Monday, May 28, 2018 • Midnight Edition • "Outhouser?! We barely know her!"

Super Reads War of Kings and Dark Reign 57

Written by SuperginraiX on Monday, August 24 2009 and posted in Features
badguy57.jpgThis is the largest week of comics I've ever had to go through.  Seriously.

Today, we check out Nova #26, Guardians of the Galaxy #15, Dark Avengers #6, New Avengers #54, Avengers:The Initiative #25, Amazing Spider-Man #598, Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #1, Dark Wolverine #75, Ms. Marvel #40, Thunderbolts #133, Secret Warriors #5, Dark Reign: The Hood #2, Dark Reign: Elektra #4, Dark Reign: Lethal Legion #1, Dark Reign: Zodiac #1, Dark Avengers/ Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1 and Blast to the Past with Fantastic Four #14.  Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead! That's seventeen comics!  It's waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many!

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 56 previous articles. It's perfect for all your reading needs.

OK.  Deep breath.  Go.

n26.jpgNova #26
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: Andrea DeVito

Last issue, Rich Rider became Nova Prime once more, the Worldmind deleted it's interface and replaced it with a new one based on a fallen Kree Nova Centurion named Ko-Rel, and the War of Kings kept rolling on.

This issue, Rider begins rescuing separated pockets of the Novo Corps while trying to find his brother, Robert, who's going to get himself in over his head by interupting a fight between Lord Ravenous of the Ceded Territories and Strontian of the Shi'ar Dark Imperial Guard.  Let's watch the fun unfold!

On Kaiphas, a Kree planet in the Gulf of Sarenta, we find some Nova Centurions in over their heads.  Worldmind is still down galactically and, without the constant battleplans being pumped into their brains, these Centurions are incredibly green.  The planet has already been nega-bombed down to nil.  The Nova Corps arrived too late to save the planet and the Shi'ar ionclad destroyer stuck around in order to destroy the Centurions.  For the Shi'ar, only their authority will be recognized and this Nova Corps' attempts at policing the war to a conclusion will not be tolerated.  The ionclad has these Centurions pinned down and Imperial Guardsmen have been sent in to pick them off.

One of those Imperials, Warstar, has just found the last of the Novas in the area and gloats over it's catch.  Warstar never gets the killing shots in.  Rich Rider has arrived and does a double headshot on the Imperial Guardsman.  Now, he just needs to go up and deal with the Shi'ar ionclad.  You can tell Richard is a bit upset.  The Shi'ar have been killing Centurions since they entered to combat theater and Rider takes those lives personally.  He crashes through the ionclad's bridge, disabling the ship.

Rider returns to Nu-Xandar (a dormant Ego the Living Planet) with the rescued Centurions.  He informs them that he had to reboot Worldmind which is why they weren't able to contact him or the rest of the Centurions on Nu-Xandar.  Things have changed.  Worldmind now has the personality of Ko-Rel which makes interactions with her a lot more spicy.  Ko-Rel had some attitude on her.  Richard also tells the Centurions that the reason he had to do this was that Worldmind had become infected by Ego and was basically using mind control to keep the Centurions in line.  The plan, now, is to get the Nova Centurions out of combat zones, care for the injured, and send everyone home.

Several Centurions are all about that plan.  They think being a Nova Centurion is a job worth doing.  Tre Owens and Lindy Nolan are two such Centurions.  Worldmind vouches for their abilities and Richard agrees that they can stay on at least for a little while.

Centurion Irani has been trying to pick up traces of Richard's brother, Robert.  Robbie went off with Qubit to Nil-Rast.  They were going to see what happened to Cohort 86, the unit that was forced, along with Nova Prime Tarcel, to surrender to the Shi'ar Imperial Guard.  What happened after is open to debate to the Nova Corps but even they have an idea.  Strontian, leader of the Dark Imperial Guard, took command and killed the Centurions. 

Richard leaves Centurion Fraktur in charge of extraction efforts and takes Irani and Morrow with him to see if he can find his brother and Qubit.  First stop: Nil-Rast.  That planet has more history than just the slaughter of Cohort 86 (though, that's well enough history if you ask me).  Worldmind reminds Rider that this planet is also where her personality basis, Ko-Rel, was killed my a Phalanx infected Gamorra during Annihilation Conquest.  Rider reminds her that she wasn't actually Ko-Rel but Worldmind doesn't think that's any reason not to complain about the death.

Nil-Rast is also no where near won by either side of the conflict.  Shi'ar forces had claimed it only to be counter attacked by Kree-Inhumans.  The planet is up in the air and combat heavy.  The Novas land only to be attacked by a Kree-Inhuman strike force lead by Triton.  It's good to see Triton!  He's shown up a bit during War of Kings but hasn't had nearly as much face time as the rest of the Inhuman Royal Family.  Nova Prime tries to tell the Kree-Inhumans that they are not here for a fight and that their mission is strictly peacekeeping but the strike force has orders to attack all intruders. 

Rider isn't about to attack a member of the Inhuman Royal Family and the Centurions are stuck with defensive methods only.  Finally, the Kree soldier known as Ra-Venn orders the Kree-Inhuman strike force to step down, claiming that she's certain that Nova Prime isn't an enemy.  The two worked together in the fight against Ultron.

Ra-Venn leads the Novas to a medical station where they find one of their lost Centurions, Qubit.  The guy has seen better days but is unable to tell Richard what has happened.  He's suffered some memory loss.  He remembers coming to Nil-Rast with Robbie and trying to find out what happened to Cohort 86.  Then the Kree-Inhuman counter-offensive began and that's the last Qubit can remember. 

Triton believes he's found out what happened to Cohort 86.  He leads Nova Prime to a huge collection of Nova Corps Helmets.  We don't see any bodies but that might be because they were vaporized.

On Kree-Lar, the capital workd of the Ceded Territories, Lord Ravenous is finding his rule threatened by Shi'ar assault.  Ravenous would have joined with the Shi'ar to destroy the Kree but the Shi'ar aren't really all about alliances these days.  They're about conquest.  They've attacked both the Kree and the Ceded Territories and probably half a dozen other civilizations.  Vulcan has spread himself too thin and the Ceded Territories has been able to resist Shi'ar advances.  Ravenous' forces will drive the Shi'ar our quite soon.

You may recall that War of Kings began with a king killing manuever.  Vulcan's Imperial Guard made a direct assault on Blackbolt and tried killing him and the Inhuman Royal Family (and Ronan the Accuser) at the wedding celebration of Crystal and Ronan.  He's trying the same thing here except his forces have definitely been stretched.  Vulcan sends Strontian to deal with Ravenous on her own.  It's certainly all the power he would need to send.

Stontian introduces herself before kicking the crud out of Ravenous.  She plays back and forth with her target but the final outcome is never in doubt.  She knocks Ravenous to the ground and then muses about what organ to take out first.  Victory is taken from her quickly and unexpectedly.

Robbie Rider, Nova Centurion, has found the one responsible for the slaughter of Cohort 86.  He's caught her under a gravimetric field.  He's arresting her for war crimes.

Let's hope he survives.

gotg15.jpgGuardians of the Galaxy #15
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Brad Walker

Last issue, Phylla-Vell (formerly Quasar, now going by Martyr) had kidnapped Crystal of the Inhuman Royal Family after Star-Lord's attempts to end hostilities by getting Black Bolt (King of the Inhumans and Kree) to agree to a sit down with Vulcan (Majester of the Shi'ar) failed.  Adam Warlock was witch-marked by a member of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard after his meeting with Vulcan to the same end turned into a huge cosmic space slobber-knocker.  Nearly everyone returned to the Guardians' headquarters in Knowhere, the big, severed Celestial head at the edge of time/space, only to find that both Inhumans/Kree and Shi'ar forces had followed them.

In this issue, it's just one big fight!  Crystal gets a telepathic shot of just what threats an intergalactic war could bring to the cosmos before she's returned to the Inhumans.  The Inhumans take off but the Shi'ar remain and do their best to try and take over Knowhere.  Things escalate as Starhawk, the Guardians' time displaced prisoner, is freed by Moondragon and ports out with Star-Lord and company.  The missing members of Guardians finally return to Knowhere just as the severed Celestial head wakes up and begins delivering warnings.  Sounds fun, right?

The Inhuman-Kree alliance has teleported in some of the most important faces in Kree society today.  That's Black Bolt, Gorgon, and Karnak with a group of Kree Soldiers armored up in Echo Armor.  They're here to rescue Princess Crystal of the Inhuman Royal Family and it's not something they're leaving to flunkies and stooges.  The Shi'ar don't have so vital a mission.  They're here for vengeance against Adam Warlock after he got into a brawl with their Emperor.  They've brought the typical Shi'ar soldiers as well several members of the Imperial Guard: Mentor (the guy in charge), Oracle, Hussar, Magique, Voyager, Fang, and Scintilla.  They might not be royalty but they are damn good at what they do.

Star-Lord is noticeably shaken now that the War of Kings has his his home turf.  He's understandably pissed off that Martyr disobeyed his order to release Crystal before they teleported out of the Inhuman Royal Chamber.  While Adam Warlock puts up a magical barrier to keep the Inhuman-Kree forces out and Cosmo puts up a telepathic barrier to do the same to the Shi'ar forces, Crystal shows us just how captured she was.  She easily breaks out of Phylla's grasp and tells Star-Lord that she came back so she could learn more about this threat to the universe that the war is enabling.  Star-Lord has Mantis telepathically show Crystal the fissures in space/time that the Guardians of the Galaxy have been working on closing up.  Crystal understands the threat now and it is terrible.

Martyr continues going on about how Crystal is still valuable as a hostage even after she got knocked to the ground but no one cares what she has to say anymore.  You were cooler when you were Quasar, you crazy b! 

The Imperial Guard are not going to be kept out for very long by a telepathic shield.  They have their own telepath, Oracle, and it's only a matter of time before that shield goes buh-bye.  The same is true for the magical shield holding the Inhumans back.  Adam Warlock's defenses break first and the Guardians face off against Inhuman Royals and Kree Echo Soldiers. 

One of the best moments in the fight is the battle between Mantis and Karnak.  Karnak is usually depicted as pretty bad@$$ because he can figure out any opponent's weakness given enough time.  Mantis is usually a waste of space, honestly.  It's still very nice to see her taking down Karnak before he is able to figure a way to defeat her.  Everyone needs a little humility and, honestly, Mantis has enough for a few lifetimes already.

Black Bolt heads straight for Crystal and Star-Lord.  Crystal tries to reason with her king and tell him about the danger of cracking the universe apart while fighting their intergalactic war but it's no use.  Black Bolt isn't any more agreeable to a sit down with Vulcan here than he was in his court.  He's probably less agreeable, actually, considering they Guardians kidnapped his cousin (yeah!  you go Martyr!  Right off the frickin' team!).

Oracle breaks through Cosmo's defenses and knocks the Russian dog on is back.  The second best moment of the fight is when Lockjaw walks over to Cosmo and licks his head.  Cosmo looks up at the huge Inhuman dog and asks if he's god.  Pretty awesome.

The Imperials see the Inhuman king and make a play at killing him.  It's no good.  Black Bolt has what he came for.  He grabs Crystal, who's still trying to convince Black Bolt of the threats the War of Kings might cause to the Universe, and Lockjaw teleports everyone back home.  The Shi'ar Imperial Guard goes back to what they came here for: the head of Adam Warlock.  Star-Lord orders everyone to scatter.

Star-Lord's plan is to contact Council Delegate Gorani and have him mobilize the Luminals, Knowhere's police force, to aid in repelling the Shi'ar forces.  Gorani tells Star-Lord that Knowhere is neutral and will take no action against the Shi'ar.  He advises Star-Lord to give himself up to the Imperials so that they leave the station.  We all know that the Shi'ar will not leave Knowhere alone now, though.  Mentor gives away his plan to take over the station and use it as a Shi'ar way station.  In short, Gorani is pretty much useless and the Luminals continue to be much the same.

Knowhere's a big place.  It will be hard for the Shi'ar to track every Guardian down.  Only Adam Warlock will be an easy target since he's got Magique's witch-mark on him and can be easily hunted.  The Shi'ar teleporter, Voyager, is exausted after delivering the Imperials to Knowhere but, since they landed in Knowhere's teleport room, Mentor is given an even better opportunity.  Knowhere's teleporters are able to transport anywhere in space and time.  With Knowhere under their control, the Shi'ar would have access to some of the greatest infiltration equipment ever made.

Elsewhere on the station, Gamorra and Martyr are taking the fight to the enemy.  In the middle of battle, Phylla realizes that Moondragon isn't with them.  Maybe she scattered in a different direction?

Turns out that's exactly what she did.  Her mind is newly formed and she hasn't built up her psychic defenses to a level that could have helped her resist the psychic attack of Starhawk.  Heather heads for the Guardian's containment area in the core deck levels of Knowhere and, under Starhawk's command, prepares to free the time displaced prisoner.

On another level of Knowhere, Magique and a trio of Shi'ar track Adam Warlock.  Warlock was witch-marked by Magique last issue and can't really hide anywhere.  Magique has enchanted the Shi'ar's weapons so that they can't miss the one with the witch-mark.  She then runs in to get Adam to reveal himself.  Warlock tries on last spell and it's a doozy that causes him to go blue in the face again.  As explained last issue, the blue face bit is a call to Warlock's evil alternative future self, Magus.  Could he be travelling down the same path?

When the Shi'ar open fire, their weapons aim true to the one bearing the witch-mark.  Unfortunately, that person is no longer Adam Warlock.  It's Magique.  Warlock's spell returned the witch-mark to sender.  The Shi'ar took out their own Imperial.  Now, it's just them and Warlock.guardiansofthegalaxy15.jpg

Star-Lord and his team of Guardians (Mantis, Bug, Jack Flag, and Cosmo) are about to ambush another group of Imperials when Starhawk decides to ambush them instead.  Mantis and Cosmo get nosebleeds right before the surprise.  Starhawk isn't here to attack, she's here to teleport.  This particular group of Guardians is going on a road trip!  Through time! 

Just as we lose one group, we gain another.  Mentor has mastered the controls to the teleportation chamber only to realize that a group of people has ported in recently.  It's Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax, and Major Victory fresh from a mission to rescue Lilandra from Vulcan's forces.  These are the heaviest of hitters and they quickly take down the Shi'ar forces in their way.  Hussar laughs when Voyagers offers to open up a portal for immediate retreat but quickly changes her mind when she sees the Shi'ar getting knocked all over the floor.  Adam Warlock, Gamorra, and Martyr join the fight, making the odds that much worse.

During the fight, Mentor tells Rocket Raccoon that Lilandra was assassinated while trying to retake her throne.  It's enough of a shock to give Mentor an opening.  He swats the Raccoon away and orders a withdrawal.

The Shi'ar leave and the Guardians make sure they're blocked from teleporting back in with reinforcements.  This is a victory but it doesn't feel like it.  Lilandra's death hits many of them pretty hard, especially Rocket Raccoon.  It was a way to stop the war before things went terribly wrong and it failed.  Phylla locates her girlfriend, Moondragon, and everyone finds out that Starhawk was freed and that Star-Lord and friends have disappeared.  We're in for one last surprise.

Knowhere is a giant, severed Celestial head that serves as headquarters for the Guardians of the Galaxy as well as a research area for people from all over the galaxy.  It's been dormant this whole time and had shown no signs of coming back to life.  It's a severed head, after all.  That is about to change.  The Celestial wakes up and starts talking to Adam Warlock.  There's a mission to attend to and the fate of everything rests on it!

da6.jpgDark Avengers #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mike Deodato & Will Conrad

Last issue, Norman addressed Clint Baron's charges against him and his Avengers on national television, Sentry comes back to life and freaks everyone out, Captain Marvel sleeps with Ms. Marvel and learns that he's working with a group of villains, and Atlantis attacks Los Angeles.

This issue, there's a falling out in the Cabal as Namor and Norman have words with each other and the King of Atlantis doesn't do what the Director of HAMMER wants him to do, Captain Marvel has disappeared, Norman sends the Void after Atantean terrorists, and the Green Goblin makes his presence known.

The Cabal have many ways of meeting but in person is probably the best.  Namor flies in from the Atlantic to join the awaiting members of this dark Illuminati who have already gathered.  Norman Osborn tells them that Atlantean terrorists attacked Melrose hours before.  Namor claims to know nothing about this attack and, after chewing him out for not having a tighter reign on his people, Norman shows him footage of the attack.  We get a plug for Google Earth (I'm hoping Bendis is getting paid for this type of mention-- at least a free meal at Five Guys seems to be in order!) and Namor begrudgingly translates the Atlanteans' words for the Cabal.

Doom finds this meeting a waste of his time.  This is a matter between Namor and Norman and didn't need to involve everyone else in the room.  Norman makes the point that, if he started not including people, they'd start whining about why they weren't included.  Playground politics are playground-like.

So, what does the Iron Patriot want Namor to do about this terrorist attack?  Norman wants the Sub-Mariner to publicly denounce the attacks and to lead a joint operation to destroy the terrorist cell down to one lone survivor who will be dragged through the streets to show that this kind of stuff won't be tolerated any longer.  Namor laughs.  The Sub-Mariner is amused by the fact that Norman believes he has any control over the King of Atlantis.

Ozzy actually loses it.  He's finding that the Cabal doesn't bend to his will at all.  These are independant people with their own goals.  While Norman goes off on a crazy, Namor is ice.  Cold.  He tells the former Green Goblin that he is a friggin' monarch of a good portion of the world and that Norman Osborn better recognize.  There needs to be more bowing and supplication in this room.  The two go back and forth and, in the process, Norman calms back down.

The exchange is pretty cool but Namor gets the best lines even though he's altering his own history.  He claims the surface world destroyed Atlantis but he did it himself.  Norman is now in his own.  He tells Namor that this Cabal works by trading this for that.  Namor could have gained something by denouncing these terrorists.  Now, he gets nothing.  No soup for you.  Iron Patriot leaves the room.  After a little time passes, Emma Frost asks if the meeting is over and Loki just has that mischeivous grin on her face like everything's going just as she wants it to.

With Namor out of the plan, it's time to assemble some Avengers.  It's hella early and we're down a few members.  Ares is still driving in and Captain Marvel is mysteriously absent.  The night before, he slept with Ms. Marvel and, if having human sex for the first time wasn't enough of a shock to his system, he learned that his fellow teammates were bad guys.  You'd think he would have figured that out already but he hasn't really been paying that much attention to the scene on earth.  It looks like working with criminals wasn't what he was looking for and he bugged out.  Ms. Marvel's not telling everyone that she slept with him but Bullseye was on the ball saw Noh-Varr enter her room.  He alludes to it more than outright telling the room.

Norman enters the room and gets an update on our missing team members.  He asks about Sentry and, suddenly, he's there and crackling with power.  Osborn lays down his alternate plan, removing any Namor bits from it.  Iron Patriot and Sentry are heading in to kick Atlantean tail.  The rest of the Avengers will follow for a second assault.  Victoria Hand, Deputy Director of HAMMER, pulls Norman asside to give him some good advice.

Norman will not be on this mission.  Norman hasn't slept at all since coming to power.  He's going to explode soon unless he stops trying to be Tony Stark.  It's Victoria's job to pull him back from just this type of situation and hopefully keep his mind together.  With that, Norman Osborn pulls himself off the mission and simply sends in the Sentry to do the job.

Well, not exactly the Sentry.  The Sentry's the good guy.  He's not really all about killing people.  That's more a job for the Void.  You know, the guy Osborn's been telling Bob doesn't exist?  In a private meeting, Norman asks to talk to the Void.  He gives the darker half of the Sentry's personality orders to go kill 'em all.  All but one.  Remember to leave one alive! 

Yes, Ozzy's playing with fire.

The Sentry's assault on the Atlantean terrorist cell is swift and terrible.

The official spin on this attack is quite different from how it played out.  Obviously, you aren't going to tell the world that the Sentry slaughtered a bunch of Atlanteans even if they were terrorists.  The official story is that the terrorists killed themselves with a bomb shortly after the Sentry engaged.  The one surviving Atlantean terrorist is dragged around the docks by HAMMER Agents and they get sufficient footage of him for the news agencies.  There is a trial mentioned and the terrorist is to be questioned by HAMMER Agents to get information out of him about any future attacks.

The President of the United States of America calls up Norman to congratulate him on his victory.  When asked about the Atlantean prisoner, Norman tells the Pres that his top people are working on that issue as we speak.  Any information he gets will be passed along.

There isn't much info he's going for, though.  After getting some footage of the Atlantean for the cameras, the terrorist is fed to Venom.  Yes.  Seriously.

The President then asks Norman about those damn, dirty mutants and if there's anything he can do about them, cleverly setting us up for Dark Avengers/ Uncanny X-Men Utopia. ;)  Osborn ends his call with the Pres and immediately insults him.

Now, we just need to figure out what's happened to Captain Marvel.  Norman knows that Ms. Marvel probably slept with him.  She's known to do that sort of thing.  The conversation quickly goes downhill with Norman, again, losing his cool.  He catches himself and quickly leaves the room.

Norman heads down to Tony Stark's Armory where all those armors have been altered with stars on their chests or belts.  He drops to the floor and tries to regain control of himself.  We find out that he's losing more than just his cool.  He's losing control of his mind.  Norman Osborn is not a nice guy.  He's a criminal in his own right.

Green Goblin?  He's much, much worse.  And he's coming back.  It's only a matter of time.

na54.jpgThe New Avengers #54
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Billy Tan

Last issue, Dr. Strange and the New Avengers headed down to New Orleans to find the new Sorceror Supreme, Daimon Hellstrom got into a battle with a very demonically powered Hood, Madam Masque was captured by the New Avengers, and we all got a look and the new Sorceror Supreme: Brother Voodoo!

This issue, we see how Brother Voodoo came to accept his new position, everyone battles it out with the Dormammu when it's revealed that he's the power behind the Hood, Parker Robbins is left powerless after Dormammu is excorcised from him and later accepts a second chance from the hands of Loki, and Clint Barton continues his media war with Norman Osborn.

Brother Voodoo isn't really happy with his lot in life.  He's got to listen to his dead brother scolding him for sleeping with a girl he's not even that into for one thing.  That could be about to change or it could be getting even more complicated.  The Eye of Agamotto appears before him and the voice of the Ancient One tells him that he's just been chosen to be the next Sorceror Supreme.  The Eye has looked at all the people in the world and has seen that Brother Voodoo is the most deserving candidate for the job.  Now he only needs to accept.

Jericho is a little worried that he will fall for the same traps that Dr. Strange fell for.  His brother tells him that he has help in the form of a nagging dead brother that he doesn't want to listen to but who continues to nag.  He's got to say yes.  After all that nagging, Jericho does just that.  After accepting, Brother Voodoo recieves the Eye of Agamotto, the Cloak of Levitation, the Books of Knowledge, and a fabulous new car! 

OK, maybe not the new car.

So.  Jericho Drumm is the new Sorceror Supreme.  The Ancient One is gone and he's left holding the Eye of Agamotto.  Now what?  His brother tells him to expect a test.  There's always a test.  Jericho looks outside and sees the street explode.  It's the New Avengers fighting a demon.  Looks like this is that test thing.

We cut to what passes for the present in this comic which is where we left off last issue.  Brother Voodoo has gotten dressed and has joined the Avengers on the street.  Jericho's got his cranky grandpa thing going on as he tells everyone off for messing up the street for their little demon battle.  The Hood, looking more Dormammu-like every moment, turns to face the new guy and sees he's wearing the items that Parker's been looking for.  It's time to show us your magic skill, Brother Voodoo!

Which is when he thwaks him with his stick.  He's definitely got his cranky grandpa going on.

The attack works pretty well.  Hood drops to the ground where the New Avengers go about distracting him.  While that goes on, the magic users start working on finishing this battle.  Dr. Strange calls for Voodoo to join him and Hellstrom over on their side of the battle.  Strange is using a protective spell to cover Daimon while the son of Satan prepares for some stronger magic: a containment spell.  Once he's trapped, the Hood's demonic "partner" is revealed to everyone as Dormammu.  Still containing him is only part of the battle.

The New Avengers are pretty much out of the fight at this point.  They can't really contribute to the goings on now.  They can't cross the seal without releasing Dormammu.  While they stand by as super powered bystanders, the three magicians start to take up positions around the seal and begin excorcising the hell out of Dormy.  Dormammu knows what's going on and tries his best to halt the procedure.  He pushes against his magical bars, trying to prevent the exorcism.

This is that trial by fire thing.  To the amazement of Daimon Hellstrom, Brother Voodoo begins chanting words the son of Satan has never heard before.  The fear in Dormammu's burning eye sockets should tell you that this is some powerful exorcism magic.  The demon explodes out of Parker Robbins and everyone is left standing over...

The only one shedding any tears over this is the captured Madam Masque.  The Avengers are happy to finally have the Hood behind them and captured.  Dr. Strange offers to train Voodoo in the ways of the Sorceror Supreme.  Hellstrom?  He's about to give a tremendous pep talk to the new guy.  End of days.  Big, powerful demons entering into our world through clothing.  The guy able to hold it all back, Stephen Strange, not doing that.  It's hitting the fan and it's all up to Voodoo to hold it all back.  He also says something that might be personally directed at Spidey: "you better be ready to pay for all your sins."

It's the little things where you remember that Peter and his wife made a deal with Mephisto to save Aunt May's life.  It's a brand new end of days. :)

The question of what to do with Madam Masque and Parker Robbins is a hard answer.  There is an alliance between the Hood and Osborn, after all.  These two could hit a big revolving door when they get to prison.  Clint Barton has an answer.  He calls over a guy with a camera and has him tape what's going on.  Clint takes off his mask and lets the cameraman get a good look at the Hood and Madam Masque.  He tells the camera that he knows that Osborn has a deal with the Hood.  He wants it known that, when these guys make it back out on the streets, it's probably because of Osborn.  Don't believe the hype!

Clint also introduces Doctor Voodoo to everyone.  Finally, he tells the cameraman to get this video out to the public.  Let people know about it.  Internet it.  Sell it.  Do what you gotta do but get the word out.  There are good Avengers and there are bad Avengers.  It's pretty easy to see who is who.

The next day, Parker Robbins gets a special visitor in the hospital.  It's not Norman Osborn.  It's Loki.  She's here to make a deal with the former and future Hood.  A badly burned Parker accepts.

Back at Captain America's place, Clint is catching up on his television.  He sees Norman Osborn's response to his original call out and just seethes.  Norman totally knows how to play for the cameras.  Clint is disheartened to say the least.  He was hoping the media would follow up on Barton's accusations and that Ozzy would be rattled but, instead, they play right to him and his strengths.  Now, there's only one option left.

They're going to have to kill Norman Osborn.

ati25.jpgAvengers: The Initiative #25
Writer: Christos N. Gage
Artist: Humberto Ramos

Last issue, the Shadow Initiative was rescued from Madripoor by Ant-Man and HAMMER, Komodo was given back her reptile powers, Hardball ends up in Prison 42, Scorpion escapes with the last of the SPIN darts, and Taskmaster is put in charge of training the new Initiative.

This issue, the body of Michael Van Patrick is returned home to his father and the New Warriors are sent packing, Penance joins the Initiative, Tigra and Gauntlet rebel against Norman Osborn's power, the Hood is introduced as the new Chief Operating Officer of the Initiative, several other heroes are kept in service on the Initiative through various means, and the New Warriors change their name to the Avengers Resistance.

The New Warriors went to Camp Hammond to retrieve the body of Michael Van Patrick, the first Initiative member to die in the line of duty.  They now return that body to MVP's dad.  The last living Scarlet Spider, Patrick, tries to recruit the original Michael Van Patrick clone to put on one of the Scarlet Spider suits but Michael cuts him off for bad timing.  The eldest Van Patrick holds his dead son's body close before telling the New Warriors to take a hike.

He apologizes for being rude but the New Warriors' presence is a constant reminder to him of what they did to his boy.  Patrick asks if this applies to him and finds that it does.  He's a clone of Michael Van Patrick but also has bits of Baron von Blitzkrieg in him.  He's a reminder that his son's death was kept secret and that it was experimented on.  The first clone, though?  He can stay.  Pops knows he's a clone but he's also as close as he'll get to having his son back and, right now, it's what he wants more than anything.  Dad and cloned son head off to their log cabin home to bury the real MVP and to start a life together.

Where does that leave the New Warriors?  Night Thrasher has some ideas on that score.  His secret identity is unknown to the public so he's still got all the money of the Taylor Foundation at his disposal.  Everything will be all right.

But what about the Initiative?  It's under new management and still rebuilding.  Taskmaster and Norman Osborn are out looking for some heroes to join up.  The plan is to train villains to be heroes of the new age of Osborn.  Taskmaster's the trainer and, as well as training them to be heroes, he's got to train them to be more subtle in how they get their ill gotten gains.  Oh, it's a train wreck of an idea but the only way to get it working even temporarily is to put a few good hero faces up with those villains.

One of those heroes is Penance.  You may remember him as Speedball and also remember that his little New Warriors outfit is seen as responsible for the Stamford Incident that ignited the Civil War.  Robbie Baldwin sees himself as responsible for that and, since we last saw him, has gone pretty insane.  I must have missed an issue or something.  Penance dropped off the face of the earth after the Secret Invasion and was the only Thunderbolt that has been unaccounted for until this moment (again, unless I missed an issue of something-- it's very possible).  He's going to be one of the heroes of the Initiative even though Norman makes sure he doesn't forget all the lives he's responsible for losing in Stamford.  Renance thanks Taskmaster for a chance at redemption as Tasky starts to think of a way out of this mess.

Later on, at Avengers Tower, two Initiative members, Gauntlet and Tigra are getting ready for their meeting with Norman Osborn to discuss their future with the program.  Tigra's called in first and is about to get a lot of bombs dropped on her at once.  After briefly mentioning her appearance in War Machine #8, Osborn tells Tigra that he knows she's pregnant with the Skrull Yellowjacket's baby.  Norman Osborn read the confidential files regarding the matter.  There's no need to fight over the matter, though.  Tigra told Trauma that she planned to abort the baby.  Norman wants to push that agenda forward and then study the fetus.  Tigra hasn't actually decided on what to do but Norman's taking the decision of what happens to the baby out of her hands.  She can carry the child to term if she likes but, in the end, the Skrull-human baby will be his to experiment on.

There are benefits, of course.  She's free to write her own ticket after the baby's out of the picture.  She can continue to work with the Initiative or she can keep government pay and benefits and be a private hero.  She's probably not gonna want to stay with the Initiative under it's new Chief of Operations.  Hey kids!  It's the Hood!  He's taking over and, no, Tigra's not all about that plan.  Back in New Avengers, Tigra was beaten to a pulp by the Hood while the whole thing was filmed.  Like I said, that's a lot of bombs to drop on one person.  Osborn doesn't expect a decision right now.  He'll let Tigra go home and think on it.  She'll just be under escort by Dark Ms. Marvel until she makes a decision.

Now, we get to see Gauntlet's meeting.  Will it go any better?  Well, after the news that he lost a cadet under his care, Osborn can't allow him to continue on as a Drill Instructor.  He gives him orders to return to the Middle East and rejoin his unit.  This would be good news except for one thing: He'll be leaving his Gauntlet arm here.  It doesn't come off which means that Ares' axe will come in handy quite soon.

Outside Avengers Tower, Ms. Marvel is complaining to Tigra about running around in one of Carol Danvers' old costumes when they hear breaking glass from above them.  Ares has been thrown from the Tower.  Tigra suggests Ms. Marvel help out her associate but Karla isn't leaving Tigra alone for anything.  Tigra then makes an improvement to Ms. Marvel's costume by slashing open the front and exposing Sofen's chest to the public.  While Karla deals with horny camera men closing to take their pictures, Tigra runs into the crowd.  Ms. Marvel takes her leave to change suits and tells Osborn and the Hood to chase down the former Avengers themselves.  She's out.

Norman is about to call the rest of his team when the Hood has a better idea.  Why call people who can actually do the job when he's got a bunch of D-listers (and the Living Laser) who can not do the job?

It's time for Osborn and the Hood to gather up some poster boys and girls for their Initiative Program.  They just need a few heror to make things look all nice and legit.  First on their list is Diamondback.  She's played both sides of the track in her day so it's pretty definite that she'll know which side she's on.  Less certain is Trauma.  Ever since he got a hold on his abilities, he's been playing the side of the angels.  He starts up by resigning but Oz and Hood aren't accepting those things today.  They go right after his mother.  And then his father.  Look who has a secret origin!

It turns out that Trauma's dad is, in fact, Nightmare.  Trauma's powers are magic based.  The hits keep hitting!  Trauma's mom is in a sanitarium not because Trauma showed her worst fear to her but because of Nightmare.  Hood can fix that right up but it may cause some problems between their magical sponsors.  He'll do it if Trauma stays on and keeps the psychopaths in line.  Don't fix them, just keep them running.  That's Trauma's button and they pressed it.  He's a momma's boy. 

Hey, you'd probably agree, too.

The next day, Norman is escorting Prodigy to his new assignment.  He's being put in charge of Nevada's Heavy Hitters.  Prodigy has a lot of issues.  He's an alcoholic for one.  He's trying to tread lightly in Osborn's presence but he still makes it known that he wants to be a hero.  He doesn't want to be a criminal.  Osborn says he can do all the heroing he wants as long as he is also able to follow instructions.  Well, it's either this or prison.  Whataya think he's gonna choose?

And what of the current leader of the Heavy Hitters?  Where is Gravity ending up?  Wisconsin.  Looks like the Great Lakes Champions have a new leader!  Poor Gravity...

The Hood's also rans have caught up with Gauntlet and Tigra.  They've got numbers on their side for only a moment before the New Warriors show up and put a ton of rock between them and the Hood's minions.  Even here, everyone realizes that the only scary one is the Living Laser.  There's no love lost between the Warriors and Gauntlet but Justice hold himself partly to blame for the situation Gauntlet find himself in.  They had to help out.

They're also going to be taking down Osborn and thought that might be something these two would want in on.  Gauntlet sees the irony of becoming a New Warrior but Tigra doesn't think the name is appropriate.  I mean, we need more Avengers teams, right?  Say hello to the Avengers Resistance.

We end with Norman Osborn hanging out in New Mexico (because this guy has gotten around in this comic!).  He's welcoming the villain of yesterday to their training grounds to becoming the heroes of tomorrow: Camp HAMMER.

asm598.jpgThe Amazing Spider-Man #598
Writer: Joe Kelly
Pencilers: Paul Siqueira & Marco Checchetto

Last issue, Spider-Man (disguised as Venom) got a tour of the American Son project: Norman Osborn's plan to make his son, Harry, a new, armored Captain America-type.  Harry started working with his dad at Avengers Tower so that he could find a formula that would "cure" his ex-girlfriend, Lily, who is pregnant with what Harry believes is his kid.  Norah Winters continues looking for dirt on Norman Osborn.  Spider-Man gets into a big fight with Dark Wolverine which ends with a confrontation with Harry.  Harry ends up ratting Spidey out to Norman and the Dark Avengers and Spider-Man takes a bullet.

This issue, Harry learns about the American Son project, Spidey is obviously alive but he's been shot in the face, Norman's having trouble getting Peter's mask off and employs Bullseye for the task, we learn that Lily's kid is obviously not Harry's (it's Norman's), Spidey escapes but not very far, and the guy to come to his rescue is none other than American Son: Harry Osborn.

The one thing you might want to know about the Osborns is that that hair is hereditary.  You don't want to dip into that gene pool because you'll come out with brillo hair.  The next thing to know is the son is nothing like the father.  Sure, Harry's spent his time in the Green Goblin costume but those days are far behind him.  He's not exactly what you'd call well adjusted but he is one of the good guys.  He's joining his dad for one reason: save Lily and her unborn kid.  He need Daddy's tech for that and that means he'll have to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight for just a while longer.

Last issue, Harry gave up Spider-Man to Norman.  Sure, no real love loss there but that doesn't mean that he feels good about it.  After all, Norman shot Spidey in the face right after that.  You usually don't get happy feelings after something like that.  Well, unless you're Norman Osborn.  He's proud of his son.  Norman's still in a blood soaked shirt when he comes in to congratulate Harry and to ask him the question about the one inconsistancy: what was Harry doing on the restricted levels hanging out with Spider-Man with Norman's technology just hanging off him?  Huh.

Harry tells his father that he was looking for Lilly.  He tells daddy that he didn't fall for the lie that she wasn't in the building.  He brought the glove along just in case he ran into trouble and to take care of Lilly if Menace had taken over completely.  Norman's proud again.  It's just a day for warm fuzzies for the former Green Goblin.

Norman decides it's time to let Harry in on the American Son project.  He opens all the files for Harry to go over.  Ozzy leaves his kid to read them and tells Harry that he'll arrange for him to meet Lilly.  Harry asks about Spider-Man as Norman is leaving only to find out that Spidey isn't going to survive the day if Osborn has anything to say about it.

And he totally does.  Peter was shot in the face by Norman last issue.  He's not dead, of course.  Spidey's seriously wounded (but the soul still burns!).  While Spider-Man survived having a bullet explode in his mouth, he's not really in a place to enjoy it.  He's chained to a machine that is trying to laser off his mask.  Norman and Bullseye are having a terrible time trying to get the damn thing off.  That's because the mask was designed by Reed Richards who built it out of unstable molecules and coded it so that it's unremovable and instantly reforms when cut.  Norman's actually glad that Spidey didn't die at the end of last issue because there are a lot of unresolved questions about the whole incident.  Chief among those is why Spidey is so hung up on Harry.  What's the story?

Norman offers a big time reward to Bullseye if he can get that info or the mask off before dinner time.  Bullseye grins and gets to work.

Elsewhere in Avengers Tower, Norah Winters works on getting into some of the restricted areas so she can get some dirty dirt on Norman Osborn and friends.  She's been working one of the security guards who, in turn, thinks he's working her and she's about to hit paydirt.  While the moron is flirting with her and she pretends to say something incredibly embarrassing, she nicks his security passcard and runs off to do her investigative reporter thing.

Bullseye has changed out of his Hawkeye duds and into something a little more sinister: his actual Bullseye suit.  By this point, Spider-Man is hanging upside down and has already cracked.  He tells Bullseye that the mask is voice activated.  He nearly tricks the torturer into saying "Bullseye is a douche" but Lester is gets wise before saying it all out loud.  He appreciates the joke but there's work to do.  Time to get chopping!

In another section of Avengers Tower (which has a lot of sections), Harry is getting a tour of the American Son facility.  He gets a look at the swanky red, white, and blue armored suit and hears his father talking about what it'll take to become the most American Son ever.  Harry's hung up on the drugs bit and none of us can really blame him.  He's a recovering addict and isn't looking to fall off the wagon again.  Norman explains they aren't drugs per se.  It's a compound combining the super-soldier serum and having it equalize with the goblin juice already floating around Harry's veins.  Are you calling Captain America a druggie?  If you are, I'll make a meme.

Harry is also concerned that Norman is trying to make him a son to be proud of.  Super-heroes are pretty pride inducing until you remember that group includes people like Speedball and The Gibbon.  That deflates the love factor.  Still, Harry isn't really here to become a super-hero.  He's here for Lily.  Norman tells him he has two hours until his meeting with his ex.  Harry plans a quick trip to Norman's secret lab before freshening up for his date.

This is also two hours for Peter Parker to be tortured through.  While Bullseye puts him through the various methods of pain and his mouth fills with blood (he's still got that bullet wound, after all), we get some scenes where Harry finds what he's looking for in Norman's secret lab, and Norah get a nod because she's also a part of this story and we can't forget about her.  Peter goes in and out of consciousness but he comes out of it to find Norman looming over him with a repulsor gauntlet on.  He has learned that Tony Stark had found a way to get around unstable molecules.  All it takes is a repulsor set to a certain frequency and those unstable molecules stabilize and then fall apart.  It'll just take ten minutes or so and that mask is history. 

Norman continues to ask Peter what his connection to Harry is.  Spidey's not answering.  He's working on his electric shackles.  Norman fills the gaps in the conversation with the sound of his own voice.  He tells Peter about Lily and how Harry is here for her.  Norman is quite taken with Lily.  There might be a reason for that.

While Norman is waiting for Spider-Man's mask to disintegrate, Harry is having a pleasant meal with Lily Hollister.  She's pretty pregnant at this point and Harry thinks he going to be delivering some good news to her.  Norman is filling in some story bits during this meal.  Ozzy sent Lily to Harry in order to get him to come to Avengers Tower and be part of what Norman is building here.  Peter learns that the American Son program is just what Harry thought it was: it's a way for Norman to be proud of his son and have a worthy heir.  Norm will string Harry along until he's too far in to turn back.  If Harry keeps doing the right thing, there's an alternate plan.  Norman has the plan worked out to have his son sacrificed to help build Oz's power that much further.

Harry quickly takes care of Lily's "handler" as Norah Winters watches.  The younger Osborn has found the cure to the Goblin Juice running through Lily's veins and he's ready to inject it into her.  Lily never actually thought Harry would get this far.  She doesn't want to be cured one bit.  It was just part of Norman's plan to keep Harry around.  She freaks out and swats Harry's cure away.

With that, she turns into Menace and the baby... well, the baby isn't as visible in the all new, all menacing Menace form.

We finally get the confirmation that most of us were expecting from near the beginning.  Lily's baby isn't Harry's.  It's Norman's.  Harry is gonna have a little brother!  This might be why Norman doesn't care all that much if Harry dies.  There's a replacement on the way.  This isn't even counting the Sins Past kids but I don't think we'll ever hear about them again.  That story was not well recieved.

Peter finally finds one hell of a motivator.  His mask is starting to dissolve as he frees one of his arms.  Spidey grabs onto Norman's face and rips off some skin using that spider-power of sticking to anything.  The torture room is chaos but Peter is able to make the most of it.  He turns the tables on Bullseye after throwing Norman across the room.

Menace is worried about some punishment coming her way after giving all that information to Harry.  Harry is still stunned to learn that his dad has fathered another in a long line of children.  That dude gets around.  Menace gives chase while Norah (who was watching this whole thing) gets scarse.

This is the point where everyone meets up in the same place.  Norman is super powered and Peter is on the verge of passing out.  After his initial burst of strength, he's already on the mat.  Norman throws himself at Spidey and starts wailing just as Harry stumbles into the room while trying to escape his crazy ex.  He sees his father swearing an unholy wrath on the family of Spider-Man (and it's very possible that he might be able to make out Peter's face-- the mask has erroded to the point that half of his face is hanging out for the world to see and Harry's got a good view).  The younger Osborn blames himself since he gave Spidey up last issue.  There's only one thing for him to do.

He grabs that American Son armor and decides it's time to have a heart to heart with dear old dad.

ssm1.jpgDark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #1
Writer: Brian Reed
Penciler: Chris Bachalo

In this issue, Mac Gargan, the Sinister Spider-Man, captures General Wolfram and eats his arm, Mayor J. Jonah Jameson gets a visit by Dr. Gunderson and chews him a new one for suggesting anything about rehabilitating super villains, Gargan takes a stripper back to Avengers Tower, Gunderson decides to go ahead without mayoral approval on the Redeemer program, and JJJ comes home to find a dead stripper all over his bedroom.

General Wolfram is a super villain.  Not a brilliant one, either.  He's got a nazi thing going on and likes to talk a lot while committing his crimes.  Mac Gargan, formerly Scorpion, formerly Venom, currently Sinister Spider-Man, catches him pretty quickly into the villain's rampage.  Evil Spidey quips about eating Wolfram before making out with a couple of Spider-groupie chicks.  Being the Norman Osborn endorsed Spider-Man is pretty awesome.

Gargan swings off with Wolfram but his destination isn't to the police.  He takes away the money Wolfram stole, webs up the dude, and then... eats his arm.  That cash isn't going to end up in an evidence locker, either.

While our Sinister Spidey webs his way around town, we swing our way into a meeting at the DB.  That's the former Daily Bugle now published by Dexter Bennett.  Dexter has spent the last couple months continuing the policies that have sold Daily Bugle for years: bash Spider-Man.  Dexter didn't do it because he was on a holy crusade like J. Jonah Jameson.  Bennett did it because it sold papers.  Now, however, the mood has changed.  The DB publisher wants to promote Spider-Man and learn as much about him as possible.  The DB is now in the pro-Spidey camp but only if that Spidey is wearing a cool black uniform and eating people.  Betty Brant, currently a reporter for the DB, leaves this facinating meeting to make a mayoral press conference down at city hall.

We'll follow her there later but, for now, we catch up with our star as he frequents a strip club and spends some of the money he just took from General Wolfram.  He gets one stripper to change her name to "Candy" because he's got enough money to do that sort of thing.  Candy's got a barbarian thing going on because Gargan hits strip clubs where they're into cosplay.  He's in it for the art, obviously.  Spidey asks about a particular stripper he used to see around here but no one's seen her in a few days.  The caption boxes tell us that this earlier stripper got herself eaten when she learned the truth about Gargan.

We also get some basic background info on Mac's origin.  He was a private eye way back in the day who was hired by J. Jonah Jameson to figure out who Spider-Man was.  This lead to Gargan becoming the Scorpion and quickly losing his sanity.  Seriously.  There are some messed up Scorpion tales out there.  He started off as a pretty threatening villain too but degenerated into the D-list rapidly.  We're also reminded that J. Jonah Jameson is the current mayor of New York City which is a sore point for Gargan who has blamed Jameson for everything that has gone wrong with his life since putting on the Scorpion suit.

Gargan keeps swinging around town as we get to that mayoral press conference I was talking about earlier.  For a press man, Jameson doesn't really know how to deal with the press.  He hems and haws over the skyrocketing crime rate threatening his fare city.  He leaves the press conference grumpy because it went pretty poorly.  Betty Brant got a late start getting to the event and is now trying to score some time with the mayor.  Jameson rejects the interview but does try his best to hire her.

All this time, a short little man named Doctor Gunderson is trying to get Jameson's attention and Jonah ignores the man until he realizes that he has an appointment with the good doctor and it's for right now.  Gunderson attempts to tell the mayor about his supervillain rehabilitation program but that just won't fly with the Jameson we all know and love.  He's anti-villain.  He's pretty much anti-hero.  What he wants is to put these guys behind bars, not "fix" them and put 'em back out on the streets. 

Back in Avengers Tower, Mac Gargan has brought the stip club home with him, taking Candy in for a private performance.  Norman Osborn is not amused.  Ozzy pulls the Avenger aside and asks him some questions about his day.  There's the whole incident with General Wolfram, for instance.  The dude ended up at the police station with one less arm and none of the money he stole.  Gargan has broken a hell of a lot of rules.  He wasn't supposed to leave the tower without permission and there's supposed to be no (NO) interaction with the public without Osborn's say so.  Norman chews Venom out and makes sure he understands what he can and can't do.

And, with that, Norman Osborn is put on Mac Gargan's "List."  I wonder if it's anything like Norman's... on sale in September!

So, General Wolfram is down an arm.  He's probably also lost a lot of blood.  Both of these thing would wind up putting him in the hospital.  This is where he meets the Punisher.  Oh, wait, it's "The Redeemer."  It's obviously Doctor Gunderson in a crappy black mask with a skull on it.  He's out to rehabilitate criminals and has started with Wolfram for some reason.

J. Jonah Jameson returns to Gracie Mansion to grab some shut eye and maybe forget that he just made himself look like an idiot in front of the press.  He's not gonna get any sleep tonight.  Someone decided to leave a dead stripper in his bed.  It's Candy.  One guess who did that.

The Redeemer is holding a group meeting for the villains he's trying to save.  In the room is General Wolfram, the Hippo, Doctor Everything, Dementoid, and Eleven.  You probably don't know any of them.  I certainly don't... though Doctor Everything is an obvious Dr. Manhattan rip.  While talking to them, he's realized that there's a greater evil out there that needs to be stopped and, possibly, redeemed.  It's the Amazing Spider-Man.  Huh.  Wonder how that'll go.

dw75.jpgDark Wolverine #75
Writer: Daniel Way
Penciler: Guiseppe Camuncoli

In this issue, we watch Daken manipulate the heck out of pretty much everyone and everything, Norman Osborn holds a Dark Avengers meeting where everyone gets violent and Daken ends up with an arrow through his shoulder, the Dark Avengers attend party because that's a good idea, and the Fantastic Four show up because Johnny got an arrow through his leg.

Norman Osborn has to chew out every Dark Avenger every once and a while and, in this issue, it's Daken's turn.  Oz reminds Daken that he's a hero.  Not a real hero but what the public doesn't know can't hurt them (right?).  Daken tries getting under the former Green Goblin's skin by mentioning Spider-Man but it's too soon for Norman to lose his composure for more than a moment.  The point of this meeting is that Daken's not acting like a hero in public.  He's slaughtering criminals while shouting at bystanders.  It's not something a hero would do.  Daken shrugs it off, revealing nothing.

In our next scene, Daken is standing atop Avengers Tower musing over the masks he's wearing and how he's not hiding in plain sight but no one knows what they're dealing with yet.

Not even Norman Osborn.  It turns out Daken stole a dude's security card and looked up secret files with them.  He also probably slept with the dude because, when offered a chance to defend himself and talk about where he was the night before, the dude, being a family man, just admits to the crime instead of implicating Daken.  Daken's looked at the files Norman keeps on him and sees that they are incomplete.  He knows about some of Daken's abilities but Daken's the definition of "Mary Sue."  His creator has given him so many abilities that he's a Super Wolverine.  One of these abilities is the ability to shoot his pheremones at you and affect your emotions.  He uses this to sleep with people like the nearby HAMMER agent.  This one's a girl.

Norman is holding a meeting with the Dark Avengers and with HAMMER Agents.  He's having a party with the movers and shakers in the arms industry, trying to get some sexy contracts for Oscorp with HAMMER and the Avengers figuring into his plan.  He shuffles off the HAMMER agents but the one that Daken shot his pheremones at stands in an interesting position behind Norman and stays there.  Daken muses at how quickly he could command her to shoot Osborn and take it all but our hero obviously doesn't know that it's near impossible to keep Norman Osborn dead.  He'll just get up and walk away... and then probably find a way to really kill Daken.

Now, it's time for Norman to address his Avengers.  Daken's read Oz's files on these Avengers and has most of them well figured out for whatever plan he's gonna play.  The only real potential trouble is with the Sentry.  That's because the Sentry is very hard to figure into people's plans even though Daken believes he's got it sussed out.  Anyway, Norman tells the Avengers that they'll attend the party and they'll do it in costume.  Ms. Marvel wonders if this party has anything to do with the mission the Dark Avengers performed liberating weapons in Hong Kong and, y'know, she might have something there.  Norman doesn't deny it, merely dismisses her from any thinking.

At this point, the meeting breaks down and the Dark Avengers begin commenting among themselves.  Spidey and Hawkeye both make cracks on Daken who handles them with a degree of ease but does take the opportunity to jab Spider-Man in the throat.  Gargan gets ready to take some payback but everyone is halted in their tracks by Sentry saying a single word.  "Stop."  Norman then takes his leave, telling the assembled that it's six hours to party time.  Woo!

Daken is kind of interested in killing his dad, Logan.  He asks Hawkeye what it's like to kill your own pop since Lester might have done that.  This quickly degenerates into a pedophile joke at Hawkeye's expense which is why Daken ends up with an arrow lodged into his shoulder.  It's actually an awesome move but it plays right into Daken's plans.  Hawkeye follows up by delivering a warning to the faux Wolverine and everyone files out of the room except for Daken and the HAMMER Agent.

She leads him out into the hallway where he pulls the arrow out and nearly keels over.  Daken then orders her to take him to bed.  Yes, there is love making.

Time passes but you can only guess how much.  It could have been three minutes.  The point is, Daken leaves the bed all healed up and goes to look on his Dark Wolverine suit.  It's a suit Logan wore around until very recently.  The son of Logan smashes the glass that encases the costume.  That wakes up his happy HAMMER Agent who is just impressed that she was able to sleep with Wolverine.  Daken tells her to leave.  He's got to put on that suit and take care of business.

We cut to the party.  Everyone's arrived except for Hawkeye.  Ms. Marvel says she doesn't want to be here but Daken tells her she actually loves this kind of thing.  She just doesn't want to be wearing a super hero suit while attending.  Don't worry, though.  Everyone here is wearing one form of mask or another so they're all on an even field.  Karla finds that pretty impressive for a guy in a Wolverine suit but that's just one difference between him and his daddy.  Daken plays at being refined every once and a while.

Hawkeye arrives with two women on his arms.  Ms. Marvel warns Daken about taking revenge for the arrow incident but that's the furthest thing from his mind.  Well, not revenge in a physical sense.  There are many ways to get what you want and Daken's pretty devious when he wants to be.  Meanwhile, Hawkeye's dates are eying up Wolverine.  Daken one ups that by shooting some pheremones at Hawkeye causing all kinds of confusion.  To prove he still likes chicks, Hawkeye starts making out with one of the girls.  He's all man, dammit!  This amuses Daken to no end.

Hawkeye's other girl goes over to flirt with Wolverine but Daken just isn't interested.  Instead, he talks about cutting her up which creeps the girl out.  As she's walking away, horrified, Spider-Man walks up to Wolverine to tell him how much of a loser he is.  Daken starts flirting which just confuses Gargan. 

Suddenly, we have our party crashers of the evening.  It's the Fantastic Four!  They're here to talk to Norman about a certain arror they found in Johnny Storm's leg.  Osborn looks over at Hawkeye.  Daken grabs himself a drink as Hawkeye denies shooting the Human Torch.  If you look closely, it's the same arrow that Hawkeye threw at Daken earlier in the issue.

Revenge is delicious.

mm40.jpgMs. Marvel #40
Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Sana Takeda & Luke Ross

Last issue, the all-new, all-Dark Ms. Marvel went on a mission for Norman Osborn to recruit an AIM cell in Atlanta.  The leader of that group declined the offer before showing Karla his MODOKs in jars collection.  They were modified with the Storyteller powers so that whatever they thought became reality.  This lead to an asteroid breaking orbit and being sent to New York.  Ms. Marvel deflected it and sent it straight for the AIM cell's headquarters but not before taking all the little MODOKs and storing them in her apartment in Avengers Tower.  There's also a bunch of glowing rainbow chicks running around looking for those MODOK babies.  One of them attacks Karla at the end of the issue.

This issue, AIM hires Deadpool to retrieve a second batch of MODOK babies, Ms. Marvel and the Dark Avengers fight an orange glowy chick, Norman discovers the MODOK babies and they're moved to T-Bolts Mountain, Spider-Man encounters a green glowy chick, Wolverine and Luke Cage meet the a purple glowy chick, and we learn that there's a connection between all these rainbow glowy women and Carol Danvers.

Monica Rappaccini is the current leader of most of AIM.  Since those little MODOK things were developed by AIM, she's not happy that they were stolen.  She's got one option.  Summon Deadpool.

Yeah, Deadpool.

DP is teleported in by AIM.  He's disoriented at first and then realizes that it's no way to begin a guest appearance.  Wade uses his own port tech to teleport out only to reappear a moment later with his weapons drawn.  That's how you do these things.  Rappaccini tells him to knock it off or her men will blow him away... but it's mostly an empty thread.  Deadpool could port out if worst came to worst but, let's face it, this is AIM.  They not a real threat.  Anyway, Rappaccini sets Deadpool on the path of liberating the MODOK babies from their last liberator.  She's got one to show off and give Wilson an idea of what he's going after.  Wade quickly agrees because he's a merc.  With a mouth.

Outside of Avengers Tower, the fight between Karla Sofen and the orange glowy chick is not going in Karla's favor.  She's been knocked to the street in the first round.  She recovers slowly but then realizes that her MODOK babies are at risk and jumps back in the battle.  She's out of uniform, having been attacked in her civies and uses the Kree Moonstone that powers her to change her out of those wrecked clothes and into something more in the Ms. Marvel wardrobe.

In Avengers Tower, the orange glowy chick's attack on Karla hasn't gone unnoticed.  Captain Marvel, Sinister Spidey, and Iron Patriot are already on the scene and engaging her.  They don't know what's going on (neither do we) but they know some powerful force has broken into their tower.  It's time to put it down.

Easier said than done.  These glowy chicks are extremely powerful and they absorb any energy attack.  She fires her own energy beam at Captain Marvel then shows us a new power: intangibility.  The phases through Venom's attack before blasting him in the face.  Iron Patriot fares a bit better but he's on the ropes before Ms. Marvel arrives.

The second round of their fight goes a bit better for Karla.  She gets in a few shots before the orange chick explodes with energy.  That blast knocks her and Norman into the next building over.  Ms. Marvel is back on her feet and races into battle while Norman's calling for a regrouping. 

The orange glowy chick is after those MODOK fetuses and has begun to collect them by the time Ms. Marvel has made her way back.  The glowy girl continues to speak in an unknown alien language as the two get into a super power cat fight of epic proportions.

While this battle is going down in the sky, Norman comes up with a plan.  He flies up to the fight and orders Ms. Marvel to get clear while he traps the orange girl in a negative energy shield.  Karla boots her opponent in the head and lets Ozzy do his thing.

This is just a delaying move, however.  Iron Patriot doesn't have the power to hold the shield for long and, in an attempt to keep it up, his armored suit explodes.  Karla heads down to save Norman from impacting the ground and then carries her boss back up to the top floors for Avengers Tower.  Up top, the glowy girl has gone back to trying to collect the MODOK babies.  Ms. Marvel charges up the Iron Patriot armor with energy and then smashes Norman into their glowing foe.  The glowy chick disappears.

Which leaves Ms. Marvel to answer some questions about what she's doing with all these MODOK babies in jars.  She explains that the babies were looking for Ms. Marvel and she was the only one around.  She felt compelled to help them.  Bullseye's recommendation that they smash the jars and be done with it is met with disapproval by Osborn.  Instead, he just wants to get them out of Avengers Tower.  Osborn orders Sentry to remove them to a previously selected location.

Which would be Thunderbolts Mountain.  Deadpool teleports in and quickly finds all twelve of these MODOKS.  That's only half the number he's looking for but it's a start.  His teleport in didn't go unnoticed.  We end the scene with Deadpool surrounded by HAMMER Agents.  Poor, poor HAMMER Agents...

Back in New York, Spider-Man is butchering the lyrics to "New York, New York" from ''On the Town" but he probably knows it better from the Beastie Boys song mixed into the "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" on Paul's Boutique.  Either way, it's terribly butchered.  That might be why a green glowy chick grabs onto his webline and shoots an energy beam in his direction.  Spidey is able to dodge but, before he counterattacks, he notices that the green beam thrown at him has forms some sort of message just off panel.

In the hideout of the New Avengers, Logan is taking care of Luke Cage's baby.  He's even making a funny face or two for the kid's amusement.  Luke joins him just as a purple glowy chick enters their hideout.  Cage rushes off with his child while Logan goes straight for the attack.  Purple glowy chick easily counters his attack and then shoots her beam at the carpet.

Luke has gotten his baby to safety and returned for the fight only to be called off by Wolverine.  The purple glowy chick has formed a lightning bolt symbol on their floor that looks suspiciously like Ms. Marvel's current chest symbol.

tb133.jpgThunderbolts #133
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda

Last issue, Headsman learned that Osborn might have tried to kill him during his first mission with the T-Bolts and the team succeeded on a new mission to extract and recruit the psychic hitman, Mr. X.

This issue, Yelena Belova, the second Black Widow, has a meeting with Ghost where we learn that she might not be as loyal as she seems, HAMMER Agents start clearing out bums in Cleveland and find themselves up against Songbird, Norman Osborn hires himself another Thunderbolt and names this one Scourge, Ant-Man and Paladin discuss where their loyalties lie, and we learn that Black Widow is secretly working with Nick Fury.

Yelena Belova is training at the Thunderbolts' secret headquarters, The Cube, when she calls out to the Ghost who she realized has been watching her.  Ghost claims he wasn't watching her.  He heard she was looking for him and came out of his secret room to answer her summons.  Yelena tells the creepy dude that she's interviewing her team members to understand their loyalties.  She mentions that she doesn't trust anyone on the team (which is something she has in common with Ghost) but she understands everyone but him.

She doesn't actually expect Ghost to give her an honest response.  There are cameras all over the facility and she expects the Ghost wouldn't reveal his motivations under prying eyes.  That's no longer a problem.  Ghost has reprogrammed the security cameras to go dead as he passes them.  Nothing can track him or record him in this facility.  So maybe it's time to get some truth out of him.  But first, he calls out Yelena's loyalties because he knows she doesn't have any to Osborn.

Having been found out, Yelena pulls her gun on him but that's not really an effective response to the dude who can turn intangible.  There's more threats than that, however.  Yelena tells the Ghost that every meal he's eaten has contained one nano-bot.  He's eaten enough so that, at this time, there are 40 nano-bots that have formed a small bomb in his lower intestine.  Inside the suit.  She activates the bomb and then threatens to say the trigger word.  Ghost doesn't seem so moved by this announcement.

He tells the Black Widow that he's an ally.  He didn't come to accuse and threaten but to declare his motivations.  Osborn is replacing all of SHIELD's Starktech with Oscorp tech.  When that's complete, he's have way too much power.  Ghost is all about anti-corporation and is planning on taking down Ozzy from the inside.  Black Widow wants to know why he'd tell her all this and Ghost answers that he want her to tell her boss that he's on their side.  Not Osborn.  Her real boss.

In Cleveland, Ohio, HAMMER Agents are cleaning the streets of the refuse of humanity.  They're taking away illegal immigrants as well but, in HAMMER's eyes, illegal immigrants are anyone who doesn't have proof of citizenship.  Guilty until proven innocent.  One vet argues it up with the HAMMER commander and ends up getting smacked down when he can't prove his citizenship.  This escalates the violence as the bums see the old man fall.  In the middle, one homeless woman is trying to stop the riot from happening.

So are the HAMMER agents.  The HAMMER commander orders his men to open fire and they do without hesitation.  It's a damn good thing that the homeless woman was Songbird.  She puts up a defensive shield with her sonic powers and then procedes to teach those HAMMER bastards a lesson.  She grabs them up and puts them in their own detension vehicle.  The time for hiding is over.  Songbird sheds her bum gear to reveal her super hero suit and flies off to cause mayhem in the world of Norman Osborn.

Speaking of Osborn, he's ready to put another T-Bolt on the field.  This agent's identity is going to be a secret for a while but it is mentioned that they made him a new face that he decided needed to be wrecked.  It doesn't matter too much because he's required to wear a ballistic mask everywhere.  No one's going to get a good look at him.  This T-Bolt will be names Scourge.  This is supposed to keep people from guessing who he really is.

This interview is interupted by Miss Hand.  She has to show Norman some footage of Songbird roughing up those HAMMER goons in Cleveland.  Norman's pissed because he was told that Songbird had been killed by Andreas Strucker.  It's a good thing he already killed the Swordsman or he'd have to do it again.

Back to the interview, he asks Scourge if he'll follow orders to the letter without asking too many questions and gets an affirmative.  It looks like Osborn has found his new Thunderbolt.

Paladin is now training in the T-Bolts training area as Ant-Man looks on.  Ant-Man is a little concerned about the company he's keeping these days.  Mr. X?  Headsman?  Crazy people.  These are guys that kill for fun.  It's what they do.  Paladin's a killer, too, but he seems more normal and doesn't live for the kill like these other guys seem to.  Ant-Man's not happy about being a T-Bolt anymore.  He was expecting to be more of a public hero and he's stuck doing black ops work and living in a prison.

To make matters even worse, he sort of embellished his SHIELD file.  He stole the Ant-Suit and then went back to SHIELD and messed with his file to make it seem like he was much better than he actually is.  It's how he ended up here but he's a coward at heart.  He wants out but he knows that'll mean his death.  There's no win here.

Paladin tells him to stick it out.  Osborn is destined for a fall from grace any month now and, when he does, it'll be Ant-Man's turn to bail.  Ant-Man wonders if that day will actually come.  And if it doesn't?  If Ant-Man needed to, say, facilitate Norman's collapse, would he be able to count on Paladin?  We already know that answer.  Paly's in it for the money.  If he doesn't see the profit, he won't be making a move.  He's not that kind of friend.

Scourge arrives at the Cube and is greeted by his new commanding officer.  Yelena tells him that the staff will help him get settled before their mission briefing in a half hour.

As Scourge goes off to find his room, Yelena heads to a secret area of the facility to talk to her real boss.  Black Widow calls him up on her wrist communicator and tells him that Ghost might know who she is and who she's working for.  He is ready to pull her out immediately before her life is in any more danger but she's got something to do before that happens.  One last mission.

Her boss tells her he won't be able to provide back up if things go seriously wrong but Black Widow is confident that she'll be ok.  Her boss sees past her calm exterior and knows that she's not as confident as she appears.  If anyone would know, it'd be him.  He's the world's greatest super spy.

He's Nick Fury.

sw5.jpgSecret Warriors #5
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Stefano Caselli

Last issue, Quake and Druid recruited Eden Fesi for the Caterpillars, Nick Fury buys himself some Howling Commandos, Baron Strucker explains his master plan to the rest of the Hydra leaders, and those leaders elect to go to war.

This issue, the Howling Commandos assault the Dock, Hydra learns of the operation and plans an intervention, the crap hits the fan as Hydra takes down the Howlers, and the Caterpillars show up to turn that tide back the other way.

The Dock is a former SHIELD base that is currently under HAMMER occupation.  As it's name suggests, it is a harbor of sorts.  Instead of boats, this harbor contains helicarriers.

We are introduced to two HAMMER Agents who work at the base: The Eric Koenig and the Derrick Richardson.  The Derrick was a former SHIELD Agent but only had a couple months in before HAMMER replaced it.  The Koenig put in twenty-eight years with SHIELD.  Derrick talks down about the old order of things and how the new way is the best way and all those old SHIELD Agents just need to go home and retire.  Eric tells young Derrick a story.  When he met Nick Fury, he was a lot the same; thinking he was so much better than these old Howling Commandos and that they didn't have anything on him.  Fury told him two bits of advice.

1. "Never leave beautiful ladies unattended."

2. "Howling Commandos only retire when they're good and damned ready."

By then, Derrick isn't really in the listening mood because Koenig shot him in the back as the Howlers begin their assault on the Dock.  The Howlers are here for the Helicarriers and they aren't sticking around much after that.  They have a tiny militia compared to the eleven thousand HAMMER personel holding the Dock.  Their mission is to get in, grab the carriers, and run.

It's not the kind of mission that Gabe Jones is happy about.  It seems destined for failure or, at least, major casualties.  He says as much but it's already been discussed.  Working for Nick Fury is something worth doing and everyone knew the stakes would be high.  That's part of the fun to Fury, after all.

There are casualties, of course.  The Howlers are using six helicopters and, despite the automated defenses being shut down by Koenig, they still lose two before landing.  Dum Dum handles the assault vehicle taking pot shots at them while Gabe's ground assault team breaks the locks holding the helicarriers down.

High above the battle, Hydra waits.  It turns out that Kraken has a rat among the Howlers that gave away the mission to him..

While Baron Strucker, Kraken, the Gorgon, and the Hive lead their men into a confrontation with HAMMER and the Howling Commandos, Viper and Madam Hydra go to enact other pieces of Hydra's master plan.

Nick's Howling Commandos have landed their choppers and are making their way to the Helicarriers when, suddenly, the sky is filled with Hydra warriors.  It's an assortment of Elite, Hive-minded, and normal Hydras.  Picture your favorite Cobra attack from GIJoe and then multiply it by 5.  It's pretty badass.

The battle is chaos and Hydra is easily able to capitalize on their surprise attack.  The Hive starts making converts out of the Howlers by throwing his controller squids at their faces.  It's like a Marvel Starro.  The Gorgon sees Nick Fury and throws a sword to take him off the playing field.  Jasper Sitwell knocks his boss out of the way and takes the sword in the chest himself.

Fury is on the ground and won't be able to get up soon.  Kraken and Baron Strucker close in on him and pin him to the ground.  There's history between Kraken and Fury that might be explained in the future.  Strucker believes this is their final meeting and asks Fury if he has any last words.

As the Caterpillar team teleports in, Fury gives his words which'll be far from last: "This ain't nowhere close to done."

drth2.jpgDark Reign: The Hood #2
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Kyle Hotz

Last issue, the Hood's Syndicate completed a heist that netted them lots of treasure from a middle eastern kingdom, Parker worries that Dormammu is taking over, the villains party it up as the Hood makes sweet love to Madam Masque, Parker returns to his real home for some family time, and then gets attacked by the brand new White Fang when returning to his villainous headquarters.

This issue, the Hood lets Dormammu take over to defeat White Fang but stops him short of killing her, John King gives Parker the sobriety talk, the Cabal have a meeting, the Syndicate's current safehouse goes up in flames, Parker introduces his girlfriend and daughter to his mentally unstable mother, and Parker meets Satana.

White Fang is the wife of a cop killed by the Hood early in his carreer.  It's a moment that Parker Robbins has never forgotten.  White Fang has made a serious surprise attack on the Hood and quickly takes control of the entire situation.  Parker's weapons are rendered useless.  When the Hood says her husband's name, she kicks him through a wall.  Parker tries going invisible but even that isn't an advantage.  White Fang can see him.  From that moment on, Parker just gets beat around the building into a state of semi-consciousness while White Fang goes on about how she's had to work on refining her gear and techniques.

She eventually pins him up and starts hitting him in the face.  Parker tries to resist but, eventually, he lets Dormammu out.

The battle has turned and a bug eyed Hood takes White Fang apart.  Leading her to a window, he smashes her out of it and then contemplates letting her fall to her death.  It's a battle between Dormy and the Hood and, this time, Parker wins.  He pulls White Fang back inside, tells her never to do this again, and fades out as she screams vengeance on him.

The Enforcers are having a friendly card game back at the Hood's Hideout.  They're talking about Madam Masque and how hot she is.  Well, her body is hot.  Her face is supposed to be seriously disfigured but no one's allowed to see it.  They wonder why the Hood would be getting it on with her if she's ugly just as the Hood appears to chew them out for talking all their rumors.  Hood heads over Madam Masque's way but, instead of grabbing her, he grabs his cousin, John King.

He pulls King upstairs and tells the dude all about the fight he just had and what it was about.  King is a bit concerned that he didn't just finish her off but a lot concerned that the demon keeps taking over.  It's an addiction and he needs to stop it before it takes him away.

Now, you may be wondering how this fits in with Parker losing his powers in New Avengers #54.  I don't know yet.  It's possible that all this happens prior to the big magic battle or maybe Loki reempowers him with Dormammu once again after the battle is over.  Either way, it's a day in the life that we'll have to place in continuity at a later date.

For now, John mentions that the Scarecrow is down with some of this magic stuff and might be able to recommend someone that could perform an exorcism or something.  Robbins says to go about that carefully and then hits his office to take a quick nap before making a very special meeting with some very special allies.  King isn't told anything about the Cabal and isn't happy to be left out of the loop.

Like many of us, Hood forgets to set his digital alarm and is woken by his backup just before the meeting is to begin.  He barely has time to splash some cold water in his face before appearing on the astral plane with the rest of the Cabal.  He asks Emma if he can change his astral avatar to look better than the beat up mess he is in real life.  The answer is yes.

While Norman tries to find an empty room to join them, the alliance between Latveria and Asgard is brought up.  Namor doesn't see the benefit but Loki slides her words around as usual to say that everyone benefits from stuff like this.  Sure they do.  Namor has apparently woken up on the cranky side of bed (for Namor, that's probably all four sides) and is upset with everything.  He's angry about the alliance, upset about the lack of support for Atlantis, and doesn't like hanging out with criminals like the Hood.

So, he's a bit confrontational.

Parker defends himself with words before Norman enters the astral meeting, quickly changing his Green Goblin face to a more Norman Osborn look.  He brings up the advantages of working together to make the world a better place for everyone.  With that, the meeting officially begins with Namor telling everyone about his recent guest appearances in Iron Man.

When Parker returns to his body, he finds that his hideout is burning.  The safehouse is on fire!  He grabs his cloak and bugs out, finding everyone has safely made it outside.  No one knows how it started.  Hood tells Scorcher to make sure anything incriminating is taken care of before the fire department arrives.  They'll set up shop in a different safehouse.

Before Parker heads off to visit his family, John hands him a business card he got from the Scarecrow.  There may be someone who can help him with his little demon problem at that address.

Before Robbins can get to that meeting, he has to visit his mom.  This time, he brings Sara and his baby daughter, Breanne, with in order to maybe get through to his mom.  She's not as right in the head as most people normally are.  She doesn't seem to understand who she's talking to or when it is.  She talks about Parker being a baby, for instance.  There's no recognition in her of what's actually going on.

Parker's upset that he isn't getting through to his mom but Sara mentions that at least she's in a good facility with people trying to help out.  Sara assumes that Parker will need to get back to work but he wants her to drive him to the Village so he can pick up some supplies first.

Robbins enters the 4th Circle Curio five minutes to closing time.  He expects it'll be a quick visit.  What he gets is a meeting with Satana Hellstrom, the Daughter of Satan!

Or, at least, a reasonable facsimile thereof.

dre4.jpgDark Reign: Elektra #4
Writer: Zeb Wells
Penciler: Clay Mann

Last issue, Elektra found herself in the care of the Night Nurse, then got attacked by two assassins who blame her for some atrocity in their recent past, and finished things up with Hawkeye (actually, Bullseye) joining the fight.  All the while, Norman Osborn kept learning what exactly makes Elektra so special to the Skrull Invasion.

This issue, Elektra's confrontation with Hawkeye continues, Osborn keeps torturing Skrulls for answers, Hawkeye gets stabbed through with one of his own trick arrows, The girl assassin resumes her assault, HAMMER back-up arrives for clean up, and Wolverine saves the day.

Night Nurse is calling in some help.  Last issue, she and Elektra were pinned down by two assassins and only Elektra directly confronting them was able to get Night Nurse out of danger.  She's got a lot of contacts in the super-hero community and calls one up to give Elektra a fighting chance.  The ninja girl is still incredibly injured and, without some help, she probably won't survive the night.

Back at that fight, the female assassin has been stunned and tries to warn her partner about Elektra coming up to pay him a visit.  What Assassin Girl doesn't know is that her partner is already out of the fight.  Hawkeye is up on the roof and he's already put an arrow through Assassin Boy.  Elektra joins him up top and he's totally expecting it.

The guy running around in the Hawkeye uniform these days is Bullseye.  He's the man who originally killed Elektra a long time ago.  So why's she still running around?  No one knows.  That's actually part of this story.  Maybe.

So, the faux Hawkeye makes sure Elektra knows who he is.  The thought that this is the assassin who killed her does provoke a reaction.  Elektra's first thought is to run but there's no where to go.  If she makes the street, Hawkeye still has that sniper rifle.  She prepares herself for the fight.  Hawkeye notices her looking at his acquired rifle and he promises not to use it.  This is personal.  It's also a certain victory for Lester, at least in his mind. 

Bullseye obviously doesn't realize that he's the guest star here.

To start things off, Hawkeye releases a bullet from the rifle, catches it in the air, and throws it at Elektra.  Elektra catches it and rushes into the fight.  This is just playtime for Hawkeye.  He blocks every move in almost a casual manner.  What he doesn't expect is that Elektra plans on using that bullet.  She puts it close to his face and then drives her sai into one end.  The bullet explodes in Hawkeye's direction and he only is able to dodge at the last moment.

He's still damn confident but his mask is ruined.  You can make out the target on his forehead.

Assassin Girl has reached the roof and rushes over to her fallen partner.  He's not moving or responding.  Hawkeye isn't just gonna let people interupt his battle and throws an arrow at the girl.  Elektra catches it only to find the handle is barbed with poison.  Hawkeye tells her he's using some special arrows these days and kicks her Elektra off the roof.  Elektra loses her sai in the process.

It's a good time to leave this one sided fight and hit up Norman Osborn for some information.  Ozzy is busy torturing Skrulls and trying to find out just why Elektra was so important to the Skrulls and their invasion.  Victoria Hand walks down to his chamber to give him some new info.  In the first issue, Paladin tried to assassinate Elektra in a failure that lead to the ninja freeing herself from HAMMER custody and leading to the events running around in this very mini-series.  Pally was paid some money in advance of completing the job and Miss Hand has found out where those funds came from.  They came from HAMMER.

Well, actually, it's carry over from the SHIELD days.  Some of the pension paid for death and disabilities was labeled "Blackhawk" and was split with half the money going into an encrypted account that stayed on site.  There's a bit over 82 million in the account right now which is the amount offered for the head of Elektra.  "Blackhawk" was actually a SHIELD Helicarrier that was taken down during a super villain attack spearheaded by Elektra.  This happened during the Wolverine: Agent of SHIELD storyline over in Wolverine's title and Elektra was under Hand control at the time.  Now, was it her or the Skrull?  That's what Ozzy wants to find out.  It's back to torturing Skrulls, I guess.

It takes Elektra a long time to fall off a building.  She's been grabbing for whatever she can to slow her fall and Hawkeye actually beats her to the ground.  He thought she'd be down faster with the poison she's dealing with right now.  He gives her the choice of standing up or staying down.  Either way, he plans on ending it.  Elektra, of course, gets up and faces death on her feet.

Which is when it all falls apart and Hawkeye gets sloppy.  Elektra rushes him blocks his sai attack, flips over his head, grabs an arrow from his pack, and runs him through.

Also, it's a trick arrow, so it shoots out a net in front of him which is hilarious.

Assassin girl reenters the fight with her gun blazing.  Hawkeye killed her partner and she wants payback.  The question is: who does she want to kill more: Elektra or Hawkeye.  Hawkeye's staggering around with an arrow through his gut but Elektra's not doing much better.  The last of her adrenaline must have got into that attack because she's lying on the ground on the verge of passing out.

Hawkeye is staggering back to the HAMMER van and to back up.  They call a medic because this isn't his day to die.  The HAMMER Commander orders his men to finish the job and kill their target.

While this is going down, Assassin Girl has made her choice.  She's taking out Elektra like originally planned.  She apologizes for killing the ninja while Elektra's down and acknowledges that her life was saved because of Elektra grabbing that arrow but it doesn't change anything.  Elektra still killed all her friends.  She repeats that damned line: "The stars are safe in the sky" but, just like before, Elektra doesn't know what it means.  She also says that she could still kill Assassin Girl so there's no reason to lie.

