Sunday, May 27, 2018 • Morning Edition • "At least we're not Newsarama!"

Super Reads Dark Reign 73

Written by SuperginraiX on Monday, May 03 2010 and posted in Features

OK, this is a big week so let's get it started in here!

Today, we check out Dark Reign- The List: Hulk #1, Dark Avengers #10, Thunderbolts #137, Invincible Iron Man #19, Dark Wolverine #79, DR: Skrull Kill Krew #5, and Blast to the Past for Avengers Spotlight #27, Avengers #312, and Avengers West Coast #54. Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!

If this week has a theme, it's escaping me. We should probably just call it a big week and get movin.'

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 Bruce Banner and his rascally son.

drthh1.jpgDark Reign- The List: Hulk #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Ben Oliver

In this issue, Bruce Banner rescues Kate Waynesboro from HAMMER custody with the help of Skaar. Victoria Hand conferences with Norman Osborn and they devise a plan to take out Banner. This leads to Hand and Ms. Marvel flying out to one of HAMMER's many Old Power Factories, running into Bruce and his kid and starting a big fight. Eventually, there's a stand-off where Skaar has his sword to Victoria's neck while Karla has placed Bruce in similar jeopardy. Skaar sniffs the air, lets Ms. Hand go, and bounds off with Bruce in tow. Later on, he explains to Banner that the facility wasn't just set up as an Old Power plant. It was also a Gamma Lab. Bruce has been reinfected with Gamma Rays. It's only a matter of time before the big green guy is back in action.

Katherine Waynesboro hasn't had an easy life. She's an ex-girlfriend of Bruce Banner. Right of the bat, she's not in a good place. You follow that up with being an ex-SHIELD agent who was given control over the Old Power (an ability where wielders can use the power of the earth in wierd ways) after nearly dying of radiation poisoning and you've got a tragic story in the making. The kicker on that emo cake? She is now captured by the successor of her former employer: HAMMER.

HAMMER wants to know how that Old Power works and they don't need things like consent getting in the way of doing what's "right" for the American people. All they need is some form of 'just cause'. Waynseboro has been hanging out with the Warbound (Hulk's former crew from Planet Sakaar) so she had to be taken when those guys weren't around to do any rescuing. Right now, they think she's visiting an aunt. That gives HAMMER all the time they need to painfully extract that Old Power from our dear Ms. Waynesboro. That she may die from the process is no consequence.

You may be curious to know who's running this operation. It's not Norman Osborn. It's not nameless HAMMER Agent #34 who we will grow to hate by the end of the story. It's Ms. Victoria Hand, Deputy Director of HAMMER. This may surprise none of you but it is a little stunning to yours truly. Ms. Hand might have a ruthless streak in her. She may believe that the current Avengers team is a good idea. What she hasn't been up until this point is a straight-up villain. In this story, in the very first few pages, she gets her most villainy dialogue ever. She's usually kept a whole lot more vague than this.

So, poor ex-SHIELD wielder of the Old Power has been captured by HAMMER so that they can extract her powers and there's no hope of rescue in four pages? Well....

Bruce Banner may not be the Warbound but he's turning into quite the force of nature even without his Hulk persona taking over. He's somehow learned all about Kate's abduction and is here to do a little rescuing. Banner walks right into this New Mexico Old Power Facility until he starts setting off alarms. That doesn't actually stop him from walking, it just means he'll have to do it while being bombarded by explosions, railgun fire, and lasers. Since Banner has a personal shield, he's not even slowing down.

Once he gets by these defenses, he hits a button on his pocket computer thing and starts opening up doors all over the facility. He even unshackles Kate. Victoria Hand doesn't realize that until JUST before she receives a kick to the face. Hand doesn't stay down long. She trips up the ex-SHIELD agent before getting back up. Victoria delivers some punches while the facility's secondary systems lock everything back down.

Out in the hallway, Bruce is surrounded by armored guards. They almost look like Mandroids but don't quote me on that. They demand Banner's surrender. After all, it's not like he's the Hulk anymore and can fight his way through these guys.

Well, seing as he's the star of this book and has a LOT of tricks up his sleeves, he probably could. The point is he doesn't have to. He's brought his kid along for the heavy lifting events. Skaar leaps onto the scene and starts making short work of these Mandroid-like guys.

Let's head off to Avengers Tower a day and a half later for a meeting between Victoria Hand and Norman Osborn. Hand is apologizing for underestimating Bruce Banner. Ozzy is remembering his very first comic book appearance and how it involved the first fight between the Hulk and Spider-Man. He then goes on to explain the difference between the Hulk and Bruce Banner. The Hulk is all about leaving you alone unless you mess with him. Banner is about changing the world and he's smart enough to make that plan a reality.

And... now he's on Norman Osborn's List.

Victoria suggests sending Ares or the Sentry off to fight it out with the former Green Goliath but Norman has a better idea. He's going to send someone smarter out. Someone he doesn't really need around should she fail. Ms. Marvel. And Victoria Hand but I don't think she's as expendable as the trouble maker, Karla, is.

HAMMER has quite a few Old Strong Facilities in place. Since Banner took down the one in New Mexico, the other facilities were evacuated and locked down. That doesn't mean Bruce won't find them and start smashing them. It just means that lives won't be lost and maybe some secrets will be salvaged. Since Victoria knows that Bruce and his kid will be seeking out these facilities, she has a general idea of where she can find Marvel's fourth smartest man. She and Karla just need to fly around in a HAMMER jet long enough for Banner to notice them and make a move.

Which he does. He uses his Bannertech (because everyone in the Marvel Universe can take their name and add "tech" to it to brand their own technological systems) to take the HAMMER jet apart at the seams. This doesn't really bother Ms. Marvel because Karla can fly. Victoria Hand is a different story. Odds are pretty good that Ms. Sofen would let Victoria bounce a few times before attempting a rescue so it's for the best that Ms. Hand expected her jet to come apart around her. She's equipped with her very own set of backpack wings. Not only that, but she's traced Banner signal.

Hand launches a heck of a lot missiles on his location.

This doesn't phase Bruce Banner. His personal shield would probably protect him from the explosions. His kid is less thrilled and starts slicing missiles as they approach. Skaar is less unaffected by missiles than his pop and is eventually hit by one of them. This won't do any permanent damage but it is seen as one of those learning experiences that parents try to subject their kids to. You know. "Don't touch the oven." "Look both ways before crossing the street." "Don't get in the path of an armed missile."

While Skaar is sent reeling, Bruce has used his magic iPod to take over the remaining missiles and sends them over to the Old Power Facility. They explode nicely, destroying the plant. While Bruce is admiring his handiwork, Victoria is able to sneak up behind him and fire off a few shots from her Roxxon Gamma Absorber .357's. They weaken Bruce's shield and leave him wide open for Hand's next 'smart' device. It's a time bomb.

Not a bomb with a timer so much as a bomb that slows time in a ten-foot radius. Banner is now moving much slower than his opponent. That means his shields will be that much less reactive to attacks. Victoria tries to fire her weapon at Bruce but Banner has already infected her gun with more of that crazy Bannertech. It's useless now. No worries for Victoria Hand. She'll just have to do this with a sharp object.

You may wonder why Skaar wasn't gotten up and started protecting his dad. Well, the answer to that is that he isn't really that interested in doing that. He's a savage barbarian and hates his father. While he's waiting for the Hulk to reappear and isn't interested in killing Bruce, he's also not going out of his way to rescue the guy. Besides all that, he's busy fighting Ms. Marvel.

Karla Sofen has history of her own with the Hulk. While she's fought a number of heroes in her day and originally appeared in Captain America, for Moonstone it always comes back to the Hulk. She wants to kill the guy nearly as badly as Skaar. During her fight with the Son of the Hulk, she brings up her wish to see the Hulk dead. Skaar tells her that he wants the Hulk dead too, but wants to face the Green Goliath and not Bruce Banner. With Banner unable to turn into his Hulk form, Skaar just isn't interested in his death. That's something Ms. Marvel can work with.

Back at the Hand/ Banner fight, Ms. Hand is just about to slice through Bruce when the mighty Mr. Banner detonates one of those remaining missiles right next to Ms. Hand. The explosion sends her flying but doesn't do her any permanent injury. That means he's just delaying her attacks which, with him stuck in much slower time than his opponent, doesn't favor him. She can still move much faster than Bruce and he'll run out of options very soon.

Unless his kid arrives right now and shoves him out of that time bubble. Oh, there we go. Skaar just did that.

Banner's not out of hot water just yet. With Skaar's arrival, Ms. Marvel is also free to intervene. She shows up and puts a fist up to Bruce's head, ready to blast it clean off. Skaar quickly puts his blade up to Victoria Hand's neck and we've got ourselves one of those old fashioned stand-offs. With super powers and giant green monsters.

Ms. Marvel tries to assure Skaar that whatever deal they made still stands and that they should both let go of their "puny human" and go their separate ways. Banner warns Karla that Skaar isn't wired to make deals like this. He's likely to just kill Victoria. That's ok by Karla. She doesn't really care that much about Ms. Hand.

Skaar smells the air and smiles. Both he and Karla release their puny human. A confused Bruce Banner is snatched up by his kid and taken off to parts unknown.

Later on, Bruce demands that Skaar explain just what sort of deal was made between the son of Hulk and Dr. Karla Sofen.

Skaar explains that the Old Power Facility that Bruce destroyed with missiles wasn't JUST an Old Power Facility. It was also a Gamma Lab. They just irradiated Bruce Banner. Bruce uses that magic iPod to confirm these findings. Sure enough, he's been exposed to Gamma Radiation. It's only a matter of time now.

Bruce was under no illusions that he'd gotten rid of the Hulk for good. The Hulk always returns. Still, it's frustrating to see that process accelerated. If it's actually been accelerated. Skaar, of course, is pretty happy. He's just hanging around waiting for Bruce to turn back into the Hulk. Since he's just a kid, he's probably getting impatient.

Back at Avengers Tower, Norman Osborn, Victoria Hand, and Karla Sofen celebrate their victory. Sure, they didn't end up killing Bruce Banner. They just assured the eventual return of the Hulk. If they're REALLY lucky, Skaar will end up killing Hulk and then everything will be great for them.

If they're realistic, they just prodded a sleeping giant.

And just to make this issue more worth your while, it includes a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #14. That's the first appearance of the Green Goblin AND the first fight between the Hulk and Spider-Man! Good times all around!

If you want my walk through of Spidey #14, go check out Super Secretly Invades Dark Reign or click this link RIGHT HERE!

da10.jpgDark Avengers #10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.

Last issue, Victoria Hand had a conversation with Norman Osborn through a metal door. Ares got his son ready for school, faked leaving, and then tailed his kid to find out what Alex was up to when there should be school going on. That led him right to Nick Fury's door. Ares smashed his way inside and beat the hell out of Hellfire. Fury sent the Secret Warriors out of the room to have a private conversation with the god of war but Phobos hung by the door and listened in. Ares broke down and admitted he didn't know what he was doing as a father and agreed that Fury could train his son. Back at Avengers Tower, the Dark Avengers were sitting around the dinner table shooting the breeze when the Sentry returned. Sentry flew up to his Watchtower and got shot in the face with an alien gun. Down below, the door to Norman's lab opened up.

In this issue, two girls enter a diner in Dinosaur, Colorado and get sucked into an episode of the Twilight Zone. Ares cuts the Man-Thing in two. Ms. Marvel flirts with Hawkeye. Iron Patriot returns but won't get out of his armor. The Avengers are called in to rescue the Secretary of State's daughter. Victoria investigates and discovers that the town of Dinosaur, Colorado likes to make people disappear. Norman sends the Sentry in only to have Bob disappear as well. That means it's a perfectly logical idea to send an entire HAMMER strike team led by Dark Avengers into the area. Ms. Marvel is on point and disappears first but she's quickly followed by Iron Patriot. Norman reappears somewhere else entirely to be confronted by the Molecule Man.

You know what you should do if you're the daughter of the Secretary of State and your boyfriend cheats on you? You should run away from home. That is the perfectly logical and sensible idea that we gain from the opening pages of this issue. Yeah. This stuff probably happens too often in real life and it doesn't make any more sense there than here.

So these two unnamed girls have driven across the country to escape a cheating boyfriend. When they end up driving through Dinosaur, Colorado, they realize that it's time for a pitstop and pull up to a diner to use the restroom and order some coffee. They also mention gassing up their car but there's not pump in the screen so I'm gonna assume these girls are not operating on a full deck and skip to inside the restaurant.

While the daughter of the Secretary of State hits the facilities, the other one pulls up to the counter and orders those coffees. The waitress seems nervous as hell and the patrons concentrate far too much on their food. One tries giving her a warning but is quickly silenced by the guy in the next seat. By the time the waitress shakily hands this girl her coffee, she realizes something is terribly wrong.

Your first thought is that someone's holding up this diner. That's the impression all these people are giving. That's not it at all.

The girl that had to use the bathroom doesn't actually use the restroom for peeing. She uses this alone time to call her ex and give him a heads-up on what she's doing. This is where things start getting... wierder. She realizes that the mirror isn't working and idly pokes it with her finger. That leaves a crack in the wall. Then her cell phone melts. After that, the entire room starts coming undone around her.

The other girl hears her friend screaming and then gets caught up in the Twilight Zone episode. The patrons and waitress turn into stone. We pull back to the outside of the diner as she starts screaming. We watch as the girls' car slowly disintegrates. Soon, all that is left is the diner and the two dinosaur statues that stand near the place.

After that chilling scene, let's skip on down to the Bayou to watch Ares, the greek god of war, cut the Man-Thing in two with his axe.

Man-Thing was another thing on Norman Osborn's list though I don't know what the protector of the Nexus of All Realities did to piss Ozzy off. Hell, I don't even know what he's doing in Louisiana. He's usually hanging out in the Everglades. I guess we all take vacations. I don't even think being cut in two is that big of deal for the Man-Thing. It certainly doesn't stop him from appearing after this. He'll pop up over in the Punisher comic and make some guest appearances in other comics in the near future. Heck, this basically just let us know he's still out there doing his thing.

The Dark Avengers, however, don't know that they can't kill the Man-Thing. They just think the job is done and that they can cross something else off Ozzy's List. They banter while the HAMMER clean-up team starts doing their thing. Notably, Hawkeye tries his best to bond with Ares and tells Daken just how hardcore Logan is. Daken doesn't appreciate this. If only Daken was this easy to piss off over in his own comic book.

We also have the curious case of Spider-Man. It seems that whatever meds they're using to keep Mac Gargan under control are having some side effects. Mac is all emotional for the rest of this issue. Right here, he sympathizes with the poor Man-Thing.

As the team is packing up, the Sentry arrives and asks if there's anything left for him to do. This is important because, last issue, his wife shot him in the face with a space age weapon. This issue's not going to mention that once. That mystery is left for another day.

The Dark Avengers return to Avengers Tower and probably get a good night's sleep before having breakfast the next morning and getting a rundown by Victoria Hand. She's got a full plate of activities planned and that is not something Hawkeye wants to hear. He thinks that they've been running ragged without a chance for a real break and, frankly, he's sick of it. He needs some down time so that he can get his own mini-series taken care of. Daken agrees and the matter is tabled.

Karla asks where Norman has been hiding. No one's seen him lately. Hawkeye makes a quip about Ms. Sofen having Norman next on her "To-Do List." Ms. Marvel gives Lester a smile and says that he's actually next on her list. Flirting continues. Sentry, Ares, and Spider-Man all have surprised looks on their face but it's Mac that mentions how uncomfortable this is making him.

This gets him on Hawkeye's radar.

Victoria acknowledges that something has to be done about Mac's medication and puts it on HER to-do list.

This brings us right back to Norman Osborn. Where IS the man? Last issue saw him hiding out in his laboratory. He wouldn't take Victoria's calls. Hand covers for him as best she can but she's probably fairly concerned herself. That leaves her wide open for Daken's personal attack. She starts shouting back at Daken but Norman Osborn shows up just in time to quiet this thing down. He knows that Daken is out to push everyone's buttons for his own aims and makes sure that Hand knows not to be pushed around by his Wolverine.

The Oz Man shows up in full armor, which is just a little unusual. Norman asks Victoria what's the schedule for the day and learns that the Secretary of State's daughter has gone missing. That usually isn't the type of thing that would be on the Director of National Security's plate but the Secretary of State sort of controls his budget which means this suddenly becomes Norman's problem. He takes a little ribbing from Hawkeye for prostituting himself for money but Norman tells Lester that it's no different than Bullseye accepting money when working for the Kingpin.

Victoria Hand has already gotten her team to look into the situation and they've discovered that the Secretary of State's daughter disappeared in Dinosaur, Colorado. Small town. Middle of nowhere. After they ruled out the boyfriend as a possible suspect, they moved on to investigate the area itself. What makes this case unique is that this isn't the first disappearance in the area. There have been forty-four abductions in the surrounding area. The town seems to suck up outsiders and doesn't spit them back out again. Satellite scans show nothing out of the ordinary.

Norman sends in his big gun for a quick investigation. Clearly, he doesn't see the town as much of a threat to the Golden Guardian of Good and figures having a man on the ground might give them some perspective.

While Bob is in flight, Victoria has the chance to pull Norman aside and ask him what's going on. Osborn isn't the type to walk around all day in his armored suit. He'd rather be in a business suit, after all. Osborn uses the excuse that he's got some programs running in the armor that require him to have the suit on. He ignores Victoria's request to remove his helmet.

Everyone else is distracted by watching the Sentry's flight to Dinosaur. Hawkeye is distracted by Ms. Marvel. Lester doesn't get this woman. In the T-Bolts, she wouldn't give him the time of day but now she's coming on to him. What's up with that? Turns out Karla has a Hawkeye fetish. As long as Bullseye is dressed up in Clint Barton's old suit, she's totally interested in him. She walks away while removing her top and Bullseye gets a very creepy grin on his face.

Sentry has arrived above Dinosaur to find the place eerily peaceful. Norman tells him to hit the ground and talk to some people but Bob doesn't find anyone on the streets when he lands. All he sees are those wierd dinosaur statues. Finally, Bob sees someone walking toward him and tries to get the man's attention.

That's when his hand starts glowing. The glow spreads all over him until he seems ready to burst. The man he was trying to contact just watches as the Sentry explodes. The ashes settle to the ground as the Dark Avengers watch from the safety of Avengers Tower.

Norman assembles a huge strikeforce including a huge complement of HAMMER Airships. He and his Avengers lead this strikeforce across the country to Dinosaur. Since this wouldn't be the fastest trip in the world, the Avengers are given a lot of time to think and to chatter. Spider-Man is still off in a wierd place because of his medication but brings up a good point. If this phenomenon can swallow up the Sentry, why are they rushing in like this? Shouldn't they continue investigations and learn how to counter it from a distance? What hope do they have of NOT disappearing?

Norman notices just how out of it Spidey is and sends him back to the ship. He can't fight in this state.

It doesn't mean he was wrong, though. Even Norman acknowledges that they're basically flying in blind without a plan. Still, they can't just battle when they know they can win. They have to fight even harder when there's a real potential for failure.

Karla volunteers to fly in first, banking on her intangibility to save her. She asks Norman if that's a good plan but Norman is no longer listening to her. This causes concern with Victoria Hand but they're on the scene before any questions arise.

Karla flies down. Once she begins her descent, she is very vocal about this being a pretty lame way to give her life if it comes to that. Dying in the middle of nowhere for no real reason. Yeah, not exactly the stuff dreams are made of. She investigates for only a moment or so before she blanks out of existence.

Victory advises Norman to retreat and he agrees. Only, it's too late for him, too. He turns to fly away and finds himself alone in the sky. Everything fades to black. We get a shot of a very fearful looking Norman. Then a white screen. Then red. Then green. Finally, Norman opens his eyes to find himself no longer in the sky. He's on the ground and naked.

Someone is talking to him and they don't sound too thrilled to see America's Top Cop. Norman looks up and sees that he is in a place that looks a whole lot like hell. On the stairway leading up to a throne are various super villains. Enchantress. Mephisto. The Beyonder. Zarathos (or possibly Dormammu but it looks more like the first Ghost Rider). On the throne itself is the Molecule Man.

tb137.jpgThunderbolts #137
Writer: Rick Remender
Penciler: Mahmud A. Asrar

Last issue, Headsman got ready to behead Songbird while Mister X forced Black Widow to watch. What actually happened is that Headsman struck Scourge in the abdomen with his axe and we all learned that Scourge was a cyborg. The T-Bolts chose sides and started fighting among themselves as Natasha and Melissa escaped. Scourge was finally taken down by Paladin but no-one was capable of besting Mister X until Ghost showed up and phased through his brain. The "good" T-Bolts planned on running away until Ghost convinced them to stay on, altering Scourge and Mister X's memories so that they don't know about this betrayal. Songbird and Black Widow continued their escape, stealing an armored truck from HAMMER and making it to the Washington Bridge before getting blown off the road by an attacking helicopter. MACH... V... came in for the rescue while the Fixer took care of that pursuing chopper. In the aftermath, Norman Osborn had a word with the new commander of the Thunderbolts and we found out that Scourge was actually Nuke. Finally, we got an image of Norman Osborn musing about bringing back the REAL Yelena Belova.

