Friday, May 25, 2018 • Midnight Edition • "Where keepin' it real goes wrong."

Super Reads War of Kings and Dark Reign 66

Written by SuperginraiX on Tuesday, December 08 2009 and posted in Features
badguy66.jpgHoly crap.  This was a huge week.

Today, we check out Nova #38, Guardians of the Galaxy #17, DArk X-Men: The Beginning #3, Dark Avengers #8, The New Avengers #56, Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #3, Dark Wolverine #77, Ms. Marvel #44, Secret Warriors #7, Dark Reign: Elektra #5, Dark Reign: Skrull Kill Krew #4 and Blast to the Past with The Avengers #115.  Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!

This woulda been an easy week, except I did the colors on that nice pretty banner you can see on the forums.  Check it out if you haven't already.  It's pretty.

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

Let's begin the wrap up for the War of Kings.

n28.jpgNova #28
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Andrea DiVito

Last issue, Richard and two other Nova Corps members, Irani and Morrow, headed straight into the embattled Ceded Territories on a mission to find and extract Richard's brother and fellow Corps member, Robert. They met up and had a small tussle with King Blastaar of the Negative Zone before the new king gave them fifteen minutes to fly in, gather up their lost Corpsman, and get outta there. Blastaar also allowed Strontian's Dark Imperials the same time limit. Robert wound up arresting Strontian last issue but that arrest quickly slips away as his gravimetric force beam started weakening. By issue's end, Strontian had broken free and, while Robert's (and Lord Ravenous') fate was left up in the air, we're pretty sure Richard's going to kick Strontian's ass.

In this issue, Richard starts batting Strontian around the remains of Lord Ravenous' capital building while Irani and Morrow see to Robert and Ravenous.  Both are still alive and Richard loses his advantage learning that fact.  Strontian's Dark Imperials show up to make this fight much more difficult.  Richard uses a psionic distrupter (built into his helmet) to temporarily depower Strontain before knocking her out.  His Centurions do their best to take out the rest of the Dark Imperials while Richard assists in taking down the Symbiote and retrieving the Starjammer, Raza, from it's clutches.  Nova Prime has a personal conference with King Blastaar and gets the warlord to agree to let the Novas leave with their prisoners.  Back on Nu-Xandar, Richard agrees to keep on many of the current Nova Centurions as Probationers and to have them help rebuild the Corps.  Quasar takes off for parts unknown.  Richard looks in on his brother, offering him a permanent place in the Nova Corps.  Finally, a Nova Corps Starship flies out of the Fault.

You don't mess with someone's brother.  It just isn't done and you can expect some trouble if it you do.  Now, if you've just potentially killed the brother of the current Nova Prime, Richard Rider, you are probably going to hurt badly when the throwdown begins.  This is the situation Strontian finds herself in as this issue starts up.

While Richard gets some payback, his Centurion back-up (Morrow and Irani) checks on his brother and current ruler of the Ceded Territories, Lord Ravenous.  Ravenous is already staggering to his feet.  Robert (that would be Richard's brother) isn't walking away from this but he IS still alive.  This means Strontian isn't exactly the best assassin in the universe.  She failed to kill Lord Ravenous and complete her mission of "Boom, Headshot," which is basically the Shi'ar strategy of killing the leader of any civilization they intend to conquer. Robert is another matter altogether considering the Nova held her at bay for a good portion of the last issue and that something like that should have pissed her off to the point that, upon freeing herself, the Nova should have been killed almost immediately.  Maybe she didn't have time to kill them dead?  That would make sense if she wasn't Strontian and super-duper powerful.

Which, y'know, makes Nova Prime's assault on her a bit one-sided once she gets bored with being hit. To make matters even MORE fun, her team, the Praetorians (which I lovingly call the Dark Imperials), show up to even the odds.  The Dark Imperials are made up of one Uncreated (anti-religious freaks), Pn'zo (an android bounty hunter), and Zzxz (a symbiote that has overtaken Raza Longknife of the Starjammers).  They're bad news. 

Let's start with the leaders and work our way down.  This isn't Richard's first rodeo.  He uses his Novapedia to look up the Strontians and finds their strengths and weaknesses.  Strontian's fun is almost over.  She pulls in Nova Prime very close, allowing Richard to headbutt her with the psionic dampener located in his helmet.  That temporarily takes away her power set and sets her up for a full gravimetric takedown by Nova Prime.

Morrow throws the Uncreated's spine-quills back at it, taking one Dark Imperial out of the fight.  Irani shorts Pn'zo out with his own electified coils.  That's two.  Unfortunately, Irani is surprised by a sudden attack from Zzxz.  Nova Prime comes in with the save, and the two Novas use their gravimetric beams to split symbiote and host to the point where both are knocked unconscious.  Richard makes plans to separate Raza from the symbiote and return the Starjammer back to his people.

So, mission accomplished, right?


While the Nova Corps was making good on their search and rescue, King Blastaar and his Negative Zone Army was making good on conquering the city.  Blastaar's not going to make it easy for the Novas to leave with their prisoners.  Up until very recently, the King was allied to the Shi'ar, conquering the Ceded Territories to help that alliance (and Blastaar likes to conquer people).  With the Shi'ar surrendering to the Kree, Blastaar has decided to continue on his own and take the entire Ceded Territories for himself.  Having Lord Ravenous and the Dark Imperials as potential bargaining chips is an opportunity he just can't pass up.

Richard requests a private audience with the King.  Flying in close, Blastaar is expecting grovelling and maybe a little snivelling.  He doesn't know Nova Prime as well as he might think.  Richard tells Blastaar that, in order to be a respectable king, Blastaar should recognize Nova Corps' authority and respect Galactic Law.  If that isn't enough, he reminds the Negative Zone King what happened last time someone threatened him holding the Cosmic Rod.  That was Annihilus.  Richard turned him inside out.

Blastaar sees Richard's point, but due to his earlier posturing he believes his hands are tied. Richard decides to make things easy on the poor conquering king.  He turns up his volume, makes a bow, and congratulates the King on his honor and mercy.  Blastaar follows the Nova Prime's lead and allows the Novas to leave with their prisoners.  This isn't over, though.  This will lead to trouble in the future.  Guaranteed.

After a hasty return to Nu-Xandar, Richard learns about the Fault created over in War of Kings #6.  He also learns that the War of Kings is over and that the Kree have pulled a victory, though the Universe is left hurting.  With this knowledge in hand, Richard needs to figure out what he's gonna do with the Nova Corps.

The previous version of the Worldmind created the current Nova Corps while Richard was sleeping, and went mad in the process.  It ended up controlling everyone's thoughts and rushing them through training prematurely.  This has proven fatal to many Novas during this war.  Hundreds died when they didn't have to.  Because of that, Richard is sending a good number of Novas home.  Those that are willing are allowed to stay, but they will no longer be Centurions.  They'll have to start out as Probationers and work their way back up through the ranks.  The assembled Novas are happy that they're allowed to form the core of a brand new Nova Corps.

And now it's time for a good bye.  Wendel Vaughn came back to life during Secret Invasion, regained the Quantum Bands during War of Kings, and helped Richard regain control of the Nova Corps soon after the War began.  He's not sure what he's going to do next but he knows the answer is out there in the universe and not on Nu-Xandar.  Richard says his good-byes and watches his friend fly off.

Nu-Xandar is a problem all it's own.  The current Nu-Xandar is made from the unconscious form of Ego the Living Planet.  Ego's not staying unconscious as long as they thought he would.  It's not an immediate issue but it looks like Ego's not going to be a permanent home.

And now, it's time for Richard to deal with his brother.  Robert is awake, and in one of those Bacta Tanks that are so popular for healing these days.  At least Robbie has the courtesy to mention the fact that he's in a Bacta Tank from Empire Strikes Back.  Richard gives his brother some compliments about how he handled himself out in the combat zone.  Robbie believes that these compliments are leading up to his getting fired from the Corps.  Man, if only it were that simple.  Richard's worried about his brother getting killed just like he almost did last issue.  However, Robbie also showed exactly what he can offer and proved himself out there.  That means they have only one choice.

They've got to find out a way to convince their mom and dad to let Robbie stay on.

Oh, yeah, that Fault thing.  It's high time for the Nova Corps to check on that.  Nu-Xandar stargates into Kree-Shi'ar Frontier territory and gets an eyeful.  The Fault is a couple parsecs across, and that means it fills the sky.  Not only that, there's a Xandarian distress call emerging from it.

It's coming from an old Nova Corps Starship, which is coming out of the Fault!  It just never ends for the Nova Corps.

gotg17.jpgGuardians of the Galaxy #17
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Brad Walker

Last issue, we caught up with Star-Lord and company as they arrived one thousand years into the future with Starhawk. They got into a battle with the future Guardians of the Galaxy (the ones we’d recognize as the “original” team) until they learned that they're floating around at the end of all things in a remnant of the planet Earth. Before they can be sent back and make everything right, the Badoon attacked and destroyed the Guardian’s headquarters (and their time machine). That forced the two Guardian teams to join together in a crazy scheme to send a message to the past by attacking the Badoon’s base of operations: the Celestial Wall. After the message had been sent to warn Adam Warlock in the past, the future Guardians set off a bomb destroying the Celestial Wall, ending everything.

In this issue, we catch up to the past Guardians as they recieve the message from the future through the severed head of the Celestial that makes up their base.  They head on out to Attilan (flying capital of the Inhumans) to find that the warning has been recieved too late.  The Fault has formed and it's spreading.  While the others fight off some tentacles coming out of the Fault, Adam Warlock tries to stop the thing from expanding by working his magic with the help of a fleet of Templeships from the Universal Church of Truth.  Adam manages to halt the Fault's expansion by hooking the present up with a stable future- before he's stabbed through the heart by Martyr.  This leads to a battle between Phylla and Gamora, where Martyr is also killed.  Finally, we learn that Adam Warlock isn't dead.  He's just turned fully into the Magus.  He kills Gamora, revelling in his victory.

At the end of last issue, Cosmo sent a message back to the present via a Celestial network.  This issue, that message is picked up by the team still in the present who are all back at Knowhere (the severed head of a Celestial that serves as their base on the edge of time and space).  Anyone who was also reading War of Kings (or Super Reads) knows that this warning doesn't make it in time, which is odd since it could have gotten there at, literally, ANY TIME.  Still, let's just pretend that even if it had gotten here with ample time to spare, the Guardians still wouldn't have been able to stop the T-Bomb from going off over in WoK #6 and they'd still have to deal with the expanding Fault formed from it's sonic explosion.

Because that's what they're going to have to do now.

So, after authenticating that future message using their current telepath, Moondragon, it's off to Attilan to see what they can do to stop the Fault from growing any bigger.  Adam Warlock and Gamora head off on their own to secure some sort of "power source" in order to turn this into a win.

While they do that, we're heading to Attilan.  Attilan is the capital city of the Inhumans. It's also airborn.  Spaceborn.  Whatever.  It's flying in space and filled with Inhumans.  That expanding Fault is causing them trouble because it's gaining on them and their city is already flying away at top speed.  The Guardians arrive and get to play the self-righteous role just for this occasion.  Heck, just a few issues ago, they were telling the Inhumans about just this sort of danger.  Just to drive the point way past home and into annoying territory, Martyr is here to pull out her sword and be a complete douche.  It's kind of what she does. 

Since everyone is a moment away from attacking each other when they should be more concerned about the Fault expanding behind them, Maximus (yes, the crazy one) gets everyone's attention and tells them just the kind of mess they're in.  The Fault isn't only expanding behind them.  It's reaching out to grab Attilan with creepy tentacles.  Space rape is imminent.

Not only is it reaching out to touch an entire city, it's also sporing off fully formed monsters that do their own bit of attacking.  Medusa calls in all city defenses to halt this attack but, even so, that's simply a delaying effort.  The Fault is still growing and will eventually consume them.

Most of the Guardians run off to help with the defenses. Rocket Raccoon and Groot hang back to help Crystal and Maximus "get a fifty-zillion ton interdimensional space-squid to let go of a self-propelled interstellar city."  Yes.  It's that kind of comic. 

You know who the hero of this situation is?  Groot.  Even though all he says is "I AM GROOT"  this saying is rife with logical thought just waiting for Maximus to translate.  It turns out Groot is well versed in science and stuff.  With his help, Maximus is able to pull a Star Trek maneuver and create a Relativistic Feedback Loop.  This sends shockwaves all over the city that only seems to effect the squid spore monsters.  They disintegrate in front of the defenders and the tentacles explode around the city.  Attilan is free once more.

Well, that's one problem solved but there's loads more to go around.  Attilan's forward momentum was seriously cut when the tentacles grabbed the city.  In no time at all, the whole thing will fall into the Fault.

Adam Warlock and Gamora show up at said Fault with the power source they needed: a fleet of Templeships from the Universal Church of Truth.  These guys are pushy and annoying, so Martyr takes flight to see what's going on.  She lands on a Templeship to find Adam deep in a spell.

So, here's the problem.  The Fault is expanding because the present has been torn away from the future.  What Adam Warlock is trying to do is graft on an unused future so that the Fault growth is halted. The Templeships are here to provide the energy source, as their faith engines power up the spell and kill the faithful in the process.  It's evil work, but that Fault DOES need to be closed.

So what future are we getting?  I'll give you three guesses.

Yeah, there's a reason Warlock has been walking around with Magus face lately.

Adam works his magic and the Fault is stopped in it's tracks.  It's still frickin' huge, but at least it won't keep growing and consume the entirety of reality.  Adam tells everyone on Attilan (through Rocket Raccoon) that the present danger has passed but they still have a huge interdimensional gate open right in front of them.  There's gonna be some trouble coming from it in the future.  Rocket says those are problems that'll have to be dealt with but, for now, let's take a win.  Warlock stopped the expansion and saved the Universe.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Before Adam Warlock can go celebrate with a beer and party, Martyr stabs him through the chest with her evil death sword.  Turns out that the deal Phylla made with Oblivion for the life of Moondragon was that she needed to kill the Avatar of Life.  She saw Warlock saving all reality and decided you can't get more avatar-like than that.  The Templeship Cardinals are still too stunned to react, which means the next fight is between Martyr and Gamora. 

Phyla is good.  Gamora is better.  She disarms Martyr, and plunges her sword through her enemy's chest.  Martyr is dead.

With that dirty business done, Gamora rushes to the fallen body of Warlock.  She tries to keep him alive but it turns out that isn't a problem.  Adam has returned to his Magus form.  That'll happen when you connect realities with ones where you turn totally evil.  Gamora has only half a page to figure out that Adam saved reality by cursing himself to his Magus destiny.  After that, Magus snaps her neck and drops her off the side of the Templeship.

With the Fault behind him and the Cardinals worshipping before him, Magus revels in his victory.  Guardians of the Galaxy is gonna be messy for a while.

dxmtb3.jpgDark X-Men: The Beginning #3
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Leonard Kirk

In DA/UXM: Utopia, Simon Trask came 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 (except for, say, X-Factor), this was just a riot waiting to happen and it only took a few pages for that to start up. Cyclops and Emma Frost met with the mayor and started to work on quelling the riots as the whole thing attracts the attention of America's Top Cop, Norman Osborn. X-Man fought X-Man in the streets of San Francisco. The Dark Avengers and HAMMER intervened and things still didn't calm down. Emma Frost went to Norman Osborn and found out about "The Plan." It was the beginning of the Dark X-Men as Iron Patriot addressed the public with Professor Charles Xavier... while another Professor X talked to the previously captured Beast in prison.

In Uncanny X-Men #513, Cyclops ran away from the authorities, the Dark Avengers help clean the streets of San Francisco, Beast chatted it up with the real Xavier before being trotted out to the Omega Machine which was being run by Dark Beast from the Age of Apocalypse, Norman Osborn introduced Emma to the Dark X-Men, we all learned that Dark Xavier was Mystique, Namor joined Emma's Dark X-Men team, Simon Trask began infecting people with a techno-organic virus, Cyclops ordered his X-Men to watch a lot of TV, Hellion led a lot of people who should know better (and some who don't) into a riot/demonstration at Union Square, and the Dark X-Men got to some arresting.

Now, it's time to meet a few of the Dark X-Men and learn more about them and why they joined this particular team.

In this story, Emma Frost gets a good look at the inside of Namor's mind and find the answer to why Namor is helping her out... y'know... besides the fact that he feels honor-bound to do so after their arrangement in Uncanny X-Men Annual #2.  While looking around his mind, Emma finds a bunch of doors closed to her (one's labeled "SUE") but still doesn't find her answers.  Emma then learns that Namor doesn't think much of mutants, and she considers that maybe Namor is just here to get in her pants.  Namor takes the Black Queen's hand to swim to where they will find the answer to her question.  Namor doesn't know what it is but he enters to find out.  What they both find is that the answer is "because I'm a mutant and I sort of love myself."  Namor flirts with Emma before they both leave to go back to reality.

Emma's fishing around the inside of Namor's head.  What she finds is the entire city of Atlantis.  It's an interesting landscape for a mind.  It's also full of mad fish.

Now, you don't go into the mind of the Sub-Mariner unless you're invited.  He has a will powerful enough to keep you out.  He'll never fall for a Jedi mind trick, either.  He invited Emma in to find the answer to a specific question: why did he join the Dark X-Men?  He's just not so happy that she's rushing off exploring.  She's like a kid in a candy shop: checking out every little thing.

Her first stop is a couple doors that conceal Namor's strategies about dealing with the surface.  There's visible doors labeled "Attack" and "Negotiate" while Emma mentions one off-panel that relates to legal action.  We also have one that is labeled "SUE" where all manner of lewd noises are emanating.  For a telepath of Emma's calibur, she's amazed that she can't enter any of these doors.  That's part of Namor's will.  You don't just have free reign of the facilities of his faculties.  Emma does notice a door labeled "Namora" which Namor refuses to comment on.

Namor doesn't consciously know why he's joined up with Emma's X-Men.  Now, he's got a good reason.  He made a deal to protect Emma and her people in Uncanny X-Men Annual #2.  That should be reason enough.  Still, this story implies that there's more to it than that.  He turns the question around and asks Emma why she wanted him here.  Emma replies that she was working with very bad people and wanted someone trustworthy and honorable by her side as she roamed this den of thieves and robbers.  

Unfortunately, she uses the word "friend" which just sets Namor off.  He doesn't want to be "just friends."  He's looking for a little nookie.  He's also seen some of Emma's friends: these "mutants" of hers.  He's got very specific opinions of these mutants and Emma soon gets a front row seat to what those are.

Half of the Atlantis of the mind is covered with dirty, stinking mutants.  They have the distinct bearing of zombies.  They also look stupid.  That's how Namor sees the mutant people.  Emma is not exactly positively moved by that.  She talks down to the Prince and tells him all she's done in the course of Utopia.  She's betrayed Cyclops and joined some bad company with Namor as her only ally.  He thinks of her cause in stupid, zombie terms.  It's not a positive beginning to a beautiful relationship.


Emma fears that the only reason Namor is here is because he's hot for super-powered blondes.  She turns to diamond form even though, in the real world, that would sever her link to her mental powers.  Her words are enough to get Namor to grab her hand and swim off to find the actual answer to her question.

They reach a cave containing the secret to why Namor would ever join Emma and her X-Men.  Like I said, even Namor doesn't know the answer but now he's curious.  He leads the way as the two enter the cave and enlightenment.

Inside, they see an impossible number of pictures of the Sub-Mariner.  This is because Namor is an egotistical prick.  The pictures encompass the entirety of his life experiences.  In one corner of the cave, a new facet to Namor's personality is emerging as a picture of him and the Dark X-Men is forming.  Emma theorizes that his feelings about mutants is actually Namor's uncertainty about being one himself.  As an X-Men, he is able to explore that part of himself.

Namor realizes that Emma pushed him into finding out the answer to why he was wearing an X-Men uniform by himself.  As he looks at Emma's diamond form and sees the various Namor images reflected off her skin, he is more attracted to her than he's ever been.  Seems he's more into visions of himself than blondes.  Emma is the one that breaks this line of thought, switching back to flesh and leading them out.  Yeah, she's still in love with her man.

Emma switches subjects on the way back out, asking Namor about that Namora door one more time.  Namor plays coy.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jock

In this story, Norman Osborn enters a bar in the middle of nowhere that Wolverine apparently entered after killing a bunch of HAMMER Agents.  Inside, Norman lets "Logan" know that he's in on the mutant's little secret.  Wolverine quickly turns into Spider-Man which sets off all of Osborn's buttons at once.  After the threats subside, Spidey switches to base form: Mystique.  The two villains trade stories for a page or two before Norman gives her his ultimatum.  Mystique's hostages are no longer all that threatened now that she's looking less like Wolverine and more like a chick.  They get a lesson in misjudging their foes as Norman enjoys his drink.  Norman has offered her Wolverine but Raven doesn't believe for a second he'll be able to deliver until he mentions that he has Daken working with him.  That's enough to seal the deal.  They leave the bar to see it surrounded by HAMMER Agents but not enough to phase Mystique.

Details!  Norman gets a sit-rep from one of his Agents to start things off.  HAMMER, responding to a local distress call, was attacked by Wolverine and slaughtered.  Logan holed up in a nearby bar and took hostages.  Norman decides to enter that bar all by himself.  The HAMMER Agent questions that decision but Osborn lets him know that the former Green Goblin isn't a helpless HAMMER Agent.  Ozzy's a threat all his own.

Inside the bar is Wolverine and a bunch of cowering biker hostages.  Norman walks up to Logan and lets him know that he isn't fooling the Director of HAMMER.  Osborn knows that this isn't the real Wolverine.  Logan switches faces to look like Spider-Man and the rest of us catch up to what this is all about.  This is Mystique.

Norman hates Spider-Man more than anything else ever.  There are threats thrown around the room until Mystique switches to her regular form.  It's time for Norman to wheel and deal.  He brings up the fact that Wolverine left Mystique for dead in the middle of the desert and asks how she escaped the fate of dying, but he doesn't really care in the least.  This is just small talk for America's Top Cop.  He grabs a bottle of Scotch and pours himself a drink.

What he's actually curious about is how Mystique found herself in this particular situation: trapped in a bar surrounded by HAMMER Agents.  We get a wordless flashback (every story needs one) where Mystique causes all sorts of trouble and is chased around by police cars after her bloody mischief.

Her actual answer is boredom.

Norman offers Mystique a place on his new team of X-Men.  In exchange, he'll give the shapeshifter Wolverine's head on a platter.  Mystique doesn't think that'll ever happen and, honestly, we all believe her.  Logan ain't dying any time soon.  Not unless you're reading X-Men Forever and who would do that?

She has more pressing concerns.  Since she switched back to her actual female form, those cowering biker hostages have been less cowering.  This isn't Wolverine!  It's just a girl!  Mystique teaches them that they don't just need to be afraid of Wolverine.  There's also the blue shapeshifting mutant with the little skull on her forehead.  While Mystique kicks @$$, Norman enjoys his Scotch.

That bit of messiness done, Norman repeats his offer.  Mystique refuses it, believing that Logan is out of Osborn's reach.  She's about to leave with a shotgun in her hand when Norman mentions that Logan's son, Daken, works for him.  He was hoping to introduce the two to each other.  The shapeshifter changes her mind.

Over in Utopia, Mystique has some device in her head that keeps her in line.  Right here, she's calling the shots and telling Ozzy that she isn't owned by him and won't be sleeping with the Iron Patriot any time soon.  Norman tells her it's the furthest thing from his mind and that details of her assignment will be divvied out in the car.  I'm betting that device is implanted soon after they walk off.

The two exit the bar together.  The building is surrounded by HAMMER Agents but this doesn't even phase Mystique.  She looks at all those guns pointed her way and tells Ozzy that it wouldn't have been enough to stop her.

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Penciler: Paul Davidson

In this story, Jeanne-Marie Beaubier visits her psychiatrist only to get a thalamizer put on her head, and reverted to her second personality.  This is the one that Norman wants to speak to about a position on the X-Men.  He hands her a new uniform and starts his speech, only to have Aurora run off on him to the parking lot where she's already made short work of her psychiatrist.  Norman decides the next meeting should take place on his helicarrier.  She's a little all over the place, but once she's heard Norman's offer she decidedly turns it down because, well, Norman's more crazy than she is.  Norman switches to plan "B" which is to set the thalamizer to "pain."  Aurora runs through a number of different personalities before getting to the masochistic one that removes the thalamizer despite the pain involved and puts it on Norman's head.  This makes Osborn go nuts and gives Jeanne-Marie time to switch off the pain setting, compose herself, and leave.

Not everyone recruited into the Dark X-Men joined the team.  Norman's record isn't perfect.  One potential teammember who declined the offer and lived is Jeanne-Marie Beaubier.  She's the former Alpha Flight member known as Aurora and she's more insane than any super hero has any right to be.  Because of this, it makes sense that we begin at a psychiatrist.

Jeanne-Marie is in the middle of a session where she's talking about all the progress she's made in recent months.  It's almost like she's all better but, well, it's an ongoing process that's about to take a turn for the worse.  Her psychiatrist wants to run a test to check her sanity levels or something and puts a techy crown on her head that shorts her out for a moment or two.

The psychiatrist leaves the room as Norman Osborn hands him an envelope full of money and enters. 

Norman tells Aurora that what she has on her head is called a thalamizer and what it is normally used for is blocking consciousness.  This usually drops people to the ground but, for crazy people, it just allows another personality to take over.  In this case, it's one of Aurora's crazier ones.  She notices the costume Norman has laid out for her, gets dressed in a flash, and leaves a note for Norman to meet her in the parking lot.

Once Osborn gets there, he finds that Aurora has already beaten the crap out of the psychiatrist that turned her over for an envelope of money.  She's also gone through Ozzy's pockets and removed his weapon.  She knows why Osborn wants her but doesn't see why she should join.

They adjourn to the HAMMER Helicarrier where Aurora zips around the ship and talks a mile a minute, rarely giving Osborn a moment to get a word in.  Finally, Norman gets frustrated and demands he be heard.  He lays down his offer to join his X-Men and maybe her brother won't be getting all the glory anymore.  If you're wondering, Aurora's brother is Northstar.  He gets press as the gay X-Man.  He's also really fast and can fly.

Aurora still isn't convinced on the X-Men thing and, more to the point, isn't convinced working for Norman is a good idea.  She can spot crazy a mile away and Norman can be seen from space.  So, she's thankful that this thalamizer thing has let her out to play but isn't ready to join up with a madman.

The question is: does she have a choice?  That thalamizer is multi-functional and one of it's other properties is to inflict pain on whatever personality is currently inhabiting Aurora's body.  Removing the thalamizer wouldn't get rid of the pain one bit.  In fact, it would probably increase it exponentially.  Norman believes that this is his way of taming the savage Aurora but he's underestimated his foe.

Aurora starts cycling through different personalities and takes out the HAMMER escort that just came to collect her.  It takes the thalamizer a few moments to adjust to the new personality and start the pain cycle over again so Aurora keeps switching it up. 

Eventually, Norman gets in a good left hook that downs Jeanne-Marie while the thalamizer adjusts to her current state of mind and brings the pain.  Osborn pulls a gun out of his desk and holds it to her head.  At this point, Aurora has switched to her eighth personality, who just so happens to be reckless and masochistic.   She knocks the gun out of Norman's hand, takes off the thalamizer despite the incredible pain, and puts it on Norman's head.

While Norman goes through Green Goblin's greatest hits, Aurora turns off the pain inflictors to the thalamizer.  She gets dressed in her civies and turns Norman down one more time.  She seems back into her original personality but, this time, acknowledges that she's probably a little nuts.  Hey, aren't we all?

da8.jpgDark Avengers #8
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Luke Ross

In DA/UXM: Utopia, Simon Trask came 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 was just a riot waiting to happen and it only took a few pages for that to start up. Cyclops and Emma Frost met with the mayor and started working on quelling the riots as the whole thing attracted the attention of America's Top Cop, Norman Osborn. X-Man fought X-Man in the street of San Francisco. The Dark Avengers and HAMMER intervened and things still didn't calm down. Emma Frost went to Norman Osborn and found out about "The Plan." It was the beginning of the Dark X-Men as Iron Patriot addressed the public with Professor Charles Xavier... while another Professor X talked to the previously captured Beast in prison.

In Uncanny X-Men #513, Cyclops ran away from the authorities, the Dark Avengers helped to clean the streets of San Francisco, Beast chatted it up with the real Xavier before being trotted out to the Omega Machine which was being run by Dark Beast from the Age of Apocalypse, Norman Osborn introduced Emma to the Dark X-Men, we all learned that Dark Xavier is Mystique, Namor joined Emma's Dark X-Men team, Simon Trask began infecting people with a techno-organic virus, Cyclops ordered his X-Men to watch a lot of TV, Hellion led a lot of people who should know better (and some who didn't) into a riot/demonstration at Union Square, and the Dark X-Men got to do some arresting.

In Dark Avengers #7, Beast started to feel the effects of the Omega Machine while the Dark X-Men battled some mutant protesters at Union Square. Cyclops held a meeting with Norman Osborn where he demanded that America's Top Cop surrender before things start going badly for him. The Dark Avengers got bored of being guest stars in their own book and started a little ruckus with the Dark X-Men. Osborn and Dark Beast gave Emma Frost a tour of the facilities (making sure not to let on that they had Charles Xavier and Beast as their prisoners). Finally, Simon Trask's infected army got their orders to destroy all mutants.

In Uncanny X-Men #514, Simon Trask addressed the nation in Bio-Sentinel form. Cyclops began enacting his master plan which involved sending lots of people off in different directions on various tasks. The Dark Avengers fought the Dark X-Men before Emma Frost appeared and knocked some sense into everyone. The Dark X-Men entered the streets of San Francisco to take care of the Bio-Sentinels while Cyclops and a team of X-Men watched them do it. Danielle Moonstar headed to Vegas for a very special meeting with a mysterious person. X-Force (and Illyana) greeted Wolverine at the Bay of Oakland. Finally, Psylocke and the Science Team took a trip deep into the Pacific Ocean to find a buried city thing.

In this issue, Danielle Moonstar makes a deal with Hela for some crazy powers and maybe a horse back to San Fran.  The Dark X-Men apprehended a Bio-Sentinel Simon Trask, then enjoy a whole week in the spotlight in San Franscisco, stopping riots and making the city safe for the common folk.  By the weekend, the Dark X-Men are getting a close look at the Omega Machine, and some of them are starting to have doubts about what they're doing.  The X-Men Science Team finishes it's work below the water and starts to raise a big, giant rock from the bottom of the Pacific.  Back at Alcatraz, the Beast is getting a treatment with the Omega Machine when X-Force shows up and releases all the mutant prisoners.  The X-Men start teleporting out of their Greymalkin Industries headquarters as the battle at Alcatraz gets more and more intense.  When the Dark X-Men show up, Emma and Namor show their true colors and join the good guys again, taking Cloak and Dagger with them.  All of Cyclops' people are teleported to their new home, Utopia.  Cyclops does his resistance speech on television and Norman, who is all sorts of angry, plans his retaliation.

It's been a crossover event that you'll tell your kids about. 

In Las Vegas, Danielle Moonstar is holding a meeting with a "mysterious person."  This person turns out to be Hela, the Norse goddess of Hel, realm of the dead, and wearer of little clothing.  You can guess what Moonstar, a former Valkyrie, is doing here.  She's looking for a special degree of power and maybe one of those cool flying horses to take her back to the battlefield.  I'll let you guess why the X-Men might want a Valkyrie.

In sunny San Francisco, the Dark X-Men are mopping up their current mission.  We left them fighting Bio-Sentinels and on their way to taking down the Bio-Sentinel leader, Simon Trask.  We've skipped through that confrontation, to the part where they have captured Trask who's turned his body into that of a Bio-Sentinel... though he's kept his intelligence because that's how these guys work.  They blank their followers' minds and keep their own.

What follows is a week of more mop-up work as the Dark X-Men patrol the city and clean up more riots.  Cloak and Dagger even get a drug bust in on Friday morning.  By Saturday, Norman and Xavier (Mystique in disguise) have the press eating out of their hands as the mayor of San Fran loses a televised debate with the two.  Cyclops, back home watching this on television, is sort of upset that one of his allies is being spun out of office on national TV.  Still, Scott's got a plan and he's waiting for word from his Science Team to proceed.

By Sunday (or Monday, we might be skipping a day here-- I'm not too concerned), the Dark X-Men are being introduced to the monstrocity that is the Omega Machine.  Dark Beast is showing everyone just how "gently" it drains mutant powers away.  It is pretty awful looking but the only ones that seem to care are Cloak and Dagger... though Emma notices their disgust at seeing this machine in action.

With all the heavy lifting done, Norman is set to recall his Avengers back to New York as a sign of confidence in the work being done by the Dark X-Men.  Hawkeye isn't very happy with this since he hasn't even been able to kill anyone on this vacation.  Ares is feeling the same.

Down in the Bay of Oakland, the X-Men's Science Team is preparing an underwater city for lifting to the surface.  The thing is mostly kept in shadows at this point but we can make out machinery all over the thing... Madison Jeffries' specialty.  Psylocke is wondering if Cyclops' plan has a hope of succeeding, but she's not going to find an answer here.  All Jeffries can offer is that the city will get to the surface.  With the city ready to rise, Dr. Nemesis calls in to Cyclops to give the X-Men leader the good news. 

Back at Alcatraz, our Beast is getting strapped into the Omega Machine.  He's seen better days.  While Hank hasn't reverted to his human form, he's lost a good deal of fur and looks like he hasn't slept in weeks.  None of this even phases Weapon Omega and Dark Beast wouldn't care anyway.  Omega's too excited about the energy charge he's about to recieve and Dark Beast doesn't give a damn about the pain of his subjects.  To Hank's credit, he doesn't plead or beg, he just wants this over with so he can go back to his cell and hurt alone.

With Hank drained, Omega demands more power because the dude's going the route of a power junkie.  Dark Beast hits the cells to find another meal only to find every single one of them empty.  With Weapon Omega shouting back for more power, the evil little Beast runs right into X-Force, their teleporter, Illyana, and the one who made all this possible: The Stepford Cuckoo, Mindee, who was told to get captured last issue.  Mindee led X-Force in and stuck around long enough to mock Dark Beast before teleporting out.

Dark Beast calls for back-up and Weapon Omega flies off to give it, ordering the HAMMER Agents present to call the rest of the team down.  Hank slumps to the floor knowing that his rescue is under way.

Upstairs, the Dark Avengers are loading up on their superjet to head back to New York when word reaches them that there's trouble down in the mutant cells.  Emma gathers her team to respond to the threat while Norman decides that, just maybe, he was premature in ordering his team to head home.  They'll stick around and, if the Dark X-Men fail, the Avengers will be ready to end things.

At Graymalkin Industries, the current headquarters of the X-Men, word has reached Cyclops that the Science Team has completed their mission.  Scott gives the order to raise the underwater city.  He has the X-Men gather in Nightcrawler's chapel and prepares for the fight to come.

Pixie is here to fill the various mutants in on more of the plan, though we're not given the whole picture yet.  Want me to spoil it for you?  Of course you do.  Cyclops sent the Science Team down into the Pacific to raise up one of Magneto's fallen Asteroid M's.  They X-Men are pulling out of their current headquarters and moving into their own island city.  Since there's only about two hundred total mutants in the world, this island doesn't need to be incredibly large.  Pixie (and Illyana when she returns from the jail break) will be teleporting everyone to their new home.  First up: Nightcrawler, Boom Boom, and Northstar.  Go!

Back at Alcatraz, X-Force is taking the fight to Dark Beast and Weapon Omega.  Warpath and Wolverine are cutting up the evil Beast pretty badly.  This IS X-Force, after all.  They aren't here to NOT kill people... but Dark Beast isn't going to actually die here.  He's just going to be stabbed and knifed a bit.  Domino, Archaengel, and X-23 give Weapon Omega much the same treatment.with the stabbing and slicing and shooting.

The Dark X-Men show up and... things get awesome.  While Daken is having a shouting match with his daddy, Emma and Namor show their true colors.


That's right.  They're the good guys.  The Dark X-Men don't react quickly.  While they're sputtering, Namor takes Mimic down for the count by bashing his face into a wall divider.  Cloak and Dagger aren't given the same treatment.  Illyana returns to teleport X-Force out and Emma offers them a choice.  Join the good guys are stay here with Norman Osborn.  The two runaways run for the portal but Cloak still wants to know if Emma has a plan or if this is all just winging it.  Emma tells them that it's not her plan.  It's Scott's.

The remaining Dark X-Men return upstairs to report to Norman.  You might think that Dark Beast and Omega might be the worse for wear what with all the stabbing but they don't seem to have suffered all that much.  Everyone must have a healing factor these days.  Norman doesn't want to hear their report.  He wants them to watch the television... which is sort of a theme in Utopia.  There's a lot of TV watching going on.

This, of course, is pretty major news.  There's a new island rising out of San Francisco Bay and it's full of mutants.  Norman sees Namor, Emma Frost.... and Scott Summers.  He's not happy.  At all.

Scott is reunited with Emma and sends a telepathic message through the crowd that Emma, Namor, Cloak, and Dagger are on their side.  He can't answer their questions right now but they'll be time for that later.  For now, if they stick to his plan, it will all work out.  It's all about trust right now.

To continue that plan, Cyclops finds the nearest camera and starts talking.  He tells the viewers not to be afraid.  He and his X-Men have simply rejected Osborn's control and the hate of Simon Trask and his kind.  The United States seemed to want the mutants gone so he took them up on that.  The X-Men don't want to be a threat but they will not be pushed any further.  All they want is to live in peace.  Cyclops knows what happens next is beyond his control... but acknowledges that the world is watching.

Osborn isn't ready to back down and look like a chump.  He gathers his two Dark teams for a strike on Utopia.  He wants Namor's head, Emma's heart, and he wants Summers to watch as they rip it out of her chest.

So he's kind of mad.

na56.jpgThe New Avengers #56
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Stuart Immonen

Last issue, we revisited an old battle between the New Avengers and the Syndicate. We got some of the fallout where the Hood's gang was falling apart around him. They'd acquired the power inhibitor that the New Avengers tried to use on them, and decided to do something with it without official approval from the Hood. They brought it straight to Dr. Harrow, who was about to work his magic with it. Spidey had a conversation with Jessica Jones about secret identities and how everything was doomed. The Syndicate found itself without a leader and got a new one in Jonas Harrow. The New Avengers debated about how awesome killing is before running off to Times Square in order to face Chemistro. Because the Syndicate was using a modified version of that power inhibitor they stole in the beginning of the issue, all our heroes got depowered... and sick.

In this issue, the one non-powered New Avenger, Mockingbird, fights the Syndicate with only a little help from her downed teammates.  She holds her own for a while but these are overwhelming odds for someone without powers and she's knocked out after a few pages of fighting.  With Mock out of the fight, the Wrecking Crew stop playing with the downed New Avengers and we see that Luke Cage is suffering from a heart attack which isn't helped by the Wrecker poking him.  The Sentry flies on the scene and is quickly depowered as well.  The rest of the Dark Avengers are smart enough to stay out of range. That doesn't stop Jonas Harrow from infecting Norman's systems to discuss the alterations he wants made to Norman's deal with the Hood.  Speaking of the Hood, he's getting his powers (or someone's powers) back in Cuba with the help of Loki.  Norman turns down Harrow's deal, then finds his whole team depowered and himself armorless with the Syndicate ready to move in.

Depowered New Avengers are a sad thing to watch.  Characters like Ms. Marvel, Spiderwoman, and Captain America have dropped to the ground in uncomfortable poses.  Spidey and Ronin look like they're trying to regain their footing.  Luke Cage is leaning against a traffic-light pole clutching his heart.  Only Mockingbird keeps her footing because she's the only one with no trace of super powers.  Yeah, Cap only has that robotic arm and it's enough to down him. 

Mock goes straight to work and plants her foot on Chemistro's face.  That drops the villain to the ground but doesn't take him out of the game or disarm him.  He fires a blast of pure alchemy at Mockingbird. She blocks it by grabbing Cap's shield.  She's not done looting Cap for tools.  After checking to see if Captain America can help out (and finding he's down for the count), she grabs his gun and starts firing at the bad guy.  The shot hits his gun point blank.  That's a disarm for the Avenger.  Mockingbird follows it up by battering the shield into Chemy and ripping off any gadget she can find trying to deactivate the doohicky that's knocked her team out.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Chemistro has the depowering device on him, and no one is rising very quickly.  To add to the chaos, the Wrecking Crew is entering the arena.  A few shots from Mockingbird's firearm show that these guys aren't depowered. Mock is very much out of her league.

Luckily, she has some friends that can still help out.  Spidey webs up the Wrecking Crew's feet which lets Mockingbird last a few more moments.  Still, webbing isn't going to slow these bad guys down for long and Spidey is barely keeping his footing.  Wrecker's next strike rings true as he swings his crowbar and sends Mockingbird flying.  While the shield protects her from the worst during her assisted flight, she still ends up falling to the ground eventually, blissfully dropping into unconsciousness.

Some police officers make the scene but they're not going to make a difference against the Wrecking Crew.  The villains start throwing Avengers around until Luke Cage shouts at them to stop.  Unfortunately, Cage is barely standing and is in cardiac arrest.  Wrecker remembers that Cage is the one who stole his magic crowbar and decides to settle that score.  More police show up, but the Crew just starts throwing explosive vehicles at them.

Wrecker is applying pressure to Luke's chest which is probably not what you should do to a heart attack victim.  Ronin seems to have regained his footing and starts up the ninja moves to get Wrecker off his teammate.  This works for about nine seconds before Wrecker connects with a backhand, sending Ronin flying off to join his ex-wife (that's Mockingbird for the uninitiated).

While the Wrecker continues to poke Luke's chest and Thunderball throws Spidey around, we learn that this whole thing wasn't even staged to snag the New Avengers.  It's a play to get an audience with Norman Osborn.  With this kind of damage, it's only a matter of time before the Dark Avengers show up.  Hey look.  Here's one now.

Not knowing that he's flying right into a depowered zone, Sentry is as prepared as the New Avengers were.  He drops from the sky, hitting the ground at an odd angle in his human form, Bob Reynolds.  Bob has no clue what the Sentry's been up to and is more confused than anything else.  Seeing an unconscious Spider-Man probably isn't helping.  Let's think about that for a moment, because that's what the Wrecking Crew is doing:  this power dampener has enough power to take out the Sentry.  That is some serious juice.

The rest of the Dark Avengers are ready to charge in but take the advice of the god of war and, instead, keep a safe distance.  That keeps them powered for the moment but doesn't allow them to do any of that fighting that they do so well.  Iron Patriot demands to know what's going on only to get the answer "please hold" from the Wrecker who is clearly enjoying himself.

What happens next is something that would make me pissed if the Iron Patriot were, instead, Iron Man.  Norman's armor gets compromised by Jonas Harrow (who's the guy currently leading the criminal Syndicate).  Osborn doesn't build firewalls like Stark used to.

First, Harrow gushes about how he admires what the former Green Goblin has done with himself.  It's quite a climb, after all.  With this little demonstration, Harrow has shown that he has the power to take that all away.  Norman asks if this is the Hood's plan and Harrow tells him that it isn't.  The Hood isn't really a concern anymore, right?  He was defeated in New Orleans and seems to be the definition of depowered.  That takes the man off the table and leaves a vacuum that Dr. Harrow is eager to fill.  It's time for a New Deal, FDR 2.  Norman still wants to know what happened to the Hood.

The Hood's story is still going down right now in Bayamo, Cuba.  He and Madam Masque were taken from a hospital by Loki on a quest to get Parker some powers.  This quest leads them to a church where they find a skeleton clutching a box.  Loki isn't sure (or isn't telling) how this body died but guesses that it did so protecting the box.  Masque thinks it might have been the box that did the killing.  None of this stops Parker from opening the box and ending the quest.

Inside the box are the Stones of Norn.  These Stones are able to give their user whatever he or she wants.  This means Parker can use them to restore his powers, or give himself brand new powers.  Whatever he wills to happen, if the Stones are willing, will happen.  The Stones choose their users.  So, no more Dormammu-  which is good because the demon thing wouldn't be as interesting a second time and I'm already over it in The Hood mini-series.  Parker tries using the Stones of Norn, but we won't see the results this issue.

Back at Times Square, the Dark Avengers are holding steady right outside the range of the depowering device. Harrow makes his offer (transfer the Hood's deal to the Syndicate), Norman refuses. The depowering device's range suddenly increases, taking out the Dark Avengers in the process.  Norman is still airborn but Harrow has already hacked Ozzy's suit.  It goes black and comes apart around him.  Norman hits the ground as hard as everyone else has been doing it this issue.  Head first.  Painfully.

Osborn looks up to see pretty much every member of the Syndicate staring him down as the city burns in the background.

drssm3.jpgDark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #3
Writer: Brian Reed
Pencilers: Chris Bachalo & Rob Disalvo

Last issue, we had some fallout from the dead stripper incident, as Mayor JJJ called in the police. Venom ate a squirrel before starting a gang war and picking up women. The Redeemer had a group meeting and we got multiple secret origins on losers we may never see again. J Jonah Jameson asked Norman Osborn for help and got himself his very own Spider-Man.

In this issue, the gang war between the Rolling Sevens and the Park Avenue Players heats up because Mac Gargan, the Sinister Spider-Man, is working the angles to make sure it keeps escalating.  Mac leaves a partially digested rabid squirrel as a gift for Dexter Bennet.  J Jonah Jameson expresses his hatred for Dark Spidey and the fact that the gang war has been getting worse instead of better since Gargan got on the job.  Jameson yells at him, and pretty much has him ready to leave before Police Chief Ibanez begs him to investigate a particular case where the perps are demanding an audience with Spider-Man.  Spidey gets into a fight with the Redeemer and his entourage and easily bests them, eating a couple more limbs in the process.  As the Redeemer plots his vengeance for losing his arms and legs, Mayor Jameson gets photographic proof that Gargan is working to escalate the gang violence.

Gang war.  What is it good for?  Absolutely nothing?  Not if you're the Sinister Spider-Man, Mac Gargan.  He's got a plan that involves keeping these gangs at each others' throats, and that means doing lots to instigate the violence and keep it going.  So far, this has gotten him a position close to the Mayor of New York City, J. Jonah Jameson, as Norman Osborn's hand picked hero who will stop this violence.

Obviously, Gargan's not going that route just yet.

While the gang war continues, Jameson's popularity has been plummetting.  Most of the press sees Jolly Jonah trying to hide behind his new hero.  Only Dexter Bennet's DB (formerly the Daily Bugle) lumps Spidey into the same bin as Jameson and continues to write about the failure of either one to end the violence on the streets.  Mac takes this personally and hits the offices of the DB to exact some vengeance.

It's late at night and Gargan isn't here to kill anyone.  He's here to upchuck an earlier lunch right in Dexter Bennet's office.  Remember that squirrel he was eating last issue?  It didn't take.  Apparently, Venom has trouble digesting animals with rabies.

The next morning, Bennet finds the partially digested animal in his office with a note: "From your F-N-Spider-Man."  I think he gets the hint.

Jameson is not happy.  He went to Norman Osborn and begged for a hero to help him stop the rampant gang violence that is choking his fair city to death and, instead of getting Ms. Marvel, he got Spider-Man.  That's bad enough for Jonah.  What's even worse is the fact that this Spidey doesn't seem to be making a difference.  The two get into a shouting match which probably isn't good for Johah and his heart condition. 

Gargan gets pulled into a planning committee for the First Annual Big Apple Festival.  This amuses the hell out of Dark Spidey because, hey, what would be a better way to destroy Jonah Jameson than to smash the festival he's had planned since being elected mayor?  Not a whole lot.

During the planning committee, Spidey spends the time drawing pictures about Jonah's heart attacks.  JJJ shouts him out of the room only to have the Police Chief, Ibanez meet Spider-Man at the door.  Ibanez needs Mac for a special case.  Turns out someone stole the plot to DieHard 3 and demands Spider-Man's presence or they're going to ignite a nuclear bomb in Manhattan.  Mac agrees to go one one condition:  the city spare no expense on his back-up.

So, to the tune of two million dollars in police escort and back-up personnel, Spidey is on the case.

Mac swings across town to meet with the group that watched DieHard 3 and finds out that they're all those crappy villains we met last issue.  The Redeemer, Dementoid, General Wolfram, Eleven, Doctor Everything, the Hippo, they're all there!  This is all part of the Redeemer's plan to... well... redeem Spider-Man. 

Redeemer runs through his list of demands that Venom could care less about before Eleven decides to just attack the villain instead.  This ends as well as you think it will.  Eleven's sonic powers give her a good page of life before we remember whose comic this is.  At that point, Venom just eats her, problem solved.  Dr Everything uses his Dr. Manhattan-like powers to put a clamp on Gargan's mouth while Dementoid grabs the Avenger.  The Venom Symbiote, however, isn't limited to just the one mouth.  It forms another head right out Gargan's backside and chomps down on another loser.  The rest go down pretty easy.

Spider-Man eats the Hippo, devours the Redeemer's limbs, and turns Doctor Everything over to the police waiting outside.

He tells them he never saw anything even resembling a bomb which is because there wasn't one.  Yay good guys.

The Redeemer has lost his first fight with Spider-Man, but he isn't ready to end things just yet even though Dementoid seems ready to let this one go.  Redeemer is ready for Plan B, which is located right inside that manilla envelope in front of him.  Now, if only he had some arms and maybe, hands, he could open it up.  For now, he'll have to rely on General Wolfram.  We learn that Plan B will lead to...

A plot point for another issue.  Not this one.

At City Hall, J Jonah Jameson has just recieved a packet full of pictures.  After shooing his personal assistant out of the room, he looks over the content of the envelope in rich detail.  They're pics of Sinister Spidey cavorting with the Rolling Sevens and the Park Avenue Players.  It looks like evidence that will bury the Avenger if it got into the wrong hands.  Seems like it just did that...

dw77.jpgDark Wolverine #77
Writers: Daniel Way & Marjorie Liu
Penciler: Guiseppe Camuncoli

Last issue, we got another Dark Avengers meeting, after which the team discussed reasons for not fighting the Fantastic Four. Norman accused Daken of setting this whole thing up (which, of course, was true). Daken had his own meeting with the Fantastic Four, letting Ben smash him to a pulp before their “misunderstanding” was resolved and everyone talked like grownups. Iron Patriot found Bullseye staking out the Baxter Building like some pervy stalker and sent a text message in to Daken to let Dark Wolverine know that Osborn knew he was inside with the FF. Finally, Daken smashed out of the building with a threatening looking Ben Grimm close behind as Norman caught all of this on camera.

In this issue, Daken coaxes Ares into doing something stupid... like maybe fighting the Fantastic Four against orders.  He does the same to Venom.  The Fantastic Four have a meeting with Norman Osborn, where the former Green Goblin shows them his footage of Thing attacking Daken outside the Baxter Building.  After giving his demands and us witnessing a flashback of Daken's meeting with the FF, the Four turn him down.  They are then attacked by Ares and Venom while Norman realizes he's lost control of the situation (including losing his video footage to a virus).  Meanwhile, Daken is attacked by Hawkeye pretty severely.  The FF need to leave and have to abandon Daken to what they believe is torture at the hands of Osborn instead of a personal vendetta by Bullseye.  Daken wakes up much later in a hospital bed to a message from the Four that they haven't forgotten about him.  All according to plan...

You know in the Dark Knight where everything that happens is due to some manipulation of the Joker's?  This issue has a lot in common with that movie.  It looks like chaos but it's all carefully orchestrated by Daken.

First, he needs to more a few players into position.  Ares is easy to manipulate with the help of Daken's pheremone powers.  He makes the god of war feel manipulated by Norman Osborn.  His machinations cause Ares to lash out violently which is just the state of mind Daken wants the Avenger in.  Now, all that's needed is to point him in the right direction and say "go." 

Venom is another story all together, and not one that we get as much detail on.  Regardless, Daken is able to manipulate the Sinister Spidey into joining Ares on his mission to teach the Fantastic Four a lesson.

The Fantastic Four are already right where Daken needs them: meeting with Norman Osborn.

Norman got some nice video footage of the Thing pounding on Daken last issue.  This was also something Daken set up so... yeah... wheels within wheels.  Norman announces that he's going to go public with this video in fifteen minutes unless Reed gives him unrestricted access to everything in the Baxter Building and the Four agree to never bother Norman ever again.  Osborn makes sure everyone knows that this is going to become very public and very messy.  When he mentions that their kids will be taken from them and put into questionable hands, Sue lashes out with an invisible forcefield attack.  Norman takes it with a smile and then offers a handshake to seal his unreasonable demands.

Before Reed summarily turns him down, we cut to our flashback of the issue.  It's not too far back at all.  Last issue, Daken met with the Fantastic Four.  What we didn't see then was that after he offered to help the Four out, Reed only agreed to the deal after Daken agreed to give him everything they needed to take Norman Osborn down.  They need every dirty secret and Reed has just the device.  He needs it to be in close range to Osborn's personal computer.  Daken agrees to take the device in, and Reed shakes his hand.  Deal made.

Norman ain't getting that handshake.  Reed obviously turns him down, telling the villain that, if he tries anything, the Fantastic Four will own him.  They just might go after him anyway.  Before they get out of the room, a blade flies towards Reed until it is deflected by an invisible forcefield.  Looks like the rest of Daken's plan is coming to fruition.  Ares and Venom are ready to do some damage on the good guys.

Norman tries calling off his uninvited hounds but he's soon distracted by his personal computer's beeping.  Looks like someone's downloading everything.  The Iron Patriot looks up at Reed.  "Game on." is Reed's reply and it's pretty awesome, I'll grant you that.  People should write Reed this badass more often.

While the FF battle it out with Ares and Venom, Norman fries his PC.  He taunts Reed, believing the damage done but Reed hasn't begun to fight yet.

Oh, you think all of Daken's cards have been played?  Think again.  The Dark Wolverine has also been messing with Hawkeye's feelings, putting the former Bullseye in an uncomfortable place.  Now, Lester's about to get some revenge.  While Daken is walking away from the battle he started (probably just wanted to see if things were going down as he wanted them to), Hawkeye fires an explosive arrow into his hip.

Daken drops to the ground and keeps messing with Lester's emotions.  Hawkeye looms over Daken and preens a bit.  Then, he starts removing the son of Wolverine's teeth.  Lester's done with the foreplay.  It's time to ignite that explosive arrow.  It's not going to be a big explosion but it'll remove any sort of wang Daken's sporting for a while.  Luckily, the dude's got a healing factor but that's still not the kind of luck I'd be happy to have.  I'd rather have the kind of luck where you don't get explosive arrows fired into your hip.

Before Hawkeye is able to hit that trigger mechanism, the corridor explodes.  The FF are getting ready to leave, and Daken is in just the right position.  Reed notices he's severely injured and mistakes it for torture on Osborn's orders.  Daken isn't about to correct that assertion.  Reed is about ready to help Daken out and get the mutant to safety but Daken refuses.  Reed has more important cargo: whatever information he was able to dig out of Norman's computer.  He's setting himself up to look like a sacrificial lamb in the eyes of the FF and Hawkeye hitting that trigger mechanism RIGHT NOW makes the scene.

The Four leave, stunned that Dark Wolverine exploded before them but pretty certain that it's something Daken can walk away from.  Eventually. 

The day has gone down badly for Norman as well.  He cancels the press conference because he no longer has that damning footage of the Thing.  It was on his PC and nowhere else, and was erased when he fried it. 

Reed and the Fantastic Four fared equally badly.  When Norman fried his comp, he also erased Reed's device.  They got out of the place with jack and squat.  It makes Daken's sacrifice all the more sad to these heroes.  They're even more determined to help Daken out and release him from Norman's clutches.

Daken wakes up days later in a hospital bed.  He's still recovering from the explosion and is in no shape to walk or to regrow his missing... unmentionable... just yet.  Ms. Marvel has been waiting for him to awake and updates him on everyone else.  Ares and Venom are in the doghouse for attacking the FF.  Lester isn't much better off.  Karla leaves so that Daken can get more rest or something.

The Dark Wolverine uses the time to check his cell phone.  He's gotten a text message.



Daken smiles.  Part one of his carefully laid out, overly elaborate plan is finished.

mm44.jpgMs. Marvel #44
Writer: Brian Reed
Artist: Sana Takeda

Last issue, Karla Sofen confessed how much she liked being Ms. Marvel to a random dude before dropping him from an unbelievable height. A couple of Norman Osborn's many secret Goblin hideouts are broken into, and Norman wanted to know why, who, and how to kill them while he enjoyed a quiet moment with his baby-momma, Lily Hollister. Over at Avengers Hideout, Spider-Man tried to get in touch with the real Ms. Marvel's feelings only to be shut down for not being warrior enough. In California, Catherine Donovan was pretty obsessed with Ms. Marvel and ended up taking matters into her own hands by heading to New York. We end back in NYC and a battle by with the Dark Avengers that was interrupted when Iron Patriot got word that yet another of his hideouts had been broken into. He headed out with Karla on his tail and they entered his private residence to find Lily Hollister had already taken care of the intruder: Ms. Marvel.

In this issue, Norman and Karla (with special guest star, Lily Hollister) deal with the aftermath of catching Ms. Marvel.  Karla mentions how ridiculous it is that Ms. Marvel was taken out by a pumpkin bomb when those things barely do Spidey any damage but no one's listening to her.  Catherine Donovan arrives in New York, listens to her messages, sends one back to her boss, and takes a taxi to Avengers Tower.  Ms. Marvel struggles (quite successfully) with her power inhibitor chair.  Catherine enters Avengers Tower and is immediately picked up as Carol Danvers.  Ms. Marvel is shown to have a connection to Catherine and psychically tells her to run.  Donovan does but doesn't make it far before the Dark Avengers apprehend her.  Ms. Marvel finally escapes her chair, picking a fight with Norman as Karla makes her move to kill Catherine.

Lily tells us all how she was confronted by an attacking Ms. Marvel.  It turns out that Ms. Marvel became concerned that the pregnant lady might be here against her will and let her guard down just long enough for Lily to hit her in the face with a pumpkin bomb.  This is all well and good, but Karla's not sure that this is how it should go down.  Ms. Marvel was just recently thrown through a jet engine and survived but gets knocked unconscious by a pumpkin bomb?  This doesn't make sense and is destined to not ever be explained... only mentioned.  Norman's just glad to have finally stopped the person responsible for destroying his secret safehouses.  It's case closed as far as he's concerned.

Unfortunately, the mystery is pretty damn deep.  For example:  who the hell is Catherine Donovan?  Just a couple issues ago, Catherine Donovan was a false identity used by Ms. Marvel to be used now that her real identity (Carol Danvers) was compromised.  Now, it's a fully realized person who just happens to look like Carol Danvers?  That doesn't fit, does it?  It certainly doesn't for Catherine and she's just landed in New York to find out why she finds herself connected to Ms. Marvel.

She checks her cell phone and finds that she has forty-seven messages. They're probably all from her boss, who is quite tenacious when it comes to contacting his employees.  Not so dedicated that he'll pick up the phone when Catherine calls back, however.  Donovan gets her boss's machine and leaves a message telling him that she's in New York on personal business, and begging to not get fired in the rough economy.  That done, she gets in a taxi and heads to Avengers Tower.

Let's cut there right now.  Ms. Marvel is being prepped for transfer to a Colorado prison facility (possibly a successor of the Vault?) but there are problems.  For one, the super hero is so full of sedatives that she shouldn't possibly be awake.  For another, she's breaking through her adamantium/vibranium composite power inhibiting chair which is super impossible.  Norman comes downstairs to bark some orders and learn that they've already been implemented to no effect.  Ms. Marvel begins taunting America's Top Cop saying that she'll never stop.  She's actually sounding a bit like most super villains after they're captured.  I'm certain that role reversal isn't lost on Norman but he's got other things on his mind and leaves, telling the HAMMER Agents present to get her out of the Tower and on her way to Colorado.

Meanwhile, Catherine Donovan is about to do something more stupid than anything she's done so far.  She's entering Avengers Tower looking for help with her problems, trusting in the helpful staff to not arrest her on sight for her uncanny resemblance (and DNA!) to Carol Danvers.  Unfortunately, this is HAMMER.  They recognize Danvers, even though Catherine doesn't, and pull weapons on her, demanding that she drop to the ground and surrender. 

This is where that connection with Ms. Marvel comes in handy.  Catherine still thinks these people are going to help her out.  She even thinks this is some crazy misunderstanding.  Ms. Marvel, being prepped for transfer in the lower levels, isn't so naive.  She "sees" Catherine in trouble and shouts out "Run, you FOOL!"  Catherine sees Ms. Marvel shouting this and decides to listen to the glowing image and the good sense it offers.

While Catherine dodges bullets and starts playing in New York traffic, Norman gets the information that Carol Danvers was trying to infiltrate the building.  This makes no sense to Ozzy because Ms. Marvel is already in custody.  HAMMER's retinal scans confirm that it WAS Danvers, though.  He returns to his prisoner and asks her a very important question: "What is your name?!"  Ms. Marvel just smiles and tells him he's already figured out what her name ISN'T.  It isn't Danvers.  Frustrated, Norman calls in his Avengers and locks down the Tower.  It's hunting time.

Shortly, the Dark Avengers have located a running scared Catherine Donovan.

Catherine doesn't have super powers and doesn't last long.  She trips and runs away from Venom only to end up with one of Hawkeye's arrows through her leg.  Donovan falls to the floor and it's Karla who picks her up and starts the killing.  Knowing that publicly killing someone who simply looks like a civilian who is clearly outclassed will be a hard sell on the daily news channels (much less the internet), Iron Patriot orders Karla to stand down.  After a repulsor threat, Sofen complies.

All this is still confusing as hell to Catherine who continues to claim that she's not Carol Danvers and that this is a huge misunderstanding.  She came here for help and look what's happened!  Norman and Karla are almost equally confused.  Osborn has two Ms. Marvels in his possession (besides Karla, of course).  One of them is positively ID'd as such but shows no sign of super powers, and even took an arrow to the leg when Danvers was pretty much impervious to damage.  The second one has all the powers and abilities but isn't acting very much like Carol. 

Before the mystery can be anywhere near solved, Ms. Marvel breaks out of her inhibitor chair and starts killing HAMMER Agents.  Iron Patriot is ready to start this battle up again but is stopped by Karla.  She's got a theory.  In all her encounters with Ms. Marvel, the super hero seemed the most invulnerable in Los Angeles.  This might be because that's the home of Catherine Donovan and the closer they are to each other, the more powerful Ms. Marvel is.  After all, this morning, before Catherine got to New York, Ms. Marvel was taken out by a pumpkin bomb.  That leaves Norman with two options.

Remove Donovan from New York or just kill her.

Since these are villains playing as heroes, he decides killing will work just fine.

Norman rushes downstairs to attack Ms. Marvel head on, but he's simply engaging in a delaying tactic while Karla gets into position.  If Karla is right, Ms. Marvel is nearly invincible right now so no frontal attack is going to work.  She throws him up against a wall to prove the point.  By then, Karla is where she needs to be.

And that would be right on top of the wounded Catherine Donovan preparing to punch a hole through the lady's skull.

sw7.jpgSecret Warriors #7
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Alessandro Vitti

Last issue, we cut back into the past where Eden joined the team, Daisy got the call to action, and needed to convince Jerry Sledge to go into battle. With the obligatory flashback out of the way, we got right back to the big battle happening at the Dock with HAMMER versus the Howlers versus Hydra versus the Caterpillars. Dum Dum and team stole a bunch of helicarriers and gave the Howlers/ Caterpillars a distinct tactical advantage. Viper and Madam Hydra recovered a device from Clan Yashida. Hydra retreated from the Docks. Fury did some recruiting from HAMMER before everyone flew off in some stolen Helicarriers. Finally we learned that Fury wasn't responsible for summoning the Caterpillars and that Madam Hydra was Contessa de Alegra Fountaine.

In this issue, the Caterpillars rob a bank funded by Hydra.  This causes Baron Von Strucker to contract out his hit on Fury to Norman Osborn.  Back at Fury's secret base, Inside Straight, Nick gives the Caterpillars the night off and as little of their heist money as possible.  Alex tells Fury that "it's time" and Nick tells Quake that he'll be gone for a while and orders the Caterpillars to go dark.  Later on, Alex gives an ominous warning to JT about stealing money from Nick Fury before they recieve a scrambled message from Black Widow.  They decide to answer it themselves.  In Toronto, Nick meets up with John Garrett for a special mission. Four hours later In New York City, Black Widow and Songbird join up with Nick Fury for what they hope is an extraction.  Instead, they get the Thunderbolts.

In Zurich, Switzerland, J.T. is entering the Argolid International Bank to make a withdrawal.  He's taking it all.  He's also brought friends.  Daisy Johnson and the rest of the Secret Warriors (the Caterpillar team) secure the lobby before the arrival of Nick Fury.  Everything's going according to plan even though Druid's sort of making an ass of himself taking out the surveillance cameras.

You'd think the vault itself would pose a problem but the team has Stonewall on it.  He smashes in the door with ease.  Once inside, it's time to load up all these bills and get scarse while Nick Fury talks to the president of the bank.  By "talk" I mean punch the dude in the face and tell the guy that Nick knows that this bank is funded by Hydra.  Fury gives the president a message for Baron Von Strucker: "I.O.U. 1.2 Billion dollars."  Hugs and kisses.

This is an annoying set back for Baron Strucker.  At this stage, Strucker doesn't have the time to dedicate to getting even with Nick Fury so he decides to contract out the hit.  You'll never guess who he goes to.  Never.

Ok, yeah, it's Norman Osborn. 

Killing Nick Fury is something Norman would be ready to do anyway but, as long as he has the good Baron on the holophone, he asks about last issue's fiasco  where three helicarriers went missing and a whole slew of HAMMER Agents got slain or went AWOL.  Norman calls Stucker out as a has-been or a never-was.  Worst of all: he's not an American.  Stucker strikes back about Norman being heavily medicated in order to hold back all that insanity.  Osborn counters by telling Strucker all about how he recently killed both the Strucker children (Swordsman died over in the Secret Invasion: Dark Reign One-Shot that started the whole Dark Reign thing rolling)

The Baron thinks about this for a second and then tells Osborn that, now, he owes him two favors.

Like I said, Ozzy making an attempt to kill Nick Fury was always in the plans.  Norman thinks about this for a second before talking to the shadowy figures in his office who will have some work to do very soon: Scourge, Ghost, and Ares.
Back at the Inside Straight, Nick's secret base that houses the Caterpillar team, the Secret Warriors are looking at all that sweet stolen money and they want a piece of it.  That's not really in the cards, however.  Nick wants all this stolen loot sent straight away to Dum-Dum Dugan and the Howling Commandos.  It's supposed to get Dum-Dum in the game of recruiting and training that army they were talking about last issue.  After hearing Daisy's argument, Nick decides he can be a little generous and gives the Caterpillars each a twenty.

Yeah, that was like a back hand.

Before Nick retires to his office, Alexander calls to him and tells him "It's time."  Now, I don't know what he's talking about and neither do you.  All I know is that Alex is the god of fear and has a tendency to be right about things so, if he says it's time for something, it's probably time for something.  Nick calls Daisy over and tells her that he's gonna be out for a while and, while he's gone, the team is on lockdown.  This is dead serious business and Nick is making sure she understands that going quiet is very important before he leaves.

Later on, J.T. and Alex are sitting around the Inside Straight shooting the breeze when Alex does another one of those god things.  He tells J.T. that stealing money from Nick Fury is going to lead to a very bad place.  Times like this, it's good for people to pay attention.  Alex already predicted J.T.'s eventual death so, right now, Hellfire's on borrowed time.

After that, an encrypted message comes in from Black Widow for Nick Fury.  Luckily, Alex knows Nick's passwords so quickly un-encrypts it. We listen in as Natasha Romanova tells Nick that she needs an immediate extraction.  She sends him coordinates to meet her at, and giving Nick a two day window for an assist before she bugs out.  The problem is, Nick isn't here.  J.T. and Alex are.  They decide they'll help out the hot super spy.

Two hours later in Toronto, Canada.  Nick Fury enters Natchios' Auto Mechanic Shop to meet an old comrade in arms.  After going through the spy double-talk with the guard at the gate, Nick gets into the back for a meeting with John Garrett.  Garrett's got a robot body thing going on.  He asks what Nick wants, but it should be obvious.  This is all about a mission.  "It's time" indeed.

Four hours after that in New York City, Black Widow and Songbird are at another one of Fury's secret bases, Homerun.  Nick shows up but he doesn't look anything like happy.  This confuses the ladies but, when they ask him what that's all about, he tells them that they aren't safe here because they were followed.  On cue, the front door to the facility explodes.

It looks like Black Widow's former team, the Thunderbolts, are here.

dre5.jpgDark Reign: Elektra #5
Writer: Zeb Wells
Penciler: Clay Mann

Last issue, Elektra's confrontation with Hawkeye continued, Osborn kept torturing Skrulls for answers, Hawkeye got stabbed through with one of his own trick arrows, the girl assassin resumed her assault, HAMMER back-up arrived for clean up, and Wolverine saved the day.

This issue, Wolverine continues his rescue effort of Elektra even though more HAMMER Agents try to return to the scene.  He stops Assassin Girl from assassinating the comatose Elektra.  Norman Osborn threatens the HAMMER accounting department before Ms. Hand assures him that none of these people had anything to do with the secret account funding the hit on Elektra.  Two weeks later, Elektra is feeling much better and Wolverine gives her the address to where Assassin Girl is holed up.  That location is the crashsite for the Blackhawk Helicarrier where HAMMER Double Agent, Brothers, is heading to right now.  He meets Assassing Girl, telling her that he's been given permission to hire another assassin.  While doing just that, Elektra shows up and Brothers starts making a money transfer to get the assassin there as soon as possible.  It's never gonna happen.  HAMMER has been tracking that account and halts the transfer before it's even close to completed.  Norman shows up on the big monitor to help Elektra through with her memory problem.  She accesses some hidden memories and learns that she WAS responsible for the Blackhawk incident.  That being the case, she kills Assassin Girl and Agent Brothers before departing.

It's endgame time!  Let's finish yet another Dark Reign mini-series!

Let me introduce you to someone slightly important.  You see that guy named Agent Brothers with the cool scar running diagonally down his forehead?  He might have appeared earlier in this mini-series.  He was one of the guys that pulled Hawkeye out of the action last issue.  Right now, he's in the truck running away from the combat zone and bringing Hawkeye to a medical lab.  When he hears that Wolverine in on-site killing HAMMER Agents, he orders the vehicle turned around and heads back in to assist his fellow agents.

Hawkeye isn't hearing this action.  He's severely injured, needs medical attention, and he's not waiting for Wolverine to kill his escort so that he can stagger there on foot.  Lester puts an arrow to the neck of the driver and demands to be taken to a med-lab.  Brothers complies.  Their van truck drives right by Wolverine and the X-Man takes a swipe at the side of the vehicle before it careens away from the battle zone.

You remember Assassin Girl?  Turns out her name is Nico.  This is me paying attention.  I like Assassin Girl better especially since she's not surviving this issue and we don't need to get emotionally attached to her.  While Elektra's unconscious, Assassin Girl tries to stab the ninja through but is stopped by Wolverine, who is all about saving people today as long as they aren't HAMMER Agents.

Speaking of HAMMER, let's head over to the HAMMER Science Lab right now where Norman is interrogating his Accounting Department.  It turns out there's a secret account hidden within HAMMER's many accounts that made the payment to Paladin back in issue one for the assassination of Elektra.  Ms. Hand shows up before HAMMER's Director gets any fun out of torturing these super scared accountants.  She assures the former Green Goblin that these accountants are not responsible for any wrong doing (it's a likely story) and that, with the account in question under surveillance, it's only a matter of time before they catch whoever's responsible for using it.  Norman is a little disappointed that he can't torture anyone this issue.

Two weeks pass.  Logan brought Elektra up to some mountain cabin to recuperate and, without all that painful torture she endured at the HAMMER facility, she's made a stellar recovery.  She's even talking more than she had previously.  She asks the location of Assassin Girl and Logan tells her that he was able to track down Nico's location.  He gives her the address.

Wolverine being here is a bit important.  Remember that whole Blackhawk Helicarrier incident stuff?  It took place over in Wolverine's book during Mark Millar and John Romita Jr's run.  A double agent Elektra, pretending to be working for Hydra, lead a bunch of dead heroes in an assault on SHIELD's Blackhawk helicarrier.  The thing crashed (which has happened a LOT in recent years) and the survivors have put a hit out on Elektra because of this.  The problem is that Elektra has no memories of this event which means it was the Skrull Elektra (who has appeared in just about as many comics as the real Elektra at this point) who should be blamed for the incident.

Elektra wishes to explain this to her would be assassins and give them the choice to give up on their vendetta.  If they choose to continue, she'll just kill them off and end things.  Logan asks her what she'd do if she actually wronged them and Elektra answers that she's just cut the first part out and go straight to the killing bit.  She's a simple girl.

So, we cut to three days later to the location of the Blackhawk Helicarrier's crash.  This is where Assassin Girl holed herself up and it's also where Agent Brothers is going.  That's right: Double Agent.  He strips off his HAMMER uniform and puts the SHIELD one back on.  As he arrives at the command deck, he's met by Assassin Girl.  The two know each other and Brothers is glad that she survived the fight with Wolverine and Elektra.  Nico informs him that Hawkeye killed her partner, Assassin Boy.  You'll remember that Brothers was the one in charge of extracting Hawkeye from the combat zone.  Brothers makes no bones about it.  He's a double agent and sometimes you have to do things to maintain your cover.  He IS sorry, though.

Right now, though, Brothers isn't here to chat.  He's been given approval to hire another assassin.  This time, they're going with the teleporter, Solo.  You might remember that Solo is appearing over in Dark Reign: Hawkeye.  This looks like it takes place prior to that mini because Solo still has both eyes.  Better for depth perception. 

With the hiring of Solo, Assassin Girl is taken off the job.  She is leaving when she runs right into Elektra.

Downstairs, Solo is on the big screen getting ready to accept this job.  He only works on cases that he's ethically inclined to take and, hearing that Elektra is responsible for the deaths of more than two hundred SHIELD Agents makes this one very morally right.  He just needs a million up front and he'll be ready to go to work.  This is ok by Brothers who gets ready to transfer some money from that account that HAMMER has under surveillance.

Assassin Girl returns, telling Brothers that Elektra is coming their way.  Solo thinks this will be the easiest case ever and says he'll teleport in as soon as the money shows up.  Of course, the money's never going to make it.  HAMMER locks down the transfer before it's anywhere near completed.  They identify Brothers almost as quickly.  The speakers shout out that HAMMER Shock Troops are on the way and that he had just better surrender quickly or face even more concequences.

Brothers tries to kill Elektra before the HAMMER Shock Troops arrive but, hello, ninja.  Elektra asks why Brothers is trying to kill her and he relates the whole Blackhawk incident while also going all double standard to the fact that she was a double agent who was doing what she had to to maintaintain her cover.  Now, granted, killing over two hundred SHIELD Agents is a hell of a thing to do to remain undercover but these are spy games and you get your hands pretty damn dirty in those things.  Ethics are probably not a good idea.  Fortunately, they've never been a problem for Elektra.

So the question isn't "would Elektra do something like that?"  It's "DID Elektra do it this time?" 

Elektra explains that they aren't after the right Elektra.  This time, it was the Skrull that did these deeds and, because they're operating under false notions and Elektra is shamed for having been replaced by a Skrull, they're allowed to live.  They just need to give up the chase and that's not something that Brothers is willing to do.

Fortunately, Assassin Girl believes Elektra and stops Brothers from making a fatal mistake.

It's time to apply a little wrench to this whole situation.  It's working out too pleasantly up to this point.  Norman Osborn shows up on the monitors and he's been listening in.  He does the villainous taunt thing because it's required and then gets to the meat of the thing.  He knows the date of Elektra's abduction and it was AFTER the Blackhawk incident.  Elektra is very much responsible for all those delicious deaths.
The reason Elektra doesn't remember them is because the Skrulls were torturing her to find out how she kept on being resurrected.  To keep that information out of he Skrulls' hands, she used a ninja mind trick to erase her memory of any of those resurrections and the events surrounding them.  One of those resurrections took place shortly before the Blackhawk incident so she's erased those memories as well.

There's an easy way to tell if Norman is lying.  Elektra just has to ninja back up the memories.  She does just that and we get a flashback for her troubles.

Elektra is on the Blackhawk Helicarrier killing SHIELD Agents.  Nico, Carmine (Assassin Boy), and Agent Brothers are on board trying to stop her.  This is where Brothers got that cool diagonal scar that goes across his face and also how Nico and Carmine lost use of one eye apiece.  Not that this will matter in a few pages but it's a little continuity to watch happen.  Before Elektra passes him by, Brothers tells her that there's no way she'll ever be able to bring down the Blackhawk.  It's too complicated for a little old ninja.

Elektra isn't convinced.  She tells Brothers "I am Elektra Natchios.  Not even the stars are safe in the sky."

Learning that she actually WAS responsible for the Blackhawk going down, Elektra quickly kills Brothers with a sai to the head.  Assassin Girl is another matter.  Elektra actually lets her yell for a bit while she tries to calmly explain that she killed as few SHIELD Agents as possible.  It wasn't few enough.  Nico tells Elektra that the hate will never end.  Elektra is already aware of this.

Nico fires her pistol but it's destined never to hit it's target.  Elektra moves in close and stabs Assassin Girl with another sai.  To Nico's credit, she does scratch Elektra's cheek while dying.

For a pyscho like Norman Osborn, this is all settling down like a neat, little, bloody package.  He's spent a lot of time on this case and, while he talks, Elektra retrieves and cleans her two sais.  Norman tells Elektra that he'll have to kill the ninja eventually but, for now, she's done some nice, dirty work for him.  At least now he knows exactly what the Skrulls were looking for and why Elektra was so important.

And, for what it's worth, Elektra does, too.

drskk4.jpgDark Reign: Skrull Kill Krew #4
Writer: Adam Felber
Penciler: Mark Robinson

Last issue, Reichardt went over the Skrull Kill Krew data, Moonstomp pulled himself back together, Riot got a date with a Skrull, Moonstomp went black and never came back, the remaining members of the Krew came back to life, the Krew crashed a ritzy Skrull party and took no prisoners, multiple Wolverines fought to the death, and Reichardt revealed to the Krew that they are now, technically, Skrulls. They need to kill themselves now. No going back on that title.

In this issue, the Krew interrupt another crazy Skrull game involving killing humans.  Dice loses the thrill of killing Skrulls, with Moonstomp threatening to kill him if he quits the team.  Riot does some investigating, and then meets Ryder and Catseye playing some role reversal sex.  They all wait for the rest of the Krew to show up.  When Dice gets there, he lets everyone in on the fact that, now that they're technically Skrulls, they don't have to keep following the same pattern that they've been going down.  In fact, the Skrulls they killed at the party last issue were domestic Skrulls who weren't in the habit of killing anyone.  They were peaceful.  Moonstomp tries to kill Dice but Dice knows how to use his powers too well.  Riot's new Skrull girlfriend shows up and warns them of an upcoming attack and everyone teams up to stop some Skrulls.  With the battle done, the team remains divided on what to do in their future.

I have to admit that, while this series isn't all miss, it's damn boring to me.  I'll try my best to get through this but it's not the best written comic in the world so this probably won't be the best walk through.  You've been warned.

Humans are stupid.  This series is pretty much all about how stupid humans are.  They have freaky fetishes and little to no survival instinct.  At least that's how these humans act.  We open the book as some more humans put themselves in harm's way in order to win some money/prizes in an internet gameshow thing.  Of course, for the Skrulls running things, it's just an elaborate way to kill people.

The Skrull Kill Krew show up just after the first human has bitten the dust, failing to answer the question "what is the dominant life form on this planet?" correctly.  I bet the answer is actually "Skrulls" or "Cows" or, quite possibly "Skrull Cows."  The second contestant was given the question "what is the Buddhist-related word for "no answer?"  The answer?  Wait for it.


Anyway, Skrulls to the rescue.  They dash in, kill Skrulls as is their mandate, and then get back to being upset that they themselves are now technically Skrulls.  Ryder is taking it worse than anyone else.  To Moonstomp, a white supremacist who is now very much a black dude, this is just another thing to deal with this series.  Riot is handling the news better than most because she's decided to start dating a Skrull.  No one knows that yet, though.  Keep it under your hat. 

Dice is having a whole other moral dilemma.  He's not sure if killing is giving off the right vibe for him these days.  Somewhere behind the scenes, Dice lost his pretty-boy edge and, instead, went full hippie.  Now, I know what you're saying to yourself.  "Filthy hippies..." and all that.  I know that.  I get that.  The problem is that Dice talks the most sense of anyone in this entire comic and so I have to give him more respect than I'd usually give a filthy hippie.

Riot decides to return the camera used for this gameshow to its proper owner.  While that's going on, Moonstomp warns Dice about leaving the Skrull Kill Krew.  It's not the outside world Dice has to worry about.  It's the Krew.  More specifically, it's Moonstomp.

Riot has returned the "stolen" camera to Phil at some movie studio only to learn that the camera wasn't actually stolen.  Phil's not registering as a Skrull but that doesn't mean that Riot doesn't torture the hell out of him.  Not sure where this thread is going but maybe we'll find out later on.

Riot rushes over to Ryder's place after the interrogation and finds that Ryder has decided to get over being a Skrull by having a lot of sex with Catseye.  That's normal enough.  What isn't normal?  He decided to shapechange into Catseye while Catseye changed into him.  That's a little messed up.  OK.  A LOT messed up.  Riot thinks so as well.  After she's used up all the jokes she can for this situation, she lets Ryder know all about Dice and Moonstomp.

Dice shows up to the Krew meeting a bit late but he pretty much runs this meeting.  First off, it's time to figure out how the Krew became Skrulls.  Dice theorizes that it happened when they died.  The Skrull DNA slowly killed their human DNA until all that was left was the Skrull stuff.  He think that Ryder must have died in his sleep or something but there's still some questions about that.  Ryder could have always been a Skrull for all they know.

Dice thinks that, since they've got all new-all different DNA, they can literally be whatever they want to be.  It's one of the reasons he can't be in the Krew anymore.  He's not angry anymore.  He's at peace.

The Krew doesn't want to hear anything about that.  They kill Skrulls because Skrulls want to kill humans.  Dice asks if anyone saw any human prisoners at that ritzy party last issue.  No one did.  There's a reason for that.  Those Skrulls weren't killers.  They weren't here to kill humans because they were homegrown Skrulls.  Born here.  Probably citizens.  They just wanted to live.

And the Skrull Kill Krew murdered them.

Ryder has had enough of this "not killing Skrulls" talk and allows Moonstomp to kill Dice.  That's going to be a lot harder than it looks.  Dice has already done the "free your mind" thing and has a lot more control over his shape changing than the rest.  He avoids Moonstomp's attack and fades away, still giving the rest of the crew as many filthy hippie slogans as he can.

As Moonstomp loses his... ahem... cool... they get a knock on the door.  It's Riot's Skrull girlfriend and she couldn't have arrived at a worse time.

Back at Reichardt's HAMMER office, Reichardt is getting an update on the homegrown Skrull population.  Apparently, they're massing on the Skrull Kill Krew in huge numbers.  When asked what they should do about it, Reichardt orders them to do nothing.  The Skrull Kill Krew is now an unknown factor and, since they're out of HAMMER's influence, they're out of HAMMER's protection.  This battle is up for grabs.

The Skrull Kill Krew can't believe Riot is dating a Skrull but, as Dice points out, everyone in the room is a Skrull now.  Moonstomp tries to sneak up and kill the Skrull girl but Riot is all up in on defending her girlfriend.  The Skrull is here to warn the Krew about the Skrulls massing to attack them.  It turns out some of the more militant minded Skrulls heard about the Skrull Party Massacre and are up for a bit of vengeance.  In fact, they're right outside.

It's time for the Skrull Kill Krew to get their act together and work as a team one last time.  I'm assuming one last time.  We'll see next issue.  For now, this is their last battle together.  Moonstomp isn't getting very lucky at killing anyone in this room but he'll be able to kill the Skrulls outside to his heart's content.  Dice is willing to fight since they're being attacked.  Everyone else is just spoiling for a fight to break the tension.

So it's a big fight from here on out.  You'll never guess who shows up.  Wolverine.  That's right.  That joke isn't going away.  Ever. 

Most of these Skrulls have never been in a fight before.  Those are easy kills.  There are others that are much better at this and have been in their fair share of scraps.  It makes the battles a bit uneven and you never know what you're gonna get.

In the end, the Skrull Kill Krew emerges victorious.  Before heading back inside to plan their next move, Moonstomp takes his hammer to the faux Wolverine.  Someone's keeping to the whole "Kill all Skrulls" mandate and, of course, it's Moonstomp.

But he's not alone on that score.  Ryder and Catseye aren't mourning the death of Skrullverine.  As Ryder says:  They're the Skrull KILL Krew.  That's what they do.

It doesn't look like Dice, Riot, OR Riot's Skrull girlfriend are too happy about that.

a115.jpgThe Avengers #115
Writer: Steve Englehart
Penciler: Bob Brown

This issue, the Avengers are halted by the British SHIELD until they promise to remain good while in the old country.  The investigate the Black Knight's castle and discover it is protected by a shield created by Dr. Strange.  Soon after making this discovery, they're attacked by Troglodytes and captured.  After facing some dangers below the surface, Black Panther ends up defeating the Troglodytes in near darkness and the Avengers give these inbred morons the medical attention they desperately need.  In the prologue, Loki makes a deal with Dormammu that will culminate in a crossover between the Defenders and the Avengers.

Long time readers of Super Reads will probably know that I don't look favorably upon anything done by Steve Englehart.  Now, I'd love to do an interview with him and I guarantee I'd be gushing over his work if I met him.  After all, he's responsible for a lot of Marvel history and some of it IS actually good.  Some of the rest is the second Kree-Skrull War or... shiver... the Celestial Madonna.  So, if you love Steve Englehart, you might want to look away.  I'll try to be gentle.

The Avengers are on their way to Merry Olde England to investigate the disappearance of their wayward member, Black Knight.  Unfortunately, they have to be allowed entry to British Airspace first and that looks like something British SHIELD isn't going to allow.  The Avengers have members like the Swordsman and Mantis (there's a winner right there) who aren't allowed in Great Britain.  Still, after the Avengers stick up for their more evil members, British SHIELD allows them in... but they'll be WATCHING them!

The Avengers are able to continue their investigation and fly their orange Quinjet (it was the seventies and things were messed up and different) onward to Garrett Castle and the home of the Black Knight.  The castle is protected by a barrier that no-one can break through no matter what their power set.  Not even the Vision's intangibility allows him access.

Scarlet Witch is able to discern that the barrier is magic based and, going with that, Mantis begins to meditate in order to commune with nature and find out why the barrier is in place.  While she does this, an ugly face sticks it's nose above ground to watch the proceedings.

Mantis learns that Dr. Strange was the one to put up the barrier and, while the Avengers have worked with Strange in the past, they are uncertain if the good doctor is working for the side of right or wrong.  Magic is always tricky like that.  It'll drive ya mad, right Wanda?  Huh?  Right?

I'll move on, now.

No sooner have they worked out the origin of the magical barrier than they are attacked by Troglodytes.  These guys are severely ugly, sometimes deformed monsters of men who attack in a medieval fashion.

You'd think this battle would be a cake walk for the Avengers.  After all, they're the frickin' Avengers and they're fighting what amounts to medieval cavemen.  This battle should be three panels.  Hell, even the panels describing the action seem very surprised that the Avengers are having trouble.  The easy win is pulled from the Avengers' grasp by one of their only weaknesses: Subterranean-spawned gas.  This somehow even affects Iron Man who must have closed up his eye and mouth slots too late.  I'm not even going into why the Vision got defeated.  It looks like he took a blow to the head from the enemy he was facing head on.  It's called intangibility, dude.

The Troglodytes bring their unconscious enemies below to their subterranean home.  Once there, the demand to know why they aren't able to raid Garrett Castle for food anymore.  Apparently, even though they were spying on the Avengers, they didn't realize that the heroes were having an equally hard time entering the castle.  These aren't smart people folks, but they still defeated the Avengers.

We get a small origin story for the Troglodytes while we wait for things to get worse.  Back in the middle ages, some peasants decided that it was better to go underground than to face the wrath of an unjust king.  Unfortunately, they forgot about the dangers of inbreeding and, three hundred years later, these people are their own uncles.  This is why they are so deformed and have the strength of three hundred dedicated years of inbreeding behind them.  That's strength money can't buy.

It's also stupid you just don't find in your average human.  They aren't even willing to listen to the Avengers' logical claims of not being responsible for the invisible barrier.  For that, the Avengers will be punished!

Enter the monster insectoid creature!  The Avengers are dropped into a pit and forced to fight it out with the monster.  Thor, Vision, and Mantis are able to easily slip or smash out of their ropes and begin to attack the creature.  They try to defend the Avenger that aren't able to get out of their ropes as easily but this creature is pretty crafty.  It snatches up the Scarlet Witch in a claw and only Mantis' timely intervention is able to kill the creature and get it to release Wanda.

Yes.  If you're paying attention, Mantis is almost the definition of Mary Sue.  Except boring.  Very, very boring.

The Troglodytes aren't happy that their pet insect monters has been killed and decide it's time to stop playing around.  They douse every light in their subterranean lair and sneak up on the Avengers with the advantage of being able to see in the dark.  Surely the Avengers are doomed.  It's not like Iron Man doesn't have that flashlight on his chest.  Oh, he's forgotten all about that in the excitement?  Oh... well then.

Looks like it's up to the Black Panther.  T'challa is the only one that is trained to see in the darkness.  He makes his way up the cave to meet the Troglodytes half way.

In the cave, Black Panther is able to face the Trogs one at a time.  This would even the playing field except for the fact that Black Panther is facing inbred morons.  Yes, I know they were able to defeat the Avengers on the surface but that doesn't make sense.  I blame the Illuminati for somehow interfering and also turning off Iron Man's flashlight chest beam.  Here and now, Black Panther is ready and willing to kick some tail in.  One at a time.

The Troglodytes are defeated and allow the Avengers to go but the Avengers have a different ending to this adventure.  They call in medical teams to look after these injured and deformed underground peasants.  It's the only humane thing to do besides just killing them all here and forgetting that they ever lost a battle to them.  Oh, this one's going down in the "never ever ever happened" category.

The Avengers shuttle off in their orange Quinjet wondering why Dr. Strange would erect such a barrier and, based on what they heard from the Troglodytes, kidnap the Black Knight?  It looks like they'll have to go fight the Defenders to find out.

Which is all well and good but we're actually here to check in on Loki.  Let's do that now.

At the end of Thor #207, Loki was blinded and ran off a cliff in an attempt at escaping his step-brother.  He would have surely been killed or, at least, injured on hitting the ground, but he never strikes the ground.  Before that could happen, he's teleported away.

Where to?  The Dark Dimension and a meeting with the dreaded Dormammu.  Loki tells Dormy that Odin speaks of Dormammu as some sort of counterpart to Loki.  They're both sort of super evil, aren't they?

Dormammu is calling this meeting with Loki for a specific purpose.  Due to a lost battle with Dr. Strange, Dormammu is denied access to the Earth's dimension.  It's hard to conquer a dimension if you aren't allowed into it.  That's ok.  Dormy's found some sort of loophole.  If he's able to get a hold of a device called... ugh... the Evil Eye, he'll be able to expand his Dark Dimension until it swallows up the Earth Dimension.  Then, he'll be able to do his conquering without leaving home!  It's brilliant!

Loki reminds Dormammu that the Evil Eye was shattered over in Fantastic Four #54.  That's not a huge problem, though.  It exploded into six parts so this is more a game of "Gotta Catch 'Em All" than an insurmountable task.  Loki and Dormammu together will be able to reassemble the thing.

Now, all they need to do it retrieve the pieces and, since Loki's blind and Dormammu isn't allowed to go to the Earth Dimension, they'll have to use some dupes.  Dormy thinks he has the perfect team:  The Defenders!  While he thinks this is a bit of poetry, it's also super stupid.  Why would you use the friends and allies of your sworn enemy when you might call undue attention to yourself by doing so?  I would've chosen the Champions or something.

Still, Loki doesn't see this flaw (could be the blindness) and he agrees that this is a fine plan.  Earth could suffer for it and that's all that matters.  It looks like these super powerful bad guys are in business together!

And that was an article and a half!  I'm glad there are few weeks this big coming up again anytime soon! 

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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