Tuesday, April 24, 2018 • Morning Edition • "Ban Herald ASAP!"

Super Reads 150

Written by SuperginraiX on Friday, September 02 2011 and posted in Features
Valkyrie Confusion BEGINS!The big one-five-oh!

Today, we check out Fear Itself #4, Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #3, Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1, Fear Itself: Wolverine #1, Thunderbolts #160, Uncanny X-Men #540, Heroes for Hire #10, and Blast to the Past for The Incredible Hulk #'s 125 & 126, and Defenders #3.  Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!

Super Reads 150
Yeah, that's a lot of comics.  I say that a lot and it's usually true.

Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Heroic Age and beyond?  Check no further than this link right HERE.

Are you ready for the Avengers Trinity to get back together like they do in every mega-event?  Good.  Because here they go.

Fear Itself #4Fear Itself #4
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Stuart Immonen

In this issue:

• Thor is teleported to Broxton and gets told off by the population.

• James Barnes is shown so no one can doubt that he's dead.  Thor shows up.  Steve Rogers puts on the Cap suit, sans cowl.  Information is shared and plans are made.

• The Serpent gets enough Fear power to build up his castle in the Antarctic.

• Thor flies to Antarctica.  Iron Man heads over to Oklahoma.  Captain America leads the defense of New York City.

• Iron Man summons Odin by getting drunk.

• Cap faces off against Skadi.

• After confronting the Serpent and learning that he's Odin's older brother, Thor is teleported to New York where Nul and Angir are waiting for him.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

Last issue, Odin used his Odinforce abilities to send his son back to Earth.  He even gave Thor back the hammer, Mjolnir.  In this issue, hammer and thunder god drop out of the teleporting vortex and slam unceremoniously down in Oklahoma.  Thor gathers up his things and flies on towards Broxton.

The people of Broxton have been affected by the Fear just like everyone else.  The men have gone all militia happy and stand on the road entering town (there's probably another party on the other end of the road), barricading it with vehicles and guarding it with their guns.  When they see the god of Thunder they call him down... so they can tell him to leave.

Rick, who showed up in Fear Itself #1, tries telling Thor what's happening around the world but the leader of this mob quiets him.  The Asgardian is not welcome anymore.

And that's how Thor said good-bye to Broxton, Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, Fear is spreading.  All around the world.  The Serpent speaks to his Worthy, ordering them to spread more fear.  More terror.  More brutality.  The big plan is to scare people so much that they start brutalizing EACH OTHER and perpetuating the Fear.

On the other end of the equation, Odin, All-Father of Asgard, gives a speech to his own followers.  Asgard is prepping for war.  While Odin doesn't claim to understand the Serpent or the Worthy, he does get that they are NOT waging war.  The Worthy's goal is no less than terror and death.  Earth can't stand against him and all they do is FEED the Serpent more power.  That's why the planet must be destroyed.

While both of them are talking, we flash over to several locations to show that the world is in trouble.  In San Francisco, the X-Men have engaged Kuurth, Breaker of Stone (you may know him as the Juggernaut).  Mokk, Breaker of Faiths, (Grey Gargoyle) has stoned and crushed much of Paris.  Illinois sees a grocery store riot.  In China, Iron Fist uses his fist like unto a thing of iron to warm refugees.  Helicopters open fire on Nul, Breaker of Worlds, (the Incredible Hulk) as he leaps his way to New York City.  And in NYC, making their way to Manhattan, Skadi (Sin) leads her Nazi mechs.

To make matters even worse, Captain America is dead.

Fury's just here to remind us that this isn't an Life Model Decoy.  Or maybe he's here to heavily hint that it IS.

I had told myself that James Buchanan Barnes wouldn't be dead until I saw his body.  Well, there it is.  There's little doubt he's dead.  MAYBE it's an LMD but I don't think so.  You'll see that Nick Fury is making an appearance.  So is Black Widow and Iron Man.  Natasha was in Washington D.C. when her boyfriend died.  Iron Man is fresh back from Paris after Invincible Iron Man #505.

Widow is showing more anger here than she did the entire length of her one-shot (which happens AFTER her appearance here, if you're keeping score-- and I am).  She chews out both Fury and Stark for knowing nothing about the Serpent.  Thor enters the room to give us a little backstory.

Here's what we know.  Odin has been aware of the Serpent for pretty much ever.  The two have some back history that is SO long winded that Odin would have wasted too much time telling anyone what it is.  Oh, since fear is feeding the Serpent power, Odin plans on killing everyone on Earth.  Fury seems to think this is a sound if terrible strategy.

Thor and Iron Man catch up.  Tony hasn't washed out the armor since he threw up in his helmet in Paris and it reeks.  Stark's chest battery is still cracked.  While the Avengers chat, Fury gives Natasha a hug.  Afterward, he tells the two members of the Avengers Trinity to collect their third and go out to save the world.

Steve Rogers is America's Top Cop.  Last issue, he jumped out of the Quincarrier during the siege of Washington D.C., effectively abandoning his post.  It seemed that maybe we would see him fighting in the capital or maybe he was out gathering more troops that were off the grid.  No one knows because that thread was never picked up on.  In Roger's absence, Washington D.C. was devastated and his former partner, James Barnes, died in the Captain America suit.

That cleared the way for Steve to return to being Captain America.  Now, the reason he gave Bucky the suit in the first place was in an attempt to save Barnes from death at the hands of what look like Martian Walkers.  They were seen in Steve's vision of the future at the end of Captain America Reborn #6.  In that vision, James Barnes was back to being the Winter Soldier.  Making Bucky Captain America was a try at altering that future.  Well, it's been changed but not for the better.

So now, Rogers stares down at the Captain America cowl, probably thinking about all of this.  Pondering time is over.  It's time to get back in the thick of things.

Every recent event (besides Civil War for obvious reasons) has that moment where all three members of the Avengers Trinity stand together against a common threat.  It usually happens late in the game as a rally point.  I'm certain we're going to get it AGAIN before the end of this series but it's interesting to see the three Avengers together at the middle point.

Plans are made.  Iron Man is sent out to make weapons that will stand up against the Worthy's weapons.  After relating a cryptic prophesy about the Serpent where he is supposed to die facing him, Thor is sent to get some intel from the evil All-Father himself.  Steve figures the Serpent has also heard this prophesy and won't likely want to fight the person who can kill him.  Before they can take off, Maria Hill calls Steve back to look at something.

Let's skip over to Salmon Arm, British Columbia where a poor kid is fishing in the wrong ocean.  That's because it's about to be filled with the bodies of dead Atlanteans.  Nerkkod, Breaker of Oceans (Attuma), is fighting an army and winning.  The kid justifiably panics and runs to shore to get his father.

In the Antarctic, this act seems to be the one that pushes the fear over the edge and REALLY charges up the Serpent.  His staff glows as he's filled with power.  From the ground, more followers of the Serpent rise up to join him.

The Serpent's staff becomes a gigantic hammer.  Striking the ground, the evil All-Father charges up his fortress, raising it up in place of the Thule Base where Skadi's hammer was stored.  Around the world, the Worthy sense this growth in power.

Yep.  Things just got even worse.

I think it's probably the energy discharge that got Maria's attention and made her call in Commander Rogers.  Well, our heroes now know the increased scope of the conflict.  They are off to try and make things better.  You'll notice that as they all leap out of the quincarrier (which is becoming a thing for Steve), Captain America isn't wearing the cowl.  Instead, Rogers is wearing a helmet that doesn't match his gear, especially his parachute.  Cap is also using a combat rifle instead of the shield so maybe not wearing the cowl is indicative of nothing.  I'm still going to put it down in the "morning Bucky" department.

Thor soars off to Antartica.  Iron Man flies to Broxton.  Captain America drops in on Manhattan.

Subtlety has never been Cap's strong point.

Alright, the Trinity stories mix around from here on out but I'm just going to tell them all the way through, separately.  First up is Captain America (because I feel like telling his story first).  He lands in Manhattan with precision, right next to a gathering of Avengers (Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Mockingbird, Spider-Woman, and Jessica Jones).  Steve's already firing his gun into the bad guys.

From a rooftop, Skadi looks down and thinks she's the luckiest girl in the world.  She's going to get to kill two Captain Americas.  The former Sin hits the ground, smashing her hammer down and scattering the Avengers.  She only has eyes for Steve Rogers.

Iron Man flies right past Broxton (and it's angry citizens) on his way to the ruins of Asgard.  It is here that the Worldtree, Yggdrasil, is visible.  Tony Stark shouts up curses at Odin in an irreverent manner.  This is his way of summoning the All-Father.

Since Tony doesn't have a lot left, he decides to sacrifice one of the few things he's got.  Taking a drink from the bottle of Merlot gifted to him by Justine Hammer (which is called "Demon in a Bottle" in French-- clever), Stark takes a swig.  His sacrifice is his sobriety.

And, yes, I'm groaning.  I never, ever need to read another "Tony Stark is drunk off his mind story."  I guess I'm alone in that thought.

Anyway, it's enough to get Odin's attention.  He shows up for a little chat with the drunken Golden Avenger.

And that means we're down to the thunder god.  Thor flies right up to the Serpent's castle in the Antarctic and fights through the big guy's welcoming crew.  These are minions and no self respecting hero gets trounced by guys like this.  After Thor has taken care of them, he swaggers inside for a talk with the evil All-Father.

The Serpent is looking pretty good.  No longer is he the old man that was rescued in issue one.  His hair is jet black and his armor actually fits him now.  We also pick up even more of the Serpent's backstory.  It turns out that he's the older brother of Odin and should rightfully be the All-Father.  It looks like Odin stole it.  That... that is one messed up family.

We also get a good listen in on that prophesy that predicts that Thor will sacrifice his life in defeating the Serpent.

"Nine paces fares the son of Odin, and, slain by the Serpent, fearless he sinks."

So, really, that doesn't sound like Thor KILLS the Serpent.  It sounds like he just dies.  Maybe I'm misinterpreting the prophesy.  Whatever the case, the Serpent offers his nephew a team-up which is, of course, refused.  Before Thor can throw down on his uncle, the Serpent sends the thunder god on another teleport ride.

This time, Thor hits the ground in New York City.  There's another welcome party waiting for him but it's not minions this time.  It's Nul (Hulk) and Angir, Breaker of Souls (Thing).  It looks like Nul completed his intercontenental treck just for this big battle.

It's on.

Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #3Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #3
Writer: Sean McKeever
Artist: Mike Norton

In this story:

• Hardball goes over his own history before the Heavy Hitters meet Kuurth (Juggernaut).

• Nothing stops Kuurth.

• Prodigy tries to get Gravity back on the field.  Failure.

• The two guys who were torturing Thor Girl last issue are put inside Tarene's cell.  They weren't working for Prodigy if that wasn't obvious.

• Hardball knocks Kuurth over much of Las Vegas so that the former Juggernaut can play in an inhabited area.

• Thor Girl and Cloud 9 are confronted by the Liberteens.  They escape.

• After the LV tunnels are evacuated as much as possible, Hardball uses his powers to cause a cave-in.  This doesn't stop Kuurth, of course, but he DOES emerge outside the city.

• Hardball looks kind of dead.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

This is the week Kuurth, Breaker of Stone, gets around.  The former Juggernaut shows up in this book (Las Vegas), Fear Itself #4 & Uncanny X-Men #540 (San Francisco), and Thunderbolts #160 (Chicago).  I'm putting those appearances completely out of order by doing this comic first.  That's OK.  His appearance HERE is out of order considering that Speedball already confronted him in Salem, Missouri (Fear Itself: The Home Front #3) which would be after the T-Bolts' showdown in Chicago.  The final destination is San Fran to draw the X-Men into this event.  That's all you need to know.

I've also worked out a map of his cross-country trek because I'm THAT guy.  I like my charts, graphs, and maps.  I once charted out every X-Man's appearance in Uncanny and adjective-less X-Men.  My wife still married me.  Everyone feel sorry for her now.

So a Fear Itself charged Juggernaut is heading towards the big city of Las Vegas and all that stands between him and a lot of deaths is Hardball's team, the Heavy Hitters.  The group is comprised of Telemetry, Rage, Nonstop, and Debrii.  For extra team-up action, Komodo is here though she's not really a member of this team.

You want a sure sign that something bad is going to happen to a character?  It's when the first page of a comic is devoted to their story.  Last issue, Thor Girl got this treatment before being arrested for having a hammer (yes, it's that kind of event).  This issue, Hardball goes under the microscope.  Roger Brokeridge got his first appearance in Avengers: The Initiative #1.  He was one of the first recruits for the Initiative training program.  Not all was rosy in his world, though.  His brother had gotten powers from a dude called the Powerbroker and competed in super-human wrestling matches.  These matches helped his family pay for nice things right up until he was paralyzed during one of them.

So that's tragic but it gets worse before it gets better.  Roger went to confront the Powerbroker and ended up making his own deal for super-powers instead.  This ended up with the newly-christened Hardball going to Camp Hammond as a double-agent for Hydra (they bought Roger's contract from the Broker).  Hardball wasn't discovered until his training was over and he was placed in the Heavy Hitters team under Gravity's leadership.  Then, things blew up.  Hardball ended up leaving with technology that could take away someone's powers.

His ex-girlfriend, Komodo, hooked up with the Shadow Initiative to take down Hardball and a group of Hydra Agents in Madripoor.  Things went south for the Shadow team but with some assistance from Hardball (who wasn't really as bad as he was pretending to be), the tech was recovered and Roger ended up captured.  He was sent to Prison 42 in the Negative Zone just before it was taken over by Blastaar's Negative Zone army.

Still with me?  Good.  When the Initiative retook the prison, Hardball worked with the Initiative when the battle goes down and was exonerated for his actions.  From that point on, he is back on the side of truth, justice, and the American way, even making up with Komodo right at the end of Dark Reign.  Most of this was covered in previous Super Reads in incredible detail.

This one page is a lot less detailed than what I just laid down.  It's my gift.  It's my curse.  It DOES add a scene from Avengers Academy #13 where he and Komodo reconnect at the Academy's Prom.

And now we're back in Las Vegas in what we'll call the present for lack of a better term.  Out team of Heavy Hitters has done all they can to make ready for Kuurth's arrival.  People have been cleared out of the way.  Plans have been made.  None of it is enough.  If Juggernaut was unstoppable before, now he's just ridiculous.

Here's your short play-by-play.  Nonstop gives Kuurth a run but finds that the Worthy can run faster than she can.  Debrii drops the former Juggernaut into a pit only to have Kuurth burst out of the ground right next to them.  Nothing is working.  The Heavy Hitters wait for Hardball to give them better orders.

And we move out of Nevada and head over to Wisconsin.  Last issue, Gravity was shot in the chest by Crossbones.  It didn't take.  Greg Willis is still walking but he's bandaged up after that fight so injuries DID happen.  He didn't get the worst of it.  His teammate, Geiger, jumped on a live grenade to save the rest of the team.  Since she had Doc Samson-like powers, she didn't die.  Gravity still took it hard.

Which is why he went home.  Willis doesn't really seem up to the hero life anymore.  Young Allies saw him ponder a more extreme approach to crime fighting and Onslaught Unleashed left him with the death of an ally (Rikki Barnes) to deal with.  Gravity was ready to call it quits BEFORE Fear Itself broke out.  This event just pushed the right buttons to make him head back home and listen to Bible shows on the radio.

If you take all that into account, you know that Prodigy's call to get Greg back in the field won't work no matter how inspiring the speech.  Gravity has given up.  For now, at least.  We've still got a few issues to go.

Prodigy has a lot more to deal with, anyway.  Last issue (it's a theme), Thor Girl surrendered to him in front of cameras.  This was supposed to be "just for show" because he didn't actually believe that Tarene was a danger to anyone.  Still, it was made to look legit for anyone that looked.  Thor Girl was kept in a pretty stark cell.  When no one was looking, some guys actually started interrogating her like she was ACTUALLY part of the problem.  Cloud 9 freed her at the end of the last issue.

All of this leaves questions for Prodigy.  He definitely didn't order Tarene's questioning.  Gilmore has the two that thought a little torture mixed with interrogation would be a good idea and he demands that they tell him who they are and who they work for.  Our two little bastards aren't talking.  In fact, they're smug, considering their position.  Right now, they are inside the same cell that once held Thor Girl.

They tell Prodigy to release them or face treason charges.  Instead, Richard Gilmore basically gives them the finger and gets back to work.

In Las Vegas, Kuurth is breaking things and nothing the Heavy Hitters do is stopping him.  "Unstoppable."  Hardball comes to the same conclusion that Speedball did.  If Kuurth is unstoppable, speed up his journey through the city.  In FI: The Home Front #3, that led to the former Juggernaut turning around and sending a wave of destruction back through the city.  Let's see if Roger has better luck.

Nope.  In fact, Hardball's boost doesn't even get the Worthy out of the city.  When Nonstop checks on Kuurth's location, she comes back to tell Brokeridge that things just got worse.

Before we learn just what that means, we slip over to Philly where Cloud 9 and Thor Girl have just defeated a villain known as Quicksand.  Cloud 9's plan is to prove Tarene's innocence through good deeds.  This is admirable but people are still going to freak out about her hammer.  Oh, also: good guys will hunt her down for breaking out of jail.

This time around, it's the Liberteens (Iceberg, Ms. America, 2-D, Hope, and Blue Eagle).  They have orders from Prodigy to return Thor Girl to her cell "for her own good."  Abby (Cloud 9) is also wanted for breaking Tarene out.  No talking is going to do any good here.  Thor Girl tosses her hammer, knocking Ms. Marvel down.  The two get out while the getting's good.

The Liberteens lose interest as soon as Thor Girl and Cloud 9 take to the sky.  They have more important things to do than go after fellow heroes.

Back in Las Vegas, we learn that Kuurth has hit the Storm Drains.  The reason this is bad is because they're filled with homeless people.  When the Heavy Hitters arrive, some people are already dead or injured.  Even worse, some of those homeless people?  They don't want to leave.

Even worse than that?  The Heavy Hitters are followed by a news crew that asks them for a sound bite RIGHT in the middle of fighting.  The reporter likens her position to that of an overseas reporter, possibly in a warzone.  The problem with that is that those reporters probably have the good sense not to interview soldiers while they're engaging the enemy.

As always, the powered up Juggernaut is unstoppable.  Rage and Debrii do their best to distract the big guy while Komodo leads evacuation efforts.  Time is running out, probably.  Hardball orders his team to retreat.  If they can't force the people to leave, well, at least they tried.

With that done, Roger Brokeridge faces Kuurth alone.

Keep it classy, Super.

Hardball grows his ball so big that it fills the tunnel.  Komodo tries to grab one of the more stubborn occupants on her way out but Telemetry pulls her away.  News footage fails as the storm drain collapes.  Or whatever it does.

This is watched by the Liberteens, Cloud 9, Thor Girl, Greg Willis, and Prodigy at their respective locations.

As we all know, it's not enough.  The Worthy digs himself out and heads on over to San Fran.  At least for Las Vegas, the worst is over with.

In the wreckage, we see the limp, bloody hand of Hardball above the wreckage.  I'm guessing death but next issue will tell us for sure.

Fear Itself:Wolverine #1Fear Itself:Wolverine #1
Writer: Seth Peck
Artist: Roland Boschi

In this issue:

• STRIKE steals the Prometheus, Norman Osborn's last and most powerful helicarrier.

• Wolverine defeats Scarecrow on the streets of New York.  Steve calls him through his girlfriend (Melita Garner) and tells him to retake the helicarrier.

• Melita heads back to Avengers Tower to dig up informations using Logan's Access Card.

• STRIKE's leader changes the helicarrier's path to fly right into NYC.  When it gets there, it's dangling the soldiers and scientists that stood against the infiltrators.  Wolverine makes his way on board.

• Melita starts digging up intel on STRIKE using one of Tony Starks wise-ass computers.

• Wolverine fights two of the STRIKE force, Croydon and Brom.  Brom sneaks up on the Canucklehead and stabs him through with an energy sword.

• Garner learns that the helicarrier is armed with nukes.

Housekeeping first.  The issue takes place rather early on in the Fear Itself event.  It's something to keep in mind since Wolverine is also playing with X-Force later on during Fear Itself.  At this stage in the game, New York isn't under attack.  Ben Grimm probably hasn't picked up his hammer yet.  Avengers Tower has yet to topple.  Things are nuts but they haven't reached fever pitch just yet.

In an undisclosed military location in the Sonoran desert, Norman Osborn's last and most mighty helicarrier rests.  This is the Prometheus, the final tribute to Osborn's short but insane tenure as America's top cop.  The helicarrier is pretty much one giant death trap, loaded with ways to kill anyone working on decommissioning it.  That's what they say, at least.  For our purposes, those death traps and tricky situations don't seem to play into the story beyond a sound bite in the beginning.  Whatever the case, the Prometheus is an awesome helicarrier that was never used because it was completed just as the Siege of Asgard happened.  When Commander Rogers took over, the Prometheus was supposed to be scrapped.  Enter: death traps.

Anyway, it's about to be used.  A terrorist team known as STRIKE is infiltrating this military hangar and subduing anyone in their path.

So now I have to explain who STRIKE is.  STRIKE was British intelligence's Counter Terrorist division until they went rogue and disappeared.  Do you know how many evil organizations pop up in Marvel's British government?  They sprout evil but official groups all the time.

So now we know where the plot is leading.  Let's see how it involves everyone's favorite Canucklehead.  In New York City, no Worthy has arrived to ruin everything but the Fear is all over the place.  It's also a good chance to give fear based villains a spotlight.  For this issue: the Scarecrow.

He's your basic minor league bad guy.  First showing up in an Iron Man story (Tales of Suspense #51), Marvel's Scarecrow (Ebenezer Laughton) had the ability to contort his body into odd shapes and controls a murder of crows.  I guess he also has the ability to induce fear in others, because why should DC's Scarecrow be special?

Standing in Scarecrow's way of being chief fearmonger (until a decent Worthy can show up) is the Wolverine.  Logan's not going to be too bothered by someone like this even if he does toss a pitchfork through his back.  For payback, Wolverine stabs the Scarecrow in the back with those claws of his.  This just makes Ebenezer laugh while slumped over in pain.  For the coup de grace, Logan pops a smoke grenade (or maybe a tear gas grenade) into Scarecrow's mask.  That looks to have ended this.

Once the bad guy is down, Wolverine is congratulated by his girlfriend, Melita Garner.  I'm like the last person to find out that Logan was seeing someone.  This is what I get for dropping Wolverine a couple years back.

I still can't believe Wolverine is dating.  She looks like such a random.

Melita's an unemployed reporter using the internet to keep on reporting.  Being right in the middle of the action is getter her some massive hits so, yay, I guess.  All of this flies over Logan's head but he likes that Melita is happy.

Wolverine gets a call from Commander Rogers.  It's on Melita's cell phone.  We can guess what it's about.  STRIKE.  Helicarrier.  Wolverine is the only Avenger close enough to respond... even though Sonoran Desert is on the West Coast.  We all know where it's heading and how no one else is hanging out in NYC.  The point is, it's action time.  When the helicarrier reaches New York, I mean.

That means there's plenty of time for Melita and Logan to argue about something inane.  It just proves they love each other!  Melita's grand idea is to go on this mission with Wolverine.  Of course, he says no.  Garner wants to know why and instead of saying that he works better solo and that this is a combat situation that she'd only be getting in the way of, Wolverine tells her that it's because she's a reporter and that she'll scare people with all of her fear mongering.

That just escalates things and it ends up being more about free speech than the fact that Avengers shouldn't be bringing their girlfriends on missions.  To make up for it, Wolverine give Melita his Avengers Access Card and tells her to hit up Avengers Mansion and dig around for information on STRIKE.  That's one way of getting out of a stupid fight.  The two hug it out and then split up to do their jobs.

Writing 101: ALWAYS INTRODUCE YOUR CHARACTERS.  I shouldn't be looking at our list of bad guys and not have any idea who anyone is.  That's just poor form.  Some of them get introduced through the text, which is nice.  The main bad guy?  The dude leading STRIKE on this mission?  No one calls him by name.  I couldn't tell you who he is.  He's the bald guy with a goatee.  I will call him Billy-Bob.

I CAN tell you the name of the blonde one with blue skin.  That's Warren Worthington, right?  No, I'm kidding.  That's Brom.  Keep an eye on him.  He's INTERESTING.  The cyber tech who took over the Prometheus?  That's Mr. Bexley.  That dude with the lines on his forehead?  Croydon.  Billy-Bob is the only guy who's so important no one uses his name.

Brom tells Billy-Bob that they ran up against thirty-six soldiers and scientists on the Prometheus.  They're all prisoners now.  It's then that Billy-Bob tells his crew that STRIKE has altered their plans.  They're taking the helicarrier to... NEW YORK!  I know!  I was as surprised as you.

The other members of STRIKE aren't incredibly happy about this alteration what with New York being the home of every super-hero but Billy-Bob tells them that STRIKE is making it worth their while.  Only Brom still has misgivings but he's not in charge so it doesn't matter much.  In one hour, they'll be in New York.

Before they get there, Billy-Bob has something to do...

We all count down that hour before getting back to the story.  While this has given Wolverine ample time to find a cool way to board the Prometheus, he's just climbed to the top of a building, hoping that the helicarrier will fly close enough that he can just leap over to it.  Yes, that's his plan.  It's pure genius.

It works, of course.  I mean, if it didn't work, we'd have to waste even more time watching him get aboard. I'd let that happen just so I could laugh at Logan for the whole roof thing.  Anyway, Wolverine claws his way up the Prometheus and we get a nice wide view of the helicarrier...

You know what Billy-Bob did with his hour?  He strung up his thirty-six prisoners and hung them from the bottom of the helicarrier.  That's a special level of twisted.

Remember Melita Garner?  Me neither!  She's back at Avengers Tower.  With Logan's Access Card, Garner has clearance to use Tony Stark's massive computer.  Just imagine this thing talking like Jarvis from the movie and you'll be fine.  The comp knows who she is but still allows her access to all its secret files and origins.  It gives her more information about STRIKE than is available to the public which still isn't much.

Meanwhile, Wolverine is breaking into the Helicarrier.  He doesn't encounter any death traps.  The only real problem Logan has is that there's not one of those "You are here" maps to tell him which way to go.  You can only get so far with a superior sense of smell.

It's far enough to run into some STRIKE goons.  Croydon pointing a gun on Wolverine and telling the mutant not to move.  Logan goes right to the well and delivers a variation of his Clint Eastwood routine.  To my surprise, Croydon is just the bright and shiny thing to get Wolverine's attention so that someone else can sneak up on our hero.

That someone is Brom.  The blue guy with blonde hair.  He has an energy sword.  Right now, it's run right through Wolverine.  In his other hand, Brom has a gun.  You can never be too careful when dealing with Logan.

In Avengers Tower, Melita has just figured out why some terrorists having a stolen helicarrier is such a big deal... I mean besides just terrorists with a helicarrier.  It's because the Prometheus is equipped with a nuclear warhead.

Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #1
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Simone Bianchi

In this issue:

• Random super-hero captured, airport bombings, Deadpool talking to stuffed animal reporters.  Good times.

• Oh yeah, Fear Itself is also in full effect.

• Archangel and Wolverine look into the airport bombing after they learn that the bomber shouted "Purify!" before blowing himself up.

• Psylocke and Fantomex take a a Purifier prisoner.  Let the extreme interrogation begin!

• When they get a name, we skip on over to Jonathan Standish.  He's a religious nutball who just wants everyone to kill themselves to save them from the threat of Fear Itself!  It's perfectly... crazy.

• X-Force attacks Fort Carroll in Baltimore.  This is a Purifier base.  It's also the wrong way.

• Standish kills the super-hero so that the world will kill themselves.

I'm not one to complain but... well, actually I am one to complain.  I do it a lot, especially when I read a whole lot of bad comics.  This isn't a "bad comic" thing.  It's mostly just a minor quibble.  You see, terrorism.  In comics, there are only a few reasons you'd resort to terrorism.  The main one is just being geniunely evil.  These guys don't get much more motivation than that they want to cause misery and pain.  For a while after 9-11, there were Muslim terrorists running around in comics like Captain America.  This couldn't last because it wasn't a good precedent to set.  I mean, if you depict Muslims as terrorists, you might as well say we blame every Muslim for 9-11 so it was quickly dropped.  That left most other terrorists to be... Christians.

I'm sure if we sat down and thought about it, we could name a number of Christian super-heroes.  Not heroes that focus on their Christianity, just ones that happen to be Christian.  Daredevil?  He's still alive, right?  Nightcrawler until he was killed.  Firebird.  Wolfsbane.  They exist.  They're heroes.  They might attend church when they aren't saving us from bad guys.  They are outnumbered by the Purifiers, a terrorist group that believes that mutants go against the will of God.

Now, I'm not against Christian villains.  There's definitely some territory to be mined there and there ARE some crazy Christians out there.  I'm just saying that maybe they shouldn't show up every month for the last five years.  The Purifiers don't go away.  They don't get more interesting.  The plot doesn't get more detailed.  It's the same thing just more frustrating every time.

So... we open up with an unknown super-hero with a bandage over his eyes.  No explanation on that just yet.  Let's move on to an airport where a suicide bomber blows the place sky high after shouting "Purify!"

And then, we move to whatever X-Force is using as a headquarters.  Deadpool is sitting down and giving an interview, describing what we just saw and then going into detail about what X-Force is.  You don't know?  The current version of X-Force is the black ops X-Men squad.  They do the dirty work to keep the rest of the mutant community clean.  That means lots of killing.  For a while, it was sanctioned by the mutant leader, Cyclops.  When Hope joined the mutants on Utopia, Scott told Wolverine to disband the team.  Guess who didn't listen?

When Wolverine and Archangel walk in on DP, they find him giving his interview to two stuffed animals.  It's good to be insane.

Warren and Logan move on to discuss the airport bombing.  "Purify" has a special meaning to the mutant community because it means Purifiers.  They don't know of any mutants killed at the airport, though, so it doesn't fit the usual Purifier pattern.  That super-hero with the bandage over his eyes?  That's an internet sensation.  The hero is tied to a chair and no one knows why... though the guesses are pretty good.  It looks like it's going to be an execution.

This scene also places this story in continuity.  It takes place AFTER Fear Itself: Deadpool and Fear Itself: Wolverine.  The Worthy are all running amok around the world.  Now, FI: Deadpool is sort of wishy-washy on when it happens but since it was released BEFORE this comic, I'm just putting it before.  It's a throwaway DP story so I don't think it matters too much.  It just makes me able to sleep at night.

Our scene shifts to New York where some of New York's best and richest have an End of the World party.  Wolverine's "government contacts" has found a Purifier among them.  Benedict Ryan.  He does his mutant hating in secret and just complains about other stuff as a news pundit and author.  When confronted by Psylocke and Fantomex, Ryan freaks out.  Not because he's been caught.  It's because the muties might TOUCH him.

In fact, Benny's so terrified that he leaps off the building to his death to avoid contamination.  Fantomex saves him with Eva.  Reluctantly.

Benedict is brought back to X-Force Base, strapped to a table, and then threatened with torture.  When Ryan calls Wolverine on the torture thing, Logan turns him over to Betsy and her psychic knife.  Rather than be violated by the mutant power, Benedict gives them a name.  "Standish."

For a good, pure, psycho Christian, Jonathan Standish has a lot of non-Christian stuff going on in his room.  It's very... oriental.  Maybe it's a front.  Maybe it doesn't matter.  Standish is watching his television and sees four of the Worthy come together... somewhere.  On the monitor is Greithoth (Absorbing Man), Skirn (Titania), Nul (Hulk), Kuurth (Juggernaut), and Angir (Thing).  Behind them are what looks like Greek ruins.  Maybe the Worthy took a vacation?  Again, maybe it doesn't matter.

After all that prime time Fear, Standish feels like killing himself.  He even puts a gun to his head.  He'd love to end it and join God in Heaven but there's work to do.

OK.  Explanations.  Jonathan Standish is part of a splinter group of the Purifiers that has expanded their list of earthly devils beyond just mutants to the super-human community.  All of 'em.  He sees the Worthy as the Devil's play to collect souls from entering Heaven and believes the only answer is to kill people BEFORE the Worthy can do it.

He walks into the back room and immediately becomes the best dressed member of his insane cult.  He's also the least cyborg.  This is where that unknown super-hero is being held with a camera constantly filming him.  It looks like Jonathan is planning on using that gun on someone else...

The Purifiers hold a base on Fort Carrol in Baltimore.  X-Force infiltrates the base with ease.  Once they are inside, the team barricades the exit and starts slicing their way through Purifiers.  Some of them might use guns.

On the original, uncut image, this is even more hilarious.

This isn't the right base.  That means someone is going to have to be questioned.  Wolverine finds a Purifier and does the whole "two claws on either sides of your neck... don't make me pop the third claw" thing.  The Purifier is loose with info.  Standish is part of a splinter cult.  We don't know where they are.  They're crazy because they think all super-humans are evil incarnate.

Even after being so open with information, the Purifier still gets the third claw.

I... I wonder what Wolverine does after killing a bunch of humans.  I mean how does he cover it up?  X-Force is a covert group but they kill people in a way that they're basically leaving a signature that they've done it.  Do they burn the bodies?  Is there a clean-up crew Logan can call in?  It's a mystery to me.

OK.  Internet time.  People have been wondering what was going to happen to that poor super-hero tied to a chair.  Now, we learn.  Standish gets on camera with his victim and relates to his followers and the curious his thoughts on super-humans and the joys of killing yourself to get to heaven.  In fact, he makes that a mandate.  Kill yourself, your family, your friends.  Not in that order or you won't get the last two done.  Save people.  With death.

Then, instead of being a good example and killing himself first like a good little cult leader, Standish shoots the super-human.

Thunderbolts #160Thunderbolts #160
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Declan Shalvey

In this issue:

• After letting Luke Cage know about what happened with the Juggernaut, Cage sends the team after Cain.

• Man-Thing is acting up.

• The Underbolts talk about their imminent escape.

• After teleporting the Thunderbolts to Chicago, Man-Thing goes off to co-star in Fear Itself: Fearsome Four.

• The Thunderbolts face off against Kuurth in Chi-town.  Ghost is magicked up by Satana and sent inside the Worthy for a spiritual journey.  The rest of the T-Bolts join him.

• Inside Cain Marko, they find a serpent wrapped around an image of Juggernaut and eating his head.  The team is kicked out of Kuurth's mind.

• In the real world, the former Worthy lashes out at the Thunderbolts, causing some major explosions in the process.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

Here's your next Kuurth appearance!  It's actually earlier on in his path of destruction.  Chicago, Illinois.

Before we get there, though, the T-Bolt handlers (Fixer, Songbird, and MACH V) check in with Thunderbolt Director, Luke Cage.  Luke is in New York dealing with Nazi Mechs.  I'm sure the New Avengers are just off panel.  When he learns that Cain Marko is one of the new evil hammer wielders, he orders the team to head on after Juggernaut and try to turn him back into the quasi-good guy Thunderbolt he was just a few issues ago.

Luke comes off as more gruff than he probably intended but that's what happens when you learn more bad news on top of the bad news you're already dealing with.  The handlers try to think about how to bring Cain back to the light side and figure maybe their resident magic user might have an idea.  That would be Satana.

Before they can talk to Satana, Fixer gets a call from Man-Thing's habitat.  It seems their form of transportation is more agitated than usual.  That might be because of all this background Fear running over the Earth.  That might come back and bite them in a couple pages.

Until then, there are some issues to deal with.  Fixer locates the powered up Juggernaut heading right for Chicago.  Moonstone and MACH V get their A-Team together, leaving Fix with the Underbolts just in case they need back-up.  Norbert doesn't like this because he feels like no one is giving him respect.  Sure, someone needs to stay with the B-Team but why is it him?  Someone is stewing.

In the chamber holding the more criminal T-Bolts, Ghost is listening in on Fixer's argument with Songbird and MACH V.  The rest of the T-Bolts keep themselves busy in their own ways.  Mr. Hyde has been turned back into his more human form and is dozing.  Centurius hasn't deactivated the nanobots inside the Underbolts just yet because this little band is waiting for just the RIGHT time to slip away.  There's a lot of talk about when that time might be and even some doubt as to whether they made the right decision to wait.  In the end, the plan remains unchanged.

The A-Team heads down to Man-Thing's habitat and watches as their transport thrashes about.  Satana uses some spells to get Man-Thing back in a right state of mind and off our team goes to Chi-Town.

Once there, Man-Thing teleports right away so that it can appear in Fear Itself: Fearsome Four.  Part of this is because of Man-Thing being affected by Fear.  Another bit is apparently due to Satana writing magic words on the creature.  She's pretty proud of herself and Man-Thing.  For now, it leaves the team without any way back to the Raft.  More than that:  Reinforcements are cut off.  The A-Team is on it's own.

And here comes Kuurth, Breaker of Stone.

And that's why we don't have a Chicago anymore.

We all know how this is going to go just by the fact that the super-charged and super-evil Juggernaut has an appointment with the X-Men in San Francisco as well as a whole lot of stops to make before getting there.  The Thunderbolts aren't going to stop Kuurth.  The only question is: Will Chicago survive?

Let's find out.

Songbird proves to be more effective at redirecting Kuurth than others will be.  She makes a road of sound and the former-Juggernaut walks right up in an ever increasing spiral.  Moonstone is sent in next to use her "power that doesn't depend on a magic rock."  I would assume that would be her excellent if malicious psychiatric skills.  Instead, I guess it's slutting around?  Whatever the case, Kuurth isn't in the mood.

Next up is a magically enhanced Ghost!  Satana has written lots of arcane symbols all over him.  With this magic, Ghost is able to phase into Kuurth's mind.  Yep.  His mind.

The rest of the team joins Ghost as little emblems.  Juggernaut's mindscape is a lot like an abstract painting/sketch.  While the T-Bolts search around his brainpan, Kuurth is effectively stopped.  So that's something.

Ghost finds a path and follows it through the skull's mouth.  Once through that, we find that the path is actually a snake.  It's coiled around an image of the Juggernaut with, biting on to Marko's head.  Santana mentions that Cain might have been able to free himself if he had relied on the power of Cyttorak (which is what powers the Juggernaut on a normal day).  For some reason, Marko decided against doing that.

They're mucking about in Cain's mind has alerted some sort of Serpent sentry.  This reptile-like being kicks them out of Kuurth's head and our story continues in the physical world.

Kuurth is no longer stopped.  One swipe of his hammer creates a shockwave on the Thunderbolts and the surrounding area.  MACH V's armor falls apart.  Moonstone attacks and is sent flying with another swing of the hammer.

Songbird activates Juggernaut's nanites.  This lasts for another second until they stop working.  Once more, Kuurth raises that hammer.

In Chicago, the people see a massive explosion light up the skyline.

Uncanny X-Men #540Uncanny X-Men #540
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler: Greg Land

In this issue:

• Kuurth is almost to San Francisco.  Before he gets there, he picks an acolyte up at Station 33 (63 miles from San Fran) and walks the rest of the way in.

• At the mayor's office, Cyclops meets with Mayor Sadie to discuss the defenses of San Francisco just in case something Fear Itself related comes their way.  So far it's been quiet.

• Too quiet.

• After a fight with Kitty, Piotr Rasputin takes the elevator down to the X-Brig 2 for a visit with his sister, Illyana.  Magik is a prisoner after she unleashed Legion on some Limbo Elder Gods in New Mutants.  This comic doesn't give you a whole lot of hints about it but that's what she's in for.

• Namor says goodbye to Emma Frost so he can go hang out with a new Defenders team in Fear Itself: The Deep.  They don't sleep together.

• Mayor Sadie and Scott Summers turn on the television to learn that Kuurth and his acolyte are coming their way.  They've already gained followers.

FINALLY, the Kuurth has come to San Francisco!

Well, he's almost there.  Before the former Juggernaut can set foot in the San Fran, he has to pass through Station 33.  This is a gas station 63 miles out of the City.  In its window is one lone ad for Orbit gum.  Yep.  Product placement.

The dude working at the gas station is the type that shoplifts while he's working.  He's also the type to freak out when some monster lands outside in a crackling explosion.  That last bit might be a majority of us.

Kuurth drops his hammer, destroying Station 33.  It's a good thing that our heroic clerk has left the building.

Interesting enough, Kuurth doesn't kill this guy.  Instead, he brands the clerk with a red Serpent symbol.  Right on the face.  This alters the clerk's awareness, leaving him raising up his arms and exclaiming how he's got it all figured out now.

The two make the long trek to San Francisco, 63 miles away.  From this point on, Kuurth is walking instead of running.  Ever step he takes leaves magical words burned into wherever he's stepping.

Mayor Sadie Sinclair is still mayor of San Francisco.  This morning, she's meeting with Scott Summers, leader of the mutant island of Utopia.  Outside the mayor's office are a handful of anti-mutant protestors who have wigged out after some of the X-Men's latest actions.

The city is eerily calm.  While Fear Itself rages across the world this is like the eye of the storm.  Cyclops figures that means something big is heading their way.  Mayor Sadie mentions that SOME people think Scott made a deal with the devil to keep this event away from Utopia.  Summers refuses to acknowledge that line of thinking as legitimate... which isn't a "no."

Now, we know that Cyclops didn't make a deal with the Serpent so I'm amazed that he just doesn't say "No.  That's ridiculous."  And then they can move on.  By not answering the outlandish rumor head on, he just gets into a fight with Mayor Sinclair.

He'll be doing that off panel for the rest of the issue.  We move on!

Back in Utopia, Kitty Pryde is quarreling with her boyfriend, Piotr Rasputin.  This is over his sister, Illyana's, current predicament.  In the New Mutants' Rise of the New Mutants storyline, Magik unleashed the mentally unstable god mutant, Legion, on a host of Elder Gods from Limbo.  This got her back a lot of her lost soul (and that of Pixie, as well) but it was a risky game of chess she was playing with the lives of her friends and allies.  So... it got her locked up in the X-Brig 2 on Utopia.

I guess Kitty is mad because Piotr is visiting his sister?  Not giving up on Illyana?  I don't know.  It's clear that Pryde doesn't have an issue with him not abandoning his sister... I guess she's just worried that Colossus will be used up by Magik if he keeps talking to Illyana.  I don't know.  It's a difficult argument to follow.

Either way, Piotr ends up down in the X-Brig just as Danielle Moonstar is leaving from her own visit with Magik.  And here's Illyana:

"What?  I need to draw some blonde?  Let me check in my porn star photo file for that."

Not much more info here.  You see all that stuff on Illyana?  That's to make sure she stays good and doesn't teleport.  Magik finds it completely reasonable considering what she's done.  Really, she's not fighting.  She did what she had to do and these are the consequences.  Still, she's happy that her brother still loves her.

Speaking of love, let's move to Emma Frost's bedroom.  Namor is paying her a visit to announce his plans to appear in Fear Itself: The Deep.  Whether this happens before Nerkkod destroys New Atlantis or not is up in the air.  It SEEMS like he's already brought together his allies so maybe it's the middle of issue one of that mini-series.  When Emma offers some help, Namor refuses because he doesn't want to beg for help.  This is HILARIOUS because he asks Dr. Strange for help... and then gets Llyra in on saving his people.  I guess it's only ok to ask for help from complete strangers and old allies... not your current teammates.

What the Avenging Son is REALLY here for is some last minute nookie.  He thinks this is his last battle so he'd like to sleep on it.  With Emma.  The former White Queen isn't having that because she's in a committed relationship with Scott Summers.  Ticked off at rejection, Namor flies off after telling Emma that Scott married Jean, and so he's not taking his relationship with Emma seriously enough.

Which only is logical if you don't realize that Scott was in a relationship with Jean for years before they finally tied the knot and it was JEAN that finally did the asking.  That's his SECOND marriage, too.  The first one, Scott was engaged for, like, an issue and a half before putting a ring on Madelyne's finger.  Considering how... well that went (hell, look how well both of those turned out), maybe marriage isn't something Cyclops is very good at.

Regardless, those words hit a mark even though Emma has never expressed any desire to get married.  Ever.

OK, we're back in Mayor Sadie's office and yes, that argument is still going on.  One of the mayor's aides rushes into the room because there's something on television that they HAVE to see.  After they watch three episodes of America's Funniest Home Videos, they get to the news.

Kuurth is taking a walk down I-580 on his way into San Francisco.  While walking at a decent pace, the Worthy is swatting anything in his path.  His Acolyte does the talking for him, giving everyone on the road a choice.  You either get killed here and now or you join Kuurth.  Already, the former Juggernaut has gained a following.  They're carrying a lot of anti-mutant signs, too.

As far as Cyclops is concerned, this is probably as bad as it could get.  Normal Juggernaut is unstoppable.  This?  More unstoppable?  Not good.  The hate group flocking to him is just more to worry about.

