Cosmic Cube

FIRST APPEARANCE: Tales of Suspense #79 (1966)

HISTORY: Cosmic Cubes are incredibly powerful artifacts of artificial origin, capable of altering the makeup of the universe in response to the desires of the beings who wield them. According to the Shaper of Worlds, the godlike Beyonders dwell in a lightless dimension adjacent to the Negative Zone, observing and interfering in our universe. These Beyonders created the energy beings that become Cosmic Cubes, which contained the potential for self-evolving intelligence, and placed them in a dimension adjacent to Earth’s, making it possible for people to tap into them and bring that energy over into their own universes, enclosed within a newly created Cosmic Containment Unit, the exact nature of which depended upon the universe into which it was brought. In Earth-616’s dimension, these would usually manifest as Cosmic Cubes. Though undoubtedly not the first Cube, the oldest Cube known to Earth’s inhabitants was created by the Skrull Empire tens of thousands of years ago. Skrull scientists created a cube through which its wielder could alter reality, and the Skrull Emperor used it to rule as a god for years. However, the cube gradually became sentient, evolving its personality from the minds of those closest to it – in this case, the unstable Skrull Emperor. Lashing out in pain, anger, and confusion, the Cosmic Cube effectively destroyed two thirds of the races of the Skrulls’ Andromeda Galaxy, knocking the empire back into barbarism. Over time, the Skrull Cube developed a more stable personality and became known as the Shaper of Worlds. It traveled the universe seeking to fulfill the dreams of others, either unwilling or unable to enact its own dreams.

The Skrulls’ pre-eminent rival race, the Kree, eventually attempted to develop their own Cosmic Cube, building the massive Supreme Intelligence as a computing device to guide the project. Fearing a reoccurrence of the disaster the Skrulls’ Cube had caused, the Supreme Intelligence refused to allow the Kree to build such a device, and covertly contacted the Shaper of Worlds. To protect the universe, the two allied to watch for other races who could develop Cubes, and to intervene wherever possible.

Led by physicist Dr. George Clinton and his graduate assistant Bernard Worrell, Earth’s Advanced Ideas Mechanics (A.I.M.) constructed a computational device to help them explore interdimensional space. This device, known as M.O.D.O.C. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Computation), allowed A.I.M. to manipulate force-screens and capture the “x-element” energy released by their probe. After several failed attempts, which resulted in small but locally powerful crystalline shards of cosmic force (which would later be used to empower A.I.M.’s Adaptoids and the Super-Adaptoid), they succeeded in confining the energies into a small glowing cube, Earth’s first Cosmic Cube, though the experience drove M.O.D.O.C. insane. Clinton’s team began careful study of their Cube, but the Red Skull, who was briefly allied with A.I.M. on an unrelated project, learned of the Cube and arranged to have the Cube’s Keeper steal it for him. Unaware of this newborn Cube’s full potential, the Skull employed it only for relatively minor effects, such as transporting the Keeper into another dimension, creating artificial beings, and creating armor for himself. A.I.M. informed Captain America of the Skull’s theft of this enormously powerful weapon and the Captain pursued him to a Mediterranean island. Engaging the Skull in hand-to¬hand combat, Captain America eventually knocked the Cube from the Skull’s hand just as the Skull ordered the Cube to destroy the island. The Cube was lost in the explosion, but the Sub-Mariner soon found it and wielded It briefly against the Avengers, creating an Amalga-Beast to fight them. When the Wasp knocked the Cube from where Namor wore it around his neck, it fell undetected into a deep chasm. The Mole Man later found and discarded it, not realizing its worth.

The young Cube reached out for contact, and emerged from an exploding volcano shortly thereafter. Found by a fisherman, the Cube fulfilled his wishes and gradually turned his humble fishing village into a prosperous town. However, the Red Skull and his team of subordinate Exiles had been carefully watching the news for signs of the Cube’s re-emergence. The Skull had the fisherman attacked, and reclaimed the Cube. After some experimentation, the Skull began using the Cube in a much more grandiose manner, attempting to drive his arch-foe Captain America mad by summoning demonic beings, transporting the Captain into other dimensions, and shrinking the hero. The Skull briefly switched his and the Captain’s bodies, leaving the Captain (appearing to be the Skull) to be hunted by the Exiles the Skull had betrayed, while the Skull, as Captain America, attempted to besmirch his enemy’s good name. While the Skull alienated Captain America’s young partner, Rick Jones (Bucky), Captain America teamed up with ex-racketeer Sam “Snap” Wilson, whose personality the Skull had altered using the Cube, to lead the natives of Isles Dernieres against the Exiles. The Skull’s need for a hands-on triumph led him to teleport both Captain America and Wilson to Berchtesgaden castle; however, A.I.M. and M.O.D.O.C. (now M.O.D.O.K.- Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) developed a Catholite Block device which interfered from afar with the Cube’s access to its powers, and it appeared to melt away to nothingness. M.O.D.O.K. soon retrieved it and tried to re-stabilize the young Cube in a Louisiana laboratory, but Dr. Doom and an amnesiac Sub-Mariner intervened, and the Cube was again lost when it appeared to explode in reply to Namor’s desire that neither Doom nor M.O.D.O.K. possess it.

