Blitzkrieg USA continues!
Today, we check out Fear Itself #3, Fear Itself: The Deep #1, Herc #4, Thunderbolts #158, and Blast to the Past for Captain America #'s 117-119. Enjoy and spread the word!
It looks like things finally start moving in Fear Itself and we're here to tell you about it!
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Heroic Age and beyond? Check no further than this link right HERE.
Let's check out how scared everyone is.
Fear Itself #3
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Stuart Immonen
In this issue:
• Captain America, Black Widow, the Falcon, and Shang-Chi reach Washington D.C. and assist in defense efforts.
• That means Natasha and Sam rescue people from danger while James keeps Sin/ Skadi occupied. You don't like where this is going.
• Kid Loki frees Thor from prison.
• Hulk/ Nul is making a mess in Brazil and gets attacked by Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, and the Protector.
• Ben Grimm grabs the hammer on Yancy Street and gets super-charged and super-evil, laying waste to everything in sight.
• Odin sends Thor back to earth while he continues to prepare Asgard to destroy all life on the planet.
• Commander Steve Rogers jumps out of the Quincarrier, abandoning his post during a critical situation.
• Captain America leads an Avengers charge against Skadi but is brutally killed on the battlefield.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
James Buchanan Barnes was Captain America's first sidekick, Bucky, during World War II. They were partners from the first issue of Captain America Comics and did the Marvel version of Batman and Robin for most of the Golden Age. When Cap came back in Avengers #4, it was without his long time partner. Bucy was killed in a flashback to the duo's final World War II adventure.
But dying in comics is only temporary. It took a LONG time for someone to come up with a good story but James Barnes was brought back to life as the Winter Soldier, a mind wiped Soviet assassin with a robotic arm who was only taken out of deep freeze for particular missions. After a run in with a Cosmic Cube, Barnes regained all of his lost memories. When Steve Rogers was "killed," Tony Stark passed the mantle on to James, who defined the role of Captain America in a different way.
Right now, as of Captain America #618, James Barnes is serving time in a Russian prison for the things he'd done as the Winter Soldier... so we're jumping PAST that storyline and just putting Barnes back in the Red, White, Blue, and Black Cap suit for his final mission.
Washington D.C. is burning. The Capital Dome is smashed in. Fear is spreading. Few Avengers are able to respond to the crisis. In Secret Avengers #13, Beast, Ant-Man, and War Machine came to the defense of the American capital. In Iron Man 2.0 #5, the Prince of Orphans joined them but quickly cut out with War Machine when the gates of Hell were broken by the Absorbing Man's hammer.
We won't be seeing Beast or Ant-Man in this issue. I'm guessing that they're fighting elsewhere in the capital. Washington's a big city, after all. No, we're going to focus on some newcomers to the battlefield: Captain America, Black Widow, and the Falcon. Shang-Chi is also on the scene but only in the background. We are going to focus on the Cap cast.
James Barnes, the current Captain America, shouts out orders. Widow and Falcon are here to get innocent people out of harm's way. He's taking the fight right to the girl in charge of this battle: the red headed girl named Sin... or Skadi if you want to get technical. The Red Skull's daughter leaps out of her mech suit and charges at Barnes. This is the fight she's been waiting for.
Cap is unmoved by this god-like creature's charge. He just takes this as he would any other day of being a super-hero. The level of this threat might not have truly sunk in just yet. Maybe the impact of Skadi's hammer against his shield will bring that reality home.
In Asgard-Space, Odin is building his own warworld. Weapons of mass destruction are being assembled. Everyone is preparing for the fight against the Serpent. Kid Loki is trying to get his brother a decent meal. The god of thunder has been imprisoned for standing up to Odin when the Asgardians retreated from earth after the Serpent was released.
The guards are unmoved. They haven't heard anything about feeding their prisoner and will not let this little Loki do anything of the kind. Instead of wasting the food, Loki lets the guards feast. They're unconscious in moments, of course.
Loki opens the cell and tells Thor that the earth needs a champion, like, three days ago.
Before we catch up on more of the plot, we get some shotgun panels showing us where some of the Worthy are. Kuurth (Juggernaut) is barrelling his way through Missouri headed for an inevitable battle against the X-Men in San Francisco. Greithoth, Breaker of Wills (Absorbing Man) has picked up his hammer after events play out in Iron Man 2.0 and is smashing the First International Credit Union of Dubai.
And then we have Brazil. In that country, Nul, Breaker of Worlds (we know him as the green Hulk) is tearing up the country. Betty Ross has hulked up into her Red She Hulk form and is staying just one leap away from disaster, saving lives on the way. That "one leap" is getting closer and closer to Nul's metal wrapped hands and it just doesn't last forever.
If you take a look at Nul's hammer, you'll see the thing is intensely intimidating. One end is blunt just like most hammers but the other end comes to a spike for more efficient killing. When Nul gets his hands on Red She Hulk, Betty powers down to try and stop the former Hulk with a loving face. It only makes Nul pause and then that spiked end is aimed at Bruce Banner's ex-wife.
Timing, as they say, is everything. Before Betty gets the sharp end of a hammer buried in her brain, some of the Avengers show up and save her life.
Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, and the Protector blast the Breaker of Worlds but I don't think they have enough firepower to down one of the Worthy.
Not everyone is in the middle of a battle. The Future Foundation are still on Yancy Street checking on the hammer that landed there. Ben Grimm has joined the rest of the team but he's not too close to the crash zone. The Thing is waiting for the science nerds to finish sciencing up the place. There's one bystander that thinks this is the moment that the heroes will fail them. Ben has to listen to the dude.
When Reed calls the Thing in to try lifting the hammer, Grimm is all to pleased to get away from this guy. As Ben is walking up to the hammer, Reed suddenly changes his mind but it doesn't look like the Thing can stop anymore. One more panel with an empty word balloon and we have Ben Grimm replaced with Angrir, Breaker of Souls.
This guy is NOT the Thing in any way except for a passing resemblance. With one... foot stomp? It might be a stomp. It might be a word ("DIE!"). Either way, with one motion, Yancy Street EXPLODES.
OK, let's return to Asgard. Thor and Loki are headed for some like minded Asgardians who don't like what Odin is planning. On the way, Kid Loki tells the thunder god what those plans are. Odin is making Asgard into a war world that will destroy all life on earth. The theory is that the Serpent won't have any power if there's no one left to fear. It's... logical but heartless. I'm certain we'll learn just how flawed this plan is before the story's over.
So those like-minded Asgardians are your usual gang of trouble makers. The Warriors Three. Sif. Hermod.
Hermod? Asgardian messenger god. Think "Hermes" or "Mercury" but more Norse. Hermod is actually Thor's method of transport to earth since the usual Rainbow Bridge is closed down. The rest of the Asgardians won't do anything else to help the thunder god but they don't think killing Earth is a good idea and want to do SOMETHING.
They talk about how Heimdall would have sensed them by now but don't move quickly enough. Asgard's watcher has brought Odin in and the All-Father is pissed off. He asks if Thor is ready for another spanking of if his son will finally step in line but we all know the answer to that. Thor will never agree that earth needs to be sacrificed in order for the gods to live. The fact that Odin hasn't explained a damn thing about who this "Serpent" is just seals that deal.
Don't expect Thor's father to give anything approaching an explanation on the history of the Serpent. He keeps saying it would take too long to explain but we know when the truth comes out it'll be maybe a three page origin at best. It just doesn't seem like that complicated an issue. Odin just doesn't want to say what this is all about and just says he's trying to "escape a prophesy." For Odin, that's par for course. His whole deal before this was trying to escape Ragnarok. We've traded one prophesy for another.
This isn't good enough for the god of thunder. Running away from prophesies? Bah. Not good enough for sacrificing earth. He tells Odin to send him there so he can fight... possibly against Asgard when all is said and done. As cranky as Odin is, the All-Father sends Thor to Midgard and even gives his son Mjolnir back.
Since the end of Siege, Steve Rogers has been America's Top Cop. That hasn't actually been a terrible gig for the former Captain America but the imminent fall of Washington D.C. isn't going to look good for his record. On board the Quincarrier, heading to the capital, Commander Rogers tells Sharon Carter and Maria Hill that he'd rather be done in the field fighting this threat head on instead of coordinating efforts from a command center in the sky. Carter and Hill tell the WWII hero that this is the kind of thing leaders have to do but it's not reaching Steve. Commander Rogers puts Maria Hill in charge and then jumps out of the Quincarrier "for some air."
Well then. I'm glad we have competent leadership.
Don't expect Steve Rogers to show up in D.C. for a last minute save. He's AWOL for a while and that means it's up to the current defenders to hold their ground. After Captain America got struck by Skadi earlier in this issue, James was pretty much knocked unconscious. He's coming to right now and things are looking much worse than before. And they weren't looking that good before.
Black Widow and Falcon are recommending a retreat to gather their forces but James Barnes doesn't think that's a good idea. They can't back down now. This is a fight they have to win. Natasha and Sam are with him when he charges right back into the fight, shouting the Avengers traditional battlecry.
When his rematch with Skadi begins, the other two are no where in sight. This is a fight he'll have to lose alone. It is brutal.
Barnes loses his metallic arm, and is batted into the air with the cyborg limb. When Captain America hits the ground, Skadi uses the blunt handle of her hammer to gouge a hole in the man's chest. She leaves James Buchanan Barnes to his teammates, mortally wounded but with a name.
As Natasha, Sam, Shang-Chi, and Valkyrie reach Captain America, he shouts out the cause of this threat. It's the Serpent. I don't even think he knows what that means but it's the name Skadi gave him.
The panel gets progressively whiter as our hero fades away.
As I typed earlier, death is temporary in the Marvel Universe. We'll see if Bucky can escape it's clutches.
Fear Itself: The Deep #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Penciler: Lee Garbett
In this issue:
• Nerkkod, Breaker of Oceans conquers New Atlantis. Namor and Loa run away.
• Two days later, Dr. Strange enters a bar called Oliveri's and agrees to help his old ally retake Atlantis.
• Stephen Strange summons allies.
• In New Atlantis, Attuma's general are bored. Aradnea knows that Namor will return and summons up a threat to face him.
• At Oliveri's, no one has answered Dr. Strange's call for help yet when monsters attack!
• To aid them, Lyra answers the magical summoning in place of the Hulk... who would have been problematic if brought here.
• Everyone fights monsters!
• The Silver Surfer shows up to help end this fight.
In Fear Itself #2, Attuma became one of the Worthy (off panel), Nerkkod, Breaker of Oceans. He started his work by smashing the Pacific Pipeline and it looks like his ocean breaking didn't stop there. Dead fish and other marine life end up on the beaches of New Zealand. Hawaii is threatened by gigantic waves. A... a ship is gently rocked just off the West Coast of the United States.
Oh. The battle is underwater. Nerkkod is attacking New Atlantis which lies right below the mutant island of Utopia. Attuma's armies are also involved but the big difference in this fight compared to every other time Attuma has attacked Atlantis is that Nerkkod is WAY more powerful than Namor. I mean, the Worthy is so strong that this battle probably only needed him to succeed. Atlanteans are being murdered in this battle and there's not a damn thing the Avenging Son can do about it.
Nerkkod is supremely confident in victory and does a fair share of trash talk on the losing King of Atlantis. To Namor's credit, he doesn't retreat even though he gets a horrible pounding.
The only other "Atlantean" combatant that doesn't look in any real danger is Loa. She's actually an X-Man with the power to swim through solid objects, destroying whatever she swims through. Alani found that she could breath underwater in Namor: The First Mutant #4 and it looks like she's hung around with the Sub-Mariner since then. She watches as Nerkkod tosses Namor away as though the King of Atlantis was a pointless distraction.
And then, the Breaker of Oceans smashes his hammer into the ocean floor. The city of New Atlantis crumbles and falls. Utopia drops into the ocean and all the X-Men drown.
Actually, I'm not sure what happens to Utopia during all of this. New Atlantis is still at the base of the mutant island and a blast that destroys the underwater city should have also broken the pillar holding Utopia above water. In fact, one has to wonder why there aren't more X-Men helping Namor out since this fight is happening right below them. MAYBE we'll get lucky and all of this will be addressed when Uncanny X-Men starts tying into Fear Itself. Maybe...
Under Namor's protest, Loa drags the monarch away from the battle. When Nerkkod notices, he allows his adversary to leave. Hey, the being that was once Attuma has just won a decisive victory over Namor. I guess he feels it's better to let your enemy feel the sting of defeat than to just kill him off. Nerkkod's parting words are in the ancient ruins so we can't read what he says but I'm betting it was some sort of spell. More on what KIND of spell in just a little bit.
Two days pass and it seems like Namor spends the entire time in a bar named Oliveri's, waiting for an old friend to arrive. That friend is his former Defenders teammate, Doctor Strange. Stephen Strange is the former Sorceror Supreme who has spent most of his recent history with the New Avengers team. His level of magical power is lower than usual so it took him a while to make it to Namor.
The Avenging Son is probably pretty drunk when the mage arrives. Loa is still with him and she helps fill in the story details when Namor is particularly hard on himself. Really, Namor still has his regality but there's also some humility involved. He just watches as his people were slaughtered by a mad god. He was powerless to stop it. There's a reason he's humble and a reason he's asking for help.
Dr. Strange is feeling nostalgic for the good old Defender days and agrees immediately. He uses a summoning spell to call up a few more allies because this trio won't be able to take back New Atlantis without even more help. Since the spell will take time to gather the rest, I imagine they all sit down for a beer. Except Loa. She's still underage.
If there's one place underwater I'd never want to be, it's a place named "Atlantis." Even before we get into the Marvel history, Atlantis was an island that fell into the sea. It's entire purpose is to be tragic and it passes that legacy on to pretty much every counterpart to ever exist. Marvel Atlantis, for example, has been cleared of it's inhabitants so many times that it's not even surprising anymore.
New Atlantis might be a new city in a different ocean, but it can't escape the repercussions of being called "Atlantis." While the city has fallen, what remains is ruled by Attuma's generals. You see, Nerkkod couldn't be bothered to remain in one place for too long. He has a whole lot more oceans to break and fear to spread. Instead, the remains of New Atlantis are governed by Tyrak, Tiger Shark, and Aradnea.
Tyrak and Tiger Shark should be familiar faces to many Marvel fans. Tyrak is an Atlantean bad guy in the same lines as Attuma. Tiger Shark is your typical human with Namor and tiger shark DNA grafted to his own. Super Readers will be more familiar with this villain because of his Dark Reign appearances in Deadpool and Lethal Legion. Tiger Shark was held in the Raft and escaped when Kuurth (Juggernaut) blew the place wide open.
The lady in the group might not be familiar to any of you. That's because this looks like Aradnea's first appearance. Tyrak calls her his sister but whether she's a blood relation or not is still up in the air. Her clothing gives her the look of a sorceress so I wouldn't be surprised if she's here to counter Doctor Strange. Aradnea is the brains in the room and she suspects that Namor will return soon, bringing others to help him retake New Atlantis. She tells the others that they should prepare a proper response to the King of Atlantis.
Up in Oliveris, Namor has almost finished his beer and no one's shown up to help them. The Sub-Mariner believes that this is because Fear Itself has wrapped itself around everyone else but Dr. Strange hasn't given up on the rest of the Defenders.
Suddenly, Strange gets a magical headache which is pretty much his version of Spider-Sense. A monsterous party is outside to greet them. Namor is ready and set to take on these water creatures. Strange gets another magical reading and realizes that Namor is being filled with fear but when he tells the Avenging Son about this, the Sub-Mariner doesn't want to hear it. He just wants to bust down some monsters.
He'll get his chance but not just yet. The first wave is taken down by their first arriving ally. The Hulk!
Oh, wait, it's Lyra. Super Readers will remember her from her original mini-series during Dark Reign: The Savage She-Hulk. Lyra was genetically created with DNA from the Hulk and Thundra so she's got the gamma powers as well as the post-apocalyptic future origin. Since the Hulk is... otherwise occupied (tearing up Brazil as Nul, Breaker of Worlds), Dr. Strange's summoning spell grabbed the next best thing, his kind-of daughter.
The second wave hits the streets and so our team of heroes sets up to beat them back into oblivion.
Lyra might not like having been summoned here against her will but she knows what side she should be on and chips in like a pro. Dr. Strange gets even more nostalgic as things progress. Namor? The King of Atlantis succumbs to the Fear. Lyra has to save Namor from an onslaught of sea monsters.
OK. That was the second wave. Don't worry, there's more. Dr. Strange sees these creature as being part demon (Undying Ones) and part sea monster. This can only mean one thing: they won't be able to sell the remains to McDonalds for a new line of fish sandwiches. Oh wait, no. They could probably do that. Demons are delicious. What it really means is "mass production."
Wave three hits the beaches and Alani, being closest, doesn't know how to handle it. I mean, should she start swimming through them or maybe she should swim through them? There's a lot of hard decisions to make when your power is to swim through things. Instead, she panics and gets some help from high places.
The Silver Surfer has arrived and made short work of wave three. He brings a warning about Fear Itself and it's cosmic implications. Norrin Rad is here to lend a hand.
Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Penciler: Neil Edwards
In this issue:
• Hecate, goddess of magic gives us a look around at events happening in Fear Itself and then we're back in with Herc defending a group of criminals against Kyknos and the Warhawks.
• Hercules is attacked by a mob as Basilisk and Man-Bull run off. Griffin, turned into his more bestial form, flies in to save the Prince of Power.
• While trying to settle a domestic dispute, Herc is stabbed in the back with a garden shears.
• Griffin flies Hercules to the restaurant he works at but the owner, George Michael, unloads a shotgun on our hero and tells the Prince of Power to get lost.
• Herc sleeps, Griffin grabs dinner.
• When Griffin returns, Hercules waks up and bandages his wounds but doesn't eat the food Griffin brings him (it's raw dog meat). Soon, Herc drops back to sleep.
• Rhea is trapped by the Warhawks.
• Hecate teams up with Kyknos.
• Hercules wakes up in the morning to find Brooklyn covered in gigantic dead trees.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
Last issue, the goddess of magic, Hecate awakened from a long period of amnesia. That isn't a good thing for our heroes because she's a bad girl. She also drinks in the Fear of Fear Itself so... nope, not a good thing. To start things off, Hecate gives us a run down on what's going on in other books. Well, it looks like Nerkkod has moved away from New Atlantis to attack Vancouver, British Columbia (this will happen in Alpha Flight #1, by the same writing team). In Washington, Captain America is about to lose the fight against Skadi (Fear Itself #3). Down in Brazil, Nul is swatting around Ms. Marvel and the Protector (looks like a follow up on events from Fear Itself #3). So, y'know, things are looking peachy all over the place.
In Brooklyn, Hercules has found himself in the unfortunate position of defending bank robbers. This is because Kyknos, the son of Ares, has taken a Punisher approach to crime fighting. He and his Warhawks are going to kill Basilisk and Man-Bull with no judge or jury involved. They're just playing executioner. A hero like Hercules isn't going to stand for that so here he is, standing between a mob and two genuinely bad people.
At this point, it's not just the Warhawks. Things are getting to the point of riot as ordinarly citizens join in on the Warhawks' side. They see their hero defending bad guys and think Herc has turned against them. There's a lot of fear in the air, after all.
The Prince of Power tries to inspire people to stand at his side but the words are wasted on this crowd. Soon, the time for talk is over and a riot does their best to kill the Greek hero. Herc uses his shield to stone the people in the front of the crowd but there are just too many people here and there's only so much Herc is willing to do against innocent people. Assistance isn't coming. When Hercules turns around to ask for aid, he sees Basilisk and Man-Bull running away.
The crowd overcomes the Lion of Olympus with sheer numbers. Hercules goes down.
Before Kyknos can claim his prize, an unexpected person comes to the rescue. Griffin. Last issue, Griffin was among the criminals that had been robbing the bank. He was also the first one to grab some cash and fly away, only to be downed by the Warhawks on his way out. Griffin reappears here VERY changed from last issue. The magic has made him more bestial in nature and that takes away his evil edge and makes him MUCH more heroic.
Before Griffin and Hercules can fly off, the Warhawks open fire on him. None of their bullets appears to do any harm and there's probably a lot of missing going on with the small arms fire. Hercules tries one last time to entreat Helene to give this madness up. Helene is the daughter of George Michael, the owner of the Greek Restaurant that Hercules works at as a bartender. Herc isn't doing any convincing today, though. Helene is dedicated to the Warhawk cause.
As Griffin flies the Prince of Power away, we get a good look at the streets. This is a full on riot now.
Over in Carroll Gardens, the riots aren't happening full scale but that doesn't mean there isn't trouble to be had. For example, a family is robbing some neighbors because they had bedbugs and the neighbors didn't. Or something. It's the Fear. It's made everyone craziER.
Hercules decides to head on down and try to settle this but, again, his speeches aren't doing the trick. Even the kids are scary.
So, yeah, those garden shears are going to stay in for a while. Hercules takes to the skies again but not before slicing a flatscreen in two. That'll teach them.
Griffin flies Herc to his place of work, landing on the roof. The Lion of Olympus is weakened from the garden shears in his back and hoped to find his lady friend, Rhea, or the owner of the restaurant, George Michael, to give him a hand. Well, he finds Georgios but the man's help, while effective, doesn't come from a good place. In fact, George Michael has given in to the Fear and attacks Herc with a shotgun. Sure, the shears come out but the hero also drops unconscious.
The sun sets. Left to his own devices, Griffin flies over the city. In a city park, two dogs have two kids trapped on a jungle gym. Oh, Hecate has caused the dogs in the city to go frickin' nuts so this is more her doing that Fear Itself at work. Griffin swoops in and flies off with the dogs. The beast brings them back to Hercules so that the Prince of Power can have a tasty meal.
Herc wakes up and thanks Griffin for the thought but he's not ready to eat raw dog just yet. Hercules is a mortal now and that means those wounds he sustained earlier are still troubling him. He searches in his belt pouches and finds a number of supplies. The gauze and rations will help the most right now. Herc bandages himself up as Griffin eats the dogs.
That done, the Lion of Olympus starts up a small fire and confesses a great sin to his faithful flying animal. During the Chaos War, Hercules was brimming with god-like powers that have since faded. Herc used that power to bring heroes like Alpha Flight back to life but in his ignorance he believes he also brought Kyknos back from the dead. That means all of this Warhawk business is his fault in a way.
With that, Hercules drifts back into slumber.
Herc's lady friend, Rhea has survived Fear Itself and the riots thus far. She makes her way back to her apartment but the place has been overrun by Warhawks. Chief among them is Helene who does a pretty good villain impression for an amateur.
Elsewhere, Kyknos revels in the destruction and chaos all around him. You see, Kyknos has returned to life and sees the error of his ways. Instead of opposing his father, Ares, he should have embraced the Dark Avenger's legacy. This is Ares' vision at it's worst.
Hecate, who is still hanging around, believes that Kyknos could honor his father even better. After a one page panel recounting Hecate's first appearance in Ms. Marvel v1 #12, Hecate proposes a plan to HELP Kyk out. She doesn't wait for him to accept. She casts a spell and unleashes tentacled madness on the world. Those people Hercules turned to stone earlier? Shattered.
Day breaks. Hercules wakes up on the roof of the restaurant he worked at and finds himself refreshed. He's not completely healed up yet but the path to recovery is before him. Everything looks better in the morning... until you start looking around.
When Herc does that, he sees that the city is covered in giant dead trees. Strange flying creatures skirt the higher branches. None of this makes today look any better to the Prince of Power.
Writer: Jeff Parker
Penciler: Kev Walker
In this issue:
• The Thunderbolts fight zombies in Iraq.
• Juggernaut has been grounded and is working out at the Raft when Fear Itself events catch up with him.
• The T-Bolts find out what is powering the zombies and destroy it.
• Ghost blocks a transmission for help from the Raft.
• Kuurth leaves the Raft on a journey across the United States.
• Fixer finally gets the Raft's call for help and the team quickly heads home where things are even worse than they thought.
• The Thunderbolts start to reign in the escaping prisoners. The B-Team regrets ever joining.
In the Marvel Universe, there's just one super-human maximum maximum security prison. The Raft. While the facilities have been a revolving door for most big name criminals for most of it's existance, those days appeared to be over. New techniques had made the prison more secure than ever. With Thunderbolts Headquarters stationed at the Raft, another level to that security was added. Some of the prisoners were even allowed to join the team and got to work off some of their frustrations fighting the good fight.
It looks like that time is all over with as of Fear Itself #2.
But first, zombies attack Iraq.
Yep. There's a zombie invasion in Najaf, Iraq and it's taking the Thunderbolts B-Team down hard. This group is brand new to the T-Bolts Program and their lack of teamwork shows. In particular trouble are Boomerang and Shocker. Both of them are getting run over by way too many zombies. Boomerang is saved from undead attack by Troll Girl. Shocker is left to save himself when Centurius DOESN'T save him.
They're like a well oiled machine.
Since last we checked in on the team, they've also added Satana who you'd think would be uniquely qualified for this mission. She erects a flaming barrier that should keep the zombies away from our heroes. Once it's up, the rest of the team waits to see how it works.
Someone's missing on the battlefield. Kain Marko. The Juggernaut. That's because he needed to be in place for FI #2... um... I mean... he was grounded last issue after speaking his mind to Luke Cage. They've let him put on his armor and get a workout in but it looks like this isn't the T-Bolts training area. This is the regular prison's workout equipment which, y'know, is pretty nice and hi-tech looking.
Things happen SLIGHTLY differently than they played out in Fear Itself #2. It's still Marko working out in a gym and there are still two prison guards watching him. That's about it. The lines are different. Sure, this scene looks like it picks up before FI #2 but it doesn't LEAD IN to the same lines. We just see Kain thinking about how he feels disrespect from Luke Cage and how the newer people are getting more perks than he is. Something is talking to him internally. Whether this is his hammer (or Kuurth) or Cytorrak is an unanswered question.
Besides some line changes, this plays out just like Fear Itself. The Worthy Hammer falls, breaking the prison gym wide open. The rest of the prison is still in good shape but the Warden, John Walker gets on his com and asks where Fixer is (Norbert's still out in the field with the rest of the Thunderbolts). Down at ground zero, the hammer is DEFINITELY talking to Juggernaut now and it's speaking a language we can't understand. Kain looks like he does. The Thunderbolt reaches out and grabs his brand new hammer...
Inside the Raft, some of the inmates (Man-Bull and Living Laser) wonder what's going on. Seconds later, the maximum maximum security prison erupts.
And we move back to Iraq. It looks like Satana's magical barrier has just failed, meaning this isn't a magical zombie attack. Centurius, who has been examining the problem, tells everyone that there is definitely science involved here. The dead are infected with spores that animate them. It's based on electrolytic impulses and that means there's a generator tower. Ghost identifies it as an obelisk in the distance and the Thunderbolts zoom in to destroy it.
Even with the obelisk destroyed, it takes a while for the spores to lose their power. Mr. Hyde (another member of the B-Team) crushes some of the zombies with a tank. While they're doing their thing, Fixer finds that his systems have been cut off from the Raft. That has been caused by the Ghost. Our immaterial Thunderbolt is getting all the information that Fixer should be getting and hears all about Juggernaut smashing open the Raft and the prison's calls for help. He is in a daze from the news.
Prisoners flood out of the Raft and into a stormy night. Some of the prisoners try to thank the newly armored Juggernaut (who is now going by the name Kuurth, Breaker of Stone) but it doesn't look like the new Worthy is very talkative.
After looking super dangerous, Kuurth launches into the sky to rampage elsewhere.
I've mentioned in previous Super Reads that swimming away from the Raft would be stupid because of the genetically modified jellyfish infesting the water around the facility. That means most of the prisoners (besides the Purple Man) got off the island using actual transports. In fact, we see Aftershock, Ember, and Icemaster boarding a helicopter so that they can appear in Fear Itself: The Home Front #2. Oh, it looks like Tiger Shark also dropped into the water. That makes sense because he can breath the stuff and jellyfish probably aren't going to be a big bother to him.
It looks like the last of the zombies are falling apart and now the team is left with a lot of unburied corpses. Fortunately for them, the locals would like to bury their own so as to respect the dead.
With that taken care of, Fixer is free to get all of that information that Ghost was cutting him off from. It's terrifying because Bert knows that this is old intel. Man-Thing teleports the whole team back to the Raft.
But it's too late to prevent every prisoner from leaving. The helicopters are already airborne and the Thunderbolts won't be able to stop them all. The available boats are leaing the shore. Not everyone made it out, though. It looks like some areas of the Raft have been cut off. The Women's Quarters, for example, are buried under debris. Aftershock only escaped because she was in the infirmary when all of this went down. Some other prisoners are running around the place causing mayhem or otherwise dilly-dallying. The point is, there are plenty of convicts for the Thunderbolts to round up without leaving the grounds.
What's interesting is that all of the Thunderbolts, even the newcomers, are doing their jobs. Without hesitation. Shocker is the first to lend a hand and he's quickly backed up by the rest of the team. Most of this is because each criminal member of the T-Bolts is injected with nanites that can shut them down wherever they go. Maybe another is a sense of, I don't know, belonging? Duty? I don't really know what drives the team. It's probably a different answer for each Thunderbolt.
Fixer fills them in on what he can and Songbird steps right into her leadership role. Ghost is sent to find the Warden. Most everyone else is sent on capture and contain duty. MACH V and Fixer have to get power and main systems restored. Everyone goes straight to work.
Except for four members of the Beta Team. Centurius, Boomerang, Mr. Hyde, and Shocker huddle together in the rain. Centurius is the one to say it. If they hadn't joined the Thunderbolts so recently, they would have escaped with the other prisoners. Well, maybe he can change that. All they need to do is reach the science lab and he might be able to remove everyone's nanites.
It looks like the Thunderbolts has dissension in the ranks!
Captain America #117
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Gene Colan
In this issue:
• The Red Skull, as Captain America, sends Captain America, as the Red Skull, to the Isle of Exiles.
• The Exiles find who they think is the Red Skull and attack him. When the REAL Red Skull believes his greatest enemy is about to be killed, he stops watching.
• As soon as he does, a falcon swoops out of the sky and saves Steve Rogers' life.
• Steve races off and finally removes his Skull mask. To make sure no one mistakes him for the Red Skull, Steve uses clay to alter his features.
• Red Skull swaggers around town in Captain America's body, checking into the best hotel in town and entertaining the paparazi.
• MODOK and AIM make plans to destroy the Cosmic Cube.
• Steve Rogers meets Sam Wilson and the falcon who saved his life earlier, Redwing. After hearing Sam's story, Rogers decides to make the falconer into a super-hero!
September 1969! Fantastic Four #90, Amazing Spider-Man #76, Avengers #68, Daredevil #56, and Iron Man #17 were on the stands just as Sam Wilson was making his first appearance in Captain America #117. You might know Wilson a little bit better as the Falcon (who just appeared up in Fear Itself #3).
But before we get anywhere NEAR the Falcon's debut, we have a little explaining to do. First up: the Cosmic Cube. Let's get into what the heck that thing is. You might appreciate this not only for THIS story but also for it's presumed appearance in the Captain America movie. The Cosmic Cube was created by AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) and first appeared in Tales of Suspense #79 (a Captain America story). It's use is very simple and very dangerous: it grants wishes. If you can imagine it, the Cosmic Cube can make it happen. In the wrong hands, you can just see how terrible this could be.
And when a device is created by AIM, you know that more often than not, the wrong hands are going to be the ones involved. Right now, the Cube is in the possession of the Red Skull but if you look at the first page of Cap #117, you wouldn't know it. That's because the Red Skull has switched bodies with Captain America. That's the power of the Cosmic Cube.
Now, Steve Rogers in the body of his worst enemy is a pretty good story in and of itself so they explored that in the previous issue of Captain America as he tried to convince his friends, allies, and loved ones that he was actually Captain America. Of course, no one believed him. Even so, when his the Red Skull used the Cosmic Cube to force Sharon Carter to shoot her love, Agent 13 couldn't do it. It seemed that even though she didn't know that the new Red Skull was actually Steve Rogers, her love for Steve countered the effects of the Cube.
As with most Silver Age super-villains, the Red Skull just couldn't bring himself to use the Cube to just obliterate his enemy. After his plan with Sharon Carter failed, the Skull wished Steve Rogers far away from New York. Our hapless hero found himself teleported to a small Haitian island. All the while, the Red Skull watched his enemy's fate through the Cosmic Cube, which makes a pretty nice view screen in a pinch.
So why this particular island? This is the same island where the Red Skull abandoned his sometimes allies, the Exiles, after they had helped him find the Cosmic Cube. This isn't the reality hopping mutant team. These are Nazis, Communists, and other ne'er dowells who have allied themselves with the Skull. "Iron-Hand" Hauptmann (wearing an iron glove), General Ching (has the only gun), Krushki (a Russian strongman), Caduvus (handicapped but has a wheelchair with more killing devices than you'd expect), and Baldini (Italian wielder of... a scarf). They have a vendetta against the Red Skull and are casually walking around their island hoping that they'll run into the Skull in a vulnerable state.
Steve has hidden in a tree as these villains walk by but the Red Skull isn't going to let him stay up there. The Cosmic Cube is employed to shake a hero out of his hiding spot.
The Exiles attack who they believe to be the Red Skull. Each Exile gets to use their own special attacks on their hated enemy to varying degrees of success. While Steve Rogers fights with skill, his reflexes are different in the Red Skull's body. Even if he could adjust to that, the real Skull isn't doing him any favors. Every time Rogers gets ahead of the game, the Red Skull uses the Cosmic Cube to take that advantage away. When Roger's fate seems certain, the Red Skull does what every villain does when they put their hero into a death trab. He doesn't watch it go down.
The new Captain America turns off his Cosmic Cube and just assumes everything goes according to plan.
We all know that things DON'T. As soon as the Red Skull's back is turned, a falcon swoops in and thoroughly distracts Hauptmann right as a killing blow would have been delivered. Steve adapts to the new circumstances quickly and after fighting his way to freedom, he races off into the jungle.
Given a few minutes to think, Steve Rogers realizes that he's been wearing a mask this entire time. The Red Skull doesn't ACTUALLY have a red skull. Steve realizes how much easier things would have been if he had just removed this mask earlier. Still, the Exiles MIGHT know what the Red Skull really looks like so Rogers applies a little clay to his face to alter his appearance further. In fact, when he's done, he looks similar to his "Steve Rogers" self. The hair is darker but otherwise he's looking a lot more like his old self.
Speaking of old selves, the Red Skull walks around the city of New York in Steve's body. Everyone gives him anything he wants. This is something the real Cap never took advantage of but for someone like the Red Skull, this is how everyone should be treating him. He still despises these people but keeps up his smiles and seems to enjoy the spotlight a lot more than Captain America ever did. The Skull checks into the most expensive hotel he can find and then relaxes in his room as photographers take pictures.
While cameras take pictures, reporters ask questions. The Red Skull answers as best he can, even explaining that his latest Bucky (Rick Jones) was probably a publicity stunt. Feeling that the reporters are getting into territory that he won't be able to answer the Red Skull dismisses the paparazi and plans a way to destoy Captain America's stellar reputation.
But what about Advanced Idea Mechanics? What do you think THEY think of their Cosmic Cube ending up in someone else's hands? It turns out they aren't too happy about it. Their surprisingly revived leader, MODOK, has a plan to render the Cube useless so that it won't be used against them.
But more on that later. It's just about time for us to check in on our brand new character: Sam Wilson. It turns out that the falcon that came in to save Steve Rogers was sent by Sam. Maybe Wilson didn't recognize the Red Skull from this distance. Maybe he just didn't like seeing the Exiles bully someone. Either way, he saved a life.
When Rogers finishes up his disguise, he quickly finds his savior and follows Sam back to a nearby village. On the way, Steve guesses correctly that Wilson isn't a native. Sam is from Harlem. Sam Wilson explains that he always had a fondness for birds ever since he kept pidgeons in Harlem. On vacation in Rio, Sam fell in love with falconry and everything clicked when he found his current falcon, Redwing. The two have a strange connection where Sam is nearly one with his bird.
Anyway, the Exiles were suck on this island but somehow got word out that they wanted a falconer. Sam decided to take the job and took a ship straight here. Once he got on the island, he realized just how evil the Exiles were and became a freedom fighter. Unfortunately, he's found it hard to organize the natives into a fighting force. They just aren't fighters.
Steve has an idea on how they can motivate the locals. It's time for Sam Wilson to become a costumed super-hero. Sam laughs at that but something in Steve's voice that convinces him to try out the idea.
As the Exiles search the island for signs of the Red Skull, the local villagers fashion a uniform for their champion, the Falcon!
Captain America #118
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Gene Colan
In this story:
• The Exiles continues to hunt the Red Skull. The real Red Skull finally pays attention and realizes that things aren't going to plan.
• Steve Rogers trains the Falcon.
• In New York, the hotel housing "Captain America" is being raided by Cap fans. The Red Skull muses about killing them with the Cube but figures that since Captain America doesn't generally go around town with a magical wishing device, it might make people suspicious. He uses the Cube to escape and then throws insults at his fans.
• Rick Jones cries about being dropped by Captain America and then runs off to join the cast of Captain Marvel.
• AIM completes the first part of their Cosmic Cube negator.
• Steve Rogers and the Falcon take on the Exiles. After they win, they feel the chilling presense of... the Red Skull.
The Exiles scramble around their island prison looking for the Red Skull, stewing the entire way. For each step they take, the Skull's eventual punishment grows greater and greater. Really, these are some angry people and you don't want them to have a grudge against you.
You know what that Cosmic Cube is good for? Spying on people. Seriously, it's like the ultimate stalker device. The Red Skull finally picks up the device and uses it to look in on his former allies and doesn't like what he sees. Captain America is still alive!
Of course! Rogers must have realized that his Skull mask was just a mask and taken it off! No one would recognize the only other white guy on the island! It's like the perfect camouflage!
Interesting enough, the Skull doesn't seem to be able to get a bead on his enemy, either. All he can do is follow the movements of the Exiles as they search the tiny Haitian island for some signs of the Red Skull.
Still, it's a small island and there's no way to escape it, the Red Skull leaves the Exiles to take care of Captain America.
Above that island, Sam's bird, Redwing, soars. When the Exiles get a good look at the falcon, they recognize it from the day before. General Ching fires his pistol at Redwing but the winged companion to the Falcon easily evades the shots.
The gunshots are heard in the village where Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson train. Steve doesn't think Ching could have shot Redwing and the falcon swoops in to confirm that. The duo have other things to concern themselves. Sam needs to suit up and get ready for a crash course on being a super-hero.
A lot of this comes naturally to the man who grew up in Harlem. He's been fighting punks most of his life. Steve's training just gives him some form and explains why certain tricks will work. It's good that Steve doesn't start this training from scratch because there's no time. Even so, Sam's training goes by ridiculously fast.
In New York, the Red Skull has used Captain America's body to take up residence in one of the poshest hotels in the city. This doesn't work out well when every Cap fan that has ever existed shows up in the hotel lobby demanding a show from their hero. The hotel manager calls "Cap" up to tell him about the problem but the Red Skull has no patience for Captain America's adoring public. He tells the manager to get rid of the crowds, or else.
I guess we'll get "or else." One of Cap's more morally misguided supporters steals a spare key to Captain America's suite and the crowd comes right up to greet their greatest hero.
The Skull hears them coming and muses about destroying all of these douches with his Cosmic Cube. It'd serve them right for thinking what they're doing is justified and it would destroy Captain America's reputation. Still, no one knows Captain America has the Cube and it might make people (like the Avengers) suspect that there's an imposter in the red, white, and blue.
Instead of killing a bunch of civilians, the Red Skull uses the Cube to escape them, making sure to shout insults on his way down the stairs. The Skull races through the lobby, leaps a care and speeds out of sight, believing he's delivered a fatal blow to the reputaion of Captain America.
Part of that is true. Last issue, the Red Skull told the press just how useless his current partner, Rick Jones, was to his crusade against evil. In Avengers Mansion, Rick takes this news badly. Tearing up his Bucky mask, Rick Jones leaves the Mansion and heads right into the story of Captain Marvel. I guess if one Captain doesn't work, you find another, right?
In a secret AIM lab, the plan to take away the Cosmic Cube's power is proceeding apace. The AIM scientist complete the first time of phase of their plan, to make a catholite block into a sphere. I guess that's pretty nice.
On a tiny Haitian island, Steve Rogers and his brand new ally, the Falcon, have finished their training and are taking the fight right to the Exiles! The Falcon's debut is just what you'd like in your new heroes. He performs better than expected. Steve is still slowed up because of being in a different body. The skills are there, the speed ISN'T. This is a team effort, though, so the Falcon comes to Rogers' rescue.
Our heroes beat the Exiles thoroughly, getting some assistance from the locals when they finally get the courage to stand up for themselves. I looks like Sam dressing up as a super-hero did the trick? Anyway, FREEDOM!
This whole scene plays out to the Red Skull on his Cosmic Cube. The super-villain decides to take things in his own hands. After all, if you want to do something right...
Back on the island, both Steve and the Falcon sense the Skull working his will.
Captain America #119
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Gene Colan
In this story:
• The Red Skull uses his Cosmic Cube to return to his natural form. He then teleports himself to Berchtesgaden to a castle he used to share with Adolf Hitler. Don't ask what they used to do here on hot summer nights.
• Both Steve Rogers and the Falcon are teleported to the castle for their final showdown with the Red Skull. To make things square, Rogers is returned to his original body, complete with mighty shield.
• Redwing is caged before both heroes futilely fight the furious, felonious Red Skull.
• MODOK tells his men how he survived his near death experience.
• Just as Captain America and the Falcon are running out of energy, the Red Skull notices that the Cosmic Cube is melting, courtesy of AIM!
• The Skull uses the last of the devices power to teleport far away from his enemies.
• Steve and Sam fist bump and go look for a sign of civilization.
This is the ever lovin' wrap up! The Skull's plans to destroy his nemesis, Captain America, has failed miserably. None of his traps have worked. Nothing has broken the World War II heroes spirit.
Now, again, the Red Skull could end the life of Steve Rogers in an instant with the power of the Cosmic Cube. It grants wishes, after all. That just wouldn't be satisfying for the Red Skull. He wants to break his enemy, not just kill him.
The Skull is going to face Cap in face to face but he wants to be wearing the right face when he does that. Using the Cosmic Cube, the Red Skull changes back into his original body. It's a pretty cool sequence, highlighting the talents of artist, Gene Colan (Rest in Peace!).
Well, now that he's wearing his original body, it's time to choose the battleground for this final battle. The Skull teleports across the world to his castle in Berchtesgaden where he and Adolf Hitler planned the conquest of the world. It's a fitting place to destroy the symbol of liberty.
On that tiny island where Steve Rogers and Falcon have been fighting the Exiles, our heroes feel the sudden tug from the Skull's Cosmic Cube. A little less than instantly, Steve, Sam, and Redwing are teleported to the castle in Berchtesgaden. Steve realizes what's going on but Sam's brain turns off at this point and he just figures this is a dream.
Steve tries to get the Skull to leave the Falcon out of this but that's not how the Red Skull rolls. If you stand against his... carefully... laid plans, you suffer. First things first, though. The Skull uses his infinite powers to cage Redwing. He claims that the bird might be the only one of them to survive this battle. Seeing Redwing in a cage gets Falcon seriously ticked off. Dream or no, that just isn't cool. His charge at the Red Skull is stopped by a single blast of the Cube.
But Falcon is just a distraction. The Red Skull's main vendetta is against Captain America. With a blast of the Cube, Steve Rogers returns to his original body, complete with shield. That's a surprise to the Falcon but they have bigger troubles now. The Red Skull can't be allowed to keep his hands on the Cosmic Cube.
And so it's BIG FIGHT TIME! The Red Skull continues to use the Cube in ingenious little ways. In fact, this is a fight that Captain America and the Falcon can't win. They still do their best at it, never giving up hope. When the Red Skull floods the room, the Falcon disappears for a moment to free Redwing but doesn't tell anyone what he was up to.
The only real way to stop the Red Skull is happening far away from Germany in an AIM secret base. MODOK has instructed his men to build a device that will take away the power of the Cosmic Cube. Before they complete their preparations, MODOK needs to tell the audience just how he survived his supposed demise in Tales of Suspense #94. It's a fascinating tale that we really don't need to repeat. Just trust us. MODOK DID survive.
With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, AIM continues their plans to destoy the Cosmic Cube.
Back in the big battle between Red Skull, Captain America, and the Falcon, our heroes find themselves in the middle of a relentless sandstorm. When it finally drops them on the desert sands, both Cap and Falcon are at the edge of their strength. Still, they have to keep fighting.
At one point, Steve uses his shield to separate the Skull from the Cube and this is the moment when the heroes have a chance to end this. Cap gets dropped by the Red Skull's boot. The Skull, after all, is still fresh, having relied on the Cosmic Cube for the whole fight. When the Red Skull makes a lunge for the Cube, the Falcon leaps in the way. Sam is at the point of dropping himself but still tries to keep the villain from his prize.
It delays the Red Skull but doesn't stop him. Soon, the Skull has the Cosmic Cube again but notices that the device is melting away. It still has the power to end this fight but the Red Skull doesn't have a chance to use it. Redwing swoops in, attacking the villain. It stops the Skull long enough to halt him from making use of the Cube as a weapon. The device is melting in his hands.
All that the Skull can do is use the remaining power of the Cosmic Cube to escape.
Not knowing how the Cube was destroyed, Captain America and the Falcon just call this one a victory and head across the desert, looking for a ride back to New York.
The Falcon went back to Harlem and made a name for himself in New York. He even got billing in Cap's book when the title was changed to Captain America and the Falcon. Sam Wilson's past isn't as rosy as we see here. In fact, later writers altered his origin, explaining that the Red Skull has used his Cosmic Cube to rewrite Sam's memory. Wilson was originally a thug and gangster himself. That life is behind him, though. The Falcon became a great example of hero and eventually joined up with the Avengers for a while.
When Steve ended up temporarily dead, Sam Wilson became the mentor and partner of James Barnes as the former Winter Soldier tried to live up to the legacy of Captain America. It looks like that time has ended. We'll see what the future holds for the first African America super-hero.
So we call it a day! I hope you had some fun as we work our way through Fear Itself!
Until next time: Excelsior!
Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX