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Super Reads 167

Not a descendant of Hugh Jackman.The future is now!

Today, we check out Fear Itself #7.2: Thor, Battle Scars #1, Journey Into Mystery #631, Point One #1, and Blast to the Past for Tomb of Dracula #3.  Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!

Super Reads 167

Here we are for another round of the best damn article on the internet.

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

Let us see how the death of Thor affects the Marvel Universe...

Fear Itself #7.2: ThorFear Itself #7.2: Thor
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Adam Kubert

In this story:

• The heroes mourn the death of Thor at the end of the final battle of Fear Itself.

• As Odin prepares his son's body for the funeral pyre, Gaea, Freyja, and Idunn arrive.  Odin gives them command of Asgard.

• Word is spread about Thor's death.  Doctor Jane Foster finds out about it while seeing some patients in Broxton.

• Odin gives Gaea, Freyja, and Idunn command of Asgard but tells them not to do anything until he leaves.  After talking to Captain America, he does just that to take guard over his dead brother in Asgard.

• Funerals happen.  This one turns into a party when Thor's body is burned and Tanarus rises.  Only Loki notices that there's a difference.

• And somewhere else, Thor wakes up.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

The final climactic battle to Fear Itself, Thor died after killing the Serpent.  Everyone is very sad over this VERY PERMANENT DEATH that will OBVIOUSLY LAST FOREVER.

You don't believe that either, do you?

Our story begins with the narrator telling us that "Gods are stories" which is very convenient because "Comics are stories, too."  This particular story starts up with a picture of Thor, floating in a glowing white dimension.  This is "Dead Thor."  He has a stream of glowing coming off the wound on his side... I'm guessing this is from the wound he received while playing inside the World Tree in the latest Mighty Thor #1.

After that full page spread, we move on to moments after Thor fell in Fear Itself #7.  The heroes are gathering around the fallen god and we are introduced to the important members of the cast... some of which get a whole one panel of time in this comic!  "Captain America, the Leader.  Loki, the Brother.  Iron Man, the Opposite.  Sif, the Widow.  Odin, the Father."

No one here realizes that they're in a comic book so they're taking Thor's death as seriously as someone would in the real world.  Odin takes Thor's body away to get it ready for the funeral pyre.

This is done in the ruins of Fallen Asgard and it's emotionally draining work for the All-Father.  Thor died killing Odin's evil brother.  It was something only the son of Odin could do but it came at a terrible price.  Blood for blood.  All that stuff.  To help him out, the All-Father calls forth...

"Compassionate Gaea, the Mother.  Imperial Freyja, the Queen.  Youthful Idunn, the Maiden."

Gaea is Thor's biological mother.  Freyja is Odin's wife and that makes her Thor's OTHER mother.  Idunn is responsible for the Golden Apples that give the Asgardians their immortality.  This is one of those "one of those things is not like the other" situations.  Gaea and Freyja have a specific emotional connection to Thor that has been established in previous comics.  Idunn is basically here because trinities are expected and she brings her own snacks.  Odin shows them his dead son.

While those four work on Thor's dead body to make it as pretty as possible for the funeral pyre, let's move on into Broxton where Doctor Jane Foster is doing her doctor job.  Her patient is telling her very important things about gods and it's the same stuff that the narrator was telling us.  That makes me think that this guy might be important later, especially when his girlfriend is telling the Dr. Foster that the guy's ramblings about how the "gods are stories, man!" is not the results of drug abuse.  He's been on this rant for five days and counting.  Jane still isn't convinced that this isn't drug related, though.  She prescribes a diazepam and has them schedule a follow-up for the next day.

This is a good time for the new of Thor's death to catch up with her.  It is delivered by "The Warriors Three, the Companions."  They don't have to say much for "Dr. Jane Foster, the Unrequited" to get the message.

Others are also getting ready for Thor's funeral.  Specifically, Sif and Loki.

You know what?  He'll be back eventually.  I'm just going to stay here.

Loki seems a lot more confused here than in the pages of Journey Into Mystery but that could be because he's dealing with the death of his brother and is taking it especially hard.  He asks Sif a lot of questions and gets confident responses from the warrior-maiden.  As they exit the room, they see an interesting sight.

The whole of the Nine Worlds has come to witness the funeral of Thor.  There's no race I actually recognize but creatures of all shapes and sizes are gathering.

Thor's body is ready for a fire.  This gives Odin and the ladies a chance to talk.  For the All-Father, all he has are regrets.  For everything he's done, Odin steps down from the throne of Asgard and hands over his royal headpiece to Freyja, Gaea, and Idunn.  All he asks is that they don't do anything until he takes off.

If you're comparing all of this with Fear Itself #7 events, this is where Odin and Captain America have their little chat before he teleports himself and the body of his brother to Asgard.  This happens just like it did in FI #7 with only minor dialogue changes.  Just like in that issue, Odin's arrival in Asgard-Space immediately teleports all of the gods back to Earth.

I think that's enough set up for the funeral pyre scene.  Let's all say good bye to Thor.

"See ya later, thunder god!"

Sif lights Thor Odinson's body on fire and everyone watches as it burns up.

From a balcony in Fallen Asgard, Idunn watches the funeral.  Gaea joins her.  Down in the crowd, Volstagg notices them and sits down, facing the ladies.  The other members of the Warriors Three try to get their voluminous companion to stand back up and stop embarrassing them but V just points out the women on the balcony, calling them "the Shining Women."

Other people in the crowd begin noticing the ladies as Freyja joins the other two.  Everyone faces the Shining Women and many others sit down.  The Avengers have no clue what this is about and feel like they missed part of the script.

Meanwhile, the flames that burn up Thor's body begin to change.  Sparks of blue burst forth from the fire, spreading over the crowd.  This surprises even the Shining Women.  Eventually, Tanarus, god of thunder, bursts forth from the flames, resurrected.

He came back to life with a partially eaten turkey leg?

Everyone in the crowd suddenly has a big glass of beer or mead.  Up on the balcony, Freyja, Gaea, and Idunn don't look pleased at this newcomer even though they DO recognize him.  Freyja calls him "our 'son.' What an ass."

Gods, you see, are stories.  And when they get half a chance, they'll slip in when you aren't looking, especially since comics are ALSO stories and are subject to much manipulation depending on the writer.  Tanarus always was part of Asgard.  He's an Avenger.  Everyone knows him and only one person suspects that something just got wierd.

That someone?  Kid Loki.

And don't think I missed Don Blake suddenly appearing in the crowd.  Blake is the mortal that shared the world with Thor and he's been MIA since the thunder god died.  Looks like he's suddenly back and ready to party with Jane Foster.

Tanarus sounds a whole lot like "Tanaris," the Celtic god of thunder.  Expect him to match up with the mythological version about as well as Skadi did.  Hell, it's not like Thor is a great match for his own mythology.

So with the world forgetting about Thor and replacing him with Tanarus, what does that mean for a dead thunder god?

It means he remains in the white space of death.  And maybe he opens his eyes.

I give him six months before he makes his triumphant return to the land of the living.


Battle Scars #1Battle Scars #1
Writers: Chris Yost, Cullen Bunn, & Matt Fraction
Penciler: Scot Eaton

In this story:

• Sergeant Marcus Johnson and his best friend, Cheese, battle the Taliban and everyone else in war torn Afghanistan during Fear Itself.

• When everything has settled down, Johnson learns that his mother died in one of the epilogues of Fear Itself #7.  He heads back to Atlanta, Georgia to attend her funeral and take care of her affairs.

• Even though Captain America and Sharon Carter are also at the funeral and know secrets about Sergeant Johnson, they do NOTHING.

• Which is why Marcus ends up fighting his mother's killers outside the family home.

• When these guys are taken care of, Sgt. Johnson get beaten down by Taskmaster.

• FINALLY, Captain America shows up in costume with military back-up.  Taskmaster is ordered to surrender.

In one of the fourty-nine back-up epilogues in Fear Itself #7, this little mini-series received a little boost.  We met a balding man in a wheelchair that hid behind massive electronic doors who had made plans to capture one Sergeant Marcus Johnson.  To lure the Ranger out of his military duties in Afghanistan, the bald guy (I'm calling him "the Director" until a better name comes up) ordered Johnson's mother assassinated during the riots of Fear Itself.

We don't know WHY Marcus is important.  We aren't going to learn in this issue.  All we know is that the Director has tasked some mercenaries to kill him before all these secrets spill out.

But before we get going on more unsolved mysteries, let's move back in time to see how Sgt. Johnson dealt with the high risk Fear Itself situation in the dangerous land of Afghanistan.  First off, the story recounts how Fear had taken over the world and was being felt back as far as Tony Stark's speech about rebuilding Asgard with Stark Tech in Fear Itself #1.  This is followed up by a scene from Fear Itself: Spider-Man #1 where Spidey rescues Naveed Moshtaghi from a violent mob.  Hammers fall from the sky.  Washington D.C. is hit by Blitzkrieg U.S.A..

But none of that is really important because we're at the Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.  Half a world away from the main stuff happening in the United States.  That doesn't make things any less stressful.  After we meet an Army Ranger named "Cheese," we slip right into the action.

Here's what happened.  A poor Afghani peasant boy came to the Airfield for shelter against the Taliban.  One of the Afghani soldiers was consumed by the Fear and killed the boy, believing him to be a terrorist bomber.  That caused that American soldiers to open fire on the Afghani and one misunderstanding later, both armies are killing each other.

And that's when the Taliban attacked.  It's your basic clusterf@#$ all brought on by your friends from Fear Itself.

It's an American soldier that fires the rocket that nearly sends Cheese to the afterlife.  His savior?  Our hero and yours: Sergeant Marcus Johnson.  These two are best friends and after Marcus shares all the information that I just went through, the two Rangers go about surviving three days of hell on earth.

When the dust, smoke, and other various particles clear, there are twenty-five dead American soldiers, forty-eight American wounded.  Enemy counts are more spotty but it's one hundred plus.  Cheese and Johnson both end up living through it relatively unscathed but news is about to hit that is going to change Sergeant Marcus Johnson's life forever.  Word comes in about his mother's death in the riots that hit Atlanta.

Four days pass before we catch up with Marcus at his mother Nia Marie Johnson's funeral.  While he goes through these painful moments of burying a parent, the panel pulls back a healthy distance to reveal Commander Steve Rogers, still America's Top Cop for some unknown reason, and his girlfriend/ second-in-command, Sharon Carter.

Now, we aren't going to learn anything special about Marcus this issue but that doesn't mean that word isn't out there.  Rogers and Carter both seem to know secrets about Johnson and even more, they know that this information has gotten in the wrong hands.  Sharon recommends that Marcus be brought in but they aren't going to put a rush on that.

Where's Nick Fury, anyway?

Which is another "WHAT THE HELL" moment to add to Captain America's growing list of "WHAT THE HELL" moments.  If he would have just approached Sgt. Johnson right after the funeral, what happens next could have been avoided but for some unknown reason, Commander Rogers lets Marcus go.  Since I'm a benefit-of-the-doubt kind of guy, I'm hoping it's explained next issue but it seems like such a weird moment to need explaining.  I'm just going to go with Cap is in over his head and leave it at that.

So, Marcus leaves the funeal and takes a taxi to his mother's house.  There's a police officer waiting outside, guarding the premises but this guy obviously isn't prepared for the street brawl that will unfold in just a few pages.  For now, we follow Johnson into the house.

The place is trashes and there's a blood stain on the floor.  While Marcus internally thinks about the senselessness of his mother's death, he starts straightening up some photos of him with his mother and finds...

A bullet casing.

Not just any bullet casing, either.  The Sergeant's military training tells him that this casing is a custom design, clearly Russian and capable of going through armor.  Suddenly, the idea that his mother was murdered indiscriminately during the riots is thrown right out the window.

Marcus heads out to tell the policeman this new evidence and to schedule a meeting with the detective on this case when a sniper opens fire on him.  Again, Johnson's military training saves him from a death shot.  He notices the sniper just in time to get himself and the policeman to cover.

And this is where the street brawl comes into play.  The sniper and two other thugs hit the streets and start throwing Sgt. Johnson around a bit.  The Ranger is fights back and during the fisticuffs, ID's the three as Russian and the big thug as ex-military by the sweet tat on his neck.

Long story short, these are the dudes that killed his mom and some payback is required.  While this isn't an easy fight, it's one that Marcus pulls out of with flying colors.  Two of the Russians are killed and the third is threatened while Johnson questions him.  In Russian.  The Sergeant knows his stuff, that's for sure.

Before he learns anything substantial, the fight hits a whole new level.  Johnson is shot.  With an arrow.

No, it's not Hawkeye.  It's the Taskmaster!

Just so we know that there's a bigger mastermind at play here, we head to "Elsewhere" to visit the Director in his underground bunker.  One of the Director's agents informs the old man of Sgt. Johnson's situation and we see the Director smile.

So that's nice.

Back on the streets of Atlanta, Marcus is clearly out of his league and not just because he was recently shot with an arrow.  Taskmaster is a tough customer and not the kind of guy that your typical Ranger is used to.  Even though Sergeant Johnson is obviously NOT your "typical Ranger," well, there's still that arrow, I guess.

He is able to pick up some clues to his predicament from Taskmaster and the earlier thugs but it's nothing that we didn't already know.  His mother was killed to draw Johnson out.  The one line that might lead to an interesting place is the one that goes "You have no idea the world of $%#& you just got handed.  You don't even know who you ARE."

Interesting stuff.

Before Tasky can drop his sword and end Sergeant Marcus Johnson's short Marvel career, a shield whips in and knocks the mercenary away.

It looks like Captain America finally decided to do something... and he brought friends.  While I don't think SHIELD is back together, those are definitely SHIELD flying cars.  Marcus is confused but now he really wants to know what this big secret is all about.

You might want to know, too.  Battle Scars is a six issue mini-series so you might learn what it is by issue six. ;)


Journey Into Mystery #631Journey Into Mystery #631
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler: Whilce Portacio

In this issue:

• Kid Loki frees the Dísir... to a life in Hell with Mephisto.

• A meeting with Gaea, Freyja, and Idunn ends with Loki admitting to not only releasing Surtur from Limbo but also stealing the Destroyer.

• Because he's more heroic than usual, the trickster god doesn't admit that it was Volstagg who piloted the Destroyer armor.

• Loki leads Hela and staff to the gates of Niffleheim.  Leah is turned over to the Kid's care and gets to live in a cave outside of Fallen Asgard and Broxton.

• Mephisto composes a note to the god of mischief using Brün's skin as paper.

• Hela finally reaches her traditional homeland and makes hints that Tyr will be made king of the land.

• The Shining Women make Kid Loki their "secret weapon."

• In Muspelheim, Surtur gets back to work at his forge.  Doom.

The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.

If you're expecting some sort of reaction to Loki knowing that Tanarus doesn't belong in this book, don't look for much.  All this one does is give us a little more inclination on what Loki is actually suspecting.  It seems that Thor IS completely forgotten, even by lil' Loki.  It's just that the god of mischief can see that Tanarus doesn't properly fit into the place where his real brother once resided.  As the comic says, this story point will be resolved elsewhere.

Which means in the pages of The Mighty Thor.  From the image accompanying these words, there are good odds that it'll be at the edge of a knife or similar.

The rest of the first two pages of this book goes over everything else we learned in the 7.2 issue.  It tells us that Odin left to maintain vigil over the fallen body of his brother, Cul, in "Celestial Asgard."  There is no way back in the city so for now, the Asgardians are back to living in Fallen Asgard on Midgard (which is Earth, FYI).  Freyja, Gaea, and Idunn, called the Vanir on these pages, are left in charge of Fallen Asgard now that Odin has abdicated his throne.  Things are gonna be different, that's for sure.

Since the Tanarus mystery is going to wait until Matt Fraction has a go at it in Mighty Thor, this comic will focus on more aftermath to Fear Itself.  Loki's left a phenomenal number of loose ends to wrap up and he's going to get the party started with the Dísir.

For the uninitiated, the Dísir are the former handmaidens of Bor (Odin's dad).  When Bor caught them eating the flesh of the recently deceased, he cursed the handmaidens to a life outside of Asgard or the other Nine Realms forever.  Further, he allowed them only to eat the ghostly spirits of fallen Asgardians.  They would have remained eternally hungry if not for Asgard's eventual relocation to Midgard.  The older version of Loki corralled the Dísir under his command and then used them in his bargaining in the Siege of Asgard event.

The new, younger version of Loki used them for further bargaining.  In exchange for their help during Fear Itself, Loki promised to free them from his control.  Now, it's time to pay up.  Kid Loki hands Brün, the Dísir's leader, back the ring she used to wear as a crown.  It expands into it's original form and Brün places it on her head.

Freedom?  Hardly.  Loki might have given up HIS claim on the Dísir but that doesn't mean there aren't other parties involved.  Kid Loki gets to a safe distance as Mephisto makes his own play on the Dísir.  You see, the former handmaidens of Bor recently died in Hell so Mephisto technically owns them.  Now that god of mischief has given up his own rights to the ladies, it just makes that ownership that much more solid.  Each of the Dísir handles this in their own way but they all go down to the pit.

I close one of my eyes and I totally lose the 3-D effect.

For his part, Loki feels pretty bad about this.  It's not that the Dísir aren't complete monsters.  It's just that he used to be a mustache twirling bad guy, too.  He got a second try at this.  The Dísir didn't get the same.

Next stop, Fallen Asgard.  Loki meets with the Shining Women and lets them know that Mephisto has command of the cursed handmaidens.  He requests that Hela be allowed back into her former domain so that the souls of the dead remain safe from the Dísir's appetites.  Freyja agrees and just like that, Niffleheim is opened to Hela and the dead.

The All-Mother asks her son how things are going and Loki answers pretty honestly.  He's learning a lot about the world but he's obviously not being accepted back into Asgardian society... not after what his former self did to these people.

Throughout all of this, the three Vanir keep exchanging glances.  That's because they know part of what Loki has done.  Remember back a couple issues when Mephisto wrote a note in blood to whoever ruled Asgard when Fear Itself was over?  The note that claimed that Loki had freed Surtur from Limbo?  Well, the Shining Women are in charge and they got the letter.  After some hemming and hawing, they ask Loki about Surtur.

The god of mischief tells the truth but doesn't fess up to everything that went down during Fear Itself.  He admits to unleashing Surtur on Dark Asgard to annihilate the Serpent's fortress.  When pressed, he agrees that he was behind the Destroyer being removed from the Asgardian armory because it was needed to help break into Dark Asgard.

What he DOESN'T tell the All-Mother is WHO was INSIDE the Destroyer armor.  That is not something he will divulge even on threat of torture.  This Loki is obviously not the same guy who previously wore the name.

The Vanir tell Kid Loki to settle up his affairs and then meet them back in this chamber.

The next affair that needs settling up is getting Hela back to Niffleheim.  Kid Loki meets up with her at the gate just outside of Asgard.  Hela congratulates Loki for his recent success and then descends down the stairwell to her traditional kingdom with Tyr, god of battles, trailing after her.  When Leah, her handmaiden, begins to follow, Hela gives the girl the sad news.

Per earlier agreements, Leah is put in the hands of Loki.  This doesn't seem to be Loki's choice but was instead a stipulation put in by Hela.

This leaves Leah on Earth but she doesn't stay in Asgard.  Instead, Kid Loki puts her up in a cave outside of Broxton.  She's not happy with the accommodations but as Hela's servant, it's not like she actually has a say in the matter.  Loki seems pleased with this and takes off, claiming that the two of them will become "B.F.F.s."

In Mephisto's Hell, we get to what might be the Dísir's last appearance which is a shame because I'm becoming REALLY good at hitting the ALT combination that gives me as many "í's" as I need.  As Mephisto likes to compose letters, he's doing so right now, using Brün's back as the paper.  The letter is to Loki and doesn't seem all that consequential.  It just seems like a scene that is showing the Dísir's current lot in death and maybe shines some light on Mephisto and Loki's new relationship.  It was Mephisto, after all, who told the Vanir about Surtur.

In Niffleheim, Hela and her ship of the dead lands on familiar shores.  Hela is home.  The dead are safe.

The god of battles, Tyr, is becoming more comfortable in his position at Hela's side.  It looks like Hela is becoming comfortable as well.  She makes hints that Tyr could be her husband in the near future.

That's pretty much all of the things that Loki has on his plate for the day.  Now, it's time for him to meet with the Vanir and find out what his fate will be.  Freyja, Idunn, and Gaea aren't going to kill him.  They aren't even going to punish him.  Instead, they are going to employ him.

The Shining Women's overarcing plans for Fallen Asgard are not going to make them any friends.  What they need to achieve their goals is someone subtle.  Someone who knows the art of trickery.  That would be Loki.  He's going to be their "secret weapon."

There are no perks for this.  The Vanir can't publicly support the god of mischief or make his life better in any way.  Loki believes this is to be his lot in life after unleashing Surtur but Freyja claims that not to be so.  Loki is like a son to her and she couldn't reveal all of this to a bunch of dudes who would clearly take it the wrong way.  How could Loki even think that?

Freyja leaves and the other two follow.  Gaea leaves Loki with these words: "Think better of us, Loki.  And we will think better of you."

Idunn leaves him with a golden apple.  Ah... symbolism.

With all this talk about unleashing Surtur on the world, it's only fair to see what the fire giant is up to.  Back in Muspelheim, Surtur is back to working at his forge and plotting the downfall of everything that exists.  As his hammer strikes, we hear a familiar sound... well, it's familiar if you've seen Surtur at work at his forge before.

"DOOM."


Point One #1Point One #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Javier Pulido

In this issue:

• Two dudes in space suits break into the Watcher's home on the Moon and take advantage of Uatu's hospitality.

• It seems that the Watcher takes a nap for forty-two minutes every three years so it's an optimal time to break in and steal information.

• This is despite the fact that the Watcher is able to look back and forth in time and would have been able to see these guys prepping for this and also back up and watch what he'd missed while he was otherwise occupied.

• Yes, I'm going to harp on that.

The future of the Marvel Universe is NOW!

Welcome to the one-shot that will give us a special look into next year's plans for the Marvel Universe!  That's right.  I just bought a five-dollar Marvel commercial.  Was it worth it?  Read on.

A good guy to go to if you want to narrate the future of the MU would be Uatu the Watcher.  He's looking at stuff, anyway, so you might as well utilize him.  Writer Ed Brubaker DOES use the Watcher but takes an unexpected take on the traditional story.

It appears that our good old Watcher takes one forty-two minute break every three years.  The reason given is that he uses the time to upload all he's learned to all his Watcher bodies across the cosmos.  For some special agents of a secret organization that won't be named, it's the perfect opportunity to break into the Watcher's domain on the moon and rifle through his theoretical drawers.

To make sure Uatu isn't paying attention, one of the unnamed infiltrators releases a spy camera ball into the facility to check things out.

Uatu's going to be mad he missed this.

