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Jonathan Hickman (writer), Jerome Opeña, Dean White & Frank Martin with Richard Isanove (Color artists), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Dustin Weaver & Justin Ponsor (cover art), Mark Brooks and Adi Gravinov (variant cover art), Jake Thomas (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch (editors), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
On Mars, Adam emerges from his cocoon, much to Ex Nihilo’s delight. Unfortunately for him, Captain America then appears with both Hyperion and Smasher, and Cap topples Ex Nihilo with his shield. Abyss takes control of the Hulk in order to fight for her and he takes on the powerful Hyperion. Manifold then teleports the rest of the Avengers to Cap’s location and, whilst some cut the captives free, the others take the fight to their enemies. Hyperion manages to overcome the Hulk and the fight is brought to an end when Captain Universe speaks to Ex Nihilo. She tells him that she isn’t about to allow them to mess with the Earth. Ex Nihilo recognizes her authority and stands down but Aleph disagrees. He wishes to destroy the Earth, as he has so many other planets. He attacks Captain Universe, who responds by disintegrating him. Cap then takes Adam in order to take him to Earth and leaves Ex Nihilo and Abyss to do whatever they wish, providing they leave Earth alone.
(Mars, now)All is quiet on this freshly verdant area of Mars. The cocoon which houses Ex Nihilo’s new life form bubbles and opens slightly. Aleph informs Ex Nihilo that there has been a breach. The golden being approaches the cocoon, excited. He calls it magnificent. He says that he made their child to look just like them, but he is much, much different. He is made from the primordial bits of the universe; the oldest, very best pieces. God particles for their new man. Their new Adam! After he has remade the Earth, he will inherit it and love it, as they loved him.
He leans forward and sees Adam’s hand poking through the slimy cocoon. He asks what kind of father he would be if he just gave the Earth to him, though. If he wants life and all the good things that living entails, then he will have to earn it. He asks Adam to free himself and show him that he is strong enough to thrive.
Meanwhile, Abyss moves in on the captive Thor and tells him that Ex Nihilo is going to restart his world. He will erase it and start all over again, like he’s done to thousands of other worlds. She whispers that she wants to offer him something - a sweeter way out. She informs him that Ex Nihilo is unbridled creation, Aleph is unchecked purification and she… she is not so simple. She asks who can truly live marooned between two such shallow choices. They could escape this together, forsake their causes and start their own creation story. What does he say? “You think me so simple?” he replies. Abyss kisses him and he smiles. “Well argued,” he says. “You will be spared when the reckoning comes.” Abyss is slightly taken aback by his response but, before she can reply, Adam manages to force his way from the cocoon and lies sprawled on the ground.
“He lives!” exclaims Ex Nihilo. Adam looks up and speaks to him in a strange tongue. Abyss realizes immediately that something is wrong. Adam keeps talking and then kneels up with his hands clasped together. Bright light shines from his body and strange streams of energy rise upwards from the top of his skull. Whilst he is still talking, Abyss tells Ex Nihilo that he’s talking in Builder machine code. He shouldn’t be able to do that. What has happened? she asks. Ex Nihilo picks up the adult-sized Adam and grows a kind of manger upon which he rests his child. He replies that life happened. Unforeseen, uncontrolled, wild, unfettered life. “I know because this is who I am. I create something new, something unexpected! Something…”
Unexpectedly he is blasted in the chest and sent flying across the ground. Aleph turns and sees the assailants. “Apes,” he exclaims. Captain America leads the charge flanked by Hyperion and Smasher. He slams his shield into Aleph’s face as Hyperion blasts Ex Nihilo using his eye beams. Cap stands on his chest and asks Aleph if he remembers him. “Yield,” he commands. As Aleph blasts Cap, Abyss takes control of the Hulk and orders him to cast a ferocious shadow and block out the sun. Hulk immediately punches Hyperion.
Smasher asks Ex Nihilo to stay down. She’s not really sure how these things normally go but she’s sure it’ll be all over soon. Aleph stands over Ex Nihilo and asks if he is stable. Ex Nihilo stands up, replying that he is never static. He’s always moving forward. He makes the cocoon separate and has each part close in on Smasher. Out of each cocoon pop creatures which attack her. They resemble wild birds and dogs. Whilst this is going on, Tony Stark, still wrapped in plant life, tells Cap that he thought the plan was to call everyone! Cap replies that it was, and he did. He clicks a button on the left hand side of his helmet and says, “Eden. Find me.” Manifold then teleports in with the rest of the team.
Captain Marvel tells them that this is the center. She wants a perimeter set up and for them to drive the aliens back. Captain Universe seems confused. As the uniform dissipates, she wonders how she got there. There was a crash and shaking. Violence. And then…. “Where am I?” she asks. Sunspot and the others take on the strange creatures that Ex Nihilo has set free, whilst Hyperion tackles the mighty Hulk. Smasher flies across to where Sunspot and Cannonball are defending themselves against the dogs and asks them not to move. She has this. She fires a beam from her eyes, which hits the first creature and then ricochets to hit all the rest. Sunspot congratulates her on her shooting. She explains that she upgraded her exo-specs with a tracking package. It’s one of the benefits of the bioware that comes with being a Smasher in the Imperial Guard. Sunspot cuts her off and tells her it sounds fascinating, so he should take her out to dinner with they get back and she can tell him all about it. He then gets the bejeebers scared out of him as another attack dog leaps at his face.
Cap asks for help in getting the captives free. Falcon, Hawkeye, Spider-Man and Wolverine pitch in but Spidey reckons the plants are like molded titanium. It’s going to take too long to pull off. If only they had something with which to cut it. Wolverine snikts a single claw. “Right,” adds Spidey. With the captives freed, Cap then tries to speak to Falcon but finds him distracted. He tries again and Sam informs him that it took him a few minutes to comprehend what he was hearing. Looking up at some flying creatures, he explains that there were two sides of the conversation but he could only make out one. He understands it now. The two animals that they’re fighting were made to be symbiotic and Ex Nihilo made one of them birds.
As Hulk manages to smash Hyperion into the ground, Sam tells Cap that he’s managed to convince the creatures to leave, for now. Ex Nihilo sees them abandon him and asks who would leave the creator’s garden willingly. All is lost, isn’t it? he asks. Abyss replies that some worlds don’t want to be saved. They just want to limp along to their extinction. “Aleph?” The giant robot assesses the threats and realigns its objectives. It’s new goal is extermination.
Nearby, Wolverine slashes at Thor’s binds and the Thunder God asks what is taking so long. Wolverine tells him that the problem with being a big guy is that they always put him in the best traps. He slashes the last few strands and frees Thor. Abyss sees him move away from the tree he was strapped to and hears his hammer rumbling. Thor extends his hand and Mjolnir flies into it. He instantly creates a lightning strike to zap their three enemies. Abyss gasps. “I’ve lost him,” as she sees Thor return to the Avengers fold.
Meanwhile, Hyperion hits Hulk so hard that he reverts to his Bruce Banner form. Hyperion welcomes him back and asks if he’s feeling better. “I’m okay,” he replies. Shang Chi pitches in by smashing through Aleph’s kneecap, which topples the giant. Captain Universe, meanwhile, looks at Adam lying in the greenery. “Oh! Systems,” she remarks before Adam says something in his own coded language. The fight continues with Ex Nihilo blasting Cap, who uses his shield to defend himself. Aleph uses some kind of forcefield to defend himself and Ex Nihilo against Thor’s lightning strikes. Iron Man informs Cap that they’re not getting through. He feels the battle is getting ready to turn in a bad way “Keep pressing,” commands Cap.
Captain Universe’s costume covers her entire body as she has a revelation. “Of course,” she says. A bright light follows and Ex Nihilo is forced to cover his eyes. Cap asks what in the world is going on. “Not world, Cap,” replies Tony. “Universe.” Captain Universe raises herself from the ground and stands before the three would-be reformers/conquerors. She says she wants equilibrium and asks them whether they recognize her form. Do they know who she is? Ex Nihilo bows down before her, knowing that she is the legend… the mother. Aleph, however, refuses to recognize her as a deity. Captain Universe corrects him and informs them that the systems they have worked to for so many years are now broken.
Inexplicably, as if Captain Universe’s host is still in partial control, she says that, when she was a little girl, her mother used to make her pie. She then orders them not to destroy or transform any other inhabited worlds. Abyss asks if she’s sure. It is who they are. Ex Nihilo replies that it is who they were. He recognizes this as change. It’s the stuff of life. Now they can fly into the unknown. He asks Aleph if he agrees. The giant activates its attack systems and replies no. “Pie?” asks Captain Universe. Aleph stands before her and explains that he has determined that the human world must be demolished. Must it not perform its function? Captain Universe tells him that there are seemingly infinite mysteries within her expanse but this is not one of them. She asks what good any system is built by children, even if they are your own. She orders him to stand down because the end isn’t what he thinks it will be.
Watching, the Black Widow sees that something is about to happen and tells everyone to back away. Ex Nihilo tries to stop Aleph but he charges up his weapons and replies that he cannot obey. He then blasts Captain Universe, who remains standing, seemingly unaffected. She responds by pointing at Aleph and disintegrating him with a touch. Tony leans towards Cap and asks him to remind him, when they get home, to put ‘Get pies’ on Jarvis’ to-do list.
(later)The Avengers inform Ex Nihilo that they are taking Adam, but he asks why. Captain Universe replies that he made Adam human and he belongs with his own kind. It is how things should be. Abyss accepts that it is for the best. Ex Nihilo asks what they would have him do now. She informs him that Mars is now his world. He can make it something beautiful. Cap adds that he should keep his ball in the park and leave their world alone. Is he going to be restrain himself? Ex Nihilo says he can. The universe has spoken. But, he adds, one has to wonder. He has remade thousands of worlds and seen the destruction of far more, and yet it is his planet that she has chosen to call home. What is it that makes Earth so special? Cap asks if he wants his best guess. “Indulge me,” replies Ex Nihilo. Cap tells him that it’s an Avengers world and it was the first. Manifold then teleports them away back to Earth, leaving Ex Nihilo and Abyss to do whatever they desire.
‘It was the spark that started the fire. A legend that grew in the telling. The great idea was expansion. And it started with two men. One was life (Captain America) and one was death (Iron Man).
Black Widow, Cannonball, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Captain Universe, Falcon, Hawkeye, Hulk, Hyperion, Iron Man, Manifold, Shang-Chi, Smasher IV, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Sunspot, Thor, Wolverine (all Avengers)
Abyss, Aleph and Ex NihiloAdam
This issue was released on January 23rd 2013, which was “National Pie Day” in the United States, hence the obscure pie references.
Ex Nihilo is Latin for ‘Out of nothing.’