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Dan Slott (writer), Khoi Pham (penciler), Craig Yeung (inker), John Rauch (colorist), Dave Lanphear (letterer), Lauren Sankovitch (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Loki, pleased with himself, watches as Osborn’s Avengers and Pym’s Avengers prepare to confront the Absorbing Man, transformed by the Cosmic Cube. The Sentry attacks first - but the Absorbing Man splits him into his old self, and the Void. The new Ms Marvel is the next to receive a “make over” as the Absorbing Man smacks her down, and reverts her costume to her original Moonstone costume. As this goes on, Osborn receives information about the Absorbing Man, which Hank Pym taps into, via Amadeus Cho. Both men then race to find the Absorbing Man’s ball and chain, which has taken on the properties of a Cosmic Cube also. The Absorbing Man reverts Venom back into his Scorpion costume, while the media watches and films. The Venom symbiote attacks Quicksilver, but he outsmarts it. The new Vision is then reverted back into his other selves - the original Vision and Iron Lad, which upsets Stature. Pym and Osborn reach the Cosmic Cube, while Pym convinces Osborn that Osborn already reached the Cube and transformed reality to how it is now. This confuses Osborn, enabling Pym to take control of the Cosmic Cube. The original Vision and Hercules have a brief reunion, while a dejected Osborn is visited by Loki, who hands him a sword, which can undo any Asgardian spell. Pym struggles to defeat the Absorbing Man with his own ball and chain - until Osborn returns, stabbing the Absorbing Man, who returns to normal - as do the new Vision, the Sentry, Venom and the new Ms Marvel. Osborn argues with the Avengers for a while, while announcing that John Walker has been stripped of his rank as USAgent. Pym is not concerned by this however, as he communicates with Amadeus, worried about someone he spotted amongst the media. Arriving back at the Infinite Mansion, it is confirmed that Loki was watching the battle. However, the Avengers are unaware that Jocasta has been compromised and taken over - by Ultron!
From Asgard, Loki watches his plans unfold, as the real Avengers and Norman Osborn’s Avengers confront the Absorbing Man, who has just absorbed the Cosmic Cube at Project Pegasus. ‘And lo! They gathered to fight a foe no single hero could withstand. Pym’s so-called “Mighty Avengers”…and the team which Osborn has crafted in his own dark image. Now dance for me, my poppets’ Loki exclaims, swirling the water of his viewing pool.
At the Project Pegasus Compound in Upstate New York, Norman Osborn in his Iron Patriot armor orders the first flank attack. He exclaims that the Absorbing Man may have absorbed the power of a Cosmic Cube, and may be able to restructure reality itself, but the man is an idiot. ‘Pour it on! Don’t give him a chance to concentrate!’ Osborn exclaims. ‘Great plan, boss. I may as well be hurling snowflakes at him! (Not that I couldn’t kill a man with a snowflake)’ Bullseye, in the guise of Hawkeye, boasts as he fires an array of arrows. ’You’ve got it all wrong, Osborn’ Hank Pym a.k.a. the Wasp exclaims. ’How dare you undermine me in front of my men!’ Osborn snaps back. Pym ignores that comment and remarks that the Absorbing Man may have the power of a Cosmic Cube, but not its full range of abilities. ’Basically, he’s not shaped like a cube. Without proper form, he loses proper function’ Hank explains.
‘What are you saying?’ Osborn asks. ’He’s powerful, granted. But you have the Sentry on your team, with the power of a million suns. He should be able to take care of this’ Hank declares. Osborn replies that the Sentry is a special case, who needs to be utilized in just the right way. ’Fine. If you don’t think he can handle it…’ Hank replies, shrugging his shoulders. ‘Of course he can! Sentry take him down. This ends!’ Osborn shouts. ‘As you wish’ the Sentry replies, instantly flying towards the massive Absorbing Man, and smacking him in the face with full force. ‘Whoa!’ Cassie “Stature” Lang gasps, while Osborn contacts the HAMMER file department, ordering them to download everything they have on Project Pegasus’ Cosmic Cube Program. ‘I need to prove - or disprove - whatever Pym’s going on about’ he declares.
