Many heretical sects found a home in a beautiful region of southern France. The Cathars briefly flourished there before being butchered in the thousands by Simon de Montfort. Of course, de Montfort was only following orders from Pope Innocent III. There have also been various Gnostics, Manicheists and even Nestorians. All were put to the sword, their dreams of religious freedom ending in bloody death. Thankfully, it is now a more civilized age.
In this same locale, a fortress-like abbey, a new religion has made its home and church. The Church of the Naked Truth, whose followers even now make their prayers in the courtyard as naked as their sect implies. The followers of this latest and most placid of sects can expect to be left alone, to follow their gentle creed in peace… or so they hope. Descending from the skies, having left from a now departing Avengers Quinjet, the golden Avenger called Iron Man does battle with the recently arrived Mister Sensitive of X-Statix.
Trading blows with the armored Avenger, Guy tells him that his hands are freezing. Funny, Iron Man retorts, he never got that complaint when he was whipping Wong-Chu’s guerillas. And, by the way, he continues, he preferred them when they were X-Force. To this, Guy replies that maybe he should have written a letter of complaint. He did, Iron Man answers. When Guy rejoins that he doesn’t remember that one, Iron Man states that he signed it “from a disappointed X-fan.
Suddenly, the two combatants take note of their surroundings, realizing that the courtyard in which they have landed was previously filled with worshippers, who Iron Man immediately notes are quite naked. Dismissing this, Guy asks if he sees Doop’s brain. Iron Man says that he doesn’t, and then suggests that maybe one of them is hiding it. But where, Guy wonders aloud.
Taking advantage of Mr. Sensitive’s distraction, Iron Man grabs Guy and tosses him across the courtyard and into a stone wall, suggesting he go ask them. Quickly recovering, Guy rises to his feet, telling Iron Man that he should ask them. However, he then adds, they won’t be able to see him blush under all of that scrap metal.
In response, Iron Man propels himself across the courtyard to Guy, exclaiming that the so-called scrap metal costs millions of dollars. He could buy their entire lousy team for what his “scrap metal” costs. As Iron Man reaches his position at ballistic speed, Guy jumps straight up, announcing that he’ll have to talk to their agents about that. Finding only empty space instead of his intended target, Iron Man impacts violently against the wall, burying himself in the brickwork. Looking at the half-buried Avenger, Guy quips a curse… there’s never a can-opener when you need one.
On the other side of the wall, Iron Man retort’s that that’s original. But what should he expect from a lily-livered chicken… With this, Iron Man uses his repulsor rays to propel himself back out of the wall, knocking the unexpecting Mr. Sensitive off his feet. However, Guy easily lands back on his feet, quipping for Iron Man to forget the sticks and stones… that really hurt! Now pressing his quick recovery into an attack, Guy balls his hands into a clasped fist and punches Iron Man, telling him that just because he’s in touch with feminine side, that doesn’t make him a chicken!
The punch knocks Iron Man to the base of a statue, but hardly knocks him out. Almost dismissing the attack, Iron Man tells Guy that he begs to differ. Captain America ran a psychological profile of him. With this, he launches himself against the X-Static, knocking him through the wall to the wall outside. However, the courtyard was not on the ground floor, and the two begin to fall to the ground below.
Continuing about Cap’s analysis, Iron Man informs him that it concludes that he’s rather not be leader of his glitzy, ditzy famous-for-being-famous team. Though a large distance from the ground, Guy is unconcerned, using his ability to hover to safely and effortlessly descend.
Bull! he yells at Iron Man’s statement, even ask he places a well-aimed kick at Iron Man’s mid-section. He loves the champagne and spotlights. But, Iron Man continues, he wishes his team was a good old-fashioned shoot-first-ask-questions-later outfit… like X-Force. He wishes X-Statix were more like the old X-Force.
Guy tells Iron Man to give him a break. That’s totally ludicrous! In fact, Iron Man continues, not letting up, Guy would, given the choice, rather be a meat-and-potatoes, middle-of-the-road tough guy like, say… Cable. Iron Man punctuates this by grabbing the floating Guy by the arm and then slamming him against the ground.
Hardly injured, Guy uses the ground as leverage to kick Iron Man in the jaw. His arms positioned comfortably behind his back, Guy asks the Avenger if he has this straight: he’s says that he’d rather be Cable than complex, urbane, ironic, postmodern me? That’s insane. Quickly recovering himself, Iron Man grabs Guy’s legs and, as he readies to pummel him into the ground like a jackhammer, he replies that that’s what the profile suggests. Then the profile is wrong, Guy rejoins.
Or is it? Guy thinks. How happy is he? And what is the point of X-Statix? Sure, they were fun at first. They were “pulse-pounding,” they were “all-new,” they were different. But how long can that last?
Seeing thoughts racing through Guy’s eyes, Iron Man remarks at his apparent confusion. He suggests they do what guys like them usually do when they’re confused: beat the snot out of each other! Kicking himself free of Iron Man’s grip, Guy remarks that that’s the sanest thing he’s said all day.
