Friday, April 27, 2018 • Midnight Edition • "Blacklisted since 2012."

Super Reads War of Kings and Dark Reign 56

Written by SuperginraiX on Monday, August 10 2009 and posted in Features
badguy56.jpgMore where this came from!

Today, we check out War of Kings: Ascension #3, The Mighty Avengers #26, Dark Reign: Young Avengers #2, Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #4, The Invincible Iron Man #14, Dark Reign: Hawkeye #3, Savage She-Hulk #3, Punisher #6, Dark Reign: Mr. Negative #1, and Blast to the Past with Journey Into Mystery #112. Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!


Yes, it's a lot of comics!

As always, you can easily check up on past articles of Super Reads. If you're reading this on The Outhouse, you'll see a link titled "Super Reads" under the "Features" button on the top of the page. Click on it and you can check out what happened in every issue dealing with Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and War of Kings (because I obviously have an addiction). If my directions are confusing, click here to catch up or remember back on all 55 previous articles. It's perfect for all your reading needs.

Onward and upward.

woka3.jpgWar of Kings: Ascension #3
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Wellington Alves

So, Chris Powell, Darkhawk, has been forced out of his body and replaced by the Raptor persona, Razor. We've learned that The Fraternity of Raptors works at some master plan within the Shi'ar Empire. This has spilled over into events happening in War of Kings proper so I may be telling you stuff that's been happening over there in the course of the read. Right now, Chris Powell is exploring Null Space. He's climbing a tree full of crystals and is surrounded by the Keepers who don't want him running around. In the Negative Zone, Talon and Raptor are making deals with Blastaar, the King of the N-Zone. They just handed him the Cosmic Control Rod which is kind of a big deal. Let's see how this all goes down.

In Null Space, Chris is still surrounded by the Keepers. They're kind of batlike monsters that must maintain this particular pocket of hell. They shout out stuff like "RETURN! RETURN! RETURN!" and, while that makes little sense just this moment, it'll all come together eventually. Powell's not exactly at his monster fighting best. For one, he's completely naked. If that weren't enough, his body is covered with rune-like tattoos and there are red crystals on long connecting lines coming out of his arms, legs, and back. He tries to make a run for it but this crazy crystal tree is a winding and dangerous road to travel.

Chris takes a dive for it and ends up grabbing onto one of those suspended crystals. This close, he finally gets a good look inside the thing. It turns out that the crystal contains a long dead alien creature. Things starting to make sense? They will.

Powell knows that the Keepers want to "return" him to the crystal so that he can end up just as dead and he's not gonna go out that way. He begins to realize that each crystal probably contains a dead alien. He also notices that, while all the rest of these crystals are dangling from the tree, lifeless, there's one crystal close to him that is glowing. He thinks that that crystal probably represents a living Raptor (Talon) and makes his way towards it, still chased by the Keepers.

Chris reaches the glowing crystal and quickly sinks inside of it. This crystal is home to Grand Commander H'jke Jeeku, the Skrull we saw in Secret Invasion: War of Kings One Shot and in War of Kings: Ascension #1. In his last appearance, he grabbed the crystal that gave life to Talon. Looks like that gave him the reward of life inside a crystal.

In the Negative Zone, The two active Raptors, Talon and Razor, are finding that giving gifts to people like Blastaar is a bad idea. The King of the Negative Zone accepts the present of the Cosmic Control Rod but doesn't feel bound to return any favors to the Raptors. In fact, he looks like he's been given a good reason to start hitting things. Blastaar is wielding a very powerful weapon and the Raptors reconfigure their armor to Heavy Combat Mode to cope. This whole fight is going down because Blastaar has a huge problem with authority (unless it's his authority) and doesn't like the Raptors telling him who to attack and when to do it. Now that he has the Cosmic Control Rod, it just gives him one more reason not to listen to others.

The Raptors aren't morons. They built some arcane safeguards into the CCR (not Creedance Clearwater Revival) so that they control the on/off button. They've let Blastaar have a taste of that power and now, just to prove they can, Talon turns the thing off. They'll only keep in on if Blastaar directs his armies where they tell him to go. That means the King of the Negative Zone has to give up on earth. The N-Zone Armies will still invade the Positive Universe. They'll be heading to the Kree's Ceded Territories and taking the fight to Ravenous and his bug army.

The Cosmic Control Rod can be used to create portals to the Positive Universe. Talon sticks around to teach Blastaar to do that while Razor prepares for a trip to Chandilar, the Shi'ar Throneworld.

Back in Null Space, Powell is learning all he can about what this place is and how he and H'jke Jeeku fit into it. Jeeku explains that they are both sacrifices to the black sorcery of the Raptors. He tells Chris that, after the failed Skrull Invasion, he led his remaining armada away from earth. The Inhumans weren't allowing any survivors, though. The escaping Skrull Armada was overtaken by Attilan and the Skrulls were left to die in the vacuum of space. Something about the Inhuman attack affected the area and released one of the Raptor's amulets from wherever it had been lost. H'jke didn't know what it was and reached out to it. He found himself trapped inside this crystal.

This released Talon. It turns out that the amulets are powered by a living, organic sacrifice. The Raptor can walk the world as long as there's a living sacrifice in their crystal. H'jke tells Powell that his inability to properly bond with the amulet was a great benefit. For one, it kept Razor from taking control of his body for quite a while. Sure, it's made him lose his temper pretty easily but H'jke believes this is more because his body is exploring the technology of being a Raptor than because he's going mad. Most important of all, Chris is able to leave his crystal. While Powell's body is still inside Razor's crystal, his mind is out exploring Null Space and even entered another crystal. In short, humans are awesome.

While this conversation has been going on, lots of stuff has happened over in War of Kings #4. Talon left Blastaar and his Negative Zone army and met up with Emperor Vulcan. We find out that the Raptors are agents of the Shi'ar Empire and help lead it forward on some plan. Lilandra Neramani appeared before the Shi'ar High Council and is just about to get her Empire back. While the High Council is behind her, the Shi'ar people aren't all there. Lilandra has to travel to the Concourse of the Aerie in order to become Majestrix again. It's proving difficult. There are riots happening and the Shi'ar Death Commandos are standing in her way.

She'll also have Razor to deal with. The Raptor Mega Mans up his right hand and enters the riot. Razor changes his appearance to resemble a regular Shi'ar and moves in for a closer shot.

In Null Space, H'jke is giving Chris Powell some last advice. Yes, he's angry all the time. This is probably based on the fear he's feeling over the possibilities of using this Shi'ar armor. The Skrull tells Chris to focus that anger. Direct it.

Chris does just that and winds up back in his own red crystal. He's not done yet. Now that he's back here, he keeps up the pressure and a battle of wills begins. Very quickly, Chris Powell finds himself back in the real world. He's won. He's Darkhawk again.

If only he had taken over a moment or two sooner. He's back right after Razor has assassinated Lilandra Neramani. Darkhawk takes to long to process what's happened. He sees Lilandra dead with Gladiator hugging her lifeless form but isn't familiar enough with Marvel's cosmic lineup to actually know who she is let alone know that Razor killed her. In his body. This is gonna end badly.

Gladiator notices him first and sees the still glowing Mega Man gun. He and Havok don't ask any more questions. They just lunge for an attack.

ma26.jpgThe Mighty Avengers #26
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Stephen Segovia & Noah Salonga w/ Paco Diaz & Harvey Tolibao

People in the Marvel Universe aren't rational. That's ok. People in the real world aren't rational either. Hank Pym? Least logical scientist ever. It works for him. In this particular case, Hank is trying to get a particular device from Reed Richards in order to prevent his headquarters from disconnecting from reality forever. Reed won't give him the device. Instead of meeting with Reed and trying to explain things, Hank's decided to steal the device like a normal human being. It's a comic book thing. You might not understand.

He's not the only crazy person in this comic. We cut back a little bit from last issue because, well, linear storytelling is so old fashioned. It's better if we just jump from one event to another regardless of when it occurs. It's like Pulp Fiction only more annoying. But I digress. We catch up with Hercules and Vision as Jocasta is sending them off. Herc's going to pretend to be Red Hulk and pick a fight with the Thing. Vision is going to be Red Ghost but we haven't seen what that's going to lead to. In the foreground, Amadeus Cho is wearing an Ant-Man helmet and telling everyone that the dimensional doors will be closing up and this might be a one way trip if they don't succeed.

The only one who's got any sense here is Stature. She doesn't see why Hank and Reed don't just frickin' talk it out and certainly doesn't see why they are attacking the Fantastic Four. She's also surprised to learn that there's another gate open to New York and no one told her about it. Did they think she was going to run off? I certainly would. Jocasta corners her and, using Janet Van Dyne's voice, tells the logical Avenger that she's acting like a spoiled brat. That means she's talking to me. Wah. I suddenly don't like Jocasta very much. I'm about to think a lot less of her.

Jo runs around the lab trying to locate Hank Pym and finds him messing around with Salvation Two. You all remember Salvation One, right? It was the adamantium armored robot that he sicced on the Avengers that only he (and the Wasp) could take out. It was his chance to prove himself to his teammates but, of course, it went horribly wrong and he left the team. Salvation Two probably isn't a killer robot but it is an bunch of machinery with a terrible legacy name. Jocasta is cool with it, though. She tells Hank Pym how amazed she is with him before the two make out. Jarvis walks in on the two just to make it more awkward.

Now, we all knew that Jo is going to eventually marry the good doctor because it was given away in Secret Invasion: Requiem. I just didn't realize how creepy this was all going to go down. I thought it might emerge more... organically. Possibly romantically. Apparently, we missed out on all that to get straight to sucking face.

I might be being unnecessarily harsh on this comic. I really wish I wasn't. I just find this and the last issue to be pretty bad.

But let's keep going. At the Baxter Building, Hank's plan is going into effect. Reed has just checked up on the "Zeno Room." This is where he's placed the Dimensional Wave Inducer which is that device that Hank wants pretty badly. He's about to head out with his family to go on a picnic but all that is nixed when the alarms start sounding. It looks like the Skrulls are back and they are swarming the Baxter Building. Sue grabs the kids and runs to the pogo plane as Reed stays behind to secure his experiments.

As the pogo plane makes a trip to Wakanda, Reed fires up the "4" flare to summon the Torch and the Thing. Reed takes off running to his lab only to find a good group of reconfigured Doombots and a HERBIE malfunctioning. On closer inspection, Mr. Fantastic finds that they've been overrun by ants. 400 ants. All of them wearing a tiny little image inducer that masks their signature and makes them read as a Skrull to Reed's sensors.

Remember last issue when Jocasta was standing in that uncomfortable position you usually see women in comics standing in? The one where they stick their butt WAY out in a way that you never see anyone in real life actually doing unless, y'know, they're posing for a porn? This next page is full of women doing that same stance. It's time to retire that stance and never, ever see it again. In this case, it's ALMOST appropriate because it's Johnny Storm guest judging America's Next Top Model. I'm betting a lot of those girls have done amatuer porn. It's still unnatural and should be retired along with women with hair that flows down to their knees. Look outside, artists! Stop watching all that porn!

OK. Off my soap box. Johnny's never gonna finish this gig. Someone saw the "4" flare and The Human Torch is ready to fly back to the Baxter Building until the Red Ghost attacks him right then and there. We all know it's actually the Vision but it's a fairly convincing distraction that keeps him occupied while Hank Pym does his thing. Vish announces that he's part of the all new Frightful Four. We already know that Hercules, dressed up as the Red Hulk, is playing the same game with Ben Grimm on Yancy Street. We get a visual reminder of that fight just in case this is our first issue of Mighty Avengers. It's good to keep track. Plus, with that scene taken care of, we've caught up to where we ended last issue! We can go linear again! Woo!

There's probably another flashback in here somewhere...

In the Baxter Building, Reed thinks he's caught up to what's really going on and races off to the Zeno Room to protect the Dimensional Wave Inducer from theft. What he missed is that one of the many ants was actually a disguised Hank Pym. He entered the building just as Sue and the kids left. His plan is to simply follow Reed right to the device.

Stature was supposed to enter with him but it turns out she left to join up with Sue and the kids on the pogo plane. Sue puts her in an invisible forcefield, not convinced that she isn't another Skrull. Cassie explains what's going on. There's no Skrull attack. It's just the Avengers working to steal the Wave Inducer thing for Hank. Stature's dad used to work with the Fantastic Four and Cassie used to spend time with the team on weekends. She's not going to fight the Four because they're family. Also: it's stupid and counter productive. Who would come up with an idea like that?

Oh yeah. Hank Pym. Pym follows Reed into the Zeno Room where Reed is sitting at a desk on the other side of the room, waiting for him. The Dimensional Wave Inducer is on top of the desk but Reed tells the former crazy man that he'll never get it before inviting him to try. Hank tries running toward it only to find that he's not getting any closer. This is because the Zeno Room runs on one of the paradoxes of Zeno of Elea which was recorded by Aristotle:

" That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal. "

-Aristotle, Physics VI:9, 239b10

The paradox that once you reach that half-way point, you've got another half-way point, then another. And then another. You're always half-way to your destination. It was a philosophical way of trying to say that travel is an illusion. Reed built a room based on it where travel actually is an illusion. He tells Pym to go back to his lab and salvage what he can. There's no way he'll ever reach the Dimensional Wave Inducer in time.

It's kind of a dick move but both of these guys are swinging their brains around and comparing sizes. Meanwhile, Thing and Torch are still battling it out with the faux Frightful Four.

Ben notices that the Red Ghost isn't acting much like himself. I mean, he's flying. The Red Ghost can't do that. There's also no primates around with super powers. Red Ghost needs his communist apes! The two Avengers drop their disguises. Torch doesn't waste time renewing the fight. He immediately flies off to the Baxter Building. Vision sends out a notice to Pym while Hercules and the Thing bet back to punching each other.

One thing I'll give Hank: he's able to ask for help. He calls up Amadeus to get some advice on how to cross the Zeno Room. All Amadeus' suggestions have already been tried but he does make an offhand comment about Reed's continuous talking. That gives Hank a hint on what to do. Something CAN cross the room. Sound. Pym reconfigures his Toolbot into a sonic beam and grabs the device with it.

Reed's impressed but he's not giving up. He reaches out and grabs the Dimensional Wave Inducer and, in the struggle between the two, someone turns the thing on.

Sue, Stature, and the kids return to the Baxter Building. They come upon the ant infested Doombots and HERBIEs. Valeria realizes that the ants are being controlled by someone who's probably wearing an Ant-Man helmet right now. She sends feedback through the same frequency which shorts out Amadeus' helmet.

Since we're back with Amadeus, Jocasta, and Jarvis, it's about time Jarvis had a talk with Jo about that make out session he walked in on. Jarvis lays down the geneology. Hank created Ultron and Ultron created Jocasta. It's like kissing your Grandpa. You don't use your robot tongue! Jocasta brings it back another way. Hank Pym is scene as the creator of artifical intelligence (everyone, forget all about the original Human Torch RIGHT NOW). When she kisses Hank Pym, it's like she's kissing God.

Is it ok to kiss God with your robot tongue? I'm just asking.

The Human Torch arrives at the Baxter Building and joins up with Sue, Stature, Franklin, and Valeria. Sue tells Johnny that everything's fine... well, except that the Zeno Room and it's occupants aren't here anymore. She's not worried. This is Reed, after all. He'll get back.

With a little help from the Wasp. Hank Pym. It's hard calling him the Wasp. Anyway, they work out the computations to get them home after having a debate about variables and science nerd stuff. Before a homecoming, Pym sends them to the dimension he's hoping to tether his lab. Reed sees something amazing off panel that we aren't able to see. He's convinced. If only, I don't know, Hank could have just shown Reed this before. Maybe explained it to him at least. Maybe, just maybe, they never would have had to fight and steal in the first place. But that's crazy talk, right?

Almost done. Reed and Hank return to the Baxter Building and Reed's given Hank the Dimensional Wave Inducer. Outside, Herc and Vision are holding Ben Grimm back from entering the Baxter Building. Hank can only get out when Thing comes in... except that plan has obviously changed. Hank and Cassie call off the other Avengers and they leave as friends. Well, they leave with the FF's blessing but there's obviously some anger under the surface which shows itself with the conflict between Herc and Thing.

The Avengers return to Pym's lab just before the door to New York fades away. They're down to the last gate out: Zurich. Hank's confident it'll all work out. He connects the Dimensional Wave Inducer to Salvation Two. There's only one piece left to add before it can be activated: Jocasta. There's a Jo-shaped hole in the machine. Now, it's not just Cassie who's against this plan. Jarvis, Hercules, and Vision are not about to lose a fellow Avenger/ sentient being in order to keep some other dimensional real estate.

They argue it out but Jocasta is ready to go all the way. She connects herself to the machine and goes offline in a pretty creepy way. All is not as it seems but we all have to realize that Hank isn't good at explaining this stuff out beforehand.

Jocasta's fine. Salvation Two had tethered them to their new base (which is actually pretty cool but you don't get to see it this issue). Hank invites them to take a look. You'll have to pick up issue 27 to get that look! OK, it's a pretty poor issue but there seem to be cool things to come. :)

drya2.jpgDark Reign: Young Avengers #2
Writer: Paul Cornell
Penciler: Mark Brooks

Last issue, our Young Master of Evil (also known as the "New Young Avengers" or "Dark Young Avengers") were being confronted by the real Young Avengers. The Young Masters are divided on how to deal with this but we all know how this goes down.

Everybody was kung-fu fighting!

The cool thing about this is that nearly everyone has a sparring partner that is one step removed from themselves. Sometimes, it's many steps but they're all similar. Big Zero faces off against Stature (these are the size changers). Hawkeye gets the Executioner (projectile weapons). Vision butts heads with Egghead (android/synthoids). Enchantress casts spells with Wiccan (magic users). Patriot has words with the Melter (leaders). Speed fights Coat of Arms (former felons). The only one with no one to play with is Hulkling.

Enchantress is the one to end this misunderstanding battle. I'm sure this isn't the only throwdown we'll have in the series. These two teams are destined to be attacking each other. Lots! But, for now, we need to get some story in.

We started with reactions from the Young Masters of Evil. We finish the fight with the Young Avengers. They're all a bit impressed with how that battle went down. The Young Masters aren't a cake walk. They might not play well together but they can each individually hold their own. Patriot is ticked off because he actually didn't come here to fight it out. He came here to talk and, possibly, stop them from using the Young Avengers name. That's their name. Melter sees it differently and brings up the fact that we have three different teams claiming to be Avengers (plus Avengers: The Initiative). It's hard to say that there can be only one Avengers team. I think we had a couple X-Men teams even before there were two X-Men books. Yes, I remember the Muir Island X-Men.

Patriot tells the new guys that they were found because the real Young Avengers are trained professionals but that's just not the case. The real team found them because they happened to be watching television during the Dark Avengers' first public press conference where it was also mentioned that there was a new team of Young Avengers running around. From there, Wiccan cast a spell to find the Young Avengers... which actually led them back to their own location... but eventually it worked on and here we are.

So, now it's time to get the Secret Origin of the New Young Avengers! It'll be six issues long! Or, just one flashback. Either/ or.

Coat of Arms is an artist. Her art is all about the paradoxical nature in things and she specializes in the superhero/villain stuff. There's lots to work with. A lot of her work required assembly pieces and the place she had that done, Comley Fabrications, also did stuff for supers. She met Norman Osborn here and geeked out quite a bit. Ozzy is a hero of hers and that is all kinds of messed up. Norman actually knows her work and likes it. He hands her his special card and Coat of Arms is excited because the Green Goblin is trying to recruit her to his club.

She goes one step further and shows Osborn some of her work that relates to the Green Goblin. It's three paintings saved to her phone with the Goblin in them. The final one is the death of Gwen Stacy, showing Norman this is probably a terrible idea. Norman explodes. Now, a normal person would be pretty freaked out. This is Norman "America's Top Cop" Osborn. He pretty much rules it all right now. Coat of Arms, however, is not anywhere near normal. She sees this as Osborn letting her see a little of the Goblin. It's what motivated her to become a "superhero." She found the Melter and they both worked to find everyone else.

Secret Origin told, Patriot continues his speech. If this team wants to be Young Avengers, they're going to have to try out for the team. If they don't want to try out, they need to find a new name. I suggest Young Masters of Evil because, well, look at 'em. Patriot gives them the night to decided. The Young Avengers then leave, making comments about some of the crazier New Young Avengers after they're out.

Back with the New Young Avengers, we learn that the team isn't going to try out. They're going to scatter. Maybe just stick it out for the eventual fight. Enchantress changes that. She magically changes their minds so that they want to join the actual Young Avengers. Melter's not happy with that. He wants to bug out before the Young Avengers learn about... well, he melted an old lady just a few hours ago. There's probably a jail sentence in his future for that.

Enchantress isn't worried. She believes it's her destiny to be a Young Avenger. She then goes to bed and tells Melter to hurry it on up and join her.

Melter joins her but doesn't sleep. He's having nightmares while still wide awake. He's walking down the street with a combined team of Young Avengers surrounded by cheering crowds. He slips on a pool of blood with random apples mixed in. And he's still awake! I don't even want to know what he actually dreams about.

Coat of Arms is developing another tryptic. This time, her Young Avengers are taking down the Green Goblin.

Executioner is calling up his mom. This conversation seems to be going better than the one last issue. He's talking about taking over the Young Avengers and then asks his mom if she remembers Kate Bishop. It looks like sunglasses make for a terrible mask. Yeah, he knows who Hawkeye is.

Now, it's time to learn who his mother is: Princess Python. Who? She was a snake charming member of the Circus of Crime. C'mon! It's interesting!

drff4.jpgDark Reign: Fantastic Four #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Sean Chen

Norman Osborn is coming to dinner and nothing is ready! Reed Richards is still exploring alternate realities in the Bridge. Sue, Ben, and Johnny are stuck shifting through one alternate reality to another after the safeties on the Bridge were cut by HAMMER Agents. Only Franklin and Valeria are there to greet America's Top Cop.

Norman's brought along a nice group of HAMMER Agents as well as his Sinister Spider-Man. Franklin's... still wearing his cowboy costume. The odds do not favor the Richards kids. It's ok, though. Franklin's got a plan. They're going to make Norman Osborn go crazy. Crazier.

Osborn rings the door bell and the battle of wills begins. Franklin starts out strong with a "We didn't order any pizza." Norman is unphased. He tells the kid that he's here for a scheduled meeting with Reed. It's on like Donkey Kong.

Of course, Reed doesn't know anything about a meeting with Norman Osborn. He's been playing in the Bridge this whole time. Mr. Fantastic is trying to figure out what went terribly wrong with everything and how can he fix it and make everything better. The world is a messed up place right now. I mean, the Green Goblin is playing Nick Fury. Captain America is dead (go read Cap Reborn to find how untrue that is!). Dogs and cats are living together. Mass hysteria! Reed's not getting any actual answers from his exploration of alternate realities. He's gone up and down the various realities and hasn't found any viable solutions to fixing the world. It's a bad day to have named yourself "Mr. Fantastic."

The test of will continues! Norman and his flunkies enter the Baxter Building to meet their next challenge. It's Valeria in a pretty dress and glasses. She's denying them entry. All but one. You see, in the papers that the original HAMMER Agents delivered, the notice said they would be meeting a representative of Norman Osborn. One. So only one guy can go further. Venom isn't down with these rules and prepares to eat a Richards kid but Norman calls him off. This round goes to Valeria.

Norman faces his next trial alone. He's surprised that Reed and Sue would let his kids greet, well, the Green Goblin and Venom plus various armed hooligans working for the government. It's not what you'd call good parenting. He's going to mention that to the leader of the Fantastic Four when they meet. That's not going to happen anytime soon. He's about to face his next challenge: Franklin Richards in a Spider-Man mask.

Kid knows how to make friends.

Sue, Johnny, and Ben... are still stuck in crazy land with multiple variants of themselves to play with. This time, it's an alien world with the Supreme Intelligence (looking very much like a big Reed Richards head) being attacked by lots of symbiote Skrulls. Supreme Intelligence Reed is a downer. He tells everyone they are doomed as the symbiote Skrulls tear him a part. The alternate Sues, Bens, and Johnnies aren't giving up. They get ready for the coming fight.

Elsewhere, the real Reed Richards is getting his head back in the game. There's always a solution. He's just not looking that the problem correctly. What he's learned so far is that the only "successes" he's witnessed are when he's not being a team player. We're not talking Fantastic Four. That's not team. That's family. We're talking Illuminati. When he's working with them, everything falls apart. When he's working by himself, things work out. Sometimes they're incredibly morbid but that doesn't mean they HAVE to be. Do they?

While we get a look at the symbiote Skrulls battling the forces of Sues, Bens, and Johnnies, Reed comes to the conclusion that he only has himself to blame. He's the smartest man in the universe. He's got to start acting like it. Now, some of you might think this kind of talk is sort of... Doom-like. It could be. It totally could be.

I guess we'll find out in the future, won't we?

Reed powers down the Bridge. This deposits his family, unharmed, outside. Reed exits his lab and Sue gives him a huge hug. Reed gets straight to the point. Where are the children? Won't someone think of the children?

Because you better start and quick! It turns out that trying to make Norman Osborn crazy is a bad, bad plan. Ozzy's got a gun and he's not above firing it at little kids. Especially when they're wearing Spider-Man masks. The former Green Goblin corners then in a room and moves in to deliver their punishment.

Which is when the Fantastic Four arrive to protect their kids from the big bad wolf.

It's clobberin' time.

iim14.jpgThe Invincible Iron Man #14
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca

It was only a matter of time.

Tony Stark is in the Classic Armor.

The Classic Armor isn't the first suit Tony ever put on. It's not the second. It's not even the third. It is, simply, the armored suit that he wore the longest and most people recognize as Iron Man. That doesn't make it the best by any means. For a while there, he put a nose on that suit just because he could. The internals were modified over time and eventually Tony retired the thing for the Silver Centurion armor (which is still my favorite suit) after handing the Classic version over to Jim Rhodes and getting his alcoholism under control. From issue 200 of his original series and on to present day, Tony has changed his suit more than any other super hero with the exception of the Wasp. Everyone's got a favorite and everyone's got a least favorite. The classic suit, while good for its time and definitely deserving its place in the armory, is my least favorite. OK, second least favorite, actually. The Turtle Armor he wore during the tale end of Frank Tieri's run was pretty awful.

It's been an eventuality that I've dreaded since Stark started down the road of old armors at the beginning of this story. You can't revisit past armors without playing with the Classic. I just wish we could have gotten some Silver Centurion time in. Even some Modular Armor or New Classic would have been cool. After the Classic Suit, the only place to go is the Ditko redesign. You can't really put him back in the Gold Armor or the Original. They're just... they didn't age well.

So, anyway, he's in the Classic Armor. Imagine my surprise when he gets out of it almost immediately! Tony Stark is flying around Russia when he's attacked by the best defenses Russia can make. There was a time when Tony could easily avoid any defensive efforts made by pretty much anyone. Those days are gone. His mind is slowly being deleted which is why we're taking this stroll down memory lane with the outdated armored suits. It even mentions how outdated his clothes are. He's flying with past gear because it's all he can handle. It's just not enough.

Iron Man is shot out of the sky. While he's waiting for his suit to reboot, he's confronted by the Crimson Dynamo. This Dynamo is Dmitri Bukharin, the fifth man to use a variation of the armor. I couldn't tell you if Dmitri was the same guy piloting the suit in Iron Man: Director of SHIELD #'s 33-35 but it's good to actually have a name to go with the suit again. Dmitri doesn't believe he's actually taken down Iron Man and thinks he's got an imposter on his hands. Tony tries to tell him that it is, in fact, him and not to blow his head off. The Crimson Dynamo rips Iron Man's helmet off to get a better look at the man within. That's not as much help as you might think. Tony's shaved his 'stache off and his hair is cut short.

A quick explanation is enough to convince the big Russian, though. The reunion is full of pretty cool emotions. Dmitri genuinely likes Tony Stark. It's nice to see.

In Newark, New Jersey, Maria Hill is trying to get some rest. She's disguised in a wig and glasses. Unfortunately, she chose to take her nap on a bus and that bus has long ago come to it's last stop. The bus driver comes back to kick her off but all she sees is an enemy coming for her. Hill pulls a knife and the driver probably ruins his jeans. Maria realizes the man is harmless and runs out as the driver tries to get security after her.

The Terminal Cops are slow at responding and Maria is able to make a clean getaway. She has a package to deliver to Captain America. Now, she just has to find him in the biggest city in the United States. Good luck there, Hill.

Our last cast member, Pepper Potts, is looking into her health. After watching Tony have numerous problems with his armor, she's not taking any chances. She's meeting with her doctor to make sure everythings running fine. Problem is, she doesn't have medical coverage and can't wait for Obama to save our health care system with one powerful blow. She's taking things underground and she hates that. Her doctor, however, is one of the good guys. He's here to help whether he's getting paid or not. It's pretty easy to see the way the wind is blowing. Norman's not gonna be around forever and it's better to do the right thing now than just follow the status quo.

The news is all positive. She's in good health and the repulsor tech in her chest is working just fine. She's going off on a mission and wants to be sure everything is working properly. Just then, her armored companion, JARVIS, tells her that there's some major repulsor tech activity in Russia and also a grain silo explosion in Massachusettes. Someone needs some rescuing. It also turns out that she can't run around calling herself the Pink Ranger. She's finally chosen a name. Rescue.

Back in Russia, Dmitri is telling Tony how outdated the Classic Armor is. It's like driving a brick! Tony takes it a bit personally and he should. It's more like a classic car. Not so much a muscle car. Those actually have some advantages to modern vehicles but have terrible gas mileage. It's like a Model T. It's beautiful in it's own right. You just can't drive it on the highway anymore.

Tony explains his plan to the Dynamo. He's slowly deleting his brain so that Norman doesn't get the Superhuman Registration Database he's got trapped inside. He's doing it bit by bit because it takes an incredible amount of power to do just that. He's also being chased and, when HAMMER detects a power drain, he's got to move to another location. Dmitri asks why he doesn't just drop himself into a volcano. It would do the job that much quicker and there would be no chance for Osborn to get his hands on anything. Tony thinks about it and rejects the idea. Obviously, he has a plan to get himself back and running once his mind is erased. I'm thinking it has something to do with the database Maria Hill is delivering to Captain America.

Stark's next repulsor dump is in Kirensk. He just needs a way to get there. He quickly dumps his useless Classic Armor for the Crimson Dynamo suit. Dmitri isn't sure that Tony's up to flying this suit of armor but Tony's pretty certain about it. He can read and speak Russian. He's losing his mind but it's a slow burn. He's still fine... for now. Dmitri is still unconvinced but he helps Tony into the armor all the same. With that, Iron Man takes to the skies as the Crimson Dynamo.

Tony is treated to a glimpse of the recent past. He's accepted again. They aren't hunting the Dynamo. He's a hero. For a moment he can pretend that he's not running from the authorities.

In Massachusettes, Pepper and her Pink Ranger Armor, Rescue, have saved some lives after that grain silo explosion. She's able to examine the data about repulsor activity in Russia now. JARVIS gives her some background info. In 1908, there was a some sort of explosion above the Podkamennaya Tunguska River that many attribute to a meteor exploding before impact. It is thought to be the largest impact on land in modern times. Tony was intrigued by the event and bought up real estate at the site after the Cold War ended. JARVIS tells her she'd be breaking the rules of her release if she were to fly off to Russia but Pepper has already made up her mind.

HAMMER is tracking her already. They plot her trajectory and report it back to Norman Osborn. This is all exactly as Norman expected. As I thought, Osborn wanted Pepper to go after Stark so that he could follow her. He's about to get disappointed. He contacts Colonel Bukharin and requests permission to enter Russian Air Space to capture Pepper and try for Tony Stark. Since we already know that Dmitri loaned out his Crimson Dynamo armor to Tony, we know what side he's taking. He denies Osborn any access to Russia. Dmitri doesn't trust Osborn. He's not on board for any new world order. Osborn flies into a rage before getting a hold of himself once more.

Maria Hill isn't the only super spy in the world. Another one would be the Black Widow. The original one: Natasha Romanova. She's getting updated on Hill's situation right now through a phone call with an unnamed caller. She learns that Hill is coming her way and that she's kind of left the reservation. A cool homage happens as Natasha leaves her apartment. She's going around under the name "Ms. Heck." That refers to her co-creator, Don Heck who was the artist that came up with her alongside Stan Lee. Outside her apartment, she comes right smack dab into a painted symbol of a Black Widow spider. Everyone in the neighborhood thinks it was Spider-Man who put it up but Natasha knows that it's a message. She looks up and sees Maria Hill on the top of a building with a can of black paint. Yeah, Hill has seen better days.

Rescue has reached her desired location in Russia but is unable to locate Tony Stark. Before she can complete her search, Tony finds her and doesn't realize she's a friendly. It's Crimson Dynamo versus Rescue! Pepper does a flying tackle maneuver and the two crash into the ground. Pepper removes her helmet so that Tony can recognize her but Tony's not really up for answering. It seems the fall may have knocked him out. Or it could be a bluff.

To end, Madame Masque makes a call into Norman Osborn. She's located Tony Stark. He's in Russia. She knows this because she's in Russia as well. She's the one behind the sniper rifle with Pepper Potts in her sights.

drh3.jpgDark Reign: Hawkeye #3
Writer: Andy Diggle
Penciler: Tom Raney

Bullseye is Dark Hawkeye. He's also falling to his death. He was sent to a Roxxon facility on a mission to kill a bunch of people only to arrive to find the people already dead. Who did it? Well, it looks like Bullseye did. But isn't that Hawkeye? Confused? So is Hawkeye. He's also falling. Did I mention that?

Fortunately, falls are only lethal if you keep doing them to the point of landing. Hawkeye has enough of an arsenal of trick arrows that one of them has to be a grappling arrow. He uses that one and ends up crashing into a mannequin warehouse (for all your creepy mannequin needs). He thinks he sees Bullseye again and quickly fires an arrow that strikes a mannequin straight in the head. That would be a killing hit if mannequins were alive. The room is filled with laughter as Hawkeye believes he's going insane.

I mean, Hawkeye is sort of mad. He's likes to kill people. That isn't normal behavior. He wakes up in a cold sweat believing what just happened was some sort of dream. He's told by a nearby Bullseye that it's all completely real. When Lester turns to look for this Bullseye, he sees no one. He asks the security computer if anyone has entered his room or if there have been any break ins. Negative on both counts. Lester is unnerved. He looks in on his Hawkeye suit just as Norman Osborn shouts at him and demands his presence.

Norman's pretty happy about how Hawkeye handled the situation last night so he's giving his assassin a chance to explain himself. There's a body that needs claiming. It's the body of Senator Irving Gray. Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. The body has a trademark bullseye carved into the forehead. Hawkeye didn't do it... or at least doesn't think he did it. He's not as sure as he should be but brushes it off. He tells Osborn that it's probably the work of an amateur Bullseye fan.

It's time for Hawkeye to visit the shrink. Unfortunately, that shrink is Karla Sofen and you can't just tell her, "hey, I'm seeing myself as Bullseye and people are showing up dead that I don't think I killed but maybe I am doing that. What's up?" Lester plays it off that he's concerned about Norman doing what he's doing. Karla isn't easily fooled but goes along with it.

We've got a subplot to deal with while Bullseye goes more insane. Ben Urich is investigating a story and it's probably got a lot to do with Hawkeye. He's in Central Park when he gets a call on his cell from his very own "Deepthroat." Deepthroat isn't all that into being anything but cryptic but he did leave some files for Urich to go through. Back at Frontline, Urich is talking over his findings with Robbie Robertson. We go over Senator Irving Gray's death. HAMMER's calling it natural causes but there are enough people who have seen the body to know otherwise. Some have even made out Bullseye's mark on the forehead. There's more. Gray used to oversee an NSA Black Ops deal that did work in Central America. It turns out that Bullseye was heavily involved.

There's nothing to say that Bullseye even killed Gray. It goes against the official story and they have nothing in the way of evidence. There's more to go through, however. There's the whole Peace Through Superior Firepower thing going down. This is the group that Hawkeye was supposed to kill yesterday only he was beat to the job by Bullseye. The info that was left by Deepthroat says that PTSF was a front operation for the NSA. The NSA was supplying them with SHIELD equipment. Want even more? Irving Gray was the dude that approved the PTSF op. It all connects back to him but it's not exactly all out in the open yet. Urich's gonna do some more digging.

Back at Avengers Tower, Hawkeye is taking well over his prescribed dose of anti-crazy pills. That done, he finds out he's recieved a package. The note says "Remember Who You Are." Inside is a Bullseye costume. Victoria Hand asks about the costume which she obviously hasn't realized is his old look. She brought the package up herself after it was declared safe.

Across the way, Hawkeye sees Bullseye mocking him. He dashes out of the room to deal with this imposter. Victoria knows this isn't a good sign and calls up Norman right away.

Hawkeye takes to the roof and, after dealing with a HAMMER agent in a possibly lethal manner, takes a Quinjet to find his doppleganger. He hears a voice in his head that tells him he's looking in the wrong place just as a missile is fired at his ride. Lester overrides the computer in order to track the missile back to its source and return the missle to sender. The Bullseye on the roof isn't happy about this turnabout. The roof explodes. Hawkeye lands his Quinjet to inspect his handiwork.

It turns out Bullseye isn't dead. He doesn't even look scratched. Now, it's Bullseye vs. Hawkeye time!

Good times!

The two crash through a skylight and end up inside another warehouse (probably). Hawkeye hits first with Bullseye landing on him. Hawkeye's adamantium laced skeleton saves them both. At this point, Hawkeye is pretty certain that this guy isn't him and that he isn't going mad. After all, Hawkeye's aim is perfect as he proves by throwing a shard of glass into the faux-Bullseye's eye. Man, everyone gets his in the eye in this comic. Andy Diggle or Tom Raney must really hate vision.

Hawkeye wants the fake Bullseye alive to answer some important questions. First on the list: Why are you driving me nuts?

It then that our... um... "hero" realizes that there's not just one fake Bullseye in the room. It's a party of people in Bullseye costumes and they all have guns pointed in his direction. Hawkeye smiles and prepares to take care of business.

ssh3.jpgAll New Savage She-Hulk #3
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Pencilers: Peter Vale & Michael Ryan

The Dark Avengers are confronting the brand new She-Hulk for the first time. Still, this is no time to not be sporting. Instead of running in and using numbers to their advantage, Iron Patriot sends in Captain Marvel to deal with her on his own. Noh-Varr deploys his pocket battlefield which quickly sucks Lyra inside. Captain Marvel says this will only take 2 and a half minutes. We'll see about that. This isn't actually your book, Noh-Varr.

Now, inside this little battlefield, Captain Marvel should have the clear advantage. He can basically change the conditions of conflict to fit his needs. Unfortunately, he spends too much time explaining how he's already won and not enough time actually winning. Lyra has her own story to tell about how humans enslave, well, the entire universe. Every human is given super powers through the Origins Program and, once everything's conquered, they work to kill each other. Everybody dies except for the tattered remains on the edge of civilization.

But enough talking. They do another page of it that says, in a nutshell, "hey, this is my reality. You can't change your future. You can only create another divergent future that will suck in it's own way." Then they fight it out and, surprise surprise, Captain Marvel doesn't do as well as he should be doing since he's in control and everything.

We cut to a flashback to the future. That's almost a flashforward except it takes place in Lyra's personal past. She's a kid and she just got beat up by a bunch of other kids. You see, she doesn't get stronger with anger. She gets weaker. She got so mad that she was completely defenseless. The Gynosure, the cyborg ruler of the females of the future, tells her that her ultimate strength lies in being completely calm. Is she isn't filled with rage, she can tap into the Gamma Rays that flow all around us and take people out all ninja-like.

This is how she's kicking the crud out of Captain Marvel. At the five minute point, Osborn sends Dark Wolverine in to finish this battle. Lyra mistakes Daken for Nella, the warrior maiden from the future we saw pounce her at the end of last issue (in another flashback sequence we're still trying to get through). This distraction allows Captain Marvel to get a hand free and inject her with some toxin from his thumbnail. Lyja is out for an hour.

Iron Patriot has her taken back to Avengers Tower where he can take a closer look at her. Boudicca is removed from She-Hulk and, while we all hope that it's destroyed, Captain Marvel takes it to examine. As they're carting off the All New Savage She-Hulk, Lyja mutters in her sleep, "But I killed you Nella." Well, at least we know what'll happen in the next flashback.

Here it is. Nella attacks Lyra. Lyra was sent with a team of warrior maidens to steal a specific part that had malfunctioned on the women's cradle. The cradle is what has been creating clone after clone to keep populations going in a future where everyone is born infertile. The men have one. The women have the other. That means the only replacement parts belong to the men's cradle. The part stolen, Nella had orders to kill Lyra and return it herself. Why kill Lyra? Because she was an anomoly created by combining the DNA of Bruce Banner and Thundra. She's got some man genes in her and, to a group of future Amazons that are all clones of women, there can't be anything more disgusting. She's also part superhero which is equally offensive in a female culture.

The fight is short. Once Lyra is on her feet, she punches Nella in the face and breaks her neck. Lyra is actually surprised by her actions. I don't think she expected to kill Nella so easily. Worst still, the part was broken in the short fight. There won't be any men or women any longer. It's all over except for the vengeance.

Lyra is pursued all the way back to Milago, the home of women in the future. The defenses of Milago include a lake of Black Bloom... which is pretty much a lake of alien symbiotes. Lyra has pheremones that render her invisible to the symbiotes but the men have no such defense. They are swallowed up by the lake.

Lyra returns to the Gynosure all angry as hell. She knows that the Gynosure sabotaged the mission by trying to have her assassinated but that doesn't mean that the Gynosure will agree with her. In fact, the Gynosure has defenses to make sure that Lyra can't hurt her. Concentrated doses of Gamma Radiation drop Lyra to the ground. Gynosure tells Lyra that, as she was created from the genetic stuff of Hulk and Thundra, she isn't as sterile as the rest of the future men and women. She can repopulate the world all by herself or something. All she needs is a man that's not sterile to have some kids with. Not everyone in Milago hates her. She has actual friends here, after all. So, Lyra goes to the past to retrieve what the future can't provide.

Back in what passes for the present, Norman Osborn is gloating over his captured assassin. He wants to know why Lyra was trying to kill him before he tortures her to death.

You might remember that the first team to respond to Lyra showing up in our timeline was a little unit known as ARMOR. They're headed by Charles Little Sky. He's not happy that HAMMER has intruded into his jurisdiction and is still tracking Lyra with the hopes of recovering her. Oddly enough, Lyra's basal body temp keeps rising even when she was unconcious.

Little Sky still has an operative in the field. She's coming up fast on the Sentry as he's holding a press conference to discuss the Savage She-Hulk incident. Last issue, The Sentry threw the real She-Hulk into New Jersey. She's back to get some revenge.

This conflict starts up alarms all over Avengers Tower. Captain Marvel has been examining Boudicca but is drawn away to check on what's going on. Boudicca uses the time to access Avengers Tower security. Stark also hears the alarms and tries to leave his torture room to check in. The door is blocked. Moreover, Lyra is free. She tells Osborn that she's not here to kill him. Far from it.

As she walks up to Norman Osborn, our ARMOR Analyst tells us why her basal body temp is rising. She's ready to make some babies.

With Norman Osborn? Ew. That dude already has enough kids running around.

p6.jpgPunisher #6
Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: Tan Eng Huat

Did the Hood just make another Legion of Losers? I mean, none of these guys were ever heavy hitters. Basilisk, Cheetah, Cyclone, Death Adder, Firebrand, Hijacker, Human Fly, Lascivious, Letha, Megatak, Miracle Man, Mirage, and Turner D. Century (yes, I took their names from the back of the book in alphabetical order) were all killed by the Scourge of the Underworld mostly because they were kind of crappy characters that no one would ever miss. You know who would have been cool to bring back? Melter. He was also killed by Scourge but... yeah, no one ever remembers Melter. He was a member of the Masters of Evil! The original ones!

Ah well. At least there's a kid running around using the name in Dark Reign: Young Avengers. Actually, I'd bet money he's the one moping the most in later parts of this comic. There's some people at that table that aren't listed in the back.

So, Hood is welcoming his fresh meatshields to the land of the living. I guess one of the good things about bringing back villains you don't care about is that it won't hurt as much when Punisher kills them again. That's obviously what this is about. Hood tells them they've woken up into a world where the bad guys have won. It's true. We're right up in the Dark Reign. More that that: the Kingpin is gone. He's been replaced by the Hood and that's a good thing. Mostly for the Hood.

While the Hood is trying to sell his Legion of Losers on the future, Punisher isn't standing still. He's breaking into Oscorp Textiles to stop an arms development branch of the company that probably isn't on the official papers. It's pretty much by the book, Metal Gear Solid type situation that tells us all that, yes, this is Frank's book and he's still around doing stuff while Hood is recruiting cannon fodder.

Hood is obviously sending these guys to take out Punisher and he's offering them half a billion when for the kill plus a lot more. He tricks them into believing that Frank Castle was the Scourge of the Underworld. They now think Frank Castle was the guy that killed them. Vengeance is a hell of a motivator, isn't it?

It would be but these guys, while crappy villains, aren't all stupid. The Human Fly is quick to figure out that the Hood has already tried and failed to kill the big Pun. Why should he be so quick to get killed once again by trying to kill the man that killed him the first time? Hood's covered that base. They only have thirty days to live. Only the Hood can extend that time and there's only one way he will do it. Kill Frank Castle.

Meanwhile, Punisher's fighting the Shaolin Scientist Squad again. They last just about as long as the first group he killed. This time, they even start running away from him. It's still Punisher's book.

It should be pointed out that these criminals aren't in competition with eachother. If Punisher is killed, they all live. If he isn't, they all die. If they die facing Castle, they die. No more extra lives. What they do get is updated gear and costumes. They get the best to take out the best.

Back in our Punisher battle, Frank is grabbing the innocent receptionist and pulling her to safety as Oscorp Textile's explodes behind them.

Miracle Man tries to control the Hood and force him to extend his life but his powers don't work on the Hood. Miracle Man falls back in pain and swears to serve the Hood. This is a lesson for everyone. Don't cross the Hood. He'll hurt you. Hood then introduces them to Microchip and tells the Legion that this guy will help them out in finding Frank. Microchip is in the same boat as I am. He's pretty certain that these guys aren't going to get the job done. The Hood disagrees. He has faith in them for some reason.

As the Punisher deposits the innocent receptionist and takes off in the Punisher van with his latest partner, Henry, the Hood is recieving a call from Norman Osborn relating to the Punisher's activities taking down a weapons development facility. The Hood doesn't take the call.

Back in the room of losers, we find that not all losers can play well with others. Death Adder and Basilisk leave to take on the Punisher on their own. Mirage is pissed off about losing the two but there's still plenty of losers left. The Human Fly mentions that there's something wrong with his head. There's some white noise floating up top. He tries to leave and clear his head but is attacked by another loser.

It's only a matter of time before this room falls apart into self pity. I mean, these guys really aren't idiots. At least some of them aren't. Even they know that they're also rans. Letha tells them that this is why they have an advantage. No one expects much from them. That means when they actually show up and kick @$$, it'll surprise the hell out of everyone. They just need to actually do that @$$kicking.

Time passes. It's morning and our star is waking up. He's catching up on the news which has a nice feature on his late night activities... even though they aren't telling the ENTIRE story. Frank grabs a beer (a healthy way to begin your day!) and walks out into the daylight. Henry's been busy during the night rigging up his own flying skate board for some reason. I guess it's another tool for Punisher to use in battle but, when Henry flew it in, he made Castle drop his morning breakfast. Henry picks up the can and pours it on the ground... not in a "one for my homies" kind of way, either.

Frank isn't happy to have lost his last beer to a guy preaching about the dangers of alcohol but, well, the dude's got a point. Beer isn't actually a good way to wake up in the morning even if this might be your last day ever. I wouldn't be the one to pour out Frank Castle's morning pick me up but that's more because I'd be worried about a bullet coming my way from a Punisher that woke up a little cranky.

Frank asks to skip the public service announcement and get right to today's list of activities. Henry walks us through the list of targets before getting all weepy because Frank doesn't know anything about him. It's like he doesn't care at all! These guys do the worst unhappily married couple ever. Frank tells Henry that he doesn't want to know that much about him because, when Henry eventually dies (it'll happen, you know it, I know it), he won't care as much. It's hard for Frank to make personal connections and not just because he a psychopathic killer. He also lost his wife and kids to mob violence. Chance at happiness lost? You're soaking in it. No more time for the happy. Time for the killing. Frank grabs his bow and arrow so he can do something manly and escape the sob fest.

Elsewhere, G.W. Bridge is not having a good day. He's formerly of SHIELD and, like everyone else that got kicked out when SHIELD became HAMMER, he's having a rough time getting his life back together. He's got a wife and kid and now his credit cards are being declined. It's rough. He also used to be pretty fit but woke up a fat man back in Punisher War Journal. I mean, what is that about? Bridge used to be cool. And thinner.

He returns home to find Death Adder and the Basilisk have tied up his family. His wife is beaten and bloody and very likely not alive anymore. These guys? They're looking for the Punisher and believe Bridge can show them the way.

mn1.jpgDark Reign: Mister Negative #1
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Penciler: Gianluca Gugliotta

The Hood has taken over the Kingpin's criminal empire. Where does that leave criminals like Mr. Negative? Between a rock and a hard place. In Chinatown, New York City, Negative's being offered a deal. They sent the White Dragon over to negotiate and that was probably a mistake as White Dragon has nothing but contempt for Mr. Negative. We learn that Negative hails from Fujian Province while White Dragon's ancestors came from Guangdong Province. There's some bad blood between the two just for that.

White Dragon is here to tell Mr. Negative that he no longer has anything. All his illegal businesses are now owned by the Hood. Mr. Negative will still run his businesses and pay sixty-five percent of his earnings to the Hood. Not directly, of course. It will go through White Dragon's Dragon Lord gang first and they will, of course, take their cut. It's what is known as a "bad deal."

And Mr. Negative agrees to it. That actually puts White Dragon off a bit. He was expecting to have to fight it out. Negative explains that he seeks the destruction of the Maggia Crime Family and working with the Hood could bring this about more quickly. He reaches out to seal the deal with a hand shake and that's when the White Dragon loses. Negative's touch makes White Dragon go to the negative side of things.

Soon after, White Dragon attacks one of the Hood's hideouts speaking some sort of babbling poetry. It looks like Mr. Negative isn't going to give up his hard won territory that easily. Or at all. The Hood puts several bullets in White Dragon and then demands to know what's going on. When he learns about Chinatown's resistance, he decides it's time to up his game.

As I've said before, no comic is complete without a flashback. This one is all about the Secret Origin of Martin Li. You may know him better as Mr. Negative. Martin Li came to america on a cargo steamer called the Golden Mountain. He was an illegal who had paid a good deal of money to be stuck in a cargo hold for a third of the year on a trip to the United States. The Golden Mountain was supposed to meet fishing boats to take the refugees the rest of the way but those boats never arrived.

The boat captain came as close to shore as it dared to go before the human smuggler killed the captain and took the helm himself to go even further. The steamer crashed into a sandbar and began to sink. The crew escaped on a lifeboat but the illegals weren't as lucky. They came to the deck to see that they were stuck between life and death. The ship sinking, there was really no choice but to swim to shore. The ocean was unforgiving and we're dealing with a group of people that were malnourished, sick, and nearly dead already. Only one of them would make it to shore. Martin Li.

Li went on to work in a garment shop that he eventually took over and built a financial empire out of. With that, he was able to pretty much buy his citizenship. If you're reading Amazing Spider-Man, you'll also know that Li is all about giving back to the community. He founded the FEAST centers where Aunt May volunteers her free time. Basically, Martin Li is all positives while his alter ego is all negatives. Hence his name. This isn't rocket science.

Still, we know this but it's not public knowledge. Maybe it will be in two issues. Martin Li's story might be opened up by DB Reporter Betty Brant. She's been assigned to investigate Li and see if there's any dirt the public should know about. There certainly is... but will it be revealed? Betty's actually a pretty skilled reporter. She found the first chink in Martin Li's armor in the form of his wife. Li is married but his wife is not living the comfortable life you'd think she would. Mrs. Li is in a humble apartment on East Broadway.

We cut to the home of Aunt May. She's making food for her fiance, Jay, and her nephew, Peter. She's also talking on the phone to Martin Li. He's asking her questions about a new FEAST Center he'll be opening soon but that's just to set up the next scene. As Li's limo enters Chinatown, the street is closed off behind them by HAMMER Agents. With this done, Lightmaster is in place to do his thing: shutting down the power in Chinatown. Martin tells May that he's got stuff to deal with as things are getting pretty bad in his neighborhood. His cell quickly goes dead soon after.

Mr. Negative's businesses are now ready to be shut down by the Hood's super powered thugs. White Rabbit, the Squid, and the Scorcher are taking down various establishments. It looks like the war is over before it's even started.

But you haven't counted on the power of Aunt May and her OMEGA CELL PHONE. She calls up Peter and tells him that she's cancelled tonight's get together. The streets are just too dangerous for someone with Peter's weak constitution. She tells him all about Martin Li but there's not all that much to tell. The tv news is just about as informative. They know that there's something big happening in Chinatown. It's being dubbed a HAMMER simulated event to test their response to a terrorist threat. Peter's not falling for it. He knows the Director of HAMMER too well. Peter struggles with what to do but "with great powers comes great responsibility" isn't something you can just turn off when it's convenient to stay at home and watch TV.

Spider-Man to the rescue.

Martin Li has returned home and already switched over to his Mister Negative persona. He's got his Inner Demons ready to fight for him but he's got another agent that will prove crucial in the upcoming conflict. Hammerhead. Mister Negative has a plan and he needs his Inner Demons and Hammerhead to hold off the Hood's gang so that he can retrieve something for it to all come together. The turf war is now officially on.

Spider-Man swings his way to Martin Li's home and enters through the skylight. Li is in the shadows of his home gathering whatever "material" he needs. Spider-Man can't tell that Li is Mister Negative in the blackout and, while his spidey-sense is going out of control, he ignores it. He thinks it has to do with whatever's going on outside and nothing to do with what's right in front of him. Spider-Man calls out to Li and tells him he's here to get him to a safe location. He reaches out and touches Mister Negative's coat and things go terribly wrong for him from here on out.

Outside, the turf war is wrapping up nicely. The Inner Demons are nice and all but completely no match for an organized group of super villains. Soon, it's just Hammerhead left to block the Hood's gang.

Soon after that? Negative Spider-Man joins the battle and he's not taking the Hood's side.

And now, let's look at Loki's origin.

jim112.jpgJourney Into Mystery #112
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby

While most of Journey Into Mystery #112 is devoted to figuring out who would win in a battle between Thor and Hulk (they don't give an answer, of course), the back up tale tells us how Loki became a part of Odin's family.

Marvel history differs from the actual Norse myth is many ways and Loki's story is one that has changed quite a bit though, to be honest, Norse mythology is pretty unclear about Loki as well. Sometimes he's seen as an god and sometimes a jötunn (giant). He's a companion of Thor on occasion and a blood-brother to Odin as well. You can take your pick and choose exactly who you want Loki to be. Over all, he's a trickster god and basically put up with until his involvement leads to the death of Balder.

Just like in the Marvel Universe, Balder is awesome. Or at least I think he is. I might need to read more Norse mythology but it's just so all over the place!

In this case, I'll settle for the Marvel Universe version of events because they're more set in stone. Or... are they? Even right now these events are being altered. Things don't happen exactly as laid down in the original story. Still, it's important to read the original origin of Loki. It's also by Stan and Jack. That's worth it, right?

Odin was new at being a leader of the Aesir. He was being challenged on all sides by invading armies. One such army was made up of Giants from the realm of Jotonheim lead by the powerful Laufey. Odin and the Aesir had to go out and fight these guys but that was okay because if there's one thing they liked to do it was fight dudes. It was like breathing.

During the battle, Laufey and Odin found eachother and the rest of the conflict sort of stopped so they could fight it out.

The battle takes place in Jotunheim and Laufey had more than a homefield advantage. There are cosmic flaming potholes that only Laufey knows about. It's only a matter of time before Odin accidentally gets burned to a crisp and Laufey has already directed him into a near death experience. If that battle isn't ended soon, it'll be a loss.

Odin throws his hammer, smashing Laufey's war club. The giants of Jotunheim no longer wish to watch this conflict. They want to join in. They swarm around their War Leader and hand him a sword to fight with. Odin calls his own men into the fray and it's one big battle scene.

The battle is epic. It takes forever to finish even though we only get one panel of it. In the end, Odin's side is clearly the victor. The giants attempt to flee the battlefield as Odin commands the Aesir to pursue. Odin desires to capture Laufey to end the threat of the giants forever but Laufey is not one to surrender. In the end, he chooses death in battle to life in captivity.

The battle ended, Odin notices a bundle of clothes moving on the edge of the combat zone. He knows that something lives underneath. One of his warriors investigates and they find a baby within. It doesn't take long for Odin to deduce that this is Laufey's son, Loki. He believes that Loki was hidden away because Laufey was embarred that he wasn't born a giant.

While the nearby warrior senses evil in just the name "Loki," Odin recognizes that the child is the son of a King even if that King was an enemy. He announces to all on the battlefield that Loki is now his son and to be raised alongside his true son, the beloved Thor.

Welcome to the Aesir, Loki. Hope you don't kill us all for, y'know, killing your dad.

Was that a huge week of comics? Heck yeah! It just gets bigger from here on out!

Until next time: Who Do YOU Trust?

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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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