Let the Siege begin!
Today, we check out Siege: The Cabal #1, Dark Avengers Annual #1, Nova #32, and Blast to the Past for The Mighty Thor # 344. Enjoy and spread the word!
Can you believe it? The Dark Reign is finally coming to an end. It was quite the ride!
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.
And now... let's start the Siege.
Siege: The Cabal #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Michael Lark
In this issue, Norman Osborn has a private conversation with his Green Goblin mask and they decide that it's time to do something about Asgard hanging out in Oklahoma. He then calls a meeting with the remaining Cabal members (plus new guy, Taskmaster). When Doom finally arrives, he's more interested in old business than new and tells Norman to lay off his pal, Namor. This isn't something Osborn is willing or able to do. It's not the only thing in this meeting that will piss off Doom. Norman tells Doom that it's time to give Loki Asgard and return it to wherever it belongs but Doom isn't willing to budge on that issue unless Namor is brought back into the Cabal. This quickly breaks down into threats and violence as Norman introduces his Ace in the Hole (only seen in shadows here and in the Secret Invasion: Dark Reign One-Shot) and orders it to start blasting into Doom. Doom turns out to be a Doom-Bot and a secret weapon as well, releasing billions of little mechanical bug things that start destroying everything in sight. Norman orders an evacuation of Avengers Tower and is eventually rescued by the Sentry. When explaining the event to President Obama later on, Norman tells the President that it was simply an unattended experiment left over from Stark's tenure as SHIELD Director even though evidence clearly shows otherwise. He's also denied permission to attack Asgard and makes plans to stage an incident that will give him reason to do as he pleases.
If you've been keeping up on any Dark Reign title in the past few months you'll notice that Norman Osborn is EVERYWHERE and that he's not sleeping. At all. The stress of his job is getting to him and, for someone with HIS mental health issues, that's not a good place to be. Add to that the fact that his mind was messed with by the Molecule Man in the latest issues of Dark Avengers and you get a recipe for disaster like no other.
So it's not surprising to see him talking to his Goblin Mask about the fate of Asgard. When you see that his mask seems to be talking back, we're still in Not Surprised Territory. In the last issue of Dark Avengers, we've seen that Loki is messing with his sanity levels. Because of that, it's pretty apparent that either Loki is talking to Norman through the mask, or the god of mischief has helped push Norman over the crazy bridge and Ozzy's Green Goblin personality is actually talking to him.
The point is, Norman is talking back.
The "Green Goblin" is talking all about how Asgard shouldn't be on earth. He doesn't know where it should be but earth is the wrong location and something needs to be done about this. Norman isn't quite so sure of what that should be. After all, this is territory that his predecessor, Tony Stark, already tried dealing with. It led to Iron Man getting his face mask ripped off. Perhaps out of respect for his former comrade or possibly because he knew what kind of undertaking it would be, Tony let Thor and Asgard remain on earth in Oklahoma.
It's also gotta be mentioned that this isn't the first time Asgard has left whatever heavenly realm it usually inhabits and wound up floating above Midgard. The last time, it hovered in the skies of New York City where it startled the locals and caused people to renew worship of the Norse Gods until Thor got involved in some time traveling and decided Asgard shouldn't hover over a major metropolis. After the last Ragnarok storyline, Thor returned and place the city very near Broxton, Oklahoma where it hovers about six feet off the ground.
Over in the current Thor books, the city is actually empty of inhabitants. The Asgardians have taken exile in Latveria which seems to be a closer match to the type of environment they're used to. That seems to be something that'll change VERY soon as the Asgardians have made war with Doctor Doom. I'm guessing one more issue of that book will show the Asgardians returning to their city.
"Green Goblin" convinces Norman that he needs to do something about it. Asgard has to get out of the United States. It needs to leave the mortal plane. Norman half-heartedly argues against his other persona but he sees a lot of sense in what the Goblin is saying. When he says he needs to talk to his fellow Cabal member, Loki, the "Green Goblin" tells him that Loki is god of lies and shouldn't be trusted. Norman counters that Loki isn't always straight-up lying. Sometimes, the villain gives out true information to simply serve his own agenda. Goblin says that Loki still isn't someone you trust and the fact that he's a member of the Cabal is ridiculous and certainly not something that would have happened had the Goblin been in control.
Norman thanks his mask for all the good advice he's been given. The mask replies back that this is the game changer. If Norman can take Asgard... oh, that's something the world will never forget. It's what legends are made of. No-one will even remember the whole Gwen Stacy thing if he can do this. Norman acknowledges just how right his Goblin mask is one more time before we change scenes.
It's night time in Avengers Tower. For most people, that means bedtime. Dark Hawkeye is sleeping pretty soundly, for example. Others, less so. Dark Ms. Marvel lays in her bed alone but her eyes are open and she's clearly not asleep. I'm thinking she's used to sharing that bed with someone (anyone) and with it only half-full, she's just not getting that rest she wants.
Other people are also awake in the Tower tonight. Norman's holding a meeting with what remains of his Cabal. It's certainly a lot more empty a room than it was back in the Secret Invasion: Dark Reign One-Shot. Back then, we had an unarmored Norman Osborn, a female Loki, a drunk Namor, a confused Emma Frost, a Dormammu-powered Hood, and a soon-to-be-returned-to-power Dr. Doom. Emma and Namor have left the group after a fallout with Norman Osborn in the Utopia crossover between the Uncanny X-Men and the Dark Avengers. Namor was already having trouble with the Cabal even earlier after an Atlantean terror cell attacked Los Angeles. Everyone else is still on the team, though they have all had some changes since they started up. Norman's put on an Iron Man suit painted in Captain America's colors. The Hood has changed power sources from Demon Power to Norn Stones. Loki has gotten back his manhood.
