OK, this is a big week so let's get it started in here!
Today, we check out Dark Reign- The List: Wolverine #1, Dark Reign- The List: Punisher #1, New Avengers #58, Dark Reign: Young Avengers #5, Dark Avengers: Ares #1, Ms. Marvel #46, War Machine #10, and Blast to the Past for Avengers Spotlight #28, Avengers #313, and Avengers West Coast #55. Enjoy and spread the word!
Two List books in one week! Crazy!
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.
Howabout we check in on Wolverine and Noh-Varr.
Dark Reign- The List: Wolverine #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciler: Esad Ribic
In this issue, Norman Osborn wants to control the World! Captain Marvel gives Logan a light warning and ends up in a team-up. The two enter the World and Logan finds super religion. Noh-Varr runs away from Logan and his super religious mob and runs right into Fantomex. It's another team-up. Norman is pissed off because he sent robot zombies into the World and isn't getting the results he was craving. Phantomex and Captain Marvel race through the world and Fantomex tells Noh-Varr that he believes the World has become sentient. They race to the world's brain and after a short fight with religious zombies and cyborg zombies, Captain Marvel gives the brain a kiss and earns it's trust. With Wolverine back in his own mind, the three beat back Osborn's cyborg zombies and save the World. Fantomex shrinks the World down to a manageable size and puts it in his pocket. The three part. Logan hitches a ride to a church.
Norman Osborn is learning that the World is still out there and now he really, really wants it. That means you might want to learn exactly what the World is.
Weapon Plus. This is a program in the Marvel Universe that has been creating soldiers to fight in future wars. You already know some of it's results. Captain America? He would be the result of Project: Rebirth but, in Weapon Plus terms, he's Weapon I. Wolverine? Weapon X. Actually, the Weapon X program had many successes and grew into a program and direction all it's own, usually relying on mutants. Weapon Plus went on to create a number of different Weapons through other programs. To help speed along these programs, they created the World.
The World is more than just a lab used to create new Weapons. It is, quite literally, a world. Inside the World, the scientists running the show were able to slow down or speed up time and let evolution and natural selection do it's thing. The civilization that was built inside knew nothing of the real world, believing there was nothing to be found outside the World. The World was used to create Weapons XIII and XIV. Weapon XIII is the hero/thief known as Fantomex and with the help of Wolverine and Cyclops, Fantomex went down into the World and shut it down "for good." You know how that story goes in the comic book world.
So Norman gets a briefing on all of this and his greedy little heart wants it really bad.
Naturally, this leads right back toWolverine. Noh-Varr also shows up just so we know he's still alive and doing stuff. Noh-Varr was late of the Dark Avengers and was the first and only member of the team to defect after he learned that he hadn't joined a group of heroes but, instead, had joined the bad guys. In his time with HAMMER, he learned about the World and that Norman was going to try and take the place. Norman knew that Wolverine might get involved and, as part of his whole "List" thing, set up a contingency against the little guy: Noh-Varr.
Wolverine isn't super impressed by the current Captain Marvel but that's probably because he never read Grant Morrison's Marvel Boy mini-series. That thing was awesome and I totally recommend you go out and pick it up. It makes Noh-Varr look like a player in the Marvel Universe and it's a shame he dropped off the face of the earth right after that series ended. He's back and, since he's a good guy now, he's giving Logan all of this information for free.
Noh expects that's the end of his involvement but Logan thinks much differently. This is gonna be one of them team-up things and there's now way for Captain Marvel to get out of it. They board whatever super jet Logan is using these days and head straight out for the World.
Once they're inside, things go bad right away. Logan sniffs the air and sense the bad mojo they're running right into. Still, it's too late. Weapon XVI has been released from it's gas canister. Wolverine has smelt it and, therefore, has dealt it.
It looks like Captain Marvel will be facing the threat of the World all alone. Wolverine has joined the other team. Noh-Varr is extremely competent. He eludes capture and even gets a kick in on Logan. While climbing a wall, we get the feeling that, whatever Weapon XVI is, it's got some religious undertones.
Noh rushes into a tunnel and finds other threats waiting for him. Norman didn't send in HAMMER troops to take this place. Instead, he sent cyborg zombies. They're not much for conversation or looks but they can kill things and obey simple instructions. They're also scary. Noh-Varr is a big boy and probably doesn't get scared easily but he still races off for another part of the tunnel, closes the door, and has a gun pulled on him by Fantomex.
You can't really have a Weapon Plus story and not have Fantomex involved. Fantomex was, as mentioned earlier, Weapon VIII. He's also here to prevent Norman from taking the place over. Since he doesn't know what side Marvel is on, that means we finally get that prerequisite fight that goes along with most team-ups. The two do the quick fighting bit before beating back more cyborg zombies. It looks like they're teaming up for this one!
This is all not sitting well with the Oz man. He thought sending in robot zombies would be the best way to secure the World and now he can't even get clear communications through to them. He threatens his underling and goes into your basic Norman Osborn tirade about the uselessness of most people. The underling hopes this goes well inside otherwise he might be... dead... when it's all done.
Fantomex and Captain Marvel escape into an upper vent while they introduce themselves to each other. Fantomex doesn't recognize Noh-Varr which just means he hasn't watched a lot of television. These are both Morrison creations so it's cool to see them meet and greet.
Since this is Fantomex's old home, he explains that even with the scientists who ran the place dead, it looks like the World is still in business. The whole place seems to have become sentient. It's still cranking out super powered individuals but no one's at the wheel. Fantomex realizes he should have been keeping an eye on the place but there were just so many things out there that needed stealing.
Since he's doing such a good job at exposition, Fantomex goes on to explain that Weapon XVI, the Allgod, has been released and that's why the residents of the World (and Logan) have all been running under mind control. Allgod is a living religion and it attacks the faith centers of the brain. In order to be affected by it, you've got to have some faith. Since Captain Marvel has been raised in an atheist society and Fantomex doesn't believe anyone would be more awesome than himself, they aren't susceptible to the Allgod's influence.
The two atheists make their way to the literal brain of the world. There's a real chance that Weapon XVI's influence could spread beyond the walls of the World and infect the REAL world. They need to prevent that from happening so they've headed to the brain to convince it into shutting the Allgod down. They race off with their guns blazing.
Meanwhile, Logan has gathered at the church to worship.
When Wolverine and his new fellowship get wind that the brain of the World might be under attack, they speed away to give the brain aid. That means that Fantomex and Captain Marvel are soon back in the thick of religious zombies. Fantomex regards these people as family so he's not all about killing them. That means they'll have to act quickly.
Captain Marvel is able to get to the brain more easily than Fantomex, who finds himself facing off against Wolverine. When he gets there, Fantomex tells him to kiss it. This might not make a lot of sense to you but Fantomex reasons it's the best way to convince the brain that they aren't a threat. Or, y'know, starting up some sexual harrassment.
This starts to work and Fantomex encourages Noh to keep on going. Ooooh yeah.
Once that's said and done, the Allgod stops doing it's religious thing and everyone is released from their religious mind control. Logan comes out of it cranky.
Fortunately, there are lots of robot zombies that still need killing. Captain Marvel, Fantomex, and Wolverine go right to town and kill the cyborg dead things in there own styles. One of the zombies, D-18, finally reaches the brain and grabs off a chunk but he doesn't get far before Logan slices up his hand. Logan gives out a quick warning to Ozzy that, if he's listening, someday he'll be sliced and diced just like these zombies.
D-18? Not quite dead yet. His hand is still alive.
The three exit the World and Fantomex uses a shrink ray to downsize the whole facility so that he can carrying it with him. Captain Marvel thinks that the World could be used to cure all the world's diseases given the proper stimulus but we all know that's not what Fantomex will do with it.
While Fantomex flies off in his living craft, Logan gives Noh-Varr his jet and sets out on the road, hitching for a ride.
This whole situation has frustrated the hell out of Osborn. Things just aren't working out too well for that List of his. His lackey still has some hope that the one "living" zombie, D-18, will be able to succeed in the mission. These two haven't realized that the World is already well out of reach. When D-18, who is still just a hand, gets run over by a truck, the mission is officially a failure. Norman goes off on another rant about how this mission was a total failure in every way as we pass over specs for Project: Deathlok.
That truck that ran over D-18's hand? It is there to pick up the hitch hiking Logan. Wolverine travels on the road for a while before asking to be let out. He's in an open plain and, on the horizon, is a church.
Dark Reign- The List: Punisher #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
In this issue, Henry sky skates around New York looking for the Punisher. Osborn is readying his final onslaught against Frank. The Punisher wakes up in severe pain. Norman launches a missile strike at Castle's location and totally misses him. Ground troops, glider agents, and Daken, are called in. Frank makes sure Henry isn't involved in this battle. Punisher fights it out with HAMMER Agents and escapes to the sewers for a battle with Dark Wolverine. After momentarily ending his fight with Daken, he ascends to the surface and meets up with a glider patrol. Dark Wolverine joins the fight and tells the HAMMER Agents to sit tight while he ends Frank Castle's life. Osborn calls in a clean up crew as Daken kicks the bits of Punisher off the side of the ledge.
Henry and Frank have been separated during one of their last missions. Moreover, Pun isn't returning Henry's calls. As Henry races throughout the city looking for Castle, he leaves a message on Punisher's answering machine. He's picked up word that Norman Osborn isn't playing around anymore. It's endgame time and Frank has to be prepared.
In the skies about New York, Norman Osborn is making preparations of his own. HAMMER has located the Punisher's location and are now setting up strike plans. Daken, who is on the command bridge of HAMMER's evil looking Flagship Helicarrier asks Norm if things are working out. Osborn flashes a smile and says things are going down quite well.
Why all this hubbub on a guy like the Punisher? I mean, besides the fact that this guy is a killing vigilante, what does he have to do with National Defense? Well, besides that time he tried to assassinate Osborn with a Skrull sniper rifle, Castle has been busy proving to the american people that the streets AREN'T safer under the new top cop. The difference between now and when Tony Stark was in charge is that criminals aren't being arrested anymore. There are deals being made and crime has gone crazy because of it. All of this is a good reason why Norman wants bullets put inside Frank Castle until he is dead.
Frank isn't doing that great to begin with. He wakes up in his latest battle wagon and we see that he's bandaged up like crazy. He's not sleeping well. Nightmares. You can see through his inner monologue that he isn't expecting to live much longer. When his perimeter alarms start going off, he's surprised it's taken Osborn this long to get here.
A fleet of Helicarriers looms high in the New York sky and they're all moving in on Punisher's location. Norman doesn't even bother with protocol. He takes over for the HAMMER Agent in the ops seat, arms the missiles, aims them at the pier, and gives firing orders to all Helicarriers. The pier explodes. Building incinerate. The Iron Patriot is pleased.
Until he learns that he completely missed Frank Castle. The HAMMER Agent that's supposed to be working ops tells the Director that the Punisher wasn't in the Battle Wagon when it exploded. Norman scowls as he orders Daken into the field. To accompany him, he sends out HAMMER Agents on Goblin Gliders as well as whatever ground troops that are already in position. HAMMER's eye has to be thoroughly on this situation. The Punisher can't escape again.
You might be wondering how Frank escaped the first time. In his own series, Castle raided an armory stocked with super-hero and villain gadgets. He's been using them in his fight against Norman Osborn and the Hood. His escape from his battle wagon was accomplished with the last of his Pym Particles. He shoots back up to normal size in a nearby alley and finally meets up with Henry.
Punisher isn't big on trust. When he sees Henry, he isn't sure if his tech guy is in on the whole thing or if he's here to assist the Punisher. Since he works best alone, either case would lead to Frank knocking Henry out and hiding him in a dumpster. Castle completes this task moments before he's found by Goblin Glider Agents.
The one group of people that usually doesn't have to worry about being killed by the Punisher are police officers. Since HAMMER Agents are glorified cops, they don't get the killing treatment and are taken out of the action in a non-permanent manner. Frank makes his getaway into the sewers but takes a blast through his leg before dropping below. To compound matters, the Glider Agents drop pumpkin bombs in after him. only his Punisher shield protects him for the explosion but he still lands hard, finding that the blast he took above broke his leg.
He can still limp around on it, though, so he continues on until he runs right into Dark Wolverine.
If there's an ending to the Punisher's career of crime fighting, you can bet it would involve being taken down by a second rate stand in super-hero. Punisher fires his space guns at Daken but the mutant easily avoids getting shot. Moving in close, Dark Wolverine stabs Punisher through the gut. Punisher bites off Daken's lower lip. That was his favorite lip!
With Daken staggering back, he's more susceptible to blaster fire so Frank's second round of gun play finds it's mark. Dark Wolverine drops to the ground and Frank takes advantage by firing a few more shots at point blank range.
As Daken heals up below, Frank returns to the streets above. Dark Wolverine attempts to follow but finds that he's been tagged with a timed explosive. It blows while Punisher climbs up on a roof top.
He knows he's not going to last much longer. That explosion was like lighting a flare for Osborn's men to follow. The sky is soon filled with Glider Agents.
That explosion doesn't keep Daken down for long. That, or it took Punisher, with one broken leg, much longer to climb up to the roof than is shown on-panel. The point is, by the time Frank gets his size changing weapon out, Dark Wolverine is up on the roof and calling off the Glider Agents. This is very personal right now.
The fight is bloody. Pun gets some good shots in but he's dealing with a mutant with a healing factor. While Daken's injuries are already healing up, Frank's wounds are just slowing him down and weakening him. The blood loss alone should have dropped him. He takes stabs wounds to the arm, slices to the face and neck, and eventually loses his right arm completely. That's not the only thing he'll be losing tonight.
It's hard to get Punisher to stop even when he's seriously losing. He still has a knife in his left hand but before he can do anything with it, that arm is taken away from him as well. With that, Frank drops to the ground. The fight has left him.
Daken isn't done just yet.
Dark Wolverine proceeds in cutting Punisher down into bite size parts. Bits and pieces fall off the side of the building. Frank's inner monologue ends with his acknowledgement that he's not going to meet his dead wife. It's a nice lie that he's been telling himself, though.
Up in the Flagship HAMMER Helicarrier, Norman finally has something to cross off his List. The death of the Punisher. Pleased with how this day has ended, Director Osborn has a clean up crew called in.
On the roof, Daken looks over his handiwork before kicking the remaining bits off the legde to join the other Punisher parts on the ground below.
The back-up tale here is a preview of the next chapter in Frank Castle's life: Frankencastle! It's as ridiculous as it sounds but, apparently, pretty damn good. I wouldn't know. I'm not a big fan of the Big Pun. Still, this is a pretty good death for the character. He'll return, of course, but it's still a good death.
The New Avengers #58
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Stuart Immonen
Last issue, we caught up on the thoughts of all the downed members of the New Avengers before getting to the meat of the action: a de-armored Norman Osborn surrounded by members of the Syndicate. Ozzy talked it up with the Wrecker before getting the villain to allow him back into his armored suit. Once back in the Iron Patriot armor, Norman had a conversation with Dr. Jonas Harrow and he agreed let them join his Initiative and get that get-out-of-jail-free card they seem to want so much. The depower device was turned off and Sinister Spidey was about to eat Amazing Spidey when the New Avengers' cloaked Quinjet came in for a landing with all guns blazing. The New Avengers made a run for it, Spidey got to clock Osborn, and everything seemed ok except for Luke Cage going into cardiac arrest. In Cuba, the Hood decided using the Norn Stones is an awesome idea and he got his powers back thanks to Loki. Luke Cage's condition warranted a trip to the Night Nurse who is NOT qualified for this situation even if Cage's unbreakable skin didn't make it an impossibility to operate. Things are complicated when the Dark Avengers showed up and demanded the New Avengers give themselves up. Luke decided that he's the only one that should surrender and did so while the rest of the team escaped. Before Norman can slap some cuffs on BMB's favorite Avenger, Luke collapsed.
In this issue, the Dark Avengers drag an unconscious Luke Cage away. Ms. Marvel rabbits and Iron Patriot flies off in pursuit. Danvers clocks Osborn and flies off after giving him a lecture. Ares tries to smash the building but isn't able to becuase it's being held up by webbing. Dark Ms. Marvel races in and finds that Night Nurse has already covered all her bases with the media. The Dark Avengers chase after the New Avengers in the sewers. The New Avengers fight them for a bit before making their escape. The Hood and Madam Masque teleport back to the Hood's hideout and learn what happened to Parker's gang. Luke Cage is operated on up in the HAMMER Helicarrier but they need Harrow's power dampener to do any real good. Jessica Jones has a fight with her mom on how she's living her life. When she learns that Luke Cage is in HAMMER custody, she flies off half-cocked for a rescue. Luckily, Ms. Marvel is there to calm her down and tell her that there's an actual plan for a rescue being formed right now. Luke is being successfully operated on now that the power dampener is available. Norman looks on because he has plans for Cage. Sinister plans.
People fall in and out of custody so much during the Dark Reign that it's ridiculous. People like Black Widow have been captured THREE times. This is Luke's second time and we know how well it's going to go. Since he's in cardiac arrest right now, it's a simple matter to drag him away from the entryway of Night Nurse's building and put him directly into custody. Ares is the only one that shows any concern for the fact that Cage is injured. Everyone else is thinking "one down..."
The rest of the New Avengers are inside Night Nurse's building but they don't plan on remaining cooped up for long. Carol Danvers is the first to leave and she makes herself a very visible target. Iron Patriot takes off in pursuit, leaving Dark Ms. Marvel in charge and giving her team permission to kill whatever New Avenger resists arrest. Ms. Hand gets on the com and suggests that Norman remain with his strike team and keep on being a leader but Iron Patriot must be overcompensating for some deficiency. He races after Ms. Marvel, gaining sky by the second.
Just then, Carol turns around and knocks Iron Patriot out of the sky with a single, slamming punch.
Osborn hits the water hard. Carol chews him out but there's not a whole lot of chance that Norman can hear her. She tells him that leaders don't leave the people under their command unless they have a damn good reason. This is the reason why Osborn will fall from power. Also: he's nuts. She also mentions that this would be a fine time for her to kill him except that's not what she does. She's not a killer. She's better than Norman Osborn. With that, Carol flies off.
Back on the ground, Daken senses the New Avengers pulling out and tells Ares to bash the building down. The god of war does a lot of damage but the building stays upright. On closer inspection, it's being supported by webbing. Karla gets info from Daken that there's one person still in the building. She flies up to make a collar while the rest of the team chases the New Avengers on the move.
