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Super Reads War of Kings and Dark Reign 68

badguy68.jpgThere, that's enough holiday time for everyone.

Today, we check out War of Kings: Who Will Rule? #1, Dark Avengers/ Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1, Dark Reign- The List: Avengers #1, Thunderbolts #135, Dark Reign: Young Avengers #4, and Blast to the Past with The Avengers #3.  Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!

I hope everyone had a pleasant Christmas/ Holiday season and that they were loaded up with loot.

As always, you can easily check up on past articles of Super Reads. If you're reading this on The Outhouse, you'll see a link titled "Super Reads" under the "Features" button on the top of the page. Click on it and you can check out what happened in every issue dealing with Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and War of Kings (because I obviously have an addiction). If my directions are confusing, click here to catch up or remember back on all 67 previous articles. It's perfect for all your reading needs.

OK.  We've got one last War of Kings book and it's about time we got through it.  No, seriously.  It's about frickin' time.

wokwwr1.jpgWar of Kings: Who Will Rule? #1
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Paul Pelletier


In the last issue of War of Kings, it was Vulcan versus Black Bolt for all the marbles and we didn't want Blackbolt to win! The Inhuman Royal Family (and Ronan the Accuser) discussed how stupid the T-Bomb plan was. On Chandilar, riots ran through the throneworld as Havok and Polaris discussed getting the frak out of there and Gladiator found himself in the uncomfortable position of leader. Of the Shi'ar. Vulcan and Blackbolt continued to swat each other around the inside of the T-Bomb with back-and-forths happening all over the place. Crystal teleported in (with the help of Lockjaw), got rid of the power in the Terigen Crystals, and grabbed Black Bolt to teleport out, only to lose Black Bolt at the last minute to a very angry Vulcan. The T-Bomb went off without the Terrigen Crystals triggering universal upgrades but, instead, created a hole in the universe. The Shi'ar ended up surrending to the Inhuman/Kree Alliance as the Inhuman Royal Family mourned the loss of Black Bolt.

In this issue, Gladiator takes a look at the Fault (that hole in the universe that was caused by the T-Bomb) and also gets a good look at the new Shi'ar Chancellor: it's a female Araki!  The Starjammers have put a psi-picture together of Lilandra's killer which is posted all over Shi'ar space.  The Inhumans arrive on Chandilar as the new ruling class and the issue of Shi'ar succession (which is brought up first to Gladiator in Chancellor Araki's presence) is continued with the Inhumans.  Gladiator is getting right to work helping the people of Chandilar rebuilt after (and during) the riots that continue to burn throughout the planet.  This is where the two most likely candidate for Shi'ar rule meet (it's Gladiator and Crystal).  We cut to the funeral procession and then quickly get into a battle with the Imperial Guard who don't recognize the Shi'ar surrender to the Inhuman/ Kree kingdom and just don't know proper etiquette for a funeral.  Gladiator ends the battle with a show of strength and a scolding to his former Imperial Guardsmen before reluctantly accepting the throne of the Shi'ar.  We then learn that the new female Araki is actually the Raptor known as Talon, and that Magus is watching all of this with amusement.

The War of Kings is over!  Unfortunately, it left us with a distinct lack of Kings.  Black Bolt, the Inhuman/Kree King, and Vulcan, the Shi'ar Majestor, both seemingly died when the T-Bolt exploded over in War of Kings #6.  This left Black Bolt's wife, Medusa, in charge of the Inhumans and Kree but the Shi'ar were left with a vacancy in the top position.  Now, this shouldn't be a huge problem.  The Kree won the war and, as such, they should be able to appoint a regent over the Shi'ar to serve in the chief executive position.  This is what happened at the end of Operation Galactic Storm, after all.  The Shi'ar won that war and the Kree were the ones missing a ruler (in that case, it was the "death" of the Supreme Intelligence at the hands of the Avengers).  The Shi'ar made Deathbird the Kree Regent.  We all know how well that went.

Which might show us all how important it is to put the right person in charge of an empire. 

You can probably guess who the top runner for the job is: Kallark.  Who?  Oh.  You might know him better by his other name: Gladiator.  He's that Superman-like dude in the mohawk.  During War of Kings, Kallark was the guy who grabbed the royal sceptor and carried it into Temple of Sharra and Ky'thri.  According to tradition, this is how Majestors and Majestrixes claim the throne.  It's what Lilandra was in the process of doing when she was murdered.  Gladiator saw the streets burning and decided to do something about it.
He has NOT become the new Majestor, though.  He's just warming the seat until the Inhumans name someone.  Kallark has served the Shi'ar royals (no matter who they are) for a couple centuries now and one thing he knows for certain is that he DOESN'T want the job.  Still, while he's filling in, there's no reason why he shouldn't get a fancy new costume out of the deal that is black-appropriate for mourning wear.

What most concerns Gladiator right now is the Fault.  For those not paying attention, the Fault was created when the T-Bomb went off in WoK #6 and tore the Universe a bright, shiny, seven parsecs-wide hole in the fabric of space/time.  It is glorious.  Fortunately, the Guardians of the Galaxy were able to stop the monster hole for growing and consuming our Universe but the thing isn't closing any time soon and it's a key element of future storylines.

But not this one.  Now that it's mentioned and out of the way, Kallark can move on to more important things like meeting the new Shi'ar Chancellor.  The position is hereditary so the new Chancellor is from the same sequence as the previous bastard.  She's an Araki!  That's right: She.  This time around, the sequence has decided to make the Chancellor female so she doesn't bear a striking resemblence to the jerk who's been messing with the Shi'ar royal line for far too long.  Kallark appreciates the change but hopes it's not just surface details.  He reminds the new Chancellor that he killed her predecessor for being a treasonous bastard.  That's probably not a mistake that needs repeating.

Gladiator walks away from Araki to make his next appointment of the day.  It's time for him to meet with the Starjammers (Havok, Polaris, and Marvel Girl) and learn what they'be been able to piece together about Lilandra's assassin.  They've been able to put together a psi-image of the Raptor but, since no one really knows Darkhawk in the Marvel Universe, they don't have his name or address.  Gladiator orders the galactic version of wanted posters placed for Darkhawk's capture which will make it that much harder for Chris to fly all over the Universe stopping other Raptors from gaining a foot hold in our reality.

Havok tries to bring up the matter of succession but, as mentioned earlier, it's not something that Gladiator's going to agree to.  Araki tries the same line of conversation (while also mentioning that the Inhuman Royal City of Attilan will be arriving shortly) and gets a similar brush off.  The Chancellor doesn't let go of the convo as easily as the Starjammers, however.  She breaks it down for the current placeholder: 1. There is no certain successor to the Neramani throne.  2. If one claims the throne, there will be an escalation to the civil war that engulfs the empire.  3. Only a strong leader with no blood claim to the throne will have a chance at uniting the fractured empire once more.

Again, this isn't something Gladiator is even considering.  He doesn't want the throne.  At all.  It's another reason why he's perfect for the position.

Later on, the city of Attilan descends upon the capital of Chandilar.  It's an impressive sight and a great visual.  While the city hovers over the local buildings, Crystal has a conversation with her daughter, Luna, about where they are and what they're doing there.  Luna asks how many worlds comprise the Shi'ar Empire and her mother responds, "Too many."

You see, Crystal is the other obvious choice for the regency.  She's the closest heir to the Inhuman throne and it's almost a done deal that she'll be put in charge of the Shi'ar.  This isn't something she's happy about.  The former Avenger has recently married Ronan the Accuser and has become fond of the Kree; going so far as to be the Inhuman Royal Family's link to their new subjects.

Admiral Ka'ardum was the Shi'ar official who surrendered to the Inhumans.  He also provided his services as an escort to the Royal Family on their arrival to Chandilar.  He's a sad story, actually.  Ka'ardum was the uncle of Lilandra and turned his allegiance over to Vulcan after the mutant proved to be a strong leader.  Now, he's lost both his Majestor and his niece to the latest war and it's most certain that Lilandra's death hurts him the most.  Ronan asks the man if he will stake his claim to the Shi'ar throne since he's from the Neramani line but this isn't something Ka'ardum will consider.  The Neramani line is pretty tainted at this point.  Ka'ardum's claim to the throne would just lead to more violence.

With the Inhumans at the Aerie, it's a chance for more reunions.  Polaris is able to visit Crystal and Luna and replay bits of a scene from War of Kings #1.  In that book, she was Crystal's confidante prior to the Inhuman's wedding to Ronan.  Now, she's able to discuss the the possibility of Crystal taking up the Shi'ar throne.
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Oh, you might want to notice that Gladiator isn't the only one wearing black this issue.  The Inhuman Royals are also decked out in their best black costumes, including masks where appropriate.  Really, it's too bad these costumes only come out at funerals because there's some here that would be great to see on a regular basis.  Crystal's inverted look is much better than her regular suit.

Before we leave Lorna and Crys, it's worth mentioning that Crystal's feelings for Ronan have changed.  Back in War of Kings #1, this was simply a marriage of convenience.  At this point, the two still aren't sleeping together but there IS a romance building.  Slowly.  Enough of one that Crystal gets embarrassed when Polaris teases her on the subject.

While the Inhumans get comfortable in the Aerie, Gladiator is off helping the citizens of a nearby suburb rebuild after the riots.  During the riots.  The point is, the riots might still be going on but they've left this area for the time being and it gives the former Preator something to do that keeps him away from accepting leadership over the Shi'ar.  He's handing out food and supplies to the citizens when he learns that people are trapped underneath some huge bit of power plant.  Kallark flies to the scene and uses his strength to raise a huge section of the plant.

Gladiator is able to lift the mass but shouts for the rescuers to hurry in their rescue attempts.  Crystal shows up to relieve Kallark's burden by using her elemental powers to brace the weight.  With that done, those trapped below are easily rescued and our heroes have a chance to chat.

Naturally, we get more talk of Shi'ar succession.  Crystal learned that Kallark would be a good fit for the Shi'ar throne from Polaris and came looking for him.  Gladiator still isn't interested in taking up any thrones.  Crystal still makes her plea: if he isn't willing, the throne will go to her and the Shi'ar will suffer for her lack of knowledge of anything Shi'ar.

I don't know, Vulcan seemed to do an ok job... granted he did this by focusing on expansion but we all do what we have to do, right?

Lilandra's funeral procession is mostly silent except for the people following behind the casket.  Those guys don't seem to be able to shut up.  Karnak is explaining all about why Crystal has to carry the royal scepter.  Maximus is complaining about not being able to rule the Shi'ar.  The new Araki is blaming earth for all of the Shi'ar's troubles.  Polaris (with Havok in tow) is trying one last time to convince Gladiator to take up the role of Majestor.  With all this chatter going on, it's not surprising that everyone completely misses the Imperial Guard gathering just ahead of them.
wokwhowillrule1.jpg

Yeah, Mentor is a big old jerk and this is just his latest jerk move.  Speaking for the Imperial Guard, Mentor tells everyone that they do not recognize Ka'ardum's surrender, that they believe that Vulcan is still alive, and that, until proof is brought to light of the Majestor's death, the Imperial Guard will take over.  Everyone was expecting the Imperial Guard to act eventually but no one thought they'd have the gall to interrupt a funeral procession.

Everyone awaits an attack but it's Medusa who makes her move after making a series of progressively uglier faces.  Looking more mannish than she has ever looked (and she used to be drawn by Jack Kirby), she strikes out at Mentor, grabbing Smasher because it's just not the Imperial Guard if you don't injure Smasher.

Things go downhill from there.  Only two people aren't all in to this smack down: Crystal and Kallark.  They both see this as a very poor time to start the War back up.  That's saying a lot considering the thing started at a wedding.  Maybe it's way too appropriate that it finally ends at a funeral.

It is Kallark that ends the hostilities but he does it in typical Marvel fashion: more hostilities.  Instead of beating Mentor's head in (which would have been totally deserved), he smashes his fist into the ground.  As the shockwaves ripple outward, Gladiator berates everyone for making a mockery of Lilandra's funeral.  Unfortunately, it's only now that he realizes that only he has a chance of holding the Imperium together with all these warring factions so easy to move to violence.  Crystal hands him the Royal Sceptor and, after putting up one last resistance to leadership, he accepts it.

Everyone poses for the camera as the Shi'ar and Imperial Guard bow to their new Majestor.

But we're not exactly done yet.  It wouldn't be the end of an event unless they teases just what's coming next.  First, we'll catch up with the brand new Araki who seems to be getting lost in the crowd as everyone else is posing.  She seems content with having Gladiator on the throne for now.  As she muses about the future of the Shi'ar, her form begins to alter and reform into... Talon.  Who?  He's the Raptor who brought Darkhawk into the conflict over in War of Kings: Ascension.  Looks like he's also not dead.

Elsewhere, we have another figure who has shown great interest in the goings-on of the Kree and the Shi'ar.  He's more interested in what's coming, though.  It looks like this Fault will bring great tragedy to the universe and lots of unforseen surprises.  In the end, this man will rule it all.  Who is he?  He's Magus.  Better go read some Guardians of the Galaxy for more!

And that is the end of the War of Kings.  There's more surprises to come but it'll be a while before we revisit Marvel's galactic comics.  Realm of Kings is a few weeks away, after all!

e1.jpgDark Avengers/ Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr. & Terry Dodson


If you don't need a recap of EVERY UTOPIA CHAPTER, then you can skip the next five paragraphs.  I'll see you below!

In DA/UXM: Utopia, Simon Trask came to San Francisco with his Humanity Now! movement to promote Proposition X, a mutant breeding act. Since San Francisco is the home of every mutant ever (outside of, say, X-Factor), this was just a riot waiting to happen and it only took a few pages for that to start up. Cyclops and Emma Frost met with the mayor and started working on quelling the riots as the whole thing attracted the attention of America's Top Cop, Norman Osborn. X-Man fought X-Man in the street of San Francisco. The Dark Avengers and HAMMER intervened and things still didn't calm down. Emma Frost went to Norman Osborn and found out about "The Plan." It was the beginning of the Dark X-Men as Iron Patriot addressed the public with Professor Charles Xavier... while another Professor X talked to the previously captured Beast in prison.

In Uncanny X-Men #513, Cyclops ran away from the authorities, the Dark Avengers helped to clean the streets of San Francisco, Beast chatted it up with the real Xavier before being trotted out to the Omega Machine which was being run by Dark Beast from the Age of Apocalypse, Norman Osborn introduced Emma to the Dark X-Men, we all learned that Dark Xavier is Mystique, Namor joined Emma's Dark X-Men team, Simon Trask began infecting people with a techno-organic virus, Cyclops ordered his X-Men to watch a lot of TV, Hellion led a lot of people who should know better (and some who didn't) into a riot/demonstration at Union Square, and the Dark X-Men got to do some arresting.

In Dark Avengers #7, Beast started to feel the effects of the Omega Machine while the Dark X-Men battled some mutant protesters at Union Square. Cyclops held a meeting with Norman Osborn where he demanded that America's Top Cop surrender before things start going badly for him. The Dark Avengers got bored of being guest stars in their own book and started a little ruckus with the Dark X-Men. Osborn and Dark Beast gave Emma Frost a tour of the facilities (making sure not to let on that they had Charles Xavier and Beast as their prisoners). Finally, Simon Trask's infected army got their orders to destroy all mutants.

In Uncanny X-Men #514, Simon Trask addressed the nation in Bio-Sentinel form. Cyclops began enacting his master plan which involved sending lots of people off in different directions on various tasks. The Dark Avengers fought the Dark X-Men before Emma Frost appeared and knocked some sense into everyone. The Dark X-Men entered the streets of San Francisco to take care of the Bio-Sentinels while Cyclops and a team of X-Men watched them do it. Danielle Moonstar headed to Vegas for a very special meeting with a mysterious person. X-Force (and Illyana) greeted Wolverine at the Bay of Oakland. Finally, Psylocke and the Science Team took a trip deep into the Pacific Ocean to find a buried city thing.

In Dark Avengers #8, Danielle Moonstar made a deal with Hela for some crazy powers and maybe a horse back to San Fran. The Dark X-Men apprehended a Bio-Sentinel Simon Trask, then enjoyed a whole week of the spotlight in San Franscisco, stopping riots and making the city safe for the common folk. By the weekend, the Dark X-Men got a close look at the Omega Machine, and some of them were starting to have doubts about what they're doing. The X-Men Science Team finished it's work below the water and started raising a big, giant rock from the bottom of the Pacific. Back at Alcatraz, the Beast got a treatment with the Omega Machine when X-Force showed up and released all the mutant prisoners. The X-Men started teleporting out of their Greymalkin Industries headquarters as the battle at Alcatraz got more and more intense. When the Dark X-Men showed up, Emma and Namor showed their true colors and joined the good guys again, taking Cloak and Dagger with them. All of Cyclops' people were teleported to their new home, Utopia. Cyclops did his resistance speech on television and Norman, who is all sorts of angry, planned his retaliation.

In this issue, we get to a flashback from before all this went down where Scott and Emma might possibly reveal all their dirty secrets to each other... or maybe they just go to sleep angry.  We then cut to the relative present as the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men approach Utopia and we get ready for a very nice throw down!  It's battle sequence after battle sequence as Cyclops' plan is brought into action.  Highlights include: Colossus vs. Venom part two, Weapon Omega versus Wolverine, Hawkeye versus Archangel, Namor versus the Sentry, Cyclops versus Iron Patriot, and Ares versus a super powered Valkyrie Moonstar.  The battle begins to turn when Emma Frost enters Sentry's mind and frees Bob Reynolds from his mind prison, this takes the Sentry off the playing field as the super powerful hero runs away from his Void personality and a sliver of the Void gets caught inside Emma's mind.  Ares is taken down by Moonstone and pretty much every other Avenger is countered by more X-Men than is probably necessary.  Norman still has the upper hand on Cyclops but he's going to have to kill an island of mutants in front of cameras in order to win this fight.  That's a publicity battle he's not prepared to face and he retreats with his men to claim victory in front of more friendly cameras while Cyclops does the same in front of the current ones.  All that is left is for the X-Men to get settled into their new island home.

Before Utopia began, Scott and Emma were keeping a lot of secrets from each other. Emma had that whole Cabal thing going on and Scott had his very own mutant kill team.  There were other things but these were the biggest and it was enough to drive a wedge between the couple.  There were lots of panels where Cyclops was sleeping on the couch, after all.  Back in Uncanny X-Men #511, Beast left them with an ultimatum: everybody come clean or he's leaving.  Henry then walked off to get a good night's sleep before engaging in a little time traveling mission.

This is really all the motivation that Scott needed.  He tries to unload all his secrets onto Emma but the former White Queen isn't ready to do the same and stops him.  She's not concerned that they have secrets from each other.  In the world she used to live in, it was basically based on secrets.  Scott needs to get this stuff off his chest, though.  He tells her that they can't leave this room until everything is out in the open.  You can read more about this fantastic exchange in Dark X-Men: The Confession- The Search for More Money.

Or, you can just assume that, because they left the room and are currently doing much better together, things got resolved. 

Even better?  You can catch my recap in just a few short articles!

For now, just pretend things got resolved and Scott and Emma trust each other again.  They're gonna need all that trust to get through the next big chapter of their lives.  In Dark Avengers #8, the mutant community moved to a small island just a bit out from San Francisco.  It's a huge snub right in the face of Norman Osborn since it involved undermining his authority, splitting up his Cabal, freeing captured mutant prisoners, and generally making him look bad.  Making matters even worse, the new island, Utopia, was one of Magneto's former Asteroid M's.  So you've got mutants breaking other mutants out of jail and establishing their own mutant kingdom just off the coast of the United States.

This is the sort of thing that Norman has no choice but get involved with.  Not that the former Green Goblin is running through the reasons for engagement.  He's just pissed off and wants some payback.  It shows the differences between the two leaders in the affair.  To Cyclops, this is all according to plan and the X-Men leader is moving his pieces around like a game of chess.  Norman, on the other hand, is acting more from his emotions, has no gameplan, and is more interested in his teams looking good for the camera.  No real plan on his end.

Oh, I did say teams.  Osborn has his Dark Avengers but he's also got the leftovers from the Dark X-Men.  That would be Omega, Mimic, Dark Wolverine, Dark Beast, and Mystique (who will be playing Charles Xavier and will not be directly involved in the conflict).

Scott orders Wolverine and X-23 into their positions to take out Omega and Dark Wolverine as the first Dark Avenger hits the ground.  It's Hawkeye.  He starts firing arrows everywhere and, since this is Bullseye, those arrows aren't missing their targets.  They hit some New X-Men (I'm seeing Mercury and Anole in the foreground) while Dark Ms. Marvel stays airborn to shoot off energy blasts on more X-Men targets.  Cyclops is doing his best to swat arrows out of the sky with his concussive blasts but he's not able to get a bead on Hawkeye.  That leaves it up to Angel to take care of business.

Scott gives him his orders to remove Bullseye from the fight and Warren doesn't think for a moment that he wants Angel to do it.  He's looking for Archangel.  Worthington does swoop down in his Angel form to grab the assassin.  Looks like this fight is gonna be private.

While Angel finds a suitable location for his battle with Hawkeye, let's see how the other Dark Avengers are faring.  It looks like Ms. Marvel got too close to the ground and finds herself facing a trio of X-Men (Bling!, Frenzy, &... Nekra?  Huh, that's unexpected).  The Sinister Spidey is being hit with double fire attacks from Match and Magma but all it seems to be doing is making him mad.  Colossus decides it's time for round two, Venom shoots up a size or two to face down the Russian.

Elsewhere on Utopia, Wolverine and X-23 get ready to fight it out with Dark Wolverine and Omega.  We all want to see that slug-out between Wolverines but it's not happening this issue.  Dark Wolverine instead has to contend himself with Logan's female clone while Omega finds himself in a fight with the real deal.  This is all sorts of appropriate.  Logan's two kids get to fight it out while he gets some payback against the guy who unwittingly killed Alpha Flight.

Warren Worthington III drops off Hawkeye in a forested area in Marin County.  It takes a moment for the assassin to get his bearing but when he does he's no longer facing the Angel.
exodus1.jpg

Of all the things happening over in X-Force, one of the best bits is having Archangel back.  Sure, he's a lot more vicious than I remember him but it's just a crime that they took one of the coolest X-Men and reverted him back to being the Angel in the most slow and painful way imaginable.  First, he lost the super cool metal wings, but kept the blue skin for some reason.  Then he got healing powers as a secondary mutation.  Finally, he lost the blue color and went back to being caucasian where we all forgot about that secondary mutation and pretended that the guy with wings had a place on the battlefield.  It's so good to have the metal wings back.

If you're really wondering who's gonna win this fight... well, seriously.  Bullseye is outclassed.  It's going to become a theme for the Dark Avengers.

But first, the powerhouses have to hit the combat zone.  Sentry, Ares, and Iron Patriot enter the battle.  Namor picks the most powerful of the three and pretends he has a chance in hell of winning a fight with the Sentry.  Ares literally hits the ground and revels in the fact that this has all the appearances of an actual war.  Norman decides to take on Cyclops.

Namor and Sentry's battle leaves the island of Utopia and crashes right into downtown San Francisco.  Since that's disconnecting Namor from the water (which would significantly increase his strength), it's putting the Sub-Mariner at an even greater disadvantage.  This is shared by pretty much anyone else these three Dark Avengers end up facing.  Cyclops is one hell of a tactitian and leader but, powerwise, Norman's got him fairly outclassed.  Oh, sure, that concussive beam has a hell of a kick and it even gets to connect once but Osborn is rocking a Stark suit with shields and the whole nine yards.  All it takes is a few well placed hand blasts and the Iron Patriot has the upper hand.

So is this the end already?  Osborn lifts Cyclops off the ground and demands the mutant surrender as his two super powerful members do some serious damage on their own.  Norman tells Summers that there is no victory here in defeat.  Not for Scott and not for mutants in general.  Cyclops, however, is smiling.  As he declines Iron Patriot's generous offer, he notices the cavalry arriving: Cannonball and, more importantly, Danielle Moonstar.

If you'll remember, she was on a mission to Las Vegas to cut a deal with Hela.  Looks like she's come back as a Valkyrie and even has one of those cool flying steeds.  Moonstone has been depowered since M-Day so it's very cool to see her back with her old Valkyrie powers but, as she'll explain later, she doesn't just have Valkyrie abilities.  She made a deal with Hela to have the power to stop a god.  That's well beyond Valkyrie-level abilities.  So... stopping a god.  That means she's going straight after Ares with a little back up from the New Mutants squad.

Dark Beast has also hit the ground and decided the best move he can make is to attack Northstar and Dazzler (those kids always seem to get lumped together in X-Men comics).  He doesn't have too much fun before the X-Club (and Psylocke) attack him for what he did to the real Beast.  For those playing catch-up, the X-Club is the group of super scientists assembled by Hank McCoy to find an answer to the Decimation of mutantkind.  In truth, half of these scientists aren't actually combat personnel and sit the battle out.  Only Dr. Nemesis and Madison Jeffries join the fight but I still consider that to be X-Club.  Sue me. ;)

All this happens while Venom continues his fight with Colossus.  Don't expect an actual resolution here.  It's just fun seeing those two fight every so often.

So, Hawkeye and Dark Beast are officially down.  Let's see who falls next.  Oh!  It's Mimic.  The only way this fight would be satisfying is if he faced off against an original X-Man.  It's a good thing we've got Iceman around.  Mimic starts this fight with extreme confidence, even going so far as to sing a little tune as he's fighting the icy one.  Really, ice powers are a permanent part of Mimic's repertoire So I'm as surprised as you that Iceman is able to knock Mimic out of the sky so easily and so satisfyingly.  Once the Dark X-Man is grounded, he's immediately set upon by a every X-Man in the area.  It turns out that Mimic is still just one dude and the numbers are against him.  That's the trouble about fighting alone.

This theme is repeated with Dark Wolverine.  He started his fight with just X-23 but it turns out that X has friends.  Pixie and Armor, for instance.  Daken is in mid-lunge when Pixie teleports X-23 out of reach and replaces her with Armor.  Dark Wolvie isn't able to reverse course and ends up hitting her armored shields face first.  While the Dark X-Man recovers, the three girls surround him.  It's gonna be messy.

Which is as good a time as any for a scene change.  The real Charles Xavier was captured off-panel possibly before this whole thing even began.  Rescued along with everyone else last issue, Xavier is resting below and recovering from all the torture inflicted upon him by the Omega Machine.  Unfortunately, there's no time for rest.  Emma Frost needs Xavier to help pull off a very crucial part of Cyclops' plan. 

This might require some back story so bear with me for just a moment.  The Sentry is a confusing character even in the best of situations and this is certainly not the best situation.  Let's just say that the Sentry has an opposite called the Void and that the two beings are actually the same person.  For every good deed the Sentry does, the Void does an equal and opposite evil deed.  Right now, the Sentry and Void personas are sort of mixed up due to the events of Secret Invasion and further meddling by Norman Osborn.  In the past, Emma Frost was called in to make the Sentry a bit less crazy and, while doing that, she created a little sanctuary inside the Sentry's mind called The White Room.  Emma needs Xavier's help in accessing this space.

And, just like that, Emma is inside The White Room.  Unfortunately, Bob isn't there.  He's in an adjacent Dark Room.  The two talk through a hole in the walls between both rooms and after a little convincing, Bob agrees to join her in The White Room.  Frost reaches out and grabs a hold of Reynolds and helps pull the man into The White Room.  Once inside, Bob is able to regain control over the Sentry.  In the outside world, the effect is immediate.  Sentry quickly abandons his fight with Namor, leaving the monarch alone on the leveled streets of San Francisco.

In The White Room, the effect is also pretty immediate.  The darkness begins to swallow up The White Room and Emma is still psychically inside.  As she tries to escape the Sentry's mind, a sliver of the Void follows her back to her own mind.  She switches to diamond form almost automatically and Xavier is there to make sure she stays that way.  The sliver of the Void is embedded in her forehead but, as long as she's in diamond form, it can't effect her.

Sentry takes to the skies with the Void right on his tail.  That removes the most powerful asset from Norman's team and Cyclops isn't above mocking Ozzy just a bit for the loss.  We can see that, while we've been focusing on the other battles, Norman has spent this time beating the hell out of Scott Summers.  The dude looks in pretty bad shape but still can't wipe that grin off his face which doesn't make Iron Patriot any happier.  Ares is still on the board, though, so there's still a good chance that the Dark teams will pull out a win.

Unless you've actually been watching the battle which seems to be just what Cyclops has been doing.  Ares is on the ropes already and it's only a couple more panels before a super-powered Danielle Moonstar takes the god of war out of the fight.  Osborn finally looks around to see how his team is doing.  It's not a pretty sight.  Wolverine is moments away from dropping Omega, Dark Wolverine and Mimic are getting dogpiled on, and Sentry is already beyond the moon's orbit and still being chased by the Void (which probably isn't something that Norman can see but, if he could, it wouldn't make him any happier).  In short, Norman Osborn is losing.

Iron Patriot fires another hand blast at Cyclops and the X-Man drops to the ground with smoke rising from his abdomen.  Norman isn't happy.  At all.  The next bit of information won't make him more pleased.  Ms. Marvel runs in telling Osborn that the only way they're going to win is to kill every mutant on the island.  This is ok by Osborn until Ms. Marvel points out the odds against them.

It looks like the X-Men have finished off the rest of the Dark teams and have gathered around their leader to look as imposing as possible.  That's not the worst of it though.  The worst bit?  That would be the cameras that are flanking the mutants.  All of this is going out to the world right now.  You kill one mutant, you have to keep going.  The world might not love mutants but what it loves much less is genocide.

There is literally no way for Norman to win this fight.  He gathers up his troops and heads back to San Francisco.

That's a win for the X-Men but the fight isn't over just yet.  There's a battle for public opinion to be fought and Cyclops has to get in the first shot before Norman can collect some friendlier cameras.  Scott finds the closest camera and begins his last speech of the night.  He tells the world that Utopia is sacred ground for mutants.  It's their safe zone and is an area where mutants will be free.  They pose no threat to the outside world and will continue to fight for it like they always do.  Only now, they won't be oppressed by it any longer.  It's a good speech but where Scott is a brilliant tactitian, he's not the master of public image.

Norman Osborn plays to his own cameras with his own message and this is a game he plays better than almost everyone.
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Norman still has his X-Men franchise and his claims of victory against Scott Summers might be something he actually believes.  Hawkeye asks Ozzy if he believes his own hype and Norman responds that he totally does.

And why not?  The mutant menace has just vacated the shores of the Unites States in favor of living on a tiny island that's still a work in progress.  They just became not his problem.  This is victory as far as he's concerned... and it's only the beginning of his plans to clean up the world.

Back on Utopia, Cyclops enjoys a quiet moment before being surrounded by people needing his direction.  There are tons of problems that still need to be dealt with and lots of mutants and their families are still arriving.  The medical facilities are already full up and there are still issues to deal with regarding supplies.  Scott informs everyone that he's only been awake for three minutes.  He'll need a cup of coffee before he starts tearing into the various problems involved on this island.

Emma gets everyone moving and then turns to congratulate her boyfriend on a job well done.  Still, the problems are huge and history is against them.  The last time mutants had an island, it was demolished by crazy Morrison Sentinels.  Scott is pretty sure that won't happen again.  Emma questions him on why he's so confident and Scott replies that he has faith.  It's what carried him through the battle with Norman Osborn and it's what will get everything working from here on out.

Yeah.

I give Utopia a good year.

drtla1.jpgDark Reign- The List: Avengers #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Marko Djurdjevic


In this issue, Norman Osborn meets with Ares in the aftermath of the Utopia incident and talks all about this List he's come up with.  It's time to change the world.  Meanwhile, Clint Barton and the New Avengers are watching TV, seeing that all the mutants seem to be isolated to the island of Utopia and get into that old argument about killing Norman Osborn.  Seeing his teammates as indecisive, Clint decides to go kill Ozzy on his own.  Mockingbird chases after him and, after a brief discussion, agrees to help her ex in his crazy mission.  They decide to get an early start but, until then, it's time for sleeping together... maybe more.  Use your imagination.  Clint can't wait until morning, gathers his weapons, and goes on a one-man mission against Avengers Tower.  He actually does a pretty good job, too.  He enters the building and ends up taking out Venom, Bullseye, and Daken in quick succession.  When he meets up with Moonstone, he's saved being blasted to smithereens by a timely Security Lockdown barrier dropping between the two.  Clint continues on his way up to Norman but, when he gets there, his attempts to assassinate America's top cop are frustrated by a personal forcefield.  Before he's able to move in close for another attempt, Ronin is knocked unconscious by Ares.  It looks like Norman has another Avenger prisoner.

Things start moving quickly following the events of Utopia.  Norman has decided it's high time to enact his plans on changing the world and, thus motivated, has come up with a to-do list.  This is one of the reasons he found it prudent to have Ares on his Avengers team.  The god of war is the perfect ally to see his list acted upon.  He calls Ares in to his command room and shares his plans with the god.  What kind of things is he looking to accomplish?

1. The Mutant Situation- Norman considers this problem solved even though he might be looking for some personal vengeance against Namor in Dark Reign- The List: X-Men.

2. Why is the Hulk still running around destroying everything in sight?  That's something that solved itself over in The Incredible Hulk #600 and was confirmed by Ares in Hulk #13.  Still, Banner could still be a problem and Norman will look into that in Dark Reign- The List: Hulk.

3. Why is Tony Stark not in jail for his war crimes?  This won't be the subject of a List special but Norman seems to be giving Tony his full attention over in The Invincible Iron Man book.

4. Why is Spider-Man allowed to walk free? Another question that Norman takes very personally.  Osborn will take his best shot at Spidey in the just completed American Son storyline in The Amazing Spider-Man book and might take another shot in Dark Reign- The List: The Amazing Spider-Man.

5. Why hasn't that renegade Cling Barton been hunted down and taken care of?  Hey, you're reading about that one right here, right now.

6. Why is Nick Fury allowed to sneak around training youth terrorists?  Nick's meeting with Norman will be covered in Dark Reign- The List: Secret Warriors.

That's not a complete list.  Norman also has plans for Daredevil and Punisher, for example, but it's enough to get Ares started on.  Ares is also startled to learn about the Decimation of the mutant population by the Scarlet Witch.  It's stuff like that that Norman wants to curb.  Heck, it's stuff like that that Tony Stark wanted to prevent.  I'm pretty sure Fury did his best to stop stuff like this, too.  It's just how it's done.  With and evil bastard like Osborn in charge, the to-do list is a lot more about hurting heroes instead of, y'know, putting Dr. Doom in prison.

Remember when I said that Norman was better at the media war than Scott Summers?  That plays out right here.  The New Avengers (minus Wolverine who is now on the other side of the country and presumably stuck on Utopia) are watching television and, instead of hearing Scott's message about mutants living free, they get the idea that the mutants are now forced out of the United States by the Dark Avengers. 

Clint Barton tried waging his own media battle with Ozzy and was beaten just as handily.  Maybe that's the reason that, seeing Utopia on television with the HAMMER version of the story attached, Clint goes right back to his plan of killing Norman Osborn.  This is an old debate for this team.  Clint has wanted to kill Stormin' Norman since The New Avengers #54 and got into a fight with Spider-Man about the whole subject in #55.  Now, you might think that makes this a recent development since this special issue comes out soon after The New Avengers #56 but it actually OCCURS after issue #60 and it's not something that has been mentioned since #55.  Yeah.  Get ready for a lot of books to be released out of order.

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Clint is brand new to the pro-killing department being anti-kill up until just this moment.  Spidey leads the charge against killing Osborn and that's a telling stance to take.  If anyone has a reason to kill the former Green Goblin, it's Peter Parker.  He's contemplated the deed himself very recently (American Son again) but, when given the opportunity to let that come to pass, he didn't take it.  The rest of the New Avengers aren't exactly all AGAINST killing but the point is brought up that killing Norman doesn't necessarily lead to a bright and shiny future.  Odds are pretty good that Ozzy's death would just lead to a bigger crackdown against the hero community... especially if that community was responsible. 

We also learn that James Barnes (Captain America) killed Hitler.  Huh.

In the end, it's Captain America that asks for a complete plan both ways.  You kill Norman Osborn, then what happens?  You head out to San Francisco to help out the mutant community, then what?  The New Avengers get ready to sit down and figure all of this out but that's not quick enough for Barton.  He has a mean urge to kill right now that isn't being satisfied by all this not-killing going on.  Clint storms out.

Which means someone's going to have to follow him out and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid.  I looks like Mockingbird gets the short straw.  Bobbi Morse is Ronin's ex-wife so they've got a lot of history behind them.  Luckily, they aren't the kind of exes that hate each other.  They're the kind of exes that are dating and trying to get back together.  This means that when Mockingbird joins Ronin outside as Clint is staring out at Avengers Tower, he doesn't tell her to go to hell as he dashes off to certain peril.

Instead, Clint listens to her and confides in her and, in the end, she agrees to help him kill Norman Osborn.  Clint is still pissed off at the rest of the Avengers but he's willing to start recon work in the morning with his ex.  Until then, maybe they need to make out a bit.  Maybe make a little love.  Maybe get down tonight.  Get down tonight.

Or maybe not.  You'd think if they had the sex, Clint would be knocked out a lot longer.  As it stands, he's stays up after Bobbi has gone fast asleep.  He's obviously not willing to wait until morning and isn't looking to get Mockingbird involved.  Ronin suits up, grabs a duffel bag of weapons, and heads out to infiltrate Avengers Tower.

Many of the other New Avengers used to live in Avenger Tower.  Ronin wasn't one of those Avengers.  Still, he tackles the tower like a pro.  Waiting until the Sentry has left for patrol (or whatever the Sentry does), Clint wires his way over to the Tower from an adjacent building and then begins his climb up the side.

Once he's reached the room of Mac Gargan (who happens to be sleeping with an opened Maxim mag, featuring Songbird on the cover, resting on his chest), Clint cuts a hole into the window, enters, and throws the Sinister Spider-Man outside.  It's a long drop for the startled villain and he lands HARD.

In the lobby, surprised HAMMER Agents spring into action, they start putting the building in lockdown and try to get in contact with Director Osborn who may or may not even be in the building.  Wouldn't it be hilarious if he were out for the night?  Oops.

Back upstairs, Dark Avengers are woken from their sleep and rush out into the hallway to see what that commotion was all about.  First out is Bullseye who looks like he just had time to grab his bow and nock an arrow back before rushing out.  Unfortunately, he comes out of his room looking the wrong way and is completely unprepared for Ronin unloading a combat rifle into him.  That's probably the most satisfying moment of this entire issue for Clint since Bullseye is currently dressing up in an old Hawkeye suit.  Sure, that won't kill Lester but it will certainly hurt.

Next up is Dark Wolverine.  Daken gets the upper hand against Barton and manages to slice his rifle in multiple pieces before Clint has time to react.  Ronin recovers quickly from his surprise and manages to use his duffle bag as an effective shield against Daken's claws.  Clint plays some dirty pool and, taking advantage of an opening, kicks Logan's kid in the privates.  Barton throws Daken to the ground where the mutant seems to be having trouble removing his claws from that duffle bag.  By the time Daken manages that trick, Clint has an arrow ready and fires it right into Dark Wolvie's neck where it exits half way out his mouth.  One last kick and Dark Wolverine is out of the fight.

While all this is going down, HAMMER Agents are desperately trying to lockdown the Tower and get security measures in place.  They're panicking more than security agents at Avengers Tower should be allowed to panic.  Norman Osborn eventually picks up the line and gets his men in gear.  At this point, all that is known is that Venom got out of the Tower and crashed into the ground.  No one knows if it's any bigger than that but Norman is working on finding that out as Clint faces his biggest challenge yet.

Karla Sofen.  Long time fans will remember that Clint and Karla had a thing when Barton was leading the Thunderbolts.  It's one of the reasons why Moonstone actually tried going legit for a while there.  She leaves her room and doesn't actually seem all that interested in fighting.  Since she can go intangible, this is probably not a fight that Clint would win, anyway.  Ronin tells the Dark Ms. Marvel that he's heading upstairs to kill her boss and wonders if she'd like in on that action.  Karla declines but is torn between letting Clint go on his way or attempting to stop him.

She eventually decides that she'll have to try and stop Ronin and fires off an energy blast just as the Security Lockdown fields go into place.  Her blast is absorbed by a barrier that has formed between the two.  You can blame this on the timely intervention of Norman.  He just looked at security footage from Venom's room, saw Clint breaking and entering, and closed down the residential floor.  The only thing this seems to have done is put Clint on the other side of this particular containment field.  The Avenger is still free to roam the Tower at will, it seems.

Norman is nearly done getting dressed when Ronin reaches him.  He waits for the HAMMER Director to notice him before firing his first shotgun shell. 

It hits Norman's personal forcefield with no effect at all.  Not one to just try a failed plan once, Clint keeps on firing and those shells continue to hit a forcefield.

So, a couple things:

A shotgun isn't gonna do the job.  Norman Osborn might even look dead for a while but that crazy Goblin Juice allows him to come back from nearly anything.  I bet the only thing that would actually do any good would be decapitation.  Or a stake through the heart.  That works on Goblins, right?

Osborn was totally prepared for this.  He tells Clint that he KNEW that the former Hawkeye wanted him dead and in the ground.  Of course he's going to use a personal forcefield.  We're all just lucky this turned out to be actually Osborn instead of an LMD.  The only things that actually surprise Ozzy is that it took Clint this long to make the attempt and that the Avenger ended up making it all alone. 

So, that shield protects againts projectiles but how will it do in personal combat?

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Not as good but that's why Osborn keeps a god of war around.  Ares comes out of nowhere, grabs Ronin away from the HAMMER Director and throws him against one of those super cool unbreakable windows... which, since this is the god of war, manages to spiderweb nicely.  Clint DOES manage to get a kick to Ares' head but that just pisses the Dark Avenger off.

Before Ares is able to deal a killing blow, Norman calls him off.  Barton will be able to give them all sorts of valuable information after a little torture.  Osborn is quick to point out that it's for situations just like this that they need to get going on The List.

As Clint Barton falls into unconsciousness, Norman makes the arrest official.  Looks like the war between Clint and Norman has a victor. 


tb135.jpgThunderbolts #135
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda


Last issue, Songbird had a mini T-Bolt reunion with Abe Jenkins and Norbert Ebersol (MACH IV and Fixer) but ended up leaving without their help. Mr. X fought Headsman. Songbird and Abe got done with a long awaited kiss. The Thunderbolts went off on a mission to intercept Songbird. Black Widow took a call from Nick Fury where she told him that this was the last mission for her and then she followed up with a call from Norman Osborn where she was quickly demoted and command given to Scourge. Songbird took down the T-Bolts' ride but nearly got taken down herself in the same move. She crashed to the ground to find Black Widow looming over her. We got one last surprise when we learned that Black Widow isn't Yelena Belova at all. She was actually Natasha Romanova. The first Black Widow.

In this issue, Natasha and Melissa continue their escape from the T-Bolts but they're quickly beset by Mister X.  Mister X does his whole unbeatable shtick until he eats Songbird's sonic blast and drops.  The rest of the Thunderbolts aren't close enough to give aid as Scourge has ordered them to maintain their position and has only sent out Ant-Man on an unspecified mission.  Mister X wasn't all about following that order and neither was Ghost.  The etherial villain locates Black Widow and Songbird and calls everyone to his position.  He just neglects to tell his teammate that he's set up false GPS coordinates very far away from his actual position.  He's given the two heroes a nice headstart.  Natasha has time to contact Nick Fury and then set up a meeting with him three days later at Yankee Stadium.  Unfortunately, they've been tailed by Ant-Man.  They meet up with Fury seconds before the Thunderbolts attack them.  The three are captured and knocked unconscious.  Later, they wake up to Norman Osborn's smiling face.  Norman wants Captain America's location from Natasha.  He shows her evidence that the entire time she was playing Yelena Belova for Fury, she was actually working for Norman DISGUISED as Nick Fury.  While Black Widow is to be taken alive, Songbird is to be beheaded.  Nick Fury.... ah, Nicky.  Norman shoots him in the head three times.

So, after Natasha Romonova revealed herself to Songbird (not that way, perverts!), the two heroes take off.  They can't go airborn because HAMMER would detect their flight path and intercept.  They only have on chance and it's on foot.

While they're running Natasha answers Melissa's questions about her double agent status.  Nick Fury got clues that Ozzy was looking to put a new Thunderbolt team together and had plans to put Yelena Belova on the team.  So he set up Romanova to be a genetic duplicate of the second Black Widow and she waited for Norman to recruit her.  She's been spying on the T-Bolts ever since.  This is also why the Thunderbolts haven't successfully killed anyone including Deadpool.  What?  You actually thought Black Widow had a crush on Wade Wilson?

This whole explanation over with, they meet up with their first Thunderbolt: Mister X.  X has a low-level telepathic ability that he uses to predict the moves of others so this fight is frustrating as hell if you hate perfect, smug villains.  He evades Black Widows gun fire, catches a dart, and stabs it into Songbird's neck.  Black Widow goes for the gun play one more time and Mister X uses his swords to block every bullet.  Good gravy, this dude is frustrating.

Black Widow eventually runs out of bullets and X lunges forward to end this with a few jabs of his sword.  Natasha tries some hand-to-hand combat but this is all pretty useless when facing someone that knows what you're going to do before you do it.  X slices her across the stomach and moves in to finish the job, gloating all the way.

Luckily, he never gets a chance to finish off the Widow.  Songbird recovers and gives him a full blast of her sonic powers.  Mister X knows it's coming but doesn't have anything available to block the attack.  He is sent soaring away, hitting as many branches as possible before coming back down to earth face first and passing out.  Both our heroes come out of the fight injured but at least they're able to walk away.

Most of the Thunderbolts haven't even left the crash site yet.

thunderbolts135.jpg

Scourge has ordered them to hold their present position (apparently on Osborn's orders) and is frustrated that Mister X and Ghost have run off.  There's only one Thunderbolt that has been ordered into the field and that T-Bolt is Ant-Man.  O'Grady radios in that he's in position and Scourge tells him to maintain his cover and not to do any attacking just yet.

Ghost was the other Thunderbolt that can't follow directions.  He locates Natasha and Melissa and radios back to the rest of his team on his good fortune, telling them to track his current position and intercept.  What he doesn't tell his comrades is they won't be tracking his position so much as a dummy GPS located four miles away.  This is information he DOES share with Black Widow and Songbird.  The two heroes now have a chance at escaping.  In exchange for his help, Natasha tells Ghost that the tale he told her about the Nano-Bomb he ate was false (she told Ghost this back in Thunderbolts #133).  Ghost is visibly relieved but exclaims, "I KNEW it. I did."  With that, Songbird and Black Widow run off through the forest.

Before running off too far, Natasha opens up communications to give a message to Nick Fury.  This is the same message that is picked up by Hellfire and Phobos in Secret Warriors #7.  The message requests an immediate extraction at a set of coordinates that Widow sends to Fury.  She's giving him a two-day window for pick-up or she'll have to come up with something else.  As readers of Secret Warriors can attest, Nick Fury isn't there to get that message.  Hellfire and Phobos ARE.  They decided to help out in Nick's stead.

With that message sent out, the two rush into a train tunnel to escape any prying eyes viewing in on spy satellite. 

Three days later, Natasha and Melissa reach their destination: Yankee Stadium.  It's also the location of one of Nick Fury's secret bases known as Homerun.  Romanova opens the doors with her passcodes and heads inside with her companion.  As they go below, we get a look on what Ant-Man has been up to.  He's been tailing the two this entire time.

Inside Homerun, they meet up with Nick Fury but he's not exactly thrilled to see them.  When Natasha asks why, Nick tells them that they were tailed.  They don't have time to get to safety before the Thunderbolt crash their party.

This is where we left things at the end of Secret Warriors #7.  Now, we'll get to see what happens next.

The fight is short.  Ghost keeps Scourge from taking a bullet by making him intangible.  Paladin throws out a stun grenade.  Songbird prepares to set up a sonic defense but is stalled by Ant-Man's attack.  The stun grenade does it's work and it's game over for the good guys.

Once captured, Natasha wakes up to find Norman Osborn smiling down on her.  He's happy that she's lead him right to Nick Fury.  Nick's on his list, you see.  Now, they might not have to have a special one-shot for the Secret Warriors.  It's that kind of time saving that Osborn appreciates.  He's also checked Melissa Gold's capture off his to-do list so it's a banner day to be the former Green Goblin. 

Right now, Nick Fury is being smacked around by Hawkeye while other HAMMER Agents and Ares stand at the ready to be useful.  Norman tells Natasha that she's not going to die just yet.  She's got one more important mission: the location of Captain America.  Hawkeye will torture that info out of her and then she'll get to take a dirt nap.

But before going off to be tortured, Norman's gonna tell us just how badly he played Black Widow.  He set up the whole thing.  Natasha was never working for Nick Fury, she was working for Osborn.  Norman has her infiltrate his own team as Yelena Belova in order to test out the team's loyalty and report it all back to "Nick Fury."  He used a grainy hologram and a graveling voice to pull the whole thing off.  It's actually an embarrassing day to be Natasha Romanova.

This calls for some spit in Norman's face and Natasha gets that out of the way just fine.

With that done, Norman tells Scourge to transport Romanova to HAMMER interrogation facility.  Melissa doesn't get to live.  Norman orders Songbird to be beheaded and the entire deed filmed so he can view it later for... scientific purposes.

All this time, Nick is being smacked around by Hawkeye.  Natasha apologizes to the super spy before she's carted off but Nick just responds that it's not over yet.

Or maybe it is.  Norman asks for some time alone with the Colonel and, apparently, that means more hitting.

Songbird and Black Widow aren't gagged or anything so they're both able to talk to the T-Bolts and try to convince the team to not follow Osborn's orders.  Black Widow doesn't think that their hearts are into all this killing biz but she's probably not including new members like Mister X and Scourge in those thoughts.  X strikes out pretty quickly.  Scourge is all about following orders.  Even though Ghost helped them before, it doesn't look like there's going to be a repeat of that this time.

Back with Norman and Nick, we're learning all about Osborn's enlightened world view.  He's going to share it with Fury.  Read for it?  Here it comes.

"The bad guys always win."

He pulls out a gun and aims it for Nick Fury's head.  This would be the moment for a very timely rescue.

But it's not coming.  Not this time.

Norman fires three bullets into Fury's head.
 

drya4.jpgDark Reign: Young Avengers #4
Writer: Paul Cornell
Penciler: Mark Brooks


Last issue, it was all about tryouts as each Dark Young Avenger paired up with their Young Avenger counterpart to take on a Hydra threat in the city. The Young Avengers judged the new guys and decided to take on Enchantress and Coat of Arms and that's it. Hawkeye told everyone about the threats made to her by the Executioner who figured out her secret identity (not difficult when your mask is a pair of goggles). Executioner told the Dark Young Avengers that he had an in that will benefit them all before getting a visit from mom... all while Norman Osborn looked on.

In this issue, Kate Bishop goes to a gala with Daniel Dubois (Executioner) when the whole thing is interrupted by the Young Avengers chasing a random villain, and Hawkeye is leading the charge!  This completely ruins Executioner's belief that Kate is actually Hawkeye even if he's right.  After all, he hasn't even figured out his mom is a super villain.  The next day, they tell the Dark Young Avengers who's in and who's out and everyone takes it pretty badly except for Enchantress (since she's in and all).  Coat of Arms declines the offer.  Executioner gets a wake-up call on her mom's super villain past.  Melter relives the day he accidentally melted his parents.  He sneaks into Coat of Arms' room and finds the card that Norman gave her with his private number.  When he calls it, he learns that Norman has cameras up to see them all.  Melter makes him an offer and Norman's very excited about it.  He meets with Loki and learns the secret origins of the Enchantress and then decides that it might be very worth it just to get his hands on the Young Avengers.  Coat of Arms was waiting to see what Melter would do and is kind of disappointed that he's going down the path of the supervillain.  Enchantress meets with the Young Avengers the next day and goes into magic training with Wiccan... and does a hell of a lot of flirting.  Coat warns Speed of the incoming danger.  Princess Python gets blown up by her son.  Egghead attacks Vision and downloads lots of info into him including Enchantress' origin.  This leads to the Enchantress getting kicked out of the Young Avengers.  This sets up the final throw down as the Melter calls the Young Avengers over for a talk and also invites the Dark Avengers to the party.

Which means a lot happens in this issue.  Let's get started!

Last issue, Executioner told Hawkeye (the girl one) that he knew she was Kate Bishop and if she didn't let him and his teammates into the Young Avengers there would be hell to pay.  That's something the Young Avengers are gonna have to deal with and it needs to be very public. 

So we head on over to Diana Patton's Green Garden Charity Party where everyone that's anyone is meeting together to pretend to care about giving money away for charity purposes and a tax break.  It might not be the place you think you'd find Princess Python and her son but, apparently, she's super rich.  Her son's the current Executioner and he's shown up with Kate Bishop on his arm.  When Executioner's mom asks her if she's interested in her son, Kate replies that she might be but only as a friend.  That's only the first burn that Daniel Dubois is going to feel in this issue.

The next is a very public battle between the Young Avengers and a random villain.  You'll notice that Hawkeye is running around with the team while her secret identity, Kate Bishop, is shmoozing with her date.  Hawkeye even compliments Kate's dress which gets her gushing a bit after the battle passes through.

Kate meets up with the Young Avengers at Avengers Mansion later on.  We learn that the role of Hawkeye in the battle was played by Vision, while Wiccan cast a spell that made him into a random purple villain.  With the very public meeting between Hawkeye and Kate out of the way, no one's going to believe that the two are one and the same.  Heck, even the Executioner might not believe it now.  He's not brilliant.  He doesn't even realize that his mom is a former super villain and that's something everyone else figured out without even trying very hard.

The next day, the Young Avengers meet up with the Dark Young Avengers to tell them who's in and who's out.  Coat of Arms and the Enchantress get in while Melter stays and leads this team which now has to look for a new name (I hear Masters is available...).  The only one that takes this news well is the Enchantress.  Everyone else?  Not so well.  Melter thought this was an all or nothing deal and isn't happy that he's left without his girlfriend and stuck with... well, the rejects.

Executioner has a shouting match with Hawkeye where Kate ends up telling him all about his mom and her villainous past.  Daniel is too startled by this revelation to continue shouting. 

Coat of Arms is quiet but won't join unless the Melter is allowed to go.

Melter continues to rage but Patriot does his best to calm that situation down even while he's being provoked.  He wants Melter to stay with this team because he sees the man as a positive influence and Melter's relationship with the Enchantress keeps a connection between the two teams.  Melter doesn't believe it for a moment and continues his tirade.  Patriot continues to suspect that the Melter is hiding something and even mentions it out loud.

Later on, the anger continues even though the Young Avengers have long since left.  It's mostly Executioner, though.  He's upset that his team was just looked down upon by another team of kids and is still reeling from the revelation about his mom.

As the night wears on, people start going to bed but Melter can't sleep.  He's remembering back when he had a couple of loving parents who adored him like no-one's business.  That is, they did until he accidentally melted them down in what may have been his first use of his abilities.  Now, this is the sort of thing that will mess you up for life and it's actually impressive that Melter isn't more messed up and is still trying to be more heroic than any of his fellow teammates.  You suddenly see why Coat of Arms won't leave the team without him and why she has such faith in the guy.

Which means it's probably time for him to do something stupid.  He gets up and sneaks into Coat of Arms' room where he knows she has a card with Norman Osborn's private number on it.  We learned all about this when Coat told us her Secret Origin.  He calls it up only to learn that Norman can see him.  Right now.  Oh, Coat of Arms is hiding behind her paintings, too.

Twenty minutes later, Norman is having a private meeting with Loki concerning his conversation with Melter.  First, he explains that his private cards release nanocameras all over the place which is why he was able to look in on the Melter.  He's intrigued at what Melter has offered him even if he's even less impressed with the Young Masters than the Young Avengers were.  Ozzy is able to tell us that Big Zero and Egghead are from some fascist micro-universe and that Coat of Arms is using Tiboro's Coat (a former Dr. Strange villain that doesn't seem to have actually WORN this coat).

Loki is able to tell us what the Enchantress is.  Sort of.  Her explanation doesn't seem to be complete but that's Loki's nature, right?  The Enchantress is a mortal given magical abilities by Loki.  There are a few twists Loki put in for good measure.  First, she actually believes she's an Asgardian.  Second, she is designed for mischief and putting her on the Young Avengers is tailor-made to cause some of that.

So, Norman doesn't think THAT much of the Young Masters but when Melter included the Young Avengers in the deal... well, that's something worth shooting for.

Back at Young Master headquarters, Coat of Arms reveals her location from behind the paintings.  She's not too surprised that Melter called up Osborn but she is disappointed.  She expected great things from Melter.  Here was a guy with a power set more appropriate for a villain who was really trying to be a super hero.  She'll stay and record all of this for the sake of art but she was really hoping that the Melter would lead them back to an age of heroes.  Melter apologizes for not being that guy.

The two fascist team members are all sorts of pissed off that they aren't joining the Young Avengers and are even more upset that the Enchantress is.  They decide that the best plan is to download some truth in the Vision.  More on their wicked plans later.  Right now, we've got to get to the Enchantress joining the Young Avengers at Avengers Mansion.

dryoungavengers4.jpg

Of course, it's a dump.  The Avengers Mansion was destroyed back during Avengers: Disassembled and no one has even thought about fixing the place up for a long time.  The Avengers have moved on.  For now.  You know they'll be back eventually.  I mean, how many times has the X-Men Mansion been destroyed and rebuilt?  It's just an eventuality for Marvel heroes to return to their Mansions and look down on us commoners.

Well, the Young Avengers aren't exactly thrilled with the Enchantress's inclusion and are happy that they don't have to reveal their identities to her.  Only Wiccan and Hulkling are happy that she's here and Wiccan is even more excited about training with her.  They head to the ballroom to get their magic on but the Enchantress is more interested in simply getting it on.  Like I said: mischief.

Wiccan is startled by this because he's pretty gay and he's also in a committed relationship with Hulkling.  The Enchantress isn't hearing that kind of talk.  She doesn't care for orientation or relationships.  It's all about the mischief, huh?

While Wiccan is avoiding the Enchantress's advances, Coat of Arms and Speed are hanging out in the park.  Coat knows what's coming and does her best to warn Speed about it.  She wants him to stay away because the speedster already has a criminal record and doesn't need this kind of aggravation.  Speed isn't hearing that.  What's more, what will keep him from warning his team?  Coat responds that what's about to happen will happen eventually anyway so it's best to just get it over with.  Like pulling off a band-aid, I guess.  Coat isn't really all that uplifting, though.  She's depressed because the age of heroes is gone.  She's taking Melter working with Osborn very hard.

You know who else is taking new info hard?  The Executioner.  He just learned his mom is a super villain and now he's got to do something about it.  Most people would turn her in or at least confront her and get her to try and turn herself in.  Not Daniel.  He's the Executioner and there's only one response he has to evil doers.  He kills them.  In this case, he triggers his mother's car to explode just as she walks up to the door.  At least he's nice enough to say goodbye to her first.  Even if it is by phone while she's berating him for not getting anywhere with Kate Bishop.

Remember when Egghead and Big Zero were talking about downloading information into the Vision?  It's about time we got to that.  Egghead does it right in the middle of a date between Jonas and Cassie.  Egghead swoops in, shocks Vision with the information, gets decked by Cassie, and escapes as quickly as he can.  This info dump staggers Jonas for a bit but one particular piece of information requires immediate attention.  It's about the Enchantress and it's something that he verifies quickly.  We can only guess that it's the Secret Origin or the Enchantress but it could just be a list of her criminal offenses.

Which is why the Enchantress gets booted from the Young Avengers.  Also: she was making moves on Wiccan.  Enchantress comes crying back into the waiting arms of Melter and her Young Master teammates.  This isn't exactly the last straw, since Melter already contacted Norman, but it does put all of the Young Masters on one side and all the Young Avengers on another.  Melter calls up the Young Avengers and they all agree to air their differences at a meeting later in the day.

Which is how Melter lures the Young Avengers into a trap.  They won't just be meeting with the Young Masters.  They'll be sitting down with the Dark Avengers.

There also won't be that much sitting.  Not with all the fighting that'll be happening in the final fantastic issue.
 

a3.jpgThe Avengers #3
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby


In this issue, the Avengers search out their missing member, the Hulk, by peeking in on every other super hero in the Marvel Universe- but has no luck.  Rick Jones has an easier time of finding the Hulk but, instead of reporting this to the authorities, he helps the green behemoth into a secret chamber where he temporarily changes him back to Bruce Banner.  Banner only stays baseline human for a short while before returning to his Hulk form and going off on another rampage.  This forces Rick to call in the Avengers who respond as fast as they can.  After a fight and chase scene, Hulk eludes capture and escapes for a swim into the Atlantic Ocean where he nearly drowns, is rescued by a passing ship, recovers, goes overboard again, and is eventually discovered by Namor the Sub-Mariner.  The two fight it out (Marvel Custom) before teaming up to fight the Avengers.  The fight goes back and forth before Hulk reverts to his human form and escapes.  At this point, the Avengers have a clear advantage.  Namor makes one last power play before rushing off, angry at Hulk's seeming betrayal.

It was only the third issue of the Avengers and already they were down a member.  The Hulk felt the rest of the team didn't trust him after they so quickly turned on him in the last issue and he left for parts unknown.  The Avengers decide that they really DON'T trust the Hulk and make plans to locate him before he can do anything stupid. 

To accomplish this task, Iron Man decides to use one of Tony Stark's new inventions.  It's basically a peeping tom device because Tony Stark is kind of a pervert.  It projects the user's image anywhere they want to go and, through the magic of comics, even allows communication.

Tony spends the next few pages visiting a literal 'who's who' of the Marvel U.  First up is a trip to the Baxter Building and the Fantastic Four.  No one here seems even close to interested in helping the Avengers locate the Hulk.  Ben's almost out the door for a date with Alicia Masters, Sue's leaving for a fashion show and Reed is way too interested in examining Johnny's power set.  They're no help at all.

Next up is Spider-Man.  Spidey is capturing a gang of criminals and isn't too happy that someone is flying over him and watching him do his thing.  When Iron Man tells Peter that the Avengers are searching for the Hulk, Spidey just acts frustrated for the interruption into his busy life.  Looks like Iron Man is off to find some other super heroes to pester.

Which leads him right to the X-Men who, as usual, are training in the Danger Room and are as surprised as everyone else for this interruption.  Iron Man actually fought against and then with Angel over in his own book, Tales of Suspence #49, and Warren invited Shellhead to the X-Men's Mansion if he ever needed help.  Xavier tells Iron Man that they'll contact the Avengers if they hear anything about the Hulk but, for now, they've got some training to do.  Interestingly enough, Iron Man is one of the first outsiders to learn of Professor X's existance.  It might be because of his help reigning in Angel in ToS #49 that Xavier allows him this priviledge.  In that issue, Prof X gives Tony a telepathic message of his gratitude even though he respects Iron Man's secret ID.

Anyway, that idea wasted a couple pages so it wasn't a total loss.  Iron Man even got to test an invention and found it to work pretty well.  Imagine all the wacky situations he'll get into with that device off panel!

Before the Avengers completely give up on finding Hulk, the remember that Rick Jones is the one that got them in contact with the Hulk in the first place.  They decide to contact him via ham radio and let the teenager do the searching for a while.  Rick gets the message and believes that the Hulk would only end up in one place: right where he is in the American Southwest!  It's where the Hulk usually ends up.

Sure enough, that's exactly where the Hulk is.  Rick doesn't do much searching at all before he's come across some of the Hulk's misadventures.  The green guy has already managed to freak out a passing driver to such a degree that the man drove his car right into a lake before running off.  Hulk doesn't understand what was up with the guy but does spend the time necessary getting the vehicle out of the water.

Rick leads the green goliath away to one of Bruce Banner's secret labs, sets him up in front of a gamma ray gun, and fires.  The blast changes the Hulk back into Bruce Banner but the scientist is so worn out by the transformation that he goes right to sleep.  Rick tucks Banner in and then waits outside the armored door, regretting the day that Banner saved his life and became the Hulk.

Bruce doesn't sleep long at all.  He changes back into the Hulk and smashes right out of the lab.  They're gonna need stronger doors. 

While Hulk is off causing... very little mischief, actually, Rick realizes he probably should have called the Avengers in sooner and goes off to do just that.  At this point in the Avengers' careers, there's very little structure to the team and no Quinjets.  Each Avenger gets the message separately and travels to the Southwest in their own fashion.  Iron Man and Thor fly there by their own individual means while Giant-Man and the Wasp hitch a ride on a jet.  That's right.  Hank and Jan hobo their way across country.

Since Iron Man got the message first, he's the first to arrive.  He's also heavily outclassed.  After taking a sucker punch, Iron Man decides that distance weapons will do and uses his repulsor beam to fire boulders in Hulk's direction.  Hulk dodges and in the process grabs a cactus to use as a weapon.  He wrings the plant out, spraying needles all over the place.  Iron Man is able to get a rock shield up in time (even though you'd think that armor would be enough defense against cactus needles) but Hank and Janet aren't so lucky.  They arrive on the battlefield just in time to dodge cactus needles at ant size.

Escaping that, Hank and the Wasp travel down the nearest ant hill to force the ants to do their dirty work.  They work swiftly to block up an underground stream which causes the ground around the Hulk to rupture and burst with water geysers.  Hulk jumps away from the ground and is met in the air by Iron Man.

Tony uses his repulsor beams to keep Hulk in the air, spinning the Green Goliath around as Thor joins the battle.  Eventually, Hulk is able to reach a rock formation and halt his helpless spinning.  Deciding that he's not really up for fighting any more, Hulk makes his departure, traveling through some abandoned mines until he comes upon a speeding train.

It looks like he's found his way out but the Avengers are after him a lot quicker than he anticipated.  Hulk ends up throwing the caboose at Thor and Iron Man (don't worry kids, he checked to make sure it was empty first!) but Thor's hammer makes short work of it.  Hulk fights with the two Avengers until Giant Man joins the battle.  Taking a hold of a few bags of flour, Hulk evades Hank's enormous hands and heads up to the front of the train where he drops the bags of flour.  The result is a huge smokescreen that hides the upcoming tunnel.  Hank is clotheslined by the top of the tunnel and drops off the train.  It looks like the Avengers don't get to catch Hulk this time.

avengers3.jpg

Hulk isn't done escaping just yet, though.  He hides inside a gravel truck and waits for the vehicle to dump its payload into a nearby stream.  Hulk doesn't come up for air but instead swims down stream, into the Mississippi, and eventually right into the Gulf of Mexico.  After that, he just keeps on going, coming up for air every so ofter to keep from drowning.

This might be a good way to pass the time but even Hulk isn't capable for swimming forever.  A passing ship sees his exausted form floating at the top of the water and pulls him aboard without a second's pause.  Once they get him out of the water, the crew panics at their catch.  This is, after all, the frickin' Hulk.  The captain calms them down.  This might be the Hulk but the big guy is so close to death that he's not a threat.  They pull him on to the deck and them make a call in to the authorities for a quick pick up.

You might be saying to yourself: "Sure, Super.  That's great.  The Avengers fight the Hulk.  I'm liking that but that's not why I'm reading this column.  I'm here for some Namor action and I don't see any of that."  Well, you, just wait until the end of this sentence.  Namor has been watching the Hulk as a potential ally and is happy to see that the Green Goliath has ended up in his ocean.  He knows that the Hulk will recover from his exhaustion much quicker than the sea captain suspects and that he won't remain on the ship to get captured.  Namor rushes out to prepare a welcome for his future ally.

Hulk does end up getting back to his Hulkish self quicker that the captain or crew could imagine.  Instead of causing a rampage on the ship that rescued him, he sees a nearby island and decides it would make a good temporary home until he gets bored of it and jumps overboard.  When he reaches the island, he finds that it's already occupied by the Sub-Mariner.

Hulk isn't all that happy to see Namor.  Hulk just wants to be left alone and especially wants to be away from those dirty humans that pester him.  Namor doesn't like being called human and, well, a fight ensues.  I know!  Surprising.  These two are both super powerful but, once the fight reaches the water, Namor has the upper hand and easily bests his opponent.  Bringing the green guy up to the surface, the two agree to work together against humanity.

Now, you'd think that they would team up to take on the Fantastic Four.  That's who Namor really has it in for, after all, and it seems like he's the one making the plans here.  In a surprise move that no-one but the reader (who knows they're reading an Avengers book) sees coming, the dua decide to attack Earth's Mightiest Heroes.  They choose Gibraltar as the perfect place to make their stand.

Super-villain team-ups never work out right in the Marvel Universe.  Namor's already had a bad experience while teaming up with Dr. Doom.  Maybe because of that experience or simply because he doesn't think much of the Hulk, Namor plans on turning against ol' green skin as soon as he's gotten a good use out of him.  As far as the Hulk goes, he plans the same.

Back at the Avengers Mansion, the Avengers pick up some radio transmissions sent by Namor and Hulk challenging them to a fight.  Thor delivers a speech all about how they're going to have an ending this time and not let the Hulk slip right through their fingers again.  Wasp likes what she's hearing and starts flirting only to be interupted by Hank Pym who doesn't like it when his sidekick has eyes for anyone but him.

Instead of crossing the ocean by their own means, this time the Avengers take one of Tony Stark's super subs.  It gets them there more quickly and we don't have to feel bad for Giant-Man and the Wasp hoboing onto a jet again.  Heck, we can't waste the panel time now.  We're only four pages to the end and we haven't gotten started with the big throw down.

No need to describe this battle in expert detail.  Suffice to say, Namor and Hulk working as a team basically mean Namor says "you are inferior to me in every way you dundering clod!" in every other panel.  This doesn't build too much trust on the Hulk's part but the big guy is angrier at the Avengers so, for now, they continue to work together towards a common goal.

Iron Man has a bad time during the fight.  He's immobilized by an emery dust pellet gun and is defended by Thor while Giant-Man uses a compression pump to pump out all that dust and get him mobile again.  Later in the battle, Namor damages his chest device and, since that's what's keeping him alive, he has to take time to fix it or perish.

Wasp also has a hard time of it.  She's disoriented when one of Hulk's fists smashes the rockwall and sends shockwaves through the cave.  Those shockwaves release rocks from the sides of the wall which, at her size, could prove deadly.  Wasp ends up flying to the ground only to risk getting trampled on by her own teammates.  She survives this by finding a tiny hole in the ground to hide in until they pass her by.  At this point, she's had enough of almost getting kills and sits out the rest of the fight on Giant-Man's shoulder.

Thor and Giant-Man actually do ok.  Thor fights both Namor and Hulk at the same time and stays on his feet.  This is probably because Hulk is more interested in parting him with his hammer which is mystically impossible to do.  He actually distracts both foes by sending Mjolnir away.  Namor and Hulk both try to reach the weapon and, in their rush, Giant-Man is able to get his oversized hands on Namor. 

Which is the turning point in the fight.  While Thor and Giant-Man both take on Namor, Hulk finds himself changing back into... Bob Banner!  Don't know why he chose this moment to call himself Bob.  In fact, Marvel didn't know why either and corrected the mistake for the Essential reprint.  The point is, the Hulk is human again and that means he's useless in this battle.  He rushes off before anyone can get a good look at his face.

That leaves Namor alone against Giant-Man and Thor.  Now, he's the Avenging Son so there's going to be no clear victor here.  The Sub-Mariner is able to slip out of Giant-Man's hold but runs right into a refreshed Iron Man.  Stark holds the villain in a repulsor field and tries to talk his adversary into surrendering but Namor has no intention of doing that little thing.  He's able to smash through the wall behind him releasing a flow of water that bathes him in power.  With that, Namor is able to break free from that repulsor field but his taste for combat is done for this issue.

Angry that he was abandoned by the Hulk, Namor renews his vow to destroy the surface world and flies off.  The Avengers, seeing how valiant a foe Namor was, break off pursuit and leave.  They got a good fight out of the trip and that's good enough for them, I guess.  After all, they let both Hulk and Namor slip through their fingers.  It's probably best that they don't analyze this one too closely and just quickly put it in the win category.

We are to the ever lovin' blue eyed end!  See you next time for more thrills, chills, spills, and bills!

Bills?

Until then: Who Do YOU Trust?

The Outhouse is sponsored this week by Late Nite Draw. Recently featured on ComicsAlliances' Best Art Ever, he is a Chicago-based commissioned artist with a self-published Digital+Print one-shot coming out in October about the abominable snowman called ABOBAMANIMABBLE, and is also available for commissions. Check out some amazing art by clicking here or by clicking the banner at the top, and support the people who support The Outhouse.


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About the Author - SuperginraiX


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

 


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