Alerted by the creation of this new Cube, the Shaper began observing Earthlings for their potential effects on the Cube, studying the dreams of Nazi Otto Kronsteig, the incredible Hulk (twice), Slugger Johnson, and Thomas Gideon (whom the Shaper eventually took as his “herald” under the name Glorian). The Supreme Intelligence began monitoring those Earthlings who had been in proximity to the Cube, including Rick Jones. Wishing to keep closer tabs on the Cube, the Supreme Intelligence placed its location in Rick Jones’ mind during the Kree¬Skrull War, but Thanos had long been seeking his own Cosmic Cube and this monitoring brought Earth’s Cube to his attention. Thanos kidnapped Jones and drew the location from his mind. After fighting Drax to possess it, Thanos claimed the Cube, using it to monitor and after his subordinates, to capture his foes Eros and Mentor, and ultimately to transport the Avengers and Captain Mar-Vell to face him in person. Thanos absorbed the Cube’s full powers, becoming an omnipotent “god” but the Avengers’ Mantis deduced that the powers still resided in the Cube, and Mar-Vell seized it, restoring the status quo.

Believing the Cube was powerless, the Avengers left it with the U.S. government, who eventually transferred it to alternate energy facility Project: PEGASUS for further study. When an act of sabotage pumped energy through the Cube and into the childlike Wundarr, rendering him comatose, the Cube’s intelligence took pity on him, communing with Wundarr and gradually bringing him to a fully adult intelligence as the pacifistic Aquarian. The Cube was stolen during this period and used by Victorius to create Jude the Entropic Man, but after the interference of the Man-Thing and the energies of the Nexus of Realities interacted with the Cube to leave Jude and Victorius transformed into a growth-enhancing crystal, Captain America and the Thing retrieved it and returned it to Project: PEGASUS. The Cube was briefly used in a Serpent Crown led attempt to resurrect the Elder God Set, but the efforts of the Thing, Spider-Man, the Scarlet Witch, and Dr. Strange led to the Cube’s being employed to destroy the Serpent Crowns. Soon after that, Cube co-creator Bernard Worrell led an A.I.M. assault to recapture the Cube. Captain America intervened, and the awakening Cube summoned Aquarian as well. Worrell’s attempts to use the Cube resulted inreality-altering chaos, as the Cube was attempting to “hatch” into a new form. The Shaper of Worlds arrived to midwife the birth and, comforted by Captain America’s quiet resolve, Worrell’s misguided but hopeful dreams of an ideal world, and the Aquarian’s pacifistic beliefs, the Cube calmed itself. The Shaper departed with the Cube in his care, and it soon hatched into an adult form: Kubik. As Kubik, the Cube took on an asteroidal form to briefly interact with the nebulaic Cloud, sending her to Earth for aid against the mysterious Star-Thief. When Cloud returned with the Defenders, Kubik aided them in setting right what the Star-Thief had stolen, adopting the form of the Earth hero he most admired, Captain America, in doing so. Developing his own identity and unique form, Kubik subsequently returned to Earth himself when summoned by the Super-Adaptoid, whom A.I.M. had created using a shard from a failed Cube and who now sought to duplicate Kubik’s energies. After the Super-Adaptoid did successfully acquire Kubik’s powers and banish him to another dimension, Kubik returned and, fearing that a direct battle between cosmic beings could destroy the Earth, brought Captain America in to outthink the Super-Adaptoid. Removing the cosmic shard from the defeated Adaptoid, Kubik again left Earth.

While the Cube had been in the possession of Project: PEGASUS, the Red Skull decided it was easier to recreate A.I.M.’s original work than reclaim the Cube. He kidnapped A.I.M.’s Dr. Clinton, forcibly extracting his knowledge of the original work. Using human brains linked in synch as a computational device, the Skull cooperated with the Hate Monger (Adolph Hitler) and Arnim Zola to duplicate the original process. However, the Hate Monger tried to claim the Cube before the process was done, resulting in his mind being trapped inside an apparently powerless Cube. Over several years, the Cube began erratically developing power, and the Hate Monger’s mind led the creation of a group known as the Kübekult, who stole the Cube from the Skull and used A.I.M. technology to repeatedly spike the Cube with energy, hoping to jump-start it into full power. The Skull allied with Captain America and Sharon Carter to stop this, but then betrayed Captain America, trapping him in the Cube with Hitler. While Carter and the Skull battled an army of transformed Nazis outside, Captain America eventually came to terms with the unreal world he was trapped in, escaping the Cube by sheer force of will. While the Captain battled the Skull, Hitler’s mind was sublimated and the Skull himself was reduced to a living shadow. The Cube vanished, apparently destroyed, but soon resurfaced when the time-traveler Korvac sought it; disguised as Kang, he led the shadowy Skull to the Cube, showed him how to physically recreate himself with the Cube’s powers inside his new body, and then convinced the Red Skull to call Galactus’ ship to Earth, telling the Skull he could gain knowledge from the ship which would make him omniscient and enable him to unlock the Cube’s full potential. Disguising himself as the Watcher, Korvac then led Captain America and Sharon Carter to the Skull, trusting the Captain to kill the Skull during a moment of distraction, enabling Korvac to gain both the Cube and the knowledge from Galactus’ ship. Despite his reservations, the Captain saw no other options and did kill the Skull. Korvac revealed himself and returned to rule his future world, but Captain America followed him there and battled him, repeatedly forcing Korvac to reset time to rid himself of his foe. Still, Captain America would inevitably return and lead yet another rebellion against Korvac. After many such lives, Captain America convinced Korvac that to achieve his goal of true order he had to go back in time and eliminate his own chaotic human natures before he’d gained control of the Cube. Returning beside Korvac, Captain America reversed his decision to kill the Skull, thus preventing Korvac from gaining the Cube, and eventually tricked the Red Skull into apparently disintegrating both himself and the Cube. However, the Skull saved his own life by using the Cube to teleport away, apparently resurrecting Hitler as the Hate-Monger at the same time. The Grandmaster later recovered this Cube and placed it in the Savage Land, where it was the final piece of a giant scavenger hunt between the Avengers and an extradimensional team of heroes. The Grandmaster employed the Cube and several other items of power to stave off an other-worldly threat; and the Cube was presumably returned to Earth thereafter.

Years ago, another Cube had been created when Owen Reece attempted suicide at a nuclear power plant, inadvertently tapping the dimension that powered the Cubes. Reece acquired a small portion of a Cube’s powers, but much of the energy flowed elsewhere, creating a new dimension occupied solely by that power. Connected to Reece (who now called himself the Molecule Man), this energy observed Earth for many years, and eventually chose to interact with Earth’s heroes, calling itself the Beyonder. Summoning many of Earth’s heroes and villains to a distant planet it created, the Beyonder forced them to compete in its “Secret Wars” though eventually Dr. Doom stole the Beyonder‘s powers. Recovering his power, the Beyonder allowed those present to return to Earth, and retired back to its own dimension, but its curiosity soon got the better of it and it briefly traveled the Earth, taking human form to observe and interact with Earthlings. The Beyonder finally decided to birth itself into a completely human form, but the Molecule Man intervened, and the Beyonder’s energies were returned to its own dimension, where they created a fully populated universe. The Beyonder lived as a god there until Dr. Doom and the Fantastic Four entered his dimension. Doom again sought the Beyonder’s power, but the Shaper of Worlds and Kubik followed with the Molecule Man, and revealed to all present that the Beyonder and Molecule Man were both two incomplete halves of a Cosmic Cube. Though initially unwilling, both merged to form a new Cube which soon hatched into its adult form: Kosmos. As the Shaper had tutored Kubik, now Kubik tutored Kosmos, taking her on a tour of the multiverse and investigating the riddle of the Celestials. The Molecule Man’s human nature was returned to Earth as Owen Reece, but he still commanded a small portion of the Cube’s powers and once, during a moment of angry heartbreak, used them to rip the Beyonder from Kosmos before Kubik, having developed romantic feelings towards Kosmos, convinced Owen to restore her. At some point Kosmos attempted to explore mortality and transformed herself into a mortal, but that mortal incarnation proved unable to control her powers. After accidentally killing 64,000 Shi’ar colonists, she passively allowed the Imperial Guard’s Oracle to shut off her mind, rendering her catatonic. Unaware of what she was, the Shi’ar placed her in the Kyln prison faciliiy, but she eventually began to awaken, still unstable. The Shi’ar learned of her true identity (naming her as both Cosmos and the Maker) and attempted to kill her, but Thanos intervened and rendered the Maker comatose, her sleeping mind trapping her godlike powers within her mortal form.

