Wednesday, June 20, 2018 • Morning Edition • "Thoughtful analysis of important cultural issues."

Super Reads 153

Written by SuperginraiX on Friday, September 09 2011 and posted in Features
Little Red Riding WolfAre you Worthy?

Today, we check out Fear Itself: The Worthy #1, Fear Itself: The Deep #2, Secret Avengers #15, and Blast to the Past for Avengers #'s 80 & 81.  Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!
Super Reads 153

Woo!  This week is a lot shorter than the last one.  It feels like a vacation.

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

Let's casually stroll into our first book.

Fear Itself: The Worthy #1Fear Itself: The Worthy #1
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Elia Bonetti

In this story:

• In case you didn't get enough of Sin's origin story in Fear Itself: Sin's Past (which you didn't), this five pager gives you all the essentials.

• We get her almost death at birth when Red Skull learns she's a girl, her training with Mother Night, her artificial aging and de-aging...

• And then we move onto the Ed Brubaker stuff where Crossbones finds her and makes Sin realize who she really is, the death of Steve Rogers, Cap Reborn, and her burnt up face.

• Finally, we get to the part where Synthia figures that she's stronger than her father and mother because she's still alive.

• Which drops us right into the beginning of Fear Itself.

I'm going to be totally honest with you people.  You shouldn't have bought this book nor should you be reading this Super Reads write up on this book.

Are you still there?

OK, I'm not saying that this is a bad read.  Some of it is actually pretty great stuff with talented creators and great production values.  I'm just saying that if you bought it you just paid four dollars for something you could have read for free.  If you've got an internet connection, there's no real reason to suffer through a Super Reads because, again, you could be reading all of this for free on Marvel's Digital Comic site.

On the off chance that you haven't gone over to the digital comics and read through them, I guess I'll still give you a run down on these stories.  Each one is five pages that supposedly tells the "Secret Origins" of the Worthy.  That's straight from the cover and it's a lie.  I mean, I joke around with the phrase "Secret Origin" all the time when someone's explaining their backstory.  The problem with this comic is every creative team uses the well-known history of their specific character to recount the origin.  I mean, if you've been paying attention to comics for the past forty years (and, really, who hasn't?), then you'll find few surprises within.

The one possible exception is the Thing story, but that's less because of his secret origin and more because of what kind of nightmares Ben Grimm has.

So what you're really getting in here is a breakdown on the history of the character, usually supplied by a that character recounting their past in caption boxes.  This is for all of you who haven't read every comic ever written by Marvel.  Which is pretty much all of us, honestly.

First up is the Worthy known as Skadi.  You probably know her better as Sin, the daughter of the Red Skull.

We start off right after Sin's birth.  Red Skull is ticked off because his offspring is a daughter instead of a strong male and that means he has to kill her.  The only thing that saves Sin's life is Susan Scarbo who convinces the Red Skull that even his daughter would be something special.  The Skull names her "Synthia" and hands over his daughter's care to Scarbo who becomes Mother Night.

Sin grows up to be quite the little killer but she doesn't grow up quick enough.  This is why the Red Skull re-enters her life to artificially age her to adulthood.  She also gets her very own super-powers, telekenesis, telepathy, teleportation and any other word beginning with "tele."  All of that is taken away when she is captured by Captain America.  When Crossbones finds her, Synthia has been de-aged and brainwashed into thinking she's just a normal teenage girl.

After a good deal of torture, Sin regains her lost memories and goes on a murder spree with Crossbones who becomes her boyfriend.  Which is creepy.

We're deep into Ed Brubaker's run on Captain America.  Sin recalls the "death" of Steve Rogers after he was captured at the end of Civil War.  Then we remember that he wasn't killed so much as stuck in time until Red Skull could retrieve him in an attempt to use Rogers' body.  That event led to the most recent death of Red Skull and to Sin getting some pretty severe burns on her face.

Which is when she got the red face look that made her look a lot like her dad.

She became the new Red Skull.

Competing narratives.

By this point, Sin's "mother," Susan Scarbo, and her father were both killed.  She decided that she must have been made better than them because she's still alive.

This leads right into the events of Fear Itself with Sin and her army approaching the Thule fortress in Antarctica.

Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Declan Shalvey

In this story:

• Juggernaut rolls with the Thunderbolts as the team attacks a terrorist fortress.

• Cain Marko briefly describes his origin story and how he got powers from Cyttorak.

• I guess he was an early member of the Brotherhood?  Much later, Marko joined the X-Men.  As he mentions, none of that really lasted.

• Now, he's with the T-Bolts but Juggernaut knows that he'll be doing his own thing soon enough.

This story is by the usual Thunderbolts writer, Jeff Parker, and frequent T-Bolts artist, Declan Shalvey, so it's natural that Juggernaut's story begins with a random Thunderbolt mission.  That's the team that Cain Marko was on before getting his hammer and going on a cross-country rampage.

The mission isn't important because it just starts things off for Marko to get all introspective.  Regardless, the team is fighting terrorists.  Luke Cage orders the Juggernaut to smash through the walls of the terrorist fortress.  That's what the unstoppable one usually does: smash things.

And we're good to go into flashback mode.  Cain drops the family history.  His step-brother is Charles Xavier.  His step-mother was Xavier's mom.  His father was abusive and his relationship with Charles wasn't awesome.

In these scenes, Marko debunks the long standing rumor that he's a mutant.  Not true.  Cain got his powers as a soldier in one conflict or another (originally, this was the Korean War where he served with Xavier).  Marko found the gem of Cyttorak inside a cave and got mystically charged up.

Please, Escher, Don't Hurt 'Em.

When he finally emerged from the cave, Cain Marko was the unstoppable Juggernaut.  These scenes say that he was a member of the Brotherhood in the early days but I don't think that's accurate.  He certainly wasn't a member of a Brotherhood with both Mystique and Magneto as active members.  The only time I can think of where Juggernaut was a member of the Brotherhood would have been in more recent history.  Exodus's team, which included long-time partner, Black Tom Cassidy.

From there, it jumps ahead to when Marko was a member of the X-Men.  Again: not a mutant.  Just a dude who fit into the team for a time.  As he mentions, his time on the Brotherhood and the X-Men was short.  Cain doesn't do long term commitments.

Even more recent history: in an Amazing Spider-Man adventure, Juggernaut got a power boost from the Uni-Power and used to not destroy things.  That made Cyttorak angry and left Marko weakened to the point where he could be easily captured.

And that leads us right up to his time as a Thunderbolt.  Again, it's not something he'd consider permanent but if some dude wants him to knock down walls, that sounds like what he was made for.  Identity issues aside, he's the Juggernaut, b@#$*.

Writer: Jen Van Meter
Artist: Clayton Henry

In this story:

• Titania has a meeting with a counselor as per her terms of parole.

• Who the hell paroles TITANIA!?

• As she goes through he own origin story, Titania starts trashing the guards.  The counselor keeps on asking questions.

• When her story it through, the villain smashes through a wall and escapes.

Well, the art is certainly pretty.

For one reason or another, Mary MacPherran, the super-powerful villain known as Titania, has been granted parole.  Now, before you think about that too much, let's just move on to the rest of the story.  As a term of her parole, Mary (who doesn't like this name at all and prefers being called Titania) has to meet with a counselor and discuss her various issues.  This is the perfect set up to a backstory run.

And so Titania tells us about her premature birth and how her parents didn't think much of her.  Life didn't think that much of her either.  She was skinny and weak.  Picked on by the popular girls (they gave her the name "Skeeter").  Given crap jobs.  Her only friend was Marsha Rosenberg.

When the counselor mentions that Mary faked being the second Spider-Woman, Titania gets pissed off and starts taking out the guards while continuing the story.


It was Marsha that spread the rumors that Titania was Spider-Woman.  Mary just didn't deny them.  Why should she?  They made her popular.  She was invited to fancy parties.

At one of those parties, the whole get-together was drawn up into the first Secret Wars to become part of the Beyonder's Battleworld.  That would be bad enough but the second Spider-Woman ended up saving the party members from danger, ruining Mary's story.  The rest of the party goers chased Mary and Marsha off into the woods where the two met up with Doctor Doom.

The counselor keeps on asking questions even though Titania has now taken care of the guards.  She's damn dedicated to her profession but maybe this would be a good time to keep hitting that panic button to call in more guards and then quietly freak out and leave the room.

Anyway, back to the flashback.  Doom grants them both super-powers.  Marsha becomes Volcana.  Mary becomes Titania.  Since it's Titania we're talking about, Doom remarks how Mary bears the painful power-up process with grim determination.

No crying from this girl.

Titania talks about all the fights she's been in.  The counselor mentions that Mary's lost most of them.  That's fine.  Titania's still waiting for her moment.  She then frightens the hell out of the poor counselor, breaks through the wall, and makes her escape.

Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Eric Canete

In this story:

• Grey Gargoyle hangs out by the Eifel Tower and remembers who he was and how his life ended up where it is.

• Yes, people, it's another history lesson on the Marvel Universe.  That's kind of what you're reading here.

• Even though Fear Itself #2 and Iron Man #504 showed him clearly at a Gothic Cathedral, this story places him at the Eifel Tower when the hammer drops in Paris.

If there's a Marvel writer that understands the bad guys, it's Frank Tieri.  I mean, the dude wrote Iron Man! :D

Recently, Tieri tackled a story in Thunderbolts #158 with the focus on Crossbones.  Right up his alley.  You almost expect the man to handle one of these backstory tales and sure enough, here he is.  It's appropriate that he got to talk about Grey Gargoyle considering his previous work with the character in Dark Reign: Lethal Legion.

So who is the Grey Gargoyle?  Let me break that down for you.  But before we get too far: location, location, location.  In the "present," Paul Pierre Duval (that's the Gargoyle, FYI) is hanging out in his homeland, France, in the City of Lights.  He's decided to stroll around the Eiffel Tower.  If you look in the background, you'll see that he's stoned all of the other visitors.  Dude wants some quiet time.

Duval started out as a chemist which is a perfect way to wind up with super-powers.  You just wait around long enough to soak up the right chemicals, maybe get hit by lightning, it's Super-Powers Origins 101 (no, there was no lightning involved in Paul Pierre's origin-- jokes, people).  As a Frenchman with powers, the Grey Gargoyle did what any man would do.

He robbed a lot of people.  He stole a lot of stuff.  Once he had accumulated all of this ill gotten wealth, Duval realized that he didn't know how to fence it.  I mean, you can't just bring the Mona Lisa to a pawn shop.  They DO like Velvet Elvis's, though.  The Grey Gargoyle was bored and didn't know what he could do with his abilities.  That's when he saw the newspaper article about Thor.

Immortality seemed like a pretty awesome thing to get his hands on and Duval was certain that Thor's immortality came from that magic hammer.  He didn't win, of course, but back in the day, the Grey Gargoyle was still a pretty strong threat.  From there, Paul Pierre moved over to fight Iron Man and even managed to turn the Golden Avenger to stone (for one hour-- that's as long as his powers lasted).  Again, he meets with defeat in the end but these are hard won victories.

Duval's greatest moment, in his eyes, happened when he fought the whole Avengers team as well as Daredevil (Avengers #'s 190 & 191).  One man against the whole team.  And he does a good job of it, too.  Sure, the beat him in the end but it's a testament to his status that he gave the whole team such a hard time.

From there, things go straight downhill.  To emphasize this, the Grey Gargoyle drops his cup of coffee.  It shatters on the ground a whole lot like his criminal career.