Suddenly, the two combatants blows are halted by the cries of one of the worshipers whom they interrupted minutes before. Standing naked before the two, possessing nothing save the steaming small cauldron in his hand, the grey-haired and bearded monk asks them, in the name of the naked truth, to stop this fighting. Or, at east, he continues, to take their clothes off.
Continuing, he informs them that they are on the holy grounds of the Church of the Naked Truth. It is a central tenet of their beliefs that all articles of clothing are offensive to the Lord. They are offensive to them.
Ignoring the request, Guy explains to the monk that they’re looking for a piece of Doop’s brain. Their data says it landed there. Speaking on the same subject, Iron Man explains that they’d know it if they saw it. Green, glowing, weird. Used to be inside a blob’s skull. Pushing Iron Man out of the way, Guy approaches the monk, adding that, rightfully, it belongs to him, as the leader of the ever-popular and glamorous X-Statix. Taking his turn to push Guy out of the way, Iron Man explains that, tactically, it belongs to him, as a key member of the highly responsible and highly respected Avengers.
Undeterred, the monk raises his finger in making his point, stating that, whether or not the brain is there… he will only discuss the matter with one of them. And he had better be naked as the day he was born.
Minutes later, Iron Man and Guy stand, ready for battle, alone on the grassy plain outside of the abbey. However, both are frozen, unmoving. On a level of the abbey above, the monk asks his associate if they are stripping yet. Glancing out of the window, former Eurotrash member Surrender Monkey tells the monk to relax. He knows these guys. Forget super-villains and evil aliens. The thing that scares these two the most is… nakedness. They’d rather be beaten up by a little girl than take these previous suits off in public. The Doop brain is safe.
Unsure, the monk turns away from Surrender Monkey, wondering if they should just give it to them. They’ve been through this, the Monkey replies. There will come a time when the church needs money. And this will be one hell of a lot of money. Turning back in thought, the monk narrows his eyes and tells Surrender Monkey that it’s funny he mentioned hell. They might be headed there. The way the two of them meet up like this and… fragrantly put their clothes on. Grinning, Surrender Monkey asks the monk how can he guide his followers, if he doesn’t transgress a little himself? He should lighten up, Monkey then adds, tossing a set of clothes and shoes to the monk. Put those on and surrender to it.
Outside the door, another monk ascends the stairwell to their level. Racing up the stairs, he calls out to “your Nakedness,” telling him that the two Americans are still dressed. It’s causing a lot of consternation. And arguments. Some non-believers, he continues, still not having received a response from his leader, are saying it’s okay to be dressed sometimes. If something isn’t done, he says, reaching the door, this could be as damaging as the great underpants schism of ninety-five! The monk’s panic turns into astonishment upon seeing the head monk, now clothed, standing next to the also-clothed Surrender Monkey.
Down on the grounds, Guy points to Iron Man, stating that he will… if he will. Don’t know, Smith, Iron Man replies. This is crazy. Though thinking that maybe Iron Man is right, this is crazy, Guy removes his helmet. “What would Cable do?” he thinks.
His head now bare, Guy tells Iron Man that he doesn’t want to offend their religious feelings… especially sine France was an ally in two world wars. Removing his own helmet, Iron Man thinks that he doesn’t want Guy writing him off as some unfeeling Philistine. Just because he wears a suit of armor.
Minutes later, the two opponents are naked, yet ready to resume their battle. Placing his fists up in readiness, Tony Stark tells Guy that he doesn’t want to hurt him. And he doesn’t want to hurt him, Guy replies. Looks like this is gonna be some fight, Smith, Tony then adds, beginning to sweat at the situation. Still holding his own position, Guy tells Stark that his pecs are skinnier than he thought they’d be.
A moment later, the battle is joined. The two combatants approaching each other. Guy is ready to strike his first blow, however, without his special suit, he’s super-sensitive to everything. The mistral blowing from the Rhone Valley becomes a thousand cold razorblades slicing through his flesh. Nearby, Tony Stark is likewise worried, as he wonders through his sweating brow that his heart holds out. He feels a little clammy, he thinks, but maybe its just psychosomatic.
As each paces around the other, Stark tells Guy that he knows about his sensitivity. One flick of his finger and he’s in paroxysms of pain. And what about his shaky medical history, Guys replies. He’s sensitive enough to pinpoint pressure points in his body that’ll go straight to his weak spots. In example, Guy places his finger on Stark’s hand, just as Tony does the same to the back of Guy’s other hand. The resulting backlash sends the two into massive throes of pain, Stark for Guy touching a sensitive nerve, and Guy by having his overly sensitive skin touched. As Guy yells out My skin Stark calls out My heart!
