as energy surges around him and his appearance changes, markings appear on his face and his suit switches to an elaborate costume as green energy bursts from his fists, the creature is destroyed.
'I think...' Steve Rogers begins as the walker he was defending himself against reverts to normal. '... the danger is past' Doctor Voodoo remarks to Quicksilver, who comes to a halt. 'You did it' Captain Rogers tells Ghost Dancer and the Emerald Warlock as they return to the outdoors. 'Aye, we did' Declan smiles. Quicksilver asks if the menace is gone, and Declan explains that it wasn't Hilda after all, but some kind of hate demon or goddess, but no one need worry, as he sent it back to Hell, and the Ghost Dancer and he absorbed the energy between the two of them, all of it that was out in the world. 'Wait, you absorbed its enegy? How is that a good thing?' Captain Rogers asks. The Ghost Dancer reports that Dane's powers and abilities are unlike his, magically, and Doctor Voodoo explains that they are from such different cultures, and because of that, the “frequencies” of their magic are different, too, and with the hate energy split in that way, it is rendered inert – it can never be of use to anyone. 'So that's it?' Quicksilver asks. Ghost Dancer confirms it is, and suggests that they go back to their hectic lives, and he to his peaceful one.
The Avengers depart soon after, with Ghost Dancer glad to see them go, as even back in the day, he was uneasy around costumes and powers – magic, he understood, their kind of “magic” not so much, although he supposes the Avengers would say the same about him. With just Andre and Declan left at the resort, they soon depart back to Andre's villa.
As the sun sets, Andre and Declan sit opposite each other on the veranda once again, as Andre asks Declan if he will stay for dinner, claiming he hasn't lived until he has tried Grace's goat chops. 'I'd love to... but I've too much t'do. You know what they say, no rest for an immortal warlock' Declan replies. Andre tells Declan that this has been nice, seeing him again – the last surviving members of the Department of the Uncanny. 'Oh, you're reminding me of Agatha. Such a beauty 'n all she was' Declan responds, to which Andre remarks that he has always wondered whether Declan and Agatha ever got together. 'No, but not for want of trying, on my part' Declan responds. Andre smiles and tells Declan that this is farewell for the two of them, what with being on different sides of the world, so the two halves of this magical hate essence can't be reunited. 'Oh, you think they'll never be as one again?' Declan asks. 'Well, yes... I mean, that's the plan, right?' Andre smiles again.
Declan responds by telling Andre that is not the plan – it was never his plan. Andre tries to reason with Declan Dane the Emerald Warlock – hoping that the essence had corrupted him in some temporary way he could overcome. But as they joined in magical combat, they melded consciousness for an instant – just long enough that he could see – utterly and absolutely – Declan Dane had been evil this whole time. Then, now, forever. Flames engulf Andre's villa, while Declan, who has transformed into his other costume, with markings on his face, walks through the flames. His smiles were smoke and mirrors, his charm more hocus-pocus, while Andre Gastrade burns to death in his chair on the veranda, he will dance the waltz of ghosts with his one true love, who lies nearby, flames circling her.
In death, the Ghost Dancer remains curious about one thing... what goal, what aim would drive Dane to want such power? And who on Earth – in the stars of the universe – could he possibly hate so much... that he would task them with so fearful a weapon?
Half a world away, in New York, the Emerald Warlock stands atop a roof and looks down to a street below, where walks Wanda Maximoff... the Scarlet Witch!