Today, the Gallery looks upon the main antagonist reigning over Marvel's Fear Itself, the Serpent!
Usually when a comic book company does a mega-event, they invent some sort of uber-bad guy whose villainy eclipses everyone else. While some events star existing villains, like Infinity Gauntlet focusing on Thanos wielding unholy power, or Zero Hour showing Hal Jordan going bonkers and trying to remake time, the biggest events often feature a new villain never seen before. These are villains who can do just about anything. Examples include the Anti-Monitor (Crisis of Infinite Earths), the Beyonder (Secret Wars/Secret Wars II), The Monarch (Armageddon 2001), Onslaught (Onlaught), Imperiex (Our Worlds at War), and the Serpent (Fear Itself). All of these characters debuted fully out of their respective events. Their purpose is one-fold: to smash the finest superheroes in the universe. Well, that and selling the mega-event.
However, like the concept of the mega-event itself, event villains are often seen as underwhelming and hackneyed and very rarely succeed in eliciting the right reactions from readers. The downfall of the event villain concept can be traced to Secret Wars II, when the Beyonder became a dude with a jheri curl mindlessly testing heroes and villains for kicks before being killed off. So does the Serpent, main antagonist of Fear Itself, fall victim to this trend? The answer is both yes and no, partially due to the fact that his story hasn't fully concluded.
The Serpent has done some interesting things. He is apparently Odin's predecessor the God of Fear, and the Serpent destined to kill Thor. Wait, that doesn't make much sense since Bor was shown to be the All-Father before Odin in JMS's Thor run. And didn't we see this whole "destined to kill Thor" thing done already and done better with the Midgard Serpent in Walt Simonson's utterly epic run on Thor? I wish I could at least tell you he has a great appearance, but honestly the other god of fear, Nightmare, has better tailors than him.
That's the main issue I have with the Serpent: everything about him has been done before and done better. For me at least, this whole storyline with him creates confusion and dilutes the mythology of the Asgardians. To make matters worse, the Serpent's backstory has barely been mentioned (I'm still scratching my head even with Odin's brief summary of events in Fear Itself #6). I know we'll get the answers somehow or some way, but there really should have been more prep for this baddie then just a simple one-shot and a few hints on Fraction's own Thor/Mighty Thor runs. I just feel totally underwhelmed by it all.
If Marvel's looking for major hype then they should look to the example of how Onslaught and Anti-Monitor brought major presences in their respective crossovers. That's not to say Onslaught was a great event villain, but both villians showed up perfectly in each event. Sure, Onslaught's motivation was pathetic and he switched it up half way through the event due to "evolution" past his creation, but he was still trying. Seriously, how hard is it to make a compelling and threatening bad guy? Is it so difficult the writer has to bust and ignore past stories? I mean, seriously, if the Serpent first appeared in the crossover and shattered Captain America's shield, that would be a jaw dropping sort of impact. Seeing him evolve to that point and geting some scratchy stuff for his backstory just didn't work for me.
The Serpent would have been much better served by showing his Heralds and the destruction they wrought first. By keeping him in the shadows we forgo his first form and let our minds play with his true form. Play with, ironically, the fear of not seeing and just imagining. THEN, after barely taking out two or fighting Skadi (the one possessing Sin) to a stand-still, have him finally make his grand appearance to break the Cap's Shield and all that jazz. So with the way I'd play it, would that make more of an impact than just the one in the book?
That's not to say he's not been entertaining for some readers. For an old reader such as myself, I've seen it done better. The Serpent as a concept would have worked better if they had taken a page from my fellow co-hosts of the Outhouse Pirate Podcast in episode sixty-six and sixty-seven (which you can view here) The event should've really started with Bucky's death and built more of the Serpent's backstory with Asgard. This story would have been a hundred times better if the event started right then and there, with everything before as a prelude.
The entire build-up is what made Onslaught so gripping when he was introduced, before the story was clogged up with all these books tying into the event. From beating the living snot of the Juggernaut, to orchestrating certain events by nabbing various powerful mutants or securing data, to finally seeing his herald, Post, lay waste to the X-Men's best (at that time), the Onslaught Saga was epic until it started to go nowhere. The build-up, however, was played perfectly.
Like any character, the Serpent could have been a great villain, but now I find him a bit lacking. I wish I could enjoy his villainy, but I can't since s his history is too jumbled for me to fully care about. It seems the Serpent will eventually be forgotten just like Imperiex and Monarch before him. It's kind of sad really since this is Marvel's first real try at an event villain in a while. If they had tweaked Fear Itself just a little, the Serpent could have been so much more. And instead of me criticizing, I'd be praising the villainy he'd excelled at. Still, I do kind of wonder why Marvel feels they can try and top what cannot be topped in The Mighty Thor #380. You can't top this:
With all this negativity, I'm gonna focus the next villain column on one I feel more positive towards. I'll be turning my attention on the new Hate Monger who was running around Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, and go a bit into legacy villains (an identity carried on by various people). I swear I'll try and keep Phil Urich, aka Hobgoblin V, out of the article.
Wherever evil exists, MUMM-RA SHALL LIVE!!! We all knew the moment was coming in the new Thundercats show, with Mumm-Ra's true form unleashed upon his arch-foes. Not to mention we get a much more detailed origin and hints of the bigger picture of Mumm-Ra and the Cats.
I can't help but enjoy the reversed parallels on the show. In the original '80s toon, the Cats were the tech-heavy ones and Mumm-Ra was guided by mysticism and the old ways. In the new show Mumm-Ra is VERY tech based (it almost reminds me of the Goa'uld from Stargate). Plus, the hinted (and now shown) link between Mumm-Ra and the Thundercats of the past makes me wonder what else happened before the show started. These glimpsed plot points show some intriguing story possibilities down the line.
Still, it makes me scratch my head that Mumm-Ra wasn't able to take his true form in the daylight in the pilot episode, while in this episode he can, but is still weak to sunlight when Jaga reigns down the white light on him. What's up with that? That's kind of a flimsy weakness. I recall him hating his reflection in the original cartoon, but here it's a certain form of light? That's kind of weak, yet almost vampire-like. Also it being all smoke and not the bandages going all over the place is also disappointing. They just don't make animation like they used too (even if it was reused like hundreds of times in the old show).
As for the flashback with how the Cats evolved and the origin of the Sword of Omens, it kind of felt like it should have been a two-parter, but it got it's message across. Seeing Monstar was sweet, and hopefully we get a Silverhawk crossover or relaunch. So what about the sword collector episode? I haven't seen it, so I cannot say anything about it.
Still, this is going to be a week is a big week for cartoons. We'll be getting new episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Young Justice (okay not really on either since they've been shown out of the US or online. So really next week will be the first real "new" episode), and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Plus a new season of Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is right on the horizon.
-From the Chest of the Toy Shed-
Marvel Universe: Scarlet Spider and Dr. Doom - So during my adventure to Wizardworld Chicago 2011 a few weeks ago, I learned that Chicago buyers had first dibs with scalpers who were selling the latest waves and San Diego Comic Con Exclusives. I think this was actually the first time I noticed every single exclusive being sold at the Chicago convention. Plus the recent, or first waves, of G.I. Joe: Pursuit of Cobra, Star Wars, Thundercats, Young Justice, Thor, and Marvel Universe figures lined the buyers shelves. I decided to shell out the dough for two great characters (I kind of regret not getting Dr. Strange now that both variants of the figure disappeared by Friday). Still, I got DOOM and Ben Reilly.
For Doom, it's merely a repaint of the version that was released in the Secret War two-pack, along with the Absorbing Man (who wil also be re-released in a new paint job) and a tiny Wasp. This figure surprisingly doesn't even come with the accessory he had in the original two-pack. So that's somewhat disappointing. However, much like that version the detail and articulation is just stunning on this figure. So of course this figure is a MUST BUY.
The Scarlet Spider uses the current Black-Suited Spidey mold (and not that dreary first one which had the horrible articulated head and arms). The mold of the figure is just stunning. I can't believe they gave this much attention to detail on a figure that hasn't gotten any sort of love. The figure actually has a little molded blue hoodie on the back.
Pretty much as like most of the mold, the articulation is leaps and bounds better than the original Marvel Universe mold. However, much like Loki last week, the Scarlet Spider has the same annoying loose leg. I can't even fully extend his left leg without the ball coming out of its joint. It annoys me that this problem has reared its head again when the issue should be easily fixable. I'm sure something to make the ball more stuck in the joint, nail polish or some glue, will fix it up.
Regardless, the Scarlet Spider figure is just awesome. If you were a fan of Ben Reilly you really need to hunt this figure down. So of course, this I rate this a MUST BUY.
Written or Contributed by: Zechs
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About the Author - Zechs
Zechs is the lord and master of The Toy Shed, Character Spotlight, and Cartoon Reviews. He's also an aspiring comic book writer trying to get some of his works published on the Outhouse. If there's any greater quality to Zechs, it's that he's an avid fan of comic book characters and would defend them to the bitter end against the companies that use them wrongly. Zechs walks the lonely path in Chicagoland area.
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