These things are starting to get much more manageable!
Today, we check out Shadowland: After the Fall #1, I Am An Avenger #4, and Blast to the Past for The Fantastic Four #'s 52 & 53. Enjoy and spread the word!
We're really finishing up Shadowland this time and then paying some attention to some lesser known Avengers. Special thanks to bkthomson for helping me with all my comic needs!
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Siege and beyond? Check no further than this link right HERE.
The aftermath to Shadowland begins. Now.
Shadowland: After the Fall #1
Writer: Antony Johnston
Artists: Roberto De La Torre & Marco Checchetto
In this issue:
• Ben Urich covers the aftermath of Shadowland, trying to track down the elusive Daredevil.
• Detective Alex Kurtz is doing the same thing, looking to arrest the Man Without Fear.
• After questioning many of the heroes involved in Shadowland, both men find their way to Foggy Nelson's office... where they still learn nothing about Matt Murdock's location.
• Matt leaves a tape to tell Urich how he took off after Shadowland and to admit his own guilt.
• Detective Kurtz finds out that the new Man Without Fear is Black Panther. There's no warrant out for that hero.
• Kurtz is confronted by a group of cops that don't want him looking for Daredevil.
• Elektra destroys Matt's tape and tells Urich that something like this will forever change Daredevil.
• Kurtz stops looking for Daredevil, knowing that someone else will take it up.
• Ben meets with Foggy one more time. The once and future lawyer has no doubt that Matt will return.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
Shadowland has wrapped up but everyone still has one pervading question: Where the hell is Matt Murdock? If you're looking for an answer to that question, well, you're looking at the wrong book. Both Ben Urich and Detective Alex Kurtz are looking for the vigilante and neither of them is going to find him. This book wraps things up enough for the next stage in Daredevil and Hell's Kitchen's story to continue without actually answering that little question.
Before we end this thing once and for all, let's have a rundown of the entire event for the new people in the crowd, the curious, and the slow in the brain. Shadowland started off well before the Shadowland series, with Matt Murdock becoming the leader of the Hand in the pages of Daredevil. While DD had the best of intentions (he wanted to use the Hand as a force for good), his new position made him susceptible to a little fear bug: Parallax. Wait, I mean: The Beast of the Hand. Who isn't Parallax. Anyway, the BotH couldn't gain a foothold into the soul of Daredevil unless Matt Murdock corrupted himself without outside influence. That moment came when Bullseye came calling for the thousandth time. At the end of this confrontation, instead of handing Bullseye over to the police and waiting for him to break out again, Murdock killed the villain, Punisher-style.
Things spiraled out of control at this point and the entire event split off into tie-in books that vaguely related to the main event. In time, the Beast's influence grew intense and riots began popping up all over New York. The heroes made their last stand and lost. Only Foggy Nelson gave them the opening they needed to put Matt back in the driver's seat on his own body. After some soul suicide, the Beast of the Hand was undone. The city returned to what it calls normal. Matt Murdock scampered off while no one was looking.
So now everyone is looking for him. Take, for example, Ben Urich. He's the publisher of Frontline but he's also their star reporter. Today, he covers the end of Shadowland, considering himself one of the men who knew Matt Murdock the best... even though towards the end, no one knew Matt very well. That whole Beast of the Hand thing was a mess on friendships. Anyway, Urich walks through the streets of Hell's Kitchen. Shadowland just happened a just a short time ago and that means that there are still fires burning. People need help. Firefighters are on the scene.
Ben observes Daredevil's former address, Shadowland. The fortress is still up, and it's an ominous sight; not just because it doesn't match the rest of the architecture. As we learned in Daredevil #512, the place is still swarming with Hand ninjas.
But if you are only looking at Ben Urich, you only get half the story. The other half of this tale is told by everyone's favorite Hell's Kitchen police detective, Alex Kurtz. Detective Kurtz has been charged with the sacred task of arresting Matt Murdock. There's enough evidence to lock the vigilante up in the wake of Shadowland, but that's not all: it seems Daredevil is playing smug bastard and playing the role of vigilante on the streets of Hell's Kitchen like nothing has happened. There are rumored sightings of the Man Without Fear all over the Kitchen. Even Kurtz has seen the masked man, posing in front of a police window. Balls of steel, that one.
And so, after walking the streets and getting their internal monologue out of the way, Urich and Kurtz both hit up every hero they can find to see if anyone knows where Matt Murdock ran off to. Detective Kurtz finds Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Moon Knight. Ben talks to Shang-Chi, Spider-Man, and Misty Knight. Odds are pretty good that both men talk to all of these heroes but the shots we get split them up so that they both appear to be working. If you're curious, none of our heroes have seen Daredevil.
It seems they reluctantly turn to Foggy Nelson as their last option in finding the blind lawyer. Foggy is busy setting up shop as a lawyer once more. That doesn't mean he IS a lawyer again. These things take time and while things look positive that Nelson will be reinstated, Foggy set things up early in a characteristic show of optimism.
Ben Urich arrives first, engaging in some small talk before subtly arriving at the main question: where the hell is Matt Murdock? He'd probably phrase it a little more tactfully. Before Franklin Nelson can answer, Detective Kurtz comes in asking the same thing. It looks like Ben and Alex don't get along and they bicker about each other's jobs until Nelson tells them he DOESN'T know where Matt is and they should all just leave his office so he can get back to his busy work.
