You are witnessing the beginning of what is destined to become one of the planet Earth’s most devastating battles. What does a battle fought in the far reaches of the cosmos have to do with your humble planet, you ask? I am the Watcher, and I shall explain. On one of his recent trips through the heavens, the Silver Surfer lost control of his board. He found that it, and he, were being manipulated by Ghaur, Lord of the Lemurian Deviants. Ghaur had been transformed by the Eternals’ Uni-Mind into a gaseous state of being, and he needed the Surfer’s power cosmic to reconstitute his physical form. This the Surfer unwittingly did before realizing the enormity of his error. But, since Ghaur considered a battle with the former Galactan herald irrelevant to his ultimate plan, he quit the conflict and returned to the planet of his birth – the Earth.
Once there, he struck a bargain with the Lemurian Queen, Llyra, to free the elder god Set from his dimensional prison. Their plan was four-fold. Phase one was to sacrifice the lives of the Lemurians’ ancient enemies, the Atlanteans, by duping their dull-witted leader, Attuma, into attacking the surface world (and come into conflict with Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four). The second phase involved the Save Our Society Foundation under the direction of the subterranean emperor, Tyrannus. This organization promised a cure for drug addiction but, in truth, supplied a drug that turned humans into serpent men. In phase three they would gather together all of the serpent crowns in the multiverse creating one gigantic crown from which the serpent-god could enter this reality. And finally they found seven brides (Marvel Girl, Invisible Woman, Andromeda, She-Hulk, Storm, Dagger, and Scarlet Witch) for their seven-headed god. Each woman would bear the progeny of Set. They would then go on to rule other dimensions in their father’s unholy name.
But Ghaur did not account for the opposition he faced from Earth’s many super-beings (Avengers, X-Men, New Mutants, Fantastic Four, and various other heroes). And thus, his plans were foiled by the combined strength of one of the greatest gatherings of heroes the world had ever seen. But there are other realities where not even this proud assemblage would prove enough. Other worlds that would know, first-hand, the chilling answer to the fateful question – what if Set had come to Earth?
There is a reality removed by the slightest veil of cosmic gossamer from your own, a reality where a single event is different. But the reverberations of that change can affect other facets of that reality – some for good, some for ill. This is a glimpse of that reality wherein the worst that could happen, does happen.
It begins when Namor, the noble Sub-Mariner, actually dies in a ship’s explosion in the Canal Zone of Panama. Thus, he will not be there to turn the tide of battle when Llyra’s undersea stronghold is later stormed. That tragedy is compounded when the Punisher and Moon Knight are unable to stop the manufacturing of the Save Our Society drug when, they too, fall under its influence and become mindless serpent men. The final nail in reality’s coffin occurs when Thor is unable to convince his half-brother, Atum, to come to the aid of their mutual mother, Gaea, the Earth-goddess. Thus would Thor unleash the power of Demogorge, whom Atum will become.
Having failed in his mission to return the Demogorge to Set’s dimension, the three friends with whom Thor went there suffer greatly. Quasar, the recently appointed protector of the universe, is cast aside by the inverted serpent and the Thing fails to catch him. And thus the youthful hero plummets into the nether reaches of the Serpent God’s dark domain. While Grimm’s back is turned, one of Set’s seven heads seeks to swallow the Fantastic Four’s strong-man. And though the Thing struggles mightily, he is lost when he is swallowed whole. The Thunder God returns to Set’s dimension in time to see several of the monster’s heads turn on Doctor Strange and incinerate him when he finds his spells to be useless in Set’s dimension. In his righteous anger the Thunderer lashes out against the monster, never noticing the golden amulet which falls from the sorcerer’s charred body. But, as the Serpent God is more out of this dimension than in, Thor quells his berserker rage long enough to realize that the battle will not be won here and, with the mystic might of Mjolnir, he creates a dimensional vortex to Earth, where he will take up the battle anew.
Back on Earth, Set’s body does, indeed, make it through the inter-dimensional aperture created by the giant serpent crown, much to the delight of Ghaur and Llyra and much to the chagrin of Thor’s teammates, the Avengers who seek to release the seven brides from their enemies’ clutches. Some (Captain America and Vision) do survive that first onslaught but, others (Beast and Wasp) do not. And while the Wasp’s ex-husband Dr. Henry Pym, witnesses her fiery demise, one of Set’s heads draws near and swallows him whole. Then, as often is the case with freed demons, the monster turned on its benefactors (Ghaur and Llyra), killing those foolish enough to worship him. And, as Set turns his full attention towards the brides, the Avengers pick up the bodies of their fallen friends and depart, realizing as they go, that the brides are in no danger and that they have to regroup.
When they return to confront the Elder God anew, their forces are indeed replenished. Once their craft lands, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four fight bravely against the Lemurian horde. Their numbers are more than overwhelming however, and many Avengers (Captain America and Black Widow) would fall this day. Then, Set has one of his brides turn Llyra’s infra-sonic cannon upon them and fire, bringing the whole of the Lemurian city down upon them, burying Lemurian and Avenger (Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Human Torch, etc.) alike. Those who do not die in the destruction of the Lemurian city are felled by the ever-growing might of the serpent (Iron Man, Wonder Man, Mr. Fantastic, etc.). All that is, save one (Thor), one whom not even Set could destroy. One he could only throw from the sea unconscious. With Earth’s mightiest heroes destroyed, Set’s influence dominates the planet. By contaminating the world’s water supply, he is able to turn every man, woman and child, the world over, into one of his serpentine slaves. Or, at least, almost everyone.
A few days later, in the now-deserted headquarters of the Fantastic Four, Thor tells those gathered to listen to him. Due to their special abilities, they, hero and villain alike, be not affected by the malady that doth grip Midgard. Thus it befalls ‘pon each of them – Dr. Doom, Phoenix (Rachel Summers), Wolverine, Cloak, Aquarian, Sabretooth and Hulk to stop the Elder God’s insidious plan to enslave other world’s even as he has their own. Dr. Doom states that on that point he would say there are all in agreement. The only matter open for debate is how they intend to do it.
Sabretooth replies that it seems pretty simple t’ him, rust-bucket – they off the babes. No babes, no babies. An’ here he thought that he was supposed ta be a rocket scientist. Thor asks him that he would brazenly slay women? And, more, women whom most of them hath fought beside? He says thee nay! ‘Tis both a cowardly and unworthy thought for a true warrior. Doom tells Thor to hold. Sabretooth’s disrespectful tone toward him aside, a breach of manners he will pay for in time, he does have a point. The brides are the key to Set’s master plan.
Turning to Thor, Wolverine tells him that he’s gotta admit they’re right. An’ b’sides, they ain’t the women they knew anymore. He says it’s better they die by their hand rather than that monster’s. They owe it to the memory of who they were. One thing, though, he gets Marvel Girl – it’s personal. Sabretooth asks Wolverine that he’s always lettin’ his emotions get the better of him. Gonna be the death of him yet. Cloak asks how he can even consider killing someone he – worked with. He could not kill Dagger under any circumstances. Sabretooth tells him don’t sweat it. He’ll scrag ‘em all if he likes ‘cept of course, for dear, sweet Jeannie. Enraged, Wolverine tells him to “keep pushin’ old man.” After Aquarian tells Sabretooth his callous disregard for life sickens him, Doom adds as it does them all. Pushing Sabretooth back into his chair, Hulk says he doesn’t like the whole idea much, but if they’ve gotta do it, let’s get it done. Doom agrees and says he has a plan. Thor, Phoenix, and he will engage Set himself while the rest of them take care of the brides. When Cloak says “and may god have mercy on us all,” Thor heartily agrees with him.
While Thor and company embark upon their deadly mission, Quasar hurtles through space of Set’s ever-imploding dimension. As he does, he thinks to himself that it feels like he’s been hurtling pell-mell like this for days. He’s got to turn this around somehow before this whole dimension implodes upon itself. Just then, Quasar sees a floating meteor and, by applying the same slingshot principle NASA used on the Voyager spacecraft, turns his trajectory around and heads back. Using his quantum energy to slow down, Quasar lands on the spot where Mr. Grimm, Dr. Strange, and he fought Set. Upon landing on the ground, he discovers that no one is there except for the charred remains of Dr. Strange and left-over pieces of the Thing. Realizing that they are both dead, Quasar is distraught.
Back on Earth, in Times Square, Sabretooth, Cloak, Wolverine, Hulk and Aquarian stand perched on a rooftop, observing Set below. After they notice that Thor’s team has begun to attack Set, the rag-tag team leaps into action. The Hulk leaps down from the rooftop, while Aquarian uses his null-field to transport Cloak, Wolverine and Sabretooth to the ground. As they do, Wolverine tells Aquarian to lower them fast ‘cause they’re sittin’ ducks up there.
At that moment, Serpent-Punisher fires his weapon and shoots Sabretooth in the chest. Cloak appears concerned but Wolverine tells him he’s survived worse. Right now they’ve got more important things ta worry about. Seeing Serpent-Magneto, Wolverine asks Aquarian if he can throw one of his null-fields around him. As he does, Aquarian remarks that his opponent is very powerful, he’s struggling against it. Wolverine tells him of course he is, he’s Magneto, one of the most powerful guys on the flamin’ planet. Leaping from his null-field platform, Wolverine asks Aquarian if he can open up a tiny space in his null-field that he can slip his wrist into. When Aquarian replies yes, but why; Wolverine responds by jamming his claws into Serpent-Magneto’s neck, killing him. Disgusted, Aquarian asks him if he had to do that. Wolverine answers yes, he did. And he’d better get used to it, ‘cause it’s gonna get a whole lot worse there real soon.
Plummeting from the roof-top, Hulk sees “the big Russian kid” (Serpent-Colossus) and determines that he’ll take him down first. He’s probably too much for any of the other guys ta handle. After landing full-force on him, Hulk picks him up and is shocked to find that he is still breathing after he hit him with everything he had. Just then, he feels a rush of air behind him and sees that it’s that X-Men chick – what’s her name (Serpent-Rogue). As she comes closer, Hulk says who cares what her name is. He’s just gonna use her for battin’ practice anyway. With that, he uses Colossus as a bat and takes out Rogue with him.
On the street, Cloak observes serpent versions of the New Mutants (Rictor, Wolfsbane, Sunspot, Cannonball, Boom-Boom and Warlock) rushing towards him. As they do, he laments that he doesn’t want to hurt any of them, yet they rush headlong and, as silently as the grave, to their doom inside the darkness of his cloak. May God forgive him, may he forgive them all.
Noticing that Rogue is returning, Hulk picks Colossus up and snaps his back, killing him. Just then, Serpent-Spider-Man lands on the Hulk’s head. Distraught, Hulk asks why he had to pick on him. He always kinda liked the little guy. But this is war. Grabbing hold of Spider-Man, he slams his neck into the ground, killing him. As he does, he apologizes for doing so. Turning his attention to Rogue, Hulk exclaims that as Ralph Kramden used to say – “get ready, baby…’cause you’re goin’ to the moon!” With that, Hulk punches Rogue into orbit.
Meanwhile, Serpent-Punisher stalks the bloodied Sabretooth on the street. Playing opossum, Sabretooth tells him to come a little closer. He doesn’t even have ta look at him, he can smell the gun powder on his hands, he can taste the sweat on his brow. Just a little closer… Once Punisher gets close enough, Sabretooth jams his fist into his chest killing him. Nearby, Wolverine battles against Serpent-Daredevil. As they do, Wolverine tells him he’s good, ain’t no doubt about it but he does have just one small problem, bub. He’s the best there is. With that, Wolverine jams his claws into Daredevil, killing him.
Floating above, Aquarian remarks that Wolverine, Sabretooth and the Hulk are all so savage and vicious. Killing seems to come as an almost second nature to them. He does not share their blood lust. Every life is precious to him, every being has value. He cannot murder these men. They are not to blame for this most horrible fate. He must find some way to spare their lives. As Aquarian holds Serpent-Longshot and Serpent-Havok in his null-field, Cloak calls to him from the street. He tells Aquarian that he shares his concern for their lives. He then tells Aquarian to throw his null-sphere into the abyss of his cloak. They will live, albeit in a dimension of eternal cold and darkness. Doing so, Aquarian remarks still, it is life.
Once he thanks Cloak for his mercy, Sabretooth remarks that even with them two wimpin’ out on them, they still managed ta scrag ‘em all P.D.Q. (pretty damn quick). Aquarian asks Sabretooth couldn’t he see that their foes reaction time was slowed down by the serpent drug. Hulk agrees and asks the others if they noticed that none of them even talked. Wolverine replies that he noticed. It was the drug, not them. An’ now they’ve gotta face the worst of them ‘cause here come the brides (Dagger, Marvel Girl, Andromeda, She-Hulk, Invisible Woman, Storm, and Scarlet Witch). Sabretooth quips that Wolverine just had ta say it, didn’t he?
Wolverine proceeds to tell Sabretooth that this ain’t no joke. Storm’s gonna let loose. The elements obey her command. Their electric currents come down around her, dancing all about her rain-glistened form until they unleash their unfettered fury with devastating results and she kills Sabretooth. When She-Hulk rushes over towards Hulk and punches him in the chin, he tells her sorry, Jennifer, but as powerful as she is, she can’t stop him. Just then, he notices his head is wrapped in one of Invisible Woman’s force-fields, cutting off his oxygen supply.
Meanwhile, Marvel Girl has used her power to fling Wolverine towards the air. Wolverine calls out to Jeannie and tells her to stop but she doesn’t listen. Wolverine then laments the fact that he shouldn’t have held back, he should’ve clawed her. Noticing that she’s throwing him towards Aquarian, Wolverine says it shouldn’t do any real harm. Aquarian has his null-field and he has his adamantium skeleton. The Scarlet Witch gestures and lets loose her mutant hex power. It has the ability to affect probabilities such as the unlikely probability that Wolverine’s molecules would suddenly become anti-matter. Thus, when it comes in contact with the positive matter of the Aquarian’s null-field, a large explosion occurs and all that remains of the two heroes is an adamantium skeleton.
Cornering Invisible Woman up against a wall, Hulk tells her that she forgot one thing – he can hold his breath longer than any regular human. Just then, Andromeda, She-Hulk and Invisible Woman start to punch the goliath. As they do, Hulk remarks that it looks like he opened his big mouth too soon. The girls are tryin’ to knock the wind outta him. Meanwhile, Cloak faces the fury of Storm and Dagger trying to overload his cloak with more light than he can absorb. And with the Scarlet Witch’s hex power they just might. His calls to his former partner, Dagger, coming too late, and overloaded, Cloak’s cloak begins to fold in on itself, until both it and the young man who wore it are gone. Employing one final hex, the Scarlet Witch reverts the Hulk into Bruce Banner. Banner, an ordinary man who cannot survive the incredible might of She-Hulk and Andromeda’s blows.
And as Dr. Robert Bruce Banner loses his life, back to the dimension once occupied by Set, Quasar notices an amulet on the ground and realizes that it is not mere trinket, it is the Eye of Agamotto once worn by Dr. Strange, and the key to victory.
Back in Times Square, simultaneously with Wolverine and company’s attack, the fight continues. Smashing Set with his hammer, Thor tells it that it wilt know the true power of a warrior born. Nearby, Dr. Doom warns Phoenix to watch her back. He then tells her that she must employ her full power if they are to survive. Rachel exclaims that she can’t. He doesn’t realize how powerful the entity is. Tossing his hammer at Set, Thor tells her that she isn’t facing an earth-born foe now, but one of the true elder gods.
Just then, Thor is surprised when one of the serpents swallowed his thrown hammer. Facing the flames from one of the serpent heads, Doom remarks that not even his force-field can long protect him from the monster’s incredibly mystic power. But what is he thinking? Defeat is for lesser men… The force-field must hold, even if he has to convert all of his armaments’ energy to do it. It will hold! For he is Doom! Calling out to the monster he asks it if it can hear him. He is Doom! At that moment, Doom bursts into flames and is incinerated.
Watching what has transpired, Rachel exclaims all right monster – it is time for you to die! With that, Rachel transforms into the Phoenix and attacks Set. And while the seven-headed serpent god turns its full attention to the first real threat it has thus far faced, it fails to reckon with an immortal born. Unconcerned with the Thunder God’s desire to get his hammer back, Set seeks to do the impossible: it seeks to consume the Phoenix, growing larger and even more powerful with every passing second. Struggling against Set, Rachel exclaims that she cannot, she must not fail. Using his power, Thor manages to get his hammer back from the serpent, destroying one of the serpents heads in the process. When it returns to him, so powerful is the force of Mjolnir’s return to its master’s hand that it causes an energy feedback in both the elder god and the half-consumed Phoenix and sends a now powerless Rachel Summers falling to the ground where every bone in her young body will shatter on impact.
Seeing that Doom and Phoenix are both dead, Thor yells out to Set that he doth not face a mortal female now but the righteous fury of an Asgardian born. For Odin! For Asgard! For glory! As one, the six remaining heads turn on the Thunderer, loosing not only their ever-increasing might upon him, but also the energy they absorbed from the Phoenix. And though the son of Odin stands his ground valiantly, and though the very heavens themselves rupture with the storm of his anger and fury, not even the Mighty Thor can stand such punishment for long.
However, even as the immortal’s skin blisters and then melts away from his bones in the searing inferno, a giant earthen hand reaches up from the very bowels of the earth and grabs him, pulling the Thunder God back down into the earth itself. Before the elder god can react, Thor has been lost from and the earth mends itself. Below ground, Gaea, the Goddess of the Earth, weeps for her beloved Thor. Though she grows weak and old with Set’s ascension, and though she could not save this world which is her soul, or the mortals who once walked her fertile fields, she could not stand by and watch him dis… her son. And while she weeps for all that she has lost, she is unaware that help for her beloved planet is arriving from the stars.
Approaching Earth and the six-headed serpent, Set, Silver Surfer remarks that, though he tried to convince himself that the earth was not his problem, he can see now how wrong he was. So many of his former comrades, those whom he has called friend, are lost. Gone in the defense of their motherworld. And still the serpent grows even larger, large enough now to be seen from space. Large enough to devour this planet. He would not let his former master, Galactus, destroy this world and, by the stars, he will not let this monster do it, either. Gritting his teeth, Surfer tells the demon to prepare to face the power cosmic.
The former Galactan herald lashes out with power unmatched save by few in the entire universe. And, worse, he strikes with such force that he gives even one such as Set pause. The sky rider of the spaceways moves too fast for the Elder God to defend itself. And then, letting loose with the awesome might of the power cosmic, the Silver Surfer manages to do what only the son of Odin before him could do – he destroys another of Set’s heads. The five remaining heads of Set scream as one. It is a sound so loud that it triggers a fault line 3,000 miles away, and causes the coast of California to tremble. Surfer realizes that the creature is weak, reeling in its agony; now must he strike at its heart. But before the Silver Surfer can implement his bold plan, the five heads remaining to Set turn on him, unleashing all of their fury, flinging even one such as him off of his fabled board.
It is at that precise moment that Quasar appears. Quasar, who has combined his own quantum bands with the uni-power of Captain Universe. Quasar, who has grown fully as large as the Serpent God himself. Approaching Set, Quasar tells the serpent that it shall pay for his deeds this day. He shall pay for the lives he’s taken, the damage he has wrought. Behold demon, they mystic Eye of Agamotto. The object that will end his reign of terror and remove his vile presence from this plane of existence for all time. And when the mystic eye opens at the composite being’s mental command, both he and Set are sucked into it, there to battle for all of eternity.
The Watcher explains that the Silver Surfer brought the amulet to him when he left the planet Earth and here it shall remain, for here it shall be safe. Never again will the Serpent God threaten the Earth, never will he be freed. Alas, the damage the creature wrought can never be undone. A race once so promising, once so beloved, is now and forever more lost. The race of man has now become mindless serpentine slaves of a god forever removed from this reality. Slaves with no master, humans no more.
But what of the brides, you ask? Yes, they did survive the confrontation but not, alas, the birth of their sons. For their sons (giant snakes), you see, each in his turn, consumed his mother at birth, adding her power to his own. And as they grew to maturity they ate the other humans as well considering them, as they did, mere fodder left for them by their malevolent sire. Upon reaching their own age of ascension, each of the sons of Set found his way into other dimensions. Dimensions where they would rule in their father’s obscene name and where their own sons would be born to begin the cycle anew and conquer still other dimensions of their own. And dear friend, your reality might be next!