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Mark Waid, Al Ewing & Jim Zub (writers), Paco Medina (penciler), Juan Vlasoc (inker), Jesus Aburtov (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Cory Petit (letterer), Yasmine Putri (cover artist), Mico Suayan & Rain Beredo (variant cover artists), Carlos Lao (graphic designer), Alanna Smith (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Nyx family designs by Joshua James Shaw
Avengers created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Rocket Raccoon wakes to find himself in a living nightmare, where strange robots are experimenting on him. He is able to escape them, and makes his way to another room where the Hulk is throttling Hawkeye. Rocket convinces Hulk to release Hawkeye, and the trio deduce that they are not in the real world, which is when Nightmare makes his presence known, riding on his steed Dreamstalker. Nightmare talks a big game to the heroes, but he soon admits that he is in trouble, and reveals how countless years ago Zeus gave him a special shard to look after, but now, his citadel is under attack from Hypnos, God of the Sleep and son of Nyx, who has come seeking that shard. The heroes agree to help Nightmare, although Rocket wants to be paid for his services, the Hulk has other plans. Meanwhile, Hercules, the Scarlet Witch, Spectrum and the Vision find themselves thrust to Omnipotence City. The Vision's systems are deteriorating, but the heroes have other priorities as the blinded Scarlet Witch locates a strange energy source. The heroes make their way to a grand library, where they meet the Lord High Librarian, who knows Hercules. Hercules asks him about the shard of power that Zeus entrusted him with, but the old man is not willing to part with any information. The Vision and Spectrum begin to search the library, before the Scarlet Witch locates the shard hidden in the old man's beard – unfortunately, Dolos and Apate, who of Nyx's children, use this moment to enter Omnipotence City, and Spectrum deduces that Nyx blinded the Scarlet Witch so that she can see through her eyes. Dolos and Apate attack the heroes and put Hercules under their control, where he vows to kill the Avengers for failing to save the Olympians!
Rocket Raccoon is naked, strapped to a table, several cables and tubes connected to his body. He wakes and feels as if he is being born again – it hurt like Hell. Perhaps this is Hell? Two strange robots hover over him, one of them using a laser, which cuts into Rocket's chest. The pain is an old song, played from memory, and played loud. A symphony of deja vu with a chorus of razors. Rocket screams as the robots stare at him with their dead eyes and keep cutting into him. It is worse this time. This time, he knows what they want – they want something that could take their place, do the job they were bored with. They want to mutate a therapy animal into a warden for a cosmic asylum, into a Ranger. “Ranger Rocket”. He had blocked this out, tried to forget, but this was who he was, under the sarcasm and snarls. This open wound. Even during the happy times, it festered inside – what was done to him, what he would do back – if he ever had the chance again.
Suddenly, Rocket reaches up, grabs the laser that the robot is using against him and spins it around, directing its 5,000 degree power back at the robot, severing it and the other one. Rocket breaks free of the cables connected to his body and leaps off the table, taking the laser with him, he runs though the lab, with one of the robots functioning enough to fly after him. 'Subject behavior is not logical – we are making subject better -' the robot claims. 'Yeah? Nice job, Tin Man' Rocket mutters, before spinning around and blasting the robot with the laser once again, and announcing that he feels better already.
Even so, something isn't right. Little details shift and change around Rocket, like memories. As he wonders where the other animals are, a green costume materializes. He thinks of Lylla and Wal, Blackjack and Uncle Pyko, his friends. When had he lost them?' Rocket decides that if he could find even one face from those days, maybe he could make sense of this. He should be careful what he wishes for. 'Oh, flark' Rocket mutters as he enters another room and finds Bruce Banner a.k.a. Hulk holding Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye up by his neck. Rocket knows the Hulk from the day – from the day before the day. Gentle and green as a meadow, a guy with a temper, sure, but he would never hurt a soul. 'Rocket' the Hulk remarks as he turns and sees Rocket, whose green costume suddenly shifts to his modern yellow costume, as he realizes that this is not the Hulk he knew. 'Here to watch?' the Hulk smirks, while Rocket decides that this is no meadow – it's the lake of fire.
Rocket points the laser weapon towards the Hulk and tells him to put Hawkeye down 'I'm asking nice here' Rocket adds. The Hulk narrows his eyes at Rocket, then lets Clint go. Clint rubs his neck, while the Hulk boasts that he doesn't even need to touch Hawkeye – all he needs is time. Hulk looks down at Hawkeye and tells him that the hearing loss is the least of it – that he is old, older by the day. 'How many years before your aim goes?' Hulk asks 'How long before you're in a real hospital? With that new Hawkeye – you know, the one who's better than you already – signing the papers to switch you off?' Hulk asks, leering at Hawkeye, crouching down and looking him straight in the eyes. 'Know where I'll be then? When they bury you? Still alive. Still strong. Still immortal -' Hulk begins, before Hawkeye turns away from him and looks around at the hospital surroundings. 'Wait a sec. This...isn't a real hospital?' Clint asks. The Hulk laughs and tells him to count his fingers. 'They're all back, right? Cause none of this is “rea,” not in the way you think, anyway' Hulk explains, before telling the others to get ready. 'He's making his move...' Hulk announces, as reality around them begins to shift. 'Who?' Hawkeye enquires, as his costume materializes, replacing his hospital gown, while strange patterns and shapes take the place of the hospital.
In his gut, Rocket already knows who is behind this, as he is no stranger to bad dreams. 'That's right, Hulk! All of you are lost – marooned in my realm! To suffer forever – tortured eternally at the hands of your greatest foe – NIGHTMARE!' the powerful villain grins as he appears before the Hulk, Hawkeye and Rocket, green energy glowing around him as he rides his demonic steed, Dreamstalker! This looks bad, but Rocket figured there was still some angle, something he wasn't seeing yet – something that made it worse.
Elsewhere: '- NOW!' Hercules shouts as he falls through a portal along with the android Vision, Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch and Monica Rambeau a.k.a. Spectrum. Several strange column are in the space where the heroic Avengers find themselves, and Spectrum announces that wherever Voyager sent them, the coast is clear, so they should all form on her. 'Let's try not to draw attention to ourselves until we -' Spectrum begins, while Wanda moans she falls through the portal. The Vision calls out to her, while Hercules clenches a fist and shouts 'Damn you, Voyager!' 'Or not' Monica remarks quietly, before asking Wanda if she is okay. Wanda informs Monica that she is blind, that everything went dark after Nyx struck her eyes. The Vision tells his ex-wife to take his arm and that he will help her. I will not have vengeance taken from me!' Hercules shouts as he slams his fist into a wall. 'What's that noise?' the confused Wanda asks. The Vision tells her that Hercules is mourning, while Spectrum calls out to Hercules and reminds him that they need him focused.
The Vision starts to tell the other Avengers that they must get their bearings and figure out where Voyager has sent them. Suddnenly, his voice begins to break, and he holds a word down, repeating it. 'Viz?' Spectrum asks. The Vision reverts to normal as he explains that was a minor variance, that he is rerouting neural pathways to compensate. 'Your systems are deteriorating' Spectrum points out. The Vision agrees and assures Spectrum that they will persevere. Hercules tells the others to stop chatting and motions to a light that has appeared up ahead. The Avengers walk towards the light, and Herc, Monica and the Vision go wide-eyed at what they see. 'Okay. I've been in Galactus' house. This is more impressive' Monica utters, while Hercules realizes that they are in Omnipotence City. A strange space station floats amidst an asteroid belt in deep space, a powerful light glowing from the space station. Monica looks at Hercules 'What is that?' she asks him. “The most peerless piece of Earth, I think, that e'er the sun shone bright on” the Vision quotes. Hercules tells the others that this place's beauty matters not, and that they must press on.
Shielding her eyes, Monica realizes that the sun still shines here, to which Hercules remarks that the light of knowledge shall not fade until the cosmos closes in upon itself. Suddenly, Wanda tells everyone to wait, that there is something else, something glowing out there. 'There's all kinds of things glowing, Wanda' Monica replies, while the Vision asks Wanda if she can be more specific. Wanda explains that it is a shape burning with dark energy, somewhere up ahead – and it is the only thing she can see. 'That can't be a coincidence' Monica remarks, switching to an energy form, she offers to scout ahead and see what that is. But Hercules tells Monica not to, explaining that it is all too easy to lose onesself here, that this place is myth – not science. He adds that there are no coincidences or random events, only fate, so that energy must be what Voyager sent them to find. 'So find it we shall... and then I will visit my unfettered wrath upon Nyx and her foul children' Hercules announces.
Meantime, Rocket knows that something is off here, as he, Hawkeye and the Hulk stand before Nightmare and Dreamstalker, whose tail and mane glow with green energy. Nightmare warns the Hulk, Hawkeye and Rocket that all they have gone through was a mere taste, a simmering soupcon of the horror he can visit upon them. Nightmare informs the heroes that they will assist him in his goals, do his bidding, or he will make them suffer a never-ending nightmare! Rocket has good hearing, and thinks that this guy doesn't sound like an all-powerful dream king – not quite – more like a salesman – so what is he trying to sell? Rocket raises his paw and announces that he has a question: 'If you're so powerful, how come you need our help?' he asks. 'And how come I could break outta my dream and into his? What was that about?' Rocket asks, motioning to the Hulk. The Hulk frowns and agrees that Rocket has a point. 'I – I planned that! Obviously' Nightmare claims, before warning the Hulk to get back. Nightmare casts some energy at the Hulk, and wonders why he can't make the green behemoth afraid. 'Maybe Banner's already having a nightmare – maybe I'm it!' the Hulk shouts as he lunges at Nightmare.
'No! Wait! Wait!' Nightmare calls out, as he drops to his knees, forlorn, he frowns and asks the Hulk to hang on, that before this gets out of hand, he wants them to behold him as he truly is – weakened and evidently even more powerless than he thought! 'Figured as much' the Hulk frowns, before instructing Nightmare to start talking and to make it good. Nightmare makes it, good, revealing to the others that long ago he had done a favor for Zeus, that Zeus had some kind of power crystal - “The Night That Might Yet Be”. Zeus wanted it hidden where nobody would ever look, as his enemy was hidden behind the “light of dreams”, whatever that was. And, in return, Zeus and his people would stay off Nightmare's turf.
And so, for thousands of years, that's how it was– Nightmare kept Zeus' MacGuffin in his fortress, out of harm's way – and the Greek gods never bothered him again – until one of them did. The Crystal that Nightmare guarded sat in a case near Nightmare's throne, while outside his fortress, Hypnos, the God of Sleep and son of the Queen of the Night used an army of slumbering soldiers to invade Nightmare's fortress, using a battering ram to bring the fortress walls down. And because these soldiers were asleep, that meant they were immune to Nightmare's power, and thus robbing him of the dreams that sustained him.
'So you ran?' Rocket asks. Nightmare replies that he is still there – and here, that the fortress is a metaphor, like everything in dreams – but even so, its walls will crumble, and when they do, Hypnos will have his bauble – and everything else of his, as he is too weak to stop him. 'But not too weak to torture us' Hawkeye points out, suggesting that Nightmare could have asked them for help. Nightmare scowls and declares 'No. I do not – I will not beg'. He asks Hawkeye if he understands the humiliation of this – to need aid from a sworn enemy, from any mere mortals. 'This – this is my Nightmare!' he utters. Hawkeye remarks that they can't let Hypnos get his hands on whatever it is he is trying to get his hands on, so they will help. 'Hey! Speak for yourself, Captain Pointy Sticks' Rocket mutters, motioning up at Nightmare, who has stood up and returns to Dreamstalker's side, Rocket reminds the others that this tall glass of Flark milk just got done torturing them. 'Now he wants my services?' Rocket asks, before pointing at Nightmare and offering him two words: 'Pay me'.
'Hey, that's not how the Avengers operate -' Hawkeye starts to say, before the Hulk pushes him aside, and states that he had a run-in with the real Avengers – and Hawkeye wasn't there, because they don't want him. 'So shut up. The adults are talking' Huk adds as he walks over to Nightmare and informs him that Rocket is right – if he wants their help, it will cost. Nightmare responds by telling the Hulk that is ridiculous, as his power is all but gone, he is a shadow of himself. 'What can I possibly offer you?' he asks. 'What do I even have left?' to which the Hulk smirks, which makes Rocket uneasy. Rocket had known Hulk when Hulk was stupid, but now, out of all of them, Hulk was the only one who knew just where he was – and where he wanted to be.
Meantime, back at Omnipotence City, Spectrum leads the way, while Hercules follows her, and behind them the Vision assists Wanda, who tells the others 'This way. I can see it...' Vision tells Wanda to be careful, while Spectrum asks Hercules if he has been here before. Hercules informs her that he has, and that this place is the center of Infinity, the nexus of the gods. Herc explains that Omnipotence City is a realm of divine fellowship and governance where immortals from all corners of reality come to debate, to ally and to mourn. Hercules adds that in its parliament of pantheons, laws that affect billions are enacted within the genesis bazar, gods barter the destinies of entire galaxies. They enter some sort of library, as Hercules tells his friends that fate has granted them an immense honor – as no mortal has ever set foot inside Omnipotence City.
Suddenly, a bald man with a long white beard appears above the Avengers, 'How. Dare. You' he exclaims, as Hercules glances up and informs the other Avengers that if it were up to the Lord High Librarian, no mortal ever would. He quietly tells the other Avengers to start looking, while Hercules turns to the old man, 'Good sir. We've no time to waste. I bring with me -' he begins, to which the Lord High Librarian interrupts him 'I'm familiar with your... lessers, Hercules' and remarks that they are inside the Halls of the All-Knowing, so there are no surprises here. Hercules tells the old man that if he is the keeper of all knowledge, then he knows that this intrusion is not an act of malice. Hercules then tells the old man that, apparently, his father entrusted him with the safekeeping of a fragment of power. He asks where it is now. The old man turns away from Hercules and points out that all-knowing and all-telling are too different things. He claims that he realized Nyx was to come for The Night That Was, and reveals that he has hidden it well – but that is all they need to know.
Hercules asks the Lord High Librarian if he thinks he can stop Nyx from taking it, as she massacres gods. 'There are hundreds upon hundreds of immortals who can help us! Summon them!' Hercules pleads, while the Vision phases through a nearby bookcase. The Lord High Librarian reminds Hercules that gods war among themselves all the time, but the parliament does not involve itself in such internal matters. Hercules calls the old man a fool and tells him that this isn't merely an Olympian problem, as Nyx threatens all reality. 'Be that as it may, my hands are tied' the old man responds, while the Vision, Spectrum and Wanda hover above them, the Vision states that the shard is well hidden. He asks the others how you conceal something inside a room where everything is known. Wanda holds her fingertips to her head, and replies 'You don't let go of it', and reveals that she can see the “fragment” and quickly alerts Hercules to the fact that it is around the Lord High Librarian's neck, hidden under his beard.
At that moment: 'Is it now. Thank you ever so much' a voice calls out as a portal opens and from it emerges Dolos and Apate, two of Nyx's children. 'We'll take it from here' Apate exclaims, while Wanda utters 'Oh, no... no, no, no', and the shocked Spectrum exclaims that Nyx didn't blind Wanda, she turned her into her eyes! Hercules tells the others that Apate and Dolos are the Gods of Deceit and Trickery, that they will try to separate them. 'Protect the Librarian' he adds, while Spectrum tells Hercules to run defense, while she runs offense – but as she darts around the library, she soon discovers that the twins are missing. 'Where did they go?' she asks. The Librarian warns Spectrum to take care, as the fog of Dolos that spreads around them corrupts anyone that it touches, and they cannot easily penetrate its cover. 'And of Apate? What's her speciality?' Wanda asks, turning to the other twin. 'Lies' the Librarian responds, as Apate hurls two daggers towards the Avengers. 'Her daggers cut through flesh – through reason – through sanity' the Librarian explains, before looking on in shock, as the daggers pass by Wanda and the Vision – and strike Hercules in his back
Hercules narrows his eyes which glow green, and he turns, announcing that he can finally think clearly, he declares that the Avengers have failed to save Olympus, that they bear the responsibility, and so the last Son of Olympus must balance the scales – by killing them all!
Hawkeye, Hercules, Hulk, Rocket Raccoon, Scarlet Witch, Spectrum, Vision
Lord High Librarian
in Rocket's nightmare:
in flashback images:
Rocket's friends Pyko, Blackjack, Llya and Wal Rus all debuted in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #271.
Wanda was struck by Nyx in Avengers No Road Home #1, and discovered that she was blind in #2.
Hulk refers to an encounter with the Avengers, which took place in Immortal Hulk #7.
The Lord Librarian first appeared in Thor God of Thunder #3.