The storyline marks the return of the Back Alley Brawler to active service, last seen in Issue #12 of the Blue King incarnation of the series. It also introduces the history of Manticore and the villain known as Protean.
Issue 7Atlas Park. After beating up Paragon Police officers, he finds Justin Sinclair (aka Manticore) badly beaten and comatose. Watching over him, Sister Psyche tells Michael that Justin went to an underground lab, whose description Michael immediately recognized.
Returning home, Michael remembers a mission involving Justin's father, the original Manticore, raiding a tanker ship being controlled by Protean. Following that mission, they find Manticore's wife being held hostage by Protean. Having surrendered his quiver, Manticore had to watch as his wife was murdered. He gave his own life in an attempt to avenge his wife's death, but Protean still managed to escape, with both deaths being witnessed by a young and horrified Justin.
After visiting with a possible source, Michael is told by Sister Psyche that Justin's vitals are dropping. Michael asks Sister Psyche to help, which she hesitantly agrees to do.
Continuing his investigation, Michael remembers back to when he was the Back Alley Brawler and was on the hunt for Protean. Using the technology that Justin's father originally used as Manticore, he was able to corner Protean and impale him to a wall with one of Manticore's arrows.
Justin's heart stops, and Psyche races to get out of his mind before the doctors jolt him, and her.
Returning home, Michael has his computer analyze the blood sample he brought from the abandoned hideout. The computer identifies the blood as coming from both Justin and Protean. Michael then suits up as the Back Alley Brawler as the doctors pronounce Justin Sinclair as being dead.
Back at the hospital, the doctor declares both Justin Sinclair and Sister Psyche to be dead. As they leave a shadowy female presence appears in the room.
Storming Protean's location, Brawler overpowers the guards, but is attacked from behind by Protean and stabbed using the same arrow once thought to have killed him. Protean boasts how, as a shape-shifter, he cannot be killed by an ordinary arrow. He also mentions that the headquarters prevents the medical teleporter from rescuing the Brawler, but before he can finish the Brawler off, he is stopped by Psyche, Manticore, and Numina. Manticore fires two more arrows into Protean's body, one of which is designed to break down Protean's DNA, essentially killing the shape-shifter. Feeling he has now vindicated the deaths of his parents, he works with the ladies to get the injured Brawler to the hospital.
- Manticore's actions lead him to be fired from the Freedom Phalanx by Statesman. This is covered in the "Trading Places" storyline.
- Manticore's bond with Sister Psyche eventually leads to their romantic relationship and their eventual marriage. This event is even mentioned in their wedding vows.
- Despite his apparent death in Issue #9, Protean eventually comes back in-game.