On a world not his own, Jamie Madrox stands in the center of the Sanctum Sanctorum of this world’s Doctor Strange, who seems to be the master of this world’s Jamie Madrox. Unfortunately for Madrox, this world’s Doctor Strange seems to have been possessed by this world’s Dread Dormammu, who postures threateningly at him.
“Well?” Dormammu asks, “Nothing to say?” Continuing, Dormammu tells the dumbstruck Madrox that he was confident enough when he was hiding behind his master’s cloak. He was filled with taunts and gibes, as he recalls. When Madrox replies that, yeah, that sounds like him, Dormammu asks where are his japes now, he wonders? Backing up, Madrox sheepishly wonders aloud as well. Reaching behind himself, Madrox feels a door handle and begins to turn it slowly. Look, he tells Dormammu, this may sound weird but… he has no freaking clue what’s going on. But he can see he’s busy being evil and stuff, so… he’ll just let himself… out…
Madrox’s words trail as he darts through the door, only to find himself in a nightmare version of New York City. Most of the city seems to be in flames with the unmistakable stench of brimstone filling the air. Scattered throughout the city are gigantic demonic creatures tearing apart at buildings. Meanwhile, spared destruction are the twin towers of the World Trade Center, which serve as the base of a gigantic, fiery portal.
As Madrox has halted in mid-step due to the shock, he still stands in the doorway. From within, Dormammu asks where Madrox thinks he is going. On this day when he’s finally bested Earth’s greatest sorcerer, he doesn’t think he’d let his pathetic apprentice survive, does he? With that, Dormammu unleashes a mystic bolt at Madrox, who deftly manages to dodge it. As Dormammu approaches to finish point-blank, Madrox attempts to persuade his impending killer that this is all a mistake. Yes, yours, Dormammu replies, when he allied himself with the wrong!
With that, Dormammu calls upon the flames of the Faltine to erase Madrox from existence. However, much to Madrox’s surprise, a green forcefield erupts around him, shielding him from the mystic blast. Though Madrox can only wonder from where it came, Dormammu seems impressed, noting that he might have underestimated his foe. To say nothing of the fact that he already killed him. There may indeed be more to him that he previously thought! As he then begins crafting a new spell which begins to melt Madrox’s forcefield, Dormammu muses that he might well be worth closer scrutiny.
In short order, Madrox finds himself bound by the crimson bands of Cyttorak, which Dormmamu informs him will not so easily be shrugged off, no matter how potent a mage he is. With Madrox so bound, Dormammu reaches out with his gloved hand and suggests that they see what there is to see of him. With that, Dormmamu literally reaches into Madrox’s head, the result of which is an excruciating scream from Madrox. Do not resist, Dormammu tells him. What is on his mind? What…?
In a flash, Dormammu witnesses Madrox’s recent past. He sees Madrox’s dupe stabbing him from behind, his seeing the curved blade erupting from his chest. He sees Madrox being hit by a car, scattering more than a dozen dupes in all directions. He sees Madrox attached by Vanora, being tossed from an Avengers Tower window, Iron Man attaching Deathlok Cap and the astonished look upon the face of Damian Tryp the Elder.
Well, well, Dormammu muses, he did not exaggerate. He truly is not of this realm. He has no idea of the life he led here… and the name Dormammu means nothing to him. Instead he experiences death after death and travels from one place to the next. And there is a ghostly, bearded individual in all this somehow. How tragically marvelous. But that still does not answer the question of how he managed to brush aside the flames of the Faltine…
As Dormammu presses, Madrox begins to smile. If he thinks that’s confusing, he tells Dormammu, just wait. A moment later, Madrox spreads his arms, shattering the crimson bands, a feat which the astonished Dormammu emphatically declares impossible. Not only possible, Madrox rejoins, as he magically creates 5 dupes, but extremely likely when dealing with a master of the mystic arts! After Dormammu replies that he should have known, Madrox replies that, yes, he should have. But their battle took a good deal out of him, he tells Dormammu. He may have slain him, but his blustering is covering the cost. Give time, of course, he might regain that strength. Time that he does not intend to provide.
With that, Madrox plunges a shard of the shattered crimson bands into the chest of Dormammu, who screams in pain. In moments, the downed Dormammu finds himself attacked by all of Madrox’s dupes, each with a duplicated shard and each taunting him along the way. With each now plunging their shards into the horrified Dormammu, Madrox absorbs all of his dupes. He and his minions have perverted this world during the Hell on Earth War, Madrox tells him, but finally… finally it will end. Because the truth is that he never belonged there, no matter how he’s tried to stamp his essence on it. This world would have him out! Depart! Depart! DEPART!
The spell cast, an emerald hemisphere appears around Madrox, which protects him from the lightening erupting from Dormammu’s writhing body. A moment later, Dormammu is gone, reduced to mystic ash. Taking all of this in, Madrox wonders to himself if someone wants to tell him what in hell is going on. To his surprise, his out of body experience continues, as he answers himself aloud. “In Hell” is certainly appropriate enough, young man, Madrox literally tells himself. “In Hell” is where the world has been for quite some…
Interrupting with his thoughts, Madrox asks himself if he’s talking to his inner monologue? That’s… “Bizzare? Unusual?” he says aloud. He was going to say “strange,” he thinks to himself. Yes, it truly is, he then says aloud. Suddenly, light begins to leak from Madrox’s eyes and mouth and he says aloud that he apologizes for having to take refuge within him. Unfortunately, Dormammu accomplished his goal. He truly did kill him. But he was able to merge his essence with his considerable power, and that was enough to vanquish him.
Having discerned the identity of his dual identity, Madrox asks if he was really his disciple. And he did have magical powers? Yes, Doctor Strange announces, having exorcised himself from Madrox’s body. And he was a worthy disciple, James, Strange continues. He wishes that he could have had time to teach him more. But then he never did “teach” him, did he? With the demise of his corporeal form, his time there is short. Still… there is one service he can still provide him. His point of origin is no secret to the Master of the Mystic Arts. He can send him back there.
As Doctor Strange begins to cast his spell, creating a portal, Madrox replies that that’d be great, because clicking his heels together three times just wasn’t getting the job done. When Madrox then asks if this’ll take him home, Strange replies not directly. It will reverse his voyage… take him back along the path he followed and ultimately to his own dimension. But be sure not to enter until he tells him. When Madrox then asks if he will have to die again, Strange replies that he doesn’t see why he would. Well, that would be a nice change of pace, Madrox rejoins. Do, does he jump in, doc? he then asks. Not receiving a reply, Madrox yells louder, as the portal grows both more luminous and louder. Doc! Are we good to go?!? Is the Delorean up to eighty-eight?
Nearby, Strange grits his teeth in exertion. He’s having trouble… controlling it… while in non-living form… Strange replies. Still at the portal, which is the nexus of a tempest-like wind, Madrox suggests that Strange jump into him, if that’ll help! He’s got a living form! Together they can…
Suddenly, Strange sees something Madrox cannot. With Madrox’s attention focused on the luminous portal before him, he cannot see the mass of shards swirling behind him, swirling ever closer. Strange calls out for “James” to watch out, but it is too late. A shard of Cyttorak’s crimson bands impacts Madrox in the back of the head, cleaving through his skull and erupting from the center of his forehead. Killed instantly, Madrox falls forward and through the mouth of the portal, which closes a moment later. Disconsolate, Strange floats to the ground and apologizes to his former disciple. He will not be able to assist him with what comes next.
Once again, Madrox’s world is one of blackness. However, this time, something new is added. Cold… He’s so cold… Where is he? The Arctic? Hands… numb. Can barely feel…
Madrox’s hands probe upward, finding a door which he pushes outward to find a ceiling above him. Immediately, he finds two hands clasped around his wrists, which provide valuable and welcome warmth. A moment later, he is pulled upward and out of an ice-filled freezer by Layla Miller. Placing him on the floor, she pulls him close to her, their lips meeting in a hot embrace. Yes… Madrox thinks weakly. So much better.
Breaking their kiss, Layla continues to embrace Madrox. Visibly ecstatic, she tells him that she knew it. She knew he’d be back. Oh God, she’s wasted so much time… Weakly, Madrox begins to ask if this is where… Yes, God, yes, she replies. This is where he’s supposed to be. No more waiting. No more… Still reeling, Madrox tells Layla that he’s still feeling chilled. He doesn’t… “Don’t worry,” she tells him, as she removes her jacket and shirt, stripping to her bra. “I’ll warm you up.” With that, Layla once again brings her lips to Madrox’s, wrapping her arms around the back of his head to hold him close. She then pushes him down onto the floor.
Still reeling, Madrox prays to himself to let this be the right place. And if it’s not… Not caring right now. No. It’s right. He knows it is. And this is the best homecoming ever. And he shouldn’t knock it. He could have wound up back at that movie studio where he died. How much would that suck? Instead, he’s there… in Layla’s arms. And it finally seems right to be there… to be anywhere… And he won’t have to worry about any of those insane worlds ever again.
Meanwhile, back at the Imperial Studios lot, a mystical vortex swirls over the studio’s entrance. As it dissipates, three forms corporate beneath it. They are the very confused figures of Vanora, Deathlok Cap and the Dream Dormammu.