And then, there's Doom. Doctor Doom has returned to power Latveria due in no small part to the assistance of Norman Osborn's Avengers in a battle against Morgan le Fay. He's also had an incredibly confusing adventure over in Fantastic Four where he was transported far into the past and survived on pure hate until he could finally best his old master in battle back in the present. It's really best not to dwell on that story, though. In this story, Doctor Doom appears in Avengers Tower courtesy of a cube-like device which might possibly be a Cosmic Cube (or it could just be his Time Cube).
Doctor Doom is not a team player. At all. He's upset that Norman has kicked out his ally, Namor, but we all know that Doom would betray the Sub-Mariner without even thinking that hard about it. Still, Victor plays by his own rules and this Namor thing is going to be a sticking point with him for the rest of the issue. He just won't drop it. Doom isn't too happy that Norman has replaced Namor and Emma with the Taskmaster and isn't silent on that fact. Taskmaster is, honestly, just one of Norman's flunkies, after all. Sure, he's awesome, but his current claim to fame is running Osborn's Initiative program. Iron Patriot is obviously surrounding himself with allies.
When Doom demands that Norman stop going after Namor, Ozzy states that Namor completely crossed a line by taking the X-Men's side during the Utopia affair. It was a very public falling out that can't be tolerated. You know that if Namor had attacked Doom in a similar manner, Victor would do pretty much the same thing as Norman.
Doom changes tactics. It's obvious that Norman is working against the Cabal by attacking them one by one. Now, that may be obvious to Doctor Doom but it's also very limited in view. Hell, Doom would still be rotting in prison if Norman hadn't freed him and restored him as ruler of Latveria. He's all about helping his allies get what they need but, when he's crossed, he'll take action accordingly.
Today, helping out a Cabal member means overthrowing Asgard and giving it to Loki so the god of mischief can get it off of earth. That's good for Loki and good for America. Doom continues to demand that Namor be restored to his position in the Cabal. Norman responds with a clear "no."
This is what happens when two very stubborn men get placed on opposite sides in the same room. Doom can't back down because he's Doom. Norman isn't reversing course because, well, seriously: Namor fought against him. They weren't going to end up as allies after Utopia and, after Norman sent Namor's enraged ex-wife/sea monster after the Sub-Mariner in Dark Reign- The List: X-Men, well, there's no going back. The threats only increase from here with neither party backing down.
No-one else at the table is contributing. Loki, Hood, and Taskmaster are simply watching this go from bad to worse. The Hood and Taskmaster don't give anything away (Taskmaster only has a limited range of emotions that could be displayed on the skull face, anyway) but Loki is enjoying the hell out of this exchange. Norman eventually brings up his Ace in the Hole. Back in Secret Invasion: Dark Reign, Norman introduced us to a shadowy figure hiding just behind a conveniently placed door that helped him form the Cabal in the first place. At the time, my best guess was that this mysterious figure was the Sentry's more evil half: The Void. That doesn't look to be the case because the Void would never get the reaction that this guy gets from Taskmaster.
This shadowy thing must be pretty damn ugly to get that reaction from someone that has hung around with Deadpool.
The HAMMER Director gives the Latverian monarch one last chance to change course but this is Doom we're talking about here. He's in the middle of another insult when Norman orders the monster thing to kill Doctor Doom.
The thing's blast knocks Doctor Doom across the room and makes short work of the table. The rest of the Cabal spring into action in supposed support of Osborn. Norman pops on his helmet and prepares for a counter-attack. Loki stops the Hood from intervening and tells the criminal to teleport out. This isn't Parker Robbins' fight. Seeing as Loki was the one that gave Parker the means to restore his powers, the Hood listens and makes himself scarce. Still, Robbins isn't happy about running off.
Victor von Doom recovers and hits Taskmaster with a hand blast. Norman orders his super-powered weapon of mass destruction to fire on Doctor Doom again. This time the blast can be seen more clearly as some sort of electrical charge.
Loki looks on this with a smile on his face. Sure, he sent the Hood away but that doesn't mean he's not sticking around to watch the fun.
Doom hits the ground hard, his body on fire. Iron Patriot orders a halt to his super-thing's attack. Approaching the fallen body of the Latverian monarch, he's coming to suspect the truth: this isn't Doom at all. It's a Doom-Bot. They are 90% of Doom's appearances, after all. The Doom-Bot isn't quite defeated just yet, either. It's face transforms into something resembling Megatron's face from the Transformers movies. The rest of the body also opens up and out fly millions and millions of robotic flying insectoids.
Norman's shields keeps the insectoids from being any immediate threat to him. Loki, satisfied with how events have played out, fades from the scene. The building bears the brunt of the damage as the insectoids tear the room apart, soon spreading to overrun the lower levels of the Tower, making it look like the entire building is in danger of toppling.
Norman wastes no time in ordering a complete evacuation of the Tower, The Dark Avengers included. Venom would rather fight it out with whatever's attacking Avengers Tower but Victoria Hand makes sure that everyone understands that this is an order that MUST be followed.
Iron Patriot tries to analyze the robot bugs but his sensors prove useless. This attack is most likely a combination of science and magic. That would explain why all these robotic things fit inside the Doom-Bot, at least. His shields are starting to wear down. It's only a matter of time before they fail and the bugs start attacking his armor.
In the lobby, HAMMER Agents start getting cut down by the Doom Bugs. Outside the building, we see that Avengers Tower is in serious danger of collapse.
On the roof, the Dark Avengers are being evacuated reluctantly. Now it's Ms. Marvel who wants do field work, offering to get a look at the situation from the air. Hand orders her to continue evacuating. The Sentry shows up from his Watchtower with his wife in tow. He hands Lindy to the nearest HAMMER Agents and rushes off to rescue Norman over Victoria Hand's protests that he evacuate with everyone else.
The Sentry is basically immune to harm and flies effortlessly down to Norman's location. Osborn's shields are down to 17% by the time the Sentry shows up. Norman stutters out a jumbled order to attack the Doom-Bot and Sentry easily tears the contraption in half. The Doom-Bot explodes after taking a serious blow to the head. That seems to stop the attack by the Doom Bugs as they all fall to the ground.
Norman grabs one of the inert Doom Bugs in his hand and sends his message back to Doctor Doom, who is listening in via Doom Bug. Ozzy tells Victor that this was a terrible mistake that will have terrible consequences. It was basically a declaration of war. Doom isn't afraid. He knows that Norman won't attack him. Not if HAMMER is going to go after Asgard. That would be stretching his forces too thin, after all. Doom parts by giving Norman this warning: Mess with Doctor Victor Von Doom again and the consequences will be more severe to both Osborn AND his son. Whether Doom is referring to Harry or to Norman's unborn heir (or his usually forgotten son, Gabriel, from Sins Past) is a question for another day... or maybe one we don't need an answer to. I was just a bit curious, myself.
With that, the Doom Bug explodes.
The next day, Norman has to explain to the President of the United States why the skyscraper headquarters of the Avengers was ready to topple. This is a BIG DEAL and brings up obvious connotations of the World Trade Center attacks. President Obama doesn't waste time out of his day to actually VISIT Norman, by the way. While he had originally supported Osborn's Dark Reign, recent issues have found him steering well clear of the Director of HAMMER. At this point, the President at least does Norman the courtesy of appearing as a hologram.
You'll also notice that Norman is standing right in front of a large photograph of the Avengers. These aren't the Dark Avengers. These are the ACTUAL Avengers and, just to make that more clear, they're the team you traditionally think of in Avengers roles... minus the Vision, Hank Pym, and the Wasp. From left to right, we've got Thor, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Captain America, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye. What's most amusing is that Norman blames last nights attacks on an unattended experiment left over by the "traitor," Tony Stark while trying to get Presidential permission to lay siege to Asgard and he's standing in front of a photo with Iron Man and Thor in it. It's like honoring the team while trying to bury it.
President Obama is not willing to commit to any Asgardian War. There's too much that could go horribly wrong, after all. He also doesn't see the Asgardians as a threat to the country... certainly not an immediate one. The President is willing to start diplomatic negotiations but that's not good enough for Norman Osborn by half.
Moreover, the President believes that Director Osborn should be more concerned with last night's attack. This is where Ozzy blames the entire incident on Tony Stark even though satellite evidence has shown the President that the attacks coincided with a power surge in Latveria. Norman tells the President that the situation is under control and that he's more concerned about the Asgardian threat. President Obama curtly repeats that the operation is a no-go.
The transmission ends. Norman is a bit upset because this is one of the first times he's been blocked from doing whatever he wants to do. The only other time in recent memory was when he was denied access to send a team into Russia over in The Invincible Iron Man. Frustrated, he explains to the one member of the Cabal remaining, Loki, that he doesn't have permission to attack Asgard.
Loki looks nonplussed. He knew it wasn't going to be as simple as asking. Norman didn't. It's a lesson in humility for the man. The former Green Goblin is still steaming. He knows attacking Asgard is the right decision. The city really isn't supposed to be on the mortal plane. No worries. Loki has a plan and, even though the Goblin mask told Norman not to listen to Loki, Osborn is gonna do that little thing.
Loki asks Norman if he knows how the Civil War went down. Maybe Norman was too close to the ground at the time because his memory of the event is sketchy at best. If you'll remember, Norman was used as a pawn by Tony Stark. Osborn was under Stark's control when he attempted to assassinate an Atlantean Diplomatic official. Because of this, Norman spent the Civil War in custody. His answer, therefore, is that the Superhuman Registration Act became law and lines were drawn. This wasn't how it actually went down, obviously. First came Stamford and the death of school children. There was one defining moment where the world changed and that was it.
So, what Norman needs, is an incident. Something involving Asgard that will allow him to do as he pleases. Loki tells him that it can be arranged and Osborn doesn't even need to be involved. What he does need to do is keep it together. Loki knows that Norman is tearing apart at the edges mostly because he's been helping Ozzy along. Norman strengthens his resolve and responds that everything is right as rain. He'll keep it together. Honest.
Sure he will.
