In an inner chamber within Doctor Strange’s mansion in New York’s Greenwich Village, the Ancient One revels in his prize: the unconscious, helpless body of his former pupil, Doctor Strange. Regarding it as it floats horizontally a few feet above the floor, the Ancient One announces that this is great! Doctor Strange’s mortal body! And it’s all theirs!
Standing a short distance away, the Pitiful One asks what do they do now. Smash his skull in? Tear his heart out? Incredulous, Wong crouches a short distance away and sarcastically asks all to behold the courageous man threatening a corpse. In reply, the Pitiful One kicks Wong in the face.
Ignoring the two, the Ancient One works a spell, creating a glow surrounding Strange. As he assumed, he announces, Strange has not left his corporeal form entirely unguarded. He is protected by the shield of the sacred Seraphim. Then asked by the Pitiful One if that means they can’t hurt him, the Ancient One replies that they can certainly hurt him. They can hurt him very badly indeed. It just might take a little time.
The Pitiful One reminds the Ancient One that they only have twenty-four hours each trip… then they gotta go back to Hades. Replying that he knows, the Ancient One replies that he knows how it works. He too searched for the mystical mud known as Eau du Profundis. There is no reason to fear, though. He was once Strange’s teacher. Any spell he can make, the Ancient One can break. Grabbing Strange’s floating body and hefting it like a board, the Pitiful One rejoices that that’s what he likes. A little self-belief. To this, the Ancient One rejoins that they’re both dead. It they don’t believe in themselves… who else will?
As they walk through the wall portal, dragging Wong behind him, the Pitiful One asks if they can they lose the physics. And can they work on the stiff someplace else? This old house gives him the willies. Once back in the hallway, the Pitiful One maliciously uses Strange’s stiffened body to knock a statue off of a pedestal. In tears, Wong can only watch in abject gloom.
Meanwhile, in the afterlife, Doctor Strange grabs his head in pain and exclaims. Dead Girl is quick to come to his side, wondering aloud if his trousers are pinching, but Strange denies this. He explains that he thinks his personal problem must be flaring up again. When you have a bad case of hemorrhoids, he tells her, you don’t need to cross the River Styx to know what Hell’s like.
Suddenly, Doctor Strange takes in his surroundings, which seems to be an immense room, filled with a maze of cubicles and constantly raining sheets of paper. Where in the name of Kalumesh are they, he asks. Moira told her he was looking for the Pitiful One’s address, U-Go Girl explains. So she brought him to the level of dead bureaucrats. You get a lot of bureaucrats down in Hell. Everything he needs to know about everyone in Hell can be found in these floors but…
Interrupting, Guy tells Edie that he thinks they should talk. In a minute, she replies. She’s busy right now. Returning her attention to Doctor Strange, the bureaucrats and the rain of paper, U-Go Girl admits that the filing system is thoroughly insane, of course. They then begin to move deeper into the maze of cubicles, with Edie asking what’s so important, but again Guy interrupts. Turning to him with apparent rage, she yells to Guy that if he doesn’t stop sniveling, she’s going to teleport away and never see him again, does he understand?
As Guy runs away in tears, Edie returns to the side of Strange, who returns to the subject of the filing system. You need inside help to find anything, Edie explains, not missing a beat. Chiming in, Dead Girl remarks that hopefully that’s where her dead sisters came in.
Interrupting the three, the Phantom Rider (still sitting on his horse) asks Edie to excuse him, but he reckons her boyfriend’s done gone crazier than a five-wheeled wagon. Edie looks toward where the Rider is pointing and sees Guy turning the corner as he runs away. Hands on her hips, Dead Girl remarks that Guy was never quite this sensitive when he was alive. Running her hands through her hair, Edie rejoins than it’s one of the reasons why she couldn’t stay with him. She’d better go after the poor puppy. If he gets lost in this labyrinth never find him. As Edie runs off, Dead Girl tells Strange not to worry. Things tend to go loopier the lower you get. If it starts making sense, it probably means they belong there.
In short order, Edie finds Guy sitting on the floor against a cubicle, his head lowered as papers rain down around him. Crouching next to him, Edie apologizes to Guy for shouting at him like that. No, he replies, he deserved it. If only he could stop being so pathetic. Raising his head to look at her through tear-filled eyes, Guy asks that he was stronger when he was alive, wasn’t he? He knows he was too sensitive but… he was tough too, right? He was a leader? Taking his cheek in her hand, Edie replies that he was magnificent.
It’s ironic, Guy continues. He’s physically less sensitive in the afterlife. He means, her fingers on his bare skin doesn’t send him into a paroxysm of agony like the used to. But emotionally? He’s looking at Mister Jelly. That’s why he was sniveling. He was so happy to see her and… and he didn’t want to lose her again… “Guy, sweetheart” Edie replies, “You’ll never lose me.”
Now smiling, Guy asks if that means she’ll stop ‘porting around to strange places? Then when this thing with Strange and Dead Girl is over, they’ll find a spot in Heaven and stay together. Just she and he? No, Guy, Edie replies, breaking into tears. She can’t commit to one man like that. Not when it’s eternity. With that, Edie stands and walks back, leaving Guy alone and still sitting on the floor.
A moment later, the head of the Phantom Rider’s horse appears over the top of the cubicle. Unseen but heard, the Rider tells his horse to keep looking at the horizon. Tell him if’n she sees any changes. Hearing this, Guy stands and leans over the edge of the cubicle. He asks the Rider to whom is the Rider talking. When the Rider replies his horse, Guy pets the horses head and asks the Phantom Rider to tell him… if his horse stops loving him the way she used to… how do you make her love you again? Considering this, the Rider remarks that it’s a tough one. However, a moment later, he pushes his Stetson hat backward and replies that maybe you gotta be more like the man your horse used to love.
Some distance away, Strange and Dead Girl watch as Mockingbird and Gwen Stacy pour through filing cabinets of file folders. Take a deep breath, Dead Girl encourages them. She knows how exhausting it is spending time with the bureaucrats. Asked by Strange if she located the abode of the Pitiful One, Dead Girl replies that they’re tired. Probably had to deal with a Hell load of mind-numbingly pointless red tape.
Interjecting, Piano Player suggests that a song might perk them up. Maybe a Rod Stewart timeless classic! Before either Strange or Dead Girl can reply, both visibly horrified at the thought, Ant-Man tells Piano Player that, if he does, he’ll shrink down and snap his wires. Ant-Man then turns his attention to the carpet and remarks that it’s not bureaucratic red tape that tired out the dead sisters. It’s the debilitating effect of millions of bugs. He doesn’t want to cause alarm… but this place is home to all the filthy, scummy lice of the underverse…
Back in the land of the living, specifically in the Hotel Simons in the Lower East Side, the Pitiful One and Ancient One arrive in their room, dragging along the unconscious, floating form of Doctor Strange and the tortured and half-naked Wong. Irritated as they enter, the Ancient One once again instructs the Pitiful One to be careful. To this, the Pitiful One asks back what does it matter if they bruise him? Soon as he de-hexes the body, they’ll be hurting it some more. The Pitiful One then kicks Wong further into the room, instructing him to stay right there.
Though safely in the room, the Ancient One remains troubled and points out to the Pitiful One that the man at the front desk looked at them suspiciously. Does he think he’ll call the police? Mocking in his reply, the Pitiful tells his ancient partner that he might be a venerable master of the mystic ways but he doesn’t know nothing about the real world. Any hotel that charges by the hourdon’t care what goes on in the room.
Suddenly, the Pitiful One realizes that his conversation with the Ancient One has distracted him, allowing Wong to silently open a window and is already halfway through it.
Back in the cubicles of the bureaucrats of Hell, a visibly exhausted Gwen Stacy reports her findings. She instructs them to go down the stinking oesophagus of Cerebus to the indecent maw, then ask for hotel self-loathing. Room number thirteen…
Turning to Strange, Dead Girl tells him that she knows the Hotel Self-Loathing. It’s a chain. They’re opening up all over. Every room numbered thirteen. Perfect address for a bozo who’d call himself the Pitiful One.
At the Hotel Simons, the Pitiful One steps out of the window and onto the fire escape. Calling to Wong, who is already halfway up the steps to the next level, he promises that he’s going to drag him all the way to Hell… and back! With that, the Pitiful One grabs Wong by the leg, but Wong responds with a swift kick from the other, knocking the Pitiful One off of the fire escape entirely. Yelling as he falls to the street below, the Pitiful One lands along a metal fence, impaled by the spikes at the top.
For a moment, the Pitiful One is inert but soon opens his eyes. Calling up the Ancient One, who looks down from the fire escape landing from which he had just fell, the Pitiful One tells the Ancient One to look at him. Story of his life. Did he ever tell him about when he was fighting Thor and he slipped on a banana skin? A number of times, yes, the Ancient One replies. Changing the subject, the Ancient One states that he’s broken through two psychic membranes of the shield of seraphim. Soon, Strange’s body will be exposed.
He then asks the Pitiful One if he would like some help off of there, to which the Pitiful One replies in the negative. He thinks he’ll slip back to Hell. Make sure Kraven the Hunter hasn’t picked a fight with Satan. All he has to do is… concentrate on some really degenerate episode of his past… and his lifeforce… takes the down train. With that, the Pitiful One’s body discorporates and disappears.
In their chamber of the Hotel Self-Loathing, Kraven grits to the Anarchist that he will tell the Pitiful One. Go ahead, Tike replies. He doesn’t care. No fighting, kid, the Pitiful One states as he appears out of thin air. They should all be singing from the same tombstone. Undeterred, Kraven explains that he arrived to find Anarchist and Miss America cavorting, not guarding the mystic mud. Asked if this is true, the Tike replies that it’s none of his business. He wants to cavort, he cavorts. Incensed, the Pitiful One backhands Tike, knocking him off of his feet. Not when he’s working for him, he yells. If you want a chance of being alive again, the Anarchist plays by his rules.
Though recovered, the Anarchist declines to stand up, instead trying to prevent the rage of his instinctive reply to being slapped. Touching his shoulder, Miss America persuades him to bottle it up, rather than respond. However, just as it seems she has succeeded, Tike goes into a spasm. Miss America tells the other two that Tike must have had a really evil thought ! He’s slipping down into a private Hell! Still convulsing, the Anarchist repeats the same word over and over again. “Dirty. Dirty. Dirty.”
In an upper level of Hell, Doctor Strange and his group stand at the edge of an immensely wide and incredibly deep shaft. Peering down into it, Strange states that it looks so dirty. And smells fouler than Oshtur’s infamous flatulence. Peering over as well, Dead Girl explains that it’s called the stinking oesophagus of Cerebus. “What did you expect, Stephen? The perfumed garden?”
Glancing over to her, Strange notes to Dead Girl that she called him Stephen. Asked if that’s not his name, Strange confirm but adds that he’s at a disadvantage. He only knows her as Dead Girl. What’s her real name? Who was she before she was… dead? Smiling uncomfortably, Dead Girl apologizes but she’s just not ready to talk about that. Grinning slightly, Strange rejoins that he could weave an ancient spell that would make her talk. Do that, she replies, crossing her arms, and they wouldn’t be friends any more.
Irritated by the exchange, Edie interrupts and asks if they are going down this thing or not? In short order, the entire group begins to make their way down the shaft. When Strange asks her if she can’t simply teleport them down to Hotel Self-Loathing, Edie replies that it’s too dangerous. This is deep Hell. If she tries teleporting any lower it’s impossible to know where their molecules might reassemble. They could end up right in the Devil’s lap. Considering it, Strange asks if there is such a thing as the Devil, to which Dead Girl replies that there are a lot of devils. Whether there’s the Devil is a matter of theology and semantics.
Within Tike’s mind, he is once again a child, washing his hands in a wood bucket. “Dirt, dirty, my hands a-are so dirty…” he mutters to himself. Lifting his hands out of the bucket of suds, young Tike gazes upon his hands, which are now so scrubbed that skin has and flesh has been removed, revealing muscle on some fingers, while others are worn to the bone.
Back in the “reality” of Hell, the Pitiful One is irate. Doctor Strange and his crew could arrive any minute and Tike chooses to go into private Hell. Even angrier than he, Miss America replies that he didn’t choose this. Look at him, he’s suffering. Crouching a short distance away, Tike grits his teeth, muttering that he must get… c-clean. Clean g-good… dirty… bad… Driven to greater levels of anger, the Pitiful One begins to shake Tike, stating that his whole life as a super-villain has been about suffering. Wake up! Snap out of it!
Yelling no, Miss America tells the Pitiful One that waking him too suddenly might traumatize him. He’s traumatized, the Pitiful One replies, pointing to himself with his thumb. Did he ever tell her about the time Daredevil gave him a triple hernia? Yes, Miss America replies, as a matter of fact.
Meanwhile, in the shaft of the oesophagus of Cerebus, Doctor Strange asks the others if they heard that scream. That awful, blood-chilling… The farthest down the shaft, Dead Girl replies that she can hear a lot of screams. Groans, too. It’s like the waiting room of a particularly sadistic dental practice. In fact, she…
Suddenly, Dead Girl trails as she realizes that there is a problem. A rock on which she has placed her weight comes loose and, a moment later, Dead Girl find herself falling down the shaft. Strange begins to leap after her but is held back by the Piano Player, who tells Strange that he’s got to stay with them. Strange begins to protest but Ant-Man replies that, for once, Piano Player is right. He press-ganged them into this escapade, made it sound like a matter of life and death. He can’t abandon it for the sake of one girl.
Resolute, Strange replies that there was a time not so long ago he would have agreed with him… and then leaps away, freefalling down the shaft after Dead Girl. Watching helplessly, Ant-Man tells the others that that’s it then, he guesses. He then tells U-Go Girl to get them out of there. Mission abandoned. However, before anyone can reply, Guy interjects, instructing Edie to stay. This team doesn’t know the meaning of the word “abandon.”
Incredulous, Ant-Man asks what team? They’re not X-Statix and he’s not their leader. If Edie won’t teleport them upstairs, he then adds, they’ll have to walk. However, before Ant-Man can walk far, Guy punches him in the back of his helmet. Cracking his knuckles, Guy states that no one’s walking anywhere. Agape at what Guy has just done, Edie’s dropped jaw transforms into a beaming smile. “Magnificent,” she proclaims.
At an increasing distance below, Doctor Strange spies his quarry – the falling Dead Girl. With a gesticulation and an invocation of the ring of Vishanti, Strange ensnares the form of Dead Girl in multi-colored threads and uses them to pull the two together and to a complete stop.
In Chinatown in the real world, Wong kneels in small room, surrounded by candles. Before him stands a very young girl, whose demeanor is years beyond her age. Pleadingly, he tells her that she must help him. Use her arcane powers to send a message from this world to the dark plane of the afterlife… warn his master. Tell him what the Ancient One is doing with his mortal body…
Meanwhile, back in the oesophagus’ shaft, Strange and Dead Girl have returned to the point from which Dead Girl had fallen. When Strange notes that he wondered if they’d all still be there, Edie asks if he means he thought they’d run away as soon as he and Dead Girl were gone. To this, Strange asks for forgiveness. He clearly underestimated them. They might be dead… but they’re still heroes. A short distance away, Ant-Man clears his throat.
Suddenly, the booming voice of a young girl fills the air, announcing to Strange that she has a long-distance call… from the land of the living. A moment later, the image of both the girl and Wong appear. Immediately, Wong warns Strange that the Ancient One and the Pitiful One forced him to take them to his mortal body. He then asks for forgiveness, proclaiming himself a worthless flea.
No, Strange replies, it is his own fault. The protective spell he gave Wong was something of a rush job. But is it really true about his old friend and mentor? When Wong confirms, Strange wonders how could someone so pure and good turn bad? Replying that he doesn’t know, Wong states that even now he’s trying to shatter the shield of seraphim that protects Strange. Maybe if he’d protected him with the shield of seraphim, they wouldn’t be in this mess.
Ignoring the latter statement, Strange tells Dead Girl that she heard, he must return to his mortal body immediately. They’ll have to continue without him. Immediately, Dead Girl rushes to Strange’s side, telling him he doesn’t have to go. He can stay down there with her. Asked if she means let his earthly body die, Dead Girl offers a hoping grin. Being dead, she tells him, has its compensations.
Meanwhile, in the real world, the Ancient One announces that it is done! The shell of seraphim is broken!
Back in Hell, Doctor Strange is staggered and his hangs fly to his throat. As Dead Girl goes to stop him from falling, Strange states that it looks like the decision’s been taken out of his hands. He thinks the Ancient One just killed… him…
“Stephen!” Dead Girl yells as the rest of the group look on in horror.