And now... too many Marvel Event books!
Today, we check out X-Men #1, Shadowland #1, Avengers: The Children's Crusade #1, Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier #1, Hawkeye & Mockingbird #2, Young Allies #2 and Blast to the Past for The Amazing Spider-Man #1. Enjoy and spread the word!
I'm about to kill myself with events. Not only are we doing Heroic Age books, I'm starting up the Curse of the Mutants and Shadowland events. Oh, and books that dropped the Heroic Age banner after one issue? I'm finishing up those story arcs. I... hate myself.
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Siege? Check no further than this link right HERE.
Let's look in on the X-Men.
Writer: Victor Gischler
Penciler: Paco Medina
In this issue:
• A vampire explodes in San Francisco in the middle of a large outdoor area. The blood gets everywhere, including on Jubilee.
• Jubes is taken to Utopia where the best minds of the X-Club give her a look over.
• An Atlantean Vampire surfaces on Fisherman's Wharf and starts killing people.
• The X-Club find out that Jubilee has contracted some sort of vampire virus.
• Other infected humans gather around real vampires and get eaten.
• The X-Men go looking for vampires. In daylight. They find one in a warehouse.
• Jubilation tries to enjoy some sun even though the vamp virus is making that extremely hard.
• Wolverine's team finds a lot of dead bodies after a feeding frenzy.
The first story in this series, The Death of Dracula #1, was covered HERE.
The X-Men! For decades, the X-Men was the premiere Marvel Comic. Anything with an "X" in the title sold like crazy. While their star has fallen in recent years, X-Titles still sell well enough to warrant a brand new, shiny X-Men #1. This title is technically a Heroic Age tie-in issue but it lacks that subpar banner and is more connected to the next X-Men event, Curse of the Mutants which officially starts right here. It actually begins with The Death of Dracula from last week but there aren't any mutants in that book so here's where our loveable X-Men make their return to the greater Marvel U and to the world of Dracula.
Naturally, we spend most of this issue in San Francisco and Utopia. Typical X-Men haunts for the past few years.
Let's get ready for the vampire invasion. We'll start in Union Square where a guy clothed head-to-toe in leather cuts off some joggers. One of the runners is ready to start a fight but the other gets a good look at the leather clad guy, who is about two heads taller than they are and is imposing as you can get. He gets his friend to back down. This isn't a good fight to start. Leather clad giant heads on his way.
We then head on over to a play date with Jubilee and Pixie. Jubilee was the second X-Men teenage tagalong, taking the position from Kitty Pryde. Pixie is the current model. Jubilation is a victim of M-Day, the day the mutant population was decimated, leaving only about 200 mutants with their powers. She's also a victim of the horrible New Warriors comic that debuted after Civil War. She had the codename of Wondra. It was less than good. Finally, Jubes is the victim of supernatural aging. Marvel Comic time is a tricky beast but she was thirteen years old at the beginning of Generation X back in 1997. She's about eighteen or nineteen now. A lot of Marvel time has passed for her but not for anyone that wasn't in GenX. Heck, I think the New Mutants are still supposed to be between nineteen and twenty.
It looks like Pixie is also on the fast track to reach twenty-five before she really should. These two already look the same age.
But enough about that. They're meeting outside in the open air. Pixie is mostly there for the company but she's also acting as X-Men ambassador to Jubilee. Since Jubes is non-powered these days, Megan is here to keep her somewhat in the loop. Especially with the events of Second Coming in the very recent past, things are starting to look a bit brighter for Marvel's mutants. Pixie gets up to buy some nachos so that she's out of range when the next event goes down.
Remember the leather-clad giant? Vampire. I know! Surprise. The vamp walks in the middle of the open area and starts removing his clothing. His skin sizzles in the sun until he just explodes. There's blood everywhere. Jubilee wasn't at the center of the blast but she's still covered in blood. Pixie runs to her side and they wait for emergency crews to arrive.
From a nearby building, Xarus, the younger son of Dracula and current Lord of the Vampires, looks on this scene with his female companion, Alyssa, leader of the Siren Sect of vampires. All is going according to his well-laid plans.
We skip ahead in time to catch up with Cyclops and Wolverine watching their stories on the mutant island of Utopia. OK, they're actually watching the news to get the public version of what happened in San Francisco. Terrorist bombing. No evidence of an explosive device. Cyclops is pretty sure this wasn't the usual terrorist attack. A quick check in with Jubilee, brought to the island to recieve X-Men specific medical attention, confirms it. This wasn't a bomb. It was burning skin and then the dude just blew up. That seems awful familiar to Wolverine. The X-Club continues checking her out and making sure Jubilee is ok.
The sun is about to go down on Fisherman's Wharf when San Fran gets an unwelcome visitor. It's an Atlantean Sect vampire. The people on the wharf just think this is another mutant. They're mostly welcome in town so they mostly leave him alone. Well, the police pay him some extra attention but that's more due to his huge freaking sword than to his otherworldly nature. They stop the vampire and try asking him a few questions only to get killed in short order. The spectators start dialing 9-1-1 right away.
Back on Utopia, the X-Club have found some answers. Jubilee has been infected by a vampire virus. She isn't turning into a vampire but she's showing signs of vampirism. And those signs are increasing. What's more, this isn't a normal virus by any means. It was made by someone and the suicide bomber vampire was the means of spreading it. Dr. Nemesis has no cure and it looks like developing one is going to take a lot of time and even more money. As Cyclops is talking about this with Nemesis and Kavita Rao are talking about her fate, Jubilation Lee enters the room. Someone's going to have tell her what's going on.
Jubilee wasn't at the center of the blast which means she's being affected at a slower rate than some others who were closer to the middle. One of the closest was Lisa, a red haired girl who likes to hang out on balconies in the middle of the night. Her husband is trying to get her to come to bed but she seems preoccupied with the night, like it's something brand new to her. Before the husband knows what's happened, Lisa is no longer on the balcony. All that's left is mist.
Lisa isn't the only one answering the secret call of the vampires. Twenty-four others are gathering around that Atlantean vamp, Alyssa, and Bradley, the new leader of the Mysticos Sect. The Atlantean takes Lisa for his own and it's uncertain is he just feeds on her or turns her into a full vampire. Brad is upset that there are only twenty-four that answered the call and that Jubilee isn't among them. Alyssa calls for patience. She'll come around eventually. She has no choice.
The day comes soon enough. Cyclops is making plans with some of his most trusted X-Men.
Storm wants in but Scott refuses to let her. Ororo's encounter with Dracula back in the day might make her a liability on the battlefield. Wolverine is in complete agreement. Summers sends Logan out on a scouting trip. Wolverine selects his X-Team and the mission is on.
This team is comprised of Angel, Pixie, and Logan. Wolverine has picked up a trail from the suicide vampire in Union Square and has tracked it into downtown. It's an easy trail for him to follow. It leads right into an alley. Perfect spot for an ambush. Suddenly, Pixie and Wolverine are surrounded by vampire familiars. Angel swoops in to help the other two take these guys down. With that bit of dirtiness out of the way, Wolverine enters the dark warehouse alone.
Logan finds himself facing off against a female vampire. I am reasonably certain that this is Lisa turned. The only real tell is the necklace she's wearing. It's hard to tell if she has red hair in this light. During the fight, she mentions that she knows who Wolverine is... which if it is Lisa should be obvious after everything that's happened with the X-Men in San Francisco and even if this is another vamp, this should be a no-brainer. Logan doesn't keep a low profile and is in TWO Avengers teams added onto his X-Men work. This vampire also tells Logan that the Lord of Vampires is here before Wolverine cuts off her head.
And we've just learned that killing vampires is probably ok to do for X-Men. I mean, Logan would cut this girl down regardless, but he's not wearing his official X-Force suit so I think it's officially cool to kill vampires. We'll add that to the list with Skrulls and Nazis.
Back at Utopia, Jubilee is trying to enjoy some sun. I say "trying" because she's clearing not liking it. Jubes is just trying to be tough as the vampire virus continues to affect her. Kavita Rao confronts her on this and tries taking her pulse to see if Lee has turned but Jubilee freaks out on her and tells Rao that she just needs some alone time. Knowing that you might be slowly turning into a vampire is... disconcerting to say the least.
In a control room, Nemesis explains what he knows about the virus so far. The thing is making the brain act a certain way. Craving blood. Aversion to sunlight. These things are becoming reality because the brain is telling the body that's the case. The good news is the virus isn't contagious. The bad news is they still don't have a cure.
Wolverine calls in from the field to tell Cyclops how things are progressing. He and his team have found a safehouse filled with human bodies, weapons, and daywalking suits. Vampire trails from this building lead all over. This means the vamps are making a heavy play for San Francisco.
Wolvie brings even more bad news. He tells Scott about the vampire talking about the "Lord of Vampires." This ups the game. Cyclops calls Wolverine and his team back in so that can talk about how they'll be dealing with Dracula.
Yes, Drac's dead but that isn't common knowledge.
Outside, Jubilee watches the sun go down. Even with her sunglasses on, she's shading her eyes.
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artists: Billy Tan
In this story:
• In Japan, the Snakeroot Clan plots Matt Murdock's corruption.
• Bullseye breaks out of custody and sees Daredevil's fortress in Hell's Kitchen, Shadowland.
• The Avengers trinity tell Luke Cage and Iron Fist to inform Daredevil that his current path is fine but there is a time limit in place until it is not.
• Bullseye attacks Shadowland and faces the wrath of Daredevil and his Hand enforcers.
• After a prolonged battle, Daredevil runs Bullseye through with the villains own sai.
Way back during Dark Reign: The List, we looked at the very beginning of Andy Diggle's run on Daredevil (which also had art from Billy Tan). Inside that issue, Norman Osborn sent Bullseye to kill Matt Murdock as the vigilante was taking control of the Hand, a ninja assassin death cult that usually serves as cannon fodder for the heroes of the Marvel Universe. Instead, Bullseye blew up a condemned building full of protesters. These event has shaped Daredevil into the man he is today... probably not in a good way.
We start a story in Jigoku-Chu Castle, Japan to a private meeting of the Snakeroot Clan. This is the clan that has shaped the Hand from a band of freedom fighters into the death cult they are today. The Snakeroot Clan has had their own plans for Daredevil and those are starting to see fruition. Like they say, Matt Murdock can't be corrupted from without. He has to damn himself. The Clan leaders drop their red masks as magic twirls in the air. The age of man is nearing it's end. Soon, all that will be left is Snakeroot Clan and the demon they serve.
Back in New York, the aftermath of Siege is still being felt as the insane assassin, Bullseye is transported to the Raft. Bullseye is in his best Silence of the Lambs get-up complete with mouth shield. They don't take chances with this guy. Well... they TRY not taking chances with him. Lester isn't actually helping. He's a former Avenger after all. This is poor treatment for a guy like him especially when he's the only guy capable of stopping the Sentry.
The guards don't actually believe him but the fear of the Sentry is still a powerful motivator and it draws their attention. Bullseye knows that the Sentry is coming back. His death was largely overstated. Oh no! He's here right now! Oh man! Suddenly, Bullseye goes into cardiac arrest. The guards might not like it but they have to take the assassin out of his safety gear and deliver some electric shocks.
They hit him with the paddles and Lester comes back from the dead. Unfortunately, they've also fallen for his ruse and beg to know how to stop the Sentry. Bullseye uses the opening to hit the two with the defibrillator paddles. In their faces. It WAS a trick, of course. Lester knows the Sentry is gone (for now) and he wouldn't be able to help them anyway.
