|Heroes for Hire & Quicksilver Annual 1998|| || |
Issue Date: 1998
Story Title: The Final Conflict (Siege of Wundagore Part 5)
Staff: John Ostrander (writer), Paschalis Ferry (penciler), Jaime Mendoza w/Candelario, Floyd & Ferry (inkers), Jon Babcock (letterer), Rosas, Kraiger & Rockwitz (colorists), Mark Bernado (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief), special thanks to Quicksilver co-writer Joe Edkin!
Lord Delphis arrives back on Earth, only to be attacked by Sir Ram, as his craft is not recognized by the High Evolutionary. Quicksilver rescues Delphis from the wreckage and asks Bova to fill him in on the events during his time on Arkon’s homeworld, Polemachus, including the deaths of his colleagues. Thena tries to take on the rampaging Evolutionary, now several times his normal size, as Quicksilver attempts to change the Heroes for Hire back to normal. He succeeds for the moment. The Knights of Wundagore fight the heroes and Quicksilver manages to recruit some reluctant Acolytes to help them out against the Knights and their creator. White Tiger, meanwhile, stalks the Man-Beast. Lord Delphis realizes that his priority is getting the High Evolutionary under control after listening to Bova. The Acolytes, Thena and Quicksilver struggle against the Evolutionary and Decay, trying to siphon too much energy from the Evolutionary explodes, killing him instantly. The Man-Beast suggests that he, Thena and Exodus might be a match for the giant and Thena considers his proposal, wondering if a unified mind might be able to stop him. The Evolutionary uses the ground to attack the heroes and Acolytes, using vines to entwine them. The Black Knight frees Quicksilver, who is grateful and the two come to a mutual agreement that their past shouldn’t stop them from acknowledging the other’s abilities. Pietro heads off to talk to the Evolutionary. Bova, however, stops him and persuades him to hand over Isotope E to Lord Delphis, who immediately studies it. As Pietro persuades the High Evolutionary that his rampage is going nowhere, the Evolutionary is struck down by the three unified minds of Exodus, the Man-Beast and Thena. They manage to return him to his normal size and Quicksilver orders them to cease their attack. White Tiger, during the joining of minds is prevented physically from attacking the Man-Beast by Iron Fist. Once the High Evolutionary is down, Exodus tries to step in and take over but the Black Knight attacks him, revealing him to be the one who stopped him centuries earlier. He is victorious again. The Man-Beast battles White Tiger, as Lord Delphis manages to persuade the High Evolutionary to give up his godhood. He uses Isotope E on himself and becomes human once again. He then devolves the Man-Beast into his wolf form with no memories of his time as the Man-Beast. He then makes the Heroes for Hire stable permanently and then asks White Tiger what she wants. She tells him she can’t cope with human emotions and asks for the same treatment as the Man-Beast. He devolves her back into a normal white tiger. Iron Fist asks him what all this has achieved. He tells him that the future has been saved from Exodus and the Man-Beast and, indeed, from himself.
A rift opens in time and space as a portion of another universe erupts into this one. Through it comes a ship, black in color and almost insect-like in design, carrying Lord Delphis, long-absent member of the Knights of Wundagore. He stands at the controls, piloting the ship back home, thinking that it was good of Lord Arkon to lend him it as a way of saying thanks for his aid. The messages he has received though are confusing. The High Evolutionary bid him to come home, saying that the time to supplant the usurper, Exodus, from Wundagore, yet the one from Quicksilver indicates that he has gone mad. As he comes in to land next to Wundagore’s golden citadel, he looks down to see the taller than usual High Evolutionary and his fellow Knights, the Heroes for Hire (some devolved), Quicksilver and several Acolytes in the midst of battle with Exodus laying on the floor, seemingly unconscious.
The lights from the ship pierce the evening sky and the High Evolutionary, not recognising the Polemachian craft, orders Sir Ram to bring it down, as they will no longer suffer the indignity of being invaded. Even Quicksilver is helpless to react as Sir Ram fires at the ship with a kind of energy lance, which pierces its armor and forces the craft to land in a ball of flame. Quicksilver, holding the scepter which houses Isotope E, quickly rushes into the debris and collects Lord Delphis, just before the entire ship explodes.
He delivers the startled Delphis to Bova, asking her to explain the situation to him. The High Evolutionary is preparing another attack and he tells Delphis that the outcome may yet depend on him. Bova takes her time and explains the events that have transpired since Delphis went to Polemachus.
She tells him that it is a confusing tale. The High Evolutionary is sliding up and down the evolutionary scale, due to his experiments. The White Tiger, who is actually one of them, has spent these past months with the Heroes for Hire and was created specifically to track and kill their renegade brother, the Man-Beast. She was called back by their lord to help reclaim Wundagore Mountain from Exodus and brought her friends, the Heroes for Hire, with her. However, there was a flare up and the Evolutionary devolved some of them into subhumans. In his rational moments, their lord hopes to use Isotope E to stabilize himself and the humans, but these moments are fewer and fewer. The humans defeated Exodus when their lord, madder and more powerful than ever, rose to attack them all. Bova is clearly upset about these events.
The High Evolutionary, meanwhile, looms down on Thena, asking how she dare pit herself against him. He looks seriously deranged. She replies that she is Thena of the Eternals. She has faced Celestials and survived and he is nothing compared to them and will fall before her psionic blasts before she will allow him to harm her comrades. She-Hulk and Quicksilver stand back to back. She tells him that most of her team has devolved again and the Knights are stronger than ever. “Any ideas?” she asks. He replies that he only has one; he hopes to restore them to themselves.
She tells him it’s a nice gag if he can pull it off and asks if he has any ideas how to do it. Quicksilver holds the scepter in front of him and says that he’ll do it the same way he enhanced his own power through the use of Isotope E. Aiming it at the three devolved heroes, he fires and they scream in agony as the energies are absorbed into their bodies. She-Hulk watches in horror and asks him to stop; “Can’t you see you’re killing them?” When he stops, a smile appears on her face as Luke says that he ain’t dead yet. They are back to their normal human state and Iron Fist thanks Pietro as now they stand a chance in their own defense.
Their relief is short-lived, though, as Lord Tyger hovers overhead on his atomic steed and fires at the with an energy lance, telling them that his lord commands them to die. Luke scowls and replies that his lord needs a good butt-whupping. Meanwhile, Thena falls from a blast and informs Quicksilver that she is no match for the High Evolutionary; it’s like going up against the Uni-Mind. They need help. Quicksilver thinks that he must strike against the one who was more a father to him than his own father. He calls the Acolytes to attention, telling them to prepare to follow him into battle.
Scanner angrily says that they will not. Pietro is aghast at her statement. He tells them that he is the heir to Magneto. He fought and defeated Exodus to claim his mantle and they are sworn to serve him. Cortez tells him that this battle no longer concerns them and they will not fight such battles. Exodus calls them cowards. He says that the High Evolutionary is an abomination and he will strike out to destroy him, no matter who he must ally himself with. Quicksilver tells the Acolytes that Exodus is more noble in defeat than they, asking again if they will come with him. This time, some of them agree and form behind him as he heads to battle.
Bova, meanwhile, continues relaying recent events to the newly arrived Lord Delphis. She has some sad news for him, informing him of the deaths of both Lord Churchill and Lady Ursula. As for Lord Anon, she tells him that the true Lord Anon was another wolf that their lord had evolved, trying again to make right what went wrong with the Man-Beast. He knew that the new Sir Wulf would have to earn their respect and so encased him wholly in armor. It was only when they returned to Wundagore that they discovered that the Man-Beast slew Sir Wulf and took his place. While their master was in a weakened state, the Man-Beast struck him down and stole Isotope E from him. The last Bova saw of him, he was fighting White Tiger to the death, but there was a terrible explosion and she doesn’t know what became of him.