While Assassin Girl ponders that, she's hit by fire from the HAMMER squad.  They move in to finish the kill only to find that Night Nurse's back-up has arrived.  Wolverine is on the scene and he's already killed all those Black Ops HAMMER Agents.

drll1.jpgDark Reign: Lethal Legion #1
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Mateus Santolouco

This issue, Lawyer Mr. Livingston arrives at the Raft to meet his clients.  During his meeting with Eric Williams, the Grim Reaper, Williams is shived by an Osborn supporter.  Livingston then gets his story from Tigershart that covers his time from his failure to kill Deadpool to joining the Lethal Legion and right up to the point when the team was joined by the Grim Reaper's brother, Simon Williams.  Wonder Man.

Our lawyer is named Mr. Livingston and he's taking a helicopter over to America's Maximum Security Super-Hero Prison, the Raft.  The chopper pilot has done this a lot and it's old hat for him by now.  The weather is rough and there are codes to be entered.  It's not the easiest place to get into but it's even harder to leave.  Once they land, Livingston meets the Warden, Montgomery Battle, and his head officer, Mr. Tillis.

Mr. Livingston's job is not one that most people are happy about.  The Lethal Legion was opposed to Norman Osborn and may people see him as a hero.  There's also rumors that they were betrayed by one of their own so they don't trust each other and the other prisoners don't like them too much.  The Warden assures Livingston of his own safety.  The Raft employs a dampening field and has the tightest security ever.  The cons won't try anything.

So, it's time to meet one of Livingston's clients.  Let's start at the top.  Eric Williams, the Grim Reaper.  He's a pretty big Avengers villain with connections to Simon Williams and the Vision.  He also fears for his life, certain that Osborn is going to send an assassin to do him in for what he and his people have done to him.  And he just might be.  While the lawyer watches, an inmate pulls knife and shivs the Grim Reaper.  So much for your safe little maximum security prison, Warden Battle!  Grim Reaper makes sure that Livingston knows who he thinks was behind it.  Norman Osborn.

Next on the list of clients is Tiger Shark.  He starts his story in the middle but that just confuses Livingston.  He wants the story from the beginning which, y'know, is pretty funny when the actual comic is told after everything's gone down.  You want flashback after flashback?  This is your tale.  It's all stuff that already happened.

Tiger Shark completely failed at killing Deadpool for Norman Osborn but he still came up demanding some money.  Osborn actually paid him in his failed attempt at killing Wade Wilson but Tiger Shark is back up in Avengers Tower demanding more because blackmailing powerful men is an awesome idea.  Norman summons his associates to get this check written and Tiger Shark finds himself facing off against Hawkeye and the Sinister Spider-Man.  Norman switches to his Iron Patriot armor and the three kick the tar out of Tiger Shark.

After they're done, they throw him from the Tower and just leave him on the street.  Tiger Shark survived the fall but was tired of being seen as a nothing.  It was time to do something with his life.  He found a group of like minded individuals and the rallied around the Grim Reaper.  This new Lethal Legion was made up of people like the Grey Gargoyle, Nekra, Mr. Hyde, and Absorbing Man.  The only real question mark I've got is Mr. Hyde who has already been shown as part of the Hood's gang.  It's possible that's because he's the actual betrayer of the group or, maybe, this takes place before or after Hyde tried killing Punisher.

We get a cool montage of the Lethal Legion causing havok all over New York.  Reaper even sliced the top off the Statue of Liberty.  That thing takes some serious damage in the Marvel Universe.  It was good times for Tiger Shark and the Lethal Legion.  Then, they did the thing that probably hurt them more than anything else.  They took on their final member.

Simon Williams.  Wonder Man.  Formerly of the Mighty Avengers.

drz1.jpgDark Reign: Zodiac #1
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Nathan Fox

This issue, we meet the brand new Zodiac, he kills a lot of HAMMER Agents, the Clown is recruited to join him in his agenda, we find that the previous Zodiac has already been killed, HAMMER Agent Murphy investigates the slaughter of HAMMER Agents, the former Whirlwind drives Norman's car and plots his end, the Human Torch gets a royal beat down delivered to him by Zodiac, and we learn that Zodiac looks like a slacker without his mask on.

This issue wasn't my cup of tea at all.  I've found Joe Casey to be hard to follow at times but, teamed with Nathan Fox, it's just a bad time.  Fox's art is great but it's actually too much detail in every panel without much focus.

But I'm not here to review the thing.  I'm here to try and make sense of it.  Let's see what I can do.

Our issue starts with the new Zodiac killing HAMMER Agents.  Lots of them.  Supposedly, it's was to find out what HAMMER actually stood for because we really don't know.  Really?  It's about making a statement to the world that there's a new supervillain in town and he's not playing by your rules.  Zodiac draws a smile on his mask in the blood of the dead before making a call to one of his associates. 

It's Manslaughter Marsdale.  He's a very small time operator from Amazing Spider-Man.  Mars was a boxing agent who ran into Spider-Man after an incident involving Crusher Hogan.  It's really unimportant but an interesting use of an old, forgotten character.  Zodiac asks if their mole has called in and Mars says that he hasn't.  The Mole is on call 24 hours a day with Norman Osborn and hates his guts.  Zodiac appreciates that in a man.

We have no reason to tell this story chronologically, right?  Since the art and story are already hard to follow, let's confuse it up with unnecessary flashbacks.  This one is two weeks earlier where we catch up with the Clown.  Clown is a favorite of Joe Casey's.  He appeared way back in Casey's Deathlok series which is severly underrated.  Anyway, Clown is watching TV when he gets a call from Zodiac and Death Reaper.  You've never seen Death Reaper before.  She's the daughter of Nekra who is showing up over in DR: Lethal Legion right now.  Death Reaper is a huge fan of the super villain lifestyle and keeps track of all these villains' stats.  She also seems to slash anything she touches.

Zodiac is here to make Clown an offer he can't refuse.  Join up with him and watch Norman Osborn fall from grace.  He introduces himself and Clown asks about the previous Zodiac.  They were a team that pretty much always sucked.  Funny you should mention that, Clown, because the current Zodiac happens to be carrying around the heads of the old Zodiac team.  Yeah, what?  Why is he carrying around their heads?  I get that he killed them to free up the name but... seriously?

Zodiac tosses the bag of head over his shoulder and asks Clown if he's ready to really join the circus.  Because this comic is seriously insane.  Through and through.

Every comic needs one sane person and this comic's guy is Agent Murphy.  He is a member of HAMMER's Forensics Division and he's about to be called out to a case.  Remember those dead HAMMER Agents from the beginning of the comic before he had our prerequisite flashback of confusion for no reason?  Well, Murphy's been called to investigate. 

Murphy flies a HAMMER car to the scene and is thoroughly disgusted at what he finds.  So many slaughtered HAMMER Agents and they're all strung up.  It's seriously messed up.  There are 100 HAMMER Agents dead on the scene and one would assume multiple assailants.  Murphy doesn't think so.  He believes it was one guy and that each body was marked by a symbol.  It's the letter Z.  Murphy, being sane, heads outside to throw up.

We're back to our next useless flashback.  Linear thinking, people!  There's no reason to keep going back and forth in your stories!  Two days ago, Clown arrived at Zodiac's base in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.  Zodiac made his base in a crashed Hydra airship that landed in the junk yard.  It still had a lot of working tech inside and Zodiac was able to access it and plug everything back in.  It probably wouldn't fly but it's a sweet set-up.  Clown doesn't know exactly why he's here but there's something to Zodiac that got his attention.  Same thing with Marsdale. 

Manslaughter explains how he ended up with Zodiac because the only thing better than a flashback is another flashback inside a flashback.  He ran the bowery up until Osborn took over.  Around that time, Marsdale was attacked by unknown assailants and ended up in a coma.  Zodiac brought him out of it and Mars feels like he owes the man for that.  Let's just pretend that there's no chance that Zodiac put him in the coma to begin with because that's not a possibility, right?

We then cut to our scene from the beginning because this is exactly when Zodiac called up at the beginning of our story and asked about the mole.  Clown wants to know who the inside man is but Marsdale isn't telling.  All will be revealed in time because Zodiac is super awesome.

We'll find out before the Clown.  While flying to work in his car, Norman Osborn is talking about how HAMMER hasn't closed out all of it's security risks yet to someone on his cell phone.  Could be Victoria Hand.  Anyway, since HAMMER was formed out of SHIELD, it still hasn't been able to catalogue all of the SHIELD facilities and close off those potential risks to the national interest.  Before he continues, Ozzy says a condescending remark or two to his driver before they land at Avengers Tower.

Once they land, it's more condescending remarks as we learn that Norman's driver is Dave Cannon, the villain, Whirlwind.  Looks like we've found our mole.

Cannon passes along this conversation to Zodiac and it's time to put a master plan into motion.  Zodiac finds an unsecured SHIELD base and starts hacking into the system.  He's also talking on his cell phone to Death Reaper, who's taking a bath.  She doesn't know what Zodiac's plan is but she knows it's going to be awesome because Zodiac is awesome.  I mean, look at him.  He's certainly no Mary-Sue.

Zodiac is expecting a super-hero response and he's not to be disappointed.  We join Johnny Storm over at the Baxter Building.  He's entertaining guests.  Women.  They're going into secured areas that they probably shouldn't but it's because of this that Johnny intercepts the SHIELD alarm and flies off to investigate. 

Zodiac's finished up his work and destroys the terminal he was working on.  Now, he's just got to wait for his super-hero to arrive.  Human Torch explodes into the building and is expecting a quick fight and to return to his dates.  It's not gonna be an easy fight.  Zodiac has put on some pads and a face shield to protect him from Johnny's flames and procedes to beat the hell out of the Human Torch.

He's also quick with the gay jokes because he's twelve years old.

Zodiac tricks Johnny into a trap that syphons out his energy and he crashes hard when he gets out of it.  Zodiac stands over Johnny Storm as he tells the unconcious super-hero that this is just the beginning of their troubles.  He takes off his mask to reveal...

A pretty crappy slacker haircut.  This guy actually looks twelve.

duu1.jpgDark Avengers/ Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Pencilers: Marc Silvestri w/ Michael Broussard, Eric Basaldua, Tyler Kirkham, & Sheldon Mitchell

In this issue, Simon Trask comes to San Francisco with his Humanity Now! movement to promote Proposition X, a mutant breeding act.  Since San Francisco is the home of every mutant ever (outside of, say, X-Factor), this is just a riot waiting to happen and it only takes a few pages for that to start up.  Cyclops and Emma Frost meet with the mayor and start working on quelling the riots as the whole thing attracts the attention of America's Top Cop, Norman Osborn.  X-Man fights X-Man in the street of San Francisco.  The Dark Avengers and HAMMER intervene and things still don't calm down.  Emma Frost goes to Norman Osborn and finds out about "The Plan."  It's the beginning of the Dark X-Men as Iron Patriot addresses the public with Professor Charles Xavier... while another Professor X is talking to beast in prison.

Simon Trask is the brother of the late Bolivar Trask, creator of the Sentinels.  He's much more anti-mutant that his brother and isn't above getting his hands dirty for what he feels is a worthy cause.  He's brought together a group called Humanity Now! that is around to protect human rights in the face of mutant oppression.  We're still dealing with a mutant population that isn't getting any larger.  They're still suffering from the Decimation of their kinds and the fact that there has only been one mutant birth since that event.  That birth was enough.  It was the catalyst for Messiah Complex and an entire town was destroyed as different mutant and human factions tried to get their hands on the baby.

Trask is using that as his clarion call, expressing his concern than any future mutant births could lead to further disasters.  There's only one solution.  Mutants need to stop breeding.  Hence, Proposition X, legislation that will control mutant breeding.  It's a very obligatory reference to California's Proposition 8 that, last year, banned gay marriage in the state.  To promote Proposition X, Simon and his followers have started a march in Sacremento that is just now reaching San Francisco.  His plan is to hold a demonstration at City Hall.  He's filed the necessary paperwork and everything is perfectly legal.

The big problem is that San Francisco is mutant town.  Cyclops moved the X-Men's base to the city and an open call went out for all current and former mutants to make their home in sunny San Fran.  Humanity Now! is walking into the heart of the mutant community and telling them how to live their lives.  It's destined to end badly.

Simon and his followers first encounter human protesters but Trask tells his followers to just walk on by.  He knows there's going to be a confrontation.  He just wants to pick the right one.  When he and his followers see the mutant protesters, he tells them to get ready and then walks up to face them down.  Hank McCoy speaks for the protesters.  He tells Trask that they'll need to go around.  They can still get to city hall, they just can't go this way.

Emotions are high all around.  Northstar says his piece to Simon and gets called some harsh names from the Humanity Now! crowd.  Trask berates his followers for their hate speech and makes an attempt at calming them down.  It's just gonna get more ugly from here on out.  You might notice that Hellion is in the crown and that he's wearing clothing specifically to get a reaction from the Humanity Now! group.  You may have seen it last during the Riot at Xavier's arc back when Grant Morrison was writing New X-Men.  It was originally an artist's representation of what our future mutant overlords would be wearing back in X-Men #14 (which also introduced the Sentinels).  This is no way to have a peaceful protest. 

Hank tries to calm his side down but Simon has given up the pretense of peace.  He tells his followers that the mutants have completely cut them off.  They're gonna have to fight their way out.  It's time for a riot.  Beast tries in vain to stop it before it's too late but that moment has already come and gone.  The police are called in and are warned that the X-Men are taking part in the riot.  Hank saves Pixie from some Humanity Now! goons and is thought to be participating in the riot.  He's shot by what must be stun guns.

