Coming around the bend.
Today, we check out X-Men #5, Heroic Age: Villains #1, Thunderbolts #150, and Blast to the Past for Fantastic Four #'s 48-50. Enjoy and spread the word!
Hey look! It's a small week! I should fill it up with way too many back issues of Fantastic Four. :D
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Siege and beyond? Check no further than this link right HERE.
You got mutants in my vampires! I got vampires in your mutants! Hmmm...
Writers: Victor Gischler
Penciler: Paco Medina
In this issue:
• The X-Men prepare for immenent vampire attack as Xarus watches his troops assemble before the island of Utopia.
• The attack begins!
• Soon, the X-Men are forced to retreat to a wall so they won't be overwhelmed.
• Wolverine hits the ground talking smack. Cyclops reactivates Logan's healing factor and gets the canucklehead back.
• Namor returns to his underwater army.
• The vampire invasion is over. The X-Men line has held.
• Xarus rants until his father shows up.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
Utopia isn't really the nicest island you could live on. It's one of Magneto's fallen Asteroid M's, and as small islands go, it's kind of an eyesore. Still, this is where most of the world's mutant population has chosen to call home. It could be the site to the mutant's last stand as the vampire army assembles right off the shore.
The Lord of the Vampires, Xarus, isn't physically part of the invasion. He's got a war-tempered Krieger Legate to lead the troops for him. No, Xarus is nobility and watches the battle from a secured location with the recently vamped out Jubilation Lee. Victory is assured, of course, so Xarus is feeling pretty good. He's about to have an army of mutants on his side.
Scott Summers is a different kind of leader. While the rest of dwindling mutant population hides in the locked up lower decks of the mutant island, Cyclops leads a group of "tough skins" like Colossus, Mercury, Rockslide, Husk, and Armor, in defense of Utopia. Dr. Nemesis skips below after delivering Cyclops' "Ace in the hole."
Some other heroes are also getting ready for this battle. In the air, Warren Worthington III switches to his Archangel persona to protect the skies. Bobby Drake is getting blessed by a priest, attempting to become living, chilled holy water. Namor is busy in his own title but the Atlanteans living below Utopia are prepared for the battle against the Aqueos. This storyline's guest star, Blade, is also ready for this party to get started.
Without further ado, the battle is on.
One mistake in Cyclops' preparations becomes apparent pretty quickly. They're being attacked from all sides. Summers orders his men to back up to the wall so they only have to worry about one dirrection of combat.
The vampire army suddenly pulls back, and airship flies in. Since the vamps seriously outnumber the X-Men, this is all kind of on the strange side of things until Wolverine drops out of the vampire airship.
Hust and Colossus try to take the vampire down but both fall like chumps. Wolvie's got a whole new bag.
Logan has been sent here with a specific mission plan: Low casualties. Turn as many X-Men as possible. Kill Cyclops and make it hurt. Other X-Men move in to take Wolverine out but no-one manages it. The Canadian mutant presses forward to kill Scott Summers. He does a lot of trash talk along the way.
Cyclops is a rock this whole time. Scott doesn't move as his former teammate gets closer and closer. He even tells Wolverine that this isn't at all personal. When Logan is close enough to slap, Cyclops hits the switch on his "Ace in the hole."
Wolverine drops to the ground with a shout.
You might remember way back in X-Men #3 when Wolverine got some wierd shots before going out to find Jubilee. I told you to take note. Here's the payoff for that. Logan thought Dr. Nemesis was only TAKING blood to test it against vampirism. What was also going on was Wolverine was being injected with nanites that effectively shut down his healing factor. This meant there was nothing preventing Wolverine from joining the army of the undead.
A lot could have gone wrong with this plan. For example, turning that healing factor back on might not have had an immediate result and Cyclops could have ended up skewered. It might not even have been possible to turn back on once Logan had been turned. Fortunately, everything goes as planned.
Not that Wolverine LIKES his role as guinea pig but there's about forty thousand vampires that he can take his aggression out on.
This is the definition of turning point. The X-Men rally, destroying Xarus' army on every front. Even the Aqueos are in trouble as Namor returns to the front lines after his own mission to their dark city in Namor #4.
Soon, the vampire invaders are in complete disarray. At Xarus' compound, the Lord of the Vampires gets a video message from his former follower, Wolverine. Yep, invasion fail and the X-Men are coming for him. While his advisors are all calling for a regroup, Xarus orders the second wave in.
That would be great except every available vampire warrior was sent in the first assault. This isn't good news for Xarus and we all wonder for a moment if the final issue of this mini-event is going to be him toggling back and forth from ranting to crying.
And then Dracula shows up to reclaim his title of Lord of the Vampires. For most of the people in the room, he clears the slate. They won't all die terrible deaths. Xarus, of course, is in big trouble.
The Heroic Age: Villains #1
Writers: Chad Anderson, Madison Carter, Jeff Christiansen, Anthony Flamini, Kevin Garcia, Michael Hoskin, Rob London, Markus Raymond, Peter Sanderson, Stuart Vandal, & David Wiltfong
In this story:
• Steve Rogers gives us an assessment on those he views as villains.
• It doesn't involve communing with any spiritual guides or anything lame. Pretty straightforward.
• Yeah. That's about it.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
The Heroic Age is already well underway when Commander Steve Rogers sits down and types out just who isn't beneficial to the Marvel Universe in any way. There aren't any real surprises here except for the few entries where he suggests killing the villain (Nuke/Scourge).
Now, the good thing is that Steve didn't drop acid like he did when writing his thoughts on the super-heroes of the Marvel U. He just sat down and wrote, probably sober. It's dryer reading than Super-Heroes, but filled with some insights into the villains of the MU from the rigid perspective of Steve Rogers.
One thing that comes up frequently is Commander Rogers' belief that many villains can be reformed through a variety of means. The Thunderbolts program is mentioned time and again as a method for turning the bad guys to the light side of the Force.
All of this was dated at the time of publishing, having not been updated to include the endings of recent storylines. I imagine that by the time I get it out as a Super Reads, it's even MORE dated. Thank goodness I'm not timely. :D
Writer: Jeff Parker
Penciler: Kev Walker
In this story:
• Right before a federal review, Luke Cage announces he's going to quit his job after it's over. Ghost hears him because that's what Ghost does.
• Commander Rogers, Thor, and Iron Man show up and prep to watch one more mission go down. Ghost tells his remaining teammates that they'll probably be done after this adventure so now's the time to escape.
• Ghost interrupts Man-Thing's teleport using Thor's uru hammer, transporting them all to an alien world where the water makes them look different than they really look.
• The heroes split up to go after the T-Bolts, each taking the one that is more likely their enemy and leaving Juggernaut to Cage and Thor.
• Ghost is brought down with logic when he learns that Tony Stark is no longer part of a corporation.
• Crossbones attacks the former Captain America with his new super power but doesn't beat the World War II veteran.
• Juggernaut takes a couple blasts by Thor and Iron man but has pretty much given up by then. He actually tells them how to get Man-Thing to return them all home.
• It involved projecting an image of Moonstone on a waterfall.
• Once they're all back, Luke has decided not to quit his dayjob and this whole mission is billed as a transporter malfunction.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
It's the big one hundred and fiftieth issue of T-Bolts! This issue will give us the first issue story and the current story straight up for all you fanboys and girls. Let's dig right in.
Luke Cage has been put in charge of the Thunderbolts program operating out of the Raft, the super-human detention facility poorly located right outside of New York City. His first team is NOT what he'd like it to be. Most of these members were picked out for him and none of them has worked out. They all seem to have their own agendas and aren't learning to be heroes like they're supposed to. In fact, Luke sees himself being influenced by these career criminals.
So that's done. After this one final mission, Cage is turning in his resignation. This message is picked up by Ghost who just happened to be eavesdropping during a work-out session.
When Luke joins the team in the work-out room, he tells Moonstone that she's done after her performance during Shadowland. Whether that's a temporary thing or just for this mission is left up in the air. The rest of the T-Bolts are led upstairs where they'll meet their tag-alongs for the day.
This mission isn't just same old/same old. This is a federal evaluation, being conducted by the Avengers Trinity: Commander Rogers, Thor, and Iron Man. After the three heroes are led down a hallway where prisoners are standing at some form of attention, they greet Luke and split up to talk to their individual villains. Iron Man talks to Ghost, Steve talks to Crossbones. Thor isn't Juggy's nemesis so the thunder god asks to be brought to the women's quarters so he can converse with the Troll girl called Gunna.
Tony's talk with Ghost is wierd. They just "fought" about a year ago (our time) in the pages of Iron Man during Stark Disassembled. Iron Man claims not to remember this battle for some reason but it would have been one of the first new memories he had. Ghost makes us all confused by not recognizing that Tony Stark is running a small start up company. He still thinks Stark is some rich man running a hand-me-down company. This is what happens when you don't trust newspapers or the internet as legitimate sources of information.
You know what? I hate the Raft. They let all these prisoners out and they just snipe comments all the time. I don't know if that's the way real prisons are run but if it is, I hate them too. Anyway, Luke Cage walks Thor through the women's prison and it's all embarrassing and stuff. Songbird starts taking care of the women prisoners, leaving Gunna for a conversation with the god of thunder.
Thor isn't really all that great with people skills but he talks to the half-Troll, half-Aesir about her returning to Asgard with him and learning what it means to be Asgardian. He doesn't know why she was locked up in his city but he'll get to the bottom of that mystery. Thor holds out his hand to Gunna. She takes a bite, claiming that she is TROLL. She wants nothing to do with Asgard.
So these talks are going well. Crossbones gets a personal meet-and-greet with Steve Rogers. All the while, his eyes are glowing red, showing that his power is still active after it fizzled out last issue. Commander Rogers doesn't notice.
Now, it's time for their routine mission to Europe to take down a hidden base belonging to MODOK. This is all as routine as missions get, except that while everyone was gathering for this walkabout, Ghost told his fellow T-Bolts that Luke was quitting and that the Thunderbolt program itself was probably going to be cancelled. If they were ever going to escape, it would have to be now. Don't worry, Ghost has a plan.
When the Thunderbolts (and guests) teleport out using the reliable Man-Thing, Ghost shoots an ion stream at Thor's hammer. This whacks out Man-Thing's teleporting abilities and they swing around wildly in time and space. When Ghost tells them to, the bad guys jump, hoping to teleport several thousand miles from the Avengers. They don't get AS far away but they DO end up on a different planet in a different dimension.
So that's nice.
So why all this elaborate hoo-haw to escape? It's because they have nanites in their bodies that could shut them down as soon as they tried. I guess these nanites are activated by satellites. Those satellites aren't on another planet, so, score.
Luke Cage and the Avengers trinity land only a mile or so away from the bad guys. Luke beats himself up over this because if he had quit sooner, they never would have gone on this mission. Since this is the first the others have heard about this, Steve tries to convince the former Power Man that he's being too hasty, but hey, escaped super-convicts to deal with!
They're right next to a pool that shows them alternate images of themselves, too. Iron Man sees himself as a kid. Steve sees Captain America. Luke and Thor are too busy to go staring at their reflections. As a guide to this, a frog shows up on the back of some lizard thing. It's fishing and seems to recognize Man-Thing... so maybe this world has been seen before in the pages of Man-Thing. I couldn't tell you because I haven't read that many issues of Man-Thing. Not even Giant-Sized Man-Thing.
Meanwhile, Juggernaut, Crossbones, and Ghost are arguing about their current location. Sure, they wanted to be free but they also wanted to be free on earth. This alien planet wasn't on the menu. They're still arguing when the Avengers catch up to them.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
This battle is basically a pile on Juggernaut and the other T-Bolts make a quick getaway. Steve starts dropping orders, but is interrupted when Luke, who's learned to team lead, starts delivering his own commands. Steve smiles and lets Cage take charge. This basically drops heroes and villains along the usual lines. Iron Man vs. Ghost. Steve vs. Crossbones. Thor and Luke fight Juggernaut (because they're left over).
Juggy gets a couple hammer blows to the head which means that helmet is coming off pretty soon. Marko is also struck with multiple lightning bolts. Even powered down like he is, Juggernaut can still take a hell of a licking. It almost makes you forget that he got knocked down by a giant ninja two issues ago.
Steve sneaks up on Crossbones and gets in the first attack. This makes the criminal drop his guns but as we've recently learned, Crossbones has some new tricks. The villain's eyes light up and he releases a blast of energy at Commander Rogers.
Iron Man's battle is a lot easier and it's not because Ghost is a pushover. In fact, the paranoid freak starts breaking through Stark's firewalls before the battle is over. It's about then that Tony realizes that the way to win is to make himself less of a target. To do that, he lets Ghost learn all about his recent history. He shut down Stark Industries and is running the much smaller Stark Resilient. Since Tony Stark is no longer a corporate giant, he's "no longer the enemy." Smaller target, see?
Kain Marko's helmet finally comes off but Juggernaut swipes Thor away for a while at least. Now the fight is between Luke and Kain, which means poor Luke is at a disadvantage. Their fight plummets nearer and nearer to that strange reflective lake. When Marko looks at his reflection, he sees Cyttorak, then an idealized version of himself, and finally a robot version of himself. It really throws him for a loop.
When Iron Man and Ghost return, Juggernaut isn't ready to give up. Tony turns on a localized sonic assault weapon which hits Kain hard. Thor is about to join the fight when Luke calls them both off. Kain's got a choice to make and they need to make sure Steve has defeated Crossbones.
Oh. About that. Ghost reveals that C-Bones has some super powers now, probably bestowed when they encountered the mutated Terrigen mists. Ghost even has video of Crossbones taking out Officer Kimbo last issue. This just pisses Luke Cage off.
Steve Rogers isn't without his own tricks and skills but this newly powered Crossbones gets him on the ropes for a while. Again, the battle looms over that reflective water where Crossbones sees himself as the Red Skull. As Commander Rogers says, it's a "pale reflection of someone else." The former Captain America proceeds to kick the crap out thie racist, stuffing his glowing head into the water until Crossbones calms down.
So that's all of them. The Avengers bring the Thunderbolts back to the entrance and find the frog creature still fishing. He told them earlier that the way back lay through the waterfall and that the Man-Thing would be able to lead them to the correct reality. The problem is Man-Thing isn't in any rush to return. Juggernaut has this one. Marko tells Ghost to put an image of Moonstone up on the waterfall.
Man-Thing walks right through. Someone's got a crush.
Everyone hurries to follow their guide through. Before they all go, Luke has a talk with Kain. Juggernaut tells Cage that he doesn't want to stay in another dimension even if it means rotting in prison when they get back. The T-Bolts leader responds that Marko won't be spending much time at the Raft with all the missions happening in his future.
Yep. Luke isn't going anywhere. Something in this place made him remember what he was doing with the Thunderbolts in the first place. Steve wonders what that could have been after seeing most of his team attempt a prison break but Luke just writes this off as a transporter accident. It never happened. Well, except for what went down with Crossbones. That's hard to deny.
Rogers asks Luke what the former Power Man sees when he looks into the reflecting pool. Luke looks down and sees himself. There's not even a tiara.
Right before they disappear, the frog drops off his beast of burden and tries to follow, certain that they have to be from his home dimension.
The T-Bolts reappear at the Raft which comforts the freaking out MACH V. He's been looking for them for the last ninety minutes. Everyone files out of the Man-Thing's chamber. Steve and Luke talk about what the Thunderbolts mean, apparently boosting Luke's decision all the more.
And that frog creature? He made it back, too. On this side of the dimensional barrier, he's just a normal frog. He follows the others out of the chamber too slowly, though, and the door hits the frog, crushing it.
That might have been important?
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciler: Mark Bagley
In this story:
• The heroes of the Marvel Universe are sent packing to a more Image-like Universe for twelve issues, leaving New York City ripe for dastardly goings on by ne'er do wells.
• Hallie Takahama is taken by the Rat Pack.
• The new Thunderbolts attack the Rat Pack but the bad guys escape.
• After the fight, the team meets at their hole in the wall headquarters. MACH I and Songbird flirt. Techno complains about the conditions. Atlas stews over Techno not following orders.
• Reporters arrive and Citizen V reads off their mission statement before more reports come in regarding the Rat Pack. Then it's all, Thunderbolts Assemble, or something like that.
• The Rat Pack tries to lead the T-Bolts into a trap. The team follows, cautiously, until they run into the Wrecking Crew.
• This one is a solid win, but the battle breaks off the Statue of Liberty's arm. The Thunderbolts stick around to fix it.
• Back at their headquarters, the team is revealed to be the Masters of Evil.
There was nothing like picking the first issue of Thunderbolts up off the stands and think you were reading about an all new group of heroes only to learn that they were the Masters of Evil. There's no getting that surprise back but it still kept the momentum going for this book. Here's how it all went down...
Following Onslaught, the main heroes of the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, sacrificed their lives to take down the monster amalgam of Magneto and Professor Xavier. Now, what the citizens of the Marvel U didn't know was that their heroes were actually one dimension over hanging out with Image creators. To them, a bright shining light had been taken from them and the remaining heroes just didn't cut it. Bad guys were running the show. The remaining Avengers disbanded. The X-Men were more wanted than ever. Times were bad.
This is the environment into which the Thunderbolts appeared. Their FIRST appearance was actually in Hulk #449, and they then showed up a month later in Tales of the Marvel Universe #1. Both of those didn't give much more than a hint that this team was anything but the straight up dogooders they pretended to be. And then... Thunderbolts #1.
Just in case you weren't paying attention to what was going on in the MU at the time, a reporter relates most of what I've just mentioned in the opening pages of this story. Things are tough, there are no heroes left, massive looting happening in the wake of Onslaught. While this television reporter does her job amid the wreckage, a teenage girl named Hallie Takanama debates going out and asking for help. Onslaught put her on the street and she's kept to the shadows for survival's sake. Still, she's hungry as hell and these look like the right people to go to. Before she can walk back out into the light, a member of the Rat Pack chloroforms her and drags her back to the darkness.
I barely remember the Rat Pack but the captions give us all the details. They're professional looters and someone wants them to do a whole lot of kidnapping in the ruins of New York. They're stealing a lot of other stuff as well but the people are what's important. Before they're done, however, they're going to have to face off against the newest super-hero team in New York City.
First up is Citizen V, who poses on top of some rubble holding a sword and demanding they surrender. He's got some swagger to him but one guy with a saber isn't going to intimidate the Rat Pack. They point their guns only to find that this is a group. The rest of the Thunderbolts appear with a quickness and the battle begins!
This is one of those opening issue fights and the battle itself isn't as important as telling you who the team is. Each member is introduced, as well as some of their personality traits. These are the Masters of Evil and on the reread, you can spot who's who just by how they fight and what they reveal. One a first read, you didn't even notice. So who was on that first team?
Songbird, MACH I, Meteorite, Techno, and Atlas! You know them better as... well, you know Songbird as Songbird because she was a minor and forgettable villain known as Screaming Mimi. MACH I is currently MACH V but had a long career as the Beetle. Meteorite is Moonstone. Techno is Fixer with a temporary reconstructed face. Atlas is Goliath (the original Power Man) but with a permanently new face. Leading the charge is Citizen V, better known today as Baron Helmut Zemo.
Poker faces are on for most of these guys. They play being hero well... maybe too well since most of them decided to walk the straight and narrow after getting a taste for crime fighting. Techno plays the over-the-top rogue who can't follow orders. At one point, he takes on Atlas's enemies instead of his own and gets the big guy shot in the back. Songbird is nervous and that's understandable since she's using new powers. MACH I acts like an old pro. Citizen V plays up the swagger and confidence and just seems to enjoy the spotlight. Some of their personality is slipping through but they obviously have cue cards for who they're supposed to be like.
In the middle of the fight, we cut over to the mayor's office where mayoral assistant, Dallas Rhiordan, gets a call about the new heroes fighting in the devastated areas of New York.
And then we're back to the fun and excitement of this Rat Pack battle. The team leader of this group finds himself at the end of Citizen V's sword and it looks like he'll be calling a surrender. Instead, he shouts "MOUSEHOLE!" and everyone disappears into the ground. The battle isn't won, but at least these guys didn't get away with any ill-gotten loot.
All of this was captured on film since the area is still swarming with news teams. That means that they media follows them back to their headquarters from a safe distance. This isn't actually the best HQ ever. The Thunderbolts are living in a building that was abandoned due to damages received during the Onslaught battle. There are hints that it could look better and have more equipment, but Citizen V purposefully keeps it low grade. They also don't have the money to make it much better.
This is a short downtime for the team, and we follow Meteorite as she walks through the building, taking stock of the other teammembers. We see Songbird grow attached to MACH I. Atlas broods over Techno not following Citizen V's orders. Meteorite destroys Techno's robot servant. And then... the reporters show up.
The team exits their headquarters to address the crowd.
Citizen V has answers to every one of the reporters questions. They ask why they're all new super-heroes instead of adding an existing one to their mix. V tells them that this was about adding to the hero population; not moving other heroes around. He also talks about how the Avengers will never be replaced and that this team is only trying to do what they can. It's all well-played stuff and the reporters eat it up. The only thing revealed after this is that Atlas's powers might have something to do with Hank Pym. After that, it's back to the spin.
MACH I tells everyone that "MACH" stands for Mobile Armored Cyber Harness. Songbird says hi to her mom. Techno tells everyone that he's the real hero on the team. They all stay within their cover stories.
Before everyone is done with their personal interviews, a call comes in saying that the Rat Pack have been sighted. The T-Bolts race back into action. When the team reaches the Rat Pack, they can smell trap a mile away. The Thunderbolts follow from a distance.
At the Mayor's office, Dallas Rhiordan gets a call right from the Mayor. He's heard about these new heroes and wants to make them NEW YORK'S heroes. All he's thinking about is what they could do for the city. Rhiordan is assigned to bring that message to the new team.
Remember that trap we were talking about? Here it comes. Right before they reach the Statue of Liberty, the Thunderbolts are attacked by... the WRECKING CREW! Since these are super-villains that have served on the Masters of Evil before, there's some hesitation from the team about attacking. Citizen V clears things up by stifling the conversation and saying some heroic phrases. If the reporters hear anything, it comes out as the Thunderbolts not knowing if they're ready for a threat like the Wrecking Crew.
The fight goes back and forth . At one point Piledriver smashes some debris into Meteorite, sending her straight through the Statue of Liberty's arm. This is because any major attack in New York needs to ruin Lady Liberty. It's just par for course. The torch arm is severed. Wrecker uses his crowbar to start breaking his way through the base of the statue.
In order to save the Statue of Liberty, the Thunderbolts stand down. Citizen V takes the destruction of the Statue very personally because Zemo is a phenomenal actor. When they think they've won, three of the Wrecking Crew members start laughing. This leads them wide open for a knockout gas attack. MACH I aims for their mouths and Songbird surrounds their heads with solid sound bubbles, making sure none of that gas escapes.
This leaves Bulldozer (who has a face shield) standing alone. Atlas punches him straight off of Liberty Island. Citizen V sends Songbird to catch the final member of the Wrecking Crew.
So the battle's won with major media coverage to boot! Before the team gets set to repair the Statue of Liberty, they hear a rumble of sound coming from New York City. When they get a better listen, they realize that it's applause. The city's seen what just happened and is overjoyed.
Dallas Rhiordan lands on the island and meets with Citizen V. She tells him that the team has the full backing of the mayor's office. Citizen V likes the sound of that but he and his team have more work to do now. This conversation will need to wait.
After that, the Thunderbolts go right to work, cleaning up the mess they made on the island. That gets the citizens of New York even more excited about them. The media blitz is impressive. It's all the news stations can talk about. Unlicensed merchandise is already hitting the streets and selling like gangbusters.
Spider-Man, the New Warriors, and Black Widow all chime in on these new heroes. It's all positive coverage... except for the Widow who is still melancholy about the Avengers disappearing while she was holding the reigns.
Back at Thunderbolts headquarters, the team gathers around their television set to listen to the praise they're getting. An unmasked Citizen V says that everything it going according to plan
Oh yeah. Unmasked. V looks like a burn victim and no-one wants to look at his ugly mug. The team begs him to put on his mask. He does but it's not the mask of the hero, Citizen V. It's the mask of Baron Zemo. Just for our information, Zemo lists off his Thunderbolts with their real names. It's the Masters of Evil! The city is playing right into their hands.
And in a darkened room somewhere else entirely, Hallie Takahama dreams of a rescue that hasn't come yet.
Fantastic Four #48
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
In this story:
• The Atmo-Gun starts shaking everything apart! When it's done, Maximus is astonished to find that it didn't tear apart humanity because it's too close to Inhumanity.
• As a last gambit, Max activates a Negative Zone shield around the Great Refuge, cutting it off from the rest of the world for at least seven issues. The Fantastic Four escape at the last moment.
• The Silver Surfer surfs the spaceways, freaking out squares like the Skrulls.
• On the way back to New York, the FF notice a second sun expanding to start the entire sky on fire.
• This freaks out the populace of NYC, who riot. When they see the Human Torch, they blame the fire guy for their fire problems. Johnny gets knocked out of the sky and needs a save from the Thing.
• Reed spends the rest of the day ignoring his wife and investigating the strange sky phenomenon. It's gone from fiery skies to clear to rocks.
• It turns out the Watcher is responsible and is trying to hide the planet from the Silver Surfer. His plan doesn't work.
• The Surfer lands and signals for his master who arrives soon after. Thing hits the Silver Surfer, sending the Herald of Galactus plummeting off the roof of the Baxter Building.
• Galactus and his feeding materials arrive and the world is doomed.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
The Silver Surfer! Long time readers may remember way back during Secret Invasion when I did walk throughs for about the first thirty issues of Silver Surfer's second ongoing series which catalogued the second Kree-Skrull War. Most of you might remember how hard I was on that terrible, terrible story and think that maybe I don't like Norrin Rad. That's not the case. I'm just not a fan of horrible stories. ;) The Silver Surfer is one of the most visually striking characters in the Marvel Universe and his origin struck right in the most creative period between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Fantastic Four was truly leading the Marvel Universe forward as it introduced new concepts and characters month after month. In the storyline before this one, the Inhumans were introduced to the Marvel Universe in a story that actually concludes this issue. In this three part tale, not only do we meet the Silver Surfer, the Fantastic Four also contend with the threat of Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds.
Interestingly enough, the Surfer wasn't part of Stan Lee's plot for the storyline. It was actually Jack Kirby who thought that Galactus needed a herald and drew this shiny man riding a surfboard through space. Stan Lee didn't drop the ball and picked up on where Jack Kirby was going, adding caption boxes that gave the readers a feel of this lonely traveller through the stars. It was one of those brilliant collaborations where artist and writer just got inspired in the creation of a character that was just dropped into a story.
But on with plot. We left this story last time as Maximus the Mad activated the Atmo-Gun, a strange contraption that was made to destroy all of humanity through sonic vibrations. No-one knows what this device is going to do save for Max and the Seeker, but the effects are immediate. The city is a rockin' so don't bother knockin'. The building containing the Atmo-Gun crumbles to the ground. This at least tells the Inhumans and the Fantastic Four where they need to go.
Black Bolt flies ahead to find his brother engaged in terrible acts of genocide. The Seeker, who wasn't all about this plan in the first place, begs for Black Bolt's forgiveness. Maximus curses his minion and then, cackling like the madman he is, he tells Black Bolt all about how his Atmo-Gun is going to kill every human man, woman, and child on the face of the planet. Black Bolt stares at his brother with cold eyes, and backhands the former monarch. It's really about time someone did that.
The weapon powers down, indicating that it SHOULD be done killing everyone but the Fantastic Four walking into the building with the rest of the Inhuman Royal Family shows that it didn't do it's job. A quick look at a monitor shows that humans all over the world were unaffected by Maximus's devastating weapon. Maxy rants about how he desires the earth and Medusa tells him to shut up and sit down. It's Black Bolt who leads the Inhumans and who has her love. If only he had time to love her back but his duty won't allow that... even though he'd really like to. He'd really like to.
Oh, but Maximus isn't done with his crazy schemes. If you know the character, you know that while sometimes mad, Maximus is the master at making things (even if the Atmo-Gun didn't kill all humans). Breaking out of the clutches of Gorgon and Karnak, Maxy races to his Atmo-Gun which, it turns out, is the Swiss Army Knife of mad scientist inventions. He flips a switch or two, "reversing the charge of the weapon." This has the effect of creating a Negative Zone around the Great Refuge that "nothing" can break. I put up quotation marks because Black Bolt is able to destroy the Negative Zone field surrounding the Great Refuge in Fantastic Four #59, which we covered in Super Reads Siege 15 (or Super Reads 97 by normal numbering), by revealing his deadly voice powers.
That's a ways off, though and the FF would lose a lot of readers if they were stuck in Attilan for the next ten issues. Instead of waiting around, the team makes a mad dash for the exits hoping to make it to the city limits before the Negative Zone field solidifies around the Great Refuge. One of their number is reluctant to go because he's living his own personal Shakespearean tragedy without all the blood. Johnny Storm has fallen in love with the Inhuman, Crystal, and she's got some heavy feeling for him as well. The two reach out to each other but are pulled away by their respective parties. It's the Thing that has to drag Johnny out of the Great Refuge and since he's such a softie at heart, Ben knows just how hard this is for the Human Torch.
The team makes it through the barrier in the proverbial nick, assisted by Sue Richards' invisible forcefield holding the field open JUST long enough for them to pass through and live. The Negative Zone barrier is just as promised: impenetrable. Johnny keeps it together pretty well even when he can't get a guarantee from Reed that they'll find a way back through the barrier. The rest of the team is proud of the youngster's character growth even though they'll miss getting into gigantic spats over almost nothing at all.
Thus ends the Inhuman adventure even though the team will continue to play a subplot role in future issues. Right now, we get to focus on our star, Silver Surfer! Just as advertised, he's a naked silver dude riding a surfboard through outer space. If there were another character that embodies exactly how ridiculous, awesome, and ridiculously awesome comics are in such a bold manner, I'd love to hear about them. For now, SS is antagonizing galaxies other than the Milky Way. Flying too near the Andromeda Galaxy, the Surfer freaks out the Skrulls sensors and they order the cloaking of their home solar system. It's not because they fear the lonely space traveler. They're scared of what he heralds.
Back on good old Mother Earth, the Fantastic Four are witnesses the reactions of another being who fears what Silver Surfer's boss could do to the planet. The Fantastic Four are flying home in their chartered jet when Ben Grimm notices two suns in the sky. Since he's pretty sure his home planet isn't Tattooine, this is a BIG DEAL. Reed believes that maybe his big friend just took one too many blows to the head, until he finally looks out a window and sees the same sight. It doesn't take long for one of the suns to expand in view until flames cover the skies. This makes landing difficult since not only are the skies filled with fire but the jet's radio is also not functioning.
When the Fantastic Four exit the plane, they find the airfield empty of people. In the distance, they can hear the sound of rioters. Johnny Storm, not realizing that turning into the Human Torch when there is fire from skyline to skyline is a bad idea, flames on and flies to figure out what's going on.
Before we get to the part where the good, panicked citizens of New York blame the burning sky on the Human Torch, force him out of the ground and then try beating him to death, we should mention something interesting about the sky fires. They aren't producing any noticeable heat. If an errant star had actually gotten this close to earth, and that's what this seems to be simulating, then we'd all be crispy critters at this distance. That isn't the case. In fact, besides being kind of distracting, the fire doesn't pose any noticeable threat. I mean, BESIDES the people rioting in a panic.
OK, we can get to the part where the Human Torch encounters the rioting crowds, is blamed for the flames covering the skies, is then hit by fire hose spray and forced out of the sky to be attacked by the angry crowd. There we go. We're there. Luckily, the rest of the Fantastic Four show up in the tragically designed Airjet-cycle. The Thing drops off the vehicle, possibly in embarrasment or maybe he really did want to help out the Torch before Reed was able to put the thing in park. Either way, Ben hitting the streets causes the mob attacking Johnny to reconsider and run off. One guy remains, thinking he'll be able to teach Bashful Ben a lesson in manners or something but, of course, his attacks just glance off the Thing's rocky hide. Ben knocks the punk out cold with one flick of his finger.
No longer threatened by a mass of angry New Yorkers, Johnny Storm is able to look up into the sky and see that there aren't any flames covering the horizon. It's like it never was. Everyone boards the airjet-cycle for their return to the Baxter Building where Reed hopes he'll be able to figure out what just happened.
The Silver Surfer isn't at the earth yet. In fact, he's taking his sweet time, riding right through a super-nova and riding the space gases like some giant space wave. After dancing around the stars, he notices one star in particular and surfs towards it. Yep. That's our sun.
Time has passed since we last checked in on the Fantastic Four just a paragraph ago. The team has returned to the Baxter Building where the cerebral Reed Richards has locked himself away in his lab, trying to figure out what just happened to the skyline. He's been in there so long that his newly-wed wife is starting to feel neglected. This won't be the way their marriage is for the next forty years. No sirree. While Ben uses the telephone to contact his girlfriend, Alicia Masters, Sue tries using the television communication equipment to tell her husband that it's time to eat. Mr. Fantastic, who's been at work so long that he's grown one nice stubbly beard, yells at his wife for interrupting him and then turns off the monitor. Sue probably thinks about how much a divorce lawyer would cost and maybe fantasizes over a romantic weekend with Namor the Sub-Mariner before storming off to think of what she can do with her hair next.
Johnny Storm has found a new trouble has just hit the skies to replace the flames. Giant rocks. These aren't doing anything but hovering high in the air but they don't leave much blue left in the sky.
Sue decides that if Reed won't talk to her through a television monitor, then he'll have to see her in person. She opens the door to his lab and demands some attention and maybe he could take care of himself, too. Reed is still obsessing over his work and isn't willing to leave his research until he can solve the problem of a flaming sky. Maybe to calm Mr. Fantastic and maybe for other reasons entirely, the Watcher blinks into the room to tell Reed that the flames they had seen dominating the skyline earlier are the least of their problems.
If you're wondering who caused the flames and the rocks that fill the atmosphere, it was the Watcher. Though he is pledged to never interfere in the workings of any civilization, he's breaking that rule right now because of the affection he's come to place on the earth and its inhabitants. Really, he just wants to know how his favorite television shows are going to end and the coming threat might interfere with that. The sky anomalies are all just illusion. He replaced the fire with rocks because he noticed that the flames were causing mass riots and the Watcher hopes that the rocks cause less of a panic. Still, he felt it necessary to disguise the planet earth from the Silver Surfer so that it would look less... let's say palatable. We're all about to see whether all that hard work paid off because here comes the Silver Surfer.
Wait for it...
Yeah, he flew right through the rock field surrounding the planet. It's sad when the Skrull's home defenses prove more effective than the frickin' Watcher's.
The Surfer flies right to the top of the Baxter Building and signals his master, Galactus. While it's too late, Ben charges at the Herald of Galactus, knocking the cosmically-powered dude right off the roof. The Watcher tries to make excuses for Norrin Radd but but future issues will show that this attack was just that unexpected.
Galactus takes no time arriving on this delicious planet in his space ship and immediately unloads his equipment that test the planet for savoriness. Unfortunately for all the inhabitants of the world, the earth looks like a tasty meal.
Finally, the big man himself drops from his craft. Galactus has arrived.
Fantastic Four #49
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
In this story:
• The Watcher tries to get Galactus to leave earth alone but the dude's gotta eat.
• Thing attempt the direct attack method but is pretty much effective as a mosquito. The Torch's attack is equally ineffective.
• The FF head downstairs, leaving the arguing to the Watcher.
• The Silver Surfer falls through Alicia Masters' skylight, still reeling from the Thing's attack. Alicia helps the alien and tries to teach him about feelings.
• The Watcher tells Reed, Sue, and Ben what Galactus plans to do with the earth and then relates his plan to stop the World Devourer which all rests on the skills of the Human Torch.
• The Silver Surfer continues to feel his feelings at Alicia Masters' place.
• Galactus finishes making his planet-eating device but the Fantastic Four break it before he can activate it. They are playing a delaying game waiting for Johnny to complete his part in the Watcher's plan.
• The Watcher transports him across dimensions of time and space, guiding the youngest Fantastic Four member to his destination.
• Galactus's cyborg midget, the Punisher, attacks the rest of the Fantastic Four.
• The FF hide behind Sue's invisible forcefield until Galactus recalls his tiny minion.
• The Silver Surfer decides to help out humanity. The Watcher hopes this won't ruin his well-laid plans.
Galactus has arrived on earth for the first time and while he's a giant in a funny helmet, short sleeves, and no pants, the Fantastic Four don't actually know what threat this guy represents except that he's freaking out their cosmic buddy, the Watcher. While the team stands around with their mouths open, the Watcher confronts the Devourer of Worlds with the power of words, trying to get Galactus to turn back from his latest meal.
It seems that Galactus usually picks worlds devoid of life to snack on and so the Earth with all it's humans, animals, and skyscrapers isn't part of the Devourer's latest MO. For his part, the big G doesn't particularly care if a world is inhabited or not so it's not like he's been avoiding worlds teeming with life. It's more likely that the Surfer brought him to inhospitable planets before Galactus blanked out the Herald's emotions and personality.
Since the Watcher's attempts to get rid of Galactus seem doomed to failure, the Thing tries the direct route, punching Galactus' leg. It doesn't seem to even phase the giant. The Devourer tosses down a bug bomb that hits Ben head on. Reed warns everyone away from the insect repellent and then rolls his friend out of the area and to safety. Mr. Fantastic tells the Thing that he's lucky Galactus didn't just atomize Grimm with a stray thought.
Ben's not the only 'attack now and ask questions later' type on the Fantastic Four. The Human Torch tries an equally ineffective attack, firing a blast of flame at the cosmic power. Galactus simply absorbs the attack and then hits the Torch with eye beams that cause Johnny's flames to smoke up around the hero. This forces Storm to land and flame off.
Since the Fantastic Four are proving to be totally useless in this fight, the Watcher sends them away so he can argue for the salvation of the earth in peace. The team heads downstairs. Ben takes a bath. Reed shaves off his stubble. When Johnny chides them for taking care of personal hygiene instead of focusing on the threat hanging out on the roof, Ben and Reed tell the teenager that they're still thinking about what to do and can multitask. Since Johnny's covered in ashes, they recommend he take a shower.
The Silver Surfer was knocked off the roof of the Baxter Building by the Thing last issue. While the Watcher tried convincing the Fantastic Four that this was all part of the Surfer's plan to get out of the area, we find that Ben's punch sent the Surfer flying across town where he landed near the skylight of Alicia Masters (serendipity). At this point, Norrin Radd passed out. All part of the plan.
The silver naked guy eventually drops through the skylight and into Alicia's apartment. We don't see the damage caused by the Dragon Man just a couple issues ago but we'll assume that either Damage Control's already been on the scene or it's JUST off panel in every scene. Alicia cautiously walks over to the alien and reaches out a hand to find out what just fell through her roof. The Surfer wakes up when she touches his face.
Masters thinks the Silver Surfer to be a being of honor and nobility but Norrin Radd doesn't care about that. He just serves his master. In fact, he's kind of an @$ to the blind lady. Even when Alicia makes him a meal, he's just astonished to find out these soft pink creatures stick this stuff into their mouths for nourishment.
On the roof of the Baxter Building, Galactus's planet eating apparatus is taking shape and covering the skyscraper. It seems the Watcher's plan to talk Galactus to death has failed. Reed and Ben get ready to head to the roof in order to attack Galactus with useless physical force. Before they can waste their time on this plan, the Watcher appears so that he can distract them with more talking... I mean... so he can explain exactly what Galactus plans to do to their planet.
While Mr. Fantastic already figured out that Galactus was going to eat the earth, Watcher spells it out in detail. First, the seas and lakes will be drained and converted into energy. Then the cities. Then everything else until the planet is a lifeless husk. When that dead world crumbles into nothingness, Galactus will finally leave, looking for his next good meal. Given a visual of the possible fate of their planet, Reed, Sue, and Ben appear astonished.
They're even more ready to attack the World Devourer but the Watcher reminds them how useless their pitiful human powers would be. No, they've got to actually plan this one out. Though the Watcher is pledged not to interfere, I think that ship has sailed, returned, and sailed again just for good measure. Uatu wants Johnny Storm to retrieve a device that will stop Galactus in his tracks. Watcher could just go and get it but he thinks that would be helping out too much.
The Surfer eats Alicia's food in his own way, converting the entire meal, plates, silverware, and cups into energy that he can absorb. Looking around the room, the Surfer is disdainful of Alicia's sculptures and home decor and starts converting them into energy as well. While he does this, he tells Alicia that his master will come a bit later to devour the rest. Alicia realizes that her planet is in danger and believes the threat more than credible. She pounds on the Surfer's chest, trying to convince him that life is a precious, wonderful thing. Her words touch the Surfer and he begins to feel his terrible emotions once more. He also thinks Alicia's pretty attractive. You know. For a human.
Silver Surfer still isn't ready to betray his boss. Alicia shows him the streets outside so that the alien can get a view of just a small sample of the lives that Galactus will be snuffing out. While he's still not convinced, he does feel really bad for the people below.
Those people aren't entirely sure what's going on at the Baxter Building but they're all pretty certain that it's pretty bad. Television crews are on the scene to record this as it happens. Some of them think this is how the world ends.
Galactus has finished making his energy conversion device. Now, all he needs to do is connect two bits of the machine together and his meal will begin. Or... WILL it? He puts the last bits together and nothing happens. Frustrated, he looks around to figure out why it isn't working for the first time ever, only to find that his warranty just ran out.
Or, in reality, Thing is tearing apart the machine to prevent his planet from being eaten by a guy that probably won't even leave a tip. Ben uses a giant bit of the machine to knock Galactus off the roof. This... actually works. Reed follows up on this, trying to push Galactus away from the city below and into the river.
Even though Reed's groin blast doesn't push the Devourer far enough away from the population, Galactus is able to stop himself before hitting the ground. The World Devourer calls up to his ship and summons a being to deal with these pests: The Punisher!
No, not Frank Castle. This Punisher is a tiny half organic, half machine thing that has way more power than the Fantastic Four.
Reed, Sue, and Ben's actions delaying Galactus will mean nothing if the rest of the Watcher's plan doesn't get started soon. While Ben has damaged the world eating machine, Galactus can repair the thing pretty quickly. Johnny Storm needs to start his part of the plan but he wasn't around earlier so he doesn't even know how integral he is to the future of the planet. The Torch is ready to rush in and help his teammates but the Watcher is there to stop him from throwing the world's chance at life away. He convinces Johnny to go on his quest and then sends the hero out of this world.
Johnny Storm leaves our universe and heads out on a trippy mission across time and space. The Watcher guides the young hero but otherwise can't interfere. Basically, Johnny was chosen for this quest because he's the only member of the Fantastic Four that can fly. It's kind of essential for the mission.
The Human Torch's destination is Galactus's own spaceship but not in the present. This is the distant past.
In New York City, the Punisher hits the ground and goes right to work on the remaining members of the Fantastic Four. Long story short: the team is outmatched once more. They end up hiding inside the Invisible Girl's invisible forcefield. Punisher beats on the outside of the field until Sue has taken just about as much as she can. Before the field collapses, Galactus calls off the attack. It's bought him the time he's needed.
At Alicia Masters' apartment, the Silver Surfer is finally convinced that this planet needs some saving. He leaps onto his surfboard and flies to his master. While Galactus' power is supreme, Norrin Radd's abilities aren't completely defined just yet. Maybe he can get his boss to leave.
As always, the Watcher watches. While the Surfer's change of heart should be thrilling Uatu, the Watcher is concerned that it will throw his own plan to stop Galactus all out of whack.
Fantastic Four #50
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
In this story:
• Silver Surfer attacks Galactus to get him off the planet!
• It's a lot of fighting between the two cosmic figures. Pages of it.
• Johnny flies back from his mission but the trip back is as dangerous as the trip there.
• The Human Torch returns to the Marvel Universe but is stunned senseless by what he has seen. Reed takes the device Johnny retrieved and gets a quick lesson on it's workings from the Watcher.
• When Galactus sees the Mr. Fantastic wields the Ultimate Nulifier, his battle with his Herald is forgotten and he's forced to make a deal to leave the Earth alone or risk the entire universe, and himself, dying.
• Galactus punishes the Silver Surfer by confining him to the planet earth. Then the Devourer of Worlds leaves.
• Alicia shows up but initially pays no attention to Ben, focusing on what the Surfer has done of the planet. Ben walks away moping, missing Alicia trying to introduce him to the former Herald. The Surfer flies off, probably pretty mopey himself.
• A one note villain dreams of the death of the Fantastic Four.
• College football?
• Reed ignores Sue. Yes, again.
• Ben sulks his way around town and unintentionally scares a lady pedestrian. It doesn't help his mood.
• Johnny enrolls at Metro College but daydreams his way through a meeting with the Dean. Wyatt Wingfoot is introduced in the same scene.
The Punisher may have left the roof of the Baxter Building, but Reed, Sue, and Ben still haven't left the safety of Sue's forcefield. They watch as the Silver Surfer arrives and challenges his boss. Surfer doesn't want to fight Galactus and hopes that his pleas that the Devourer of Worlds leaves this planet will work. Words aren't that effective in dissuading Galactus from his task so the Surfer ends up attacking his master, still hoping little force will be needed to get Galactus to leave.
Norrin just lost his employee of the month title.
While Silver Surfer should be no match for the cosmic might that is Galactus, the battle doesn't just go to the Devourer. Part of this may be because the big G doesn't want to hurt his Herald. He hopes that he'll be able to convince the Surfer that he's wrong and get the guy to join him again. There's a special bond between these two that doesn't really exist in any future Heralds. Well, maybe Frankie Raye. They... were kind of in love. It was wierd.
The battle between the two cosmic beings goes on for a couple pages with some nice back and forth between the two. While it is exciting and dynamic, it's not the most important part of the fight for the earth. That all lies in the Human Torch. Having retrieved the device that will defeat Galactus, Johnny, guided by the Watcher, flies his way back to his normal reality. It's a harrowing journey through dangers Johnny never thought he'd face but the hero is finally successful.
The trip through time and space is exausting both mentally and physically. Johnny nearly passes out just thinking about what he just did. The Watcher assures everyone that his memories will fade in time because such things were never meant for mortal eyes to see. What's important right now is using that device Johnny risked his life to get. Reed pulls it right out of the front of the Human Torch's pants which is a perfect storage area. Roomy.
Mr. Fantastic wants to use the machine immediately but the Watcher stops him from making a tragic error. This is one of those doomsday devices, capable of destroying the whole of reality when activated. It's the Ultimate Nullifier. It's a gamble because the Devourer of Worlds has to be convinced that Reed would end everything if his world was put on the brink of total destruction.
The battle between Galactus and the Silver Surfer is reaching it's dramatic conclusion. The victor isn't really in doubt. Galactus stands supreme. Before the Devourer can kill his rebellious Herald, Reed shows him the Ultimate Nullifier which changes things completely. With the Watcher's help, the two convince Galactus that Reed will totally destroy everything if the big G doesn't stop.
Galactus agrees to not eat the planet earth. It hasn't been worth the effort, anyway. Reed hands over the Ultimate Nullifier (which they DID find on Galactus' ship so it's his property) to seal the deal. A being like Galactus isn't angry at having lost this battle even though it's never happened before. Still, his Herald defied him and needs to be
Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX