Let's do this thing.
Today, we check out The New Avengers Annual #3, War Machine #12, Dark X-Men #2, Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard #2, and Blast to the Past for Fantastic Four #27. Enjoy and spread the word!
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And now for the incredibly convoluted continuity that is The New Avengers.
The New Avengers Annual #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Mayhew
In Dark Reign- The List: Avengers, Norman Osborn met with Ares in the aftermath of the Utopia incident and talked all about this 'List' he'd come up with. It was time to change the world. Meanwhile, Clint Barton and the New Avengers were watching TV, saw that all the mutants seemed to be isolated to the island of Utopia and got into that same old argument about killing Norman Osborn. Seeing his teammates as indecisive, Clint decided to kill Ozzy on his own. Mockingbird chased after him and, after a brief discussion, agreed to help her ex in his crazy mission. They decided to get an early start but until then it's time for sleep... and maybe more. Use your imagination. Clint couldn't wait until morning, gathered his weapons, and went on a one-man mission against Avengers Tower. He actually did a pretty good job, too. He entered the building and ended up taking out Venom, Bullseye, and Daken in quick succession. When he ran into Moonstone, he was saved from being blasted to smithereens when a timely Security Lockdown barrier dropped between the two. Clint continued on his way up to Norman, but when he got there, his attempts to assassinate America's top cop are frustrated by a personal forcefield. Before he was able to move in for another attempt, Ronin was knocked unconscious by Ares. It looked like Norman had another Avenger prisoner.
In this issue, Clint wakes up to find himself in the friendly custody of Norman Osborn. Bobbi Morse wakes up to find Clint Barton gone. Fortunately, Ronin left a note telling her he had done something stupid. Carol and Jessica show up to find Mockingbird freaking out on the roof in her underwear. Clint is tortured for information but doesn't give up anything. The New Avenger girls are joined by Jessica Jones. Mentallo breaks down Clint's mental barriers by giving him a blast of all the stupid things that have ever happened to him. The Dark Avengers race off to Captain America's townhouse to find it gutted and empty. The New Avenger girls use this time to free Clint. The team meets up in the back up headquarters where Clint apologizes for being an idiot, and they all find out that Steve Rogers is alive.
Wow. We are finally getting a follow up of Dark Reign- The List: Avengers! That is amazing. To make sure that this issue is STILL out of sequence, current issues of The New Avengers still haven't caught up with The List special. In fact, Dark Reign- The List: Avengers takes place after The New Avengers #60 which is still two weeks away. What this issue does reveal is that Luke Cage survives his heart attack ordeal. So that's nice.
Clint Barton wakes up naked and in space-age handcuffs. This... is not a usual morning for the Avenger. He remembers doing something incredibly stupid, though. He tried to kill Norman Osborn. On his own. That didn't work out.
When Clint looks up, he realizes that he's got an audience. The entire Dark Avengers team is here to watch as Norman Osborn pumps Ronin for information. He isn't above gloating. After all, Barton started a media war with Osborn that has been a sort of crossover feature between New Avengers and Dark Avengers. When he's done with that, he gives Clint the deal: reveal the location of the New Avengers and his ex-wife gets to stay out of jail. Or maybe she just gets to live. This is similar to the deal that he gave Luke Cage. Guess what Clint's answer is going to be!
Bobbi Morse wakes up expecting to find her ex-husband lying next to her. Instead, she finds a note explaining that Clint went off on his own to get himself captured. She drops the note and runs to the armory. She finds it emptied of a lot of weapons. Her next stop is the roof where she breaks down and cries. It's tough to love a moron.
Also: Mockingbird is running around in her underwear. This is sort of awesome.
During her breakdown, Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman fly in and get the news that Ronin has gone off to kill Norman Osborn. Carol bursts off to Avengers Tower though she doesn't get too close to the building. She just looks at the thing, seeing that there is a lot of activity going on near the Tower. The HAMMER Helicarrier is positioned nearby and various aircraft are swarming around it. None of this looks promising.
Back in the Helicarrier, Norman is finding out that Clint Barton isn't going to give up any information easily. In fact, Clint makes that very apparent. After enduring enough insults and willful determination, Ozzy orders Venom to take a bite out of Ronin's shoulder.
Clint uses this attack in his first attempt to escape. He headbutts Sinister Spidey and follow up with an elbow to Mac's head. Getting to his feet, Ronin kicks away Hawkeye's bow and the arrow flies wild, nearly hitting Norman. And... that's as far as Clint gets. Sentry is in the room. He ends the escape with one love tap. Clint takes a little nap.
This is clearly not working, though. Norman orders everyone out and awaits a specialist to handle Clint.
At Avengers Hideout, Bobbi and Jessica are trying to figure out what their next move should be. Mockingbird has suited up and is ready to make a move to rescue her man. Spider-Woman isn't certain that running in in a half-@$$ed attempt to rescue the New Avengers' leader is a good idea. After all, in Clint's note, he told Bobbi to not go in after him. Mockingbird tells Jessica that the magic of her relationship with Clint is that they never really listen to each other.
Jessica Jones shows up and asks what's going on. Is her husband alright? This is where we get the minor spoiler that Luke Cage survives New Avengers #60. There was little doubt, of course, but it's still a spoiler. Luke is still recovering but he'll be fine.
But Clint? That's a different story. Carol shows up and tells everyone that they are NOT going in for a rescue attempt. She thinks Clint is already dead. The activity at Avengers Tower also makes any operation more difficult. Finally, the rest of the New Avengers aren't here to help. Captain America are off having adventures in their own books. It's the three of them against the legions of HAMMER.
Jessica Jones makes a quick phone call and gets her mom to take care of her baby. That makes FOUR women against the legions of HAMMER. Now it's totally do-able.
Carol is still of the opinion that Clint is dead. Spider-Woman thinks it unlikely. Really, I don't know why they would think Clint dead. This isn't the first hero Norman has gotten his hands on. He's had Black Widow in his clutches three times and hasn't killed her once. The only "good guy" he's tried to kill after capturing that I can think of is Nick Fury. That worked out well for him. No, Clint is alive. Spider-Woman pretty much knows what they're trying to get from him, too.
Clint wakes up again. At least this time he's wearing underwear. He also finds that he isn't in space shackles this time. He gets to his feet and finds a bow with some trick arrows resting nearby. While this is WAY too easy of an escape, Clint doesn't even question it. He just goes for it. After blasting open the locked doors nearby, Clint's scenery completely changes.
Suddenly, Clint is back in his Hawkeye suit and fighting Kree soldiers back during Avengers: Disassembled. Events play out just like they did back then. Clint takes a hit to his quiver full of blast arrows and things just get worse from there.
Hawkeye rides up to the spaceship and explodes with his arrows.
In real life, Clint screams but he never regains consciousness. This is all the work of Norman Osborn's specialist: Marvin Flumm, 'Mentallo'. Mentallo is one of the few mutants to keep his powers after Decimation. He's one of the many members of the Hood's Syndicate which means he's at Director Osborn's beck and call for stuff like this. He's using his mental powers to probe Clint's mind for information but he's doing this indirectly. Ronin's mental barriers are impressive.
Osborn would rather Mentallo just jackhammered his way into Barton's mind and forced out the information but Flumm believes that the only way to get this information is to break down those barriers. To that end, Clint is getting hit by all the mistakes he's ever made in his life. That includes such banner moments as getting taken apart during House of M, attacking Daredevil for the love of Black Widow, attending Vision and Scarlet Witch's double wedding with Mantis and the Cotati, training with the Swordsman, making out with Moonstone, and watching as the fake Mockingbird was killed. Norman's impatience is at its end. He demands the location of the New Avengers. Mentallo gets a mental image of the location and then writes it down for Ozzy.
The Dark Avengers fly off to Brooklyn. They are soon at Captain America's brownstone, the current New Avengers Headquarters. The scans give them nothing but that just makes them more certain that they've found what they're looking for. Iron Patriot tells them that this is their chance to really cause some damage. Mac Gargan is a little concerned about Jessica Jones and Luke Cage's kid but Osborn doesn't care. He didn't put the kid in harm's way. That was her parents living the life of outlaws.
Sentry takes the side of the building off. The Dark Avengers charge in only to find the place already abandoned. Daken smells the air and confirms that this WAS their headquarters. They were here very recently. Looks like Spider-Woman knew exactly what Clint would be forced to reveal. Karla wonders where the team went but we don't need to wonder for long.
Mockingbird, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Jewel (yeah, Jessica Jones is in her super-hero suit once more) are raiding the HAMMER Helicarrier in an attempt to rescue Ronin. This is kind of funny only because of how super-planned Luke Cage's rescue was. These are four heroes flying in like they didn't even have a plan. It's a good thing that Norman Osborn can't hang on to a prisoner to save his life. EVERYONE gets rescued out of Norman's clutches. HAMMER Agents fall like ten-pins.
It's good timing on the Avengers' part. Mentallo is still trying to pull information from Clint's mind. This time, he's going for secret identities. Peter Parker would never forgive him if everyone realized Spider-Man's ID once again. Bobbi and Jessica smash their way into the room. Mockingbird delivers a nice kick right to Mentallo's head. Looks like someone just got himself rescued. Barton promises he'll never do something like this again but his ex-wife reminds him that he's made that promise before.
More HAMMER Agents are headed their way. They've been... lucky... this long. Now, they've got to make themselves scarce.
In Brooklyn, the Dark Avengers are walking away from the New Avengers' headquarters without any new captives. More over, they've lost the one New Avenger captive they had.
Seriously, HAMMER sucks at keeping anyone captive.
Hawkeye thinks it's hilarious how things have gone down and almost gets hit by Iron Patriot. Norman turns back around. His team just took out the New Avengers' headquarters. That'll have to do for now.
While the rest of the New Avengers evacuated without incident, no-one told Spider-Man about the HQ change. He arrives at the former site and finds himself dodging fire from HAMMER's finest. Fortunately, their secondary base is only a block-and-a-half removed from their first base.
Spider-Man arrives just in time to witness the apology of Clint Barton. He was thrown for a loop during this whole Dark Reign thing. Sure, Ronin's been a misunderstood villain before but he has never witnessed the entire world going crazy before. He reacted... poorly. He is very sorry that he put everyone at risk. The best part about this is that he admits that Spider-Man was right. It's great to see that kind of thing. It sort of justifies why Peter's even on this team. He DOES have valuable input, even if no-one's listening to him.
Luke is back on his feet, if not 100%. He asks his wife if she's back in the super-hero game, and she responds that she's thinking about it. Luke knows what that means. It looks like Jewel is back. Eventually, at least.
Captain America is more upset that Steve Rogers' home has been destroyed. The former Captain America probably won't be happy about that.