The Man-Beast lives. He kneels down, relishing his survival, offering no thanks to his creator. He sees no sign of White Tiger but hears the sound of conflict. He mutters to himself that he will find Isotope E there and will once again have the means to destroy his ‘father!’ In the shadows, White Tiger stalks him, whispering to herself that his death follows him.
Back above ground in the citadel, the High Evolutionary and the Knights of Wundagore now face Quicksilver, the Heroes for Hire and the Acolytes. The Black Knights calls his winged horse, Strider, but Sir Ram insists that it will do him no good; the High Evolutionary says he must die, and he will obey him. Dane manages to deflect Sir Ram’s attack with his shield of night, which absorbs the energy from his blast, and uses his sword of light to send the energy back at him, telling Sir Ram that he should count himself lucky that he aimed at his atomic steed and not him. Sir Ram crashes to the ground as the atomic steed gives up the ghost. “Heads up!” he shouts as the steed hits the ground and explodes.
Luke looks into a hole in the ground, thinking that Sir Ram had landed pretty hard when, suddenly, Sir Ram appears and thrusts his lance at Luke’s chest, trying to kill him. Cage isn’t that easy to kill however and the lance snaps against his steel hard skin. He brings both fists down on Sir Ram as he leaps over him and Dane shouts that he’s sending another one his way. The identity of his second victim is lost in a ball of fire as a second atomic steed bites the dust.
Watching the action, Bova asks Lord Delphis whose side he is on now. He replies that he fights for his creator, for he owes him his very existence, but loyalty is not the same as blind obedience. He was imbued also with the power of reason and, if his lord was in his right mind, he would want him to stabilize his condition, and so he shall. He tells Bova that he will fight to make things right, true to his code, but first he must have Isotope E. The High Evolutionary is on a blind rampage and everyone, apart from the Knights, is trying to slow him down. Thena notices that Exodus’s power has as little effect as hers on the Evolutionary. Decay, meanwhile, places his hands on the Evolutionary’s lower leg, attempting to siphon his power. He presumes that he will grow strong, while his enemy dies. He is wrong. The power is too great and the build up of energy overloads his systems and Decay explodes; instant death.
The others see it happen and Luke says, “Whoa! Scratch one Acolyte,” as he smashes Sir Ram in the mouth. Senyaka takes on Lord Tyger, as She-Hulk grapples with Lord Gator, trying to choke him into submission. The High Evolutionary is too strong for all of them and he swats away Thena, as if she were nothing. He then manages to use the Earth itself as his weapon, binding the Acolytes and heroes in vines. Thena manages to free herself quickly and kneels down to recover alongside Exodus, who has exhausted himself with his ineffective psionic attacks.
Suddenly, the Man-Beast is standing behind Thena and suggests to them both that they’ll never beat the High Evolutionary this way, but their three minds together might be another story. Together they might be able to topple a god. Thena replies that she is acquainted with the concept of a unified mind, but their minds? Exodus tells him that there is a taint on him that he does not care to touch. “I love you too,” says the Man-Beast, but tells them that he means them no harm. It is the High Evolutionary that he wants brought down; besides, what choice have they? He will kill them otherwise, and indeed is killing some of them now.
The vines try and grab the Black Knight but he fends them away with his shield and slices the ones holding Quicksilver. Pietro offers his thanks, though he admits he is surprised given their history. He thought he would leave him to his fate. Dane continues slashing away at the vines, which now close around him, telling Pietro that, though they have both loved the same woman, he has never considered him an enemy. He values his courage and his ability, and only he can do what must be done. Quicksilver says he will now return the favor and free him but Dane replies that he should forget him and get to the Evolutionary instead. He is the only one with a prayer of reaching him, making him see the light and stopping this useless battle. Pietro honestly tells him that he has misjudged him. He is a man of honor and perhaps his love for Crystal indeed equals his own. As he powers himself away, he swears he will not fail his trust.
While Pietro heads for the High Evolutionary, Thena rips the vines off Iron Fist, insisting he listen to her. She says she will have both he and Senyaka free in a moment but she and Exodus are going to try to convince the Man-Beast to try a joint psi-attack. She asks him to keep the Knights and anyone else off their backs, as disruption could be fatal.
Quicksilver’s journey is halted in dramatic fashion by Bova, who stands with her arms open, shouting for him to stop. She says that Lord Delphis may be able to stabilize the High Evolutionary and the Heroes for Hire. He knows their lord’s mind and can complete the process in the lab, but he must have Isotope E. Pietro screeches to a halt beside her, the ground beneath him churned and cauterized beneath his super fast feet. He says that Isotope E is his. It has given him greater power; power to match his father’s. It makes him supreme and he will not give it up. Bova looks at him, dismayed, asking him to listen to himself. She says that it makes him too much like his father by half. All his life he has fought to escape becoming like Magneto. “Will you give in now?” Pietro frowns but considers what she says and reluctantly hands over the scepter holding the Isotope. She departs for the lab with Lord Delphis as Pietro sits there like a scolded puppy. Immediately, he also departs with a great turn of speed.
The Acolytes who hadn’t joined Quicksilver earlier discuss where all this is going. Amelia feels that maybe they should have helped the other Acolytes and Joanna Cargill says that it doesn’t feel right; their lord Exodus is back there. Cortez says that they’ve made their decision and should split but Amelia tells them that she’s going to linger, as she wants to see how this turns out. Meanwhile, the battle-worn Exodus, the Man-Beast and Thena sit cross-legged, facing each other, linked together by Thena, who tells them that she has formed the Uni-mind with the Eternals and, therefore, must have the most experience with this. She tells them to follow her lead. She doesn’t like going into their minds any more than they like her there, so she says there’ll be no games. She achieves contact with their minds.
Iron Fist, having been freed by Thena from the vines, finds White Tiger and thanks heaven she is alive. He wonders to whom she is talking but quickly realizes that it is the Man-Beast. She watches the trio from above, working herself up into attack mode, and Danny knows that she was created specifically to kill him. He also knows that if she attacks when he, Thena and Exodus are in union, it could kill them all. He has to make a decision and shouts her name.
The giant-sized High Evolutionary, meanwhile, is still on a rampagem as Quicksilver tries to talk some sense into him, moving rapidly around him to avoid being caught. He reminds the Evolutionary that he has been like a father to him but he cannot purge and remake his world. At his corem he is a good man. The Evolutionary replies that it is not a good world. It is flawed and imperfect and every day comes closer to ruin, soon to be past its ability to heal itself. He adds that mankind are only apes with delusions of grandeur. “Let them be swept away!” Quicksilver asks, “Are you not also imperfect? What world will you make?” He tells him that he is not god; he didn’t make this world, so by what right would he destroy it? He is flawed and so is his judgement, and any creation he makes will also be floored. Perfection is not possible.
The High Evolutionary calms down for a second, finding truth in Pietro’s words and ponders what he has said. Suddenly, however, he is struck down by a psionic attack from the unified minds and doubles over, calling Quicksilver a traitor for delaying him whilst his confederates strike at him. As Quicksilver leaps away, he insists he knew nothing of this plan, but the truth is still the truth. Gazing into a sphere of energy, the Man-Beast chuckles, as the first blow hits home. Behind him, White Tiger freezes, as Iron Fist commands her to stop. He stands between the Man-Beast and White Tiger, holding his hand up and tells her that, if she strikes now and Thena is hurt, all may be lost. White Tiger, towering over Iron Fist by now, replies that she was created for killing him and this goes against all her instincts. She pleads with Danny, “Please! I cannot fight you! I am loving you!” Danny replies that he cares about her too, a great deal, as a friend, but if she goes to kill the Man-Beast right now he will stop her.
His words have little effect, as her instincts take over and she charges him. He vaults over her, somersaulting into a handstand, realizing that he cannot use the iron fist on her in this state, as it might kill her; but he can’t let her through either. As White Tiger turns and begs Danny not to make her kill him, he springs back from his handstand and kicks her in the face, sending her to the floor.
The Acolytes who followed Quicksilver are still in combat with the remaining Knights of Wundagore and, as two of the Knights fly overhead on their atomic steeds, Senyaka tells Ant-Man that, if they don’t bring them down, they will slaughter them from the air. He asks if he will aid him. Ant-Man, meanwhile, is reverting to subhuman. He grows in size and becomes ape-like but, with the last vestiges of coherent thought, he thinks about how he might never be able to trust himself around Cassie his daughter for fear of what he may do. He is then lost to his primeval rage and, as Lord Gator swoops towards him, he lashes out, smashing the atomic steed and toppling Lord Gator.
The High Evolutionary, suffering from the combined mental assault, begins to shrink before Quicksilver’s eyes. He screams in pain and, as he shrinks ever further, begs Pietro to help him. Pietro calls to the trio to let him go, as he has reverted to being human again, and they release him from their grip. Exodus then approaches. He says that the High Evolutionary has lost his power, Quicksilver has expended the power he used to defeat him and Thena is now incapacitated. He, however, still has his power and he will achieve his original goal; the death of the abomination that calls itself the High Evolutionary.
A voice from behind him says that he won’t. Exodus turns to see the Black Knight, now also free of the vines. Exodus tells him that he must stand out of his way. He has suffered much over the years from those who have taken his name and crest, including one he once thought his friend. Dane replies, “I know. It was me. It was always me. Glance into my mind, you’ll find the truth. I was lost in space and time, merged with my own ancestor, and put you in that cave where you lay for centuries.” Exodus takes a quick scan and realizes Dane is telling the truth and immediately flies into a rage, attacking him. Dane defends himself with his shield and warns him that he is now a match for him.
Nearby, the Man-Beast stirs. There are so many enemies so near at hand, he has trouble deciding who to strike at first. He decides, all of them. With a psionic burst, the mental equivalent of a fragmentation bomb, they all fall around him, including Quicksilver. He grins and thinks to himself, ‘I win!’ Unfortunately, he hasn’t counted on White Tiger’s inbuilt defenses against his mental power and she stands tall behind him, ready to pounce. Elsewhere, Ant-Man begins pounding away on Lord Gator, the Black Knight shows his pedigree to Exodus and more than matches him while the Man-Beast and White Tiger begin a duel to the death. All three fights are brutal, but Ant-Man and Lord Gator’s is quickly broken up by Luke and Jennifer, who pull their colleague off Lord Gator, telling him that he’ll kill him and he’s no killer. “Once you kill, there’s no coming back.”
The sanest minds around belong to Lord Delphis and Bova. Delphis has Isotope E and he informs his creator that he has refined it in order that he can stabilize himself. However, he warns it is extremely volatile and will break down quickly. He asks the Evolutionary what he wants to do. Head bowed, the Evolutionary realizes that, if he stabilizes himself now, he will be a mortal man again; no longer having the god-like powers to shape a world. He will still have his knowledge and ability, but he will still only be human, as first he was. He looks tired and weak as he tells Delphis that giving up godhood is a terrible price to pay, even if it means that he will no longer regress into subhumanity. With that, he takes the scepter holding Isotope E from Delphis and holds it in front of him. “So be it. Good Bova, Brother Delphis, stand away. I would not have this change you.” He allows Isotope E to flow through his body, altering his body fundamentally, turning him human once more.
As he does so, the Black Knight appears holding Exodus aloft, unconscious. He has won his battle. He knows the fight is ended and asks if there is a final end to him, short of death. He then adds that it doesn’t matter; he is not his executioner, as he would be no man’s executioner, but he will see him sealed away in his tomb once again. The Man-Beast, meanwhile, readies himself for another round with White Tiger, asking if she is ready for the moment of truth, “Or have you become too human to kill?” The High Evolutionary answers for her, telling the Man-Beast that it is a question no longer for her to decide. He takes it himself.
He aims the scepter at him and tells him that it is the Isotope E for which he has lusted, asking if he still wants it. “Then receive your portion,” he adds as the Man-Beast raises himself and lifts his sword above his head, ready to strike. Before he can, however, a blinding flash of green energy transforms him back into his original wolf form. The High Evolutionary says that Wolf he was and a wolf he is, remembering nothing of what he was. The wolf scampers away into the distance as the Evolutionary says that he will make right what he did wrongfully.
He turns to the Knights and tells them that he added to their powers and twisted them. He now makes them as they were; still his Knights and hopefully still his brothers. He then tells the Heroes for Hire that he meddled with their DNA, made them less than human, but they were still heroes and he changes them to how they were, ridding them of the fear of reversion. Everyone watches these climactic moments. Bova tells Thena that, although she has been hurt, she will survive. The Acolytes have seen their leader fall and ask Quicksilver what will become of them. What is his wish? He replies that they should leave him alone. He tells them that their problem is that they are always looking for a leader, someone to follow without question, without thought. He will not be his father. He says that the same goes for the Knights, save for Delphis and Bova. They followed blindly when they would have better served by questioning. As he departs, he tells them to lead themselves but do not look to him.
The High Evolutionary then turns his attentions to White Tiger. He tells her that she has served him faithfully and received so little at his hands. He asks if there is anything he can do for her. Almost back in her human form by now, White Tiger replies, “As you have done for my foe, lord, do so by me. Remembering your promise, make me again as you are finding me.” She kneels before him but he says that he doesn’t understand. He thought she had found companions; a home. He was willing to make her fully human if she so wished.
White Tiger looks up to him, tears streaming down her cheeks. She is clearly very emotional, and tells him that these feelings the human have, the pains, the sorrows, the terrible longings; these she cannot master and never will. She adds that she can never have what she longs for and she will lose all sense of self, of what she is. She tells him that if he loves her then he will release her. The High Evolutionary holds the scepter over her and says, “As you wish,” and, like the Man-Beast, she is reverted to her former self, a powerful white tiger with no memories of these events.
Danny asks what will become of her now. The Evolutionary says that he will see to it that she is returned to the forest from which he took her; he owes her that; he owes all of them, much. Danny says that it doesn’t feel like a victory somehow, asking if all this actually achieved anything. Leaving the spent scepter behind, the Evolutionary says that it feels hollow because a great price has been paid but indeed, something was achieved. He asks what the future would be like if Exodus, or the Man-Beast, or indeed he, in his madness had prevailed. They saved the future, for one more day.
The High Evolutionary
Bova, Lord Delphis, Lord Gator, Lord Tyger, Sir Ram (all Knights of Wundagore)
Ant-Man, Black Knight, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, She-Hulk, Thena, White Tiger (all Heroes for Hire)
Joanna Cargill, Fabian Cortez, Decay (dies), Exodus, Gargouille, Javitz, Milan, Scanner, Senyaka, Spoor, Amelia Voght (all Acolytes)
Ant-Man, Black Knight, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, She-Hulk, Thena, White Tiger (all Heroes for Hire)
The Man-Beast (as Lord Anon)
This double-sized issue is the fifth and final part of the Siege of Wundagore crossover. It is continued from Quicksilver #12.
Lord Delphis stayed behind on Polemachus to aid Arkon in Quicksilver #3.
The Uni-Mind was first seen in Eternals (1st series) #12 and was first formed by Zuras to decide whether he or A’lars should become Prime Eternal. The Uni-Mind is the collective energy of the Eternals.
The story behind the Black Knight and Exodus’s shared past is found in the Black Knight/Exodus one-shot.
Lady Vermin, last seen sitting on Sir Ram’s shoulder in Quicksilver #12, does not appear in this issue for some reason.
Issue Summary written by: Fantomex