Who Karla finds in the building is Night Nurse herself. She's just finished emailing the entire story to Ben Urich, editor in chief of Frontline. Included in her retelling is the fact that Luke Cage came to her for help and when she couldn't do anything she sent him to surrender to Norman Osborn to recieve the proper treatment. Night Nurse affirms that she has done NOTHING wrong. All she did was try and help someone that needed helping. She surrenders knowing that they have nothing to hold her for. Sofen gets angrier and angrier at that fact.
The New Avengers themselves have hit, surprise surprise, the sewers. This should be old hat for Daken who just spent a good part of Dark Reign- The List: Punisher #1 in a sewage system. Sensing something, Daken tells everyone to stop moving. Once he locates their quarry, Dark Wolverine is the first to get attacked by Cap's shield. The New Avengers have stopped running and have turned to fight. Captain America keeps ordering them to move on but hardly anyone's listening. They all want a piece of the Dark Avengers. Only Spider-Man hangs back, ready to beat feet with Cap.
Since they didn't run and Captain America couldn't abandon them, it's Bucky who gets struck straight in his shield by Ares. This knocks him well away from the rest of his team. Ares races up, retrieves his axe, and gets ready to arrest the star spangled hero only to get a trio of bullets straight in his chin. The god of war drops momentarily and the New Avengers finally leave.
The only guy remaining in the Hood's hideout is Parker Robbin's cousin, John King. This is odd because I would assume the events of the Hood's mini-series are well over by now and that means King should be forcefully put in the witness relocation program. At any rate, Hood and Madame Masque teleport in and aren't pleased to find the place empty. King explains that everyone left to join Dr. Jonas Harrow. Harrow told them all about Parker's connection to Osborn. When he learns that Norman arrested his gang, he's just a bit angry. I bet he takes it out on Harrow.
Time passes. The Dark Avengers return to the HAMMER Helicarrier with Luke Cage and the New Avenger gets some more medical attention. The same problem exists here that happened in Night Nurse's place. Luke's skin makes it impossible to operate. The more immediate concern now is the fact that his heart has stopped. They need to defibrilate. Norman handles that himself.
Cage's heart starts beating again but he's not out of the weather just yet. The doctor still needs to cut him open to save his life. That means they need that power dampener. They need it now.
Which is frustrating as hell for Norman. Luke Cage has been a thorn in his side for a while now. We went over Cage's list of offenses against Osborn last time when I walked through Thunderbolts #137. This is not a man Norman would save if he didn't have to. Still... the press has learned about Luke turning himself in and about his medical state. If Norman doesn't do everything in his power to save this New Avenger, the press could give him that metaphorical black eye. Osborn gets Dr. Harrow on the line.
If Luke Cage dies, the press is probably the least of Norman's worries. Top on the list would be Cage's wife, Jessica Jones. Right now, Jones is hanging out in the Avengers Hideout in Brooklyn with her beautiful baby daughter, Danielle, and her nagging mother. The Avengers Hideout is actually Captain America's brownstone building. It's where Steve lived and now it's serving as home and headquarters to one of earth's mightiest teams.
Which is all well and good but it's probably not the most ideal place to raise a child. This is the point of debate going on between Jessica and her mom. Hey, we've all had one of these type of arguments with our mom. It's one of those "you're wanted by the authorities again" type of conversations that I have ALL THE TIME. Jessica tells her mother that she and Luke can't and won't work for Norman Osborn so this is the reality they're faced with. It's not where they want to be but it's how it is until Ozzy falls from power and they can go back to living the American dream. Her mom wonders what will happen when HAMMER eventually finds this place. Their baby might be in danger.
We'll forget the part where their baby WAS in danger. You know. When the Jarvis Skrull got their hands on Danielle while Jessica was living in Avengers Tower? That thing? That poor baby is going to be living with stuff like that for the rest of her life.
This is when the New Avengers show up and Jessica learns that her husband has had some complications.
Jones smashes out the nearest window. She's ready to fly up and rescue her man by herself if she has to. Ms. Marvel catches up to her and calms her down. Cage HAD to be captured or there would be no chance of him living. Cardiac Arrest, yo! It's all going to be ok, though. The New Avengers have... a plan.
In the HAMMER Helicarrier, Harrow has turned on his power dampener. Cage's unbreakable skin is now breakable once more. Osborn gives the doctors permission to begin the operation and Dr. Harrow steps back to let them do their jobs.
As the medical team does the best damn job they can, Hawkeye complains about Osborn saving Cage's life. This is a man who has constantly done wrong by Osborn and fixing him up for jail time doesn't seem like enough punishment. That's ok by Norman. He has big plans for Luke Cage. Plans that require Cage to be among the living.
Dark Reign: Young Avengers #5
Writer: Paul Cornell
Penciler: Mark Brooks
In our last issue, Kate Bishop went to a gala with Daniel Dubois (Executioner) when the whole thing is interrupted by the Young Avengers chasing a random villain, and Hawkeye was leading the charge! This completely ruined Executioner's belief that Kate was actually Hawkeye even if he was right. After all, he hadn't even figured out his mom was a super villain. The next day, they told the Dark Young Avengers who was in and who was out and everyone took it pretty badly except for Enchantress (since she was in and all). Coat of Arms declined the offer to join the Young Avengers without Melter. Executioner got a wake-up call on her mom's super villain past. Melter relived the day he accidentally melted his parents. He snuck into Coat of Arms' room and found the card that Norman gave her with his private number. When he called it, he learned that Norman had cameras up to see them all. Melter made him an offer and Norman was very excited about it. He met with Loki, learned the secret origin of the Enchantress, and decided that it might be very worth it just to get his hands on the Young Avengers. Coat of Arms was waiting to see what Melter would do and was kind of disappointed that he'd gone down the path of the supervillain. Enchantress met with the Young Avengers the next day and went into magic training with Wiccan. She also did a hell of a lot of flirting. Coat warned Speed of the incoming danger. Princess Python got blown up by her son. Egghead attacked Vision and downloaded lots of info into him including Enchantress' origin. This led to the Enchantress getting kicked out of the Young Avengers. This set up the final throw down as the Melter called the Young Avengers over for a talk and also invited the Dark Avengers to the party.
In the amazing conclusion to Dark Reign: Young Avengers, it's Dark Avengers versus Young Avengers! The Young Masters help the Dark Avengers attack the Young Avengers but the Young Avengers prove to be harder to defeat than you'd think. Words are said that can never be taken back. Coat of Arms watches the whole thing without doing much participation. Patriot punches Osborn in the face. Melter realizes the Dark Avengers aren't much better than he is and some Masters start changing sides. Wiccan, Enchantress, and Coat of Arms defeat Sentry. Executioner helps Hawkeye and then starts shooting at her. The Young Masters teleport out. The Dark Avengers leave, claiming this encounter never happened. Coat of Arms dreams of dancing with the Green Goblin. Someday...
The Young Avengers shows up at the Invisible Mansion to talk things out with the Young Masters. Instead, they find themselves face to face with the Young Masters' brand new friends, the Dark Avengers. Norman Osborn is demanding they surrender and then he'll sort out who's an Avenger and who's not. After all, this is Dark Reign. Norman's the guy making those Avenger decisions.
Patriot isn't keen on the plan. He doesn't need these villains telling him if they are or aren't Avengers. Instead, he'll figure that out by fighting them. It's fight time!
Enchantress is pissed off. She was a probationary member of the Young Avengers for, like, a day before they kicked her off the team. She doesn't know that the Young Avengers learned her secret origin. Heck, she doesn't even know her secret origin. The point is, the Young Avengers weren't kicking her off the team, they were just getting some distance between her and the mansion so that they could come up with a plan of dealing with any traps she had subliminally placed inside her. This doesn't all come out in the first page of fighting but I might as well explain this all now instead of dragging it all out for more paragraphs. The important bit right now is that she's facing off against Wiccan.
Hawkeye is fighting Hawkeye with Executioner as the third wheel to their dance. It's always fun to see people that share the same name fighting it out for the right to that name. It's not going to happen here but it's still a cool scene. Both of the two Hawkeyes would rather Executioner sit this one out.
Dark Wolverine attacks Hulkling and is surprised that his pheremone powers do nothing against the Skrull/Kree hybrid. Apparently, Daken was trying to make Hulkling attracted to him... which is kind of sick and wrong when you consider how old Hulkling is. Some villains, huh?
Vision fight Egghead and a little more of the Enchantresses already explained story comes to light.
Stature gets into a size contest with Big Zero. Since Cassie is actually trained in the use of her powers, Big Zero doesn't stand a chance. Since she's a new-nazi, we love every panel where she gets beat down.
All the while this goes down, Coat of Arms just watches. She's disappointed in Melter's decision but she's still around to watch it. This is art in motion. It's just not art that she particularly enjoys.
We're not done with the face-off line-up, however. Speed finds himself fighting it out with the Melter. Luckily, Melts isn't using his powers directly on Speed or we'd have a puddle of high velocity super-hero where once a Young Avenger stood. No, instead, Melter is trying to hit Speed with melted bits of the ceiling. This isn't particularly effective. Speed races in close and knocks Melter down with one move. Like he explains, he's the only one around who doesn't give a damn about the reasons behind Melter's betrayal. He just knows how to handle it. It's not with baby gloves.
Iron Patriot isn't impressed by this display. In as many minutes, the Young Masters and some members of his own team have been dealt major damage without returning much back at the Young Avengers. Patriot closes in and gives Norman something else to worry about. It turns out that Elijah takes Norman Osborn's co-option of the "Patriot" name very seriously. Dressing up in the flag is just icing on the cake. This dude needs to be taken down a peg for his false statements and it looks like Patriot is going to have to be the one to do it. He leaps in and punches Iron Patriot in the face.
Osborn falls to the ground. Elijah thinks he might have broken his hand but at least he gets to hear Hawkeye (the girl one) tell him she loves him. Melter has watched all of this and is upset to learn that Norman's Avengers are having all of this trouble. They're not any more capable than the Young Masters!
Osborn might not agree with that sentiment but he does believe it's time to call in the big gun. Here comes the Sentry.
Before Sentry can end this fight in a decisive manner, Wiccan is finally able to tell the Enchantressthe reasons why she was removed from Young Avengers headquarters. This all surprises and confuses Sylvie. Wiccan only gets one chance to go through the details before Sentry eye beams him down. The Enchantress no longer knows what to do. That's why Coat of Arms is here because after sitting out most of the fight, she knows exactly what to do. It's time to side with the good guys.
Coat of Arms pulls a chain out of her cloak and hands it to both the Enchantress and a recovering Wiccan. The two magicians cast their spell and bind up the Sentry. The chains wrap around Bob tight and pull him out of the building.
Melter realizes he backed the wrong horse. He also has some crazy notion that they just killed the Sentry. Now, we all know that the Sentry is pretty much unkillable but, even if he wasn't, that's not what just happened and it's time Melter realized that himself. Patriot comes in and gives him a lecture on what it means to be an Avenger. Melter needs to pick a side and he's gotta do it soon.
Back at the Hawkeye on Hawkeye fight, the two Hawkeyes dance around each other in one of those battle to the death things we hear so much about. Kate grabs Lester by the arm and swings him right into Executioner. That's when Lester tells Kate all about what the Executioner has been up to. He killed his own mom when he learned that she was a super villain! That's messed up! Executioner shoots Lester in the leg to get the Avenger out of the fight. That leaves this dance with only one Hawkeye.
Kate tells the Executioner that this kind of thing has to stop but the Executioner will hear none of that. He's just killed his parent! Losing his mom to crime is totally how you join the Super-Hero Club! Firing a few shots wildly around Hawkeye, he declares that he is... a Master.
That's all well and good but there's still some Dark Avengers to deal with. Iron Patriot starts firing off power blasts and demands that this thing end. Soon.
That means Melter's gonna have to make a decision. His decision? To have more time to make a decision. That's like getting a wish and wishing for another wish. It's a lame delaying tactic but, since Melter is kind of lame, it works. He asks the Enchantress to teleport his team out of there. Coat of Arms asks Speed to come with her just as Speed does the same thing. Looks like they'd rather stay with their current teams. They kiss before she joins the Masters in their getaway.
And that just leaves the Young Avengers to fight it out with the Dark Avengers.
The teams stare each other down before Iron Patriot, Hawkeye, and Wolverine walk out of the room. Norman declares that none of this ever happened before he exits. The Young Avengers carry the day.
In the New Invisible Mansion, Coat of Arms dreams that a chibi version of herself and Green Goblin are dancing it out to George Michael's "Shoot the Dog." She wakes up with a start. She always wanted to make beautiful art with Norman Osborn. Smiling, she tells herself that she at least got to have that dream.
Dark Avengers: Ares #1
Writer: Keiron Gillen
Penciler: Manuel Garcia
In this stunning first issue, Ares fires a gattling gun at his new recruits while drinking a beer. In a flashback, he assemles Team Shade after getting orders from Norman Osborn. Ares explains the differences between himself and Athena. Back in the present, the Shades decide to attack their commanding officer. Back in the past, Ares chooses his recruits in an odd manner. In the present, the Shades learn that they didn't exactly kill Ares. That's ok, attacking a stupid commanding officer was the lesson he was trying to drill into them. The Shades get sunglasses and then have to defend that look in the mess hall. Ares defends his knowledge of war with his fist. The Shades destroy a bar and get a meeting from Hera. Hera tells Ares about his injured son and then swears an oath that all he has said is true. Ares believes that Nick Fury has failed him. It's time for the Shades to get some revenge.
Get ready to flip back and forth in time as we get through this first bit of comic. I'll try my hardest to make the jumps make as much sense as possible but, as always, I promise nothing!
Meet Team Shade! These are HAMMER soldiers being personally trained by the god of war. That training is CRAZY. On the first day, Ares shot live rounds at them. The second day, Ares mixed things up by adding in some rockets. Today, Ares has been firing gattling guns at his most cherished trainees. He's even ran out of ammunition and made his men go gather up some more just to begin the whole process again. Right now, Ares is chugging a beer while continuing to fire on his trainees.
Yeah, they don't like him at all at this point.
OK, this next bit is a flashback within a flashback so I'll separate them out. This is how Ares started training his Shades.
One day, Norman Osborn woke up and realized that he had the frickin' god of war working for him. He told Ares to take some HAMMER soldiers and train them in all his ways of war. When Ares asked if he could break some people, Norman told him that he could as long as they were completely trained in the art of war by Ares. That means Ares has carte blanche to use whatever methods he deemed fit to train a bunch of mortals in his way of war.
Keep in mind that Ares is not the only greek god of war. There's also Athena. They have completely different philosophies when it comes to waging war. Athena is also the goddess of wisdom and that is applied to her war theories. Athena is the goddess of war that believes in things like honor, chain of command, POW rules, diplomacy, and proper preparations. Ares is the other kind of god of war. The one that approaches combat in it's most savage and brutal state. There is no honor in Ares' war. There are no rules. There is only kill or be killed and no quarter given.
He will apply these theories when training his Shades. He will also choose them out in whatever manner he sees fit. Some people will have some sort of spark that interests him. Others will just be people he wants to punish. The people he trains will never lose a battle again. They might DIE in a battle but they will never lose.
Back in what passes for the present, Team Shade decides they've had enough of ducking for cover while their leader shoots at them. One of their number races out from cover to draw Ares' fire. That leaves him wide open for attack by our narrator who throws a bag full of grenades at him.
In our flashback scenario, Ares stands before a good platoon of HAMMER soldiers. He's not going to train them all so he's choosing those that he deems "worthy." His methods of selection are unique. One man, he caps in the knee. As the soldier falls, he learns that Ares has NOT selected him. Another, he swings his axe at. Since this man dodges the attack, he gets selected.
That would be the first member of Team Shade: Arkady Markov. He's Russian, and a lot of his past is made up of lies.
The next member would be our narrator. No, not me. This is the comic's narrator, Cameron McGill. McGill is a smart @$$ and basically gets selected because he has a mouth on him and is able to dodge one of Ares' attacks before succumbing to the second punch.
Third on our list of Shades is Travis Nevins. Nevins doesn't wait for Ares to get around to him and decides to attack the god of war first. His attack fails but Ares chooses him anyway.
The final member is Maximilian Ritter who has a stupid-looking mustache and a receding hairline. He's chosen for that more than anything else.
Back in the present, the Shades congratulate themselves for taking out Ares and wonder how they're going to avoid a court martial after killing their superior officer. Arkady already has this worked out. This was obviously a weapons malfunction. Ares is far from dead, of course. He rises from the ground and tells his men that he is pleased that they have learned this important lesson. Sometimes you need to kill your leader.
The Shades and Ares head on over to the mess hall to get something to eat but before they go inside, Ares has a present for them. This gift must be worn in front of others to show their status as Ares trained Shades.
Yeah, sunglasses. Shades.
Of course, you don't laugh to their face. To do that will mean you have to face them in battle. Some guys at another table mock them for their glasses and Ares commands them to attack. Three of them do just that. When an MP comes up to calm the situation down, Ares feeds him a story about how the other guys fell into their food. Several times. The MP doesn't believe that at all but after Ares shouts at him about defying a god, he just walks away.
Cameron McGill is excited about Ares coming to his defense and accidentally gives the Dark Avenger a nickname (Pops) while putting his hand on Ares' shoulder. None of these are good moves and they might lead to a major whupping if only Maximillian was able to keep his mouth shut.
Max asks Ares why they're even getting trained by him. He calls into question Ares' belief that he is actually the god of war and goes on to wonder how Ares' ancient techniques could do them any good in the here and now.
Ares impresses the troops with his knowledge of modern warfare before showing Maximillian just what a well-placed fist can do to a well-placed face. As Max recovers from the blow, Ares takes to the table top and tells everyone just what he's going to teach his Shades. They'll learn all about what war means. Even the stuff they've already learned will be relearned with new understanding.
And that's how things go. The Shades train and train hard. Somethings are brand new to them. Other things are old techniques that they are relearning with a new perspective. A lot of it is on-the-job training.
Like right now for instance. They've in the remains of a biker bar where they've fought the locals while doing a lot of drinking and some pool on the side. Like usual, Cam isn't able to shut his damn mouth. He asks Ares some questions about Hercules, chief of which is the question on who's stronger. Ares tells McGill that he'll suffer for that insult but not until this game of pool is completed.
That game might never end. Hera, Ares' mother, shows up to deliver some bad news. Her statements need to be carefully examined to see how they fit the coming issues but the gist of it is that Ares' son is miraculously still alive and wishes to meet with his father to discuss plans for revenge. Hera hands Ares a packet that will lead him to the empty SHIELD base where Ares' son is holed up. Ares doesn't immediately believe his mother but after she swears an oath as to the truthfulness of her words, Ares has no choice but to take her at face value.
Maybe he should have paid more attention to the words she was saying.
At any rate, Ares believes that Nick Fury has failed him by not keeping his son, Phobos, safe. That means that Fury will have some explaining to do before dying. First, however, Ares must go to his son.
It's time for the Shades to get some field work in.
Ms. Marvel #46
Writer: Brian Reed
Artist: Sana Takeda
Last issue, Catherine Donovan escaped Karla Sofen long enough for Ms. Marvel to intervene and save Donovan's life. It was Ms. Marvel vs. Ms. Marvel in the New York skies. Catherine was surrounded by HAMMER Agents poised to shoot her down but, suddenly, that wasn't an issue for her as she knew exactly how to take them all down. Outside, Karla explained that she doesn't have to beat Ms. Marvel up. She just needed to keep her away from Catherine long enough for someone inside to kill the civilian. To that end, Sofen started dropping people from the sky, forcing Ms. Marvel to rescue them. Inside Avenger's Tower, Catherine made her way to an elevator while discussing her current situation. She met Iron Patriot at the elevator and Osborn blew her head off. The Storytellers decided to alter reality and gave Catherine another chance at life... inside Karla Sofen's body.
In this revealing conclusion to War of the Marvels, Catherine finds herself inside the wrong body! In Karla's mind, Dr. Sofen finds herself glued to a chair! In the real world, Ms. Marvel still battles Ms. Marvel, just now Karla Sofen has stopped fighting back! Inside Karla's head, Sofen finds that she has very little control while Catherine Donovan seems to ignore her completely. Sofen gets pulled into her couch and ends up in another plece entirely where she has a good talk with her dead mother and is reminded that she isn't Ms. Marvel. She's Moonstone. After a quick change of clothes, she's able to remove Catherine from her mind and return that bit back to Ms. Marvel. Danvers quickly gets her act together and returns to her fight with Moonstone. She pulls the Moonstone OUT of Moonstone and leaves Karla to die a slow death without her power source. After having a talk with Norman Osborn, she realizes that Carol has left her Moonstone in the place where her villainy began: at the grave site of her mother. She finds it there, uses it to destroy the grave stone, and walks off.
There are a lot of endings happening in this installment of Super Reads. This is another one as Ms. Marvel drops that Dark Reign banner at the conclusion of the War of Marvels storyline. I'll say that I'm going to miss this title. I started out not liking it too much but it's definitely grown on me since I started reading it for this column. Since the title itself ends with issue 50, it's hitting it's final paces going towards the end game. We also had that nifty interview with the writer of this comic in one of our podcasts so a brand new respect for the title has emerged!
Carol Danvers still doesn't have her act together. There are two Ms. Marvels flying around the Marvel Universe and neither one is claiming to be Carol. To make matters worse, there's someone running around going by Catherine Donovan- which was Carol's secret identity at the beginning of the Dark Reign. She, too, doesn't know that she's Carol Danvers. You wanna compound that? Iron Patriot shot her in the head last issue. That would usually kill someone but in this case, the Storytellers didn't want Catherine's story to end just yet so they put her mind in the body of Karla Sofen. Might have worked better to place it back in the OTHER Ms. Marvel but what are you gonna do?
Catherine is still completely confused by this and hasn't accepted that she's really Carol Danvers. She's even more confused to be in Dark Ms. Marvel's body. You want to know who else is confused? Karla. When Catherine entered the picture, Karla wasn't exactly pushed out so much as she was pushed IN. Right now, she's stuck to a chair in her mom's apartment. In her mind. Catherine is there with her but Donovan doesn't seem to be ALL there if you know what I mean.
When I say that Dr. Sofen is stuck to her chair, I mean that she is, literally, STUCK to her chair. This is all in her mind so that chair doesn't act like a regular chair. It's sticking to her and preventing her from getting up. That means she gets to yell at a barely listening Catherine about how Donovan is in HER mind and is REALLY MS. MARVEL! Seriously! Get that in your head already!
In what passes for the real world, Ms. Marvel is still fighting Dark Ms. Marvel but the fight has become decidedly one-sided. Karla's body has stopped fighting altogether. Ms. Marvel still beats her around a bit but it gets boring after a while. You can only beat a limp body around so long before you start feeling bad.
Inside Karla's head, Catherine is coming to grips with the fact that this is NOT her living room. Karla would facepalm at this point but her hands are still stuck to that chair. Instead, she tries to get Catherine back up to speed on the fact that Donovan is in her mind but she's being more and more ignored by the moment. Soon, Catherine is more interested in taking care of her cat than talking to Karla Sofen.
At the same time, Sofen is finding that chair to be sucking her more and more inside itself. Soon, she's pulled all the way inside. At least she's not stuck to a chair anymore. Now, she's dropping into a void and her only company is the voice of her dead mother.
In an earlier story, we learned that Sofen killed her mother instead of having her learn just what a horrible person she was. Her mother tells her that even though she's dead, she's seen every terrible deed she's committed. You can't hide your secrets from the dead. Or something. The lesson here isn't about that, though. It's about the fact that Karla Sofen ISN'T Ms. Marvel. She's Moonstone. To illustrate the point, Karla drops to the ground to talk to her mom and, right next to her is an altar holding her moonstone.
Realizing who she actually is, she switches costumes to her Moonstone suit and then heads back up to Catherine. Once there, she starts shouting at Donovan. She's not being ignored anymore. Catherine is evicted from Moonstone's mind.
In the real world, this is playing out as well but it has repercussions. Where do you think Catherine's personality will go now? That's right. It's going home.
With the disjointed bits of her mind reconnected, it takes Ms. Marvel a moment to recover. There's a lot to make sense of before she can return to consciousness. She does it as quickly as she can. There's a fight to win, after all.
One last time, it's Ms. Marvel vs. Moonstone. The two fight it out in the skies of New York City but with Carol Danver's mind back in it's proper place, Ms. Marvel is definitely favored to win. More than that, since Carol was inside Karla's head, she knows things about Moonstone that give her even more of an advantage. She reaches inside of Moonstone and pulls out her power source. Yeah, the Moonstone charging up Moonstone.
Without that Moonstone inside her, Karla drops to the ground without her super powers. Carol's got her boot to Sofen's neck but the Dark Avenger isn't going to be executed in the streets. Instead, she walks away. This fight is over.
Later on, in Avengers Tower, Karla explains this whole dilemna to Norman Osborn. Karla isn't just depowered. She's dying. Without that Moonstone, she can't survive for more than three days. It's a slow death. Norman knows that Ms. Marvel wouldn't be about the torture so there must be some sort of game Carol is playing. Karla isn't so sure. In fact, she's more certain that Carol IS killing her slowly. It's unlike Norman to give out pep talks but he does anyway. If Carol Danvers didn't destroy the Moonstone, that means it's out there for Karla to find. So go find it, Karla!
This is when we get a missing scene from earlier. Carol didn't just leave Karla in the streets after taking her boot away from the villain's neck. She also gave her lots of clues as to where the Moonstone would be hidden. Danvers was, after all, inside Sofen's mind. She knows things. One of those things is what led to Karla forgetting how to be a human being. If Karla can remember the moment she became a monster, she can find her way back up to redemption. Again. Man, you'd think after travelling this road as a Thunderbolt Sofen would learn not to fall back down again.
We already know where Karla will find that Moonstone, and so does she when she thinks about it. The moment she lost her humanity was when she killed her mother. Karla walks to her mom's gravestone with tears in her eyes. There are new flowers resting around the stone. Inside one of the flower pots is her Moonstone. She picks it up and smashes her mother's gravestone.
Maybe there is no redeeming Karla Sofen. Maybe the path is just a lot longer than Carol expects.
War Machine #10
Writer: Greg Pak
Pencilers: Allan Jefferson & R.B. Silva
In this comic, War Machine and Iron Patriot have stopped the threat of Ultimo and reduced the Ultimo Weapon to an innocent. Osborn tries to detain Rhodey but just ends up giving him the means to reform his armor and free himself. He sends Suzi off with the Ultimo baby and gets his former West Coast Avengers friends to go off on some missions for him. While Rhodey fights it out with Norman Osborn, his various teammates are doing some clean-up work taking down minor offenders who have escaped the system through one form of manipulation or another. Osborn gets word of this but isn't that impressed. After all, Rhodey has only taken down little fish in a big pond. After one last display of power, War Machine is finally beaten by Iron Patriot. Norman Osborn enjoys a parade for all his good work before Ms. Hand gives his some very bad news. Rhodey got some juicy bits of information out of Norman's systems and released that to the public. Some big fish just got arrested. To cloud public perception, Osborn decides to distract them with a showy trial. James Rhodes'.
This is probably a comic I could have kept doing walk throughs for the entire time except it dropped that Dark Reign banner and I couldn't bring myself to do it. As much as I love War Machine, this series hasn't been his finest hour. It's had it's charm but after losing Leonardo Manco on art it lost it's biggest plus. Still, Ozzy's played a big role in the entire series so you might want to pick up those in between issues to get the entire deal. As it stands, we begin this storyline by ending the last one.
Norman Osborn and James Rhodes fought together to contain the Ultimo Contagion. In the end, it was Norman Osborn's mind that cause the Ultimo Weapon to reset it's personality and revert to an innocent default setting. Now, it hovers above the former battlefield in an orb-like state. The Iron Patriot has just been given a very powerful weapon that he'll no doubt want to use on people who don't deserve it.
How is Rhodey doing after that last fight? Here's right back where he usually is. Near death. For example, right now he's going into cardiac arrest and the HAMMER Agents on the scene are refusing him medical aid. When Glenda Sandoval comes in with the med kit, she is blocked from helping. War Machine is put on ice to prevent him from dying and then loaded up into a transport vehicle. All this is done while Dr. Sandoval is screaming to stop this abuse.
When he's finally loaded inside, Sandoval stops her act and says something about briar patches. For you people who are "young," you might want to check out some of the stories involving Br'er Rabbit. I just remember him from Disney's Songs of the South. Zippideedoodah.
That heart attack? Faked. You can't have two black characters having heart attacks in the same weak. People might start calling you racist. The transport is swiftly added to War Machine's suit by using his magno-lock systems.
This might seem super awesome but it's not. In practice, it means that War Machine's suit always looks like it's put together with garbage instead of being that really cool War Machine armor that you know and love and would rather see than War Machine's magno-locked truck armor. Still, it gives him some bulk and adds weapons to his arsenal. It's just not cool looking.
This sufficiently distracts Osborn and his HAMMER troops and allows Rhodey to enact his master plan. First things first, he's gotta get the Ultimo baby out of Norman's grubby little hands. He frees it from it's casing and sends it on over to Suzi Endo. She'll be able to teach it right from wrong and, if we're really lucky, how not to wet the bed. Suzi isn't originally sold on this plan but, once she reaches out and touches the Ultimo baby, she's sold. The two take off for greener pastures.
With Suzi and the Ultimo baby safely out of reach, War Machine talks over the rest of his brilliant plan with his former teammates from the West Coast Avengers: Ronin, Mockingbird, Tigra, and Wonder Man. They need to clean Morgan Stark and anyone else who could be injured out of the battle zone before setting off to fulfill Rhodey's mission.
By the time Iron Patriot returns, everyone but War Machine is clearing out. Since War Machine has made himself the biggest and most delicious target, Ozzy settles on him. Iron Patriot punches right through War Machine and Rhodey finds that he doesn't have the ability to repair the damage anymore. Osborn has cut him off from his magno-lock abilities. With that, Norman just keeps on striking.
From a safe distance, Parnell Jacobs, one of Jim's pit crew members, realizes that Osborn has jammed War Machine's magno-lock powers. Apparently, it'll be three hours before Rhodey can work his way around the new blocks. Since it doesn't look like Jim will last that long, Glenda tries calling in back-up. Rhodey blocks her transmission. If his plan is to succeed, everyone's gotta have their eye on the ball.
Sure, it might make more sense to leave. Jim Rhodes considers that and rejects the notion. He's a soldier and he's got to see this through. He says it in a more philosophical way but the message is about the same. He continues to engage in battle with Norman Osborn and the rest of HAMMER's available arsenal. That means lots of missiles and lots of explosions.
Throughout the country, the War Machine crew aided by some former West Coast Avengers, are taking down some evil doers who have somehow slipped through the cracks. Jake Oh, armored up in his own War Machine suit, has been sent to take down a Sheriff in Campville, Louisiana. Seems like the Sheriff shot people escaping from Hurricane Katrina, erased the original footage to escape prosecution, and then sold bootleg footage on eBay. Yeah, he's that brilliant. He's got some protection deal going with Osborn and expects Oh to stand down. When Jake explains that he's working for War Machine, things get explosive.
Bethany Cabe, also decked out in War Machine armor, rescues people from a corrupt immigration center in Bunsen, California.
Before I go further, this is the other thing that is completely wrong with this book. I get that War Machine is a replacement Iron Man. He's got his own unique suit but he IS diluting the line just a bit by being a second Iron Man. When you start arming up the rest of your cast in War Machine armor, you dilute the concept even more. There's nothing special about your star character when everyone has the same suit on. At least Bethany makes more sense that Pepper Potts, though.
The former West Coasters take down similar scams in New Mexico and Utah.
In New York, Ms. Hand is getting reports of all these citizen arrests. The arrests are being accompanied by paper trails being uploaded straight to the internet so that no one can say they don't really exist. People like Ben Urich are getting these reports so they won't go away. In the Navajo Nation, Rhodey's mother is pleased with her son. In Washington, the greatest comic character of 2009, President Obama, gets a sillouetted appearance just to laugh about all this justice being done. In short, bad guys are going down and that somehow hurts HAMMER because they had deals with these people.
Norman Osborn gets these reports and doesn't care. Rhodey's teams are taking down small fries. These guys never mattered to begin with. If this is War Machine's last stand, he expected better. Inside that massively damaged War Machine armor, Jim Rhodes isn't done just yet. He's been using this time to reach deeper into HAMMER's mainframes and get even more information. Iron Patriot is impressed.
He's also in control of this situation. He commands his men to fire and they bury War Machine in an onslaught of pure explosive power.
Rhodey falls to earth. Iron Patriot heads down to meet him. Lifting his body from the wreckage, he remarks on just how small a dent Jim made in Norman's armor. Again, he expected something bigger from all of this. Tossing Jim Rhodes over his shoulder, he has his men bring the War Machine in as Jim passes out.
Osborn is still the hero of the moment and people like that get parades and flowers. They also get surprises. Coming home from a victorious parade, Norman is more than surprised to learn that information has reached the public about massive government corruption. Six Senators, three high ranking members of the former administration, a general, and some randoms just for good measure have all been indicted for some terrible deals done in the name of the American people. This is all information that Jim Rhodes was able to pull out of Norman Osborn's systems so Osborn was aware of it and possibly involved... but hasn't been implicated.
This is stuff that really pisses Norman off but he has a solution. He visits Rhodey in his prison cell to congratulate him for all the good work he's been doing. He should be very proud. Still, nothing takes the public's mind off massive government corruption like a dog and pony show. All Norman has to do is give the public something more interesting to look at and they'll lose all interest in following this case.
So Norman has decided to make the trial of James Rhodes a BIG DEAL.
Avengers Spotlight #28
Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Al Milgrom
In this story, Hawk and Mock rob banks! The REAL Hawk and Mock go in to investigate and find themselves nearly arrested until the real criminals rob another bank while these two are under guard. The two heroes race to the scene and Clint realizes that the villains are actually Screaming Mimi and Angar using their sonic tricks in a new way. They capture the bad guys and the police take them away.
Hey look! Hawkeye and Mockingbird are robbing a jewelry store! That's soooooo like them! Unfortunately, in the era of Acts of Vengeance, public sentiment involving costumed adventurers, especially Avengers, was at an all-time low. We're pretty sure that this Hawkeye and Mockingbird aren't the genuine article but the general public certainly wouldn't put it past them.
Thus begins the Denver Crimespree of Hawkeye and Mockingbird. The duo hit lots of banks and jewelry stores all around the Denver metro area. All of this seriously hurts the rep of super-heroes but it's especially bad for the genuine articles. When Clint Barton gets wind of it, he's just gets pissed. Then he decides the only way to deal with this is head on. He and his wife, Bobbi, take a Quinjet down to Colorado to work this whole thing out.
Since Hawkeye and Mockingbird are WANTED in Denver, this isn't the most brilliant idea Clint Barton has ever had. Since this is also the era where no-one takes off their costumes no matter what, the two are very public about their arrival. They COULD have just snuck into town in the secret identities but that's not how things worked in the late eighties, early nineties. This means that when they exit their Quinjet, they have an armed escort waiting to take them directly to jail.
This leads to one of those standoff-time things where Hawkeye's pulled his bow and arrow on a group of police officers and is damned if he'll spend the night in jail. Luckily, the word comes in on the police line that the fake Hawk and Mock are robbing a bank. That means these guys must be innocent... or there are lots of evil Hawkeyes and Mockingbirds running around and they're all guilty. The police let these two go and hope that no-one else in Denver makes the same mistake they just did.
The fake Hawkeye and Mockingbird are just finishing up their bank robbery when the real heroes forego the door and smash through a window in their attempt to stop their dopplegangers. This is because Avengers, while innocent of bank robberies, are ALL ABOUT THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE. Why enter through a door when you can smash a window?
Mockingbird is surprised to see that they are, in fact, facing themselves but the illusion doesn't trick Hawkeye. He sees these imposters for who they really are: Angar the Screamer and Screaming Mimi.
Using a tear-gas arrow, Hawkeye forces the two screamers to stop their sonic tricks. Once that's done, everyone sees them for who they are. The fight isn't over just yet. Standing revealed, the two villains use their sonic tricks in their own unique ways and make a good start of escaping. Mimi is even able to take Mockingbird out of the battle.
Hawkeye keeps it together, however, and after calming a crazed security guard, uses a bola arrow to incapacitate the two villainous lovebirds. The police take the real villains into custody as as Hawkeye explains that the two screamers were able to combine their powers in order to create controlled illusions. Who knows why they picked Hawkeye and Mockingbird except to further the plot of this story? They could have been an entire gang.
When a guard asks why Hawkeye wasn't affected, Clint points to his hearing aid. His mechanical ears didn't process the sound in the same way.
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Penciler: Dwayne Turner
In this story, Loki tries to recruit the Mad Thinker into his little group of like-minded super-villains. Thinker realizes who Loki is, and declines the offer. Thinker breaks out of jail on his own in order to take down the Super-Powers Registration Act. In Washington DC, Wonder Man and the Wasp speak out against the SPRA and get attacked by Gargantua. After a short fight, Wasp realizes that Gargantua is recieving orders from someone and enters the giant's ear in order to countermand those directions. This sets Gargy up for a sucker punch delivered by Wonder Man. With Gargantua's defeat, Wasp and Wonder Man continue their impassioned speech against Registration. All of this was set up by the Thinker for reasons of his own.
There's always going to be that story about the one that got away. This is one of those. Not everyone joined right up with Loki's merry band of evil-doers. When the Thinker (who some call Mad) was approached, he sat down in his jail cell and gave it a good think before declining the offer. He worked it out to it's conclusion and saw that the end results didn't favor him. When he reveals that they favor Loki even less and even gives some hints as to Loki's real identity (he's been handling the Act of Vengeance by playing the others' lackey), Loki freaks out and threatens the Thinker should he reveal Loki's identity to the others.
After the god of mischief has left, the Thinker is left to his own thoughts. While he was hoping to sit this whole situation out from the security of his jail cell, the Super-Powers Registration Act that's being put through Congress is worrisome. It has the potential to harm some of Thinker's long term plans. Thinker decides that he'll have to act to get things back on track and escapes his cell to do just that.
In Washington DC, super-heroes and letting the general public know just how harmful a Registration Act would be. The two present today are Wonder Man and the Wasp. While both are delivering speeches, neither are prepared. They just plan on standing in front of the crowd and saying whatever comes to mind. This could work out or it could lead to complete disaster.
Thankfully, a villain breaks up the threat of public speaking. Gargantua! This is the dim-witted giant formerly known as Leviathan. You don't really need a history lesson in this guy. You just need to know that he's dumb as rocks and is a giant. Gargantua threatens the crowd, forcing the two Avengers to act. During the fight, you can tell that Gargy is taking directions from an invisible speaker.
This fight isn't difficult. Gargantua is limited by the fact that he's not making these moves on his own. Not only does that invisible speaker have to give him directions, but Gargy has to agree to follow them. It limits his reaction time something fierce. The only thing that can be said is that there is some destruction involved. Gargantua picks up a car and ends up dropping it right on top of Wonder Man when the Avenger punches him in the knee. There's another destroyed car when Wonder Man tosses a vehicle at the dim-witted giant and it is thrown right back at him.
While Gargantua faces Wonder Man, Wasp takes a flight right into the giant's ear. What she finds inside is a loudspeaker shouting orders. Realizing that this transmitter is the key to ending their troubles, Wasp grabs and breaks the thing. Then she gives Gargantua new orders.
Gargantua leans down in a perfect setup for Wonder Man. Simon asks the returning Wasp if this is her doing and Janet tells him that it totally is. Wasting no more time, Wonder Man decks the giant and ends the threat on the United States capitol.
With that, the two heroes know just what to say to the crowd.
In his secret location, the master mind behind Gargantua's attack is revealed to be none other than the Mad Thinker. I know! Twist! Gargantua wasn't being sent out to defeat these two Avengers. He was sent out to be publicly defeated BY those Avengers. With that being successful, the Thinker calculates that public opinion will now be pushed just slightly against Registration.
Shutting down his lab, he notes that victory is sweet but he doesn't want to make it a habit working with the good guys.
Writer: John Byrne
Penciler: Paul Ryan
In this issue, public sympathy turns very hostile against the Avengers! Jarvis reports in to a bunch of Avengers teams! The Mandarin hits Avengers Park and starts attacking cops! Loki's group of super-villains continues to squabble! Cap, Wonder Man, and Vision go diving to check out the remains of Avengers Mansion! Jarvis calls them back in to deal with the Mandarin! Wonder Man and Vision attack the Wizard! Agatha Harkness leaves the Scarlet Witch alone and the entire house containing the Avenger flies off into space courtesy of Magneto! The Avengers fight Mandarin and the Wizard. The Mandarin makes his escape, leaving the Wizard behind to get captured. The Wizard claims full responsibility for the Acts of Vengeance! Dr. Doom expodes!
Public opinion on the Avengers is at an all-time low. These regular people have been put in a place where they want the super-hero team out of their city if not out-right disbanded. While there are probably still people that support the Avengers, the protesters hanging out outside of Avengers Park are not among their number.
The police sent in to help the injured in last issue's mutant attack on Avengers Park (courtesy of the Blob, Pyro, and Avalanche) are also keeping order and preventing anyone from entering the damaged park. The place probably isn't safe for civilians. The cops are as divided as the American people when it comes to the Avengers. Some of them with the Avengers would show up and make their presence known believing such an action would calm the crowds. Others think that would just rile the people up even more. Heck, maybe New York is better off without the Avengers.
Inside the Avengers' underground headquarters, Jarvis listens in on this conversation and is disheartened. He's also in the middle of a four-way teleconference with the various Avengers teams: Hawkeye and Mockingbird from the Great Lakes Avengers, Cap & company who are planning on making a dive at the former location of Hydrobase, and Hank Pym of the West Coast Avengers. Jarvis asks if anything can be done to sway public opinion back towards the Avengers, but Cap can't think of anything. Obviously, the Avengers don't spend a lot of time making commercials or working on their public appearance. They just expect everything to work out. With that, everyone gets back to their own business. They all promise to keep in touch but you know how these reunions go.
Before Hank hangs up the phone, he tells Jarvis to cheer up. It's gotta get better from here right? The Avengers have been in worse spots before, after all. Jarvis is still in a down mood. He was part of one of those times where things got worse (Avengers: Under Siege-- Avengers #'s 270, 271, & 273-277-- I'll tell you about it sometime ;) ) and he's down one perfectly good eye for the experience. This still feels like things will get worse before they get better.
As if on cue, Mandarin lands in Avengers Park. Mandy is one of the big players in Loki's super-villain super team-up. He hasn't liked how things have turned out with his group's play on the Avengers and has decided to come in and handle the Avengers personally. Now, he just has to wait for them to show up. That means he'll have to deal with New York's finest first. Since they're supposed to be keeping all but the Avengers out of the Park and Mandarin doesn't look like an Avenger, they tell him to vacate the premises. Them's fighting words as far as the Mandarin is concerned. Suddenly, one of Iron Man's best known super-villains is fighting it out with the police using all the power of his ten rings.
Oh, Mandarin. Most of the big super-villains in the Marvel Universe started out as cheap rip-offs of Dr. Doom. Mandarin just happened to be the racially offensive cheap immitation of Dr. Doom. Over the years, people had added more personality to the character. In his last appearance over in Iron Man, Mandarin seemed to be less Doom-like than ever. Instead, he was just a businessman doing his thing and had forgotten about his old life. Leave it to John Byrne to return a villain to type. Mandarin's still wearing his latest armored suit but he's definitely acting more Doom-like than he has in a long time.
Speaking of Dr. Doom, he's watching this display on the monitor back at Loki's secret base and he is NOT PLEASED. Not only is Mandarin acting against the plan, he's being sloppy according to Doom's standards. Loki, still playing the role of lackey, doesn't think Mandy's doing as badly as all that. Doom rants about how he's already have had the Avengers defeated if he had taken the field.
As usual, this causes the Red Skull to say something racist. Since Dr. Doom is from gypsy stock, he's already putting up with a lot for suffering this Nazi in his presence. Doom tosses the Red Skull across the room but, since the Skull is in a perfectly cloned copy of Steve Rogers, he can land with the best of them. Red Skull pulls a gun and fires it at Dr. Doom, causing the super-villain to smash their nice television monitor.
Doom struggles to get to his feet and doesn't return the Red Skull's attack. That should be a clue that they aren't dealing with the genuine article.
The Kingpin enters and chastizes the both of them for being so quick to resort to violence. Of all the super-villains present, only Kingpin avoids being a cheap imitation Dr. Doom and that's to his credit here. I'm still wondering why Kingpin thought joining this group was a good idea, but I'll just contend that it's the power of Loki.
Captain America, Simon Williams, and the Vision are underwater, exploring the ruins of Avengers Mansion at the downed Hydrobase. You may remember that salvage had already begun on Hydrobase over in Avengers Spotlight #27. That's not acknowledged here. These Avengers aren't here for salvage. They're here to find out what is still intact and available for future salvage missions. They'll get what they can right away if it can be moved between the three but everything else is a bigger operation for the future. They don't get very far at all before Jarvis contacts them, informing them all about the Mandarin's attack on police officers at Avengers Park. The three depart immediately with Wonder Man and the Vision flying to the location at their top speeds.
Mandarin isn't going to be alone for long and I'm not just talking about the Avengers flying in for a meet-and-greet. When he left their secret headquarters, Mandarin picked up a tail in the form of the Wingless Wizard. The Wiz isn't happy that the Mandarin is acting without his orders and set off to follow what he believed to be a rebellious minion. None of these super-villains has realized that they aren't in charge. Such is the power of Loki.
Wizard doesn't even get to the battle before he's attacked by Wonder Man. He turns that attack back against the Avenger but doesn't get much further before the Vision overtakes him. Again, the Wizard is not to be beaten by these two. He flies circles around the Vision and causes the synthezoid to have an intense power surge.
We've caught up with most members of Loki's inner circle. Now let's look in on the one errant member: Magneto. That'll require a trip to sunny California straight to the West Coast Avengers Compound. It'll also be just a bit roundabout. We've got to deal with Magneto's daughter, first.
Wanda has been having a bad year. Since John Byrne was put on West Coast Avengers, Wanda had her husband disassembled and reformed without his personality, he children were revealed to be figments of her imagination, and her mind was taken from her in a shotgun wedding plan initiated by the Deviant, Ghuar. Recently, Wanda has been in a catatonic state that only slackened for an issue or two when the Vision was in danger. Now that Vision has left the team, the Scarlet Witch has returned to her unresponsive state.
Normally, somone like this would be put into a psyche ward where they would be treated by people that are trained to deal with this sort of thing. For the Avengers, they put Wanda in a house on the grounds and had a witch look after her. Agatha Harkness is the witch responsible for training Wanda in the use of the mystical arts but she hasn't been able to get through to her student.
Harkness senses a presence and walks outside the house to investigate, finding nothing. When she turns around, the house is already torn from it's foundations and flying off into the sky. Agatha isn't even given time to spell it back in place. Inside the house, Magneto is revealed. He is the one who has thrown the house into low orbit and it's all to get a little time with his estranged daughter. See? Magneto. Told you we'd get there eventually.
Back in New York, Captain America is finally arriving at Avengers Park in his Quinjet. He's joined by the Black Widow and Hellcat, two reservists called into action to stop this latest threat. Before Cap can land, Mandarin uses one of his rings to blast the Quinjet out of the sky. Mandy approaches the cockpit to find Cap in an unconscious state but isn't able to end Steve's life before the two Reservists arrive to even the odds.
The battle moves back and forth as Mandarin recovers from Black Widow and Hellcat's surprise attack, then is knocked back down when Cap returns to the fight. The arrival of the Wingless Wizard might have a positive impact on the Mandarin if only the two had any idea how to work together instead of showboating. Instead, they are overwhelmed when Wonder Man and Vision return. Thor showing up is just too much.
Madarin uses his black-light ring to cover his escape but its use also allows the Avengers to capture the Wizard who was also caught in the beam. When the Avengers get around to questioning the Wizard, they get the story that he is behind all the Acts of Vengeance. This conflicts with the story they got over in Cloak and Dagger about Dr. Doom being behind everything.
In his own chambers, Loki is amused. No-one will ever figure out that it is he who is responsible for all of this. Unfortunately, the dupes he has tricked into believing that they are in charge are out in the main room shouting at each other again. Loki exits his private chambers to calm them down. He's beginning to realize why these guys never win. They're just too full of themselves.
Loki tries playing his role of lackey and calming everyone down but they're starting to take offense at Loki now. He should know his place and not speak unless spoken to. All the while the super-villains are squabbling, no one realizes that Dr. Doom has remained unnaturally quiet. He's also starting to smoke.
Suddenly, the Doombot that was pretending to be the real Dr. Doom explodes, leaving the others to wonder if Doom was ever a member of their little circle of evil.
Heh. It wouldn't be a John Byrne story if it didn't involve a Doombot...
Avengers West Coast #55
Writer: John Byrne
Penciler: John Byrne
In pulse-pounding conclusion to Act of Vengeance, Magneto has a heart-to-heart talk with his daughter at sixty-two miles above the earth. The Avengers gather and talk about how Loki is behind everything. The Wizard escapes his cell and returns to the Super-Villain Secret Base. The Evil Circle bicker among themselves, and Loki finally reveals himself. Abraham Lincoln stops John Wilkes Booth from assassinating him before Immortus erases this timeline. Wonder Man finds a house missing from the Avengers Compound and flies out with USAgent to retrieve Scarlet Witch. The house explodes before Simon can reach it. Thor teleports the Avengers to Loki's secret base and we get our fight on! The Legion of Evil escapes to fight another day. Thor traps Loki within the earth. Hank and Jan return to the compound only to have Jan get attacked by an evil Wanda Maximoff!
Wanda's house is still floating up on the edge of the atmosphere. Inside, Magneto stands beside the unresponsive form of his daughter, the Scarlet Witch. These two have never been what you'd call close. Magnus had pretty much forced Wanda and her brother, Pietro, into joining his Brotherhood out of obligation after Magneto saved Wanda's life from an unruly mob. His angry attitude back then didn't endear the Scarlet Witch. In fact, it wasn't until recently that they even realized that they were family.
Magneto doesn't know what it'll take to break his daughter out of her current state. Ripping a house from it's foundation certainly didn't do anything. He rests a hand on her shoulder and tries some good old-fashioned talking.
Inside the Avengers' headquarters below Avengers Park, the assembled heroes finally have a name for the one really responsible for these Act of Vengeance. Loki! This name was provided by Thor and it has the ring of truth to it despite Dr. Doom and Wizard being implicated as masterminds prior to this revelation. Since they have the Wizard captured on the premises, Hawkeye thinks it a good idea to talk this Loki thing over with him.
Wizard has other plans. While the Avengers removed any visible threats from the Wizard's person, they completely missed the machinery hidden under the Wiz's fake thumb. This device is able to create a portal directly to the Super-Villain Secret Base. He walks in just as the other super-villains are discussing the self destructive Doombot. None of these guys knows if Doom was ever part of their little Evil Inner Circle. It could have been a Doombot all along.
Moving on to new business, the Wizard yells at Mandarin for abandoning him to the Avengers before telling them all about how he teleported to safety. At this, Loki, still in lackey mode, completely loses his cool and starts shouting at the Wizard. He can't believe the man would be so stupid as to teleport out of a prison cell and come straight here. That's the sort of thing that can be tracked and Thor could teleport everyone here quite soon.
When Wizard responds that a lowly minion shouldn't be talking to him like this, Loki grows tired of this façade and decides the time for revealing himself is long past. He throws the Wizard across the room and magicks up some more Loki-like clothes. As the rest of the group stares in astonishment, Kingpin chooses to quietly leave.
Back in 1965, President Abraham Lincoln attended the play, Our American Cousin, at Ford's Theater with his wife. During the performance, Lincoln heard the sound of a .44 caliber deringer being pulled back and went into quick action, knocking the gun away so that the shot went into the ceiling and quickly dispatching the would be assassin. With the threat ended, Lincoln looks at one of his Generals and asks if he has any words of wisdom to impart about the whole scenario.
The General does. He wishes this timeline could be left because he has great respect for the President. Unfortunately, it needs to be cut like all the others. The General, who turns out to be Immortus, still hasn't found what he's looking for and is getting impatient. He turns his attention back to what passes for the present and looks in on Wanda Maximoff only to find that she's no longer on the monitor. Something electromagnetic must have caused his instruments to be unable to keep track of her.
Immortus looks on as Wonder Man returns to Avengers Compound to find Wanda no longer on the premises. He questions Agatha Harkness and is agitated to learn that the witch wasn't able to prevent this. USAgent appears to tell Simon that the house is still floating at the edge of the atmosphere and the two board a Quinjet to see if Wanda remains up there with it.
Simon Williams exits the Quinjet to investigate the house only to have the building detonate before him.
Back at the Super-Villain Secret Base, Loki has caught the remaining super-villains in containment fields and is busy chewing them all out for their massively over-sized egos and general incompetence. The Avengers could show up any moment because of the Wizard.
On cue, Thor opens up a portal and the Avengers there.
The Avengers being their attack. Loki pulls the walls away from the building to reveal their battle ground: The Isle of Silence. It was here that Loki had been exiled when he unwittingly formed the Avengers and it is here that Loki holds power over the elements.
These elements turn against our heroes. While Loki is focusing his attention elsewhere, the super-villains he had previously contained find themselves free to act. Deciding against helping Loki take down the Avengers, they flee through the still active dimensional doorways to fight another day. The Avengers aren't able to pursue because they find themselves fighting for their lives at the moment.
This battle turns out to be more about Thor versus Loki than anything else. While the Avengers busy themselves in their battle against the elements, Thor smashes the ground under Loki's feet and watches as the god of mischief fall below. This isn't quite a prison just yet, but when Thor grabs the ground and forces it back together, it's a suitable jail cell for the time being. Thor explains that this whole event was about Loki trying to turn back time on his one big screw up. He brought the Avengers together and believed he could tear them apart.
This proved false. The Avengers survived despite Loki's best efforts.
In the aftermath of the Acts of Vengeance, the West Coasters return to their own coast. Iron Man splits off from Hank and Jan's Quinjet to get some rest in his own home. Jan and Hank talk about their latest adventure before landing. Wasp leaves to change into a new uniform before visiting Wanda.
Things get wierd from here. Wanda's house is back on the ground and in one piece. The Wasp enters without thinking anything wrong. What she finds within, however, changes her mind. The USAgent is inside and looks like he's been beaten down pretty bad. He tells her that Simon died in an explosion in outer space. Jan shoots up to normal size before Walker can warn her against that.
She is now visible to her former friend and teammate, the Scarlet Witch. Looks like Wanda got a makeover. She's also looking pretty evil. Someone's taking after daddy.
And... done! I hope you enjoyed the Acts of Vengeance. Now that that's done, we can move on to bigger and better things, right?
Until then: Who Do YOU Trust?