Dark Avengers Annual #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
In this issue, we finally learn what's been going on with Captain Marvel. Noh-Varr has been building communicator units so he can contact his home Kree Dimension even though he knew that just trying to reach out and touch someone would leave a trail for his enemies, and the curious, to follow. He also hangs out among the human population to figure out what they want. That leads him to meet Annie who has just broken up with her boyfriend. They talk but she can't figure out why Noh looks so familiar. Then Sentry shows up and the street explodes with the super-powered battle. After Noh-Varr escapes, he tries contacting home again and gets a response from the Surpreme Intelligence. The Supreme Intelligence gives him a brand new pair of Nega-Bands and one horrific looking costume. The Dark Avengers search the site of Sentry and Captain Marvel's last battle but they find no clues to the current location of the former Dark Avenger. Annie runs into Noh in a nearby alley and gets a peek at his new identity as the Protector before he fades out. All this is watched by Captain America and Steve Rogers.
Oh, poor Captain Marvel. This version is the former Dark Avenger, Noh-Varr. He learned that his teammates were villains and crazy people after sleeping with Karla Sofen. This revelation didn't make him want to stick around a minute longer and he's been on the run ever since. We caught up with him just once since, when he showed up in Dark Reign- The List: Wolverine to help our favorite berserker keep the World out of Norman's grubby little hands.
Since this issue is going to be all about Noh-Varr, you might want just a little more background info on him than I have previously provided. He's been here or there in my columns since I started, playing a role in the Secret Invasion and later joining Norman Osborn's team of Avengers. His first appearance was in a Grant Morrison penned mini-series called Marvel Boy where he was a general menace to society in the vein of Golden Age Namor... but with a modern age twist. Noh-Varr is a Kree but he's not from this dimension. He served as a Ensign aboard a Kree Diplomatic Vessel that traveled through numerous dimensions. When it was drawn to the 616 Universe, it was blasted out of the sky by minor league villain, Dr. Midas. From there, Noh-Varr had a whirlwind of adventures in the merry Morrison manner before winding up in SHIELD custody.
Somewhere along the line, Noh attracted the attention of the Illuminati as the group of world shakers tried to convince him to take up the mantle of Captain Marvel. This issue was left somewhat open ended but we had a good idea that sometime in the future Noh-Varr would get a new code name.
Before that could happen, he was utilized as a mind-controlled weapon and was sent to kill/capture/etc., etc. the Runaways and Young Avengers during the Civil War. This was one of the more awesome Civil War tie-in issues thanks in great part to the incredible art of Stefano Caselli. By the end of the mini, Noh was free of all control and had turned the Cube into his capitol for the New Kree Empire.
And then... Secret Invasion. Noh-Varr's little kingdom was broken apart by the invading Skrulls and like a good Kree he decided killing his race's mortal enemies was a pretty good idea. This led to him meeting up with a dying Skrull Captain Marvel who gave him the mission of Earth's Protector. Noh-Varr joined with other heroes in killing Skrulls and ending the Invasion. After his high-profile assistance, Norman Osborn approached Noh-Varr and got the Kree to join his team of Dark Avengers as the new Captain Marvel.
At that worked out pretty well until Noh learned that he hadn't joined the good guys. He'd joined the bad guys. He's been on the run ever since.
Unlike Kree from the 616 dimension, Noh-Varr doesn't have stunted genes. His DNA has been enhanced with that of an insect, and he has a variety of abilities to draw from. Also: highly advanced Kree tech.
That's a lot of background! Let's get to the actual issue now. We relate how Captain Marvel escaped Avengers Tower and how he's been on the run. He hasn't spent this time idly, however. Noh has cobbled together several communicators in an attempt to contact his home Kree dimension and ask then what he should be doing. The negative of this is that other interested parties can detect his communications and trace them back to their source. Noh-Varr has been leaving a trail of communicators all over the place, abandoned before anyone could discover him.
These communicators aren't exclusively picked up by Norman Osborn and his team. The Fantastic Four has come upon them, as well as SWORD. They always find one of those communicators and LOTS of eggs. Noh-Varr likes his eggs.
The point of all this is that Noh-Varr finds himself lost. He doesn't want to go home but he does feel like he needs some guidance. He accidentally joined a team of villains, after all. It would be nice to not do that again. Thus, many calls home.
Currently, Noh is hanging out at New York University. He's sort of people watching. The other thing that baffles Noh is the people of this earth. They are more contradictory than he is able to fathom. He'd really like to understand them but he's finding that a difficult task to undertake.
For example: he witnesses a girl break up with her boyfriend. All the shouting and everything. He feels it's completely appropriate to walk up to her post-break up and ask her questions on the entire incident. That doesn't go over well at first because the girl thinks this slick young man is trying to pick her up. Noh gets an earful, apologizes and starts walking off. The girl makes a face and catches up to the stranger. She does her own apology and we witness the beginings of a beautiful friendship.
The girl's name turns out to be Annie and she's intrigued by this forward stranger who doesn't seem to completely understand where he is or how the name "Annie" is pronounced. She also has this strange feeling that she's seen his face before but just can't place it for the life of her. Annie's got black hair with red bangs which seems to be in vogue in the Marvel U. Yes, I'm looking at you Ms. Hand.
She starts talking a bit about her VERY recent break up but we don't really get specifics because they aren't important. Then she moves on to talk about her major and how she's beginning to hate it and her future plans. Eventually, she gets a name out of the white-haired stranger but is... not really convinced his name is "Noh." She tells him he's a strange cat and he completely agrees.
Annie starts getting a bit annoyed at this conversation. Noh keeps on bringing up taboo subjects for a casual conversation. Like "human sexuality." These aren't things you bring up with people in your first talk Or maybe you do. Annie thinks it's as wierd as I do, though. So there.
Annie demands a real name or she's totally out. Noh gives his full name (Noh-Varr) which doesn't gain him any credibility points with his new friend. That's ok. Sentry shows up so that this doesn't turn into a complete talking head issue.
Captain Marvel tries to run away but Sentry quickly gives chase. Guns are pulled. Golden Guardians of Good are shot. Battles are escalated.
All this and Sentry hasn't even attacked yet. Bob is still trying to reason with his former teammate and can't understand why Captain Marvel keeps on shooting him. Noh's Kree tech does seem to be hurting the Sentry, however. Captain Marvel's last volley is to launch a car at the Avenger. Oh, the car has a Kree bomb attached to it. The explosion is huge.
Sentry rises from the rubble thinking that maybe there was a reason Norman sent him with the orders "dead or alive." Maybe Captain Marvel is more trouble than he's worth.
The two get into a punching contest in the skies, off buildings, and everywhere in between. They do a LOT of talking during this fight. Noh explains exactly why he left the Dark Avengers. Since I think I've mentioned it once or twice already, I don't think I've got to go into it again. Sentry seems to be more sane than he's ever before appeared in a Bendis book. He's practically light-hearted. When Noh asks him whether he's one of the bad guy Avengers or the insane Avengers, you almost believe the Sentry when he responds that he's neither. Noh-Varr isn't fooled. He suspects the Sentry to be both.
You know what else is interesting about this fight? Sentry doesn't end it in one punch. Captain Marvel actually seems to be a CHALLENGE. Sure, Sentry says that's because it's taken him some time to get the Kree's number, but Sentry's the kind of guy that tears gods in half before throwing them into the sun. The fact that Noh has lasted this long is pretty damn cool.
And maybe Sentry was just about to take Captain Marvel out of the fight. We'll never know. By this point, Annie has looted Noh's discarded pack and pulled out a very interesting gun. She shoots it up at the Sentry and the explosion separates the two super-powered warriors. Sentry rises quickly and looks pissed off. That causes Annie to keep on shooting.
This time, Sentry dodges the blasts only to learn that they are guided energy bursts. They give him a chase up in the sky before finally making contact and exploding. Annie freaks a bit at this destruction, drops the space gun and runs off.
Noh-Varr, by this time, has recovered, though his clothes are in tatters. He discards them, revealing his super-hero suit underneath.
While Annie has run off, others have gathered around Noh's backpack and are beginning to loot it. Some smarter bystanders are telling the looters that they should leave well enough alone but you know how idiots are. It takes the sudden appearance of Noh-Varr to make the looters politely hand back their pilfered goods and quietly sneak away. Noh-Varr gathers up his belongings and runs off.
The Sentry returns to the scene of destruction and asks which way his quarry ran off. We get a close up of Bob's eye. It's as black as the Void.
Noh-Varr has again holed himself up in an abandoned building and built himself another communicator. He sends out his message again and then waits for a response. Just when he's about to give up hope, he finally gets an answer. The Supreme Intelligence of his dimension's Kree appears before him in holographic form. Supremor congratulates Noh for his heroism during the Secret Invasion. The Supreme Intelligence declares that the earth will always be protected by the Kree Empire and as such it will need a new champion. Looks like Noh-Varr has just found himself a job.
And a new name. Sure, Captain Marvel is cool and all but what about Protector? Less cool? Really? Yeah... that's what I thought.
But it does lead to him getting his very own personalized Nega-Bands. These are LIKE Captain Marvel's but also completely different. Different power source. Different design. Made specifically for Noh-Varr. Noh puts them on and is surrounded by lights as they give him a brand new super-suit.
That same night finds the Dark Avengers searching the last known location of Noh-Varr for clues. NYU is a disaster area.
Hawkeye asks if this is really worth it and gets a lecture from America's Top Cop. Of COURSE it's worth it. Norman got put in charge for the way he handled an alien invasion. How does it look when his only alien Avenger jumps ship?
The Sentry is little help. Bob had originally tracked Noh-Varr down because of some aura that the Kree was projecting. With the Nega-Bands, Noh is off the grid. Sentry doesn't know about the Nega-Bands, of course. All he knows is that he can't find Noh. Wolverine has the same answer. Apparently Noh isn't giving off a scent, either. Venom eats a dead squirrel and asks if Captain Marvel was scared off completely. Maybe Noh isn't even on the planet any longer.
The Iron Patriot isn't done searching. He gives orders to question bystanders. Maybe someone filmed the Sentry's encounter and has some information.
In the crowd, watching the Dark Avengers' search, is Annie. She has seen enough and decides to sneak off before she's questioned. In a dark alley a ways away, she finds Noh-Varr.
This wasn't a planned meeting. Annie is downright distressed to see him. He's so close to his pursuers that they are bound to find him. Noh tells her that he's got some new powers churning around and one of them takes away other's ability to detect him. He just showed up to thank her for what she did earlier.
Annie asks why the Avengers are looking for him and he says it's because of what he knows. Annie knows it, too. Norman Osborn is an @$$hole. Ben Urich wrote a book on it. Noh-Varr's plan is to wait and when the time is right, STRIKE! I'll tell you with a certainty, he doesn't seem to think the time is right during Siege. Maybe he'll strike AFTER Norman is behind bars...
