Today, we check out Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #35, Punisher War Journal #25, and then blast from the past looks at The Uncanny X-Men #'s 374-377. Relive all the glory that was the nineties in one bite sized portion!
This week, I'm going to attempt something that no internet dude has ever attempted before.
I'm gonna do two articles in one week.
So, it HAS been done before?
Huh. OK, well, let's do it again. First one today, next one Thursday/Friday. Dig it!
Are you looking for something to do while you're in the bathroom? Well, grab that laptop and read through all 26 installments of Super Reads Secret Invasion! Off to your left, you'll see a link titled "Super Reads SI" where you can check out what happened in every issue dealing with Secret Invasion. Looking for a lazier way? You can also check here to catch up or remember back. Enjoy all the fun times we've had over the last few months and never, ever mention that you brought your laptop into the bathroom.
Ok, let's get this pumping.
Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #35
Writer: Christos N. Gage
Penciler: Sean Chen
This is the last issue of Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it's telling that the title character has already been replaced by the awesomeness of Jim Rhodes. Something in my gut is telling me that Tony may not be so "Director of SHIELD" as he currently is once this whole thing is over. I know! It's a very strong, bold statement to make.
But enough about the future, let's deal with the awesomeness of Jim Rhodes. When last we saw him, Skrull scientists were stripping him of his armor and waiting for him to die after being disconnected from the life support aspects of said armor. Y'see, if you haven't been reading, Rhodey is now a cyborg for unrevealed reasons and relies on the armor to keep him alive. With it off, he only has so long before his body simply ceases to work.
We're also still wondering where the hell that belly blaster came from. His abdomen still looks pretty fleshy. Well, we know he's not going to use that to escape and his upcoming series would be pretty empty with out the title character, so let's just get to his successful escape right about now.
While the belly blaster isn't available to him, Rhodey has a fancy red robot eye that works well as a laser in a pinch. He takes out both Skrull scientists and then struggles to put the armor back on before he really does die.
Surprising turn of events: he lives!
Before reinforcements show up, Jim is able to get the helmet, chest piece, and one repulsor glove back in place. Since the chest piece is loaded with the missile launcher and spacey-looking gun attachments, he's pretty much ready for business. He takes out the poor, poor reinforcements, gets the rest of his suit on, and calls up Suzi Endo for more tactical goodness.
War Machine is ready to rejoin the battle in Russia to prevent the Skrulls from securing a nuclear base. Suzi's got a little mission for him to accomplish first. He heads to the bridge of the Skrullship he's currently in and uses command codes deciphered by Suzi to get the ship to attack other Skrullships. The Skrulls get wise pretty quickly and, instead of trying to reassert control over the rogue ship, they open fire on it.
The Winter Guard watch from below as War Machine is responsible for the destruction of three Skrullships. Russian Command is still denying the team the ability to ally with the American superhero but Crimson Dynamo fakes going through a tunnel to disregard this order so that he and Darkstar can aid Rhodey anyway. The two armored combatants are "teleported" by Darkstar inside the remaining Skrullships' shields and make short work of the last air attack ships.
So that just leaves the ground forces. They're joined by the rest of Winter Guard to take down two New Super Skrulls. The Russians take on the blatant Nazi NSS while War Machine holds off the one looking a lot more like Metamorpho. After the Nazi New Super Skrull falls, the Russian soldiers rally. War Machine's playmate doesn't take it so positively.
The Metamorpho New Super Skrull takes defeat badly. Instead of dying like a good Skrull, he decides to turn into energy in an attempt to set off any nuclear arms in the area. Rhodey isn't ready to let that happen. He absorbs the energy into his suit, nearly overloading it, and then flies skyward to release all that energy safely and environmentally.
War Machine isn't out of the woods just yet. As soon as he has saved Mother Russia, he's threatened by it. Russian jet fighters surround him and order his surrender. Rhodey's spent. He can't outrun them and he can't outfight them.
It's a good thing that the Crimson Dynamo isn't as much of a jerk as he was last issue. He orders the pilots to stand down, eventually using the threat of force to get his way. The two have one final inspirational chat before Jim Rhodes flies off into the sunset.
Thus ends the final story arc to Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. See ya, Rhodey... in just a few weeks. :)
Punisher War Journal #25
Writer: Matt Fraction & Rick Remender
Penciler: Howard Chaykin
It's a special super-sized Secret Invasion tie-in extravaganza! With an actual Secret Invasion banner this time!
Frank Castle was out killing every Skrull he could find while possibly inflicting collateral damage on any human he DIDN'T find when a fat version of G.W. Bridge joined up with him. Tubby was given orders to stop Frank before he accidentally killed SHIELD agents (or possibly civilians) in his one-man vendetta against the Skrulls but he basically teamed up with him instead.
After a some fun fighting a mobster based New Super Skrull, Rampage (Stuart Clarke) found them just in time to act out his vendetta against Frank. Frank killed Rampage's girlfriend a while back. Rampage just found out and he's PISSED. Frank starts getting the crap beat out of him because he believes that he deserves it.
Our resident fat man (no, I'm not letting it go. Ever) tries to break this unnecessesary fight up but everyone seems to have forgotten that they were fighting a mobster based New Super Skrull. Looks like Bridge has his own problems to deal with.
All this fighting eventually converges resulting in the humans teaming up against the alien. Big Boned Bridge finally ends the fight only to have the New Super Skrull replaced by a sniper.
Punisher and GW take shots before everyone finds cover. The three make a plan. Rampage is going up to take out the sniper while Frank and Taft... um, Bridge... provide cover.
All this goes just according to plan. While Punisher and Bridge are holed up together, Bridge finally manages to convince Frank that Rampage is an ACTUAL SUPER VILLAIN and has even KILLED PEOPLE. That means that Castle no longer needs to feel guilty about killing Rampage's girlfriend. What a relief!
Rampage takes out the sniper then takes his place. He grabs the sniper rifle and aims for where he knows Punisher to have been. But there's some magic in the air. Frank Castle has not only covered the same distance that Rampage had while reaching the sniper, he's actually climbed above that location just so he could swing in and catch Rampage unaware. Don't try to time this one out to have it make sense. You'll just give yourself a headache.
The fight goes a lot more Punisher's way this time. Frank even pulls some electrical wiring out of the wall and applies it liberally to Rampage's face. Before Frank can have too much fun punishing his former ally, the Skrulls break up the party by firing a space bazooka and destroying their whole floor.
While the Skrulls are celebrating their victory over two guys and doing ridiculous dances, Fat Bridge makes his head shot quota, killing the trio of Skrull soldiers. He then locates Rampage (who has seen better days) so that he can save his life and set up a later Punisher story arc.
Punisher, of course, survived the whole ordeal relatively unscathed... though his costume has a few extra tears in it. Frank runs into the streets, sniper rifle in hands, ready to mete out more Skrull Punishment.
Later on, after Secret Invasion has ended, Bridge visits Rampage in a SHIELD hospital to make sure he's not given in to despair after his recent injuries. He hasn't. What he HAS done is become the new Jigsaw. Mwahahaha?
And now... Jim Lee (and Chris Claremont!) and their Uncanny X-Men swan song:
The Uncanny X-Men #374
Writer: Jim Lee & Chris Claremont
Penciler: Jim Lee
There are two big storylines running through the first two issues I'm going through and it's important to note that I'm just gonna follow the Skrull one in detail. I'll sum up the Magneto one right away because it's a very cool story about the evolution of Magnus. It just has very few Skrulls in it. It DOES have the Savage Land! That's kinda Secret Invasiony, right?
So here's your Magneto minutes: Mags, Rogue (depowered), Ka-Zar, and Zabu fight the Mutates and Zaladane for control of the Savage Land. Along the way, they meet up with Nick Fury, some SHIELD agents, and many Soviet soldiers. Magneto is in a heavily weakened state and this story makes tons of connections to his past (he created the Savage Land Mutates, Zaladane is a magnetically powered would-be world conqueror, the Soviets remind him that he destroyed the Leningrad Submarine) and the whole story tempts Magnus to return to his overtly evil roots. The story ends with our allies taking off in helicopters to combat Zaladane's crazy world conquering plan.
But we're here for Skrulls, so where the Magneto story ends, the X-Men Skrull story begins!
In issue 373 (a great issue featuring MANY past X-Men artists jamming out an X-Tinction Agenda wrap-up tale), our brand new X-Men team was teleported off planet by Lila Cheney. The team is all in a nineties version of the classic blue and gold suits and features: Storm, Wolverine, Banshee, Psylocke, Forge, Gambit, and Jubilee. Cheney has no idea where she teleported everyone to and everything is covered in green goo and tentacles. She was supposed to take them to Professor X, but there's no Prof in site.
Just as Forge is requesting a change of location so they can think this through, the goo and tentacles attack our heroes. Very quickly, the X-Men are all captured.
The X-Men are in her "Imperial Palace" and she has it in her mind that they will kill Professor Xavier for her.
I never said she was sane. She's a Neramani. Even Lilandra has but a tenuous hold on sanity.
The Uncanny X-Men #375
Writer: Jim Lee & Chris Claremont
Penciler: Jim Lee
This cover image doesn't do this comic near enough justice. It's one of the first gatefold covers I've come across: three panels. It'll soon become a nineties tradition that every third issue have a gatefold cover (possibly with chromium or a hologram) but it was still a treat at this point in time.
But on with our tale. We begin with the Starjammers (Corsair, Hepzibah, Raza, Ch'od, and... Stryfe? Stryfe's a Starjammer?) attacking the flagship of the Imperial Fleet. It's Deathbird's current residence and our band of pirates is trying to make a change in leadership. They'll have to face off against the Imperial Guard, first, though.
In another part of the giant ship, Deathbird is entertaining her guests, the Uncanny X-Men. The tentacle-goo monster holding the X-team is one of many "Manacles" we'll see in this story arc and it seems to adapt to the powers of the X-Man it's holding. Because of this, Jubilee is able to free Wolverine. Logan wastes no time in taking the fight to Deathbird.
The thing is, Wolvie is not really up to fighting speed even though he fakes it VERY well. His healing factor is barely functional after everything that's happened to him in the pages of Uncanny X-Men (culminating in the beating he took during the X-Tinction Agenda). He does end up freeing Jubilee before Deathbird stabs him through with a spear. She then leaves... possibly to figure out who's attacking her flagship but she might just be bored. Killing Wolverine is boring work.
Granted, he's not dead yet. Jubilee struggles to pull the spear out, eventually succeeding. Logan quickly makes for round two with Deathbird as Jubes cries for him to take a breather and stop pushing himself to breaking.
She's wasting her breath. She frustratingly works to release Storm from the Manacle before the Starjammers crash the party. It's a grand reunion as Lilandra stops Ch'od from killing Jubilee and the X-Men are all freed from the Manacle's grasp.
From that point on, it's battle royale time as the Starjammers, X-Men, and Lilandra's P!ndyr shock troops take on the Imperial Guard.
In no time at all (read: off panel), the good guys have won the day and despite all odds (read: off panel), Logan has captured Deathbird. Now it's just time to reveal who the guy in the Stryfe helmet is.
It's Stryfe! Oh, no, wait.
It's Professor X! No one saw that coming!
Chuck has been serving as Lilandra's Warlord as she's been retaking the Shi'ar Empire. Storm, Banshee, and Wolverine greet Xavier happily but the rest of the X-Men are more stand-offish. Forge, Psylocke, Gambit, and Jubilee have never met the Professor and don't exactly know what to make of him at this point. Still, it's good to have him back, right?
Cut away very quickly for your Magneto minutes. The alliance between SHIELD, the Soviets, Magneto, Rogue, Ka-Zar et all is dashed pretty quickly by the Soviet's Colonel. He later shows up as one of Zaladane's allies. Mags is captured and, of the rest of the alliance, only Nick Fury, Ka-Zar, Zabu, and Rogue survived. In the resulting conflict, Rogue and Magneto both regain their powers, Fury destroys the magnetic towers that were super charging Zaladane, and Magneto takes a step closer to darkness when he kills the Soviet Colonel and Zaladane.
In the Shi'ar Empire, Lilandra is being recrowned before a delegation of her people. The Lord Chamberlain introduces her anew to the Executive Council and she is quickly proclaimed Majestrix once more. Keep an eye on that Lord Chamberlain. He's quick!
The only X-Men to attend this gathering are Storm, Banshee, and Forge. The rest are relaxing in their own subtle ways. Logan? Barfight. Psylocke? Naked meditating and then being abducted. Jubilee? Lost. It's time for shenanigans!
She finds herself witness to the subjugation of Gladiator and Oracle. She's not the only witness, though. Turns out Gambit is also watching these events with interest. The subjugator, though, is the most surprising reveal of all.
It's Stryfe! Oh, no, wait.
It's Professor X! No one saw that coming!
The Uncanny X-Men #376
Writer: Jim Lee & Chris Claremont
Penciler: Jim Lee
So what are our two X-Men gonna do with this bit of information? For now, they're gonna keep on watching.
A mind-controlled Gladiator brings out Deathbird and, at a command from Professor Xavier, he tears out her wings. This is too much for Gambit to watch and he eventually goes into hero mode with Jubilee his panicked sidekick. He frees Deathbird and the three try to fight their way out.
During the battle, they find and free Lila Cheney (who disappeared at some point between issue 374 and 375). She winds up teleporting out with Deathbird which leaves our two X-Men to deal with Xavier, Gladiator, and many Shi'ar Shock Troops.
Gambit's plan is to have Jubilee shoot off her firworks and then to hit them with his kinetically charged cards. This causes a huge explosion that alerts the X-Men to run to the scene. This includes Psylocke who we already saw was abducted while meditating. Naked.
Xavier is quick to cover up the incident when the X-Men and Lilandra arrive. Still, Logan isn't the trusting sort and what got them here in the first place is the fact that the energy signature of the explosion was very Jubilee-like. Wolverine finds what he's looking for in the rubble and promptly kills Professor Xavier.
Psylocke takes quick response and hits Wolverine with her Psychic Knife (that's the focused totality of her telepathic power! She had to say that EVERY TIME she used it!). The rest of the X-Men are immediately called to be captured just in case they were also planning on killing Professor Xavier.
Before the Starjammers and Gladiator can follow through on their orders to capture Storm, Forge, and Banshee, Lila Cheney and Deathbird return armed with big guns. They cause a distraction before Lila teleports all our heroes away. Yeah. Deathbird's a hero in the story. Go figure.
Once the X-Men and their allies are gone, it's up to the Lord Chamberlain to pick up the pieces. Yeah, Xavier's dead. Lilandra's freaking out. He orders Psylocke to do her telepathic bit on Lilandra so that she doesn't remember this whole incident. He then sends the Starjammers to track and capture the X-Men.
Lila's teleported the X-Men and Deathbird to Epsilon Seikosha IX. It's the homeworld of the P!ndyr. Everyone on the planet is dead. Deathbird puts the blame at Xavier's feet. It's just the tip of the iceberg, apparently. Xavier has done some bad things and, while Deathbird was blamed for them, she claims to have not done these particular bad things.
Forge, not used to genocide, needs a moment to process all this. In the end, he's willing to help put a stop to this but he's certainly been shaken to the core. Cheney's been off gathering weapons. Finally, Storm announces that she believes Deathbird. At the scene of the explosion way earlier on, Logan found one of Jubilee's earrings. That's what caused him to react. He knew Xavier was covering something.
And so did we!
Now it's time for some payback for genocide!
The Starjammers are quick to locate the X-Men on Epsilon Seikosha IX. They move in for the attack. On the surface of the planet, the X-Men do much the same. Forge has built some nice space-enabling equipment and they've got a plan where the flyers will be cloaked by Forge in his sky sled which is piloted by Lila Cheney.
Before they get a chance to try out this plan Deathbird gets some sort of vision and commands Lila Cheney to teleport the two out of there. That leaves Forge alone and uncertain whether he'll be able to pull off his mojo while simultaneiously piloting the sky sled.
Slightly before all this happens, we have creepy naked time. A naked Jubilee and Wolverine are brought to some sort of inner chamber. Once there, the Lord Chamberlain orders them both to be Manacled up and coded.
It turns out that the Lord Chamberlain is the Prime War Skrull (that's right). They've taken control of the Shi'ar Empire through Lilandra and, yes, Xavier was a War Skrull as well. The coding procedure maps a War Skrull out so that they'll be able to use the powers of the one they're coded for (artificially).
Because Lilandra depended so much on Xavier, the Prime War Skrull decides that he shall assume that role. He's not really perfect for the Xavier code, but he's damn powerful and willing to take the hit.
We find that the Starjammers and Xavier are also Manacled up and coded... and Xavier is not ready to admit defeat just yet.
The Uncanny X-Men #377
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Jim Lee
The Starjammers are ready to open fire on Storm and Banshee (they were supposed to be cloaked by Forge but, since Lila 'ported out on him, he's been focused on flying his sky sled). What no one expected was Gambit. He's been at large since he and Jubilee used their powers in tandem last issue. Looks like he's been tagging along with the Starjammers and has chosen this moment to play hero again.
Because of Gambit's timely intervention, Banshee and Storm aren't taken out of the game. The Starjammer (the ship, not the pirates) is now in Epsilon Seikosha IX's upper atmosphere and Storm uses her weather powers to full effect. This has the added trouble of destroying Forge's sky sled. Forge quickly fires a grappling line at the Starjammer and makes for boarding.
Inside, Gambit's beating the hell out of the Starjammers (pirates this time). Hepzibah decides to take Remy on herself and the others leave to deal with the rest of the X-Men who're now on board their ship. Hepzibah decides to go full War Skrull mode for this bit of fun. That doesn't phase Gambit in the least. In fact, it's encouragement.
Forge is working on getting access to Waldo, the ship's main computer. Ch'od interupts this in order to kill him. Forge unloads his weapon in Ch'od's face with no effect at all. Fortunately, Banshee comes to the rescue knocking out both Ch'od and Forge with a sonic scream. Storm arrives in time to save Banshee from an attack by Raza, mostly by throwing Corsair at him. Corsair's had enough of this baggage and ends up shooting Ororo, presumably a killing strike.
Obviously, not so much. Storm's pretty sure that she's dealing with someone OTHER than the real Corsair and this is confirmed when the pirate shapeshifts into his War Skrull form. He throws some threats around as the three X-Men gather together.
So where the heck did Lila Cheney and Deathbird 'port off to?
They went to the Maul. It is, among other things, the place where the War Skrulls are Manacling and coding people like the Starjammers, Xavier, and Wolverine. Unfortunately, they didn't teleport in unnoticed. War Skrull Prime, in Xavier form, is on hand with his entourage: Gladiator, Psylocke, Lilandra, as well as newcomers Wolverine and Jubilee. This would be Wolverine v. Deathbird round three!
Before Lila can get beat down by Gladiator, she notices the real Xavier Manacled up and teleports out. Once she's out, Wolverine and Jubilee get into a fight about sharing Deathbird and War Skrull Prime begins to realize that the real Xavier still has enough psi-power to influence the natures of his Host. Prime gloats about the futility of it all before watching the Starjammer (the ship) smash right into his headquarters.
Looks like the X-Men have won their battle with the Starjammers (the pirates) and Lila Cheney brought them here for the big final battle. Which is a good time.
It's always fun to watch someone beat down 'ol Mohawk Head. The battle goes this way and that and includes a fun rematch between Gambit and Wolverine (they had a Danger Room brawl where Gambit decisively bested Logan... granted, Logan wasn't anywhere near his best). This time, Gambit looks done for until Banshee comes around to save him.
In the end, though, this is a battle between Prime and Xavier. Prime uses his psi-powers to incapacitate the X-Men. He then tries to have Lilandra decapitate Storm but this is stopped by Deathbird. Prime tries to psi-blast the whole lot only to find that his power is gone. Xavier is free.
Xavier then proceeds to punch Prime's lights out. Oh, sure, he's also telepathically blocking Prime from reverting to War Skrull form, but mostly it's an opportunity to see Xavier fist fight. Good times.
Now all that we need is some aftermath action.
Xavier explains that, after he was captured, he found that he could psychically connect with Deathbird and used her to bring Lila Cheney and the X-Men to him. Deathbird decides that she's sick of being Majestrix and tells Lilandra that she's welcome to the throne. She gives Xavier a parting kiss and takes off.
Xavier is key to learn what's going on with his students. After scanning Storm's mind, he finds that the Shadow King has made a major comeback. It looks like he and Lilandra must be separated once again... but that's another story entirely.
And that is the first major Skrull encounter for the X-Men team. Beautiful Jim Lee art and Claremont doing a pretty good scripting job? Good, clean, nineties fun.
But this week isn't over by a long shot! Tune back in later this week for one final showing before the big finale in Secret Invasion #8!
Until then: Who Do YOU Trust?
Posted originally: 2008-12-02 14:35:21