He was defeated by Black Knight and the Wasp during the Under Siege storyline.  He thinks those two much lesser strengths than himself.  The Hulk busted off his arm (The Incredible Hulk #363).  More recently, his involvement with the Dark Reign version of the Lethal Legion was a less than stellar performance and another run-in with Thor ended with typical results.

It looks like the criminal career of the Grey Gargoyle is all washed up.

This is comic book short hand.

That's when a hammer lands near the tower and the life of Paul Pierre Duval takes a new direction.

Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Lee Weeks

In this story:

• Doctor Bruce Banner relives his origin story with the Hulk narrating.

• After getting hit by the Gamma Bomb, Banner goes further back in time to when he killed his father.

• When he returns from that flashback, he finds himself in back at the lab with Rick Jones.

• Bruce Hulks up and escapes.

Regular Incredible Hulk writer, Greg Pak handles his one with art from the VERY talented Lee Weeks.  This is one of the good ones though you're not going to get any surprises.

This is a retelling of the Hulk origin with the Hulk himself narrating the scene and poking at Banner's flaws.  The Hulk personality berrates Banner for being a brilliant man wasting those talents on building better bombs.  General Thaddeus Ross makes an appearance to insult Bruce.  Betty Ross shows up to wish him luck.  And with that, the Gamma test begins.

As we all know, a single orphan ends up way too close to ground zero on a stupid dare.  Bruce Banner races out to save the poor, dumb idiot.  His demands that the test be aborted but that doesn't happen.  The Hulk wonders why Bruce didn't just do that himself.

Are tans supposed to be green?

This is when Dr. Bruce Banner starts screaming.  In his mind, his thoughts return to his troubled youth. This part is from the Incredible Hulk #-1.  When Bruce was a kid, his dad killed his mom.  When he was an adult, he ended up returning the favor.

Dr. Banner comes to still screaming.  Rick Jones (that was the kid he saved) fills him in on how he got here from the test site.  Banner is internally annoyed at Jones and turns into the Hulk for the first time just to give Rick a swat.  The narrating Hulk tells Banner that this is all an excuse so that Bruce can blame the monster for all of his own aggressive tendencies.

With that, the Hulk escapes into the woods.

Writer: Tom DeFalco
Artist: Mario Alberti

In this story:

• I try to figure out a way to use the "It's not Attuma" pun.

• I guess that'll do.

• Attuma attacks the stronghold of Rorak, the barbarian raider that killed the rest of Attuma's tribe's men when he was born.

• Rorak recounts how Attuma grew up and led a revolt, how he tried to fulfill the prophesy that a man from the Skarka Tribe would conquer Atlantis.

• So far, that hasn't turned out.  But hope springs eternal.

• Attuma kills Rorak.

If there's one thing that the underwater people can breed, it's evil bastards.  Witness as exibit A: Attuma, the barbarian warlord who is one of the many arch-enemies of Namor (who himself is just SLIGHTLY less evil depending on the writer).  Attuma is attacking the people of Rorak.

When he finally fights his way up to the aged barbarian leader, Attuma reveals a personal grudge against Rorak.  You see, there's a prophesy out there that it would be a warrior of the Skarka Tribe that would finally conquer Atlantis.  Back in the day, Rorak scoffed at this legend and decides to destroy the whole tribe.  Killing every warrior of the tribe, Rorak enslaved the women and children.  All well and good, right?

It turns out that one child was being born just as his tribe was being taken apart.  Little baby Attuma is brought to Rorak. In Rorak's presence, Attuma opens his hands, letting go of blood "stolen from his mother's heart."  Isn't that adorable?  Kids are the darndest things.

Even after this display, Attuma is still enslaved, growing strong in Rorak's slave pits.  Eventually, the future barbarian warlord led a slave revolt and started up his own army.  Learning of the prophesy, Attuma took his fight right to Namor.

And lost.

That wasn't the end of Attuma's reign of terror, of course.  The barbarian warlord led more attacks on Namor and even against the land loving Avengers.

I always love people wearing capes underwater.

None of this worked out well for Attuma.  None of it broke him, either.

For example, here he is now, getting revenge on the enslaver of his people.  Rorak asks that Attuma extend the same mercy that he showed the Skarka tribe all those year ago but Attuma isn't that kind of guy.  He's the king bastard of the seas.

Writer: Tom Peyer
Artist: Sergio Cariello

In this story:

• Loki stews over how awesome his brother is and how no one likes him.

• Looking down at Midgard, the god of lies, finds the Absorbing Man, a dude after his own heart.

• Giving Crusher Creel a small sample of power, Loki leans back and prepares to enjoy the show.

And now, the tale of Crusher Creel.  You know, the Absorbing Man.  This tale starts in the same place many villain's tales begin.  The halls of Asgard.

Loki is pissed off.  It's mostly because his brother, Thor, is a whole lot more loved than he is.  A lot of this comes down to petty jealousy.  A bit more is because Loki is NOT a nice person.  In fact, he looks in on Midgard and finds a kindred spirit in, of all places, a prison.

Meet Crusher Creel.  Creel grew up in the slums, was beaten by his dad, and learned to fight in the streets.  Loki can relate on one level or another.  Crusher is in prison after killing someone in the boxing ring.

Well, after such a similar tale as his own, Loki decides that this mortal deserves his help.

He's not called the god of mischief for nothing.

Slipping some special ingredients into Crusher's water, Loki waits for the fun to start.  It's not a long wait.  Crusher realizes he can take on the properties of anything he touches and uses the newfound ability to escape his confinement.

It's not long after that when the Absorbing Man faces Thor for the first time. In Asgard, Loki toasts a job well done and to future mischief.

Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Javier Pulido

In this story:

• Ben Grimm tells Sue a nightmare he's been having ever since Johnny Storm "died."

• It's a violent retelling of the Fantastic Four's origin but in this version, only Ben gets powers.

• Blaming the others for his deformity, the Thing kills the rest of the team.

• After he's finished telling Sue, Ben confides that while the dreams have just starting creeping up anew, it's not the first time he's had them.  He used to have them all the time.

• Does that mean something is hiding inside him, waiting to strike?  Maybe with a hammer?  Who knows?

Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa was the critically acclaimed writer of Marvel Knights: Four as well as Secret Invastion: Fantastic Four.  So he knows the characters.  He's a natural choice for this little splice in Ben Grimm's life.

The scene: soon after the death of Johnny Storm.  The Future Foundation has recently been formed.  The team is still struggling to cope with the loss of the Human Torch.

Ben Grimm is having dreams.  Bad ones.  He's chosen to tell the dreams to Sue Storm.

The dream starts off as a retelling of the Fantastic Four origin story.  They start out in space with the Cosmic Rays flooding their compartment, just like Ben warned them would happen.  Sue is ashamed that before they went into space, she called Ben a coward for his concern about shielding.  Ben is over it.

We catch up with the dream after the team crash lands.  This is where things start getting different.  While Ben emerges from the wreckage with his new, Thing-like look, the rest of the passengers weren't affected by the Cosmic Radiation at all.

This is too bad because Ben attacks them just like he did in Fantastic Four #1, the difference is Reed Richards isn't elastic.  Ben Grimm tears them apart.  No, I mean, he really does.  Reed Richards, Sue Storm, and Johnny Storm are all dead at his hands.

They look like big, strong hands.

Sue tries to comfort Ben over this.  I mean, they're just dreams and they're even natural considering the recent death of Johnny.

Ben agrees that might be the case except... this isn't the first time he's had these dreams.  This is a recurring nightmare that he used to have all the time.  His worry is that it's coming from some place... like a part of him really wants to tear his family apart.  With his bare hands.

Fear Itself: The Deep #2Fear Itself: The Deep #2
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Penciler: Lee Garbett

In this story:

• Nerkkod's lieutenants watch as Namor's team fights demon things on the beach.  They prepare for a more deadly strike.

• It's constant fighting on the beach with only short breaks for exposition.

• Silver Surfer explains why he's on Earth.  He followed the seven hammers down.

• Dr. Strange examines the demon things that they've been fighting and discovers that they are the Undying Ones given sealife hosts.

• The Defenders fight three more gigantic Undying One creatures.

• When these three beasts are defeated, the team tries to make it back to shore to formulate a plan but first Lyra is dragged underwater by a two-headed Tigershark.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

Witness the formation of the new Defenders!  We've got Namor trying to retake his kingdom with an X-Man tagalong, Loa.  Dr. Strange is helping out and missing his time with the Defenders.  Silver Surfer has just flown in for a visit.  Even the Hulk family is represented with his genetically created offspring, Lyra.

Last issue, we watched as Nerkkod destroyed New Atlantis and took over the population.  Namor and Loa survived but the Avenging Son has a serious case of the Fear in him.  He called in Dr. Strange who tried to summon other allies for this fight.  Since most of them are busy in other books, all this brought them was the Savage She-Hulk, Lyra.  Everyone fought undersea demons until Silver Surfer flew in with a dire warning about Fear Itself.

As we all give Norrin a "too late, dude," let's move right into this issue.  As soon as Nerkkod took over Atlantis, the Worthy moved on to terrorize other people, leaving the population in the creepy hands of his lieutenants.  That would be Tyrak, Tigershark, and the undersea sorceress, Aradnea.  They're the ones that sent up the first waves of demon creatures.  They're watching the fight right now.

Namor is obviously bluffing his confidence.  The King of Atlantis is afraid and barely holding it together.  Nerkkod's lieutenants can easily read his mood.  There's defeat written all over him.  That leaves them the task of conquering the surface world.  Fortunately, they've got some demonic allies and a whole lot of Atlanteans just waiting to be set up as sacrifices.

Tyrak talks about how they shouldn't count Namor out until he's actually defeated.  Aradnea agrees.  It's time for the next wave.  Tigershark is up for a little evolution.

On the surface, the Defenders fight demonic sea creatures.  Well, MOST of them do.  Namor is spending a lot of this battle frozen.  That's not awesome but it looks like the others are doing alright even without the undersea monarch pitching in.  The team sets them up and Dr. Strange uses a modified spell to exorcise the demons infecting the sea life.

That leaves everyone with a little time to recharge and maybe explain what's going on.  First up is Silver Surfer.  Norrin Radd explains that he was out looking for Galactus' next meal when seven evil hammers blasted through the universe on a course to earth.  Surfer followed them only to arrive last issue with a timely warning.  Namor remembers the hammer that Attuma wielded and figures it was probably one of these evil tools.

Everyone can see the fear in his eyes and voice... possibly his very demeanor.  When Loa tries to offer him some comfort, it just pisses him off.  Namor's not good at looking weak in public.  If you were the king of the douchiest group of people ever, you'd feel the same way.

We've heard from the Silver Surfer and Namor, now it's time to get the expert opinion of Earth's former Sorceror Supreme.  He recognizes what they've been fighting and figures that the prevalent Fear rippling across the planet helped their arrival:  the Undying Ones!  These demons have been WAITING for an opportunity to strike.

Loa doesn't see the big threat.  After all, the Necronomicon clearly states that the Undying Ones aren't a big deal even though their recent hard-won battle might put a dent in that.  Dr. Strange always respects someone who has read quality literature.  Lyra even suspects he'd like to date Loa if the mutant was a bit older.  Alani isn't that into Strange.

After that, the Defenders discuss more serious matters...

I love how most of the panels in this book have the Surfer posed in such a way that you can't see his thunder... I mean, if he didn't typically wear shorts.

And get ready for the next round.

Three gigantic ocean creatures get the demonic treatment.  There's the squid, the whale, and a viperfish all demoned up for the occasion.  This time, it looks like Namor is ready for the fight and even flies Lyra in close. The mission is to wear the creatures down so that Dr. Strange can work his exorcism mojo on the Undying Ones.

Lyra takes out the first creature (the whale) but ends up in the water as a consequence.   Before Silver Surfer can fly in for a rescue, the squid demon knocks him and Loa off his board.  Norrin grabs the edge of it before falling too far and then swings it like a bat to know the second sea monster down.  Dr. Strange hits the viperfish demon back into the water.

I guess that's weakened enough.  Strange is able to use his exorcism spell to get rid of this wave of Undying Ones.

We're left with another small break.  Everyone knows that the next wave is just going to be stronger.  They need to make plans.  Doctor Strange thinks he should try and summon more allies.  Namor correctly believes that everyone else is busy at the moment.  This is all they're going to get.

Nevertheless, plans should be made before they go off half cocked.  The Silver Surfer works on lifting Loa and Lyra out of the water so they can go do that.  He's gotten Loa on his board but isn't able to get the Savage She-Hulk.

That's because she's pulled under by the next wave.  It's being led by a two-headed Tigershark.

Any bets that's the Nameless One?

Secret Avengers #15Secret Avengers #15
Writer: Nick Spencer
Penciler: Scot Eaton

In this issue:

• The Black Widow raids the headquarters of the website, The Unexpected Truth, because they supposedly have proof that Captain America is still alive.

• They don't.  They're just making stuff up to get website hits.

• Green Lantern and Batman show up and the world explodes into NuEarth 5.

• Did I get any extra hits for that?

• No?

• Dammit.

• Everyone debates the lameness of a hero returning from death.

• After hearing Natasha's argument, the boss clears the room and explains herself.

• When the Black Widow leaves, the article is deleted.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

This might not be much better than Fear Itself: Black Widow for Natasha to deal with the death of her boyfriend but it IS better.  For those not in the know, James Buchanan Barnes, who was going by Captain America at the time, died in a fight against Skadi/ Sin in Fear Itself #3.  Black Widow was his girlfriend and while she's one of those people that should hold in all of those precious emotions, we've seen her break into tears before.  Hell, we saw a bit of that in Fear Itself #4 when Nick Fury gave her the big hug.

This is going to deal with her pain in a different way.  There will be smashing.  There will also be philosophical debate.  Prepare yourself.

OK, let's get this thing started.  First off, you'll notice the opening page of this comic.  Pay attention.  I usually skip over this page because it's a summary of the previous issue(s) and I'm usually on the ball enough not to need a recap.  This is different.  You'll see that it looks like a website.  "The Unexpected Truth."  It even gives you a web address.

Yes.  I checked it out.  The web address doesn't lead to any super cool Marvel promotion.  It's actually unowned at the moment.  That's a shame.  It could have been a cool bonus.

Let's look over the page itself.  On the left is a column detailing events happening in other Fear Itself books.  Avengers #15, Alpha Flight #2, and the Fear Itself: FF one-shot are all listed with a blurb about what's happening in the issue.  Then, over on the right is a headline in bold text.


Interested?  Let's check out where this leads.

It looks like it leads to Black Widow breaking into the offices of The Unexpected Truth, freaking out the people working at this late hour.  Now, this is a professional website, very unlike what you're getting at The Outhouse.  Here, we don't have an office.  We live all over the world so it makes more sense to do most of our business through a web forum and Skype chat.  We don't get paid.  What I'm trying to say is that I'm jealous of The Unexpected Truth's success.  I want an office.  I want Black Widow breaking through my window.

Um... maybe not that last part.  I don't know.

Natasha demands the evidence that The Unexpected Truth has on Captain America's presumed survival.  The boss shows up and is all attitude about it.  She doubts that Black Widow is here in any official capacity.  She's pretty sure Natasha isn't going to kill anyone.  Besides, it's a fake news story.  Surprise!

The Unexpected Truth doesn't usually deal in super-heroes, per say.  It's your basic gossip rag in internet form.  As one guy describes, they make stuff up. Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong.  A while back, they drew a correct connection between Natasha and James Barnes.

How's that salt?  Right in the wound?

In the case of super-hero resurrections, they aren't even playing the long odds, here.  It's a known fact that a lot of heroes return from the dead.  Black Widow tells them that they're dealing with real people here with thoughts, feelings, and emotions but as a reader, we already know we're beyond thinking of these guys are real people.  The rest of this comic is obviously going to try to convince us why comic book death really matters.  There's some meta stuff going on here.

So the in world argument is that super-heroes get killed, take a nice rest, and then get to wake up better than ever before.  It's a hard thing to argue because we've all read that comic.  Almost every hero has been "dead" at one time or another.  It's getting hard to find one that hasn't been.  At this point, we're looking for people who have died twice.  That's the new benchmark.

While most of the people in the room can sympathize with Natasha since it's her boyfriend that the story is about, one girl talks about how her grandfather died the previous year from cancer.  He was a big Cap fan and thought it was great when Captain America returned in Avengers #4.  The thing is, he's not coming back.  Real people don't get to come back from the dead.  She can't really get too concerned about the loss of Bucky Barnes since they're all pretty certain he'll show up again in a few months.

And now it's over to Black Widow to counterpoint.  Coming back from the dead might be a miracle but it also changes people.  She likens it to getting into a serious car accident and then being skittish when in traffic.  These heroes die, usually doing something heroic.  When they come back to life, it's on to doing more heroic things, facing danger and death all over again almost immediately.  The page flashes on a number of heroes who have died and been resurrected.  Hawkeye, Daredevil, Warlock, and Colossus.

And as far as those left behind?  Talk about not getting closure.  How do you close a chapter in your life if you're never REALLY certain that your loved one is gone?  Can you?  I mean, take that grandfather.  He died and was buried.  There's a body and not a big chance for a return appearance.  The granddaughter goes through the seven stages and then gets to move on with her life.  That doesn't happen as much in the super-hero world.

The next page is filled with images of the heroes who have had to deal with the death of a close loved one.  Scott Summers is with Emma Frost after his wife was killed by Xorn.  Hawkeye was with everyone after his wife was killed (actually a Skrull but he didn't know that at the time).  Bruce Banner's wife, Betty, died only to recently return as the Red She-Hulk.  All of them have different relationships going after their loved ones returned.

That's a compelling argument, actually.  It leave these cynical people speechless.  The boss clears the room for a private talk with the Widow.

She tells Natasha that the website was her husband's idea.  He's dead now.  She keeps it going even though it's not really her passion.  She didn't come up with the "Cap Lives" headline.  The others did.  Part of that is because they wanted to believe that dead didn't mean dead.  Even though they're argumentative on the point, the super-heroes are their legends and they'd rather have them alive than dead.

Something like this DOES spread hope, after all.  In a world dealing with something like Fear Itself, a little hope can go a long way.

But that's not the point.  Boss lady guesses correctly that Natasha is older than she looks.  In many ways, Black Widow has sacrificed her humanity to become what she is.  Now, granted, what she originally became was a super-spy working for the Soviets but, potato/ potahto.  Right now, the Widow is a hero doing what the world needs her to do.

Boss lady paraphrases Jim Gordon's lines from the end of the Dark Knight as Black Widow leaves.  When Natasha is gone, the boss deletes the article.

The Avengers #80The Avengers #80
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciler: John Buscema

In this issue:

• Red Wolf and Lobo stalk a criminal in New York.  Vision stops them from killing anyone and knocks Red Wolf unconscious during the fight.

• The Avengers debate their priorities.

• Vision arrives with Red Wolf.

• Red Wolf explains his Secret Origin, involving a criminal mastermind named Cornelius Van Lunt.

• The Avengers decide to split up to tackle the various threats facing them.

• Red Wolf and his team of Avengers leave the Mansion... for Montana.

September 1970! Amazing Spider-Man #88, Captain America #129, Daredevil #68, Fantastic Four #102, and Incredible Hulk #131 are on the stands.  In Avengers, the world is introduced to the Native America super-hero, Red Wolf.

William Talltrees is a Cheyenne with a tragic past who was imbued with the powers of the original Red World.  He also has a wolf companion.  Let's move on from there.

New York City!  It's a rainy night when Red Wolf stalks his prey with his wolf, Lobo.  The man he's chasing is a bad guy.  I'll give you that much.  He unloads his gun at his pursuer but hits nothing but air.  This isn't some magic trick on Red Wolf's part.  It's just that this guy is too scared to aim properly.

Since that didn't work, the man, named Jason Birch, cuts out of the dark alley and into the streets.  Jason bumps into a pedestrian and runs off, quickly followed by the Native America super-hero.  It just so happens that the pedestrian in this case is a disguised Vision.  Vish had left the Avengers just an issue ago but that doesn't mean he won't play the hero in this case.

Red Wolf has caught up to his target and makes to end this conflict permanently.  While Vision believes Red Wolf to be a righteous man, he can't allow the Native American to kill anyone.  That makes Vision an enemy.

Red Wolf's wolf, Lobo, attacks the Vision but to no real success.  Vish can alter his density and both extremes make him difficult to defeat.  In Lobo's case, Vision goes for diamond density.  When Red Wolf attacks, the former Avenger goes intangible.  When Vision attacks, he phases his hand through Red Wolf's chest and then makes it slightly solid.  This either gives the Native American a heart attack or makes him pass out.  Either way, the fight is over.

And no one died!  Success.

With more questions than before, the Vision carries Red Wolf off to the only place he knows will get him answers.  Lobo trots alongside him.

They're heading to Avengers Mansion, of course, but Vision will find the Avengers very busy.  Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor have all returned to the team so taht they can tackle the Zodiac at full strength.  Now, laugh if you will but at the time, the group garbed in costumes representing astrological signs was an actual threat.  It's like the only time in history when the Zodiac was more than a joke.  Iron Man believes that to defeat the Zodiac, they'll need the team at full strength.

That's great and all but Black Panther thinks the team needs to focus on other things.  T'challa's taken a teaching job and believes that they shouldn't be putting all their attention on finding the Zodiac.  There's regular ordinary street crime that also needs attention.

And this brings debate from all corners.  Goliath (who is still Clint Barton for this story) actually sides with the heroes who want to focus on finding and defeating the Zodiac.  Only the Scarlet Witch seems to take Black Panther's side.  Still, it's a big enough debate that Cap is worried that the team will fracture.  All this before the Vision arrives with yet another priority.


At least Red Wolf's appearance has tabled the earlier conversation for the moment.  The Native American wakes up pissed off but is convinced into giving the team his back story.  It begins... with a flashback...

Back in the day, William Talltrees was just a young kid on a Cheyenne Reservation in Montana.  They had to deal with a lot of ignorant tourists, even going so far as to perform fake war dances for their amusement.  Hey, sometimes you need to make some money off ignorant people.  It was only late at night when the real dance begins.

This is the dance of the Red Wolf, a tribal hero to this Reservation.  William was too young to be involved in the dance so he just snuck in to watch it and dream of the day when Red Wolf would return to save his people.

But time destroys childhood fantasies and there came a day when William stopped believing in the Red Wolf.  Around the same time, a man named Cornelius Van Lunt started muscling in on the Reservation, buying out land and being a general nuisance.

William left the Reservation to serve overseas in one conflict or another.  In this case, it was Vietnam but time slips these things to more recent wars.  In any case, Talltrees almost died.  When he got better, William went to work as a construction worker in New York.  Eventually, he returned to Montana.

He arrived just in time to kick Van Lunt out of his father's house when Cornelius was working on a deal to buy the place.  Van Lunt was accompanied by Jason Birch (from the beginning of this comic).  Birch wanted to shoot William right here and now but his boss stopped that and gave Talltrees a warning that he wouldn't be around to stop his hired help all the time.

Sure enough, the next night found Jason Birch doing a drive-by shooting of the Talltrees home.  William's mother and father both died.  He was injured but not severely.  Still, it was enough to put him into an odd trance.

Dressing up in the garb of the Red Wolf, William climbed up a sacred mountain and performed the Dance of the Red Wolf alone.  This time, there was an answer to this cry of revenge but it was different than he expected.  Instead of getting the assistance of Red Wolf, the spirit made him the NEW Red Wolf and gave him new strength.

Climbing down the mountain, William was attacked by a wolf and forced to kill it.  Once it was dead, Red Wolf learned the reason for the attack.  This was a mother wolf protecting her cub.  Talltrees took in the baby wolf and raised it as his own.  That would be Lobo.  I hope you're paying attention.

William Talltrees prepared his vengence for months.  He returned to New York City and took up his construction worker job again.  All of this was to prepare for his revenge.  Van Lunt and Birch were both in the city.  After staking out Van Lunt's headquarters and learning their patterns, Red Wolf made his move against Jason Birch first since the hood was the one to actually kill his parents.

And now we're caught up to the beginning of this issue.  Red Wolf is still angry for being denied revenge but Vision doesn't regret his actions.  If William had killed Jason Birch, it would have made him a murderer.  That won't do.  What will do is taking down Van Lunt (the Avengers have had past dealings with this guy) and Birch using what Red Wolf knows but Avengers methods.

That brings up the earlier conversation about focusing on the Zodiac.  Now, the Avengers don't yet know that Van Lunt is a member of the Zodiac and they won't actually learn that in the course of this story.  Still, this again threatens to tear the team apart until Captain America finally sticks up for Red Wolf's cause.  They can't start picking and choosing what they do.  They're Avengers and they've got to handle every injustice that comes their way.

So forces are divided.  While a bulk of the team will remain focused on the Zodiac, Red Wolf will be joined by the Vision (who has quickly rejoined the team), Scarlet Witch, and Goliath.  Black Panther declines any help taking out the minor criminals that he wants to tackle.

As Vision's team leaves the mansion in an airship, the android Avenger looks back with regrets, not for the mission they now face but for the future of the Avengers.

The Avengers #81The Avengers #81
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciler: John Buscema

In this story:

• More of the Oral History of the Avengers.  This time, the focus is on Spider-Woman.

• And the setting of our adventure is Brazil.  The Protector, Spider-Woman, and Ms. Marvel head on down to deal with the situation.  The sitch turns out to be a Worthy powered up Hulk.

• We've seen this play out in lots of titles.  No matter how powerful your heroes, they get beat down by the Worthy.  Image you're dealing with one that started out as the Hulk.  It's that bad.

• The Protector is taken out in the first ten seconds.  Spider-Woman starts fist fighting the super-powered Hulk.

• Before Nul can completely eviscerate Jessica, Hawkeye shows up for the save.

• Spider-Woman keeps on fighting.  The Worthy destroys Hawkeye's Quinjet.

• The Protector is back in the fight for another few seconds.

• Spider-Woman loads a bunch of children onto a truck and races out of the battle zone while Ms. Marvel fights the mega-Hulk.

• Everyone hides in a building until Nul gets bored and leaves.  Jessica Drew gives Hawkeye a kiss.

As the Vision and his team leave Avengers Mansion, the rest of the Avengers are also curious what the future holds for the super-hero team.  Most of them are melancholy about the future, believing this is the moment that the team won't be able to recover.  I think Roy Thomas might have forgotten how he resolved the last issue because these guys act like the Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Goliath have gone against orders when they had split up with the rest of the Avengers' blessing.

Well, regardless, there's more splitting to do this issue.  The Black Panther still has to depart to fight crime.  T'challa leaves for a team-up with Daredevil.

We also leave but that's so we can finish Red Wolf's first Marvel Adventure.  The Avengers are flying to Montana in style.  In a Quinjet!  That's cool.  I mean, the Avengers have had all manner of airships before but I think this is the first Super Reads where we've had the team using the Quinjet (they HAVE been around since Avengers #61, though, so I might have missed their first appearance).  Now, the craft doesn't look like the modern version of the ship but the basics are there.  It's unarmed and super-fast.  This one wasn't built by Anthony Stark, though.  The first Quinjets were built by T'challa and the Wakanda Design Group and gifted to the Avengers.  Good times!

Red Wolf gives new readers a super fast update on his back story and then acts incredibly indignant for the help he's getting from the Avengers.  It's a lot of bravado that he immediately regrets but pride prevents him from apologizing.  Vision and the Scarlet Witch wonder what they're doing on this mission with this ungrateful man but Goliath gets it.  Usually, he's the one sticking his foot in his mouth and then trying to figure out how to remove it without losing face.

That Quinjet has been in the air for at least ten minutes now so it's about time it got destroyed.  The team has almost reached the Cheyenne Reservation when they're attacked by another airship.  This is about the time when everyone wishes that the Quinjet had some weapons.

What it does have are super-heroes.  Vision phases through the Quinjet and flies up to the attack ship, phasing through the side of that ship as well.  What he finds on board is astonishing.  It's piloted by robots!  Since he's pretty certain this is an attack staged by Van Lunt and associates, he is curious as to why a man like Van Lunt warrants the use of such advanced technology... especially considering he's muscling in on Native American lands.

Vision's attack on the rival airship doesn't go swiftly enough and he sees his teammates crashing to earth in their destroyed Quinjet.  Well, that probably deserves some rage, right?  Vision makes himself so dense that the ship can no longer support his weight.  It crashes to the ground.  The synthezoid, of course, escapes unharmed.  He's got better things to do today than die.

With the threat dealt with, Vision turns his attention to his fallen teammates.  Now, we already know they all survived because they're alive and well in today's comics (well, Wanda has been more sane and Red Wolf could get a few more appearances but you understand the point).  Still, it's up to the Vision to find at least one of them.

And that one is Wanda Maximoff.  The Quinjet smashed into a lake and she somehow made it out of the ship and even swam to the shore before passing out.  Vision is elated to find out the Scarlet Witch is still alive.  An astute reader might see how Roy Thomas is handling the romance between Vision and the Scarlet Witch.  The foundations for that are already being lain.

Wanda comes to but her hex power is still iffy at best.  That's too bad because the heroes are surrounded by gangsters with guns.  Since fighting them might endanger the Scarlet Witch's life, the Vision surrenders.  The Avengers are brought to the headquarters of Cornelius Van Lunt.

Van Lunt treats the Vision as an honored guest.  That's because the android is now working for Cornelius, if the Avenger knows what's good for him.  Or, rather, if Vision knows what's good for the Scarlet Witch.  If Vish refuses, Wanda suffers and dies.  If you're the Vision, you know what he'll do.

I guess he'll work for Cornelius Van Lunt.

Van Lunt mentions that in his past dealings with the Avengers, he had to keep everything looking legal.  Now, however, the stakes are higher.  He's going out on a limb because things have reached a more important level.  Basically, it's time to break into full blown villainy.

And now, we take a break from that to learn how Goliath and Red Wolf survived their near death experience.  Here's how things went down...

Before the Quinjet crashed, Clint tossed Scarlet Witch out of the airship.  She hit the water and was able to swim to shore.  Red Wolf was unconscious so Goliath couldn't do the same with his Native American friend.  Instead, they rode the Quinjet right into the water and all the way down.  Once there, Goliath grew up to his full height and was able to swim all the way up to the surface without passing out.

Unfortunately, he wasn't able to do so in time to save Vision or the Scarlet Witch.  In fact, they don't even know if the other two Avengers survived.  After searching the area for a while, the two figure that Wanda and the Vision are no longer in the viscinity and make their way to the Reservation.

Once there, William Talltrees tries to convince the people that he is the Red Wolf returned to champion their cause.  There are some doubts among the people but Lobo does a lot to convince them that this guy is the real deal.  William's uncle relates the story of how his brother's family (that would be William's mom and dad) were killed standing up to Van Lunt.  These people are scared to stand up to the mobsters and shamed because of it.

And, yeah, if you're wondering, William's uncle either doesn't recognize his nephew yet or keeps his own suspicions to himself for now.

Right in the middle of this, the gangsters ride in on the attack.

I guess the bad guys can be bad?

I've got no clue why Van Lunt sent his men to attack the Reservation.  Goliath isn't sure either.  He figures they might be here to get him and Red Wolf but the gangsters are coming in awful loud for that.  Maybe this is a regular thing.

Whatever the case, Goliath and Red Wolf make short work of this crowd and prove to the Cheyenne that they're the team to support.  The whole group marches on Van Lunt's stronghold.

When Cornelius learns about this, he's not worried.  After all, he's got the Vision's protection.  Unfortunately, that's true.  Worst still, Vish doesn't feel the need to explain himself to Goliath.  Instead, he just tells Clint and his followers to leave.

This is why there are so many "fights over a misunderstanding" in the Marvel Universe.

This becomes a big blow out fight between Vision and Goliath and everyone else just plays spectator.  It looks like one of Van Lunt's men isn't so interested in the super-hero showdown happening right outside the stronghold.  He's actually more interested in what Red Wolf and a group of Cheyenne are doing on Van Lunt's dam.

In fact, now Van Lunt is more interested in that, too.  It seems the dam is quite important to his plans.  He and his crew load up into a helicopter to handle that problem, taking the Scarlet Witch with them.  At the same time, Wanda starts to get her hex powers back.  All she needs is an opening.

Van Lunt's men open fire on the dam, killing or injuring some of the Cheyenne in the process.  Red Wolf's words make it clear that they weren't here to do anything malicious.  They were actually returning home because they weren't interested in watching Clint Barton lose a fight to the Vision on their behalf.  I tell you, these guys don't know spectacle when they see it.

Anyway, now they're into a fight with well armed mobsters and their only hope lies in Scarlet Witch getting her hands free.  Well, what do you know.  That just happened.

Using her hex powers, Wanda causes the damn to tear apart.  Even though everyone else runs off the collapsing structure, Red Wolf corners Cornelius Van Lunt and continues the fight.  Wanda might have stuck around but she's got two Avengers who need to stop punching each other to deal with.  When Vision sees the Scarlet Witch, he knows that there's no need to continue his fight with Goliath.

Clint forgives easily when he learns that Vision was just acting to save Wanda.

Back at the damn, both Cornelius and Red Wolf are caught up in the falling structure.  Vision scans the forming river but can't find a trace of either of them except for the discarded headgear of Red Wolf.  Don't worry too much for William Talltrees.  He shows up soon enough in his civilian clothes.

While Goliath can tell that William's uncle sees right through Talltrees' secret identity, the older man respects his nephew's secret.  Besides, they have bodies to bury and a home to rebuild.

There's not too much more history involved with Red Wolf.  At one point, he was a charter member of the western super-hero team, the Rangers but the original team was loosely assembled at best.  After Civil War, Red Wolf joined a newly formed Rangers team as part of the Fifty State Initiative.  This team was based out of Texas.  During Secret Invasion, Red Wolf's animal companion, Lobo, was revealed to be a Skrull and the original Lobo was presumed dead.  After fighting against the Skrulls, William Talltrees' story seems to have faded back into the background.

Who knows when we'll see him in action again?

And that's what we call the end of this week of books!  I hope you learned something!

Until next time:  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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