Annie asks him to look her up when he's no longer wanted. I think she's looking for a relationship. Oh, rebound. You are an awesome thing to behold. Noh picks up her subtle hints and seems to change the subject. He wants to figure out what the people or earth want so that he can provide it.
Annie gives some basic answers but Noh rejects them all. Finally, Annie suggests "comfort." Noh decides to look into that. He switches to his super-hero suit and announces that he WILL visit her again. For companionship. ;) With that, he teleports away.
While Norman and his Avengers weren't able to track the Earth's new Protector, it seems that Steve Rogers and Captain America were able to do it with just a pair of binoculars and a rooftop view. Steve isn't sure he trusts the Kree. James says that it's obvious that Noh is not on Norman Osborn's side. That means he's on their side by default.
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Andrea DiVito
In our last cosmic issue, we flashbacked to just after the Secret Invasion where Project Pegasus was honoring the Nova Corps for their help with an outdoor barbecue. Nova and Darkhawk had a heart-to-heart about what it meant to be a hero. In the present, Nova chased after Darkhawk on the planet Shard. He finally caught his friend but they didn't get a chance to talk it out before they were called in to rescue some Kree archeologists. In another flashback, the new recruits to the Nova Corps went into their first training session with Philo. Rich Rider talked with Worldmind about the innocence of his friend before leaving Philo in charge and heading out to catch Darkhawk. Back in the present, Darkhawk and Nova raced to rescue some Kree before the planet Shard is eaten by Fault creatures. Nova rescued most of the archeologists and flew back to assist Darkhawk in finding their leader. The lead Archeologist found a green Raptor amulet and reached out to it, becoming the latest of evil Raptors. When Nova flew up to him believing him to be Darkhawk, the new Raptor attacked him. Darkhawk showed up soon after and a misunderstanding ensued. Nova realized his mistake but the two are blasted by the new Raptor before they can counterattack. Aboard the Upholder Class Nova Corps Patrol Cruiser that made up the Nova Corps current base, the Nova Corps watched as Shard collapsed and the life signs of their leader were lost.
In this issue, it turns out that Nova and Darkhawk were teleported off Shard at the last minute and land in the desert. Soon, they meet the Sphinx and fight some Sand Djinns before the Sphinx teleports out, disappointed. Richard and Chris make their way to an archeological dig site where they meet a time-displaced Reed Richards. Reed gets the Marvel Rules for alternate timelines completely wrong. Darkhawk and Nova fly up to get some reading of the Fault (which is still in the sky) but Nova is knocked back down to earth by an invisible forcefield. Darkhawk ends up facing more Sand Djinns. Nova wakes up the next day back in camp where he and Reed are soon joined by Black Bolt and a mummy girl. They are attacked by a giant alligator monster which Nova handily beats. Darkhawk returns to show them that they are on a top-shaped world of magical design. They unwrap the mummy girl and discover that it is Namorita.
Darkhawk and Nova fall from the sky and hit the sand of the desert HARD. Right next to them is a gigantic statue of the Sphinx but it's face is much more skeletal that normal.
You might be wondering why they're still alive after last issue where their lifesigns disappeared when the planet Shard collapsed into the Fault. Or... maybe we all knew they wouldn't be dead. Probably the last one. Well, I'll tell you anyway. Right before Shard ceased to exist, Nova and Darkhawk were teleported away. They found themselves here next to that creepy sphinx statue. Also next to the Sphinx.
Anath-Na Mut. He's an ancient magician who has been empowered by the Ka Stone after losing a magic duel to Moses (which means Moses has been a Marvel character for a lot longer than I remembered). The stone gives him various powers and abilities including reality alteration. Nova has fought him before. Some of his past was explored briefly in the pages of Super Read when I covered the Skrull/Xandar war.
The Sphinx talks with Richard but seems to be ignoring Darkhawk altogether. Sphinx transported the Human Rocket here for a purpose, but is entirely too cryptic on what that entails. For now, it just means fighting against some Sand Djinn alongside the Sphinx himself.
While Nova is a very capable fighter, something about this battle disappoints the Sphinx. He fades out saying that he expected better of the young hero. The Sand Djinn don't let up.
Nova tries to contact the Worldmind but is unable to make the connection. That takes his fine control away. He'll have to use his gravimetric powers with much less finesse than he's accustomed to.
The desert explodes around the two heroes. When the sand settles, Nova and Darkhawk are alone, protected by one of Nova's gravimetric shields. The sun has also risen.
Richard and Chris find themselves in a vast desert. Darkhawk figures that they're in Egypt. There's a pyramid on the horizon and everything. When they get closer, they find that some sort of archeological dig is in progress. That means they aren't in ancient times, at least. Walking into camp, the find a very familiar face.
Mister Fantastic. Reed Richards is not here of his own free will. He ended up here also through the power of the Sphinx. This isn't the modern Reed, either. This Mr. Fantastic is just a month removed from his first meeting with Nova. That's, like, seventies era Reed.
Reed is very concerned about learning anything about the future and gives a very non-Marvel Universe explanation of why. Most Marvel maniacs know that you can't alter the past in the Marvel Universe. Attempting to do so only creates an alternate timeline ala Age of Apocalypse. Now, this is seventies era Reed Richards and the intricacies of time travel hadn't been fully explained by that time, but it's very hard to hear such incorrect theories being uttered by such an intelligent individual.
Reed shows them what this group has been unearthing. Inside the Pyramid is something that looks very scientific. Reed conjectures that this is a chronal accelerator. It has the ability to change history, possibly of the 616 reality. Maybe this has the ability of not splitting time off into alternates. The Sphinx has used the device to untangle his own convoluted history and has also brought these three heroes to this place.
Reed is under the impression that they are in 1920's Egypt. The sky makes that assumption false. Looming overhead is the Fault. That means that wherever they are, it's either the present or the future. The Fault is a recent development. Richard could explain the whys and hows of the Fault but Reed doesn't want to know anything about the future. Instead, he asks the two to fly up and get some readings.
They do just that. Richard advises caution right before he's knocked from the sky by an invisible barrier. Darkhawk, for whatever reason, passes through it unobstructed. Chris is about to fly back in to rescue his friend (who looks unconscious) but runs into problems all his own. The Sand Djinn are back.
Morning comes once more. Richard wakes up in a tent back at the dig site.
Reed tells Ryder to rest. He was found in the desert after his fall. Richard doesn't have any noticeable injuries but a fall like that could have lead to a concussion. Nova isn't about to sit still. He notices a commotion outside and pushes past Reed to find out what's happening.
Coming out of the river is Black Bolt. He's carrying a girl wrapped in bandages.
Black Bolt is from the past. That should be obvious since saying he was from the present or the future would give away the fact that he's alive. Right now, he's currently dead and that's probably the status quo for the foreseeable future (unless he shows up unexpectedly in Thanos Imperative).
The two don't come out of the river alone. Rising from the water is a gigantic alligator monster. This beast looks all kinds of deadly but Nova still takes off to tackle the threat alone. Reed tries to caution his young friend but Ryder says it best: "I'm not the kid you met a month ago, doctor." One blast of his gravimetric beams takes the gator beast out of action. Reed is impressed.
Darkhawk comes back down to earth. Looks like he survived his fight with the Sand Djinn. He sees Black Bolt and isn't really that surprised. He has more important information to share, even if no-one else is too keen on listening. He summons his claw-drone and has the bird project a holographic image of what he saw from orbit.
The aren't on earth no matter what the time. The planet they are on looks like a top. That means magic is involved.
Well, that is an interesting fact, isn't it?
Nova takes this in stride. He seems more interested in figuring out who the mummy girl is. He asks Black Bolt if it's an Inhuman but the king isn't known for answering questions. It looks like Nova's just going to have to start unwrapping.
Under those mummy wraps is none other than Namorita. Finally, something gets a reaction out of Richard Ryder. That reaction is shock.
The Mighty Thor #344
Writer: Walter Simonson
Artist: Walter Simonson
In this issue, Odin's wolf, Geri enters Nornkeep to retrieve Balder. Odin tells his wife that he's about to do something he doesn't want to do. When Balder returns to Asgard, Odin sends him off to enlist the aid of Loki. Lorelei massages Thor to sleep. Balder makes his way to the Castle of Loki. Surtur finishes tempering his sword. Balder finds Loki entertaining Malekith and in no mood to listen. Malekith orders his demons to kill Balder. Balder breaks his vow never to kill again. When Balder approaches Loki again, Loki tosses away Balder's message without reading it. He's already chosen his side and it is with Malekith. Balder angrily decapitatees the god of mischief. As he races off in agony for failing horribly on his diplomatic mission, Loki's body retrieves his head and puts it back on.
Balder has seen better days. MUCH better days. In the past, Balder had been killed and sent to Hel. While there, he witnessed the many he had killed. Once returned to the land of the living, he became a ghost of what he once was. His hair is white. His body is fat. He broods a lot more.
His current state of mind led him away from Asgard and into the wilds. Eventually, he accepted the invitation of Karnilla, the Queen of the Norns, and joined her in her fortress, Nornkeep. He hasn't found peace here but it's preferable to living in Asgard.
To Nornkeep comes one of Odin's wolves, Geri. Nothing stops an animal of Odin. The gate opens without any help from a living soul. When the guards realize who is entering their domain, the slink back in fear. No-one dares touch an animal protected by Odin.
Well, Karnilla might. She has a spell on her lips to deter this giant wolf. Balder tells her not to waste her time. The wolf is here to summon him back to Asgard. He doesn't want to return but he's too faithful to Odin to turn down his decrees.
In Asgard, Odin sits on his throne and look at one of his injured crows. Something DID dare to attack a creature under his protection and that is disturbing news indeed. His wife enters the room and Odin feels the need to confess. No, he hasn't been unfaithful. That's Zeus. Odin bears a terrible burden and wishes to tell Frigga what so deeply troubles him. He has sent for Balder and believes that the Asgardian will never forgive him for the path Odin will set Balder on.
Odin tells Frigga that he sent his crows out on a special mission to scout out a newly discovered galaxy. Only one returned, Muninn, and that one was horribly wounded. Still, Muninn was able to bring Odin word of what he had found. It is what causes Odin to act.
When Balder returns, Odin gives him his mission. He has to deliver a letter to Loki, the god who killed him in the first place. Odin understands Balder's hesitance but knows that Balder is an Asgardian who tells the truth. Even Loki would see the prevalent danger if it was delivered by Balder. Odin hands the Asgardian his letter, telling Balder to read it, but to tell no-one else. Balder leaves, but on the condition that he won't have to use violence. He doesn't have the taste for it after his experiences in Hel.
Oh! This is a Thor book. Maybe Thor should show up eventually...
Recently, Thor has been freed of his connection to Donald Blake. Losing Mjolnir will no longer turn Thor into a lame physician. With the help of SHIELD, Thor has assumed the secret identity of Sigurd Jarlson. He conceals his identity behind a pair of glasses. It's a terrible disguise.
So, naturally, the sister of the Enchantress, Lorelei, doesn't fall for it at all. She's on earth using her own secret ID but seems to be doing a better job that Thor. Her plan is to make Thor drink a glass of Golden Mead that will steal away his heart forever. Unfortunately, she's taking her sweet time with it and playing with her prey. She gives the god a back rub that conks him straight out of it before he can even think about drinking mead. Lorelei is frustrated that her plan has been thwarted by her own incredible back-rubbing skills. No matter, she leaves a note telling him that they have a date scheduled for Saturday and takes off. More games will follow.
Back in Asgard, Balder rides his horse, Silverhoof, through the dangerous territory between the golden city and Loki's castle. Each threat he faces is part of nature so he finds no qualms in tearing his way through a stretch of vines blocking his path or batting rocks away from him and his horse. If these were people, he might find it more troublesome. Eventually, his journey leads him to the twisted path heading up to the Castle of Loki.
Waiting for him is a pack of demons. They capture him and bring him to their master.
Somewhere completely different, a sword is being created. This is one of those world-ending swords. Its forger is Surtur himself. The actual sword has already been formed. It just needs to be tempered in the brimstone lakes that blossom around the fire giant. Surtur lowers the sword with a thundering "DOOM!" sound effect. That done, he raises it into the air. Fire dances off the blade. Yep. It's about done.
Balder has been brought into the court of Loki by the demons. Inside, he learns that these things aren't servants of Loki's but are, instead, creatures of the Dark Elf, Malekith. It seems everyone wants Loki to join their side this day. Malekith blusters and boasts in front of the Asgardian. Part of this is an attempt to win Loki over. Part of it is much deeper. The death of Balder, after all, begins Ragnarok.
To that end, he orders his demons to kill the overweight god. Balder might not be willing to fight but that doesn't mean he's willing to roll over and die. He breaks out of the demons' hold and starts dodging around the room to avoid the attacking horde. All the time, he pleads with Loki to stop the demons' attack. Eventually, the demons surround poor Balder.
Loki doesn't attempt to stop them. He just remarks that Balder has become such a shadow of his former self. If this is how Odin's ambassador acts... well, it looks like Odin's message will never reach Loki, hmmm? Malekith and Loki leave the room to talk over their new arrangement.
Balder tries one last time to stop the demons from attacking him without resorting to violence but his entreaty is denied. Balder might not have been willing to go on the offensive if he didn't believe his mission was of the utmost importance. Regardless, he punches an attacking demon in the face and picks up the demon's fallen sword.
In New York City, Sigurd Jarlson has already woken up from his relaxing nap and reported to a construction zone on the Hudson River. Nick Fury's connections got Thor a job here working for Fury's cousin, Jerry. Thor does a poor job hiding the fact that he has super-powers. He's already shown some incredible feats of strength and speed. It doesn't take Jerry long to realize that Nick Fury put a super-hero on his payroll. The only question now is which one. Jerry snaps his fingers when he realizes the answer.
Sigurd is obviously Spider-Man.
At Loki's castle, Balder has already punched a demon and taken it's sword. He still hasn't killed. It's a step he'd rather not take but the demons are giving him little choice. They start tossing spears at him.
Balder is very upset that he's been forced to kill again and he blames his attackers. For this affront, they will all die. And they do. It's a lot of death.
Loki and Malekith's meeting is interrupted by a fighting mad Asgardian. Balder is here to deliver a message and he damn well is going to hand it over. He strikes out at Malekith but only hits the dark elf's clothes before the villain magically departs. That leaves only Loki and Balder.
Balder hands Odin's letter over to the god of mischief only to watch as Loki casually tosses it away. He's already decided to join Malekith. He'd done it before Balder had even arrived but wanted to watch as Balder was forced to return to violence to complete his mission. Enraged to the point of madness, Balder curses Loki for causing his actions this day and for killing him in the past. If one thing should be accomplished from this mission, it will be the killing of Loki.
The god of mischief tells Balder that there's no way he would ever do such a thing and turns his back on the angry Asgardian. Balder checks that mate, beheading the adopted son of Odin.
In Nornkeep, Karnilla has been trying to learn the fate of her beloved but isn't able to work her magic to see through to the Castle of Loki. Her answer will come soon enough. Alarms sound all over the fortress as Balder rides his horse away from Loki's castle. A quick glance at his face reveals his shame and his anguish. He knows he failed in his mission and killed Loki while acting as Odin's ambassador. All this and he also broke his vow of pacifism.
Silverhoof carries him past Nornkeep and into the wastes beyond. He now seeks to return to death and end his torment.
Back in the Castle of Loki, the mischief god isn't as dead as you might expect. His body starts walking around, patting the floor until he locates his head. Picking it up, he laughs at the folly of Balder. After all, Loki has learned to be very, very hard to kill. Egging the humorless Balder on might have caused some minor pain but it was absolutely worth it. Mischief managed.
We've come to the end of our stack 'o comics for the day. Join us next time as we continue to count down the days of Dark Reign.
Until then: Who Do YOU Trust?