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Jonathan Hickman (writer), Steve Epting (penciler), Rick Magyar with Steve Epting (inkers), Frank D’Armata (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Jock (cover), Dale Keown and Moory Hollowell (variant cover), 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)
Henry McCoy gets an envelope from the executor of Xavier’s will, which triggers a memory that Charles placed into his mind not long ago. It’s in reference to the Illuminati and the Infinity Gem in his possession. After the flashback Beast retrieves the gem and is met by some of the members of the Illuminati who bring him back to Wakanda. All of them are outfitted with transponders to alert them to any incursions, and the next one occurs only a few days later. Once they arrive at the incursion site they form the Infinity Gauntlet and decide it must be Captain America who wields it since it was his plan. It is successful, and the other planet is pushed away, but at a cost. The Infinity Gauntlet is destroyed along with all of the gems, except for the Time Gem, which simply disappears. Afterward, there’s much discussion about how they’re going to proceed without the gauntlet. Captain America refuses to sacrifice his morals in any future endeavors, despite everyone feeling the opposite. So, as was prearranged, Dr. Strange wipes Captain America’s memory of all of it, leaving the rest of them to wonder just how far they will have to go.
New York, Xavier’s StudyA chandelier casts light upon Hank McCoy as he studies the envelope in his hands, one that is marked with the trademark “X” of the X-Men. He recalls the moment he got the sealed envelope, a meeting with the executor of Charles Xavier’s will. He said it was Charles’ wish that it be handed to him privately and personally.As he wonders aloud what Xavier would think if he could see what’s happened to them he begins tearing open the back. He removes a slip of paper that has the word “REMEMBER” written upon it in all caps. Beast grimaces and faces downward, his pointer finger and thumb brushing across his forehead.Remember he does, a memory buried deep within his mind. It’s of Xavier and a meeting they had in that very office. He tells Henry that if he is recalling this then he (Xavier) must be dead. Charles then moves over to a secret wall panel and opens it revealing a hidden safe. He looks over at his former student and tells Beast he hopes his death was not in vain.As Henry moves closer Charles admits they’ve both changed over the years and have to come to know each other better, more than how most people see them. He apologizes for the burden he’s about to drop on Hank, but counters that it is the highest praise he can offer. He hopes Beast can forgive him when he finds out what he’s done.Pointing at the safe Charles says there are journals and records of clandestine activities contained within. He admits to being part of something that was both necessary and unthinkable and says that because of what he has in there Henry must become part of it too.“How do you know you are special, Henry?” Xavier asks with a half-smile. “You always told me I was,” Beast responds solemnly.The memory fades and Beast is staring at the wall safe. He starts typing a code into the electronic panel. The password, “GIFTED,” is accepted and as it opens a bluish light washes over Beast’s face. He reaches in and pulls out the floating Infinity Gem secreted inside. “Oh my…” a nearly speechless Hank utters.FWWWASSHH! Suddenly, there are others who appear in the study. They are some of Xavier’s Illuminati brethren, Black Bolt, Captain America and Namor. Their mode of transportation, Lockjaw, stands in the middle of them, his massive frame filling out the room. Captain America welcomes Doctor McCoy to the rabbit hole and tells him to pack a bag.Wakanda, NecropolisOne Day LaterBeast is the last of the guinea pigs. Doctor Strange opens up his palm with a scalpel. Hank’s warned he’ll feel a pinch, but it hurts badly and he yells out loudly, quickly covering his mouth to stifle the sound. Strange tells him to stop embarrassing himself.Reed Richards is there, holding a glowing red object with a pair of metal pinchers. He explains the device has several functions, one being a type of alert system that will tell them simple commands such as run, fight, assemble, and so on. He maneuvers the device inside the incision and tells Stephen to close him up.The word “assemble” ruffles Beast’s fur. He tells Reed he hasn’t officially signed up to be part of their little cabal and he isn’t sure if it’s for him. The brusque Namor agrees, suggesting they take what they need and send Beast on his way. He doesn’t believe Hank has the constitution for the hard decisions they’ll have to make.Beast points out the Professor left the gem for him, not for Namor. Picking up on that sentiment, Reed assures him that Xavier would be there with them if he were still alive and believes he wants Henry to take his place. He then adds that the device in his palm will also serve as a multiversal homing beacon allowing them to locate him wherever he is on this plane or any other. Turning toward the huge machine in the background Reed says the last function of the device is to communicate with the early warning system they’ve designed for detecting the incursions and alert them when one is about to happen.T’Challa, who is standing near the machine, tells Reed it is ready. Richards seems pleased and suggests they test it out. Tony Stark kneels down and presses a button on its side. With a be-doop! all eight of their palms begin to glow red. With that out of the way, Rogers asks what is going to be their next step. The Black Panther answers, saying they wait for another apocalypse and hope like hell his idea works.LaterReed Richards is paying a visit to Black Swan. He is sitting on a bench just outside her force field prison. She is munching down on some French fries he has given her. She is ecstatic with the food. For so long she only ate enough to sustain herself. She had forgotten what it was like to take enjoyment from the taste.Reed looks at her encouragingly. He says it’s good to indulge every once and a while as it helps them remember they are human. Black Swan waves off his sentiment, pointing out that she is still his prisoner and what she eats is decided by him. She calls this distraction a weakness on his part. He should focus on the coming death of his world.Taking another bite from a golden brown fry Black Swan asks if they’ve decided to take the path of least resistance and let their world end, or if they will prepare an offering. This is what they should be doing, she urges him.Reed admits that’s all he’s been thinking about and tells her they’ve come up with a plan. This takes the Swan aback. She looks at him, curious, and asks him to explain his plan so she can tell him how foolish it is.Richards stands, as if it would make the idea more powerful, and tells her of the Infinity Gems and the reforming of the gauntlet. Black Swan doesn’t understand at first, but when he lists the gems individual powers she cuts him off. At first she calls them “Ina Abnayyartu” and then in layman’s terms, “the Stones.” She actually admits it’s a good plan, but points out they won’t work outside their native universe. “…the stones will buy you time,” she agrees.“Then it will be enough,” Reed responds, satisfied. Black Swan questions how he’ll feel when that time runs out. Not knowing how to respond Reed says their session is over. Black Swan thanks him for the French fries and mocks how they’ve made things so much better for her, the world so much brighter.Reed was walking away, but he stops and turns slightly back. He says he pities her and her belief that this is a problem that can’t be fixed. He does not believe that. The Swan says she pities him for believing that he has some say in how all of this ends.Days pass inside the cell. The Black Swan spends most of that time in solitude thinking. On the fourth day after their conversation her eyes open and have a fiery, red glow. “Rabum Alul,” she proclaims. And all across the world the palms of the Illuminati begin to glow.Gilgit-Baltistan, PakistanVia Lockjaw, the Illuminati are transported to the new incursion site. Upon their arrival the Avengers leader, Captain America, starts shouting out orders. Eyeing up the snowy, mountainous landscape he suddenly realizes there is no other Earth to be seen. Panther explains that during the Wakandan event he couldn’t jump clear because the incursion wall prevented it. He assumes it would prevent them from jumping in as well.Iron Man boots up a holographic display on his gauntlet. It registers the correct harmonics so they must be in the vicinity. Reed tells him to tighten the beam, but of course Tony was already getting to that. He quickly identifies the wall, forty yards up the face of the mountain.They make the trek. As Hank looks down at his glowing palm he notes they have less than seven hours until the collapse. He expresses their need to get quicker in their response time.Namor sticks out his arm feeling for the invisible wall. When his hand finally disappears into nothingness he tells the others he’s found it. Upon them all entering they are dumbfounded by the site of another Earth merely hundreds of miles away. Reed doesn’t understand why there isn’t any atmospheric disturbance or massive weather distortion caused by the gravitational pull. He can’t put it into words, but T’Challa describes it as if the world has already surrendered.Iron Man finds the physics of the whole thing interesting. He even suggests it could prove helpful, give them more possibilities. However, the time for planning is over. They know what they came to do. On Tony’s command they all produce their Infinity Gems.The master of all things mystic and supernatural tells his cohorts to focus on the gems, imagining them joining and becoming one. Dr. Strange reminds them the gems want to be together. Within moments they form up and become the Infinity Gauntlet, an item so powerful its creation is noticed by Uatu on the Moon, Galactus near Ul’huat Prime and Thanos over on Titan.With the glove just hovering there between them Rogers asks what they should do next. Reed says they implement Rogers’ plan, wield the gauntlet and push the other universe away. When Steve asks who wields it, the answer is obvious to most. It’s Iron Man who puts it to words, telling Captain America that it was his strategy, that it is he who wants it the most, and since the gauntlet is an extension of the person’s will it would make most sense, be more likely to work, if the planner were to wear it.Arms crossed about his chest, Namor thinks Stark’s words are a bunch of sanctimonious garbage, but it’s their newest member, Beast, who argues with him and tells Steve to put it on, to save the world.“Okay,” Rogers responds reaching out his hand to the glowing gauntlet. After donning the glove Captain America yells out in ecstasy. It’s so much power, he remarks. “I can control the heavens… I can control the Earth,” he declares. Tony refocuses him, telling him to do it then.With his gauntlet arm outstretched toward the invading Earth Captain America sends out a pinkish energy beam that strikes the target. The others just watch in amazement as the other Earth, the other universe, begins to slow its encroachment. Strange doesn’t think it will be enough so Stark starts yelling at Steve, telling him he needs to push it away to stop the incursion.With newfound effort, Steve grunts and pushes harder. It works, the Earth begins reversing course. It looks like a complete victory, but both Reed and Stark notice some sudden, vibrational feedback and begin worrying.Their worries are well-founded, as just a moment later the Infinity Gauntlet explodes while still on Captain America’s hand. All of the gems shatter, save the Time Gem, which just disappears. Despite the forceful blast Steve’s arm is intact. He’s not sure what happened, but cradles his arm. Namor pulls himself off the ground and calls Rogers an incompetent fool. He charges and delivers a left-handed jab that cracks Captain America across the left-side of his face. Captain America responds with a front-kick that puts Namor on his back. Other heroes join in to stop the scrum, though Beast hangs back and just watches, taking the actions of this new group in.NecropolislaterThere has been some heated discussion amongst the Illuminati about how to proceed. So Steve Rogers has taken his leave and is outside looking upon the Necropolis grounds. This is where T’Challa finds him and tells him everyone is ready to reconvene. Captain America doesn’t sound too excited to go back in there, after the hours of fighting and screaming. He also remarks that he likes this place. Black Panther tells him the city is populated by the spirits of noble warriors who never knew defeat, which is Steve’s kind of place.T’Challa implores Rogers to join the rest of them again, but before he goes in Steve wants to make sure he and the Panther are on the same page. He admits to seeing things as black and white, and maybe people see that as a weakness, but his biggest fear is they are going to talk themselves into doing something for the sake of expediency because they’re desperate. He wants to make sure Black Panther is with him. T’Challa asks him, “Have you ever known me not to do the right thing?”ten minutes laterBlack Panther and Captain America rejoin the rest of the Illuminati in the conference room. Steve is the first to speak and starts off by apologizing for how the whole thing went down with the Infinity Gauntlet. He admits it might be his fault for its destruction, but reminds them they can’t fix what happened and must move on. He wants them to understand that they are in the same place they were before, and they must not give into the temptation to do something they’ll later regret.This leads into an argument with Stephen. He doesn’t believe they’re in the same place seeing as how their previous success is now impossible. Rogers argues they will always find a moral way to stop the next one, just like they always seem to do. Strange chalks that up to saying, “I hope,” and he finds no comfort in that.With one member of the Illuminati against his point of view Steve invokes T’Challa to back him up. Unfortunately, the man he thought an ally delivers a gut wrenching blow. He says he does not agree with him, that he is not just one man, but a representation of a nation and must put them first.Panic mode sets in as Captain America looks around at the rest of the table. He asks Black Bolt his thoughts, who in turn dismisses any notion of an agreement with a wave of his finger. The ever brash Namor asks Rogers what he was thinking, that they would preserve their souls at the expense of everything they hold dear.Steve then casts his eyes upon their newest member, one he doesn’t know so well. However, Beast, like his fellow Illuminati, agrees that he will do what is necessary to stave off the extinction of mutantkind.Finally, Reed interjects and calls Rogers out for acting like the decisions they’re making have been easy. He’s says it’s quite insulting. “You will lose yourself in this, Reed,” Captain America bites back. All Mister Fantastic can ask is why Steve wouldn’t think he would sacrifice himself for his family.His back against the wall, Captain America apologizes again. However, this time it’s because he refuses to allow what they’re contemplating to happen. He knows they’re going to end up building some machine or some sort of weapon, just in case they might need it one day. And then, eventually, they will begin to convince themselves that it will be ok to use it. “We’re doing this for the right reasons. There’s no other choice,” he concludes and then looks at Tony at the other end of the table. “Isn’t that right, brother,” he asks with an edge to his voice.Tony is upset, asking Steve why he always has to be this way. With real regret he tells Captain America he will find some way to make this right. Steve’s not sure where he’s going with this. It doesn’t make sense. Then Tony turns to Dr. Strange and tells him to do it. Strange apologizes just before casting a forgetting spell on Rogers, who in turn collapses to the floor.Everyone except Beast gets up from their seats and crowd around the unconscious Captain America. The words of the Black Swan echo in Reed’s head. “You pity me? I pity you. Thinking you have some say in how all this ends.”
Beast, Black Bolt, Black Panther, Captain America, Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Namor (Illuminati)LockjawBlack SwanGalactusThanosThe WatcherflashbackBeast, Professor Charles XavierXavier’s lawyer
Charles Xavier was killed when Cyclops, who at the time was tainted by the awesome power of the Phoenix Force, lashed out in a fit of rage. (Avengers vs. X-Men #11)Captain America’s “rabbit hole” is a nod to the popular story of Alice in Wonderland where the titular character begins her zany adventure by following a rabbit down it’s rabbit hole.Not only are the Infinity Gems incorrectly colored and labeled before being applied to the gauntlet, but four of the miscolored gems are colored differently, and again, incorrectly, when they are destroyed four pages later.The Infinity Gauntlet was first worn by Thanos, which he used to woo his lady love, Death, by killing half of all living beings in the universe. (Infinity Gauntlet series)