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Brian Michael Bendis & Brian Reed (writers), Jim Cheung (penciler), John Dell, David Meikes & Mark Morales (inkers), Justin Ponsor (colorist), VC's Cory Petit (letterer), Rich Ginter (production), Molly Lazer (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
The Illuminati meet up, and Doctor Strange informs them that Clea has left him. A brief discussion begins about the women in their lives, before they get to the matter in hand. Iron Man shows them images of Noh-Varr, a Kree warrior who has declared was on Earth. Namor wants to beat him up, but Stark wonders if Charles could change his mind for him. Charles explains that his mutant power doesn't work like that. He can't change something permanently like that as the mind will in time reverse his programming. Going back to Namor's idea, the Sub-Mariner visits Noh-Varr in his cell at the Cube facility. He proceeds to beat him up a little before Charles intervenes and gets inside Noh-Varr's mind. He creates an image of Attilan, and has Black Bolt inform him that he is also of Kree descent and, by declaring war on the Earth, he declares war on himself. Back in his cell, Namor beats him up a little more before Mr. Fantastic shows him images, courtesy of Charles Xavier, of the deceased Kree, Mar-Vell. He explains that Mar-Vell saw past human failings and became the planet's protector. Noh-Varr thought he was a traitor to his race, but Richards provides a convincing argument in his defense. Back in his cell, Noh-Varr then finds himself sitting in Tony Stark's office. Stark explains that he could be a hero to the people of Earth if he learned to play nice. He shows him a couple of choices. He could be an Avenger, leading them gloriously into battle, or he could waste away in his cell, thinking about immature he has been. They await his decision.
Doctor Strange sits alone in contemplation. The room is stark and lacking any kind of warmth. Reed Richards appears and asks if everything is okay. Strange replies that Clea has left him. Reed can't exactly remember who Clea is, but Strange reminds him that he's met her... thirty-two times. She has white hair. Reed vaguely recollects her and asks if they were serious. Strange replies that Clea was his protégé. She left to rule the Dark Dimension. Reed is unfamiliar with the place. Strange puts his hand to his forehead and informs him that it's exactly what it sounds like. She decided it would be a better use of her time to battle demons, goblins, firelords and the antichrist, than actually be married to him. The others arrive and Reed tells them that Clea has left. Iron Man replies that he is sorry to hear that, as she was very attractive. As he speaks, he realizes that it's not what Strange wants to hear.
Strange asks if there is any amount of yourself you can give that is sufficient for a woman. Reed replies no. Charles adds that he has not found it. "And you've dated outside your species," replies the doctor. Charles asks how he knows that. He informs him that it's on the internet. Charles is surprised that Stephen is online, and also that this information appears to be. Charles mentions that Strange can leave his body and go to the Astral Plane. Why does he need to go online? Strange says he can't get the hockey scores in the Astral Plane. Tony Stark says the married guys have it made. Do they know how much times he devotes chasing what they have readily available at any moment of the day?Black Bolt puts two fingers to his mouth and pulls the trigger. Charles tells them that he is laughing at Stark in his mind. He jokes that Medusa won't let him get a word in edge ways. Stark comments that Sue is great. Reed replies that she's a great mother and a great wife. However, when they met he had his work. She liked that about him. Now, if he's not exactly where she wants him because he's in the middle of something, she just leaves. Stark asks where she goes. "Oh, I know where she goes," replies Reed.
Prince Namor looks at him and ponders his response. He tells Reed that the reason his wife leaves him is because he keeps her in a cage. Reed refutes that, but Namor calls him an idiot. He tells Reed that Sue loves him completely. But, he met her, dated her for a short time and then accidentally gave her powers that forced her into his tower. That tower is a cage, he continues, created for her by him. She hasn't come to terms with it. However, she still loves him and isn't going to leave her. He’s tried to get her to do that. He warns Reed that he must dedicate a part of every day to his wife and children... every day. Reed wishes to get back to what they were talking about earlier, but Charles asks why the meeting was called. Before the answer comes, Stark slips in the fact that he once slept with Madame Masque. She has a metal face and kind of looks like Doctor Doom. Namor asks why he would sleep with a woman who looks like Doctor Doom. "Okay..." replies Stark, "moving on."
A holographic image appears above the table between them. It's Marvel Boy - Noh-Varr. Tony Stark explains that this young alien man from the Kree Empire has come to Earth and declared war on mankind. He's the real deal, he adds. Noh-Varr has enhanced reflexes, strength, speed and stamina, knowledge of advanced Kree technology and weaponry, and he's in prison right now. Namor asks if there's fear of escape. Always, replies Stark. And they have every reason to believe that he will act upon his promise, or his imprisonment will anger the Kree army and start a whole thing with them. Namor wants to beat the #$%@ out of him. Stark says that it's an idea, but there's another. Considering the delicate balance of things, how about 'convincing' him to change his mind. He looks at Charles, who understands exactly what he's implying.
Charles replies that it's not what he does. If he just reached into people's minds and changed them, mutants would be the dominant social and political force on the planet. If he did, his students would not be hunted and despised by society for the crime of being different. Mutant would be the norm. "Well, then maybe you should," says Stark. Charles tells him that he thinks like a programmer. The mind is not a computer. You can't just turn it on and off and type in and tell it exactly what you want to do. Reed asks why not. Charles informs them that it's because it is an organism. It is designed to produce free will. It remembers what it is and how it got there.
He could suggest a small thing such as someone not seeing him as he walks by but, eventually, over time, the mind would find a way to work against that which it knew to be false. If it couldn't, the mind might find a way to do something to hurt someone, or others. Besides, there's a moral line that is being crossed that they would not come back from. Strange reckons they should just talk to Noh-Varr and convince him otherwise. Namor wants to talk to him in a language he understands.
(later, the Cube Maximum Security Penitentiary)Noh-Varr is alone in his cell. Prince Namor arrives and orders him to stand. "Dude, put on some pants," he retorts. Before he can even ask Namor what he wants, the Sub-Mariner smashes his face into the cell's floor. He introduces himself, informing the alien that by declaring war on the planet, three quarters of which is made up of oceans, he has declared war on him.Noh-Varr takes a swing and tells him to get the #$%$ off! "Good boy," replies Namor with a grin. He attacks Noh-Varr but misses on his initial strike. He connects with the follow-up; a fierce left-handed punch which leaves Noh-Varr struggling on the ground. Namor tells him to get up and look around him. As he stands, he realizes that everything has changed, courtesy of Charles Xavier's mental imagery. He finds himself in the Inhuman city of Attilan. Inhumans walk and fly between grand spires and futuristic structures.
Charles and Black Bolt now appear before him. Charles welcomes Noh-Varr to the Inhuman's home. Charles explains that he thought he would like to see where his ancestors envisioned what the Earth should and could be. He adds that maybe Noh-Varr didn't know that long, rich history between his people and theirs. Maybe he just needed to see it for himself. However, the Kree and this planet have a long legacy - a connection that goes back thousands of years. Noh-Varr knows that the images aren't real, and feels a little disoriented.Charles continues to point out that the lesson is that they have a capacity for creation; a desire to protect, not destroy. Noh-Varr's threat to their world comes in direct conflict with those who came before him. Noh-Varr asks who they are. Projecting his voice through Charles' mind, Black Bolt informs him that he is the king of the Inhumans. He is of Kree descent and the Earth is his home. When Noh-Varr declared war on the Earth, he declared war on himself. Noh-Varr tries to take all of this in. "What he is telling you," adds Namor, raising his arm ready to punch, "is that you are an immature brat."
Back in his cell, Noh-Varr crashes against the cell wall, breaking his bed as he lands. Namor asks if he understands yet. Noh-Varr attempts to fight back, but Namor is much too skilled to be taken easily. He thrusts him against the wall and tells him that he is the direct descendent of those who wish to protect this world - not invade it. This world isn't his to conquer. He smashes his face against the wall again and leaves him to pick himself up off the floor.Reed Richards appears beside him, and he tells Noh-Varr that there is something he could do. He could serve and protect the planet. He could represent his people... their nobility and culture. He apologizes for Namor's actions, but he is who he is. As they are now atop a skyscraper, Noh-Varr knows that Charles is still inside his head. "Who are, you people?" he asks. Reed replies that, for lack of a better word, they're his second chance. They wanted to show him this. They look out over a panoramic cityscape. Reed informs him that this is a nice memory for him. It’s been along time. "Your memory?" enquires Noh-Varr. Reed tells him that Xavier is helping him share a memory.
In the distance, a figure appears flying towards them. As he moves closer, Reed Richards announces that he is Mar-Vell; Captain Marvel. He was a Kree just like Noh-Varr. He was a champion for their people and his. Noh-Varr knows the name. He says Mar-Vell was a traitor to his own kind during their war with the Skrulls. Reed replies that he is a great part of the reason their planet survived that war. It could be argued, he adds, that he single-handedly saved the human and Kree races at the same time. Noh-Varr knows that Mar-Vell is dead, and asks why he is showing him this. "Because," replies Reed, "the people of this planet are fools."
Reed explains that the people of this planet haven't evolved to where they understand their place in the universe. They destroy everything in their path and have little care for their personal health or what they do to the planet. They barbarically fight to the death over inconsequential politics and turn untold numbers of potential artists and scientists into soldiers, all in the name of unwinnable wars. Mar-Vell simply saw a world in need of protection... not because of who we are, but who we might become if given the chance to grow. Mar-Vell could see this, and they couldn't even pronounce his name right.After listening to Reed's impassioned monologue, Noh-Varr says that this is all the more reason to conquer their useless people. Put them to work for the betterment of the Kree Empire. Reed says that clearly, this won't happen. The image fades and they find themselves back in the cell. Reed asks if he wants to live the rest of his life like this, wondering what happened. He could be applying his amazing talents to something that genuinely effects change. He's seen Noh-Varr in action and witnessed his power. Noh-Varr asks if this is where the pointy-eared naked man starts punching him again. "Actually..." replies Reed.
Noh-Varr finds himself in Tony Stark's office, facing Iron Man. "I was hoping you and I could have a word." Noh-Varr asks how many of them there are. Iron Man replies that there are more than he can handle. Noh-Varr asks who he is. Iron Man replies that he is the Ghost of Christmas Future. He knows what it feels like to have more power than most people on the planet can possibly understand. He knows how it is to be able to see what the world should be or could be versus what it actually is. He understands how it is to feel contempt for those who refuse to see even a glimmer of their own potential, and doubly to be stuck with a race of people so far behind the one you were born into.
He stands and continues to say that when Noh-Varr first pulled his antics on Earth, they weren’t around to stop him. Now they are. However, the news is that, for all his immature crap, they are actually pleased to see him. Everyone would be, providing he learns to play nice. If he does what he should, instead of what he wants, he can live peacefully on Earth and be a hero to its people. So, the question is... does he want to live like this?Images flood Noh-Varr's mind of himself, dressed in Mar-Vell's uniform, charging into action with the Avengers. "Or this?" The image changes to Noh-Varr sitting alone in a darkened cell. The Illuminati appear before him as a unit. Charles tells him that he put himself in this cell, so he can figure a way to break out. "You want me to break out of here?" asks Noh-Varr. Strange replies that he wants him to earn his way out. He asks how. Iron Man reminds him he is of superior Kree intellect. He can figure it out. Left alone in his cell, Noh-Varr thinks about Captain Marvel and everything the Illuminati have said to him.
Back home, Reed Richards visits his sleeping son, Franklin. Sue pops her head round the door and says he's gorgeous. Reed says they make good-looking kids. Sue didn't even know he was in the building. Reed asks her to make a choice, and make it right now. He asks if tomorrow, would she like to go on a date, just the two of them? Or, would she like to take the kids on a picnic and have a family day? Or both? A broad smile crosses Sue's face, and Reed knows that he's learned something from Namor.Elsewhere, Tony Stark relaxes out of costume, looking at his reflection in his helmet. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange meditates at his Sanctum. At the Cube, Noh-Varr thinks about the possibilities that have opened up before him. "Captain Marvel," he whispers.
Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Sub-Mariner, Professor Charles Xavier (all Illuminati)
Invisible WomanFranklin RichardsCube guard
(as a holographic image)Noh-VarrBannermen
(images created by Xavier)Inhumans including Gorgon
Hawkeye, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Wasp, Yellowjacket (all Avengers)
This is the fourth part of a five-issue series.
On the cover are the Invisible Woman, Clea, Medusa, Lilandra Neremani and Madame Masque - the partners at some time or another of the Illuminati.
Clea took over as leader of the Dark Dimension after she defeated her mother, Umar.