In the weeks since the destruction of the Kyln, Reed Richards has attempted to convince his fellow Earth heroes of the danger of the Annihilation Wave, but they remain focused on their own issues – the so-called ‘Civil War’ around registration and monitoring of superhumans. To assist with this, Reed has been working with Tony Stark on a plan to create a prison in the Negative Zone, and the two of them (plus pro-registration ally Ms Marvel) are about to activate the portal – when word comes from orbit that a damaged spaceship has entered Earth’s atmosphere and is headed straight for the Fantastic Four’s headquarters, the Baxter Building!
The spaceship is piloted by Star-Lord, who seeks Reed’s help in reaching the Negative Zone and finding a way to stop the Harvester of Sorrow. Ms Marvel is suspicious and sees through the deception – the visitor is actually the Super-Skrull! Despite his ruse, the Skrull is sincere in his desire to reach the Negative Zone, and the heroes decide to assist him in finding the source of the super-weapon. They repair the ship and launch it through the portal into the bizarre Negative Zone, then begin scanning and searching the pocket universe – not realising that Mister Fantastic has closed the portal behind them to protect Earth from further incursion.
After three days of awkward travel in a small space, Reed’s scanning instruments lead them to an vast field of mined asteroids and broken spaceships – a shipyard for creating and mobilising the superweapons of the Annihilation Wave. At its heart is a prison planetoid where slaves mine and labour under guard, protected by a force field that destroys organic matter. The heroes manage to shut down the field momentarily, but it comes back up as they fly through, damaging the ship and leading to a crash landing.
The Super-Skrull immediately abandons his allies in order to attack the prison and find his quarry, leaving the Earthlings to fight off a wave of Annihilus’ drone soldiers. They manage to collapse the mine and kill the mindless drones, but Ms Marvel is badly injured in the fight, their spaceship is destroyed, and they have no way of getting home…