In this issue, Ghost brainwashes Iron Fist. We flashback to the Thunderbolts apprehending Danny Rand. We skip forward to after Iron Fist has been fully brainwashed, then continue in this general timeframe for the rest of the issue. The Thunderbolts capture Luke Cage next but Ant-Man gets stuck in Luke's stomach. Ghost and Iron Fist report their good news to Norman Osborn. Someone lets Luke Cage out of the T-Bolts's mind-bender machine and he fights his way out of the secret base. This leads to the eventual showdown between Luke Cage and Danny Rand, and we're led to believe that Iron Fist kills Luke in the end of that confrontation. Not actually so. Luke either reached Danny or Iron Fist's focused chi allowed him to regain his original state of mind. The two fight their way out of the T-Bolts HQ (eventually getting an anonymous teleport out so that they don't know the base's secret location) and Osborn abandons his plans to "re-educate" captured heroes. Luke's escape was managed by the Ghost (of course) and he shared this information with at least some members of the T-Bolts before their meeting with Norman. Luke eventually deposits Ant-Man off in a toilet after one fierce bowel movement.

The New Avengers are breaking into a secret HAMMER base to rescue one of their own. Iron Fist. What they don't know is that Iron Fist has already been turned against them. Once they free him, Danny begins picking off his former allies one by one. Spider-Man is the first to go when Rand punches him in the back and we watch Peter's chest explode. Wolverine is next. Iron Fist grabs onto Cap's shield and redirects it right through Logan's skull. This might not be an achievable maneuver given Wolverine's adamantium-laced skull but it's a nice pretty hallmark moment nonetheless. Next to go is Bucky Cap. Iron Fist starts backhanding James' bullets right back at him and one goes right through Cap's head.

It's only when Danny reaches Luke Cage that he pauses. These two are best friends and killing him wouldn't be the thing to do. Rand asks his best buddy for help and Luke snaps his neck.

So, yeah, obviously this isn't actually happening. Sure, Danny Rand has been captured but the New Avengers aren't rushing to the rescue. In fact, they don't even know about this yet. Heck, we just learned about it.

What's actually going on is some serious brainwashing. The type of reprogramming we got to see performed on Wolverine after Millar's Enemy of the State arc. SHIELD used this type of machine to break the Hand's control over their latest killer-assassin-mutant. The premise is simple: run computer simulation after computer simulation until the subject reacts just the way you want them to. In Wolverine's case, they didn't want him to kill everyone in sight. In this case, Norman Osborn wants Iron Fist to obey his every command. They're having lots of success right up until the point they put Luke Cage in front of him. Then, everything goes to hell. Ozzy decides the answer is to pump up the volume a bit. This might kill Danny Rand, but if it doesn't it'll make him live, eat, and breath Norman Osborn. In a less creepy way than that just sounded. Carry on.

So how did Danny Rand find himself in the pleasant hands of the former Green Goblin? Relatively easily, actually. Rand International has seen better days, after all. Danny quit the New Avengers so he could focus on making his business profitable again. When some investor shows up with some serious bank, Danny's personal assistant books a meet-and-greet. Of course, the investor turns out to be Norman Osborn. Ozzy isn't planning on spending a dime on Rand's business. He'd rather just kidnap Iron Fist and start brainwashing the dude into following his every command.

His team of choice for this excercise is the T-Bolts. They haven't had anything approaching success lately but that just means they're due. Iron Fist is able to defeat Mister X with a little drunken-style. Scourge doesn't pose a serious threat to him either. It's when he tries to kick Norman in the face that he encounters the one Thunderbolt that hasn't made a fool out of themselves in this series. Ghost. The Ghost drops him out the window in order to set him up for a meeting with the Headsman. Headsman bashes him up against the side of the building and the battle is drawn to its conclusion.

We aren't the only ones surprised to see the Thunderbolts actually win one for a change. Norman is also just a little bit taken back by this victory. He imagined that he'd have to intervene. Now, all that's left is to deliver Danny back to T-Bolt headquarters for re-education and have a HAMMER team kill everyone that Danny had talked to in the past three days. That is what we call 'thorough'.

Since Iron Fist's brain being thoroughly washed is a certainty, let's skip past that bit and move on to his first meal with the rest of the Thunderbolts. Remember, this issue is sort of a guest fill-in issue so it doesn't need to have any characterizations from any earlier T-Bolt issue. It doesn't need to follow up on the dangling plot points of the previous issues. All it need to do is caricature the Thunderbolt members and make Iron Fist and Luke Cage look good. Really, this is a Powerman and Iron Fist special disguised as a Thunderbolts book. Because of that, I'm not really going to get too deep into these guys' conversations. They aren't entirely accurate to the characters. Though, as I've often been told, sometimes it's completely in-character to act out of character. To that end, everyone is completely in-character.

Iron Fist shows up to this meal after some meaningless banter. Most of the T-Bolts leave the table immediately because Danny is a super-hero (and every team has to haze the new guy). Only Ant-Man remains because O'Grady really wants to make a friend. Danny isn't really up for making new friends and takes off, tossing his food in the garbage on the way out.

The next day, it's time for the Thunderbolts to apprehend another hero. Luke Cage is eating at a diner in Harlem. The waitress is flirting with him something fierce but Luke, being happily married, turns her down on her offer of nookie. He then gets a call on his cell phone. He thinks it's his wife but it turns out to be Ant-Man. That meal he just ate? Ant-Man used it to enter his body. O'Grady demands Luke surrender or he'll to to full size in Cage's stomach. This doesn't actually move Luke to do any white flag waving. Ant-Man follows through on his threat but Cage doesn't explode. That rock hard skin blocks any attempt to grow further. You might be wonder how Luke's internal organs are faring but, well, you just thought it through one step too far. FILL. IN. COMIC.

Paladin is up next. He hits Luke with a nervous system disruptor ray. This doesn't actually effect Cage and Paladin is sent flying out of the building. Before Luke can finish off this opponent, Scourge and Mister X show up to try their hand at taking out the New Avenger. Both of them do nothing more than slow Luke down.

The one we're really waiting for is Iron Fist. After his brain washing, Danny is perfectly capable of killing Luke Cage but this isn't a kill mission. This is an abduction. Luke isn't expecting to be attacked by his best friend and is easily taken out with a fist like a thing of iron. Luke is taken to the Thunderbolts' secret base in the Cube.

Norman Osborn is hanging out in the T-Bolts' base. It might be because this is a place he can be more like his true self. Ozzy's riding around on a goblin glider and enjoying a drink while setting up dominoes. Ghost and Iron Fist report to America's top cop that Luke Cage has been apprehended. Ghost comes to the conclusion that this is one big elaborate revenge scheme on Cage for his multiple offenses against Osborn. Luke was responsible for Norman finally being revealed as the Green Goblin and arrested. Later on, Cage asked Osborn for help finding his daughter and after Norman helped him, Luke escaped his grasp again.

So, now, Norman has used Luke's best friend to capture him and brainwash the Avenger into becoming one of Norman's soldiers.

Luke is already hooked up to the brainwashing machine and waiting for the Ghost to come on over and wash out his brain. Before that happens, Paladin shows up to get a little vengeance for the way Luke treated him during their fight a little earlier. Paladin usually isn't one that focused on vengeance, especially when the whole fight was started by himself and his teammates, but, well, fill-in comic. Before Paladin gets to throw one punch on Luke's steel hard skin, Luke's shackles are thrown off automatically. Paladin is again mistreated at the hands of Luke Cage.

With that business taken care of, Cage works on escaping. Again, he'll have to fight his way through the T-bolts. Since we love watching Mister X getting his, this time we watch as he walks right into a trap. He believes that Luke has taken to the ventilation shafts and follows the Avenger in only to find three lit pumpkin bombs. Gra-Thwoom.

Ghost reports Luke's escape to Norman Osborn and gets the former Green Goblin's full rage.

Luke, gets a message of his own from an anonymous source. He is, of course, suspicious but doesn't have a huge amount of choice here. The voice might be leading him in the right direction, but it also leads him right into Scourge. The Thunderbolts leader has set up a laser grid that is apparently programmed to only attack specific DNA. Once it gets a sample of Luke's DNA, the laser grid becomes a dangerous threat. Scourge starts blasting the New Avenger into the lasers. This is a troubling situation but Luke is quick at thinking on his feet. He sends that DNA sampler robot straight at Scourge. The bot scans Scourge and suddenly the laser grid has a new target.

We all know this is leading up to another showdown between Iron Fist and Luke but Cage has to avoid an attack by the Headsman first. Norman has been watching these events on his monitors up until this point and doesn't seem half as full of rage as he did just a little earlier. Ozzy is still enjoying his drink. He's also finished setting up his dominoes. He strikes the first domino and watches the rest fall in quick succession.

Which brings us right to that Cage/Rand faceoff we've all been waiting for.

While Luke knows that his best friend is working for the bad guys, he's not believing that it's a permanent situation. Instead of duking it out and asking questions later, Luke doesn't throw a single punch. He just tries talking his friend out of it. Failing that, he tells Danny that he doesn't blame him for any of this. We also learn that Misty Knight is pregnant with Danny's kid. Someone's gonna be a daddy!

None of this seems to be reaching the Immortal Iron Fist. In a final move, Danny Rand strikes Luke with a blow to the head that causes blood to splatter everywhere. Norman, who's been watching this the whole time, is totally pleased with this outcome and turns back to his dominoes where the last few are falling over.

In the tunnels, Iron Fist is joined by Headsman, Mister X, and Ghost. Mister X is happy to see someone who has such killer kung fu and isn't afraid to use it but Iron Fist doesn't appreciate the assassin's praise. When the Headsman gets in closer to inspect the body, he notices that there's a dead rat on Luke's face.

Remember all those rats hanging out in this area from the picture above? Danny picked up one of them during the fight and killed it with his super ninja moves to make it LOOK like he was caving in Luke's face. It looked great for the cameras and all it costed was one of the most innocent animals to roam the sewers. It seems that either Luke got through to Danny or Iron Fist's kung fu chi finally cleaned out the influence of Ghost's brainwashing. Either way, Powerman and Iron Fist are back in action.

The two go to town on the Thunderbolts and easily beat them in battle. The witty banter between these two heroes is a huge highlight for a mediocre issue. Good talking, guys!

After beating up Mister X (again, this is always fun to watch) and taking down the Headsman, these two friends chase after the Ghost believing that this Thunderbolt will lead them right to Norman. Instead, they're led to a teleporter that sends them far outside of the Cube. Norman was watching all of this up until the teleporter thing and is, again, furious. His plans just fell completely apart.

Ozzy meets with the Thunderbolts later on. He tells them that they all just got docked some pay for such a failure of an operation. Further, he knows that one of them has been looking through his secret files about brainwashing heroes into being the next Thunderbolts team. He tells them that he knows who did it and all they need is to step forward to avoid a killing. No one does. No one dies, either. Norman leaves very angry, vowing that this thing isn't done.

Once he's left, Ghost and Paladin talk while the rest of the team takes off. It was, of course, Ghost who set Luke free. It was all part of a plan to make Norman's hero project look like a complete failure so that he would abandon it. If it had worked, the Thunderbolts might have been out of a job. This was, apparently, all about job security. Paladin wishes he would have been in on it BEFORE getting beat down by Luke Cage a second time but Ghost claims that if he had shared info earlier, Norman might have found out about this ruse.

So, again, the Thunderbolts fail to please Norman Osborn. I wonder how many times that'll continue before Stormin' Norman takes this incompetent team apart?

iim19.jpgThe Invincible Iron Man #19
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca

In the last action packed issue, Stark took his last few steps to where it all began: Iron Man's birthplace in Afghanistan where the Mark 0 Armor was held. Maria Hill and Natasha Romanova got a visit in their holding cells by Victoria Hand and Madame Masque. Tony charged up his suit and got shot in the back. Agent Walsh picked up the repulsor signal in Afghanistan, reported it to Osborn, and felt really bad about the whole thing. Tony had been shot by some kids who wanted him to make a them some weapons of mass destruction. Tony refused, knocked one of the kids off his feet, grabbed the gun, pointed it at the second kid, ordered them both to run, and emptied the gun of bullets while the two youngsters scampered off. He suited up in the Iron Man 0 armor and took off to his Final Destination. Agent Walsh contemplated treason. The real Madame Masque was found inside the Crimson Dynamo armor. Pepper'd been pretending to be Masque and freed Hill and Romanova while activating her Rescue armor by remote. Rescue uploaded a virus into the Iron Patriot Armory while Norman flew off to do final battle with Tony Stark.

In the stunning finale to World's Most Wanted, Victoria Hand gets an update on the real Madame Masque and realizes that she's going to have to tell Norman all about all this. Pepper Potts, Natasha Romanova, and Maria Hill make their escape from Avengers Tower only to have alarms start sounding on the last legs of their journey. The elevator they're riding opens up to reveal a whole lot of armed HAMMER Agents. Agent Walsh leads Iron Patriot on a wild goose chase in Afghanistan which frustrates Norman to no end. In Iran, Tony Stark moves the Iron Man suit forward as his mind slowly goes blank. Walsh is found out and Norman is put back on course. Victoria Hand updates Osborn on the situation at Avengers Tower and Norman totally forgives her because he's in a good mood. Pepper Potts defends her spy friends as they get that elevator closed. Norman Osborn finds Tony Stark and an epic, one sided battle begins! Maria Hill and Natasha Romanova get that harddrive back from the HAMMER Research team. Iron Patriot kicks the crap out of Iron Man. Pepper recovers her armored suit and the two take off after JARVIS has informed every press outlet in the world about Norman's battle with Tony Stark. Maria and Natasha bluff their way past another team of HAMMER Agents. Iron Patriot is prevented from killing Iron Man because of all the news 'copters suddenly covering this battle. Tony Stark is arrested moments before he declares victory and drops to the ground. After the battle is good and over, Norman tries to pull the plug on Tony only to be prevented because of stupid American law. Tony is remanded into the custody of his physician. Doctor Donald Blake.

Poor Madame Masque. She was beat up by Pepper Potts, got all her hair cut off, and has been trapped in the Crimson Dynamo armor for the last few issues. Luckily, the HAMMER Agents found out she was inside before they melted the armor down for scrap. The medical staff is giving Ms. Victoria Hand a report on Masque's help and Victoria realizes that she's gonna have to report all this to Norman Osborn. She decides that they better lock this situation down before she does any reporting or Ozzy may take off all their heads.

Pepper Potts has been a busy little fake Madam Masque. She's freed the Black Widow and Maria Hill from their security cells and they're now working their way out of the building. Maria Hill is a little embarrassed about being rescued by Tony Stark's former secretary. Romanova is just happy to be free. They're following Potts' play now for getting out of the building and it goes a little something like this: straight through the front door.

Pepper puts her Madame Masque hair and mask on and gets ready to make a prison transfer. They ride the elevator down while Potts gets a status update from her armor. JARVIS tells Pep that he has used the Rescue armor to locate Stark's harddrive. That thing was captured at the same time Maria and Natasha were. Luckily, no one in HAMMER's research center has been able to make a dent when it comes to decrypting it. JARVIS has also finished sending a virus into all of Osborn's spare Iron Patriot suits. Since they operate on Tony Stark's tech, they are now highly priced paper weights.

Everything has been working too well so we're about to hit our first snag. Ms. Hand locks down the building and sends HAMMER Agents out to kill anyone leaving. She announces this on the loud speaker so our heroes know something's gone wrong. They probably expect Hand to have sent people out searching for the fake Whitney Frost, too. JARVIS asks if Pepper requires a rescue but Potts tells the AI to focus all his efforts on protecting the harddrive. It's too late to help her and her spy friends out, anyway.

Norman Osborn is well on his way to finding Tony Stark. Last issue, Agent Walsh narrowed down Tony's location by tracking repulsor spikes. Now he's leading his boss right to his ex-boss. Walsh isn't a completely evil douche either so he's had a bout of conscience in the past hour or so. Instead of sending Norman right to Tony, he's sending Osborn on a wild goose chase in the wrong direction. While Norman doesn't exactly know that he's being thwarted, he does know that he should have caught up to Stark by now and it's frustrating the hell out of him. Something's gone wrong and Normy's losing his cool.

Norman tries to contact Ms. Hand but she's not returning his calls right now, either. Walsh isn't sure about the specifics on that so he tells Osborn what he DOES know. There's been some sort of breakout that requires Victoria's full attention. Osborn blasts a nearby mountain top in his rage. Where the hell is Tony Stark?

He's in Iran. Tony used the repulsor machines in his Afghan lab for the final act of erasing his mind. Now, he's just got to keep moving while his brain programs are deleted. At this point, Tony isn't thinking well at all. He just knows that he needs to keep moving forward and try and get to Dubai. It's not really clear what's waiting him in Dubai but that's where he says he has to go.

Agent Walsh may be personally directing Norman to Tony Stark's location but that doesn't mean that Walsh doesn't have a direct supervisor. Gormley (which is a great name, by the way) walks over to Walsh's station to figure out why Norman can't stay on target and realizes that Agent Walsh doesn't have HAMMER's best interests at heart. He has Walsh arrested and takes over his station. Gormley reports all this to Norman Osborn and starts telling Ozzy where he actually needs to go. Tony Stark is a half-hour away from Iron Patriot's location. This cheers up the HAMMER Director a great deal.

Victoria Hand finally returns Norman's phone calls. It's a good thing she did so AFTER he got into a good mood because she's given an immediate pardon for any wrong doing. Sure, some prisoners broke out and Pepper Potts made him look like a fool as she pretended to be Madame Masque. It's all water under the bridge. Hand just needs to let her EXTREMELY COMPETENT underlings do their job and everything will work out fine. Now, if you'll excuse him, Norman's got an original Avenger that needs killing.

Back in Avengers Tower, Pepper Potts, Maria Hill, and Natasha Romanova's elevator is slowly opening up. They see those HAMMER Agents and their evil guns pointing at them and get into action. Pepper uses her chest device to... melt the bullets that are fired at them? Is that one of her powers? Hmm... apparently. Anyway, while she's doing whatever the hell she's doing, Natasha is trying to close the elevator back up.

The doors shut as bullets fly over their heads. This time, they make sure that JARVIS has complete control over the elevator grid before continuing on their way. Pepper decides she's going to head back up and get her Rescue armor. Maria and Natasha will retrieve that hard drive.

Tony Stark's half hour is up. Norman is on his location. When Osborn sees that outdated armor, he smiles a wicked smile and moves in for his first attack. Norman unleashes his full arsenal on Iron Man. In his current mental state, Tony doesn't even know what he's facing. When Norman lands and starts mocking him, telling Stark that he made this particular armored suit in an attempt at royally pissing Tony off, it barely even registers. Tony isn't fighting back. He's still trying to run away.

In Avengers Tower, our female heroes are about to split up. Before they go their separate ways, Pepper really would like to know what makes this hard drive so special. Unfortunately, Maria never asked that question when Tony Stark had his mind. Hill just got her orders and went on her mission like a good little soldier. Oh well. Maybe we'll get that answer next issue. ;)

Black Widow and Maria Hill race down the hallway and to the Research Department. They break down the door and demand the HD. The poor research team tells them that they weren't able to do anything with the hard drive and hand it over to avoid getting some intense injuries.

In Dubai, even Norman Osborn is getting bored of doing all the fighting.

His current state of mind will do nothing to save his life. Norman seems to have forgotten all about that Super Hero Registration thing that started all of this and now he just wants to be the one to kill off the former Director of SHIELD. Eventually Tony stops trying to run away and decides to fight back. Granted, he's doing this in the Mark 0 Armor. While the Iron Patriot suit wouldn't be able to take on the Extremis Suit, it's far and away a better armor than the old gray number. Stark has only bought himself a few more moments.

Let's head back to Avengers Tower again. Pepper has ridden that elevator all the way up to the Iron Patriot Armory to get a hold of her Rescue Armor. She gets back inside the suit and smashed out of the Tower. As Pepper is escaping JARVIS tells her what he's been able to glean from the HAMMER Information Network. Norman has tracked down Tony Stark. JARVIS informs Mrs. Potts that he took the initiative and sent this out to every news network all over the world. They all now know where Norman is and who he's dealing with. It's the best chance to save the life of Pepper's former boss. She flies off in no particular direction and decides to watch a little news to pass the time.

In Dubai, the GNN Newsroom gets that email. It looks very official coming straight from the HAMMER International Press Corps. They look at the number of people that this was sent to and decide that they're going to have to get a move on to the location mentioned in the email or they'll miss out on their scoop of this story. People start racing around quickly.

We still have two people that need to escape Avengers Tower. Black Widow and Maria Hill. They're back in the elevator and they know that when it opens, they're going to have to face HAMMER Agents with guns again. They decide to pull a Nick Fury.

Remember back in Secret Warriors #6 where a bunch of HAMMER Agents had guns pulled on Nick and he gave them all a chance to join him? They followed him because he was a former SHIELD Director who had gained their loyalty a long time ago. The same thing applies here even though Maria Hill wasn't a SHIELD Director for very long. The elevator opens and Maria tells them that they're former SHIELD Agents that are now working for a super villain. It's time for them to make the decision on who they trust. To a man, those HAMMER Agents lower their weapons and let Maria Hill and Natasha Romanova pass.

In Dubai, Tony Stark is being killed by a taunting Iron Patriot. He's happy to see that Iron Man fought back because it means that he now has a reason to make the kill. Unfortunately, the news 'copters surrounding the area only see the Iron Patriot beating on a defenseless Iron Man. Norman tears off Tony's helmet and asks the guy if he has any last words. He totally does.

After a short pause, Tony Stark says, "I win."

This is all being broadcast out to the world live by the media. Norman Osborn is seen on television sets all over the world with his repulsor palms directed right at Tony Stark's head getting ready to execute the former SHIELD Director. It's not a flattering image to portray to the world. Lucky for Norman, Victoria gets in contact with him before he blows off Norman's head. He makes the official arrest in front of the cameras after Tony drops to the ground. It seems that his brain finally gave out all together.

In the HAMMER Helicarrier on the way home, one of the doctors tells Norman that Tony's mind is empty. There's still stimulus/response going on but no higher or lower brain activity at all. That means no SRA database floating in his grey matter. With nothing left to gain by keeping Tony alive, Norman tells the doctor to pull the plug on the Mr. Stark.

With the doctor can't do. It turns out that the Helicarrier is one gigantic floating embassy and, on board, everyone has to follow the law of the United States of America. Even over those pesky international waters. Because of that, Tony Stark's living will goes into effect and that means Stark is remanded into the custody of his personal physician as per his wishes. Only his doctor can decide what to do with him from there.

In Broxton, Oklahoma, Dr. Donald Blake gets the call. Looks like Tony Stark needs him. Maria Hill, Pepper Potts, Captain America (Bucky version), and Black Widow are there with him. Next issue, it's reunion time!

But we won't be covering Stark Disassembled in Super Reads. It's no long got that nice Dark Reign logo on it. We'll have to pick up again after Tony returns to the land of the living and enters a new Heroic Age. B)

dw79.jpgDark Wolverine #79
Writers: Daniel Way & Marjorie Liu
Penciler: Stephen Segovia

Last issue, that video of Daken maiming and killing while insulting hostages went viral on the internet and Norman Osborn and his trusty crew of HAMMER Agents busied themselves with tracking down who was responsible. Their search led them to the girlfriend of a journalist. Before HAMMER Agents were able to pick her up for questioning, she was contacted by the REAL culprit (who she was cheating on her boyfriend with) and directed out of the building to play in traffic until she was dead. Since it was more delicately put than that, she complied and we learned that the man responsible was really Daken himself playing one of his circuituous games. Unaware of this, Norman called in Daken for a conference and put together his own plan to save Dark Wolverine's image. Norman ran out and personally hired firearms expert Emmy Doolin for a little mission. Later, a dude named the Inquisitor interrogated the hell out of a judge in order to get the man to allow press at a trial the next morning. During that trial, Doolin helped two criminals, Cutthroat and Moses Magnum, escape from custody and killed another criminal, Aryan, in the process. Since this was all done right in front of the press, it made for a nice situation for a certain Dark Avenger to solve. In Avengers Tower, Karla Sofen got a little gift from Daken– wrapped up with a flower on top. Osborn had set up the courtroom incident and he released his Dark Wolverine to solve it. Meanwhile, the rabbits in this scenario ware starting to suspect a rat... just as Daken walked in to finish them off.

In this issue, Dark Wolverine demands a surrender but when he gets it he starts attacking anyway. Things are going well until he underestimates Moses Magnum and gets a face full of seismic fury. After that, the battle goes seriously downhill for the Dark Avenger. Only Emmy Doolin's intervention stops them from killing him. Daken passes out while his body heals. The group of wanted criminals decides that the best course of action is to call Norman Osborn and figure out what went wrong. Before Emmy does this, she learns that the media already believes that they've been arrested by Dark Wolverine. That changes her conversation with Norman just a little. She walks into her old job to get security footage of her conversation with Norman Osborn but it's already been erased. Fortunately, her old boss is a huge perverted skeezeball and he's got his own back-up copies of specific camera footage and he's got Emmy's meeting with Norman saved to his hard drive. He hands it over hoping for some nookie but only gets himself shot. The criminals plan on using this footage as leverage for their freedom. The scene only gets them a deal for getting arrested and released after the fact... and their call traced. They agree to the deal but Norman's got other ideas. He sends out Daken for a second chance at taking out these people.

So Daken is here to kill a bunch of reprehensible criminals but that doesn't mean he doesn't give them a chance to surrender. Since this is all being filmed, he's got to look like a good guy here. So he tells to surrender. Cutthroat throws down his knife and raises his hands in the air. That just means he's the first to get hit. Dark Wolverine slices him across the face. In the control room, Osborn gets his team to edit that part of the footage out. If he's going to release this to the public, he's going to have to do a lot of editing.

Daken goes to town on these criminals. These are all third-raters so he easily walks through their defenses. Norman radios into him to make things look a little bit harder but Daken doesn't seem to be taking that advice. He faces Emmy down and eggs her on. Emmy, to her credit, has figured out that this isn't the ACTUAL Wolverine.

While Daken is focusing on Emmy Doolin, he's hit from behind with a seismic shock wave courtesy of Moses Magnum.

In the HAMMER Control Room, Norman watches as Daken loses control of the situation. He keeps his men recording but this footage won't be given to the media. It will be used internally.

Inside, Daken has been beaten to the ground by the rallying criminals. Moses tells everyone it's time to move on. Cutthroat has different plans. He wants to kill Wolverine. Emmy stops him, saying that's probably not possible, what with the healing factor. She and Moses both know this isn't the real Wolverine but they don't feel like chancing it. Before they take off, Doolin leans over and tells Daken that he was saved by one of those women. This, apparently, pisses Daken off.

Doolin isn't the only one mocking Daken's predicament. Norman Osborn is still talking into his ear. This time, he's telling the fake Wolverine that he set this all up with has-beens, wannabes, and never-wases so that this would be a cut and dried, simple promotion. Daken messed it up. Normally, I'd think this was all part of some crazy plan by Daken to play Norman Osborn but the next scene takes that thought right out of my mind.

While coasting between dreamland and reality, Daken sees his daddy, Logan, looming over him with a beer in hand. Logan tells him this hero thing isn't a simple as it looks right before Daken wakes up in a pool of dried blood. Daken messed this one up and he's not too happy about it.

Not that the criminals who beat him to unconsciousness have a lot to celebrate. They thought they were working with Norman Osborn and ended up getting attacked by one of his Avengers. That doesn't automatically mean that Osborn has betrayed them but it does make their current situation that more uneasy. After a little debate, they agree that calling Norman Osborn up and squaring this away would be a good idea.

Moses gives Emmy the disposable cell phone and she races off to make the call in an area where she can make a getaway if HAMMER is able to trace her call. Once out of sight of her companions, she thinks about running without making the call. That thought is put out of her head when Cutthroat catches up with her. He had an idea that she was thinking about scampering and turned up to make sure she didn't. Doolin dials up Oscorp and says a few key words that should get Norman's attention. Words like "Emmy Doolin" and "Moses Magnum."

While she's getting connected to Ozzy, she notices that the news has already reported her and her comrades arrested by Wolverine. That's gonna change the mood on her conversation with Osborn. She asks the Director of HAMMER if he sent this out before they beat the snot out of his Dark Wolverine and he tells her that it totally was. Doolin makes some threats before hanging up and discarding the phone.

It's time to take the fight back to Norman Osborn and by that I mean getting some evidence that links him to the criminals before they made their public appearance at the courtroom. Since Norman recruited Emmy personally, the best place to get that evidence is at Doolin's ex-job: All-Mart. She heads back there in a seductive trenchcoat and a ridiculous hat. This suit is supposed to turn on her ex-boss but... the dude was probably already there. He has a thing for her.

The vague promise of sex is enough to get him to give her the security tapes of her talk with Norman. When he looks it up, they find that the security footage has already been erased. Norman covers those bases well but not well enough. You see, this boss is a sick, sick man. He keeps backups of all the lewd, sick stuff he can find. He's got it on his very own laptop. This includes a special section devoted just to Emmy. That means her meeting with Norman is recorded. Because this guy is a complete moron, he still thinks he's gonna get some sex out of this deal. Of course, he isn't. He's just going to get shot.

Since there's no sound on this recording, it's barely incriminating. It's circumstantial at best. Still, it's something that the Inquisitor can work with. The next day, Norman is checking his email when he finds a very special video made of his meeting with Emmy. It's something that could hurt his image and, with him, image is everything.

Daken walks in on him as Ozzy is angrily slamming his laptop shut. The two exchange words in their angry chess match of control before Osborn gets a call from Doolin that he'll need to take. He sets his assistant to work tracking the call before picking up the phone.

Norman's sweating over this but he remains in control. Doolin wants them all out and free but Osborn sets the agenda. First, they'll turn themselves in and go through the court process. When they're sentenced and in jail, he'll get them new identities and they'll be free to go where they want. This isn't a deal I would take because there's nothing holding Osborn to his word. Still, Emmy takes it. It's probably the best offer she'll get.

Which is because it's all a lie. When she asks where they should turn themselves in, Norman doesn't even bother with the details. He'll get a hold of them. He hangs up. His assistant has successfully tracked the call. They know just where Doolin and her criminal companions are located.

Norman summons his Dark Wolverine. He tells Daken that they've tracked down the people the Avenger failed to capture earlier. Daken has a second chance. This time, the media will be there live to report the whole thing since there's not time to set this up beforehand. That means Daken can't screw up and will have to watch his violent nature.

Daken has more important things to work on than cleaning up his image, however. He was beaten and spared by a beautiful woman. That will. Not. Stand.

drskk5.jpgDark Reign: Skrull Kill Krew #5
Writer: Adam Felber
Penciler: Mark Robinson

Last issue, the Krew interrupted another crazy Skrull game involving killing humans. Dice lost the thrill of killing Skrulls, with Moonstomp threatening to kill him if he quit the team. Riot did some investigating, and then met Ryder and Catseye who were playing some role-reversal sex. They all waited for the rest of the Krew to show up. When Dice got there, he let everyone in on the fact that, now that they're technically Skrulls, they don't have to keep following the same patterns. In fact, the Skrulls they killed at the party last issue were domestic Skrulls who weren't in the habit of killing anyone. They were peaceful. Moonstomp tried to kill Dice but Dice knew how to use his powers too well. Riot's new Skrull girlfriend showed up and warns them of an upcoming attack and everyone teamed up to stop some Skrulls. With the battle done, the team remained divided on what to do in their future.

In this issue, Riot and her Skrull girlfriend enjoy a date at a vegan restaurant before the rest of the Krew show up to kill the other Skrull patrons. This was because Riot told Moonstomp all about her date earlier that day and Moonstomp is all about killing some Skrulls. Riot tries to save lives and ends up explaining that this was, in fact, a date and that no-one here is eating people. Moonstomp had told them an entirely different story and when the truth comes out, the Krew stop all their Skrull Killing and go home to figure this out. Viola Reichardt learns that the native Skrull population has disappeared. Norman Osborn is threatened on the Conan O'Brien Show. We learn that the native Skrull population is big into Hollywood and helped build up his image during the Skrull Invasion. Since he isn't doing anything about the Skrull Kill Krew, they're upset. Ryder goes through a crisis of faith regarding what he's doing with his life but it's not too serious of one. The Native Skrulls make their ultimatum to Norman and Osborn sends in his HAMMER team to corral people in preparation for the Kill Krew. The Krew shows up and, instead, kill the HAMMER Agents. They give Norman a warning to lay off the Skrulls and begin partying it up with the Native Skrulls. Moonstomp shows up angry at his teammates and is killed by Ryder. The Skrull Kill Krew ride off into the sunset, we get a stupid thought that this is just a group of people drawing a comic book of the Krew's adventures, and then we see an evil green-eyed cow. The End.

Ugh. One more issue and I'm done with this mini. That is a good thing because this thing has been a rambling mess of a comic. Now, I never worshipped the work of the first Skrull Kill Krew mini-series. It wasn't exactly... good. It was a jumbled mess with poor art. This... well, at least the art is good.

So, I'm going to try making sense of this issue. You may not be able to understand everything I write here and that's because this issue is all over the place, introducing brand-new story elements in the final chapter that we should have seen a trace of before. It's like the writer just figured out the story he wanted to write at the last minute and decided to jam it in for good measure. Let's get on with this mess!

Riot is taking her girlfriend, Eva, out on a date. That's sweet and all but it's complicated by the fact that Eva is a Skrull and Riot just figured out that not all Skrulls are evil. In fact, Eva saved her life last issue. Granted, Riot saved Eva's life first but it's nice that she returned the favor. Riot's going through a lot more than learning that genocide might be wrong. She's even taken Eva out to a Skrull Restaurant where the only thing on the menu is vegetables. That makes sense if you figure that these Skrulls are all native-born on this planet and are actually the product of a Skrull cow getting down with a normal cow. You probably don't eat a lot of steak if they're in your family tree.

Whle Riot and Eva are staring dreamily into each other's eyes, the waitress delivers them drinks, complements of the people on the other side of the room. It's Moonstomp, Ryder, and Catseye of the Skrull Kill Krew and they're planning on living up to their team name. Riot jumps to her feet to give these Skrulls a warning just as the Krew start doing what they do.

Now, we don't really need a flashback to figure out how the Skrull Kill Krew got here. We can probably put one and one together and figure out that they followed her or something. What we DO need a flashback for is to find out how Moonstomp is altering the facts to keep Ryder and Catseye on the "Skrull Kill" part of the Krew. So: Flashback!

Earlier that day, Riot was trying to learn some of Dice's crazy hippy-inspired super powers. Dice is using his Skrull shape-shifting abilities to float and stuff. He's freed his mind. Riot... not so much, but she's trying. They're interrupted by Moonstomp who is still trying to kill Dice for quitting the Krew. Both Dice and Riot have realized that killing all Skrulls is wrong. Moonstomp will never get there. He'd never kill Dice, either. Dice can shapeshift around anything Moonstomp can throw at him and make the bigot look stupid in the process.

Moostomp does give us some new info that we should have seen a couple issues earlier. Apparently, the native Skrulls are in control of lots of media outlets. Moonstomp has a list of businesses run by Skrulls. Dice tells Moonstomp that these Skrulls are the domestic types. They aren't interested in ruling the world. They just want to live. Live WELL, yes, but the point is they don't want to kill anyone.

Moonstomp is under the impression that these Skrulls want to eat people. This is where Riot gives away her dinner plans. Her girlfriend, Eva, doesn't eat people. She doesn't even eat meat. They're going to a vegan restaurant that very night where they won't be eating any people. She even tells Moonstomp that it's full of peaceful, unarmed, Skrulls. This last bit might be later editing on Riot's part since she's telling this story to her girlfriend and she's feeling a bit guilty.

We cut back to the relative present where we learn that Ryder and Catseye were under the impression that this operation was initiated by Riot. Of course, it wasn't. Moonstomp fibbed on the details. A lot. He called up Ryder and told him that Riot had set this all up and that the items on the menu were people! It's all people!

When Riot tells them that this is actually a vegan restaurant, they are impressed at the lengths Riot's going for her new girl. They're also pissed about being played by Moonstomp. Moonstomp tries to keep the mission clear. They're here to kill Skrulls. Skrulls are evil! Eva interrupts that she ISN'T evil and nearly gets killed by Moony. It's a good thing Riot's there to defend her girlfriend. Frustrated, Ryder calls off the mission and leaves. He's hungry for a steak and he's not going to get that here.

Viola Reichardt is an Agent of HAMMER with a past who has an unexplained past with Ryder. Don't expect that past to be cleared up here. That would be just one more thing to add to an already cluttered final issue. She's here to tell us that the Skrull/Cow crossbreeds have begun disappearing off the grid. There are 429 Skrull/Cow crossbreeds out there and now HAMMER doesn't know where they all are. Viola wants this worked out before Norman learns about it but it's too late for that. He's already heard the news and wants to meet with Reichardt immediately.

So... fifth issue and finally Norman Osborn shows up. It's about time! Again, last issue business. When Agent Reichardt enters Norman's office, he and Victoria Hand are watching Conan O'Brien.

In Conan's monologue, there's a subtly-placed joke about Norman Osborn. It's obviously an attack on Ozzy from the Skrull Cow population. They control Hollywood, after all. He tells Hand to set up a meeting with the Skrull Cow people. This was a message. It also sets us up for more last-minute back story that would have been nice to have interlaced throughout the mini-series instead of bringing it up at the end.

During the Skrull Invasion, the world's native Skrull/Cow population didn't take the Skrulls' side. They used their clout in the media to champion an effort against the full-blown Skrulls. To that end, they helped raise Norman Osborn up the political ladder. Ozzy sort of owes them for his success. When the Skrull Kill Krew went back into business, they demanded that Norman take action but he refused saying that there was nothing he could do. The native Skrull Cows decided to fight back the only way they knew how. Conan O'Brien. Is there nothing he won't destroy?

The big problem is that not all of these Skrull/Cow people are benign. This mini started with odd violent acts where the Skrull/Cows were killing people in wierd cattle drives and the like. There were lots of violent Native Skrulls that needed to be dealt with one way or another. The Skrull Kill Krew dealt with them. That's probably one of the reasons Norman has let them run free. The other is that he would rather every Skrull, even the Native Skrulls, were dead.

The final last minute element delivered into the plot is the fact that these Native Skrulls are using their media clout to portray Skrulls in a positive light. They've even taken over some comic books to do such a horrible thing.

Ryder is back at his house but he can't really sleep. His whole life has turned upside down since he learned he now had Skrull genetic makeup. It used to be a lot simpler. He and his Krew just went out and killed Skrulls. There were no moral rules that needed to be acknowledged because they were KILLING SKRULLS. I've said it before: killing Skrulls is just like killing Nazis or Stormtroopers. You can totally get away with it and still be seen as a pure hero. Now, Ryder's whole purpose for living is all out of whack.

As he ponders the meaning of life, he and his Krew all receive a message from Reichardt about Norman's meeting with the Native Skrull population. What'll they do?

The next night, Norman is meeting with some Skrull Cow people. These are the people that control the media... or at least certain aspects of the media. They are pretty passive for Skrulls and keep apologizing to Osborn for having to take things this far. They just want to live without the fear of dying.

Now, before we get to Osborn's eventual betrayal of these people, I need to explain something that might be inconsistant with Marvel's actual timeline. The last decade has seen creators not really caring that the Marvel Universe as we know it is only, at most, fifteen years old. Possibly ten depending on creator. Let's go with fifteen for the sake of this story. Fifteen years ago, the Fantastic Four launched themselves into a cosmic ray bath and came back to earth with super powers. Not long after that, they hypnotized a group of Skrulls into becoming cows. A bit after that, one of those Skrulls got frisky and impregnated another cow. That's less than fifteen years ago but we're seeing Skrull/Cow hybrids that look MUCH older than that. This might be because the average cow lives to be about fifteen years old so they might age much more quickly than a human. We still don't know how long the average Skrull lives. Hell, I still can't explain most of the cast of Young Avengers. Their ages don't make any sense considering whose kids they're supposed to be.

OK, betrayal time. Norman sends in his HAMMER Agents to corral these Skrull/Cows. They aren't here to kill anyone, however. They're just here to make sure that the Skrull Kill Krew have an easy time getting down to business.

The Krew shows up right on cue. You should know this plays badly for Norman just because Dice and Riot are present while Moonstomp is nowhere to be found. Sure enough, the Krew starts killing not the Skrulls but the HAMMER Agents. Norman expects that he's next but that's not how this is going down. Ryder wants Norman alive just so he'll know who to blame if any other Native Skrulls get killed.

All that's left is the wrap-up. After Norman leaves, the Krew sticks around and parties it up with their brand new friends, the Skrull/Cows. It's only then that Moonstomp makes his grand entrance. He's not happy that they've chosen to side with the Skrulls against the humans. Moony has totally missed the paradigm shift. Before he can start killing these people, Ryder takes him out of the game. Everyone leaves while Moonstomp cries out about purity and stuff. Maybe he lives to see another day but I'm betting that's as close to a death as you're likely to see for Moonstomp.

The rest of the Krew ride off into the sunset. Riot's girlfriend joins them. They know that HAMMER will probably be on them now but that's not something they aren't used to. This Krew is all about railing against authority. I guess that means Norman Osborn right now.

To make this even more meta for no reason at all, the last page shows that this is all being drawn up for a comic by a bunch of Native Skrulls. It's part of their propaganda to make Skrulls more accepted in society or something. In the final two panels, we see a cow watching them drive down the road. It's got two evil green eyes. Was that a twist? Do we care?

Not really. We're just happy that we don't have to read this comic anymore. :)

as27.jpgAvengers Spotlight #27
Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Al Milgrom

In this story, Boomerang breaks into a minor Stark Enterprises building, fights his way through security, and ends up being recruited by Loki to fight a very specific Avenger. Hawkeye is visiting the doctor in order to get a rectal exam. When he leaves, he's attacked by Boomerang. The following battle destroys a section of New York. Clint rescues a lady from a burning building and gets slapped for the effort.

Boomerang isn't what you'd call A-list. One of his problems is he always picks fights with heroes out of his strength class. To that end, he's breaking into a smaller office of Stark Enterprises. This office was recently broken into by the Ghost and Boomerang was sent in by Justin Hammer to retrieve the security tapes of the event so that Boomerang can go over the footage and find himself in another losing battle with a superior foe.

One of the guards goes for the security alarm but Boomerang beats him there, slashing the wires to prevent a signal going out. Unfortunately for Boomerang, slashing the wires summons more guards just as easily as pressing the button. He might not be facing down Iron Man or the Ghost but he's not fighting a lot of security detail.

This fight is one that Boomerang can win. No, he's still not going to get those security tapes. Those have already been mailed out to the main office. Still, it's nice for the villain to beat down a few people before his eventual defeat at the end of this story. He takes down the first round of guards but, before the second wave can reach him they're all distracted by the appearance of a newcomer on the scene.

No, it's not the Ghost. It's not even Iron Man. It's a man in a white hat and trenchcoat. This is the mysterious mastermind behind the Acts of Vengeance that we all know and love as Loki, god of mischief. He's got a very special job for Boomerang. It might even be a fight the villain can win.

In New York City, Hawkeye and Mockingbird are visiting the doctor. In costume. Don't ask. It was the nineties and made perfect sense at the time, I'm sure. Clint is there to get a diagnosis on some problems he's been having in the bathroom. The doctor is ready to look up his rear right now but Barton is obviously less than pleased with this idea. That doctor's smile is way too creepy. It's like he can't wait. I'd probably go find a new physician.

Instead, Clint goes ahead with the procedure. With his wife watching, the doc probably won't try anything funny. Probably. It turns out that it's nothing life threatening and probably didn't even need to be included in this comic except to make us all uncomfortable at that look on the doctor's face. Creepy.

On the street, Bobbi and Clint split up to go about their day. Bobbi is meeting Big Bertha uptown and Clint wants to get to join the other Avengers as soon as he can. That won't actually happen in this comic, however. Clint is quickly attacked by Boomerang. It's trick boomerangs versus trick arrows in a fight to the finish!

While these two fight it out, it's the city of New York that suffers. This city has seen much more powerful menaces hit it but a battle between two non-powered individuals with assorted trick gadgets causes more damage than you usually see in the pages of Fantastic Four. As the street explodes and buildings burn, Hawkeye looks around at the wanton destruction he had a hand in causing.

Being the consummate hero that he is, Clint is duty-bound to help in any rescue efforts that need to be made. He sees a nurse up inside a burning building and rushes up to the rescue. He has the nurse jump on his back and rides an arrow created line down to street level. Unfortunately, Clint didn't end his fight with Boomerang before heading off to rescue people. That means that he should have seen it coming when Boomerang re-enters the fight and cuts his rope. He and the nurse drop from the sky but, luckily, land on a rescue mat.

Hawkeye uses a net arrow to trap the bad guy. The police show up and take Boomerang away soon after.

Clint heads over to the Nurse to see how she's doing. He's expecting her to be grateful for the save but, instead, she slaps him in the face. She waves her hand at all the destruction he had a hand in causing and tells Hawkeye that heroes are the problem with the world. Clint walks away with his head held low. The nurse is still yelling at him. In the same panel, a shadowed Loki is personally looking over his handiwork. Mission accomplished?

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Penciler: Dwayne Turner

In this story, Stingray hits the ocean depths in an attempt to reclaim anything lost when Avengers Island sank. Investigating the big robot prison, he sees the bots' restraints have been broken right before he's taken out from behind. Other reserve Avengers are working above to bring the debris out of the water. When they get a warning that Stingray is in danger, Firebird heads straight down for a rescue but gets knocked right back up again. The Awesome Android surfaces with the unconscious Stingray and fights it out with the other reserve Avengers. Captain Marvel is called into action. She shows up on the battlefield and instead of engaging the Awesome Android, she flies into the water and retrieves a stasis-field projector. Using it in tandem with the reservist's powers, she is able to shut down the Awesome Android. They all pat themselves on the back for a job well done but Captain Marvel is worried because the other heavy duty robots are still on the loose.

In Avengers #311, Avengers Island was sunk to the ocean floor. Since it also served as the water base of Stingray, the reserve Avenger is on the scene seeing what can be salvaged from the underwater wreckage. He swims into the big robot restraining area to find it completely empty. That means that robots like Tess-One, The Awesome Android, the Kree Sentry, and the Super-Adaptoid are free to smash things up. He looks around to see if any of these bots is still hanging around but ends up getting struck from behind by an unseen foe.

Above the water, other reservists (Firebird, Hellcat, Black Widow, and Moondragon) are gathering up debris on a floating barge. Stingray and, earlier, Quasar have already retrieved a lot of random bits of metal. Who knows what they've got that they don't want falling into enemy hands? When Stingray's distress call starts going off, Firebird doesn't even hesitate to dive into the water in an attempt to assist the reservist.

Which doens't mean she's going to win any fights when facing them completely out of her element. She's quickly knocked back out of the water by her still unseen foe. Finally, that threat surfaces and we find the reserve Avengers facing off with the Awesome Android!

Stingray has been pulled up to the surface with Awesome Andy but he's already unconscious from his run-in with the android. Even though the other reservists are out of their league, they still jump right into this battle.

Black Widow sends out a summons for active Avengers but they're all busy with their own problems during this Act of Vengeance. Thor is fighting Juggernaut. Iron Man is battling the Wrecker. Cap faces off against Namor. Quasar trades blows with the Absorbing Man. The West Coast Avengers are fighting the U-Foes. The only Avenger not in the middle of a battle of life and death is Captain Marvel. The female one. Not Phyla. Monica Rambeau. She's on a date but priorities are priorities.

Back at the pier, the reservists aren't faring well. Moondragon is feeling particularly useless since her telepathic powers have no effect on the android. Even worse, any powers used against the Awesome Android may end up being absorbed by the android and thrown right back out at the reservists. For example, Firebird attacks the robot only to have Awesome Andy duplicate her powers and send them right back at her and her companions. She blocks them with a fire shield but it's straining her abilities the longer the attack lasts. While she's protecting her team, Captain Marvel shows up and drops into the ocean without engaging the enemy.

Down below, Monica locates a stasis field projector and flies it up to the surface. Moondragon's telepathic powers finally become useful as she is used as a conduit for a telepathic conference so everyone knows what Captain Marvel is planning.

Firebird drops her shield as the reservists scatter out of the way of the android's fire attack. Using the last of her power, Firebird fires her flame right at the stasis-field generator. This powers it up so that it can be shot at Awesome Andy. The robot goes right down.

So that worked out. Hellcat starts throwing praise around but Captain Marvel and Black Widow aren't as pleased with their performance. The Awesome Android is only one of many robots that have escaped, after all. They'll need to recapture the rest. Also troublesome is the fact that in an emergency, only one active Avenger was able to respond. Something horrible is going on and the Avengers are suffering because of it.

a312.jpgAvengers #312
Writer: John Byrne
Penciler: Paul Ryan

In this issue, the Avengers analyze the threat of the Acts of Vengeance and come up with inconclusive results. The villains all meet up and Loki does his dance with words to keep everyone mostly in line. Freedom Force's Avalanche, Blob, and Pyro show up in Avengers Park to arrest the Avengers. A big fight happens with a lot of destruction. Nebula visits some old dude. Hank defeats Blob. Avalanche uses his powers to majorly hurt the Vision. The criminal brigade monitors the Avengers situation and believes that stopping Freedom Force before they do more harm than good may be a prudent move. Pyro tries to get the police to arrest the Avengers but a returning Captain America puts a halt to that and puts a question mark on these guys' authority. The two remaining mutants escape but the Avengers don't count this as a victory.

Hank Pym, the Wasp, the Vision, and the Scarlet Witch have shown up at Avengers Park to aid their fellow Avengers in their time of need. They're monitoring all these attacks on their fellow Avengers as well as other heroes but they aren't able to figure out why all these attacks are happening.

All this and Wanda is completely not in her right mind. She's back to walking and talking thanks to some impromptu shock therapy on Hank Pym's part but she's not seeing reality in quite the same way as everyone else. She looks at the Vision and doesn't see the ghostly white Avenger before her. She sees the old green and yellow suit with the red face. If only there were time to deal with that or get Wanda the help she desperately needs but the Avengers were never good at multitasking different problems. They see the problem ahead of them and wait for the next one to spiral out of control.

Loki watches all of this from his secure location. Everything is going according to his masterplan. This whole Acts of Vengeance is a bid to rid the world of the Avengers. He's never gotten over the fact that he caused them to come into existence in the first place. This is his chance to erase them from memory.

To that end, he has assembled the greatest villains of the Marvel Universe. Doctor Doom. Magneto. The Mandarin. Red Skull. Kingpin. The Wizard. The kicker is that each one believes himself to be in charge and manipulating the others. It's Loki in the disguise of a humble servant doing every bit of manipulating and loving it. This isn't an easy game but Loki is a master at this sort of thing, and it's possible there's some magic being employed. The villains are all used to calling the shots and they won't back down easily from any offenses they get from the others. Take the Red Skull, for example. His presence pisses off most of the others because, hey: Nazi. Universally hated. Especially by someone like Magneto.

Still, Loki keeps the peace when his "masters" lose themselves to their own egos. With everyone placated, he tells them that everything is going according to their plans. The heroes are suffering and they will continue to suffer. Now, he needs to leave to prepare the end game.

In New York, three errant members of Freedom Force land near Avengers Park Pyro, Avalanche and the Blob. They're here to arrest the Avengers and they aren't doing it on government authority. Since the death of Destiny, Mystique has been grieving. That left these three bored and needing something to do.

Vision heads upstairs to see what the three mutants want. When Blob tells him to whistle up the other Avengers for a royal beatdown, Vision doesn't understand what the Freedom Forcer is talking about. Blob makes it much more simple for the Avenger by knocking him into a statue. The Avengers below see this attack and board the elevator to help their fellow Avenger. While they make their way upstairs, Vision tries his hand at a counter attack only to find his density-altering powers countered by Blob's similar abilities.

When the Avengers show up, they are startled to learn that this battle isn't going to be as simple as they thought it would be. They are shaken by Avalanche's earthquake power and Pyro's flames don't make their day any easier. Still, they rally well. After their initial troubles, they are able to team up on both of these mutants and put them on the ropes. It's only Blob that continues to give the Vision problems.

The real loser of this battle is Avengers Park.

While the battle continues, Pyro and Avalanche seem to continue on their losing streak.

This seems like a good time to leave Avengers Park behind and focus on an old man walking home in a bad neighborhood. It's the same old man we saw on Nebula's monitor last issue. He's got some sort of plan to get rid of poverty and bring about a new golden age but we're not sure what that means just yet. When he gets to his apartment, he finds Nebula waiting.

That'll have to wait for another issue. Right now, we've got to wrap up the Avengers fight with Freedom Force. Since the Vision isn't faring well against the Blob, they switch partners. Pym takes on Blob, using Pym Particles to make the Blob a whole lot smaller. Unfortunately for the mutant, shrinking him doesn't decrease his mass and he smashes through the ground and keeps dropping through the rock. Well, that's one way to get rid of the Blob.

Avalanche has been able to use his abilities to greater affect since last we saw him. Since he can effect any inorganic matter, he is able to shatter Falcon's wings, causing the hero to smash right into the Scarlet Witch. With his wife in danger, the Vision swoops in for a rescue but finds himself in trouble. Vis isn't completely organic in nature and Avalanche uses his powers on the Vision to shatter his inorganic bits and pieces. This looks REALLY painful. Vision drops to the ground and starts repair mode.

Wanda races to her husband's side and believes him to be dead or dying. She's filled with rage and might be ready to initiate some acts of vengeance all her own.

Still, despite Avalanche's recent actions, Freedom Force is losing this battle now. The fight is being monitored by the league of super-villains. When they ask Loki if this is part of their plan, they learn that Freedom Force is acting on their own. The Red Skull wants something to be done before the Avengers win this battle and rally behind the victory. Loki promises to look into it but is actually planning to let it play out for as long as possible. It seems to be fitting into his goals nicely, after all. He's hoping one of the Avengers dies in this battle even if Freedom Force eventually loses.

Still, we've only got a page or two left of this battle so it's winding down. Pyro and Avalanche realize that they're done for, so Pyro calls in the police to do their work for them. Since Pyro and Avalanche are recently government agents, Pyro banks on his status to get the police to do what he wants them to do: arrest the Avengers. The cops pause, uncertain of what to do when Captain America zip-lines in and takes command of the situation.

It turns out that Freedom Force's status is up in the air right now and that they have no real authority in this situation. Besides, they're supposed to only deal with mutant-specific problems. They have no jurisdiction here anyway.

The crowd seems to be divided on who to support. Someone is really trying to discredit super-heroes and public opinion is at an all time low when it comes to the issue. Because of that, there are people in the crowd who would love to see the Avengers taken down a peg. At the same time, there are some who support the Avengers to the end. This disagreement is leading to a shoving match in the crown and while the Avengers try to calm people down, Pyro and Avalanche escape, tearing up the street as a further distraction.

Freedom Force's helicopter disappears from sight. The Avengers would love to pursue but there are injured to deal with. Vision comes out of repair mode to weigh in on the issue. Wanda is overjoyed to find her husband still lives and gives him a hug. A very one sided hug.

The rest of the Avengers help the injured, upset that Freedom Force's less-than-stellar members have escaped. Sure, they'll leave an angry note with their handlers but that's about all they can do today. This isn't an actual victory since their foes escaped.

It's just the kind of fight Loki wanted them to face. He watches the scene from his throne and laughs at the hoops the Avengers are being forced through. Soon, it'll be time for the endgame. The Avengers are soon to be finished!

awc54.jpgAvengers West Coast #54
Writer: John Byrne
Penciler: John Byrne

In this issue, the Moleman's minions attack LA! Iron Man removes one of the Moleman's monsters from Los Angeles and sets it down in the Pacific right off of a beach. Wonderman and the Human Torch fly down the hole made by the Moleman's monster to find the Moleman's kingdom and a lot of monsters waiting for them. Hank Pym, the Wasp, and an unconscious Wanda are returning to the west coast when they are attacked by another of Moleman's creatures. It makes short work of their Quinjet but they are all saved from getting killed by the Master of Magnetism. Hank uses more Pym Particles to shrink the three-headed monster down in size so that it can be easily captured. Moleman has attacked the surface because he believes the West Coasters attacked him first. Giganto gets moving again with Iron Man and USAgent trying to stop him yet again. Wonderman tries to convince Moleman that the West Coast Avengers didn't attack him and takes a lot of shots from Moleman's blasting rod before Moleman thinks that, maybe, the Avenger is telling the truth. He calls in his assorted monsters to think on all of this. Both Avengers teams teleconference and they finally agree that someone is out to get them.

Moleman is pissed off and all of Los Angeles will suffer for it. It seems like just another quake at first but then it turns out to be Giganto surfacing to cause havoc. You remember Giganto, right? He's that guy on the cover to your left. One of the first threats faced by the Fantastic Four. One of Moleman's most powerful monsters. This is a huge threat.

The West Coast Avengers are running around facing threats at nearly the same level as their East Coast team. Wonderman and Iron Man see the destruction and fly off to face the threat. That means they won't be able to continue their hunt for the U-Foes but that's ok. I'm certain the U-Foes' threat will bubble to the surface again eventually. Only face the fight right ahead of you, heroes!

Iron Man quickly outpaces Wonderman's boosters. He flies below Giganto and lifts the monster straight off the ground. The only trouble now is that he needs to find somewhere to drop this guy without putting more lives in danger. USAgent shows up on a flying bike to offer his own advice. Why not just kill the monster? After chiding Agent for not being present for the West Coast Avengers battle with the U-Foes last issue, Iron Man says that he's not certain Giganto deserves to die. After all, this creature could just be misguided. Maybe he took a left instead of a right when digging his underground tunnels?

Instead of killing the poor, destructive menace, Iron Man drops it into the Pacific Ocean, making sure to quickly build up some sand barriers to stop the beach from getting flooded by the creatures splashing.

Back in Los Angeles, Wonderman is investigating the hole made by Giganto when it started it's rampage. It's a nice, deep pit and following it may lead them to whatever caused this tantrum. Joined by the original Human Torch, Wonderman starts his descent. When they reach the bottom, Simon is glad to have the Torch along. It means he has a light in a world ruled by darkness. It also lets him see those monsters lurking in the shadows. The two Avengers start a fight against a lot of monsters. Eventually, the Moleman reveals himself as the mastermind behind these attacks.

Hank Pym, Janet Van Dyne, and Wanda Maximof are returning from their trip to New York. Vision remained behind as he requested last issue. Their separation has caused Wanda to return to a catatonic state. Hank knows that his shock therapy probably won't have the same effect this time around. Soon, dealing with the Scarlet Witch's unstable mental condition will again take the back seat to dealing with an immediate threat.

Their Quinjet is attacked by Tricephalous. This monster is kind of like a three-headed dragon. This is one of those moments where the Avengers probably wish they hadn't set the Quinjet to autopilot. The ship isn't able to maneuver quick enough to avoid Tricephalous forever. The creature digs one big foot into the jet, shattering it. The Avengers inside are as unharmed as any Marvel hero is when their aircraft comes apart around them. Seriously, this happens a LOT with no real injuries to the passengers.

That fall might still kill them. Pym has a plan to shrink Wanda down so that Janet can fly her to safety but the Wasp doesn't want to leave Hank to die. Her inability to leave her ex-husband would normally lead to all of their deaths but at the last minute the Quinjet rights itself and floats gently above the ground. The Avengers leave the ship as Tricephalous rounds about for another pass at them.

Hank times his next move carefully. The dragon drops down on them and at the last minute, Dr. Pym releases a burst of Pym Particles, shrinking the creature to a more manageable size. With that done, he tells Wasp to fly off to the nearby Ranger station to get them some help while he looks after the comatose Scarlet Witch.

In the shadows, we see that their rescuer is none other than Wanda's errant father, Magneto. Magnus believes that all of this has come to pass on his say-so but he is unwilling to sacrifice his daughter to "his" master plan. Loki watches the entire scene on his magic monitors and is amused that Magneto believes himself in charge. He's got to keep reminding the audience that everyone is being played right into his hands. Otherwise we might forget.

Below the surface in the Moleman's kingdom, Simon demands to know why the Moleman would be attacking the surface world. What he learns is shocking. The Moleman believes that the West Coast Avengers attacked him and left him for dead. After he survived, he vowed vengeance. Possibly in Act form. The Torch tries to convince Moleman that the Avengers never attacked him or his kingdom but Moleman is more interested in this Torch not being Johnny Storm than listening to what he believes to be lies.

In the Pacific, Giganto has begun moving again. USAgent uses his jet bike to blast some holes in the creature in an attempt to force the monster back, but after a shot like that, Giganto moves to defend himself and knocks USAgent out of the sky in the process. Iron Man flies in for the rescue before the Agent splatters against the ground.

Below that ground, it looks like Simon Williams will have to put a stop to this farce.

Wonderman tells Moleman that the West Coasters really had nothing to do with attacking Moleman and his kingdom. To prove it, he stands before Moleman defenseless, ready to take whatever the villain has in mind. Moleman strikes out with his staff. The bolt knocks Simon off his feet but the Avenger gets back up and does it all over again. After taking this treatment several times, Moleman is finally able to consider the possibility that he's been duped. He recalls his monsters to his underground kingdom to give him time to think this over.

Giganto drops below the water's surface and keeps going. He starts digging a tunnel down to the Moleman. Iron Man dives in to investigate Giganto's path but stops short of following the monster further. Out of sight, out of mind.

Back at the West Coasters' headquarters, they again decide to talk to their East Coast comrades. Everyone is finally able to admit that this is a concerted attack on the Avengers. They might have hoped that they weren't connected attacks but they're happening too frequently with too many of the same patterns repeating themselves to be isolated. Sure, the super hero community seems to be getting attacked in general but the attacks on the Avengers seem fiercer, more focused, and more destructive.

There's no doubt in Hank Pym's mind. Someone's trying to destroy the Avengers!

That was one big week of comics! While my brain recovers from reading Skrull Kill Krew, you enjoy yourselves exploring the rest of the Outhouse. I'll be back very soon for the next installment.

Until then: Who Do YOU Trust?


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About the Author - SuperginraiX

SuperginraiX is the biggest sap on The Outhousers' payroll (wait, we get paid?). He reads every issue of every crappy Marvel crossover so you don't have to. Whats worse is that he pays for his books, thus condoning Marvel's behavior. If The Outhouse cared for his well being at all, they'd try and get him into some sort of rehab center. But, alas, none of us even know how to say his name. For a good time, ask Super why Captian America jumped off the Helicarrier in Fear Itself. Super lives in the frozen wastland that is Minnesota with 15% of the state's population living under his roof: a wife he makes wear an Optimus Prime mask, two gremlins, and his mother-in-law.


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