They keep pestering Foggy about this until Ben Urich mentions that the reason they haven't found Daredevil might be because the hero is dead and lying in a hidden passage inside Shadowland. Nelson won't believe that and Alex mentions all the Daredevil sightings the station has reported. Ben talks about how accurate those sightings could be. All this talk about his best friend being dead kind of pisses Franklin Nelson off. He demands that Kurtz and Urich leave.
We follow Ben out the door as he explains that he doesn't actually believe Matt is dead. He just wanted to put that thought in Detective Kurtz's head. Urich returns home where he finds a microcassette in his P.O. Box. It's been a long time since he used a microcassette, but he still has a player for the things. Popping it in, he hears the familiar voice of Matt Murdock.
As Detective Kurtz walks the streets of Hell's Kitchen, he remarks on how quickly things are returning to normal after the whole Shadowland business. At almost the same time, he witnesses a mugging. As the police officer races in to do his job, another hero hits the scene and starts taking out the bad guys.
Alex recognizes the man as the dude he saw posing in the police window and decides it could be Daredevil. That means his gun is suddenly trained on...
The Black Panther. This shouldn't surprise us because were were all here in Super Reads 130, when we learned that T'Challa was taking over the streets of Hell's Kitchen and, also, Daredevil's own title. He doesn't give Detective Kurtz his name but he's got a distinctive enough look that even with the few changes made to the suit, we all know it's classic Black Panther in that get-up.
In Ben Urich's apartment, the publisher is getting the confession of Matt Murdock. Daredevil admits to being at fault. Sure, everyone will forgive him because he was corrupted by the Beast of the Hand but it was Matt who gave the Beast a door inside his soul. Matt killed Bullseye and everything went downhill after that. The bad stuff happened well before that, though. Matt had made a mess of his life ages before he even accepted the leadership of the Hand. Because of all of that, Murdock has decided that Hell's Kitchen and Daredevil are bad for him.
So he's not going to see them any more.
After the standard, "don't come looking for me" and "please don't tell Foggy" lines, a sai finds its way right through Ben's microcassette player.
Sais mean Elektra. Natchios tells Urich that this is information that shouldn't be shared with anyone else. She showed up here because Ben had made inquiries on her and she wanted to... well, maybe she came by to chat. Whatever the original reason, she found answers on Ben's tape that she had just guess about earlier. Ben still has his own questions though, because he's a good reporter.
What happened inside Shadowland?
Detective Alex Kurtz has returned to his office at the 18th Precinct to digest the latest information about Black Panther patrolling the Kitchen. In the midst of his reverie, he's confronted by a whole lot of concerned police officers.
Now, this could be a group that is cheering him on as he looks for Daredevil but it's not. These guys are all pro-Devil. They even throw up the horns right off panel, I swear. Each policeman has their own story about how their lives were made better through Daredevil's assistance. No one's here to force the matter but they really think Kurtz should lay off this one.
Alex has his own relationship with Daredevil but his sense of justice pops up. Sure, DD has made a lot of good moves over the years but it also looks like he caused a giant riot all over New York after closing off the Kitchen to any other form of law enforcement. Shouldn't that be an arrestable offense? The other policemen just call him a desk jockey and walk off with vague threats. The desk jockey comment isn't that fair considering what Detective Kurtz has been doing lately.
Back at Urich's apartment, Elektra has to be goaded into revealing what happened inside Shadowland but she eventually tells Ben some of what he wants to know. It's not a majorly descriptive account but it gets some of the main bits across. She heads over to the balcony and tosses the microcassette with Matt's confession out into the street. Don't worry about that incriminating evidence getting into the wrong hands, though. She pulled some of the tape out. No one will be able to string it back in.
Elektra tells Ben that Matt's journey through Shadowland and the corruption of his soul caused by the Beast of the Hand will have made a permanent mark on Daredevil. If and when the Man Without Fear returns, and he will, Matt will come back as a different dude. After giving Urich helpful advice to let this story die, Elektra leaps off the balcony.
Meanwhile, Detective Kurtz is talking to his Captain, telling him that Alex won't be continuing this case. No trace of Matt or Daredevil has shown up so he doesn't have any reason to continue. The Captain isn't happy about this but Kurtz doesn't care. He doesn't think the case will be dropped because someone else will pick it up. Kurtz is just as certain that Daredevil will return in time.
Ben Urich meets up with Franklin "Foggy" Nelson a bit later on. He's not revealing the tape that Matt made for him. Ben just wants to check in on a friend and give Foggy some encouragement. They both look around the Kitchen and see all the good that Daredevil did over the years. Hell's Kitchen isn't the best neighborhood in the world but it's not the nightmare that it was when DD started out. This place is actually liveable.
This is something Matt never noticed because he was so close to it all. It still happened. The neighborhood is much better just because Matt Murdock was around to help it around. One man made a difference.
And Foggy? He knows that Matt will return. It's Matt Murdock. This place is his life. When he figures that out, Daredevil will be back.
That is the end of Shadowland. Since the event ACTUALLY ended a while back, we know that Daredevil's story is continued with Daredevil: Reborn by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice. This details a New Mexico adventure of the Man Without Fear and returns Matt to Hell's Kitchen in its four-issue run. In July, the Daredevil title returns, written by Mark Waid and art by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin, leapfrogging art duties for story arcs. This'll bring back a changed Daredevil, more lighthearted, while not ignoring what happened in Shadowland. During Fear Itself, it looks like Daredevil finally joins a New Avengers team.