At the same time, Pym communicates with Amadeus Cho, who is back at the Infinite Avengers Mansion with Jocasta and Edwin Jarvis. ‘If Osborn’s getting intel, I want it too. Can you hack into his systems?’ Hank asks. ‘I dunno, Doc. We’re talking cutting through Oscorp security files. That’s hard core’ Amadeus replies. Jarvis approaches Hercules’ side-kick and suggests that he might be of some help. ‘Junk food! Jarvis you’re the best!’ Amadeus exclaims as he spins around and takes some donuts from a tray. ‘Y’know, I’ve hung out with Herc, the Hulk, Cap…but right now? You’re my favorite Avenger!’ Amadeus exclaims. ‘I appreciate that, Sir’ Jarvis replies.
‘I’m receiving it now. Hurry, you idiots! Jump to the part about Creel!’ Osborn exclaims as images from Project Pegasus’ files are displayed into his armor: “Subject Crusher Creel a.k.a. the Absorbing Man should be an ideal subjects for these trials. His super human powers, though based on Asgardian magic, have scientific properties we should be able to exploit. Primarily how his ability to absorb the properties of any material, energy source or construct…is shared by the ball and chain he carried with him’. Hank smiles as the transmission ends. ‘Studying the science of magic. I like where this is going’ he exclaims.
Stature and Hercules approach Hank, and Hercules suggests that he should attend to the matter at hand. ‘It appears Osborn’s first lackey is not faring too well’ Hercules points out as the Sentry struggles against the massive Absorbing Man. ‘Why won’t you fall? I have the power of a million exploding suns!’ the Sentry boasts. ‘Yeah, yeah. I know. I’ve tried absorbing it a couple times, remember?’ the Absorbing Man declares. ‘But guess what, blondie? I got me a better bag!’ Creel exclaims, grabbing Sentry. He exclaims ‘Try some Cosmic Cube power on for size! Let’s me reshape reality - your reality. I can crush you, reshape you and divide you!’ Creel declares.
‘What - what are you doing? I feel - I feel like - you’re tearing me apart! No! Stop! You’ll release my other half - my dark half! Sentry exclaims as he is torn in two: Sentry and the Void! ‘There ya go. Knock yourself out!’ Creel exclaims, letting the two go free. ‘If it isn’t the Golden Guardian of Good. We meet again!’ the Void exclaims. ‘For the last time, Void!’ the Sentry exclaims. Nearby is Karla Sofen a.k.a. the new Ms Marvel. ‘A damaged psyche playing out the conflict of its dual nature…through comic book archetypes. So pathetic, I’d probably laugh at it…if the two of them weren’t strong enough to destroy all life on Earth!’ Karla exclaims, before calling out to Osborn, telling him to do something, as he is the only one who can get through to Bob when he is like this.
‘Can’t talk. Busy. You’re a psychiatrist, woman. You deal with it!’ Osborn snaps at Karla. ‘But -’ Karla begins, when suddenly, the Absorbing Man smashes his fist down on her, sending her flat against the ground. ‘Dr Sofen!’ Hank calls out. ‘Wh - what are you doing to me? I’m - I’m Moonstone again? I’ve been “Reality punched”?’ Karla exclaims, now dressed in her classic white and yellow costume. ‘That’s the stupidest @#%* thing I’ve ever heard of!’ she snaps, sitting in the dirt, while Stature takes on the Absorbing Man behind her. ‘Yes…this looks promising’ Iron Patriot remarks as he watches the next part of the video, while Moonstone takes to the sky.
‘It’s our hope that, while keeping Creel hooked up to a neural scrambler…if we expose him to Cosmic Cube fragments, we can study the nature of this power transference -’ a scientist declares. Iron Patriot freezes the recording, and tells himself that the ball and chain is still in the complex somewhere. ‘And it’s taken on the properties of…’ Hank begins, before both he and Osborn declare ‘A Cosmic Cube’ in unison. ‘It’s mine!’ Osborn exclaims. ‘Oh, no you don’t!’ Hank replies as they both fly towards Project Pegasus, with Osborn in the lead. ‘Herc, I’m on Osborn! You’re in charge of the troops!’ Hank tells his friend. ‘Godspeed, Pym!’ Hercules replies. ‘Wait! He’s in charge? What am I, chopped liver?’ John Walker a.k.a. USAgent shouts out.
As he speeds through Project Pegasus, Hank tells Cho to get him layouts of Project Pegasus, as he needs the location of the ball and chain. ‘Doc, now’s not a good time for a side mission. We’ve got a godlike Absorbing Man, Sentry fighting the Void -’ Cho exclaims, but Hank interrupts: ‘And I’ve got Norman Osborn moments away from getting a Cosmic Cube! Priorities, Cho! Priorities!’
At that moment in the Infinite Avengers Mansion, Jocasta calls out to Amadeus, asking for his assistance. ‘I am detecting anomalous software in -’ she begins, but Amadeus tells her ‘In a sec, Jocasta’ as he tells Hank to go right, then down two corridors and hard left. ‘Hurry, Sir! Mr Osborn is still far ahead!’ Jarvis calls out as he watches the monitor also. Jocasta continues her sentence: ‘In one of my host bodies. Unit Twelve Thousand Thir-teen-teen-teen-’ she repeats over and over.
Elsewhere in the Infinite Mansion, 12,1013 miles away, the Jocasta host there is overcome by a small device, which wraps wires around her, and gives off a binary code, with ULTRON LIVES imbedded in it - and then this Jocasta’s eyes flash red, and an image of Ultron appears.
Back outside Project Pegasus, ‘Stupid freaking Avengers! Always in my @#$%!’ Creel shouts as he swats away the phoney Spider-Man, in truth he is the third Venom, Mac Gargan. ‘You all need to step off! Give a guy a chance to think!’ Creel exclaims, while the new Vision attacks him also. Gargan lands against a rock, transformed into his former guise of the Scorpion, while the Symbiote makes a run for it. ‘The Symbiote? He separated me from me other! No!’ Gargan exclaims. The Absorbing Man looks down at Moonstone and Scorpion and exclaims ‘No way! The Masters of Evil? You’re Avengers now? And you didn’t cut me in for a piece?’
Nearby, a reporter smiles at this announcement. ‘Frank? Talk to me’ she exclaims to her cameraman, who replies that they lost live feed, but are recording. ‘Sweet’ the reporter declares.
Suddenly, the Symbiote hisses at Pietro “Quicksilver“ Maximoff, and tries to engulf him. Pietro radios to base, announcing that he requires assistance from the Venom-thing that is attaching itself to him. ‘So unless you want a super-fast brain-eating mutant on the loose -’ Pietro begins, before Jocasta apologizes to him, remarking that her systems where offline for a moment. ‘Let’s see…according to our files, symbiotes possess two weaknesses: fire and sonics’ Jocasta announces. Pietro smiles: ‘Good’ he exclaims. ‘I can do sonic’. And with that, he races away at high speed, creating several sonic booms, which causes the Symbiote to scream, and detach itself from Pietro. ‘Tch. How these things bother Spider-Man is beyond me’ Quicksilver remarks.
Nearby, Hercules holds the Vision like a javelin over his head. ‘Not to question your stratagem, Hercules, but -’ the Vision begins, but Hercules tells him that they are fighting a crystalline giant. ‘In your diamond-like state, you make the perfect weapon’ Hercules remarks. ‘Hurled with my awesome strength at the correct point, we shall shatter this rogue into a million pieces’ Hercules assures the new Vision, who replies, ‘Very well. I’ll use my navigation sensors to perfect your aim’. Hercules smirks at this: ‘Ha. Do that and I shall never forgive you’.
With that, the mighty Olympian hurls the new Vision like a javelin - and breaks the Absorbing Man’s left arm off. But suddenly, the new Vision begins to fall to the ground: ‘Cosmic radiation - affecting me on molecular lev-’ he begins, before screaming. ‘Jonas!’ Cassie calls out to her teammate, while the Absorbing Man declares ‘Nice try, robot-boy! But I control every atom in my body. That didn’t even slow me down!’ as his arm reforms. ‘You on the other hand? You’re in for a hard dose of reality!’ Creel adds as the new Vision slams into the ground in front of Stature, who exclaims ‘No! Please be okay. Please be okay -’, and as she shrinks to her true size, where there was one before her, now lies two: ‘Hm. What a fascinating turn of events’ the original Vision remarks, rubbing his head. ‘Oh my God! That’s the Vision! He’s split into the original Vision and…Iron Lad!’ Cassie shouts. ‘Cassie! It’s been so long! I thought I’d never see you again!’ Iron Lad exclaims, reaching out to Cassie, who exclaims ‘This - this can’t be real. It can’t be…’
Back inside Project Pegasus, ‘Cho! We are seconds away from Norman Osborn controlling reality!’ Hank exclaims. ‘Give me something! Think outside the box!’ he declares. ‘You’re too late, Pym!’ Osborn boasts as he speeds ahead. ‘This is my moment! My time! My destiny!’ Osborn declares, blasting the door to the laboratory down, he exclaims that nothing is standing in his way. ‘Got it, Doc. We need to think inside the box. Up ahead!’ Amadeus replies. Hank looks up and sees the air vent, so he flies into it, and along, into the room where the Cosmic Cube is located, while Osborn is busy breaking more doors down.
‘Yes! Made it! Just have to reach out and -’ Hank begins, only for the door to be blown off its hinges behind him, slamming into him. Hank returns to his default size, while Norman stands near the Cosmic Cube, declaring that he finally gets to do it. ‘I get to win. One touch and I get to have everything I ever wanted. Everything I deserve!’ he exclaims. ‘What are you talking about?’ Hank asks him. ‘One touch? You already did it. You got control of the Cube two minutes ago. You already altered reality’ Hank tells him. ‘What?’ Osborn asks, confused. ‘Think about it. A world where you’re running the show?’ Hank exclaims, while Osborn stands paused, his hand inches from the Cosmic Cube.
‘Super heroes on the run? Super villains taking their cues from you? You won. We lost. Do you honestly think any of that could’ve happened without you getting your hands on a Cosmic Cube?’ Hank asks. ‘But I -’ Osborn begins, confused. ‘PSYCH!’ Hank shouts as he quickly increases his mass, knocking Osborn away from the Cosmic Cube. ‘No!’ Osborn gasps. ‘Sorry, Norman. But I’ve got designs on this baby…y’see, there’s a little science experiment I’d like to try’ Hank declares, grabbing the chain attached to the Cosmic Cube.
Back outside, ‘This is all just reality-warping sutff. Something Creel’s doing with his pseudo-cubey powers! You can’t be Iron Lad!’ Cassie exclaims as she physically attacks Creel. ‘Hey!’ Creel mutters as Cassie grabs his head. Iron Lad blasts Creel with some energy, telling Cassie that he feels real enough. ‘and I know how I feel about you, Cassie’ he adds. ‘But you’re helping us. If we win, if everything goes back to normal…’ she exclaims. ‘I go away again. I know. But I have to fight the good fight!’ Iron Lad exclaims. ‘That’s what Avengers do, right?’ he asks. ‘Yeah’ Cassie agrees.
Nearby, the real Vision tells Hercules that it is good to see him again. ‘I take it the Absorbing Man is up to his usual tricks?’ the long-serving Avenger asks. ‘Aye, Avenger! And you are most well met!’ Hercules exclaims. ‘Come, old friend. Fight at my side once more!’ Hercules declares as they make their way to the Absorbing Man. ‘@#%*! Can you believe this bromance bull? They keep this up, I’m gonna have to kill one of ‘em. Hell, both of ‘em’ Bullseye, posing as Hawkeye exclaims, reaching for an arrow. ‘I hear that. There’s no place for these relics. They need to make way for new blood’ Daken, posing as Wolverine, remarks.
Suddenly, ‘Actually, you’d better make way…’cause the Doctor’s in!’ Hank exclaims, towering over Project Pegasus, he holds the Cosmic Cube up in the air, by the chain it is attached to. ‘Holy @#$%!’ Bullseye exclaims. ‘Pym? Is that my -?’ the Absorbing Man asks. ‘It’s your medicine, Creel. Say “ah”!’ Hank exclaims as he swings the Cube around, and slams it into Creel’s face. ‘Godlike power, meet godlike weapon! Oldest game in the book…fighting fire with fire!’ Hank exclaims. ‘Impressive’ Moonstone remarks. Johnny tells her to keep it in check though, as the last time Hank tried a stunt like this he got his butt kicked. ‘This ain’t the Hank Pym show. We gotta take this guy down - and fast’ Johnny adds, motioning to the Sentry and the Void, still battling it out in the air above them, USAgent exclaims that resetting reality is the only way he can think of to get those two genies back in the bottle.
Back inside, Norman Osborn sits slumped over. ‘All crumbling beneath my feet…’ he says in his regular voice. ‘What’re you gonna do, Osborn? Cry about it? You pathetic weakling!’ he exclaims in a harsher voice. ‘Shut up!’ the first declares. ‘I know what you’re thinking. A repulsor beam to the head’s your only way out, coward!’ the second voice declares. ‘What else can I do? Pray for a miracle?’ Norman remarks. Suddenly, ‘why not? Is there not a God looking out for you?’ Loki asks as he materializes beside Norman, holding a very large sword. ‘Loki?’ Norman asks, looking up. ‘Here, my friend. I have foreseen this moment and bring unto you…your salvation!’ Loki exclaims, handing Norman the sword. ‘What is this?’ Norman asks. ‘A spell breaker, Norman. Strong enough…to undo any Asgardian charm’ Loki reveals.
Back outside, Crusher has grabbed the Cube, ‘What? This’s your master plan, Pym? Smack me around with my own ball and chain?’ he asks. ‘What’s next? You gonna fight Popeye with a can of spinach?’. The Sentry continues to battle the Void, while Hank yanks on the chain, and Moonstone, the original Vision, Iron Land and Stature are doing what they can to assist.
The reporter exclaims that this doesn’t look good, and tells her cameraman to keep rolling. ‘I think we’re about to see the fall of two teams of Avengers!’ the reporter exclaims. Suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘No, you’re not. Clear your minds of such thoughts…clear all accounts of these heroes’ misfortunes…and draw your attention skyward, dear mortals. For this is what you will remember of this day…a champion!’ exclaims Loki as he weaves his way through the reporters, casting a spell over them, while, up in the sky, Iron Patriot shouts ‘AHHH!’ as he flies towards the Absorbing Man, sword in hand. ‘Flying out of the sun! A knight cloaked both in glory and in deeds of uncommon valor!’ Loki exclaims. ‘Now, go show the world his new, shining moment’ Loki declares as Osborn shoves the sword into the Absorbing Man’s chest. ‘This is for the people - of planet Earth!’ Osborn shouts, which is recorded on camera.
‘Remove the tarnish from his name…remind us of his greatness…and restore his place of honor’ Loki exclaims as the sword vanishes from Osborn’s arms, and Creel returns to his normal state, fallen to his knees. ‘What the Hell? The power…it’s gone!’ Creel exclaims. ‘I’m whole again! We all are!’ the Sentry exclaims, while Karla hovers in the air behind Osborn, back in her Ms Marvel costume. ‘Of course, Bob. Wait, don’t tell me…any of you doubted me?’ Osborn exclaims. ‘Never, Sir!’ USAgent exclaims. ‘Walker!’ Hercules scolds his teammate. ‘No, he’s right. The threat’s over. That’s all that matters’ Hank declares. ‘Riiiight’ Pietro mocks.
‘As I said before, my team had this situation under control. It’s a shame this unsanctioned group got in our way and helped prolong the crisis’ Osborn exclaims. ‘Curse your treacherous tongue, Osborn! I have half a mind to -’ Hercules begins, but Hank tells him to be at ease. The reporters gather around as Osborn declares ‘We are a great nation of law and order. And my Avengers - the Avengers…honor them and answer to them alone. Not these lawless vigilantes!’. Osborn tells Pym’s Avengers that he admires their misplaced intentions, but must ask them all to leave. ‘Save for you, Captain Walker’ he remarks. ‘Me, Sir?’ USAgent asks, surprised.
‘You are a member of the American Armed Forces. By colluding with these fugitives…I have no choice but to strip you of your rank…and your office as the USAgent!’. Osborn announces. Johnny hangs his head. ‘No!’ Hercules gasps. ‘Pym! Do something!’ Quicksilver exclaims. But Hank is looking into the crowd of reporters, and radios Amadeus, asking him if he is still recording off his goggles. ‘Yeah, why?’ Amadeus asks. ‘Sector twelve. Enlarge, enhance and save’ Hank orders, before telling his teammates: ‘You heard the man, we’re bugging out. Follow me to the correct exit!’. ‘WHAT?’ Quicksilver shouts, furiously.
As the Avengers all begin to leave, the crowd of reporters begin calling out: ‘Osborn!’, ‘Let’s hear it for the Avengers!’, ‘Iron Patriot! Over here!’, ‘Norman!’. ‘And that’s how it’s done’ Osborn whispers to himself. The new Vision hovers in the air, carrying Stature, and asks her ‘Are you going to be -?’, but Cassie tells him that it is okay, and asks Jonas to take her home. ‘Henry. Tell me you have a plan’ Hercules exclaims as they enter the doorway back to the Infinite Avengers Mansion. ‘Working on it’ Hank replies. ‘Good! So how do we get Walker back?’ Hercules asks. Hank makes his way down a corridor and replies ‘No idea. I’m onto something else’. Quicksilver is annoyed by this: ‘Damn you, Pym. We’re all just pawns to you, aren’t we?’ he asks.
‘We’re all game pieces, Pietro’ Hank declares. ‘The important thing is to know who the players are’ he exclaims, before telling the Vision that he needs him in the lab. Entering the lab, Cho, Jarvis and Jocasta are standing by a monitor with an image of Loki standing behind some reporters, smirking, is displayed. ‘Tell me you got it!’ Hank declares. ‘He was there, Sir. In the crowd!’ Jarvis exclaims. ‘Your hunch was right. It’s Loki!’ Amadeus declares. ‘Retinal scan?’ Hank asks. ‘Unmistakable!’ Jarvis exclaims. Hank stares at the screen as the monitor enhances on Loki’s right eye. ‘It all comes down to science. That’s my magic. And Loki, God of Mischief…I gotcha!’
Hercules, Jocasta, Quicksilver, Stature, USAgent, Vision III, Wasp II (all Mighty Avengers)Edwin JarvisAmadeus Cho
Bullseye/Hawkeye IV, Daken/Wolverine II, Norman Osborne/Iron Patriot, Moonstone/Ms Marvel III, Sentry, Scorpion/Venom III/Spider-Man IV (all Dark Avengers)
The VoidThe Symbiote
ReportersProject Pegasus staff
In Flashback Images:Absorbing Man / Crusher CreelScientist
As the Scorpion, Mac Gargan was one of Spider-Man’s most regular enemies. He became the third Venom in the Spider-Man: Marvel Knights series and the fourth Spider-Man in Dark Avengers #1.
Karla Sofen was the hero / villain Moonstone for many years, before becoming the fake Ms. Marvel in Dark Avengers #1.
Moonstone and the Scorpion were both members of the third incarnation of the Masters of Evil, while Moonstone and Absorbing Man were both members of the fourth incarnation of the team.
The original Vision was destroyed during “Avengers Disassembled.” [Avengers (1st series) #500-503]