DCM Vertigo


Return of the Gods

Something Strange This Way Cometh
by Chip Caroon, Bob Young, and Black Condor
with a plot assist by Toby Kernan

"What the hell is going on?" Flash shouted as he came in the front entrance of the Avengers League Hall of Justice.

Captain America was speaking to Jarvis, the butler, in the parlor, just off of the main entryway. He turned his head to see the speedster coming in.

"I beg your pardon?" Cap asked.

"Outside," Flash replied. "The sky is red, and the clouds are grey."

Martian Manhunter had just entered the room, and remained silent as Captain America walked to the door and looked out. "It raining real hard too."

"So I noticed," Flash said. "Been like that for a while. Made it a real pain to help people."

"Help people?" Cap was confused. Why would people have to be helped when only a few meteorological rarities were popping up?

"It's like hell on Earth out there, man . . . "

Cap thought for a moment. "Something is definitely wrong. There's only one person I know that might be able to help us understand what is going on."

"Who's that?" Flash asked.

"Thor, the God of Thunder." Cap turned to Martian Manhunter. "J'Onn, call the League. We have some work to do."

Moments later, most of the Avengers League had been gathered in the war room. Batman and Wonder Woman were absent, having to take care of their own business. But the remaining seven members were present. Captain America stood at the head of the table, with J'Onn standing by his side. Cap told the League what had happened.

"So how exactly do we reach Thor?" Wasp asked, when the League's leader finished.

"Asgard would be the likely place to start," J'Onn replied.

"Oh sure," Hawkeye said. "We'll take the subway!"

"Hawkeye," Cap said. "Something more helpful, please."

"I think I know a way to get there," Flash interjected. "But I'd have to have some sort of frame of reference, regarding where it is."

"I can help you with that," J'Onn said. "I went with Thor to Asgard once. I can't explain it, but I still have the knowledge of how to find it in my head. I can transmit the information into your mind. So you can find it without me."

"Go for it, J.J." Flash said.

The Manhunter telepathically placed the information about how to find Asgard into the Flash's brain.

"Wow!" Flash exclaimed. "It's in there! It's weird and surreal, but it's in there. I can find it!"

"You said you knew a way to get to Asgard," Captain America said.

"Yeah," Flash replied. "Step this way and let me show you something cool."

In a supply room in the bowels of the Hall of Justice, Flash led his partners toward an object covered with a blanket. He yanked the blanket off, and all saw a very complex treadmill underneath.

"Cute," Hawkeye said. "But ain't this a strange time to start exercising?"

"It's not for exercise," Captain America commented. "I remember this thing. This is the Cosmic Treadmill!"

Hawkeye chuckled at the name. "Cosmic Treadmill? Gimme a break!"

"Hawkeye, cut it out!" Cap ordered.

"What is it?" Iron Man asked.

"It was built in World War Two by Jay Garrick and Doc Savage," Flash said. "Jay gave it to Barry when he retired and Barry revamped it. I inherited it when Barry passed away."

Iron Man examined the construction. "What's it do?"

"It utilizes the speed force as a means of breaking down dimensional barriers. By running on the treadmill, I build up enough speed force energy and the devices built inside the innards of the treadmill cause a dimensional rift to open. Everything within ten feet of the treadmill is sucked into the open vortex and transported to . . . wherever we're going. In this case, that would be Asgard. Anyway, that's it in a nutshell. So I'd better get going. Wish me luck."

"Wait," Cap ordered. "I'm going with you. Thor doesn't know you. I've known him since 1942. You'll need me."

"It's dangerous for anyone who doesn't have speed powers," Flash warned.

"I know," Cap replied. "I've ridden on this thing before . . . with Jay. I can handle it."

"All right," Flash said. "If you're sure. Let's get going. Everybody else, stand back, or you'll find yourselves coming with us."

"Good luck," J'Onn said.

"And be careful," Wasp added.

Captain America hung onto the side of the treadmill as Flash began running. Flash pushed himself and picked up enough speed to create an excess of speed force energy. Invisible to everyone but the speedster, a dimensional vortex opened. Flash looked through it. He saw a myriad of possibilities . . . Dozens of dimensions: Olympus, the Shadow Realm, Qward . . . and Asgard. By focusing his attention on Asgard, and by vibrating at a certain frequency as he ran, he directed himself and his passenger to the godly realm of Asgard. Cap hung on, feeling as if he were about to be torn off the side of the treadmill and lost forever between universes.

When Captain America recovered his senses, he looked around. He was on the ground. A ground that looked like a rainbow. A rainbow stretching through space and leading to a golden, majestic city. The mortals had no idea that this rainbow bridge had been destroyed years ago in a war of the Gods, but rebuit even more glorious than before.


Flash climbed off the treadmill. "If the memories J'Onn put into my head are right, this is the rainbow bridge. And that city there, is Asgard, which would be Thor's home."

"Then let's not waste time, Flash. Let's find him!"

Flash and Captain America walked along the rainbow bridge, heading to the city. Before they got to the end of the bridge they reached their first obstacle.

Silverfall, an immortal from the Mars. He was the first sentient being on that planet. The only Silver Martian. A martian god!

He first met Thor in World War Two, during a strange event which became known as the Mars War. Thor saved his life then. Silverfall vowed to one day repay the favor.

When Heimdall, guarian of the Rainbow bridge was slain in the Godwar, Thor sought out Silverfall. Since Silverfall had the ability to see the entire universe via his "4th Sight," Thor felt that he would be the perfect one to replace the noble Heimdall.

Since Silverfall had been wandering the barren Mars, bored and with no purpose, he agreed to take Heimdall's place. Now, he was Asgard's first line of defense.

"Stand fast, mortals! You may not enter the eternal realm. So speaks Silverfall, guardian of Bifrost!"

"I beg your pardon, good sir," Cap said, "But we wish to speak to your prince, Thor."

"The prince of Asgard is not at the beck-and-call of mere mortals, and I know that he has not summoned you, else he would have told me to expect your arrival. Also, it it the will of Lord Odin that no mortal enter the eternal realm. And so, you may not enter."

"Our world is in danger," Cap pleaded. "We need Thor's help."

"You have my sympathy, mortal, but this changes nothing. You shall not enter."

Suddenly, Flash blinked out of sight. Cap knew that Flash had streaked away at top speed, but he hoped that Silverfaall wold not realize this. He hoped in vain. Silverfall scanned Asgard with his "4th sight." The universe was always in his sights. He spotted Flash, even at his incredible speed.

He saw the Flash racing around Asgard, probably looking for Thor. True, Thor could handle himself, but it was the duty of the guardian of Bifrost to warn the realm of intruders, and so he did. Silverfall raised the horn that once belonged to Heimdall and blew the warning cry that woud alert the Gods of the realm.

"Oh great!" Cap muttered, frustrated.

Silverfall drew his sword and stalked Cap. "You have proven yourselves hostile, mortal! Thus, it is the sworn duty of Silverfall to see that you cause no further harm. If I must kill you, I will!"

Cap backed away, knowing that he was no match for a God. And without Flash, he had no means to return to Earth. He'd have to defend himself against this far superior opponent. His chances weren't good.

Flash whizzed across Asgard at top speed. He had heard the horn and saw how the Gods of Asgard were responding to the alert with great speed, efficiency and experience. They were armed and prepared to kill any invader. Flash knew that he was the invader they were looking for. He hoped that he could find Thor before anyone knew he was there.

His hopes were dashed when a mighty hand struck him in the face. The impact would have been fatal if the blow had connected fully. Fortunately for Flash, it was just a grazing blow. Still, it was powerful and the Flash crashed to the ground, stunned. He looked up, dazed and confused, to see a God in shining armor standing over him.

"Thou hast dared much by entering the great land of Asgard, fleet mortal," the armored god said. "But now is thy moment of reckoning. And tis Hermod, god of swiftness, who shalt may thee pay!"

Hermod drew his sword with super speed. Flash was still too dizzy to evade the blow. This is it! he thought.

"Hold!" a commanding voice suddenly shouted. "Sheath thy sword."

Flash saw a figure who he'd seen many pictures of before. A mighty, muscular man with long blonde hair, a winged helmet and a hammer. Flash knew who this was.

"Thor!" he exclaimed.

"Aye," the Asgardian prince replied. "'Tis true. I am Thor, God of Thunder! And any who doth invade Asgard must answer to me! Yet, neither will Thor stand by whilst a God doth slay a mere mortal without just cause. Explain thyself, mortal one!"

"I'm very sorry for the intrusion, uh . . . Your highness," Flash quickly explained. "But we need your help. I'm with the Avengers League."

"Ah!" Thor said, smiling, "The fine fellowship that Thor didst help found doth still exist, does it? Excellent! And in a time of crisis, the mortals whom I once called friends seek help from their old comrade, eh?"

"Right," Flash answered. "It was J'Onn's, uh, Martian Manhunter's idea."

"The Martian Manhunter. He was a noble comrade. If he doth need Thor's assistance, Thor shall come. Who art thou, mortal?"

"I call myself Flash."

"Named in tribute of the valiant hero who didst fight beside Thor in what mortals didst call the second world war."

"He was the first of several Flashes."

"'Tis good that he is honored."

"I'm here with Captain America," Flash added.

Thor's face darkened. "Have a care, mortal. Play no games with the God of Thunder. The noble hero called Captain America didst fall in battle long ago. If thou art playing Thor for a fool . . . "

"No, I swear!" Flash said. "He's on the rainbow bridge. Come and see!"

Captain America was getting tired evading Silverfall's attack. Cap managed to get a few shots in but they did little harm to the alien God. Thor arrived at Bifrost with Flash. At first, he believed that he would find an imposter dressed in the costume of the legendary Captain America. But after only a few moments watching the grace, skill and courage of the red, white and blue garbed mortal, Thor knew that this was no imposter. Captain America lived!

"Stay thy hand, good Silverfall!" Thor commanded.

Silverfall stopped. "My prince. These mortals did invade . . . "

"Thor doth know all that didst occur, faithful Heimdall. I commend thee for thy duty and the blessings of Odin upon thee. But these mortals are known to Thor. They need the aid of the God of Thunder, and Thor shalt answer their call." Thor approached Captain America. "By Odin, it is thee, Captain, is it not? Thor canst hardly believe his own senses. Tis a miracle. Thor didst believe thee slain. How is it that thou doth stand amongst the living again, fighting the good fight, as ever thou didst!"

"That's a long, unpleasant story, old Friend," Captain America answered. "I'll tell you sometime. But for now, we have an emergency!"

Back on Earth, in New York, Hawkeye, Hank Pym, and the Wasp were tensely monitoring the supply room storing the Cosmic Treadmill, waiting for Flash and Captain America to return. J'Onn J'Onzz had nearly fainted about an hour before, so he had been sent to the infirmary with Quasar to get some rest. Suddenly, the Avengers League Priority Alert sounded!

"Not now!" the Wasp yelled.

"We have to go see what it is," Hawkeye replied.

Both heroes rushed to the monitor room of the Hall of Justice, where Wonder Woman, who had just arrived, was watching events unfold. Iron Man was adjusting the monitors to compensate for the effects of the terrible weather outside.

Iron Man turned when Hawkeye and the Wasp came forward to take a look. "Sorry to pull you away from the Cosmic Treadmill, but a new supervillain is wreaking havoc in the city! Every vehicle traveling down Fifth Avenue just ran whatever light that was in front of them, and the supervillain's bragging that he's responsible!"

"Do you think we can raise Batman to help us?" Wasp asked, changing into her smaller form and flitting up near the monitor to take a closer look.

"We should send him a signal and get down there," Iron Man commented. "It's too bad J'Onn is still feeling ill! We could use his power at a time like this!"

"The villain is on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street!" Wonder Woman exclaimed. "Let's get in the Quinjet and get over there!"

On Fifth Avenue, a small man was laughing hysterically as the unearthly rain poured down. Crazy-looking people were not an unfamiliar sight on the streets of New York, but this particular man was wearing a silver helmet, one that seemed to generate unearthly energies.

"Yes!!" he exclaimed. "The power boost that I got from that strange man was well worth the cost of my soul! Now, New York, tell me . . . do you fear Brainstorm?!" He laughed insanely as he used his incredible brainpower to make two police officers that had arrived to arrest him point their revolvers at each other.

As the rain drenched him, Officer Hernandez attempted to make his revolver point in another direction, but an irresistible force made him point it at his partner, Officer Harold.

"Jeena, he's making me do this with that helmet of his! Stop him, before he makes me pull the trigger!"

"I'm trying, but he's making me point my gun at you, too!"

"You know, you police officers should be careful where you point those pistols!" Brainstorm chuckled. "You never know when they might accidentally go off!"

With a thought, he made Officers Hernandez and Harold pull their triggers simultaneously. But someone stepped between them with unearthly speed and bounced both bullets off into the cement wall nearby.

"Wonder Woman!" Hernandez exclaimed.

"Yes, officer. Don't worry," she said as Quasar and Hawkeye leapt out of a just-landed Quinjet, "we'll handle this madman!"

"Ah, the Avengers League, I presume," Brainstorm stated. "Although I've never fought any of your current group before, you'll find my new power quite devastating!"

He turned and concentrated a brain blast at Iron Man. Iron Man struggled against the attack, but he lost control of his armor and smashed at full power into the side of a building.

Wonder Woman took command. "Hawkeye, get as many people as you can to safety! Where's the Wasp?"

Brainstorm soon found out where the Wasp was when she snuck up on him at microscopic size and delivered a sting blast to his face.

"Arrgh! The Wasp! You shall pay for this affront!"

"You're still a lame villain, Brainstorm, even with a smaller and more fashionable helmet!"

"I'll kill you! I'll kill all of you! I have the power to do it now! No one will ever laugh at me agai--"

At that moment, a Batarang with a line attached to it slashed across his face. As Brainstorm put his hand to his face to stop the bleeding, Batman leapt from the shadows, pulled a rope from his belt, and tied the villain up with it. He yanked the helmet from Brainstorm's head and threw it to Quasar, who had just arrived after having been busy helping some of the injured civilians.

"So this is what was causing all the trouble!" Quasar exclaimed as he encased the helmet in a laser-light prison.

Batman pulled the ropes tighter on Brainstorm. The villain choked; the rope was cutting into him, and cutting off his circulation, too.

"Okay, Batman, that's enough," the Wasp said almost jokingly.

"No, it's not yet enough," Batman replied, "not enough for a killer like him. He needs to feel as much pain as he has already inflicted. You like the pain, Brainstorm? How about if I make the rope tighter?"

Wonder Woman's strong hand gripped Batman's shoulder.

"Enough, Batman!"

Batman nearly growled at the Amazon, who was trying to hold him back from his prey. Something was definitely wrong with the Dark Knight Detective.

"I said, that's enough, Batman!" Wonder Woman repeated.

The Dark Knight growled at her once more, and turned around violently, throwing Brainstorm away in the process. Quasar was able to catch him, and restrain him. Wonder Woman whipped out her lasso and used it to tie Batman up. However, he was still trying to break free. Wonder Woman lashed out and slapped him across the face, rendering him unconscious.

She picked Batman up, and tossed him over her shoulder. She had a look in her eye that let her teammates know she was upset. "Quasar and Hawkeye, take Brainstorm to the proper authorities. I'll load Batman on the Quinjet. We must find out what is wrong with him. We cannot tolerate that kind of behavior when dealing with a crisis like this."

Hawkeye smiled. I like a woman with that kind of attitude, he thought.

Quasar and Hawkeye were preparing to hand Brainstorm over to the police when, suddenly, Quasar began to disappear.

"What the heck?"

"Q-Man, what's the deal with the light show?" Hawkeye asked.

"I don't know - AGHHHH!" Quasar's screams echoed around the buildings surrounding the superhero team as he vanished in a flash of light.

"What happened?" the Wasp asked, flying up.

"I don't know," Hawkeye snapped. "Quasar disappears, and I'm supposed to know why and how." He tossed Brainstorm to the cops standing in front of a police car. He glanced over to make sure that the police had the villain when he jumped back. The car seemed to erupt in flames, and the police officers looked demonized. They were laughing at him.

"What's wrong now, archer?" Wasp asked.

"What the heck is going on?" Hawkeye asked to no one in particular. "First, Batman almost kills this Brainstorm guy, then Quasar disappears . . . and now . . . those cops . . . "

"What are you talking about? There's nothing wrong with those cops."

"Whatever you think, sweetthing." Hawkeye walked to the Quinjet. Wasp flew over, disgusted.

Minutes later, the Quinjet set down, and the Avengers League climbed out. As they walked in, Jarvis came up to them.

"Pardon me, but there are several gentlemen here to see the League," he said. "Martian Manhunter has listened to them, but they refuse to say anymore without a majority of the team present."

"Very well," Wonder Woman said. "I'll take care of Batman here. The rest of you, to the parlor!"

"Yes, ma'am," Hawkeye replied.

The remaining three Avengers entered the parlor to see two men sitting, and a third standing. Martain Manhunter was also with them.

"So, they finally came," said the man who was standing.

"Unless you're here about the problems outside, we're not interested . . . " Iron Man said.

"Maybe we can help," a soothing voice stated. "I am Father Craemer. With me is John Walker, and Oliver Queen." The man standing waved. "What's happening here on Earth," Craemer announced, "may be more than even the Avengers League can handle."

As Wasp looked out the window, she saw that the skies turned even redder, and the rain still poured down, with an evil insistence. And Captain America and Flash had still not returned with Thor. Would the Earth survive the inferno that was about to be unleashed upon it?