Let's get this road on the show.
Today, we check out The Avengers #2, Fantastic Four #580, Thunderbolts #145, Secret Warriors #17, and Blast to the Past for Amazing Fantasy #15. Enjoy and spread the word!
Heroic Age is still going strong as we enter our second month of titles!
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Siege? Check no further than this link right HERE .
Let's do the time warp with the Assemblers.
The Avengers #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
In this issue:
• The Avengers recruit Noh-Varr (The Protector) to build a time viewer.
• With the Time Viewer built, our team looks in on a number of multiple futures all happening at the same time.
• Suddenly, time shatters and we see the face of Future Hulk. He looks kinda angry.
• Before the Avengers can think too much about fixing things, Wonder Man attacks and breaks their Time Viewer.
• With time shattered, a future version of Apocalypse shows up with a future version of his Horsemen.
The previous story in this series was covered HERE .
The Protector is fighting the Titanium Man! That means I have loads of explaining to do right off the bat so settle in and we'll get this party started.
The Protector is the new name for the hero formerly known as Marvel Boy (in the Marvel Knights mini-series by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones) and Captain Marvel (In Dark Avengers and throughout the Dark Reign). He took up his new identity in the Dark Avengers Annual which I covered way back in Super Reads Dark Reign & Realm of Kings 79. Noh-Varr is a Kree Ensign from a different dimension who's DNA is sliced with various insect genetic material. He finally thought he had become a hero when joining the Dark Avengers until he learned he was working for the wrong side. Now, he's finally found his path and is trying to protect the world.
That explanation is easy compared to Titanium Man. Who knows who's in that suit these days? Originally, the Titanium Man was Boris Bullski, a larger than life Soviet leader who had his top scientists built a suit to topple that of American darling, Iron Man. Bullski died in Iron Man #317. In between Bullski's time as Titanium Man, a little guy named the Gremlin (Son of the Gargoyle from Incredible Hulk #1-- we just covered that issue in Super Reads 105) filled the position but Gremlin was killed during Tony Stark's first Armor Wars (Iron Man #229). A third Titanium Man showed up in Iron Man's Nuff Said issue, Iron Man v3 #49, and has possibly been using the suit ever since. This one was supposedly a member of a Soviet sleeper cell called (drum roll): "The Hammer." This guy could be the same Titanium Man or a brand new one. Just like the various Crimson Dynamo armors showing up all over the place, the Titanium Man has lost his identity and it's a shame because the original was a real threat way back when.
At least Tony lets us know that beating up Titanium Man is an impressive act that basically means that he's jobbing for Noh-Varr. Huh. This is basically Worf's whole deal in Star Trek The Next Generation. If the big strong alien can beat up Worf (and they always can), then they must be a huge threat.
With the random bad guy defeated, Noh learns that the entire roster of Avengers was watching this fight. Without helping. C'mon people. This isn't how to make friends. It doesn't matter too much. Noh-Varr is ready to help the people of earth in any way he's able. Tony Stark asks the Kree warrior if he knows how to build a time machine that can also function as a view screen. This is exactly what Noh can do. He just needs the right parts. That great because Tony would love to supply those parts.
OK. Continuity update. Tony Stark is broke as hell. Kind of. Maybe being poor is different for rich people. At the end of Siege, the government gave him back Avengers Tower for some reason but that's pretty much all Stark has left. Even his armor was built on loan from Reed Richards. Hell, you've gotta be wondering how Tony even keeps the power on at the Tower. Someone needs to remind certain writers how continuity works.
Even though Tony has a severe lack of funds, I'm willing to believe that Maria Hill would help supply Noh-Varr with materials and keep the lights on at the Tower with sweet, sweet government money. If only that were in the actual story instead of Tony doing his schmoozing.
We return to Avengers Tower a bit later and get in on a conversation between Hill and James Barnes (current Captain America). She's telling the new guy that no one should be trusting Kang the Conqueror because it's a stupid idea that will have terrible consequences for us all. Kang is kind of nuts and has his own rules on what honor means to boot. Add to that his multiple names to rival those of Hank Pym and we've got one guy that I wouldn't trust with my house keys. Captain America is new to all this and hasn't read all the files on every super-villain ever but he trusts that Tony Stark has a plan. That IS what Tony does, after all: plan.
They enter the next room where Tony, Spider-Man, and Noh are busy building this time travel portal thing. It's pizza time, too, so lots of the cast are enjoying a slice of New York's finest. Tony is really in the groove here. Building. It's good for the man. He's trying to convince the Protector to use that Kree knowledge out in the private sector but Noh-Varr refuses. That's not what he's supposed to do and unveiling all this space tech on a society that isn't ready for it is a terrible idea. To keep the Star Trek references coming, it would be a violation of the Prime Directive. Stark won't let the matter go but the Protector's opinion is set on this one.
With the time portal activated, the Avengers look out and see pretty much every variation of Marvel's future that have been in any way popular. We've got DeFalco's Marvel Next, Days of Future Past, 2099, Guardians of the Galaxy, Apocalypse Future, Iron Man 2020, and the future we're looking for: Next Avengers. There's no sound so the Avengers don't get to hear the last words of Immortus as they replay his end (from last issue) but they get the facial expressions. Their kids just executed someone.
The viewing portal smashes all it's images together and then forms a big crack. Something's going wrong and Noh-Varr swears it's not from his viewer. Time itself is broken. The last image they see is the future Hulk peering through the shattered viewer, looking angry and stuff.
Time is broken? That's not a good thing. As this story is trying to explain, time isn't exactly linear. It doesn't really happen. In fact, if you think of time as something you can travel through but time is only something that we perceive, then everything is actually happening at the same point but separated only be perception. Is that confusing? Good. Welcome to Philosophy 101. What our heroes theorize is that Kang broke time and is trying to get the Avengers to clean up his mess without actually asking them. We don't actually know if that's true but the Tony wants to find out.
Before they can use Noh-Varr's time machine to head off to the future, they get a surprise attack by Wonder Man. Simon Williams? That's right. Remember last issue when Simon turned down Steve Rogers' invitation to join the Avengers? Remember when he sort of whispered that he'd take down any attempts at reforming the team? Here he is trying to do just that.
If you think this is a crazy fight, you're right. If you think this is out of the blue for Simon Williams, consider this: just as the Dark Reign was starting, Simon went on Letterman and had a breakdown, saying that Norman Osborn's Avengers were exactly what the world deserved. It ruined his acting career. Just a little while later, Wonder Man showed up in the Lethal Legion and was involved in an attempt to kidnap Ozzy. This landed him in the Raft. Steve got him a pardon which may or may not have been a good idea. This pretty much shows that it wasn't .
Wonder Man's attack is surprising to the Avengers but they meet it head on. Tony gets suited up in his new armor after Thor takes the first few hits. Wolverine jumps right in but finds that the ionically powered super-hero might be a little out of his league. The Protector takes over next and blasts Wonder Man out of the building.
Simon flies right back over and Iron Man tells everyone to step back.
Simon blasts them all with his ionic energy but Iron Man's shields hold. When the purple smoke clears, Wonder Man is no longer present. Their time machine is also broken. They all know what this is. It's another Scarlet Witch. Another Sentry. Tony vows to turn this around before Simon goes completely off the deep end.
If you're wondering when Iron Man takes over this Avengers squad, it happens right about now. It's inevitable. If Steve Rogers isn't on the team, Tony Stark will end up taking over. Even if he puts someone else in charge of his team, he still takes the lead. Tony starts giving everyone orders. He tells Maria Hill to get info on Steve's conversation with Simon. He asks the Protector if the time machine can be rebuilt and they decide to take the construction to a place that won't be attacked by a crazy ex-Avenger.
This adventure is a very high priority. It'd be nice to pursue Wonder Man right here and now but time is broken. That means it'll start unravelling right... about... now.
The room floods with light. When it drops back down to normal, standing in the Tower is a future version of Apocalypse as well as his future Horsemen. From left to right, I make out Wolverine, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Scarlet Witch. These possible future Horsemen are organically connected to their steeds and look like they're ready to fight.
Fantastic Four #580
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Neil Edwards
In this story:
• The Future Foundation decides on their first project but we don't get to learn what it is yet.
• Franklin has to go with Johnny Storm to the debut of the Impossible Man toys because he's not smart enough for Reed to remember he exists.
• Impossible Man's new line of toys is made by Arcade. This is a tremendously bad idea and even Johnny doesn't fall for it.
• When the Impossible Man unleashes his new toys, they all turn out to be death-dealing devices.
• Franklin uses his reality altering powers to stop Arcade with a giant purple dinosaur.
• The Human Torch bats clean-up and burns all the toys.
• Nu-Earth keeps on aging.
• The Future Foundation reveals their first assignment: turning Ben back into a human again.
The previous story in this series was covered HERE .
Franklin Richards has recieved an invite to the debut of the new line of Impossible Man toys at Arcade Toys! That's sounds like it'd be pretty boring but I'm not a kid. To Franklin and his buddy Leach, this is just the thing to do on a Wednesday afternoon. Heck, Reed Richards agreed to bring him down to the event! It's time to get Impossible!
Except it looks like Franklin's dad has forgotten all about this prior engagement. He's sitting in the auditorium with his new students as they decide on their first project. We won't learn until the end of the issue what this project is but we know for certain that it's something that Reed wasn't expecting. It also happens to be a problem that Reed himself has failed to solve a number of times. Mr. Fantastic thinks that this assignment was brought on by the all-new, all-smart Dragon Man who is now wearing glasses to prove how smart he is. Yes, he's seriously wearing glass for no other reason than to look intelligent. It turns out that the actual project was brought up by the severed Mole Man head guy, Mik. It's something very near and dear to him and that should give you a clue as to what this is all about.
Franklin doesn't care about all this. He was promised a trip to Arcade Toys by his dad and that's what he's here to get. Reed shoos his son away so that he can get more data on this illusive project that his students want to tackle. This doesn't last long because Franklin is very insistant. He has to be. His dad continually forgets he exists. In fact, when Franklin brings up that Reed was supposed to bring him to this Impossible Man toy debut, Reed decides that what he's doing now is more important that a scheduled event with his son and gives Franklin the big brush off.
Reed Richards: Never gonna be dad of the year.
Normally, Reed would have Sue to cover for him but since she's down at the South Pole, it looks like Johnny is stuck with the job. With that, Reed gets back to talking to his Future group which has his smart child, Val, as a member. Franklin is justifiably disappointed. When he meets with Johnny, his uncle tries to make him understand that his dad doesn't hate him, he just likes hanging out with Val more because she's smart and he's only got normal intelligence. This somehow cheers up the little guy but Johnny trumps that by pulling out Reed's credit card. They're going to go buy themselves some toys. Johnny's hoping that some of that Human Torch merchandise will find it's way into his favorite nephew's room but Franklin's more interested in Spidey at the moment and Leech is into Iron Man. Ah, kids. You just can't be their hero every day.
The three arrive at Arcade toys and see that the man behind this whole enterprise is... ARCADE! Like, from the cover and everything! Johnny's about to start some small fires to take care of the assassin when the Impossible Man shows up to put everyone back in their corners.
The Impossible Man. This guy is an alien who's harrassed the Fantastic Four for decades but isn't an actual villain. He's usually just bored. Lately, he's become more friendly with the earth team but is still mostly chaotic in nature. As for Impossible Man's powers? He can pretty much do whatever he wants. Now, Arcade's made toys out of him and that certainly fits with Impy's ego issues.
We see a small flashback where Arcade tells us that he's given up his life of crime and has gone legit in order to make licensed toys. This is good enough for Impossible Man and they go into biz to make loads of money. We don't know if Arcade is actually without a criminal record or anything but Johnny lets him go after our villain lets him know that he's done with death traps forever. Even so, the Human Torch doesn't trust the assassin.
It's time for the big reveal of Impossible Man's new toyline! Impossible Man puts on his best Superman look and tells the kids present all about the best toys they'll ever get. Each one even includes a little bit of himself, making them extra impossible! The children are going nuts for this stuff. Even Franklin and Leech are a bit excited and want some of this Impossible action.
Now, we get the flashback from three minutes ago when Arcade swore that he'd given up death traps forever. It turns out he whispered under his breath about how he maybe wasn't being completely sincere. No. Duh.
Arcade prompts Impossible Man to cut the ceremonial ribbon and it's on like Donkey Kong. The floor gives way. The toys come to life and start threatening people. Torch lights up and tries to end this quickly but is attacked by Impossible Man head pillows and Impossible Fists. Leech is socked out by the fists. Even Impossible Man isn't immune to these attacks. After all, each toy has a little bit of the Impossible in it.
Franklin sees to his fallen friend. Leech is down for the count and that pisses the young Richards off. It's time to do some Impossible things of his own. Franklin makes the giant stuffed purple dinosaur come to life and swallow up Arcade. Without their controller, the toys are off balance. The Human Torch takes advantage and fires them all up.
Impossible Man feigns pain at their destruction but it's only an act. He promises to look after Arcade until the authorities arrive. Johnny leaves with the kids and learns that, today, he's the super-hero of choice for his nephew and Leech. Flame on, indeed.
In Nu-Earth, things keep moving forward at an incredible rate. Maybe important stuff happens. Maybe you'll just have to keep reading Fantastic Four to see if this all leads to something. Right now, it just looks like backstory for a future tale that we may or may not enjoy.
Back at the Baxter Building, the Future Foundation is finally ready to tell us about their first project. Ben Grimm is summoned because this involves him. Val is given the lead and she explains that they all suggested different ideas of what to do first until the Moloids who brought up and insisted on the project being Ben Grimm. Ben thinks this means they've making him some crazy gimmick but they've found out how to cure him. Kind of.
Thing can't believe it and we really can't blame him. He's turned to human form before but it's either been tragic or hasn't lasted very long. He also can't believe that these children succeeded where the biggest brain in the world has failed. Reed admits it's true, though. This is one of those bitter sweet things for Mr. Fantastic fans. On the one hand, Reed's brilliance is slightly diminished by having the Future Foundation solve a problem that he couldn't manage. On the other hand, Reed put this group together to do things just like this and his admitting that they can do stuff like this is what makes Reed Mr. Fantastic and not Doctor Doom. On a completely OTHER hand, no-one has called themselves Mr. Fantastic fans for a decade or two, so no worries.
The reason Reed couldn't solve the problem of Thing's transformation was because he was looking at it as an either/or thing instead of an on/off switch. Thing is the only member of the Fantastic Four who couldn't turn his powers on or off. Instead of looking for a way for Ben to permanently change to human form, the Future Foundation looked for a way to have Ben change at will. This... isn't a new theory. During Carlos Pacheco's run on the book, Ben Grimm could switch back and forth between forms until they decided he couldn't do that anymore right before Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo took over the book. The Future Foundation has figured out how he can do this again. Again: kind of.
It's been too long for him to change at will but they've made a formula that will allow him to change back to human form for a week every year. Ben will have no control over when this happens but it's better than nothing, right? Thing agrees and they hand him the formula that will make him human again. Sometime. When it takes effect.
I bet it happens at a very inopportune moment.
Writer: Jeff Parker
Penciler: Kev Walker
In this story:
• That Zemo from last issue? Not real. I know! I wasn't surprised either!
• This was actually a show and tell event where Cage and the support team showed the new T-Bolts that they can be controlled.
• Cage meets the new warden: U.S.Agent. He has old school prosthetics.
• The Thunderbolts meet their transport, the Man-Thing and teleport to their first mission.
• The team fight some troll escapees from Asgard.
• Ghost learns that one of the trolls is actually a girl.
The previous story in this series was covered HERE .
Last issue, we left Luke Cage dead with the original founder of the Thunderbolts showing up to reclaim his team. With Baron Zemo showing up over in Captain America as a presumed bad guy, his return in the pages of Thunderbolts isn't too hard to believe. Only the death of Luke Cage gives away the ruse and, then, just to us. The guys on the ground should have no idea that they're being played.
Zemo incapacitates the rest of the support staff (MACH V and Songbird) and tells the new team to come with him if they want to live. This could have actually been a cool storyline but instead, it's just a fake out. Crossbones jumps at the chance to leave the Raft behind him and hops right on Zemo's jet. Juggernaut is happy to leave but isn't joining any bad guy right now. He shoves Zemo out of the way and jumps right into the water. Moonstone has a different reaction. She and Zemo have some nasty history between them from when Helmut used her as a puppet after taking away her moonstones. She lifts him off the ground by the back of his shirt.
Zemo is able to manuever around and give Moonstone a blast of some sort of power. He then turns his attention to the still undecided Ghost. The Ghost sees what's going on and decides he doesn't believe that these events are true. The Baron fires a blast of energy at the Ghost but the ray passes right through the Thunderbolt. Moonstone tries the same trick only to find that she can't turn intangible anymore. She gets another energy blast from her opponent.
Ghost explains that he's scanned Luke Cage and his compatriots and no-one appears to be dead. The only change in their heart rates happened to Songbird every time Moonstone got hit. This probably has more to do with their apparent psychic connection than to Melissa enjoying Karla's pain. Or maybe it's exactly that. Songbird isn't a fan of Karla Sofen after all.
Luke gets to his feet, announcing that this little test has run its course. He orders MACH V out to pick up Kain Marko who is having a devil of a time staying afloat and finds himself surrounded by mutant jellyfish. Crossbones sees that things have shifted back to their normal positions and pulls his gun. Zemo takes him out of the fight by activating the nanites in his system. Zemo pulls off his mask to reveal Fixer beneath. This was all a set-up, but it was more to see how their safety locks would react than to see who would remain loyal. They didn't expect any of this crew to stay on.
Moonstone is informed that her intangibility has been taken out of the equation. She needs special permission to engage that particular ability otherwise it remains locked by the nanites in her cortex. She can still fly and fire blasts of energy as well as use super strength. In fact, it seems wierd that they'd take away her intangibility unless you think of how useless Ghost would be if she were able to slip through solid objects as well.
They all look down at the lake to see that Juggernaut being brought to shore. The team isn't using nanites to lower Kain's abilities. It seems that Cytorrak is angry with him after the Captain Universe incident over in Amazing Spider-Man #'s 627-629. Juggernaut needs to breath again and most of his power is much weaker. When you join the "good guys," you can't keep your powers at a maximum level. It's just comic law.
Karla isn't happy about the way they are treating her. This isn't freedom at all. Luke says it's not supposed to be. She's in prison and none of them are people Luke would have chosen to front his first Thunderbolts team. As far as he's concerned, these safety precautions are completely necessary and will be used when one of them steps out of line. And someone WILL step out of line. He knows it.
With this exercise done, he tells them to return to the Raft. They'll start their first mission the next day. As they leave, Songbird tells Fixer that he made a convincing Zemo. Norbert fumbles through a response. If you're reading Captain America, you know that Fixer is working for the good Baron once more.
Later on, we catch up with Abe Jenkins (MACH V) walking through the men's lock-up area with Melissa Gold (Songbird). They's basically just shooting the breeze but it's nice to see these two talking. They used to be lovers. Maybe they are again? Hard to say. The real point to this scene is setting up that Luke is down in the Infirmary meeting the Warden of the Raft: John Walker, the U.S.Agent.
Walker lost his left arm and leg in a battle with the last leader of the Thunderbolts, Scourge- usually known as Nuke. He wanted back in game as soon as possible and that means a job as the Warden of the Maximum-Maximum Security Prison. If you're wondering the real reason U.S.Agent's prosthetics look less impressive than, say, James Buchanan's, it's because he doesn't want end up like the guy who took his limbs. Nuke was a psycho cyborg who thought he was a patriot. While John Walker has some crazy ideas rolling around his noggin, he's not actually crazy. Hopefully, he'll get some more impressive cyborg bits soon. For now, he's rocking some real-world-esque prosthetics.
The next day, our new team gets a briefing for their first mission. They're going after some trolls that escaped Asgard's holding areas when the city fell. Only three survived the Siege but those three are creating a path of wanton destruction wherever they go. The mission is to take them down and capture them alive. Now, it's time to take a trip to the trolls' presumed location. That means a trip to the Thunderbolts' transportation room. It's time for them to meet Man-Thing.
This is a tripped out way to travel but it's unique. After the team gets to meet the Man-Thing (with a couple natural freakouts), they use him to teleport right over to the trolls' location. It's a smooth trip and amazingly accurate. Before they even know what's going on, they're fighting trolls.
These guys aren't pushovers, either. After everyone is smashed into the ground, Luke sends his team into the field, leaving Songbird to keep an eye on Man-Thing. Juggernaut and Moonstone race after the two visible trolls while Ghost and Crossbones track the third using the Ghost's sensor array.
These guys are tough customers. Juggernaut runs right into a trap when he starts smashing trees down to reach his quarry. It turns out the trolls are good fighters within the forest. Luke tries punching the troll out but finds himself knocked into the ground again. The trolls head right back over to where the T-Bolts teleported in which means it's Songbird's turn at bat. She tries corralling them with a wall of sound but the trolls push right through it and keep on going.
You want to know who starts being the most successful? Moonstone. She rips up a tree and uses it to direct the trolls right where she wants them to go.
While she's at that, Crossbones and the Ghost have located the last troll. Crossbones gives it a full clip of concussive fire but it doesn't drop. Is just uses it's axe to fell a nearby tree. CB barely has time to avoid the tree's fall.
Moonstone has finally brought the trolls where she wants them and calls Luke in to deliver the final blow. Unfortunately, it looks like Juggernaut's going to get there first and he's so mad that nothing Luke Cage says even slows him down. The area explodes with his impact into the trolls.
The explosion is heard way out where Ghost and Crossbones are. Ghost calls in to find out what's going on but doesn't get a response. What he does get is sliced up by the troll he and CB are after. This shouldn't have happened. Ghost was intangible but the troll still managed to injure him. He doesn't have much time to think this over before he gets a good look at what the troll was doing before he and Crossbones got there.
It looks like it killed and ate a couple campers. This is more than Ghost can really process. He might be a villain but he's not a cannibal. It's only a momentary pause but when he gets a good look at his attacker, she's making a flying leap at him.
Yeah, "she." This troll isn't a troll at all. It's a girl.
Secret Warriors #17
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Allesandro Vitti
In this story:
• Nick Fury drinks.
• Dum-Dum Dugan and Jasper Sitwell meet at with the United Nations Security Council in a super secret closed session to explain their actions and tell us about a super awesome party they had two weeks ago.
• At that party, the Howling Commandos meet and greet and reminisce.
• A week and a half ago, Dugan's Howlers took down the Hydra base, Hell's Heaven, in China with a little help from Alexander Pierce's Caterpillar team.
• At the reunion of the Howling Commandos, they start telling a story about storming the beaches of Normandy with Captain America.
• Steve Rogers arrives with Sharon Carter. The story continues.
• The United Nations Security Council asks if the Howling Commandos will be looking to take down more Hydra and Leviathan bases but...
• Dum-Dum Dugan tells them that the Howling Commandos are dead.
It's been a while since we've checked in on Secret Warriors even though it's one of my favorite reads every single month. This storyline falls under the Heroic Age banner but it's probably going to be better known by it's actual title: The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos. It's a difficult story to tell since it takes place in mostly flashbacks to different times so I'm going to do my best to keep you updated on the WHEN.
For example, this first shot doesn't have a time stamp on it so we're going to assume it's the PRESENT. Nick Fury is in a room where the walls are covered with pictures of the Howling Commandos. He looks broody and he's drinking alone.
We switch scenes while remaining in the PRESENT. This time, we're looking in on a meeting between two ambassadors. The lady, Ambassador White, is trying to make the man, unnamed, understand that who they're going to be meeting deserves a good deal of respect. The dude understands who this man is but still seems pretty angry. White tells him that the man was at Normandy and is basically a living legend. The man says that's part of the problem. Sometimes it's not good to outlive your legend.
They exit their small room to attend a larger meeting of the United Nations Security Council. The UK Ambassador informs everyone that this session is off the record. No-one is to say what's going on here to anyone else ever. They're meeting to discuss some recent events and figure out what to do about them. It's a delicate matter. Before them are Dum-Dum Dugan (with a broken arm) and Jasper Sitwell, recently of the HC PMC (Howling Commandos Private Military Company).
I'll save all the diversions that go out over this entire conversation. I'll just say that Jasper is leading the Howling Commando part of the conversation and he's not giving up ANY information. That's frustrating to the Security Council because they already have the answer and just want to hear it straight from these guys. What they know is that the Howlers are currently working for Nick Fury and only Nick Fury. The Ambassador from China is leading this part of the questioning because whatever went down with the Howling Commandos happened on the sovereign soil of his nation. He's got an axe to grind about that.
All this leads to Dugan telling the Security Council about a party that was held two weeks ago.
TWO WEEKS AGO. Remember in Siege: Secret Warriors when Nick Fury invited Steve Rogers to a get together of the Howling Commandos? This is the payoff for that. The party takes place in Nick Fury's Secret Base #4, The Sandbox, located in Sudan. Dugan is about the last to show up and he tells a waiting Jasper Sitwell a story about how he beat up the old brother of a girl back when he was twelve just so he could get a kiss from her. The point being that if there's a party, Dugan's gonna be there.
The best way to get to know the Howling Commandos is through an outsider. To that end, we have Ryan Ralston, the grandson of Robert "Rebel" Ralston who's now a politician. Rebel introduces the rest of the Howling Commandos. Nick Fury (who we know as having a nice retirement by continuing to fight the good fight), Dum-Dum Dugan (who's currently running the HC PMC), Gabriel Jones (who joined Dum-Dum in leading the HC PMC), Isadore "Izzy" Cohen, Eric Koenig (who helped liberate a fleet of Helicarriers from HAMMER by working from within), John Garrett (who you might remember from Dark Reign: The List- Secret Warriors), and Jasper Sitwell (the skinny guy with the glasses). Robert also tells his grandson of those who have already died by this point but they'll get their memorial in a later issue so we'll move on for now.
Rebel introduces Ryan to Nick Fury who is happy to see that Ryan is in the Army and a Ranger to boot. Nick sends the kid off to get beer for him and Robert and then has a private convo with the Senator. Nick is looking for numbers for some law or something that might be floated through Congress soon. There's brief mention of the altercation at the White House during the Siege between Phobos and many, MANY Secret Service agents but they hardly get into details. Heck, we don't even get a clear view of what bill/law/etc. Nick is looking to get passed. Now it's on to the big dinner. Nick gives us a speech before they start enjoying some grub.
I may have mentioned it before but the World War II Howling Commandos look damn good for their age. I mean, yes, there are some wrinkles and grey is showing up in more than one hairdo but these are still men that could go out there and actually fight our wars. Sure, maybe they look older than your average recruit but they all look tough as nails and incredibly young considering that the youngest among them should be pushing ninety. Maybe everyone got the Infinity Formula that was pumped into Nick Fury.
Nick makes a toast to everyone and since he thinks that this might be his last chance, tells everyone how honored he was to have served with them all. With that, they all make the chant, "Never Forgotten! Never Defeated!" before we switch scenes.
PRESENT. That last line is still in the air when the Chinese Ambassador laughs about it and says that it's not as true anymore. This gets angered looks from Dugan and Sitwell. Ambassador White takes over from here and decides to start asking questions about what the Howling Commandos were doing in China. Again, Dugan and Sitwell, aren't going to give anyone a straight answer so the Ambassadors end up filling in the blanks on their own. They know that there was a Hydra base there and they know that the Howlers took it down.
ONE AND A HALF WEEKS AGO. Two Hydra guards are violently killed at the perimeter of the Hydra Base, Hell's Heaven, in China. This was accomplished by Nick Fury's Black Caterpillar unit lead by Alexander Pierce. The Black team is made up of Lauren Wolfe (Polymorph), Ahmed Noor (Atom Smasher), Ben Huth (Flight), Bobby Gamorra (Amulet of Abbadon), Cornell Gray (Parasitic Brain), Ellis Love (Telepath/Telekinetic), and Aaron Downing (Shadow Machine). They only get one shot in this comic but I imagine we'll see them again soon. The Black team is a lot darker than our usual Caterpillar Squad. Daisy's team is much friendlier and a lot less cold-blooded.
PRESENT. Back at the Security Council meeting, we learn that Hell's Heaven was left a smouldering crater so at least the Howling Commandos took down their target before ending up in their current predicament.
There are a lot of words flung out about the Howling Commandos not respecting the borders or sovereign nations. The Ambassador from the United Kingdom asks Dugan if he believes in men that are larger than life; more important than any single country. Which leads us to...
TWO WEEKS AGO. Back at the party, stories are being told. Some of these might be tall tales but they have a newcomer in their midst and it's time to tell him the legend of the Howling Commandos. Before the story of Normandy can come out, Steve Rogers arrives with Sharon Carter. This is an exceptional priveledge. They sit down to hear some more about Captain America's storming of the beach of Normandy with the Howling Commandos.
The landing of Normandy was bloody. BLOODY. People left those landing ships and got shot down again and again. It would be odd if the Howlers and Cap weren't there but here they are. Cap is giving his own little pep talk to the Howling Commandos. It's all about the power of individuals standing up and winning the day. With a speech like that, of course the Howling Commandos are going to exit that landing ship and take the beach.
PRESENT. With an image like that in his mind, of course Dugan knows men that are more important than any government. He tells it to them straight. They took down a Hydra base in China. The Chinese knew it was there and did nothing. It seems that the only ones with the stones to make a difference in this game are the Howling Commandos and those like them. That Hydra base isn't alone. There's a Leviathan base in Russia that no-one is doing anything about. Someone's got to start acting before the world becomes a very bad place to live. The Security Council ask Dugan if the Howling Commandos are going to continue this private war.
Dugan tells them that's not really an option. The Howling Commandos are mostly dead. We see the wreckage of a burning helicarrier as sort of proof of that.
Amazing Fantasy #15
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Steve Ditko
In this story:
• Peter has a loving aunt and uncle who have raised him and provide for him but he doesn't really fit in at school.
• He tries to invite some school mates to a science exibit but those crazy teens would rather have fun.
• During the experiment, a spider gets hit with a radioactive beam, jumps on Peter and bites him.
• Hello, spider-powers!
• Peter decides to put on a bad costume and win money as an amateur wrestler.
• A TV producer sees him and offers him a spot on a show.
• Peter makes a better costume for his act and invents some web shooters as well.
• After a successful show, Spider-Man lets a burglar race right by him without interfering.
• Spidey keeps on doing his thing on television until one day he comes home to find that someone has killed his Uncle Ben.
• Peter chases down the burglar/murderer and discovers it's the man he let go when he first became Spider-Man.
• Leaving the murderer for the police, Peter Parker has learned that with great power there must also come-- yadda yadda yadda.
August, 1962. In the same month that saw the first appearance of Thor by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, another hero made his tentative first appearance in the final issue of Amazing Fantasy. Spider-Man was a concept that publisher, Martin Goodwin, didn't think would work. He thought that no-one would like a hero dressed up as a spider. He should have been right but it turns out that fate had other ideas. Spider-Man was the first hero in the Marvel Universe that WASN'T created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Instead, Stan teamed up with artist Steve Ditko for the tale of Peter Parker. Kirby still got his hand in there by illustrating the cover.
Spidey was different from all the other super-heroes at the time. He was a teenager, for one. Instead of being relegated to the role of sidekick, Peter Parker went out there as his own hero. This was simply not how things were done. Robin, Bucky, and Toro were jealous. Tragedy was nothing new for hero origins but even there Spider-Man took his own twist. The tragedy hit long after he had gotten his super powers. Before the death of his Uncle Ben, Parker was in it for himself and only cared for the well being of his elderly relatives.
Tragedy would also hit Peter again and again over his long and popular career. Pretty much everyone in Peter's life has been killed or declared dead at least once. That's a lot to take in for one hero and it's probably something that will continue well into the future. Peter may not have been the first hard luck hero, but no-one takes it to the same level as Spider-Man. All this is accompanied by a sense of humor that few other heroes or villains can match.
Peter Parker was a bespectacled student going to your average New York City high school in the sixties. Peter wasn't popular. At all. He was good at his studies and actually showed an interest in learning that his peers lacked. Only at home with his elderly aunt and uncle was he unquestionably loved. There's nothing mentioning Peter's mom and dad here. That plot would be left lingering for years. It was just accepted that Peter was raised by Aunt May and Uncle Ben eating as many wheatcakes as his tiny frame could take in.
We get to see him in action at school. Peter was a prize student impressing his teachers but no-one else. He tried asking out girls but that was always unsuccessful. Flash Thompson was always there to help the girls make a better choice. Flash and Peter weren't arch enemies just yet but you could tell where this was going. Still, Parker didn't seem to get it that being smart and interested in science wasn't cool. When a special science exibit comes to town, he asks everyone if they'd like to attend. They all turn him down and mock him as they race off to have fun. Peter cries just a little bit as he heads on over to the science exibit.
Peter quickly wipes away his tears as he watches a device that controls radioactive rays. As the rays pass back and forth between two nodes, an itsy bitsy spider passes right into their path. No-one notices this little intruder, but Peter will remember it for the rest of his life. The spider leaps onto his hand and bites him before it expires. The effects are almost immediate. Peter feels all sorts of odd and heads outside to get a breath of fresh stuff. The scientist think their radioactive experiment was too much for the weak Parker to handle. Oh, what little they know...
Peter's in such a daze that he walks right out into traffic. A car honks a warning and Parker leaps out of the way and ends up hanging from the side of a building. Super strength? Wall-crawling? That spider has some effect! The teenager begins testing out his powers right away and climbs the rest of the way up the building. He crushes a pipe on the roof and realizes his newfound power. A little kid on the street sees him but no-one's willing to look up and check his story. Kids...
Peter heads home to figure out what to do with his powers and sees a sign on the way offering a hundred dollars to anyone that can stay in the ring with wrestler, Crusher Hogan, for three minutes. That's something Peter thinks he can manage now. Once home, Parker puts together the weakest costume you can imagine. He wasn't trying to be a super-hero. He just worried that he might not be able to do it and didn't want to lose even more face with the crowd or the kids at school. He puts on a long sleeved white shirt and wraps a nylon onto his head. Peter even takes off his glasses proving that he didn't need them anymore.
The new super-powered teenager races right down to try his luck and puts on such a show in the ring that a nearby television producer takes notice. When Peter collects his reward, the producer offers him more work for his showmanship if he'll show up on TV. Peter decides he'd better take this seriously and stop wrapping Aunt May's nylons on his head. It's time for a real costume and maybe a few gadgets as well. While he's putting together his new act, his loving aunt and uncle show up to keep him well-fed.
The Spider-Man suit is what we all recognize as the classic look. Peter also put together to wrist launching web-slingers. The kid was a genius! Finally, Peter decides that "Spider-Man" would be a good stage name. After a bit of practicing, it's time to put on a show.
Spider-Man's first television appearance is a runaway success. He performs a number of tricks on camera before his producer tells him to save something for the next show. When the show is over, Spidey is flooded by media and agents trying to sign him up for any number of projects. Spider-Man frees himself from the paparazzi just in time to watch a crook run right past.
Even though the comic seems to imply that Peter has immediate repercussions for his lack of action, that's not actually the case. He heads on home where his Aunt and Uncle are alive and well. They even have a gift for him: a brand new microscope! Peter doesn't think much of the rest of the world but he loves Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
Spidey goes back on television again and again. He's a sensation and living it up before things go south... which is just a panel or two away, but this one panel covers days so there are still some good times before his poor uncle is slain. Then, of course, Peter comes home one night to find exactly that has happened. A policeman meets him and tells Parker that his uncle surprised a burglar and was shot dead. It's going to be ok, though. They've almost caught the crook. That makes up for it, right?
Peter listens to the location where the criminal is holed up and finds out that his aunt is being looked after at the neighbors' place. Peter has revenge on his mind, though. He heads to his room and puts on his Spider-Man costume. It's time to fight the forces of evil!
The crook is surrounded at the Acme Warehouse but his arrest seems long in coming. The police are afraid to approach the place because the unnamed burglar would gun them down from the front and they don't know anything about back doors. Looks like this is a job for Spider-Man.
Spidey swings in angry. The murderer doesn't have a chance to fight him off. After pounding him down for a few panels and getting some righteous vengeance, Peter has beaten the bad guy unconscious. That's when the guilt hits him hard. Getting a good look at the murderer's face, Peter learns that this was the self same crook he let pass him at his first television appearance! This could all have been avoided if he hadn't been so self absorbed!
Outside, the police are just about ready to rush the building when they see the criminal hanging on a spider's web above their heads. It looks like someone did their jobs for them.
There will be no victory celebration for Peter Parker. His Uncle Ben is dead and he'll always blame himself. In the end, he's learned the lesson that will define his super-hero carreer: "With great power there must also come-- Great responsibility!"
Spider-Man was the flagship title for Marvel for a good long time before the X-Men rose to the top of the heap. You can currently read Spidey's adventures three times monthly in Amazing Spider-Man. That number will go down to a bi-monthly schedule shortly but you can still get your ever lovin' Spider-Man fix in The Avengers, The New Avengers, Web of Spider-Man, Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine, and more guest appearances and mini-series than you can count. Really, it's hard to AVOID reading a book about our favorite web-slinger. Even if you don't read comics, it's hard not to know the Friendly Neighborhood Wall-Crawler. He's got three major motion pictures to his name, not to mention several cartoons and video games. Peter Parker is everywhere.
With that ominous statement, we're gonna call it an article and let you get back to the important job of waiting for the next installment of Super Reads.
Until that time: Excelsior!