It looks like Steve is here, though, and he's not all that upset. He's not happy, sure, but he's glad everyone got out alive and well. Now, it's time to take the battle to Norman Osborn.
War Machine #12
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Wellington Alves
In the last metal smashing issue, War Machine's greatest hits showed up on the big screen and pushed the Bainseville Ten back a few pages in the newspaper. Jim Rhodes appeared before the judge and gave her his last meal request. He wanted this over as soon as possible so that focus could go back to where he thought it should be. The War Machine team decided against rescuing Rhodey. Ares got invited to the trial. Matt Murdock met with Jim and was sent to help the lawyers involved in the Bainseville Ten case. Rhodey contacted Suzi Endo and had her perform a special mission. Ares made a show out of Rhodey's show trial and Jim wasn't allowed to incriminate himself without proper legal defense. The War Machine team regained Jim Rhodes' cloned body.
In the final issue, Jim Rhodes has a meeting with his new lawyer and his mother! Norman recaptures Rhodey's cloned body! Ares breaks his champion out of jail! James sacrifices his life to save a little kid! The Bainseville Ten get every atrocity they've ever committed or authorized playing in their head twenty four/seven! Jim awakens in his new cloned body! Norman Osborn has been totally played! Rhodey visits his mom, then flies off into the sunset.
Things have been set into motion that will profoundly effect the future of Jim Rhodes, the loveable War Machine, and the Bainseville Ten. If you haven't been keeping up on this title (and you probably haven't), the Bainseville Ten are a collection of public officials and military leaders who were responsible for numerous crimes against humanity. Because Norman is depicted as an outright villain in these pages, he's trying his best to keep media coverage away from these ten men and focus it on something bright and flashy. In this case, it's the show trial of War Machine!
Rhodey's mission is to get his trial over as quickly as possible so that the Bainseville Ten don't escape justice. Unfortunately, his actions draw even more attention when he dismisses his lawyers and tries to defend himself. At this point, the court has appointed Rhodey a public defender, Daniel Cetawayo. Mr. Cetawayo is actually trying to do his job and defend his client which is exactly what Rhodey DOESN'T want. There's a picture of War Machine that has been admitted into evidence showing him firing madly into a group of soldiers. Daniel Cetawayo is happy to show footage from right before this moment where the camera clearly shows that Jim was moving in to save a child's life. The soldiers were trying to shoot the kid down.
Just to spice things up a bit more, the kid and his entire village are at the Hague and are preparing to testify in Rhodes' defense.
Mr. Cetawayo is explaining his plans for War Machine's defense, but again, this isn't what Rhodey has in mind. He's ready to go up on the stand and incriminate himself. This does not make his mother happy with him. She believes her son has given up on life for no good reason. She excuses the lawyer so she can talk some sense into her son.
What follows is a touching moment between mother and son. She tells Jim Rhodes that she knew he was destined to be a hero and, most likely, die an early death. At this point in Rhodey's career, he's done his best to do just that. The man's body is more robot than anything else. She tells her kid that one of her neighbor's sons is a doctor who visits his mother every week, bringing fresh papaya. She knows that would never have been the life her son would take up. She also knows that one of these days her son is going to wind up dead, but she always thought he would go out fighting. This feels like giving up to her.
Not to worry, lady. Your son isn't out of this fight yet. He hasn't given up at all. In fact, he's getting ready to pull one hell of out of thin air.
Jim contacts his team through the microchip he made last issue. This is pretty much everyone in the same place: three hundred miles off the coast of Greenland. Jake Oh and Bethany Cabe are piloting their own versions of the War Machine armor (which, yes, is the weakest part of this series, but I've already mentioned that at length so I'll let it go for this final issue). Parnell Jacobs and Dr. Glenda Sandoval are aboard the Delta Shuttle. They've got his cloned body. Glenda has checked it out and it's perfect. All it needs is Jim's consciousness loaded into it.
That part will require Suzi Endo and her baby Ultimo. She's the only member of Team War Machine that isn't hanging out just outside of Greenland. She's waiting for the cloned body to come within one thousand miles the Hague and she can begin transferring Jim's mind into his new home.
This would all be great, except Norman Osborn was listening to the entire conversation. Suzi was encrypting the call but she was using Ultimo to do it. Since Norman has knowledge of Ultimotech, he figured out how to bypass all that crazy encryption. Team War Machine is going down.
Things start happening very fast from this point on. Team War Machine is attacked by a squadron of HAMMER air vehicles. Rhodey isn't safe in his prison cell, either. The guards storm the room and start hitting him with electricity. It looks like Norman no longer needs the show trial of Jim Rhodes. Every last member of the Bainseville Ten has been quietly removed from the country. His men are recovering the cloned body of James Rhodes and Norman sees no need to allow Cyborg Rhodey to live any longer.
The Dark Avenger, Ares, has other ideas. He breaks into War Machine's cell, not to kill the man, but to attempt his own rescue. Ares believes that War Machine is his champion on the mortal plane. His avatar. Jim's threats towards the god of war only further this belief. While Rhodey protects his mother, Ares tries to clear a path out of the Hague.
Things keep on moving faster and faster. Norman is going to have to justify why he is attempting to kill Jim Rhodes at the Hague. To that end, Ozzy gets on national television and explains that the cyborg being held for crimes against humanity in James Rhodes' name isn't the genuine article. This is all the traitor, Tony Stark's fault. Stark kidnapped the real Jim Rhodes and hid him in a stasis tube, which was just recovered by Osborn's HAMMER personnel (this is the cloned body). Stark then created this cyborg monstrosity and set it loose on the public where it killed and maimed, ruining Jim Rhodes' good name. That's all done now. While HAMMER Agents work on siezing the cyborg, the "real" Jim Rhodes has been issued a full Presidential pardon.