Scott tells Mayor Sinclair to get her forces into play and he'll tell them what to do.  He has a lot of plans for just this kind of thing.  Still, he's not giving her any straight answers as to what they're going to do.  This is apparently the day to not directly answer people.

Heroes for Hire #10Heroes for Hire #10
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Kyle Hotz

In this issue:

• Misty Knight finds out Paladin is facing Angir, Breaker of Souls.  That is not a fair match-up.  Even after Gargoyle joins him, it's just a matter of not getting killed.

• Brady Breidel is a criminal chemist that got caught in the destruction of Yancy Street.  He's one to watch.

• Shroud flies over to the Raft to help recapture escaping prisoners.  He's joined by Elektra.

• Brady Breidel emerges from the rubble to find himself changed into some kind of monster.  He's not particularly bothered.

• At the Raft, the Purple Man tries murdering an unconscious Puppet Master.  Shroud and Elektra stop him but then face an army of convicts.

Woo Hoo!  Abnett and Lanning goodness!  Maybe I'll read this less crankily!  Maybe...

The issue starts off with Misty giving her Heroes for Hire a little recap.  Seven hammers dropping all over the world.  A super-charged Juggernaut breaking the Raft wide open.  Nazi Mechs attacking Washington D.C. as Captain America, Falcon, and Black Widow lead the defensive effort.  Things are bad all over and the world could use some heroes.

Misty starts coordinating things as much as she can.  Before she can send anyone anywere, she learns that Paladin is in Yancy Street fighting Angir, Breaker of Souls.  Yep.  The evil, super-powerful Thing.  Versus Paladin.  Place yer bets!

Yancy Street is already a mess by this point.  In Angir's initial attack, he leveled the street, killing lots of people.  The survivors probably aren't doing very well.  The last thing they need is a prolonged fight on their heads.  Misty calls in Gargoyle but that still doesn't even up the odds much.  Knight tells them to get the Worthy out of Yancy Street so that the injured can get some medical attention.

If only Paladin still had the Spear of Odin on him...

One of the injured people on Yancy Street is a dude named Brady Breidel.  We get a multi-page origin of this guy so you can probably guess he'll be important.  Brady was a chemist who found himself working on the wrong side of the law, supplying many villains with the scientific mixes they'd need in their various gadgets.  Currently, he was making fear juice for Mr. Fear.  All those chemicals mixed with some lightning and...

Flash Fact.

We get the Marvel Flash! :D

OK, not really, give it time.  For now, Breidel is buried in wreckage, debris, and more bits of building than is healthy.  All this while nasty chemicals spill on him.  Considering the life he led, Brady's happy that it's almost over.

There are more problems facing New York today.  For example, there's a Maximum Maximum Security Prison that is spilling convicts all over the place.  Misty calls in another hero, Shroud, to try making a difference on that score.  The Thunderbolts have yet to arrive back from Iraq.

The Shroud cuts through the first wave of escaping cons before running into Mash-Up.  Mash-Up is a Frankenstein's Monster kind of guy.  Muscle.  Raw Power.  Usually this would be a minor leaguer but it's a special day for everyone.  When this guy is joined by the fire-wielding Firefight, Shroud's going to need an assist to get through this one.

Luckily, Misty's got help incoming.  Elektra!  Natchios isn't here out of the kindness in her black heart.  No, she's getting paid.  "Heroes for Hire."  Knight is even paying her more money to use non-lethal levels of force.

Once Mash-Up and Firefight are down, Shroud and Elektra see the third wave of criminals heading their way.

On Yancy Street, Brady Breidel finally frees himself from his predicament.  He still feels injured and asks some other recently freed people for help.  They run off screaming.  That's because the chemicals and magic lightning have done their work well.  Brady is no long the man he once was.  He's looking kind of monsterous.  The funny thing?  He doesn't seem to mind the change.

Continuity alert!  In Fear Itself: The Home Front #2, the Purple Man escaped the Raft by jumping into the water and making a swim for it.  Kuurth was still on site at the time.  It was a one page story by Howard Chaykin.  Well, it looks like some editor didn't pass on that message because here's Purple Man, trying to kill a comatose Puppet Master in the remains of the Infirmary on the Raft.

I guess it's just best to disregard the Chaykin tale since the waters surrounding the Raft are filled with mutated jellyfish that should have kept everyone but Tiger Shark from escaping.  OR... if I'm gonna go for the No-Prize, we'll say that Purple Man leaped into the water, saw the threat, and returned to shore so he could find a better way out of prison.  Maybe he'd tie up some loose ends first by killing Puppet Master.  No-Prize achieved!

Before Purple Man can kill anyone, Shroud and Elektra intervene.  On the radio, Misty warns them to use caution because Killgrave can control people with ease.  With a life on the line, it looks like our heroes aren't listening.

Instead of being controlled, they're attacked by more convicts under Purple Man's direction.

The Incredible Hulk #125The Incredible Hulk #125
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Herb Trimpe

In this issue:

• Hulk is back on Earth after his first adventure on Jarella's world.  After ranting a bit, he drops asleep, transforming back into Bruce Banner.

• A radioactive comet is heading near Earth, threatening the whole planet.  Major Glenn Talbot informs the injured General Ross.

• Bruce hears rumors about the comet (which is top secret information) on a random radio station and decides it's up to him to do something about it.

• He volunteers to pilot a special nuclear rocket to the comet to blow it up before it threatens Earth.  Somehow, the military thinks this is a good idea.

• The mission goes off without a hitch but on his way back from the destroyed comet, Banner picks up a hitchhiker, the Absorbing Man!

• Crusher Creel smashes the rocket's pilot compartment but Bruce has already changed into the Hulk.  The two super-powered creatures fight all the way down to a crash landing.

• After a prolonged fight, Hulk falls asleep, reverting to Banner once more.  The Absorbing Man is buried under a pile of rock after his Hulk absorbed powers fade.

• Cult members walk up to the fallen Bruce Banner.

March 1970!  On the stands?  Amazing Spider-Man #82, Fantastic Four #96, Daredevil #62, Captain America #123, The Avengers #74, and Uncanny X-Men #66.  In The Incredible Hulk #125, the confusing tale of the Valkyrie was going to begin with the first appearance of Barbara Norriss.

This is just the first of three Valkyrie first appearances that you'll get.  Yes, there's more then one.  There are at least three people who could be called the Valkyrie at various points and Barbara is just the first to appear.  She wasn't the first to get the powers, though.  That would be too convenient.  I'll try to explain as best I can as we try unravelling this mystery.

We're going to get to Barbara's first appearance by the end of the issue but it'll be VERY close to the end.  Until then, let's follow Bruce Banner and his alter-ego, the Hulk, around and see how that goes.

Last issue, Bruce Banner was going to be married to Betty Ross after solving his Hulk problem.  Some problems came up.  The Leader sent the Rhino to crash the wedding and Bruce's cure against Hulk attacks didn't last very long.  It was NOT a nice day for a White Wedding.

The Hulk doesn't care much about missing out on the wedding.  He's just angry about being trapped inside puny Banner's body.  The Green Behemoth rages a bit, scaring off a group of picnickers, before collapsing into a deep sleep.

This unnatural sleep return sold Purple Pants to his Bruce Banner identity but doesn't wake him up for quite a while.

Banner could use a nap, anyway.  While he rests, lets head over to a California Air Force Base where Major Glenn Talbot is getting some bad news.  It seems that a comet is heading towards planet Earth.  That's not a BIG deal in and of itself.  It's that readings indicate that the comet is radioactive and dangerous to life.  When the tail of the comet passes through the atmosphere, it'll mean certain death for all that lives.

So that's kind of a big deal.

After arguing about who they'll be naming the death comet after, Major Talbot heads on over to the Medical Center where his superior, General "Thunderbolt" Ross, is resting after injuries he received in the wedding day fight.  The General gets the news and photos of the comet and immediately starts barking orders.  It takes him a moment to remember that he's a visiting General and away from his own command... and he's stuck in the infirmary for the moment.  There's nothing he can do.

While news of the impending doom of the planet is being silenced, that doesn't keep word from getting out.  When Bruce wakes up next to the abandoned picnic scene, the nearby radio has a report... a rumor... about the comet of doom.  It's remarkably accurate.  Dr. Banner doesn't even question it.  He just decides to find a way to save the planet without changing into the Hulk.

Even though he's out of his own military unit, Major Talbot does all he can to assist in destroying the comet before it gets too close to Earth to obliterate.  Work is slow.  It's actually at a standstill and no one knows what to do.  Talbot wishes that Banner were here.  He may not like the scientist but that doesn't mean he doesn't recognize Bruce's genius.

Very soon, he'll have to recognize more that Bruce's brain power.  He'll have to identify the scientist to the local General, Gen. Morris.  Bruce has come up with a plan to save the world and has surrendered himself to Air Force authorities so he can implement the plan.

So here's how it works.  The Air Force has a new rocket called the X-890 that should be able to reach the comet before it gets too close to the planet.  Armed with a nuclear payload, the rocket should be able to demolish the comet and get out safely to boot.

Naturally, the only person qualified to pilot the rocket is Bruce Banner.  No one even questions that he's the best man for the job even though he's got to be heavily doped up to prevent a change to the Hulk and... well, if he turns into the Hulk, it's game over for the planet Earth.  It's times like this that you make a call to the Fantastic Four and then get out of their way.

But, no, the world is in the hands of a guy on the verge of falling asleep.  More than that?  Bruce doesn't even change into a proper space suit for the journey.  He doesn't change into ANYTHING.  It's purple pants and no shirt for the whole comic.  That's how our hero rolls.

Against all odds, this mission is pulled off without anything going wrong.  No, I'm serious.  Not one thing goes wrong.  It's a Christmas miracle.

Of course, the whole point of that comet was to give the X-890 a hitchhiker.

I'm just saying that it's a ridiculous way to reintroduce a character all around.

Crusher Creel!  The Absorbing Man!  Believe it or not, this villain has been floating in space since December 1965's Journey Into Mystery #123.  That's a five year vacation.  Crusher ended up tagging along with the comet, absorbing the comet's properties and probably making it radioactive in the process.  He had finally managed to turn the thing back to Earth and everything.  With that ride destroyed, the Absorbing Man takes the rest of the trip on Banner's rocket.

Bruce notices the stowaway and panics.  With the drugs wearing off, he starts changing back into the Hulk.  This is a good thing because the Absorbing Man decides that smashing the cockpit of this rocket is a great idea.  The Incredible One emerges and the two bruisers duke it out on the crashing spacecraft.

When the rocket touches down (crashes), the Hulk believes that his foe has been defeated... or killed.  Not so much.  The Absorbing Man survived in the vaccuum of space and hitched a ride on a comet to return home.  Not to mention both he and the Hulk survived re-entry without any worries.  A rocket crash certainly isn't going to do anything but slow Crusher down.

Thus, we begin the big fight.  I'll spare you most of the back and forth because it would read "The Absorbing Man hits the Hulk!  The Hulk hits back!" and we would all lose interest.  Marvel's fights are fun to watch but not so fun to read.  If you're curious, it's a fun little fight.

The real interest for our purpose would be all those people that silently show up.  They don't say anything.  They just get on panel and watch from a safe distance.  One of them is a blonde lady.  That's Barbara Norriss, FYI.

So the fight has a curiously quiet audience but otherwise goes on as you'd expect.  The Absorbing Man eventually absorbs the Hulk's powers and lift a big portion of the cliff to crush the green guy.  While this wouldn't actually do permanent damage to the Hulk, fate decides to play its hand.  The Green Goliath suddenly gets very sleepy.  When he passes out, the Hulk changes back into Bruce Banner.

Banner isn't immune to boulders.  Sure, we've seen the Hulk automatically change into the Hulk after being shot but stuff like that didn't happen this early in his career so for all we know, this is a life threatening moment.

Except... the Absorbing Man has run into his own problem.  With the Hulk reverted to human form, Crusher Creel doesn't have any Hulk powers to absorb.  That cliff face is starting to get VERY heavy.  As a last ditch salvation effort, the Absorbing Man takes on the properties of the rock itself.  It saves his life but he still gets buried in dirt.

This leaves those silent strangers alone with a sleeping Bruce Banner.

The Incredible Hulk #126The Incredible Hulk #126
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Herb Trimpe

In this issue:

• The silent audience turns out to be an evil cult.  They drag Bruce back to their headquarters.

• When Banner wakes up, the leader of the cult sends him off to the dimension of the Night-Crawler to pave the way for the Undying Ones.

• Bruce refuses to turn into Hulk so it looks like this whole cult thing is a bust.  Barbara dares to speak up for Banner and gets thrown through the dimensional gateway.

• With the girl in danger, Bruce's heartrate goes up and he makes the big change into the Hulk.

• After a prolonged fight, Hulk destroys the Night-Crawler's dimension.  The three escape to the Undying Ones' dimension.

• Barbara Norriss takes Dr. Strange's place between the mystic poles.  Strange and Hulk teleport to Earth.

• Dr. Strange decides to give up the Sorceror Supreme gig and go the civilian route.  He also gives Banner a change of clothes.

So, yeah, Barbara Norriss is a member of a cult.  Not just any cult, though!  There have been some crazy cults in recent history but she and the rest of these silent people are worshippers of the Undying Ones, ancient enemies of our reality who plan to destroy all they see if only they can get to Earth.  With the help of this stupid cult and their leader, Van Nyborg, they very well might succeed.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  First off, the silent audience that watched the Absorbing Man/ Hulk fight last issue is no longer quiet.  They talk a lot, not that they have the time?  Barbara is in charge of this group and directs the others to gather up the sleeping Bruce Banner and return to their cliff-house headquarters.  As they climb the stairs to their place of worship, Barbara claims that Bruce will be fighting... the Night-Crawler!

More on him later.

While we wait for Banner to wake up, we catch Barbara talking to the cult leader, Van Nyborg.  It turns out she's not all the keen on worshipping demons.  She was just in it for the laughs... and maybe the drugs.  Now that things are getting real, well, Barbara isn't all that interested anymore.  Well, it's too late for that kind of talk.  No backsies!

Also: Banner's waking up.

Bruce regains consciousness in the weirdest places.  Van Nyborg has put on his best cult robes and there's no mistaking that these people worship something evil.  Before Banner can find a door... or even get up off the altar, Barbara gets him to breathe in the Vapors of Valtorr.  Bruce drops back on the altar, unable to move.

The chanting begins.  Our hero is teleported out of his own reality to... somewhere else.

Meanwhile, Dr. Strange is the prisoner of the Undying Ones, held in place by mystic poles.  This is all part of his own plan to keep the Undying Ones from returning to threaten Earth.  Strange has cast a spell preventing them from a quick journey with himself as the sacrifice, forced to stay inside the mystic poles.  This has forced the Undying Ones to take another path to Earth right through the side dimension of the Night-Crawler.  All they have to do is defeat the Night-Crawler to do it.

Which is where the Hulk comes in.  Van Nyborg has sent Bruce Banner to the Night-Crawler's dimension to defeat the demon.

Imagine that someone has just broken into your house.  And you are the bad guy.

Now, just as clarification, Night-Crawler is the demon-looking guy in the image above.  This isn't Kurt Wagner.  Notice the hyphen.  Night-Crawler is a totally different dude.

And we don't WANT Hulk to defeat him.  That would spell a new invasion of the Undying Ones of Earth which would be bad.  Night-Crawler is all that is holding them back from walking through his dimension to get to Earth.  This doesn't make Night-Crawler a good guy.  It just means that he has a strict policy regarding his dimension: no one else allowed.

That means Bruce isn't going to be able to talk himself out of a fight.  He TRIES, of course, but that's how we learn of Night-Crawler's zero-tolerance policy.  Still, Banner isn't willing to give in to the Hulk and fights to stay in his far more vulnerable human form.

Back on Earth, Van Nyborg tries to figure out a way to turn Banner into Hulk.  Barbara increases her protestations for what they've been doing.  Clearly, she's not convinced that this cult has the best of intentions.  It seems like she's the only one having second thoughts, though.  Some of the more indoctrinated members sieze her and on Van Nyborg's orders, Barbara Norriss is tossed into the portal to join Bruce in the Night-Crawler's dimension.

When Banner sees Barbara threatened by Night-Crawler, he finally loses his cool and changes into his more powerful alter-ego.  It's time for the big fight!

Hulk's got some power in him but the Night-Crawler has Sceptre of Shadow.  With it, he makes the entire place pitch black.  Robbed of his sight, Hulk is tossed off the platform he's been sharing with the Night-Crawler and Barbara.  Instead of falling, the green guy just floats, helpless.

Frantically waving his hands around, Hulk brushes up against another floating island.  He climbs on up the structure and decides to do what he does best.

Hulk Smash.

The explosion of rock is so furious that it generates a burst of light, blinding Night-Crawler.  The demon tries using his Sceptre of Shadow to unleash another attack, deadlier than the first.  Barbara grabs one of the rocks from the recent explosion and tosses it right at the Sceptre.  This shatters Night-Crawler's main weapon.  Apparently, only a rock from that particular floating island would do something like that.  It's like a vampire keeping wooden chairs conveniently around his home.

This is not good for Barbara, who stands before the wrath of Night-Crawler.  The Hulk leaps from the remains of his floating island back to Night-Crawler's platform and suitably distracts his opponent.  The demon unleashes a sonic attack.  Hulk slams his hands together to counter it.  This has the unlikely result of the destruction of Night-Crawler's whole dimension.

So it's probably good that he lives alone.

Before Night-Crawler's dimension can collapse in on these three, the demon teleports out of the dimension and carries Hulk and Barbara with him.  Their new destination is the realm of the Undying Ones.  Once there, it becomes Night-Crawler's mission to defeat the locals and make this place his new home.  For now, his feud with Barbara and the Hulk is forgotten.

It also serves to distract the Undying Ones and their leader, the Nameless One.  This gives Hulk and Barbara a chance to talk to the still-trapped Dr. Strange.  Hulk wants to free the magic man but Norriss tells him the only way is to replace the Sorceror Supreme within the mystic poles.  This is something she freely does, hoping to make up for some of the evil things she's done in this issue.

There's no time to argue with this, apparently.  Strange wastes no time getting himself and Hulk out of the Undying Ones' dimension and back to Earth.  They teleport right in front of his Sanctum Sanctorum.  On the way back to Earth, the Hulk has the courtesy of returning to his human form.  Stephen picks up the groggy scientist and brings Bruce inside the Sanctorum.

Inside Strange's home, both men change into new clothes.  Dr. Strange was still wearing his more super-hero-like Dr. Strange suit with the full face mask thing.  This is the first time we see Stephen's normal face in the issue.  When they're both in their civvies, Strange declares that he's on holiday for the foreseeable.  The Undying Ones' dimension is not out of phase with Earth so they won't be showing up again anytime soon.  The Sorceror Supreme probably deserves some time off after all he's been through.

As the two men walk away from the Sanctum Sanctorum, Bruce expresses his jealousy over the doctor (in thought balloons).  Walking away from the Hulk has become a difficult thing, indeed.

The Defenders #3The Defenders #3
Writer: Steve Englehart
Penciler: Sal Buscema

In this issue:

• Dr. Strange and the rest of the Defenders travel to another dimension in an attempt to circumvent the Galactus barrier keeping the Silver Surfer caged on Earth.

• Instead of winding up on whatever dimension Stephen Strange was aiming for, the team lands in the realm of the Undying Ones.

• Barbara Norriss is finally freed from her imprisonment with the help of Surfer's cosmic powers.

• The Defenders are caught in a dimensional maelstrom. Each team member does their part to pull everyone free.

• Thus weakened, they face the Nameless One who has added a new face to his body-- Barbara Norriss!  The lady they freed was just an illusion.

• After some fighting, Dr. Strange and the Silver Surfer snare the Nameless One in the mystic trap that once held Norriss and Strange before him.

• Before the Defenders leave, Dr. Strange uses a spell to free Barbara from the Nameless One's form.  Norriss starts screaming non-stop.

• Sensing that they are now beyond the barrier preventing Surfer from leaving Earth, the team teleports back to their usual dimension.

• No good.  They end up right back on Earth.  It seems each dimension is spacially different.  Surfer leaves, disappointed.  Barbara Norriss keeps on screaming.

The tale of Barbara Norriss is forgotten for a couple years until December 1972.  There's a good reason for this.  The Undying Ones' dimension is out of sync with the Earth's dimension so Dr. Strange presumably can't reach it.  When he and his teammates, the Defenders end up in the realm of the Undying Ones again, it is by accident.

We begin this adventure in the Valley of the Undying Ones on Earth after the Defenders and the Silver Surfer have defeated the forces of Calizuma (which was what happened in the last issue and unimportant for this story except that it places them in the Valley of the Undying Ones).  For the record, the Surfer isn't really on the team.  He's an ally for now but doesn't get the cool Defenders jacket.  Norrin's real purpose here is to get Dr. Strange to whip up some magic that'll help him break through the barrier around Earth that prevents the Surfer from flying through the galaxy.  This is all repurcussions from the Silver Surfer's betrayal of Galactus in Fantastic Four #50.

While the Sorceror Supreme doesn't have the power to get beyond the barrier, he does have the ability to travel through a different DIMENSION and then return back beyond the barrier.  It's a sound plan and Norrin's willing to try it out.  Namor is curious about this dimensional travel thing and is also ready to go.  Hulk is NOT.  He doesn't like listening to the magic man.  It's only after the Silver Surfer confesses his friendship with the green skinned one that Hulk decides to make the trip.

Before they head out, Namor takes a plunge into a pool of water to replenish his energies.  He mentions that Dr. Strange has the powers to create magic water but it's just not the same thing.  After he sloshes around a bit, the Sorceror Supreme does his magic bit and the Defenders are off to another dimension.

When the spell does it's work, our heroes end up in another reality... it's just not the one they were supposed to go to.  Perhaps being in the Valley of the Undying Ones has interfered with the spell because the Defenders (and the Surfer) end up in the dimension of the Undying Ones!  Before them, Barbara Norriss is still imprisoned between the mystic poles.

Well, as long as they're here, they might as well free Norriss.  Dr. Strange combines his energy with that of the Silver Surfer and Barbara is freed from the magical trap.  She's been here so long that it's had an emotional effect on her.  She's basically delirious, clutching the Doctor tight and just enjoying the feel something solid.

Since Strange doesn't want to face the Undying Ones' boss, the Nameless One, he and the Defenders try to make their getaway before they're noticed.  Instead of running into the Nameless One, the team soars right into a dimensional maelstrom.  They are being sucked into a hole in the dimension... which might be bad.

The Surfer's board doesn't seem to be affected but Norrin can't move it to save them.  Namor figures this is up to him and he begins to swim up the maelstrom to reach the board.  Hulk reaches the hole first and braces himself on the edges to prevent himself, or anyone else, from falling through.

Namor reaches the board and pulls it down to the rest of the team.  The Silver Surfer strains his powers to control the board but the result is that everyone is able to ride it to freedom.  The entire group is out of energy at this point but at least they're safe.  Strange casts a water spell to revive Namor and thanks him for his efforts.  Hulk is left unthanked and unloved.

The Defenders again try to make a getaway but when taking a look back to see if they're being followed, they see their loves caught within the mystical poles.  Clea, Dorma, Shalla Bal, and Jarella are all trapped.  No one questions this sudden change until Namor realizes that Dorma is dead.  So... it's probably not her and this is most likely a trick.

Bingo!  This has all been a trap by the Nameless One!  The demon has a new head, too... the head of Barbara Norriss!  It turns out the woman they freed from the mystic poles was an illusion... just like the visions of their loved ones that they just saw.

Barbara Norriss entered the mystic cage of her own free will and had planned to be selfless in her sacrifice.  Time, however, changed things.  She was left in solitary for years and it broke her.  Barbara's chance at freedom came by becoming the mate of the Nameless One.  Now, her only desire is to make these heroes suffer!

So, it's big demon fight time.

Even though our heroes are weakened, they are fighters first and foremost.  The Nameless One is on the ropes pretty quickly.

You want to scratch your nose right now, don't you?

Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange combine their powers to snare the Nameless One's leg and pull it within the mystical trap.  That pretty much ends the fight but Strange isn't satisfied with that.  Using even more magic, he separates Barbara Norriss from the rest of the Nameless One.  She regains her human form but goes crazy as a result.

Since the Sorceror Supreme can never make a mistake, he believes that it's because Barbara was actually in LOVE with the Nameless One.  Gross.  Maybe Stockholm Syndrome?

The Defenders take off with Barbara screaming the entire way.  They've moved spacially beyond where the Earth's atmosphere ends if they were still in their normal dimension.  That means it's time to teleport back and allow Norrin Rad to rediscover his freedom as the rest of the team suffocates in the cold vaccuum of space.

I don't know, maybe Dr. Strange can cast a magical breathing spell or something.

It doesn't matter, the Defenders arrive back on Earth proper, not having moved beyond Galactus's barrier.  It turns out that space is different in other dimensions so there's no telling where they'd have to go to reappear beyond the barrier.  The Silver Surfer, who isn't actually ON the Defenders team, mopes his way off panel, whining about being stuck on a planet of humans.  Crazy humans.

Barbara Norriss is still screaming her head off in her madness.  Well, that adventure went pretty badly.  Dr. Strange wonders if he should REALLY be leading this team.

And that is the first appearance and follow up to Barbara Norriss.  Next issue, Barbara gets the Valkyrie treatment from the Enchantress.  Things get... complicated... at that point.  You see, Amora doesn't just give Barbara Valkyrie's powers.  She puts Valkyrie in Barbara's altered body and puts Barbara in Valkyrie's body.  So the Valkyrie that serves with the Defenders isn't really Barbara even if it's her body.  Barbara is eventually used in a plot against the Defenders using Valkyrie's body.  This gets her sentenced do Nifelheim.  Eventually, Barbara's soul is set free by Love (please don't ask, it's complicated) and I believe that the real Valkyrie gets her real body back.  Which is much less complicated from there on in.

Since Val died in Barbara's body, that leaves no home for Norriss's soul to return to.  So that would be death.  This is comics, though.  She's shown up again after death only to be killed again.  Once you hit that revolving door, there's no telling when you'll reappear.

In fact, you never know when you'll see your next Super Reads!  I hope you got your fill in this article and are excited for the next action packed feature.

Until then:  Excelsior!

Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX

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About the Author - SuperginraiX

SuperginraiX is the biggest sap on The Outhousers' payroll (wait, we get paid?). He reads every issue of every crappy Marvel crossover so you don't have to. Whats worse is that he pays for his books, thus condoning Marvel's behavior. If The Outhouse cared for his well being at all, they'd try and get him into some sort of rehab center. But, alas, none of us even know how to say his name. For a good time, ask Super why Captian America jumped off the Helicarrier in Fear Itself. Super lives in the frozen wastland that is Minnesota with 15% of the state's population living under his roof: a wife he makes wear an Optimus Prime mask, two gremlins, and his mother-in-law.


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