Just a couple things.  Uatu knows whatever he wants to know.  This whole book is about Uatu looking at things that might not be happening right NOW but have happened in the past or future (and there's even one that happens in another reality so we know Uatu has the time to look at everything and THEN some).  To think that JUST because the lights are out for forty-two minutes means that Uatu won't be aware of you running through his home unannounced is just stupid.  To think that Uatu didn't already look over this moment and KNOW you were going to look around is stupid.  Let's just say that this whole concept is stupid because even IF he doesn't look back on these forty-two minutes (or even if he didn't look ahead), he would have seen these two teleport to the moon (or at least wonder about the footprints leading to and from his base).  Which is special since not a lot of people VISIT the moon.  Odds are, he would be curious enough to want to know what you were up to.  Which means he'd rewind your personal backstory and figure it out if he already hadn't been paying attention.

This is Uatu the WATCHER.  It's what he does.  You don't sneak up on him because he already knows you're there, especially if you land on the moon.  I can only guess that the only reason these guys are able to get away with this, besides poor writing and poorer editing, is that the Watcher WANTS them to break into his house and steal his information.  Anything less?  Stupid.

I'm not giving much of a benefit of the doubt on these two, though my friend Dragavon points out that there might be more at play than just the forty-two minute upload.  It's possible that these two are cloaked in other ways. He even theorizes that these guys might be working for an evil genius, like an other-dimensional Reed Richards.  That's possible.  Their method of transport also factors in.  I'm much less inclined to let it pass, but there's your friendly neighborhood Dragavon's attempted No-Prize.

So there are two idiots who think they're stealing candy from a baby when they are just phenomenally lucky that Uatu didn't turn on his automated defenses, most likely for his own purposes.  After discussing the philosophy behind the Watcher and what he is, the duo get right to work.  One of them roots through Uatu's archival footage while the other checks out what is on the Watcher's DVR.

First up: Nova.

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Ed McGuinness

In this issue:

• The new Nova fights Terrax the Tamer in the Throne Room on the planet Birj.

• During the fight, Nova keeps talking about some unseen threat and how everyone should evacuate.  Terrax plans on fighting it... and probably everyone else.

• The battle eats up too much time and Nova is unable to save anyone.  He flies off before the world is devoured by...

• GALACTUS!

• No, I'm just joking.  It's a blue-hued Phoenix Force.

• Having failed to evacuate even one person, Nova soars off to find some help.

• A day later, we see the staff of Terrax.  At the base, a plant begins to grow.

Backstory: In The Thanos Imperative, Nova Prime, Richard Rider, is lost in the Cancerverse dimension as he and Star-Lord hold of Thanos.  The door home shuts as does the giant gaping hole to that universe (called the Fault).  With Rider gone, the Nova Force is cut off from the rest of the members of the Nova Corps and the World-Mind closes itself off to think things through or something.  The end result?  No more Novas.

Until now.  On the planet Birj, in the Throne Room, a new Nova faces off against former Galactus herald, Terrax the Tamer.  How do I know this is a new guy?  Well, I don't.  Not really.  What I have is some panels that show a skinnier version of Nova than I'm used to seeing and spouting off some dialogue that would seem unnatural coming from Richard Rider.  It's not conclusive proof that we're dealing with a brand new Nova, but it seems like I'm not the only one who thinks this guy is a brand new character. He also seems to be a kid.  You know what that means, don't you?

It means I get to call him "Kid Nova."

I'm also going to say that I like the new look.  I know I'm in the minority on that.  I mean, don't get me wrong.  The Nova Prime suit that Richard was wearing in the last series?  That's a personal favorite of mine.  This one?  It's a close second.

So why is Kid Nova picking a fight with Terrax the Tamer on random planet number five?  It's because the whole planet is being threatened by some big time evil that the kid thinks would even scare Galactus.  Nova wants to get the population of Birj off world.  Yesterday.  I'm guessing he came to Terrax looking for help since this planet is obviously ruled by the former herald.

And that's when things spiraled out of control.  Terrax didn't take this threat as seriously as Kid Nova and decided not to run away from in.  In fact, the Tamer found ANOTHER fight with this newbie Nova Centurion.

I kid because I love.

Even though Terrax has Power Cosmic-level abilities that should put the little Nova to SHAME, the kid does an adequate job of staying alive long enough to run away from this fight.  It seems that their little struggle/debate has gone on too long and evacuating the planet is no longer an option.  There is only time for Nova to zip out of the atmosphere and get away from the Birj before it is consumed.

By the Phoenix Force.

On his way out, Kid Nova exclaims "... all those people... I... EPIC fail..."

Which is the greatest evidence that we're dealing with a new guy.

And, yes, I did catch the panel where the citizens of Birj look up into the sky to see the end.  It is a call back panel to Uncanny X-Men #135 when the Dark Phoenix consumed the sun in the D'Bari system, destroying it and the D'Bari's home planet in the process.  While the new Phoenix Force seems to have a blue color to it, this could be because the sun that Birj orbits is a blue one.  It's unclear.

What is clear is that Terrax never stands a chance against the Phoenix.  Not even close.  He is destroyed along with everyone else.

Kid Nova flies away fast, creating a gate to cover even more distance.  He's on a mission to get help or at least to warn people.  "The Phoenix is coming."

Two days pass.  We return to the planet Birj which is still covered in the blue light of an exploding star (I'm assuming, here). It looks like a non-descript wasteland except for one surviving item: Terrax's spear/staff.  The weapon is embedded in the ground.  When we focus on the edge of the spear, we see that something is growing out of the earth.

Life and death, yo.

Writer: David Lapham
Artist: Roberto De La Torre

In this issue:

• A man puts his son to bed in a post-apocalyptic future.  During their conversation, we learn that this is one of the worlds where mutants won the fight for supremacy and killed all of the humans to become the dominant race.

• Except that there are boogey man stories that the kids spread about a guy called the Red Prophet.  The last human, basically.  The father, named Krakken, tells his kid the story about how he killed the Red Prophet with his seismic abilities.

• The kid goes to bed, comforted but Krakken decides to give his son the gift he had been planning to give.

• Entering the living room, Krakken realizes something is terribly wrong.  His wife is drugged.

• Oh, yeah, that guy he claimed to have killed?  Not really dead.  Here for revenge, actually.

• After a short fight, the Red Prophet kills Krakken and continues to talk to the corpse in triumph.

• After delivering the gift to Krakken's son (it's a puppy), Red Prophet joins the rest of the X-Terminated as they pose for the "camera."

It is the Age of Apocalypse and things couldn't be better for the mutant race.  Except that the streets are filled with garbage and broken down vehicles and... things don't actually look very utopian at all.  In fact, they look downright distopian.

None of that matters to the father and son that lead off the conversation.  The father, Krakken, is putting his son to bed and telling him how awesome life is in this post-human age.  The only thing Krakken really misses from the old world are hot dogs.  He makes a note to bring those things back.

His son, Isaac, is being plagued by dreams that the human monsters that once ruled the world but Krakken assures the little guy that the humans are dead and buried.  In fact, Krakken was in charge of making the machines that killed off most of them.  These are pleasant bedtime stories!  No wonder Isaac has trouble sleeping.

Isaac mentions the ghost stories he's heard about a human known as the Red Prophet.  The Prophet is like a curse on the mutants and can't be killed.  Not so, claims Krakken.  Back in the day, the Red Prophet tried to sabotage Krakken's factory and the mutant dealt with the human, lethally, using his seismic powers.

To help his son sleep through the night, Krakken leaves the room to get a gift that he and his wife had been planning to give out the next day.  What he finds is his wife drugged and danger lurking in the shadows.

The Red Prophet?  Not so much dead.  Odds are pretty good Krakken wasn't telling his son the truth.  In fact, it looks like the eye Krakken is missing was a result of these two's earlier encounter.  Krakken can't believe the Prophet got up to his room with all the security around this place but it seems that the Red Prophet has his ways...

After saying that mutants are essentially humans with powers, the Red Prophet has suitably enraged his opponent, who has obviously bought into the whole "Homo Superior" thing a little too much.  It's a one page fight where Krakken doesn't stand one bit of a chance.  Decapitation.