And Black Panther? He continues to co-opt the Man Without Fear title by David Liss (friend of the Outhouse!) and Francesco Francavilla. It comes highly recommended.
Now, we move out of Shadowland territory and right into Avengers territory!
I Am An Avenger #4
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Sara Pichelli
In this story:
• Thing pays for some take-out Chinese food for the whole Fantastic Four family.
• During dinner, he announces that he's joined an Avenger team. Johnny is upset because they never ask him.
• In the middle of his announcement, Ben leaves to help the Avengers fight sea worms.
• Johnny plays video games and mopes about not being the hero he should have been.
• During the monster fight, Reed calls Ben back to the Baxter Building because of an attack by the Red Ghost. Thing takes off right away.
• When Grimm returns home, he finds out that Val was just prank calling him to find out where his loyalty lay. Turns out it will always be with family.
• Nothing will ever change! Except everything. And then back to nothing.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
This story takes play back a ways. Not TOO far in the recent past but back to maybe New Avengers #6 when Thing had a moment away from his new team after joining them in issue #1. Because it's published a month before one of the Fantastic Four dies... it's in a strange place. Because it's written by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa, it's awesome.
Ben Grimm is a hell of a tipper. He just paid the dude delivering the family's Chinese take-out a hundred dollar bill for a meal worth $34.99. Suddenly, we all want to deliver food to the Baxter Building. I mean, unless Reed is ordering. You know he calculates that tip out to the fifth decimal point and might even shave a penny to get it that accurate.
Ben's bought the Fantastic Four dinner, which isn't such an amazing thing, but it's the dinner conversation that'll spark some interest. As mentioned above, the Thing has joined Luke Cage's Avengers team but hasn't told the Fantastic Four until this moment. It's not like Avengering will interfere with his involvement on the FF. The FF is family and there's a lot of downtime in between adventures. If there wasn't, Reed would never be inventing crazy hats that split atoms and Sue wouldn't get any time to run her charity organization. Johnny would probably not have much extra time to sleep in. The point is there's space to fill in and Thing has decided to spend that downtime with the Avengers.
He's also got a chart in his room detailing how EXACTLY Wolverine and Spider-Man can serve on two Avengers teams as well as all the other things they've got going on. It involves wormholes and magic.
Most of the family seems to be taking this news pretty well, though they all have their questions. Johnny is mostly frustrated because every other hero in the Marvel Universe has been an Avenger except for him. Hell, every member of the FF has been on an Avengers roster except for him. It's really starting to burn.
Ben tells everyone that this won't change anything right before opening a fortune cookie telling him "EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE SOON." This is the definition of ominous especially given what we, the readers, know about the future of the Fantastic Four. Before the talk can continue, Thing gets a call from Luke telling him that the Avengers Assemble light has been lit and it's time to fight some giant sea worms.
Ben is off to hang with the cool kids.
The battle versus giant sea worms is going to take a while so we get a chance to sit back and hang with the first family of the Marvel Universe... particularly the member of the family that's taking this new the hardest. Johnny "Human Torch" Storm.
Johnny is not a bad guy. He's not a bad hero. It's just that he seems a bit on the unfocused side when he's not staring down Galactus. We're dealing with the first member of the FF to have their own solo series, after all. Sure, that book kind of floundered and not even including the Thing in later stories (making it a buddy book) could save it but it's still a big deal. The fact that he's never been an Avenger is kind of wierd and he's depressed about being left behind while everyone one else in the family steps up to do different things.
Sue tries to comfort her little brother. It doesn't look like he's be getting out of his funk tonight. He's all about how he's wasted his potential.
Meanwhile: GIANT SEA WORMS! These guys are big and menacing but they're also placeholder monsters so we don't have to get into any deep plot that the New Avengers are facing. This isn't a story about punching bad guys. This is a story about family.
What that means is that when Ben gets a panicked call from Reed about the Red Ghost and his Super Apes attacking the Baxter Building, the Thing doesn't hesitate. He immediately takes off towards home, leaving the rest of the New Avengers to lead the monsters back into open water.
When Grimm returns to the Baxter Building, he finds out that there's no bad guy waiting for him. Reed hadn't even called him. It was the other person bothered by Ben joining the Avengers: Valeria Richards. She wanted to know whether Ben would choose the Avengers or the Fantastic Four if there were two big crisises. Val's also very grounded.
Well, it looks like that mystery is solved. If his family is threatened, his place is by their side. The Fantastic Four is his family. They're what matter the most to him and he'll die to protect each and every one of them. Again, he repeats that nothing is going to change.
Go on over and read the final issues of Fantastic Four to see how true that statement turns out to be. Poor Johnny. :(
Writer: Sean McKeever
Artist: Mike Mayhew
In this story:
• Two eras of Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor face off for some reason.
• Loki holds the Sverosorg (it's a sword) aloft and says, "By the power of-- wait? I'm DEAD!? For how long?"
• Justice, Justice, Firestar, and... I forget (Firestar?) fly off to stop Loki.
• While the two Justices distract Loki, the Firestar duo stops his nefarious scheme.
• Together, the Justices and Firstars bury the Sverosorg and everyone snaps back to their regular time.
• In the past, the Avengers congratulate their newest members for the victory and then completely forget it ever happened.
• In the present, Vance and Angel make a poor attempt at talking things out and then just walk away.
Part three of "Closure" is upon us! Are you ready?
First, some details: Vance Astrovic and Angel Jones were absolutely, madly, and perfectly in love with each other. Then, they weren't. It was a harsh breakup and there are hurt feelings on both sides. All of this could have been buried deep inside forever until the two were confronted by their past selves, still deeply in love. It got them talking... and fighting.
This was alla plot by Loki from the past. He brought his era's Aventers to the present to fight their counterparts. For some reason. I don't know HOW the god of mischief convinced the Heroes Return Avengers to do this, or WHY, but let's just say we're not let in on the whole plan and pretend that it all makes sense.
So! We begin this story with scenes of those other Avengers locked in combat. Iron Man versus Iron Man! Captain America versus Commander Steve Rogers! Thor versus Thor! It's not incredibly important to the plot but it's nice to see. It's also funny to hear how choked up past Thor is on the death of Odin considering that it's not the first time the All-Father has stopped living. This probably has more to do with Heroes Return Thor waking up int he ruins of Asgard and not knowing what's happened to his people than anything else.
What we DO know is that Loki's scheme revolves around a magical sword called Sverosorg. This is the Sorrowsword and while we still have no clue why Loki involved time travel (or anything else, for that matter), if he "reunites the sword with its original owner," the world will go emo and serve Loki. It just so happens that the original owner is on display at a local museum. So it's a solid plan.
To save a world from despair (and Loki), Justice and Firestar from two eras have united. Both Justices are flying off to initiate phase one of their plan while the two Firestars team up for phase two. The younger versions are trying to pry info from their older selves to figure out why they'd ever break up but the present version of Vance and Angel are staying pretty tight lipped.
Loki is just moments away from depressing the world into submission when he's interrupted by the Vances. Neither Justice does anything fancy. They just rush in and are struck down by Loki's new sword.
The god of mischief talks about how these two deviated from his script and completely misses the Firestars approaching from behind him.
Angel and Angel use their microwave powers to perform one supremely late Viking funeral.
So the world isn't going to get more depressed today. That doesn't mean Loki's been defeated. He plunges Sverosorg into the ground and starts the mother of all time hurricanes.
The Justices and Firstars have to act quickly. Angel and Angel fire microwave blasts right past Loki, who still doesn't get what they're up to. The flames hit the sword's base, melting it. Both Justices use their telekenesis to sink the Sorrowsword right into the floor.
Loki is defeated and time snaps back into its proper place. Everyone else reappears as wll, since the entire city's population had vanished during this adventure. The two museum security guards don't know what to make of the two heroes that just showed up in their building.
In the past, the mighty Avengers congratulate their newest members for saving the day. Vance and Angel figure their future selves were able to suss out what was going on because seeing their past selves in love helped them on the road to regaining their lost memories. Knowing that they'll break up in the future, Vance starts talking about maybe taking things slowly.
And then both of them completely forget what they've just learned and go back to business as usual.
These past scenes are intercut with present day Vance and Angel as they talk about their break up and how they both still have a lot of unresolved issues stemming from it. Vance suggests they go out for coffee and talk but Angela nixes that idea because of her early morning classes. They both walk away from each other. Business as usual, I suppose.
Writer: Colleen Coover
Artist: Colleen Coover
In this story:
• Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel take on some thieves while talking about the good old days.
• Um... yeah. That's pretty much it.
• They're happy that good is good and evil is evil again.
• They're both good. FYI.
The universe has not been kind to Jessica Drew or Carol Danvers. Seriously, both of these two have had some major crap happen to them in their lives. If anyone is benefitting from this new Heroic Age, it just might be these two.
For example: They fly right over some criminals clearing out a store and they don't need a score card to figure out who needs hitting. While they beat on some rent-a-thugs, the two reminisce on their pasts and how simple it all used to be. Now, take in mind this is what most people do. We forget most of the crap and just remember our past with rose colored glasses on. This is easy because it's the past. There are very few surprises to be found there so it all seems... comfortable.
I mean, unless someone has to go back and retcon something just to make their new story make sense. That happens more often than not.
Anyway, bad guys are defeated with a certain amount of ease. Spider-Woman contacts the police and it's a job well done.
Next up: Fire trucks race past them. It's time to get back to work as the heroes they are.
Writer: Lucy Knisley
Artist: Lucy Knisley
In this story:
• Stature helped defeat some super-criminal and Tony tells her she did a good job.
• Except she destroyed his car earlier during a spat with her boyfriend (who looks like neither Vision or Iron Lad) so Tony ribs her about that.
• She apologizes because, hey, she destroyed his car and shouldn't have.
• Then, Ms. Marvel tells her that Stark had his car insured against just this kind of destruction so Cassie gets angry about Tony giving her hell.
• Because... I guess it's OK to destroy something if the owner can get it replaced or fixed for free?
• No one lends Stature their car ever again. I don't even think she's old enough to drive.
Y'know what? I just described the entire one page story pretty succinctly in the bullet points. I don't think I'm doing it again.
I'll point out that the one-pagers are gags and totally out of continuity. They're also not that funny. This isn't an exception, either. I know I probably took it way too seriously in the bullet points, but it's still not that hilarious. Your mileage will probably vary. Obviously, I think I'm frickin' hilarious and I doubt everyone shares that opinion.
Which is too bad because I'm wicked funny.
The Fantastic Four #52
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
In this story:
• Reed, Sue, and Ben try out a new magnetic wave flying car, a gift from an African king! All they have to do to get this gift is pay the king a visit.
• Word reaches King T'Challa that the Fantastic Four are on their way. T'Challa prepares for the Great Hunt!
• Johnny Storm and his roommate, Wyatt Wingfoot, get surprised by the rest of the FF. Both of them are invited to Wakanda.
• Karnak tries to shatter the Negative Zone field surrounding the Great Refuge. He fails.
• The Fantastic Four fly into the Wakandas and quickly find out that they are the prey in the Great Hunt.
• The Black Panter separates the Fantastic Four and defeats them one by one.
• What King T'Challa didn't count on was Wyatt Wingfoot. Johnny's college roommate evades capture and frees the Fantastic Four while T'Challa focuses on his last target, Mr. Fantastic.
• United, the FF best the King of the Wakandas.
• As their prize, T'challa unmasks and begins telling them his tragic Secret Origin.
July 1966! If you haven't noticed, it was a pretty productive year when it comes to new characters. The Marvel Universe was being fleshed out in these formative years and that meant new people to meet and new territories to explore. It's not surprising that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would eventually sent the Fantastic Four to Africa to the most technologically advanced nation on earth: The Wakandas. Here, the team of adventurers would meet King T'challa. The Black Panther.
T'challa wasn't the first black character introduced into Marvel Comics. That distinction rests on Gabriel Jones of the Howling Commandos. The Black Panther WAS the first black super-hero, however, which makes him even more of an icon in the Marvel Universe. And if you're wondering, he wasn't named after the Black Panther political movement of the sixties. He predates them.
Now stick around as the Fantastic Four meet the Black Panther and Wyatt Wingfoot logs in his first adventure with the Fantastic Four.
It's not uncommon to see the Fantastic Four scooting around the sky in some space age invention or another. What IS uncommon is learning that their later flying car isn't the product of Reed Richards' fantastic brain but is instead a gift to the team from an African king. The thing handles like a dream and operates on principles that fascinate Mr. Fantastic. What's funny is they make Ben Grimm, ace pilot, air sick.
When Reed, Sue, and Ben return to the ground, they tell the envoy to that African king that they love the car and want to keep it. The envoy replies that all they need to do is pay the King of Wakanda a visit. If they accept, the King will set up a Great Hunt... "in honor of [their] visit." While we can see through that language in one second and figure out that the Fantastic Four is going to be hunted, the team is still green enough to think this is just going to be a friendly vacation to a primitive African nation that they've never heard of and don't bother to do any research on before setting out.
Thrilled that Reed Richards has accepted his king's invitation, the Wakandan emissary contacts his king immediately using another scientific wonder. It's basically a cosmic cell phone created before cell phones existed.
Since word reaches the king of the Wakandas so quickly, we can switch scenes to that hidden African nation right now. King T'challa is pleased that the Fantastic Four are coming and orders his people to get ready for their arrival. The Great Hunt is on and it's time for T'challa to don his ceremonial... stalking costume. I didn't make that one up. It's hidden in a compartment on the Black Panther Idol which rises with the help of sci-fi machinery. The look is pretty sweet. The Black Panter might not have a lot of color in his costume but it's a striking black suit with a grey cape.
Back in the United States at Metro College, Johnny Storm frets over his latest tests and looks forward to the start of his vacation and a trip back to the Baxter Building. Huh. It seems he just started school two issues ago.
Johnny's roommate, Wyatt Wingfoot, has no worries or anything else that prevents him from getting in a good night's sleep. In fact, he doesn't even wake up when the rest of the Fantastic Four shows up, surprising the Human Torch. After the shock wears off, Johnny is happy to see his teammates. When Reed tells him that they're taking a trip to Wakanda, Johnny asks if his roommate can come as well. Since everyone is under the impression that they WON'T be fighting for their lives, Mr. Fantastic lets the college student come with.
Johnny's still stuck on this girl he met a couple of issues ago. The problem is that girl is the member of an ancient race known as the Inhumans and those Inhumans are currently stuck in their home city behind an impenetrable barrier of Negative Zone-ness. This is Crystal, and she's as hung up on Johnny as he is on her.
The Inhumans may not have interacted with the outside world too much but it was nice to think they could if they wanted to. The Royal Family is trying to figure out how to get that barrier down. Karnak, who can find the weakness in anything, is practicing his skills on diamond blocks. Everyone tries to tell him that the Negative Zone barrier is a lot different from diamond blocks but he's still determined to karate chop the heck out of the wall of solid energy. Karnak nearly breaks his hand for the effort.
In his prison cell, Maximus, the brother of King Black Bolt, cackles at this latest try to tear down the barrier surrounding the city. It was Maximus the Mad who created this prison for his people and he fully expects the Inhumans to name him king before he lowers it. That's not going to happen. Medusa is confident that the man she loves (that would be Black Bolt) will find a way out of their predicament. Crystal hopes that Johnny hasn't found another girl.
No hope of that. He's completely love struck.
The Fantastic Four are almost at their destination, the Wakandas. The Wakandan emissary is flying them there because they would have no idea how to get there on their own. Even though they've seen some technological marvels from Wakanda, they aren't prepared for what they'll find when they reach the country. Before they get there, Johnny and Ben look to the back seat where Wyatt Wingfoot is sleeping. The guy likes his sleep. I can relate.
The FF are going to get the second biggest surprise of their visit to Wakanda in three... two... one!
Robots in disguise!
While the team is stairing at the odd surroundings, their driver disappears. Ben finally catches sight of him but he's already disappearing into the ground by way of a hidden elevator. When the Thing tries to catch him (the guy is throwing out taunts-- you'd try to catch him too), the rock covering the secret elevator explodes with electricity. The voltage seriously weakens the blue-eyed one and sets him up for what happens next.
This is the first greatest surprise that they should have seen coming a mile away. The Black Panther shows up for the Great Hunt and imagine all of our shock when he starts hunting... THEM! I know, right?
T'challa leads things off with a split kick to both Thing and Human Torch. The team doesn't waste time bringing the fight right back to the king but this is all going according to the Black Panther's plan. The Human Torch leads the charge and runs right into a trap: a fire proof room that blasts him with... with... vacuum blasts. I don't know what those could actually be. Anyway, Johnny's out of the action. His cage under the ground to make his rescue even more difficult.
The rest of the team doesn't just rush in after the Human Torch. They step back and try to make a plan. This pleases the Black Panther not because it's part of his carefully laid plan but because it'll make it more challenging.
If Wyatt Wingfoot wasn't awake before, he most certainly is now. He stops the Thing from tearing up the landscape because the whole metalic jungle could be booby trapped. In fact, he pretty much takes charge. When Reed mentions that they should get to know this jungle a bit better, Wyatt takes the lead, volunteering to scout around while the others stay here. That sounds like a good plan so that's exactly what the team does.
Reed, Sue, and the Thing have nothing but time as they wait around for Wyatt to complete his scouting mission. Well, time and three Wakandan gunner aiming their special Wakandan guns at the remaining members of the Fantastic Four. The guns don't kill the super-heroes. They just set the three up to repel each other. There will be no working together as a team. It's all about facing the Black Panther one at a time.
The first to go down is Sue Richards. She tries to remain invisible as the Panther stalks her but T'challa hears her breathing and pounces before Sue can put up her invisible forcefield. The Black Panther strikes with his sleep gas fingers and another member of the Fantastic Four is defeated.
Ben isn't doing himself any favors this issue. This time, he sets himself up by drinking the water which is something you're always warned against doing when you travel. This time, the water is actually "devitalization fluid" which again weakens the Thing to normal human levels. The Black Panther then shows up to tell Ben how stupid he is before knocking the hero out with a little help from a smashed refrigeration unit. That's three down, one to go.
Wyatt Wingfoot pretty much has the run of the mechanical jungle since the Black Panther didn't factor him into his equations. This means he makes it all the way to the real jungle and finds the Wakandan monitoring station. The Wakandans are feeding T'challa with information on the Fantastic Four's goings on but those apparently don't include Wyatt. That's good because he's able to enter the station and take out the monitoring crew.
Wingfoot tries making his way back to the Fantastic Four but the situation has changed since he left the FF. Instead of meeting up with Reed, Sue, and Ben, he finds where Johnny is being held and decides to free his roommate.
It's all down to Reed Richards. If you think this is the moment when the leader of the Fantastic Four shows us all why he's in charge of the team... not so much. Oh, sure, Mr. Fantastic doesn't go down like a punk. He's definitely the action hero we all expect sixties Reed to be. It's just that the odds are against him. When the lights go out, Mr. Fantastic is tricked into a pair of Titanium cuffs that he apparently can't just stretch out of.
Now, even with his hands caught, you'd think Reed would be hardly defeated. I mean, he's still got two legs, a head, and pretty stretchy arms to fight with. Black Panther declaring victory seems premature at best. That's because it is. The rest of the Fantastic Four is back up and running! Wyatt didn't stop after helping Johnny escape his trap. They both moved on the get both Sue and Ben on their feet.
Faced with the combined force of the Fantastic Four (Johnny's working on burning off the titanium cuffs holding Reed while throwing flames with his other hand), the Black Panther is forced to admit defeat. Sure, he planned for the Fantastic Four but the unexpected appearance of Wyatt Wingfoot threw off his entire plan.
The Fantastic Four demand to know why they were subjected to this Great Hunt business and the King of the Wakandas decides they deserve the answer. Taking off his mask, T'challa begins to tell them his Secret Origin!
The Fantastic Four #53
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
In this story:
• The Fantastic Four witness the "Dance of Friendship" which probably means they won't be attacked by the King of Wakanda again. T'challa leads them into his own rooms where he begins to tell them his Secret Origin.
• On the border of the Wakandas, the border patrol is attacked by a giant, red, hairless gorilla and then its elephant counterpart.
• The Black Panther's Secret Origin continues with several interruptions by Ben Grimm who find the whole story to be clichéd.
• T'challa introduces the Fantastic Four to the metal that has made Wakanda rich: Vibranium! That kind of makes this story different.
• In the Black Panther's back story, T'challa's father, T'chaka, was killed by Ulysses Klaw when the former king opposed Klaw taking over the Sacred Mound (which is where the Vibranium comes from.
• When the Wakandan's stood up for themselves, Klaw and his mercenary army tore them to pieces.
• A young T'challa found a weapon, a sound-blaster, being brought back to Klaw's men after the battle and relieved the mercenary of it. Using that weapon, the young king was able to free his people from Ulysses Klaw's control.
• Knowing that Klaw would eventually return, T'challa trained his whole life for that eventuality. He attended universities all over the place and trained his mind as well as his body. That mechanical jungle? T'challa created the thing just to see if he could. Even his battle with the Fantastic Four was just to see if he was strong enough to do so.
• At the conclusion of his tale, an alarm sounds warning of Klaw's return.
• The Fantastic Four attack the giant gorilla creature and Reed figures out that they are a creation of living sound. They can't beat the things.
• The Black Panther follows the trail of carnage caused by the sound creatures back to it's source, entering a cave where Klaw is masterminding the whole thing.
• T'challa fights a sound panther while the giant sound elephant reaches the Fantastic Four. The elephant eventually disappears. Black Panther is able to fend off the sound panther until Klaw gets bored.
• Klaw's equipment explodes after T'challa finds the switch that would cause the whole thing to overload. Black Panther escapes as the cave collapses on itself.
• Without the Klaw's machine to power them, the sound creatures threatening the Wakandas change back into sound.
• The Fantastic Four convince the Black Panther to remain a super-hero. Klaw enters his own machine to become a creature of living sound himself.
After the last issue's shananigans, the last thing you'd expect is for the people of the Wakandas to be dancing around the Fantastic Four in friendship but that's what we get on page one of this comic. This just goes to show that despite last issue's appearances, King T'challa is a good guy. He lost his fight with the Fantastic Four (+ Wyatt Wingfoot) and is a good sport about the whole thing.
As far as the Fantastic Four is concerned, they aren't really holding grudges. They ARE curious as to what's been going on, though. Here's an isolated African nation that no one's ever heard of and they have their own mechanical jungle and more scientific breakthroughs than the greatest of industrialized nations. Something doesn't add up and Reed would like to figure out what he's missing in the equation.
King T'challa leads them to his own chambers where there's an equal mix of tradition and modern. He even has an "elaborate stereo music system--complete with TAPE RECORDER!" It's simply amazing. The King lights up a cigarette and prepares to tell the Fantastic Four his story. It starts with his father. Sit down folks, it's gonna be longer than your usual Super Reads. ;)
At the border of the Wakandas, the territorial patrol comes across some strange, gigantic footprints. They don't recognize them but there's a lot of destruction around them so they'll have to find out. The problem is that they thing they're tracking is behind them. It's a giant, hairless, red gorilla and it's mad. The two border patrolmen open fire and the massive creature explodes.
Trouble over? Not likely. No sooner does the gorilla disappear than another giant red monster appears. This one is an elephant and it starts uprooting trees and tossing them around like matchsticks. The two men make a run for it as trees fly all around them.
At the Wakandan capital, T'challa is explaining just how awesome his father, T'chaka was but this all bores Ben Grimm so much that he does one of those big comical yawns to get everyone's attention. He'll interrupt T'challa's story a few times because he's already heard it before. The Thing has a lot of time on his hands what with being a giant monster with little social life and that means he's seen nearly every jungle themed movie ever made. He's pretty much got the plot down and when T'challa's story starts mirroring those movie's tales, he makes sure to mention how lame it is.
To answer, the King of the Wakandas tells them that his story involves a metal worth billions. In fact, they're all sitting on a twenty million dollar slab of it right now. This is the Marvel made-up metal known as Vibranium! Have you heard of it? You should have. Vibranium exists in great abundance in just two places on earth: Wakanda and Antarctica (well, due to recent events, Vibranium is no longer located in Wakanda but this is in the way back times so it's still there for the sake of our story). Vibranium is a pretty normal metal except for it's one unique quality: it absorbs vibrations. I think I've mistakenly said that Captain America's shield is made up of the stuff (it's not) and complained because if it WAS made of Vibranium, it would absorb any blow without any effect on Cap. He wouldn't be forced back by any attack because the shield, if composed of Vibranium, would take the whole shock of the blow and absorb it. To be honest, it'd make a cool shield.
And that's why it's a valuable metal. Something that would absorb vibrations wholly and completely could be used in so many things it's ridiculous. From space travel all the way down to a better washing machine, the metal could make pretty any machine better and less prone to wear and tear. Now we know how T'challa has become so rich at least.
The Black Panther points at a giant hill, called the Sacred Mound, where the nation's nearly unlimited quantity of Vibranium is located. As the king and chieftan of Wakanda, it is his duty to protect the Sacred Mound... with his LIFE! Such was the same case with his father.
T'chaka was a good king. T'challa thought of him as a good father, too. Excellent in battle and wise in leadership, you just know that the tragedy is about to start, don't you? Enter the bad guy: Ulysses Klaw, the Master of Sound! Klaw learned about the Sacred Mound being the location for a butt load of Vibranium and being one of those imperial western types, Klaw laid claim to the whole thing. He had plans to use the Vibranium to complete his invention that would turn sound into living matter. When T'chaka refused to hand it over to the westerner, Klaw acted swiftly, shooting the king to death.
T'challa wasn't there when his dad died but when he hears the sounds of gunfire, he tries to race to his father's side. His people pull him back. T'chaka is dead but his people won't just stand down. They rise against Ulysses Klaw and his mercenary army. Since Wakanda isn't as advanced as it will be in the present, the tribesmen get cut down by Klaw's forces.
T'challa is too young to be part of the army and he shows up at the battlefield after the fighting has died down. The warriors of Wakanda fought right where T'chaka fell so T'challa finds his father's body among the other slain. He takes a moment to grieve and then sees one of Klaw's mercenaries walking off with a scientific wonder, the Sound-Blaster. He talks about how important the device is without knowing some kid is listening to him... some kid who's already pretty well trained in the art of war. This will be T'challa's first kill but definitely not his last.
With the Sound-Blaster in hand, things take a turn for the better as Wakanda's first son has the means to fight back.
T'challa doesn't know how to use the Sound-Blaster but he's a quick study. After his first shot aims too low, Klaw and his mercenaries are emboldened to charge the kid. The second shot is more true and frightens off a number of the mercenaries. The third blast hits Ulysses Klaw right in his gun shootin' arm, disarming the would-be dictator and injuring his right hand. The rest of the mercenaries flee, abandoning their employer. Klaw himself runs away as well but not before swearing to return.
That's Black Panther's story and he's sticking to it. Knowing that Klaw would return in time, T'challa prepared himself as well as his nation. Selling a very tiny portion of the Vibranium to scientific institutions, the new King of Wakanda made himself and his nation rich. He also studies at some of the best academic locations in the world and proved to be intelligent beyond the norm. That mechanical jungle that featured so prominently in the last issue? T'challa made it just to see if he could.
This also explains why he fought the Fantastic Four last issue. He used them as the final test to see if he was ready for Ulysses Klaw's return. Even though he didn't WIN that fight, he still did well enough that he thinks he's ready for anything Klaw can throw at him.
Speak of the devil, a series of alarms start going off, letting the King know that Klaw has started his attack. We return to the jungle where the red gorilla monster is smashing through Wakanda's defenses. Even though the nation has the most advanced guns of any nation, the beast not only shrugs them off but returns the blasts to sender. This looks like a job for the Fantastic Four... and the Black Panther! And Wyatt Wingfoot! Did I miss anyone? No? Good. Let's get on with it!
Here's a long story a little less long: the Fantastic Four can't defeat the gorilla. Reed sees it and realizes exactly what they're fighting. Remember the device that Klaw was making that could turn sound into living things? That's what the nation of the Wakandas is threatened by. Living sound. What can beat living sound? Probably something made out of Vibranium but that's not the answer we'll get today.
Of course, what can the FF do except try to slow these things down? It's not like they can just go home because they're facing something they can't defeat. They didn't run from Galactus so they're damn well not going to stick their heads in the sand over living sound creatures. They keep the giant gorilla (and the elephant when it shows up) busy even though the creatures throw back every attack they receive.
The chance for victory rests in the King of the Wakandas. The Black Panther has been conspicuously absent for the last couple pages of battle because he chose to follow the sound creature's path of devastation back to it's source. This has led him to a secret cave. After taking out some negligent guards, T'challa finds the hidden headquarters of Ulysses Klaw. Of course, Klaw himself is also here.
This is before Klaw became a creature of sound. He's still flesh and blood even though he's put a sonic weapon on his useless right hand. It's been ten years since his last attempt to take Wakanda so he's added a couple years since our flashback. It won't matter too much because this isn't going to be a one-on-one battle. Ulysses is too smart for that. When he sees the Black Panther, the Master of Sound turns to his machine and makes a fitting sparring partner for his enemy: a sonic panther!
At the Fantastic Four's part of the fight, the sound gorilla has tagged off to the elephant. The fighting still doesn't go in the FF's favor, but they keep on trying. The creature eventually disappears, but it's a temporary victory at best unless the Black Panther does his job.
Which he's doing his best to do. Klaw watches as the sound panther battles the Panther but the King doesn't fall to his red feline opponent. Ulysses returns the panther to the sound that it's composed of, aiming the force weapon that covers his right hand at T'challa.
It's not going to be fired today. The Black Panther used his scientific know-how to find just the right lever to throw to disrupt the functions on Klaw's machinery and cause it to built up to explode. It takes little time for the whole place to detonate. Black Panther is the only one to make it clear of the cave before the whole place collapses.
With Klaw's machine destroyed, the sonic creatures attacking the Fantastic Four disappear. The battle is won! The Wakandas are saved! Klaw is defeated! It's a good day!
T'challa shows up to tell his allies how Klaw's plan was fouled up. With his country no longer in danger, he plans on hanging up his stalking costume and being a king full-time. The Fantastic Four won't hear it. They see a new super-hero and they won't let him quit. Just think how much safer the world will be with the Black Panther around! After listening to the western super-heroes, T'challa decides to keep up his super-hero lifestyle. After all, you'd never imagine how many threats will hit Wakanda in the future.
And Klaw? Naturally, he survived the cave-in and the explosion of most of his machinery. He's just trapped in the collapsed cave and would probably die from lack of air or food. This makes him just desperate enough to play one last gamble. While his sonic machine is losing power, it still has JUST enough charge for one last conversion. This time, it'll be making living matter into living sound. Klaw leaps into the machine and becomes more powerful than ever.
But his next story is for another day.
T'challa has had a great Marvel career even though he's been a pretty unattentive king. The Black Panther joined the Avengers after an adventure with Captain America where the two faced an attack on Wakanda from a fake Baron Zemo (it was the late Zemo's pilot wearing the mask this time). Every so often, T'challa would have to check on the latest emergency to his own country but it was usually after a simple problem had blown way out of proportion. This is interesting, because he had the technology to fly from New York and Wakanda in a little less than an hour via his magnetic sky cars. It wouldn't have been a terrible commute to stay in Wakanda as king and only join the Avengers for missions, meetings, and monitor duty.
Anyway, these days, T'challa is hanging out in New York City yet again, taking over Daredevil's book, retitled Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, and going a more low-tech route. As far as the nation of the Wakandas goes, he's letting his younger sister (retconned into existence during the last Black Panther series) rule in his absence (he did destroy the nation's supply of Vibranium before taking off). It's apparently very good. I imagine he's still married to the X-Man, Storm, but they aren't living together anymore.
The magic is now done but it'll be back again soon. Just give it time!
Until then: Excelsior!
Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX