The Invincible Iron Man #19
Anthony Stark wore a special gray exoskeleton over his standard
yellow and black Iron Man armor. It was specialized to aid him in
digging beneath the surface without causing any damage to his tiled
Stark Solutions had been hired to perform an important service in
Chicago. Citizens saw odd, reptilian creatures rising up from the
sewers as the city streets began to cave in. (1)
Upon further inspection, Iron Man had found hints of a huge
subterranean headquarters. Most of the technological aspects had
been destroyed beyond recognition, but there were too much office-
type materials there for it to have been anything else.
Iron Man didn't know who it was; the Order was known to have
operated in the city quite a bit, until the cave-in. Since then,
the Order had been keeping a low profile, working primarily out of
the Middle Eastern country of Trans-Sabal.
Over the weeks since the cave-ins began, more and more of the city
was crumbling. Tony had been successful in attaching new braces
that kept anything more from falling in, but it would take some time
before the damage that had already been incurred could be fixed.
As he stood in the darkness in his bulky exoskeleton, which would
probably break his legs if he were to fall, attaching a brace and
activating adhesives within it as well as its internal computers,
his thoughts drifted.
After the loss of Stark Enterprises, he had been trying to walk the
straight and narrow. No more 'the ends justify the means.' It
turned out that that was much easier said than actually done.
He had the resources and the intellect that he could achieve
practically anything... but he knew that he had to keep himself
reigned in and accountable. He was a hero, the knight in shining
armor. Now was the time to prove that to himself.
And even after having received a new pacemaker from the future, (2)
Tony still had to worry about his heart. Though the pacemaker,
which he loved to study, as Nighthawk had informed him that he would
design it sometime in the future, worked flawlessly, he had
sustained enough damage over a long enough period of time to his
heart that it was extremely fragile. (3) Any overexertion could
easily be his last. And that was why he controlled his suit of
armor from afar whenever going into battle, as of late.
A small, blue window popped up on his view screen. It read that
there was a battle going on over his head, between two fierce super
humans. With his work not yet completed, their battle could easily
destroy all he had accomplished and send the rest of Chicago
With a sigh, Tony let out a mental command that released his exosuit
from the modules on his golden armor.
His chest felt fine, but he still needed to keep this battle as
short as possible.
Gravely injured by an act of industrial sabotage, billionaire genius
Tony Stark saved his own life by designing a life-sustaining shell--
the high-tech armor that transformed him into the invincible Iron
The Invincible Iron Man #19
Batboy: Daniel Gordon
Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
Editor: Josh Greer
Editor-in-Chief: Thomas Logue
Iron Man zoomed out through a gaping hole in the road. Flying above
the rooftops, he quickly located the sparring partners.
One appeared to be composed entirely of ice. He shot ice from his
body and rode an ice slide, similar to Iceman and any generic ice-
powered person. Iron Man's computer informed him that this was
Frostbite, a villain previously encountered by the alternate,
teenaged Tony Stark who had replaced him for a time.
The other was a man about thirty feet tall, wearing light, golden
armor and a clunky, rectangular, gold helmet. It didn't cover his
face, but he wore a yellow mask underneath that did, exposing only
his eyes. Iron Man's computer informed him that this was the
Masher, publicly known as a member of the superhuman group called
The Order. (4)
The Masher was smashing through Frostbite's ice shields and attacks,
while Frostbite continued to evade his blows and try to knock the
Masher from his feet. Iron Man could tell from a distance that both
participants appeared to be extremely angry. Unfortunately, their
rage could cost them the entire city.
"Shove it," Iron Man heard the Masher say as he flew in closer.
Frostbite froze the ground beneath the Masher, causing him to trip.
He fell backwards, moments away from knocking several more blocks
into the sewers.
Iron Man swept under his back and caught him, utilizing his armor's
mighty strength to rise the Masher back up. "Hey," Masher
growled, "What's the big idea?"
"I'm trying to avoid any senseless destruction," Iron Man
rebutted, "that's my big idea."
"Just stay outta the way," Masher snarled as he back-handed Iron Man
Iron Man's boot jets stopped his momentum inches from colliding with
a building. Iron Man sighed in relief, then shook his head in
disbelief before flying back into the fray.
The Masher finally connected, smashing through a wall of ice.
