A rainy night. The man once known as Warren Worthington III or the Angel crouches on a roof high above Manhattan, scanning the streets below.
In the streets, another predator stirs, about to attack a young man. The Angel cuts him down, announcing: Not fit. Not worthy! The young man thanks him but shuts up when he sees his merciless eyes.
Angel or Death (as he now calls himself) flies up.
The Watcher muses this is how Apocalypse intended it. Death brings judgment on his fellow mutants and testing their worth. What if Apocalypse had succeeded and Warren Worthington had become the angel of death?
The seeds for this were sown when the original five X-Men formed X-Factor. Posing as mutant hunters, they sought to find and educate others like them, a scheme concocted by Warren’s old college roommate Cameron Hodge. Too late they discovered Hodge was a fanatical mutant hater with a deep-rooted burning resentment of Warren’s success. The tragic result was the loss of Warren’s natural wings and his apparent suicide.
But Warren was saved by Apocalypse, given new wings, recreated as Death and turned against his old teammates.
The divergence between realities occurs when Iceman creates an ice dummy of himself that Death subsequently destroys. In one timeline, the ploy works. Believing he killed his friend, an enraged Angel turns against Apocalypse.
In another reality, shock and horror overload the Angel’s already damaged psyche. He flees, a lost soul, convinced he killed his friend. A belief that Apocalypse sees fit to cement by eliminating Iceman himself. And at last, Apocalypse’s creation is complete. The Angel’s wounded mutated mind knits in dark ugly ways. Humankind betrayed him, took his wings from him. Mutants used him, abandoned him. He is Death, now and forevermore.
He makes his home in the Hellhole, a de-sanctified church turned Heavy Rock venue.
Some hours later and some miles distant, Cyclops blasts a missile out of the sky with three still to go. The missiles adapt, making it harder and harder for him. He tries a wide optic blast, but too late.
But before the missile can hit him, it is stopped by a telekinetic forcefield. Marvel Girl asks what’s going on. The missile was armed! If not for her, he’d have been killed! She asks Ship the meaning of this. Ship explains Cyclops requested the best it could throw at him. In the jargon of its creator, Apocalypse, such a command meant the ultimate test, from which the outcome is either survival or death!
Jean muses there is so much they still don’t know about this new base of theirs. So much hidden danger.
Angrily, Cyclops tells her his best wasn’t good enough. His best got Bobby killed. He has to be better! He berates what a leader he turned out to be. Warren’s become some sort of creature of the night, Beast is getting dumber each time he uses his powers and Bobby is dead. He’s failed them all!
Jean tells him Bobby’s death wasn’t anyone’s fault. None of them could have guessed what Bobby was planning or how Apocalypse would respond. Scott has failed if he gives up and lets himself die a stupid death. They have an obligation to the living, to keep trying to cure Hank and help Warren. He needs Scott. So does she.
Scott apologizes. They have to find Warren before this destructive campaign of his extends to mutants in general or Cops or civilians… before whatever’s left of Warren is lost to them forever.
Deep beneath the Manhattan sewers, three nasty looking mutants hold a boy prisoner, asking if he is ready to die. Rockfar should be back any time now. They said they’d return him if his daddy paid but what they meant was piece by piece!
Instead of Rockfar, Angel enters. They attack and he quickly kills them with his wings.
For the next few weeks, he is everywhere, his shadow casting the city into a perpetual darkness, that breeds fear, distrust and itchy trigger fingers, and something grows and festers, until …
A woman runs for her life to a cop car. She tells the cops she is Frenzy, part of the Alliance of Evil. She’s done terrible things. Arrest her! Just don’t let him get her.
Angel orders them to leave. She has been judged and Death must pass sentence. One cop tells him this woman has rights. She wants their help, she’s got it! Very well, he replies. Mutant, human - it matters not, sooner or later they must all face judg—
Cyclops’ optic blast hits him in the back and Marvel Girl saves the cops and Frenzy. Cyclops tells Angel that Apocalypse killed Bobby. He isn’t to blame. He asks him to come back.
Angel looks at him silently, then sends some flechettes his way. He tells him they were meant to paralyze, not kill. His day of testing will come.
Beast asks why he does this. They are friends. Friends don’t hurt each other. He jumps after him and holds onto the flying Angel’s legs. Angel considers that Beast’s growing strength takes away his intelligence. In the coming world there is no place for him. He slits his throat and drops Hank.
And Jean and Scott realize that there is no Warren anymore. To stop him, they may have to kill him.
Some hours later aboard X-Factor’s Ship, Trish Tilby announces she has a better way. Cyclops cynically accuses her of only wanting a story. Warren nearly killed Hank back there. He isn’t sure there is anything left of him to save. Jean tells him to hear her out.
Trish explains Warren’s old girlfriend Candy Southern came to her with a part-formed story about Cameron Hodge, X-Factor’s traitorous co-founder, linking him to a rabid anti-mutant organization called the Right. Candy wanted to expose him, find evidence that would prove that Hodge set Warren on this destructive course. They were set to meet yesterday but Candy never showed. She thinks Candy ran into trouble. If Warren knew that, it might prompt a response. In his own mind at least, she thinks Warren has fallen from grace and needs a chance to redeem himself.
Tilby prints the story of Candy’s abduction and Warren learns of it. He realizes Hodge is behind this. He seeks answers at the offices of Worthington Enterprises. From machines, men, documents, until at last a trail emerges, one that leads to a hidden complex beneath an office building in Chicago. The headquarters of the Right. And there, quite literally, all hell breaks loose as Warren finds himself fighting demons.
Watching the battle, Hodge curses this wasn’t the deal. In return for his help, he was promised unlimited power. And yet his most hated enemy has come here to kill him and the demons are powerless to stop him.
The demon N’astirh grins that the Angel has grown mighty and promises to be a better partner than Hodge. Hodge realizes he was set up as Warren reaches him.
Angrily, Hodge reaches for the life support machine for Candy, intending to at least take her down with him. Before that can happen, Warren’s wing blades cut through his hand. Hodge fires at him. Warren asks why he harmed Candy. She loved him, that was enough! Guilty! Warren shouts and kills him. Delicious, N’astirh croons.
When Angel notices the demon, he introduces himself and thanks him for all he has done. He reminds Warren he single-handedly cast the city into a perpetual twilight of fear and loathing. A dark place where evil has full reign. He has created a perfect canvas on which to paint the demon’s designs. His campaign of terror has proven a fitting prelude to an inferno, the creation of a true hell on Earth. That will engulf first Manhattan, then the entire planet.
He opens a doorway and offers Angel a reward: Join them in Limbo. Become a part of the Inferno. It should not be difficult; he is so very nearly a demon already.
Angel realizes he is right. He understands he is damned but will not take the world with him! he shouts. He passes through the half-formed portal with N’astirh, causing it to implode.
Thus Inferno is averted before it begins. And Cyclops, Jean Grey and Candy remember him as the Angel of life.