It's mentioned that Simon Trask, after being attacked by Hellion, is sent to St. Francis for medical treatment.  The television stations are putting their own spin on things in both directions and are not being helped by the X-Men's inability to release a freaking press statement.

Cyclops isn't really giving brilliant leadership right here.  He's gathered his mutants and gotten them off the streets, which is a plus.  Still, he's playing everything close to the vest.  He tells everyone to call their parents and then prepare for the explosions.

Cyclops and Emma Frost meet with Mayor Sadie Sinclair down at City Hall.  She's upset that Scott wasn't on top of his mutants but Cyclops counters that he wasn't aware that the mutant protest was going down.  He's in charge of how mutants go about their lives.  If they want to riot in the streets, all Cyke can do is tell them "no."  They can listen or not.  It's not a rock solid defense since it seems that Cyclops didn't even know what was going on.  Maybe he slept in.  That march had been going of for the better part of the week before it finally reached San Fran, though.

Meanwhile, Simon Trask holds a press conference using patriotic terms to talk about what he was doing and how it was right to hold a peaceful assembly.  He's right.  It is.  His peole aren't innocent when it comes to the violence caused, though.  Their own actions in the riot aren't focused on, of course.  Trask says that he will march on city hall as originally intended.

We learn that Norman Osborn has landed in the area and that there are growing rumors that federal intervention is coming San Fran's way.  Then, we gets quick cuts of other people that might be interested in the goings on in San Fran.  Storm is in Wakanda with her recovering husband.  The New Avengers acknowledge that Wolverine is probably going to be involved.  Franklin Richards learns that, because he's a mutant, everyone hates him.  Everyone.  Dr. Doom and a male Loki are happy to get this party started right.  Maybe get this party started quickly.

That night, San Francisco is treated to violence escalating.  A lot.  Mutants are out on the streets to protest the fact that a bunch of outsiders came to their town and told them how to live.  It's starts off peacefully enough but it doesn't last.  There are peole on both sides of the issue that quickly resort to violence.  This time, the X-Men are on scene to try and quell the thing.  It's not gonna be easy.  There are X-Men that want to cause as much damage as the rest are trying to stop.

Cyclops and the Stepford Cuckoos are at the Embarcadero trying to calm things down.  They're facing off against the Toad which is as short a battle as it usually is.  You'd think people would appreciate it when you take down an actual evil mutant but this is a riot.  Things don't make sense.  Cyclops is hit from behind by a brick to the head.  The Cuckoos aren't able to keep everyone back but there are also police in the area to arrest dudes throwing bricks.  A SWAT team member checks on Cyke but the leader of the X-Men brushes him away.  He's bloodied his nose up a bit but there's a riot going on and he has no time to sit it out.

The police just can't keep this thing under control even with X-Men help.  It's time for some Avengers action.

Osborn is disappointed that Cyclops can't keep his people in line but that just means that the mutant situation is now in his hands.  Man, I wouldn't want to be a mutant.  Ozzy assigns his Avengers to HAMMER squads.  There won't be any killing.  They just need to stop the damn riots.  Sentry isn't hitting this violence-fest just yet.  Maybe if things really get out of control.

The first Avenger we see on the streets is Ms. Marvel.  She quickly blasts some rioters down at the Castro.  The X-Men who've been trying to contain the violence don't exactly know what to make of this.  No one's told them anything about the Avengers hitting the streets.  Ms. Marvel assures everyone that she's there to help before continuing to blast rioters.

In another part of the riot, Colossus has just taken down Rockslide, one of the X-Men actively taking part in rioting.  He's asking a few other X-Men about how everything is going elsewhere when he senses something in the area.  It's Venom.  All he sees is the end of a battle and decides Colossus needs to be arrested.  There are few times you'll ever see Colossus fight Venom.  Enjoy this moment.

Back at the Embarcadero, Cyclops and the Cuckoos have left only to have more protesters swarm the area.  The police try to hold them off from entering the area (as it's private property) but that's not going to stop people who are already ready to rumble.  You want to know what's a better motivation?  Hawkeye.  No one wants to be hit with an arrow.  He tells everyone to leave and the rioters take a look at the situation and scamper off.  Hawkeye's not too happy about this.  He really wants to kill something.

A few mutants are waiting around Telegraph Hill for something to happen but it's pretty quiet there now.  Everyone's going to City Hall.  Cyclops rides in on a motorcycle to check on things and learns that the action's happening at City Hall and that no one has seen Emma Frost the entire time.  Cyclops gathers up this squad and tells them to head to the action at City Hall.

Mayor Sinclair is on the phone with Norman Osborn trying to tell him that she and her city don't need the iron fist of the law.  The San Francisco Police Department would have had everything in hand.  Osborn tells her that he's got a more important meeting to get to and that he's sending someone over to keep the peace.  That someone is Ares, the god of war.

He lands in the street and starts drawing lines in the concrete.  There will be no violence at city hall tonight.  Cyclops looks on the situation from above and can only think of one thing.  Some one will eventually need to kick the crap out of that guy.

Norman Osborn's other meeting was with fellow Cabal member, Emma Frost.  Norm tells Emma that Scott's time as leader of all mutants is done with.  It's time to look for the future.  He hands her a file detailing Norman's plan for the future of mutantkind.  Frost is a bit confused by this but Norman explains it out.  He needs a team of X-Men in his pocket and a mutant leader who can actually lead.  It's all in the file.  Emma then spots a black costume that looks just her size.  She smiles and thinks of what is to come.

Things start happening incredibly fast.  Norman holds a press conference in his Iron Patriot gear and lets everyone know that he's got a handle on the situation but he's also looking to bring in Scott Summers for questioning.  In another area, Scott and the Cuckoos notice a HAMMER drop happening and rush to the area where Scott is quickly arrested and the Cuckoos are pushed away.  In prison, we catch up with Beast, who has a psionic visitor talking to him from the other side of his cell.

At the press conference, Iron Patriot introduces Professor Charles Xavier to the crowd.  The Professor is in a wheel chair and denounces the actions of Cyclops and asks for him to turn himself in.  In another scene, Cyclops breaks out of HAMMER custody and makes a run for his bike.  Still elsewhere, Emma Frost has put on her Black Queen outfit.  At the prison, we learn that the psi-talent talking to Beast is, in fact, a captured Charles Xavier.  Someone's taking away his powers.

ff14.jpgThe Fantastic Four #14
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby

In this issue, the Fantastic Four land to earth after a successful trip to the moon and deal with the paparazzi that such an event might bring, the Puppet Master is found alive and well and plotting revenge against the Four, Namor ends up in Puppet Master's power and kidnaps Sue, the FF and Alicia Master rush to the rescue, fights all around, the Puppet Master is defeated by a giant octopus, Namor is free of any bad influence, and everything is back to normal!

The Fantastic Four landed on the moon last issue and ended up fighting it out with the Red Ghost and his Super-Primates.  This issue, they're going home.  This issue was released in 1963 so it was well before people had actually landed on the moon.  It's kind of cool that the FF's craft is more in common with the Space Shuttle than the rockets of the day but that's probably more to do with expediency than anything else.  They had to get the FF right to the press so that meant being able to land in a populated area.

People swarm the Four.  They're the talk of the world having successfully completed a trip from the moon.  The FF doesn't really love being in the spotlight.  Not even Johnny.  Sure, they love some attention but, mostly, they just want to get home and rest after their trip.  That's not gonna happen right away.  Reed is attacked by opposing fan clubs, Thing declines a wrestling match by settling things in the here and now, and Sue has to deal with people who want to sign her to various contracts.  Only Johnny is able to fly above the crowds.  He creates a whirlwind that picks up the FF (and only the FF because it's a very smart whirlwind) and deposits them on the roof of the Baxter Building.

Everyone heads downstairs and starts to relax after their trip.  Well, everyone except Sue.  She needs to clean that house.  A woman's work is never done.

Later on, work goes on like usual.  Reed sends his finding to NASA and then walks out to see Sue searching the oceans for Namor.  The two weren't engaged at the time and, while we all know where they end up, there was some serious consideration to a Sue/Namor situation.  Reed tells Sue that he hopes that she finds Namor so that what needs to be settled between them is settled.  Reed walks off thinking to himself how powerful and smart he is but how he still can't win the heart of the girl he loves.  Sue searches a little longer before realizing just how vast the oceans are and giving up.

Meanwhile, Puppet Master checks out of a sanitorium with a clean bill of sanity... somehow.  Puppet Master came here only to escape the heat of capture.  He leaves and starts thinking on a revenge plan against the Fantastic Four right out of the gate.  He thinks about what criminal he could take control of in order to destroy the FF.  The problem is, most everyone has been defeated by the Four and Doom, who's fought the FF to a standstill, is gone.  Only Namor will fit his needs.

Namor is more interested in finding his lost kingdom and scours the ocean floors looking for some sign of their passing.

Like everyone else, he's easy pickings for the Puppet Master's form of mind control.  The Sub-Mariner falls and then begins PM's master plan.  First, he contacts Sue and tells her to meet him.  Sue knows that the FF will try and stop her or at least follow her and prevent her kidnapping (which happened nearly every other issue in the beginning) so she goes invisible and runs to the docks to meet Namor.  Namor meets her with a mind controlling fish because mind control is sort of contagious.  That same fish encases Sue in a bubble of air and everyone heads under the sea to wait for further instructions.

The Puppet Master has made puppets of the Four but decides tht controlling everyone would make victory... possible.  There's no room for that in a super-villain's plan.  He'll only control Namor.

Namor sends an image of him into the Baxter Building by using a fish or something.  Thing and Torch attack him before everyone realizes that it's a hologram.  Namor challenges everyone to a fight, telling them that he's already kidnapped Sue.  Torch does a quick check of the building to find that his sister is, indeed, out.  It must be true!  Namor's form disappears and the FF get ready to bash some fish heads.

While Puppet Master takes a sub down to watch the upcoming battle, Reed has everyone tie up any loose ends before they go and confront Namor.  Thing uses the time to visit his girlfriend, Alicia Masters.  Alicia is the niece of Puppet Master which means that, when she won't let Thing leave without her, she probably plays sp,e role in the future fight.  Reed isn't at all surprised that Ben brought his girl along with him and does nothing to try and dissuade her.

Getting to Namor is a challenge.  Namor sends some crazy fish to attack them on the way down which they spend time working to get away from.  Eventually, they're trapped inside a giant clam and brought directly to the Sub-Mariner.  Namor claims immediate victory (no backsies!) but, since he hasn't attempted to actually shackle his foes, he's just claiming a fight.  He shows everyone the captured Sue Storm.  Namor is keeping her in a glass globe that, if cracked, will leave her exposed to the incredible pressures of the sea bottom.  Also: drowning.  Sue doesn't have her forcefield powers yet which is why she's usually seen as a kidnapping victim.

Namor tells the Four that he will fight them one at a time.  Torch starts things off but is quickly depowered by Namor's undersea flame-eater (another undersea creature that looks like pom-poms on a dumbell bar).  Before Namor can end the fight permanently, Thing tags in.  There are more fishy weapons put to use.  Thing is brought low after being covered by super fungus from under the sea!  He waits for it to grow rock hard before breaking loose.  In the meantime, Reed takes his shot at the issue's big bad by making his body into a huge net and mocking Namor with his fisherman skill. 

While Namor is occupied, Thing runs to Sue's rescue.  He defeats a giant octopus that is guarding her glass prison by throwing the sea monster straight up in the air and then opens it up and quickly gets Sue to the safety of Namor's under sea palace.  I guess the crushing depths of the ocean floor aren't all that crushing at this time. 

Puppet Master is pissed off that his plan is not going his way.  The Four are back together and Reed has released his hold on Namor.  Puppet Master orders Namor to kill everyone.  While Namor grabs a deadly plant that shoots out deadly gasses, Alicia Masters sense the work of the Puppet Master.  Namor isn't really a killer at heart and also doesn't want to hurt Sue.  He fights Puppet Master's control but is still forced to fire his plant gun.

The Fantastic Four do not fall.  While Namor was struggling for control, the Fantastic Four placed flexible oxygen packets over their heads.  They were completely safe the whole time.  The fight nearly begins anew but Sue is a sucker for a fishy face and stands between her family and Namor.  See, even after being kidnapped, she still loves this schmuck.  There would be problems in her future if this was real life.

Just then, the giant octopus that Thing threw up in the air smashes into the top of Namor's palace.  The octopus sees Puppet Master's little sub and decides to attack it.  Puppet Master tries to make a puppet of the octopus but, when finished, he still has no control over the beast.  PM's sub is crushed but he'll turn up later anyway.  His defeat, however, has the advantage of freeing Namor from any mind control influence.  Meanwhile, Torch has welded up the top of Namor's palace to prevent any drownings.

Namor wakes from his puppet status with no real idea what's going on.  He doesn't have any idea why he's surrounded by the Fantastic Four but is hopeful that it is because Sue has come down here to join him.  Sue turns him down and Namor realizes that he has better things to do.  He still has to locate his missing subjects and rule over them like a vengeful sea god.  The Four realize that there's no battle to continue here and board their sub to head back to the surface.  They aren't certain if Puppet Master was involved but all's well that ends well, anyway.

And that was the biggest week of comics I'll ever do.  I swear!

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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