Frostbite flew back, spiraling. Iron Man doubted that he could
survive such a long fall, even with his impressive abilities.
Iron Man flew under Frostbite and caught him, setting him down on a
rooftop, intact. Masher saw this and howled in rage, increasing his
height as he leapt forward.
Iron Man detected an unusual energy signature emanating from the
Masher. It had previously been missed in his onboard computer's
frequent sweeps of the area for any notable energies, but it grew
more powerful and easier to spot by the second.
While his computer analyzed the energy, Iron Man placed himself
between the Masher and Frostbite. "I have this situation well in
hand," Iron Man informed the angry hero. He realized how arrogant
that sounded only after he had already said it.
"You think you're some big shot," the Masher howled as he plowed
into Iron Man. Iron Man knew that if he dodged the attack, the
Masher would plow through more property and cause all the more
Instead, Iron Man's boot jets activated, lifting them both high
above the city. Iron Man felt his armor's tiles begin to dent and
even crack from the Masher's short, powerful blows.
"You're strong, Masher," Iron Man told him, "but you aren't thinking
straight. Look at the city down there. The harder you two fight,
the worse it'll get. I'm trying to avoid a city-wide cave-in."
"I don't care if the world collapses in on itself," the Masher
cried, defiantly, "I'm gonna beat that jerk, and I'll go through
The Masher's words were beginning to slur, barely noticeably. Iron
Man wondered... had he been drinking? Something Tony Stark could
certainly relate to... but no, it was probably the lack of oxygen,
as they continued to climb towards the heavens.
Iron Man shut his boot jets off, continuing to hold the defiant
Masher in his arms. "Lemme go!"
"Calm down first," Iron Man responded.
"Don't tell me what to do," Masher screamed, finally smashing a tile
on Iron Man's chest. Tony's chest felt like it was on fire, his
entire body momentarily immobilized.
The Masher was in freefall, by himself. Iron Man was also in
freefall, shocked by the powerful blow and aching inside. For just
one second, he contemplated allowing himself to fall to a relatively
Iron Man's boot jets activated once more, rapidly decelerating his
decent to the ground. His chest pain was still there, but
As a result of his deceleration, Iron Man was still high in the air
when the Masher landed on the outskirts of Chicago. The impact was
Iron Man watched as an entire week's hard work went down the drain.
Like a tidal wave sweeping over the city, more and more land fell in
on itself, stopping too late to salvage most of Chicago.
Iron Man went from sad to enraged in seconds.
Ignoring his chest pains, which were now hurting more again, Iron
Man flew to where the Masher had landed. The Masher was now at a
more normal, six foot height, staggering, desperate to find his
footing. His hands and legs were still shaking from the impact.
He turned towards the noise of boot jets approaching. Iron Man saw
that the Masher's nose was bleeding two seconds before walloping him
in that same place.
"You sonuvabitch," Iron Man scolded, punching him at near super-
speed, "the entire city... the entire city! And now, Frostbite will
go free! And you call yourself a hero? A hero?"
The Masher looked scared as Iron Man landed undefended blows all
over him. Finally, Iron Man backed off, disgusted at both the
Masher and himself.
Tony Stark was breathing hard, his chest tightening and stinging
"At least... at least..." The Masher panted, shakily wiping at the
blood flowing down his chin, "I showed you... up... ya blowhard..."
Iron Man raised his right hand and unleashed a full-force repulsor
ray at the Masher's chest, sending him flying back and rolling
away. The Masher coughed up more blood as he tried to laugh.
"I should..." Iron Man huffed as he clutched at his chest. The
Masher looked at him with blurry vision. He was sure he had done
serious damage to the armor's chest plate, but it appeared to be as
good as new, now. Maybe he stole some tech from the Tracker...
Iron Man dropped to his knees, unable to breathe enough, his body
going numb, and his chest practically on fire with pain. He heard a
noise in his armor, a noise he recognized. One of his personal
aircrafts was approaching.
Iron Man fell forward, landing in the dirt, on his face. The Masher
strained to stand up but fell over. The pair quickly drifted into
Bethany Cabe, Alex Wildman, and Aurelle exited the aircraft, heading
straight for their employer. Alex then turned and investigated the
Masher, to make sure he really was out cold.
"Tony," Beth whispered to the unconscious man in the armor. She
received no answer. "We need to get him to a hospital," she
informed Iron Man's teammates in the Champions, "now!"
[Certainly not the end...]
1. See AMU's The Order #47.
2. See AMU's The Invincible Iron Man #16.
3. See AMU's The Invincible Iron Man #13-15 and The Champions #13-
4. But you astute Altmarvel readers know that he quit that group,
- The Champions #50
One month ago.
Thunder Head stood, scratching as patches of his thick red beard fell
loose, his skin pale and cold, as Captain Victory sat, restrained by
chains that kept him less than six feet away from the wall at any
time. The pair had been taken captive and were in a prison cell in the
catacombs beneath Macabra, while the rest of their teammates waged war
on the infected hordes of the major metropolitan city above.
"Hunh," Captain Victory said, as he bolted upright, pink light
suddenly blinding his mind. Since his resurrection, the same mystical
energies that had revitalized his dead body also served to make him
immune to the nanovirus infecting the populace above as well as
gifting him with a superhuman power he never had while fighting the
Nazis in World War II, precognitive flashes of insight.
"What is it, did you see something?" Thunder Head said, weakly, as he
shambled across their shared cell to meet his teammate. He had been
infected; though he was fighting it as best he could, they both knew
that it was merely a matter of time before he would be gone. "One of
"Victory," the captain proclaimed, with a serene smile on his face. He
crossed his arms as best he could given his chains. "Neither of us
will live to see it, but it happens. Ultron will be defeated. There
will be further losses, but human life will continue."
"I guess that's all that really matters," Thunder Head said as he
struggled onto his robotic knees, "in the grand scheme of things."
"Let it go," Captain Victory said, eyes closed, as Thunder Head fell
backwards, his eyes rolling up, mouth opened, life dissipating.
There was quiet in the room for several moments. Finally, Thunder
Head's body began to jerk, briefly at first, and rising in frequency
and violence. "I know you can hear me, monster," Captain Victory said
to the robotic being who was their jailer. "Know this: you will not
win. It has already happened, in the future.
"The book has already been written," Captain Victory said. "Victory is
Thunder Head shambled over to his former teammate and, with the
strength granted him by his mechanical limbs, tore the undead Champion
limb from limb, killing him once and for all.
Invisible magical energy silently hissed, released from the mortal
body, and returned to some otherdimensional fount, never to be seen or
heard from again, retaining some vestigial traces of the mind and
memories of the Champion.
[Present. The catacombs.]
Ultron watched on the massive view-screen as Giant Man and the Black
Knight strode above ground, tackling the horde of infected who guarded
the city over which stood the catacombs which he had taken on as his
base in Morvania.
"Your team has allowed other 'heroes' to pass through the field
barrier," Ultron said to his captive, the man in the Iron Man armor.
"I have not been able to discover any way of piercing the barrier, as
yet, but this gives me hope that I shall soon do so."
Iron Man kept silent, still groaning internally over his wounds
sustained by the adamantium monstrosity, who took him prisoner an
unknown infinity ago. His life was now measured by beatings rather
than by minutes.
"If they are advancing on my stronghold," Ultron said, "then it is
only fitting that we finally end this game. A pity I had not brought
in more before you sealed this nation off from the rest of the world."
Two other Ultrons walked into the room, exacerbating the living
nightmare Iron Man was already experiencing. He would have screamed if
he still had the voice for it. "Weaker, secondary vassals; constructed
of secondary adamantium, but that should prove more than adequate for
the threats they will face.
"Giant Man, Bill Foster; former flunky of my father. Black Knight,
Dane Whitman; a modern-day Don Quixote. No, I shall only require one
of my seconds to deal with them. The other shall take the battle to
your comrades in the sky. I will obliterate the Golden Castle, and
with it, whatever force is sealing my virus in."
The two Ultrons departed in different directions, to head above
towards their distinct tasks. Ultron walked up to Iron Man and grabbed
the sides of his head. Finally, he thought, the monster was going to
put him out of his misery.
Ultron wrenched the faceplate off and stared at the man inside. His
computer-mind scanned the features, searching international databases
which he had uploaded before the communications freeze-up which
resulted from the powerful barrier, and found no one on file matching
"A complete unknown," Ultron said. "Anomaly."
Gas spat out from Ultron's jack o'lantern face, and Neal Richmond
coughed. He had run into Tony Stark many months ago and was offered a
job helping him run the Champions by leading them in the guise of his
famous bodyguard, Iron Man. Tired of working alone in the guise of his
deceased benefactor, Nighthawk, the man from an alternate Earth agreed
and took the weeks necessary to learn how to use the armor before
And now, he knew that he was going to die. Even if somehow the
Champions could stop Ultron and free him, it was too late. He had
breathed in the gas; he was infected with the nanovirus, which his
armor had protected him from via air filters in his suit.
Ultron turned his back and walked over to the computer console, though
Neal knew he was in constant communication with the machine and
instantly knew all data it gathered.
All he needed was a few moments of freedom and he could show Ultron
his feelings on the subject. Alas, that was time he didn't have.
Reed Richards moved furiously throughout the lab, his arms telescoping
and winding about, nearly knotting himself up, as he worked to move
beakers and study slides. He was sweating, but extended his eyelashes
to wipe the sweat from his brow as he worked. He was the only one on
this side of the barrier who could create a solution to the nanovirus
which had stricken the nation of Morvania.
Suddenly, the giant, flying castle shook with impact from the side.
"What was that?" Jim Hammond asked as Mr. Fantastic went to work
keeping everything from sliding off the table and breaking.
'Attack,' was the only word Psykos could mentally project into their
minds, as he was so supremely intent on maintaining the massive
force-shield that kept Ultron and the infected trapped within the country.
"We'll deal with it," Captain Wonder said, "you just keep working on
The captain, Sersi, Wildman, and the high-flying Angel stormed out to
face their foe, while Mr. Fantastic and Jim Hammond continued to work
on a cure. It had been agreed upon that it would be best to play it
safe and keep the Torch out of battle, since he was an android and
might be susceptible to Ultron's dark designs.
When the quartet reached the garden square, they found Ultron, energy
snaking about his clenched fists, as he scanned the towers, searching
for the structural weak point to attack to bring the entire complex
down on the city below.
Angel took to the sky, pulling out his mace from his jacket, while
hammering Ultron with metallic feather-wings, which dinged and sparked
as they struck his secondary adamantium shell but did not perceivable
"Blast him, Alex," Captain Wonder shouted, and Wildman complied,
firing off an optic blast that had no effect on the robot but to
distract him while Sersi circled around behind him and blasted him
with cosmic energy.
"Don't let him get too close," the captain warned, not wanting anyone
else harmed, "everyone, keep your distance!"
Ultron shot out an encephalo-beam, which Captain Wonder easily dodged.
Ultron blasted Wildman and Sersi with energies from his fists,
knocking them both back.
"Weak flesh-puppets," Ultron said, "I am the future. I am cold, I am
hard, I am unstoppable. I am Ultron."
"Yeah, well," Wildman said as he plowed into his foe, "now, so am I."
Wildman's skin grew hard and stiff and crimson energy glowed in his
eyes and mouth, as he duplicated the mad robot's power for his own.
Black Knight ripped through the infected legions with his photonic
sword. It was a good thing he hadn't brought the Ebony Blade instead,
as he was sure that some of the unliving cyborgs he hacked through
still had blood to ooze out. His helmet reassured him that they were
dead; they lacked any vital signs and were cold.
"Don't worry about killing them," Black Knight said, "They're already
Giant Man had already heard him say this three times, but he would
never be entirely comfortable with decimating human bodies and
stomping them into paste. He waded through the crowd, twelve feet
tall, costume armored to protect him from the sharper elbows of the
"I knew this was a bad idea," Giant Man said as he threw twelve of
them away, as twenty more instantly filled in the empty space before
him, "I wish I still had gamma-rage to amp up my strength!"
"We'll just have to make due," Black Knight said, "somehow." He had
fought in the crusades, and so this horde was no worse than other
battles he'd already met and fought nobly in, but never had the foes
been so resistant to pain; while the photonic sword cut through metal
as easily as bone, a one-armed cyborg would keep going, having felt no
"Avengers," a cold, electronic voice said as hard steps sounded and
the infected parted to let Ultron through, "today is doomsday."
"Maybe for you, buddy," Giant Man said. "I'm getting tired of this;
wasn't that long ago we Wackos stopped you before!" (1)
"The initial testing," Ultron said as he shot blasts of energy from
his fists, the two Avengers almost unable to dodge it with the crowd
around them, as the cyborgs got torn apart instead of them. They could
feel the heat of the blasts. "This nation proves my virus to be a
success. As soon as I can destroy this pitiable barrier, it will
spread over all the world."
"We won't let that happen!"
Ultron recognized the voice from earlier battles, but Black Knight and
Giant Man had to look beyond their enemy to see Superpro, his
football-themed armor in tattered rags, a blood-stained axe in hand,
as he came out from hiding within the city, rage painted profusely on
Thunder Head, the man's life now well ended, nothing more than an
empty shell controlled by Ultron's nanovirus, stumbled towards his
former teammate. Superpro immediately, unthinkingly, went to work,
hacking at the large corpse, tearing at its vulnerable neck.
With a squirt of black liquid, the head came free and the body
shivered as it reached out to grab him. "Don't let up," Superpro
yelled to the Avengers, "Keep fighting until we're dead!"
Wildman and Ultron tussled, Ultron's wild hatred for all things human
giving him the advantage, his attack far more ferocious, and he flung
the Champion away. "I will crush your bones into a fine powder,"
"Not this time," Wildman said as Ultron advanced. Captain Wonder
hammered against his back, a minor annoyance Ultron tried to swat away
with a quick backhand. The old hero dodged it easily enough, and Angel
swooped down to smash at the robot with his mace, inspired by the
adamantine mace of Hercules.
Ultron took a step back to analyze their attack procedure, walking
directly into Sersi's path, as she pushed her power to the limits and
grabbed onto the robot, transmuting his secondary adamantium,
degrading its alloy further and further until it was more tertiary
than secondary adamantium, and began to crack and whine.
"It's going to explode," Angel warned, "Everyone, get back!"
"No, that won't be necessary," Sersi said, as she absorbed the energy
quickly leaking out of the cracked open shell, redistributing it into
the air as a bright light. "Just keep your eyes closed for another few
Inside the laboratory, meanwhile, Reed smoked his pipe while looking
down at the potential cure. "I think this will do it, but there's no
way to test it first. If it doesn't work, it couldn't make the
situation any worse than it already is. Now, the question is how to
disperse it; air-borne would work, although I don't know if we have
any way of--"
"I have an idea," Jim Hammond said. He took the new creation, a
syringe full of nanites which countered the nanovirus, neutralizing it
and reversing its damage to tissue; assuming, of course, that he
hadn't made any mistakes in the formulae.
Jim injected the syringe into his own neck. "We do not have time to
discuss this matter. I am sorry. Remember me, Reed. Please give my
regards to the rest of your family."
"You can't possibly be--"
"Flame on," the Torch ignited himself and rose several inches off the
ground, then flew through the door, melting the doorway, trapping Mr.
Ultron watched as the Black Knight, Giant Man, and Superpro struggled
with his other body and the infected hordes. The other Ultron might
have been less successful, having been destroyed by the other
Champions in their flying castle, but he would make sure to be wary of
Sersi when he encountered her himself.
Neal, meanwhile, began to shiver and shake as he felt an ungodly cold
approach him. He knew that his time was fast approaching; it wouldn't
be long before he would drop, and return as some... thing.
"The hell... with it..." Neal croaked, his voice barely audible to
Ultron's enhanced auditory sensors. He pressed thumb to forefinger and
depressed an emergency button which Tony had warned him never to use.
An electromagnetic pulse rang out, powerful enough to send Ultron
crashing to the floor. The shackles, which were controlled
electromagnetically by the computer, opened up and Neal crashed to the
floor. He was in no shape to stop Ultron.
He crawled across the floor, fear and anger and pain and cold shooting
through his every fiber, and lifted his hand up to the computer
console, plugging his armor's pre-planned virus into the system. A few
moments more, and...
Ultron grabbed Neal by the back of the neck and threw him across the
room, to slam into the wall. His back would have been broken if not
for the protection of the Iron Man armor. "You will pay for that,
wretched human! Your attempt did nothing to harm me, but I will
prolong your suffering!"
"Guess again," Neal whispered, slamming fist into fist, hitting
another secret set of controls in his armor that, when struck in the
correct sequence, activated the self-destruct program.
Black Knight hacked at the legions of unliving cyborgs, while Giant
Man futilely hammered Ultron into the ground, not so much as denting
it, and Superpro continued to hack apart the flesh parts of the
cyborgs with his ordinary axe.
"Why is it getting so hot," Black Knight said to himself, his helmet
read-out informing him that it wasn't just the heat of battle, the
area was getting significantly warmer.
"Oh boy," Giant Man said, looking up into the sky and smiling, "Looks
like the cavalry has arrived!"
Ultron looked up, vision magnifying it so that the figure looked as
though he were right next to him. The Torch flew overhead, burning
brighter and ever-larger flames, spinning and soaring wildly, like a
"It appears that another Champion has been infected," Ultron said, and
back-handed Giant Man, sending him faltering into the crowd who began
to elbow him.
"Look upon my works, ye mighty," Ultron said, arms outstretched as he
watched the android in the sky high above, burning hotter and hotter,
The Torch reached further, burning more than he ever had before, his
internal registers warning him to slow down, to stop, before he would
burn out. He pushed even harder, straining to keep it going, until he
pushed beyond all unconscious safeguards and it was over.
The sky exploded, fire licking at the roof of the energy barrier,
nearly detonating the entire country into a massive fireball.
Antivirus nanites rained down, carried by wind and dropping through
gravity, while the Torch's seemingly magical healing blood quickly
cooled and spattered over the cities and the countryside, the debris
of his body mostly burning up, tiny pieces scattering and landing in
the Dren Forest and the rubble and debris of the cities.
"It's over," Ultron said, "Your friends are as doomed as you are."
The infected started suddenly dropping dead, and the heroes stopped
fighting them. A few scattered cyborgs remained standing, color
gradually returning to their skin, wounds mystically healing,
sentience miraculously returning to their minds.
"Looks like your minions have changed sides," Superpro laughed as the
army of cyborgs crowded in on the secondary Ultron.
The heroes turned to see huge clouds rising from the cellars of the
half-ruined buildings, as the catacombs were destroyed by the massive
"My god," Superpro said, "Iron Man was still down there..."
The red energy barrier flickered repeatedly before going out, as the
assembled heroes in the Golden Castle watched while Sersi opened up
the power chamber. Nothing lie inside save for crackling cosmic energy.
"He's here," Sersi said, "The stress, the constant pressure of
maintaining such a powerful field... it destroyed his body. This is
all that remains of him now, the energy that powers his castle."
"What are we going to tell everyone?" Angel asked to anyone.
"The truth," Mr. Fantastic said, absently. "Perhaps knowledge of what
happened here will keep anyone else from exploring these same avenues."
"Or it could encourage people to investigate, try to replicate the
virus," Giant Man said.
"All anyone needs to know is this," Black Knight said. "Ultron took
over Morvania, you sealed it off. Now the citizens who are still alive
are cyborgs, freed of his mind control. Several Champions died to save
them. The citizens tore one Ultron apart to be free of him, the
mastermind Ultron has disappeared after his headquarters was destroyed."
"What about Iron Man?" Wildman asked. "There was no body, but you say
Tony Stark is out to the public as Shellhead now. Who was this other guy?"
"We may never know," Black Knight said. "He couldn't have been Tony
Stark. We'll have to have a talk with him when we get back to the
States. Maybe it was someone on his payroll, maybe it was an imposter
who stole the suit. I don't know."
"Nobody needs to know," Giant Man said. "Say Ultron killed them. Leave
out the virus."
"The Torch?" Captain Wonder asked. "No one will know of his sacrifice--"
"Yes, they will," Black Knight countered. "They'll know that he died
to save the world from Ultron. That's all they need to know."
Mr. Fantastic looked off into the horizon, his upper body stretching
down the hall to the open window. "You're right, of course. The virus
was eradicated. Best to leave it forgotten for all time."
"And what if Ultron returns," Angel asked. "No body..."
"Then we'll be ready for him," Sersi said. "After all, it isn't just a
rag-tag band of super-heroes who will face him next time.
"We have an entire nation of Champions to stop him."
1. See West Coast Avengers Annual #3.