An A.I.M. branch controlled by the Super-Adaptoid tried to recreate a Cosmic Cube in the Yukon, but failed and created only ruptured shards. Trying again on the Caribbean island of Boca Caliente, they again only succeeded in breaching the dimensional walls and failed to contain the energy. The Avengers and Red Skull independently came to stop A.I.M. The released energy transformed A.I.M.’s Adaptoids into duplicates of those near and dear to the Avengers, and one Adaptoid, becoming Bucky, sacrificed his artificial life in an attempt to close the breach; the energies were diverted elsewhere, leaving only further small shards of Cube material. Employed by Dr. Doom, Dr. Nils Browder and Steven Roman were attempting to breach the Negative Zone when these diverted energies exploded into their experiment, unleashing incredible power. Doom immediately reprioritized the research, and the team soon created its own Cosmic Cube. When Browder advised caution, Doom killed him, and began employing the Cube. Wishing to become a true Emperor of worlds, Doom demanded the Cube change the universe to match his dreams, but this nascent Cube could not enact such massive change, and instead found a universe similar to Doom’s desires, Earth-892, and overlaid that onto Doom’s universe (Earth-616). The overlapping universes created great instability, and had the side-effect of chronically draining both Doom and the Cube, aging them at an accelerated rate. Omniversal guardian Roma observed the destabilization, and sent Earth-616’s X-Men (who had been briefly outside their own universe) to investigate. They failed to stop Doom, and instead the mutant Magneto gained control of the Cube, and laid yet another universe on top of the pair in answer to Magneto’s dreams. Matters worsened when Earth-616’s Red Skull, who had re-formed and had been observing the chaos from a Catholite protected base on the moon, stole the Cube and laid yet a fourth reality on top of the others. However, the X-Men pursued the Skull, and ultimately Leonard Jackson, one of the Skull’s followers, claimed the Cube and sacrificed his own life to set right all four universes. The Skull was briefly lost interdimensionally Doom had all knowledge of the event and the capacity to create Cosmic Cubes removed, and the Cube itself returned to Earth-616, washing up on a Caribbean beach.

The Magus (Adam Warlock‘s “evil” half) used this Cube and four other extradimensional Cosmic Containment Units (cosmic polyhedrons, though not Cubes) in his universe-conquering “Infinity War” plot, employing them as engines for his cross-dimensional base. Prior to the Magus’ defeat, these Units were stolen by the Goddess (Adam Warlock’s “good” half), who collected another 25 Cosmic Containment Units from other universes, used their energies to create a world she called Paradise Omega, and then forged them into a immensely powerful Cosmic Egg. By merging her will with those of billions of others, she overrode the semi-sentient Egg’s limitations on affecting things on a universal scale. She nearly destroyed several universes, but her ability to wrest that degree of change from the Cosmic Egg was negated when Adam Warlock exposed her true intentions of multiversal destruction to her followers. With the Goddess defeated, the Egg’s structure was broken down to a sub-energy level, its extradimensional energies returned to their universes of origin. Thanos recovered the now non-functional Cosmic Cube from the Egg’s ruins, and gave this to Mephisto as payment for his aid against the Goddess, but Mephisto left the powerless Cube with Thanos, who then discarded it.

A restored Red Skull later wielded an imperfect Cosmic Cube fashioned from fragments of previous Cubes and failed Cubes, but Russian general Aleksander Lukin sent the Winter Soldier to assassinate the Skull and steal the Cube. Before he died, the Skull used the Cube to transfer his consciousness into the mind of his assassin’s controller. Only partly functional due to its incomplete nature, this Cube drained life from its user with each usage. Lukin, following a plan devised by the Skull from the Kübekuft’s earlier attempts to repower a Cube, sought to empower it through exposure to energies released from the use of enormous explosives. After a detonation in Philadelphia partially powered the Cube, Lukin employed it to seize control of portions of the Roxxon Energy Corporation and several other multinational corporations, merging them into his Kronas International corporation. When the Cube continued to drain Lukin’s life force, and the consciousness of the Skull began to taunt Lukin from within his own mind (even occasionally controlling his actions), Lukin decided to place the Cube in storage. The Winter Soldier transported the Cube to an abandoned Nextgen facility in West Virginia, but Captain America and the Falcon intervened. After Captain America claimed the Cube and ordered ft to fix the Winter Soldier’s faulty memory, the Soldier angrily crushed the Cube, which apparently exploded, the Winter Soldier teleporting himself away in the process.

An elderly Chinese gentleman named Chen Hsu – presumably the Kakarantharnian dragon sorcerer who had involved the Mandarin in his plot to destroy humanity, now returned to human form – has claimed that the Mandarin had a Cosmic Cube shard mystically woven into a Cosmic Torus (a ring) which possessed a fraction of a Cube’s powers. Hsu briefly allowed the Ringmaster to possess the ring, but when the Ringmaster was defeated after battling Spider-Man, Moon Knight, Daredevil, and the Punisher, Chen Hsu reclaimed it and continues to seek the ring’s “true possessor.”

The organization G.R.A.M.P.A. apparently has a number of Cosmic Cubes; these are not actual Cosmic Cubes, but merely nonfunctional cubes manufactured to bluff their opponents.

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