The pilot hits the autopilot switch and pulls his gun, wondering aloud how Bullseye managed that trick. The ex-Avenger explains that the heart is a muscle that can be manipulated like all the rest before catching the pilot's bullet with his handcuffs. They break off. The bullet ricochets off the handcuffs and hits the pilot right in the eyes. Bullseye has escaped and has an airship to go where ever he wants.
He flies right into Hell's Kitchen and finds Daredevil's fuedal Japan castle in the place where that condemned tenement building used to be. Shadowland.
We flit around the city of New York where some heroes, anti-heroes, and villains are also getting a good look at Shadowland. Moon Knight looks on from Inwood. Spider-Man checks out the view from Battery Park. Punisher gets a look through his binoculars at the High Line. Kingpin and Lady Bullseye watch events from Fisk's penthouse in Midtown. For Kingpin, his plans are still unfolding.
The Avengers look at this from their skyscraper headquarters in Manhattan. Opinion is devided even between best friends, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Luke doesn't think Shadowland holds any good, an opinion shared by Thor. Danny places more faith in Matt Murdock and thinks Luke is overreacting. Iron Man and Captain America decide that Shadowland is a good temporary measure. Until this new Heroic Age can re-establish it's presence, Shadowland tells Hell's Kitchen that it still has a hero looking out for it's interests. Luke reminds everyone that it's a presence supported by a death assassin cult.
When pressed, Danny admits that there are some less than good rumors heading out of Hell's Kitchen. People have been said to be disappearing. Be that as it may, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America tell Luke and Danny to send a message to Daredevil. Shadowland has their unofficial seal of approval... for now. It WILL need to be dismantled when everything settles down. Luke asks what happens if Murdock keeps his little kingdom.
James Barnes tells us that that could lead to the Avengers intervening.
Someone else is intervening right now. Bullseye spent the Dark Reign with a bow and arrow in his hands. He likes getting back to his sai. After killing a Hand guard as he lands on the roof and calls Daredevil out. It's similar to what he did in the Dark Reign: The List special except this time DD won't be fighting the assassin alone. This time, Bullseye won't get the chance to kill one-hundred seven innocent human beings.
This time, Daredevil brought a posse.
Words are exchanged and Daredevil talks around his new state of mind. What we can read into his convo is that he's totally willing to cross the line into killing territory. Bullseye's gotta die.
DD's Hand assassins take off to kill the villain. Bullseye makes it a chase. From a distance, Iron Fist and Luke Cage see the commotion and jump in to help out. Matt won't let them help. He asks them if they're ready to swear allegiance to the Hand and gets a typical negative response. With that, Luke and Danny are cut off from the fight, rudely. You'd think they aren't even Matt's friends anymore.
The ninja fight hits Javitz Convention Center. For Bullseye, this is fun. None of the Hand ninjas can take him. Within a short span of time, Bullseye stands alone, surrounded by dead ninjas. Now it's just Daredevil versus Bullseye. As it should be.
This fight is on the brutal side of things. Matt is in charge from the beginning and doesn't lose his advantage. After a few moments, Bullseye's right arm is dislocated. It's quickly followed by his left. Murdock grabs one of Bullseye's dropped sai as a look of fear crosses Lester's face. This is NOT how this is supposed to go.
Cage and Rand may have been shut out of this fight but they still run to catch up with this madness before lines are crossed.
They'll be too late. Daredevil stabs Bullseye through with the sai. It's a scene mimicking Bullseye running Elektra through back in Daredevil #181.
Avengers: The Children's Crusade #1
Writer: Alan Heinberg
Penciler: Jim Cheung
In this story:
• The Young Avengers fight the Sons of the Serpent.
• With his boyfriend threatened (also: a nuclear device), Wiccan does a magic whammy and Sons of the Serpent are defeated by the powers of a reality warp.
• The kids get a recent history lesson on the Scarlet Witch.
• The Avengers ask for Wiccan to be taken in for some tests but he refuses.
• Captain America shows up at his house and forces the issue.
• Billy and Cap encounter Hulking who is taken to Avengers Tower with them.
• Billy's brother, Speed, breaks them out.
• After talking it over with the Young Avengers, they decide to go find the Scarlet Witch and clear her name.
• And then Magneto shows up.
I'll level with you before we start this up. This isn't a Young Avengers story. It looks like it is, and the main characters ARE Young Avengers, but it's really a Scarlet Witch story. Or maybe it's a Billy Kaplan story. It could be both. Regardless, the plot centers on the recovery of Wanda Maximoff, who hasn't been seen since she had sex with Hawkeye after Civil War was over.
Even so, it's another mini-series to add to the Young Avenger's many lines of mini-series so if you want to officially classify it as a Young Avengers story, I'm not gonna stop you.
We start out with the Young Avengers throwing down against the Sons of the Serpent. The Sons are a terrorist group that believe in racial, religious, and American purity. This group is awesome because it was founded by a Chinese Communist who was trying to pull our nation apart. It kept on reforming with other less than "pure" leaders for a number of incarnations. This time, they're just background villains to show off that the Young Avengers are still doing their thing and being Avengers.
This latest incarnation also draws a line against homosexuality just so they can hate the Young Avengers a little more. Actually, it would completely fit with the Sons of the Serpent profile even though it hasn't come up in the past (that I'm aware of, at least-- I can't read everything!). This fight is mostly a cake walk as our heroes kick butt and take names. Then Hulkling gets all biblical and starts quoting verses back at his sparring partner.
This theological battle ends with Teddy kissing the terrorist on the cheek. This is an awkward move for everyone involved and I'm kind of embarrassed for Hulkling. The move costs him his advantage in the fight. Hulkling gets a chestful of bullets.
That's ok, though. As the arriving Ms. Marvel tells us, Teddy's half Kree and is therefore immune to projectile fire. Let me look that up real quick uses the trusty Google (that's www.google.com).
Nope. A Kree would die as easily as we would. I'd say Teddy's half-Skrull bits would help him more than the Kree half. At least that part of him has created some armored plates on his body that could deflect bullets a lot easier than fake invulnerability.
This is stuff you'd expect Ms. Marvel, and Alan Heinberg, to know. Ah well.
Carol is accompanied by Iron Man and Captain America. Both are in old costumes. We're dealing with Steve Rogers here. I'll reserve comment on this for now. It's coming. You can bet on it.
The Avengers have shown up to support the Young Avengers but they aren't able to do much more than shout orders to end this fight. Unfortunately, Hulkling may be "invulnerable" but he's still winded from catching all those bullets. His Sons of the Serpent opponent grabs him and then tells everyone to back off or he'll set off the nuclear weapon he has conveniently on his person. This is what you call "overkill." If you've got a nuclear device, you don't need a hostage. Either way, the villain has upped the ante and made it personal for Wiccan. Billy sees his boyfriend in danger (plus the nuke) and starts casting one hell of a spell.
The world goes white. When the Avengers recover, they see that they haven't been hit by nuclear fallout so this is something else. It was all Wiccan who's still floating in the air, surrounded by magical energy.
This isn't something you just leave alone. Not dealing with this right now leads to things like Avengers: Disassembled and no-one wants that to happen again. Cap and crew accompany the Young Avengers back to their headquarters (which isn't the Mansion anymore but I couldn't tell you where they are now). We learn that the Sons of the Serpent were taken alive while the bigots were in comas. They're waking up now. Wiccan's spell didn't kill anyone. But... it could have if Billy had lost control. Heck, Wiccan wasn't really IN control. This was a spontaneous act. Carol explains that Wiccan will need to stay with the Avengers for a while just to make sure his power levels don't threaten the entire universe.
This also means they have to explain all about the Scarlet Witch to these kids. We get a short history lesson detailing how Wanda Maximoff went mad and killed a bunch of Avengers (Vision, Hawkeye, Ant-Man) which I thought these kids already knew. I'm pretty sure Stature knew since her dad is one of the dead. Anyway, this is a nice review for the reading audience who may not have been reading Avengers five years ago. The report then heads into territory that the young heroes probably don't know about. Iron Man tells them about House of M and how Wanda's powers were used to alter the entire world and place mutants in charge. This event ended with the sad decimation of the mutant population when the Scarlet Witch willed it so.
Wiccan has a few thoughts to add to that. The first is that they think he's capable of that level of power. The second is to doubt Wanda's guilt in the matter. Someone must have been behind it and he doesn't mean Quicksilver whispering words into her ear to start the House of M. He thinks someone must have been manipulating Magneto's daughter into doing this. Someone drove her crazy.
There's not a doubt in the Avengers' minds that Wanda is guilty. Heck, there's not a doubt in MY mind. Still, comics are built on altering events so that the people responsible AREN'T responsible (I'm looking at YOU, Paralax!) with mixed results. It could fit in here and work since her reason for going nuts, learning she had once had two kids, was something that she should have already known. If someone were to have made her forget that event and then make it seem like the Avengers were hiding it from her... well, it would be easy to see someone manipultating events to suit their own agenda. Time will tell. They don't get into it in this much depth so we don't know where this is going.
And I'm also not sure that such a level of manipulation would free Wanda from the blame of any of these events. She still DID them unless she was possessed by an alien fear demon. Time will tell.
For now, the issue of Wiccan taking some tests at Avengers Tower is priority. Since Billy believes that he and Tommy have the souls of Wanda's children (who were also named Billy and Tommy), he wonders what the Avengers will think if that turns out to be true. They take such a hardline stance against Wanda and are unable to fathom that she's not responsible for her actions, what will they think of the grandchildren of Magneto? Their silence answers the question for Wiccan. He takes off.
Teddy and the rest of the Young Avengers catch up to him high above the city. Most of them think that was a very stupid thing to do. These guys are some of the biggest Avengers fanboys and are surprised to see Billy storm out on Captain America. Only Speed mentions how cool it was to see his twin do such a thing. The problem is that the Avengers AREN'T wrong. Power like Billy's needs to be under control and it doesn't look like Wiccan has full control. Dr. Strange offered to train the young mage but it doesn't look like that's happened. His teammates playing devil's advocate just ticks Wiccan off. He bolts again, making sure everyone knows how pissed he is.
It's time to check in with the 'rents anyway. Captain America has beaten him to it. After Steve has told them all they need to know, Wiccan finds himself on a trip to Avengers Tower to have Dr. Strange check out his magical strength.
OK. Big elephant in the room. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are wearing old clothes. A note in the beginning of the book assures us it's ok:
Note: Because work began on this series many months ago, there are some apparent discrepancies in regards the attire of certain characters, particularly Captain America and Iron Man. By the time this series concludes, it should become apparent where its events fall within the overall ongoing continuity. Until then, we feel confident that our loyal readers will be able to overlook these seeming inconsistencies. Relax, and enjoy the show.
If you want any clues as to where this will fall continuity-wise, don't look at me. Wording in the beginning of the book places it AFTER Siege. That means Steve and Tony shouldn't be wearing those suits. Tony got rid of the Extremis armor soon after Secret Invasion ended. Steve was dead at the time. While Steve COULD be wearing the Cap suit for a bit after Siege, that Extremis armor is STILL gone. Maybe this is seen through the warped prism of Billy Kaplan.
Anyway, back to the story. Steve is trying to hail a cab because someone didn't think ahead for transportation. Wiccan decides magic is the way to go and makes up a spell so that Captain America can fly. Rogers loves this, and takes off with his young charge to the Tower. On the way, Billy extrapolates his story for being the child of Wanda Maximoff and the Vision. Steve explains that his parents are his ACTUAL parents. They're biological and everything. Billy knows this and doesn't think his mom and dad are trying to trick him. He just thinks that Wanda's kids' souls got placed in his and Tommy's bodies. This would also accurately explain how they can be so old and still be kind of/sort of the kids of the Scarlet Witch. I can buy it now that they've explained away how it could actually fit into the fifteen-year-old Marvel U theory.
Steve is less convinced and throws out a warning that claiming to be the son of the Scarlet Witch won't win him any friends at Avengers Tower. The two continue on to the Tower but are confronted by Billy's boyfriend, Hulkling. Teddy isn't letting Cap take Wiccan without him tagging along. Steve wasn't expecting this but agrees to it. He calls ahead and has Jarvis prepare a room for the two.
While Avengers Tower is nicely furnished, the room they give to the two Young Avengers is like a prison cell. Brick walls, two single beds, and poor lighting. It just needs a magic touch. Wiccan whips up another spell and they've suddenly got a nice king-sized bed built for two and a lot warmer scenery to boot. The couple talk about what Billy is going to have to go through and there's talk about making up but we all know it's never gonna happen. We aren't gonna see these two kiss. It hasn't happened yet and I'd say odds are good that we aren't going to see it in the future. Maybe off-panel.
This time, the kiss is broken up by Speed. Billy's brother is here for the jail break. Vision has interrupted Tower security systems just to get these two teammates out of the lion's den. Speed vibrates their molecules through the wall. On the other side, Billy and Teddy are reunited with the rest of the Young Avengers.
Now, we have to wonder why they just don't let the tests get done. Even Billy wants them done at this point since he doesn't see the point in trying to escape the Avengers. They'll just find him again. Stature says they have another option. They can go looking for the Scarlet Witch, show her that her two kids are still alive, and make her not crazy anymore. Heck, maybe Cassie can get her dad back in the deal. Vision doesn't want Stature to get her hopes up too high but she has some good reasoning behind her thoughts. It wouldn't be the first, or second, time Wanda brought people back from the dead. Wonder Man and Hawkeye have already had the experience.
Just as they've made up their minds to find Wanda Maximoff, Magneto flies down. He really wants to meet his presumed grandchildren.
Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Dale Eaglesham
In this story:
• A whistle-blower is burned alive in his own car.
• Pete Wisdom gives Steve details on Professor Erskine's grandson trying to perfect the Super-Soldier formula.
• Steve infiltrate's Erskine's shareholder party in Madripoor.
• Jacob Erskine's wife looks like Steve's girlfriend from 1941.
• Rogers ascends to Erskine's penthouse and fights his way through Nextin security who are hopped up on unperfected Super-Soldier serum.
• Meeting with Professor Jacob Erskine, Steve learns that the Prof isn't trying to sell the formula to the highest bidder. He's trying to cure cancer.
• After mentioning his devious head of security, Professor Erskine is shot in the back from outside the building.
Nextin Pharmaceuticals. You may not have heard of them before. They haven't been a major player in the Marvel Universe until right now. What brings them to the spotlight is the death of one of their scientists. This guy was about to reveal to the authorities something about his employer that Nextin obviously didn't want to be out in public. For his actions, the whisleblower was led right into a trap. Before his death, the radio kept playing the same voice no matter what station. The doors refused to unlock. Then the car started on fire. Not a pretty way to go.
While this is horrifying for just what it is, you might be wondering how this connects to everybody's favorite hero of World War II, Steve Rogers. Well, it just so happens that Nextin Pharmaceuticals is run by the grandson of Professor Erskine. THE Professor Erskine, the developer of the Super-Soldier formula that runs through Steve's veins. The grandson has just changed his name from Jacob Paxton to his mother's maiden name of Erskine, supposedly to draw attention to his brand new product.
It seems that the new Erskine has discovered the secrets behind the Super-Soldier formula and is prepared to sell it to the highest bidder.
Before Steve can think of the serious ramifications behind that, he is reminded that this Jacob Paxton is the son of an old friend of his, Tyler Paxton. We get some flashback scenes detailing their past together. Tyler was another potential recipient for the Super-Soldier formula. Unfortunately, the formula was destroyed when Professor Erskine was killed. Tyler met Erskine's daughter during a memorial for her father. The rest is history, though we learn that Tyler's kid is a genius following in his granddad's footsteps.
So, yeah. Super-Soldier serum to anyone who can pay... not a good thing. Super powerful armies, every one of the soldiers a potential Captain America. There are inherent dangers to this plan. The Super-Soldier formula hasn't really worked effectively with anyone but Steve Rogers. Everyone else who has taken it has gone mad or had other medical problems. Isaiah Bradley, for example, has experiences serious mental problems that have left him in a childlike state since he was forced into a program to recreate the Super-Soldier formula as a test subject. Maybe a perfected formula would have better results. Maybe.
You may be wondering who Steve is getting all this information from. It's not his own people because he's chosen not to use an organization like SHIELD or HAMMER. No, Rogers gets his intel from Pete Wisdom. This... is telling. I know the world according to Steve Rogers chooses not to have it's own spy organization but it leaves America's Top Cop with a serious blind spot. He can't just be relying on his friends from across the pond to give him useful information. Roger HAS to have people looking for these things himself. Sure, the Secret Avengers are a start, but they're just one team. The world moves too fast for one team to cover every base. Sooner or later, Steve Rogers will need his own SHIELD.
Pete Wisdom gives him some files on all of this and then takes his leave. This wasn't an official visit, after all. His superiors don't know he's giving sensitive information to the former Captain America. All the more reason Steve needs his own organization of spies.
The next we see Steve Rogers, he's on a solo mission in Madripoor. He's looked in on Nextin Pharmaceuticals and learned that they're having a shareholders' party in this small country. That's suspicious right off the bat. No-one goes to Madripoor for legal reasons. They go there to break as many laws as they can away from the judging eyes of the international community. Rogers imagines that Nextin is trying to sell their Super-Soldier serum. His mission is to break into the party and make Jacob Erskine listen to reason.
He breaks into the hotel building playing host to this party in his new super-hero suit. I've gotta say, this new look is growing on me, but you've got to question its usefulness as a spy suit. It's too flashy. Sometimes I forget that I read comics. Logic need not apply.
Once inside the building, Steve covers up in a tuxedo and starts mingling. Casual conversation gets him information on where Erskine is hanging out. It's up in the VIP section with his young wife. Steve is already planning on how to make it up to this area when he gets a good look at Erskine's wife. She looks just like his girlfriend from 1941. This girl actually has a few previous appearances. Steve's girlfriend from 1941 is Cynthia Glass, a Nazi spy code-named Agent X. We get a short flashback of Rogers back in his WWII days lying around near a blown out building with her.
Then we're back in reality. Steve tries convincing himself that this lady is a different person but a small part of him believes there's a chance. It changes up his plans. Rogers exits the party and moves on to his plan of just making stuff up as he goes.
Up in the VIP section, Jacob Erskine learns about the break in and tells his chief of security to handle it. He's got an important meeting scheduled. His wife pulls him towards the elevator. The doors close just as Steve reappears in the hallway in his super-hero suit. He takes out the guards near the elevator with tranq darts but gets little from them. They've got security passes but no access to the elevator. Rogers starts up the stairs, heading to the penthouse.
On the way up, he meets Nextin's security assignment. They're coming out of the VIP gym and they look ready to rumble. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that these guys are using a performance enhancer. Giving the situation, Steve figures they're using the Super-Soldier serum. They move faster than they should. It makes little difference. Steve Rogers is a master at this kind of thing. Even if they were stronger than he is, he'd still manage a win. It's what he does.
Before the fight concludes, one of the bruisers drops to the ground dead without Steve anywhere near him. Examining the body after the sparring session confirms that they ARE using a version of the Super-Soldier formula and that this man paid the ultimate price for its use. It looks like an aneurism.
Rogers is even more angry now. He reaches the penthouse with his mind made up on Jacob Erskine. Once inside, Jacob picks him out even though Steve is trying to sneak his way through the darkened room. It looks like Erskine has been expecting him. Steve starts with the accusations but the CEO of Nextin is able to explain his side of the story pretty well. Thoughts that this is a revenge scheme are thrown out when it's revealed that Tyler Paxton held no grudge against Steve for becoming Captain America. Tyler went on to work in Military Intelligence and cracked communication codes. Even though he couldn't serve on the frontlines, he did his part. Jacob stopped using his dad's name to get Steve's attention but it's not as sinister as you might think.
In fact, Erskine claims he never planned on selling the Super-Soldier formula to whoever had the most money. He was using it as a basis for curing cancer he needed Steve here to help with that. I know what you're thinking: why not schedule some a visit with Steve during regular office hours? Write him a letter? Something that looked less like a super-villain play? You've got me. Some people just have to do things the hard way.
What Jacob Erskine can't explain is his security guards having used the Super-Soldier serum. It wasn't his doing by his attitude, though. After mentioning his Head of Security, Professor Erskine grunts and stops talking.
He's been shot in the back. The glass behind him is shattered where the bullet broke through. Rogers holds the brilliant man is his arms as yet another man named Professor Erskine dies from assassination.
If you've been holding out reading the first issue of Captain America Comics online for free at Marvel.com, you can catch the first story from that book as a back-up tale in this very comic! If you'd rather read my long-winded write up of the issue, check out Super Reads 102. Golden Age comics: they are CRAZY.
Hawkeye & Mockingbird #2
Writer: Jim McCann
Penciler: David Lopez
In this story:
• Eight years ago, Bobbi Morse says good-bye to her old life when she has herself declared dead.
• In the present, Clint Barton fails at date night by bringing Bobbi's mom with him.
• Crossfire learns a bit about the brand new Phantom Rider and her/his vendetta against the Morse family.
• Mockingbird and Dominic Fortune take out some of Crossfire's thugs and one of his robot drones.
• The robot drone, a DeathTHROW, is just playing possum while gathering information.
• Clint learns that Cross and Slade are planning to kill "the Morse woman."
• Bobbi's mom calls her up and there apologize to each other for a bit before Hawkeye cuts in to tell Mockingbird that she's in immediate danger.
• It turns out that "the Morse woman" was Bobbie mom. Oops.
The previous story in this series was covered HERE.
You might be thinking to yourself that Mockingbird completely fails at keeping her identity secret. She might not take her mask off all the time but she does walk around without her mask on and even uses her birth name. This wouldn't be a big deal except that she's dead.
After helping save SHIELD from internal corruption (with a little help from Spider-Man), Mockingbird decided to keep on playing super-hero. Nick Fury helped her kill off her real identity. She and Nick are hanging back as a SHIELD officer brings the news and a funeral flag to Bobbi's mother. Of course, it would have to be raining. Nick tells Bobbie all the things she'll have to do to keep her real identity dead. These don't include things like "don't get married" or "come up with a name that isn't 'Bobbi Morse.'" While Mockingbird claims she'll be good at this, she turns out to be the opposite.
In the here and now, Bobbi is out on the town waiting for her date to show up. Clint and her never really dated so this is a new experience. Clint Barton proves to be really bad at it. He's brought along a special guest: Bobbi's mom. You don't ruin a date more quickly than by bringing along your date's mom. Totally spoils the mood.
This is even more awkward because Bobbi's mom, Susan, thinks her daughter is dead. When she learns that Bobbi's been telling everyone that her MOM is dead... a certain daughter gets slapped in the face. After some quiet shouting, Bobbi leaves the restaurant. Yeah, that's Clint and Bobbi dating.
Barton follows his ex-wife outside to figure out what he did wrong. Hahahahahaha... oh man, it'd be quicker to tell him what he did right. You just don't go digging up the parents of your girlfriend when they tell you said parents are dead. If you find out they're alive, you probably sit down and talk with the girlfriend before springing the parent on them. Clint thought this was the way to break Bobbi out of her slump but he completely messed that up. COMPLETELY. There's some talk of Clint's brother dying in front of him before the two walk off in different directions.
Let's look in on our villians. They don't really even need to do anything to our heroes. The heroes are hurting themselves without the bad guys even trying. Still, William Cross (Crossfire) and the new Phantom Rider (Jamie Slade) have gotta do their part. Crossfire is busying himself with monologuing. Phantom Rider gets bored and shoots him in the head.
Don't worry, it doesn't do him any harm. Her bullets only hit what she intends them to hit. She was aiming at the robot spider thing, a DeathTHROW, that make up a good part of Crossfire's private army. They're expensive and Cross doesn't like her damaging his merchandise. What's her deal, anyway?
Let me tell ya. The new Phantom Rider is Lincoln Slade in his decendant's body. "The Spirit and the Heir." Lincoln describes himself as the original bringer of vengeance but he's actually the third Phantom Rider. His vengeance isn't that just, either. He is angry at Bobbi for not saving him from a lethal fall off a cliff after he held and raped her with the help of a love potion. Weakest vengeance ever. Or is there more to it? Lincoln seems to be angry with the Morse FAMILY instead of just Bobbi Morse. Maybe this is a family feud that we never knew about because they're just making it up.
Well, that's enough learning about the Phantom Rider. Let's look in on what Crossfire is currently working on. It looks like he's tracking Clint based on security footage and tracking the Avenger wherever he goes. That gives them an unexpected target.
In Brooklyn, Mockingbird is working off some anger by taking down some of Crossfire's thugs with a little help from Dominic Fortune. Dom contributes by shooting the DeathTHROW that's hanging out with the criminals. None of this improves Bobbi's mood.
She warns Fortune about asking her if it had but he ignores her and gets a punch in the face. Bobbi goes on to tell him how she might be angry at Clint but she loves him and his stupid mistakes are matched by her stupid mistakes. That is one great love story. Something about it touches a nerve with Dominic. This is a guy who's lost a lot over the years.
While they move on to find what these guys were protecting, Bobbi nearly falls to her knees after a psychic attack from the Phantom Rider. Dominic is there to catch her. This is not a romantic moment. Morse makes sure that's clear. They move on. The DeathTHROW gets up. It looks like bullets don't actually break them. At least not easily.
Behind all of that, we see the boot of the Phantom Rider.
Back at WCA (World Counter-Terrorism Agency) Headquarters, Clint is asking Bobbi's team how badly he just messed up. We already know the answer to that so we move on to more important things. London has found out new information about Crossfire. Her new program is able to pick up info on people along specific parameters. Now, she knows that Cross and an unknown female partner are making their move to "kill the Morse woman."
Hawkeye suits up. It's time to save his girl. He tells Twitchy to establish a connection with Mockingbird no matter what the techy has to do.
Someone else calls her first. It's Bobbi's mom. Susan tells her daughter that she might have gone too far when she slapped Bobbi in the classy restaurant. After all, she's keeping her own secrets. Susan is about to tell Mockingbird the secret history of her own father (and maybe shedding some light on a family feud that spans centuries?) when Hawkeye cuts in and tells Mock to seek cover. He also asks about Susan's condition and learns that she's doing fine. Twitchy had her and Bobbi's brother put up in separate hotel rooms under assumed names. You'd think Susan would be fine. You'd be wrong.
Bobbi looks up at the building tops and sees the silouette of the female Phantom Rider instead of Crossfire. That's because Crossfire is elsewhere. The Morse woman that they were going after wasn't Mockingbird. It was her mom. They've been tracking Susan since they caught her on camera with Clint earlier in the issue. Bobbi's telephone conversation with her mom is cut short when Crossfire shoots the elder Morse woman from a nearby building.
Young Allies #2
Writer: Sean McKeever
Penciler: David Baldeón
In this story:
• Our heroes relive the explosion that was Warhead blowing up at Ground Zero.
• Gravity is debriefed by Mr. Fantastic. He and Firestar decide to investigate on their own.
• Nomad and Araña find Toro and talk him into help them track down the Bastards of Evil.
• The Bastards bicker while their leader, Aftershock, chats with their overseer.
• Nomad and friends get a lead on Ember.
• Gravity and Firestar find Electro... or the other way around, actually.
• Araña, Nomad and Toro fight Ember. Toro tries killing the Bastard.
• Electro beats both Gravity and Firestar and tells them that Aftershock couldn't be his daughter. He hasn't had powers long enough to have a full grown teenage kid.
The previous story in this series was covered HERE.
A lot of books stopped carrying that Heroic Age banner after their first issue but I figure you may want the rest of the story if you've been reading along on Super Reads. Young Allies is one of those books, so enjoy the ride until the end of the story arc!
Last issue, the Bastard of Evil known as Warhead detonated near Ground Zero in New York City. The rag-tag group of heroes present couldn't stop him. Something like this has the potential of being a Stamford-like event, sparking greater regulation over the super-human community just after the Super-human Registration Act had been thrown out. That thread won't be touched but you've gotta be thinking it.
For the heroes who were there, it haunts their dreams. Gravity was closest and he was powerless. He wakes up screaming after a nightmare makes him relive the scene. Nomad lies awake in her shelter. Araña is moody. Firestar sits at the end of her bed, staring at the wig she wears to cover up her short hair still growing after chemo treatment. Toro looks like he spent the night in Central Park. He wakes up with the sunrise and heads down to Ground Zero to get a look at the new devastation.
The radiation has been contained thanks to the effort of the Fantastic Four. Reed has a shield keeping it in place while the Human Torch handles the fallout. Gravity has shown up by this point and explains what happened to Mr. Fantastic. Reed Richards doesn't seem to judge him too harshly. He even mentions how Gravity ended up saving the universe just a while back in the pages of the Fantastic Four. Still, he doesn't have much for the young super-hero to do. Other heroes are already hunting down the Bastards of Evil. Warhead's skeletalized remains are already accounted for. All that Greg Willis could do is help with clean-up.
Firestar flies by and calls down to him. Gravity chooses to join her instead of lifting heavy objects with his gravity powers. Angelica tells Greg that she got a similar treatment from the Avengers that Gravity got from the Fantastic Four. Neither wants to be sidelined from this fight. They're both too invested. It's time to work together to take down the bad guys.
They aren't the only ones thinking team-up. Toro is watching the two super-heroes streak across the sky when Nomad and Araña find him. Rikki Barnes knew an alternate version of Toro from her home dimension. She takes it for granted that her friendship with one version of Toro should carry over to this guy. In fact, she uses a version of Benito's name that he isn't comfortable with. "Benny." Only his sister called him Benny. Araña plays mediator between the two and it's a good thing she's around. Toro doesn't speak much english. Spanish is his language of choice.
Unfortunately, Anya also finds that Toro has a crush on her. She tries to deflect it as best she can. Anyway: team-up! Toro joins because he wants to make the Bastards of Evil pay for their crimes. Neither Rikki or Anya see that glimmer in his eye that mean he might be thinking "pay" in a permanent fashion.
At what passes for Bastards of Evil headquarters, we see that Warhead's explosive statement wasn't really part of the plan. They all have varying opinions on his act but they also have varying stances on each other. They barely get along. Ember hardly likes himself. A racist bigot well on his way to joining the Sons of the Serpent, Ember recently learned that his daddy was Pyro, the mutant flame manipulator who died of the Legacy Virus a long while back. Learning his father was a mutant hasn't helped his attitude any. After Singularity points out his defective genes, Ember lashes out in anger and then takes a walk around town.
In another area, possibly near this headquarters, the Bastards of Evil leader, Aftershock, is meeting with the Bastards' benefactor who is conveniently hidden in shadows to keep the mystery alive. She wants to know if the seated man ordered Warhead to explode. The benefactor/mastermind tells her that he wasn't responsible and didn't plan that but it was an eventuality with a personality like Warhead. Now, they have to deal with the after effects and as far as he's concerned, it plays right into their hands. Hits on the Bastards of Evil website are at an all time high. They've got more attention than ever.
Which is what these angry teens want: attention.
Aftershock thinks now would be a good time to lay low until the heat is off but the guy in charge disagrees. Now, they need to ramp things up even further.
Greg and Angelica spend the day interrogating guys in the know. This is a list of people that Angelica was aware of during her New Warriors days who hung on to various super-villains. No-one's talking. Gravity even threatens to drop one guy from skyscraper height and gets nothing. The two are frustrated and don't know where to turn. Greg Willis can't believe no-one is giving up info on this. It was a hit on Ground Zero. It's almost sacred ground and something like this reopens a wound that has never really healed. He can't believe this is the way the world is.
Nomad and company don't go around the city questioning informants. They hit an internet cafe and start doing web searches. "Our youth in action" says the man typing on his computer. We all know the web is a screwy place. Araña is checking Facebook out and finds both a pro- and anti- Bastards of Evil page. These guys just killed people and they have a fan page. This is nothing compared to their actual website, though. Besides learning that the Bastards actually have supporters, these three aren't getting anything.
Oh, and you might be wondering why Araña is dressed incognito. It's because she doesn't trust Toro. Rikki can't even guess why but some people don't just reveal their identity to complete strangers even if that stranger saved their life the other day. Toro doesn't seem to be having a good time, either. He doesn't see them gathering much info and Rikki's attitude is bothering. She keeps staring at him. Benito is about to leave when they finally hit paydirt: It looks like Ember walked past a traffic camera in Queens. They've got a lead.
Gravity and Firestar are still coming up empty in their search and they're starting to get on each other's nerves. Greg doesn't think Angelica cares enough. She's not getting upset or anything. Firestar's just doing the job at hand. There's a shouting match between the two where Firestar, who's been at this a lot longer than Gravity, tells him that she's channeling her emotions and is obviously moved by the situation. She wouldn't be out here, calling out a father of one of these super-villains, if she didn't care. Willis sputters out an apology before their quarry shows up.
Yeah, they weren't looking for leads on the Bastards of Evil so much as they were searching out the father of the leader. Electro is supposed to be Aftershock's daddy.
Toro, Nomad, and Araña have made their way to Queens. This is the same area that Ember passed through twelve minutes ago. They wonder where he got to in that time but they don't have to wait long. The Bastard is having a temper tantrum a few blocks away. Our heroes show up to stop him and with a little teamwork, Ember ends up right in Toro's hands. This was the plan but it's about to skip the rails. Toro doesn't knock Ember into unconsciousness. He tries crushing the Bastard's head.
Only now do Nomad and Araña realize that Toro's idea of justice differs from theirs. They try to pull him off and end up arguing over morality while the villain recovers and hits them all in a wide stream of flame. In the confusion, he gets away. Toro glares accusingly at his partners. This is obviously their fault.
Back with Firestar and Gravity, Electro turns out to be less of a pushover than you'd think. This guy is actually a tough customer again! He's also got some words to share with these two super-heroes.
After kicking the snot out of the both of them, Electro tells them that he's leaving them alive so they can spread the word. He's NOT the father of Aftershock. That would be impossible. He tells them to check the records of when he got his powers and how old Aftershock is. The dots don't connect because THE MARVEL UNIVERSE ISN'T OLD ENOUGH FOR HIM TO HAVE A DAUGHTER THAT OLD.
Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX
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