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Super Reads 164

Meet Frank.  Frank Dracula.Here is the end of Fear Itself.

Today, we check out Fear Itself #7, Fear Itself: The Home Front #7, Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #6, Journey Into Mystery #629, Invincible Iron Man #509, Fear Itself: The Fearless #1, Avengers #18, and Blast to the Past for The Tomb of Dracula #1.  Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!


Super Reads 164

It has been a long journey (into mystery) to get to this point and only you (and, of course, me) can tell if it's been worth it.

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

Without further ado...

Fear Itself #7Fear Itself #7
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Stuart Immonen

In this story:

• Dark Asgard floats ever closer to Fallen Asgard as Captain America successfully shoots down Nazi-Mechs with his combat rifles and shotguns.

• Tony Stark, Thor, and a platoon of Dwarves show up to deliver upon the Mighty their weapon upgrades.  Heroes also show up in Fallen Asgard but without any credible explanation.

• As the fight begins in earnest, we go to Broxton, Oklahoma where mild-mannered Rick is finding the will to fight for the whole world.

• Thor loses his hammer early on in the fight with the Serpent.  He starts slicing with the Odinsword which is a lot easier when you aren't dual-weilding.

• Mjolnir falls to earth, scattering hero and villain alike.  Captain America is nearly spent after the explosion dissipates but gets a helping hand from Rick.  Seeing a common bald man stepping up, Steve Rogers is inspired.  Grabbing Thor's hammer, he returns to the battle.

• The tide turns, here and around the world.  Right before Odin arrives with his army of world killers, Thor puts the Odinsword through the Serpent's head, resulting in both of their deaths.

• The next day, the Avengers build a funeral pyre for Thor.  Odin doesn't stick around for it.  Instead, he teleports everyone out of Asgard-Space and then takes up sole residence so that he can devote his time to watching over his dead brother.

• In the next couple of days, there is a funeral for James Barnes, the Mighty weapons are destroyed in Svartalfheim, and the dwarves fix up Captain America's shield, leaving it with cool battle damage but otherwise more resilient than ever before.

• The heroes end up back in Fallen Asgard after all of that to pose heroically and listen to Steve Rogers tell them how hard they're going to work for the future.

• Rick lends his brand new neighbor a motorless push reel mower to show how everyone has pulled together in the face of a crisis.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

This is it, folks.  The final big fight of Fear Itself.  Before we get to the main event, let's see how we got here.

In Fear Itself: The Book of the Skull, we learned that the Red Skull summoned up one of the Serpent's hammers by sacrificing a lot of Atlanteans back during World War II.  While Captain America, Bucky, and Namor did their bit to stop the Skull, what really ruined the Red Skull's plan was that no one could lift the hammer.  The villain's Thule minions built a fort around the hammer and began studying it.  In the present, the Red Skull's daughter, Sin, found the location of this Thule fortress with a lot of help from Baron Zemo.  She stole Zemo's ship and set her sites on Antarctica.

Moving on the Fear Itself #1, we had a riot in New York City where someone hit Steve Rogers with a brick.  Sin and her army of Neo-Nazis raided the Antarctic Thule Fortress where the hammer was stored.  When she grabbed it, the daughter of the Red Skull was turned into Skadi, the Herald of the Serpent.  She quickly flew over to the Pacific to free her All-Father, the Serpent.  The Serpent called down even more hammers to Earth.  Meanwhile, Tony Stark was holding a press conference detailing plans to rebuild Fallen Asgard with Repulsor Technology.  That went off the tracks when Odin sensed the return of the Serpent and called all the gods back to Asgard-Space (which is where Asgard used to be located).  Thor fought his dad over this but lost and was brought back with everyone else.

In Fear Itself #2, one of the hammers from the last issue touched down in the Raft, the Maximum Maximum Security Prison that housed the nation's worst super-powered criminals and was headquarters to the Thunderbolts (it's also conveniently located off the coast of New York City so that every jail break threatens the largest city in the United States).  Juggernaut picked it up and became... Kuurth, Breaker of Stone.  He smashed the prison wide open and then started his cross country trek to San Francisco.  Other villains and heroes also got their hammers, like Hulk in Brazil (he became Nul, Breaker of Worlds) and Titania in South Africa (Skirn, Breaker of Men).  The Avengers set out to hammer landing points, trying to prevent any major event from happening.  It was probably too late.  Washington D.C. was hit by Blitzkrieg U.S.A, which basically means thousands of Nazi-Mechs rain down on the city.  With the Avengers spread out all over the place, no one was available for a quick response.

Things started picking up in Fear Itself #3. Captain America, Falcon, and the Black Widow joined in the defense efforts for the nation's capital, facing off not only against Nazi-Mechs but also against Skadi.  On Yancy Street, Ben Grimm got too close to one of those fallen hammers and was turned into Angrir, Breaker of Souls.  In a reconstructed Asgard (in Asgard-Space), Thor was freed from prison by his brother, Loki, who was now in the form of a kid.  Odin found this out pretty quickly and after a confrontation with the god of thunder, sent Thor to Earth. While coordinating the defense efforts for Washington D.C., Commander Steve Rogers abandoned his post and lept out of the Quincarrier for no good reason.  In the capital, the then-current Captain America, James Buchanan Barnes, was violently killed by Skadi.

Which brings us to Fear Itself #4.  In this chapter, Thor landed in Fallen Asgard, near Broxton, Oklahoma.  He found the people of Broxton consumed with fear and formed up into a militia to guard the road into town (both ends).  Steve Rogers put his Captain America suit back on after the death of James Barnes but made sure not to tell us why the HELL HE JUMPED OUT OF THE QUINCARRIER IN THE LAST ISSUE.  The Blitzkrieg moved on to New York City.  Iron Man summoned Odin in Fallen Asgard by drinking a bottle of merlot.  Thor confronted the Serpent and learned that the big bad guy was his uncle.  Before he can start up any final battle, the thunder god was teleported to New York City for a fight with Angrir (Thing) and Nul (Hulk).

That battle played out in Fear Itself #5, where Thor fatally wounded Angrir (Thing) and hammered Nul (Hulk) into a low orbit (Nul came down in Romania for a three-part vampire adventure).  After that, Thor dropped unconscious.  Meanwhile, Iron Man got Odin to agree to let him use the All-Father's forge on Svartalfheim to produce some Mighty weapons for his teammates.  The Serpent and his floating fortress called Dark Asgard showed up in New York City so he could reveal himself as the big bad and break Cap's unbreakable shield as a display of his ULTIMATE POWER.  While that went on, Franklin Richards, the son of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), found the dying Angrir and used his deus ex machina powers to turn the Worthy back into his Uncle Ben.  After the Serpent moved on to better things, Spider-Man asked Steve Rogers if he could go find his family so he could spend the last hours of existance with Aunt May.  Steve agreed because it's the lowest point in the conflict.

For Fear Itself #6, the Avengers found the fallen body of Thor and returned the thunder god to Asgard using Heimdall's Observatory, formerly located on the top of Avengers Tower but now located in the rubble of the fallen building.  Half of the team, led by Luke Cage, stayed in New York to mind the store.  After Commander Rogers returned Thor to Odin, he gave the All-Father a piece of his mind before Odin returned the Avengers to Earth.  They landed in Broxton and prepared to defend the World Tree from the Serpent.  Spider-Man swung around New York until he found his Aunt May.  She gave him a rousing speech about power and responsibility (what else?) and our friendly neighborhood Wall-Crawler returned to the fight.  In Asgard, Odin healed his son and handed down the armor he wore when the Serpent was first defeated.  They teleported over to Svartalfheim to bless some Mighty weapons made by Tony Stark and a bunch of dwarves.  In Broxton, Captain America delivered some final orders before heading into Broxton to rally the local militia into action.  No one followed him but at least they left their guns behind.

Here, then, is the final issue of Fear Itself...

And boy, is it a steaming pile.  More on that as we get to it.

Dark Asgard (the floating fortress of the Serpent) is just about half a mile away from Yggdrasil, the World Tree.  When the Serpent reaches the World Tree, he will teleport into Asgard (the Asgard in Asgard-Space) and retake his thrown away from his brother and usurper, Odin.  While he and his Worthy wait aboard the floating fortress, the Serpent's other minions trying reaching Fallen Asgard (the broken city of Asgard that was destroyed during Siege).  Standing in their way is Captain America and a lot of guns.

The bullets are made of love.  Because they hurt.

OK.  Steve certainly has more than just hunting rifles in this scene but even with the combat rifles and sub-machine guns, he's shooting holes in NAZI-MECHS.  Those things have ravaged Washington D.C., New York City, and everywhere in between but Captain America with some rifles is blowing them up.  Yes... that's happening.

Don't worry, it gets more ridiculous.  Remember how half of the Avengers (the ones led by Luke Cage) were left in New York last issue to get things under control and maybe evacuate the place?  They're suddenly here.  No explanation.  Nothing.  Very little time has passed since the end of the last issue since we already saw Dark Asgard approaching but the Avengers in Fallen Asgard have more than doubled.

More than THAT, the Red She-Hulk is here.  She hasn't shown up since Fear Itself #3 and that was in Brazil (this appearance was reflected in Avengers #15).  Since then, she's been off the grid.  You might think that she may have hitched a ride back to New York with the Avengers that showed up in Brazil but we've SEEN those Avengers make the trek back up to the states (Ghost Rider #3 & Avengers #17) and Betty Ross/ Red She-Hulk was not among them.

The obvious answer to all of this is that certain heroes had to be here to pick up their Mighty weapon upgrades even though the last time we saw them was on the other side of the country.  I could try my best to no-prize this, but this is clearly sloppy storytelling.  I hate to editorialize, but that's all it is.  Matt Fraction had one clear thing he had to do to set up this issue and he totally failed in doing so.  We've seen other characters do the cross country travel during this story.  We watched as Kuurth (Juggernaut) got closer and closer to San Francisco and we even watched as Nul (Hulk) leaped from South America to New York City.  Even Dark Asgard was shown making its way from New York over to Broxton.

Yet when it comes to getting seven heroes from point "A" to point "B," it all happens while we blinked, somewhere between issue #6 and #7.  There's not enough time for it to happen.  No one even matter-of-factly lets us know why Luke Cage's team is suddenly here.  It's just sloppy all around and when I'm paying five bucks for double-sized issues where most pages are three or four panels... well, I get frustrated.

Mr. Fraction and the editorial staff behind this book, I've had to No-Prize a lot of stuff to makes this story make sense, and I shouldn't have to.  I've had to work hard to make some of this make sense, when that should be your job.  Didn't anyone ask the question: "how do Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, and Red She-Hulk get to Broxton to pick up their Mighty upgrades when last issue clearly showed them in New York City after the other Avengers teleported to Broxton (and Red She-Hulk has been MIA since Fear Itself #3/ Avengers #15)?"  This is basic stuff, here.  This is housekeeping.  I'm only three pages into this comic (HOLY DAMN-- I'm only three pages into this comic) and I'm already really ticked off at this.  It's either really sloppy storytelling or you just didn't give a damn which Avengers were where at any given time and you didn't expect anyone else to be paying attention, either.

Well, guess what?  I'm paying way too much attention.  That's what I do.  If I were only casually reading, I probably wouldn't care too much but look at me: I've dedicated a good chunk of change to reading EVERY damn Fear Itself issue and tie-in and then going over them in excruciating detail.  I basically gave myself the task is paying attention.  Since some of you are getting paid to notice writing snafus like this before they see print, maybe you should be paying at least as much attention.

OK, I'm going to move on because, like I said, I'm only three pages in and I've probably already lost half of my Readers.  That means I've only got about three left so I better work my butt off to keep them.

So, long story short(er): Tony Stark, Thor, and a whole lot of dwarves show up with the Might weapons and they get passed out to a group of heroes (Red She-Hulk, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Iron Fist, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and Wolverine).  Tony comments that he didn't make anything for Captain America but nothing is better than that shield.  Hawkeye tells Stark that he might have been gone too long because something has happened to the unbreakable shield.

On the approach to Fallen Asgard and Yggdrasil, the Serpent burst with even more power, drawing on all that Fear energy in the world.  He shouts at his absent brother about how he will take back Asgard and blah, blah, blah.  Besides all the purple glowing that the Serpent is doing, we do get one shot of Nul in Romania fighting Vampires.

On, "the line," Captain America is still shooting bullets at Nazi-Mechs and watching them fall when he finally gets some help.  The Mighty are here and all of their weapons are fully charged.  We're not going to see what most of these weapons do.  What we do see is that the blessing of Odin has given our heroes some Mighty upgraded costumes.  That mostly means glowy bits.

Inside Broxton, the townsfolk are huddling together in one giant room as they wait out this fight.  One of them is a guy you might remember from the first issue.  His name is Rick.  Yes, he actually showed up in the first issue.  He and his son watched the hammers fall to the sky at the end of the issue. He also said good-bye to one of his neighbors in an earlier scene from that book.  Rick has shown up since them, mostly with the Broxton militia guarding the road into town.

This is when all of that pays off.  Rick ran with the rest of the militia when Dark Asgard started approaching last issue but he's having second thoughts now.  After talking to his wife and holding his child, Rick tells them that he's got to go back.  He can't leave Captain America all alone to defend the world.

Back at the battle, Thor is engaging his uncle in final combat.  The Serpent is no longer in any type of human form, going for the full, gigantic dragon-snake look instead.

There is a prophesy.  Thor is destined to kill the Serpent, walk nine steps, and fall.  Thor is willing to fulfil that prophesy.  The Serpent?  Like all good super-powerful villains, he thinks that he's above such things as prophesies.  Either way, this isn't going to be an easy fight.  Thor throws his hammer, Mjolnir, at the Serpent but it's deflected by a massive blast of energy emanating from the Serpent's mouth.  That leaves Thor with his Odinsword.

As Thor starts slicing into the Serpent's tail, we follow that path of Mjolnir to the ground.  It's impact causes a giant explosion that separates everyone and leaves Captain America momentarily stunned.  A hand reaches out to grab his and Steve takes it, thinking that it's Luke Cage.  Instead, it's Rick.

To find a civilian coming to his aid... that restores Captain America's faith in all that is good and right in this world.  A normal guy fighting against his fear and doing what's right?  That inspires Steve Rogers... no small thing, people.  Cap finds Mjolnir and lifts it into the air.  With a crackle of lightning, we see that Rick isn't the only Broxton citizen to show up on this battlefield.

Also: Avengers Assemble.

With a rally like that, victory is kind of assured.  Captain America has a weapon capable of bringing the fight right up to Sin and it turns out Mjolnir pretty much owns Skadi's hammer.  The Mighty upgrades come into play here and we see a few of our heroes using their trick abilities.

These scenes are juxtaposed with television coverage from around the country as the nation pulls together to save itself from its fear.  Rescue workers are out saving lives.  Regular people are making sure that the riots don't rage too much out of control.  Areas are set up to help people.  Basically, as the Serpent grows weaker, his hold over the world's Fear diminishes... or, taking the other way around, the world fighting back against the Serpent is weakening the former All-Father.  Either way you look at it, we're almost ready to stick a fork in this battle.

All that's needed is for Thor to come through and kill the big bad.  The Serpent has the thunder god wrapped up in his tail.  In the next panel?  Thor's burying the Odin Sword in the Serpent's head.

Boy is my face red... with my own blood.

Odin's raging armies (intent on wiping out all life on Earth) show up just after his son wins this thing.  The Serpent's massive dragon body plummets to the ground along with Thor.  We catch a scene with the Warriors Three and Sif where the warrior maiden cries out that they have arrived "too late."

With the Serpent dead, the Worthy hammers don't long stay in the hands of the Worthies.  Odin rips them out of the hands of the Serpent's followers, causing them to depower back into their mortal forms.  Sin passes right out.

The battle is over.  Odin rushes to his son.

After reading this issue for the first time, I forgot that Thor had just died.  That is what we call "impactful."

Odin and Thor embrace as the life leaves the god of thunder.

That all happened on Friday.  This is what happens on Saturday.

Funeral arrangements.  The death of Thor is going to need a nice funeral pyre as befitting an Asgardian warrior.  While some of the heroes put together a good funeral pyre, Captain America has gone off to find Odin.

The Asgardian All-Father has already said his good-byes to his son and now is more concerned about the fate of his brother.  After saying some final words to Steve Rogers about how he had tried to avoid the prophesy that would kill the Serpent and Thor, Odin declares "Time for us now to finally go HOME."

With that comes the great switcheroo.  The gods in Asgard-Space are transported to Earth.  Odin, carrying his brother (who is finally given the name "Cul"), teleports to Asgard-Space.

I should have just called you "Muffin."

It is here that Odin will watch over the body of the Serpent... forever.

Or at least twelve issues.  Give or take.

The recently teleported Asgardians are a bit bewildered but Hermod, the messenger god, tells everyone present that it looks like they're back to living on Earth.  Asgard-Space is closed up.  Maybe Tony Stark will be able to build a Repulsor powered city after all.

We skip the rest of Thor's funeral and move on to Sunday.  At Arlington National Cemetery, the body of James Buchanan Barnes is laid to rest.  Captain America and the Black Widow are present for the ceremony.

On Monday, Tony Stark is in Svartalfheim, pitching the Mighty weapons back into a molten Uru vat.  The dwarves have also done a good patch job for Stark.

That patch job is passed over to Captain America on Tuesday aboard the Quincarrier.  Yep.  It's the shield.  While there's still a scar running down through the shield, Tony claims that the Dwarves put it back together using "Uru-infused enhancements."  It's more unbreakable than ever before, despite the visible crack.  Stark offers to continue working on getting rid of the crack but Steve tells him not to bother.  The scar is appropriate.

Wednesday finds everyone back in Fallen Asgard for some reason.  All of the heroes stand heroically, looking just off-panel as Steve Rogers gives one of his speeches about rebuilding and returning even stronger than before.

Which brings us to Thursday.  We're in Broxton, Oklahoma in Rick's neighborhood.  He is mowing his lawn while his kid plays with Iron Man and Captain America toys in the front yard.  Next door, it looks like his new neighbors have already moved into the house vacated in the first issue.  The new neighbor is trying to get a lawn mower started and failing.

Rick introduces himself and then offers up his own push reel mower (y'know, the motorless kind that people used to lose their fingers in WAY back before you were born).  It doesn't work very well but it's the thought that counts and the neighborhood is on gas rations so it's about all they could use, anyway.  After Rick comments on how people need to look after one another, the camera pulls back.

Further back.

And even further back until we are staring at the Earth from space.

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Penciler: Mark Bagley

In this story:

• Sin finds herself fighting some... scientists?  Doctors?  She's fighting SOMEONE while still partially strapped down to a table.

• One of the dudes prepares a syringe of glowing green liquid to inject into Sin to calm her down but another scientist/doctor with cyborg hands wrests the syringe out of the first guy's hand.

• This is when we learn that Sin has already been broken out of prison.

• The daughter of the Red Skull remembers her hammer and discovers that it still holds even more secrets.

This story happens on Friday.  One week after she was arrested, it looks like Sin has already broken out of prison.  You'd think that would be impossible.  I mean, this woman is pretty much the most important prisoner from this incident and Steve Rogers has some very personal reasons for her to never see the light of day again.  The fact that it only ONE WEEK to get her out of whatever hole they locked her in is a sign that Commander Rogers needs to be replaced as America's Top Cop.  Like MONTHS ago.

I'm sorry if that's harsh but seriously.  This is a level of incompetence that just baffles me.  It would be like arresting Osama Bin Laden a week after 9-11 and then having his followers break him out of prison.  Heads would roll.  People would lose their jobs.  Even if Steve Rogers keeps his, whoever was personally responsible for Sin's incarceration should find themselves in the unemployment line.

The way this story starts out, we don't immediately realize that Sin has been broken out of prison.  It looks like she's in a medical facility.  Her legs are still strapped to a table but she's fighting the three scientist/doctor guys in the room.  One of them has a needle that he's going to inject into the daughter of the Red Skull to calm her down.  The syringe is filled with a green compound with glowy writing running through it.

Before this shot can be administered, a mechanical limb grabs this scientist/ doctor's hand and the syringe crashes on the floor.  The mechanical hand then reaches out for Sin, calming her down and telling her that she's been freed.

We can also give you a wig.

The mechanical limb is coming from a creepy looking guy with two hands on his right side and cyborg parts coming out of all of them.  We can only see half of his lower face which looks like his lips are gone and all that remains is a wicked smile.  From what we can see of his arms, stitches are everywhere.

This monster of a man claims that "this is a place of HEALING" but Sin doesn't believe anything will take her pain away.  She was a god.  That's not something you come down from easily.  The cyborg tells her that she still has a lot going for her.  Sin has a nice neo-Nazi following and, of course, the hidden memories of Skadi...

Sin thinks about that and the memories slip into place.  Those hammers the Worthy were wielding during Fear Itself have ANOTHER purpose... perhaps one even DEADLIER than what we've just witnessed.

With an evil grin, Sin gets ready for the Fear Itself follow-up, The Fearless.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Choi

In this story:

• Inside Hulk's head, Bruce Banner complains about recent events.  In the real world, the Incredible Hulk is leaping across a desert.

• After getting sick of hearing Banner talk, Hulk kicks Bruce out of his head and leaves the Gamma Scientist out in the desert.

• Hulk wants to be alone and Banner isn't helping.

• You'll also notice that Bruce Banner looks fresh from a hospital.  He's still got an IV in his arm.

• Confused, Bruce keeps shouting at the Hulk, trying to figure out what happened, as the Green Goliath leaps away.

The next epilogue takes place on Saturday.  By this point, Hulk has left his Romanian adventure against Dracula and the vampires long behind him.  Inside his head, Bruce Banner is lamenting the losses they've accrued.  Because of the whole Fear Itself thing, the Hulk is feared and hated all the more.  He also thinks they missed out on fixing things with Betty Ross.  Life sucks and there's no end in sight of the suckage.

What really ticks Bruce off is that Hulk is blazé about the whole thing.  He's just leaping through a remote desert without caring too much where he's going or what has just happened.  What he wants is to be left alone.

And that includes in his head.  After sniping Bruce with a passive aggressive comment, Banner shoots back that this was his brain first and that Hulk was a later addition.  The scientist then thinks better of this and tries to get himself to calm down and Hulk to stop being such a dickweed.  Instead, Hulk puts Bruce in a one handed choke hold.

It's a giant hand.

Claiming "Hulk wants to be ALONE," the big guy kills Bruce in their mind.  Somehow, that translates into them parting ways.  Bruce finds himself in the middle of the desert that Hulk was bounding through.  What's wierd?  Hulk is standing nearby.  They are separated in the physical world somehow that isn't entirely explained here.

But if I had money to bet, I'd put it on this being a side effect of exorcizing Nul from the Hulk.  If it can be done once, it can be done twice.

Hulk says his farewells and then goes on his merry way, leaving Dr. Robert Bruce Banner alone in the middle of a desert with nothing but questions.

Oh, also: how did I get out here?  But mostly that first one.

Oh yeah, that's a big one.  While Bruce was wearing glasses, an "A" shirt, and a blue jeans in his mind, what he looks like in the outside world is different.  No glasses but that's just a minor thing.  He's got the whole hospital patient look going on, here.  It's complete with an IV still stuck in his arm with a saline drip connected to it.

Want to know more?  Check out the Incredible Hulk #1 by Jason Aaron and Marc Silvestri.  It's probably on sale RIGHT NOW.

Writer: Christopher Yost
Penciler: Scot Eaton

In this story:

• A sick old man in a wheelchair asks about a mother being killed and finds out that it's been done.

• There's also a matter about a spy getting offed after sharing the "greatest secret in the world."

• Which all relates back to a Sergeant M. Johnson who is currently serving in one of the United States' many war zones.  It's his mother who has been killed and that is just a means to get him home so he'll be easier to acquire/kill.

• The elderly sick man in a wheelchair drums up a bunch of pictures on his big screen monitor to pick the best assassins for this job.

• So I guess they're going to kill him or something?  Probable.

It is now Sunday which means it's time for the "greatest secret in the world."  This may also be the most vague.  Let me walk you through it.  You try to stay awake.  If you've read multiple Super Reads, you probably have some practice on boredom. ;)

Meet... some old dude.  This guy is like Professor X's great-uncle.  If Charles Xavier's handicap had been hereditary and, y'know... no telekenesis... Let me start over.  This is an old bald guy in a wheelchair who breath from an oxygen tank.  He also has a cane which might be used to hit people, or maybe he is still able to walk around a bit.

Old dude is in a heavily secured location which means that he's important.  When one of his underlings shows up, the old guy asks if everything is proceeding apace.  The agent answers that "the mother is dead."  When the senior citizen asks about "the spy," he learns that the character, who is shown wearing the third Spymaster's costume, delivered some specific intel (either voluntarily or not so much) and got a bullet in the head for his trouble.  The information is described as "the greatest secret in the world" and we see pictures os Sgt. M. Johnson.

OK.  One BIG "wait a minute."  Spymaster III just got killed?  This is the SAME Spymaster that has currently infiltrated Stark Resilient and is hiding out as one of the personnel?  That guy?  Not likely.  C'mon, editors.  Back this stuff up.  Check it.  Double check it.  Before killing a character, maybe you might want to check and make sure they aren't involved in someone else's ongoing storylines?  Maybe?

I'm just going to call this guy a fake Spymaster so I can sleep at night.  Ugh.

Anyway, "A" Spymaster is dead and some valuable information has exchanged hands.  Now, about that mother...

Sergeant Johnson's mom lives in Atlanta.  When the city was consumed with riots and other Fear related activites...

"I'm just looking for a bottle opener!"

A team (called "the Russian's") was sent to her house and killed her.  It was made to look like part of the Fear Itself madness.

So why kill this lady?  Because her death will prompt her son's return from a war zone for her burial.  This will make it easier to kill/capture/probably kill him than sending an assassin after him when he's with his military unit.

Now, our old man will just needs to pick out the perfect assassin/ mercenary.  On the old guy's giant screen, we see various operatives, including Taskmaster, Deadpool, and Paladin.

Did you like what you just saw?  Want some answers?  Then follow this story in Battle Scars #1, on-sale in November.

Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Terry Dodson

In this story:

• Nul, the Breaker of Worlds, rises in Romania.  When Hulk broke his hammer, he was freed.  He kills more Krieger Sect soldiers.

• Hulk hears this on his desert journey and decides it's something he's going to have to deal with.

• Hitching a ride on a cargo freighter, the Incredible guy makes his way to New York City.

• From there, he his up Greenwich Village and Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum.  It's time to bring the Defenders back together.

In Fear Itself: Hulk Vs. Dracula #3, Hulk smashed Nul's Worthy hammer.  This returned him to his normal state but it had another consequence.

It freed Nul.  No longer bound to the hammer, the Breaker of Worlds is free to break things all over again.  He rises on Monday near the city of St. Sebastian in the Vampire Nation.  The local Krieger Sect vampires try to stop him but they stand no better chance here than they did in the earlier mentioned mini-series.

As Nul howls in victory, the Hulk picks it up (probably because of the earlier possession) while roaming a desert.  The big guy realizes what has happened.  His breaking of the hammer has set this all in motion and that means it's up to him to put it all right, whether the world likes him or not.

Instead of leaping back to Romania to take on Nul, the Hulk takes a cargo boat to New York City.  It's a six day journey and Hulk spends most of this time holding on the the boat's rudder below water.  When he gets to the city, it's still too soon after the Blitzkrieg for things to be fixed up.  The city is damaged and as one of the former hammer bearers, he's already being blamed.

That means disguises.

Totally inconspicuous.

The green goliath walks to Greenwich Village, knocks on the door of the Sanctum Sanctorum, shoves his way past the manservant, Wong, and then does something that is very difficult for him.

He asks Dr. Strange for help.

The Defenders will be coming your way in December.

And that's it for the gigantic Fear Itself #7.  Parting shots at this thing?  Here I go.

Since Secret Invasion, I've done Super Reads articles about Marvel's big events.  That's because I love crossover and massive, universe shaking events.  A lot.  Still, by the time I had gotten to issue seven of Secret Invastion, I was so burnt out on Skrulls that I still groan a bit on the inside when we see them again.  I find myself in the same situation right now in regards to Fear Itself.  The difference between then and now is that Secret Invasion led right into one of my favorite times in Marvel's history: Dark Reign.  We moved past Skrulls and alien invasion and right into the era of Norman Osborn.  Secret Invasion also branched off into War of Kings which altered the landscape of Marvel's cosmic line.  All of this got me reinvigorated on comics after slogging through the end of Secret Invasion.

Fear Itself?  It leads into more Fear Itself.  Seriously.  One of the fallout comics from this series is CALLED Fear Itself: The Fearless.  They chase down the Worthy hammers and Sin is STILL RUNNING AROUND.  So at a time when I, personally, don't want to see another Norse hammer ever again, the aftermath calls for all of the Fear Itself elements to continue.  Instead of a paradigm changing event, you get more of what you just read.  There's no Dark Reign gem sitting at the end of Fear Itself.

There's just more Fear Itself.

OK, let's move on to better things.


Fear Itself: The Home Front #7Fear Itself: The Home Front #7
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Mike Mayhew

In this story:

• The citizens of Stamford, Connecticut stand up against the Sisters of Sin to save the lives of Miriam Sharpe and Robbie Baldwin.  Mostly Miriam Sharpe.

• The Sisters of Sin overwhelm the people but by then, Speedball has recovered and returns to the fight with renewed intensity.  Miriam Sharpe also does her part.

• During all the fighting, Miriam learns that part of her has been holding on to the fear and anger she felt over the death of her son.  She's afraid to let it go because then she'll have to deal with the sadness of him being gone.  Speedball gives her a giant hug to help the process along.  There's a lot of crying.

• In the aftermath of Fear Itself, Robbie shows up and Sharpe's office to ask her if she wants him attending the memorial for all of this.  She tells him that, yes, she wants him there but, no, she can't really hang around him all the time.  This has to do with it reminding her about how her son died but has nothing to do with her being angry with him.  It's complicated.  I'll explain it better below.  Maybe.

• Memorials happen.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

While this is by far a more satisfying story than what's happened in the main series, you'll probably need some background information to get you through it.  Here it is:

In the opening pages of Civil War, Robbie Baldwin and the rest of the New Warriors attempted to capture some criminals holed up in Stamford, Connecticut.  This was done on camera because the New Warriors had become a reality television show at the time.  Instead of capturing anyone, most of the team was killed when the criminal known as Nitro blew up in the middle of a residential area.  A nearby school was caught in the blast (which was amplified because Nitro was taking some power enhancing drugs) and a lot of kids died.

One of those kids was Damien Sharpe.  This caused Damien's mom, Miriam, to rail against the super-human community.  Spurred on by a general public outcry, Congress passed the Super-Human Registration Act, calling for all super-powered individuals to register with the government and receive proper, government mandated training.  While that would blow up into a full-scale Super-hero Civil War, we move over to how it personally affected the only New Warrior to survive.

Robbie Baldwin is Speedball and he was pretty much made the scapegoat for the entire SHRA initiative.  His parents stopped talking to him.  Baldwin kind of suffered a mental breakdown, blaming himself for what had happened in Stamford and wearing a pain-inducing costume to activate his altered powers.  He became Penance, serving on Norman Osborn's Thunderbolts team.  Through some complicated events, Robbie returned to his Speedball identity during the Heroic Age, but is also able to access his Penance abilities in response to pain.  The world at large has forgiven him for his actions in Stamford, especially when they learned that Nitro was hopped up on power enhancers.  Stamford has NOT.

That's your lead in to Speedball's Fear Itself story.  Baldwin volunteered to Miriam Sharpe's Damien's Gift organization, helping out the community of Stamford incognito.  When Miriam Sharpe recognized him, it seemed like every member of the Stamford community was gunning for him.  His unlikely ally in all of this became... Miriam Sharpe.  She might not have liked him very much but Sharpe knew that more harm would come to the people of Stamford than to this super-hero.  She hid Robbie in her Damien's Gift office while the search went on around the city.

After Speedball fought a few Raft escapees that were just passing through town, the people of Stamford made their best attempt yet to kill him.  Miriam Sharpe and Damien's Gift organizer, Leonard, intervened, saving Robbie's life.  After everyone learned what was going on in the world, Miriam requested that Robbie go to the places where no one else was available to fighting the good fight.  Speedball agreed and ended up in battles with Kuurth (Juggernaut) and Nerkkod (Attuma) with no one to back him up.

The fight against Nerkkod was particularly chaotic because it left the city of St. John's flooded.  Unable to participate in rescue operations because it would interfere with the sensors on fellow Avenger Jocasta's robot duplicates, Robbie used the time to film some inspirational videos to help people through Fear Itself.  When Miriam Sharpe saw them she produced even more.  This attracted the attention of the Sisters of Sin.  They attacked Damien's Gift and began to stream their torture of Miriam Sharpe for the world to see.  Speedball showed up to save her life but ended up in a similar predicament.

To the rescue: the good (and bad) people of Stamford.

Don't expect them to win this fight.  They're just here to keep the Sisters of Sin busy so that Speedball has a chance to recover.  That doesn't mean they don't get a few good shots off.  When Sister Dream tries to manipulate their fears, the Stamfordians freak out and start firing their guns randomly at the bad guys.  Dream gets winged in this attack which quickly stops her using her abilities.

Sister Pleasure takes over, getting everyone nice and agreeable to Sister Death and Sister Agony to move in for the kill.  Before anyone can be offed, Robbie is back on his feet.  He administers a Penance blast that separates the Sisters from the civilians and then drops a wall of kinetic bubbles to keep everyone on their side.

Baldwin takes the initiative and damn well tries not to give it up.  Death is blasted out of the building early on in this round and our hero just keeps on going.  So does Miriam Sharpe.  She takes the framed picture of her son and uses it as a weapon against Sister Pleasure.  This is followed up by a swift punch to the Sister's jaw.  That's two down for the count.  Sister Dream tries unloading Robbie and Miriam with a heavy dose of fear but it doesn't work this time.  Speedball, Miriam, and Leonard fight their way through this attack and bring her down, together.

And that's the fight, people.  It's not the end, though.

Miriam Sharpe is allowed some character growth in this scene.  Internally, she realizes that even she is holding on to a lot of fear and anger when it comes to her dead son.  It's understandable.  It's given her focus to do what she's done.  Still, she's founded a charitable organization to celebrate her son's life and all she can do is focus on his death.  That's got to change and she knows it.  At the same time, she's afraid to actually let go of that fear, anger, and general bitterness.

Miriame is in tears when Robbie Baldwin picks her up off the floor and gives her a big, emotional hug.  There's a lot of emotions that come out on both sides.  The people in the building just stare.  It's kind of awkward.

Later on, Miriam writes all of this up for her website.  She says that their fight turned around just about the same time as the rest of the world (and especially the people of Broxton) began winning their battles.  She wonders if her inspirational internet videos helped out at all.  Even if they didn't, the important thing is that people began to help each other and break out of their fears.

When she's done typing, Speedball enters her office to tell her that the memorial service is about to start.  Miriam wonders why he's come down here personally to tell her.  It's because he's not sure if he should attend.  Sure, he helped them win a few fights during Fear Itself but there are a lot of people in Stamford who would still rather kill him.  More important to him is if SHE would like him there or not.

Miriam tells him he should go.  This does not mean they are friends.

For a second there, I thought these two were going to go in a completely different direction.

But it doesn't mean they're enemies, either.  Miriam forgave Speedball a long time ago.  She still held him responsible for his actions but she had forgiven him for them.  She even rescinds her earlier comment that Robbie couldn't teach children at the Avengers Academy.  She's learned that Baldwin is actually a pretty decent guy.

But again, that doesn't mean they'll be hanging out in the future.  Here's why.  Even though she's not mad at Robbie anymore, looking at him just brings back memories of her son's death.  She doesn't want to focus on Damien's death anymore.  She really wants to celebrate his LIFE.

That is totally understandable.  Robbie thanks Miriam for just how far she's gone for him.  In a world where his parents still aren't speaking to him, Miriam's support... well, it means a lot.  It means a hell of a lot.

Before Speedball takes off for the Memorial Service, Miriam Sharpe tells him that he's always welcome here.  Maybe he shouldn't wear a disguise next time.

From there, he head off to the Stamford Memorial Service where no one tries to shoot anyone and they actually do honor their fallen with a candlelight vigil.

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Alessandro Vitti

In this story:

• Our teenage super-heroes try to stop a Japanese Hell-Carrier from destroying the island of Honolulu.

• To do this, Power Man and X-23 clear a path to the engine room of this thing, intent on destroying the energy source for the Carrier.  It's Vril energy and that means bad mojo.

• While they do that, the rest of the heroes fight of the Samebito (Samurai Sharkmen that worship the Serpent).

• Everything goes off without a hitch because we're almost out of pages.

• When facing reporters, Amadeus Cho tries to get the team to sign on the BEING a team full time but gets a kick to the crotch in response.

This is the Hell-Carrier, a World War II era flying warship manned by the Samebito, a race of Samurai Sharkmen that sided with the Japanese during WWII and spend most of their time worshipping the Serpent.  The Hell-Carrier has reawakened to fulfil it's original mission: the destruction of Honolulu.

Attempting to stop it?  Five teenage super-heroes, four of whom were teleported against their will to this fight by the fifth.  The fifth is Amadeus Cho, a super genius who usually spends his time palling aroung with Greek gods.  The others?  Power Man (the student of Iron Fist who is able to drawin and refocus Chi energy), Spider-Girl (the former Araña, now rocking Arachne's old costume and webshooters), Thunderstrike (the son of the original Thunderstrike who changes into a super-powerful Thor-like warrior while maintaining his complete doucheness), and X-23 (the young female clone of Wolverine).  They aren't happy that they were drawn into this conflict or that Amadeus didn't tell them that it was he that did it but now that they're here, it's time to get their hero on.

The plan?  To take out the energy source that is powering this half-century old war machine.  Amadeus tells them that it's Vril energy lights the Hell-Carrier up.  This is basically dark energy and you definitely wouldn't want to have direct contact with it.  That's too bad because that's the mission.  X-23 volunteers to cut a path to the engine room and Power Man goes along with her.  Cho tells him to use the ambient Chi in the area to power X-23 up.  This looks painful but it gets the job done.

Thunderstrike, Spider-Girl, and Amadeus stay on the deck to deal with the next wave of Samebito.

X-23 and Power Man reach the core of the Hell-Carrier and see the giant ball of terrible green energy powering this thing.  We see that Samebito are being sacrificed to maintain its energy.  Bad mojo, indeed.  The two heroes nearly fall out of the Hell-Carrier what with all the smashing X-23 is doing.  While hanging from the bottom of the ship, they see the airship creep closer to the Hawaiian shore.  Two people on the beach are set up to be the thing's first victims.

Does this color make me look fat?

Power Man uses up the last of his energy stores to punch the anti-life out of the Vril energy orb.  The Hell-Carrier can't take the loss of power and detonates.  All that's left when the green explosion fades are our heroes, protected in energy spheres that I believe are created by Thunderstrike.

When they reach the beach, the media is waiting.  Amadeus tries to get the rest of them to sign on to a long term partnership with the cameras rolling.  Instead, X-23 kicks Cho right in the L'il Amadeus.  It looks... painful.

Being Amadeus Cho, he's obviously not giving up on this idea but maybe now isn't the best time to pursue it.  As the other heroes leave, Cho tells X-23, "Thank you for not using your claws..."

Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Howard Chaykin

In this story:

• Peter Parker helps psyche up Mayor J. Jonah Jameson for a post-Fear Itself speech.

• When J.J.J. hits the podium, he delivers his speech in his typical fashion.

Fear Itself is over!  Woo!

But the damage to New York City is pretty bad.  As leaders typically do, the Mayor of New York is preparing to make a speech to the people of the city to get them ready for the arduous task of rebuilding.

The mayor of New York City?  J. Jonah Jameson.  Helping him get ready?  Peter Parker.

That might surprise you considering Parker doesn't work for Jameson and the two aren't exactly super close.  Well, J.J.J.'s dad is married to Peter's Aunt May.  They're practically brothers now (and anyone else that got an image from Step-Brothers... head of the class) even if J. Jonah Jameson is, like, seventy years older than Peter Parker (Marvel time is wierd and I'm obviously exaggerating).

Peter tells J.J.J. how strong he's been during this crisis.  Jameson asks what Peter was doing when Fear Itself was going on.  Before Parker can get a good excuse in, Mayor Jameson is called to the stage.

They introduce him as "John Jonah Jameson" but they leave off the "Junior."  I'm just going to quote his entire speech for your approval:

"My FELLOW New Yorkers... Blah, blah, blah, FEAR, blah, blah, blah ITSELF... ENOUGH already.  It's time to MAN up... and show the WORLD how New York can take ANYTHING it can dish out-- IF you catch my DRIFT and I KNOW you DO."

Bravo, Mayor J.J.J. Jr.

Writer: Brian Clevinger
Artist: Pablo Raimondi

In this story:

• We follow the Broxtonian named Rick as he abandons Captain America on the highway leading into town.

• When he gets home, he finds his family is already gone.  He expects that they're at the school and gets out his truck for the drive over.

• One the way, he picks up the neighbor's dog who was left outside and chained up.

• Further on, he helps a little girl and her grandfather into the truck.  He's picking up an entourage and can't get his mind off abandoning Cap.

• When they reach the school, he meets up with his family and tells him that he's going back out there to face his fears.

In Fear Itself #6, Captain America met a group of Broxton citizens who had gone all militia-like.  He told them that he was going to have need of their guns.  Steve Rogers would have liked the men to stick around to man some of the weapons but as soon as the floating city of Dark Asgard came over the horizon, every single one of them started running back to their homes.

One of them is named Rick.  You just saw how his story intersected with the big Fear Itself storyline up above.  Now, we'll see what happened in between his appearance in FI #6 and FI #7.

Rick is a little out of shape so he lags behind the other militia members.We get a look inside his mind and we know that even now, he doesn't think it's right to have abandoned Captain America.  The Fear is in control, though.  He can't stay.  Alone, Rick continues his journey home.

When he gets there, the house is empty.  His wife, Danielle, and son, James, are gone.  Rick figures they went to the school for shelter.  Getting his pick-up truck out of the garage, he makes what he thinks is the last leg of his adventure on wheels.

He doesn't drive far when he hears the bark of the neighbor's dog, still tied up in the front yard.  He can't believe someone would leave their dog like that with the end of the world coming but at the same time, he knows he shouldn't waste the time to get the dog when all he wants is to get to his family.

Regardless, Rick picks up the dog.

They have to get the money to the orphanage by midnight or the evil property manager will kick them out on the street!

He's making good time for a few blocks and is so busy looking at the empty buildings that he nearly runs over a girl standing in the middle of the road.  The dog gives him the heads up and he slams on his brakes and cranks the steering wheel to avoid her.

Once stopped, he hears the girl ask him for help with her grandfather.  Again, a voice in his head tells him to move on but... if you're going to pick up a dog, you're going to pick up a human being.  Rick helps her grandpa make it to the car.  It was the old man's oxygen tank that was giving him trouble.  Otherwise, the elderly gentlemen thinks everyone's making a fuss over nothing.  This is going to roll over like everything else.

Obviously, the old guy has been reading his comics for long enough to know that. ;)

The trio of humans and the dog make it to the school without further incident.  They DO hear the battle from Fear Itself #7 beginning, though.  Again, Rick is plagued with guilt but also fear.

After reaching the school, Rick helps the grandfather and his grand-daughter get inside, talks to the policeman who is very impressed with Rick has done... since it was probably the policeman's job to bring in people and all...

From there, Rick finds his wife and kid and holds his son close for a moment before telling them both that he's heading back out into the thick of things.  Danielle tells Rick that he'll be heading out alone but Rick doesn't care.  He left Cap to fight this big fight alone and that doesn't sit well with him.

As we walks back out and into destiny, his son asks his wife where he's going.  Danielle responds "Daddy's going to help some people."

What makes these events worth it are little tie-ins like this.  Now I feel all better. :)


Fear Itself: Youth In Revolt #6Fear Itself: Youth In Revolt #6
Writer: Sean McKeever
Artist: Mike Norton

In this issue:

• Gravity, Firestar, Hardball, and Telemetry spend their last moments stuck between the Earth's crust and mantle.

• Prodigy lands after Tarene hits him.  He gathers some other dudes to bring into the fight.

• Thor Girl begins awakening to her full powers as the Designate just as Prodigy confronts her again.

• This time, she only fights him a little bit before asking for his explanation of recent events.  Even though he tells her the truth, Tarene doesn't believe him.

• More fighting happens after Thor Girl completely becomes the Designate.

• After Prodigy calls a stop to all of this, Thor Girl tells everyone that the planet isn't yet ready for her to upgrade them and leaves.

• As a lovely parting gift, the Designate pulls the heroes out from under the Earth's surface.

• All of our "main" characters have their own aftermaths.  Most of them are pretty happy with where they got in this mini-series.

• Only Prodigy gets burned.  After keeping it together and leading successful peacekeeping operations, Ritchie Gilmore is stuck in a warehouse, itemizing things.  This is punishment for locking up the two @$$hole government agents.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

Last issue, Gravity and Hardball combined their powers to stop an earthquake from tearing Las Vegas apart.  This issue, we watch as they're stuck under the Earth's surface right between the crust and the mantle.  They can't get back topside because their actions could undo everything and start the quake back up again.

Gravity and Firestar say their good-byes, revealing their first names to each other.  Holding hands, they both say how great it's been working together.  Hardball watches this exchange and looks thoughtful.  Last he saw of his on again/off again girlfriend, Komodo, she gave him a look that might be burned into his memory.

You see, Hardball used his power to collapse a storm drain on top of Kuurth, the Breaker of Stone.  The problem with that was that the tunnel wasn't empty of people.  There were some guys just as stubborn as Hardball who refused to leave before the place fell down and went boom.  Komodo didn't approve.  A lot of people didn't approve.  It's why Gravity and Hardball butted heads all the way through issue #4.

Anyway, the heroes underground are going to die.  Let's see how the cast in Las Vegas is doing.

Only SLIGHTLY better.  Last issue ended with Thor Girl slugging Prodigy, the leader of the volunteer Initiative.  This scene begins with Prodigy landing from that attack.  Nearby heroes, Debrii and Supermax are recruited to take down Thor Girl.

You probably need to know why Thor Girl (AKA Tarene) is so pissed off at Prodigy.  Long story.  Let me sum up.  Thor Girl has this hammer that was scaring the population since the whole Fear Itself event involves a bunch of dudes using hammers to kill, maim, and destroy everything in their path.  In response to this, Prodigy convinced Tarene to turn herself in until everything calmed down.  Thor Girl was put into a real enough looking cell with the promise that she'd be released and that this was all for show.

Unbeknownst to Prodigy, some members of the government took it as LESS than a show arrest.  Two government agents began torturing Tarene for any information she had on the hammer bearers.  Since Thor Girl couldn't supply any information, this was just frustrating to watch.  Cloud 9 showed up and freed Tarene and the two have been on the run since, helping out wherever they could.  Since no one knew the score, Thor Girl just presumed that Prodigy had betrayed her.

So: classic case of a fight over a misunderstanding.

Thor Girl is pretty impressed with her latest actions and feels pretty good about getting some revenge on Prodigy.  Her friends, Cloud 9 and Komodo, are LESS impressed.  Now isn't the time for two heroes to go slugging it out again.  That happened just two issues ago (Hardball vs. Prodigy) and it led to a large quake hitting Vegas.

Suddenly, Thor Girl slumps over.  It's not because she's in pain.  Last issue, she was forced to lift a building off of Cloud 9 and some other civilians and the act seems to have reactivated her lost powers.  They're coming back in full and the feeling is overwhelming.

So it's a good time to attack her, right?  Sure, why not.  Prodgiy is just pissed now and he doesn't care if Tarene is hurt as he and his posse recapture her.  That's good... because she's not going to hurt and you're not going to recapture her.  What you ARE going to do?  Get beaten up some more.  With her reborn abilities, Tarene is more than a match for... pretty much everyone.

After defeating this wave of heroes, Thor Girl tosses Prodigy to the ground and decides to listen to her friends.  Maybe it's time to talk this out.  Prodigy claims that he had no idea that Tarene was being tortured and wouldn't have ever approved of such a thing.  Thor Girl doesn't believe him.

Taking off her winged tiara and throwing down her mallet, Tarene shows Prodigy the vastness of her powers while accusing him of thinking her a monster.  If that's what he wants, that's what he's going to get.

This is all just a scare tactic.  Thor Girl tells her approaching friends that she was just trying to get a rise out of the Initiative leader.  Unfortunately, Prodigy isn't the only one around.  Ultragirl, a pretty good friend of Tarene's, pushes her friend to the ground, thinking that Thor Girl has lost control.  Tarene pushes her away with just a flip of the hand.  Ultragirl is sent flying.

All of this happens just in time for all of the other approaching heroes to see it and believe that Tarene has lost it.  The newcomers attack the former Thor Girl even though both Ultragirl and Prodigy try their best to stop it.

Tarene barely has to try to stave off these attacks.  Sometimes she just stands there and lets her excess energies blast people away from her.  She has become... the Designate.

Which was her destiny all along.  WAY back in the Dan Jurgens issues of Thor, Tarene was prophesied as someone who would evolve sentient life in the future.  That meant that she has a hell of a powerset that was severely cut back after giving it up when Asgard faced Surtur.  Now, it's back and the feeling is indescribable.

Eventually, Prodigy barks an order than everyone listens to and the fight is over.  Too little too late.  Tarene tells everyone about her destiny as the Designate and speaks about how she's seen the best and worst of humanity in the last few issues.  Mostly worst.  Because of that, she tells them that they are unworthy for upgrading and takes off for the stars.

Before she gets too far, she uses a small fraction of her powers to return Gravity, Firestar, Telemetry, and Hardball to the surface without starting any extra quaking.  Komodo races over to Hardball and leaps into his arms for one of those romantic kiss things I hear so much about.

After that, everyone sits around and mopes that they weren't evolved by the crazy scary alien.

Then, at least I would FEEL unworthy.  And, I'd be drunk.

It's actually Prodigy that gets them moving again by telling the Initiative members that it's their job to "prove her wrong."  Everyone gets back to work, saving lives and helping out when they can.

After that, we let some time pass (three days) before catching up with everyone.  We've had the last five issues narrated by specific cast members and we're going to go right back through them all as they relate their final thoughts in this issue.  Since Thor Girl already took off and gave us her last minute narration already, we can move on to Cloud 9.

Many of the heroes are sticking around Las Vegas to help with relief efforts.  Cloud 9 is one of them.  She is pretty depressed because of Tarene leaving and her previous attitude about her powers.  While Thor Girl counted her as one of the most heroic of friends, Abby knows the truth.  She never intended to use her abilities to help others.  She just wanted to have fun.  It was the Initiative that forced her into the heroic life and at the first chance she could get, Cloud 9 quit so she could get back to a normal life.  Now she's ashamed because she just learned the old Spider-Man lesson about "Power and Responsibility."

Lesson learned.

Also helping out in Vegas?  Hardball and Komodo.  That means Hardball is up for personal lessons learned.  He's still not up to full power after his trick fixing the fault line under Las Vegas so he's stuck taking copious breaks between rescue operations.  Komodo's fine with that and gives him a peck on the cheek.  As the two sit down and enjoy the moment, some other rescue workers announce that they've found someone in the rubble.

When the person is unearthed, it turns out to be Butterball... who has one of the worst powers ever.  He's invulnerable but no good in a fight or anywhere else, really.  Naturally, it would be HIM buried in the earthquake.  As Hardball says in his internal monologue, "Survival isn't all it's cracked up to be."

Gravity is next and we skip ahead even further for this next scene.  He and Firestar are back in New York, fighting the good fight against crime.  Greg just took down Big Wheel (yes, that's a super-villain name) and even did it with a less than witty pun.  It looks like he's back to being in a good mood after a WHOLE lot of crap went down in his life.  Angela has noticed the change and is happy about it.  Gravity smiles and challenges her to a race across the city.

All that's left is the man who started it all.  Prodigy.  After getting a handshake by the big man himself (not President Obama-- Captain America!), America's Top Cop mentions an incident where Prodigy locked up two government agents (the two guys who tortured Thor Girl).  Before Ritchie can explain his actions, Steve tells him that it's fine.  The Agents aren't mad about it.  In fact, they want to commend him for a job well done with a promotion.

The next day, Ritchie Gilmore shows up for work in a shirt and tie, expecting, I don't know, an office with a view?  Whatever he's thinking is his reward, that's not what he gets.  The government agents are anything but happy with him.  They lead him back to a giant warehouse and tells him to get to work categorizing the place.

I'm pretty sure the Ark of the Covenant is somewhere in this place.


Journey Into Mystery #629Journey Into Mystery #629
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Whilce Portacio & Doug Braithwaite

In this issue:

• The events of Fear Itself #7 play out in the background...

• ...as Loki changes the game in the foreground.  Inside Dark Asgard and beset by enemies on all sides, Kid Loki alters the story of the Serpent.

• In the new, revised Loki approved version, the Serpent went through everything he originally went through except now there's a girl added for added emotional weight.

• This gives the big bad guy a sliver of relatability... of not-all-powerfulness.  It gives him a sliver of invulnerability that Thor is able to capitalize on.

• Inside Dark Asgard, our brave band of misfits are saved by the timely arrival of the Destroyer.  They follow the big guy's trail of destruction right to the engines holding the fortress aloft.

• Loki throws down the shadow of the Twilight Sword and Surtur walks on through.

• This'll do.  The fire giant starts burning things up.  Loki and company escape.

• From a distance, they watch as Odin holds his dead son.  Mission accomplished.  Loki grieves for his fallen brother.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

You've read the story.  Now, read the story BEHIND the story.  And maybe the one behind that.  Wheels within wheels, yo.

What I loved about Kieron Gillen's run on Thor during Siege is that he took the main event and showed us what was going on behind the scenes.  We got so much of Loki's personal machinations and motivations in the Thor issue compared to the main event comic.  That's the same thing that's going on here.  Loki and his rag-tag team of adventurers play a small but critical role in making sure that the world stays on spinning and that the Serpent pays the penalty for being a major bad guy.

Here is that tale.

Outside of Dark Asgard, the flying fortress of the Serpent, events are proceeding as previously detailed in Fear Itself #7.  The Mighty Weapons have been passed around to their respective heroes.  Thor is still preparing to destroy the whole Earth to leave his brother powerless.  Thor is still set on sacrificing himself to kill the Serpent and save the world.

And the Serpent?  He doesn't think much of prophesies.  They don't apply to him and he's too powerful to let them.  It's in his nature to slip out of things like that.  He transforms into a giant snake.  Dragon.  Whatever, he transforms into it and gets ready to end this little thunder god once and for all.

Inside Dark Asgard, our hero (that'd be Kid Loki) is getting ready to change the game.  He has brought an odd assortment of allies into the Serpent's fortess in order to initiate the destruction of the Serpent.  To do this, they've broken into the Serpent's library searching for a specific book.  When it's found, Loki pulls out the shadow of Surtur's Twilight Sword and begins to work his own particular skills.  The shadow of the Twilight Sword, by the way, is a pen.

And the book Loki was looking for is the story of the Serpent.  What the god of mischief is up to is a little revisionist history.  Using the blood of Leah (one of Hela's servants), Loki starts writing a new history.

It's a subtle thing so don't expect sweeping changes.  Earlier in this adventure, Loki told Tyr (the former god of battles-- now Hela's general of the armies of the dead) a tale from the Serpent's ancient past.  It went a little like this:

When the Serpent was a young man, he rode through the Nine Realms freely and pondered his future as the eldest son of Bor, King of Asgard.  This proved near lethal when twenty giants attacked him.  They brought him to the top of a mountain and then dropped him off the edge.  The fall didn't kill him but it shattered his legs.  A lot.

The Serpent set his injuries as best he could but wasn't about to retreat.  Instead, he dragged himself into the Giant's camp after dark and spent the night tearing out each Giant's throat with his teeth.  All but one.  The last one was left alive with a message which could be best summed up "Don't F@#$ with the gods."  The legend of the Serpent spread from there and this incident solidified the Serpent's future as a fear god and major bad guy.

We've heard all of that before in Journey Into Mystery #625.  What happens next is new information for us but it contains something new for the Serpent, too.

Upon returning to Asgard, the Serpent had his legs rebroken so they could be set properly.  For a long time, he sits in the infirmary, healing and planning the future of Asgard with his new mindset.  At the same time, a girl came and visited him.  This girl bears a striking resemblance to Leah and that's how we know that it's a piece added by Loki, who kind of has a thing for the girl.  Leah basically played nurse for the Serpent but also got him to smile.  Before the Serpent's armor was set in stone, this girl worked her way inside of it.  When the Serpent was fully healed, he could never find this girl and it remained a private matter for him.  Even after he built himself into a nigh unstoppable force of nature, his memory of how a girl showed him kindness stayed with him.

This wouldn't work with a person.  You can't rewrite a person's past with subtle details unless you're one of Marvel's writers or something.  Loki couldn't do that.  Gods, on the other hand, are another matter.  They're more story than history.  There's a maleability there and Loki has exploited it for all it's worth.

It's the memory of the girl that breaks the Serpent's armor ever so slightly.  It makes him vulnerable to things like prophesy.  We watch as Thor lands on the Serpent's head and raises the Odinsword in the air.

In the library of Dark Asgard, Loki finishes his work, chews it in his head to see if it's believable, and declares the matter finished.  Leah seals up her wound (she was providing the blood, after all).  Now, they just have to survive.

The library is beset on all sides by the Serpent's minions.  While Tyr and four of the Dísir (former Valkyries for Odin's father, Bor, who for reasons too complicated to get into, have been cursed into a life of cannibalism-- they're also dead, FYI) have been holding off the enemy, they can do so no longer.

When all hope is lost, trust on someone like the Destroyer to show up and clear a path all the way to Kid Loki's next objective: the engines of Dark Asgard.  Something had to keep this rock afloat and that thing is right here.  The Destroyer isn't able to break all this machinery but Loki knows someone who can.

Another promise is kept.  When Loki took the shadow of the Twilight Sword from Surtur in Limbo, he promised the Fire Giant that when Surtur emerged from the shadow, "Asgard as of old" would be before him.  Nothing would be older than Dark Asgard.  Loki tosses down the pen and it explodes into the big fire guy.

What I don't have is a coat.

Surtur's ticked off that this isn't the proper Asgard but the good definitely outweights the bad.  This IS an Asgard and it's not Limbo.  Score.  Surtur begins building up to destroy the place as Loki and company make their escape through one of Leah's teleportals.

The journey through the portal is full of great moments that I would just butcher by covering in detail.  Part of the poetic detail depicts each of the characters taking one step (the Destroyer is allowed two because the mysterious character who's consciousness runs the creature takes a step, too).  These steps are supposed to mirror the nine steps that Thor takes before he falls.  When everyone is beyond the threshold of the portal, Loki takes HIS step up to the top of a cliff to see that his brother has indeed fallen.

Tyr is upset by this because he was under the impression that what they were doing was supposed to save Thor's life.  Honestly, so was I.  Loki tells him and us that his mission wasn't to save the god of thunder.  Either way, Thor would die.  What the god of mischief ensured was that the death would MATTER.  The Serpent needed to fall.  Making the big bad fulfil the prophesy was their best path to victory.

Now that it's done, Tyr asks what Loki will do.  Oh, if the god of battles only knew what was in store for Kid Loki... the future is going to be rough for the guy who let Surtur out of Limbo, made deal after deal with unsavory characters, and some might blame for the death of Thor.  If the people of Asgard didn't like him BEFORE, you can imagine what they'll think NOW.

Loki mentions a lot of this but then waves it off as being selfish.  What he will actually be doing is mourning for his brother.

The magpie, Ikol, which represents all that was of the former Loki, flies away from this scene.  Ikol doesn't want to watch Loki cry.  Flying back to where the magpies left Fallen Asgard at the death of the older Loki, Ikol can't help but notice the poetry involved.  The old Loki spent most of his time trying to kill Thor and failing.  The new Loki, who never wanted to kill the thunder god, just succeeded.

Right now, Ikol is just glad he isn't Kid Loki.  The future is going to hit the new god of mischief like a truckload of bricks.


Invincible Iron Man #509Invincible Iron Man #509
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca

In this issue:

• The space between this issue and Iron Man's appearance in Fear Itself is filled up with events.

• Iron Man reappears out of the vat of molten Uru in one piece.  He and the Dwarves start gathering everything up for the trip back to Earth.

• As a going away present, Splitlip has captured the Smoke Elf assassins that tried to kill Tony with a mud golem last issue.  The Dwarves want him to kill them.

• In Paris, Pepper Potts opens her eyes just as Mokk (Grey Gargoyle) gets distracted by the command of the Serpent to return to Dark Asgard.  He flies away and nothing Pepper does can stop him.

• Tony refuses to kill the Smoke Elves, turning into his Mighty Iron Man form to get the Dwarves in line.  He frees the Smoke Elves.

• Back in Paris, Potts gets in touch with some rescue workers and asks for a ride home.

• In Svartalfheim, Splitlip asks Tony to help him give up the bottle.  Tony tells the Dwarf to come back to Earth with him but it's something that the Chief Dwarf won't do.

• Iron Man, Thor, and all those Mighty weapons are taken to Midgard.

• A picture of Pepper crying in her armor makes its way onto the news.  This is the work of the spy at Stark Resilient.  You know.  The one that died in the Battle Scars preview up in Fear Itself #7?

• I'll try to let that go.

• Stark arrives on Earth for the final battle.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there so I'll just get this one started straight up.

Last issue, Iron Man jumped into a giant bowl of molten Uru in order to receive the blessing of Odin and get his look all Mighty for one or two panels of Fear Itself #7.  In this comic, we watch as he comes up out of the vat with the new Destroyer-inspired suit.  It's ready made for one of those action figures that you know will be in stores by next year.

Now that all the Mighty weapons are ready, you'd expect the next scene to be Tony and his precious cargo getting teleported into Fallen Asgard with Thor for the final battle but that would be too easy and there's still some stuff to drag ou... I mean... there's still a story that needs telling.  Yeah...

While time is of the essence, Odin gives Iron Man some of it to get everything prepared for transport.  I guess "I'll have some Dwarves carry my bags" isn't enough.

First up is one of two talks with the Dwarf leader, Splitlip.  In this chat, Splitlip tells Tony that the Dwarves know a lot of the secret history that most others have forgotten or never knew to begin with.  They know the Serpent and what he can do.  Tony tells the Dwarf that this is all moot.  Earth is threatened and all they can do is fight against it.  It doesn't matter what the odds are.  They stand up and they fight.  That's something Splitlip can respect.

The Dwarf boss has a gift for the human.  Last issue, a mud golem thing attacked Iron Man and almost stole his precious mojo before the Dwarves helped him get it back.  The assassins that sent the golem have been captured.  They're Smoke Elves.  That's all well and good.  Now comes the gift part: they expect Tony to kill these creatures.

Let's go to Earth for some last minute scenes in Paris.  The Worthy known as Mokk (and we know as the Grey Gargoyle) has Pepper Potts by the neck.  All that's saving her from being turned to stone are two thin eyelids.  The Breaker of Faiths is just waiting for her to open her eyes.

Sweat is pooling around her eyes and she feels like she HAS to open them up to blink it away.  I don't know if that makes sense or not.  I guess I've never HAD to keep my eyes closed and I'm not going to try doing it in an oven or anything to see if this is logical.  Anyway, she opens up her blinkers, expecting to get turned to stone.

And she finds that Mokk is no longer paying attention.  The Serpent has called him back to Dark Asgard and his eyes are turned upward in anticipation of the flight.  Tossing Potts away, the Breaker of Faiths makes ready for travel.  Pepper tries to magnetize the nearby wreckage around the Worthy to prevent him from getting away but it's no good.  Mokk takes off covered in metal bits.

Pepper gathers up her discarded helmet, feeling like a failure at this hero thing.  She walks into the city, looking for a ride home.

In Svartalfheim, Tony is finding the idea of executing anyone extremely distasteful.  He figures this is how Fear takes over.  He can tell that the crowd of Dwarves is losing their cool in anticipation of the killing.  Some of them are ready to drop the Smoke Elves into the molten metal.

When Stark tries to talk them out of killing the Smoke Elves, he gets punched in the Dwarves' frenzy to take matters in their own hands.  This is going to take a fine hand...

The opposite of a violent mob isn't justice.  It's just as bad.

Yeah, that'll do.  By the time he's armored up, Iron Man is barking orders at the Dwarves and they are listening.  The mob calms right down.  Splitlip looks impressed.

Breaking the Smoke Elves prison wide open, he gives the creatures a choice: kill him or get out of here.  The Smoke Elves drift off.  Turning to the Dwarves, Iron Man asks if anyone has anything to say to him.  The former riotious mob is suitably cowed.  Stark tells them to go back to their jobs, then.

Rescue workers are already all over Paris.  Maybe they saw Mokk take off.  Maybe they don't care and just want to save lives.  Whatever the case, the area is swarming with people trying to help others.  Some of them find the armor of the first Detroit Steel and pick up the rocky remains of Lieutenant Doug Johnson III.  They're still examining the head when Pepper Potts walks over one of the rock hills asking for a ride home.

In response, one of the rescue workers drops Doug's stone head.

Tony and his Mighty weapons are STILL NOT GONE YET, proving you can pack a lot of stuff in a short period of time.  Back in his makeshift office, Tony is paid another visit by Splitlip for a second chat.  This time, Splitlip is wondering how Tony turned down beer in the last issue.

You see, Tony isn't the only alcoholic in the room.  The Dwarf leader doesn't drink for the enjoyment.  He drinks because it's all he can do.  He hates it but he can't stop.  He asks Stark HOW to stop.  It's something that Tony can't help him with right now.  Splitlip curses him for it.

Tony revises his statement.  He's an alcoholic and he's ashamed that he was drinking.  It's been a LONG time since he fell off the wagon and he knows it was stupid to do it but he also knows that there's a way to get back on the wagon.  He asks Splitlip to come with him to Earth and he can show the Dwarf how to stop drinking his life away.

The Dwarf declines.  Earth is going to be destroyed.  Not gonna happen.  I wonder if he changes his mind after Earth miraculously survives?

FINALLY, Tony and the Mighty weapons make it up to Odin and Thor and the trip to Midgard begins.  Thor gives Iron Man an inspiring speech about this being the final stand for Earth which doesn't actually fill Tony with confidence.

Pepper is on her way back to the States when she gives Carson Wyche a call to catch up on events at Stark Resilient.  Wyche tells her that she's on the news.  Earlier in this storyline, Pepper Potts was crying at her desk at Resilient while in the Rescue Armor.  Someone took footage of this and got it out to all the major news networks.  Those networks then thought it would be a brilliant move to contact business rival (if Stark made weapons, that is), Justine Hammer, to get her take on things.  All in all, it's a PR disaster and speaks to there being a spy(master) in Stark Resilient.  While Tony knows this, he's kept everyone else on a need to know basis about their industrial sabateur.

Right now, they must not need to know.

Pepper curses herself again for not being perfect at the super-hero game.

After that, we catch back up to Tony Stark as he emerges from Odin's teleportal with the Mighty Weapons.  You can go back up to the top and read Fear Itself again if you want to know what happens next.


Fear Itself: The Fearless #1Fear Itself: The Fearless #1
Writers: Cullen Bunn, Matt Fraction, & Chris Yost
Pencilers: Paul Pelletier & Mark Bagley

In this story:

• In the Ardennes in January, 1945, the Thule Society tries summoning things Asgardian and that kill some German Soldiers.

• The Valkyries are called in.  Brunnhilde is with them.  She tells the others to go back to Asgard and she'll deal with this personally.  With killing.

• In the present, Valkyrie argues with Captain America about the proper care of the Serpent's hammers.  In the end, Steve Rogers isn't going to listen to her.

• Brock Rumlow (Crossbones) meets with a man named Belmont to get the location of all the Worthy Hammers.  When he's gotten it, he blows up the yacht with Belmont on it and hands the information over to Sin.

• Aboard the Quincarrier, Valkyrie attacks War Machine.  After defeating him, she steals Skadi's hammer.

And the aftermath of Fear Itself begins!  Let's see if I can get my enthusiasm back up for this 12 issue follow up series.  Reading through some of the Fear Itself tie-ins has certainly helped.

Our story begins on January, 1945 in the Andennes, Belgium.  The snow covered ground is covered in dead German soldiers.  In the sky are the Valkyries.  It's been a long time since they've been summoned to carry the souls of dead soldiers to Valhalla from Midgard and they are confused as to WHY they're here now.  Adding to that confusion is the sudden appearance of Brunnhilde.  She's been gone a long time.  Unknown to the others, Brunnhilde should already be magically imprisoned by the Enchantress.

If it makes you feel any better, Brunnhile is as bewildered as everyone else.  The only explanation for her appearance here is magic.  She orders the other Valkyrie back to Asgard and they're gone before she even finishes the command.  Alone, she investigates this occurance.

A soldier with a little life left in him has part of the answer.  The Nazi's Thule Society has been trying to summon things from Asgard but those things didn't take too kindly to attempts at controlling them.  Almost before the soldier is done talking, a Snow Wyrm burst up through the frosty stuff.

To battle!  Brunnhilde attacks the creature, declaring that all things Asgardian and Nine Realms should leave the Earth alone.  Their time has passed.

And now you probably know the plot.  Just extrapolate it over to eight little hammers and you've got it.

Fast forward to what passes for the present.  We're in Washington D.C. and the place is still in deep recovery.  The Secret Avengers are aiding in that with other heroes like the Falcon chipping in.  In the midst of all this, Captain America is arguing with Valkyrie (the present name for Brunnhilde) about the fate of the Worthy hammers.

It seems that after the Serpent was defeated and the hammers were taken away from the Worthy by Odin, the tools were just left lying around.  This time, it looks like they were able to be lifted by Joe Sixpack so some of their powers must have been lost after that battle.  Still, they are a concern and Valkyrie is troubled that they are in human hands.  She thinks that Asgard should look after them but Steve Rogers doesn't trust Asgard to do that.

They argue about this for a couple pages and while I'm convinced that Asgard isn't a great option when it comes to the hammers, I'm even less convinced that Steve has the wherewithall to see them safely kept out of the wrong hands.  As he says right in the last panel, he wants the Avengers out looking for Sin as soon as relief efforts are under control.  He's already lost Sin.  SIN.  The lady nominally responsible for all this.

So, yeah, the hammers are totally protected.  It makes me wish the Sentry was around to throw the things into the sun.

Speaking of how safe those hammers are from the wrong hands, let's travel to... maybe Greece.  We're boarding a luxury boat called the Myriad Gallery.  Inside, a very important meeting is taking place between a seller of fine information, Belmont, and Brock Rumlow.  Everyone is in fancy masks but you can tell you Brock is by the mask he wears.  It's a skull.

No, not the Punisher.  That's Frank Castle.  Brock is better known as Crossbones.

Belmont hands over a jump drive that stores all the information he has on the location of the hammers (yep, perfectly protected) but makes it known that he'll be handing this intel on to anyone else who's willing to pay his prices.  Brock smiles and wishes the information broker good luck.

As soon as he's off the ship, Crossbones pulls out a remote detonator and hits the button.  The Myriad Gallery ignites in a fiery inferno.  On the dock, Brock hands over the jump drive to Sin, explaining what is on it.  Now, it's just a matter of collecting all of the hammers.

On the Quincarrier, Brunnhilde stares at the hammer of Skadi, secured on ship.  When she reaches out to it, a serpentine form can be seen lingering around the hammer.  This might only be visible to her.  Whatever the case, it proves that these hammers still have some power running through them.

Interrupting her revery, Jim Rhodes shows up.  He makes no bones about being sent to watch Valkyrie at Steve Rogers' request.  The two talk a while and Val reminds Rhodey that her name isn't really "Valkyrie" and that she isn't immortal (she just ages VERY slowly).  When War Machine tells Valkyrie that he thinks Steve Rogers is right, she makes a sword appear in her hand and strikes.

I'll stop talking.

Oh, super-hero battles... always fun little things.  War Machine versus Valkyrie makes a couple pages go be very nicely.  Rhodey uses a lot of his tricks but Brunnhilde still thinks he's holding back.  It costs him.  When he tries his Ghost impersonation, Valkrie strikes out with her magical sword which doesn't really worry about scientific intangibility.  War Machine goes down for a case of temporary unconsciousness.

When Jim comes to, he sees that Skadi's hammer has been liberated from the Quincarrier.  It looks like Valkyrie is on a personal mission.

Who'da thought?


Avengers #18The Avengers #18
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Daniel Acuña

In this issue:

• Sometimes, Marvel subscriptions suck.

• Like when you want to get something out in a timely basis but your copy of a comic hasn't come in the mail yet.

• Sorry, folks.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

Hey, Readers, just a little trouble getting my copy of Avengers #18.

Funny story: I have a subscription to Avengers from Marvel Comics.  One of my good friends gifted it to me just prior to Fear Itself starting up because I was losing my interest in comics and he thought that the only answer to that was free comics.  That... is true.  Free comics are awesome.

The only drawback is that the comics come a week after they show up in your local comic shop.  This hasn't been a big deal because I've been running behind on these comics so the issue has always showed up well before I had to write about it.  Now that I've caught up, well, problems arise.

So I was expecting this issue on Wednesday so that I could get this article live in a timely manner and feel good about myself.  It didn't show.

So I waited, hoping it would show up on Thursday.  Nothing.

Friday.  No issue in my mail box.

And, really, that's as long as I'm willing to wait.  Maybe the universe is trying to tell me that I shouldn't cover Shattered Heroes.  I don't know.  I'm stubborn.  Anyway, I wanted to get this up before everyone forgot about Fear Itself #7 (which would have been Monday).

So the article is up.  Expect an update when I get my copy of Avengers.  Maybe the mailman has stolen it?  You just never know.


The Tomb of Dracula #1The Tomb of Dracula #1
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artist: Gene Colan

In this issue:

• Frank Drake, Clifton Graves, and Jeanie make their way into Transylvania to take up lodging in the ancient Castle Dracula.

• The villagers in the nearby town mostly don't like this but one of them is willing to give them a ride up to the castle for a ten spot.

• Frank Drake has a flashback, revealing that he's the descendant of Dracula and has plans to make the Castle into a museum and tourist trap to regain some of his lost fortune.

• When the three enter the Castle, Clifton separates from the others to plan the death of Frank Drake and the taking over of his estate and girlfriend.  While doing that, he also finds the Tomb of Dracula and brings the Count back to life by removing the wooden stake from the skeletal remains.

• Dracula attacks Clifton and stores the human for a later food supply.

• Taking bat-form, Drac flies up a few levels and gets Jeanie in his hypnotic grip.  Only Frank's quick thinking saves her.

• Dracula flies into town for a snack and attracts the attention of the locals.  The form an angry mob and storm their way to the castle.

• The Count returns for a second try at Jeanie.  This time Frank prepares for the vampire but fails to stop him.  After beating Drake into an unconscious stupor, Dracula feeds on Jeanie.

• The villagers set fire to the Castle.  Dracula flies off after being attacked by Frank and his mighty silver compact.  Frank takes Jeanie out of the Castle only to find that she's been changed into a vampire.

April 1972!  Daredevil #86, Fantastic Four #121, Amazing Spider-Man #107, Captain America #148, Avengers #98, and Incredible Hulk #50 were on the stands.  In the first issue of The Tomb of Dracula, future vampire hunter, Frank Drake made his debut appearance.

We've seen Marvel's scientific version of the vampire with Morbius but now it was time for Marvel to jump right into the vampire pool with the most recognizable blood sucker in the world.

No, not Edward Cullen.  DRACULA.

It's a testament to the strength of the Marvel Universe that you could introduce traditional horror themes like Dracula and Frankenstein into the world and make them mesh pretty well with the more super-hero elements that started things off.  The Dracula story was based off of the classic Bram Stoker tale but comic-book'd up for the medium.  I don't mean that in a bad way.  In fact, this series is pretty damn good.  I'm not a fan of horror books but I was enthralled by this book.

It begins on a dark and stormy night.  The place?  Transylvania, which would be located inside the country of Romania.  The time?  The present or in this case, 1972.  Three foreigners are driving a jeep down a winding road.  The weather is so bad that they can hardly see the road.  That doesn't stop the driver from speeding.  This is Frank Drake and while he's never been to this country before, he feels like he knows every curve of the road.

He's wrong.  The jeep careens off the road and into a ditch.  There's no freeing it this night.  Frank and his companions leave the vehicle and trudge to the nearest town.

As they're doing their walk through the pouring rain, let's meet Frank's traveling companions.  First up is Clifton Graves, one of Drake's last friends.  Clifton is basically a leech, living off the wealth of others.  Given Frank's current financial situation, it's amazing that Clifton is still hanging around but it's likely that Graves is playing the long odds on this one.  Next up is Jeanie.  She's Frank's loyal girlfriend but also used to go out with Clifton, sparking some tension between everyone that Frank has never noticed before this trip to Transylvania.  Drake is kind of clueless.

We speed ahead of the trio to the village that they're heading to.  Inside the Baron's Inn, some villagers gather around, talking about Drake's immenent arrival.  It seems that Frank mailed ahead, indicating that he would be coming to the country and fixing up the ancient castle.  The idea is to make the area a tourist location.  Some of the locals, like the woman in the low cut dress, are welcome to the increase in their future fortunes.  Others think this is all a bad idea.  The legends behind the castle still haunt the whole region.

When Drake and his friends arrive, they quickly get a taste of how the villagers feel about their plans for the castle.  Still, one of the locals agrees to take them up to their new residence in his carriage, for a fee.  On the way, this guy tells them how he's not superstitious like most of the others.  No, he lives in a world of science and mostly money.  He still won't bring them all the way up to the castle.  As he says, "even a BRAVE man knows not to be a FOOL."

This ride costs them the last of their money but they were pinning their futures on the castle anyway.  Frank Drake is lost in thought.  While he goes into flashback mode, Clifton tries making time with his girl.  It's a good thing Jeanie is totally over Graves.

To the flashback!  It's pretty simple, really.  Frank Drake was a rich man who lost everything.  Well, he lost all his money and he lost everyone who was just hanging around because of his fat wallet.  Jeanie stayed with him, of course.  Clifton did, too, though it seems like he was about ready to tell Frank to shove off before Drake mentioned a family castle that was still in his possession.  His dad had tried to sell it back in the day without luck.  Frank plans to do the same but try harder to find a buyer.

Drake reveals that his last name was originally Dracula but his family changed it when they left Transylvania.  There's also a book revealing some of his family history that he never really bothered reading through.  Frank hands it over to Clifton and Graves senses a goldmine in their future.  He makes Frank read it.

What is inside is the Legend of Dracula.  The first writer we get is Dracula's son.  This recounts that Count Dracula was bitten by a vampire at the age of thirty, after he had a son (so the curse doesn't extend all the way down the family line).  Drac's attitudes changed immediately and he became a terror to the nearby village.  The writer changes to Dracula's grandson.  It seems that the family had moved out of the castle at this point but the Count still remained inside.  The account ends with a non-family member finishing off Dracula's story.  This part is written by Abraham Van Helsing and details how the vampire hunter found the Count's tomb and staked the vampire while Dracula was still in his coffin.

Drake reads this accounting with a strange possession overtaking him.  When Clifton puts forth his plan to make the Castle of Dracula into a museum and tourist attraction, Frank thinks it's a great idea.  He just needs to go to Transylvania and check the place out.  Clifton agrees to join him.  So does Jeanie.

And now you're caught up on past events.  Let's get our protagonists inside the Castle.

Now I want a Drac-Cola.

As soon as the trio get inside the castle, they're are beset upon by a colony of bats.  When the winged creatures fly off, it leaves Jeanie especially shaken since they pretty much had her surrounded.  She walks away to compose herself, using the silver compact that Frank had given her as a gift.  In her mind, she thinks about how different her boyfriend is now.  The castle seems to have an effect on him.

Clifton Graves uses the opportunity to separate with the others and proceed with his plan to explore the castle separately and to set up an "accident" that will kill Drake.  Yep.  Clifton is in this for the money and the murder.  He's also got a certain idea that Jeanie will fall into his comforting hands with the death of Frank.  It doesn't hurt that she's rich.

One wrong step and Clifton finds that the floor gives away beneath him.  It's a short fall into a chamber below but it's still a startling trip.  A staircase in this chamber leads even further down and Clifton believes he's found Count Dracula's crypt.  He's right.  While inspecting a bronze bat emblem, Graves unwittingly opens up the crypt door.

Inside is the tomb of Dracula and that means a coffin.  Clifton lifts this open to discover the long dead remains of Count Dracula.  The wooden stake still pierces the skeleton where a heart would be located.  Not one to care about myths and legends, Clifton removes the stake, thinking he's just found the best souvenir ever.  He turns around to leave before the obligatory transformation occurs.

Dracula's skeleton is covered in dust that reforms into flesh.  This is a more traditional, aristocratic version of Dracula than the one running around the Marvel Universe today but he's drawn in a way that makes him seem a lot less hokey than he could be.  The only thing that would give this guy away to a potential victim, besides his normal striking features, would be his pale white skin and pointed ears.  The ears are just part of being a vampire.  The white skin is because he's been dead for a century and will be cleared up in later issues.

Clifton turns around when he hears Drac get out of the casket and suddenly he believes in vampires.  Dropping the wooden stake, Graves uses his safely concealed gun... to no effect.  The Count strikes Clifton down in one blow and then throws him into a pit with the rest of his food stockpile.  The rest of the people down below have long died but the vampire is still a bit hazy on how long he's been out.

Up above, Frank and Jeanie have begun their search for the missing Clifton.  They find the broken floor boards and Jeanie fears the worst.  Before they can investigate further, a lone bat flies out from the chamber below.  Jeanie is terrified once more.  She has reason to be.  Before their eyes, the bat alters shape into Dracula.

The Count uses his hypnotic stare to transfix Jeanie and calls her to him.  Frank tries to hold her back but she breaks out of his arms and heads towards destiny.  Not today.  Frank sees no other choice and socks his girlfriend into unconsciousness.  Thinking quickly, Frank grabs Jeanie's silver compact and uses it as a ward against the vampire.

Dracula DOES hate silver.  He transforms back into a bat and flies away, looking for an easier meal.  He finds it in the nearby village, where the rain seems to have finally abated.  His victim?  The girl from the bar with the low-cut dress.  He doesn't play with his food this time.  He just feeds.  The girl is a straight-up sinner, though, and the blood doesn't taste as good as the pure of heart.  Drac craves the blood of Jeanie.

The first victim is found almost immediately and the townpeople are gathered together for one of those old fashioned storming-the-castle-with-pitchforks-and-torches scenes.  There's no doubt in anyone's mind that Count Dracula lives again.

While the villagers make their way to the castle, Dracula flies up to feed on a resting Jeanie.  Before he can get close to her, he pulls away in terror when he sees a cross around her neck.  Frank Drake appears in the room, feeling rather smug.  He put the cross around his girlfriend's neck and announces that not only is he one of Dracula's decendants, he's also the guy who's going to put an end to the Count.

You'd think he was prepared for this fight but you'd be wrong.  All he's got is the silver compact and the mirror inside it.  It's a nice ward to keep Dracula at bay but won't end the vampire's undead life.  Dracula tells Frank that he'll start feeling the call of the vampire soon enough since he's of Dracula blood.  This makes Drake do something stupid.  Yelling out the truth to Drac's lie (which is that he's never been bit by a vampire so it's not likely that he'd turn into one), Frank throws the silver compact at the Count.  This might sting where it hit but it's not a lethal attack.

And without the silver compact, Frank is opened up to the Count's tender mercies.  This means he gets a royal beat down right up until Jeanie wakes up from her unexpected nap.  She is immediately Dracula's sole concern and the delirious form of Frank Drake is forgotten.  Using his hypnotic eyes once more, Dracula tells Jeanie to remove the crucifix around her neck.  She drops it right out of the window.

The angry villagers are at the walls of the castle when they see the cross fall and they fear the worst.  Using their torches, the townspeople light the castle on fire.  It goes up quickly.

Upstairs, Frank Drake regains consciousness while Dracula is still feeding on his girlfriend.  Grabbing the silver compact, he presses it against his distracted ancestor.  This act combines with the fact that the castle is already coming apart in the fire and leads to the vampire changing into a bat once more.  Count Dracula leaves the building.

Frank picks up the limp for of Jeanie and races out of the castle.  The villagers see him exit but don't care.  They've done what they came to do and aren't about to help someone who just released Count Dracula.  They leave.

Frank gets a good look at his girlfriend and sees that she's already dead.  He starts crying.  Then, Jeanie tells him to stop.  She gets up and gives him a toothy grin.  Vampire.  Jeanie tells him that she's got an undead life to live and follows the bat-form of Dracula off into the mist.  Frank starts crying once more.

Frank Drake might seem like he doesn't know what he's doing and that's because... he didn't know what he was doing.  He was the reluctant vampire hunter.  Oddly enough, he lived all the way through The Tomb of Dracula series and co-starred in a couple books after this, including some Midnight Sons appearances and the Nightstalkers book (with Blade).  Eventually, Frank Drake sacrificed himself to take down Varnae, an Atlantean Vampire.  Even this wouldn't be the end.  While his body and soul haven't recovered from this battle, Frank Drake still lives and will probably fight again someday.

That is... if the recent soft reboot of Marvel's vampire universe hasn't erased him from existance... that's also a possibility.

This is what we call the ever lovin' blue eyed end!  We've seen Fear Itself to it's natural conclusion which was a bit more bitter than sweet.  We've still got some aftermath books (and a few more Fear Itself books, too) so this is definitely not the end.  We'll see you all real soon!

Until then:  Excelsior!
The Outhouse is sponsored by Cinema Crazed: Celebrating Film Culture & Pop Culture.


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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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