Marvel's annual mega-event officially begins!
Today, we check out Fear Itself #1, Fear Itself: The Home Front #1, Avengers: The Children's Crusade #5, and Blast to the Past for Avengers #'s 47 & 48. Enjoy and spread the word!
Hey, kids, kidettes, gentlemen, ladies, and comic fans! The biggest Marvel event for 2011 kicks into gear this week and we're covering all the details!
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Heroic Age and beyond? Check no further than this link right HERE.
Are you settled in good and tight? Then let's get this ride moving.
Fear Itself #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Stuart Immonen
In this issue:
• There's a riot in NYC, probably over building a Muslim Center at ground zero. Steve Rogers gets hit in the head with a brick.
• Sin and her hangers-on break into the Thule Fortress in Antarctica. Lots of ancient Nazi Thules are gunned down because they'll only allow Hitler to enter the place unchallenged. Hitler's probably dead.
• After slaughtering the last of the resistance, Sin finds the Hammer of Skadi and recounts a dream she had about this thing.
• Touching it, she's imbued with the powers of Skadi just like Donald Blake when he first grasped the Hammer of Thor.
• On top of Avengers Tower, the Avengers team holds a meeting about the riot. Apparently it was just a plain old riot with no villain behind it.
• Tony Stark recruits the team to back his rebuilding of Asgard using Repulsor Technology.
• In Broxton, locale resident, Rick, says good-bye to his good friends Bill and Darlene after they and their family lost their house.
• Tony Stark, flanked by both Avengers teams, announces the rebuilding of Asgard by Stark Resilient. It's supposed to be a symbol of hope for a world that has quickly gotten over the new Heroic Age.
• Odin takes offense to the unspeaking presence of the Watcher. Then he attacks his son for relying on stupid humans.
• Sin/Skadi fights some underwater dragons to make her way inside the prison of her "father" which is NOT the Red Skull. It's the ancient Norse god of fear.
• Odin notices this event and calls his pantheon to the World Tree. This leads to another fight with Thor. Daddy seriously beats down the god of thunder.
• The Asgardians return to a newly built Asgard.
• The god of fear calls down more hammers from the sky. They hit all over the world.
This is the beginning of Fear Itself. Obviously, it happens after the Prologue: Book of the Skull, covered in Super Reads 137.
The first panel shows earth with the North American continent featured exclusively. The second panel focuses on the good old U.S. of A. Panel three closes in even further as cities and rivers get more clear. The final panel on this page pulls us into an aerial view of Manhattan, New York City, New York. And now, the story.
If the internet tells you anything about people, it's that they loved to get outraged by... pretty much everything. Witness then, the people of Marvel Universe's New York in full anger mode. This is a protest which is possibly taken at Ground Zero and while the specifics are made vague, they're probably arguing about a Muslim Community Center a couple blocks from Ground Zero. There are two groups of people here, one FOR the building and one most definitely against. A third group stands in the middle and we usually call these people law enforcement officers. In the middle of the police is America's Top Cop, Commander Steve Rogers, and his girlfriend and Secret Avengers Coordinator, Sharon Carter.
The reason Steve Rogers is on the ground personally is to be that lightning bolt for calm, rational thought. The fact that he's not surrounded by, y'know, SHIELD or even HAMMER is due to the fact that Steve has not reinstated a global taskforce to maintain the peace (and the police should really be the people on the ground here anyway since it's US soil but don't stop me when I'm on a rant!). This is mostly because no matter what you think about the former Captain America, he's a moron. I mean, seriously. He thinks that he can keep the world safe with a handful of Avengers teams and a very small support staff. This seriously undercuts all the good that SHIELD did in its day and I can't imagine that it won't come back to bite him any week now.
But anyway, Commander Rogers isn't inspiring the crowds to be paragons of virtue. Tensions are flaring on both sides and Agent Carter predicts a riot any minute now.
People start pushing each other. Someone throws a water bottle at a police car and startles a horse that really should be trained better than that. More items are thrown. One thing leads to another and the police start shooting gas into the crowds. The riot has begun.
Like the Super-Soldier he is, Steve Rogers tries to separate the rioters and calm things down but that's not a job for one man and he's in over his head. A fourth group makes its presence known. We call these guys the media. They were probably on the scene the whole time but weren't broadcasting live until things got interesting. One lady actually thinks interviewing Commander Rogers is a brilliant idea and pulls him in for a few words, mostly relating to where he stands on the issues. If you know Rogers, you know he doesn't really advertise his politics to the world. He says he's here to stop the violence and then receives a surprise brick to the head. On camera.
If I were hit with a brick, I'd probably be passed out for a couple minutes. Probably longer. Steve staggers to his feet because he's got Super-Soldier Serum running through his veins and it's hard to actually stop him. Sharon Carter's at his side right away though the reporter and her cameraman are gone. Commander Rogers still thinks these riots are stoppable but when Carter asks him HOW, he just looks around, not knowing what to do.
Let's skip a few continents south to Antarctica. In the middle of this frosty wasteland is the Savage Land, but we're thankfully not going there today. That's because there's a more important landmark to visit. In the Book of the Skull prologue issue, we learned that a hammer fell to the earth in Antarctica during World War II, courtesy of some unnamed higher beings. The Red Skull had his Thule sorcerors build a fortress around it to study the unliftable hammer. That's what they've been doing to this very day.
Sin discovered the location of this fortress in that same issue when she retrieved the Book of the Skrull from one of the Red Skull's hidden Egyptian bases. She's brought a team down to take the hammer. The problem is that even though she's the daughter of the Red Skull, that won't get her access to this fort. Only Hitler himself would be allowed entry and that guy and his clones are currently dead. That means they need to fight their way in.
You'd think the Thule would put up more of a resistance since they've got all that magic on their side but... not so much. Sure, Sin's side has some casualties but the other side is killed completely. With the aid of the Book of the Skull, Sin locates the vault holding the hammer and has her team cut open the door.
Inside is the hammer she's looking for. One of her minions reads the runes on the handle which were translated in the book to read, "And he who shall be worthy will wield the Hammer of Skadi." Sin dreamed of this, literally. She had a dream that she conquered the world with this very hammer. Even though no-one else has been able to lift it, she's certain that it will yield to her. She reaches out for the weapon.
There's a flash of light and Sin emerges as Skadi, complete with a new wardrobe and a tuft of hair on her head. This harkens back to the origin of Thor where Donald Blake took up Mjolnir and was transformed into the thunder god. Skadi is the Norse god of winter and mountains. She's also a fan of skiing. She's not known for having a hammer (bowhunting is more her thing) but it seems like the in thing to do.
Sin's eyes squint and she announces that she's going to bring back her father.
Avengers Tower has its very own meeting room but the Avengers decide on a rooftop meeting instead. The whole team is here and they are NUMEROUS. From left to right, we've got Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Red Hulk, Iron Man, Steve Rogers (not a member of the team), Thor, Sharon Carter (also not a member of the team), Hawkeye, and the Protector. The main cause for concern today is that riot that happened in Manhattan. Carter's gone over the incident and there are no indications that some bad guy manipulated events in any way. It was just a good old-fashioned street fight and that's not something Commander Rogers can wrap his head around.
Iron Man tries to explain the conditions in the world today and how people are frustrated beyond belief by all of the events happening in the world. He knows that it's not the first time in history that people have been pushed to their limits but it's also not the first case of violence. Stark takes it back to the Great Depression and says that the way they got out of THAT was by building things.
Hey! Is just so happens that Stark Resilient has plans to rebuild Asgard. Thor's approved it. It's going to happen. He thinks it would be a good beacon of hope in the world if the Avengers were there when it's officially announced. It's going to put a whole town back to work so maybe it'll help the nation see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Maybe this is happening JUST a little too late. In Broxton, tourism has picked up as people from all over come to the little town hoping to catch a glimpse of the local gods. It's about the only industry that's booming. As the tour bus travels through the town, they pass a family that's on their way out. Bill and Darlene and their kids have packed up their possessions and are ready to drive. It's not because they hate living next door to Asgard. They stayed through the Siege so that isn't the case. It's that neither of them have been employed for far too long. Work is pretty much nonexistant.
One of their neighbors, Rick, comes over to say good-bye. Rick really wishes they could stay but there's nothing for it. They're off to live with their family just like a lot of people have had to do in real life. Before leaving, Bill tells Rick that it's time to start locking their door. Something is in the air.
Let's stick around Broxton for Stark Resilient's big announcement, which happens an undisclosed amount of time later. It looks like Tony was able to call together both main Avengers teams. They stand behind him along with Maria Hill, Sharon Carter, Victoria Hand, and Edwin Jarvis. Stark Resilient will be rebuilding the city of the gods with Repulsor Technology. It's going to be a good showcase for what RT can do for the world and it's going to look like the city of the future. While Thor is there representing the Asgardians, he's got a far-off look in his eyes. When Steve asks him what's up, the thunder god just says he wishes his dad were here.
The All-Father, Odin, is back from the dead due to recent events in Thor's title but he's more surly and crotchety than ever before. He's not all about this working with humans thing but Odin has other things occupying his mind. For example, Uatu's here for some reason.
The All-Father yells at the Watcher for just floating there in silence and it's obvious that Odin knows what's going on. He knows that Skadi is walking the world. The big events are going down and Odin knows that it's all his fault even though he shouts at Uatu for the Watcher's "accusing" glare. The Watcher turns and disappears but this just infuriates Odin more.
Thor shows up to find his dad shouting at the air and thinks about upping pop's medication. The big god yells at his son about making it look like Asgard has to rely on the mortals to provide them with a city when in reality they could make a new Asgard instantly. Thor tells Odin that the Stark-built city will inspire the world to get out of its funk. The All-Father thinks it's making the Asgardians look bad.
Odin slams Thor to the ground and tells him to choose between the mortals or the Asgardians. It's hardly a choice for Thor. He chooses mankind. The All-Father leaves, pissed off at his son.
Skadi's being a more dutiful offspring to her father, traveling into the depths of the Pacific Ocean to bring him back. Down in the Marianas Trench, Sin/Skadi/whatever-she-wants-to-call-herself encounters a number of dragons and uses her newfound powers to best them in battle, even after one swallows her. The remaining dragon pretty much surrenders and lets Sin enter the vault below. The symbol on the portal is the same one that appears on the cover of the Fear Itself book. There's an enchantment preventing entrance, but her hammer breaks it and she enters.
This is when we learn that she was holding her breath the whole time and gulps in big gasps of air in now that she's in a chamber that provides the stuff. She's not alone. With this giant room is her father. It's not the Red Skull.
When Skadi calls this guy her father, he responds, "ALL-Father."
Since I know about five things about Fear Itself, I'm going to call this guy the Norse god of fear. We can also guess that he was placed in this underwater prison by Odin way back in the day for unrevealed reasons. Details will most likely be given later on. For now, it's enough to know that this guy is going to be bad news.
In the ruins of Asgard, the Avengers and their godly hosts are celebrating a successful press conference. Odin isn't in attendance. Out on the balcony, he feels the awakening of the god of fear. It looks like something worst than the cycle of Ragnarok is unfolding.
Inside, it's party time as the heroes feast with the Asgardians. Heimdall is the first to interrupt the fun when he sees that "He" has returned. Thor tries to calm his friend down but things just go downhill from here in the house of the gods. Odin appears at the doorway and tells his fellow Asgardians that they are gathering at the World Tree and then leaving earth.
Thor takes exception to this because he's tired of his father being a complete brat and not explaining himself. This also makes the earlier press conference look poorly-timed. The two start up an actual fight with might be the first time that Odin has ever fought Thor. It's certainly the only time I can think that this has happened.
Thor is one powerful god but he's fighting the All-Father. One of the first things that Odin does is take away Thor's greatest weapon, Mjolnir. The hammer drops to the ground and the thunder god is unable to lift it. The son of Odin isn't done yet. He lunges at Odin with empty hands but is all too easily bested in combat. The All-Father puts his boot on his son's head and tells Thor to stop being a brat.
The rest of the Asgardians step right in line and bring Thor to the World Tree. Fandral explains to Steve Rogers that there's nothing for it. This is Odin, after all. He barks an order, everyone listens.
At the World Tree, Odin works his power and creates a Rainbow Bridge to where Asgard ought to be. They're going back where they came from and a rebuilt Asgard will be waiting for them.
Well, look who can walk on water. It's Sin/Skadi, her new All-Father, and the surviving dragon (who's actually swimming nearby). The fear god declares that Odin is aware that he's back and also says that Odin's the one who imprisoned him in the way-back times. Skadi's ready to do battle with Odin and the legions of Asgard but her new poppa isn't too eager just yet. Before they kill Odin and all that he loves, they need to make earth tremble at their feet. That goal seems impossible for the two of them and Sin wonders who they'll do that. Oh, don't you worry. They won't be doing it alone. The fear god calls forth... "the Worthy."
From space, seven bright objects blast their way to earth. These are hammers but I only know that because I've seen the promo art for this event. For someone avoiding spoilers (IE: people not reading Super Reads), they might still be clueless to what they're seeing. North American Aerospace Defense Command picks up the objects falling from space and the readings freak them out enough where calling Steve Rogers is the first priority. Calling the Press is second on the list.
Let's watch where some of those hammers are falling. One lands in the Pacific Ocean. Another drops in Brazil. A third lands near the Great Wall of China. Manhattan seems to be the drop site for number four. A fifth hammer drops down near Broxton. On his porch, Rick (you remember him from his one scene earlier) and his kid watch it drop down like a shooting star. Broxton has had all sort of lights this night after Odin's Rainbow Bridge took everyone back to heavenly Asgard. Well, that's been a night and Rick brings his kid in for bed. When they're inside, he locks the door.
The heroes are still in shocked awe at the departure of the gods. Spider-Man asks what just went down and Rogers responds that the gods have left them all alone. So it's not much worse than usual, really, except for the loss of Thor.
And Stark Resilient probably looks like chumps.
Fear Itself: The Home Front #1
Writer: Christos N. Gage
Artist: Mike Mayhew
In this issue:
• The Avengers Academy has a field trip with Speedball in charge, taking on Ice Princess and Wrangler.
• When they return to the Infinite Mansion, Jocasta tells Robbie that his trip to Stamford would be a bad idea considering the atmosphere in the world right now.
• Speedball goes anyway because it's part of his healing process and important to him.
• Baldwin donates his time to Damien's Gift, a charitable organization that helps to make the community a better place after Nitro blew a big hole in the town.
• He meets the founder of the organization, Miriam Sharpe, who still has a lot of anger going on about the incident that lead to the Super-human Civil War.
• He doesn't recognize Robbie right away but that look in her eye says something is up. While Speedball helps out the community, Miriam checks the internet to figure out who this bright young volunteer is.
• When Baldwin returns to the center, Ms. Sharpe smacks him in the face and reveals that he's actually Speedball.
• Robbie tries to leave peacefully and is attacked by pretty much everyone.
In the first issue of Civil War, things sparked up because an attempt to apprehend a group of super-villains by the reality TV show heroes, the New Warriors, led to one of the criminals, Nitro, to detonate in Stamford, Connecticut, killing a lot of innocent people. New evidence shows that Nitro's powers were being augmented through artificial means and he never would have been able to cause the damage he did without the extra help. The New Warriors had no way of knowing that Nitro's abilities were so enhanced. Not that they're around to worry about that. All of the New Warriors died during the last mission except for Robbie Baldwin, Speedball. He was charged for his crimes and became one big punching bag for the public. His own father disowned him. Things got bad.
Robbie's powers had evolved and he needed to be hurt to get access to his abilities. Baldwin put on an iron maiden-like costume and served as the Thunderbolt known as Penance. After the Secret Invasion, Robbie ended up with a slight case of amnesia, forgetting who he really was for a time and working with the Avengers Initiative. When his memory returned, he hid it for a while and joined the Avengers Rebellion when they came in to take over Camp HAMMER. Robbie put his Speedball uniform back on and started teaching the kids of Avengers Academy. When the public learned the specifics behind the Stamford Incident, many of them forgave him. This is probably due more to our short attention spans than anything else.
Speedball still hasn't forgiven himself but the only thing he can do is be a better hero.
And that's what he's doing today. In Manhattan, Robbie leads two of the Avengers Academy students, Mettle and Hazmat, in taking down two minor league bad girls, Ice Princess and the Wrangler. It's a cake-walk field trip and the two youngsters seem more interested in the internet's opinion of them than the battle. Speedball, who is used to public opinion being kind of devastating, tells the kids that the best thing they can do is stay off the internet and just be heroes. Public opinion will go up and down whether you pay attention to it or not.
Throughout this comic, we get opinions from various internet people on Baldwin. If you've been on the internet (Hint: you're on it right now), you know that most people on the web are complete morons. The debate on Speedball is being sparked by two ladies: Trish Tilby and Marcy Pearson. You probably remember Trish Tilby best from her on-again, off-again relationship with Beast. Marcy is more of an enigma to most fans unless you read Iron Man in the late eighties, early nineties. She was the public relations person at Stark Enterprises who was temporarily promoted to the top position when Tony was shot by a crazy ex-girlfriend. When Tony toyed with her emotions by offering her the position of CEO on a permanent basis and then taking it back at the last minute, Pearson quit and then tried getting revenge on the company.
So you can tell who's going to be sympathetic and who's going to be a major douche. They argue over the public's perception of Speedball, and while most of the nation has either forgiven or forgotten the former New Warrior, the people of Stamford have NOT. When Robbie returns to the Infinite Mansion with the students, Jocasta pulls him aside and shows him some internet footage of Trish and Marcy talking to their special guest: Miriam Sharpe.
It's more Civil War history. Miriam Sharpe is the mother of the sadly-named Damien who died during the Stamford Incident. She led a crusade against super-heroes that was only pacified when the Super-Human Registration Act was passed into law. Naturally, she's upset that things are right back to status quo after Norman Osborn uses the Initiative for crazy things. Miriam feels betrayed that Tony Stark went back on his convictions and is fine with a world without the SHRA.
Ms. Sharpe has gone hardline again. She brings up all the terrible things that super-heroes do. When Trish mentions that the the heroes have been held accountable for their actions with trials and police action when appropriate, Sharpe goes back to the well and says that these so-called heroes aren't necessary and shouldn't be allowed. It's why she's set up Damien's Gift in her home town: to make regular people stand up and take responsibility for the world.
With all this anti-heroics talk, Jocasta thinks it's a bad idea for Robbie to head on into Stamford for his regularly-scheduled volunteer job. Baldwin thinks that this is the most important thing he does and that he will not be stopped because people hate him. For her part, Jo gives him a special communication device just in case he needs help.
Part of the routine involves Speedball hitting Grand Central Terminal and then riding a train into Stamford. It makes him seem like an out-of-towner that just comes in to help out... which is all true. The other part is checking the internet out on his phone because he's a glutton for punishment and... well, he thinks he deserves it, really. He goes right to the Speedball bashing website and reads comments from people who hate his guts just for being a hero that failed to stop a badguy from killing people and then had the audacity to survive.
Another part of the routine is the ballcap and glasses that perfectly hide his secret identity. He meets up with Leonard, the project coordinator, and prepares for work. Leonard throws him a curveball by introducing him to... Miriam Sharpe. Oh, crap.
Miriam is happy to finally meet this dude who has been helping out so much but she keeps getting this funny look on her face like she KNOWS this guy but can't figure out WHERE she knows him from. It doesn't help that Robbie's costume is basically his face in goggles, making the glasses look not really a disguise. Baldwin isn't even using a good fake name. "Bob." It's like he wants to get caught.
After bluffing a conversation with Ms. Sharpe, Robbie goes about his usual tasks. Part of him feels guilty for even being here, not because of what he holds himself responsible for but because coming here isn't about penance anymore. He actually loves it. It probably kept him going when he didn't think he could anymore.
So we follow images of the disguised Speedball going around the neighborhood helping people while Miriam Sharpe checks the internet and eventually starts looking into why she found "Bob Turner" so familiar. This is intercut with news articles showing details on the riot in New York and the Asgardians gods leaving earth.
Robbie comes back to Damien's Gift not knowing that his cover has been blown to all hell. Leonard calls him over and he walks on up without even thinking about it. He's not prepared for Miriam Sharp slapping him and knocking off his glasses. She's got tears in her eyes as she confronts one of the people involved in the death of her son. For his part, Robbie tries to back out gracefully.
The place explodes. Everyone's trying to get a piece of Speedball. Well, Leonard and Miriam aren't taking the fight to the former New Warrior but everyone else is. Leonard even tries to stop this violent beat down but the crowd starts accusing him of knowing Speedball was working for him. The internet messages hitting the screen are all about how they've found Baldwin and are beating the crap out of him. One person even writes "LOL" like it's a frickin' game.
For his part, Robbie's not fighting back. When the bat clocked him in the back, he automatically switched to Speedball form which only means that everyone who sees him knows exactly who he is. Everyone is out for blood, even the... guy driving a motorcycle on the sidewalk? What's that guy DOING? Man, if only there was a cop around...
Leonard is still trying to stop things from spiraling further out of control. Even Robbie is trying to calm the crowd. No-one's listening. They all just want a piece of the hero.
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Elia Bonetti
In this issue:
• Jimmy Woo is having an office romance with Namora. No-one must know. He also has a special room set up so he can live an idealized version of the fifties. It's wierd.
• There's some hate crimes going on and they are particularly violent. Woo has his team round up the most likely skinhead groups and then they work their way through them until they find the group responsible.
• This eventually leads them to an ancestor of those Thules that summoned the Hammer of Skadi.
• When they learn of the castle where the ritual was performed, Jimmy Woo decides they should fly straight there.
• His friends tell him he's spending too much time in his special fifties room. All Jimmy wants to do is get drunk.
When you see the name "Agents of Atlas," you immediately think "Jeff Parker." Imagine the surprise when I saw that this story wasn't written by him. Nope, this is a Peter Milligan joint and it shows.
For example: I don't think Jeff Parker would have put Jimmy Woo in a relationship with Namora, and the special quarters he lives in where he idealizes the lifestyle of the fifties is also a bit odd. We're living in an age of fear, though, so maybe Jimmy is retreating to a world he's more comfortable with because of a fear of the new. His relationship with Namora is definitely not something he's comfortable with. He might love her or he might just think that it's incredibly unprofessional... like dating the daughter of your worst enemy. That kind of thing.
Anyway, while watching his terrible fifties television, he gets a call from Ken Hale, the Gorilla Man, to get up to the top deck to deal with the latest crisis. Namora pretends to be elsewhere so no-one knows she's here on a booty call.
While Namora and Jimmy set up their alibis and get some clothes on, Ken and Bob (the Uranian) gossip about Jimmy and his fifties room and how he's spending too much time in there and stuff. Namora shows up on deck first and Bob asks why she's out of breath. She refuses to be psi-scanned, though, so they'll need to let that gossip die. For now.
Onto the mission at hand. There's a hate group out there being particularly violent and they need to be stopped from either hating or being violent. Either way. Jimmy tells his team to get him a list of skinheads and neo-nazis and they'll work their way down the list until they stop this. Ken wonders why none of this work is being delegated down to the Atlas Foundation but it looks like Jimmy Woo doesn't trust them anymore. There are spies everywhere!
So, yeah, he might be living in the fifties too much.
Woo ends the conversation by telling them to look at Soviet Groups, too.
The Agents of Atlas end up all around the Florida area, taking out hate group after hate group and gathering information that will lead them to the violent sect. Sometimes, this means the leader of said hate group gets interrogated by a gorilla. It's stuff that needs to happen.
Eventually, this leads them to a Neo-Nazi group near Key West. The hate group knows they're coming by now and is loaded up for a war. Venus takes that away from them by singing them into a state of peace and harmony. Only one violent hater escapes this horrible music love-in: the leader, named Vorster. He attempts to kill himself before he can be captured.
There will be no killing just yet. M-11 stretches up and keeps the dude from offing himself. When Jimmy and Ken enter the room, the racist says bad things about the Chinese and gorillas. Woo hits him in the face. Hale tells his boss to calm down and starts in on a proper questioning.
This takes some time but Vorster eventually coughs up who he is and some unnecessary details from his past that really aren't related to hate crimes. Vorster's ancestor was one of the Thule priests that summoned the Hammer of Skadi lo those many years ago in Germany during WWII.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, "Dude, that doesn't make sense. Those Thules set up base in Antarctica and were pretty much there ever since. If they had kids, they would have been born before the summoning and then those kids would never have seen them again so they'd never have known about it." Well, you were only MOSTLY paying attention. This kid never mentions anything about an Antarctic base so it's likely that his Thule ancestor never went there. That means his grandfather was probably the one lone Thule left behind to maintain the castle. That guy was captured and interrogated by Namor and Captain America. So, it could fit.
And that being said, I just don't know how Vorster's story is relevant in any way to the hate crimes his group has committed. In fact, I don't even know why the Agents of Atlas were even interrogating him. They caught the bad guy, it would have made more sense to turn him into the proper authorities and call it a day. Peter Milligan, ladies and gentlemen.
What really interests Jimmy about this is the castle. I don't know why that is but this plot is giving me a LOT of 'why's and refuses to answer them with any sense of logic. Even when the rest of Atlas questions Woo on why they'd ever want to go to this castle or what they'd hope to learn, Jimmy just says it's the thing they do. He even brings Vorster along as a guide.
At this point, Vorster can't wait to go because he thinks the entire team will die at the castle and can't wait to see it happen. He even insinuates that the Thule has spies in the Atlas Foundation which just fuels Jimmy's paranoia all the more. He tells everyone that he's heading into his private fifties room but the rest of the Agents of Atlas tell him that he goes there too much and needs to stop. The leader of the Atlas Foundation pouts a bit and thinks to himself that he wasn't going there to get trapped in the past. He just wanted a stiff drink.
And is that so wrong?
Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Howard Chaykin
In this issue:
• Jolly J. Jonah Jameson, Mayor of New York City, thinks about how awesome being a mayor is.
• Then he thinks about how super-heroes are a waste of space.
• Finally, he decides that even though Steve Rogers was the only super-hero anywhere NEAR the riot at Ground Zero, it was obviously about super-heroes.
• This is because JJJ has, like, one issue and he'll drive it home as much as he can.
One of the more messed up but interesting things that has happened in the Marvel Universe is Publisher J. Jonah Jameson getting out of the writing game and becoming the Mayor of New York City. Now, I joke above about how JJJ only has one real stand and it's anti-hero but Jonah's actually a pretty solid individual. Sure, he's a coward on his best day and hates that masked wall-crawler like you wouldn't believe but he also stands for the right of a free press and kept his newspaper honest when other papers were just printing sensational garbage.
Still, if Mayor Jameson has a blind spot, it's when he looks at super-heroes. That means pretty much anyone in a mask though he obviously has an extra mad-on for Spider-Man. That's why he sits in his office today thinking about how much he loves his job, even when pandering to Norman Osborn during Dark Reign, and then muses about how the city's a worse place for all its masked men running around doing what they please.
Well, that's one thing and he's welcome to his own opinion on the matter. The way he takes it just eight steps too far is when he decides that the riot that opened up the Fear Itself story was all about super-heroes. We just covered that event and not only was it about a building at Ground Zero, the only guy that qualified as a super-hero was America's Top Cop, Commander Steve Rogers.
Like I said, JJJ has a blind spot.
Writer: Jim McCann
Artist: Pepe Larraz
In this issue:
• A bunch of old people meet at the local Broxton Diner and discover that their good friend, J.A., works here now.
• That's an evocation of how bad things are in Broxton that a retired man has to go back to work in his twilight years just to meet some ends.
• The place is packed with tourists.
• The group talks about other ways that J.A. could pay those pesky bills but he discounts them all. He'll work through it.
• One tourist gets more obnoxious than he should and J.A. kicks him out of the diner. He turns around and gives the rest of the tourists a speech about how Broxton is more than the neighbor to the gods but that's when the Asgardians leave.
• The tourists go watch them go and Broxton loses its only thriving industry.
In the Marvel Universe, Broxton, Oklahoma is pretty much synonymous with Small Town USA. The people are laid back, honest, and hard to phase. It's a LIE to believe this is actually what a small town is but it's what we think of when someone says small town. Having come from a typical small town, you've got your drunks, you've got your vandals, and you have your crooks. The percentages are about the same as a big city but the population is much smaller. I'd guess there are probably more drunks simply because there's nothing else to do, but that is clearly a guess.
But people don't want to hear about a small town where people aren't as perfect as possible and, thus, you get Broxton, idyllic paradise if only it could employ its entire population.
Am I still on my soap box? Sorry about that. I'll get down now.
So it's an early morning in Broxton and the diner is already packed full of locals and tourists. Some of the older townies share a booth in the back and wait for the last member of their group to arrive. They're surpised when he does but to wait on their table instead of sitting down. J.A. is a senior citizen but like a lot of the rest of the town, he's finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Something had to give and he found that working in the diner was a good way to earn some money. Now, he just has to survive the out-of-towners.
Since Asgard parked next door, the tourist trade for this small town has picked up. Since the people coming into town are NOT from Small Town USA, they get to be regular, obnoxious people like the rest of us and not perfect small... I'm standing on my soap box again, aren't I? I just get so annoyed...
ANYWAY, the old folks talk about how a lot of people left during and after the Siege of Asgard and the jobs disappeared with them. This is a lot of territory that was just covered in Fear Itself and in the real world so I don't really need to fill in the blanks on why Broxton is suffering. Times are tough. Finding work is hard or impossible. Sometimes a bill doesn't get paid. This is the world we live in even if we aren't living in a small town and Broxton is also the Marvel Poster Child of America's financial troubles.
The old dudes give J.A. some other suggestions on how to earn an extra dollar but the old waiter doesn't like any of them. His situation at the diner is manageable and he's not willing to give up his free time on an obnoxious tourist.
Speaking of, there's one guy with a handlebar mustache and a glorious mullet who is upset that there isn't immediate seating in the diner. He yells at the woman and child ahead of him to hurry it up. There's swearing and neither the lady or her husband can get the dude to stop cussing in front of their kid. Finally, obnoxious tourist number one points out the table with the older gentlemen sitting at it and demands that they be moved out so that younger and more mulleted individuals can get their grub on.
Of course, stuff like that just isn't going to fly. J.A. confronts the guy and tells him that one good punch will end this unless he stops having a tantrum in the diner.
After a stare down, Mr. Mullet leaves. The lady with the kid thanks J.A. for the assist and he accepts it with small town courtesy. Then, he turns to the other tourists and tells them that attitudes like that just would NOT be accepted in Broxton. This town has its pride. The speech continues as J.A. tells everyone what matters in life and maybe he rambles on about getting the kids off his lawn. Everyone pays attention to him but who knows if they're actually listening.
With that monologue over, a tourist enters the diner and shouts about the gods leaving. Anyone who isn't a local races off to see them depart. This hurts my continuity organ. In Fear Itself, right up on the top of the article, Odin and his Asgardians leave earth AT NIGHT. This is bright and early in the morning. Hell, by the dialogue, Stark hasn't even had his Stark Resilient press conference yet. It's just a rumor. I now need to go take some chill pills.
It pretty much leaves the older crowd, sipping their coffee. The Asgardians leaving earth isn't a good thing and they aren't talking about tourism, though that's likely to decline quickly. No, something big is going down and it's going to hurt when it hits.
J.A. tells them that they'll survive this the same way they got through every other difficulty: by being pure souls stuck in an idyllic small town in a fictional world.
Or something like that. My brain still hurts at the massive continuity gaff.
Avengers: The Children's Crusade #5
Writer: Allan Heinberg
Penciler: Jim Cheung
In this story:
• The Avengers and the Young Avengers battle Doombots! Wolverine flies through the air! Iron Lad is back!
• Vision might have just been dumped.
• Doom attacks Wiccan and is soon attacked by pretty much everyone.
• Wanda escapes with Wiccan and they meet up with the rest of the Young Avengers. Their short break doesn't last long before Doom, Magneto, and the Avengers catch up to them.
• Iron Lad time teleports the team away.
• The team heads to a time right before Avengers Disassembled where Stature reunites with her father.
• The dead Jack of Hearts shows up to start up Disassembled and the Young Avengers (and Scott Lang) timeport away again.
• They end up in the present where Scott Lang is still dead.
• Oh, and the Scarlet Witch has her memory and powers back. Yay?
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
This might be an international incident. It looks like pretty much everyone has shown up in Latveria to rescue or kill the Scarlet Witch. The Avengers are here. Wonder Man is here. The Young Avengers are here. Magneto and Quicksilver? They're also here.
Steve Rogers, who's dressed up in the Captain America uniform for undisclosed reasons, fights alongside Patriot. They're beating up on Doombots and Steve pretty much tells Eli that this is exactly the reason why he DIDN'T want Wiccan and the Young Avengers looking for Wanda Maximoff. The rest of the Avengers and Young Avengers are also facing off against Doombots. Mags and Dr. Doom are in the skies, pitting their powers against each other. As Rogers is going over the details of the battle, Wolverine flies through the sky.
Logan isn't here with the Avengers, because he's got a different mission than the Avengers. They're still back and forth on what to do with Wanda. Logan, a mutant who watched as the Scarlet Witch decimated the mutant population, knows exactly what he's going to do. Kill her. That's what he came here to do. Eli wonders "who's powerful enough to do THAT to Wolverine?"
Now, before I make a comprehensive list of everyone in the Marvel Universe who could do that to Wolverine, including most of the Avengers and a good number of X-Men, Iron Lad shows up in the middle of the battle to claim responsibility and to get his team out of this horrible situation.
Most of the Young Avengers are thrilled to have Nathaniel back and Iron Lad gives them the short version of why he's here and why time isn't cascading in on itself, most of which we covered in detail in the Avengers: The Children's Crusade- Young Avengers One-Shot. The Avengers are less happy to see the time-traveller since they know he might grow up to be Kang the Conqueror. To put them even less at ease, Iron Lad uses his suit's power to freeze Dr. Doom and Magneto in the air. He uses the time to catch up with his friends and tell them where to find Billy and Wanda.
Speed tells the team that Wiccan and the Scarlet Witch are NOT where Iron Lad predicts them to be. Before they can figure out why, a furious Magneto demands to know what happened to Dr. Doom.
It looks like Victor Von Doom cut out and found Wiccan before anyone else even thought to look. Down in the tunnels where he and Wanda were making their escape, Doom confronts the Young Avenger with some magical might.
Doom questions Wanda on if she believes the lies that Billy Kaplan has been feeding her and she claims that she doesn't but... why is Victor so concerned about that? And why is he punishing the Young Avenger so much?
Before Dr. Doom can even form an answer, Magneto and the Avengers enter the chamber and attack the Latverian dictator. Billy drags Wanda out of the room and to the edge of the castle even though she is against leaving her betrothed.
Wiccan meets up with the other Young Avengers in the forest outside Castle Doom and narrowly escapes a chewing out by his friends. He introduces Wanda to the team and tells them that not only is SHE depowered and amnesiac, he's also lost his abilities. Dr. Doom, Magneto, and Iron Man are right on their tail so there's no more time for chit chat. There's only time to time travel. Iron Lad activates his time machine and takes them away.
The Avengers and Magneto question Doom on his motives and especially the fact that he was going to marry Wanda Maximoff. The dictator of Latveria tells them that he was trying to save the Scarlet Witch. He turns it around and blames the Avengers for coming here and forcing Maximoff into the time stream where she might cause who knows what kind of damage.
In the Timestream, the Young Avengers try to figure out where they'll go next. Cassie Lang tells Iron Lad to set a course straight for the start of Avengers: Disassembled. This would be where her father died and everyone is afraid she'll try to change that event and create a divergent timeline. She promises not to but no-one believes her. Iron Lad tells them he has a way for them to go to any time and place and not interact with anyone so as not to create a new timeline. Wanda thinks heading back to the scene of her crimes might jog her memory so that she can fix things. The course is set.
In the next moment, the team sets down in Avengers Park in a time right before Avengers: Disassembled kicks off. Wanda walks around the park trying to get her memories back but pretty much failing. This leaves Iron Lad, Vision, and Stature to have awkward conversations.
You see, Cassie and Vision are boyfriend and girlfriend and have a touching relationship. One big problem: the current Vision's brain patterns are based on Iron Lad's. He likes Cassie because Iron Lad likes Cassie. For her part in all this, Stature seems to have forgotten about Vision since the moment Iron Lad arrived. Vision tries to regain some ground by putting himself back in the scene, making sure Nathaniel knows in no uncertain terms that HE'S dating Cassie. Cassie is pretty much oblivious to Iron Lad and Vision fighting for her affections but the two boys are both trying to one up the other.
And then Scott Lang shows up and there's no point in fighting over Cassie. She only has eyes for her dad. Scott is the Avenger known as Ant-Man and he was killed in the opening round of Avengers: Disassembled when Wanda brought the already dead Jack of Hearts back down to earth to explode in the Avengers' backyard. Stature runs right up to her dad and gives him a huge hug, proving that Iron Lad's device that put them slightly out of phase with regular time doesn't work as well as he'd like it to. They are messing with the past and creating an alternate timeline.
Cassie tries to cover for her sudden appearance in a costume as a Halloween costume. The same goes for the rest of the Young Avengers who she introduces as high school friends.
Scott thinks the costumes are great except for the guy dressed up as undead Jack of Hearts. Cassie turns around and sees Avengers: Disassembled coming right up to hit them in the head. Iron Lad still doesn't have the power to activate his time pyramid so the team starts running away from Jack of Hearts before the dead Avenger has a chance to explode. Ant-Man races off with them which changes this timeline straight away.
The one person who doesn't run away is Wanda who seems fascinated by Jack of Hearts. Jack knows who's pulling his strings and begs the amnesiac Scarlet Witch to let him go. Wanda says Jack's code name which is probably a sign that her powers are returning. Before the dead Avenger explodes, Speed races in and removed Maximof from the immediate blast zone. Jack of Hearts closes his eyes and says "I'm sorry." before he ignites.
Everything goes white. When the Young Avengers regain their footing, they find that they're all alive. Scott Lang is alive, too, but the first thing he sees when he gets to his feet is a statue memorial of himself in Avengers Park. Iron Lad explains that they have somehow time-traveled back to the present in their own timeline but he can't figure out how that happened. He certainly didn't have the power to do it. They look around and can't see Wanda anywhere.
That's because she's floating above them, in costume. She tells them that she was the one that brought them back to the present. The Scarlet Witch has her memories back.
Who knows if that's a good thing or a bad thing...
Hey, Super Readers! If you've already read this and are coming back for another taste, you MAY remember that this article originally featured Carol Danvers' first appearance. Well, it was switched with Super Reads 139 so that all these first appearances are in some sort of chronological order. This was because of a mistake on my part when I was filling in the blanks between Heroic Age and Fear Itself. If this is your first time through, you didn't even notice that anything was different. Now you know!
The Avengers #47
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciler: John Buscema
In this issue:
• Magneto yells about being stuck on a rock in outer space. This is because he's stuck on a rock in outer space.
• Magnus is also receiving some magnetic signals from earth which are coming from...
• Dr. Dane Whitman's scientific experiments. This is a man trying to make up for the poor life lived by his uncle, the late Black Knight. He tells his back story to his assistant, Norris.
• Captain America quits the Avengers. Hawkeye has a fight with Natasha Romanova about it. Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne fly off to Las Vegas. Hercules heads back to an empty Olympus.
• Norris betrays Dane Whitman right before Magneto uses the magnetic waves to return to earth and right to this spot.
• Norris tries to send him back but is knocked out by an comically large wrench. Toad takes Whitman and Norris to a dungeon.
• Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are called to the castle and fight one of Magneto's robot constructs. When Mags reveals himself, the two mutants refuse to join him.
• Magneto uses more robot constructs to take the two prisoner.
December 1967! The same month that saw the first appearance of Marvel's Captain Marvel also saw the first appearance of the man who would be the third Black Knight.
And that means it's story time. The first Black Knight was a mid-fifties creation by Stan Lee and Joe Maneely. Sir Percy was a noble in King Arthur's court who moonlighted as the Black Knight, protecting the realm from threats like Morgan Le Fey and Mordred. The Black Knight comic lasted six issues before being canceled. The next Black Knight was a villain by the name of Nathan Garrett, a direct descendant of Sir Percy who became the Black Knight to spite his ancestor. Garrett began his career as the evil Black Knight by facing off against Giant-Man and the Wasp. This lead to a spot on the first Masters of Evil and ended with his premature death after falling off his flying horse while fighting Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #73. This left the slot open for a new Black Knight. Maybe a good guy this time.
That's all well and good but this issue also has Magneto and Toad! Readers might have expected this eventuality since Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were former members of his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and only left the team after Mags was kidnapped by the Stranger. It was only a matter of time before Magneto returned from his exile and tried to reform his mutant team. What's funny is that he had escaped before only to be retaken by the Stranger. At this point, Magneto and Toad were pretty much left alone on a planet in the middle of outer space. The Stranger had moved on to more interesting terrans like the Abomination.
Now, before we get any further into this story, I've got to remind you that this is far and removed from the Magneto appearing in the X-titles of today. The 1967 model Magneto was basically a Dr. Doom clone. He was one-dimensional and completely villainous. It was only after a little de-aging that Magneto remembered that he was a human being and became a more sympathetic character. Right here? No sympathies. He's been on a rock with one faithful servant and he basically goes from one tantrum to another. Part of this is understandable. He's stuck on a rock. Who knows where he's getting food or how oxygen is being provided? There isn't even a decent checker board.
Toad isn't helping. You can tell that Mr. Thomas had been thinking a lot about Lord of the Rings when he plotted these scenes. Magneto is definitely Saruman to Toad's Wormtongue. Nothing Toad does is good enough for the megalomaniac. Even though Toad is extremely loyal, you know somewhere in the back of his mind he's thinking about stabbing the master of magnetism in the back.
The only thing that gives Magneto hope is that the planetoid is being bombarded by magnetic waves at regular intervals. Those waves are getting stronger each time they hit. Magnus can probably use that to his advantage.
So where are those waves coming from? Well, I'll tell ya. Down on good ol' planet Earth, the scientist, Dr. Dane Whitman has been working on communicating with alien life using, you guessed it, magnetic waves. Like any good mad scientist, he's working out of a castle. This one has been transplanted from England to the United States and had once belonged to Whitman's only uncle, Nathan Garrett. Whitman seems extra determined to make these experiments work and his assistant, Norris, demands to know why. Dane doesn't feel like his hireling deserves and answer but decides to tell the man anyway just to ease his own mind.
As previously stated, Dane's uncle, Nathan Garrett, was the villainous Black Knight. This isn't information known to the world at large. Nathan Garrett was a biologist who had gotten mixed up in a life of crime but had never been unmasked as the Black Knight so the secret isn't out for the world to know. His body was never found after the battle with Iron Man so the world doesn't even know that the Black Knight is dead. They DO, however, know that Dr. Nathan Garrett has passed on. As the only surviving family member, Dane Whitman is determined to use Garrett's own scientific know-how to redeem his uncle's name in some small way. Dane doesn't work so hard for his own benefit. He does it for family.
Unfortunately, his great scientific plan is to shoot magnetic waves into space to try and communicate with aliens. In itself, it's an ambitious if longshot plan. With a dude like Magneto involved? Recipe for disaster. Mags is using the waves to communicate BACK to Whitman and the scientist thinks he's talking to actual extra-terrestrial life. Disappointment looms.
Maybe it's time to check in on the stars of this book. Who are they again? OH! The Avengers! Where are they? Avengers Mansion? Let's check in...
Captain America has called the full team together to give them the bad news. He's quitting the team! This time it's not a joke or an imaginary story. Captain America is leaving the Avengers. Real world reasons for this are simple: Cap had his own ongoing series over in Tales of Suspense. For a time, this series had focused on his World War II adventures, freeing him up for present day action in the Avengers. Now, his stories were hitting the modern day and for Marvel at the time, that meant he had to leave the team just like Iron Man, Thor, Giant-Man, and the Wasp. The team was definitely not left wanting for members. From the Kooky Quartet days, the team had ballooned to include Hercules, Goliath, and the Wasp as well as Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye. Captain America leaving the team left them without a leader but not without muscle.
Granted, within just a couple issues, the Avengers would be down to just Hawkeye, Goliath, and the Wasp but that's a story for another time.
As Captain America walks away from the Avengers team for at least five or six issues, the team reacts in their usual dramatic fashion. Clint Barton takes it so badly that he actually yells at his girlfriend, the former (and future!) Black Widow, because Steve Rogers left the Avengers. Yes. Their relationship had definitely improved since Hawkeye joined the team. Realizing he's just overreacted, Clint does the only thing he can think of: he takes a walk so he can cool down and then apologize. This leaves Natasha on the verge of tears. Oh, the Silver Age...
Hank and Jan, the Avengers known as Goliath and the Wasp, have another way to get over the loss of the star-spangled Avenger. They take a flight to Las Vegas on a plane that Janet Van Dyne just bought. They are driven to the airport by Van Dyne's chauffeur, Charles Matthews. His real name is David Cannon, the villain you might know as Whirlwind. He just attacked the team last issue but obviously escaped being unmasked.
The build up for a greater storyline actually goes to Hercules. Herc is saddened that Captain America has chosen to leave the team but he takes it as an opportunity to clear up some unresolved issues in his own recent past. Flying back to Olympus, Hercules plans to clear up his exile with his father, Zeus, so that he can continue working with the Avengers by choice instead of by necessity.
What the demi-god finds when he reaches fabled Olympus staggers his senses. The city is deserted! The Lion of Olympus walks around the empty city and finds no sign of life anywhere.
Back at Garrett Castle, Dane Whitman's experiments are reaching their conclusion. The magnetic waves coming back at the castle are increasing and Dane calls over his assistant to help. Norris, of course, is about five seconds away from betraying his boss. He figures he's done most of the work here and wants more than just a steady paycheck. Norris wants the credit. While, Dr. Whitman's back is turned, his traitorous assistant smacks him upside the head with a cannister, knocking the poor scientist unconscious.
Norris doesn't actually get enough time to claim this experiment for his own. Magneto and Toad arrive, having ridden the magnetic rays back to their source. Magnus' mood hasn't improved after the journey.
Norris tries to correct the mistake and use the magnetic rays to send the villains back to the planetoid they came from but it's all a wash. Magneto's control over magnetism makes him aware of everything that the untrustworthy assistant is doing. As punishment, the master of magnetism hits Norris with an oversized wrench. This doesn't kill the dude but it DOES knock him unconscious. The self-styled master of the mutant race carries both Dane Whitman and Norris off to a dungeon, allowing Toad to lead the way.
We'll catch up with Dr. Whitman next issue. For now, we stay with Magneto as he begins the next stage in his plans. It begins with... a FLASHBACK!
Way back when, Magneto saved the Scarlet Witch from a European mob that was ready to burn her for being a witch. This flashback opens up that origin by adding in Quicksilver's attempt at defending his sister. His speed gives him an advantage but the villagers have numbers on their side. Pietro goes down and both his AND Wanda's lives are in serious danger before the pitchforks, hammers, axes, and other metal objects held by the mob are lifted into the air like magic! This heralds the arrival of Magneto who demands that this group of peasants leave his fellow mutants alone.
The mob disperses, thinking that this red clad mutant is the devil himself. Magneto turns to the young mutants and tells them that they owe him big time for saving their lives. It's a debt that forced them into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
OK, the flashback is over and we're back in Garrett Castle. Magneto has relived those moments of the past because he's determined to get the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants back up and running and believes that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are still in his debt. He's not concerned about Mastermind just now. Magnus has set his sights directly on his two children... even though the jury's out on whether he even considered that these two could be his kids.
Since the rest of the Avengers are off lamenting the loss of Captain America, monitor duty is left to the two mutants. When they get a signal leading to Garrett Castle, there's no-one else to investigate so the two do it themselves. No sooner do Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch enter the castle then they are attacked by a giant robot in gladiator gear.
The two Avengers defeat the robot in record time and are congratulated by Magneto for their efforts. He claims that he was just testing to see if they still had the chops to be in his Brotherhood. The two have gotten used to being heroes and refuse to join any organization with the word "Evil" in the title. This doesn't sit well with Magneto and the master of magnetism summons more robots to battle it out with the heroes.
The numbers might be different but the results are the same. Quicksilver takes care of this army of robots all by himself and then races up to take on the real bad guy. This... is apparently exactly what Magneto wanted. He sees Pietro madly approaching him and hits the mutant in the back of the head with a mallet. Wanda tries to avenge the fall of her brother but finds herself wrapped up in chains from a nearby mace.
With the two twins captured, all Magneto has to do is torture them into joining his new team.
The Avengers #48
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciler: George Tuska
In this story:
• Magneto convinces Pietro and Wanda to at least think about rejoining the Brotherhood and leaves them alone to talk about it. Quicksilver uses the time to free a hand and call up the Avengers.
• Which sucks because there are no Avengers waiting on calls today. Jarvis just lets the phone ring, thinking that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are still on the premises.
• Jarvis finally picks up the damn phone.
• Hank foils a guy cheating at the roulette wheel before he and Jan leave Las Vegas for this very important Avengers mission.
• Hercules walks around the empty city of Olympus and sees that the Promethean Flame has died out.
• The remaining Avengers meet at Avengers Mansion but don't know where to go next.
• In Garrett Castle, Dane Whitman escapes his cell, has a flashback sequence, and dons the armor of the Black Knight.
• Magneto punishes Quicksilver for calling the Avengers and then takes his party and leaves Garrett Castle.
• The Black Knight flies to Avengers Mansion to tell the Avengers what's going on at his castle but gets mistaken for his uncle and is attacked by the Avengers.
• Four pages of fighting happen before Black Knight does something heroic and the rest of the team realize he's too young to be the evil Black Knight.
• Dane leads them to Garrett Castle and they find that Magneto has already left. Whitman tries to join the rest of the Avengers in the search but they want to learn more about him before they commit to anything.
• The new Black Knight leaves in a huff.
Magneto is mad as heck and he's not going to take it anymore! Granted, this version of Magneto seems to be in a constant state of anger so it's hard to tell. Last issue, he tried to lure Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch back into his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants only to find that they didn't think they owed him for saving their lives way back when. To the mutants who now call themselves Avengers, that debt has been paid. Mostly in abuse at Magneto's hands.
The two keep tossing the name "Avengers" around but Magneto isn't one to read a paper and has been off-world for quite a while. He doesn't know who the Avengers are and he thinks his own power is more than a match for a group of super-heroes. To prove it, he displays his mastery of magnetism and then breaks a few wooden boards to show how strong he is. While Wanda still remains defiant, Pietro's resolve seems to be shaking and he says as much. Magneto thinks his message is finally getting through and leaves the two to talk about it. They're chained to the wall so they aren't going anywhere.
As soon as Magneto and Toad leave, the Scarlet Witch yells at her brother for even considering going evil again. Quicksilver tells her that he was bluffing for time. With a little effort, he frees his right arm and then uses a communicator hidden in his belt to call Avengers Mansion for help. Outside the room, Toad notices this but instead of stopping the Avenger, Toynbee hops to his master to tattle on the heroes.
This gives Pietro more time to contact Avengers Mansion and he'll need it. The Mansion is empty of everyone but Jarvis, the butler. Jarvis is about ready to head on out the door and thinks that Quicksilver and Wanda are still on monitor duty.
Hawkeye isn't at the Mansion but he is leaping from rooftop to rooftop close by. He's not intending on showing up at Avengers HQ. He's still trying to calm down from last issue. More than anyone else, the departure of Captain America has hit Clint Barton the hardest. He's trying to think of why the World War II hero would ever want to leave the team. When a group of Avengers fans sees the archer, they try to get his autograph but Hawkeye isn't in the mood and keeps leaping from roof to roof. They leave, upset, and mock Hawk for not being Captain America. This just makes Barton wonder if the team will be able to hold it together without their leader.
Inside the Mansion, Jarvis finally picks up the phone before heading out the door. Good thing, too! Pietro's pretty much run out of time. The mutant speedster gets out that they're in trouble but gets cut off before getting the butler his location. Still, if there was ever a time to assemble some Avengers, it would be now.
In fabulous Las Vegas, Janet Van Dyne is losing money at the roulette table. This wouldn't be so bad except someone else is winning every time. His name is J. B. Desalvio and he's obviously cheating. Wasp even has an idea HOW but she doesn't know how to prove it. When Hank Pym tells her it's time to go be Avengers, she let's him in on what's going on and the Avenger known as Goliath works out a clever solution. It involves ants.
We keep our magnetic theme going for this two bit crook. Desalvio is using some magnetic device to manipulate the roulette wheel and he's winning every time. Sure, he's blaming his "system" on his winning streak but odds are pretty good that he would be searched while leaving the casino and face some sweet, sweet late sixties casino justice. This would probably involve gangsters and blood. Hank's way is a little more non-violent. He has his ants sneak into J. B.'s pocket and steal the magnetic device. He shrinks down to ant size and walks across the roulette table. The ants are noticed but the other players don't seem to care.
Jan distracts the other players at this point, allowing Hank to take the roulette ball and move it from J. B.'s winning spot to another one. This actually means some other player wins. Jan still loses but is happy to have foiled a small time villain. That magical adventure is now over and the two fly to the airport for a quick trip back to New York City.
Only one Avenger is unable to answer the call to assemble. Hercules returned to his home in Olympus last issue only to find it empty of people. He strolls around the city, finding nothing amiss until he comes across the room that should house the Promethean Flame. It's out and that means that the immortality of the god of Olympus is on the line! Herc keeps looking for a bad guy but can't find anyone. At one point, he even wonders if this was the Olympians' own doing but he can't bring himself to believe that. No, this is some infernal plot and he won't rest until he discovers what's what.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team has returned to Avengers Mansion. After a fight for who's in charge, Hawkeye turns on the recording of Quicksilver's earlier message. It's not much. They know that their teammates have been kidnapped by Magneto but they don't have a location. The sit around and try to figure out what to do.
One guy who isn't sitting around is Dane Whitman. He was unconscious when Magneto took over his family castle and Norris hadn't woken up when he escaped his cell but he still seems to have a clear grasp on what's going on. Magneto has returned to earth and it's all his fault. If he hadn't been experimenting with magnetic ray communication, none of this would happen. He certainly wouldn't have been knocked out by his own assistant, that's for sure. Fortunately, Dane knows this castle well and takes some secret passages to his very own armory.
Back in the dungeon, Norris wakes up, still trapped.
Dr. Dane Whitman decides it's up to him to get the master mutant out of his home and to do that, he'll have to brave the perilous journey of... the FLASHBACK.
Witness, if you will, the death of the second Black Knight. Nathan Garrett was in mortal combat with Iron Man when his saddle was broken and he fell from his flying horse. Iron Man fell, too, having no extra power to bring his boot jets to live. Both hero and villain fell into pools of water. Iron Man dropped into a lake and managed to swim to shore. The Black Knight wasn't so lucky. Garrett plunged into some tree branches and then smashed into a shallow stream. This left him broken inside but he wasn't willing to die just yet.
Nathan Garrett made it to a nearby farmhouse and then gave his nephew, Dane Whitman a call for a pick-up. Dane found his uncle and carried him home but it was too late to save Garrett's life. On his deathbed, Dr. Nathan Garrett admitted that he was wrong to live a life of crime and his nephew swore to make his uncle's name good again.
Now, we've seen that this meant using Garrett's scientific achievements to benefit the world in the dead biologist's name. What it also meant was that someone was going to have to put on that armor and become a good Black Knight. Dane Whitman believed himself up to the task. He used Nathan Garrett's breakthroughs, he genetically modifies another horse, mutating it so that it has wings like the second Black Knight's black steed. This one is a white stallion named Aragorn. It seems freaked out at the prospect of flying but Whitman works with the animal to get it more accustomed to the air. Dane even worked on upgrading Nathan Garrett's armored suit, making it look a lot more like the original Black Knight's but with a more super-hero looking helmet.
With the flashback over, we see Dr. Dane Whitman grab his new armored suit and dress as the third Black Knight for the first time on panel.
We all know that there's little this metal-clad warrior could do that the master of magnetism couldn't thwart. Seriously. The metal suit alone would make him a poor dancing partner with Magneto. Whitman realizes this and decides that instead of engaging his enemy head on, it would be ideal to get some help. He races off to summon the Avengers.
Two of those Avengers, of course, are already captured. If you thought Magneto was pissed before, you should see him after being tricked by Quicksilver. He slaps the mutant speedster across the face for daring to call in help. The point has been made, though. These two aren't going to serve him... at least not willingly. Toad tries to tell Magneto of the futility of recruiting these heroes and gets punted across the room for his right to free speech. Magneto has one last ultimatum to be played but he can't do that here. He lifts the two mutants into the air and guides them to his flying transport (which he built in just the few hours that he had occupied the castle). They leave Garrett Castle to find a new hideout.
None of this is known by the Avengers but those guys are no closer to finding their missing teammates. They're still wondering where to begins when a flying horse and rider approach the Mansion. Hawkeye's vision is pretty good and he identifies the rider as the Black Knight straight away. Since the evil Black Knight died quietly, no-one knows that there's a new hero in town. They all mistake this new armored adventurer for the Master of Evil.
Dane realizes he probably should have called ahead to prevent this just as an arrow whizzes by his head. He tries to calm everyone down but fate is just working against him. An attack by the Wasp causes his lance to accidentally fire, blasting a chimney near Goliath. Things just escalate from here and the fight goes on for four pages until Whitman gets so upset about being unfairly attacked that he fires his lance at a cornice piece, knocking the bit of building off. It's heading right down into the crowded streets below and only a giant-sized Goliath has a hope of stopping it.
This is one of those situations that Henry Pym has tried not to get in. If he grows up to his twenty-five foot height, he risks ruining his growing powers again. For a long time, he was stuck at his ten foot height. Even now that his abilities are fixed, Pym has tried not to get too big. This is a situation that calls for it, though, so the hero does what heroes are supposed to do.
Hank grows large, catches the falling bit of building, and tosses it onto the Avengers' roof. The act makes Goliath lose his balance, though, and Pym starts to fall himself. Fortunately, Black Knight isn't a bad guy and Whitman flies his horse right under the falling Avenger, catching Hank before anything fatal happens.
And that's how the Avengers meet the Black Knight. The battle is over and the heroes meet up to discuss WHY Dane Whitman was flying towards the Mansion. The Black Knight explains the situation and leads the Avengers team right to his castle. As we already know, Magneto and his two Avengers prisoners are already gone by the time our heroes arrive. That's ok, though. The Black Knight knows that they'll find them... together.
Oh, wait. Hold up. The Avengers might have stopped attacking this fledgling super-hero but they haven't learned to trust him just yet. Hank wants to know this guy's back story. This seems right and logical until you remember that they don't even know HAWKEYE'S real name yet. The Avengers are supposed to respect their peer's secret identities. You could say they have just cause since the former Black Knight was a villain but they've let so many former villain join the team at this point that questioning the newcomer just comes off as improper. Smart? Yes. Just not very consistent.
Dane could understand all of this when they thought he was the villainous Black Knight but he figures he's already proven his good intentions at is tired of the misplaced mistrust. He tells the Avengers off and flies off. Let them deal with this situation. He's got other things to do.
When the Avengers leave his castle, he probably returns to do some of those things.
Dane Whitman has pretty much been the Black Knight ever since (he was replaced by some Italian version for a very confusing Wakandan invasion but we just try to forget that). He eventually picked up his ancestor's cursed sword, the Ebony Blade, and even had some possession thing going on with Sir Percy. Dane did finally join the Avengers team and became a stalwart member of the team in the eighties and early nineties. In the nineties, an alternative version of himself named Proctor showed up with his own evil Avengers team to kill Sersi because she wouldn't love him (Proctor basically had emotional issues). The end result of this conflict was that both Sersi and Black Knight left the Marvel Universe for a time. They turned up in the recently acquired Marvel property, the Ultraverse, where Whitman led a team of heroes known as Ultraforce. When this adventure ran it's course and Ultraforce was cancelled, they of course wound up in the time of the Crusades and played a crucial part in the origin of the mutant, Exodus.
You can't keep a good knight out of the present day Marvel Universe and Black Knight returned right after Onslaught. He was given new responsibilities and brand new equipment and found himself on that era's Heroes for Hire team. When the Avengers came a knockin,' Dane returned to the fold and served on one of the expansion teams just in time for another Ebony Blade adventure and the all encompassing Kang War. When the Avengers team paired down to just one fighting team, the Black Knight found himself out of an Avengering job. The American born hero moved to Great Britain and opened up a museum focusing on the exploits of his ancestors, a whole lineage of Black Knights. This led to an adventure or two with the New Excalibur organization and then right into the awesome Captain Britain and the MI:13. Even though that book was canceled, Dane Whitman remains a member of the team. It's only a matter of time before he shows up again. You can't keep a good Black Knight down.
And with those words, I end yet another exciting Super Reads extravaganza. I hope it was good for you.
Until next time: Excelsior!
Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX