Today, we check out Dark Reign- The List: Daredevil #1, Dark Avengers #9, The Invincible Iron Man #18, Dark Wolverine #78, M.O.D.O.K.: Reign Delay, and Blast to the Past for Fantastic Four #23. Enjoy and spread the word!
Time to start filling in the blanks between Dark Reign and Siege!
As always, you can easily check up on past articles of Super Reads. If you're reading this on The Outhouse (and you are), 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 my previous articles. It's perfect for all your reading needs.
Norman has a list. He's checking it twice. Yep, Daredevil's on it.
Dark Reign- The List: Daredevil #1
Writer: Andy Diggle
Penciler: Billy Tan
In this issue, Matt Murdock assumes leadership of the Hand and looks over their financial records. A shadowy ninja kills corrupt cops and a judge in the back alleys of Brooklyn. Norman Osborn gives Hawkeye the go ahead to take down Daredevil and Lester gets dressed for the occasion. Daredevil endures the Hand trials of leadership before getting a surprise attack by Bullseye and HAMMER Agents on jetpacks. The battle gets up and personal between Bullseye and DD and they take a helicopter ride over to Hell's Kitchen where Lester drops Murdock on top of a condemned building just before blowing it up. Too bad that the building was full of protesters at the time. The ninja that killed those corrupt public officials earlier in the issue turns out to by Lady Bullseye working for the Kingpin. Matt decides that there's no reason to lead the Hand unless he's willing to use them.
In Daredevil #500, Matt Murdock accepted leadership of the Hand but that's only part of the whole process. The next part is taking a tour of the Hand's skyscraper headquarters in Lower Manhattan. The lead Hand exec is a bespectacled dude with a Hitler mustache. He's here to show Matt copies of the Hand's business holdings, both the legitimate ones and the less than legal bits. He's expecting to see Murdock bringing in team of lawyers to look everything over but Matt's legal team is made up of him alone. To make up for that, Matt's brought on Black Tarantula and White Tiger as his back up. They might not speak legalese but they're quite useful in a scrape and could provide assistance if this all turns out to be an enormously elaborate trap.
Also, if you're seeing some parallels between this story and what's going on in Agents of Atlas, good job. The biggest difference between the stories would be that Daredevil is a street level vigilante that only has other street level characters to back him up while Jimmy Woo is a former SHIELD Agent backed up by some serious super powered friends from his 50's days. From a storytelling perspective, Daredevil is much more high profile a character and putting him in charge of Hand is pretty interesting. DD is one of those Marvel characters that considers killing one of the major no-nos. The Hand is a ninja assassin death cult. Cue the odd couple theme.
Matt is surprised that the Hand is offering up all this information freely but he shouldn't be. He's accepted leadership of the Hand and there's no backsies. If he tries to use this information to destroy the Hand, the repercussions will be severe.
Now that the legal stuff is out of the way, the Hand exec is ready to get down to business. Matt has accepted the Hand but he still has to take a bunch of trials for the Hand to accept HIM. Matt's up and ready for whatever they have prepared for him. Bring it on.
Just to set up the next scene, the Hand exec tells Matt that it has already been broughten.
With that, we cut to Brooklyn where a shadowy ninja is racing to make a very special appointment. It's a meeting of police officers in an alley. Since we won't know the identity of the ninja until close to the end of the comic, let's meet the dude who comes off as our good guy for the night: Detective Kurtz. He's the one honest cop in the alley and he thought he was here to meet a criminal informant. Instead, he's meeting some policemen who are much less than honest. They were suspended from the force for excessive force but got reinstated because Norman Osborn thinks excessive force is just the right amount. They're here to threaten Kurtz in some upcoming court case because Kurtz is the kind of honest cop that makes trouble in court by telling the truth.
But, again, it's not something that will sway the case. The Judge, Walden, is in Osborn's pocket and will judge the case less on its merit and more on what's good for Ozzy. The truth would just make the case a little uncomfortable. Since we've mentioned the good judge, he makes an appearance just to do his best to offer Kurtz one last chance to change his story before something really bad happens. Kurtz doesn't even have time to decline before something bad DOES happen.
That ninja starts a-killin' and, when Kurtz has time to react and pull his gun, he finds himself alone in the alley, surrounded by corrupt officials.
Since these dead guys all have one thing in common - Osborn - let's cut right over to Avengers Tower to see Norman's reaction. It's not exactly anger. Where others would see dead people, Osborn sees opportunity. A ninja takes out a bunch of corrupt cops? That means HAMMER gets a shot at killing ninjas. His instrument of vengeance, Hawkeye, doesn't see it that way. He's not all about killing cop killers, after all. He's an assassin. Killing cops would just be another job and there's no love lost between him and the law. Besides, he's in the Avengers now and they're here for the big things, not dead police officers and judges.
How do you hook Hawkeye besides offering him money? You offer him up an old friend by telling him that this is all Daredevil's fault. Norman informs Lester that his intelligence has told him that DD has taken leadership of the Hand and, since the Hand is really the only group of ninjas in the Marvel U, Daredevil is behind these killings. Hawkeye is credulous about this whole situation since he knows that Daredevil doesn't kill cops no matter how corrupt they are but he more than happy to kill his old adversary.
You want me to drop some recent continuity into this situation? It's coming up. In Dark Reign: Hawkeye #3, Lester received a package from his dad containing his old Bullseye costume with a note saying "Remember who you are." It was part of a plan to rattle the assassin and get him sloppy enough to be captured. Since the last issue of that series hasn't come out yet, we can only assume that Lester survives ;). What we DO know is that he kept that box and it'll serve him well in the coming battle. He's not going to kill Daredevil as Hawkeye. He's gonna do this right. "Remember who you are." It's time to be Bullseye again.
Meanwhile, deep underground in one of the Hand's secret lairs, Daredevil is enduring his trials of leadership.
After surviving the "chained-up-and-beaten-to-a-pulp" trial, he moves right on to the "killing-the-super-ninja" trial. He faces a frickin' HUGE ninja who has no qualms about taking his head clean off. Matt, of course, doesn't kill so he's at an extreme disadvantage. Super Ninja doesn't care.
This trial will have to be postponed for later because Super Ninja is about to be taken out by someone who's NOT Matt Murdock. That's right, Bullseye has made the building and doesn't want anyone else to get this kill.
DD can't believe Lester's behavior. He's just marched right into a den of ninja assassins and used his one surprise shot not on Daredevil but Murdock's opponent. The odds are not looking in Bullseye's favor. Or... DO they? The assassin smirks and reminds Matt that he isn't crazy (which is the theme of his own mini-series ending shortly). He didn't come alone, he just entered first. The room is swarmed by HAMMER Agents on jetpacks and they're all shooting to kill.
Ninjas versus government agents? That's a movie I'd pay to see. Unfortunately, it's just background. We can assume that the ninjas all strike hard and fade away but maybe this group takes severe losses with only Black Tarantula, White Tiger, and Daredevil living to fight another day. We'll never know because we're not going to continue following this fight. Lester isn't going to stick around. That means Matt isn't going to, either.
Bullseye shouts out just the right taunts so that Daredevil feels it necessary to leave this battle and follow his adversary out on a helicopter. Don't expect too much fighting on the chopper, though. It's basically the vehicle to get us to the next scene. Bullseye is holding on to a ladder hanging down out of the helicopter while Matt misses that ladder and, instead, uses his billy club cord to hook on to the last rung of that ladder. So he's hanging from a cord attached to a ladder hanging from a helicopter. It's a rough ride.
It's not long before they fly over Hell's Kitchen. They're heading to a very specific location. There's a particular building that is condemned. It's being torn down so that Oscorp can build some high-priced property in it's place. That doesn't sit right for the tenants and they're all holding a protest and refusing to leave the building. They see their hero, Daredevil, flying their way and cheer, knowing that the vigilante is there to help.
Bullseye throws his sword with perfect aim but, again, he's not aiming at Daredevil. He's aiming at his cord. It cuts and Matt drops to a building below.
Matt is expecting this to be the moment where they kung-fu fight but he's sadly mistaken. Lester has no intention of fighting it out with Matt. He taunts the hero by telling him that this could all have been prevented if Daredevil would have just killed him years ago. With that, he blows up that condemned building. The twist is, unlike all those other condemned buildings that blow up in New York with no casualties, this condemned building was full of protesters. We all know that Daredevil will survive because that's how he rolls.
Elsewhere, the ninja that started this whole thing is returning to her master. Obviously, she wasn't working with the Hand. She was working for... the Kingpin! She takes off her mask and we learn that she's Lady Bullseye. LB tells the Kingpin that she saw the Devil fall but Kingpin knows better than to assume that Murdock is dead. So much the better. Kingpin has plans for Matt and things are leading right to it.
This battle wasn't about killing Daredevil's body. It was about killing his soul. All these dead protesters. The good guys aren't in charge any more. The bad guys are. Matt looks on the scene below him as emergency personnel pull bodies from the burning wreckage and he's feeling pretty crappy. It's time he got to use the Hand to make a difference in the right direction.
After the main story ends, we get a preview of Daredevil #501, the first issue in the DD series by writer, Andy Diggle which will immediately follow these events. With art by Roberto De La Torre, you won't be sorry to check it out.
Dark Avengers #9
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
In this issue, Victoria Hand has a conversation with Norman Osborn through a metal door. Ares gets his son ready for school, fakes leaving, and then tails his kid to find out what Alex is up to when there should be school going on. That leads him right to Nick Fury's door. Ares smashes his way inside and beats the hell out of Hellfire. Fury sends the Secret Warriors out of the room to have a private conversation with the god of war but Phobos hangs by the door and listens in. Ares breaks down and admits he doesn't know what he's doing as a father and agrees that Fury can train his son. Back at Avengers Tower, the Dark Avengers are sitting around the dinner table shooting the breeze when the Sentry returns. Sentry flies up to his Watchtower and gets shot in the face with an alien gun. Down below, the door to Norman's lab opens up.
Victoria Hand is the Deputy Director of HAMMER but, sometimes, that means she does the work of Norman's personal assistant. Right now, for example, Ms. Hand is taking a phone down to Osborn's workshop to hand off to Ozzy. On that phone? The Secretary of Defense. When she reaches the door to Norman's lab, she is denied access. It takes her quite some time to get any answer out of America's Top Cop but, when he finally answers, it's short and to the point.
He won't answer any further inquiries and Victoria ends up making an excuse for why Normy can't come to the phone. After she leaves, Osborn calls out for some assistance. Whatever's going on inside that room probably doesn't have a lot to do with the Iron Patriot armor and is more likely related to Norman's state of mind. The dude is going crazy. Bank on it.
Only one Dark Avenger refuses to live in Avengers Tower and that's Ares. The god of war is one of the two carry-over Avengers from the Mighty days and, as such, he's not a criminal and isn't under house arrest. So, he lives in the Bronx with his son Alex. What Ares doesn't know is that Alex is also playing around in Secret Warriors as one of Nick Fury's caterpillars. He suspects, though. Lately, Ares has been receiving notes from school informing him that his kid isn't attending often.
Ares wakes up his kid for school. There is a definite divide between the two. Some of this will be talked about in depth over in the current Secret Warriors arc but, right now, it's the fallout from the Utopia storyline that concerns Alexander. It's the top story in the news and Alex knows his dad was involved. Alex is a little gun shy around his father but, with some cajoling, he asks his question: were the Avengers on the right side in that conflict? Ares believes they were but Alex isn't convinced. The talk quickly moves to Norman Osborn. Alex asks if Ozzy is really the kind of man you'd want to be associated with and Ares is certain about that. Alex, again, not so much. This questioning frustrates the god of war and he slams his hand on the kitchen table in anger. All this doesn't really encourage Phobos to keep speaking his mind.
Ares tells his kid that he's late for school before leaving, presumably on his way to Avengers Tower. Phobos watches his dad disappear around a corner then sits back in front of his bowl of cereal. He's not really hungry. In the background, the television program keeps on droning about how 76% of Americans are pleased with how Osborn has handled the mutant situation and 66% of Americans live in fear of a mutant menace. He's just waiting around for his ride.
It's Daisy Johnson: Quake from the Secret Warriors. They aren't heading to school. Well, not normal school, at least. It's spy school.
But, proving that she has a LOT of training to still do, Daisy picked up a tail and doesn't notice it. Ares wasn't heading to Avengers Tower. He went to grab his souped-up bike and is now following his son.
The trail leads to Fury Safehouse 7 where Nick Fury is handing out lesson plans. Today's mission is a LOT of reading. None of the Secret Warriors are happy about that (except maybe Daisy and she's a teacher's pet). The reading is on AIM and is related to their dealings with Hydra (one of the big enemies over in Secret Warriors). There is soon to be an unscheduled recess. Ares is about to break and enter.
Ares kicks down the door and heads on down, setting off alarms on the way. All the Secret Warriors can do is watch on the monitors as the god of war smashes his way to them. Daisy realizes that she was followed and is stunned that she missed someone that big.
When Ares reaches their room, Hellfire makes the mistake of attacking him even though Fury warns against it. That's what JT does: the stupid thing. Thankfully, Ares doesn't end the man's life and, instead, just hits him with the handle of his axe, knocking him unconscious. The rest of the Secret Warriors actually listen to their commander and don't do anything that might seem aggressive to the god of war.
Ares has a chance to look around the room. He sees the books on AIM and recognizes Nick Fury. He demands to know what the former SHIELD Director is doing with his kid. Fury doesn't mince words. He's training Phobos to fight back. Ares' next question is directed right at his son. It's less of a question and more of a statement of shock for Alex doing all this behind his back. Alexander DOES answer: "The world's kind of a mess." It's something that hits Ares right where he lives.
Get ready for a moving scene involving the Dark Avenger's god of war. Nick clears the room for a private chat but, like all kids, Alex lingers by the door so he can hear what his dad has to say.
Ares asks Nick why he's done this and, again, Nick answers honestly. Alex is a great kid with a lot of potential but, without training, who knows what will happen.
Ares is quiet for a bit. Then, he responds that he doesn't know what to do. He loves his kid but he's not able to reach him. He's part of a legacy from Olympus and had to leave in order to find his own path. He doesn't want his kid to leave him in order to find his own way but he's certain that Phobos will leave if he forces his son to stay. He really doesn't know what the right decision is.
Nick isn't going to help him. The deal with gods is above and beyond him and you probably aren't going to get good parental advice from Fury. So, Ares looks at his son, who is slowly edging his way back into the room, if this is what he wants. Alex doesn't stumble through his words when he says "Yes, sir."
With that, Ares gives his permission for Nick to train his kid. Still, if something happens to Phobos, Fury will be in trouble. Sure, Alex might die a hero and even Ares might be satisfied with that but there's one dude in this equation who won't be. Zeus. Granddad will be PISSED.
Someone should really tell Bendis that Zeus is a kid with no memories over in the pages of Incredible Hercules. Zeus has been off the table for quite some time.
Nick gives Ares some friendly advice before the Avenger takes his leave. Osborn? Not the best bet to make. There will be a reckoning and Norman will fall from grace. Ares is unmoved. He tells Fury that this is all personal. Norman has Nick's old job and there's gotta be some jealousy there. In Ares' opinion, Osborn is doing a great job. Fury might even agree to that except he's always been more lenient on the mutant issue. Either way, it ain't over until the fat lady sings.
With Ares gone, the Secret Warriors breath a sigh of relief. Everyone is happy that Phobos was allowed to stay on the team but there's business to take care of now. Rather than studying about AIM, the Secret Warriors have got to get a move on. While Ares doesn't seem likely to reveal their location, something might accidentally get revealed or there might be psychics involved. Either way, better safe than sorry. Nick smiles at Alex and you can tell he's happy about how things just went down. Hellfire wakes up and groggily asks what happened. Nick tells him he fought the god of war and lived to tell the tale. With one last lecture for Daisy not noticing the Ares tailing her, we leave the Secret Warriors to pack up and move to another location.
At Avengers Tower, the rest of the team is enjoying some breakfast. With no mission pending, it's a time to relax and retell old adventures. It's mostly talk on how some super heroes are annoying as hell. Deadpool and Spider-Man are chief on the annoyance list though Hawkeye has enjoyed a Spidey quip or two.
The team catches Sentry returning from his rounds and their discussion shifts over to the most powerful Avenger. Hawkeye asks Victoria when Sentry is going to snap and kill them all in a show of special crazy but Ms. Hand assures the team that the Sentry is under control and not a problem. It doesn't look like Lester believes that for a moment.
The Sentry returns to the Watchtower and is greeted by CLOC. CLOC offers him a burger (because they probably still have some 5 Guys left over) but Bob is more interested in where his wife is. She's right behind him. Pointing the space gun in his direction. Lindy has been all panicked about the Sentry for quite some time now. She even begged Tony Stark to either kill or depower her husband. It looks like she's going to take matters into her own hands.
Bob looks like he's being betrayed. Lindy tells her super-powered husband that he won't let her leave and she can't stop him. She knows the Sentry is nuts. As Sentry is asking his wife to talk things over with him, she blasts him in the face. Sentry falls to the ground, head sparking and skull visible.
Wait, did they just kill the Sentry? Odds are... not good. It's not like previous deaths have taken hold.
Downstairs, the Dark Avengers hear the gun fire but don't think it important enough to investigate. Everything's fine, after all.
Down in the lower levels, we visit the door to Norman's workshop one more time. Five panels of the same door. In the fourth panel, someone hits the 'unlock' button. In the fifth, the door starts opening...
The Invincible Iron Man #18
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Last issue, Madame Masque pulled the Rescue armor out of the burning wreck of Stark's Russian lab. Finding her communicator, she called Norman Osborn and reported what had occurred. Tony Stark was making his way to his final destination in Afghanistan. Maria Hill was acting all crazy at Natasha Romanova's place. Osborn secured the rights to pick up Madame Masque in Russia and called Colonel Bukharin to gloat. HAMMER Agent Walsh got info from Maria Hill's old SHIELD email account, reported it to Ms. Hand and then felt bad for having helped them take down Tony Stark. Iron Man was shot down in Afghanistan and had to make it to his last repulsor lab on foot. Maria Hill and the Black Widow got captured by HAMMER Agents before their meeting with Captain America. Masque reported to Norman Osborn and nearly got strangled to death before Ms. Hand interrupted the HAMMER Director with the news that they had just caught Hill. Finally, HAMMER Agents put the Rescue armor into the Iron Patriot armory but it didn't look like the suit was empty.
In this issue, Stark takes his last few steps to where it all began: Iron Man's birthplace in Afghanistan where the Mark 0 Armor is held. Maria Hill and Natasha Romanova get a visit in their holding cells by Victoria Hand and Madame Masque. Tony charges up his suit and gets shot in the back. Agent Walsh picks up the repulsor signal in Afghanistan, reports it to Osborn, and feels really bad about the whole thing. Tony has been shot by some kids who want him to make a them some weapons of mass destruction. Tony refuses, knocks one of the kids off his feet, grabs the gun, points it at the second kid, orders them both to run, and empties the gun of bullets while the two youngsters scamper off. He suits up in the Iron Man armor and takes off to his Final Destination. Agent Walsh contemplates treason. The real Madame Masque is found inside the Crimson Dynamo armor. Pepper's been pretending to be Masque and frees Hill and Romanova while activating her Rescue armor by remote. Rescue uploads a virus into the Iron Patriot Armory while Norman flies off to do final battle with Tony Stark.
Last issue, Tony was left armorless and had to make it to his Afghanistan repulsor lab on foot. The big nostalgic draw to this particular lab is that this is where it all began. Tony first met Professor Ho Yinsen and the two created the first Iron Man armor in this very lab. Now, continuity is all kinds of fuzzy on this issue but, trust me, in order to avoid Vietnam and the Cold War completely, Tony Stark now became Iron Man in Afghanistan. This kind of retcon is more than acceptable and only hurts my continuity senses in minor ways.
It's in this very lab that he still stores the Iron Man Mark 0 Armor. This might cause another minor continuity buzz since this is the armor that he wore across Vietnam/Afghanistan and later spray-painted gold. The new retcon seems to make that a different suit altogether. I'm just going to let that one go, too. Look at me! It's like I'm growing.
While Tony starts booting up the Mk 0 armor, let's head over to Avengers Tower and visit with our two captured spies, Natasha Romanova and Maria Hill. They're in separate cells but are, even now, tapping out insults in morse code to each other. It's a valuable use of their time. Imagine Nat's surprise when she learns from Vistoria Hand that it's HER FAULT that they were picked up by HAMMER. Romanova brought a picture of the Hard Drive ports to a black market insider and that was reported right back to HAMMER. Oops. And here she was worried about Maria Hill blowing their meet.
Victoria Hand seems to have come down just to gloat and she hasn't come alone. Madame Masque is also with her. Hand doesn't actually think that Hill is worth all this trouble but Masque disagrees. To her, Hill looks all kinds of dangerous. Just imagine the trouble a captured person can get up to! Imagine it!
Over in Afghanistan, Tony Stark is having trouble imagining anything. He's erased a good chunk of his brain at this point and he's only a few short steps away from erasing the rest. This makes turning on the computer a trial but he manages it. The rest of the systems turn on shortly afterward. Removing it's dust blanket, Tony gets a look at his original armored suit as it powers up for one last run. That thing is a monster of a suit and Stark is surprised that it had, at one time many years ago, saved his life. This time, it's going to do something just a LITTLE different. This time, it's repulsor battery is going to be blanking out his brain.
At this point, Tony is working off notes he wrote earlier because things are hazy in the cognitive faculties. He's disconnecting wires from his suit when the entire rig falls on his head. He coulda used some better notes. :)
So, the repulsor battery is up and running and that means he's trackable. He's still got to input some coding into the system but, before he can manage that, he's shot in the back.
On that surprising turn, we're going to switch over to the HAMMER Helicarrier which is floating over the Pacific wasting our hard-earned tax-payer money. The search for Tony Stark is still priority and, wouldn't you know it, our friendly HAMMER Agent, Walsh, is the one looking for signs of repulsor spikes. Last issue, he was the guy that found Tony's email that narrowed HAMMER's search. He immediately felt bad about that because he's still got some of that loyalty stuff for the former SHIELD Director. When he sees this spike, he's told to report it right to Osborn.
This is the kind of news that Norman loves to hear. Everything is coming together and he's tickled pink that one of his HAMMER Agents has twice given him actionable information. It doesn't look like Walsh appreciates being on Ozzy's radar even if he's making the Director happy.
HAMMER isn't allowed in Afghanistan because it's a United States theater of war. He's National Security and the military won't let him in. He orders Walsh to tell him when Stark leaves Afghanistan and enters a country he CAN enter. When Tony does, Norman will be there in his Iron Patriot armor to drop the hammer. Walsh asks Osborn if this is all entirely legal but it's pretty certain that Norman doesn't care. Stark is half out of his mind and running around the middle east like it ain't no thing. Norman Osborn is Norman frickin' Osborn. He'll do what he wants.
Back at Stark's Afghanistan lab, we find that Tony has more pressing concerns than Norman and his vendetta. He's just been shot. It doesn't look like it was a lethal hit or anything but there's still a fair amount of blood everywhere. When he turns to see who the heck would follow him into his lab and shoot him in the back, he sees two Afghani kids. One is holding a gun like a first-timer and the other is playing the role of super-villain mastermind. Neither is doing this with much grace.
Stark knew a lot of languages but, even at his best, Urdu wasn't something he had a great deal of mastery. He turns on the translator in his armor and asks the kids what the hell they're up to. Turns out that they want "the Great Warlord" to make THEM great. Make them weapons that will help them crush their enemies.
Tony takes a long hard look at his first armored suit and realizes he's done this before. Last time, he told his captors that he's make them awesome weapons and ended up making this suit to break his way out. This time, he's not even going to front. He tells the kids "No." and demands they shoot him or get the hell out. To accentuate his point, he puts the gun up to his head, daring them to pull the trigger.
Yeah, he's not scared of dying anymore. That's for certain.
Back aboard the Helicarrier, Norman is practicing his big speech for his confrontation with Tony. Mostly, he's just trying to say his name like the best super-villain on the block. If you'll remember, he was doing something similar when he took Tony's place as Director. While this is going on, Walsh is busy at his terminal, tracking that repulsor signal and looking like his dog just died.
Let's cut back to Afghanistan to see if those wacky Afghani kids actually killed Tony Stark.
Nope, looks like they talk a good game but don't have the chops to finish someone off when he's staring them right in the face. Since Tony already has his hand on the gun, he grabs it completely and then decks the kid that was holding it. He then points the thing at the other kid who is surprised as hell that this masterplan went south.
Tony tells the kids to run and his armor translates. Before the standing kid can make a move, Tony empties the gun of it's round and pulls out the clip. As the two run off with their tails between their legs, Stark tells them that "the eternal angel of death forgives you." He's more upset that he got blood all over his notes than anything else.
Everything else goes as planned. He uploads whatever coding he was trying to upload and suits up. It's time for one last ride.
Seven hours from now, his mind will be erased. He just needs to stay in this suit for that long. Iron Man hits the air and plans a route to Dubai.
In the Helicarrier, Agent Walsh sees the repulsor signal moving and REALLY hopes Ms. Hand isn't keeping an eye on him. Looks like Walshy is thinking about giving Tony a nice head start.
So it's a good thing that Victoria isn't at her terminal. Instead, she's taking a little break and enjoying the view from Avengers Tower when she gets a completely different report. Another HAMMER Agent needs her authority to destroy the Crimson Dynamo armor they found when picking up Madame Masque. It seems Osborn has ordered suits like this to be destroyed but they still need permission. Victoria gives the go ahead but the story of the Crimson Dynamo isn't over just yet.
Before they destroy the suit, they find that it's making noises from the inside. They check it through their sensors and don't pick up any booby traps so the decision is made to crack the thing open. Victoria is present for this and what she finds is just a bit surprising.
Turns out Whitney Frost, the notorious Madame Masque, is inside. Pepper took her mask and is pretending to be her. Huh. I thought she was in Pepper's Rescue Armor. Talk about a swerve!
It won't be long before they track Pepper down but, right now, she's free to run down to the prison level in Avengers Tower and make a prison break. Maria Hill is astonished that they're being rescued by Tony Stark's secretary but it's not time to look gift horses in the mouth. When they note her lack of back-up, Pepper explains that her helper is around but is doing other stuff at the moment.
Like standing in the Iron Patriot armory and uploading a computer virus into all of Norman's extra suits. That Rescue armor is a tricky devil!
Back on the Helicarrier, Walsh's delaying tactics are at an end. Norman notices that things aren't moving quickly enough for him and demands an update. Walsh isn't able to come up with an excuse fast enough and winds up blurting out the truth: Tony Stark is heading towards Pakistan. Walsh offers to plot Iron Patriot's course. Norman is pleased again. He's about to nab himself Tony Stark.
Dark Wolverine #78
Writers: Daniel Way & Marjorie Liu
Penciler: Stephen Segovia
In the last issue, Daken coaxed Ares into doing something stupid... like maybe fighting the Fantastic Four against orders. He did the same to Venom. The Fantastic Four had a meeting with Norman Osborn, where the former Green Goblin showed 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 turned him down. They were then attacked by Ares and Venom while Norman realized he's lost control of the situation (including losing his video footage to a virus). Meanwhile, Daken was attacked by Hawkeye pretty severely. The FF needed to leave and had to abandon Daken to what they believe is torture at the hands of Osborn instead of a personal vendetta by Bullseye. Daken woke up much later in a hospital bed to a message from the Four that they hadn't forgotten about him. All according to plan...
In this issue, that video of Daken maiming and killing while insulting hostages goes viral on the internet and Norman Osborn and his trusty crew of HAMMER Agents busy themselves with tracking down who is responsible. Their search leads them to the girlfriend of a journalist. Before HAMMER Agents are able to pick her up for questioning, she's contacted by the REAL culprit (who she's cheating on her boyfriend with) and directed out of the building to play in traffic until she's dead. Since it's more delicately put than that, she complies and we learn that the man responsible is really Daken himself playing one of his circuituous games. Unaware of this, Norman calls in Daken for a conference and puts together his own plan to save Dark Wolverine's image. Norman runs out and personally hires firearms expert Emmy Doolin for a little mission. Later, a dude named the Inquisitor interrogates the hell out of a judge in order to get the man to allow press at a trial in the morning. During that trial, Doolin helps two criminals, Cutthroat and Moses Magnum, escape from custody and kill another criminal, Aryan, in the process. Since this is all done right in front of the press, it makes for a nice situation for a certain Dark Avenger to solve. In Avengers Tower, Karla Sofen gets a little gift from Daken– wrapped up with a flower on top. Osborn has set up his incident and now he releases his Dark Wolverine to solve it. Meanwhile, the rabbits in this scenario are starting to suspect a rat... just as Daken walks in to finish them off.
A couple issues ago, we saw a film featuring Dark Wolverine killing some masked gunmen in front of a grandmother and her grandson. Daken was talking smack to the two victims the entire time. At the time, Norman was able to stopped the video from making the nightly news and, instead showed it only to Daken with a warning about his behavior.
In the opening scenes of this issue, we learn that Norman wasn't able to supress that video forever. It didn't make the news but it DID wind up on the internet. By the time Norman finds out about this, it's already gotten over one million hits. Try stopping that, Ozzy!
Norman is understandably pissed and puts the best minds at HAMMER on the case of tracking down HOW this got on the internet. HAMMER's best are able to track down the internet cafe that was used to upload this video to the web and, soon after, they're able to put a face to the one responsible for putting it there. He's quickly rounded up and tortured.
But this trail isn't about to end right there. The dude that uploaded the video is just one in a long line of pawns. Next on the list is the person who handed him the file to download. He gives HAMMER all the information on her which leads to a credit card of her boyfriend, a journalist who might have had access to the information. Norman sends a team to pick up this woman and bring her in for questioning.
Which leads us to a lingerie shop because why not? The girl in question is trying on a few things and snapping shots on her cell phone for a man who is decidedly not her boyfriend. He's just her lover and, apparently, the man who gave her the files that she gave to someone else to download on the web. It's a very convoluted trail because stuff like this kind of has to be. The man on the phone tells her that HAMMER Agents are after her but, if she listens to his every word, she'll get out of this and not end up in custody.
She runs from the lingerie store still in her the store's underwear and, after a word about trust from her lover, she runs right out into a busy street and is hit by a bus. The witnesses react in all sorts of ways, including one snapping pictures on his cell phone. One witness is having a particularly amused reaction. He grabs an old lady's purse and "returns" it to it's owner (possibly with the cell phone he was using inside-- hell, it could have been hers). It's Daken. Yeah, he's a bastard.
He's also holding a sex book. It'll make an appearance later on in the comic.
Norman is pissed that they lost their only lead in this case. It's believed that the dead lady noticed the HAMMER Agents and scampered before they could catch her. They've taken a look at that phone call and, judging from the pictures sent, they deem it very, very personal in nature. Somewhere, an old lady is getting pics of a hot blonde in lingerie and wondering what she slept through. Norman thinks all this is super incompetent and demands they go out and arrest the journalist boyfriend who is probably (but isn't) connected to the case.
The HAMMER Agents run off to do Osborn's whims, leaving Norman to talk to Daken. There's some witty responses back and forth between the two and there's clearly no love lost between them. Daken doesn't respect Norman and Osborn pretty much hates his Dark Wolverine. Still, he can't allow his Avengers to look bad to the public so something NEEDS to be done to save Daken's public image. It's time to fake an incident. The Dark Wolverine better play along if he knows what's good for him.
We change scenes to what might be a Super Wal*Mart. Our new character of interest is Emmy Doolin. She's a firearms expert and has appeared in at least one issue of Wolverine a LONG time ago. I'm not even going to pretend I know what happened in her first appearance (Wolverine #46) but something led her to having a thankless job selling weapons to all those Joe Sixpacks in the world that fear for their way of life in the wake of Hope and Change. Her supervisor is even a creepy pervert setting himself up for a sexual harassment lawsuit! Just as she's concidering using one of the pistols she sells to, y'know, maybe kill a dick supervisor, she's approached by the man who could take her away from all of this: Norman Osborn.
Speaking of digging at the bottom of the barrel, Norman also seems to have approached some dude named The Inquisitor. He's got about two appearances previously over in Marvel Comics Presents so, again, someone was really looking for people who have done nothing important. We'll pretend that it's Norman doing the looking. Inquisitor is spending his day torturing a judge: Judge Jones. His mission is to get the man to allow the press at a trial the next day and to make sure the judge doesn't tell anyone and he's not above threatening the Judge's prize dogs to get what he wants. It might seem a bit extreme to torture someone into allowing press at a trial but that's only because it totally is.
So what's this trial all about? Well, there was a prison riot of some kind and the instigator and witness are going to trial. So, who are the prisoners? Aryan, another dude with two issues previously under his belt and Moses Magnum who at least has some exposure to draw on. When you're the most high-profile villain in a league of one timers, you're probably better off not showing up.
You'll notice that one of the members of the press is actually a guy who goes by the name Cutthroat. He's also got quite a few appearances to his name and, while certainly not big time, is a justifiable criminal. He also integral to Osborn's plan to break Moses Magnum out. He swipes a gun from one of the officers on duty and, throwing it to Emmy Doolin (also at this case), the two start messing stuff up right off the bat, eventually freeing Magnum and then making their getaway.
They aren't here for Aryan but HE doesn't know that. He thinks he's going along but this is where we all learn a valuable lesson about tolerance: NO ONE LIKES WHITE SUPREMACISTS. They're the one group of people you can hate and not feel bad about it. When Aryan tries to tag along, Cutthroat snaps his neck.
Everyone else makes it to the getaway van where the Inquisitor (and one of the Judge's dogs) is waiting. So is a phone call from Norman Osborn. Now that they have made a very public appearance, he has a mission for them.
Back in Avengers Tower, Karla Sofen, the Dark Avenger known as Ms. Marvel, is relaxing in her office and watching the news. This trial escape is big time because there were members of the press on the scene at the time. There's nothing like first hand accounts from the press to amplify a story. Something in the corner of the room catches Karla's eye and she moves closer to investigate. It's that sex book Daken had earlier and it's wrapped up all pretty with a flower resting on top. Smooth, Daken. Real smooth.
Also, just a bit creepy.
Daken is totally amused by all of this. He killed bad guys on camera in front of an old woman and that's a "PR disaster." To clean it up, Norman has had a group of criminals start a violent incident in a courtroom that has killed 10 much more innocent people (and one white supremacist criminal). Norman doesn't care as long as his team comes off smelling like roses. He orders his Wolverine out to apprehend the dangerous fugitives he helped hit the spotlight and he's expecting Daken to do what he's told. After all, he'll be watching.
America will be watching but, much like live television, there will be a slight delay so that edits can be made and serious mistakes in judgement can be deleted. This means that this isn't a killing mission. The fugitives are to be captured alive. Daken suits up and heads out to battle these... dangerous bad guys.
These bad guys are starting to get wise, especially Doolin. They all know that they're losers, has-beens, and never-weres. They each have a good reason to take this job even if it did smell all sorts of wrong. Only Cutthroat is confident that this is an easy job with huge benefits but the rest know that this is majorly screwy, especially with how public a scene they made at the courthouse.
On cue, Dark Wolverine enters their room. This is why someone should have been on guard.
M.O.D.O.K.: Reign Delay #1
Writer: Ryan Dunlavey
Artist: Ryan Dunlavey
In this issue, COMEDY!
MODOK is a huge character lately and this comic is one of the culminations of his popularity. What? You don't know who MODOK is? He's the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing! He's a big headed creature created by AIM that eventually lead that group. He's George Tarleton, once just a lowly AIM scientist who was uplifted into... whatever he is today.
Honestly, MODOK is a seriously interesting visual straight from the mind of Jack Kirby. Over the years, many people have used that big headed dude for comedic effect. There was even an issue or two of Marvel Adventures Avengers where the entire team became MODOKs. I don't HAVE those issues but the covers were still awesome.
You'll notice I'm not really going into super-depth on this issue. I don't plan to. This isn't REALLY a Dark Reign tie-in. It's just a comedy piece and explaining the whole thing would ruin it's purpose completely. Anyway, it's NOT CANON. MODOK doesn't really get assigned to Erie, Indiana like he does in this comic. In actual Marvel Continuity, MODOK is busying himself over in the Hulk books where it looks like he bears a lot of responsibility for creating the Red Hulk. So, if you're looking for someone to blame other than Jeph Loeb, you can blame MODOK for that one.
I think we're far enough down the page to post this incredible image:
This comic was originally presented on Marvel's Online Digital Comics program. I don't believe it's there anymore so, if you're looking for some quick laughs and a funny class reunion, check on M.O.D.O.K.: Reign Delay. Odds are pretty good that your comic shop wasn't able to sell this one.
Fantastic Four #23
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
In this issue, the Fantastic Four wrestle a dinosaur while testing out Doom's time platform and end up fighting about who should be their leader since they all think Reed is a jerk. A bald-headed robot pays the bail for three criminals and then leads them straight to his master: Doctor Doom! The FF learn that they're all egotists who vote for THEMSELVES as leader which, of course, starts a big fight between the Thing and Torch until Reed breaks it up. Doom uses his scientific know-how to amplify a specific feature of his three criminals and then sets about a master plan to destroy the Fantastic Four forever! In turn, the Human Torch, the Thing, and the Invisible Girl are captured by Doom's gang leaving Reed to be captured by a robot version of the Thing and Dr. Doom himself (or a Doom-Bot... it's hard to really tell). Once the Four are all captured, Doom repays his gang in his own merry manner, teleporting them to another dimension until he needs them again. While Doom's off doing that little thing, the Fantastic Four are waking up from their naps and freeing each other which means Doom's going to have to fight them all by his lonesome. He manages to hold them off until a planned solar wave hits the house, and since Doctor Doom coated the room in ionic particles, the solar wave starts tranporting it to another dimension along with it's inhabitants. Doom tries to make a getaway but is caught in one of Sue's forcefields. While looking for the controls to dissipate the ionic particles, Doctor Doom loses his balance and falls into the dimensional vortex. The FF make their escape just in time.
In Doctor Doom's first appearance, he used a time platform to transport three of the Fantastic Four to the past to recover some of Merlin's treasures. After that issue, the time platform was recovered by the Fantastic Four and set up in the Baxter Building. While testing to see if everything is working properly, a baby dinosaur appears in the platform and starts running amok in Reed's lab. This is all Johnny's fault because he was supposed to be watching for these things.
Eventually, Sue is able to trap the beast in one of her invisible forcefields and Reed is able to pump enough ether into the forcefield to send the baby dino into la-la land. They take the sleeping creature to the time platform and send it back to where it came from but they don't get to escape one of Reed's lectures on how they're all completely worthless for not being able to follow simple instructions.
Reed is especially on edge and his teammates aren't going to put up with it. They all bicker for a bit and decide that it's time to choose a new leader for their little knitting group.
Meanwhile, across town at a courthouse, a strange bald-headed man is watching the procedings and waiting for just the right kind of criminal to come before the bench. Eventually, he finds just who he's looking for. Posting bail, he takes his new criminal friend, Yogi, to meet some other criminals he's already bailed out to a secret location in order to meet the true mastermind to this whole thing.
When they get there, the bald-headed dude drops to the ground, his purpose fulfilled. When the criminals investigate, they discover they were following an automaton. They wonder who was controlling this machine and get a voice from the vent declaring that the man responsible will soon be in their presence. First, he's going to introduce THEM to each other. First up is Bull Brogin. Bull is a pretty typical muscleman who's light on the brains. Next is "Handsome Harry" Phillips who happens to be an incredible con man. Finally, we have Yogi Dakor, a circus performer who's bit is that he's fire resistant. These are not really the makings of a threat to the Fantastic Four but, with a little help and leadership from their new master, Doctor Doom, they might just stand a ghost of a chance.
Back at the Baxter Building, three of the Four are democratically deciding who should be their next leader but, in a stunning egotistical twist, they all end up voting for themselves as leader and get into a three-way tie. In typical Fantastic Four fashion, this tie leads right into an argument which leads right into a throwdown between Johnny and Ben. Sue might not be throwing punches but she's also not able to calm down the other two. She IS able to project a forcefield between the two to spare them any permanent damage but you can tell she's going to have a headache for the excercise. Sue had just gotten her invisible forcefield powers and hadn't mastered them yet.
Reed exits his lab to see how the democratic process has been going and isn't surprised to see a fight has broken out. He quickly stops the violence and chews everyone out for being an idiot... excluding his girlfriend who was justifiably upset after his last time chewing her out. He explains that he doesn't WANT to be the leader so much is he's the only one qualified for the job and the only one crazy enough to try keeping order in this madhouse. He passes out the brooms and orders everyone to get to cleaning up their mess.
While the Four start picking up their mess, Dr. Doom is busy powering up his new minions. He uses his XZ-12 machine to amplify one aspect of each criminal. For "Handsome Harry," that means amplifying his hearing to the Nth degree. This should be enough for him to get the drop on Sue Storm. Bull Brogin gets super strength which may not make him as powerful as the Thing but should work with Doom's plan to take down Grimm. Yogi's fire resistance has been increased to new fireproof status. Now, it's time to enact Dr. Doom's intricate, overly complicated plot!
For Johnny, that means cars. The younger Storm reads in the paper that a wealthy maharajah is giving him a super car and quickly heads down to claim his prize without even considering that it's a total trap. Johnny doesn't even tell anyone that he's going out to do something stupid so no one is able to talk him out of it. Johnny isn't the only one who reads the paper and there's a crowd of people present when Johnny picks up that super car. You'll notice that Yogi is the one giving it away and that he's also the one riding shotgun to explain all the features for the new car.
They drive off and Yogi doesn't waste much time revealing that Johnny is now his prisoner. Johnny laughs that off and tries to flame out of the car but, obviously, the car is as fireproof as Yogi. Once he's exausted that route of escape, he turns on Yogi you doesn't even seem to mind being attacked by a burning man. This car comes fully equipped, however, and starts shooting out nerve gas as soon as Yogi puts on his trusty gas mask. Johnny is out like a light.
The Thing is lured out of the Baxter Building by a letter from the Yancy Street Gang. While this certainly isn't the first letter Ben's received, this is the one that pushes things too far. He heads out to bust some heads. After rescuing a local who's gotten his hand stuck in a grate (and who isn't very greatful for the rescue), Ben runs into Bull Brogin. After a quick fight reveals that Bull is stronger than your average human, Ben starts to turn the tide since he's easily stronger than Bull. This was all anticipated, though. Brogin's got an ace up his sleeve and that would be the gun in his hand which reverts Ben to his human form. In that state, Bull delivers a haymaker that incapacitates his opponent.
That's two down and two to go.
Sue hasn't gotten any angry letters or any super cars. In fact, she's just sitting at home practicing the use of her powers. Reed doesn't believe she's practicing enough and surprises her with his own feats of prowess. Sue isn't too happy that Reed wants her always on guard just in case one of their enemies attacks but she does understand the importance of being ready for this sort of thing. Still, it's not cool that Reed keeps sniping everyone and they part angry at each other.
Enter: "Handsome Harry." He shows up at Sue's door with flowers and Sue holds them before declining his offer and trying to give them back. Turns out it's too late for that. The flowers were poisoned and now it's only a matter of time. Except... Sue didn't smell the flowers. It turns out her lessons with Reed actually made an impact and she was cautious enough to hold her breath when handling the flowers. She goes invisible but Harry is able to detect her presence using his heightened hearing. Eventually, Harry is able to coat her with ether mist. Sue holds her breath as long as she can but this can't last forever. Eventually, she'll have to breathe. When she does, she passes out.
That leaves the final member of the Fantastic Four all alone to deal with Doctor Doom. First, he's drawn out in the open by a fake "4" flare sent up by a robot Ben Grimm. When Reed responds, he's quickly shoved into a plexiglass box.
Reed feels betrayed but Doom explains the entire thing to Reed even though, inside his plexiglass prison, Reed can't hear the villain. Doom just likes to talk. Still, when Victor opens up the fake Thing's chest to reveal robot wiring, it's all too clear even without the fancy Doom-words.
With the entire team captured, Doom returns to his headquarters to gloat a little bit in front of the helpless Fantastic Four. The usefulness of this robot Thing is at an end so Doom destroys it in their presence. Since the usefulness of his criminal cohorts is also up, it's time to deal with them in a similar fashion.
Doom hands each of them a box that supposedly contains five thousand dollars. It doesn't. The boxes are actually dimensional transporters that, once opened, activate and send the opener to another dimension. It's not death but it's probably as close as the comics code would allow. It's a major lesson: NEVER TEAM UP WITH DOCTOR DOOM. ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE A WHITE SUPREMACIST. These are the rules of the Marvel Universe and you'd do well to memorize them.
While this is going on, Doom's carefully laid-out plan is about to unravel. While he captured the rest of the Four and placed them in personalized shackles according to their powers, he didn't do anything to Sue. She's just been unconscious. When she wakes up, she uses her forcefield to break the Thing out of his shackles and nearly falls unconscious again for the effort. Ben is able to break through Reed's plexiglass prison. Before Johnny is freed, Doom returns and isn't surprised that the Four have already started escaping. He might be awesome at capturing people but he sucks at containing them. It's good that he knows that.
For the next couple pages, the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom go back and forth in battle. Johnny is eventually freed and the Four starts fighting as a team again. Reed even starts realizing that he might not be as good a leader as he thought after he's humbled in battle by Doom and rescued by Johnny. This is all a delaying tactic anyway. Doom has wasted enough time and flies out of the room via a small door in the wall, trapping the Fantastic Four inside.
You see, this is all part of Doom's overly-complicated plan and you almost want to be Scott Evil telling him that, next time, you've just got to kill them. Don't make it so damn intricate. Grab a gun and start blowing brains out. Still, that lacks style and Doctor Doom is nothing if not stylish in his Man in the Iron Mask attire. This building is directly in the path of a regular solar flare and everyone knows that if you coat a room in ionic dust particles, a solar flare will react with those particles and tranport the room to another dimension. That's like seventh grade science and it's exactly what Dr. Doom has done.
As the room starts fading out of our reality, Sue thinks fast and projects her invisible forcefield to the other side of the wall, capturing Doctor Doom and forcing him close enough so that, when the room faces from existance, Doom will be caught in it's pull. Doom's not ready to go out like that so he opens up the sliding door in the wall and frantically tries locating the mechanism that will disperse the ionic dust particles.
All Ben sees is an opening and he takes it. Thing grabs onto Doom's arm and pulls him all the way into the room so he can look a little closer for that particular mechanism. Even now, Reed realizes it's too late to disperse the ionic dust particles. It's also too late for Doom who, while backing away from his foes, falls right off the universe and into the dimensional vortex. Not even his jet pack is able to save him.
The rest of the Fantastic Four waste no time at all squeezing through that sliding door that Doctor Doom opened. Thing barely makes it but, with a little help from Reed, he pulls himself through. He's so happy that he decides to reward Reed with his mark of approval: Mister Fantastic can stay leader of the Fantastic Four. It's the best prize a mad scientist could ask for!
Once the solar flare is over with, the Fantastic Four survey the scene. The room has totally disappeared but we all know that it's not the last we've seen of Doctor Doom.
We're done for now but there's lots more where that came from!
Until next time: Who Do YOU Trust?