I'm pretty sure you all see where this is going, even though Norman doesn't. It's like he's setting himself up for a fall.
At the Hague, Ares is still freeing his champion with little regard for anyone stuck in the crossfire. Jim, of course, is a hero and is more concerned with saving lives than affecting his escape. This all leads to a repeat of the video footage that opened this issue.
Jim sees that same kid he saved in the video (remember? the entire village was on-site ready to testify in Rhodey's defense). This time, the kid is running away from HAMMER Agents with rocket launchers. Before the rockets hit that poor kid, War Machine jumps in, using his body as a human shield. Ares makes sure those HAMMER Agents feel his wrath, but he's too late to save the life of his champion.
James Rhodes is dying quickly. The kid he just saved (again) and his mother are at his side as the life leaves his eyes. Jim has no regrets. This is probably a good way for a hero to die.
And that, as they say in the funny pictures, is that. All that's left is the aftermath, right?
Jim Rhodes' body is destroyed. His memory files are deleted and swept thirty times just to ensure that all evidence incriminating the Bainseville Ten is deleted. Norman contacts these men to assure them that the danger is past. In a week or so, they will be given immunity from their crimes by some of their fellows that escaped justice in the legislature. Some members of the Bainseville Ten are still displeased with how Director Osborn handled this situation. After all, it was through Norman that these men were forced to leave the country.
Suddenly, the members of the Bainseville Ten are hit with a very particular attack. They think it's something Osborn is doing but Norman is clueless as to its cause. One thing is for sure. Jim Rhodes isn't as dead as he would have liked. Rhodey's cloned body exits the stasis tube, just a little bewildered that he's still alive. Still, no time like the present to hit Norman Osborn in the face.
Now, Jim's cloned body was kept well out of the thousand-mile range so Norman isn't sure why this is possible. Well.... Suzi Endo lied. Knowing Ozzy was listening in she lied about the range needed to make mind transference possible. She's also in his system stealing his files and erasing any evidence Norman had accumulated against every member of Team War Machine. It looks like it's not just Jim Rhodes that gets to leave this storyline as a free citizen.
But what about the Bainseville Ten? Oh, what about them indeed. Each has been seeded with a single droplet of Ultimo Tech. Throughout this series, War Machine has been hounded by his machine half. Its robot memory has made it impossible to forget every bad thing that has happened in the world. That's exactly what is being forced into the mind of every member of the Bainseville Ten– except on a personal level. Each member is seeing every recording of every travesty they authorized. Over and over again. Forever.
That might be some form of cruel and unusual punishment, but these are men that think themselves above the law. They just got blasted right down to earth.
Norman wonders how he escaped the same treatment. Rhodey tells him that Ozzy would probably have enjoyed the experience. Norman raises a gun and agrees.
The gun? It jams. Probably Suzi's doing.
Jim's exit arrives to take him away. While he's on his way out, Rhodey explains that his team just outsmarted the "brilliant" Norman Osborn. He doesn't even have to kill the Director. Just knowing that he was outfoxed this badly is an even worse punishment.
The Director of HAMMER shouts after the departing Team War Machine. They could have killed him! This is supposed to bother him? THIS!?
Then he realizes that it does. Sometimes it sucks to be America's Top Cop.
More time passes. In the Navajo Nation, Jim visits his mom. This time, he's brought a papaya. She admits to him that she doesn't even like papaya. Rhodey smiles, dons his War Machine facemask, and flies off.
On her porch, Roberta Rhodes watches her son disappear on the skyline. "That's my son."
Dark X-Men #2
Writer: Paul Cornell
Penciler: Leonard Kirk
In the first issue collector's item, a group of people almost walked off a cliff! Norman tried to keep his X-Men brand pure! Mystique assessed her team! The Dark X-Men visited one of the near-victims of a tragic cliff accident! Omega found himself over-charged on mutant energy! Mimic saw his depressing future! Dark Beast sent Mimic after Omega courtesy of some designer drugs. Nate Grey went corporeal in front of Mystique and Dark Beast!
In this awesome second issue extravaganza, the mutant shaman, Nate Grey, celebrates his return to the Marvel Universe by attacking Dark Beast, a fellow member of the Age of Apocalypse storyline. Nate quickly slips back into nothingness, which depowers Omega and takes away Mimic's connection to Nate's powers. The Dark X-Men return to HAMMER HQ for a debriefing by Norman Osborn, where they learn all they needed to know about Nate Grey and decide that he would make a nifty power source for Omega. Mystique checks on her teammates to see if they're ready for this mission before everyone meets in Dark Beast's lab to discuss how they're going to track down X-Man. This leads them to the HAMMER Psi-Division, which in turn leads them to a cluster of people forming a brain-type shape. Omega takes exception to this human brain monstrosity and declares that he will report it... if he's allowed to remember it. The brain tracks X-Man but Nate steals the brain's power and drains it. In another part of the Psi-Division, Dark Beast uses this time to kill another psychic and rip out her brain. Through it, the Dark X-Men view what X-Man did with the big brain's power. Turns out he looked at what he missed: Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, all that stuff. He isn't happy with what he saw.
Nate Grey is back, baby! He's only been in a physical body for a few moments but already doesn't like what he sees. Dark Beast. DB is from the Age of Apocalypse, where Nate himself hails. X-Man knows that the evil version of Hank McCoy is... an evil version of Hank McCoy. The other person he sees in the room is Mystique but since she's taken to wearing the face of Jean Grey, Nate mistakes Raven for his mother.
So: he attacks Dark Beast thinking that Jean has mistaken DB for the real Beast. Mystique has only moments to react before she's one teammate lighter. This team is already too small. Raven goes with the fact that Nate thinks she's his mom and tries to explain in vague terms why Dark Beast needs to live. Nate pauses his bombardment and tries to respond, except he's already used up too much energy attacking the Dark Beast. X-Man loses physicality but promises to return.
Raven helps McCoy to his feet. DB isn't pleased with the return of X-Man. This guy is trouble. Capitalize that "T."
With Nate's departure, Omega finds himself without a power source. For some reason, he's unable to take the abilities of his teammates. That means that even though he's fighting it out with Mimic, his loss of power causes him to crash back down to earth. Cal tries to catch his fellow X-Man but doesn't make it in time. Omega ends up breaking more things in town.
You'd think that this would be categorized as a big loss for the entire team but it's not. Norman Osborn is able to spin a win out of it. They played the incident as an alien attack and make the Dark X-Men out to be heroes. There are statues built in the team's honor. It's glorious and off-panel.
More important to our story is: who the heck is X-Man. Do you know? Well, let me give you the short version. Nate Grey was a living weapon built in the Age of Apocalpyse by that universe's Mr. Sinister. His whole purpose was to destroy Apocalypse. When the AoA came crashing down around him, he ended up taking a ride through the M'kraan Crystal and ending up in the 616 Marvel Universe. Adventures aplenty followed, including more than one Spider-Man Team-up. Nate eventually identified himself as the mutant shaman. These were some great stories but with cancellation looming, Nate enjoyed his last adventure and his consciousness was split among every human being.
And that was that. Until now.
Norman would love to recruit X-Man over to his side but Nate's powers, especially his precognition, sort of prevent that possibility. Since X-Man is Sentry-level power, Norman decides that he's too much of a loose cannon to just leave to his own devices. No, Nate will serve Osborn in a very different way. X-Man will be captured and put inside the Omega Machine. He's be used as a living battery.
The Dark X-Men are given orders to track down X-Man and get with the capturing.
Mystique, as the defacto leader of Osborn's X-Men, decides to talk to them all and see where their heads are. This has limited success. Omega thinks she's trying to manipulate him. This is probably correct. He walks off, asking Raven to leave him alone.
Calvin Rankin is another matter. When he absorbed X-Man's powers, he got an extra dose of his own future. It wasn't pleasant. Or, rather, it WAS pleasant until his eyebeams accidentally activated and killed his family. He claims that he's fine. Mimic grabs a beer and starts guzzling. Yeah. He's fine.
With that glowing look at two of the Dark X-Men, Mystique pulls the team together in Dark Beast's lab.
They're searching for an Omega-level telepath/telekinetic/etc/etc/etc. Rankin claims that his own mental powers pick up X-Man but not enough to track. What they need is more telepaths. DB has the perfect solution. They need to visit the HAMMER Psi-Division. This is a great idea, but the evil Beast warns that this place is wild even by his standards.
It is pretty wild. While none of the telepaths collected in the Psi-Division are mutants, they all have varying degrees of telepathic ability. That's not the crazy part. The Psi-Division boss, Dr. Jarl, seems to run the place like a cult. They all wear purple robes with occult symbols etched into them. We're still not to the craziest part.
THAT would be Dr. Jarl's massive brain made up of the bodies of psychics.
In... the Astral Plane? Somewhere else? In wherever, Nate Grey is trying to separate himself from the rest of humanity. This is a painstaking process that also looks sort of violent. This had to have caused headaches for the entire world. He is starting to have some success, but it's through sheer force of will.
At the Psi-Division, Mystique is explaining to Dr. Jarl that they need him to use his brain to map out the entire human subconscious. Jarl gets to work. As the brain begins to light up, Dark Beast grabs a nearby, unconnected psychic and retreats to find a private room.
Mimic approaches Omega who appears to be having a problem with how things are done down here. This brain is made up of people. Those people lose all sense of self when they are forced into being part of the brain. There's some talk about how this is different from government before Omega declares that he's going to report this whole thing to Norman Osborn. He thinks the Director of HAMMER will put a stop to all of this.
Now, he just hopes he's allowed to remember this. That frustrated look on his face probably gives us our answer.
With the brain fired up, Dr. Jarl begins his search for Nate Grey. A tendril of energy begins exploring the human subconscious. When it finds X-Man, the mutant shaman turns the searchlight into a power source. He grabs the energy and takes it all in. Back at the Psi-Division, that move drains all the psychics of their powers. The collective brain falls apart. Bodies fall from the sky and drop blissfully into unconsciousness. Mystique wonders what this all means but her questions to Dark Beast fall on silence.
Oh, DB isn't here. That's right. He skipped off with another psychic. The rest of the Dark X-Men run from the chamber and try to locate McCoy. On their way, Calvin brings up the fact that X-Man's power could take Mystique's bomb right out of her. Raven realizes that Mimic is starting to return to some degree of normalcy. His brief look at the future still haunts him, though. She remembers Destiny and wishes her friend were here.
When they get to Dark Beast's location, they find that the evil mutant has killed the psychic. This stuns both Omega and Mimic but Mystique is cool with it. It was only a human, after all. Dark Beast hooks the psychic's brain up to a machine and gives the team a look at just what X-Man used all that psychic energy to do.
Nate caught up on what he missed. It's not a pretty sight. Hulk exiled to outer space. Civil War. Secret Invasion. Dark Reign. Utopia. Norman Osborn. These people have ruined their world.
Maybe the mutant shaman will have to fix it.
Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard #2
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: Kevin Walker
In the star-spanning first issue, the Imperial Guard fought against a rebellion on Izumbard! Gladiator got involved! Kallark's aides told him he shouldn't get his hands dirty! Talon stopped impersonating Chancellor Araki! The Imperial Guard fought amongst themselves about politics! Mentor chose a team for a mission into the Fault! The Starjammers gave this team a ride!
In the thrilling second issue, the Starjammers and Imperial Guard set off on their mission into the Fault in the Starjammer ship. Gladiator takes a meeting with Gorgon. The Starjammer is attacked by space jellyfish and they shut down everything in order to escape. Raza stares down his former symbiote. The Starjammer makes contact with a bio-organic ship which starts firing on them. Before the crew can react, the Starjammer is pulled inside the bio-organic ship. Inside, the Imperial Guard learn that the ship is actually dead, and being devoured by carrion-eaters.
The Starjammers and the Imperial Guard aren't what you'd call bosom buddies. For most of their comic book history, the Starjammers have played the Rebellion to the Imperial Guard's Empire. Once in a while, they'll find themselves on the same side but it's never smooth sailing. This is one of those times. The Starjammer is playing host to a group of Imperials and flying them into the Fault.
The Starjammer crew is at an all-time low. The X-Men members, Havok, Polaris, and Marvel Girl, have taken their leave. Korvus has also left. We're down to original members, Ch'od and Raza. Ch'od has been promoted to captain. This is kind of a sad move, as Havok was a great leader for this team of pirates. Still, this story would have turned out differently if the Starjammer had X-Men on board.
Ch'od is making sure that the IG's know their place on his ship. They are being read the entire riot act. Ch'od just caught the Preator of the Imperial Guard, Mentor, messing with stuff on his ship. Mentor takes these orders quite well before explaining that he had just improved energy efficiency on the vessel by nearly 9 percent. He then proceeds to dismantle Ch'od's threats before casually dismissing the pirate captain.
The Imperials don't like being aboard the Starjammer any more than Ch'od likes having them on his ship. Fang, in particular, isn't happy to be hanging out with pirates. He's pretty vocal about his discontent, to the point of annoying his teammates.
As everyone straps in and prepares to depart, they get a message from Majestor Kallark telling them the specific destination within the Fault that they'll be heading to. It's called "Uncharted Zone Forty-Eight." There are some energy readings emanating from this region that are causing concern for the Shi'ar scientists scanning the Fault. He reminds them that the Fault is a giant tear in space and time. Things inside will probably be drastically different in every sense of the word. Finally, he wishes them well and to return alive.
Speech over, the Starjammer drops into the Fault at Subluminal Sixteen.
In Chandilar, Chancellor Araki tells Gladiator that the Starjammer has begun it's mission. Kallark is still uneasy in the big chair and hopes that sending the Imperial Guard into the Fault won't lead to their deaths. Araki begins going over the day's itinerary but is interrupted when Gorgon forces his way onto the imperial balcony.
Gorgon is all rage and spittle. He is furious that he was made to wait for a meeting with the Majestor. After all, the Shi'ar lost the war. They are effectively the overlords of the Shi'ar Imperium. Still, this breach in protocol isn't going to be tolerated. Kallark forgives Gorgon this once since both of them are still more soldier than statesman. The Majestor addresses Gorgon's concerns (which deal with the Shi'ar worlds that have risen in rebellion) as he makes his way to his throne. When he gets there, he has a question for Gorgon. He wonders if the Inhuman misses being simply a soldier. Gladiator certainly does.
Inside the Fault, the Starjammer has already found itself in trouble. The ship is surrounded by space jellyfish. The creatures are attacking. Systems are failing all over the place. Panic is taking over. One of the jellyfish bursts right into the control bridge. Ch'od demands that the thing be blasted off his bridge, but Mentor countermands him, ordering one of his men (Warstar) to place the creature in a containment shield. Once inside, the jellyfish devours its own energy and implodes.
Mentor chides Ch'od for ordering an attack. These creatures are energy leeches. They feed off energy. That's why they're attacking the ship. He tells the Starjammer captain to drop shield and start a silent run. After a moment's hesitation, Ch'od agrees.
Eventually, the jellyfish leave the Starjammer in search of another meal. Ch'od compliments Mentor on the Preator's quick thinking. Mentor replies curtly and returns to his duties.
Soon after this event, the Starjammer gets back on its mission. Things still need to be done on the ship and the IG's are helping out. Two Imperial pass by Raza who seems to be talking to a vat of swirling blackness. Raza gives them a look and gets them sent on their way before returning to his black vat of evil. Inside is the symbiote that infected him during the War of Kings. Raza doesn't like that the monster is on the ship.
Ch'od approaches, asking his comrade if everything is ok. Raza explains his current state of mind and how he REALLY doesn't want the symbiote aboard. Ch'od assures his friend that the thing is only on the ship so that they can dump it into deep space and be rid of it forever. Raza thanks Ch'od but it's no big deal. The remaining Starjammers need to look out for one another.
More time passes as the Starjammer goes deeper into the Fault. Eventually, they pick up another ship. It's a big one and it's coming their way at incredible speeds. Ch'od orders his ship into combat readiness and the Imperial Guard complies with professional flair.
The massive ship comes into view shortly and it IS huge. The Starjammer isn't the largest ship in the galaxy but this thing completely dwarfs it. It's also biological. This isn't the first biological ship we've seen in the Marvel Universe. The Brood, for example, fly around inside whale-like ships called Acanti as well as shark-like ships called Starsharks (guess which one has the better name). This thing... it's no whale. What it is is disgusting.
It's also firing on the Starjammer.
The assault quickly drains the Starjammer of energy. When that's done, the monster ship hits them with a tractor beam and draws them inside. Nothing can stop that, so the Imperial Guard start working on the problems they can fix. They put out fires and work on any other internal damage. There's no time to relight the engines before they're pulled inside the bio-ship.
No-one's there to greet them inside. Left to their own devices, the Imperial Guard exit the ship and start exploring. Since this is a biological ship, it's definitely not a sterile environment. Star Trek this isn't. Paths are twisty. Walls are kind of gross-looking. Oracle is the first to conceive the notion that this ship is dead.
The brand new Smasher picks up on a startling noise right before one of the walls bursts open in front of them. Out of it come one-eyed parasites. Starbolt and Smasher begin blasting away, while Oracle and Flashfire continue their search for the ship's crew.
They find them just up ahead. The crew is stitched right into the ship. They're also dead.
This ship is one big, giant corpse. It didn't consciously attack them. It was just an automatic response. Like, a last-minute shudder from a dead thing. As with all dead things, this bio-ship is being consumed by the kind of things that consume the dead. Only, since this is quite a large ship, the carrion-feeders are also quite big. They don't differentiate between the dead ship and the Imperial Guard.
And their numbers are growing all the time.
Fantastic Four #27
Writers: Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Penciler: Jack Kirby
In this issue, Reed invents something! Namor is consumed by his lust for Sue Storm! Sue is kidnapped by the Avenging Son! Reed demands the right to rescue his love... alone! Johnny Storm contacts Dr. Strange! Stephen Strange visits the Human Torch and the Thing! Namor fails to win Sue's love before Reed attacks! Dr. Strange learns Namor's location and magics Johnny and Ben down to help Mr. Fantastic! The Torch rescues his sister! Thing beats up Namor's guards! Reed fights Namor! Sue saves her teammembers from a wicked end and rejects Namor's love! Dr. Strange teleports the Four to Reed's submarine and the team returns home.
Welcome to the Fantastic Four Team-Up Series! Once the FF reached their twenty-fifth issue, they started having regular guest stars from the new titles emerging in the Marvel Universe. They had a rematch with the Hulk and a team-up with the Avengers. This issue was the Dr. Strange guest appearance. The next featured the X-Men. Since the Fantastic Four was the flagship Marvel title at the time, you know this was an attempt to sell the other books by enticing the FF readership. Maybe it worked. Maybe it just helped establish the Marvel Universe as ONE universe instead of a lot of unconnected titles. Either way, it lead to some cool stories.
This issue begins with a throwaway scene. Reed has invented something brand new and it's in traditional helmet form. This time, the helmet projects your thoughts for all to see. This is one of the most embarrassing inventions Reed will come up with since most of us don't want other people to know what we're actually thinking. Seriously. To depict that in living color, Reed has decided not to think about science or baseball but, instead, to picture Sue in a bathing suit. Sue? Not amused.
Thing tries the helmet on next and makes the mistake of thinking about Dr. Doom. An apparition of the villain appears before our loveable hero. Unfortunately, the helmet makes the images appear MORE than real to the wearer so Thing freaks out, believing that the real Doom is suddenly in the building. Hilarity ensues with Mr. Fantastic wrapping his pliable body around the Thing to prevent more destruction to his lab.
Sue leaves the room. She's not about to have her thoughts on display for all to see. With the girl gone, Reed tells Ben and Johnny that he's planning on proposing very soon. He's going out this afternoon to find the perfect ring.
Reed Richards isn't the only man in love with Sue Storm. Namor the Sub-Mariner also has a major thing for the Invisible Girl. This issue is all sorts of creepy on Namor's part. To start with, Namor has an undersea scanner that he employs to look on his... love... whenever he wants. Stalker.
Seeing Sue on his monitor fills him with new lust. He declares to his still loyal soldiers that he's going back to the surface to claim his bride. That doesn't go over well. Most of Namor's kingdom has fled from him after the last war against the surface ended with him saving the life of the surface woman, Sue Storm. These few loyal soldiers really aren't keen on the idea of Namor MARRYING someone from the surface. When they express their bigotry, Namor banishes them from his sight.
With that, Namor dresses up in his best surface-world clothes and goes calling for Sue. When he gets to the Baxter Building, he's able to walk right in. Man, security is really lax at that place. Namor's entrance is followed by random violence as he fights both the Thing and the Human Torch to a standstill. When Sue shows up, he explains that he's doing the members of the Fantastic Four no permanent harm for her sake. Instead, he's just knocking them out.
He declares his feelings for Sue Storm but the heroine doesn't reciprocate. Instead, she talks about Reed Richards. Namor isn't about to let this matter lie. What can knock out Johnny Storm can also put the Invisible Girl to sleep. Sue passes out. Namor picks her up and flies back to his undersea kingdom so that he can convince her that he loves her.
Yeah, Namor just upgraded on the creepiness scale.
Reed gets back from buying an engagement ring to find things in their current state. Sue has been kidnapped by Namor. Reed flies into a rage. For some reason, he believes that he has to rescue Sue all on his own. He kicks Thing and Torch out of his lab and starts searching for Namor.
Ben and Johnny aren't about to be left out of this fight. Besides, they don't think that Reed can handle the Sub-Mariner on his own. They need to track down Namor on their own, and by that I mean they need to find someone besides Reed to do the job. Johnny remembers the urban legend of Dr. Strange and thinks the mage would be perfect for the job. He writes a message in the skies for Dr. Strange to contact him. Now, he's just got to wait and hope that the good doctor is real.
We all know that the Sorceror Supreme is very real... well, he's Marvel Universe real, at least. Strange gets the message and takes to his astral form in order to answer the summons. As he's flying into the Baxter Building, he sees Reed leaving in a plane. No matter, he's here to visit Johnny Storm.
When he finds Johnny, the teenager quickly explains the situation. It takes a bit of convincing for Strange to take the job, but once he's certain that this involves fighting evil, he's ready to do a search for Namor's home.
In astral form, Doctor Strange searches the ocean depths in the space of an instant. It's only a matter of time before he locates Sue and Namor. Namor has found that the easiest way to convince Sue that he loves her is to trap her in a cage. Sure, he says he'll release her in twenty-four hours if Sue still doesn't love him but... well... look how creepy he's become. I wouldn't trust him.
Strange can't do anything but watch when he's gone astral, so he returns to Thing and the Human Torch to let them know what's going on. On his way back, he sees that Reed is already at Namor's. Mr. Fantastic has swallowed a pill that allows him to breath water for twenty-four hours. He walks right into the palace. It's a good thing Namor banished his warriors earlier in the issue!
Reed is fighting mad. He's also more powerful than people give him credit for. The next few pages show him using his powers in very unique ways. Combine that with his staggering intellect and you suddenly have someone giving Namor a hard time on the Sub-Mariner's own turf! That's not usual.
And it won't last. Namor's banished warriors are returning to the palace. Suddenly, Reed is outnumbered.
Dr. Strange has returned to the Baxter Building and related the location of their adversary. The good doctor returns to his body, and comes to the Baxter Building in physical form. This next bit is going to require some magic. Ben and Johnny swallow their undersea pills, allowing them to breath water for a day. That done, Dr. Strange casts a spell that takes them immediately to Namor's home.
They find their bossman in some trouble.
Here's the thing about the fight from here on in. While Ben and Johnny have entered the fight, they DON'T fight Namor. The Sub-Mariner is Reed's opponent. What the other two do is make sure that it's just Reed versus Namor. The Thing takes the other Atlantean soldiers out of the picture. The Human Torch uses this time to search the palace for his sister.
Johnny doesn't have to look long before he's found her. The Torch uses his mastery of fire to free Sue from her prison. No sooner is that done than the chamber is flooded. It seems their moves are being monitored by more of Namor's soldiers using a flying camera. Using some sibling teamwork, the two are able to stop the chamber from flooding and then blast the flying monitor to prevent providing Namor's men with any other hints to their actions.
Back at the Reed vs. Namor battle royale, Namor has finally gained the upperhand. The Thing nearly enters this personal fight at this point but the Atlantean soldiers distract him with an electric blast. Grimm isn't beaten by the electricity but it DOES divert his attention. No matter, Reed still isn't out of the fight. He might have been knocked down but he wasn't knocked out.
The battle goes all around the chamber until Reed uses his elastic body to fling the Sub-Mariner across the room and directly into his loyal warriors. This halts their attack on the Thing.
Namor is through messing around. He orders his men to kill the Thing and Mr. Fantastic quickly using an undersea blast gun. Before ordering the attack, he gives the two heroes one last chance to surrender. That's just not going to fly. Namor orders the attack.
Thing, believing his body might be able to take the blast, steps in front of his friend. Still, he isn't touched by the attack. Something blocked the gun's discharge. Namor tries one last direct attack before realizing that Sue Storm has joined the fight. It was her invisible forcefield that protected the Thing and Mr. Fantastic.
Namor tries one last time to convince her to love him, but after the events of this issue, Sue would be majorly stupid to take him up on that offer. Instead, she apologizes if she lead him on. She felt sympathy for the Sub-Mariner but doesn't love him. She loves Reed Richards.
On the surface in Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, the Doctor is watching this rejection and knows that Namor could react very poorly to Sue's words. He casts a quick spell to protect the Four.
Back in Atlantis, Strange's prediction comes true. Namor is enraged, ordering his men to capture the Fantastic Four. By then, it's too late. Strange's spell is already doing its thing. The FF are fading away. They reappear not on the surface, but inside Reed's sub.
On their way back to the surface, everyone wonders if Sue meant what she said or if she just rejected Namor to save Reed. Even though that makes no sense, Reed asks Sue not to reveal the truth. He likes her words and doesn't want them ruined by learning they were just combat strategy.
Of course, this is the start of a turning point in Sue Storm. She really has decided who she's in love with and it's not the guy that smells like fish. It's Reed. Oh, you can almost hear those wedding bells!
And we are again finished for now!
Until next time: Who Do YOU Trust?
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