Today, we check out Fear Itself: Spider-Man #2, Fear Itself: Deadpool #1, Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #1, Journey Into Mystery #624, and Blast to the Past for The Avengers #'s 69 & 70. Enjoy and spread the word!
Yep, we're cruising down I-94 and looking for the fears that make men quiver.
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Heroic Age and beyond? Check no further than this link right HERE.
And now: Spider-Man. Fear Itself. Day Two.
Fear Itself: Spider-Man #2
Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Mike McKone
In this issue:
• Spider-Man versus Vermin!
• John Russell shoots someone in his house. Karen Anderson's labor pains get intense. Norah and her cameraman are attacked on the street. There's a hammer on Yancy Street.
• J. Jonah Jameson gives Spidey a reason not to succumb to Fear. Peter goes back into action, rejuvenated.
• Norah winds up in a church right before John shows up with a gun.
• The Web-Slinger crashes into a window of the church and tells John that he hasn't killed anyone. Yet.
• The priest of the church gets John to put down the gun.
• While leaving the church, Spidey sees Karen nearly pass out on the church steps.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
Oh, it's been a long day for your friendly neighborhood yadda yadda yadda and it's nowhere near over with. In fact, it's hour twenty-five so we're officially on Day Two.
On the Lower East Side, John Russell has been defending his house after missing a mortgage payment. Russell is so scared of bank foreclosure tht he's been firing his gun out onto the street in front of his house just in case the bank swoops in on him. Last issue, he heard his door open and moved in to kill whoever walked through it. I thought this was his family returning for some tragedy but it turns out it's a complete stranger trying to escape the madness happening outside. Man, this guy chose the wrong house.
Karen Anderson has gone into labor and believes she's going to die delivering the child. To compound matters, her husband doesn't think he's the father of the kid and took off right before Karen's water breaks. You want matters even worse? Well, you morbid bastard, cell phone service is down so she can't call anyone, like maybe an ambulance, to pick her up. After finally hailing a cab, she was on her way to the hospital but the chaos on the streets and good old Fear causes the driver to leave the taxi in a panic on Wall Street.
Norah Winters isn't going through any major tragedy but as a newspaper reporter, she is right in the thick of things, talking to people in Times Square about the terror hitting the street. Is she succumbing to the Fear? No, but that doesn't mean she's not feeling it.
On Yancy Street, a hammer has landed. We get the most extreme closeup possible.
Where is Spider-Man during all this? Drifting in and out of consciousness with Fear hitting him every step of the way. To start off with, he has visions of Carlie (his girlfriend), Mary Jane, and Aunt May all dead or dying because he couldn't save them. Peter wakes up when a rat starts nibbling on his fingers. Spidey is fighting with rodents eating off him when he loses consciousness again.
Peter forces himself awake and is covered with rats. As anyone would, the hero FREAKS THE HELL OUT. The Wall-Crawler kicks away as many as he can and then leaps up the wall, all on instinct.
In the ten seconds rest he has before the next crisis, Peter recalls how he got into this situation. Last issue, he tried saving Robert Christanson, the Roxxon CFO who was having major suicidal tendencies up until Robert actually lept off his skyscraper perch. After that, he very much wanted to live. Spidey followed Christanson down to save his life. Things went just as bad as they could without anyone dying. Robert dropped onto some soft trashbags. Spider-Man landed on a car. Face first. The rats are just an added bonus. OK, that's about ten seconds if you read REALLY fast.
Here comes Vermin!
Vermin was originally Edward Whelan who made the unfortunate mistake of working for Baron Zemo. Not a great career move. When all those genetic experiments were done, Whelan was reduced to a child-like state of mind (y'know, if a child liked to eat people) and had the powers and appearance of a rat. After using these abilities on Captain America, Vermin made the transition to Spider-Man's cast of merry villains and never looked back. Whelan isn't really EVIL, he's just easily manipulated and has a fear of spiders. The rat-man is also wicked strong and difficult to defeat under the best of circumstances. These... they aren't the best of ANYTHING.
This fight is crazy intense and Spider-Man is still right on the edge of completely losing it. In fact, Peter almost kills Vermin before coming to his senses and realizing that Verm is afraid of Spidey and acting in a version of self-defense. This moment of humanity just leaves the Web-Slinger open to another round of attacks.
Odds are pretty good that Vermin won't have that same moment of mercy as Peter did so it's good that Robert comes in for the rescue with the golf club. It gives Spider-Man enough time to recover and take Vermin down. This fight is now over.
We skip ahead to Hour Twenty-Eight of the Fear. John Russell has shot his gun at the intruder in his home. Karen is having extremely painful labor pains. Norah Winters and her cameraman are in the middle of a riot and Norah believes these violent men are part of Norman Osborn's Green Goblin Cult. That hammer is still hanging out on Yancy Street.
After his battle with Vermin, Spider-Man's costume was in shreds. He gets a chance to grab a new suit and reloads on webbing (which ran out last issue during his fall from a skyscraper). He also tells us that Vermin was deposited at the Baxter Building for safe keeping.
This is another quiet moment in the eye of the hurricane that is Fear Itself. Peter has a moment to look around and see the damage happening around the city. He can't calm down. This right here is a cosmic level threat and, frankly, Parker's out of his depth. He pulls off his mask, and wonders what difference he can even make.
The world is going to hell but that's not Mayor J. Jonah Jameson's concern. He just needs to look after New York City. He's making calls and trying to get Steve Rogers on the phone. New York is the home for super-heroes in the Marvel Universe but it doesn't look like they're making much of a difference. One of JJJ's aide walks up to him and tells Jameson that his son, Astronaut John Jameson, has reported in fine on the Horizon Space Station.
Quiet moment of relief for J. Jonah.
Mayor JJJ sends the aide home to look after family. There's not much the mayor's office can do in this crisis, anyway. Besides, Jonah's got an uninvited visitor. It's funny because this is probably the most civil J. Jonah Jameson has ever been to Spider-Man.
After they exchange... pleasantries (JJJ asks what Spidey and his many teams are doing to stop this cosmic event from tearing his city apart which is funny because Peter Parker is on just a few less teams than Wolverine), the Wall-Crawler asks Jameson if he's heard from his dad (who is married to Aunt May). That would be a negative.
Peter's seen a lot out on the streets. Fear has infected almost everyone but here is arguably his biggest adversary keeping his stuff together. Spider-Man has to know why. JJJ tells the Web-Slinger that it's because of his son. Sure, Jonah didn't know if John Jameson was alive or not but he knew that if the astronaut were still alive, John would be fighting. F the Fear.
Peter realizes that his Aunt would be doing the same. And so should he. JJJ tells him to get out there and make a difference and the Friendly Neighborhood Avengers swings off to do just that.
If you can't do it any other way, you do it in a montage. Spider-Man saves lives all over the city even as New York (and the world) fall further into Fear. At some point, we see Spidey working with the New Avengers (Iron Fist, Ms. Marvel, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage) but I don't know when all of these people would be together considering Iron Fist is in Beijing and Ms. Marvel is in Brazil as of Iron Man 2.0 #5 and Fear Itself #3, respectively. Well, never minding that, Spider-Man is out there saving people.
And now, we are at Hour Thirty-Seven. John Russell thinks he's killed someone and is walking the streets heading to his final destination. Karen Anderson is passing out from loss of blood. Norah Winters has escaped the earlier riot scene without her cameraman and is now walking up to a church (Saint Mark's). On Yancy Street, the Future Foundation is investigating the fallen hammer.
When Norah enters the church, what she finds is astonishing. Possibly spectacular. This place is like a refuge and not just for good Christians that are paid up on their offerings. Muslims and Jews are here as well. Everyone is praying. When Winters questions the priest about this, he tells her what better time to pray than what looks like the end of the world.
And then... John Russell walks in, still holding his gun.
Norah starts thinking about getting everyone out of harms way but the priest simply tells the man that the gun isn't necessary in this house. John explains that he's shot and killed a man.
Complicating matters, here comes Spider-Man, right through the biggest stain glass window he can find. This escalates the situation but Peter has some useful news. It seems he's been to Russell's house and there were no dead bodies. The man John shot? He just grazed the man's shoulder. John Russell was right up in the man's face and still couldn't kill him. So no one's dead.
Even with all this, Norah and Spider-Man are ready to take Russell out to get that gun out of his hands. It's the priest that actually calms him down because he KNOWS what John is doing here. He's here for forgiveness. John hands the priest the gun and the priest gets to tell the two streetwise New Yorkers that "there are still some things stronger than fear." Good times.
The two leave the church, Winters gives Spider-Man hell for breaking the big window when the door would have been just as easy but you've got to consider Peter's mental state. This is Hour Thirty-Eight of the Fear. He hasn't slept since it started and who knows when he slept BEFORE that? As far as sanity goes, he's keeping it together better than you'd expect.
But that conversation isn't going to play out. Karen Anderson has entered the main plot. Spider-Man and Norah find her lying on the steps leading up to the church. Back to work, Wall-Crawler!
On Yancy Street, Ben Grimm grabs his hammer and becomes Angir, Breaker of Souls. Odd are good that Spider-Man and Karen are going to run right into him next issue...
Fear Itself: Deadpool #1
Writer: Christopher Hastings
Penciler: Bong Dazo
In this issue:
• Deadpool fails as a home security man after Kuurth (Juggernaut) smashes right through his customer's home.
• Wade Wilson watches the news and finds out all about Fear Itself. There's money to be made in this.
• Oh, his construction crew? They leave him to head to Cimarron but their truck gets blown up before they get far. They survive and run off. Deadpool steals their hammer for his plan.
• Wade blings out the hammer and looks for a chump to give it to... for some reason. He finds the Walrus.
• The Walrus is messing up Monster Truck Shows. When Wade drops the hammer on him, the Walrus thinks he's hit the jackpot.
• After testing his hammer out, the Walrus figures it isn't anything special but a disguised Deadpool convinces the criminal mastermind that it just needs to be charged up.
• The two construction guys return to their wrecked truck but the object they're looking for is gone.
• Yes, it's the hammer.
Christopher Hastings!? Awesome sauce. Those of you who are NOT reading the Adventures of Dr. McNinja are doing yourself a disservice. Shame on you. Now, THIS little foray into print comics... well, let's just say I'm kind of picky when it comes to DP. This issue doesn't exactly thrill me but I'm hoping Hastings makes me a believer before it's all said and done. It's only three issues so we'll see!
But you aren't here to read me REVIEWING a comic. You just want to know what happens on the inside. Let's get right to that.
Wade Wilson is many things. Merc with a Mouth. Member of X-Force. Totally Insane. It turns out he's also throwing his hat into the lucrative ring called Home Security. He's decked out a suburban home with all the defenses you'd expect someone like Deadpool to use. Deathrays? Oh, yeah. According to Wade, this house is as secure as you can get.
Of course, you don't get away with saying stuff like that in a comic like this. Kuurth, Breaker of Stone and the former Juggernaut, smashes right through the house on his cross country journey to San Francisco. This was exactly what the suburban family was paying to prevent happen. Deadpool, who's a little behind on current events, was never expecting to stop a super-charged Juggernaut. It's probably not even possible.
With threats of not getting paid, DP tries to convince his working associates, two carpenters (I'm guessing because they seem upset at being called plumbers), to help him clean up the mess so that they might get some money out of this deal. The duo who don't have names (I shall call them Larry and Moe until they get on-panel names) tell Deadpool that they actually have another job to do in Cimarron, New Mexico. Which is wierd to say on-panel unless it's important. Make a note.
Well, it looks like the Merc with a Mouth isn't going to get paid for his work today. Before he leaves, Wade turns on the television and gets a quick rundown on Fear Itself. Yep, this is an event that he would never have been able to prevent with home security. While he's going off about that, Larry and Moe enter their van which gets destroyed by a rocket launcher.
Wade loves a good explosion so he goes out for a closer look, only to get whammed in the head by a hammer that defies the laws of physics in its winding path to the ground. The suburban couple have now had their whole day ruined by these shenanigans and demand that Deadpool leave. Wade isn't really listening. He just sees this plain-looking hammer and a plan begins to form in his mind. He grabs the hammer and races off.
As Wade skips off, the person or thing that shot a rocket at Larry and Moe's van reports back to his "master" that he did his job. That master tells him to come back home. We get a close look at the assassin. He's kind of furry under all that covert ops gear.
With both Deadpool and the intended assassin gone, Larry and Moe kick the door off of their van. Yep, they both survived. Not only survived, there's not a mark on either of them. The emergency crews are coming so the two carpenters take off, leaving behind their valuable cargo for later pick-up.
OK, we all know what Deadpool was thinking. In an event loaded with hammer goodness, he suddenly got hit on the head with one. Wade takes that thing back to his place and blings it out. His plan is to give it to some hopeless villain and trick them into thinking they are one of the Worthy. For some reason. I don't have a clue why this makes sense but Wilson is kind of nuts. Things don't always have to make sense. After checking through villains like Dr. Doom and the Vulture, Deadpool settles on the Walrus.
Who is an ACTUAL villain. I was surprised too because the costume... oh, the costume. One of my least favorite issues of Deadpool was when DP fought the villain known as the Sac. Sac was specifically created for DP to make fun of and I figured that was a waste when the Marvel Universe includes such loveable morts as the Walrus. So... props to Christopher Hastings for bringing in a really ridiculous Marvel villain. Walrus has about five appearances to his name and was created in 1984 for The New Defenders #131 (oh man, I think I have that issue). Otherwise, you don't need to care. He's a stupid villain with walrus-like powers.
The Walrus is currently working monster truck rallies. Wade tracks him down in time to witness the Walrus's handiwork. The dude filled a monster truck's tires with live bees. They fly out right after the truck jumps through a flaming hoop. The carnage is monsterous!
With the driver certainly dead, The Walrus steals the man's wallet. No-one else's. Just the dead driver's. Fifty-four dollars. This is why he's a mort. Not very smart. It's also hilarious that the Walrus doesn't get into costume until AFTER his crime is completed. He stays in costume as he uses the dead driver's rental card to check out some movies. In the rental store, the Walrus watches the television and learns about the hammers powering up the Worthy in Fear Itself. It gets his very simple mind racing as to the possibilities.
So how did DP track this guy down? Do you really care? OK, it was from rental places reporting a guy dressed as a Walrus renting videos. OK, back to the "plot."
Wade hang glides over the Walrus and then drops the hammer down on the hapless villain. It's strapped with dynamite and makes a pretty explosion. Since Wally just saw that news feature on the Worthy, he immediately connects a bunch of dots that should never have been connected.
With his plan in full effect, Deadpool doesn't watch where his glider is going and soars right into a flock of ducks. They ruin his glider and send him crashing to earth. Since his glider is loaded with even more dynamite, it explodes. Looney Tunes, people. This is Looney Tunes.
In his hotel room, the Walrus tests out his hammer on the toilet. Yep, it can break a toilet. This is kind of impressive but the Walrus doesn't think it's Worthy level. To prove it, he breaks into the room across the hallway and smashes their toilet with his fist. Yep, he can do that without the hammer.
While he was out, Deadpool snuck into his room dressed as... the Spectre of Mass Destruction. With this hammer, Walrus will cause a hell of a lot of damage. It just needs to be charged first. Deadpool tells his new stooge that they are heading to... Cimarron, New Mexico!
Speaking of stooges, Larry and Moe have finally returned to their destroyed van to find that what they're looking for isn't here. Yep, they came back here for the hammer. Without it, Cimarron is doomed.
Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #1
Writers: Brandon Montclare
Artists: Michael Wm Kaluta, Ryan Bodenheim, & Simon Bisley
In this issue:
• Man-Thing walks around New York, burning people that know fear. In this event, that's a lot of people.
• Howard the Duck and She-Hulk search for Man-Thing.
• Nighthawk fights crime as he also looks for Man-Thing.
• The three meet up just in time to run into Frankenstein's Monster who is being surrounded by the traditional angry mob made up of concerned citizens.
• Everybody teams up.
• The angry mob runs off as Man-Thing approaches.
• Reality goes screwy as Man-Thing manipulates the Nexus of All Realities, changing the Fearsome Four in strange ways.
There's a big problem when the Man-Thing hangs around New York and some event takes over, amping the ambient fear levels up to eleven. Man-Thing has the pecular ability where people that know fear burn at his touch. The Manhattan streets are already in full on panic mode. When Man-Thing goes on a walk about, well, flames are sure to follow.
In the midst of all this chaos, a teenage couple makes out on a park bench. Oh, teenagers. They can make out in any situation. Even they aren't immune to the terror of a big monster sneaking up behind them. When their bodies are found, they are burned all the way through.
Now, none of this is done intentionally. Man-Thing doesn't CONTROL this power. It's just his nature. That doesn't mean he doesn't have to be stopped. Who better to do this than the duck trapped in a world he never made? That's right. Our hero is Howard the Duck. With him is Jennifer Walters, the original She-Hulk. This accounts for all three She-Hulks running around the Marvel Universe during Fear Itself.
The duo investigates the burned teenagers but not in any real detail. This is just another stop on the trail to find Man-Thing. Howard is more interested in the mechanical gadget in his hand. When She-Hulk asks him about it, the duck tells her it's just something to keep his mind occupied in the face of all this tragedy.
H explains Man-Thing's burning touch to Jennifer (and the readers). The creature is out of control with Fear Itself in full effect. Howard doesn't want this to end in Man-Thing's death (if that's even a possibility) but if that's what has to happen, he figures he should be the one to do it.
But let's move on to Nighthawk. Kyle Richmond is also on the trail of "something BIG and GREEN." Making his way through Downtown is difficult because, hey, Fear Itself. These streets are crazy. For Nighthawk's journey to continue, he's going to have to beat up a bunch of thugs first. This is no big deal for a guy with Richmond's skills so he slips into his own back story.
Nighthawk started off as a villain in the Squadron Sinister but eventually turned his life around, joining the Defenders and fighting the good fight. When the Super-human Civil War broke out, Nighthawk went from the anti-registration side to the pro side (after the death of Black Goliath) and suffered for it. His monicker was given to Joaquin Pennysworth but now the original is back and doing his best Batman impression.
So he mops the floor with the bad guys all the while having internal monologue about how he despises these dudes for using fear as a weapon. It doesn't stop him from using that same fear on the bad guys when one of them gets the drop on him with a gun. It's a variation on the classic Dirty Harry Eastwood line. Kyle decides that fear could serve him well.
After fighting the thugs, Nighthawk catches up to She-Hulk and Howard the Duck and compares notes. They're all searching for a tall green guy but it seems Kyle is out of the loop when Jennifer tells him that it's Man-Thing. He thought tht Man-Thing was still hanging out with the Thunderbolts. So did we. We'll have to wait for T-Bolts to catch up to this issue to find out how Man-Thing ends up walking around New York.
Granted, Nighthawk might have been looking for Frankenstein's Monster. The Monster isn't GREEN but he is TALL and there's more than one Hollywood version that has a green hue. Heck, in the night or with a little color blindness, you could barely tell the difference.
Anyway, Frankenstein's Monster is way out of place in NYC but is making himself at home by being surrounded by an angry mob. They all think the poor, misunderstood monster is the one walking around burning people so the only sensible thing to do is crowd around him, getting as CLOSE as possible. You know, for maximum burnage.
She-Hulk and Nighthawk move right in to do the hero thing, attacking the mob but being equal opportunity enough to also fight Frankenstein's Monster.
By this point, the mob has turned into a riot. Howard does his best to stop all the fighting but that doesn't work so well. When you're a child-sized duck-man, people tend to kick you instead of listening, especially when they're in a panic. Even more so when they're a panicked Monster.
Well then, if that's how it's gonna be.
Howard leaps onto Frankenstein's Monster's shoulders and explains the plot to the newcomer. It turns out that the monster is surprisingly reasonable when you whisper in his ear. With Frankenstein's help, the rest of the main characters work together to kick normal person @$$.
Something frightens the already terrified rioters away but it's not this odd quartet. Nope, it's the Man-Thing, complete with the third artist change for the book. I suppose the art is appropriate for this part of the book because the Man-Thing is using the Nexus of All Realities to alter the four main characters.
Nighthawk is looking more hawk-like. She-Hulk looks more like her cousin, the Hulk. Howard gets a little dinosaur in his blood and some giant guns. Frankenstein's Monster gets a couple more... everything. Hands, heads... it's like all his many bits are getting expanded upon.
All in all, the "Fearsome Four" now look the part. Their purpose hasn't changed. They all attack Man-Thing.
Journey Into Mystery #624
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler: Doug Braithwaite
In this issue:
• Odin prepares to punish Loki for helping Thor escape but Volstagg stands up for the kid.
• V puts Kid Loki back in the stables but the trickster god doesn't stay there for long. He heads over to the Worldtree on earth to pick up his Helhound for a trip to Hel.
• The Tongue of the Serpent attempts to make an alliance with Hela's domain.
• Kid Loki enters Hel and talks to Hela's general, Tyr, to learn about the intended alliance between Hela and the Serpent.
• This leads Loki into an audience with Mephisto. He tells the demon about this same alliance.
• Returning to Hel, Kid Loki warns Hela about an attack by Mephisto. This distracts Hela so that Loki can have a private word with the Tongue of the Serpent.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
In Fear Itself #3, Kid Loki helped his big brother, Thor, escape from a cell in a desperate attempt to get the thunder god back to earth. This didn't work out the way they expected. Odin showed up after Heimdal caught a look at what they were up to. Still, the All-Father DID end up sending Thor back to earth so it looks like it was a successful mission.
Someone has to suffer for this, of course, and that guy is Loki. No one trusts the resurrected god and it's with good reason. The previous version of the trickster god was pretty much full-on evil with very little redeeming characteristics. This younger Loki is a different matter entirely but that doesn't mean everyone is just going to hand their trust over to him blindly. Since it was Loki who fed Thor's guards food laced with a sleeping potion, he's just put a target on his head. Odin blanket forgives the other Asgardians involved in the plot because the rest are obviously good guys doing what they think is right. Loki doesn't get the same forgiveness.
Until Volstagg the Voluminous stands up for the kid. Volstagg takes credit for the plot and is grudgingly believed. After all, it involved food which is V's specialty. When Odin leaves, Volstagg explains that he stood by Loki because he loves kids. Even though he doesn't trust this new Loki, he can't help but to love the little whippersnapper. The giant Asgardian brings Loki back to the stables holding Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder and leaves the young god to the task of picking up giant goat droppings.
Even though Kid Loki tells Volstagg that he's done scheming for the day, as soon as V walks away Loki grabs the goats and rides them to earth. Now, according to Fear Itself #3, all gates to earth have been closed so your guess is as good as mine how the trickster god accomplished this. I'm just going to go with Loki's natural ingenuity and NOT DWELL ON IT.
He's not on earth long, anyway. Loki is only here to pick up his Helhound that he freed last issue. To escape Heimdal's all seeing eyes, the Helhound hid in the roots of the Worldtree, Yggdrasil. Leaving the goats, Loki, his magpie Ikol, and the Helhound travel to Hell.
The magpie, Ikol, is what is remaining of the former Loki and stick around in an advisory capacity. It is through Ikol that Loki learns of the former Loki's last great plans. This brings us back to the Siege of Asgard and Loki's manipulations surrounding that event. Let's see how well I can nutshell that.
OK, WAY back in the day, Odin's father had his own Valkyries called the Dísir.Instead of bringing those who dies a heroic death to Valhalla, the Dísir feasted on them. When Bor found out, he laid a terrible curse on them, making them only able to eat dead gods but unable to enter Asgard or Hel. So, they would always go hungry unless Asgard ended up on earth or something. Which is DID. Loki learned about the Dísir and forged a sword that helped him defeat the cannibalistic maidens in battle and forced them to serve him. Using the Dísir as leverage, he got Hela some new real estate in Hell so that she could keep the dead safe. For this, Mephisto got the Dísir for one hundred one days. Loki was freed from residing in Hel after he died. Which he did.
So that's the back story. Now, to find out what Kid Loki is doing mucking around in Hel and Hell.
Well, that's just the thing. The Serpent is seeking an alliance with Hela. "Alliance" is probably too strong a word for it. If Hela accepted, it would mean she would be a subject to the Serpent and would be spared his wrath. This proposition isn't delivered by one of the Worthy or even by the Serpent himself but instead by the Tongue of the Serpent. The Tongue is super creepy and brings to mind the Mouth of Sauron from Lord of the Rings-- not so much in looks as much as purpose. With this message delivered, Hela gives the Tongue and it's retinue quarters in her fortress so that she can think the matter through.
Loki and his bird are finally at the Gates of Hel. Guarding the Gate is the giang wolf, Garm. To distract Garm, Kid Loki siccs his Helhound on the giant wolf and races on by.
In Hela's fortress, Hela has a decision to make: fall in line behind the Serpent or stand against the god of fear. Hela knows that either way, they gain nothing from Asgard. Odin won't trust her any more if she stands with Asgard or any less if she stands with the Serpent. Her general, Tyr, passionately supports siding with Asgard. Last Super Reads checked in on Tyr, the Asgardian god of battle was helping in the defense of Hel against the Dísir. Since then, he has died and joined the ranks of Hel as Hela's general. Hela respects him and... might have feelings for Tyr... but doesn't exactly see WHY she should join the Asgardians.
She has another advisor, Leah, who looks like a young girl. Leah's take on the matter is the opposite of Tyr's. Side with the Serpent. F the Asgardians. It seems like this advice is more reasonable to the ruler of Hel.
Tyr is left alone while Hela considers matters. He is not alone for long. Kid Loki enters through a window and gets the typical, violent greeting for people who remember the original Loki. When Tyr calms down, he declares his loyalty to Asgard. Kid Loki asks for every detail of the goings on in Hel.
Tyr is left alone while Hela considers matters. He is not alone for long. Kid Loki enters through a window and gets the typical, violent greeting from people who remember the original Loki. When Tyr calms down, he declares his loyalty to Asgard. Kid Loki asks for every detail of the goings on in Hel.
A while later, the trickster god is back at the Gates of Hel. Garm and the Helhound appear to have stopped fighting but the Helhound has really enjoyed attacking the wolf. Garm explains that the whole fight was unnecessary. He just guarded the Gate to keep the dead from moving back and forth. Kid Loki apologized and is on his way.
His destination: Mephisto's Court.
Ikol cautions against this course of action. Despite what everyone else thinks, Kid Loki is NOT like the original god. He's more altruistic, more heroic. It's very possible that Mephisto will figure this out. That would be... tragic.
Loki enters the Court of Mephisto to find the demon and two of the Dísir.
Pleastantries first. Loki asks Mephisto where the demon stands on Fear Itself. Well, if this is a war of Odin against the Serpent, then Mephisto doesn't really have a stance. The thing is, the Serpent looks to have an expansionist nature. In that case, Mephisto would probably prefer Odin who mostly keeps to himself.
When Mephisto asks where Loki stands, the trickster god switches subjects to the Dísir. The one hundred one days is nearly up and Loki wants his evil Valkyries back. The fact that they died in Hell makes no difference. Loki is actually upset that the Dísir died in the first place since they were under Mephisto's watch at the time. Besides, it doesn't change the original deal. As Kid Loki expains it, "they're SUBJECTS of Hell. They're still under MY ultimate control." The logic makes Mephisto smile.
And then we're back to the Serpent. Loki tells the demon that Hela is making a deal with the Serpent. This would give the fear god a foothold in Hell. Well, that gets Mephisto's attention.
Kid Loki returns to Hel but this time there's no secrecy in his visit. He wlks right into Hela's court and tells her that Mephisto is about to attack her. She teleports away to deal with this threat, leaving her general behind. Tyr doesn't like how this is playing out but Loki gives his reasons.
With Hela distracted, They'll be able to question the Tongue of the Serpent with no distractions. He gets a bit more graphic in his language, trying to act more like his old self.
The Mighty Avengers #69
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciler: Sal Buscema
In this issue:
• The Avengers visit Tony Stark in the hospital. Thor delivers the medical specialist that can save Stark's life.
• The Growing Man attacks and takes off with an unconscious Tony Stark.
• After a little Avengers fighting, the team is sucked into a glowing orb that transports them and their adversary to... the FUTURE!
• Specifically, the future where Kang the Conqueror rules. There's a bit more fighting until the Black Panther appears and calms everyone down.
• Kang explains that he started a game with the Grand-Master, a cosmic entity that likes to play games. If he wins, Grand-Master will give him the power to return his love, Ravonna, to life. If he loses, the earth never existed. Kang chose the Avengers as his pawns in the game.
• It looks like it was a last minute choice.
• The Grand-Master appears and teleports three of Kang's champions to earth in the modern era where they face off against the Squadron Supreme.
October 1969! Fantastic Four #91, Captain America #118, Amazing Spider-Man #77, Iron Man #18, Incredible Hulk #120, and X-Men #61 were on the stands. In The Mighty Avengers #69, the Squadron Sinister were rearing their heads for the first time. One of their number would go on to become a bonafide hero: Nighthawk.
Nighthawk is Kyle Richmond, a bored millionaire who gained super-powers from the Grand-Master, a cosmic entity that focused on playing games of life and death. His powers were increased strength and agility in the night time. It should also surprise no one that he was Marvel's answer to Batman. Kyle just lacked the emotional trauma to motivate him for playing on the side of right from the beginning.
But first we need to talk about Tony Stark. Due to events in his own comic, Iron Man is on death's door. In Invincible Iron Man #18, Tony Stark faced an evil LMD Tony Stark in mortal combat. The LMD lost but Tony's heart was pushed to its limit in the old golden armor suit. The Avengers arrived just in time to watch Shellhead collapse. Fortunately, he made the excuse that the REAL Iron Man was away on a "special mission" which is why someone like him had even attempted to fight the fake Iron Man (the LMD was wearing the then current armor when Stark "killed" it). Stark's heart then gave out and he was kept alive with the help of Hank Pym's machines.
Even though it was the Avengers who brought him to the hospital, this issue begins with them rushing into the same hospital for a visit. Waiting for them is Nick Fury and other Agents of SHIELD who have a special interest in keeping the weapons manufacturer alive. Actually, no one in the room has completely noble goals. It is through Stark that the Avengers are funded and they live in his family home. While they think he's a pretty awesome guy, he is also their financial backer. No one knows he's Iron Man.
Without immediate medical attention, he won't be anything but dead. This is why Thor has journeyed (into Mystery) to collect Dr. Santini, an expert on heart surgery, to help bring Tony Stark back to the land of the living. This is the only man with the skills and knowledge to do just that. As he gets to work, the Avengers get out of his way. Before she leaves, Wasp sees a glowing figure under a cabinet and removes it from the room. She chucks it in the garbage on her way out.
When the figure hits the sides of the garbage can, it grows and comes alive. It's still less than knee high but that means it's more than a match for the two bored SHIELD Agents guardian Tony Stark. This is the Growing Man and while it's height is little (right now), it's powers are tremendous. Worst still, when a SHIELD Agent fires his blaster at it, the Growing Man absorbs the kinetic energy and grows up to average man height.
The robot's purpose is clear. It's here to collect Tony Stark. The Growing Man doesn't care that a delicate medical procedure is going on. It's function doesn't allow for waiting. Against Dr. Santini's orders, the villainous robot lifts up the unconscious billionaire and smashes it's way out of the hospital.
It's not like the Avengers aren't on the premises. When they hear that something is trying to kidnap their meal ticket, the Assemblers get into action. Nothing they do is really helping matters, though. Every attack just makes the Growing Man grow. Soon, the robot is four stories high and effortlessly smashes all the way out of the hospital and right into New York traffic.
Once outside, Clint Barton decides it's time to fight size for size (he's Goliath during this storyline) and launches up to the Growing Man's height. Barton grew too quickly, though, and nearly passes out for his effort. The robot takes advantage and punches the Avenger right into the ground.
Before the Avengers' eyes, the Growing Man is shrunk back down to man-size and is lifted with his human cargo into a bright orb in the sky. The heroes are all drawn inside as well. Once everyone is safely encompassed by the glowing sphere, the device transports them over two thousand years into the future and right into the court of Kang the Conqueror.
While the Growing Man and Tony Stark are no where to be seen, the Avengers aren't done punching stuff yet. Kang's speech about them serving him doesn't really help matters. The Avengers don't like being toyed with and start beating up Kang's guards.
Who should come along to stop them than the Black Panther. I know what you're all saying: Wha!?
T'challa was whisked to the future before the rest of the Avengers and he wasn't in a fighting mood when he arrived in Kang's Court. The Conqueror was able to explain the situation and avoided the African Avenger whittling down his crew. The Panther asks his friends to listen to Kang's tale.
You see, Kang the Conqueror is in love but his lady friend, Ravonna, is stuck inbetween life and death. He was standing around trying to solve this problem when a potential solution presented itself in the form of the Grand-Master. The cosmic immortal had an incredible amount of power at his finger tips, including the ability to unmake people at a whim. He proposed that if Kang won his game, the Grand-Master would give the Time Conqueror the power to return life to Ravonna. The tricky bit was that is Kang LOST the game, the entire earth would cease to exist. It wouldn't be destroyed. It just never would be. That means that the Avengers (who are fond of existing) have a stake in this game.
The Grand-Master gave Kang a year to assemble a team for these games. Naturally, Kang waited for the last minute before summoning the Avengers. Procrastinator!
It should be mentioned that no one has ever beaten the Grand-Master in his games. It should also be noted that the Avengers agree to serve as Kang's pawns but only if the Conqueror returns Tony Stark to their proper time so that the billionaire can get desperately needed heart surgery. They might need to replace a liver, too. That man drinks like a fish.
After Stark is returned to the present, the Grand-Master shows up to get these games underway. With a wave of his hand, the cosmic immortal teleports Captain America, Thor, and Goliath first to a balancing scales device and then to present day earth.
Before the trio of Avengers are the Grand-Master's chosen pawns. Dr. Spectrum, Hyperion, Nighthawk, and the Whizzer! These are... the Squadron Sinister!
The Avengers #70
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciler: Sal Buscema
In this story:
• Kang orders his men to assassinate the Grand-Master but they fail spectacularly.
• Iron Man joins Cap, Thor and Goliath in the game in the present day. The Squadron Sinister mock them from the safety of holographic projection and then show the Avengers what world monuments they're going to destroy.
• The Avengers split up to defend each monument.
• Captain America heads to New York to save the Statue of Liberty. Nighthawk greets him there. After some back and forth battling, Nighthawk is defeated.
• Iron Man is off to India to defend the Taj Mahal against Dr. Spectrum's attack. Again, the Avenger wins the day.
• Thor fights Hyperion to keep the Sphinx out of harm's way. Just like before, the winner is the Avenger.
• Goliath fights Whizzer for the fate of Big Ben but since he wins with a little help from the Black Knight... there's a penalty involved.
• The Avengers are teleported back to the future for the next round of games.
Kang is so worried about the outcome of his games with the Grand-Master that he can't even enjoy a decent meal. He storms out of the dining hall and demands that the Avengers tell him how their teammates are doing. Since the Grand-Master doesn't respond to them, the Avengers don't know how Captain America, Thor, and Goliath are proceeding. I guess Kang is going to have to ask personally.
The Grand-Master is playing this game WITH Kang the Conqueror and so that is the only one in the room he'll talk to. At the same time, Grand-Master's powers are so far above Kang's that it's sad. When an assassination plot fails because Grand-Master is prepared for it, Kang decides that he'll have to rely on winning this contest fair and square.
And now, it's time to check in on the Avengers who have been sent back to their own timeline to face Grand-Master's pawns in this most deadly of games. Last issue, those pawns were revealed. The Squadron Sinister is made up of Dr. Spectrum, Hyperion, Nighthawk, and the Whizzer which means that the teams are uneven. Iron Man shows up (after events in Invinicible Iron Man #19 returned Tony Stark to the land of the living) to even the odds, as per Grand-Master's will.
The Squadron Sinister has already departed to play out their part in these games but they reappear as astral projections to taunt the Avengers and give them a brief origin story. If you haven't guessed, the Squadron Sinister was Roy Thomas's answer to DC's Justice League. Dr. Spectrum was based on Green Lantern. Hyperion was Superman. Nighthawk owed a lot to Batman. The Whizzer was based on Flash. Of course, they were evil. This wasn't a misunderstanding. The Squadron Sinister earned their name. After all, if the Avengers lose this contest, the earth is over with. It would take some evil men to side against the planet. The bad guys explain that the Grand-Master went back into time to find and empower them for this game.
With this slight origin out of the way, the Squadron Sinister leaves the Avengers with images of four world monuments. The Statue of Liberty, the Taj Mahal, Big Ben, and the Sphinx. This tells the Avengers where they need to go. Iron Man takes off immediately so that he can avoid answering any questions about where he was when Tony Stark was at death's door. Thor uses his hammer to teleport everyone else to their individual goals.
This issue isn't just an homage of four of DC's top super-heroes. It's also an homage of early Justice League issues. In those comics, the team would face a threat by splitting up and hitting threats individually (or sometimes with one partner) across the face of the planet. Same deal here. The Avengers race all over the globe to fight the Squadron Sinister individually.
Captain America arrives at the Statue of Liberty and starts searching for his adversary. Nighthawk has already had time to set up traps which Cap walks right into. Steve's legs were snatched up and then his body was smashed into a wall until he falls unconscious. When he wakes up, Nighthawk has been busy.
The Statue of Liberty has been lifted off the ground by Nighthawk's aircraft. Now, all Nighthawk has to do is destroy the Statue and he wins his contest. It's not that easy for him. He feels the need to explain his own specific origin to the World War II hero.
Nighthawk is Kyle Richmond, a formerly uninteresting rich man who was purposeless until the Grand-Master showed up and gave him a costume and a destiny. He figures that when the world is made to not exist, he'll escape that fate because he serves the Grand-Master. Nighthawk pulls out the plunger device that will destroy Lady Liberty and gets ready to press the button.
Cap's shield shatters the detonator before it can be pressed. It looks like the villain is going to have to do this personally. Kyle drops into a hatch to go below his ship. He tries to release the manual lever to drop the Statue but, again, Captain America is there to stop Nighthawk. Richmond finally tries to defeat Rogers with an explosive pellet. Steve blocks the blast with his shield but the blast reaches an unintended target. Nighthawk.
The first monument is saved but this is hardly the end. Kang and the Avengers have to win EVERY contest. The Grand-Master has to win only one. The odds, they are stacked against our heroes (and Kang).
The next battle is at the Taj Mahal and pits Iron Man against Dr. Spectrum. What's interesting about Dr.Spectrum is that he gets his power from a device called the Power Prism, much like Green Lantern uses a power ring in his adventures. The difference is that the Power Prism is sentient and talks not only to Dr. Spectrum but out loud. This helps Iron Man to react to the villain because the Prism keeps directing Dr. Spectrum's attacks.
Just like Green Lantern's power ring, the Power Prism has a specific weakness. It's not the color yellow or object made of wood, though. It's ultraviolet light. Dr. Spectrum makes the mistake of announcing that he was defended by a "Poly-Chromatic Shield" which gives Iron Man the clue he needs to defeat the bad guy. One ultra-violet blast from his Uni-Beam and the battle is over.
So that's two down...
Thor arrives at the Sphinx and hardly gets oriented before he's attacked by Hyperion. During this battle, Hyperion describes his reasons for hating the world. His world was the first atom split by a cyclotron. He alone survived but was unresponsive and powerless until the Grand-Master found him and took Hyperion out of this void, grown to human size, and pitted against the Avengers.
So, Hyperion has a reason to hate and his Superman-like powers give Thor a run for the thunder god's money. But, hey, this is Thor we're talking about. The god of thunder uses his hammer to create a whirlwind around Hyperion, shrinking the super-human villain to the size of a toy and trapping Hyperion inside a bubble.
And now, we're down to our final showdown in Great Britain. Big Ben is in danger! The Avenger on the scene finds himself not fighting the remaining member of the Squadron Sinister but the hero, Black Knight. Clint knows that he has to defeat the Whizzer on his own without interference but he can't seem to get that thought into Dane Whitman's head. It probably has something to do with Goliath's delivery.
Whizzer's not going to give us any hints on his powers or origin so I'm just going to make fun of his name. "Whizzer." Hahahahahahahahaha.
Whizzer leaps off of Big Ben and races around Goliath at wind-searing speeds. The result is a tornado around Barton that shreds the Avenger into nothingness. In actuality, Clint has just shrunk down to escape but Black Knight thinks he's just witnessed the death of an Avenger.
Dane uses the flat of his sword to stop Whizzer in his tracks. This interference costs the Avengers total victory. Clint reappears and snatches the Black Knight's sword away from the hero but it's too late. Goliath is teleported back to the future.
The Grand-Master appears and accuses the Black Knight of ruining his game. Sure, he was on the way to a total defeat but that matters not. Interference is interference. Making sure to lay on the fact that Dane Whitman might have just doomed a planet, the Grand-Master takes his leave and heads back to the future.
This leaves Black Knight alone with his thoughts and maybe a bit of guilt. He also realizes that Goliath left with his Ebony Blade. Whitman declares his dedication in further interfering in the games of the Grand-Master.
And that's where we leave this tale. The "hero" we're following doesn't appear in the final chapter of the Grand-Master's game with Kang. It DOES involve a cool trip to World War II France where the Avengers Yellowjacket, Vision, and Black Panther fight the Golden Age Captain America, Human Torch, and Namor the Submariner. Yeah, Roy Thomas had fun with this story arc.
But what became of Nighthawk? I'll tell ya. Kyle Richmond worked with the Squadron Sinister and solo only a few times as a villain before his conscience got to him and he decided to do... the right thing. After that, Nighthawk became a loyal member of the Defenders until he was "killed" in Defenders #106. While death is usually temporary, this one held solid for sixteen years until Nighthawk reappeared in a three issue mini-series. After his resurrection, Nighthawk leaped all around the Marvel Universe but made sure to appear in the 2001 Defenders series and it's follow up mini-series, The Order. All the while, he's stayed the hero. Nighthawk is still alive and is appearing right now in the mini-series Fear Itself: Fearsome Four. You might have just read about it in this column!
So it's about time to call this one done. You'll be seeing another Super Reads column before you know it so BE PREPARED!
Until then: Excelsior!
Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX