Today, we check out Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 and then blast to the past for Captain America (v3) #'s 5-7. Welcome to the future of the Marvel Universe. Hope you survive the experience!
So, Secret Invasion is over... long live Secret Invasion? That's about it for now. We are in that middle ground between mega-events which will officially be called Dark Reign... but Marvel hasn't started throwing "Dark Reign" banners on their books yet so... Secret Invasion it is!
As always, you can easily check up on past articles 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. All 29 past articles are there for you to read and enjoy.
Now let's check up on Norman Osborn and see how this Dark Reign thing is coming...
Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Alex Maleev
Much like at the end of Civil War, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev get the last word. In Civil War, it was Civil War: The Confession which was a telling look at Tony Stark dealing with the death of Steve Rogers in the aftermath of their Civil War. This time, it's an issue that follows directly on the heels of Secret Invasion, following up on the very last image of that event.
Prepare yourself for the Dark Illuminati!
Our issue opens up with a dream. Emma Frost's dream. It looks like the former White Queen feels guilty for the "death" of Kitty Pryde. Emma brought Kitty into the Astonishing X-Men team way back when to watch out for her going bad (if I'm remembering the events correctly). At the end of Joss Whedon's run on the book, Kitty found herself trapped in a huge space bullet heading away from earth at incredible speeds. Not really a death, but with no way to stop the bullet or free Kitty, it was the last the X-Men would see of her. So, Emma feels somewhat responsible for that.
When she wakes, she is greeted by a fully armed Thunderbolts Agent delivering a package to her door. We'll just assume that this is an invitation to join Norman Osborn and some merry old villains as they celebrate their newfound power in the Marvel Universe. Still, that look of concern on Emma's face is interesting.
She gets dressed in her very revealing X-Men gear and heads to Avengers Tower to join the fun. She's not the first guest to arrive at the meeting.
Dr. Doom is the deposed ruler of Latveria. He was taken down by Tony Stark and the Mighty Avengers in retaliation for the Latverian release of the Symbiote Virus on New York City (Dr. Doom was not responsible for the release but that's beside the point). He was most recently being held on The Raft (a Maximum-Maximum Security Installation). We can assume that he was brought to this meeting clandestinely. Being that his is Doom, he threatens Emma for trying to psi-scan him and, seeing as this is Doom, Emma quickly stops.
The next to join our party is Namor... who's seen better days. Namor has also lost his kingdom but in different circumstances. His people are now "sleeping" among the surface world population and his underwater nation has been destroyed on his order. He's been out and about in the pages of The Incredible Hercules rescuing his god, Poseidon, from Amazons with a small number of his people so he's not completely out of the running. Still, it looks like he's aged about fifty years very recently. Well, he's been running around the Marvel Universe since the late thirties, so maybe it's time for him to age?
Regardless, he's also probably a little drunk as he doesn't remember meeting Emma before.
Before this scene can get any more ackward, Doom announces yet another guest to the party. The Hood. He's the current kingpin of super-crime. He's faring better than Doom and Namor at keeping his house in order but, as we've seen in recent issues of New Avengers, his control is in a tenuous place. He managed to rally his gang over the threat from the Skrulls but that whole deal is done with. What keeps him in charge now?
The Hood plays macho and pulls his gun on Emma only to find that same gun pointing back at him. Don't mess with a telepath, Hood.
Our next guest to the party is Loki. He's currently a she because, well, why not? After the latest bought of Ragnarok, Loki came back different and hasn't complained much about the switch. This change in genders really confuses Namor but, before he breaks into "Lola," the host of this party arrives.
Norman Osborn. The former Green Goblin and current defender of democracy and all things American. He was appointed by the President of the United States to protect us all from threats without and within. He's the head of a new peace-keeping organization and has broad control over the Avengers and the Initiative teams. He's here to be Santa Claus to all the evil little boys and girls at the table.
That's pretty much the master plan here. Osborn is in charge and that makes it Christmas to the bad guys. Granted, the bad guys aren't really known for trusting each other and with the egos in this room it's a hard sell. In a nutshell, Norman's plan is to give the bad guys what they want and in return, the bad guys don't cause trouble. Now, before everyone points out that Doom doesn't just want his country back but, in fact, wants the entire world and that there are two other people at the table with similar goals, let's just pretend that those individuals KNOW that.
Norman knows it as well. He makes it well known that, if they screw with him, he will take them down. Loki is the first to laugh at that followed by Doom finally having enough of being talked down to by the frickin' Green Goblin. So Norman's gonna have to lay it on down for them. He points out that if anyone in the room turns on anyone else in the room, they'll have to deal with what's behind Door #1.
So, you might be asking yourself: What IS behind Door #1? Well, the comic shows a shadow. My best guess is that it's the Void. If you'll remember one of the first Mighty Avengers tie-ins from Secret Invasion, the Void took over for a scared and confused Sentry and saved his/their wife. With the madmen running the asylum, the Void starts making a lot of sense, doesn't he? Also: shadows. It's like an overt clue!
We now get to Emma Frost. Norman wants proof that he believes in his own hype and the telepath provides that. After he's finished his advertising spiel calling for unity and everyone getting what they want, Emma asks why she's hanging out with a bunch of villains. She's not a villain... anymore. Norman casts some doubt on that. She's one of the leaders of a dying people where hard decisions will be made. We saw Cyclops making some of those in the Secret Invasion: X-Men book. We should be certain that Emma Frost is more willing to make those decisions than her boyfriend. Still, the question is: what does SHE want?
And now, Santa Claus bestows a gift. He gives Doom back Latveria. It's like the first time is free. He tells everyone to build their kingdoms but don't start overt trouble. Keep it quiet and everything's cool.
So, what does the Hood want? Normans believes "immunity." He tells the Hood that his people will register but after that they can do anything they want with the exception of attacking a government facility or having "fun." He will also tell them to hit targets from time to time but assures the Hood that they'll be missions that his group would gladly do. And for all that, they get immunity and stay free.
The Avengers? Norman's to name, check back later. Tony Stark? He's going to have a bad time. The reason they're having free reign in Avengers Tower is because Stark signed it over to SHIELD so that they would fund it and pay for it. Well, he lost SHIELD and the tower was part of the deal.
So we know what Norman believes Doom wants (and, yes, he probably hasn't been paying attention to Doom's goals lately). We've seen what Norman wants of the Hood. We've had insight on why Emma's around. We can extrapolate where Norman sees Namor heading. We just haven't been paying much attention to Loki. What does she want?
Asgard. And she wants it back where it belongs. Exactly what Norman wants.
With that, the meeting is adjorned and our Dark Illuminati disperse in their own fashions until Doom and Namor sit alone at the table.
Namor and Doom have an alliance of sorts. Actually, in my mind, Namor is the most interesting guy at the table. He's got an alliance with Doom and he's also a member of Tony Stark's Illuminati group. He's the only guy at the table that is a member of both clandestine groups. Still, he's a LOT drunk right now and would like to confer with his ally.
Doom is going along with the Dark Illuminati for now. He'll take what he can from it and doesn't believe he'll have to lift a finger to destroy Osborn. Norman'll do it himself. In the end, Doom will get the land and Namor the seas. Namor brings up a good point: What if he doesn't fall?
Doom is as certain as us readers that the former Green Goblin has no other option BUT to fail but if he doesn't fall on his own... well, let's just say that there's probably another mega-event in their future.
Back at Thunderbolts HQ, Norman Osborn is packing up some last minute things after he's officially disbanded the team (latest issue of T-Bolts). He's confronted by the Swordsman who doesn't see himself fitting into Osborn's plans. He's frustrated for being left on the outside and really won't give Norman a chance to respond. In the end, Swordsman threatens to expose all the dirty secrets he knows about his pal, the Green Goblin.
In frustration, Osborn runs him through with his own sword. Swordsman crashes through the windows and tumbles down the side of the T-Bolts' mountain headquarters. Left alone, Norman Osborn rants about how in control he is before realizing that the EXACT OPPOSITE is true. It's the moment of the book, folks: Norman realizes exactly how easy it is for him to fall over and just what a tightrope walk he'll have to do to make this work. That's what I read into it, at least. All I know is, after his rant, he's got a look of panic on his face and he's saying, "Oh no." Could be he just killed someone and that he may get in trouble for that but that should be easy to get out of given his new status and I doubt we'll hear much more about the Swordsman in the future. Maybe in the Thunderbolts book, but even then it'll probably be a footnote. Time, as they say, will tell.
We end the book as it began. Emma dreams about her failure with Kitty Pryde. This time, she wakes up screaming.
So, we're left with two questions. The first one is: what kind of drugs does Cyclops take to knock himself out so thoroughly? I mean, he doesn't even STIR. The second one, and more important: What does Emma want? Ought to be interesting, that's for certain.
After the story is through, we're greeted with some preview pages to up and coming books: Secret Warriors, Agents of Atlas, and War Machine. We just get a few pages per new comic but it's enough to get me excited for some new comics! We'll see Secret Warriors and Agents of Atlas in February and War Machine on December 17 (or in next week's Super Reads if you can't stand buying awesome comics :p).
And with that we visit one last Skrull moment from Captain America:
Captain America #5
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciler: Ron Garney
Capmania is in full effect! What is Capmania? Well, it's a rage that is sweeping the nation where normal Americans are drawn to almost worshiping Captain America following his return from Heroes Reborn.
You can imagine what Captain America thinks about that.
Anyway, the issue opens with Captain America and the Avengers taking down a Hydra cell. Hydra has been gunning for Cap since his return and their leader, the Sensational Hydra, has been especially keen to build up "Capmania" for undisclosed reasons. Cap is trying to learn why he's Hydra's specific focus until he learns that he ISN'T. Hydra lacks a central control and the individual cells all act independantly. The Hydra agent he's cornered reveals the existence of the Sensational Hydra but claims to have no allegiance to him. It's not enough to get Cap to back down, though, and this cell is taken into SHIELD custody.
In SHIELD custody, the talkative Hydra agent is gunned down by a SHIELD agent who quickly reveals himself to by that Sensational Hydra everyone's talking about! Wow. Small world!
Sensational didn't kill out of anger, though. The Hydra agent gave Cap info that he himself wanted Cap to know. Sensational's just a bit crazy. And a shape changer. The later reveal would probably be more surprising if this wasn't a column currently dedicated to Skrulls. o_O
Sensational does his killing and books before SHIELD can get a bead on him.
Meanwhile, Captain America takes Thor to a down-home American diner.
These diner people don't even bat an EYE to see Cap and Thor walk in and order milk shakes. That is one hell of a diner. You can just imagine the rest of their clientele. Still, it gives our two heroes a chance to talk about Capmania. Thor is all for super belief. He's a god. He expects people to worship him in their own ways. Cap, being a mortal and more humble than a speeding bullet, is not as easy around adulation. Sure, he's awesome but is he SUPER awesome?
Before this conversation gets boring, we're given Cap's next Hydra challenge. The Sensational Hydra and his peeps have taken hostages on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Cap needs to come rescue them alone or the hostages die!
Cap, of course, goes to the rescue. On the way to the ESB, he's surrounded by more camera crews and reporters than he can shake his shield at. This includes an incredibly tenacious reporter by the name of Gordon Winchester. He's going to join Cap on this adventure whether Steve likes it or not.
This actually makes the battle challenging for Captain America. Instead of just busting through Hydras, he's got to keep an eye on his reporter tag-a-long and keep him alive. OK, not THAT challenging. Cap notices that these guys are almost falling over themselves. He's walking into a trap and he's fully aware of it. Still, part of Capmania has kind of gotten a hold of him. He's believing his own hype.
What he never realized was that Gordon Winchester was the Sensational Hydra all along! What Cap AND Hydra never realized was that the Sensational Hydra was a Skrull all along! Also: those hostages are ALSO Skrulls.
The Sensational Skrull Winchester ties up some loose ends by having the Skrull hostages gun down the Hydras right before Cap's eyes. Cap gets his head in the game too late. While rushing the "hostage" Skrulls, Sensational is able to catch him in Skrull-cuffs. This is a gold compound that inhibits movement and reacts to a Skrull's ability to change shape.
With that out of the way, Sensational takes Cap's place as his assistants throw the incapacitated Steve Rogers into the nearest utility cabinet. Sensational Cap parachutes down to the streets below telling the media that the Hydras inside the Empire State Building killed themselves after he rescued the two hostages. He's also got some big plans to reveal... next issue!
Captain America #6
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciler: Dale Eaglesham
The Sensational Captain America has some redecorating to do. He's taking down all his American Flags. He'll burn them later but first he's got to deal with that gosh darn Scarlet Witch. She's upset that Cap is getting more fan mail than her. It's like a room full. She only got that much fan mail after Brian Bendis made her insane in the membrane. WTF, Cap. WTF!?
Poor Wanda. If it makes her feel any better she looks to be killing more people in post-Secret Invasion Mighty Avengers. That's sort of like fame, right? Infamy?
OK, anyway, Sensational Cap is ecstatic at the fan mail because it just means his plan is working all the better. The nation trusts Cap with everything. Soon, he'll be loving every minute of sweet, sweet Skrull revenge.
Meanwhile, Cap struggles in an Empire State Building utility closet. He's wearing Skrull handcuffs and, no matter what he does, he can't get free. He tries to burn them off but the cuffs alter their form to compensate. Actually, they shield themselves with ice... you'd think that would be the wrong direction to go when dealing with flame... He mulls over the mistake he made of getting cocky while fighting Hydra and then tries as hard as he can to electrocute himself.
Geez. Cap is hardcore when it comes to punishing his own mistakes.
Elsewhere, President Clinton is giving an interview to finally set the record straight in regards to terrorism. That record straightening is to say what EVERY nation says about terrorism: we won't bow to them. We don't negotiate with them. It's not really the most insightful interview but it's possible he just didn't get to the good stuff about withholding candy from them. Why not? Well, he's attacked by terrorists. This is pre-911, so the terrorists aren't arab stereotypes. They're just unruly sorts with bad shoulder length hair and facial stubble. Fortunately, Sensational Cap is around to make things right.
Granted, the terrorists are really his assistant Skrulls who easily elude capture but anything for a good photo-op. He uses this opportunity to rally the media to a press conference featured later in this issue.
The real Cap has just failed to electrocute himself and also to electrocute his handcuffs off. Captain America isn't one to give up, though. He drags himself off to the nearest elevator for Round Three.
Meanwhile, the Sensational Cap prepares his next move. He orders his Skrull compatriots to assume the forms of a "congressman" (really, they all look the same) and a "reporter." They are to follow his lead but he's playing this one close to the vest so they aren't let in on his broader schemes.
On his way out of the dressing room, he's confronted by Congressional hopeful, Andrew Bolt. While Bolt doesn't fit the "congressman" template, Cap heartily endorses him in front of as many cameras as he can endorse him in front of. Yes, Bolt's career is looking bright... for the next few minutes, at least.
The real Steve Rogers figures there's only one last thing to do. Since burning and electrocuting himself didn't work, he'll have to jump down an elevator shaft. On the way down he even tries to slit his wrists on the elevator shaft chord (speed and friction) for that double-suicide goodness. Before he hits the bottom, the Skrull handcuffs expand and envelope him. When he hit bottom, the cuffs shatter around him. He conned them into believing he had changed into a liquid form (which explains the "enveloping him" part) and apparently the cuffs weren't able to adapt quickly enough to smashing into the ground. The long and short: the real Captain America is free... but is he too late!?
The Sensational Cap holds his awesome press conference as the real deal makes his way to the faker.
Cap's big reveal to the nation is that one in every twenty people is a damn, dirty Skrull imposter! To prove it, he outs his two assistants (cleverly placed in the crowd). The other two Skrulls aren't quick on the uptake and take this as the moment to reveal themselves as Skrulls. They are immediately beaten up by the angry mob that was recently a group of calm media reporters and camera personel. The Skrulls try to defend themselves only to be shot dead by Secret Servicemen.
Well, the angry mob is now an absolute frenzy of histeria and Sensational Cap is stirring it up even further. He tells the American people that the Skrulls will be disguised as people different than you. They're everything you're afraid of or don't understand and must be killed! Don't think, just kill, people!
The real Cap finally makes the scene. Sensational doesn't seem all that worried. He switches to Skrull form and the two fight it out for a bit. Cap's got a crowd following him and one man pulls his uzi out and starts firing at the Skrull. Wait... a guy at a press conference brought an UZI with him? It's like he was WAITING for this day... Anyway, the rest of the angry crowd actually tries to calm the guy down (Not because they're against firing uzis at people. They're just against firing them at people standing near Captain America) but it's too late for that. The uzi-enabled citizen now thinks the more cautious members of his angry mob are Skrulls in disguise.
He opens fire just in case one of them MIGHT be a Skrull. Fortunately, Cap's there with his shield just in time to prevent the mad uzi man from committing multiple homicide. Steve's still one step behind but catching up quickly. The crazy man with a semi-automatic tells him the plot points he's missed. It looks like Capmania is now being used for as much mindless destruction as you can fit into a Comics Code approved comic.
Sensational Skrull finally gets that look of realization he was waiting for on Steve Roger's face and flies off to enjoy his handiwork from some safe location. At this point, all Cap can do is stare at what Capmania has wrought. It's a crazy riot in the streets and Cap is sort of responsible!
Captain America #7
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciler: Dale Eaglesham & Andy Kubert
And it's not just New York. Sensational Cap's press conference went across the United States and Americans everywhere are getting in on the "kill people different than you" action.
Steve Rogers is doing his best to quell the riots but he's not doing it as Captain America. He's doing it as Concerned Citizen. He wears a battered polo shirt and wields a garbage can lid as a shield. I think we all prefer the triangle one to the garbage can lid. Note to Cap: garbage can lids are NOT bullet proof. Keep it in mind.
Still, this bit about Captain America not showing up to try and avert the riots is ticking Sensational Skrull off. Oh, sure, filling up hospitals with human casualties is a good day's work but to not see Cap struggling... it's just not Skrulltastic yet.
Steve checks in on Tony and Reed. They're building something special that'll end this whole deal. They just need time to make it. Tony really wants to be out there helping with riot control but Steve insists he's more valuable where he is. The rest of the Avengers are filling the riot control role pretty well but they can't be everywhere at once. They all have one question on their minds, too: why isn't Steve addressing this as Captain America?
Why indeed? It's driving Sensational Skrull batty. He'll have to make another appearance as Cap just to draw the real deal out in the open.
Out in Riot Nation, Quicksilver finally confronts Steve and finds out why he isn't out in the red, white, and blue. It's because as Captain America he'll only feed the panic. Getting on tv and trying to explain this all out will just confuse and anger people. We see what that does right here. It'll cause more people to shoot off their uzis. No, the only thing to do is keep fighting the good fight until the Sensational Skrull makes his next move. It's costing lives, though, and those lives are eating Steve up inside.
It's finally paying off. Sensational Cap is having another press conference. Quicksilver speeds Steve to the scene and Steve gets a hold of Tony to make sure the little invention he and Reed have been working on is ready to go to work.
The press conference is incredible shenanigans. Sensational reveals that President Clinton and several Congressmen have been replaced by Skrulls. He's planning a rally on Washington D.C. but, before his speech is concluded, he's forced back into Skrull form (courtesy of Tony and Reed's invention). After that, it's all about game over.
Steve makes the scene in his traditional garb and gets the rematch he was waiting for. While he beats down a Skrull, Reed Richards is telling the reporters that there is NO THREAT of Skrull Invasion. Ever. What would even give you that idea? Buy Secret Invasion!
No, but really, no invasion. Spread the word.
And then we just enjoy Cap pummeling a Skrull with the help of his friends.
With that done, Captain America holds his own press conference. He apologizes for whatever role he played in Capmania. He sets up his goals for the future. He realizes that people listened to Sensational Cap because the real Cap hadn't clearly defined his role for the American people. It's a speech about preparing for the new millenium. It's a nice speech that's more politician than substance.
I remember reading it way back in the day and thinking that Captain America would be a completely different comic after it. He straight up says that he's no longer a super hero and that his battles will more often than not focus on intolerance and injustice rather than the villain of the month. Looking back, it really didn't shift the paradigm all that much. Cap didn't actually make any big changes following this issue... but now I kinda want to reread the run to see if there were any changes at all.
It's hard to do when you're still in the Avengers and the next issue of your book is part of the "Live Kree or Die" crossover with your fellow Avengers books.
But that's another tale. For now, we just need Cap to stand atop the Statue of Liberty's torch and look heroic as he stares off into the sunset.
You give that sunset hell, Cap. It's the most unjust, intolerant thing ever.
Alright! We're slowly heading into Dark Reign territory, so get ready for that as we keep on cleaning Secret Invasion plates and taking names.
Still, more than ever before: Who Do YOU Trust?
Posted originally: 2008-12-16 14:42:43