In the wake of the Onslaught crossover, the Avengers, Hulk, and Fantastic Four were seemingly destroyed saving the world. In actuality they were transported to an alternate dimension by Franklin Richards, son of Reed and Sue Richards. For the last year, they have lived a life similar to their previous one with minor alterations.
In the 12th issue of each relaunched title, the heroes found themselves in a lengthy battle with Galactus. Only Dr. Doom's repeated trips into the past was able to ultimately save the planet. While the world was spared, the walls between their dimension and a neighboring one (Image's Wildstorm) weakened and eventually merged.
So far Doom has been able to take advantage of this situation and fuse the two dimensions together. He has formed an alliance with the the Skrulls and Daemonites and taken over Europe. They have now set their sights on the United States and are gradually weakening their defenses through years of unending war.
Reed Richards has recently discovered Doom's inter-dimensional lock consists of two parts: one inside the Negative Zone and the other in Doom's castle in Latveria. He has planned a strike with the remaining superheroes to break both halves of the lock and separate their world back into its components in the hope that it will restore some semblance of peace. Richards leads his team into the Negative Zone to give the other team sufficient time to plan.
While many of the heroes left for the Stormwatch space station to plan the Latverian attack, they were betrayed by one of Doom's spies and the station was destroyed.
Mr. Fantastic and his team (Thor, Scarlet Witch, Spartan-America, Triton, Fuji, Hellstrike) arrive at the nexus of all realities in the Negative Zone. Just beyond this point lies the inter-dimensional lock holding their worlds together. They are met by Annihilus and Defile leading a squadron of Daemonites and Skrulls. The battle is brief but costly as two heroes (Fuji, Hellstrike) are killed. The remainder of Richards' team continue toward the lock.
In deep space, the Invisible Woman is rescued following the destruction of the Stormwatch station. She, Maul, and Mr. Majestic are the only survivors.
Agent Priscilla Kitaen (Voodoo) makes her way to Europe via teleporation beam. She finds the missing Steve Rogers, now going by the code-name of Nomad. He is in self-imposed exile following a disastrous mission in which many of those in his charge were killed. Those that were not killed soon abandoned the fight. He continues to fight the Daemonite/Skrull invaders on his own. Kitaen tells him that he can no longer punish himself and his country for his mistake. They need him to be Captain America once again. When she presents him with his shield, he knows the time has come to return.
Iron Man arrives at the Baxter Building. He tells the skeleton crew (Swordsman, Brass, Vision, Jack Hawksmoor) that the Stormwatch station has been destroyed. He has has been ordered to destroy the portal that grants access to the Negative Zone. When challenged, Iron Man quickly reveals himself to be the traitor and kills them all in rapid succession. Before he can destroy the machines, Thing and Deathblow emerge from the Negative Zone. Iron Man is defeated and revealed to be a Skrull agent posing as the deceased Tony Stark.
The remaining heroes return and learn of the tragic demise of their brethren. They begin to question how they can mount an assault upon Doom's castle with so few of them remaining. It is then that Captain America steps forward and inspires them to continue fighting. They have forgotten that America's military - consisting of normal humans - is prepared to do what is necessary to free the world from the alien invaders.
Having read all of James Robinson's work from the Heroes Reborn collection - specifically this arc - I can't help but wonder why he wasn't contracted to handle the Avengers and Captain America instead of Liefeld. Working with Jim Lee & Brandon Choi, this experiment would have yielded higher quality books.
His streamlined approach is much more believable - and entertaining - than the flashy-yet-shallow approach that was taken during Liefeld's tenure.
3 webs. Good solid story. The artwork was a not as good as the previous chapters, but it was still clear and easy to follow.