You also need to clean this place up a bit.

After a little monologuing over Krakken's dead body, Red Prophet notices the gift package near Krakken's unconscious wife.  It's moving.  That's because it's a puppy.

Krakken and his wife were going to give their son a puppy and thought that it would be a good idea to keep the thing in a box until tomorrow when they gave it to Isaac.  I don't even think there are any holes in the box.  THAT probably would have caused some nightmares... or at least required giving the dog a bath.

Red Prophet leaves the dog in the kid's room and leaves.  That means that whoever Red Prophet is, his intentions aren't to eradicate the entire mutant race.  He's already acknowledged that they're all humans, after all.  This is interesting considering who's behind the mask.

It's William Stryker!  The Age of Apocalypse version, at least!  He isn't actually the last of the humans, either.  The rest of his crew is made up of non-mutants.  Goodnight (Donald Pierce), Deadeye (Zora Risman), Fiend (Francesca Trask), and Horror Show (Graydon Creed) comprise the group known as the X-Terminated.  They have a mission to save humanity.  Or something.

Either way, they pose for the camera so we can get a good look at them.

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Javier Pulido

In this issue:

• Our infiltrators haven't found what they're looking for.  The one looking at the Watcher's monitor is surprised to find that what he's watching isn't exactly current but is future bits and other dimensional things.

• One of them considers tapping right into the Watcher but that isn't an option because it would drive him mad.

• Back to looking at the future Marvel events.

We're back to our Watcher framing device.  The secret space spies are still rifling through Uatu's things.  The one watching the Watcher's DVR is amazed that they happen in the future and in different timelines.  It's hard to makes sense of and he wonders how this being is able to do it.

That leads to discussion on how Uatu might percieve reality in a different way than us mere mortals.  The secret observers remark that their "leader says he's the most powerful creature in existence."  The guy in the control room muses about getting the information they need directly from the source, tapping right into Uatu's mind; but that is just an idle daydream since doing something like that would probably take more than forty-two minutes to set up and would also drive a human mad.

Just in case you were wondering, these two ARE actually here for a purpose other than grabbing random views on the world.  They're here for something specific.  They haven't found it yet but they still have time.

I should have watched where I threw my balls.

So it's time to look at more visions of the future/present/whatever.

Writer: Chris Yost
Penciler: Ryan Stegman

In this issue:

• Kaine, the clone of Spider-Man, tries to get aboard a bus in Charlotte, North Carolina.

• Then, some sort of bank robbery happens.  It's loud and obnoxious.  Kaine decides not to get involved and lets the police handle it.

• He gets on his bus and heads on out on his trip to Mexico.

• Then, he decides to stop being a punk and play super-hero.  Putting on his Scarlet Spider suit, Kaine breaks out of the bus and goes to interfere with a bank robbery.

• The Scarlet Spider interrupts delicate hostage negotiation with his own brand of super-heroics.

• That means: brutally.  This is Kaine we're talking about.

• In the end, no-one is killed.  Kaine might have been a more violent version of Spider-Man but it looks like he's trying to be a better person this time around.

• Still, he just missed his bus.  It's time to walk.

THE CLONE SAGA!  Little known fact: I was one of the many readers who got hooked on Spider-Man during the Clone Saga.  Say what you will about the protracted event, it made me a Spider-Fan.  Much of this was because of everyone's favorite Spider-Substitute, the Scarlet Spider.  Ben Reilly was the clone of Peter Parker from a storyline that wrapped up in the seventies.  He had spent the last five years trying to escape his memories of being Peter Parker and only returned to New York when dear old Aunt May was on her deathbed.  Again.

It happened alot.

Donning a makeshift Scarlet Spider suit, Ben picked up his former "life" as a super-hero just at a time when Spider-Man was falling apart.  The Scarlet Spider costume had its charms, but it was incredibly ugly.  I just want to point out that the whole thing looks thrown together at the last minute and the storyline supported that.

After a number of shenanigans, Ben Reilly and Peter Parker switched places, with Ben believing himself to be the genuine article and Peter thinking himself a clone.  This lasted roughly a year, our time, before someone realized that the story had gone on long enough and reversed the decision.  Peter was the real guy, Ben the clone.  To make sure there was no doubt, Ben Reilly died of clone degeneration right after a knock down fight with the returning Green Goblin.

For some reason or another, Ben is just about the only guy who isn't allowed to return from the dead.  Yet.  Give it time.

As such, this story focuses not on the first Scarlet Spider but a THIRD (there was an evil robot version that took over for Reilly when he took up the Spider-Man identity and... man, it was the nineties-- things were complicated!).  Who's in the suit?  Well, that would be Kaine, the first clone of Peter Parker.

Now, when I say "first clone," I mean first "successful" clone.  I'm pretty sure the Jackal made other failed clones of Peter before Kaine and even with HIM things weren't perfect.  Kaine began to suffer slow clone degeneration and was rejected in favor of the much more successful Ben Reilly.  Kaine ended up following Ben around the country, tormenting his "brother" at every turn, but it's not for the reason you'd expect.

Kaine didn't bear a grudge against Ben for being the better clone.  He actually thought BEN was the original.  Kaine was keeping Ben away from New York so that Peter, who he believed to be the successful clone, could have a full life... the life HE wanted.  He's a complicated guy even though his life is full of big bad guy moments.

Nowadays, Kaine is healed of his clone degeneration and has a brand new lease on life... for like the first time ever.  After the events of Spider-Island, Kaine finds himself unwelcome in New York and is making a run for it.  So far, he's made his way down to Charlotte, North Carolina.  From there, he's bought a bus ticket to Houston.  From Houston, the plan is to head on down to Mexico and keep on running.

The bus ticket takes up the last of Kaine's money so he's kind of out of options if he doesn't make the bus.  Despite this, he moves cautiously through the crowd of people at the bus depot, trying not to attract any unwanted attention.  I guess that's why he looks EXACTLY like someone trying to be incognito.  The hoodie pulled over his head.  The baseball cap pulled down low.  Nothing attracts more attention than a Parker trying to be inconspicious.

Before he reaches the bus, Kaine picks up noises from a bank robbery down the street.  If he were Peter Parker, Kaine would be rushing in to do his Spider-Man bit.  Since he's NOT Peter Parker, he keeps on moving.  Seeing the police cars moving in is all the evidence he needs to stay far away since he's worried that that authorities might be looking for him.  Kaine still pauses in front of the bus but only long enough for the bus driver to yell at him.

From there, he's on board and on his way to freedom.  Also known as running forever.  He keeps on thinking about how different he is from Peter Parker and it would be hard for someone to argue with that.  Kaine IS a monster.  Kaine is what happens if Parker gives in to every evil impulse he's ever had.  Granted, most of that evil was the result of slowly dying... and that's not happening anymore.  Now, Kaine allows himself to feel Peter Parker "judging him."

It's enough to get him to act.  Donning the mask from his Sonic Spider-Man suit, Kaine exits the bus from the top and swings his way into action.

At the bank robbery gone wrong, the chief of police is engaging in hostage negotiations with the robbers who have now taken hostages and are making demands.  These are getting into the area of ridiculousness and it's certain that talks are going to break down soon.  Enter: the Scarlet Spider.

I believe Ben Reilly is on the list of guys that can never come back to life.  For now.

While he's not rocking his villainous ways anymore, Kaine is no Spider-Man.  The new Scarlet Spider takes down the criminals with a ruthlessness that would make the old Venom give him a thumbs up.  Things are bloody and bones are definitely broken.  The only line NOT crossed is the killing line.  Like a good Peter Parker clone, Kaine doesn't end any lives today.  It's not like he's never killed BEFORE but this is his new chance on life so maybe it's time to do things differently.

When the cops break into the bank, they find all of the crooks webbed up on the ceiling.

And Kaine?  He's out of money.  He let his bus go without him.  The new Scarlet Spider starts the long walk to Texas just as it starts raining.

He smiles, thinking "I sure as @#$% am not Peter Parker.  But I might have his luck."

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Salvador Larroca

In this issue:

• Dragonfire and Coldmoon are introduced.  These two are twins that have fire and ice powers, respectively.

• They grow up separately with the story told that their twin died at childbirth.

• When they reach the ripe old age of sixteen, the two discover the others' existence and break out of their holding cells.  They learn from their robotic nanny that they were genetically grown in a "mechanical womb."

• The duo set out to take revenge on the people that made them and bond in the process... even though they both act like living representatives of their powers.

• The Avengers meet up with Dragonfire and Coldmoon while taking out AIM mechs in New York.

Meet Zaoxing.  His code name is Dragonfire and he's four years old.  It's his birthday.  Raised in an isolated facility owned by Taiji Corp, his only contact is Bao, his nurse.  Oh yeah, he's got fire powers and his personality is firy and boisterous.

Now, meet Wanxia.  Her code name is Coldmoon and she's four years old.  It's her birthday.  Raised in an isolated facility owned by Taiji Corp, her only contact is Bao, her nurse.  Oh yeah, she's got ice powers and her personality is icy and withdrawn.

These two?  Raised in the same place.  Separately.  Even though there's probably no reason to tell them, Bao let's them know that they were born twins but that their other sibling died soon after they were born.  It's something that haunts them throughout their childhood and there are times that they blame themselves, thinking that their powers might have had something to do with killing their unknown sister/brother.  Bao assures them that it's not their fault and things keep on going like they've also gone.

Until the two are in their teens.  They both sense something on the other side of their cages and push through with their own powers.  The wall gives way and for the first time ever, they meet their twin.

Alarms go off all over the place and robotic sentries try to recapture them both.  Zaoxing and Wanxia both realize that they are twins and reach out to touch one another.

The result is explosive.  Fire and ice together produce something more powerful than either kid can achieve on their own.  When the explosion is over, the twins discover that their nurse, Bao, was an android that, I guess, was lying to them against her will?  Now that the Taiji building is destroyed, Bao is able to tell them the truth.

The twins were genetically made.  Cloned?  Something to that effect.  Taiji created them to be living weapons.  Bao tells them to hunt down Taiji.

For some reason, they work on just that.  They work together for six months and bond as brother and sister.  Both of them learn about the other and discover that they're they are opposites in nature.  That's ok.  Opposites attract.

Pretend I said that in the least creepy way possible.

At the end of six months, the kids end up in New York right in the middle of a fight with AIM robots.  Dragonfire and Coldmoon express their abilities in their own ways.  Zaoxing is all bravado and showing off.  Wanxia is all "slinking in the shadows like a thief."  Both of these look almost identical to the observer.  When the AIM-bots are destroyed, the twins exchange snotty comments and then they introduce themselves to the Avengers.

Writer/ artist disconnect.

The AIM creations were funded by Taiji and that's what attracted Coldmoon and Dragonfire's interest.  Their here to save the world.  And stuff.

Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Terry Dodson

In this issue:

• Dr. Strange walks around Greenwich Village, taking in the atmosphere in his "magical" home.

• He comes across Notebooks Joe, the "shaman" of Greenwich Village, who is in the middle of harrassing some randoms.  He takes Joe back to his current home.

• Which is at a lady named Abby's place.  After talking with Abby for a bit, Strange finds out that Joe hasn't been sleeping at all.  Given his state of mind, Stephen believes that Notebooks Joe is actually mentally asleep and can't wake up.

• He enters Joe's mind to check things out.  Immediately, the waking world (at least in Greenwhich Village) falls asleep and Joe wakes up.

• Joe leaves Abby's place and has a conversation with Strange, who is still stuck in Notebooks Joe's mind.

• Things start focusing on a door in Joe's mind which is apparently the reason Joe went crazy.  Strange takes a look inside as Joe steps in front of a subway train.  Stephen sees his fellow Defenders.

• And then wakes up.  Dr. Strange gathers up as many notebooks as he can to study because "The Impossible is everywhere now..."

It's the teaser for Defenders!  Things in the book start out with just one of the main cast members: Dr. Stephen Strange.  The former Sorceror Supreme is walking around his home, Greenwich Village, and remarking how "magical" the place is.  For example, Notebooks Joe.

Joe isn't all there.  He's been hanging around the Village before Dr. Strange showed up but doesn't have a home to call his own.  To make up for that, Notebooks Joe seeks out what he calls "Underwriters."  These people give him a place to stay or may pay for a meal.  This allows him to do what he's been doing all along: write the history of Greenwich Village.

Yep.  The "Notebooks" in "Notebooks Joe" stands for the objects he's writing this history inside.

Dr. Strange drags Joe away from some potential Underwriters and takes him to his current home.  Right now, Notebooks is staying with a painter named Abby who is rich enough to have a man light on sanity staying in her apartment.  Stephen remarks that Abby sold her paintings to a hotel chain in the eighties and has been riding on that money ever since.

Abby tells Doctor Strange that Notebooks doesn't sleep.  Ever... or at least not at her place.  Maybe Joe takes a nap on the streets?  Abby doesn't know but it looks like she doubts it.

She's also learned that Joe was once an archeologist or archeology student.  He was out on a dig and came back to the Village in his current state.

I recommend decapitation. Just to be sure.

Stephen sees a pile of Joe's notebooks and takes a look inside.  What he finds is utter gibberish.  "The Compleat History of Greenwich Village" isn't very readable.  "alphagirl omegaman greewheelin bitter ends + savior sapokanikan sapokanikannundrum kontradikkkk winter weather overground cracks center silent sentries centuries."

Clearly, Joe's not going to find an interested publisher.

The former Sorceror Supreme believes that this all adds up to Notebooks Joe beings mentally asleep and unable to wake up.  The answer?  Magic.

Once Doctor Strange enters Joe's mind, Notebooks wakes up.  Everyone else falls asleep.

For the first time in a LONG time, Joe's mind is clear.  He's able to talk coherently and while he's cryptic in his answers, he's pretty lucid.  He leaves Abby's place and walks the empty streets of Greenwich Village.

Stephen finds that he's in a bad situation.  The Doctor is stuck in Joe's head which is confusing at best.  The landscape looks like every idea of Greenwich Village ever all mashed together.  Strange talks to Joe, while also coming down with a nosebleed.

Joe starts telling the Doctor why he went mad.  It's a confusing tale because the entire event broke him.  He was on a dig and he saw something that he was warned not to look at.  Whatever he saw, Notebooks Joe stores the memory (or more) inside a door in his mind.  As he says, "It's still IN HERE.  It's WITH ME.  I'm haunted by the thing."

In the real world, Joe has made his way to a subway station and is waiting for the train to pull up so he can take his trip.  Inside his head, Strange opens the door and looks inside.

What he sees is probably the future.  The Defenders, Namor, Silver Surfer, Red She-Hulk, Iron Fist, Ant-Man, and Nick Fury (Nick Fury?) are inside and it looks like this is happening in the middle of one of their future missions, standing in front of a pipe-like machine.  Iron Fist is telling Dr. Strange that things are screwed up... that "the IMPOSSIBLE is everwhere."

So things are gonna get bad.

Notebooks Joe jumps in front of a subway train, ending his life.  Everyone wakes up.  Strange tells Abby to call 9-1-1 and have them send an emergency crew to the subway station even though he knows that it's too late to save Joe's life.  Grabbing as many notebooks as he can, Stephen returns to his Sanctum Sanctorum to begin studying.

If the Impossible is going to happen, someone's going to have to be prepared.  From his dialogue here, it seems that this tale actually takes place in the past, before Dr. Strange has met the other heroes because he calls the Defenders "those people in that room."

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Bryan Hitch

In this issue:

• A bunch of Ultrons attack a building in Occupied New York City.  In the future!

• The Owl runs outside to complain about having paid up to prevent this from happening.

• Spider-Man is rescued by Hawkeye and one of the Ultrons is destroyed by super-blast arrows.

• The building is still blown up and the two Avengers get clear before it happens.

• They race off to join the rest of the resistance or something.

This final chapter is beautifully drawn by Bryan Hitch.  It's also hard to tell you what's going on.  It seems like no one is really clear on that.  What we do know is that we're witnessing the future and Ultron is running the show.

If you read the first arc of the latest Avengers series or paid any attention to the Next Avengers DVD, you'll recognize the landscape.  This is an Ultron world.  Humans still have a place in it but only if they're paid up.  Even that might not save you or your property.

That's why a platoon of Ultrons flies in on a building in New York City and announces that all humans should vacate.  It's about to be destroyed and I guess they want to keep the people alive.

One of the building's occupants appears to be the Owl.  He and his unnamed companion grip about being paid up on their Ultron dues before the Owl runs out on the street to yell at the uncaring Ultrons about how they ARE paid up and how unfair this all is.

Those two aren't the only ones in the building.  Spider-Man and Hawkeye are also inside.  Peter's in just about half his costume.  The rest looks like it's been torn off after some hardcore fighting.  Hawkeye is fully clothed in an unspoiled costume.  Clint orders Spider-Man out of the building while he prepares some explosive arrows.

Clint and Peter head outside.  Hawkeye fires off some arrows at an Ultron and a timer counts down to destruction.

Oh the Ultrons outside are frightful... but inside, it's so igniteful...

The Ultrons begins taking out the building before the Owl's companion is able to get outside.  Hawkeye's arrows detonate, taking out one Ultron.  I'm guessing this puts a hole in the Ultron's observation net and allows the Avengers to sneak away unseen?  I don't know.  All I DO know is that Spider-Man and Hawkeye run off as soon as the Ultron is destroyed.

So the mission was never to save the building.  It was all about escape.  The building goes up in a fiery explosion.

When things settle down, Hawkeye and Spider-Man exchange words.  Peter thanks Clint for saving his life and then asks the archer how things are going.  The answer?  Bad.  REALLY bad.  This is not new information for Spider-Man.

The two run off into the night, presumably to meet up with any other Avengers/Resistance fighters.  As Barton says, they don't have enough dudes.

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Javier Pulido

In this issue:

• The unnamed observer of the Watcher's DVR is astonished to see this horrifying future.

• The two secret space agents escape the Watcher's home before Uatu wakes up.

• A safe distance away, they call for an extraction and a portal... thing... is opened up.

• As they leave, we learn that their mission was a success.  The "Unseen" now knows what it needs to know... to kill a Watcher.

Our framing sequence comes to a close.  The guy watching Uatu's latest viewings doesn't like the Ultron future at all, and is a bit taken back by what he just witnessed.

But it's too late to think too much about it right now.  The forty-two minutes is nearly up and these two have GOT to get out of here.

Promotional failure!

As the secret space agents get clear of the Watcher's home, they talk more about the Watchers and one of them wonders why they don't interfere when they know how bad things are going to get?  The other one basically chalks it up to the Watchers not giving a rat's ass.  Humans don't REALLY matter to them.

I'd mention how many times Uatu has ACTUALLY interfered but this isn't a story contention.  I'm pretty sure that's not up for debate.  This just represents the worldview of the infiltrators more than anything else.  They view Uatu as a "monster."

Their ride home is called up and it looks a lot like a teleportal with a little extra science gizmos added in to make it distinctive.  This would explain why the Watcher didn't sense them on the Moon, at least.  They ported in.  It still doesn't explain why the Watcher wouldn't look back on his forty-two missing minutes but I've already gone into that in depth so I'll leave it alone.

As our two infiltrators leave, we learn that they got what they came for.  Whatever it was.  Now, they just bide their time and wait for the proper moment to kill the Watcher and take the rest of his information.  We also get the name of their group.  "The Unseen."

You have seen the future of the Marvel Universe.  We now learn where you can follow it from here.

Ultron's rise will continue to play out in Avengers #19 which was listed to come out November 23 but actually came out November 16.

Doctor Strange shows up with the rest of the Defenders in the brand new Defenders #1, slated for release December 7.

The Age of Apocalypse and the X-Terminated run around in Uncanny X-Force #19.1, hitting shelves January 4, 2012.

Kaine might put on the rest of his Scarlet Spider suit in Scarlet Spider #1.  It might be in your hands on January 11, 2012.

And the Phoenix Force?  It's on it's way.  Look out, 2012!


The Tomb of Dracula #3The Tomb of Dracula #3
Writer: Archie Goodwin
Penciler: Gene Colan

In this issue:

• Frank Drake tries to commit suicide but is saved by newcomers, Taj and Rachel Van Helsing.

• His former friend, Clifton Graves, is kicked out of a pub and meets up with Dracula, becoming the vampire's slave.

• Graves hits up the hotel he was staying at with Drake and tries to pick up Dracula's coffin only to learn that Frank had ordered it destroyed.  Fortunately, the coffin hasn't been broken yet and Clifton goes to get it with the Porter.

• While lifting the coffin up, the two drop it, smashing open the bottom which happens to be filled with gold.  The Night Porter runs in to grab it and has a lethal encounter with the entering Dracula.

• Frank, Rachel, and Taj arrive a moment too late and find the Porter's body dead inside the coffin.  Turning around, Rachel catches Drac and Clifton trying to escape and a little fighting begins.

• After it's done, Dracula and his slave slip away before the police arrive, guaranteeing that the vampire hunters will be blamed for the Porter's death.  The trio is held in Scotland Yard where they all maintain their incredible story about Dracula.

• It's only after the Night Porter rises from the grave in the morgue that the police are inclined to agree that maybe they ARE living in a world with vampires.

• Meanwhile, Clifton is driving his master across the countryside to the home of Mrs. Ilsa Strangeway, the current owner of Castle Dracula.  When she sees the Lord of the Vampires lurking outside her window, Ilsa invited Dracula inside.

July 1972!  On the stands?  Stuff like Fantastic Four #124, Amazing Spider-Man #110, Avengers #101, Mighty Thor #201, Sgt. Fury #100, and Daredevil #89.  In Tomb of Dracula #3, the world would meet the last decendant of Abraham Van Helsing made her first appearance.

It's also the first appearance of her mute Indian companion, Taj Nital.  That's two vampire hunters for the price of one.

Before we rip this issue wide open, let me tell you what you've missed.  In Tomb of Dracula #2, Frank Drake and Clifton Graves travelled back to England, taking with them Dracula's coffin.  Frank was hoping to have a final confrontation with the Lord of the Vampires when the Count tracked down his coffin... either that, or Drake was hoping that without the coffin to rest in, Dracula would perish before reaching London.  Neither of these things happened.  Dracula arrived in London but so did Frank's undead fiancee, Jeanie, who was turned into a vampire at the end of issue #1.  Her appearance drove a wedge inbetween Frank and Clifton's friendship and the final split happened when Drake plunged a stake through Jeanie's heart, turning her to dust.

That was the first vampire that Frank had ever killed and it also happened to be someone he loved very much.  Killing his fiancee has driven our already shakey protagonist right on over the edge.  This is why we find him on top of a bridge, ready to end it all.  Frank makes the leap but is caught in the air by Taj and at the command of the hooded Rachel.  This issue isn't wasting any time introducing our new characters!

We'll learn more about them as we go along.  First off, Rachel was looking for Frank after reading a news article about the decendant of Dracula selling the family estate in Transylvania.  Frank tells Van Helsing and Taj why he's having suicidal tendencies and Rachel tells him that he did the right thing.  After all, Jeanie died before a vampire started wearing her body.  The last Van Helsing has experience in these matters since her family has been fighting vampires ever since her ancestor, Abraham Van Helsing, killed Dracula back in the late 1800's.

While Frank fills these two in on how he and his former friend, Clifton, accidentally resurrected the big bad Dracula, we slip on over to another part of London to figure out what Clifton is up to.

And that would be "panicking."  We all know a truth that maybe even Clifton Graves doesn't realize: it was Graves alone that returned the Lord of the Vampires to life.  Now that he's seen Dracula in action not once but TWICE, Clifon is hiding in doors and drinking heavily.  The bartender of his current haunt is ready to close up and kicks the American out on the street... which is the last place Graves wants to be.

He has reason to be worried.  Clifton hasn't even gotten onto his feet after being booted from the pub when Dracula is upon him.  The vampire isn't looking to feast on Graves.  He's looking for a slave.  Clifton will do.

While Drac goes prowling for a decent meal, Clifton heads to the hotel he shared with Frank to retrieve Dracula's coffin.  Finding the Night Porter, Graves learns that Frank ordered the coffin destroyed.  Lucky for him, it's still in one piece.  Clifton and the Night Porter head on down to the sub-basement storage rooms.

Meanwhile, Frank Drake and his new friends are pulling up at the same hotel.  Frank is still talking about killing his fiancee and doesn't think these two could ever relate to the pain he feels.  Rachel assures him that they CAN.  Taj lost most of his home village to a vampire attack and is mute for the experience.  Rachel?  She's lost her whole family to the vampires' vengeance.  I don't think she means to belittle Frank's emotional pain but she certainly puts it in perspective.

Rachel also gives him something to live for.  It's time for Frank to join the vampire hunt and save others from Jeanie's fate.  Maybe a little vengeance also fits into the picture.  This is all stuff that Drake can get behind and he pledges his life to the cause.

Inside the hotel, Clifton and the Night Porter are unsuccessfully trying to move Dracula's coffin.  The Porter remarks that the thing is heavier than it looks just as it smashes against the ground, breaks open a false bottom, and spills gold coins all over the floor.  All thoughts of moving the coffin fade as the Night Porter greedily leaps at the coins...

...and nearly bumps into Count Dracula.  The vampire has recently fed but there's alway room for more.  The Porter sees the murderous look in Dracula's eyes and tries to get Clifton to call the man off.  It's only then that the Night Porter learns that Clifton is Dracula's servant and no help at all.  He screams but it's too late.

Frank, Rachel, and Taj are close when the Night Porter screams out, having tracked down Graves' movements.  They race into the storage room and find the place presumedly emptry.  Lifting the lid on the coffin, they find the dead body of the Porter, neatly laid inside.

Spinning around, Rachel discovers that Dracula and Clifton have tried to sneak out while no one was looking.  What follows is the first on panel confrontation between Drac and our fledgling vampire hunting crew.  Even though Rachel has armed everyone with crosses and stakes, they aren't a match for the Lord of the Vampires.  He uses his slave to knock the cross out of Frank's hand but Clifton breaks open a bag of gold in the process.  While Graves picks up coins, Drac moves in and swats Taj across the room.

This leaves only the last Van Helsing to face Dracula (Frank was knocked senseless when Clifton hit him with a bag of gold).  After announcing her heritage, Rachel points a wooden tipped crossbow dart right at the vampire.  It's right on target until Dracula shifts form into that of a bat.

It's enough to not only save his undead life but make a speedy getaway.  Cliff is right on his master's heels and they shut and lock the door as they pass through it, ensuring that the vampire hunters won't be able to follow them.

Frank and friends will have other things to worry about, anyway.  The Night Porter's screams were heard by more than just them.  The hotel clerk has summoned the local constabulary.  They unlock the door, freeing our heroes but then arrest the trio when they find the Porter's dead body.

This happens a lot, I'd bet.

Instead of concocting some elaborate tale about what happened here, Rachel Van Helsing opts to tell the truth, as crazy as it seems.  Since no one is going to just trust her that Dracula is real, the three are arrested and sent to Scotland Yard.  Once there, Frank, Rachel, and Taj continue to tell the same story to Inspector Chelm.

Chelm is the one who reveals that Van Helsing has a doctorate and several degrees to her name.  Apparently, her interest in vampires and the like is well known.  As the Inspector continues to grill Frank and Taj, Rachel wonders what Dracula's next move will be.

Which is as good a time as any to slip on over and check on Dracula and his servant.  The vampire is asleep in a crate as Clifton drives him north of London.  With no one else to talk to, Graves talks aloud to his Master about his day.  He talked to a lawyer that led him to travel north.  Cliff even turned in the gold for cash.  What are they doing out here?  Well, Dracula is going to pay a visit to the person who bought his castle from Frank Drake.

The body of the Night Porter was brought to the Scotland Yard morgue where it lay quietly for most of the day.  Now, it is night again and you know what that means.  Time to rise and shine.  The new vampire wakes up thirsty for blood but he doesn't walk far before running right into Van Helsing.  As she holds a cross up to the vamp, Rachel orders her comrades to force the Porter against a wall.  It is Taj who drives the stake into the new vamp's heart.

All of this is witnessed by Inspector Chelm who apologizes to holding these innocent people for questioning when they were clearly telling the truth the whole time.  Rachel Van Helsing doesn't care.  All she wants is to catch up to Dracula and end the Lord of the Vampires life.

But that will have to wait for another day.  In our remaining pages, we are introduced to the woman who would buy Castle Dracula.  Meet Mrs. Isla Strangeway.  Long story short?  She's a fading beauty.  Her lawyer remarks that Isla was the most beautiful woman in the world but those days are well behind her.  She's not ugly by any means but her youth is gone and her hair is streaked with white.

Instead of aging gracefully, Strangeway has looked into every way possible to regain her lost beauty.  That includes the more modern and scientific as well as the magical and occult.  All have thus far failed her but she still has quite the collection of mystical artifacts.  It was her lawyer who arranged to buy Castle Dracula for her but he wasn't happy about it.

He's also the guy who talked to Clifton Graves and led Dracula right to his client.  Whoops!

When the lawyer questions Isla on why she wanted the Transylvanian castle, she claims that it's another attempt at restoring her lost looks and shows him her novel on Dracula.  When the lawyer looks incredulously at her, Strangeway tosses the book at him and demands that he leaves her manor.

Which is timely because Isla is about to have another guest.  Outside her window lurks Count Dracula.  He never expects that she'll let him in and is mostly just trying to scare the hell out of her at this point.  It's an incredible surprise, then, when Isla Strangeway invites the vampire inside of her own free will.

And that's our tale!

Taj Nital continues to fight heroically beside his fellow vampire hunters until eventually being led back home by one of Dracula's minions.  After this adventure, Taj retires from the vampire business and settles back down with his estranged wife.  It's about as happy an ending as any vampire hunter is likely to have.

Rachel Van Helsing, the last of the Van Helsings, is less fortunate.  After surviving the whole way through Tomb of Dracula, Rachel is eventually turned into a vampire by Dracula who holds her in sway by exerting a tremendous amount of his will on her.  When that slackens, Rachel regains a sense of herself long enough to allow Wolverine (yes, Wolverine) to kill her.  In a world where every Marvel hero can return from the grave and vampires have a tendency of doing the same, one wonders how long Rachel Van Helsing will remain in the grave.

That, my friends, is our ever lovin' end.

Personal announcement: this is the last Super Reads that you'll see for a while.  I know, I know.  I've still got one more Fear Itself aftermath issue to do and it's Iron Man and I'm sure you all want to know how I break that down.  Well, too bad!  I've got another project on my plate that requires my immediate attention.  Don't worry.  You'll be so distracted by the holidays that you won't even notice I'm gone.

Granted, knowing me, I won't be able to keep myself away for too long. :D

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and:  Excelsior!
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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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