by Joseph Harris and Javier Saltares
Proving that things just have to get better, the Slingers start this issue off imprisoned in various cages. Dusk's one is the worst - it's some kind of dome thingy that she can't teleport out of. To make things worse, there's this big demon leering down at them. Uh-oh. Mephisto says that he requires much of them, which can't be good. He gloats a bit about how he finds them entertaining, then shows them the Black Marvel's soul on display. He tells the tale of how he came to be the old guy's benefactor, which led to the Slingers. During this nifty little recap, Prodigy is trying to bend his way out of the cage. I don't know, but really I don't think that's a good idea. . . .
Just as he breaks out, he hefts Dusk's dome-tube-cage-thing up above his head, despite her protests that she wants to stay. Mephisto releases them from their cages but holds Rico, Dusk, and Hornet prisoner under more domes. (Real ones this time.) Huge, red, and scary has Prodigy in his grip, tears the cape off, and makes it burts into flame as Prodigy tells him to let them go. A second later Prodigy is under the domes with the others, cape intact, while Mephisto says that he can take away what he and the Black Marvel gave them. Rico gets pissed off, but Mephisto laughs at the idea of them being heroes. He tells them that the Black Marvel's soul will be in torment forever, and comments that they must be glad for that, considering how much they hate him. As it turns out, they only need to forgive him, and he will be set free. Rico is still pissed, and refuses to, while Dusk and Hornet try to convince him otherwise. Mephisto gets bored of their arguing, and sweeps them apart in this nifty whirlwind thing.
Prodigy lands first, and the first thing he hears is someone crying for help. Mephisto knows how to push this guy's buttons, eh? Anyway, it looks like the house he grew up in is burning, and he dashes in. The stairs immediately turn into some kind of Escher-type thing, but Prodigy isn't afraid. You wouldn't be either, if you were that well armored. He makes some valiant leaps, kicks in a door, and finds the person yelling for help. It looks like him, and talks about always being alone. With perfect timing, the flames burst through the door, and the cape wraps Prodigy up as he tries to protect . . . himself. He shreds the cape, then falls through an inferno, and lands in blackness. He's afraid, because he knows innocents will die. Ouch.
Next comes Ricochet, who lands in the middle of a stadium with the entire crowd chanting his name. There are worse places to be. Apparently, they're cheering for him, and this round thing shoots up into the air, lifting him above this massive slide with all kinds of things that could kill him on it. Just as he says he's not going in, the round thing goes "poing" and tosses him in. Rico goes neatly through spiked walls, fiery hoops, and a giant sawblade, and uses an exploding disc on whatever the last thing was. The people are still cheering, and he's eating it up. Apparently, they love him. Just then, his danger-sense goes off, and two walls pop up and try to smash him. Nice going, Rico. He dodges another thing trying to smash him, and thinks about his mutant powers, how they make him different. The crowd must be thinking about them too, 'cause they start throwing stones at him. He gets bombarded as the crowd gets ugly, and he keeps saying it's not his fault. Prodigy wakes him up from the hallucination, and actually seems to comfort him.
Hornet gets thrown out of the whirlwind thing, and soon starts flying on his own. Something whacks him as he flies - it's a big freakin' crow! As he says, they let him know that he doesn't belong there, and he's scared. He should be. He charges up his lasers and blasts them out of the sky . . . but he's still falling. The suit saves him as he hits the groung, but it starts to fall apart. He tries to hold it together, but that doesn't work. Did he really think it would? Anyway, he too is now scared and alone. This seems to be a common theme this issue.
Without a doubt, Dusk gets the best treatment of all of them. She comes out of the whirlwind thing in a fancy medieval-type dress, in the middle of a nifty fairy tale setting. Butterflies are everywhere. As she says, this is a place that she imagined as a kid, where nothing could hurt her. I think the white hand springing up from under the ground has other ideas, though. A bunch of white Dusk-costumed-figures pop up, and Dusk herself really freaks out. Especially when they try to grab her. She *bleenk*s like crazy, and it looks like she destroys them all. As the others did, she wakes up in the middle of an empty space, but she's freaking out and wondering just what she is.
Elsewhere in the hot place, Mephisto is watching. He doesn't quite like what he's seen of them alone, so he decides to try them as a team by sending a demonic horde after them. This guy does not play fair. Our heroes hear the incoming horde. . . .