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Super Reads Dark Reign 70

badguy70.jpgLet's start filling in some gaps!

Today, we check out Dark Reign: The List- X-Men #1, Dark X-Men: The Confession #1, The New Avengers #57, Ms. Marvel #45, Dark Reign: Made Men #1, and Blast to the Past for The Amazing Spider-Man #'s 61.  Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!

It's been a while since we checked in on the Dark Reign, the whole build up to Siege.  It's time we rectified that matter.

If this is your first time reading Super Reads, it's been around for a while, now!  We've covered everything from Secret Invasion through Dark Reign as well as War of Kings.  If you're interested in reading all that back story (and who wouldn't be?), check in the "Features" link at the top of the page, look for the "Super Reads" button and click away for DAYS of reading enjoyment.  If that's too many clicks for you, just hit HERE and get there in one shot.

Let's check in on how that List is treating Norman Osborn...


drtlxm1.jpgDark Reign- The List: X-Men #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Alan Davis


In this issue: Norman Osborn gets ready to unleash Namor's ex-wife as part of a revenge plan against Namor.  The ex was once the Alpha Flight member, Marrina, but now looks a lot like a sea serpent.  Marrina gets right to killing any Atlantean she finds.  Since Namor is now an X-Man, he brings the case to his allies.  Scott comes up with a plan to kill the thing but Namor rejects their help.  After a talk with Emma, he decides to accept aid.  The entire population of Pacific Atlanteans is gathered near Utopia and then teleported into the Norwegian Sea.  That leaves Namor as the only Atlantean in the area.  The X-Men combine their forces and attack Marrina but it takes Namor to lift her out of the water and the two drop right into the Mariana Trench.  Once there, he kills his ex-wife.  Later on, Namor delivers Mariana's head to Avengers Tower and drops it on Norman Osborn.  Threats follow before the Sub-Mariner departs.  With the threat eliminated, the Atlanteans are returned to their home in the Pacific. 

The Utopia crossover changed the face of Norman's Cabal by taking two of its member and placing them against Ozzy.  For those of you following along at home, those two members were the mutants, Emma Frost and Namor the Sub-Mariner.  Emma doesn't piss off Osborn quite as much as Namor's "betrayal."  It's not even like the two weren't having problems before Utopia.  Namor had already butted heads with Stormin' Norman after an Atlantean Terror Cell had gone on a killing spree in LA. 

So it's a game of revenge.  Like other people who have had his job in the past (or even other Marvel characters in positions of power), Norman has protocols in place to take down potential threats.  That means he's already devised a way to destroy Namor.  It's not a very ACCURATE plan.  It's messy and looks like it's set up more to piss Namor off that actually kill him.  Maybe that's what Norman wants.

So what's that plan?  He's going to send Namor's ex-wife after him. 

Marrina.  Once upon a time, she and Namor were a happily married couple.  That ended when Marrina became pregnant and transformed to her Leviathan form.  Not only that, but she pretty much went savage and started killing everything she could find.  In the end, Namor was forced to kill her.

It didn't take.  Marrina was somehow kept alive and ended up in the care of the Master of the World who reverted her to her more humanoid form but kept her in stasis.  Eventually, she was put into the care of HAMMER and you KNOW that's not going to end well.  Osborn has had her modified so that she is in continual estrus which has locked her in serpent monster form.  Not only that, they've added in some shark traits just to make her that much more nasty.  To make this package complete, Marrina is only able to digest Atlanteans.  She's able to track them down wherever they are through a hightened sense of smell.  The more she eats, the larger she gets.  The larger she gets, the more she needs to eat. 

So the thing that Marrina has become is custom made to kill Namor's people.  It's still not really something that gives Norman any gain and Ms. Hand points that out to him.  Norman gets visibly angry.  Revenge?  It's a gain all in of itself.  He unleashes Marrina into the ocean.  War were declared on Namor's people.

Most of Atlantis has been evacuated.  Namor's people are spread out on the surface as sleeper agents after the destruction of Atlantis.  Still, there are Atlantean people that still populate the seas and oceans of the world.  The Pacific, especially, has a pretty good population as we've seen in Agents of Atlas.  They've even got a new capital city at Oceanus.  Marrina finds her first meal in the South China Sea.  It's a violent exchange and the sea monster eats well.

But not completely.  Some of those tasty Atlanteans are just killed and not eaten.  Some more wash up on the shore where crowds gather round to view the blue dead people.  Namor is able to track down one of those bodies and deliver them back home, giving a harsh warning to the people viewing this as just another spectacle.

Namor doesn't bring the body straight back for a decent burial.  Instead, he brings it to Utopia and shares information with his new allies, the X-Men.  The Sub-Mariner tells the X-Men that there have been five attacks so far and they keep getting more and more violent.  Whatever is responsible is only targeting Atlantean communities.  Ocean life remains otherwise undisturbed. 

Cyclops notes that the attacks are leading right in the direction of Utopia and decides that will help in its destruction.  If Namor were to gather up his people and bring them all to Utopia, they would concentrate their various stenches in one area and draw whatever is killing them to the island.  They would then teleport the Atlanteans and the Utopia civilian population halfway around the world so that they wouldn't actually be there when the threat arrives.  Utopia is already set up to resist outside attack so it's the perfect staging ground.

 (You know what's really gross about the Atlanteans?  They've gotta use the bathroom sometime and they're urinating in the same water that they're breathing.  Maybe they have designated places for them to do their dirty business but I bet it's tempting to just go with the flow.  Who's gonna know, anyway?)

Namor hears this plan and rejects it.

Emma Frost follows the Sub-Mariner up to the roof.  Emma is stuck in her diamond form after she got a sliver of the Void stuck in her head.  Eventually, this will lead to her losing all connection with her emotions but she's holding things together pretty well at this point.  Still, she's starting down that path and her manner shows it.  She basically tells Namor to shut the hell up and start accepting help before his underwater kingdom is filled with dead people.  Maybe that's exactly what Namor needed to hear.

The King of Atlantis makes a call to his people and they converge on Utopia.  Once there, Magik and Pixie teleport them over to the Norwegian Sea.

drtlxmen1.jpg

We'll assume that Utopia's civilian population was removed earlier.

All that's left on X-Men Isle are combat trained X-Men.  Specifically: Colossus, Wolverine, Angel, X-23, Nightcrawler, the Stepford Cuckoos, Cyclops, the White Queen, Psylocke, Iceman, and Namor.  Namor is the last Atlantean in the Pacific Ocean.

Marrina makes her approach and the Sub-Mariner immediately recognizes her.  He has the Cuckoos examine her and they find hunger, rage, and hate.  This won't be the first time that Namor has killed her but, as a monarch, he goes all regal and hides his emotions from view.  He's even a bit flippant about the thing.

X-Men go!

Iceman's powers are augmented by Psylock and he shoots out an ice blast powerful enough to encase Marrina.  Not strong enough to hold her, however.  Marrina breaks out and continues on her rampaging path.  It's time to deliver the Wolverines into battle.  Colossus fastball specials Logan at the sea serpent while Angel flies X-23 in.  Wolverine targets the eyes.  X-23 basically just holds on... for some reason.

With her eyes out, she can no longer fire eye beams or see what's going on around her.  Angel flies in to pick up Logan.  Nightcrawler teleports in with a bomb and 'ports out again with X-23.  She did her job of holding on well.  The bomb goes off and Marrina goes boom.

This doesn't kill the big sea serpent but it does make her fall back down to the island in a weakened state.  The X-Men run out of the way so they don'g get crushed by Marrina's bulk but Namor doesn't move an inch and gets flattened.  Which is all according to plan.  Namor lifts his ex-wife up by the head and flies off to the Mariana Trench which is on the opposite side of the Pacific so it probably gave Namor time to think about this.

He takes her down into the trench.  All the way down.  Namor speaks words of comfort to his ex-wife on the way down.  Only one of them will be coming up alive.

Imperius Rex.

Osborn doesn't spend all his time hanging out in Avengers Tower in his downtime from Avengering missions.  Tonight, for example, he's at the LA office headquarters of Oscorp probably looking over some files.  For protection's sake, Ozzy's brought the Sentry around but Bob's pretty stir crazy.  If you were the Golden Guardian of Good, you'd probably want to be doing more than just looming over your boss protecting him from a threat that probably won't materialize.

Today, however, is different.  Today, Norman gets a visit from Namor the Sub-Mariner.  HAMMER picks up the approach but gives the warning to Norman and Bob too late to do anything. 

Marrina's head comes in for a landing first.

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HAMMER Agents and the Sentry get ready for Namor's entrance but Norman calls them off.  Osborn might be stuck under the head of a dead serpent monster but he still wants to look Namor in the eyes and smile snottily.

The Sub-Mariner flies up to the broken window and throws down his theats.  He just killed his ex-wife and ripped off her head.  Just think what's in store for Norman.  Osborn's surrounded by HAMMER Agents and has the Sentry here for protection.  He's in no danger at this point.  That means he's able to give the Atlantean a casual wave and a call good bye.  There might be a next time.  Maybe.

With the threat gone, Namor's people are teleported back into their ocean.  Scott, Emma, and Namor are present to welcome them home.

This issue has a back-up story, too.  It's a reprinting of Matt Fraction's first published Marvel work.  The story is a Logan tale from X-Men Unlimited #9 from Auguast 2005.  Art by Sam Keith!  It isn't anything spectacular because... well, X-Men Unlimited wasn't telling anything earth shattering.  Still, it's a nice look into how Wolverine, with his very long life, deals with the deaths of loved ones. 


dxmtc1.jpgDark X-Men: The Confession #1
Writers: Craig Kyle & Chris Yost
Penciler: Bing Cansino


In this issue, we follow up on Beast's ultimatum that all secrets be revealed between himself, Scott, and Emma.  Scott's ready to.' fess up on all his dirty dealings but Emma is not ready to follow suit.  Cyclops ends up sleeping on the couch.  When he wakes up, he's surrounded by X-Men who all tell him that Emma's not around.  Scott runs into his bedroom and finds a note from Emma.  She's gone off to kill Norman.  Scott rushes off to stop her only to find her right on the doorstep.  Both are ready to talk but Scott makes sure they go somewhere away from prying ears.  And minds.  They enter a psi-shielded area and Scott has Emma read his mind.  Once inside, Summers reveals all his secrets and Emma does the same.  When they're done, they're more in love than ever before and decide to have no more secrets.

Back in Uncanny X-Men #511, the Beast gave Scott and Emma an ultimatum: give up your secrets of it's all over.  This was followed up in Dark Avengers/ Uncanny X-Men: Exodus where we see Emma and Scott lying in bed talking about this whole secret business.  Emma's unwilling to budge on giving her secrets up but Scott is ready to burst with 'em.  That scene ended with them sleeping on opposite sides of the bed.

Which is where we pick up here.  No one's saying anything just yet.  No one can sleep, either.  Emma gets up and heads to the window and Scott follows.  We hear Hank McCoy's words again: "These secrets will kill us."  The two hold each other in front of the window.

But Emma's not talking.  She'll die before she reveals exactly what she's done.  Scott really wants to tell her but Emma doesn't want to hear anything.  If Scott wants to spill his soul to Beast, then by all means.  Ms. Frost simply isn't having it.

So Cyclops decides to leave the bedroom and sleep on the loveseat.  When he leaves, Emma starts crying and apologizes but Scott's already gone and it's pretty clear that it's an apology he wasn't meant to hear.

The next morning, Scott Summers wakes up to find Prodigy, Pixie, and Armor staring at him. Pixie offers to find him a place to sleep a little closer to her bed (if you know what she's saying) but Cyclops isn't really into underaged girls so that's an obvious no-go.  When he asks what the young X-Men are doing staring at him while he's sleeping, they answer that they were actually looking for Ms. Frost.  She missed their early morning training excersizes which is very unusual for her.

Scott tries to talk to Emma telepathically but he's not getting an answer.  He races into the bedroom and finds a note addressed to him.  It's a Dear John letter from Emma Frost.  It looks like she's gone off to kill a man (best guess is Norman Osborn) and she doesn't expect to survive the experience. 

Scott races out of his room continuing to try and telepathically reach his girlfriend.  He reaches the front door of the Graymalkin Industries and finds Emma waiting there.  Seems like her bags were packed, she was ready to go... but she couldn't make herself go through with it.  It's time for full disclosure but Scott stops her before she can say another word.

Frost is a bit frustrated that she's not able to reveal all her dirty secrets right away but Summers wants to make sure that they are secure before they start dropping bombs.  They head to a psi-shielded room and Scott asks her to enter his mind.  She still thinks this is all about her and that Scott couldn't possibly to anything that would make him any less a white knight.

Once inside Scott's mind, he leads the frustrated White Queen into a locked door to look at a locked box.  These are the secrets that Emma wouldn't be able to open on her own.  Scott does it for her.

What follows are all the bad things that these two characters have ever done.  Let's start with Scott because that's where the issue starts.

Cyclops' sins start when he formed X-Force, his very own mutant hit squad.  This whole team went against everything Scott was taught to believe in.  They were killers.  Wolverine led the team in an attempt to remove Cyclops from the day-to-day blood letting but Scott was still in overall command and gave out the death orders.  He was already tainted.

X-Force went out to kill the enemies of mutantkind.  Things quickly went out of control.  More enemies kept shooting up and people like Warren Worthington III and Rahne Sinclair ended up with problems all their own.  Instead of getting these mutant friends the help they needed, Scott kept pushing them into combat situations.  He even risked other mutants in an attempt to keep the future secure.

Eventually, Cable and Hope were located and Cyclops sent X-Force after them.  Wolverine wanted more help but that wasn't a possibility.  The X-Men don't kill and that's what X-Force was sent out to do.  If the X-Men were sent in and were forced to kill, they would all be covered in blood.  The future wouldn't be worth saving.  "The dream would be dead."

Now, on to Emma.

Most of Emma's secrets are actually well known facts.  She started out as a member of the Hellfire Club.  The White Queen.  She made attempts to destroy the X-Men.  She's slept with people like Tony Stark and Namor, both of whom lose a little respect for Scott just because she's sharing his bed.  They think that Cyclops is being manipulated and played by the White Queen.

Emma says that everything she does she's done for the wellfare of her students but she doesn't believe that's actually true.  She's manipulated them as well.  She tried to drive Wallflower away because she thought the mutant's presence was bad for the rest of the team.  Instead, she drove away Wither but didn't pursue him because he was also a threat to the school.  Emma even killed her own sister because she threatened her students.

Worst of all, she joined with Norman Osborn in the formation of his Cabal.  Osborn came to her instead of Magneto (who was depowered and possibly off-planet).  Instead of Sebastian Shaw (who's current influence in mutant affairs is minimal at best).  Instead of Mister Sinister (who isn't a mutant but is very interested in mutantkind... and is kind of dead right now).  She joined up with Osborn's Cabal and sold her soul for the seat.

So.... yeah.
darkxmentc1.jpg

Emma tries to apologize for all that she's done but Scott interupts her with "I love you."  It's nothing like unloading your burdens to make someone realize just what they love about you.  Scott knows Emma.  He also doesn't care what Namor or Tony Stark think about him.  Screw those guys.  Emma is the kind of person who will do what it takes to save mutantkind.  She didn't join the Cabal for her own benefit but for the benefit of her people. 

Scott, on the other hand, has really dirtied his hands.  Emma knows better.  She knows that everything he's done, he's also done to save mutants.  Their population is less than 200 people.  They are literally an endangered species.  Extreme measures have to be taken.  What about Professor X or Magneto?  Screw those guys.  They haven't done what Cyclops has done.  He's working for the betterment of mutant kind and he's even trying to keep most everyone clean in the process. 

Frost tells Summers that she was going off to kill Norman Osborn because that would be preferable to seeing that look in Scott's face when he learned that she had betrayed him.  Scott did the same thing, really.  He kept Emma out of the loop because he didn't want her to be disgusted with him and lose her.  They both laugh at the folly of their ways.  They're both pretty messed up and playing the middle role: Part super-hero, part super-villain.

In the end, when this all comes to light, the heroes won't accept them.  The X-Men and the Avengers will not be forgiving of these actions.  Emma doesn't care.  Screw those guys.  It's time for kissing.

They agree to no longer keep secrets from each other.  From here on out, they will be working together with full disclosure.

We end the book with a battle scene right out of Dark Avengers/ Uncanny X-Men: Exodus with Cyclops and Emma fighting side by side.  To the end.

na57.jpgThe New Avengers #57
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Stuart Immonen


Last issue, the one non-powered New Avenger, Mockingbird, fought the Syndicate with only a little help from her downed teammates. She held her own for a while but they were overwhelming odds for someone without powers and she was knocked out after a few pages of fighting. With Mock out of the fight, the Wrecking Crew stopped playing with the downed New Avengers and we saw that Luke Cage was suffering from a heart attack, which wasn't helped by the Wrecker poking him. The Sentry flew on the scene and was quickly depowered as well. The rest of the Dark Avengers were smart enough to stay out of range. That didn't stop Jonas Harrow from infecting Norman's systems to discuss the alterations he wanted made to Norman's deal with the Hood. Speaking of the Hood, he was getting his powers (or someone's powers) back in Cuba with the help of Loki. Norman turned down Harrow's deal, then found his whole team depowered and himself armorless with the Syndicate ready to move in.

This issue, we catch up on the thoughts of all the downed members of the New Avengers before getting to the meat of the action: a de-armored Norman Osborn surrounded by members of the Syndicate.  Ozzy talks it up with the Wrecker before getting the villain to allow him back into his armored suit.  Once back in the Iron Patriot armor, Norman has a conversation with Dr. Jonas Harrow and he agrees let them join his Initiative and get that get-out-of-jail-free card they seem to want so much.  The depower device is turned off and Sinister Spidey is about to eat Amazing Spidey when the New Avengers' cloaked Quinjet comes in for a landing with all guns blazing.  The New Avengers make a run for it, Spidey gets to clock Osborn, and everything seems ok except for Luke Cage going into cardiac arrest.  In Cuba, the Hood decides using the Norn Stones is an awesome idea and he gets his powers back thanks to Loki.  Luke Cage's condition warrants a trip to the Night Nurse who is NOT qualified for this situation even if Cage's unbreakable skin made it a possibility.  Things are complicated when the Dark Avengers show up and demand the New Avengers give themselves up.  Luke decides that he's the only one that should surrender and does so while the rest of the team escapes.  Before Norman can slap some cuffs on BMB's favorite Avenger, Luke collapses.


You might wonder to yourself: does this issue take place after Dark Reign: The List- Avengers, released two short weeks before?  Your answer is no, it doesn't take place after that issue.  DR:TL-Avengers is set in the not-so-distant future and it'll take a few issues and an annual before we're all kosher with the timeline thing.  For now, let's just pretend that Clint Barton isn't captured by the Dark Avengers and that everyone's futures are still up for grabs.

I know, it's a stretch.  The only one you don't know for certain is alive or dead is Luke Cage.  He didn't make an appearance in The List special issue and is only ominously mentioned.  That might have something to do with him going into cardiac arrest this very issue! 

The rest of the Avengers aren't fairing much better.  Clint might not currently sport super powers but it seems his time as Goliath is having an effect on him as the Syndicate's stolen power inhibitor works its magic.  Spidey?  Down for the count.  Looks like the entire world is spinning for our favorite wall crawler.  Ms. Marvel?  Completely unconscious.  Since her powers are the greatest, she may be affected more or... this could be the Ms. Marvel created by the Storytellers over in her own title.  If that's true, all she really is are the powers with a little consciousness thrown in to make her work.  Spider-Woman is also lying down on the job and, since she fell facing Carol, she's concerned about her friend and teammate but is happy to see that she's at least still breathing.  Luke Cage... heart attack man.  Even James "Bucky" Barnes, the current Captain America is having trouble just because of his robot arm.

Bucky brings it all home with his dialogue boxes: the reason they're facing this crisis is because they got sloppy.  Back in New Avengers #50, they tried to use a power inhibitor on the Dark Avengers but ended up snagging the Syndicate instead.  Since the inhibitor wasn't turned on yet, it did them no good at all.  Seriously, it wasn't the New Avengers' best moment ever.  In the aftermath of that battle, the power inhibitor was damaged and left behind.  Jonas Harrow was able to reverse engineer the thing but it's obviously not as humane as Tony Stark intended it to be.  This thing removes powers and brings the pain.

Unless you're Norman Osborn.  He still has that goblin juice running through his veins but he seems to be holding together pretty well.  Oh, sure, they've removed his armored suit and surrounded him but, compared to the New Avengers, he's getting it easy. 

That might all be planned, of course.  The Syndicate is trying to make a deal with Norman Osborn so they don't want to back him all the way into a corner or the crazy man might just nuke New York City and call it a day (it's a possibility and you know it).  Norman talks to the supposed leader of this mob, the Wrecker, and gets the list of demands clarified.  If Norman agrees to everything, he gets the power inhibitor and the Syndicate gets the same deal they already had under the Hood.  The only real difference is that they know about the deal instead of being kept in the dark.  The New Avengers are an added bonus.  Norman has to make up his mind very quickly, though because this gang of super powers is not all of the same mind.  Any delay could start a killing. 

This isn't Norman's first barbecue, of course.  He won't give up anything from a position of weakness.  He demands his armor back with the support of the weakened Ares.  Wrecker thinks about it for a moment before agreeing.

Osborn pops on his Iron Patriot suit.  It's not actually online yet but it does give him a direct line to Dr. Harrow.  Norman asks Harrow why he should even be thinking about making this deal, and Harrow gives him a convincing reason: Ozzy's still alive.  There's nothing to prevent his death but this group of superpower villains has the Dark Avengers AND New Avengers on the ropes and they haven't killed anyone yet.  These are C- and D-list villains for the most part.  They would get some major street cred for downing any of these guys and they're holding off to get a get-out-of-jail-free card from the big man.

To sweeten the deal, Harrow agrees to show Osborn how he hacked into the Iron Patriot suit and even give Norman some pointers on how to use the suit more effectively.  One more threat and Norman agrees to the deal.  Harrow shuts down the power inhibitor and leaves the New Avengers in the gentle hands of the Dark Avengers.  Norman waits for his armor to power back up.

Once everything's back up and running, Norman orders his Avengers to their feet.  They've just won the battle.  It's time to celebrate.  Osborn informs the Wrecker and the rest of the Syndicate that they've got their deal.  Now, it's time for their first mission: watch the Sinister Spider-Man eat the Amazing Spider-Man.  Good times!

Of course, that's not going to happen.  Before Venom can grab his bib, Ares notices something flying in fast.

It's the New Avenger's Quinjet.  It's cloaked so Iron Patriot's systems aren't picking up anything and that means he can't mount a proper defense.  Sentry is still out of commision due to the power inhibitor.  When the Quinjet starts opening fire, Norman is pounded into the ground hard.  The area is cleared of any immediate opposition.  Mockingbird leaves the cockpit, shouting to her teammates to hurry up and get in the damn plane.  Time's a wastin'!

Kudos to Bobbi, by the way.  She held her own against an army of super villains last issue and when she retreated, she came up with a damn good plan for a rescue attempt.

The New Avengers scramble aboard, Cap helping Cage and Spidey carrying Ms. Marvel.  The Quinjet is airborne quickly, but it's given Norman time enough to recover from the Quinjet's landing.  It looks like Spider-Man will have to buy his teammates' some time to make good on the getaway.  It's always good to see Peter get some punching in on the Green Goblin no matter what suit he's wearing.

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Spidey swings back into the Quinjet but the New Avengers still aren't out of the woods.  Dark Hawkeye's flying up to the Quinjet on one of HAMMER's modified Goblin Gliders.  Captain America brings him back down to earth with a swing of his mighty shield.  With that, the Quinjet blasts off into the night.

The Dark Avengers are pretty pissed off that the New Avengers were able to run away from this without any casualties.  Oh, sure, the New Avengers didn't have a good day at all and we all know Luke Cage has some serious medical issues that require immediate attention but they still GOT AWAY.  Daken, however, is ready to give chase.  He's got their scent and, just like his old man, that means he can track them.

The Norn Stones.  They give their bearer power.  What power they give is up to the wielder.  In Bayamo, Cuba, that wielder is the Hood.  Recently, he was defeated very publicly by the New Avengers and lost his connection to Dormammu.  That has left Parker Robbins without all of his super powered abilities.  Thanks to Loki and a very short quest, the Hood has come into possession of the Norn Stones.  The question is: what will they do for him?

If you want to place this issue in continuity, this part right here offers you a clue.  Loki is still a female.  That means it happens before Thor #602 and Dark Avengers/ Uncanny X-Men: Utopia event.  Odds are pretty good that this all happens before Hood's Syndicate takes over the Initiative, too, but there's evidence going both ways for that.

Anyway, back to the story.  Loki explains that she's used the Norn Stones before in her battle with Thor but that she no longer wants them for herself.  They're for the Hood to use in whatever way he wants.  Madame Masque, who tagged along for this adventure, doesn't think Parker should use them at all.  For the Hood, there's very little doubt about it.  He needs power to rule his mob and this'll do.  Holding the Stones, he fires his gun, watching as the side of the church they're in explodes.  Looks like someone's just recieved an upgrade.

Thanks to Loki.  That won't have serious repercussions at all.  No sir.

When super heroes are injured in their battle against injustice, they head to Brooklyn right to the Night Nurse.  She's here to offer them free medical assistance and the freedom of anonymity.  It's a pretty good deal.  While she goes by the name "Night Nurse," she's not an actual nurse.  She is, in fact, a doctor.  Why does she go by Night Nurse, then?  Probably to capitalize on the four issue Marvel series from the seventies by the same name.  It might also be because the overwhelmingly male audience that reads comics doensn't think a female can be a doctor.  Yes, we're all male chauvenist pigs.  No, I can't think of an in-continuity reason.  Ask Bendis.

Even though the Night Nurse is a doctor, she doesn't have the training to deal with cardiac arrest.  Even then, Luke's skin is unbreakable which means they'll need that power inhibitor to help deal with this situation.  It doesn't look good to be Luke Cage right now.

To make a bad situation even worse, the Dark Avengers just showed up with a HAMMER back-up team.  Yes, they brought tanks and choppers.  It's that kind of party.  Norman calls in for the New Avengers to surrender even though Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye KNOW that's a bad idea.  It's like Ozzy WANTS them to escape. 

Inside, the New Avengers know that they aren't going to get out of this without offering up a sacrifice to the Green Goblin gods.  One of them is going to have to surrender and buy time for the others to escape.  Cap offers up himself since he hasn't done anything to really piss Normie off but the rest of the team know that offering up a man draped in the flag isn't going to go over well.  Ms. Marvel offers the same but they're missing the obvious choice.

Luke Cage.

Think about it.  Only Norman Osborn can get Cage the help he needs.  Ozzy has access to the power inhibitor and can get a prisoner medical attention.  He's pretty much legally obligated to do that.  All it's going to take is for Luke Cage to trust Norman Osborn to do things legally and that's a pretty big stretch.  The two have history and it's not just isolated to the time Osborn helped Luke Cage find his kid only to have Cage smack around the Dark Avengers on his way out of Avengers Tower.  Luke and Spider-Man were responsible for Norman's public reveal and arrest as the Green Goblin.  Bad blood after bad blood.

Still, it's the best plan they've got and it's Luke's only chance.  He walks out the front doors and into the... welcoming arms... of the Dark Avengers.  Iron Patriot starts the "you're under arrest" spiel right before Luke Cage drops to the ground.

And, like every other time someone falls to the ground in this book, Luke lands right on his face.  Immonen really hates faces.

mm45.jpgMs. Marvel #45
Writer: Brian Reed
Artist: Philippe Briones


Last issue, Norman and Karla (with special guest star, Lily Hollister) dealt with the aftermath of catching Ms. Marvel. Karla mentioned how ridiculous it was that Ms. Marvel was taken out by a pumpkin bomb when those things barely do Spidey any damage but no one listened to her. Catherine Donovan arrived in New York, listened to her messages, sent one back to her boss, and took a taxi to Avengers Tower. Ms. Marvel struggled (quite successfully) with her power inhibitor chair. Catherine entered Avengers Tower and was immediately picked up by the sensors as Carol Danvers. Ms. Marvel was shown to have a connection to Catherine and psychically told her to run. Donovan did but didn't make it far before the Dark Avengers apprehended her. Ms. Marvel finally escaped her chair, picking a fight with Norman as Karla made her move to kill Catherine.

In this issue, Catherine Donovan escaped Karla Sofen long enough for Ms. Marvel to intervene and save Donovan's life.  It's Ms. Marvel vs. Ms. Marvel in the New York skies.  Catherine is surrounded by HAMMER Agents poised to shoot her down but, suddenly, that's not an issue for her as she knows exactly how to take them all down.  Outside, Karla explains that she doesn't have to beat Ms. Marvel up.  She just needs to keep her away from Catherine long enough for someone inside to kill the civilian.  To that end, Sofen starts dropping people from the sky, forcing Ms. Marvel to rescue them.  Inside Avenger's Tower, Catherine makes her way to an elevator while discussing her current situation.  She meets Iron Patriot at the elevator and Osborn blows her head off.  The Storytellers decide to alter reality and give Catherine another chance at life... inside Karla Sofen's body.


Poor Catherine Donovan.  She's a regular person with no super powers.  She came to Avengers Tower so that they could help her with this feeling that she's connected to Ms. Marvel.  Unfortunately, the Tower's sensors picked her up AS Ms. Marvel.  That's because she's IS Ms. Marvel.  She just doesn't remember that or have the powerset anymore.  Unfortunately, the current Avengers don't give a damn about that.  They just see her as Ms. Marvel and decide that killing her would be the best idea ever.

Complicating this?  Another Ms. Marvel.  This one has all the powers and everything but doesn't seem to have anything approaching a personal life.  She's all business.  When these two crazy girls come together, watch out! 

And we're not done.  There's one final Ms. Marvel to add: Karla Sofen.  The former Moonstone who's dressing in the Ms. Marvel threads for the Dark Avengers.  She wasn't too keen on the deception at first but has grown to enjoy being a hero... even though she does stuff that isn't all that heroic from time to time. 

For example: right now, while Iron Patriot is distracting Ms. Marvel, Karla's trying to kill Catherine Donovan.  The theory is that, if you kill one, the other will disappear.  We'll see about that.  For now, let's just watch a very confused and injured Catherine escape the clutches of Karla Sofen.  She does pretty well, actually.  She might not have any powers but she is starting to get Carol Danvers' skills back.  It doesn't stop her from taking a blast to the back from her adversary.

Sofen never has time to seal the deal on the killing thing, though.  Ms. Marvel didn't waste time dealing with Iron Patriot after learning that Catherine was in danger.  She flies in and takes Karla back outside to fight her in the open air. 

Girl fight!  Enjoy these pages.  It's not often you get two blondes fighting it out in the sky.  I think it's hardly ever, actually.

Back inside Avengers Tower, Catherine gets about ten seconds of recovery time to watch the two Ms. Marvels fight it out before her own problems come crashing back into her.  HAMMER Agents have converged on her position.  Lots of 'em.  They've been given orders to kill.

Maybe an hour ago, this would be a problem for Catherine but, like I've already mentioned, she's getting her Carol Danvers skills back.  A whole room is pointing guns at her?  Not a problem.  She just gets to work and fights her way through the entire crew, Matrix-style.

While the fight is going on, Donovan starts hearing voices in her head.  I'll let you in right now: these are the Storytellers.  Those MODOK fetus things that have been showing up in the book lately.  They worked really hard to give Carol a life separate from Ms. Marvel's and, now, she's right back in the thick of it.  Why'd she do that?  Catherine still doesn't know what the hell's going on and just thinks that some of the bad guys are messing with her head.  It doesn't make her combat skills any less effective.

Let's head back outside to enjoy the cat-fight.  Despite her recent power fluctuations, Ms. Marvel is back to being super powerful and that means that Karla's chances of ending this fight in her own favor is pretty limited.  That's ok.  Karla doesn't need to kill Ms. Marvel.  She just needs to distract her opponent long enough for someone inside the tower to kill Catherine Donovan.  When she tells Ms. Marvel that, it changes the dynamic of the fight.  Ms. Marvel no longer wants to be in this battle. 

Karla does.  Ms. Marvel tries to race back to Avengers Tower but finds that difficult.  Sofen is recruiting new Avengers who she flies up in the air and then fires them from the roster as she drops them.  Ms. Marvel, being the hero of the piece, has no real choice but to come to the rescue.  As she's rescuing the first batch, Karla returns to the skies with more people to drop.

Catherine's actually doing pretty well for herself.  She's taken out all those HAMMER Agents and is now roaming the halls freely.  Her inner monologue becomes less "inner" as she vocally describes her situation.  One day ago, she was just a columnist living on the west coast.  She had never ran into a super hero before.  She had never fired a gun.  She didn't know martial arts.  She certainly wasn't hearing voices.

As she hits the elevator button, she learns that she wasn't the only one listening to her rambling.

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Norman Osborn.  Iron Patriot.  He's here and he's ready to do some damage.  Catherine tries to fire her gun at Norman but it refuses to fire after identifying it's intended target as Iron Patriot.  Not that it would do very well against Norman's armor.  Osborn shatters the gun and then blasts Catherine's head.  The body topples to the floor, lifeless.  Looks like that's done.

Key word:  "Looks."

The body disassembles behind the Iron Patriot as the Storytellers yell at Norman for ruining all their work.  All those chunks of information start flying through the air.  Norman has a pretty good idea where they're heading and tries to give Karla a heads up. 

Sofen is too busy throwing people around to take the warning seriously.  She probably couldn't avoid what happens next, anyway.  Those blocks of... Knowledge?... whatever the Storytellers broker Catherine Donovan's body down into... they hit Karla with physical force, knocking her and her victims back into whatever building was behind her.  To the Storytellers, this is getting even.  Osborn took Catherine's life so they'll take Karla's. 

Ms. Marvel no longer has to catch falling people so she backtracks until she locates Dark Ms. Marvel and finds Karla still struggling for consciousness.  Ms. Marvel isn't about to let Karla rise to her feet and tells the Dark Avenger so.  Karla seems pissed.  This entire issue, people have been calling Catherine Donovan names that aren't her own.  This "Karla" name is just another one to add to the list.

That's right.  Catherine is in Karla's body.  To be concluded next issue!

 
drmm1.jpgDark Reign: Made Men #1
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Khoi Pham


In this story, the original Spymaster breaks into a top security building and recalls what led up to that event.  Spymaster was working as a taxi driver in New York City and picked up Norman Osborn only to learn that Norman knew exactly who he was and had a specific job for him to do.  Spymaster completes his secret agent man routine and steals a photo.  When he asks why this photo was so important, Norman explains that it's the last photograph of Tony Stark with his parents as he lights it on fire.  Spymaster tells Norman never to contact him again.  The next week, Osborn goes looking for Spymaster only to find that the villain faked the death of his taxi driver persona. 

There have been three people to call themselves Spymaster in the Marvel Universe.  They've all been basically Iron Man foes with a dash of other super heroes thrown in to spice things up.  They're also all dead.  Or... ARE they?

This story is about the first Spymaster who it turns out is very much alive.  This is pretty surprising since his death seems very hard to fake.  Let me tell you about it!  Back in Iron Man #220, Spymaster was contracted ruin a business called Accutech and also to kill the previous sabateur, Ghost, if he got in the way.  Of course, Iron Man got in the way as well which led to Spymaster and Ghost making a quick team-up in order to escape.  Unfortunately, Ghost was actually using the team-up to set Spymaster up for a fall.  After helping Spymaster teleport halfway through a wall, Ghost took away the phasing tech and let Spymaster solidify still in the wall.  The shock supposedly killed Spymaster.  If nothing else, it removed his legs.

So, the original Spymaster is dead.  They showed the body and everything.  It'd be hard to argue with the death scene.

But, since Spymaster is a SPY, there's always a way around that, right?  And if they don't actually explain what that way is, it's still cool because it's a spy thing, right?  I guess that's the case here.  The original Spymaster is back, baby.

And he's in Europe breaking into a highly secure facility to steal an even higher secured prize.  Why?  We'll have to back up a ways to get to that.  Let's head two days back in time and across the pond to New York City for a fateful meeting.

For someone who hires a chauffeur, Norman Osborn spends more time in taxis than he really should.  Maybe he just enjoys the process.  In this case, he's got a very specific reason to ride this specific cab.  The driver recognizes Osborn and makes a little small talk before Norman reveals that he recognizes the cabbie as well.  He's the Spymaster.  The original.  Accept no substitutes.

The cabbie plays dumb for a while but Osborn has done his homework.  He knows that Spymaster has had a number of jobs over the years since he faked his death and they have all been jobs that would give him access to something important in his little spy game.  Norman tells the cabbie to stop fronting and just accept that he's been found out.

The Spymaster finally gives up his act and asks why Norman is here.  Looks like there's a job in Spymaster's future.

Let's head back to the relative present and right back over to Europe to see how Spymaster is doing on his robbery job.  He's already broken through security and finds himself in the inner chambers right across from his prize.  He just needs to beat the laser lights that guard it.  Typing in a specific code to his suit, he creates a shield around his costume that absorbs the lasers and redirects them around his body to reach their sensors uninterrupted.  Now, he just needs to walk across the room and get...

A picture of a boy dressed up for a game of baseball with his parents.  It's in black and white.

When he hands it over to Norman Osborn, he wonders why this picture was so important.  Norman explains that this is the last picture of Tony Stark with his parents.  It's one of his prized possessions.  Since it was being held overseas, Norman couldn't use his influence to get it.  He needed an expert who could get by systems set up by Tony Stark himself.  It needed to be someone like Spymaster.

With that, he lights the picture on fire and watches it burn to nothing.

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When I first read this story, I thought this was pretty stupid.  Tony's dad was in the public eye a LOT and it seems pretty ridiculous that there would be so few photos of the family together.  There would be company photos of them together at the very least.  Those would be hard to destroy completely because they'd be everywhere.

Then I realized that this wasn't the ONLY picture of Tony with his parents.  It was the LAST picture of Tony with his parents before they died.  The sentimental value is because it recorded one final moment together.  Now I'm just upset that the picture is in black and white and that Tony isn't a bit older.  His parents died when Tony was well into his teens and nearly into his twenties.  It would be odd that they hadn't had a picture taken in that time and even odder still that they'd choose black and white film.

Whatever the origin of this picture, Spymaster doesn't want to make it a habit working for Osborn.  He tells Norman to leave him alone.  Norman doesn't exactly agree but leaves Spymaster with the feeling that more jobs might be coming his way.

Sure enough, a week later Norman finds himself entering a certain cab looking for Spymaster.  He finds a different cabbie waiting for him.  When he asks what happened to the last taxi driver to have this beat, the current driver points out that the last driver met an untimely end.  It's in the papers and everything.

Norman opens his paper up to the metro section and finds a big article about the Spymaster's taxi cab driver persona's death.  They even fit a pun into the title of the article because death has to be funny.  "Un-Fare End..."  Yes.  That's totally appropriate.

We all know that Spymaster isn't dead and that this is another fake death.  Norman knows it too and is impressed.  It's not often that Norman finds this level of competence, after all.

Writer: Frank Tieri
Penciler: Rafa Sandoval


In this story, Attuma wakes up in Dr. Doom's castle after being beheaded by the Sentry.  Along with the new lease on life, Dr. Doom bestowed on Attuma some new gifts to help in his battle against their mutual frenemy, Namor.  Attuma is given the choice of either serving Doom or fighting his way out.  After thinking over his past history with the sword, Attuma is again approached by Doom who demands an answer.  What will Attuma choose? 

Frank Tieri is returning everyone to life in this issue.  Attuma's been dead for a few years now, having been beheaded by the Sentry over in the Sentry's own mini-series (the second one).  He's as surprised as we are that he has turned up very much alive.  In Dr. Doom's castle.  In Latveria.

He's doing a lot of pondering over a sword, thinking about how he's lived his entire life serving the sword.  Attuma has been fighting the surface world while also waging a war against the Atlanteans under the sea.  That life came to an abrupt end in his final battle with the Sentry.

This resurrection is just a little less mysterious than the Spymaster's.  Dr. Doom apparently recovered Attuma's body and stitched his head back on.  Since Doom is a master of the mystic, you can imagine him casting LIFE or using a Phoenix Down on the corpse until it came back to the land of the living.  That's not the end of it, either.  Attuma was already physically stronger than other Atlanteans.  Doom upped him to Namor levels and also gave him the ability to breathe on land and flight. 

So, the big question on Attuma's lips is: Why?  That's easy.  Namor.  Doom is currently allied with the Sub-Mariner but we all know how super-villain team-ups go especially when they involve Dr. Doom and Namor the Sub-Mariner.  Namor is almost always betrayed and Dr. Doom is just known for his betrayals.  Victor Von Doom knows that it's only a matter of time before Namor will be on the other side of the alliance and he wants a way to take him down.  That would be Attuma.

Attuma mentions that his record of defeating Namor is, like, zero.  That's why Doom upgraded the underwater barbarian. 

There's more to it, though.  In payment for the resurrection, Doom requires that Attuma's people live under the "banner of Latveria."  They will be subjects of Dr. Doom.  This scheme is used all the time, apparently.  Doom has Asgardians living on his lands as well as some of Namor's own people.  Getting Attuma's barbarian tribe to serve him is just another notch on Dr. Doom's belt.

But it's not something Attuma is willing to do.  He likes the idea of having the power to defeat Namor but the price is too high.  He won't serve Dr. Doom. 

That's ok.  No harm no foul.  Doctor Doom throws Attuma a sword and tells him that he doesn't accept his kindly offer, all he's gotta do is fight his way out of this very castle.  Armed with Doombots and other assorted defenses.  Doom makes one final argument before leaving Attuma to decide his fate.  If he allows Dr. Doom to lead his people, Attuma will be giving them more than they've ever had before.  Stability.  Food.  Clothing.  A powerful ally (though, it'll still be Doom so betrayal is an eventuality).  Otherwise, certain death by Doombot.  It's Attuma's choice.  He's got one hour to decide.

So Attuma is left with his thoughts for one hour.  He's never been the greatest thinker in the undersea world.  He's always been the warrior.  He thinks back on his life of constant battle and sees just how hopeless it all seems.  Death has that effect on you.  It switches your priorities.

Attuma wonders if it's too late to switch paths.  Maybe he's swung that sword one too many times to change.

At the end of the hour, Doctor Victor Von Doom returns to find out if he's got a new group of subjects to rule with an iron fist.

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Attuma smiles.  What'll it be?  The sword?  Can he change?

Who knows?  This story only opens up the possibility that he could.  It doesn't tell us what he decides. ;)

Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: John Paul Leon


In this story, two police detectives are interrogating a killer who asks for a lot of sodas.  When they finally talk to him, they go with the good cop/ bad cop schtick only to find that this guy is only too willing to explain in detail how and why he killed a fifteen-year-old girl.  He did it as a sacrifice to the devil for the powers of the Jack 'O Lantern and he'd be able to get revenge on those who cost his brother, the first Jack 'O Lantern, his life.  Since he's been caught, the detectives think he got a bad deal only to learn that the new Jack 'O Lantern is only here because he wants to be here.  After a short fight one of Norman Osborn's agents shows up to release the Jack 'O Lantern and probably sign him up for some evil mission or another.  The detectives chalk this one up as a loss and go out to the bar to get plastered.

This is the return of an old super villain but it's not a resurrection this time.  There have been a lot of Jack 'O Lanterns over the years and most of them have been killed in one manner or another.  The most famous Jack is probably the first one, Jason Macendale, who is probably better known for being the second Hobgoblin rather than as Jack 'O Lantern.  The second Jack 'O Lantern was from the nineties and has a sort of convoluted history where two people were dressing up as Jack at the same time.  This led to the creation of another Jack in the same costume that went by the name Mad Jack.  The dude dressing up as Mad Jack, Daniel Berkhart, was basically in between Mysterio gigs while the dude dressing up as Jack 'O Lantern II, Steve Mark Levins, is probably best known for the scene in Civil War where he was killed by the Punisher. 

So, when a man is being held for the murder of a fifteen-year-old girl and the detectives mention that he's the brother of Jack O' Lantern (who the murderer later confirms as one of the dead ones), we could be talking about Jason Macendale's brother OR Steve Mark Levins'.  I'm betting on Levins, actually, because I would bet money that the detectives would have thought of Macendale as the Hobgoblin more than Jack O' Lantern.

Regardless, the man who will be the future Jack came in quietly after the murder and has been asking about soda to drink.  Currently, he's sipping on a Mountain Dew which would be a hell of a product placement.  Mountain Dew: It quenches your thirst after a satanic murder. 

The two detectives devise their strategy.  One's gonna do the bad cop routine while his partner plays good cop.  It's a tried and true method of getting information that proves completely unnecessary here.  The murderer is all about confessing.  He just wants more soda.  Before the murderer gets into details, he lets us all know that he hates cream soda.

I'm going to leave out most of the details of the murder just because it's pretty messed up.  I'll let you know some minor details.  The girl was well known to the murderer.  They were neighbors for years.  She came over to his place to watch television while she waited for her parents to come home.  She had forgotten her keys.  He killed her in order to make a pact with Satan for power. 

The power of the Jack 'O Lantern.

You don't really need to justify this level of insane but he did it to get the power to bring vengeance on those that had led to his brother's death. 

Now, the police detectives are real world people who don't believe that you can actually make a pact with the devil.  If you DID, you probably wouldn't end up in jail after said pact.  So they aren't taking this guy seriously.  Until he reveals that the pact worked.

Suddenly, the detectives are staring straight at the Jack 'O Lantern, dressed up in a brand new super villain suit and surrounded by bats.  It freaks them out and one of them unloads his weapon into the new villain.

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Jack falls but his body turns into cockroaches.  This just serves to freak out the cops more.  The murderer turns up across the room watching the display with amusement.  The Bad Cop bashes Jack's head into the table.

So what's this about?  Well, Jack is here because his "dark lord" told him to be here.  It'll all work out for him even if he is a sick killer who should be locked up for the rest of his life.

On cue, enter Agent Smith from the Matrix movies.  He's actually an attorney for Norman Osborn (or HAMMER-- same thing) and he's here to release this bastard into the outside world on some bogus claim that Jack's a material witness in a national security case.  These are the kind of things Norman Osborn can make happen in his Dark Reign.

Jack leaves with his new friend and learns that Osborn probably has future plans for the brand new Jack 'O Lantern.

The two police detectives know that this is a bogus deal.  They have mixed feelings on Norman Osborn.  After all, the man ended the Secret Invasion.  But letting a child killer back on the streets?  Not cool.  Still, Good Cop knows that there isn't anything they can do about it.

So they might as well go out and get drunk.

Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Ben Oliver


In this story, the Gamma Corps are seen during their copious down time right before Prodigy calls them to attention.  It seems they've got a line on Iron Man, one of their primary targets, who is right in their area.  Further inspection reveal it to actually be Iron Patriot which doesn't mean they don't fight it out.  When they're done fighting, they learn that Norman Osborn isn't here to arrest them.  He's here to offer them a job and redemption.  Best of all, their targets are still people like Iron Man and others who have betrayed the country in Norman's eyes.

The Gamma Corps are Frank Tieri's personal project since he was responsible for creating them in the first place.  In their first mini, they were sent to take down the Hulk because every member believed they had issues with him.  After their fight, they each realized that they were blaming the Hulk for something he didn't even do.  Instead, they decide to hunt down the Illuminati.  This doesn't make them any friends.

So, right now, they're all fugitives hunting other fugitives.  They've been underground for too long and everyone is on edge.  Getting shouted at on the intercom by Prodigy to meet him in the control room isn't helping matters.

Prodigy has some good news.  He's spotted Iron Man.  Since Shellhead is Illuminati, that makes him a target for the Gamma Corps.  Oddly enough, he's in the area.  Why is that odd?  Because Tony Stark is America's Most Wanted.  He shouldn't be flying around so freely when everyone is looking for him.

Questions are going to have to wait for later because Iron Man has spotted them and is now heading their direction.

When the armored form breaks into their base, they figure out very quickly why he was flying out in the open.  It wasn't Iron Man at all.  It was Iron Patriot.

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This doesn't change things.  The Gamma Corps are still wanted fugitives.  It's fight time.

You'll notice during the battle that Norman is obviously in recruit mode.  It's not the first time he's had to face down those he's trying to recruit simply because they don't trust him.  It was a common theme when Osborn was recruiting his Dark X-Men, after all.  Anyway, recruiting Norman does a lot of talking and trying to defuse the situation instead of just kicking the crap out of everyone and calling it a day.

Unfortunately, this gives the Gamma Corps the advantage.  They aren't in a listening mood and they are playing for keeps.  Prodigy finally gets the jump on Iron Patriot by using his telekenesis to squeeze Ozzy's cartarotid artery.  Only Norman mentioning a chance for redemption saves his life and gets the Gamma Corps to start listening.

Norman Osborn has gotten the Gamma Corps a pardon.  Not only that, he's hired them on for a new mandate.  They're going to hunt down people like Iron Man and other threats to Norman Osborn's Dark Reign.  They're essentially going to be Osborn's bounty hunters.  It's a bit different that what the Thunderbolts do.  The T-Bolts is Osborn's mostly ineffective Black-Ops unit.  The Gamma Corps are out for arrests.

The Gamma Corps are ready to prove their worth.  Norman is sure they'll do just fine.

Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Antonio Fuso


In this story, the first Enforcer gives his replacement tips on how to do business in a flashback scene.  In the present, the Hood tries to recruit the new Enforcer into his Syndicate.  In the flashback, the old Enforcer tells his nephew that he's not gonna be around forever and it's necessary to pass on his legacy to the next generation.  In the present, the new Enforcer attacks the Hood with an amulet that turns into an insect-thing before blasting the Wrecking Crew with magic bullets and escaping.  This Enforcer has more work to do. 

You remember the Enforcer, right? 

Right?

No?  Then you're not alone.  He was just one of the many villains that was killed off by the Scourge of the Underworld back in the day.  The Scourge only took down particularly lame super villains so that should tell you this guy's pedigree.  Still, it's a pretty awesome suit and name and maybe it's a good time to bring it back into a new age.

It turns out that the original Enforcer sort of knew how lame he was.  To that end, he decided that it would be a good idea to train a successor who might be a little more competent.  Since he didn't have any children of his own to corrupt, he chose his nephew, Mike Nero.  Meeting up with him at a local restaurant, he starts giving his nephew some rules or the road.

1) Never answer the door without a gun.

2) Take the supernatural jobs.  Most people avoid them so it's an easy field to get in.

We'll get to some more rules in due time.  For now, we're cutting to the present when the brand new Enforcer is out and about, doing his thing.  His work has come to the attention of the Hood and his Syndicate.  Parker sent the Wrecking Crew to pick him up.  Hood goes over some recent business handled by the new Enforcer.  Killing zombies.  Taking out a Maggia Capo.  Stealing stuff out of an Aztec exhibit.  It's been a busy week.  From the Aztec job, the Enforcer picked up this totem amulet thing.  It's now it the hands of the Hood.  Pay attention to the totem thing.  It'll be important later.

The Hood keeps going with the jobs.  It's a long list.  The Enforcer is sort of an overachiever.  It's not like he has big shoes to fill.  He's just proving that he's better than the first guy.

The Hood is visibly impressed by the work that the Enforcer has taken on and Mike is wondering what this is all about.  It seems that the Enforcer owes the Hood money but that's not what this is about.  This is about offering Nero a job in the Syndicate.

This definitely goes against the third rule Mike learned from the first Enforcer.

3) Whatever you do, don't join a damned thing.

The Enforcer isn't a joiner.  He's totally against it because, especially among super villains, there's always too many alpha dogs vying for power.

This is all great and stuff but, in the flashback, Mike's wondering why he's learning all this stuff.

Back to the present again.  The Hood makes his offer.  The Enforcer has learned from his uncle well.  Don't join things.  He politely turns down the Hood and is about to be on his way when the Hood implies that being a loner may have led to the first Enforcer's death.  After that, the Hood tells him how valuable a supernatural expert would be to his Syndicate.  He doesn't really have one of those and he could use one.  We're probably not supposed to mention the Hood's mini series where he hired on Satana.  Maybe this takes place before that.

OK, flashback again.  The old Enforcer answers Mike's question.  He knows that his number is almost up.  It won't be long now before someone gets the drop on him.  He doesn't know that it'll be the Scourge of the Underworld but he knows someone will do it.  We get a montage of the scenes after the Enforcer's death that lead to Mike taking up the costume and identity. 

The new Enforcer thinks back on all of this and gives the Hood the impression that he's changed his mind.  He COULD be a valuable asset to the Hood.  After all, that amulet thing is pretty impressive.  The Hood takes a look just as Nero says the magic spell that turns the amulet into a monster bug.

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This bug feeds off of demonic energy and that's what's powering the Hood right now.  While their boss deals with that threat, the Enforcer is shooting the Wrecking Crew with his magic bullets.  They actually do the Crew some damage.

The Enforcer crashes out the nearest window and hits the ground running.  He's made up his mind.  Instead of joining the Syndicate, he's going to be fighting them.  The Hood swears that the Enforcer will die now.  Putting on his mask, the new Enforcer knows that they all die eventually.

But right now?  He's only just begun.

asm61.jpgThe Amazing Spider-Man #61
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: John Romita


In this issue, Peter regrets lots of stuff.  Gwen finds out her dad is involved in some shady dealing because of some mind control mumbo jumbo.  Spidey battles it out with the Kingpin's men and finds they're brainwashed as well.  Harry Osborn drives Mary Jane down to her job only to find that it's been closed and MJ is out the money they owed her.  Norman Osborn yells at one of his scientists for ordering things without his approval.  We learn that the scientist is working for the Kingpin.  Kingpin sets up shop right inside Osborn Industries and orders the death of Spider-Man.  Harry joins his father in his office as Norman has a panic attack due to seeing a picture of the Green Goblin.  The Kingpin's men apprehend Gwen and George Stacy.  Spidey investigates one of Kingpin's old hideouts and finds some clues to the Kingpin's current wherabouts.  Spider-Man makes his way to Osborn Industries and into a battle with Kingpin.  Norman Osborn sees what's happening and helps Spider-Man by attacking the thug guarding Gwen and George Stacy.  The Stacys are put in danger but Spidey is able to rescue them.  Kingpin manages to escape in Osborn's private helicopter.

What has Peter Parker done!?  He's captured Captain George Stacy doing terrible things while under the influence of mind control!  Even though Peter knows this, he feels the only way to help Captain Stacy is to have those pictures published in a major metropolitan newspaper.  It's not his most brilliant move ever and is sure to drive a wedge between him and Gwen.  Will they ever have true love?

Gwen is astonished at the pictures when she sees them in the Bugle.  Her father, a criminal?  She tries to confront her dad but he's still under the influence of the Kingpin's mind control and, while he admits to stealing police documents, he can't reveal why he did it.  It's pretty obvious mind control is involved.  Captain Stacy makes the decision to go into hiding and Gwen, being a law abiding citizen above reproach, decides to aid her fugitive father.  It's a tangled web.

As soon as they leave, Peter tries giving the Stacys a call and doesn't get an answer.  Since Peter only thinks in worst case scenarios, he fears that the Kingpin might have sent men to silence George and decides to make the scene dressed as everybody's favorite wall crawler.  It might mean missing a class or two but what college student hasn't done that?

And, what do you know, the Kingpin actually sent men to kill and/or apprehend George Stacy.  Spider-Man could probably use the work out and spends the next three pages battling it out with these mooks only to learn that they are also under mind control.  That means he can't question them about the Kingpin's location because they either don't know or can't tell.

Let's shift attention to some other cast members for a while.  First up, Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson.  They meet up and Harry fills MJ in on what's been going on with Peter Parker and the Stacys.  Mary Jane is pretty upbeat about everything because that's her normal manner.  She asks Harry to drive her over to her work so she can pick up her paycheck but, when they get there, they find that the place is closed down.  It looks like MJ is out of a paycheck and THIS actually gets her down.  I can't say I blame her.

OK, let's move over to the reason we're reading this issue in the first place: Norman Osborn.  He's still in a very precarious mental situation where he can't remember that he was the Green Goblin.  Unfortunately, it won't last.  Even images of the Green Goblin are beginning to disturb him.  He sees a picture of his alter ego in the paper, advertising a documentary program, and he nearly loses it.

But that's not the first thing on his mind.  It turns out that one of his scientists, Winkler, has been ordering equipment without his approval.  Osborn confronts Winkler on this fact and gets the excuse that Norman was out of town when the order needed to be made and that the equipment was double checked by Winkler personally.  Ozzy is willing to let it slide this time but he makes sure to impress on his employee that this is a rule that MUST BE OBEYED in the future.  With that, he heads on off to worry about the Green Goblin some more.

Fortunately, he didn't dig too deeply into what was ordered because Winkler has a little side job where he's much more loyal.  He's working for Kingpin. 

That's right!  Kingpin's current base of operations are right here in Osborn Industries!  His men are worried that Osborn will find out about all this but the Kingpin has a simple solution for that.  If Norman finds them, they kill Norman.  Anyone else finds them?  Equally dead.

With that business out of the way, Kingpin puts out orders to kill George Stacy since the man is no longer of any use and could remember things that would make Kingpin's operations that much harder.  For uncovering all this and putting it in the paper, Peter Parker is also put up on the killing block.  Finally, a hit is put out on Spider-Man for making Kingpin's life difficult.

amazingspiderman61.jpg

It turns out that the Kingpin doesn't actually want Captain Stacy killed.  He actually wants the man taken prisoner just because he knows that it'll lead to Spider-Man coming to the rescue.  In this next fight, the Kingpin will fight Spider-Man alone.

Kingpin's men leave with a tracking device that will find anyone affected by the Kingpin's mind control device.  On their way out, Harry Osborn spots them and doesn't recognize them at all.  He thinks to himself about how many people work for his dad's company that some just show up as anonymous faces. 

Harry finds his dad still in a panic attack after seeing a picture of the Goblin.  Norman knows there's a connection there but just can't connect the dots.  Harry tries to help.  The official story is that Norman helped Spider-Man defeat the Goblin and get rid of him forever but Harry has never heard his father's version.

The reason?  The details are non-existant to Norman.  He doesn't remember teaming up with Spider-Man and certainly doesn't remember fighting the Green Goblin.  Norman's frustrated by this gap in his memory but his son encourages him.  He'll remember it all... in time.

Back in the day, Peter actually did stuff with his scientific know how.  For example: having been gassed by the Kingpin before, Peter develops a gas mask that he can put under his mask.  It'll give him an advantage in their next confrontation.

Now, he just has to figure out where the Kingpin is hiding out.  He swings on over to the Daily Bugle but JJJ has no info that he's willing to give the Wallcrawler.  He decides to make his way over to a previous battle site, the Gloom Room, in order to look for some clues.

Meanwhile, George Stacy and his loving daughter are trying to leave the country unnoticed.  This basically means a hood for Gwen and sunglasses for George.  They aren't exactly inconspicuous.  Still, the authorities aren't the ones that'll find them.  They are captured by Kingpin's men who found them because of that tracking device.  Gwen actually thinks these crooks are police officers until their general attitude spoils that illusion.

Spidey has arrived at the Gloom Room and finds it just like Mary Jane did earlier.  It's closed up.  Not really a problem for our favorite web-slinger.  Spider-Man breaks inside and starts scouring the place for clues.  His search comes up negative until he notices part of the ceiling has been damaged.  Underneath is a bunch of electronics clearly labeled "Osborn Laboratories."  It's just the clue he needed!

Back at Osborn's plant, Kingpin's men have returned with the bait for the Spider-Trap: George and Gwen Stacy.  Since this fight has gotten very personal, Kingpin dismisses his men so that he can fight Spider-Man one on one when the hero eventually shows up.

Meanwhile, Norman Osborn is ready to leave his plant when he sees that Winkler is still working in his lab.  Wondering what his employee is up to, Norman decides to stop over and pay Winkler a visit.

He won't beat Spidey to the scene.  Spider-Man crashes through a window and starts his mano-a-mano fight with the big bad Kingpin.

Kingpin tries his gas attack but, protected by his gas mask, it has no effect on Spider-Man.  Kingpin is stunned at the failure and that gives Spidey the edge he needs to take control of this battle.  Kingpin goes down but the battle isn't over just yet.  Winkler is still in play and has a gun trained on the Stacys.

Which is why it's lucky that Norman showed up.  He sees Winkler threatening some people that are tied up and rushes in to tackle his employee.  Even he is astounded by that move.  He finds that it feels almost natural to be fighting like this.  Winkler's gun goes off when he's taken off his feet by Ozzy but instead of hitting the Stacys, the shot goes wild and hits the brainwashing machine, causing it to explode.

Which puts the Stacys back in danger.  There's a huge lead vat above their heads for some reason and the explosion has caused the thing to come loose.  It's about ready to topple on our hostages.

These two are destined to die some day, but today isn't that day.  Peter swings in and rescues them both before the metal vat can crush them. 

Between this rescue and the explosion, the Kingpin has had ample time to make their getaway and Osborn knows exactly where the villain would be headed.  He's got a private helicopter on the roof that would be perfect for that sort of thing.  Spider-Man gets to the roof but not in time to capture anyone.  The chopper is already too far away to do anything but wave.

The aftermath of this fight ties up some loose ends.  With the destruction of the brainwashing machine, George Stacy has his mind back.  There's probably enough evidence here to clear him of any wrong doing.  With the testimony of Norman Osborn, George Stacy will be an innocent man once more.

Winkler was killed in the explosion.  Norman Osborn's panic attack from earlier seems to have subsided (even though the look on his face doesn't look like that's the case).  Gwen thinks Spider-Man is pretty awesome for this rescue but the police are still after the hero so he has to hide out instead of sticking around and enjoying her adulation.

This whole thing puts Peter in an uncomfortable situation.  He's got a major thing for Gwen but after what he did to her dad, she's really not going to give him much attention.  At the same time, she thinks his alter-ego is the best.  This might go in the win category but it definitely isn't helping Peter Parker's love life!

Good times?  Good times!

Until the next good time: Who Do YOU Trust?
The Outhouse is sponsored this week by Late Nite Draw. Recently featured on ComicsAlliances' Best Art Ever, he is a Chicago-based commissioned artist with a self-published Digital+Print one-shot coming out in October about the abominable snowman called ABOBAMANIMABBLE, and is also available for commissions. Check out some amazing art by clicking here or by clicking the banner at the top, and support the people who support The Outhouse.


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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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