The two combatants collapse to the grass beneath them. Stuttering through the pain, Guy mutters “Phoenix fist... Tiger claw…” Asked by Stark what he’s babbling about, Guys replies that it’s from esoteric disciplines he’s combined and honed… which allows him to focus on whatever part of his body he wants. Now reaching out to Stark’s foot, Guy suggests he start with his liver. All that booze musta done damage. A little squeeze later, Tony tells out in pain.
As Tony screams, Guy tells him to give up. He’ll stop this, find Doop’s brain and they can both get dressed. Through the agony, Tony reaches out and grabs a handful of grass. He might be naked, the Avenger tells Tony, but he’s not a quitter. With this, Tony throws the few blades of grass, which strike against Guy’s face like razors.
Guy reels from the shock waves of pain radiating from his jaw. His jaw, his mind reels in panic. Feels like it’s… broken… Pressing his advantage, Stark takes another handful of grass and tosses it with deadly accuracy, while asking Guy if he’s had enough. As the blades impact painfully again, Guy is almost out of his mind with pain. Starting to black out, Guy uses the last of his mental capacity to touch Stark on the knee. Yelling out dar mak Guy wonders if all of Stark’s self-abuse left his susceptible to blinding migraines. Clutching his head in blinding pain, Stark yells in agony.
The battle is temporarily halted, as they see they are no longer alone. To their surprise, the naked monks leave the abbey, carrying the half-naked former leader, upon whose lap sits the piece of Doop’s brain. Finally able to see through the pain, Stark sees that the group is dragging out the old priest… along with some other weird guy.
The other weird guy, however, is known to Guy. He announces that it’s Surrender Monkey, part of a team of Euro-mutants hired to kill back-from-the-dead pop sensation Henrietta. Hearing her name, Stark wonders aloud if her name didn’t used to be…
Strip the heretics, one of the mob of monks yells. Typical, Stark sighs. They’re not wanted until there’s trouble. Then it’s all, “Americans, save us!” Seeing that the group begins to forcibly strip the priest and his cohort, Guy wonders what Surrender Monkey will look like without his clothes. Stark, however, is now in greater surprise, as he sees Surrender Monkey’s face pulled off, revealing that it was a mask. Recognizing the man, Stark announces that he isn’t French… and he isn’t a monkey! He’s a rogue CIA agent Brad Bentley.
Hearing his name called, Bentley replies that it’s true. Up to the Iraq War, his job was to harden US attitudes against the Old World… France in particular. So, Guy extrapolates, he became the stereotype of a cheese-eating, surrender-monkey Frenchman? Right, Bentley explains, with tears in his eyes. The problem is… he went native. He fell in love with the wine. The culture. The food. The unashamed nudity.
The laments of Bentley are interrupted by the cries of the priest. Displaying the piece of Doop’s brain, he informs the two heroes that they can take the brain… as long as they protect him from the mob. Seeing their prize, Stark announces that he will take that. Guy, however, protests. The two resume their attacks, striking tortuous pain in their opponent with a simple touch.
Each having recovered from the attack, Guy asks if he can suggest something. Told that he can, Guy tells Stark that some of the locals take liberties with their religion… even the high priest gets dressed sometimes… Seeing Guy point to their respective uniforms, Stark remarks that he thinks he knows where guy is going. And, Guy adds, he’s seen quite enough of his naked booty for one day. Ditto, Stark exclaims, as both he and Guy sprint for their uniforms.
Once fully outfitted, the two combatants resume their attack postures. As he asks where they were, Iron Man begins to feet light-headedness and collapses, falling unconscious. As he falls, Guy apologies, informing his opponent that one of his pressure points was delay action. He’ll be incapacitated for a few minutes.
Having recovered the piece of the brain, Guy suggests to the newly-arrived Venus that they vamoose. Pausing for a moment, as he looks at the prone and immobile Iron Man, Guy asks Venus to tell him: what would Cable do right now? A little confused at first, Venus replies that he’d make off with the brain, the thing he’d been fighting for, of course. That’s right, Guy remarks. He’d make off with the brain. That’s what any standard, super-team front man would do. But he’s not that kind of guy. He’s “Mister Sensitive.” That’s who he wants to be. And to prove it, he’d going to let him win. This time.
Later, Iron Man sits in the passenger seat of the Avengers’ Quinjet, being flown by Captain America. Seeing Iron Man staring at the glowing piece of Doop’s brain in his hands, Cap asks him why Smith let him keep the brain. Removing his mask, Stark replies that he thinks Guy was still pretty shook up about that psychological profile Cap had made on him. Asked by a confused Cap what psychological profile, Stark grins and winks in response. Exactly.
Back in France, the abbey continues to be home to one of many heretical sects who have found a home in the beautiful region of southern France. The Church of the Naked Truth flourished there briefly, before it broke into factions… the Ironists, modeled off of the armor of Iron Man, briefly held the ascendancy. But that was before being usurped by the equally fanatical Sensitives, wearing garb modeled off of that of Mister Sensitive. The Church then went the way of the Cathars, the Nestorians and all the others. The region remains very beautiful.