Today, we check out Fear Itself: The Black Widow #1, Avengers: The Children's Crusade #6, and Blast to the Past for X-Men #64. Enjoy and spread the word!
Look at that. We're back for a three comic hit and run.
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Heroic Age and beyond? Check no further than this link right HERE.
And now, Natasha deals with the death of her boyfriend. Or not.
Fear Itself: The Black Widow #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Penciler: Peter Nguyen
In this issue:
• Black Widow is shot by terrorists. In the head.
• Begin Flashback: Six hours earlier, Natasha has Le Peregrine drop her off at a church in Marseille, France. Terrorists have taken the place over because it's got a Ministry of Defense Operations Room secured beneath it.
• Black Widow defeats the terrorists and then begins some violent interrogation.
• Which leads her to a ship in a harbor. She gets herself captured and then we catch up to the beginning of our tale.
• The terrorists are about to launch the entire nuclear payload of France (the codes they got from the church ops room).
• Turns out the Black Widow that was shot in the head was actually an LMD. Also: a bomb.
• Threat over... but Marseille is burning.
You know, a Black Widow one-shot has a lot of possibilities. In Fear Itself #3, James Buchanan Barnes was killed in battle at the United States capital. Natasha Romanoff was there. She was also Barnes' girlfriend. Black Widow has got to be in pain after his death.
She very well might be but she doesn't give anything away in this issue. This tie-in issue is one of the more throwaway comics of the entire event. 'Tasha mentions her dead boyfriend exactly once in this comic and might be a little melancholy at the end of the mission because of it. Or maybe it's just the way the world is heading. Either way, if you want some resolution on the death of Captain America, you're not gonna get it here.
Let's skip right to the middle of this adventure to watch as the Black Widow is ruthlessly murdered by terrorists. This is after she's been captured and tortured by them.
So, yeah. That was a fun issue, right? Let's move on.
OK, fine. Typical flashback. Six hours ago.
We are in Marseille, France. Even though the city is far away from the action happening in Paris (Mokk, the former Grey Gargoyle, is stoning the entire population and then crushing their remains), the Fear is in control of everyone and people are trying to escape the area. It is in this city that Commander Steve Rogers sends Black Widow.
Natasha considers herself sidelined from the real action. After her boyfriend died in Fear Itself #3, she thinks that Steve Rogers wanted to get her away from the main theater because her feelings might ruin things. She thinks he needn't have bothered as she's a hardcore professional capable of doing her job no matter what personal crisis she's going through. Regardless, the situation in France is pretty serious so she isn't wasted.
The French super-hero Le Peregrine flies her in close to a church. I did a little searching to figure out what church this actually is but the image doesn't match up with any picture I've been able to pull up. Maybe it's at a different angle. Maybe the artist wasn't working from reference. Either way, it's a church and it's in trouble. Natasha tells Le Peregrine to pick her up in ten minutes. This is going to be a short job.
You can probably guess what the problem is. Terrorists! They've taken over the church and those normal citizens that have decided that this might be a good time to get their relationship with God right find themselves as hostages. Terrorists taking over a church in Marseilles probably isn't enough to call in an Avenger. We'll get there, trust me.
As far as professionalism goes in the face of a dead boyfriend, Natasha is as good as ever. Maybe a little more deadly than I'm used to seeing her but I didn't really check out her last series. Maybe she's a little more cutthroat again. She IS a spy, after all. She also has a flair for useless maneuvers...
Once she's made it into the building and killed some sentries as silently as possible, we find that her mission isn't to free the hostages at all. Sure, she'd like them rescued but the super-spy has bigger fish to fry. Radioing in to Le Peregrine that some church goers are going to need help in just a few minutes, the Widow moves on to her real objective.
This church isn't just for praying. Underneath it's holy exterior is one of many back-up Ministry of Defense Ops Centers set up just in case Paris is compromised. The people working this center are just as much hostages as the church goers. The terrorists are in control here, too, and they're looking for specific information that would require a Secret Avenger to interfere.
The leader of these villains is a minor league thug called Rapido. He has a giant gattling gun for a hand and is usually scene slugging it out with the Punisher. By "usually," I mean once or twice when the Punisher wanted to include some super-villains into his repertoire instead of just gangsters and thugs. He's fascinated by what's going on in Paris. Not "terrified." Rapido is impressed. The worldwide Fear Itself event moved up this terrorist group's plans. The chaos certainly helped things along but Rapido thinks the terrorists were more concerned that there would be nothing left when Fear Itself was done. It was "act now or you've missed your chance terrorizing the world because it's gone."
It also looks like Natasha got here too late. Rapido's men have already acquired what they came for and have sent it along to the waiting party. That means this is all about clean up and information gathering. Black Widow tosses out some special gas grenades that make the targets feel super-drunk. This will affect the hostages, too, but at least they'll live through it. Only a couple of the men get their masks on in time.
The Black Widow starts moping them up.
Back in the church, the terrorists here the Black Widow's attack and decide to kill the hostages before either escaping or helping their fellows. They get a chance to do none of that. Le Peregrine crashes through an expensive church window and takes out the bad guys before anyone gets killed.
Below, it looks like it's down to Rapido and the Widow. That gattling gun hand should have more of an effect than it does. He manages to hit everything BUT the Secret Avenger. She gets in far too close so that missing is impossible.
Now, it's just about a little torture to find out where the information they stole was being sent. Rapido looks like he'd be a tough cookie to crack so Natasha moves right on to one of the underlings. It's not long before 'Tasha gets a bead on where to head next: a specific ship in the Marseille docks. By the time she reaches the ship, Marseille is in flames. Fear is a mother.
OK, before we get any further, let's figure out what's what. These terrorists hit a redundant Ministry of Defense Ops Room to get specific information. Nuke codes. With these codes, the terrorists could fire France's nuclear arsenal at whoever they wanted. They've got the codes and it's time to be very concerned. And, really, it's only luck that the Black Widow is here at all. Roger's people almost didn't get the spec of information that led Natasha to this church.
And she's still on a spec of intel. Sure, she knows a location but doesn't know anything else. The Black Widow is going in blind. That's never a good idea. When she reaches the docks, she is able to board the ship without incident but luck isn't on her side for very long. One goon sneaks up on her and takes her prisoner.
And this leads to the beginning of our issue where she's shot in the face by her terrorist captors.
Killing the Black Widow is satisfying but it's not the end game by a long shot. With these codes, the terrorists plan on unleashing hell. The computer guy and his handler thought this was about blackmail and fear instead of killing billions. The big terrorist mumbo-jumbo says it's not about fear, it's about TERROR. This whole Fear Itself thing threatens to take headlines away from them and they can't have that. They'll launch all the nuclear missiles to show the world that they're a threat to be taken seriously.
Black Widow suddenly starts talking. Yeah... talking. It turns out that this wasn't the real Widow. This is a Life Model Decoy that Natasha sent in to take the hit for her. She mocks everyone in the room, says a witty one-liner, and then detonates, killing everyone on the ship and making certain that no one is alive with access to France's nuclear arsenal.
A safe distance away, Le Peregrine and the Black Widow look over Natasha's handiwork. Le Peregrine wonders if that wasn't overkill but the Widow isn't too concerned over the deaths of terrorists. At any rate, they just saved a lot of lives tonight.
Looking around at a burning city, the Black Widow wonders how long those lives really have.
Avengers: The Children's Crusade #6
Writer: Allan Heinberg
Penciler: Jim Cheung
In this story:
• Hey! The Scarlet Witch is still crazy! Who would have thought.
• Having returned everyone to the "present," Wanda starts up Avengers: Disassembled once more but this time the target is herself.
• Scott Lang says "hi" to Hawkeye, Jessica Jones, and the Beast at Avengers Mansion.
• Wiccan talks her mother out of killing herself.
• Beast suggests that Wanda reverse her spell to those mutants that want their powers back. X-Factor is called in and Rictor it repowered.
• The X-Men arrive. They would have words with the Scarlet Witch.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
OK, this series is starting to win me over. I still have my issues with it but we're getting to the part where I am seriously intrigued. Let me show you why that is.
Wanda Maximoff is back and she has all her memories. More than that, she's used her powers to return everyone to the present. This includes Scott Lang, who died in the original Avengers: Disassembled storyline. It's a good enough way to have someone survive their death: pull them out of the timeline JUST before they bite it.
That's about the only thing good about this first part of the issue. In every other way, Avengers: Disassembled is pretty much on replay. The sky grows red. Ultrons litter the ground in front of Avengers Mansion. Kree ships fill the sky. Through it all, the Scarlet Witch recounts the atrocities she committed during Avengers: Disassembled.
Ant-Man wasn't the only one to die during that story. Hawkeye was also killed. He got better. Clint Barton exits the Mansion with Jessica Jones and the Beast. Jessica is surprised that Wanda was found by the Young Avengers but both Beast and Hawkeye had located her in Transia before this so they both know how easy it would have been for anyone to find her. Clint also admits that he had sex with Wanda... which is ackward and he tries to move the conversation on immediately.
Helping that along is the sudden reappearance of Ant-Man. He and the Young Avengers take a LONG moment to talk about how he's back to life, how Clint is back to life, maybe they talk a little politics, catch up on old times, take in a movie HOLY DAMN THE SCARLET WITCH HAS FILLED YOUR SKIES WITH KREE AND YOUR GROUND WITH ULTRONS MAYBE YOU MIGHT WANT TO FOCUS ON THAT PEOPLE. Oh yeah. Then they remember the immenent peril they face.
They get a closer look and realize that maybe they weren't in danger after all. That totally justifies them catching up. The Ultrons and Kree aren't aiming at anyone but Wanda Maximoff. The Scarlet Witch is going to kill herself to make up for her crimes.
Well that just won't do. We still have three issues to go after this one so it would totally ruin our flow. Speed starts taking down Ultrons. Clint, after acknowledging that Kate Bishop can also keep her name as Hawkeye, gets ready to yell "Not like this! Like THIS!!!!" one more time to get rid of the Kree.
Instead, Wiccan comes up with a crazy plan to maybe talk Wanda out of killing herself. Hulkling objects to flying him up to the Scarlet Witch so Billy tries talking Stature into giant-sizing him up to his supposed mother. Cassie says she won't do it because Hulkling would be mad at her but then she does it anyway. Maybe she just wants to show off in front of her dad.
It works. Scott Lang is impressed with his daughter.
If you're wondering why Billy needs a lift, it's because he's still depowered after a run in with Doctor Doom. Stature lifts him up and he has a good old talk with his magical mother. This involves finally telling Wanda that maybe her sons aren't as dead as she thought. Their souls went on to inhabit the bodies of both Billy and his "twin brother," Speed. Now I've always taken issue with this theory because the two fifteen year olds are WAY too old to be Wanda's kids. Billy even has a birth father and mother with no signs of adoption in sight. Well, let's just say that this is all involving magic and that the two souls of Vision and Scarlet Witch's kids might have grafted themselves onto the two after they were born. Or there could be some time travel involved. I'm not sure and, really "it's magic. We don't have to explain it."
I just want you to know that even though Scarlet Witch uses magic to confirm that Billy and Tommy are her kids, that doesn't mean that they were born AFTER her twins stop living. They can No-Prize their way around that. But, yeah, Wanda DOES confirm that Wiccan and Speed are her children.
But she's also kind of crazy so take it with a grain of salt.
The skies clear up immediately and the threat is suspended for a while. Wanda greets her other son who BELIEVES that she is her mother but doesn't much care. After all, Wanda still went crazy and started Avengers: Disassembled and capped it off with a bout of House of M so there's little chance they'll be living together in one happy family. They've found her just so she can either be jailed or killed.
For that, Wanda thanks him. She knows what she did was wrong and is ready to take responsibility for her actions.
Clint Barton radios this in to Iron Man (not Captain America-- make a note). The Avengers, Wonder Man, Magneto, and Quicksilver are still an hour or so away by Quinjet. Tony tells Clint to keep everyone there by any means necessary and won't give Hawkeye any clarification on what that means. It doesn't matter. Wanda doesn't plan on escaping.
She is completely horrified by what she did and will take whatever punishment they have waiting her. She'll even let Wolverine kill her. Beast isn't to hasty to let that happen. He has reason (a lot of reason) to believe that only Wanda can reverse the "no more mutants" mandate. She could bring back the mutant population... not in full but those that want their powers back should have a right to get them. The question is: can the Scarlet Witch DO that?
And here comes X-Factor to find out. Jamie Madrox, Strong Guy, Shatterstar, and Rictor show up at the Mansion. Jessica Jones brought them here because their first objective was to discover who had taken away the former mutants' powers. They've got a lot of names of clients who want their abilities back. Multiple Man isn't in the mood to help, though. He is hard boiled enough of a private investigator to not like what the Scarlet Witch did to the mutant community and not trust her to return things to the status quo.
Besides that, her brother Quicksilver tried returning mutant abilities with Terrigen Crystals. That didn't work long term and people died in the process. Even after Wanda promises not to blow anyone up or use Terrigen Crystals, Madrox isn't in the listening mood.
So it's pretty good that he brought down a willing test subject with him. Rictor is depowered and is sick of acting as the team hostage everytime they go on a case. More than that, he misses his powers. They weren't just extra add-ons. They were a part of him. Without them, it's like missing a limb. Even though he might die and his death might even effect his relationship with Shatterstar, he decides it's worth the risk to be this issue's guinea pig.
Shatterstar is ready to kill Wanda if this doesn't work.
After a whole lotta magic goes on, Rictor is tossed across the room. The Mansion begins to shimmy and shake which everyone thinks is the magic backfiring. I guess they forgot that that is kind of Rictor's powerset.
Yep. Rictor is BACK! Woo Hoo!
This is a great success but it's by no means the end of their troubles. As Jamie Madrox says "One down... only a MILLION more to go."
That's a big number and no one knows how to find them all or how to coordinate something like repowering them. Strong Guy suggests using Cerebra. The X-Men might lend it to her.
Oh, by the way, they're outside waiting. Cyclops, Rogue, Colossus, Storm, Emma Frost, Iceman, and Gambit, to be precise.
I wonder if next issue will begin in a fight?
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciler: Don Heck
In this issue:
• Sunfire flies around New York and is picked up by Beast's mini-Cerebro unit.
• The Japanese mutant attacks the United Nations after a speech by Mr. Saburo Yoshida, "one of Japan's greatest statesmen."
• Angel, Beast, and Iceman arrive and stop the Sunfire but Hank McCoy is taken off the active duty roster until he heals from some major sunburn issues.
• Shiro Yoshida recounts his origins to his evil uncle, Tomo.
• The X-Men track Sunfire using that same mini-Cerebro unit. When they learn that it is the diplomatic car of Saburo Yoshida, the team makes a trip to Washington even after they lose Sunfire's trail.
• In Washington D.C., Sunfire threatens to destroy the Capital dome before the X-Men attack.
• After defeating Cyclops, Shiro is faced down by his own father.
• Seeing that Sunfire won't attack his dad, Tomo kills Sabura himself. That just makes the evil man Sunfire's next target.
• Shiro grieves his father's death as the policemen respectfully wait to take the mutant into custody. The X-Men slink off while no one's looking.
January 1970! The X-Men only had a couple issues left before it went into reprints. The creative team got a bit spotty at the end. While Roy Thomas was the writer of this issue, regular penciler Neal Adams took this one off, leaving Don Heck to pinch hit with regular inker, Tom Palmer to make Heck's work look better than ever before. The next issue would feature Neal Adams back on art duties but the writer would be Dennis O'Neil instead of Thomas. The "final" issue? Roy Thomas with artist Sal Buscema. Like I said, it jumped around at the end.
Anyway, January 1970 also saw Avengers #72, Fantastic Four #94, Amazing Spider-Man #80, The Mighty Thor #172, and Invincible Iron Man #21. In this issue of X-Men, our favorite mutant heroes would face off against the Japanese Sunfire, making his Mighty Marvel debut.
And there he is, posing dramatically on the opening splashpage of this issue. Like so many eventual heroes in the Marvel Universe, Sunfire starts off on a path of villainy. This guy has issues that have nothing to do with the human/ mutant thing. Sunfire is a Japanese national that has a lot of hate for the United States. Him being in New York City does not bode well.
Speaking of being in NYC, the X-Men are back to their midtown apartment that serves as their headquarters after their fight with Magneto in the Savage Land. Beast's Mini-Cerebro detects Sunfire in Manhattan and even registers the mutant as the most powerful they have on record. I wouldn't read too much into it. Cerebro is always doing that. When Banshee first showed up, Cerebro read him as more powerful than Magneto. I'm saying take that with a grain of salt.
While Beast, Angel, and Iceman begin tracking him down, Sunfire soars through the streets of New York City to his destination...
The United Nations Building!
It is in the Central Plaza that a new monument, Youth of the World, is being debuted with a speech from "Japan's greatest statesman," Mr. Saburo Yoshida. Mr. Yoshida's speech is very eloquent, wishing for peace for our future children. Needless to say, Sunfire takes issue with this peace talk.
The mutant shouts out that Mr. Yoshida is a traitor and then blasts the monument to rubble. The audience for the monument's debut goes into full panic-mode as Sunfire taunts them from the air. This makes it really easy to see what side the new mutant is on when the X-Men arrive.
Beast starts the fight by leaping on the unsuspecting mutant's back. This doesn't even slow Sunfire down and gets Hank McCoy a faceful of flames. Clutching his face, Beast drops off the villain's back and is rescued by Angel.
Not much else needs to be said about this fight. Sunfire has destroyed what he came to destroy and called traitor who he came to call traitor. He flies off, proving himself more manueverable and faster in the air than Angel.
Because all Warren can do is fly around so let's make sure he nowhere near the best at doing that.
The X-Men trio return to their NYC headquarters where they meet up with Scott and Jean who are back from their important mission of shopping. The two regret not being there to lend a hand in the battle with Sunfire and then get down to examining the injured Beast. It seems he took a nasty blow to the face that gave him an extreme case of sunburn. Hank is sidelined so that he can get a lot of rest. Maybe some aloe vera wouldn't hurt.
In another part of the city, Sunfire also returns home where he is congratulated for a job well done by his uncle, Tomo. Tomo also gives us the mutant's first name: Shiro.
Without further ado, we get straight into the flashback for our new mutant. Remember back in 1945 when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima? Well, Shiro wasn't there for that but his mother was. She was far enough away that she wasn't killed in the blast but she did die years later right after giving birth to the child who would become Sunfire. After that, Shiro's dad raised him with the help of good old uncle Tomo.
Tomo filled the kid's head full to the brim with hatred for what the Americans did to Hiroshima. He also had a crazy idea that bringing Shiro into Hiroshima and having the youth play in the dirt would somehow activate the kid's mutant abilities. Well... I guess that turned out to work. Already indoctrinated with a hatred of the United States, Shiro was trained in his mutant abilities by his evil uncle for the day when he would be able to strike back against the western oppressors. Tomo even gave the mutant a costume that would make sure that the world knew he was from Japan.
Shiro's powerset was something else. Atomic heat blasts. Flight. Later on, we learned that he could see into the infrared spectrum and was immune to radiation. For now, heat blasts and flying gave him a nice edge on his enemies. Which would be the United States.
The X-Men are spoiling for a rematch and fly around the city in their airship, trying to track the evil mutant. The Mini-Cerebro leads them right to the diplomatic vehicle occupied by Saburo Yoshida, his son, Shiro, and his brother, Tomo.
Yep, that's the connection that you probably already knew or saw coming. Sunfire is Saburo's son!
Angel tracks the Yoshidas right to the airport. While trying to figure out what plane the boarded, Warren almost gets sucked into a jet intake. He needs to be rescued by Iceman and Marvel Girl.
Oh, Warren. This just isn't your day, is it?
It doesn't really matter. The X-Men just have to look up Saburo's itinerary and they can figure out where he's going. It's Washington D.C.!
After the Yoshidas arrive at their hotel in Washington, Saburo overhears his son and brother talking about revenge on the Americans and he gives Shiro a slap. Saburo doesn't think holding a grudge does anyone any good and he's disappointed that his son never picked up that lesson from him. Shiro could lash out right now and teach his dad to leave him alone but his loyalty to his own culture makes that a taboo. He just grits his teeth, hoping that his father will change opinions in time.
The X-Men arrive in Washington D.C. as well and wait around for Saburo's next speech. This is at the Capital Building. The X-Men mingle with the crowd, keeping a watchful eye on the Yoshidas.
Sabura is keeping that same watchful eye on his son. When Shiro is changing into his Sunfire costume, Saburo walks in and yells at him for his actions. This time, Sunfire is moved to strike his dad into unconsciousness. Uncle Tomo cheers this on, saying that he'll watch over Saburo until Sunfire's mission is accomplished.
And just what is that mission? Sunfire plans on blasting the Capital Dome. That... that sounds kind of familiar... Well, this time around, it's the X-Men that leap up to save the day.
Angel and Iceman attack and are swiftly defeated. Cyclops orders Marvel Girl to stay out of this one but... maybe she can levitate him up to the Capital Dome before she sits this one out? Please? Well, it looks like Jean is willing to follow orders today even if they are on the male chauvenist side.
Meanwhile, the people in the Capital Building panic. Part of that is because of Sunfire attacking the Dome. The other part is that the X-Men are defending them. Neither of those things sounds particularly pleasant to the normals.
Sunfire's blast to the Capital Dome is countered by Scott's optic blasts. When Sunfire moves in close, Cyclops tries a lunge at his opponent. This proves unbelievably stupid since leaping off the Capital Dome is hardly ever a good idea. Also: Sunfire counters him with some degree of quickness.
Marvel Girl saves her man from what could be a killing blow and then gently lowers Scott Summers to the ground. While that's good for the X-Men's leader, it's bad for the Capital Dome. Shiro flies close to try destroying it again.
This time, he finds his father on it and in his way. Saburo Yoshida finally tells his son that Uncle Tomo is bitter and probably insane and maybe having that guy help raise a young impressionable man was a bad idea. Well, this is responsibility time. Sabura declares that he isn't moving. If Sunfire wants to destroy the Capital Dome, it'll be through him.
This gets Sunfire to pause. He doesn't want to kill his dad but he REALLY wants to destroy that dome. What to do, what to do?
Uncle Tomo decides to be helpful and kill Saburo with a gun so that Shiro won't have to commit patricide. As Saburo's body falls from the Dome, Shiro Yoshida lashes out with a plasma blast at his hate-filled uncle.
On the ground, Saburo gives his son some advice on his deathbed: give up the hate, be a hero, and help forge a peaceful future. The police are on the scene but they know when they should just step back and let a man grieve. They give Shiro this courtesy... though they wait around to take him into custody when he's done.
The X-Men, knowing there's nothing else they can do, leave before they get the blame for the whole thing.
Sunfire's adventures were only just beginning. As the premiere Japanese hero, Sunfire got several guest appearances before becoming a member of the All-New, All-Different X-Men for about fifteen minutes. He again went off to being guest star material for the next couple decades. In recent history, Sunfire lost his legs in a battle with Lady Deathstrike. Again, it didn't last long. Shiro was taken by Apocalpyse and made into the Horseman, Famine, complete with a very Age of Apocalypse version of his costume. Even after his time as a Horseman was up, Sunfire didn't return to the path of sunshine and rainbows. Instead, he joined Mister Sinister's Marauders. The last we saw of him was in battle over the baby, Hope, during Messiah Complex.
Whether he returns as a hero or as a villain remains to be seen.
Is that enough for now? Good, because we are done! I hope you enjoyed yourselves. We'll be back again almost before you can blink!
As a special, insane treat, here's a reading map for Fear Itself for the first three months. Don't be too scared.
Until next time: Excelsior!
Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX