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Super Reads 151

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LOLtron
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Super Reads 151

Postby LOLtron » Mon Sep 05, 2011 8:17 am

Conan?Right back at 'cha.

Today, we check out Fear Itself: Spider-Man #3, The New Avengers #14, Journey Into Mystery #625, Alpha Flight #2, Ghost Rider #1, Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #521, and Blast to the Past for The Avengers #'s 75 & 76.  Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!


Super Reads 151
Here comes what is becoming an average week of comics.  Next week's list?  Ridiculous.

Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Heroic Age and beyond?  Check no further than this link right HERE.

Let's see how Spider-Man weathers Fear Itself.

Fear Itself: Spider-Man #3Fear Itself: Spider-Man #3
Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Mike McKone

In this issue:

• Spider-Man swings across town to get Karen Anderson to the hospital.

• When he gets her there, she's dead.  Don't worry!  It hasn't been for long so maybe the doctor can help her.

• If only Angrir, Breaker of Souls wasn't here to pick a fight with Spidey...

• After some fighting, Spider-Man tries to appeal to whatever's left over of Ben Grimm.  That doesn't work.

• Spider-Man dies.

• Norah Winters distracts Angrir while the doctor works on reviving the Friendly Neighborhood hero.

• In round two, Spider-Man goes for broke and manages to hold off the Breaker of Souls long enough for him to get interested in something else.

• With that, he passes out and is attended by Norah.

• In the aftermath, Spider-Man goes on to fight with his fellow Avengers against the threat of Fear Itself.  Aunt May and her husband are fine.  Karen Anderson has her baby and lives.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

We're down to the wire on Spidey's Fear Itself tie-in!  Most of our cast members have had their run in with Spider-Man and made it out the other end of the experience alive if still rattled.  Cab driver, Naveed Moshtaghi, wasn't killed by a violent mob.  The Roxxon CEO, Robert Christansen, was saved from attempted suicide after jumping out of his office.  Home-owner, John Russel, didn't open fire in a church.  Now, it's down to Karen Anderson.

Karen is pregnant.  More than that, her husband just left her out of fear that the kid wasn't his.  More than THAT, she went into labor just as cell service went down and riots engulfed the city.  MORE THAN THAT, Karen is not having a good pregnancy and believes she'll die delivering this kid.

Spider-Man met her outside of the church where John Russel went to confess his sins.  Karen was already in a very bad way at the time.  Now, our web-slinging hero races to the nearest hospital to save her life and the life of Karen's unborn child.

We've got three other main cast members to introduce.  The first one is Norah Winters, reporter for Frontline.  She's wrapped up in this drama because she, too, sought out the church as a refuge.  Norah and her cameraman were assaulted on the streets.  No sign of the cameraman now and Winters is freaked out that Norman Osborn or his Cult are going to come after her.  She still gets behind the wheel and braves the streets of New York to keep up with the Web-Slinger.

The next is the Worthy, Angrir, Breaker of Souls.  The former Ben Grimm watches as Spider-Man swings by and decides that this hero needs a personal visit.

Our final cast member is brand new to this issue.  Meet Dr. Shahrzad Rafiee.  She is being affected by Fear just like everyone else but focuses on the job at hand.  There's still that nagging feeling that everyone is going to attack her.

And we are off at hour Forty-One of the Fear.

Spider-Man gets from place to place fastest by swinging.  Wrapping Karen up in a web suit, Peter zips across New York.  All the time, he's thinking about how good it is to NOT be down on the streets saving everyone else.  He can just focus on this girl.  Peter thinks he's a coward.

When he gets to the hospital emergency room, Spidey finds the place PACKED with people and little better off than the rest of the city.  Fear has everyone in its grip.

The Wall-Crawler finds a doctor (Dr. Rafiee) and gives her a quick breakdown on Karen's condition.  What he hasn't realized is that Anderson is already dead.  This is a complete shock because Peter could swear she was just breathing.  The doctor thinks that's a good sign because it means there's a chance to save her.  Or at least the baby.  All they need is time and maybe for the scary super-hero to stop freaking out the rest of the patients.

She'll get neither.  Angrir has caught up to Spider-Man and, yep, it's right in that emergency room.  Lightning explodes around our hero as the Worthy makes his entrance.

And that means it's fight time.

As Parker thinks in his head, there isn't really a chance he can with this fight.  His only chance is to lead Angrir away from all these people.  Unfortunately, that's easier said than done.  The former Thing is here to stay and bound to make everyone elses' lives worst for it.  The first thing he does to prove it is take out the elevator, trapping everyone on this floor.

That means that Dr. Rafiee will have to do her job right here in the middle of a super-hero slugout.

As the medical team gets to work, Spider-Man tries to reach out to what's left of Ben Grimm inside this creature.  I'll give you a hint:  He doesn't reach far enough.  Angrir swings his hammer and knocks Spidey across the room with the electrified weapon.

This kills Peter Parker.

No, seriously.  The Amazing Spider-Man is dead.  Dr. Shahrzad Rafiee switches to working on him instead of Karen but it's unlikely that Angrir will give her the chance.

Unless he's distracted by Norah Winters hitting him in the head with an IV stand.

Yep.  That seems to do the trick.

As Winters runs off so that Angrir's rage doesn't kill her, Dr. Rafiee uses her paddles to bring the Web-Slinger back to life.

Spider-Man, inspiring urban legends.

This near-death experience shocks the #@%* out of Peter.  He is pretty much in the fetal position and shouts for everyone to get away from him.

When Spider-Man looks around the room, he sees people going about their business even though the situation is totally hopeless.  Can he do any less?  Nah.  He's too stubborn to give up hope even if all the evidence tells him that this is the end.

The Amazing, Spectacular, sometimes Sensational Spider-Man lays into the Breaker of Souls one more time.  This round, the Web-Slinger's relentless attack actually manages to hold back the Worthy if only for a time.  It looks like this furious barrage has taken everything out of Spider-Man, though.  Peter is helpless as Angrir summons his hammer to deliver one more fatal blow.

And then Spidey notices power box on the ceiling and uses some webs and luck to pull it down on Angrir just as the Worthy is charging up his hammer.  This feeds electricity all through the former Ben Grimm.  It has an effect, that's for certain.

While Angrir stumbles back to his feet, Spider-Man prepares for the next attack while hoping that there's enough of Ben inside the Worthy to make the Breaker of Souls break off the attack.

And that's what happens.  Angrir gets up and walks away without a second glance.  Peter doesn't know if that was Grimm or if the monster is still rattled but whatever it was, he's fine with the Worthy leaving.

Danger passed, Spider-Man collapses on the floor.

Aftermath time as we reach into Hour Forty-Eight of the Fear.  Naveed Moshtaghi, the cab driver from the first issue, made it home safely as did his wife and kid.  They sit at home and pray that they make it all the way through Fear Itself.  Robert Christansen, the Roxxon CEO, is with his wife at home.  They're hugging each other and it lists him as "Former CEO," so it looks like he just quit his job.  John Russel (the gunner) is still at the church talking to the priest about what he's been through today.  Karen Anderson had a baby daughter and LIVED.  Her husband even comes back to her after getting a good look at his daughter and seeing that she's his.

And then there's Spider-Man.  This is the first sleep he's gotten in DAYS.  Norah Winters looks after him and Peter eventually gets some medical attention before hitting the streets once again.

Spider-Man was looking for Aunt May this entire mini-series.  He never found her which is one of the factors that made him so scared.  He didn't know if she was dead or alive.  Or injured.  Or in some other form of trouble.  It turns out May was just fine.  She used her husband's cell phone (that's JJJ's dad, FYI) to call Peter but the spotty cell coverage made certain that Peter didn't get that call.  Aunt May left messages telling him that she was ok and that he should persevere through the Fear and "never lose hope."


The New Avengers #14The New Avengers #14
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato

In this story:

• Mockingbird does the whole Oral History of the Avengers thing but she does it solo.

• Before Fear Itself, Spider-Man quits the Avengers because she doesn't trust Victoria Hand.

• Before he can leave, Mockingbird shows up from the hospital as good as new.  Better, actually.

• Luke Cage and Wolverine pull Spider-Man aside all sneaky-like but Victoria Hand sees them anyway.

• Blitzkrieg USA hits New York City!

• The New Avengers hit back.

• Bobbi checks out her new powers against Nazis.

• Avengers Tower falls.

• Mockingbird swears that she'll kill Sin.

The New Avengers book starts in on the Fear Itself fun!  Can you dig it?

Just like the Avengers book, New Avengers is using the Oral History of the Avengers as a storytelling device.  Unlike the Avengers book, we only get one Avenger doing the storytelling.  In this case, it's Bobbi Morse.  Mockingbird.

She's not comfortable with this but figures what the hell?  Steve Rogers will check it for sensitive information, anyway, right?

Bobbi's had some stuff happen to her lately.  During a fight with the reformed HAMMER, Mockingbird was shot in the gut.  It was a mortal wound that would have killed her if this wasn't a comic.  Instead, the ex-wife of Hawkeye was saved with a combination serum that took the best parts of the Super-Soldier Formula and the Infinity Formula, swirled them all up together and hoped that something good would come of it.  It look like it worked at healing Bobbi's fatal gut wound... for now.

It also gave her the "powers" of Captain America and Nick Fury.  Cap is peak human in every area and depending on who you ask, he also got an intelligence boost to go with it.  Nick Fury?  Slow aging and vitality.  So this is a "best of both worlds" formula.  That's awesome but you might remember that no one has successfully duplicated the Super-Soldier Formula (until VERY recently in Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier) and you've got to wonder if the combination syrum will last, burn out, or cause other side effects.

Through this issue, Mockingbird fills in the details of this.  I just dropped them in the beginning because it's a good opener.  Bobbi also mentions that she's not a traditional super-hero.  I mean, she functions as one and even has the whole suit going for her.  The fact of the matter is, Morse started out her Marvel career as a SHIELD agent.  She's got a spy mentality more than a super-hero one.

And so our story begins.  We back up our Fear Itself clock a bit to BEFORE everything went all to hell.  The New Avengers are enjoying a delicious meal in their mansion.  It's pretty much the whole team.  Luke Cage, Ms. Marvel, Wolverine, Thing, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Victoria Hand, and Spider-Man.  Peter Parker is dressed up in his Future Foundation suit because he's got an announcement for the team.

He's quitting.

He just wants his eggs stuffed with hundred dollar bills.  Is that so hard?

The reason he gives is that he's in the Future Foundation now and there's just too much on his plate for him to remain active on the Avengers.  Let alone two line-ups of Avengers.  Thing doesn't buy it because he's doing double duty with the FF and the Avengers.  Wolverine buys it even less because he's serving on the X-Men, X-Force, Avengers, New Avengers, and one special troop of Girl Scouts (don't ask).  No, the real reason that Spider-Man is leaving the team is because he doesn't trust Victoria Hand.

This is still some left over emotions from Dark Reign that got stirred up when HAMMER showed up again last story arc.  It kind of split Victoria's loyalties but she still ended up doing the right thing and cluing the New Avengers in on who needed some punching.  Mockingbird ended up getting shot, though, so maybe Hand was just leading the team into an ambush.

Well, that's the kind of stress that Spidey doesn't want to deal with and so he's out of here.  Victoria Hand takes this more personally than she probably should and lays into the Wall-Crawler for all his supposed wrong-doing.  Peter doesn't really give a damn what she says and leaves with a warning to the rest that she'll betray them eventually.

Before the Web-Slinger can make the door, Mockingbird walks in.

Stunned faces all around.  Bobbi's supposed to be in the hospital but she got bored and her wound is gone so no worries, right?  Everyone gives her a warm welcome back.

While everyone focuses on Bobbi, Wolverine grabs Spider-Man and pulls him to the back of the room for a private talk with Luke Cage.  The three walk off for some secret talk.  Victoria Hand watches this happen.

OK.  Fast forward.  Blitzkrieg USA.  New York City.  Things are sort of in the present.

Sort of.  This is where we take our precious continuity and tear it up.  Why?  Well, it MIGHT be because of Wolverine but it's not.  His presence I can work out if I decide that Fear Itself: Wolverine takes place BEFORE the Blitzkrieg hits New York and Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force takes place AFTER this issue somewhere.  Spider-Man doesn't show up so no worries there.  Jessica Jones, Mockingbird, and Cage fit in just fine.

The problem?  Iron Fist.  He shouldn't be here.  I can't fit him in no matter how I try.  I mean, if this had taken place when the Blitzkrieg hit Washington D.C., I could work it out because that's when he was teleported to Beijing for the Iron Man 2.0 story arc.  The attack on New York, though, happens AFTER that teleporting, before and during Fear Itself #4.  FI #4 still places Iron Fist in China so... I got nothin.'  I don't know what Danny Rand is doing here.  Maybe this is his stunt double.

For Mockingbird, this is a chance to test out the new powerset and see where it takes her.  After the building the Avengers are standing on is destroyed beneath them, Bobbi attacks a Nazi Mech and takes it over.  The rest of the Avengers get involved as well.

After swatting Nazi Mechs around for a bit, Mockingbird ends up on another building in time to witness Avengers Tower fall.  This is from a distance but the Tower is hard to mistake.

So, tie-in with Avengers #14, complete.

In the closing interview, Mockingbird talks about how this affected her and how she came to the decision that Skadi was hers.  The daughter of the Red Skull would die by her hands.


Journey Into Mystery #625Journey Into Mystery #625
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler: Doug Braithwaite

In this issue:

• Hell and Hel meet for war against each other.

• Loki distracts Leah with news that Mephisto has the Dísir in his charge.  This gives the god of mischief the opportunity to talk with the Tongue of the Serpent.

• Tyr joins him after killing the Tongue's retinue.

• When Hela learns about the Dísir, she prepares her warriors for war in vengeance of what the Dísir had done to her realm.

• Under threats of torture, the Tongue of the Serpent reveals secret documents to Loki that detail a coup attempt on Hel.  Loki gives this information to Hela and strikes a deal with Mephisto in the process.

• Treaties are formed all around and Kid Loki is given a contingent of Dísir along with Tyr and Leah to work out a plan of attack against the Serpent.

• After relaying a story of the Serpent to Tyr, the Dísir kill the Hel-Wolf.  Loki and the dead demon are sent to Limbo.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

If you're looking for the best story coming out of Fear Itself, you're looking at it right here.  Journey Into Mystery has been a hell of a lot more fun than it should be.  If for some reason you're leaving this on the shelf, here are your quick details.

While the Serpent is threatening the rest of the world with fear and murder, he has sent his Tongue down to Hel to negotiate an alliance with Hela.  Loki's not a big fan of that so he tells Mephisto all about it.  Since the current Hel is occupying some land in Mephisto's Hell, the Lord of Lies takes this as the Serpent establishing a beachhead in his own domain and isn't pleased.  He moves to war against Hel.  Loki returns to Fortress Hela and tells the Mistress of Hel that invasion is coming her way.  This puts to opposing armies of Hell and Hel marching towards each other but for some reason, Hela left Tyr of Battles, her war general, behind.  Go figure, huh?

That's why this issue opens up with Hela meeting Mephisto on the border of his lands.  Both of them are dressed for war with their armies behind them.  Good times.

While the cat is away, the mouse is going to play.  Loki runs to Fortress Hela one more time to have a talk with Hela's aide, Leah.  He tries puting the moves on this girl (they're both about the same age, I suppose) but she's not falling for his subtle ruse.  Fortunately, he also made mention of some precious intel made by his magpie companion, Ikol.  After mentioning that "Leah" is an anagram for "Hela" and Leah noticing the same true of "Ikol" and "Loki," she searches the mind of the magpie for any important information.

She discovers that the Dísir serve Mephisto.  This is important news.  Leah races off to give it to her mistress.

Which leaves Loki with the run of the place.

Since this has all been about learning what the Tongue of the Serpent knows, Kid Loki enters the Tongue's temporary chambers in Fortress Hela and tells the creature that he'd like to join up with the Serpent.  While the god of mischief is doing that, Tyr is silently killing the Tongue's guards.  That's because Loki has the Tongue deeply engaged.

It just so happens that's all that Loki can roll.

Kid Loki doesn't actually take anything he's saying seriously because he's just here for distracting purposes.  Tyr shows up behind the Tongue as the real threat.

And the theoritical battleground, Hela trades barbs with Mephisto until Leah shows up with the intel on what the Dísir are doing these days.  That changes things considerably.  With that information, Hela is ready to skip this parley and head right into conflict.

You might be wondering who the Dísir are, especially if you aren't a reader of Thor from Siege on.  Let me give you the 411.  The Dísir were the Valkyries of Odin's dad, Bor.  They brought the heroically slain to their reward and so forth.  They also had a taste for flesh and more often than not they would eat those that were supposed to be brought to Valhalla.  When Bor found out, he cursed the Dísir, kicking them out of the Nine Realms and allowing them to only feast on dead Asgardians.  So they theoretically should always be hungry because the Asgardians pretty much stuck to the Nine Realms, right?

Well, that was the thought but it's still a pretty dumb curse since Earth would have been OUTSIDE the banned areas and would become closely connected with Asgard during Odin's reign.  It became even more of an issue when Asgard found itself on Earth and then under Siege from the forces of Norman Osborn and HAMMER.  This was feasting time.  Even after the dead had been taken to Hel, the Dísir figured they could enter since it was kind of a "fake" Hel set up on Hell real estate.  Thor got them to rethink their stance and when they did, they faced the repurcussions of breaking their curse.  The Dísir died.

In dying, in Hell of all places, they were brought under the custody of Mephisto.  I'm leaving out the part where Loki bent the Dísir to his will and has control over the creatures, leasing them to Mephisto in exchange for Hela getting a slice of Hell to call her own but that's dealt with now, isn't it?

Since the Dísir have committed vile acts on her territory, Hela is angry enough to take out her aggression on Mephisto's soldiers.

Back in Fortress Hela, the Tongue of the Serpent is saying how killing him would be useless because his master would just resurrect him.  Kid Loki tells the Tongue that this isn't to the DEATH.  It's to the PAIN.  There are far more evil things he can do than kill the tongue.  After some of this talk, the Tongue unlocks some sealed scrolls for Loki to read and is promptly killed by Tyr.  I guess this creature feared Loki more than the Serpent.  Interesting.

So what do those scrolls say?  Bad stuff.  Wait for it.

The battle on the hill is still in parley mode despite the bluster from both sides.  Loki races up with the bad news.  The scrolls he's acquired indicate that the Serpent doesn't really care for an alliance with Hela because his own supporters in Hel were going to stage an uprising either way.  This gets Hela to back down her attack of Hell because she'd be fighting on two fronts.  Mephisto also calls back his forces since the Serpent's plans would happen before he could sieze Hel, anyway.

Loki has other ideas on what to do with the Serpent, however.  The three continue this meeting and change targets.  As always, a bargain is struck.  Afterward, Ikol cautions Loki on what he just promised to do.  It seems that Mephisto is getting a pretty good deal here.  Loki tells his magpie that this is all to keep Mephisto from telling Hela about the Dísir deal his former self struck with the lord of lies.

Kid Loki returns to his Hel-Wolf and is disgusted that the creature is feasting on souls.  Nevertheless, this is his ride back to Earth and a key part of his further plans.  He arrives in Newark, New Jersey and awaits the arrival of Mephisto, Hela, and their respective retinues.

So here's the deal.  Mephisto sends most of his Dísir to guard Hel from any internal strife.  Hela takes up a neutral stance in the war of Fear.  Loki gets four Dísir (Brün, Hlökk, Kára, and Göndul), Tyr, and Leah for his own plans against the Serpent.  For their trouble, the Dísir will be freed from their servitude to Loki.

After Mephisto and Hela leave, Loki and his new troops wait around for some sort of plan.  Instead, Loki tells them a story of the Serpent and of a prophesy against him.

First, the prophesy.  Thor is destined to kill the Serpent but he will die in the act.  That's not exactly great news since Thor is kind of important and is one of the few people who thinks Loki is worth a damn.  Besides that, not all prophesies are written because of their truthfulness.  This one could be someone trying to direct things their way.

And now the story.  Loki learned this tale when he journeyed into the Worldtree, Yggdrasil.

When the Serpent was a young Asgardian, he was beset by giants on his travels.  They tossed him off a cliff and left the young god for dead.  Obviously, the Serpent didn't die even though he broke his legs in the fall.  This is where he found his purpose and maybe where he got the name "Serpent."

After setting his wounds as best he could, the Serpent waited for nightfall, "belly-crawled" into the giant's camp, and bit out all but one of their throats.  When the lone giant woke up, he read a message scrawled on the wall in blood.  It read:

GODS DO NOT LIVE IN THE SKY.

WE LIVE ON THE EARTH.

AND YOU DO SO AT OUR PLEASURE.

This terrified the giant and everyone else he told it to.  That's how you create a legend.  That's how you spread fear.

Someone able to do that... Loki can't beat the Serpent.  That's beyond him.  There are, of course, things he CAN do.  For this, he'll need some items.  One is in Limbo while the other is in Asgard.  Limbo first.

Since Limbo is the home of dead demons (I did NOT know that), Loki will need one of those to gain entrance.  Hence, the Hel-Wolf.  The Dísir slay Loki's mount and the door to Limbo opens.


Alpha Flight #2Alpha Flight #2
Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Penciler: Dale Eaglesham

In this issue:

• Six months ago, James MacDonald Hudson and his wife, Heather, were denied the return of custody for their 11 month old daughter, Claire.  Mac had a fit in the court room and stormed off.

• In the present, Mac is the prisoner of his wife in his Guardian identity and her in the Vindicator suit.

• The rest of Alpha Flight has been captured by the government in the name of "Unity."

• Northstar breaks into Department H and frees a particular prisoner in his search for his sister.  Wait for it.

• Aurora is tempted with revenge on her childhood tormenter.  This dude did more than torment.

• The government gets a handle on their new powers by arresting anyone that has ever looked at the government funny.  The government is touchy.

• James has a talk with his captor (Heather) where she pretty much admits that this is all for the return of her child and it probably involves some form of brainwashing.

• That prisoner Northstar freed earlier?  Puck!  He's a little insane after his trip to hell but he's still here to help.  With Puck's assistance, Guardian gets the better of Heather and the three start their escape.

• This is slowed by Box Units.  While the remains of Alpha Flight take on the robots, one Box unit takes Vindicator to safety.

• When she wakes up, Heather is with the Prime Minister.  Gary isn't too concerned about the break out.  Besides, Aurora's willing to join them in Unity.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

Before we continue on with the current Alpha Flight mini-series' main story, let's cut back six months.  We are in the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa.  Why?  Some backstory would probably be a good idea.  Back in New Avengers v1 #16, Alpha Flight was violently killed off panel by the Collective, a mutant who had gathered up all of the lost mutant abilities post-M-Day and was driven by the mind of Magneto impersonator, Xorn.  With the death of Guardian and Vindicator, their newborn kid, Claire was left in the care of Heather's distant relatives, David and Yvette MacNeil.  During the Chaos War, Alpha Flight was returned to life through the All-Father powers of Hercules and DIDN'T die when the even was over.  So they're in court trying to regain custody of their kid.

The judge doesn't rule in their favor because of Mac and Heather's alternative lifestyle.  They're government sponsored super-heroes.  Life is unstable in that line of work and no one can say when James and Heather Hudson will find them on the other side of life.  Even if they stay alive, do they really have what it takes to raise a kid and be super-heroes at the same time?  I mean, just look at that poor Franklin Richards.

Mac thinks this is incredibly unfair because he's sacrificed himself for his country more than once.  Maybe they could be a little more grateful.  The Judge yells at Guardian because she believes that James MacDonald Hudson has been fighting for law and order.  Thinking those laws don't apply to you is betraying all James believes in.

Stripping off his suit and tie (don't worry, he's wearing his Guardian suit underneath), Mac tells the judge that he never fought for law, country, or any other silly reason.  Guardian stood up for the PEOPLE.  Then he storms out of the courtroom, right through a window.

In the present, Vindicator hauls her unconscious prisoner through the same landscape.  If you weren't around for last issue, her prisoner is her husband.  She calls in to Director Brown who tells her how well the Box Units (revealed last issue) took down the returning Alpha Flight.  Each Box Unit was programmed to incapacitate an individual Alpha Flight member.

So, why did the government take down the heroic members of Alpha Flight?  Also revealed last issue.  This is all happening during Fear Itself.  While the rest of the world falls into chaos and terror, Canada's Prime Minister, Gary Cody, has declared martial law.  The law enforcement of Canada has orders to bring in any subversive elements in society without a warrant or any other type of due process.  This... is never a good idea.  EVER.  So we all know how it went.  First target: the Canadian super-hero team that definitely wouldn't have gone along with it.

That'd be Alpha Flight.

FYI.

The only one who escaped?  Northstar.  He's not an actual member of the team so his Box Unit ended up at the apartment he shares with his boyfriend, Kyle Roy.  Last issue, the Box Unit was activated while Jean-Paul was traveling across country to yell at Mac Hudson.  So they missed their target.  While Director Brown is certain they'll capture the mutant, Vindicator isn't so convinced.

She's right to be concerned.  Northstar arrived in Cape Race, Newfoundland just in time to watch Heather take out her husband.  Red flags go off in his brain and he follows the two back to Department H with the mission to rescue his sister, Aurora.  Since he's got super super speed, not even the cameras notice him infiltrating the military complex.

Since Northstar is worried about his sister, Aurora, let's move on over to her and see how Jeanne-Marie is doing.  Well, she's in a dark room and can't or won't use her mutant powers to light it up.  This is all related to a more than traumatic childhood memory.  When she was in the orphanage, a social worker named Laclos sexually abused her.  He did this to a lot of girls but instead of getting removed from his post when his bosses found out, he was just transferred away to repeat the cycle.  Sick bastards like this really do deserve some brutal punishment.

And the people behind Unity?  They've captured Laclos and are willing to let Aurora do the punishing.

While searching for his sister, Jean-Paul has run right into the prison ward.  Some recent prisoners, Citadel and Purple Woman, try to get Northstar to release them.  They TRIED to warn Alpha Flight about Unity, after all.  Jean-Paul isn't willing to help them one bit since they attacked his boyfriend in Alpha Flight #0.1.  Before leaving the prison, the mutant DOES find someone that he IS willing to rescue...

But more on that later.  First, we watch as the Canadian authorities arrest pretty much everyone.  The leader of the opposition party has his house raided and is arrested along with everyone else in his home.  Alice Hu and her cameraman (from last issue) are arrested in Vancouver.  Even Kyle Roy, Jean-Paul's boyfriend, is taken into custody.  This is especially troublesome since he's in the middle of delicate surgery at the time.  This is why martial law is the worst idea ever... especially when you're right in the middle of the Warped Prism of Fear Itself.

Back at Department H, James MacDonald Hudson wakes up in his wife's magno-field, unable to move a muscle to free himself.  Heather tries to convince him that what she's doing is for both her, him, and their baby.  After giving Guardian the tour and letting him see how some fellow Alpha Flighters are getting a chance at happiness for the first time in a long time, Heather shows Mac the baby room where their daughter will join them... soon.

Mac isn't fooled.  He designed most of these measures just in case an Alpha Flight member was mind-controlled to attack them.  He sees the strings and won't fall for the illusions.  That's just too bad.  Heather tells her husband that the Unity process works better on the willing.  It looks like that won't be possible this time.

And then... Puck.

If you've got someone thinking about having a baby, I'm betting this would dissuade them. No one wants a baby with a mustache.

Yep.  That prisoner that Northstar rescued?  It was Puck!  After he hits Vindicator, Mac is freed and wastes no time dealing out some punishment of his own.  Unfortunately, his powers set off all sorts of silent alarms which gives him, Northstar, and Puck little time to talk.

Maybe they don't want to listen to Puck, anyway.  He seems to be... insane.  After a trip to hell, Puck has come back with more than a few screws loose.

After listening to a Hell rant, the trio is attacked by more Box Units.  This is fine with Guardian.  He's got some anger to release and robots make good targets.

One of the Box Units grabs Vindicator and takes off to a safe location.  When Heather wakes up, she's in the company of the Prime Minister.  Gary Cody isn't too happy that three members of Alpha Flight are running loose but he's also not overly concerned.  The Box Units will distract them.

Right now, he's much more happy that one of the Alpha Flight members has chosen Unity.  Aurora is ready for the Process.


Ghost Rider #1Ghost Rider #1
Writer: Rob Williams
Penciler: Matthew Clark

In this story:

• Johnny Blaze talks about how super-heroes are big blowhards and how he's suffered more than them all.  Now that he's free, he's pretty happy to not have a burning skull head.

• Skadi's armies have moved on to Dayton, Ohio.  Two old Ghost Rider villains, Blackout and Deathwatch, act like vultures in the ruins.

• The new Ghost Rider shows up and gives them a full dose of Penance before killing them.  She's about to do the same to the two innocent children when...

• Skadi attacks!  Ghost Rider beats down the Herald of the Serpent but ruins everything by trying to claim Sin's hammer.

• This makes her change back into her human form.  Believing that touching the hammer has altered the Ghost Rider, Skadi lets the human live.

• In the Mojave Desert, Johnny Blaze gets a visit by Mephisto who tells him that he's messed everything up by giving away his Ghost Rider powers.

Hey!  It's a Ghost Rider book!  I've only gotten to Super Read Ghost Rider a handful of times so this is kind of a treat.  MY Ghost Rider was Danny Ketch, of course.  Johnny Blaze was before my time.  This looks like it'll be a brand new Ghost Rider to a whole new generation of fans.

I mean, if there actually WERE new fans and the people reading comics today weren't the same ones who read about the last two iterations of Ghost Riders.

But I digress.  We start this issue with a narration by Johnny Blaze.  He's so upset at how self-righteous and arrogant the super-hero set is.  They're always going on about how they've saved the world and deserve everything in return.  While I can't think of anyone who has ever thought this in comics, I'm sure someone else could come up with examples.  Either way, it's perfectly natural for outsiders to think that the super-hero community if full of themselves.

Johnny Blaze, though?  That's less likely.  I mean, here's a dude who got himself in the predicament he's in because instead of letting nature take its course, he turned to a deal with the devil... and he did it so quickly it's laughable.  It's really like Johnny Blaze WANTED to make a deal with the devil and just needed some sort of excuse.  So his pain and misery?  Self-inflicted.  Is it tragic?  Sure.  Is it all his fault?  Yep.

Regardless of his origin, Blaze fought the good fight as Ghost Rider.  He made the most of a crappy situation, that's for certain.  When it was revealed that Johnny had actually made the deal with a rogue angel, well, that just made the story more interesting.  Nowadays, Johnny Blaze doesn't know who originally gave him his powers and at this point, he doesn't care.

That's because Blaze has recently made another one of those Faustian deals with a mysterious stranger.  This time, it was to get rid of his cursed powers.  For the first time in a long time, Johnny Blaze is not rocking the Ghost Rider powers and is completely happy that the burden has passed to someone else.

In the Mojave Desert, Blaze drinks in the sunshine and revels in his freedom.  A nearby coyote watches him.  Pay attention to that animal.  He'll come back later this issue with surprising results.

For now, we travel to Dayton, Ohio where Blitzkrieg USA is continuing.  A news helicopter above the city is filming the distruction as Skadi (Sin) and her Nazi Mechs blow things up and generally terrify the population.

We'll deal with Skadi later.  For now, we travel into the wake of the Blitzkrieg where two Ghost Rider rogues are scavenging on the remains from the attack.  Deathwatch and Blackout.  Both of these two are part of Danny Ketch's early rogues gallery so it's kind of nice to see them working together again after such a long time.  Blackout is pretty much a vampire who can cut out lights wherever he goes.  Deathwatch charges himself up by telepathically linking to the dying.  So this is a picnic for both of them.

In the wreckage nearby, two kids watch the villains, hoping that they won't be the duo's next meal.

And along comes the brand new Ghost Rider!  This one has boobs.  So there have been some changes.

The feminine physique of the new Spirit of Vengeance gets Blackout to do his version of a catcall but Deathwatch is still intent on just killing.  That might prove harder than they think.

Why they think going up against ANY Ghost Rider is going to turn out in their favor, I don't understand.  Their past efforts haven't been stellar moments in villainy.  I mean, they've HURT the Ghost Rider host but that was more because of attacks on their family.

So you can guess how this fight goes.  GR holds a bike handle that changes into a full bike as she charges the villains.  Both of them are hit with a Penance Wave that makes them feel all the pain they've inflicted on their victims.  This leaves the villainous duo with tears in their eyes and planted in place.  That's not the end.  THIS Ghost Rider prefers to deal with sin permanently.

I'm also freaked out by skeletons!

ANY sin, by the way.  Those poor kids that thought they'd just caught a break?  Not so much.  Ghost Rider turns on them next.  The children's salvation comes from the most unlikely of places.

Skadi picks a fight with the Spirit of Vengeance.

With a little help from her bike, Ghost Rider chains up Skadi and mows down the first wave of Nazi Mechs as well.  After punching the Herald of the Serpent in the face, Ghost Rider makes a play for her hammer, intending to deliver vengeance on Sin with the Worthy's own weapon.

It doesn't work out that way, of course.  Ghst Rider isn't able to lift the hammer and more than that, she gets a burst of energy through her systems for the attempt.  This changes the Spirit of Vengeance back into her human form.

At the mercy of Skadi, the new Ghost Rider is left alive.  Sin figures that once you touch her hammer, you're infected by the Serpent's Fear.  Things will go much worse for the Ghost Rider now... or rather, they'll go much worse for the world.  That all done, Skadi orders her men to destroy the news helicopter.  They've spread enough fear.

As Dayton, Ohio is getting pummeled with a Blitzkrieg, Johnny Blaze has been collecting sticks.  I'm guessing they're for a fire.  In the distance, he sees a gigantic bolt of lightning touch down and figures there's a storm on its way.  When he enters his cabin...

Remember that coyote I told you to keep your eyes on?  That creature was actually Mephisto in disguise.  The Lord of Lies takes a more human form and lays down some heavy charges on the former Ghost Rider.

It turns out giving up his Ghost Rider powers has damned the human race.  It's up to the two of them to save the world.

So, good times.

Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Valerio Schiti

In this story:

• While Skadi is swinging her hammer at the new Ghost Rider, the mysterious Adam is watching from a distance.

• One hour ago, in Nicaragua, Adam was waking up a corpse to grind out who the next Ghost Rider will be.

• As the corpse inspects Adam's trainees, one of them reaches out and grabs the Ghost Rider chain.  She bursts into flame as the new Spirit of Vengeance.

• After the corpse gives her the bike handle, he makes a portal to Dayton for the new girl's trial by fire to begin.

• Adam thinks about the choice of Ghost Riders and believes it to be perfectly logical as his "sacrifice."

This is a tale of how we got to a girl Ghost Rider.  A lot of the original details were covered in Ghost Rider #0.1 but that issue still didn't leave us with a female rocking a flaming skull.  That's what this story is for.

Before we get there, let's introduce Adam.  He's the mysterious dude who took away Johnny Blaze's Ghost Rider powers last issue.  It looks like he's REALLY old and obviously has powers that haven't been fully revealed just yet.  As his new Ghost Rider is taking a beating from Skadi, Adam watches from outside Dayton.  Whatever happens here, he won't interfere.  The new GR has to come into her own... on her own.

With that, we leave Dayton and travel one hour into the past.  Then we move south to a temple in Nicaragua.  For days, Adam has been trying to raise the dead.  On a number of altars, dead corpses lie, decomposing.  Eventually, one of them wakes up and realizes that he's naked.

One of Adam's disciples puts a robe on the dead man as Adam asks the corpse if it is "the Seeker."  The dead guy says yes and Adam hands him the Ghost Rider chain.  There's a group of Adam's trainees waiting for him.

These are the potential new Ghost Riders.

That bald dude could have at least put on an appropriate wig.

The dead man moves through the front row, trying to figure out which one of them has been chosen to become the new Ghost Rider.  While doing this, he totally skips over a girl.  She doesn't like that and reaches out, touching the chain.

Boom.  That's the new GR right there.  No doubt.  You can tell by all the flames.

To help her focus during this first transformation, the dead man asks her what her name is.  It's Alejandra.

After the light show, the new Ghost Rider appears for the first time.  The Seeker gives her the bike handle that she'll later use in Dayton.  Speaking of Dayton...

That sounds like a good place to go for a start up adventure.  The Seeker opens up a portal and sends the new girl on through to test out her abilities.

After Alejandra leaves, Adam thinks to himself how obvious a choice she was.  He also makes mention of how she is his "sacrifice."

Which is only a little ominous.


Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #521Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #521
Writer: David Liss
Artist: Francesco Francavilla

In this issue:

• We meet Josh Glenn, a xenophobic moron who does everything he can to ruin his life, including losing his job after wearing a pointy Klansman-like hat on the Fourth of July.

• The Hate Monger's energy force hitches a ride back to earth on Angrir's hammer.  He finds Josh Glenn on a street corner facing down a cop.

• Suddenly, the cop wants to help Glenn out.

• Fear Itself is in full effect, yo.  T'challa, going by the name Mr. Okwanko, turns his diner into a makeshift infirmary.  He's also fighting punks on the street as the Black Panther.

• No good deed goes unpunished, of course.  Black Panther's vigilantism hits the papers as the hero trying to bully citizens.

• Insult to injury?  The former owner of the Devil's Diner confronts Mr. Okwanko and tells him that this immigrant can't just come in here and turn the diner into a hospital just because it's the right thing to do.  The Hate Monger walks out to egg the crowd on.

• Even though the anti-immigration group started throwing punches, it's only bad when the foreigner does it.  T'challa faces the American Panther.

• Sofija pulls T'challa out of his own diner.  Hate Monger calls this a retreat.

• Before Okwanko can come up with a plan, Homeland Security picks him up for being an illegal alien.  They've also arrested Foggy Nelson, T'challa's lawyer that set this whole thing up.

This is Josh Glenn.  He's a lazy idiot who would rather blame others for his own shortcomings.  In his case, he's got a thing against foreigners, immigrants, and fake patriot heroes like Captain America.  His wife suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so he's left to make the green.  Only he's not very good at his job.  The things he blames immigrants and foreigners for are many of his own negative qualities.  Basically, he's not very self aware.  Oh!  He's also a bigot.

This comes across from page one when he tells his wife how much he idolizes super-villains like the Hate Monger.  Yes, the Hate Monger.  The clone of Hitler that spread hate through the population.  He's got conspiracy theories over the Hate Monger's treatment at the hands of the Fantastic Four and Captain America.  He really isn't a fan of Cap.  Not patriotic enough, probably.  Also, he's far too accepting of non-Americans in the Avengers.  I mean, do Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch even have green cards?

The next year of his life is a downward spiral of stupid behavior.  Glenn gets fired from his job after showing up to work with a pointy Hate Monger hat on the Fourth of July (they have to respect your point of beliefs but the places I've worked have rules against both discussing politics at work AND being part of a hate group.

Three months later, Josh Glenn is doing a Hate Monger Podcast.  He's not looking for work anymore and expects his wife's parents to pay the rent.  Her parents are from Canada which to Josh means they're illegal immigrants.  He's obviously lost a few screws.  Maybe he never had them.  Whatever the case, his wife has had enough of this and two months later, they've separated and she's filed a restraining order on him.

None of this stops his love for the Hate Monger.  One month ago, Glenn is declaring his anti-immigrant message on the streets of Hell's Kitchen.  This doesn't go over well because, hey, crazy.  At least he gets some food thrown at him.  He could probably use some.

One week ago, we watch as Josh tries to break into Mendez's Pawn Shop.  He's looking for a gun and has no trouble stealing one from a guy named "Mendez."  Obviously a foreign name.  He's stopped by the Black Panther.  A foreign super-hero.

Which brings us to today.  Glenn is back on the street.  Even his cardboard sign is xenophobic.  The dude has a message, that's for certain.  The cop that has to get him moving along sympathizes with his anti-illegal immigrant message but still has to do his job... and Josh is kind of annoying besides.

This also happens to be the day when seven hammers drop from the sky.  The one that will eventually belong to Ben Grimm picks up a ride on it's way down the atmosphere: the Hate Monger.  The story mentions that the Hate Monger was converted to energy in a Captain America adventure.  When he lands on earth, the Hate Monger senses Josh Glenn as one of his followers.  Entering Glenn's body, the Hate Monger pretty much grants Josh the power to spread hate.  The first victim is the policman who becomes an instant follower.

Maybe we should check in on the Black Panther.  Since we haven't actually read Black Panther for Super Reads, we're going to have to give you the background on T'challa and his current situation.  Well, after Shadowland, the former King of Wakanda agreed to watch over Hell's Kitchen for Daredevil.  He took on the identity of Mr. Okonkwo and with some help from the lawyer, Foggy Nelson, he was able to establish that he was an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  T'challa opened up a diner and put on a more street-level version of his traditional Black Panther suit to keep Hell's Kitchen safe.  One of his employees, Sofija, knows his identity but keeps it quiet.

The diner got blown up once and Mr. Okonkwo used Wakandan money to fix it back up.  With Fear Itself raging across the world (we see the Thing as Angrir, Breaker of Souls, smashing stuff in a cutaway panel), you'd expect the Black Panther to be on the forefront of this conflict.  Not so much.  We're dealing with a more humble T'challa with a specific mission: protect Hell's Kitchen.  To do that, he's converted his diner into an infirmary and soup kitchen.  To his mind, all that's left in New York are those too poor to flee.  Those are people that need his help right now.

At night, T'challa does his part as Black Panther.  Hell's Kitchen is still one of the bad areas of the city.  When some gang members find that a lady is getting food from somewhere, they demand to know where.  After she tells them, they also demand money for the right to keep breathing.  You can bet Black Panther takes issue with that.  Unfortunately, his threats on these thugs are photographed as incriminating evidence for tomorrow's news paper.  The thugs take off with anti-foreigner statements and ominous warnings about the Hate Monger.

When everyone is gone, Josh Glenn walks out of the shadows.  He's taken his picture and he's starting to get an idea of how he wants to shape the world.  Behind him, the cop follows in the shadows.

Sure enough, the next day sees that shot of Panther threatening "decent Americans" on the front page of the New York Spot.  T'challa sees this and inwardly groans.  He suspects this is a planned attack but doesn't get too much time to ponder this before he gets an unplanned meeting with Foggy Nelson.

Foggy helped set up his immigration which is based on some false documents.  After all, there really isn't a Mr. Okonkwo and T'challa isn't actually from the Congo.  Nelson has been getting a vibe that this is going to get him into some major trouble but the former king assures him that no harm will come of it.  That's a pretty strong promise to make, considering.

With that, T'challa heads to the Devil's Diner for another day of treating the wonded as Fear Itself rages on.  This day is going to prove... interesting.

The former owner of this diner, Julian Chambliss, comes in and accuses Mr. Okonkwo of taking it from him even though Chambliss was behind on his mortgage and the place was foreclosed on him.  Again, he's an American so it's obviously the foreigner's fault that everything went wrong.  While there's mention of Wakandan money (FOREIGN MONEY!!!) being used to rebuild the place, it seems that Julian's real issue is that his diner is being used to help people.  BLEEDING people.  That's just not how America works.

All of this is egged on by the Hate Monger who puts on his hood for the occasion.  After Chambliss has warmed up the crowd, Glenn takes it away.  With the Hate Monger's powers, he has them eating out of his hands.

When Sofija tries to calm things down with some free food and drink, the mob notices an accent and push onto the ground with a sexist coment or two for good measure.  T'challa's had enough of that kind of attitude.  Laying his hand on Chambliss's shoulder, he tells everyone to get out of his diner.  OH LOOK!  The foreigner resorts to violence!

Yeah, it's gonna be one of those kind of days.

To stop Mr. Okonkwo from causing a scene, here comes the American Panther!

I mean... if most super-heroes got PAID, that would be a travesty.

Paying attention?  That's the cop from earlier.

The American Panther poses for an invisible camera and then gives T'challa a shove.  The former Wakandan king gives the American Panther a punch in the face but the love tap barely phases the true American hero.  Sofija leads T'challa away so that the injured people in the Diner don't get more injured in a prolonged battle.

Of course, nothing Mr. Okonkwo does will be looked favorly upon by the Hate Monger.  This retreat is cowardly.  With the T'challa gone, Josh Glenn has the run of the place and is free to speak his message of hate even louder.  This time, he rails against pretty much everyone different than the crowd... maybe even some people IN the crowd.  With Hate Monger's power, the mob eats this up.

Walking away from his own diner, T'challa tries to formulate a plan to deal with the Hate Monger but before he can do that, he's arrested by Homeland Security.  It looks like someone's checked into his immigration papers and has noticed some discrepancies.  They've already picked up Foggy Nelson.

Well... that's not good.


The Avengers #75The Avengers #75
Writers: Roy Thomas
Penciler: John Buscema

In this issue:

• Quicksilver breaks into Avengers Mansion.  When Jarvis tells him that the Avengers are holding a press conference at Pier 12, Pietro runs off.

• The press conference is to announce that Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne are leaving the team to conduct a study on the effedts of the new oil fields on Alaskan wildlife at the government's request.  Bill Foster is joining them.

• Once they're gone, Quicksilver shows up and there's the typical fight caused by Pietro not explaining himself well.  Or at all.

• When everyone's calmed down, Quicksilver tells the story about how he, his sister, and the Toad went looking for a way to reactivate Scarlet Witch's powers and instead summoned up a Conan replacement figure named Arkon.

• Arkon gave his own flashback within a flashback, explaining his origins and how he's like to see the Earth blow up in nuclear flames.  That done, he steals away Wanda to be his bride.

• The Avengers see news reports that a man matching Arkon's description has just abducted some of the world's most prominent nuclear scientists.

April 1970!  The Amazing Spider-Man #83, Fantastic Four #97, Iron Man #24, Incredible Hulk #126, Captain America #124, and Daredevil #63 were on the stands.  In the pages of Avengers #75, the world was getting it's first taste of the Warlord of Polemachus, Arkon the Magnificent!

Calling Arkon a "hero" is a bit of a stretch.  Most of the time, he's attacking the Earth for one reason or another.  The fact is, he's the best ruler of his people available and in most of his appearances, he's doing what he's doing not out of maliciousness but out of desperation or manipulation.  The Avengers and other super-hero teams usually end up helping him out rather than finding a different person to rule Polemachus and deposing Arkon.

He's also a very obvious Conan-type character.  Roy Thomas has a thing for Conan and writes the character as much as possible.  In this case, Marvel had yet to secure the Conan license but that didn't prevent Thomas from using Conan themes and ideas in his other writing.

Before we get to Arkon the Magnificent's grand first appearance, we need the lead up to it.  This time, if involves Quicksilver breaking into Avengers Mansion.  Pietro and his sister have been on the outs with the Avengers ever since the mutants sided with Magneto in X-Men #45 and Avengers #53.  That means he probably wouldn't be welcomed with open arms at the Mansion.  After buzzing through the defenses, Pietro meets up with the Avengers' butler, Jarvis, and demands to know where the team is.  Since there's no secret involving the Avengers' location, Jarvis fills the mutant speedster in and is left alone one more.  Now he has to clean up Quicksilver's mess.

So where are the Avengers?  They're all at Pier 12 for a press conference and a going away party for Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne.  It seems the United States Government has us of Pym's bio-chemistry skills and has asked him to research how the wildlife in Alaska is faring in the face of oil drilling and the like.  Joining the two Avengers is Bill Foster, on extended leave from Stark Industries.

After waving their good-byes to Yellowjacket and the Wasp, the remaining team members are attacked by Quicksilver.

"Attacked" is probably too strong a word but considering where Pietro left things when last he met with the Avengers, the super-team probably has a right to be extra cautious and even more sensitive.  They decide to shoot first and ask questions later.  If you know Pietro Maximoff, you know he does NO ONE any favors in explaining himself.

After being knocked for a loop by the Vision's mass changing abilities, Quicksilver is grasped in the gigantic hands of Goliath (for this story, the giant man is Clint Barton, who usually plays the archer, Hawkeye).  Totally defeated, the mutant speedster is suitably calmed enough to expain himself in detail.

And so we begin our flashback...

At the end of Avengers #53, Toad led the other two mutants in abandoning Magneto.  From then on, they all looked for a way to bring back Wanda Maximoff's mutant hex abilities.  While some people would choose to hit up the best doctors and scientists in the world, the three mutants instead read old books.  Needless to say, they didn't find anything that would restore the Scarlet Witch's abilities.

Does this frustrate Pietro?  You bet it does.  We're not the only ones thinking that science would be a better solution than old books.  Toad, however, has some more books they could look into at "an old cloister near" them.  The trio decides to give it one more try.

When they enter the cloister, the old man that greets them allows them to read their fill of his books but to summon him before doing anything stupid with the knowledge gained.  After all, there are dangerous things that can be unleashed in his books.

The three read.  And read.  And read some more.  It's hopeless, of course.  When Pietro turns around to leave, his elbow bumps a switch on the wall and yet another old book is revealed.  Wanda seems drawn to this one.  Opening it up, she's compelled to read a spell.

Instead of restoring her powers, the Scarlet Witch's spell has opened the dimensional door for Arkon, the Magnificent.

Everytime I look at that panel, it just looks like Arkon is having chest pains.

Arkon was the one that manipulated Quicksilver into revealing the special book and he also forced the Scarlet Witch to read the spell.  He's been studying the three for some time and in a fight, Arkon defeats them easily.  He tosses one of his yellow lightning bolts at the Toad and the poor little mutant is seemingly erased from existence.

Explaining that Toad has merely been dimensionally transported, Arkon launches into his own story.  This would be a flashback INSIDE a flashback.  We might never return so I hope you packed a lunch.

Welcome to Polemachus!  This is a world where war is a way of life.  It's not just a matter of fighting to attain peace.  These guys fight to attain more war.  They love the stuff.  None is as good at it as Arkon.  Through conquest, he's taken the entire planet though I bet he still gets into skirmishes every other day.

So it's a good life for him until an old man tells him that his world is coming to an end.  The skies of Polemachus aren't lit up by a sun but with an energy ring.  This ring is going out.  Soon, the entire planet has gone dark.  Crops die.  People starve.Arkon the Magnificent is helpless.

And then, one day, the rings suddenly light up again.  Has the planet been saved?  The warlord discusses things with the old man who warned him of this disaster (the guy has become his Vizier).  The man has discovered that this light has been provided from energies released from the first nuclear detonation on Earth.  The nuke gave them one year of light.  Since there will be quite a few nuclear tests over the next few years, it looks like Polemachus has a future.

Except there's no telling when the Earth will stop blowing up nuclear devices.  The Vizier has learned that the people of Earth don't war like Polemachus.  The nuke flow WILL stop in time and then Arkon's world is back to darkness.  That won't do.

A giant nuclear explosion on Earth ought to do it but there's a big problem with that.  While they might be able to send over inorganic matter, the people of Polemachus don't know the art of building nuclear bombs.  Arkon plans on stealing people from Earth to make the weapons for him but first he has to find a way to break through the dimensional barrier HIMSELF.  The spell is crafted and the book is sent to this cloister where it can be spoken by a child of the atom.

Which brings us right back to our first flashback.  We'll make it all the way back, don't you worry!

Now that the barrier has been broken, Arkon the Magnificent can use his lightning bolts to send people back and forth.  The first to be hit with the bolts was the Toad, right before the second flashback.  Now, it's the Scarlet Witch that gets the teleporting treatment.

Quicksilver decides the best thing he can do is to stand still and get hit by a bolt himself so that he can go to Polemachus and defend his sister.  Arkon has no intentions to fall for that.  His next blast strikes the ground beneath the warlord, sending the Magnificent One back to his homeworld.

After that, Quicksilver ran around until he could find the Avengers and we are OUT OF OUR FLASHBACK!  Woo!  Good job, people!

Now, it's a nice story but there's nothing to back up the validity and no one is taking Quicksilver at his word.

Until a nearby television fills in as a corroborating witness.  It seems that some of the world's best nuclear scientists have been abducted during a scientific council.  The culprit?  He fits Arkon's description.

With these scientists in his hands, the world is in peril.  Even the newman with only half the story knows that whoever has the nuclear scientists could threaten all existance.


The Avengers #76The Avengers #76
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciler: John Buscema

In this issue:

• The Avengers try their best to break through dimensions but they don't have a strong enough power source.  Cap goes to find one while Quicksilver storms around wanting to hit something.

• The Black Widow breaks up with Clint Barton.

• Arkon takes the Scarlet Witch on a ride through the barren wasteland that is his world.

• Those nuclear scientists aren't as willing to make a nuclear bomb as Arkon would like so his Vizier steals the secrets from their minds.

• Arkon tries to convince Wanda that he's found a way to save his world that doesn't leave her own world a nuclear wasteland.

• The Avengers arrive with the help of Thor.  Iron Man is here as well.

• During the fight, Arkon leaves for Earth with the Scarlet Witch, intent on destroying the planet with his mega-nuke.

• Thor sends Quicksilver, Vision, Goliath, and Black Panther to save the world.

• They slow Arkon down long enough for the rest of the Avengers to save Polemachus and give them a sustaining source of power for their energy rings.

The Avengers know that there is a dread danger to the Earth after last issue but that doesn't mean that they can just zip on over to Polemachus, lay down the law, and return home before dinner.  No, our team isn't that advanced in the ways of interdimensional travel.  Fortunately, they've got some smart people available to help build a machine to get them from Earth to Arkon's world.

The problem, it turns out, is that while the machine should WORK, it doesn't have a strong enough power source.  Captain America has an idea for that but it extends the time table on getting to Arkon's world and rescuing everyone.  Time is something that Quicksilver doesn't believe they have.  He's the most impatient of Avengers and the fact that his sister is being threatened doesn't improve matters.

The Avengers, however, don't really give a damn about what Pietro wants.  They hardly trust him.  While Black Panther believes that Quicksilver will become an honorable Avenger in the future, right now, they could do with a lot less of him.  To help out with that, the mutant leaves, hoping to work out his aggression in the training area.

It turns out the gym is already occupied by Clint Barton who has put together a gigantic crossbow for training purposes.  That Goliath!  You can make a giant out of an archer but he still finds ways to use his skillset.

Quicksilver runs off to find something else to do, giving Clint a chance for a private visit by the Black Widow.  Natasha is Barton's girlfriend but she doesn't figure prominently in the Avengers book which should tell you how their relationship is going.

Wait.  How would he know she's a re... oh.

Oh, that relationship DOES have a direction.  It's just a direction to splitsville.  'Tasha doesn't give any clues as to why the abrupt ending to things but it's probably fair to say she's not super happy with Clint, given that everytime she shows up, it's just so Goliath can argue with her.

Clint, of course, takes this badly but is willing to let her go so long as she tells him she never loved him.  Natasha does this with tears in her eyes.

From here, Black Widow goes on to Amazing Spider-Man #86 where John Romita gives her the look we know her by.  Soon after that, she gets her own solo series in Amazing Adventures #1 (cover dated August 1970).  This lasts for eight glorious issues before she moves on over to regular appearances in Daredevil with issue #81 (December 1971).  So breaking up with Goliath is good for her.

Let's move right along to a scene on Polemachus.  Arkon is giving the Scarlet Witch a ride through his kingdom.  The land is desolate because there must not have been many nuclear tests in Marvel 1970.  No worries, the skies will light up soon enough, once his plans have reached fruition.

Wanda is kind of pissed off that this guy plans on destroying her world while simultaneously expecting her to fall in love with him.  Still, there's something about him that really gets her going... maybe it's his android-like features.  ;)

They arrive back at Arkon's fortress capital.  His Vizier tells him that the nuclear scientists he's acquired aren't being very helpful.  If they don't nuke the Earth soon, his own world will pay the price.  Only one Ultimate Persuader can get the information that they need but that can only be used if Arkon is witness.  He and his Vizier go off to get the info they need, leaving Scarlet Witch the run of the place... the only thing the attendants can't get her is a means to escape.

On the way to his scientific prisoners, he engages in some continuity bookkeeping.  Last issue, Toad was teleported to Arkon's homeworld.  Since we haven't seen him since, we just need one scene where we see the hapless mutant in chains, begging to serve his new master.  We won't see Toad again for a good long time (Avengers #103 in September 1972) so everyone wave good-bye!

We can now move on to the nuclear scientists.  They know how dangerous their knowledge would be in the wrong hands and they all agree that this guy would be the definition of wrong hands.  Say what you will about the nations of Earth, most of them believe that mutually assured destruction would be a bad thing so they pretty much don't launch their arsenals because they would be destroyed in turn.  Arkon doesn't have that fear.  In fact, his whole plan is to ignite a mega-nuclear device and wipe out life on Earth so that his world can live.  These scientists won't help him willingly.

Fortunately for Polemachus, there's another way.  The Ultimate Persuader!  When the scientists are strapped into the device, their minds are laid bare and the knowledge Arkon seeks is right there for his Vizier to use.  The Vizier wastes no time using that knowledge to create the mega-nuke.

Arkon cares little for the fate of the Earth but he realizes just how much the Scarlet Witch likes her homeworld.  So he decides to lie to her, telling Wanda that he found another way to save his world that didn't need the sacrifice of Earth.  She can't go BACK there, of course, because Arkon still intends to marry her but she never need know that the Earth is a dead world.  Lies are a great way to begin a loving and trusting marriage!

Wanda seems satisfied with that and even agrees to go picking flowers with Arkon.  The flowers she's picking are only to be picked by Arkon's bride-to-be.  Maximoff recites poetry as she plays in the garden, confusing the manly warlord.

Still, there are words that sound slightly like romance and maybe the two would be happy together if there wasn't a dead world between them.  And, y'know, a kidnaping and forced marriage.

We'll never know because the Avengers have arrived to save the day!  The power source Captain America went for was probably Thor's hammer but Tony Stark is also here in his Iron Man guise.  Stark has been known to make gigantic energy batteries in his life.  Either way: Avengers Assemble.

Arkon and his forces give as good as they've got but the Avengers are the frickin' Avengers!  It's only a matter of time before they run right through the Polemachan fortress and ruin everything.  The Vizier reminds his Warlord that all it will take is the destruction of the Avengers' homeworld and nothing they do here will matter.  Arkon agrees.

Since the Scarlet Witch is still with him, she realizes that he was lying to her and is emotionally hurt because of it.  When the Avengers storm into the room, Arkon drops a lightning bolt, teleporting both himself and Wanda back to Earth.

Thor acts swifly and teleports Black Panther, Vision, Quicksilver, and Goliath back to Earth.  It's up to these three Avengers to keep Arkon occupied while the others finish up their plans on Polemachus.  Pietro, of course, isn't one for plans when his sister's life is in jeopardy and races off to fight Arkon on his own.  This quickly leads to the mutant dropping off the Empire State Building where Arkon has chosen to make his stand.

Goliath catches Quicksilver while climbing up the side of the building.

Each of the Avengers does their best to stop Arkon but each one is bested.  The Warlord of Polemachus is damn good at war, after all.  So what saves the planet Earth?

The Avengers that were left behind.  Once the fight in Arkon's fortress is over, the other Avengers build a device that repowers the energy rings around the planet without Earth having to be nuked.  While this isn't as satisfying as Arkon would like, he stands down as soon as the Vizier gives him the news.

When all this is done, Arkon tells Wanda that he'd rather not marry her if she doesn't want to.  He also tells the Scarlet Witch that her missing powers will be returned.  Crossing from reality to reality has no doubt helped her regain her lost hex power.  With that good news delivered, Arkon the Magnificent returns to his own world.  The rest of the Avengers return with the missing scientists JUST off panel.

So the day is saved.  As the Avengers return home, the Scarlet Witch pulls the flower she picked with Arkon out of her cape.  She looks sad.  I blame Stockholm Syndrome.

And what of Arkon?  Well, as I've said, he's not much of a hero.  You definitely wouldn't want him as an Avenger, that's for sure.  As far as rulers go, he is unfortunately as good as it's going to get on Polemachus.  There have been coup attempts and teams like the Avengers have shown up to put Arkon back on his throne.  Basically, he's the devil they know.

What's also interesting is that Marvel Earth has Arkon movies in place of Conan movies.  The first few even star Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Simon Williams (Wonder Man) even played an Arkon movie bad guy when he was going through his movie star phase.

Odds are Arkon will show up again and there's no telling what side he'll choose when that happens.

Well, it looks like we've reached the end of yet another Super Reads!  Thanks for reading and we'll see you again!

Until then:  Excelsior!

Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX


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