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Quote1 Magister, please, try to grasp this: Adam can only change people who want to change. And we all want to change. Because we all have flaws. Don't we? You have flaws. You hate people. You hate virtue. You hate ability. You hate anything extraordinary about anyone. Because you're not special. Quote2
-- The Painter

Appearing in "The Flaw In All Things: Part 5"

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Synopsis for "The Flaw In All Things: Part 5"

It is quiet in the main hall of the Chapel of the Single Shadow, where Karnak is meditating on a stone cube the size of a paper bag. Phil Coulson, the head of the S.H.I.E.L.D. who detained the cultists who were based here, enters the hall. He tells Karnak that his technicians have discovered a link to a teleportation network that they are trying to trace. Coulson pauses at this point to marvel at the wondrous strangeness of a world where he can say such a thing and not be thought mad.

Pausing to muse on matter, Coulson and Karnak stare at Karnak’s stone cube. Coulson eventually decides that it is too perfect to be natural, but Karnak disagrees: humans are part of nature. The cube serves as a focus, and with the right mind, all the wondrous strangeness of the world can be demonstrated in the cube. He asks to interview one of the cultists, and Coulson agrees.

Later, in one of the interrogation rooms, Karnak the Shatterer is sitting in front of a man who introduces himself as “Russoff the Painter”. Karnak explains that he was first put on the trail of Adam Roderick with the understanding that the boy had been abducted by the cult, but he has subsequently discovered that this is not true. Russoff agrees, saying that Adam Roderick came with them willingly. Karnak asks who told him that, and Russoff explains it was Adam himself, on the day he was changed. Karnak asks what his gift is, and with a wave of his hand, Russoff generates a holographic verdant forest scene.

Karnak is mildly impressed, but claims the beauty of the image holds no sway for him. This causes Russoff to pause, as he asks how a sentient mind blessed with the capacity to see beauty would suppress this ability. Karnak explains that it his philosophy, in which he tries to comport himself as one already dead… but Russoff cuts him off. He criticises Karnak’s ego, and says he only ignores beauty because he thinks a mind that perceives beauty is a weakness, and Karnak’s philosophy cannot abide a weakness. With a wave of his hand, he burns the forest down, and creates a new scene, of Karnak’s cell in the tower of wisdom, which Russoff claims is the only place he feels safe. This puts Karnak on edge, as he had told no-one of the cell.

Karnak stands up and demands that Russoff gets out of his head. Russoff laughs, saying that Karnak has no sway over him. Karnak’s fighting style relies on hidden weakness, and Russoff’s weakness are all visible. He creates a new scene: a soiled apartment, his home of five years. Here he lived with his wife as he cheated on her and spent all their money on drugs. Here he held his child as she died of neglect. Here he drank so much that he passed blood and picked fights with strangers.

As Karnak’s comments become more careful, Russoff realises that Karnak is trying to find the weak point in Russoff’s philosophy, the one perfect place where his self-image will shatter. He says it won’t work, because the people Adam gifted with powers and inducted into I.D.I.C. were all broken, and have built themselves around being changed. Russoff, rather, uses Karnak’s method on him, accusing him of hating ability. Though Karnak is skilled, all of his strength comes from hard work. Some are born great, and some have greatness thrust upon them. But Karnak has done neither, and achieved his ends through hard work, and has only hatred for wonders and strangeness. When the strangeness of his family became the wonder of the world, he turned on his superhuman royal cousins, on men in capes and flying cities, to live in silence and stare at stone cubes.

Karnak fires back that this was not his choice, which only makes Russoff laugh at him: a boy who had his strangeness locked away, becoming a man who destroys the strangeness of others.

In the corridor, Jemma Simmons is worried. Ever since Karnak stepped into the room, he and Russof has been silently staring at one another...

In the room, Russof is confronting Karnak on the dock in Svalbard where he first met Coulson: He accuses Karnak of hypocrisy, of vanity. How Karnak takes his broken acolytes, and tries to make them change and earn enlightenment by staring at cairns and digging their own toilets, while Adam Roderick imparts change on his broken acolytes with a wave of his hand. But, Russoff is sure that, if they go to Adam together, that he can use his powers to fill the void in Karnak’s heart, and end his loneliness with a place in the cult.

As Karnak looks into Russoff’s smiling face, his self-control snaps with such force that back in the room, he stands up and hits Russoff.

The Shatterer strikes the Painter with such force that the old man… shatters, painting the walls of the room with blood and offal. As Karnak’s self-control comes back, he hears nothing but the guards retching in the hall, and can think of nothing but a similar moment of powerlessness: the restaurant in Berlin after he killed the Zen Gunner.

Karnak walks in the hall, where a shocked Coulson wants to know what happened. Karnak mumbles a story about Russoff being a human bomb, then trails off into affirmations about being stone, unchanging and unbreakable.

Coulson is unsure what this means, but he says that S.H.I.E.L.D. has the location of Adam Roderick. As Karnak made the Chapel of the Single Shadow a S.H.I.E.L.D. case by formally asking for help, and Karnak is clearly not at his best, Coulson will let Karnak out before moving on to finish the case. Karnak comes back to himself fully, and strongly disagrees - he has to go with them to Adam Roderick. He has to kill the boy...

Solicit Synopsis

• Karnak has reached the heart of the IDIC death cult, and he knows what happened to the abducted boy. Now he just has to get out alive. Unless he joins the cult. And brings on the end of the world. Which is strangely possible.

See Also

Footnotes

  1. First and only known appearance to date besides flashbacks



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