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Super Reads 108

Written by SuperginraiX on Thursday, September 02 2010 and posted in Features

Heroic Age in full effect!

Today, we check out The Death of Dracula #1, Secret Avengers #2, Captain America #607, Thor #611, The New Avengers: Luke Cage #3, and Blast to the Past for Tales of Suspense #39.  Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!

Welcome to another fun filled article by yours truly!

Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Siege?  Check no further than this link right HERE.

Let's check in on the Vampires and see how they're liking the Heroic Age.

The Death of Dracula #1The Death of Dracula #1
Writer: Victor Gischler
Penciler: Guiseppe Camuncoli

In this issue:

• The vampires of the world have a once in a century convention where they are presided over by their ruler, Vlad Tepes.  That's Dracula to you.

• During a meeting to discuss mutual problems, Drac's youngest son, Xarus, leads a coup against his father.

• Drac is slain.  A lot.

• Xarus declares his new leadership but not everyone assembled falls under his banner.  The Krieger Sect leaves.  So does the Claw Sect.

• Dracula's other son, Janus, checks in with everyone and decides to lead a resistance against his younger brother.

• Xarus reveals a device that allows vampires to walk around in the daylight without becoming crispy critters.

• Janus learns that the Krieger Sect has been annihilated.  He recruits the Claw Sect.

• It looks like Xarus' little coup has already failed until it is revealed that the Claw Sect has already chosen to follow him.

• Janus and his allies are left out in the open air to feel the sun on their pasty vamp skin.

• While his allies burn up, Janus is spared because the leader of the Siren Sect slipped him one of those daywalking devices.

• He makes his getaway as Xarus solidifies his rule.

This is a great stand alone story that redefines how vampires are handled in the Marvel Universe.  It leads right into the X-Men event, The Curse of the Mutants, but you don't need to follow this any further if you don't want to.  The way it ends, I kinda want to.

Dracula and his brethren have been a part of the Marvel Universe for quite some time.  This book doesn't necessarily line up exactly with previous appearances.  Heck, vampires were supposed to be completely wiped out until someone realized what a lame idea that was and brought them back.  Drac's recent appearance over in Captain Britain and MI:13 isn't referenced and Dracula himself has an all new look.  Someone probably punched a crystal wall and set up a brand new status quo while no one was looking.

We begin this issue with a once in a century meeting of all the various vampire sects.  Since the idea that there are different types of vampires is given a fresh coat of paint, these various groups are introduced to us by the eldest son of Dracula, Janus.  This isn't Janus' first appearance but it's likely the only one that'll matter.  J has an interesting history and relationship with his father.  He spent most of his life in battle with Dracula as the Golden Angel though whether or not this was his choice or the choice of the angel possessing him is open for debate.

This is his first time in attendance to this meeting and he lets us know that it's rare for a good reason.  Vampires don't normally get along with each other.  They're a lot like humans that way except vamps would be even higher on the food chain if that chain were to include super-natural creatures.  It's more like rival packs of wolves than anything else.  Still, this centennial meeting on an ancient Greek island set up soon after the fall of Atlantis is a chance to gather and discuss what they have in common.

Let's go down the list of vampire sects just so we have an idea of what we'll be dealing with in the future.  Not all of these are introduced in the opening pages but I like to keep this as organized as possible so we're going through them in one go.

Mystikos Sect: Technology driven vampires.  They are riding into the future and don't cling to any of the old, traditional vampire ways.

Nosferatu Sect: More like the old school vampires of legend before Bram Stoker's Dracula redefined vamps in a more aristocratic vein.  Their look is largely based on that of Count Orlok from the German silent movie, Nosferatu.

Charniputra Sect: Gargoyle-like vampires with full wings and thick, natural armor.

Pureblood Sect: Pretty much what it sounds like.  Purebloods are born as vampires.  Janus would be part of this group as he is the son of two vampires.

Tryke Sect: Parasites.  There's not much info about these guys.

Anchorite Sect: "Vegetarian" vamps.  There's no sparkling in the sunlight, though.  Anchorites don't fit in with the rest of the vampire sects because they choose not to drink the blood of humans.  They live apart from human civilizations and raise sheep and pigs for blood.

Krieger Sect: A powerful sect of vampires with a late 1800's style about them.  If I'm remembering correctly, we saw this sect at Dracula's side when he was went to war with England in Captain Britain & MI:13.

Claw Sect: To me, these guys look like ninja vampires with their face wrappings and prominent swords.  They're based out of Istanbul and are apparently more middle eastern warriors than asian assassins.  Because of their strength, Dracula positions this group right next to the Krieger Sect to make them aware of the other's strength and to keep them in line.

Siren Sect: Female vampires that practice the art of seduction.

Atlantean Sect: Underwater vampires.  The one we see here has a skull-like appearance to their face with hollowed out eyes and no lips.  We'll see ones later on that look more like regular Atlanteans so this one might be an extreme case.

Moksha Sect: This is another sect of vampires that doesn't feed on humans.  In fact, they don't feed on much of anything.  They basically starve themselves so that they can recieve prophetic visions.

Anarchy Sect: They are the only sect that doesn't send a representative because, hey, anarchy.

If you're a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Twilight, get ready to throw your ideas of vampires out the window.  Marvel vampires are a different breed and MUCH harder to kill.  Staking a vampire through the heart with a wooden stake (or silver blade, if you're classy) isn't a guaranteed death and our favorite fangy friends don't turn into a pile of dust.  The stake will slow a vamp down and might even "kill" it but if the stake's removed, the vampire returns to the land of the unliving.  Thinking about cutting of a vampire's head?  That'll do the job for a while but, again, the head can be reattached and you're left with the same problem.  Let's say you burn the body AND the head (and you've gotta do this separately or it won't work), you still need to spread the ashes in completely separate locations or there's a chance that vampire will return.  The only sure fire way of killing a vamp dead is direct sunlight.  There's no coming back from that, probably.

Religious iconography works as a deterent for vampires but not on it's own.  You've got to be a believer.  This means an atheist with a cross is out of luck.  Kitty Pryde tried the cross thing on Dracula back in the day but it didn't work because she was jewish.  For her, the Star of David proved to be an effective symbol of faith.

I would even debate the souless aspect of Marvel's vampires.  Most of these guys would be perfectly at home in the villain category but then you have the odd case of the Anchorites.  If they had no soul or other type of moral compass, why would they be feeding off of livestock instead of drinking the blood of human beings?  No, I think these creatures have completely different justifications for their actions than the standard, "I have no soul and can therefore kill without compunction."  I'd say that the vampires acknowledge their need to drink blood and just place themselves at the top of the food chain.  Since we're judging them by our standards, your typical vampire IS evil by nature and the Anchorites are just a wierd anomoly.

The Mysticos Sect is the last to arrive, using a state of the art helicopter.  Janus seems to be on friendly terms with the leader of this Sect, Stephen.  Stephen's second in command, Brad, is new to his position.  His electronics firm has been doing some special work for Janus's younger brother, Xarus.

Speaking of the little brother, here comes Xarus himself with the leader of the Siren Sect, Alyssa, on his arm.  While Janus dresses in a modern way and wouldn't be out of place on any city street (unless you noticed his pointy ears or glowing eyes), his kid brother, Xarus, has a costume complete with a psuedo egyptian motif.  Xarus isn't revealing any of his plans for the evening but he's dropping vague hints.

The conference between sect leaders begins.  Each sect has one representative and they are presided over by Vlad Tepes, Dracula, and his two sons.  Janus doesn't feel comfortable in this room but not being included would feel like an insult.  He's still the quiet guy in the room compared to the other people at this table.  The Anchorite Sect leader mentions the problem with humans.  They keep on expanding.  Their numbers have seriously expanded in the last century and it's something that is starting to cramp the Anchorites' lifestyle of living apart.  While there are sects that scoff at the Anchorites for not fighting against this encroachment, other sects, like the Atlanteans, are experiencing the same problem.  They blame a lack of leadership.

Which is when we get a good look at Dracula at the head of the table.  Yes, this guy looks nothing like his recent appearance in Captain Britain.  He's got white hair up in a top knot and a regal looking armored suit.  His words bring everyone to attention as he poses his argument for coexistance with humanity (more accurately, he argues for a life lived mostly apart from their food source).  Xarus makes the counter-argument for the destruction of mankind.  Since Drac is top dog, this really isn't a debate.  It's law.  Xarus concedes the debate.

Before stabbing Dracula in the heart with a wooden stake.
Could you blame me for True Blood instead?  High five?

Like I've mentioned, this isn't enough to take Drac down.  He's one of the most powerful vamps around and a simple stake through the heart isn't going to be enough to stop him.  He gets back to his feet and backhands Xarus across the room.  This would be enough if Xarus was working alone.  He's not.  The Atlantean, Nosferatu, and Charniputra leaders join the fight while the rest of the sect leaders sit back in shock.  Even then, Dracula almost overcomes his opponents before more stakes are driven through his body.

Eventually, Dracula falls.  Xarus approaches on top of the table and cuts off Dracula's head with a sword.  The coup is complete and the younger son of Dracula stands in the position of leader.

Not that the other sects are happy with this.  The rage in the other leaders is palpable.  Even after Xarus quiets the crowd, Krieger Sect continues shouting their protest to this travesty.  Like I've said, I think Krieger is used to working with Dracula and they're big fans of heirarchy.  Xarus' reasoning for his coup is compelling to these vampire leaders.  Dracula was holding them back.  Instead of hiding in the darkness and living off scraps, with a proper leader they could be rulers of the world.  This isn't enough for Krieger Sect.  The leader takes off, vowing to pick up the pieces when it all falls apart for this pompous upstart.

What looks surprising to Xarus is that Claw Sect also leaves the room.  While the self proclaimed new ruler of vampires has the support of Atlantean, Nosferatu, and Charniputra Sects, without Krieger or Claw, his hold is tenuous.  Xarus looks around the room and announces that they all have a day to decide what side they'll be standing on.

As Sect leaders start leaving the room, Xarus and his followers deal with the fallen body of Dracula.  His body is to be laid to rest in the crypts below.  His head is sent with the Atlantean leader.  You've got to keep those parts separate or the king will return.  Before Xarus leaves the room, his eyes fall on his brother, Janus, supposedly telling J to understand the actions that have happened this day.

That's something that proves hard for the older son of Dracula.  Janus was never on the greatest of terms with his father but Tepes' death has affected him.  The Mystikos leader, Stephen is ready to take off but the Anchorite leader thinks they should stay so that they have some control in how this all works out.  Both of them are going back and forth on whether to support the new leadership or not.

Janus decides he needs to talk to his younger brother before making a stand either way.  Before he gets to his brother's chamber, he meets with Alyssa of Siren Sect.  She tells him that she's not sold on Xarus as the new Lord of Vampires and hints that maybe Janus would be a better option.  She does agree that Dracula's philosophy of non-interference wasn't working.  They need something new if vampires are to survive into the next century.  Janus is swayed by her words but doesn't fall all the way off the map.  He has no desire to lead.  What DOES he want?

Xarus reveals a lot of his plans to Janus when they finally do meet.  Xarus is planning to show the vampires his strength in order to display his fine leadership skills.  The target is Krieger Sect.  His warriors will take them in their own fortress quite soon.  Janus thinks that's unlikely since the sun's about to rise but that leads right into the other surprise developed by Brad of the Mystikos Sect: medallions that bend light around them so that vampires can walk in the sun.  The device works on technology instead of magic.  There's only a small portion of sunlight that does harm to a vampire and it's only that bit that is bent around the medallion.  Vamps can now go out and get that tan they've been wanting for centuries.

Krieger Sect wouldn't be expecting an attack especially this close to sunrise.  Even so, the surprise would only be an advantage to Xarus' forces for so long before the Kriegers would rally and begin fighting back in the disciplined manner for which they were renouned.  Unfortunatly, the Krieger Sect's home base is a castle with giant windows.  This proves to be their downfall.  Sunlight is still the worst enemy a vampire could ask for.

With their numbers decreased, Xarus plans on placing a puppet ruler in charge of the remainder of the sect.  The Krieger Sect is no longer an effective part of the equation and the rest of the vampire sects have seen a proper display of Xarus' leadership.  Even so, Janus doesn't throw his allegiance behind his brother just yet.  He just says something political and leaves the room.

Outside, Janus has another talk with Alyssa.  He tells her that Xarus is committed and nothing he said would have made a difference.  The Siren leader tells him that she has her own methods being employed at the moment.  We cut to Xarus who is now entertaining three members of the Siren Sect.  They're here to show how loyal their sect can be.

Janus returns to Stephen and the Anchorite leader and tells them the news about Krieger Sect.  This doesn't actually fill them with confidence in Xarus' leadership.  It just takes one potential ally off the playing field.  Janus decides it's time to have a talk with Claw Sect and bring them to the opposition.

Stephen points out that the representative from the Moksha Sect hasn't left yet and they ask the old vampire if he has a prediction for them.  He tells them that Claw Sect will see Janus but there's no way of knowing what will happen next.

Within Xarus' chambers, one of the three Siren vampires tries to assassinate the would be Lord of the Vampires.  It doesn't work.  Xarus fights off this plot and prepares to send a personal message to the Siren Sect.  When he emerges from his bedroom, X is carrying three severed heads.  He shows them to Alyssa and expects her to remain loyal or more heads might be joining these.

Janus and his allies are on a plane headed for Turkey in order to chat with Claw Sect.  Not much actually happens in this scene except for us learning that Janus has some background involving the Claws.  Since we're wasting a bit of time, I should mention that Stephen's view in regards to the Mystiko Sect isn't shared by his entire group.  Those sun bending amulets, for example, were created by his sect.  He seems genuinely opposed to Xarus but anyone not suspecting his number two guy of working with Janus' younger sibling is just deluding themselves.  Right now, J and his friends are running this counter-movement in public and aren't really keeping their position secret except to Xarus but if they WERE to have any secrets, they might not want to be trusting Brad with them.

Just as the mystic predicted, the Claw Sect admits only him.  We learn that Dracula sent Janus to the Claw Sect years ago for training.  Five years with this group.  They know him.
They have so few chances to perform for an audience.

As a greeting, their leader has a swordfight with the older son of Dracula.  Janus is not really showing a great deal of skill in this fight.  He takes hits that disappoint the Claw Sect leader and is eventually run through by the better swordsman.  This isn't anywhere near a lethal attack for a vamp but it does end the fight.  The leader tells Janus that he can't alway be on the defensive or he will lose.  It's a lesson that J should take to heart.

Back on the Greek island, Xarus waits at the appointed time for the vampire sects to return and swear their allegiance.  Janus shows up with his allies and declares an end to his younger brother's rule.  Xarus is not impressed with his bro standing up with the Anchorites and the Mystikos until the Claw Sect enters the picture.  It looks like the younger brother doesn't get his empire.

Except he does.  This was all part of Xarus' plan.  He used Janus to bring those that wouldn't be loyal out into the open.  Claw Sect was always one of his backers.  The tables quickly turn as Claw Sect switches targets.  This surprises J, Stephen, and the Anchorite but a smile crosses over the lips of Brad.  I told you not to trust him.  The second in command of Mystikos says that his sect will take a bit of convincing but should be ready to follow the new Lord of the Vampires in a few days.  Stephen realizes he's been betrayed but there's not a lot he can do about it.

Alyssa has also shown up on the side of Xarus.  After her failed attempt to take his life, she had little choice.  The leader of the Siren Sect gives Janus a parting kiss before leaving him to his fate.  Well, a parting kiss and also a little something to ESCAPE that fate but Janus doesn't realize it at the time.

Now, they all wait for the sun to rise and remove these rebels from the vampire nation forever.  Xarus and his followers all have the sunlight bending medallions so they stand in the light of day with no worries.  Stephen and the Anchorite burn to a crisp and we actually feel sorry to see them die.  Did ya ever think you'd feel that way about a vampire?  One that wasn't Angel or Spike?  Maybe Edward if you're wierd?

The one guy not starting on fire is Janus and he's just as surprised as everyone else that he's still alive.  The difference is that he recovers faster from this shock than his opponents.  J breaks out of the hands of the the Claw Sect warrior and finally remembers how to swordfight.  He cuts a path through the Claw Sect and makes his way for a nearby cliff.  On his way, he finds the sunlight bending medallion that saved his life and knows that it was the leader of the Sirens that saved him.

He drops off the cliff and into the water below.  With time, he steals a boat and escapes the island but he doesn't know what to do next.  His allies are gone.

Back on the island, the remaining vampire sects are swearing their allegiance to Xarus.  This coup has succeeded.  The mystic from Moksha looks on and declares that everything is happening just as he predicted.

Secret Avengers #2Secret Avengers #2
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr. & Will Conrad

In this story:

• Sharon Carter wakes up and starts tracking the dudes that stole their Serpent-like Crown.

• The Secret Avengers land on Mars and start their search for Nova.

• Agents from the Shadow Council attack and are defeated.  Their eyes are black all the way through.

• The team splits up to follow up on various clues.

• "Nick Fury" learns that things on Mars are going badly and speeds off to file a report.

• Ant-Man gets sucked into a portal after galavanting off on his own.

• Steve and Beast find Nova's mask and then encounter a giant armored alien.

• Black Widow and company find Nova wearing the Serpent-like Crown... and then he finds them.

The previous story in this series was covered HERE.

Sharon Carter wakes up aboard the Secret Avengers Roving Headquarters.  Her nap was unintentional and now she's pissed.  Agents of the Shadow Council knocked her out and stole the Serpent-like Crown they had recovered last issue.  Those Agents were led by Nick Fury.  Sharon knows none of this.  All she knows is she got punked by a rival secret agent society and now she wants some payback.  They didn't leave any real evidence for her to learn anything.  Their images are masked from all the Roving HQ's cameras.  All she has is the unique energy signature that was emanating from the pseudo Serpent Crown.  It'll have to do.  She starts tracking it down.

On Mars, the Secret Avengers have landed and made their way to Roxxon's Domed Mining Base in order to search for Richard Rider: Nova.  To make the place more homey, Roxxon built in earth-like gravity.  Nothing but the best for their offworld miners.  This place was officially shut down a month ago but their investigations show that it's been active much more recently.

Moon Knight makes a discovery below and Steve joins him on the return decent to check it out.  On the way down, Rogers remarks that Roxxon was drilling an awfully big hole in their search for mineral deposits.  That's not the half of it.  In a cave at the bottom, they find a bunch of skeletalized remains.  Moon Knight figures these must be the unaccounted for miners.  The symbols on the side of the walls indicate that this is part of some ancient civilization and was probably where Roxxon located their version of the Serpent Crown.  Steve Rogers curses himself for sending in Nova without proper back-up.

Up top, Beast and Ant-Man are investigating another part of the base when the room is filled with more members of the Shadow Council.  That shouldn't have happened.  Beast's scanners didn't pick them up at all.  These bad guy secret agents are MUCH better at this than our cast of secret agent heroes.

The rest of the Avengers join the fight quickly and the Shadow Council is easily subdued.  It seems that the bad guys aren't actually working as a team or covering each other.  Most of them get swiftly knocked unconscious but the last two just get surrounded.  Steve makes a plea that they surrender.
Steve Rogers has always wanted power blasts.

Instead, the Agents of the Shadow Council shoot each other's heads off.

Close investigation of the unconscious agents reveal their eyes to be completely black.  Odds are pretty good that they're all mind controlled.  The Avengers check where the enemy agents were hiding and find a Mars Rover near some bay doors.  Through the doors are lots of tread tracks.  Most of these lead off in the same direction into a nearby mountain range but a some tracks take a different path through the desert.

Steve Rogers sends War Machine and Ant-Man off into the desert to explore the less driven route.  Black Widow, Valkyrie, and Moon Knight are sent into the mountains to see where the majority of these tracks lead.  Steve and Beast take on the mission of locating Nova.

Back on earth, Nick Fury is getting some bad news.  His men on Mars had successfully chased off Nova before they dropped off the grid only an hour later.  Now, energy readings from the red planet indicate that the third crown has been activated.  All this is troubling news and Nick Fury orders his ship into hyper-drive so that he can personally report it to the Board of Directors.

And, no, I'm not forgetting that this probably isn't the real Nick Fury.  There's been recent news telling us that Nick Fury's story will continue in Secret Avengers once Secret Warriors is finished but that doesn't convince me that this guy is the genuine article.  If it isn't an LMD, there's another answer.  Time will tell.

War Machine and Ant-Man reach the end of their journey on Mars and find some sort of station.  The place is deserted but Rhodey still recommends caution.  O'Grady's not all about that and begins flying around on his own.  In front of him he sees a strange portal but doesn't have time to react before it pulls him in.

Steve Rogers and Beast's search has brought them to the cavern Nova smashed into last issue.  They enter it through the proper entryway which is possibly where Nova exited.  Once inside, they find the stairs that led up to the third crown but see that they now lead up to an empty altar.  At the base of the stairs is Rider's Nova helmet.  This is bad news.

Beast picks up an incoming signal moments before they're hit by an energy blast.  While they try to regain their footing, they're brought face to face with a giant, hulking alien/robot/creature in a cool suit of armor.  The newcomer calls them humans so it's assumed that HE isn't one.  He also thinks that Steve and Beast are the ones that took the Crown and demands to know where it is.

Our final sub-group of Avengers has followed the trail to the mountains and has located Richard Rider.  He's flying around with wierd energy signals dancing around him while wearing the third Crown.  It looks like he's the man controlling the Agents of the Shadow Council but to the Avengers' eyes, he's also suffering from some form of control.  Natasha says he has the same blacked-over eyes but they look like they're glowing to me. ;)

Talking's over now.  It looks like Richard Rider has just spotted them.

Captain America #607Captain America #607
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Mitch Breitweiser

In this story:

• Captain America escorts Falcon to the emergency room.

• Iron Hand Hauptmann attacks!

• After James defeats Hauptmann, he finds himself surrounded by Nazis.

• It turns out those Nazis are part of the halucinogenic coctail he received earlier.  He's actually been attacking police officers.

• Yeah, that makes the news.

• Natasha and James track down the bartender who slipped Barnes the special drink and find that she's the brand new Beetle!

• Baron Zemo picks up a film detailing Project: Winter Soldier.

The previous story in this series was covered HERE.

Falcon was injured last issue when he hopped on James' bike, started it up, and then had it explode beneath him.  This issue starts as Sam Wilson is rolled into the emergency room.  James has suited up in his Captain America suit just in time to let the surgeon know in no uncertain terms just how important it is to save Falcon's life.  Once Sam is in emergency surgery, Barnes has a moment to remember that he's been drugged.

He also thinks this is all his fault.  Sam took a hit that he believes was intended for him.  He's WRONG but it's still what Zemo wants him to think so more points to the Baron.  Cap lets all his frustration out on an innocent nearby wall until a doctor walks up to him and asks if he's ok.  They're wondering if he took any damage in the explosion but Bucky is thinking more on the lines of checking out whatever drug was pumped in his system.  He declines the offer, nonetheless.

Outside the hospital, Zemo is about to initiate phase two.  This leads to him sending in Iron Hand Hauptmann to challenge Captain America to a fight.  While Hauptmann makes his way inside, Baron Zemo dials 9-1-1.

Since he's a Nazi, Hauptmann doesn't really care about all the innocents standing between him and his target.  He does his best "bull in a china shop" impression until Captain America finally notices the commotion and enters the fight.  Hauptmann is no simple man to beat but the drugs in Cap's system are working against him.  Barnes moves this grudge match outside by kicking Iron Hand out a window.  On the streets below, Hauptmann still puts up a nice fight but James bests him after a short brawl.

That's not the end of it, though.  Once Iron Hand Hauptmann has been dealt with, a platoon of Nazis is demanding Cap's surrender.  There's no way Bucky's going to give in to Nazis.  He takes them down like a good Captain America should.  Now, if you were paying close attention to when Hauptmann was dropped to street level, you'll know that the road had been filling with police cars.  They were called in by Zemo's 9-1-1 call.  Bucky is fighting the authorities.  His drugged mind is seeing them as something they aren't.

It's only when Steve Rogers shows up that this bit of madness is put to an end.
Someone is bitter.

Hauptmann has taken off during the confusion.  James asks Steve for help, admitting that he's been drugged and has also been hallucinating.

For legit super-heroes, the go-to doctor of choice is Jane Foster, Thor's ex-girlfriend.  She analyzes Captain America's blood and discovers that it's been laced with nanites.  They've been releasing hallucinogen and muscle relaxant when commanded.  She counters them with an EMP attack that takes the nanovirus out of the picture without affecting Barnes' robot arm.  She packs up a sample and sends it off to Tony Stark.  With some luck, they might be able to find out who is responsible for this.

Steve, James, and Natasha hit the practice room and talk about this entire affair.  They discount the Red Skull because this operation isn't flamboyant enough.  He's also dead but that's not so much evidence that it isn't him.  Barnes wants to know who else knows who he really is but Romanoff points out that the list is pretty long.  Bucky doesn't really make it a point to HIDE his secret identity.  He pulls his mask off all the time, usually in front of police and government agents but that still opens up his identity to all sorts.

They're called away from this practice session so that they can watch some television.  Specifically, they're watching footage of Captain America beating up policemen.  It's not good footage for the image of Captain America.  James curses himself for being played so hard.

Cap charges down the hallway.  He'll teach whoever a thing or two about something or other!  Black Widow pulls him back and tells him that he is playing right into the plans of whatever bad guy is responsible for this.  They want him going off all crazy.  They need to play this smart.  James thinks it over and then defers to his girlfriend's judgement.

Widow asks him who could have served up the nanovirus drink.  It doesn't take James long to figure that out.  It was the bartender who took so long because it was "her first day."  They dress up in their civies to handle this one.  Steve gets an update on where they're headed.  When Barnes asks him to stop by and check on Sam, Steve tells them "I'm already on my way" and then just stands there as he watches them leave.  Yeah, he'll get there eventually.

Cap and Black Widow's first stop is the bar from last night.  The guy mopping the floor isn't ready to give them anything until James flashes his Avengers card (don't leave home without it!).  They get a name and address but it proves Black Widow's early point that Barnes doesn't know how to keep a secret identity.

On their way to this girl's home, Steve calls them up to tell them that Falcon is on the road to recovery.  Sam'll be back up and running around in uniform in just a day or so.  The fact that he escaped the center of an explosion without getting any real injuries is odd.  They figure that whoever set the bomb was just using it to distract James and didn't intend on doing serious harm.  Steve tells his former partner to watch his back.  That's what Bucky has Natasha for.

The two have reached the young bartender's front door.  Tasha is suggesting that she do the talking this time but there's going to be no time for that.  The door explodes.  James and Natasha are pushed to the ground.  Out comes the brand new Beetle.  It's the girl bartender from the night before.  She apologizes for her entrance.  It's her first day.

In upstate New York, Baron Zemo is busy enacting another part of his plan.  This part involves meeting with a stereotypical Russian gangster who has procured a specific item for the Baron.  This item?  A film detailing Project: Winter Soldier.  Oh yeah.  Things are gonna get worse.

Writer: Sean McKeever
Penciler: David Baldeón

In this story:

• Rikki Barnes is trapped in a basement by a serial killer who keeps on reliving the murder of his daughter.

• She's unburied five bodies so far which is just nasty.

• Bernard talks to her through the door but all he's got to say is crazy stuff.

• He unlocks the door but doesn't go down the steps to attack her.  Instead, he's waiting by the exit to kill her when she leaves.

• Rikki heads upstairs and declares that she's not leaving.

• This confuses Bernard enough to give Rikki an easy opening.

• The police arrive and unbury nine bodies.

• Rikki doesn't get any new clothes out of this ordeal.

The previous story in this series was covered HERE.

Rikki Barnes is a super-hero.  She takes on threats like Onslaught and the Bastards of Evil.  And middle aged man with a bum leg like Bernard is no real threat to her.  She's still trapped in his basement.  What she's found is chilling.  So far, she's dug up five bodies.  All of them are young girls.

All of them are replacements for Bernard's real daughter, Sophie.  It's the girl he was talking about last issue.  Something went down where Sophie was preparing to leave home because she couldn't stand it here anymore.  In a confrontation with her father, Bernard killed and buried her in the basement.  This encounter has been repeated over and over again since then with different girls filling the role of Sophie.

So Bernard is caught in a vicious, murderous loop which should gain him no sympathy.  He starts talking to Rikki through the basement door but he's not anywhere near reasonable.  Rikki isn't "Rikki" anymore.  She's Sophie.  He goes off on a crazy talk which probably repeats what happened the first time he murdered before unlocking the door.  Rikki prepares for the man's eventual attack.

It doesn't happen.

Rikki waits for five minutes before concluding that Bernard isn't going to come down those steps.  She figures that he's waiting by the door out of the house.  All the other girls would have panicked and tried to make their way out of the house.  Rikki isn't those other girls.

She heads up the stairs and tells Bernard that she's not heading to the exit at all.  For one thing, her stuff is in the kitchen.  For another, she's electing to change this scenario.
You believe me, right?

Things aren't going the way they had gone previously and suddenly Bernard's plan is off the rails.  He approaches Rikki, still holding his killing knife but with an uncertain attitude.  The knife won't do him any good.  Rikki has faced up to bigger challenges than this.  In one whole page of satisfying violence, Rikki kicks the crap out of her would-be murderer.

The police are called in.  They find a total of nine bodies.  One of them is, indeed, Sophie's.

The next day, at school, Rikki's not wearing any new clothes that she more than earned at Bernard's.  Instead, she burned them.  Her latest t-shirt is stitched up where Bernard managed to get a close slice in.  The girls at school might not think much of her wardrobe but she's still not going to be wearing the clothes of a murdered girl.

Thor #611Thor #611
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Rich Elson

In this story:

• The dead of Asgard are given a proper Viking funeral.

• Loki is given a smaller funeral attended only by the sons of Odin.

• The Dísir maintain order in Mephisto's realm but really want to eat some dead Asgardians.

• Their leader, Brün, gets Mephisto to order them into Hela's new Hel.

• Hela moves to protect her realm with a special sword.  It doesn't work.

• The Asgardians question who should be king but Thor and Tyr don't want the job.

• Hela sends a message to Asgard using one of the dead Asgardians' bodies from the funeral pyre.

• One Asgardian learns what happens when they say "Dísir" out loud.  You get sliced up.

• Learning that the Dísir are real, Thor and his comrades decide to go stop them from eating the dead.

The previous story in this series was covered HERE.

This title may not have a Heroic Age banner but it's fallout from Siege so I figure it's good form to cover it.

Asgard is still in ruins but there are more important tasks to accomplish at the moment than rebuilding the city of the Norse gods.  They need to bury their dead.  More than a few Asgardians lost their lives to the Siege and with the conflict done, the dead are sent on their way in an honorable manner.  The living stand in respectful silence as their king, Balder, leads the gathering.  He tells them that these fallen Asgardians now reside in a Valhalla created by Hela.  They're in Asgardian heaven.  It is up to the living to remember them.

While the dead aren't loaded up into boats and sent out on the open sea in flames, they are put on individual funeral pyres that are lit by Thor's lightning.  Once the fires are started, Balder, Thor, and Tyr head to a smaller ceremony.  The rain begins to fall.

Loki's funeral.  No one misses Loki.  He caused all of this, after all.  It looked like he was trying to stop it in the end but he died in the attempt.  It was a good death but as Thor says, Loki "lived poorly."  We all know how many times every character in the Marvel Universe has been resurrected.  Thor's aware that Loki could potentially return to life.  Heck, we all know exactly how that could happen since Loki set up fail-safes before his death.  Thor hopes that his adopted brother will not return.

In Mephisto's Hell, more of Loki's mechanations are playing out.  For the use of the Dísir for one hundred days, Mephisto gave Hela a portion of his Hell for one thousand years.  This is good for Hela but bad for the displaced demons from that section of land.  They've been kicked out to make room for the Asgardians but they aren't going quietly.

In response to this armed protest, Mephisto has sent the Dísir to maintain order.  We know how this goes.  The demons look like they'll be a threat but they aren't.  The Dísir kill them without even trying.  That's unfortunate because it gets them to notice how close they are to the dead Asgardians living it up in their false Hel.  There's a tasty meal waiting just beyond them and they can't get to it.

It's not because it's in Hel.  Yes, Bor denied them access to Hel but this isn't the genuine article.  They could get in if only they weren't currently bound to Mephisto.  What they need is permission to enter and feast.  That... can be arranged.

Mephisto meets with the leader of the Dísir, Brün, and gets a report on how the rebellion was handily put down.  The Marvel devil is in a celebratory mood and decides he'd like to party with a Dísir leader... in bed.  Brün asks if this is an order.  Mephisto would rather she was into it and wonders what it would take to get her in the mood.  Funny you should ask that...

When given the proposition, he mentions that he gave Hela the real estate as her sovereign territory.  Granted, he doesn't really care about anyone else's territory.  He secretly grants B and her Dísir permission to grab a bite to eat.

Even though the current Valhalla resides inside Mephisto's Hell, Hela has done some nice work giving it that homey touch.
I used the word homey twice in this article.  Odd, huh?

Suddenly, the sky opens up and the Dísir enter.  The feast begins and there's nothing any of these dead Asgardians can do to stop it.  Hela senses the Dísir from her own room in Las Vegas and tries her own hand at taking them down.  She uses the same sword that Loki wielded against them in Siege: Loki.  It's not as effective.  They were expecting it this time.  Hela is disarmed and her weapon taken.

Before the feast can continue, Hela tries Plan B.  She gathers up all of the dead and seals them away in a fortress.  All this is a delaying effort and the Dísir know it.

Back in Asgard, the question of Balder's rule is posed again.  This time it's not Balder going on a self hate trip.  It's his subjects.  They want to know why Balder needs to rule over them.  Sure, Thor turned down the kingship but look at Tyr.  He's a son of Odin.  He could rule.

Except he doesn't want to.  Tyr is ashamed of his behavior during the Siege and doesn't feel worthy of the crown.  That puts it right back on Balder who asserts his authority right before something starts happening with the funeral pyres.

One of the dead bodies has left it's pyre and starts talking to the group.  It's possessed by Hela who is trying to recruit them to fight off the Dísir.  This is an important thing to the Asgardians.  They're dead are supposed to be enjoying the afterlife, not dying in it.  It's hard for Hela to name the threat since she can't, y'know, NAME the threat.  Saying "Dísir" risks bringing the cursed handmaidens of Bor down upon them.

It's also been forever since anyone has even heard of the Dísir.  They've slipped into legend and myth for even the long lived Asgardians.  Tyr tries to support Hela by recalling his own encounter with the Dísir when he was fighting for his life during the Siege but it's not enough to convince the rest of the Asgardians.  The only thing that'll change their minds is if someone says the word "Dísir" out loud and is slashed to pieces.

And that's what happens.

The unfortunate Asgardians falls.  An image of Brün is formed out of the Asgardian's blood.  She calls down a warning to the living not to defend the dead.  If they do, they'll meet a similar fate to the foolish Asgardian that dared say their name aloud.

Warnings like this don't go well with the heroic.  The dead need safety.  Thor leads the charge to battle.

The New Avengers: Luke Cage #3The New Avengers: Luke Cage #3
Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Eric Canete & Pepe Larraz

In this story:

• Luke Cage leaves Philadelphia and goes back home.

• Comillo calls in the next drug shipment.

• Luke meets with Woodward Himes.

• Cage tells him the story of how he didn't really leave Phillie and how he took out a shipment of drugs.

• After accusing Himes of running the drug trade in Philadelphia, Woodward denies everything.

• Luke is pretty sure this guy is behind everything and has texted all of Woody's "clients" Himes' office number.

• Himes has the choice of admitting what he's done and turning himself in or denying it and calling the police.

• Himes pleads guilty.  Win.

• Cage is reunited with his wife and kid right before joining the Avengers to fight the Siege.

The previous story in this series was covered HERE.

We begin our story somewhere in the middle.  There are two drug traffickers talking about the history of the drug trade.  They're about to drive in the next shipment to the big city of Philadelphia.

OK, now we get the oldest chronological event: Luke Cage is walking by Fairmount Park with Arthur, his tech partner during his trip to Philly.  Arthur wonders if Cage is certain of his actions here.  His plan is very un-Luke Cage-like.  Luke is fine with it.  Going in punching isn't winning this for him.  It's time to change strategies.  Arthur drives him to the train station.

Cage boards the train out of Philadelphia at the 30th Street Station.  Some of Comillo's men are trailing him and watch Luke leave.  They follow him all the way to Trenton to make sure the Avenger is actually taking off.  Alex sees this as an odd play for the former Hero for Hire but maybe Cage was concerned for the safety of his friend or saw the futility of his actions.  He gets ready to call "Mr. Cash" and prepare for drug shipments to continue.

A week later, Arthur visits his cousin, Leodis, in the hospital.  Leo's already looking a lot better.  He's asking about Luke and how the former hero for hire is doing.  Arthur is surprised that Luke hasn't contacted Leodis yet.  After all, Cage left Philly a week ago.  You'd think he would have called by now.  Leodis can't believe this.  Cage wouldn't run.  Arthur tries convincing his cousin but Leo refuses to believe it's true.  Cage may have left but he must have done so to get help.  You'll see.  You'll all see.

Woodward C. Himes is walking into his offices early in the morning.  His secretary is already in and gives him a few messages to start out his day.  Woodward is frustrated to find his office door shut.  He prefers it open at all times.  The secretary tells him that she's already informed the cleaning lady this but the door was shut when she came in.  Woodward believes the cleaner is just thinking of his own welfare and enters his office to find Luke waiting for him.

There's some words between the two where Himes does his best "honest businessman" routine.  Luke isn't buying it.  He has Woody's number.  Himes has been buying up real estate in North Philly.  Woodward claims that this is to encourage outside investment in the area but there's another reason for it.  It's a great way to launder money from selling illegal narcotics.  Luke tells WCH a story.

Luke didn't leave Philadelphia for long.  He came right back in and checked out the drug trade straight off.  One junkie was on his radar and he paid this guy a little bit of cash to learn how the drugs were doing.  They were getting weaker which meant it had been some time between shipments and they were cutting their remaining stock pretty thin in order to spread it out as much as possible.  That meant there had to be a new shipment on it's way in soon.

Arthur had traced lots of money going Comillo's way.  They'd worked through the code and figured out that the drop zone was Lionfang's place.  Now they just have to wait for the shipment which is VERY near.  Arthur's noticed Comillo making lots of phone calls to the same number.  It would be good to learn who's number that is.

Oh yeah, it's Woodward C. Himes' number.  Imagine that.  Again, Woodward denies everything and mentions that this is all circumstantial.    Hold your horses, Himes, there's more.

Last night, Luke took down the latest drug shipment van in some awesome scenes of super strength and invulnerability.  The drug traffickers didn't even have a chance.  If you're wondering, this is the same truck from the beginning of this issue.  Cage kicks a little @$ and then tells the men that they were easy to find and they should disappear or this will happen again.  They shouldn't call this in either.

This is why Woodward has no idea about the shipment having been intercepted.  It didn't make the papers because no one was arrested.  No one called in.  The truck is just gone.  Luke got here earlier enough that word from Himes' underlings wouldn't have reached him yet.  Again, this guy isn't admitting anything and thinks this has gone on long enough.  He tells Luke to leave.

Not so fast, yo.  This game isn't done yet.  Luke knows that the drugs in town are mighty thinned out.  He knows buyers have prepayed for drugs that won't arrive.  This is going to make the "investors" pretty ticked off.  Woodward has insulated himself from being directly involved in their affairs so they wouldn't normally be beating down his door.  Except Luke has given all these buyers Himes' personal number.

Luke did a lot of running around trying to find out who was at the top of this drug dealing pyramid and he's gotten a lot of names and numbers of a lot of others a bit lower down.  Now, they all have Woodward's office number.  This can go two ways.  Maybe three.  The first way is that Himes can take the calls and tell them that Luke Cage took the drugs.  They'll have to pay again to get more but sometimes that's how things go down.  The second way is to deny everything and call the police but that will clue them in on the connection between Himes and the drug business.  I guess the third way would be to turn himself in.  That might be the best.

Luke takes off, leaving the young, corrupt politician to make a very tough decision.

Luke finally gets home to his angry wife and his little kid.  Jessica's understandably bitter that Luke went on a trip that was supposed to last a few days and lasted for two weeks.  On the plus side, Woodward C. Himes pled guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering  Luke did what he went to do.  Now, it's time to enjoy some family time with his.. kid?
Last joke about this baby not being Danielle.

I swear, that doesn't look anything like Danielle Cage.  Luke's love for his daughter defuses his wife and they make up.  Luke Cage is home and he's enjoying the life he's got.  It's just what he needs after that business in Philadelphia.

The time goes too quickly.  Spider-Man shows up in the window and ruins the whole mood.  It seems something's going down in Oklahoma and it's time for Luke to help the heroes out of the Dark Reign, through the Siege, and right into the Heroic Age.  And, yes, this contradicts previously New Avengers continuity on how Luke got involved in Siege.  Whodathunk?

Back in Philadelphia, Leodis is out of the hospital and taking a ride in his wheelchair with his mother.  She's thinking about getting him out of Philly but he refuses.  He can make a difference in this town.

The camera hits the water and we see what Luke Cage did with that last shipment of drugs.  He dropped the entire car into the deep.

Tales of Suspense #39Tales of Suspense #39
Writer: Stan Lee & Larry Lieber
Artist: Don Heck

In this story:

• We meet millionaire playboy, Tony Stark, and see the awesome inventions he's building to help us win the Cold War!

• In South Vietnam, Wong-Chu wrestles villagers for an entire village's freedom!

• Tony heads on into Vietnam to test out his mini-mortar guns.

• After his weapon is shown to be successful, Tony walks back to the base only to activate a tripwire and get blowed up.

• Stark awakes as a prisoner of Wong-Chu with a chest wound and shrapnel moving towards his heart.

• Wong-Chu demands Tony Stark make a weapon for him and then his surgeon will save Stark's life.

• Tony knows that they can't save his life but he agrees to build a weapon but he's planning on one last bit of vengeance before biting the big one.

• Wong-Chu teams Tony up with Professor Yinsen and the two get to work designing a suit of armor.

• While Tony puts on the life saving suit of armor, Yinsen buys him the time Stark needs by sacrificing his own life.

• The new Iron Man gets used to the suit of armor and then escapes the guard's notice by hiding on the roof.

• Iron Man bests Wong-Chu in a fight and then fights off his guerrilla army.

• Wong-Chu runs to the ammo shed.  Tony lights it on fire.

• After setting the prisoners free, Iron Man puts on his trenchcoat and fedora and walks into the jungle.

The Invincible Iron Man!  Readers may know that Iron Man is my favorite comic book hero.  His influence on the Marvel Universe is all encompassing.  His money has backed the Avengers and the team has used Stark's childhood home, a mansion, as their base for much of their history.  Stark technology is used to make everything from Quinjets (which, yes, were originally provided by the nation of Wakanda) to SHIELD Helicarriers.  Starktech is the technology of choice throughout the Marvel Universe (well, pretty much earth but you get the idea).  In short, Tony Stark is pretty awesome.

This is his origin.  It was March 1963.  Fantastic Four was reaching it's twelth issue.  Incredible Hulk's last issue (#6) was released.  Spider-Man's own series was starting up.  Ant-Man had made seven consecutive appearances in Tales to Astonish (this month would see #41 released).  Thor was showing up in Journey Into Mystery #90 (eight appearances).  The Marvel Universe was kicking into high gear and it was time for a man of iron.

With Jack Kirby working on a whole lot of books and Steve Ditko handling Spider-Man, the art chores on Iron Man's first appearance were given to Don Heck.  Heck didn't design the look of the Iron Man armor, that was put together by Jack Kirby who drew the cover for the issue, but Heck did give Tony Stark his look and went on to design the supporting characters.

The origin story took place mostly in Vietnam before most of the country was even paying attention.  Tony Stark had what looked like a perfect life until one trip to a war torn nation threw everything over the edge.  Tony got wounded his heart but became a hero.

In the first two pages of this story, we get to learn that Tony is a remarkable inventor who's miniaturized transistors are a key to most of his scientific breakthroughs.  With them, he powers up a magnet to such a degree that it tears off the door of a locked vault.  It's an impressive display and it proves to the army brass that this is a man who can help them win a police action.

To complete Tony's Howard Hughes-like background, we learn that he's also crazy rich and a playboy.  Women love him.  Men want to be him.

Now, we meet our bad guy.  Wong-Chu.  This guy is the leader of a communist guerrilla army raiding South Vietnam and terrorizing the people.  They take over villages and then Wong-Chu makes a deal with them.  If one of their men can best him in a wrestling match, the village goes free.  After proving himself the better of every contender, his men take all the valuables in the village and move on.

It is to this country that Tony Stark makes a special appearance to try out a new invention.  His miniature transistors have powered up tiny mortar cannons.  This gives America's fighting force even more destructive weapons at a smaller size.  Stark watches as these soldiers repel an invading communist army.  You'd wonder why the Army would put such a valuable inventor at the front.  Heck, even after learning he's here to make adjustments to the miniature mortar launchers on the fly should they fail, you wonder why they didn't just make these tests in the safety of his Long Island facilities before bringing them out to the field.  Well, I guess he's here either way and the field test proves a complete success.

Tony and his guard walk through the jungle back to home base.  They'll never get there.  Tony strides right into a tripwire.  The explosion catches him straight on.  Wong-Chu's men capture him as he's writhing in pain from his injuries.

Chu's men take him right back to their guerrilla headquarters.  Stark's ID reveals who he is to Wong-Chu and the warlord sees what a prize he's been handed.  Unfortunately, his surgeon declares Tony's chest wound to be fatal.  There are too many pieces of shrapnel heading right for his heart and there's nothing this surgeon can do about it.  Tony has a week, tops.

Wong-Chu doesn't share that little bit of info with Mr. Stark when the industrialist regains consciousness.  Instead, he tells Tony to design him a weapon and his surgeon will save his life.  Tony doesn't fall for it.  He knows that Wong-Chu would see to his wound first just to make sure he finished building a super weapon before expiring.  The fact that he's left with a chest wound means his condition is likely terminal.  Regardless, he agrees to build a powerful weapon but plans on using his time to get revenge on his captors.

Stark is provided enough tools and material to build whatever weapon he dreams up.  Tony plans on building just that but also hopes that his invention will sav

Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX

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About the Author - SuperginraiX

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


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