Thursday, June 21, 2018 • Evening Edition • "Special collector's edition 4D variant!"

Super Reads Dark Reign & Realm of Kings 77

Written by SuperginraiX on Wednesday, May 26 2010 and posted in Features

The space game is heating back up!

Today, we check out Realm of Kings #1, Realm of Kings: Inhumans #1, Dark Reign- The List: The Amazing Spider-Man #1, Dark Avengers #11, Thunderbolts #138, War Machine #11 and Blast to the Past for The Amazing Spider-Man #'s 62 & 63. Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!

Just when you think things are starting to wind down, they jump-start back up again!

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 begin by officially starting the Realm of Kings.

rok1.jpgRealm of Kings #1
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artists: Leonardo Manco & Mahmud Asrar

In this exciting issue, the Guardians of the Galaxy (and friends) meet up to explore the Fault using their good buddy, Quasar. Wendell flies in and winds up on another earth in a better-looking costume. Vaughn fights a disgusting version of the Hulk with this universe's version of the Avengers before they capture him for study. This universe is controlled by beings called the "Many Angled Ones" and they're looking to expand their territory into other universes. Scarlet Witch begins to cast a spell to figure out how to get to Quasar's universe, but is stopped when the Vision appears and rescues Wendell from his imprisonment. Vaughn flies away, sending a message out to Project: Pegasus on the way. Once he's far enough out, he realizes that the whole universe has been filled with cancerous growth. It's disgusting. Back at Project: Pegasus, Director Gruenwald wasn't able to understand Quasar's last transmission but no matter. Wendell is back... or IS he?

Last time, we got a head start on the Realm of Kings with the Imperial Guard but this issue is the official place to start for all things in Realm territory. Let's review.

At the end of the War of Kings, we were left with a giant tear in time and space which threatened to engulf our entire universe. Everyone lovingly called it 'the Fault'. In order to save us from certain peril, Adam Warlock tethered our timeline to another timeline that wasn't consumed by the Fault. Since this other timeline happened to be one where Warlock turned into Adam Magus and ruled the universe with an iron fist, things started playing out that would allow our reality to mimic that reality. In the end, the Guardians were left several members lighter and Star-Lord was forced to kill Adam Warlock with a shattered Cosmic Cube.

The Fault is now halted from consuming the universe, but it's still there and messing with our reality. Nova and his Corps have been patrolling the edge of the thing (and it's a few parsecs wide so that's a lot of territory to cover). Creatures from across the galaxy are being caught up in it's wake, and rushed to this part of the universe. Other realities are bleeding over into ours. Dogs and cats living together and raising mice children. It's a mess out there.

Which means someone should go into the Fault and do a thorough investigation. See if it leads somewhere. Sample their Chinese take-out restaurants. To this end, the Guardians of the Galaxy have called together their friends and allies from around the universe to determine the best way to approach the Fault. The living Guardians are all in attendance (Star-Lord, Drax, Jack Flag, Rocket Raccoon, Bug, and Groot). Nova is there via telepresent holographic relay. Doctor Gruenwald has been reinstated as Director of Project: Pegasus specifically because of the Fault situation, and is therefore also joining this meeting through telepresent hologram. Finally, Quasar is back and ready to get his feet wet.

Wendell Vaughn, the Guardian of the Universe. Quasar. You might remember that he died during the Annihilation War. He got better. Sort of. A quantum flask was found in the Negative Zone and, when opened, turned out to be a quantum energy version of Vaughn. He was recently reunited with his Quantum Bands and is now back to being Quasar full-time. He's not certain what being made of quantum energy really means yet but he's ready to prove himself.

At the end of that meeting, he'll get his chance. He volunteers to fly into the Fault and communicate back through his Quantum Bands. Since he's already died, Wendell figures there's nothing to lose.

Oh, there is obviously something for him to lose. This is why you never say that sort of thing out loud. It's just inviting trouble.

Quasar starts his journey into the Fault. The area isn't easily navigatable. There are space breezes to worry about. Also: this is a huge tear in the universe. If it doesn't look dangerous enough by being that, you also have different realities converging at the point of the tear. If space had a sound, this one would probably be fingernails scraping across a blackboard. Wendell flies through all of this before he's yanked to the end point, entering the universe on the other end of the Fault.

Quasar finds himself back on earth. Sort of. It looks like Manhattan has been through some major apocalyptic event. Vaughn isn't able to communicate back through to Director Gruenwald anymore. He realizes that whatever reality he's been pulled into has redressed him in stylish new clothes. It seemed to want him to conform to this universe's standards.

Wendell doesn't get to do much exploring before he's facing down a disgusting, purple, tentacle-monster thing. This battle isn't just physical. It's also hitting Quasar on the psychological level. Just being around this monster is awakening primal fears. Even in his panicked state, Wendell puts up one hell of a fight. Unfortunately, this thing is playing for keeps on a whole 'nother level. Quasar is easily knocked away from the creature.

And who's there to rescue him? The Avengers. These aren't your common variety Avengers, though. Their eyes glow red. Arcane symbols grace their costumes. There is definitely the ring of magic in the air.

The Avengers get straight to work. Ms. Marvel congratulates Quasar on holding off the Hulk for so long. Yeah, that sick thing is the Hulk of this universe. It escaped its confines to answer some unknown call. Carol wasn't expecting to see Wendell back so soon from whatever mission he was supposed to be on. It's during this short conversation that Ms. Marvel realizes that this is not her universe's Quasar. The Scarlet Witch confirms this.

It'll have to wait until later. They have a Hulk to bring down. During the battle, Thor takes a hit from the monstrosity and in his anger, his face goes all squid-like. Mjolnir is just as effective with a squid-face. The only one freaked out by this is Quasar. Everyone else thinks this is a normal occurence.

With a hammer blow, the Hulk is downed and reverts to Bruce Banner. The Avengers decide that they can no longer tolerate the Hulk and Iron Man tears out Banner's heart. Quasar doesn't even have a chance to stop the armored Avenger. In fact, Wendell doesn't have a chance to do anything. The Scarlet Witch has him in a hex trance. They take Quasar back to their base to figure out who he is and where he comes from.

This version of the Avengers doesn't hang out at Avengers Mansion. They don't hold their meeting in Avengers Tower. Heck, they don't store their Quinjets on Hydrobase. Their headquarters is known as the Trapezohedron. It is here that they hold Wendell prisoner and try to pump him for information. What they want from this man is a map to his universe.

They've realized that this end of the Fault leads to the 616 Universe and vice-versa. Still, it's not as easy as going straight in and coming straight out. That tear messes up everything.

Iron Man explains that their gods, the Many Angled Ones, have filled this universe to capacity. We'll see just what they mean in a bit. Even with this universe full of Many Angled blah blah blahs, those creatures are still hungry for more space to fill up. The prospect of filling an adjacent universe is too inviting to pass up. Obviously, Quasar isn't going to willingly give them the information they're looking for.

He doesn't have to. The Scarlet Witch enters to room and has this all worked out for them.

Quasar's quantum signature gives them a clear path to the 616 Universe. She just needs to cast a complicated spell so that they can track his point of origin down. She turns to Wendell and apologizes for delivering this information. The rest of the Avengers leave so Wanda can get to work on her spell.

Part of the Avenger's plan is to teleport their earth to the exact location of the 616 earth. In the move, Quasar's homeworld will be destroyed to make room for a magical demon version of his world. Vaughn asks the Witch if she's truly sorry. She explains that she is, but there's no hope of denying her nature. When Iron Man or Giant Man figured out that Wendell's quantum energy was the key to tracking down his home universe, Wanda would have been punished for not giving up that information earlier.

Before she's able to complete her enchantment, she is pushed into unconsciousness by the Vision. That's right! The Vision! He was hiding within her body, listening to the Avengers' plans and waiting for the moment to do the most good. When he learned that another universe was in danger of the same fate his was in, Vish revealed himself in order to free Quasar and prevent that from happening. It seems that creatures of pure technology are the only ones capable of fighting against the magically-infected chaos erupting here. That wasn't enough to save Iron Man, by the way, so when they say "pure," they mean it.

The only way they've figured out how to find Quasar's universe is through Quasar so the best thing for Wendell to do is to fly out of here as quickly as possible. Vaughn blasts his way through Ms. Marvel and keeps on going.

While being chased off-planet, Quasar is trying to get a last minute warning in to Project: Pegasus to warn them all about what lies on the other side of the Fault. He's not certain if his message is getting through but dude's gotta try, right?

He's also gotta fight his way through Iron Man and Thor. In this fight, Wendell is able to strike down Thor with a quantum hammer, giving him enough time to escape the planet and head back to the Fault entrance. He's preparing to use up all his energy to help boost this last warning to Director Gruenwald.

Once he's broken from the Universe, he realizes just what he's been in. It's one big, giant, festering, Cancerverse. Tentacles, mouths, and eyes are all over the place. When Iron Man said the Many Angled Ones had filled this universe, he meant exactly that. While still sending out his message, Quasar loses cohesion mid-sentence.

Back at Project: Pegasus, Quasar's warning has been recieved but not understood. There was just too much interference through the Quantum Bands to make out any actual words. Gruenwald gets people working on clearing up the message when a blast of yellow light hits the room.

Quasar is back and he's taken his new look with him. More than that, he's no longer a quantum entity. He's got skin and everything. Director Gruenwald helps Wendell to his feet and asks him how things went. Quasar explains that it was a battle to get back but "there's no place like home."

And his eyes are glowing red.

roki1.jpgRealm of Kings: Inhumans #1
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Pablo Raimondi

In this issue, Crystal and Ronan are swearing in the new Consul of Kon-Tarr, when the planet is attacked by Neg-Zone raiders from the Ceded Territories. Gorgon and the New Inhuman Elite arrive and mop up the invaders. Medusa sends Triton and Ra-Venn on a mission into the Fault to learn the fate of Black Bolt. Medusa holds the throne until her son can come of age. Mad Maximus muses about kingship with Ahura and Luna. Ronan and Crystal check the progress of regrowing the Terrigen Crystals, and are subsequently threatened by feral Alpha Primitives. Devos the Devastator attacks Attilan because of all the war. The Mighty Avengers get their avenge on.

The Kree have won the War of Kings thanks to... well, thanks to pretty much everything that went down in War of Kings. You could blame it on that T-Bomb that ripped the universe a new one, but it was a combination of events that lead to the unlikely victory of the Kree and their Inhuman rulers. Post-war, the Inhumans are busy setting up new consuls to rule planets throughout the Kree Stellar Empire.

In this case the Inhuman, Ikarys, is accepting the Consulship of the planet Kon-Tarr. Kon-Tarr is located on the edge of Kree Space, bordering the Ceded Territories ruled by King Blastaar. It's necessary to place a strong leader on this planet because the threat of the Ceded Territories is very real. Today, Ikarys's position will be baptised in the fire of battle, as Raankor, one of Blastaar's lieutenants, is already looking to add this planet to Blastaar's dominion.

So it's probably good that Ikarys's ceremonies are being attended by Crystal and her husband, Ronan the Accuser. Ronan prepares to head off into battle but he wants to make sure his wife is safe first. Crystal, a former member of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, is battle-trained enough that sitting out this fight probably isn't an option she'd consider. Besides, there are plans in place for just this sort of occassion. She sends Lockjaw off to pick up some friends.

And Lockjaw returns with Gorgon and the New Inhuman Elite.

Raankor's forces aren't prepared for this type of defensive maneuver and are easily pushed back by Gorgon and his warriors. As battles of this nature go, it's only a matter of time before Raankor is caught up in one-on-one combat with Gorgon. Gorgon is easily Raankor's superior in battle but Raankor makes up for it with a nice surprise-pair of eyebeams. He also does his best to mock the Inhumans as a failed Kree experiment just to make sure Gorgon is extra pissed off. Because Raankor brings powers into the battle, Gorgon feels free to use some of his own, striking the ground with a hoof to create a localized earthquake.

This move knocks Raankor back but not out. The following blow from Ronan's Universal Weapon end the battle.

Gorgon spends the post-battle party standing on top of a damaged pedestal, telling the Kree people of Kon-Tarr that this quick defense is exactly what they can expect from their strong Inhuman leadership. The people chant his name and we switch scenes.

Attilan, the capital city of the Kree Stellar Empire and home of the Inhumans, hovers in the skies of the Kree homeworld, Hala. In the royal palace, the new ruler of the Inhumans and Kree, Medusa, is sending her cousin Triton off on a very important mission. Triton and his hand-selected crew (which includes the Kree warrior Ra-Venn) are flying a ship into the Fault. Their mission isn't to explore this tear in time and space so much as it's a chance for them to find Black Bolt... or his body. Either way, Medusa wants the question of her late husband's death answered in definitive terms. None of this wishy washy "if there's no body, there's no death" sort of thing.

Triton and Ra-Venn leave to embark on their important mission. Medusa retires to her chambers. This doesn't please Karnak. He and Maximus follow Medusa as he explains that her duty to appoint strong Inhuman Consuls to key Kree worlds needs to be done before the post War buzz loses it's steam. They've got to act before their goodwill for winning a war against the hated Shi'ar wears off.

Medusa keeps putting off that duty by bringing up another point that sticks in her craw. She was never told that the T-Bomb was a weapon that needed the sacrifice of Black Bolt to make it work. Heck, she didn't even think it was just a weapon. She was convinced that the T-Bomb was a device that would make the universe into Inhumans. When everyone was an Inhuman, no-one would fight because Inhuman-on-Inhuman violence is unthinkable and holy hell everyone forgets that Maximus betrays his people all the time. Seriously. Inhumans don't normally attack each other but it's been known to happen. Of course it's happened. Medusa acknowledges that if the entire universe was made up of Inhumans, wars would still be fought and violence would still go on.

What the T-Bomb did was make her a widow. The Kree might think the universe of the Inhumans for ending the war but Medusa doesn't think much of her kind at all right now.

Karnak moves right on to the next item of business. He shows his Queen footage of the battle on Kon-Tarr, using it to illustrate a number of points. The first is that while the Kree people adore the Inhuman royals, the higher-ups in the Kree system feel that they are being ignored in favor of the Inhuman rulers. The Kree aristocracy has just been downgraded and they're just a bit resentful of that. More important in the long run is the matter of Gorgon.

Gorgon might seem to be handling Black Bolt's death well, but that's just because he's throwing himself into his job and getting out all his feelings at the end of his war club. This is causing the Kree to fall madly in love with the warrior. Since they prefer strong action heroes for their leaders... or ugly intelligent goo with the combined memories of all the greatest of Kree's people... it's possible that in time the Kree might think of putting Gorgon on the throne. Medusa isn't worried about her own right to rule so much as her son's. She doesn't want the throne. She just wants her son to inherit it when he comes of age.

So she might need to think up a way to stay on that throne in the meantime.

Maximus the Mad has wandered off at this point. He's seen Medusa's son, Ahura, and Crystal's daughter, Luna, playing in the corner and gone over to investigate. It turns out that Ahura is playing king while Luna plays princess. Max shares the stories of himself playing these type of games when he was about their age. Ahura asks if he still plays games like that and Mad Max answers that the game of 'king'... sometimes it's fun to play that game regardless of your age.

Crystal, Ronan, Gorgon, and the New Inhuman Elite are teleported back to Attilan by their faithful dog, Lockjaw. Once there, Crystal decides to check in on the Terrigen Mist Chambers and see how the regrowth process is going. She's been appointed Guardian of the Chambers so it's her duty to make sure everything is going according to plan. This is especially vital now because the Terrigen Crystals are at an all-time low. The bulk of these Crystals were used in making the T-Bomb. Regrowing the crystals is now high priority. Without it, there are no more new Inhumans.

She allows her husband to accompany her. It was hinted at during War of Kings that Ronan had feelings for Crystal. During the course of that story, Crystal seemed to be warming up to her husband. That thread is continued here. Sure, their words to each other is high-court speech but Ronan pretty much admits that he's in love with his wife. I know! Scandalous! They haven't even kissed and I'm not kidding.

Progress in the Terrigen Chambers is slow at best. They are growing the crystals at a good rate, but at full speed it'll still take sixty-four years for the chamber to be fully stocked.

Ronan takes his wife on a stroll through the Concourse of Ancestors in the lower section of Attilan. The two discuss those icky feelings people sometimes have for their spouse. Before they can work through their own emotions, they are beset upon by the Alpha Primitives. Usually, this slave caste is docile. Not today. Something has made them angry. Possibly violent.

To compound the threat of the Alpha Primitives below, Attilan is getting another visit from above. Devos the Devastator has shown up above the city with his full force of robot look-alikes. Devos' deal is that he wants to end all war in the universe. If someone was involved in a war... say, a War of Kings... well, they need to be dealt with permanent-like. Don't you even mind that the Inhumans and Kree were forced into the war to defend themselves from an invading Empire. That doesn't fit into Devos' equations.

You know what else doesn't fit? The Mighty Avengers. They've just arrived and are going to save the Inhumans from this horrible threat.

If you're wondering how Queen Medusa feels about that, wonder no longer. She's just a bit irritated.

drtlasm1.jpgDark Reign- The List: The Amazing Spider-Man #1
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencilers: Adam Kubert

In this web-swingin' issue, Spider-Man has a list of his own! Peter Parker meets with some key people at Frontline, and they figure out a way to take Norman down a peg. Norman Osborn and Victoria Hand enter one of Osborn's special labs to work out killing Spidey, only to find Spider-Man inside downloading secret files. There's a chase around the city of New York as the locals take the side of the Skrull War hero over the wall-crawler. Spider-Man is caught, but strikes out at Iron Patriot's uni-beam, damaging the chest device. Iron Patriot's armor starts smoking and Spidey races away. Norman eventually finds bits of Spider-Man's discarded costume and takes a guess that Spidey or an accomplice entered an internet cafe to upload those stolen secret files straight to the internet. Peter Parker is inside, but Iron Patriot is too late. The files have already hit the web. Peter shouts about civil rights and Norman leaves, contacting Ms. Hand about containment and damage control. Peter calls up Frontline for a "good job" comment from Robbie Robertson and a "how dare you send this file to Betty Brant first!" comment from Norah Winters. Still, this day belongs to Peter Parker.

The last List one-shot. There should be a ceremony.

Through-out the last month or so, Norman Osborn has been knocking items off his to-do list. Some of these he's accomplished with ease. Others... not so much. Either way, this is the end of that list.

Spider-Man has his own list, but it's not a to-do list. It's all about how Norman Osborn took over the free world. As he swings around the city and notices all the pro-Osborn material that has infected the streets, he goes through some of his favorite ways that Norman gained the respect and adoration of the American public. Sure, he killed the Skrull Queen but Peter believes there's got to be more to it than that.

The bottom line is that Peter never ended Norman Osborn, so he feels responsible for letting the villain gain the power he's got. Later on, Parker is meeting with Ben Urich, Robbie Robertson, and Norah Winters of Frontline and trying to convince them to write some anti-Osborn articles. He's preaching to the choir, but these are all honest newsmen who want to make sure that their story is legit, factual, and big enough to make print. Since Norman is up-front about his connection to the Green Goblin, that trail is a dead end. His official record has also been wiped clean due to his National Security status. No, taking down Norman Osborn in the paper is going to present itself with a unique challenge.

So let's connect some dots. There were those Prometheus Trials that happened over in New Ways to Die- one of the better Spider-Man stories involving a pre-top cop Norman Osborn and his team of Thunderbolts. The trials involved inhuman experimentation on illegal immigrants. The problem is, since it involved illegals, no-one has stepped forward to press charges. Norman has even come out and condemned the trials as something that happened under his son, Harry's, running of Oscorp.

Norah's got no evidence to support it, but her time digging around during the American Son story revealed that Norman continued to experiment on illegal aliens for the American Son Program. Unfortunately, she was found out and all evidence to prove this was deleted before she could get her hands on it. So, basically, I read the ending of American Son wrong, didn't I? My bad. Norah didn't shy away from writing the article because of fear. She didn't write the article condemning Osborn because she lost her evidence. It would be libel.

Norah still believes there's footage connecting Norman to these experiments but Peter doesn't see why there would be. Why would Norman keep that kind of evidence lying around? Robbie explains it. Norman is an egomaniac who doesn't think he'll get caught. The trick is actually catching him. To that end, Norah's got something to bring to the table.

It's the blueprints to Oscorp's Manhattan building. She snuck it out from Avengers Tower. This version of the blueprints shows a secret room perfect for keeping stuff you wouldn't want others getting their hands on.

Let's travel on over to that building and move forward to nightfall. Norman and Ms. Hand are walking the halls for a very specific reason. Norman plans to cross Spider-Man off his list tonight. They walk up to the door of Norman Osborn's secret lab to get the very thing to destroy Spider-Man. The entire time, Victoria is wondering what Osborn could possibly gain with the wall-crawler's death. Norman explains that the death itself is the gain. This is a long-standing feud.

You'll notice that while the two walk the halls, we're getting some footage of Norman experimenting with unwilling subjects in his bid to perfect the American Son program. You might even notice that this footage is being downloaded. By the time Norman has his identity confirmed and is able to open the door, Spider-Man has already raided his computers of quite a bit of incriminating evidence.

Don't ask me how Spidey got in there. I honestly don't know.

Peter distracts the two with a "Look! Naked Belgians!" line, grabs his flash drive, and smashes out the nearest window. Iron Patriot is right on his tail.

This is, by the way, one of the best-looking comics I've read in a while. Adam Kubert is in top form. Buildings look beautiful. Iron Patriot looks imposing. Spidey looks spidery. It's the full package, and highly recomended.

Norman Osborn isn't as good at being the hero as Spider-Man. He fires off his palm blasters with abandon, leaving Spidey to rescue anyone caught in their path. You'd think this would hurt Iron Patriot's public image but, no, not so much. The public is still cheering on America's Top Cop and booing their friendly neighborhood hero. Even with all the rescuing Spider-Man is up to, he still manages to outpace his pursuer.

Norman has lots of long-range options available, however. He sets his uni-beam to target web-head and gives him a full blast. This is a painful attack but... not as painful as it should be. Peter has been hit by Iron Man's uni-beam before and it packed more of a punch. Spidey theorizes that it's because of the star shape of Norman's chest beam. Tony Stark always kept his chest emblem simple. A circle. A trapezoid. Norman's redesign to a star hurts the integrity of the weapon. This might seem like a minor design flaw to describe in detail, but it's critical to the outcome of this battle.

Regardless of the power of Norman's uni-beam, it still hits its target, sending Spider-Man crashing into the ground. Once there, the wall crawler is surrounded by right-minded citizens with their own axe to grind. They attack Peter while Iron Patriot is still flying in. Norman tries calming the crowd down and telling them that even someone as despicable as Spider-Man is protected by America's laws and regulations. Spidey uses this time to recover and take the fight back to Osborn.

This is also where the media starts picking up the story. There's a cameraman on the scene and suddenly people are watching this battle live on their television screens. At Frontline, we learn that because the paper is left-leaning, it is totally anti-Norman Osborn. The Internet Cafes are hopping with activity related to this battle. At the Coffee Bean, Harry Osborn watches the fight in the back room and is surprised to find himself rooting for Spidey. Not that there's any love lost between him and his father. It's just odd that he'd choose either side in this fight.

Back at Oscorp, Victoria Hand is already working on clean-up. She's got some men in the room and orders them to wipe these computers clean. At least someone isn't an egomaniac who doesn't cover up their paper trail.

Iron Patriot's battle with the webbed wonder has ended in the only way it could. Norman Osborn has beaten Spider-Man. Now all that's left is the aftermath. Osborn has set his uni-beam to a magnetic frequency. While he holds Spider-Man up by one arm, he's going to use his uni-beam to not only erase the flash drive but is also slowly frying Peter Parker's brain. Spidey isn't out of the fight just yet. He rallies his strength and gives Iron Patriot a good swift kick to the chest.

Norman laughs off the attack but Parker's done just what he wanted to do. He's cracked Norman's uni-beam. This was a lot easier to do due to its many angles. The results are noticed soon. The cracks cause Iron Patriots armor to overheat. Soon, Norman is smoked out of his chest plate and has to vent the suit before he dies of smoke inhalation.

Yeah, I was kidding when I said this fight was over.

In the confusion, Spider-Man has swung off. Norman closes his face mask and flies off in pursuit, following the obvious trail of weblines. At the end of that trail, Ozzy finds bits and pieces of Spider-Man's costume lying around an alley. Iron Patriot walks out into the streets, finding them packed with people. This trail is very cold.

But not completely untrackable. Norman knows that Spider-Man... or one of his many helpers... would want to upload that flash drive as soon as possible. Iron Patriot walks into the nearest internet cafe and scans the place looking for known Spider-Man accomplices.

He finds Peter Parker. Peter hasn't fully uploaded the files yet and sets up the mother of all distractions. He shouts out that the Iron Patriot is in the house! Suddenly, all that good will that Norman has built up is working against him. Ozzy is surrounded by adoring fans. The files are uploaded and start playing on every manned terminal.

Not understanding how the internet works, Norman starts destroying monitors. Peter explains that he didn't just send them through the local network. He also sent copies to every email address he had saved. Since most of those people work for one newspaper or another, it's going to be everywhere.

The Iron Patriot tries to tell everyone that the footage has been doctored and looks like he's going in to blast Peter's face off but Parker isn't a moron.

OK, he IS a moron but that's not my point.

No, Peter Parker is a tax-paying American and that means America's Top Cop works for him. Sure, this could be doctored images but, if so, it's a matter for the courts to decide. It's a civil matter, not National Security. You don't get to blow people's faces off for defamation of character. Norman tells Peter that he's just made The List but we aren't fooled by that threat.

Norman calls up Victoria Hand to handle damage-control. He wants all trace of this video to disappear. He wants the spin to be spun. He wants to put that genie back in that bottle. Good luck with that.

Peter leaves the internet cafe to the sound of applause. It's good to win one every once in a while. To make this even better, when he calls up Frontline to find out if that footage made it over, Robbie tells him that it has and that they're just waiting for Urich's approval before posting it on their website.

Norah takes the phone away from Mr. Robertson, and chews Peter out. It looks like the video has already gone up on the DB's front page. Norah is upset that Parker sent this to Betty Brant. Peter explains that it went out to everyone he knew and that means it was a lot of journalists. Norah hangs up on him.

Besides that little hiccup, this day belongs to Peter Parker. Getting to take your arch-villain down a peg in a media war? Awesome.

If the great story and terrific art didn't convince you to pick up this comic, the back-up tale is also a sure winner. It reprints The Pulse #5. Within these pages, Norman Osborn's identity as the Green Goblin is publicly revealed in a battle with Luke Cage in front of a police station. The Bugle comes out looking like heroes. Spider-Man shows up to guest-star but it's Luke Cage that finally shows the world the truth about Norman Osborn. This is probably for the best since, if it were Peter Parker who got the big reveal, Norman might just reveal Peter's identity in revenge. Or he could just have one of his colleagues kidnap Aunt May and bury her underground in another crazy revenge scheme. Either way.

da11.jpgDark Avengers #11
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr & Greg Horn

Last issue, two girls entered a diner in Dinosaur, Colorado, and got sucked into an episode of the Twilight Zone. Ares cut the Man-Thing in two. Ms. Marvel flirted with Hawkeye. Iron Patriot returned but won't get out of his armor. The Avengers were called in to rescue the Secretary of State's daughter. Victoria investigated and discovered that the town of Dinosaur, Colorado liked to make people disappear. Norman sent the Sentry in only to have Bob vanish as well. Which meant it was a perfectly logical idea to send in an entire HAMMER strike team led by Dark Avengers. Ms. Marvel, being on point, disappeared first. She was quickly followed by Iron Patriot. Norman reappeared somewhere else entirely to be confronted by the Molecule Man.

In this issue, Ms. Hand remembers the time she gave Nick Fury a stupid note questioning his tactics and ended up transferred to the middle of no-where. She's now facing the threat of the incredible disappearing Dark Avengers and somehow it's related. Stormin' Norman talks it out with the Molecule Man and then faces a fate worse than death. That would be being Spider-Man and having a pregnant Gwen Stacy to deal with. Ms. Hand works the problem. Molecule Man kills the Sentry. Guess if that lasts or not. Just guess. We visit the rest of the Dark Avengers dealing with their individual nightmares. Victoria Hand shows up at the city limits and surrenders America.

You might remember that Ms. Victoria Hand was formerly a SHIELD accountant who Norman picked as his second-in-command because she had taken certain issues with the leadership style of Nick Fury and Tony Stark. Let's journey back three years and see how that played out.

Victoria is sparring with her girlfriend at the Washington DC SHIELD outpost. More interesting that the fight is their conversation. Ms. Hand has already written up a letter that she wants to send to Nick Fury telling the Director of SHIELD how he's running this entire spy game the wrong way. Her girlfriend thinks this is a terrible idea and tries very hard to convince Victoria not to send the letter. Victoria loses their match but that obviously doesn't stop her from sending that stupid letter.

From the right angle, the SHIELD Helicarrier seemed downright impressive. It sure does look like it came from a more hopeful time. Nick Fury is doing the part of his job that he kind of hates: signing the quarterly budget report. What's the best way for an accountant to sneak a letter in to the Director of SHIELD? That's right. Nick opens the budget report and finds a letter criticizing his leadership. He doesn't finish the thing. Fury hands it off to the SHIELD Agent handing him these reports and tells her to handle this.

Victoria Hand doesn't get fired. She gets transferred. When she tells her girlfriend that she's moving out to Oregon, girlfriend yells at her for sending that stupid letter. Since she wasn't able to listen to reason, there's no reason for this relationship to continue long-distance. They are done.

OK, let's move back forward three years to the current crisis. Nick Fury is gone. Norman's in. Victoria Hand has been rewarded for her critical take on Nick Fury by taking the Deputy Director of HAMMER spot. The Dark Avengers just entered Dinosaur, Colorado and disappeared. With Norman gone, look who's in charge.

It could be the sunset or it could be that we are living in the Darkest of Reigns but that HAMMER Helicarrier doesn't give me that spark of hope that the SHIELD one did from just a few pages ago. This thing is a machine of war, and it's laying it all out on the table. On the command deck, Victoria is doing something that she probably likes as much as Fury enjoyed signing the quarterly budget. She's trying to figure out what to do about her missing Director and his Avengers. Suddenly this whole 'protecting the free world' thing isn't looking as easy.

Molecule Man! Owen Reece has a long history in the Marvel Universe that will forever be tainted by his involvement in Secret Wars II. I believe this, more than anything else, is the reason that he hasn't been seen in a while. Molecule Man isn't really... evil. He's just incredibly super-powered and lonely. His mission in life is to be left alone and maybe be happy. To this end, he has claimed his hometown of Dinosaur, Colorado for his own. No-one enters without being trapped in his personal world. He's also built himself a set of friends since he was never that good at making real ones. The Enchantress, the Beyonder, Mephisto, and Zarathos are his very own creations in this reality. They sort of speak Molecule Man's mind for him at times.

It's this world in which Norman finds himself. Ozzy is completely naked, but isn't really that concerned about walking around in the buff. Owen greets him and lets him know a few things about his stay in Dinosaur. First, he's been expecting this visit. It'd have to happen sooner or later. Second, he's not going to kill the Oz Man. That wouldn't serve his purpose and would get him more attention from more super heroes until Reed Richards came in and ended his little world with some helmet invention as per usual. Third, Owen wants to be left alone. Just let Dinosaur be and everything will be great.

Norman is scared right up until the point Owen tells him there's no worry of death. That's the only thing Osborn is worried about. After that, he tries to assert his control over the situation only to learn that he is totally not in control. There are much worse things than death, especially for someone who can shape the world around them.

Norman is hit by a burst of light, then darkness. Then...

He's up on top of that damn bridge. The George Washington Bridge, to be exact. It's the place where he killed Gwen Stacy. This time, Osborn is dressed in a Spider-Man suit and Gwen floats just above the bridge. And... she's pregnant.

Norman is stunned by this acknowledgement of Sins Past and falls off the bridge. He hits the water below, hard, and the scene changes.

This time, he's in the Goblin suit and the heroes of the world are looming over him. Judging him. Owen's voice-over explains that the brain is made up of molecules and those are things he can read. He knows all about Norman. His dreams, his fears, his dirty closet of secrets. He can make them all appear. Owen Reece can tear Norman's world apart.

Aboard the HAMMER Helicarrier, Victoria Hand is finding it hard to control her people. They're expecting action and she's thinking this thing through. She finally has to get tough and put an officer in his place. Still, this is a big deal and it needs to be dealt with. Ms. Hand needs to start acting.

In a school gymnasium, the Sentry is being held in check. This is no mean feat but Molecule Man seems to be doing it with ease. This doesn't mean that Owen isn't interested in the Sentry. In fact, he finds the molecules that make up Bob Reynolds to be quite unique. If only they could be friends. Bob even promises not to hurt Molecule Man but Reece knows better. The Sentry is under Norman Osborn's orders. The Sentry is pulled to pieces and turns into water.

The Sinister Spider-Man is having his own problems. Gargan runs through the town of Dinosaur in a panic. His symbiote is pulled from his body, and turns on him. When they reconnect, they burst into black goo and spread out on the street, formless. The Molecule Man walks right through them with little interest.

Owen heads into a cave to have a chat with Ms. Marvel. Karla has been turned into a silver statue. He tells Ms. Sofen that he understands why Norman is playing cop but he doesn't get why these other criminals are. He allows Karla to turn back into her normal state in order to have a conversation but all Ms. Marvel wants to do is attack. Owen sees no reason to continue this way and shocks her back into an energy state.

Daken is standing in the produce department of a local grocery store. He's not happy and seems to be working his way past Molecule Man's powers. Realizing the Dark Wolverine is every bet Logan's son, healing factor and all, Reece turns his powers up a notch, leaving Daken part plant, part beast, all disgusting and immobile.

In an apartment, Ares is also immobilized. Molecule Man sits on the couch and wonders what to do with these people. He's concerned that whatever he does will lead to Mr. Fantastic's involvement and he really wants to prevent that. His fake friends tell him that he should run. These Dark Avengers aren't heroes. They are going to be out for blood instead of imprisonment.

To drive that statement home, they visit the remains of Hawkeye. The assassin has been changed into water but still tries to attack as they approach. His friends start giving him advice. The best is that he should drink Hawkeye; not because it's particularly good advice, and more because it makes me chuckle. The fake people Owen hangs out with pretty much repeat whatever thoughts are going on in his mind so they have his number. He continually rejects the idea that he should run away.

That's because he wants to be caught. He wants to be noticed. People disappearing was going to attract attention. Owen denies that. He was just protecting his territory.

Out on the edge of town, Victoria Hand approaches, the Helicarrier far in the distance. Owen asks who she is. Victoria Hand introduces herself, then surrenders the United States of America to him.

tb138.jpgThunderbolts #138
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda

Last issue, Ghost brainwashed Iron Fist. We flashed back to the Thunderbolts apprehending Danny Rand. We skipped forward to after Iron Fist had been fully brainwashed, then continued in this general timeframe for the rest of the issue. The Thunderbolts captured Luke Cage next but Ant-Man got stuck in Luke's stomach. Ghost and Iron Fist reported their good news to Norman Osborn. Someone let Luke Cage out of the T-Bolts's mind-bender machine and he fought his way out of the secret base. This led to the eventual showdown between Luke Cage and Danny Rand, and we were led to believe that Iron Fist killed 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 fought 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 abandoned 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 deposited Ant-Man off in a toilet after one fierce bowel movement.

In this issue, the Ghost riles Mister X up. Ant-Man and Paladin watch The Rockford Files. Scourge shoots the television. Mister X teleports to South America and kills guerillas. The Thunderbolts teleport after him to bring him out. Scourge, Mr. X, and Headsman get into a three-way fight. Paladin and Ant-Man see no need to get involved. The guerillas attack them. The team bonds by killing soldiers. The Zeus arrives to take them home. Norman suspects the Ghost planned the whole thing. No matter. He's got a mission for them and it involves taking down the Agents of Atlas.

Mister X dreams in red and bathes those dreams in blood. I mean, this is a dude who is completely obsessed in other people's deaths. Right now, he's dreaming about killing Iron Fist after wasting Wolverine. He wakes up to find the Ghost looming over his bed.


X rants and raves, throwing blades at his intangible foe but, hey, intangible. Ghost tells him that he was concerned about his teammates' well being. It's been so long since their last mission and he knows that it's been a long time since Mister X actually killed anyone. For someone like X, that's a problem. Still, it's not Ghost's problem and the sneaky guy glides off, mission accomplished, leaving Mister X longing for a kill.

In the morning, Ant-Man and Paladin are bonding over some reruns of the Rockford files when their huge television set is killed. Scourge doesn't know how to just walk into a room and say, "Hey guys: Mission." He needs to make an entrance and burn through the American Government's money. That television wasn't bought on discount, that's for certain.

Anyway, "Hey guys: Mission."

Mister X has used the Cube's teleporter to leave the base without permission. He finds himself in the random location of the Venezuela/Colombia border. Even better, he finds targets. Guerillas. These are people he can kill with reckless abandon, right? If anything, he's got a lot of targets and their numbers even make it a slight challenge. Mister X is having the time of his life... by killing people.

The rest of the T-Bolts teleport to the same location a bit later. Their mission is to locate Mister X and get him to come back to the Cube. Failing that, they're to kill the man. They're about to separate to find their missing man when those same guerillas attack them. The Thunderbolts are more than a match for these soldiers and do a bit of killing or stunning (depending on which T-Bolt you're talking about) until the rest of the guerillas flee. It's time to get back to their mission.

Once separated from his men, Scourge begins to have visions of the men he killed... or the soldiers he allowed to die. Either way, there are lots of voices hanging out in Scourge's head. Ant-Man shows up right in front of him and nearly loses his head for surprising his leader. Scourge orders O'Grady off to the east and continues his own search.

Headsman is the first to find Mister X. He also gets a private message from the Ghost. Ghosty recorded some of Mister X's words from the beginning of the issue. You remember, when X woke up to find Ghost looming over him? Yeah, Mister X's words were pretty threatening. When Headsman hears them, he believes that Mister X is directing them at him and doesn't give the assassin the option of coming home peacefully. Headsman leads with his axe.

In one-on-one battle, Mister X is clearly the superior combatant. It's such an unfair fight it would hurt. Luckily, Scourge shows up before X ends Cleavon's life. Mister X finds it difficult to read the thoughts of the cyborg, which means this fight is a bit more even. Concidering how hard Scourge is to kill, this could go on for a while.

Paladin and Ant-Man show up but when they see that one of the crazies might die, they decide to let this play out. They also notice that Ghost is also watching the festivities with no intention of breaking things up.

Headsman recovers, swinging his axe at Mister X, but the assassin reads the move and ducks just in time for it to catch Scourge on the chest. Scourge doesn't even wait to have this explained. He just switches targets and attacks Headsman. Mister X is about to rejoin the fight when more soldiers show up. It seems their little squabble has attracted some attention.

The Thunderbolts team back up. Even Paladin and Ant-Man join in, supplying more firearms for their comrades. While Mister X unhappily picks up a flamethrower, Headsman takes to the air, cutting down soldiers with his axe and, yes, removing their heads. While the killers are getting their kill on, it's interesting to see Paladin still using his stun pistol. Even when Scourge tells him to upgrade his armament, it doesn't seem like he does. Likewise, Ant-Man doesn't seem to be engaging in the killing kind of fighting.

When the entire platoon of soldiers is dead, the Zeus shows up to bring everyone back home.

On the ride back home, the Thunderbolts get a message from Mister Norman Osborn but Ghost gets a personal message first. Norman sees that this whole event has the Ghost's fingerprints all over it. It seems that the scheme had two agendas. Some crazy T-Bolts could die or they could all bond while killing other people. He also knows that this wasn't for the good of the T-Bolts as much as it fit whatever the Ghost's agenda is.

With that conversation out of the way, Osborn addresses the men. He sees that they are bored, need something to do, and he's got just the thing for them. They're going to take on the Agents of Atlas.

wm11.jpgWar Machine #11
Writer: Greg Pak
Penciler: Wellington Alves

In the last issue, War Machine and Iron Patriot had stopped the threat of Ultimo and reduced the Ultimo Weapon to an innocent. Osborn tried to detain Rhodey but just ended up giving him the means to reform his armor and free himself. He sent Suzi off with the Ultimo baby and got his former West Coast Avengers friends to go off on some missions for him. While Rhodey fought it out with Norman Osborn, his various teammates were doing some clean-up work taking down minor offenders who have escaped the system through one form of manipulation or another. Osborn got word of this but isn't that impressed. After all, Rhodey had only taken down little fish in a big pond. After one last display of power, War Machine was finally beaten by Iron Patriot. Norman Osborn enjoyed a parade for all his good work before Ms. Hand gave him 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 got arrested. To cloud public perception, Osborn decided to distract them with the showy trial of James Rhodes.

In this issue, War Machine's greatest hits show up on the big screen and push the Bainseville Ten back a few pages in the newspaper. Jim Rhodes appears before the judge and gives her his last meal request. He wants this over as soon as possible so that focus can go back to where it should be. The War Machine team decides against rescuing Rhodey. Ares gets invited to the trial. Matt Murdock meets with Jim and gets sent to help the lawyers involved in the Bainseville Ten case. Rhodey contacts Suzi Endo and has her perform a special mission. Ares makes a show out of Rhodey's show trial and Jim isn't allowed to incriminate himself without proper legal defense. The War Machine team regain Jim Rhodes' cloned body.

Robbie Robertson is a bit upset. While he was out celebrating his wife's birthday (possibly WITH his wife), six Senators, a General, and three former Cabinet members were conclusively linked to all manner of criminal acts. Why is Robbie angry? I mean, besides getting more evidence that the people running this country are criminals? It's because this wasn't front page news. It was on page four. When he asks his assistant (or whoever this guy is) he finds that it was set back because they couldn't find any good images for the front page.

Besides, the television doesn't seem to care about the Bainseville Ten. They're busy showing all the atrocities that War Machine has been up to in the last ten issues of his own comic as well as that story from Dark Reign: New Nation. Man, there has been a LOT of death! No wonder he's going to trial.

At his court appearance, Rhodey gets read his charges and then tells the judge his last meal request. This court isn't allowed to give the death penalty but Jim knows that's where this is going. He gives the judge a bit more sass and then gets led back to his cell.

Special consideration was given in the incarceration of War Machine. His tech was replaced with plastics. His cell is also technology free... even though the artist might not have been given that information. Those walls are supposed to be cement but they look pretty metal. So does the floor. Outside his cell, two non-tech-powered Avengers (Sinister Spidey and Ms. Marvel) play at guard duty. Outside the prison, HAMMER has five armored units ready to keep this particular prisoner inside.

This is what the War Machine team would have to go up against should they rescue their leader from prison. They're ready to go right up until Bethany Cabe tells them no. Rhodes doesn't want to go free. If he did, he would have called them. He would have called his Avengers friends. Instead, he called up a lawyer.

Norman Osborn is getting some major press time in dealing with the War Machine trial. All this is an attempt to drown the Bainseville Ten story. Norman declares premature victory just as his war god bursts into the room and causes a ruckus.

Ares declared War Machine his mortal champion and is pretty pissed-off Norman captured the man and is holding trial. Norman claims that War Machine wasn't doing any good for either of them but that seeing the war and mayhem he caused all over the television is good for Ares. The god of war remains unconvinced so Norman offers him clearance to see the trials up close and in the front row.

Matt Murdock has taken the case! Since he's one of the most prominent lawyers in the Marvel Universe, there was little doubt. Murdock took this case because they DO plan on murdering Jim Rhodes. When this court case is done, Santo Marco has dibs on him. It's in that country that he will be executed. Matt can slow this case down to a crawl and tie it up in litigation.

Which is exactly what Norman wants. He wants to draw this out and take press time away from the Bainseville Ten story. Jim tells Matt one tale of the Ten's atrocities and, a tear rolling down his human eye, tells Murdock to take off. He's got more important things to do. Matt's been listening to what Rhodey's been up to and walks out, confident that Jim Rhodes knows what he's doing.

We also get reminded that because of the machinery keeping Rhodey alive, he can't forget. He keeps seeing these tragedies over and over again in his mind and knows that someone's got to stop them.

So... what IS he doing? I'll tell ya! He's been tapping one single spot on the concrete wall in order to draw out the silicon, forming a circuit. With that, he's able to contact Suzi Endo in orbit. Suzi is all ready to bust Rhodes out of prison but, again, that's not the point. In fact, he's got to stay in lockup for this to work. There's something more important she can do for him, however.

Suzi has been retraining the baby Ultimo thing to not be a killer robot. She sends a little bit of Ultimo down to the planet. It drops on an Osborntech Lab in Rangor, Maine, shorting out the power temporarily. Once inside, it heads to a secured area to do stuff we'll probably learn a bit later.

The next day, Jim tells the court that he's fired his lawyer so that Murdock could assist the prosecutors in the Bainseville Ten case. This throws a minor wrench in Osborn's master plan. Jim just brought up the very thing Norman is trying to make people forget about. He scrambles to play damage control but he won't have to do anything. Ares has this covered... even though the god of war does so unwittingly.

Jim Rhodes is about to take the stand and tell his story but Ares takes special issue with this. He smashes through the floor, rips out a pipe, and uses it to tear through a wall. When this display is over, he tells War Machine that not even his champion will prevent justice from being done. That announcement done, Ares sits back down.

Workers move in to clean up Ares' mess. The judge doesn't know what to do about the god of war. She can't very well kick him out if he doesn't want to go. Instead, she relies on her precious laws. She tells Rhodey that he will not be allowed to incriminate himself unless he has a lawyer. Court is then put into recess until the next day.

Ares comes up to congratulate his warrior which is one of the last things Rhodey wants to hear.

All of this just draws more attention to Jim's trial and pushes the Bainseville Ten case back to page eight. Norman's getting just what he wants.

It's about time he got some bad news. Bethany Cabe gives him a call and tells the HAMMER Director that it's not going to be a good week for him. Norman traces the signal and tracks Bethany to the War Machine Shuttle 03. He silently sends out Ms. Marvel to take care of the threat and keeps Cabe on the line. When the shuttle is destroyed, Norman lets out a last minute gloat. But Cabe is still talking.

Yeah, she wasn't actually aboard the shuttle. She was calling from a remote location. In fact, she and Jake Oh took another shuttle to Bancor. They're breaking in right now. What are they picking up at this lonely Osborntech Lab?

The cloned body of James Rhodes.

asm62.jpgThe Amazing Spider-Man #62
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: John Romita

In this issue, Spider-Man meets Medusa and is quickly ignored! Medusa attracts the attention of a hairspray company! The Queen of the Inhumans startles the population before rescuing a kid and becoming a hero. Gwen isn't talking to Peter. Norman Osborn snaps at JJJ and can't get the Green Goblin or Spider-Man out of his head. Medusa quits working for the hairspray company. The company boss, upset by this, cries for help and gets the attention of Spider-Man. Spidey catches up to Medusa and gets attacked before he can question her. After a short battle, Spidey realizes that they're both being played and sets up a story with the papers telling them how wild and uncontrollable Medusa and her hair is. The hairspray company boss is ruined... and fired.

Another bit part for Norman Osborn? It sure is!

Spider-Man is casually swinging through the city when his webline snaps above him. It turns out Madame Medusa was flying her mono-cruiser above the web slinger and lines got cut. Medusa reaches out with her hair to rescue the costumed crime fighter but doesn't take any of the blame herself. It's not her way.

Medusa is completely over the top in this issue. I imagine every line she speaks is loud and in-charge. Dramatic. She hasn't changed much in the years except maybe she's learned to control the volume and intensity of her voice.

Anyway, the Inhuman has been sent to the world of men to gauge their acceptance. Black Bolt is wondering if it might be time to re-enter the world. Spidey offers himself up to her line of questions but Medusa knows that super-heroes don't represent the opinions of the common man. She flies off to seek normal people instead.

For Spider-Man, this is a twist. He's met someone who isn't working on capturing him. In fact, he sort of likes the fact that Medusa could care less about him. It's a change of pace.

Someone else is much more interested in Madame Medusa. Mr. Bliss, the boss of Heavenly Hair Spray, sees Medusa and imagines the advertising. Look at that super controlled hair. They could make a mint if they could hire her for their ads. Bliss sends his assistant, Wilberforce out to make her an offer.

Meanwhile, Medusa has landed on the street and caused a panic. This sort of display is expected when super-powered individuals land their crazy contraptions on the street and then wave their freakish hair around threateningly but, again, Medusa isn't here to work on her image. She's here to confirm that mankind isn't ready for them.

The panicked crowd contains a small child who's guardian has fainted. The kid, without survival skills of his own, quickly wanders away from the governess and heads for the stomping feet of the imminent riot. Medusa reaches out with her hair, grabs the toddler, and hands the child over to a police officer.

This act is instrumental in changing the mood of the crowd. Where they were once freaking out, now they gather around and cheer the Inhuman among them.

Also in the crowd is Wilburforce. He makes Medusa the offer to work for Heavenly Hair Spray and the Inhuman believes there would never be a better way to study the humans.

Let's catch up with Spider-Man. Right now, he's on the outs with his favorite girl, Gwen Stacy, because he made it look like he was betraying her father to the Daily Bugle. Peter thinks the only way to convince Gwen otherwise would be to reveal that he is Spider-Man but that's not something he's willing to do. He shows up at the Stacy home to convince her that he has a good reason for what he's done but he clearly didn't think this all the way through. He hasn't actually thought of a good reason.

Gwen was willing to listen to him but when he stumbles over his answer and cannot actually provide a good reason for his actions, she's more pissed-off than ever. Gwen slams the door in Peter's face, and heads back inside to check on her recovering father.

At the Heavenly Hair Spray office, Mr. Bliss is happily entertaining his new advertising concept. Medusa looks around and is certain that this will be the way to give a full report back to her people.

In yet another section of New York, we finally catch up with the reason we're reviewing the particular issue: Norman Osborn.

Ozzy and J Jonah Jameson are members of the same exclusive club. JJJ is complaining about how incompetent his newspaper workers are when Osborn cuts him off shortly. Norman looks like he's having some head issues. AS he walks off, Jameson wishes what he could do to help his fellow club member especially if it could mean selling more papers.

Norman is wracked with half-remembered memory fragments. He doesn't remember Spider-Man and the Green Goblin's final battle even though Spider-Man claimed his role was instrumental in the Goblin's defeat. In fact, he sees images of Spider-Man tied up and unmasked but can never get a good look at Spider-Man's face. He thinks he's going a bit nuts and worries what that could mean for his poor son.

Mention Harry Osborn and he has to appear on-panel. There he is! Harry is working on his homework but isn't able to get very far. This stuff just doesn't come to him as easily as it does his roommate, Peter Parker. Speak HIS name and he also has to appear. It's his comic, after all. Peter checks in with his roommate and then tells Osborn that he and Gwen are probably through.

Another scene change! This time we head to a photo studio where we learn that Medusa is tired of being photographed. She's warped her hair into a number of shapes and is now thoroughly bored. This wasn't what she was expecting and she's tired of taking orders. Medusa smashes up the studio a bit and takes off, saying that she has quit.

Mr. Bliss is out some money to replace what was destroyed in the studio. He was also banking on Medusa appearing in a long-running ad campaign and that has also come up negatory. Seeing Spider-Man swinging by, he comes up with a plan to salvage his losses. He starts shouting for help until the wall crawler turns around.

Spider-Man shows up to find the studio smashed. Bliss responds truthfully when he says this was done by Medusa but then breaks from the truth to tell him that she's planning on doing much more. Spider-Man races off to confront the Inhuman while Mr. Bliss congratulates his genius and prepares cameramen to get to the sight of this super-powered match up.

Spider-Man swings in to ask Medusa about this, since she didn't seem the type to randomly attack people. She IS the arrogant type, however, and she doesn't like this super-hero questioning her actions. Their fight starts right in front of the Heavenly Hair Spray billboard. Wilberforce is concerned about injuries to the two during their air battle but Mr. Bliss is just happy that they're giving Heavenly Hair Spray product placement.

Spider-Man doesn't have a female villain in his rogues gallery at this point. He's a little uncomfortable attacking Medusa. The Inhuman has no such qualms about beating him silly and her super-powered hair makes that a distinct possibility. It also doesn't help matters that anything Spider-Man says is twisted into an insult by Medusa.

The fight convinces Medusa of one thing: the outside world isn't ready for the Inhumans. Even if she didn't want to base her report on that of a super-hero, Spider-Man's actions this day have helped her prove it. Because of her words, Spidey is convinced that she didn't just randomly destroy a hair spray studio.

They realize that they've been tricked into this confrontation by Mr. Bliss. Medusa is ready to head back in and teach the executive a lesson but Spider-Man has other ideas. Medusa leaves the matter to him and flies off.

Back at Mr. Bliss's office, our hairspray executive is still happy about how things have turned out. He's about to get a rude awakening. Wilberforce enters the room and gives Mr. Bliss the bad news. Spider-Man told the reporters that Medusa was wild-- uncontrollable. It's not the sort of image you want to project when you're a hair spray company. The Board of Directors handled the news poorly. They fired Mr. Bliss and replaced him with Wilberforce.

Peter walks home but he's still down over Gwen. Mary-Jane finds him and tries to cheer him up but that's a no-go. Peter walks away as Mary-Jane realizes the power of Peter and Gwen's relationship.

asm63.jpgThe Amazing Spider-Man #63
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: John Romita

In this issue, the original Vulture returns! Spider-Man injures his arm! Gwen still isn't talking to Peter! Vulture rescues Blackie Drago from prison. Peter is denied the right to pay rent by his roommate, gets a call from George Stacy, and has a rude meeting with Norman Osborn. Harry tries to take care of his father. Blackie Drago and the Vulture talk and fight. Peter gets roped into photographing the battle but sneaks out to rescue a kid. When Vulture finishes off his opponent, he turns to face Spider-Man who is still nursing an injured arm.

Hey, the Vulture's back! I know! We all heard that he was dead but you all know the rule. If you don't see a body, it never happened. Even if you see a body, it probably didn't happen.

While the Vulture soars through the rain, Spider-Man swings, blissfully unaware of the villain. He's more concerned about the rain at this point. It's messing with his webbing and is giving him trouble sticking the stuff to the walls. At one point, Spidey takes a bad fall when his webbing fails to connect, taking the whole thing on his right shoulder. It leaves him injured. This will be important for the rest of the storyline.

Spidey makes it to ground level and narrowly avoids detection from a patrolling policeman. He also thinks he sees the Vulture in the sky but believes that impossible. The Vulture's dead, right?

The Vulture isn't worried about Spider-Man at all. He's more interested in stealing his original costume from a local museum. With this second suit in-hand, he plans on rising back up in the ranks of costumed criminals.

Peter makes it home and collapses on his bed. He doesn't even take off his costume, he just makes sure his door is locked so he doesn't get any unwanted visitors. Even though he's so tired, he can't find sleep. All he can think of is the mess he's made of his relationship with Gwen.

The next day, Peter still finds his shoulder sore. He's also finding it hard to pay attention in class but that's more because of his focus on Gwen than anything else. If only he knew how much Gwen would like to believe he isn't a rat fink. Oh young love...

Blackie Drago wore the Vulture suit after he got it's location from the original Vulture who was dying at the time. He's worried because it seems the real Vulture is back. He ought to be worried. The real deal swoops into his prison, fights off some guards and tells Drago to suit up in his Vulture suit. The two fight it out with more guards before soaring off into the sky, dodging gunfire the whole way.

After some fantastic classes, Peter returns to his apartment and is soon joined by Harry. Harry's got a letter from Flash Thompson who has recently joined the military. It looks like Flash is about to head off to Vietnam, and that he's also grown up some since his last appearance. It wouldn't surprise Harry if Flash and Peter became best friends when Thompson returns.

Peter, who worries about everything, is more concerned about the rent he isn't paying. Harry says it's totally cool. After all, it's just money and it's not like Harry is working hard at paying the rent. Osborn gets everything paid for so why shouldn't he pass some of that good luck on to a pal?

This is why I love Harry Osborn. The two are great friends.

Harry heads off to his room. The phone rings and Peter picks it up to have a little chat with Gwen's father, George Stacy. Mr. Stacy wants to meet with Peter the next day. Peter agrees but is worried that his secret is out. To push him out of that state of worry, there's a knock at the door.

It's Norman Osborn and the man is in one of his moods.

Norman keeps drawing a connection between Peter and the Green Goblin... and Spider-Man of course. He just can't see it clearly. He demands to see his son and then grabs the wall to keep his balance. These thoughts are physically affecting him. Harry enters the room and dotes over his father. He just thinks that Norman is working too hard and makes plans to take care of his dad until he's better.

The Vulture duo fly over the buildings of New York. Blackie thinks he was freed because of a job, but that's not the case at all. The Vulture relates the reason he's not dead. Basically it comes down to finding the will to live and escaping prison, leaving a fire to cover his exit. He talks about what a mess Blackie made as the new Vulture but Drago didn't actually do that badly.

Blackie again tries to assert his authority over the situation but that's a laughable notion. This wasn't about a job. It was about the Vulture kicking the tar out of Blackie Drago for daring to wear his super-villain suit. The two begin the fight.

Meanwhile, on the streets below, Peter Parker is walking around not even paying attention to the aerial battle taking place above him. It takes two bystanders to make him pay any attention to the Vulture fight. At this point in his career, Spider-Man doesn't just get involved because two villains decide to beat on each other. Maybe if his arm wasn't injured, sure, but since his right arm is basically useless for fighting, Peter decides to sit this battle out.

He walks up to the Daily Bugle offices to see if there's any work for him and immediately gets put to work by JJJ. It seems this is a newspaper with no photographers around. There's this nice super-villain battle taking place so close to the Bugle building that to NOT get photographs of it would just be sloppy. Peter secretly takes his camera off his Spider-Utility belt and starts taking those photos. Jameson is up on the roof as well just to make Peter's next move more difficult.

The Vultures might not be able to cause a lot of property damage with their powersets but there are still dangers to be had when you start throwing someone around in the air. Windows are broken. Patios are shattered. Kids are left to hang on to ledgings for dear life. Peter sees one kid in particular who's about to take a nasty spill and knows that this is one of those situations where his injured arm can't prevent him from taking an active interest.

Parker sneaks off while Jameson is distracted and changes quickly into his Spider-Man costume. J Jonah Jameson thinks him a coward running off when there's all this action happening and Peter thinks that's a fine excuse. While the real Vulture beats the tar out of his younger rival, Spider-Man swings in and rescues the kid, using what little strength he has left in his right arm.

Blackie Drago awkwardly lands on a rooftop where he'll be picked up by the police. He swears off fighting as the Vulture from this moment on. Spider-Man returns the child to his mother. Jameson screams about all this taking place while his freelance photographer hides in the corner.

And Spider-Man? He's just been noticed by the winning Vulture. There's no where to run and he's still nursing an injured arm as the Vulture lunges towards him.

We have made a nice dent in a pile of comics. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

Until next time: Who Do YOU Trust?

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About the Author - SuperginraiX

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


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