Just what the doctor ordered!
Today, we check out The Thanos Imperative: Ignition #1, Secret Avengers #1, Fantastic Four #579, Thunderbolts #144, Thor #610, and Blast to the Past for Fantastic Four #1. Enjoy and spread the word!
Marvel's cosmic universe steps up it's game yet again while the Heroic Age starts telling Secrets!
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Siege? Check no further than this link right HERE .
Let's get cosmic
The Thanos Imperative: Ignition #1
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Penciler: Brad Walker
In this issue:
• Thanos gives us his back story while stuck in captivity on Knowhere.
• Nova chases the fake Quasar to the Fault.
• Gladiator, Medusa, and Blastaar gather their forces.
• While kicking the crap out of fake Quasar, Nova encounters Adam Magus.
• The real Quasar soon joins the fight.
• The Universal Church of Truth ignites some faith energy to open up the Fault even further.
• Thanos breaks free.
• The Cancerverse Captain Marvel arrives and kills Adam Magus for failing to kill death.
Who is Thanos? Well, let him tell you himself in this all-encompassing flashback to Thanos' greatest hits!
I will give you the cliff notes version just because you asked so nicely. Thanos is a Titanian Eternal, one of the immortal races of humans that happens to make their home on one of Saturn's moons. Not only that, but Thanos is one of the sons of the Titan leader, Mentor. So he's got a nice pedigree.
You might know of Thanos as the mad god of death because that's pretty much what he is. He's in love with death, and not in the abstract way that an emo or a goth might love death. Thanos loves the living embodiment of death. The chick with the skull face that actually has a thing for Deadpool? That's who Thanos loves. He's willing to kill for her, too. A lot.
In his time, Thanos has pretty much fought everyone you can imagine. Including Ka-Zar. If your list is thorough enough that it includes the lord of a primitive jungle, you have probably checked everyone else off your list. In this time, the mad titan has counted some pretty tough good guys as his main foes but he makes extra special mention of the late Captain Marvel. This would be the original and long dead Mar-Vell. Thanos makes an interesting comparison between himself and the Captain. He has remained alive against his will while Captain Marvel is dead while wanting to be alive. No-one gets what they want in the Marvel Universe.
We'll finally get to what Thanos explains first: how he returned from the grave. While this wouldn't be the first time, Thanos has returned from death quite a lot. This time, he was killed off by Drax the Destroyer. Since this is what Drax was created to do, it finally fulfilled his mission in life. Unfortunately, Thanos' dead body was found by a half-mad, half-crazy Adam Warlock. Thanos conjectures that even in his crazy state, Warlock knew that the mad Titan would be important in defeating Adam Magus (if that ever needed to be done) and put Thanos in a recuperating cocoon before going on his merry way.
This cocoon was found by the Universal Church of Truth and they took it, believing that they had recovered Magus/Warlock. When Thanos was finally revived, he rewarded the planet Sacrocanct, the main planet of the UCT, by killing everyone. EVERYONE.
And now he's in the custody of the Guardians of the Galaxy. In the real world, Thanos isn't nearly as coherent as his latest secret origin story would have you believe. In fact, the three telepaths that have spent the day trying to figure out how Thanos returned from the dead have only encountered a lot of rage. They begin to suspect that Thanos himself is hiding the truth behind an alternate persona.
This hardly matters to Moondragon. Heather lost her girlfriend, Phyla-Vell, to this monster when Thanos was first awakened. All she wants is to find out how to kill him again. At the same time, she brings up a lot of good reasons for wanting the villain dead. This is Thanos. He's getting more powerful by the moment meaning that he'll break his restraints eventually. He's also super-evil, which is a lot worse than just regular evil. If he gets out, he'll most likely kill another planet of people. Moondragon decides to take the case to the GotG leader, Star-Lord.
Peter Quill is trying to get his Cosmic Cube to work again. Since it only had the one shot left (which he used to take out Thanos), his efforts aren't proving effective. When Heather tells Peter that she needs Thanos dead, Star-Lord knows it's a bad idea but doesn't exactly know WHY it's a bad idea. He turns the podium over to Rocket Raccoon who fills in the blanks nicely. Thanos is the avatar of death. It might seem like a great idea to dust the guy but there are cosmic consequences to that kind of action. Is everything that's happened lately a consequence of killing Thanos at the end of Annihilation? They need to look into this before they make an impulsive decision with far reaching consequences.
Besides, without Thanos, there's probably not going to be a Thanos Imperative mini-series and then they're all out of a job.
Drax tells everyone why killing Thanos is the best idea ever. He would say that. It was his job to kill the monster to begin with. Drax believes that keeping Thanos alive will lead to a good amount of death and destruction. Dude needs to be stopped. Permanently.
But enough debating about the fate of the Mad Titan of Death. Let's move over and see how Nova's doing at chasing down the fake Quasar.
In the last issue of Nova, Richard Rider uncovered a plot by the Cancerverse version of Quasar but we're still not completely certain what that was all about. All we know is that he used the Horrorscope to find something. Now, Dark Quasar is flying off to the Fault to return this information to him many-angled masters. Nova can't have this so: pursuit.
He explains the gist of this in his all points bulletin to everyone in signal distance. Richard is having a hard time catching up to the false hero but is still right on the villain's tail.
Meanwhile, the forces of our universe are gathering at the Fault, the giant cosmic tear in time and space created at the end of the War of Kings. This portal has proven to be a danger to the entire universe and has brought former enemies together in an attempt to deal with this threat.
Chief among those called in to fight against the Fault is the real Quasar. Quasar was recovered by the Shi'ar Imperial Guard when they went looking into the Fault. On the same journey, they learned first hand just what a danger this hole is to their universe. Majestor Kallark (Gladiator) has assembled a league of universe powers to deal with the threat. Spartoi. Rigellian. Even Blastaar's Neg-Zone army.
While Gladiator leads his forces to the Fault, Quasar takes off to assist Nova.
Nova and the imposter have arrived at the Fault. They aren't alone. It seems like the entire fleet of Templeships from the Universal Church of Truth have assembled around the Fault mouth.
Medusa chimes in from her Kree flagship. She asks Nova if the Universal Church of Truth has really gathered around the Fault. Richard gives them confirmation and informs them that the Templeships look hostile. King Blastaar shouts through the com about how the Church ships will die blistering deaths but is silenced by Medusa. If this assembled fleet of universe defenders does anything, it'll be obey the rules of war. Blastaar agrees but silently gives his own warriors the order to attack on sight.
At the mouth of the Fault, the false Quasar flies into one of the Templeships with Nova Prime right on his heels. The Worldmind informs Rider that these Templeships are packed to capacity with believers and their Belief Energy continues to grow. The Templeship pours on the firepower in an attempt to keep Nova away from their ship but it does them no good. Richard Rider is damn good at his job.
Once inside the Templeship, Rider tackles the Cancerverse Quasar. The villain can't believe that this Nova followed him all the way from earth but Nova delivers a line that is usually more comfortable in the mouth of a Royal Canadian Mountie ("He always gets his man") and we get down to the fight.
During the battle, Nova tries to figure out just what information the fake Quasar has brought back to his masters but it's not his day to learn stuff like that. No. Today he'll meet Adam Magus. Worldmind tells Nova that, while the Cancerverse Quasar was powerful, Magus is so much more of a threat that there aren't even scales to measure it. Withdrawal would seem logical but it's not something Rider is prepared to do. He's got some cavalry of his own.
Here comes the real Quasar!
Quasar takes his doppleganger out of the fight for a bit so that the two heroes can double their efforts on Adam Magus. While they start punching each other, the next part of Magus's plan starts. The converted worlds of the Universal Church of Truth start showing up around the Fault mouth. Magus backhands Quasar while telling us what's going to happen next.
Trillions of true believers have been prepped for this one moment. On Magus's command, the planets of believers explode.
The Fault begins to expand once more. Calamity reigns aboard the ships of the universal defenders. Sensors start coming back online. On the Inhumans' main ship, Ronan and Crystal take a look and see something coming through the Fault. We're not going to learn what that is just yet.
Nova and Quasar's location is erupting in light. The two heroes decide it's time to get a safe distance away.
On Knowhere, the Guardians of the Galaxy's telepaths feel the danger that just happened. Unfortunately, they've got more important concerns. Thanos has broken free.
While Nova and Quasar have taken their leave, the flagship Templeship hasn't been destroyed or anything. The false Quasar and Adam Magus remain though Magus is out of his depth at what's happening. Dark Quasar fills him in. This dimension is realigning to make way for the many-angled ones. There's a smell of blood in the vacuum of space. Evil Quasar calls it "life."
The big leader has arrived. Cancerverse Quasar and Magus bow. While this isn't a many-angled one, it seems to be the guy in charge. He asks Vaughn (his name for Dark Quasar and probably the name I'll use next issue) if he has the "location of the site" and gets an affirmative. Next, he asks Magus if the avatar of death has been killed. Magus says it's just about done but he was more concerned about opening up the fault.
For not killing death, Adam Magus gets killed by the Lord of the Cancerverse.
This new guy remarks that it'll be difficult getting used to a universe where things can still die. The panel camera pulls back, showing us this new big bad to be none other than the Cancerverse's Captain Marvel. He tells Vaughn to call in the Revengers. Their first priority will be to get rid of death.
And, as a back-up, we get a reprinted story from Logan's Run #6 where Thanos destroys the last flower on a distant planet. He might also have kicked a puppy. In the story, we also find a more human version of Drax the Destroyer. Kinda cool.
Secret Avengers #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
In this story:
• Black Widow & Valkyrie retrieve a Serpent Crown-like artifact from a Roxxon Senior Vice President.
• They are tracked by two members of a rival secret agency.
• Beast examines the Crown.
• Steve Rogers makes out with his girlfriend, Sharon Carter.
• Ant-Man and Moon Knight break into Roxxon Corporate Headquarters to find out where they got the Crown.
• We have flashbacks to show how Moon Knight and Ant-Man joined the Secret Avengers.
• Steve sends someone to Mars to check on the site where the Crown was found.
• The Secret Avengers head to Mars after Nova didn't report in.
• On Mars, Nova finds another Crown.
• While the Secret Avengers are on the way to Mars, their flying headquarters is infiltrated by the rival secret agency led by Nick Fury.
Get ready for a great team of Avengers.
But first, a trip to Dubai. A certain Roxxon Senior Vice President is about to get busy with two women. A redhead and a blonde. He walks through a good deal of security to get to his private quarters.
He's also drunk and talking too much. The girls seem interested but more in the information he can provide than the man himself. In fact, the blonde has endured just about as much as she can bear of this guy's attitude. She breaks her cover earlier than expected by throwing the drunk against the window. This'll attract those guards so our to ladies get their fighting gear on.
Valkyrie and Black Widow. They fight off a platoon of guards but they sure wouldn't turn help away. Enter Steve Rogers, America's new Top Cop. He crashes through the window and starts doing what he does: kicking @$$ and taking names.
While the three Avengers fight through the guards, two of their opponents try to remove a box out of the room. Rogers notices the duo and takes them out before they get too far. Steve checks inside and sees that it's what prompted this mission in the first place. Since they have what they came for, Black Widow and Valkyrie take out the last of the guards and the team exit the building through the hole Steve made in the window. From there, it's a quick walk outside the building to their flying transport. Valkyrie is upset for breaking cover early but Steve Rogers doesn't mind. They got what they came for and left with no-one knowing who they are. Good job.
Though you've gotta wonder why no-one would recognize Steve in his brand new uniform but, well, maybe no-one was paying attention to him? I've got nothin'.
As the Secret Avengers' craft leaves Dubai, we learn that Steve Rogers' team wasn't the only one looking for whatever is in that box. Two other agents of another secret group (with a dragon on their uniforms) were also here on the same mission. They just got here a little late. One of the secret agents calls in to their boss and reports all of this but also lets the big man know that they can follow the escaping vehicle with ease.
Aboard the Secret Avengers' flying headquarters, which looks a lot like the old HAMMER Helicarrier that went down in Siege #4, Beast is investigating what they just retrieved from the Roxxon Senior Vice President and has made a startling discovery: it's not the Serpent Crown. Steve has already figured that out but the question remains: what is it? Beast knows that it looks similar to the Serpent Crown so they might be related. Rogers wonders if it might be part of a collection of Crowns but that's too frightful to even think about at this point.
The Crown also seems to be moving but not to the visible eye or to cameras. It just changes shape while no-one's looking. Steve leaves Beast to continue examining the crown but before he does, he tells Hank how good it is to have him back on an Avengers Roster. Beast gives him the "Once an Avenger..." line before saying that it would be nice to know where Roxxon picked up this artifact.
Steve hits the bridge and finds his girlfriend, Sharon Carter, at the helm. She tells Steve that they're almost home and that stealth will say engaged. Sharon lets Steve know that he's doing a great job with his new spy team and Rogers responds that he enjoys doing this kind of thing. We also learn that Sharon is running tactics for this team of Avengers. That would make her fill the same roll that Maria Hill does with the main Avengers team. Sharon and Steve thank each other for saving themselves and then make out. 'Cause that's how they roll.
In Wilmington, Deleware, Moon Knight and Ant-Man break into Roxxon's corporate headquarters. They need to take out a few more guards to infiltrate the building but that's what this team is good at so: no worries.
We're treated to flashbacks to show us how these two guys actually joined the team. As you can imagine, these two are the least likely members of the Secret Avengers, Moon Knight because he's bad at teams and Ant-Man because he's a coward. Moon Knight joins because Steve promises him that this team would be more like freelance work than full time Avengering. Ant-Man joins because Steve sort of gives him an ultimatum.
That makes O'Grady the only Dark Reign Thunderbolt to not wind up in jail or on the run. Good on him.
Still, this wasn't what he was expecting when he signed up for life as an Avenger. This is breaking and entering. It's for a noble cause, though, right? Ant-Man connects the Secret Avengers up to Roxxon's main computer. It takes a while for the transfer of information to complete.
Nothing specifically relating to the new Crown is mentioned on the computer but Beast is able to find information relating to Roxxon digging on Mars. It seems like they stopped digging soon after word of the Crown came out. Even more interesting, the miners working on Mars disappeared from Roxxon's payroll. They don't get fired or transfered. They just disappear. Steve decides to send someone to check on Mars.
Another member of the Secret Avengers shows up in this scene: War Machine. James Rhodes is back on an Avengers team! This is a great roster and you know it.
Even though their headquarters is supposed to be cloaked, they've picked up a tail. Remember that rival spy team from earlier? They're still following the Secret Avengers' ride and trailing at a safe distance. The secret agents are still reporting everything to their boss and believe that the Crown is still at this flying base. Turns out the secret agent in charge is coming soon to figure out what to do next with this pesky Avengers team.
Two days later, the Secret Avengers have gathered at a former HAMMER storage facility. Steve wasn't expecting to call the team back together so soon. He had put this team together to recover what Osborn had lost. Project: Pegasus was basically looted of lots of things that should never have gotten back out into the world. The Secret Avengers were set up to get those things back and anything else that could endanger lives with stealth operations and lightning strikes.
This mission, however, is different. They're heading to Mars and they're using a refurbished Kree ship to do so. This mission needs to be done because Steve's space contact never reported back.
Let's cut back to this morning and see just who Steve's contact in outer space was: Nova! Yes, Richard Rider decided to swing down to Mars in order to check on the Roxxon mining operation for Steve Rogers. You'd think a mission like this would be a cake walk for Nova Prime but it turns out to be more difficult than expected. Nova is fired upon by tanks that can actually hurt him. Worldmind's analysis indicates that they are of an ancient design that pre-dates even the Celestial visits to this corner of the galaxy. What that means is unclear but they are being piloted by human beings so, while the tech is ancient, it's intuitive enough that earthlings can work it.
Nova smashes into the side of a mountain and digs in deep. Eventually he enters a hollowed out chamber that also seems ancient. Richard plans on calling in the Avengers when he's inside but it never happens. Something on the altar in front of him takes his mind away from everything else. He walks up the steps and reaches for another Serpent Crown while discarding his normal bucket helmet. Worldmind tries her best to turn him around but her words fall on deaf ears.
Even in the Kree Warship, getting to Mars takes time. They'll get there by the next day, though, so that's about 200 days less than our current real world estimates. Once on the way, Steve calls back to Sharon and tells her that she needs to stay behind and look over things... maybe keep an eye out for Maria Hill or Victoria Hand. Sharon laughs at that idea. Man, Steve chose three strong-willed women to head up his Avengers rosters. The two say their good nights and then get on with the "no, you hang up" bit of their conversation. This was cut out of my comic but I'll imagine it was there just the same.
Sharon doesn't spend much time alone on the Secret Avengers flying headquarters. In fact, she may never have been alone. She notices the presence of an intruder and pulls out her gun only to completely miss the fact that she's already surrounded. The guy behind her knocks her out with a swing of his gun. The leader of the other stealth team reveals himself.
It's Nick Fury. He's here to retrieve the Crown for a group he names the "Shadow Council."
Fantastic Four #579
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Neil Edwards
In this story:
• Reed Richards says "shame on you" to an intellectual think-tank gathering that he founded and then quits them forever.
• A week later, he is welcoming Alex Power to the Baxter Building.
• Sue visits Old Atlantis and gets the leaders to agree to some sort of proposition.
• The super smart moloid children decide to help Reed out.
• Nu-Earth grows older. Hardly anyone cares.
• Franklin ninja fights Leech and Artie while Valeria repairs the Dragon Man.
• Mr. Fantastic visits the Wingless Wizard and tells him that Reed is going to teach his clone not to be completely evil.
• Reed Richards starts the Future Foundation with a lot of kids.
It turns out that way back in the day, Reed Richards founded Singularity. This was a conference where the brightest minds of the world plotted the future by asking and answering the hard questions. This has gone on for a decade all leading up to Reed's closing words at this year's get-together.
Reed begins mostly positive, praising Jennifer Walters' speech on genetic cloning and if a clone is a person or not. That's about the only good thing Reed has to talk about. Everything else is how disappointed he is on how the rest of the group is acting. Their lectures and workshops are filled with politics and fear for the future. Richards points out specific speeches that he found particularly disheartening.
In the end, he comes to the conclusion that this body of future makers are out of gas. They've "grown old." He keeps the lecture going on what wastes of space these guys are before letting them know that the future of humanity isn't limited to earth. They belong in space. With that in mind, Reed quits this group because they have already given up.
And those of us who have enjoyed Reed's involvement with this group over the last few pages are SO upset.
A week later, Mr. Fantastic stands on the top of the Baxter Building welcoming the newest resident to the building: Alex Power. Zero-G from the kid group, Power Pack. He's dropped off by the Power Pack's sentient spaceship, Friday, with a couple bags of luggage.
Alex is taking part in... y'know, I'm going to blow the big surprise because it's not really that exciting to keep talking around for the rest of the issue. Reed's setting up a new version of Singularity. This is a group of smart people who will help decide the future of the world. Alex is on the list. He's seen the other people that are supposed to be in the group and he just wonders why HE'S there. Sure, he's not dumb. He scored perfect on the SAT's. But is that enough? He doesn't think of himself as a Mr. Fantastic mind.
Reed's answer is that Alex has experience that everyone else in the group lacks. He's been to another planet. He's lived a super hero life for a while. He aced his SAT's. These are all good reasons to include him on the roster. Reed and Alex exit as Mr. Fantastic makes a joke about scoring with girls based on perfect SAT scores. I love Hickman's Reed Richards.
The Fantastic Four have recently discovered a group of fish people that predate Namor's Atlantean. The new guys call themselves Old Atlantis and they've named Sue Richards their connection to the outside world. Sue has come to these people to ask them to send their best and brightest to Reed to partake in his special group. The King thinks wistfully about the request before happily granting it.
Some of the members of Reed's group are already at the Baxter Building. A while back, the Fantastic Four encountered a group of mutated moloids. They looked human but their children gave away their origins. While the kids were super intelligent, they looked just like normal Moloids. These reminders of their past were cast out and rescued by the Ben Grimm. Since they're super smart, they'd be great inclusions on Reed's new super smart society. After thinking it over, the group agrees to help Reed but only if Thing says it's ok.
Nu-Earth was a world created to house humanity when the real world failed. Instead, it was used as a home for future, time-traveling humanity when the future world died. Nu-World was defended by Fantastic Force, also from the future. Things have changed. For one, time is moving at a blinding pace inside Nu-World. We cover about 300 years of Nu-World history on a two page spread. None of it is in any way interesting. If this comes back to be a big focal point before the end of the story arc, I promise to come back and cover this history in detail. Since it WON'T, I'm just letting it go for now.
Back in the Baxter Building, Franklin Richards is entertaining his two uncles, Johnny and Ben, with a martial arts display with the help of his friends, Artie and Leech. He's kind of a brat about it but I'm blaming that on the one panel where he looks furious for no reason and asking his uncles to help him out with his ninja speech.
While his brother plays by fighting his friends, Valeria plays by fixing Dragon Man. DM is a giant robot dragon with a humanoid form. Val's trying to make it smarter and maybe making it wear glasses (a sure sign of intelligence). Whatever she does doesn't turn out well. The Dragon Man starts spouting fire all over the place. Artie comes to the rescue by giving Val a visual representation of Dragon Man's head and shows her what to do to fix the problem.
Val asks Artie to do the same thing with her pen. Artie complies, showing us what a pen looks like when broken down to it's component parts. Looks like Reed's smart guy group just got a new member.
The Wingless Wizard is held at PAVLOV, a Metahuman Psychiatric Facility. Inside, he's pretty much out of his mind until Reed delivers a stripped down Wizard helmet for the villain to wear. Once that helmet is on, the Wizard regains his faculties. Wizard seems to think the world is going to end. Soon. He "hopes" that Reed has solved the problem and saved everything but he doubts it. Since Reed doesn't immediately tell him that everything is good, Wizard decides that his theory about world destruction is correct.
Mr. Fantastic is here to tell the Wizard that a young Wizard clone is living in the Baxter Building. Just to prove that it's nurture over nature, Reed is going to help this clone be a benefit to society instead of a detriment. The pisses Wiz off. The villain shouts down this plan as impossible. Reed tells the leader of the Frightful Four that this is his chance to prove the Wizard wrong.
Which leads us to Reed finally bringing the Future Foundation together. This is Mr. Fantastic's class to look into the future and make it a great place full of promise. Since his last attempt led to a group of scared grown-ups, this time Reed puts it together with the young. Valeria Richards. Alex Power. Artie Maddicks. Wizard's clone. Two kids from Old Atlantis. The Moloid kids. Dragon Man.
This is the group of young minds that will help Reed shape the future.
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Kev Walker
In this issue:
• Luke Cage arrives at the Raft and makes a big, diving entrance.
• We flashback to Steve recruiting Luke to head the new Thunderbolts program.
• Cage walks around the yard and invites the Ghost to join his first team of Thunderbolts.
• Cage heads to the women's section and offers Moonstone a spot on the team.
• Professor X asks if Juggernaut can be on the T-Bolts.
• Crossbones is placed on the team over Luke's strong disapproval.
• Cage meets up with Pym and is introduced to his Quinjet: Man-Thing!
• During their first training excersize, Luke Cage is hit by an attack that drops him to the ground.
• Baron Zemo arrives and tells the Thunderbolts they work for him now.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE .
In it's rather short life, the Thunderbolts have been a lot of things. Now, they're going to be Marvel's version of prison reform. We got a little sneak peek on how that was going to work in last week's Enter the Heroic Age. This week, we jump right into picking an initial roster of prison inmates for the new Thunderbolts squad while some old favorites show up for back-up.
This is the Raft. It's a small island of of Ryker's Island that contains the super-villains that can't be held anywhere else. After Siege, this place is starting to fill up with ex-Initiative and Syndicate members. Osborn let the inmates run the asylum and it's time to turn that back around. To that end, a reform program has been started on the Raft, taking selected super-villains and placing them on the newest version of the Thunderbolt program. The idea is to turn these people's lives around and make them value being good guys instead of black hats. It's worked in the past. Heroes like MACH V and Songbird are a testament to that.
Newer versions of the lineup tell us that it's not always intended to work. After the Civil War, Norman Osborn ran the team and filled it with villains that had no intention of turning over a new leaf. None of them did, either. Venom, Bullseye, and Osborn went on to be Avengers but never considered this reforming.
The last iteration of the team worked as Norman Osborn's black-ops team. They weren't villains looking to play hero. They were just super powered soldiers working for Ozzy. They were also largely unsuccessful.
So this is a new chance for the team. With this new lease on life comes a new Thunderbolts Director: Luke Cage. Cage is playing double duty between his position in the T-Bolts and his Avengers status. He gave his pep talk to the inmates over in Enter the Heroic Age. This time, he's making his grand entrance.
It looks like the federal government is using a refurbished SHIELD Helicarrier to transport prisoners to the Raft. Cage has taken a ride over on the transport but doesn't feel the need to take it all the way in. After all, he wants to establish himself as separated from the feds. As he leaps of the helicarrier, the Federal Marshal on board confirms that Luke IS separated from the prison and the government.
As Luke Cage freefalls into the Raft, let's step back to the beginning of this book for the first shadowy appearance of the Raft's Warden. All we see is a black profile shot and a hook for a hand. I'm going to spoil the surprise because it's what I do: this is John Walker: the USAgent. His last appearance was in the Siege Thunderbolts tie-ins where he and his Mighty Avengers team prevented the T-Bolts from retrieving the Spear of Odin. In the battle, Walker lost an arm and a leg. We'll see why he chose a hook instead of more bionic limbs next issue. For now, I just wanted to point out the cameo shot.
Luke is still falling so let's move over to an unnecessary flashback of Steve Rogers appointing Luke to head up this version of the T-Bolts. Pretty much the same speech as in Enter the Heroic Age. Luke is the only guy who has a chance of pulling this off because he's lived the life. Luke was falsely imprisoned and volunteered for some illegal experimentation to cut down on his jail time. That's eerily like this new version of the team. Steve knows that the chances of another Norman Osborn rising in the future are likely. This is their chance to cut down on the roster of villains the next Osborn can choose.
OK, back to the present. Luke is hitting the shield surrounding the Raft. He's scanned and the shield opens up to admit him. Cage lands hard on the courtyard. This leaves quite an impression on the prisoners in the yard.
Waiting for him is the Fixer. Norbert Ebersol is just the first of many original Thunderbolts that you'll see throughout the series. Instead of playing main cast members, the old school members play supporting roles. It might be a bit sad to see them sidelined for the new crew but this is still the first time you'll see most of the original team together in quite a while so I still count it to the good.
Fixer fist bumps Luke and then hands him over to the first member of the new T-Bolts squad. He's not exactly new, though. It's the Ghost, the only holdover from the last roster. Ghost doesn't look anything like his previous appearances out of the suit. We've only got one or two shots of Ghost out of his suit but he definitely didn't look like the old crazy man we see before us. Fixer explains that they haven't got anything on the Ghost. No records exist. We shouldn't be surprised. Ghost was paranoid enough to erase all traces of his existance.
Luke tries to offer Ghost a place on the team despite the villain's latest efforts to kill Tony Stark (heck, maybe because of those-- Cage wasn't Tony's biggest fan after Civil War). Ghost just jitters around. Much like the Wizard in the above Fantastic Four story, Ghost doesn't actually get coherent until Luke gives him the front half of his helmet. Behind it's eyes, Ghost agrees to join the new team of Thunderbolts and promises not to kill Iron Man if another encounter comes up. Good enough for Luke. It looks like he's found his first Thunderbolt.
Cage's next stop is the women's section of the Raft. While he's surrounded by vulgar, horny, female inmates, Luke gets in contact with the head of this section: Songbird. Songbird's got a brand new look that combines her Thunderbolts look with her Screaming Mimi appearance. It gives her an edge that makes me hope hope hope hope that they aren't planning to slowly revert her into a criminal. She was one of the best changes from minor league villain to confident super-hero that happened over the course of the Thunderbolts comic and I'd like that change to be as permanent as anything is in comics.
Luke is here to recruit his second Thunderbolt and, again, it's not a new face. Moonstone, formerly of the Dark Avengers, has been offered a spot on the roster. Karla acts like this was guaranteed and starts giving demands right off the bat.
When she's gone, Songbird protests Sofen's place on the new team but Luke just reads off Melissa's own record to show the hero just how people can change if they're given the chance. Or something. Maybe he was just hinting Melissa Gold's future downward spiral.
Let's get to some of the brand new members now that the usual suspects are out of the way. The first newcomer to the team is Cain Marko. Juggernaut. This isn't a member that Luke would prefer happening because history has proven Marko unstable as a hero. Juggernaut has been an X-Man and a member of Excalibur but he's also been an unstoppable menace. It seems that he was captured after the Captain Universe arc in Spider-Man (a great story told in Amazing Spider-Man #'s 627-629) and it also looks like Cyttorak has depowered his avatar yet again as punishment for helping the world as Captain Universe.
What gets him a tenuous spot on the team is the recommendation of Charles Xavier who assumes personal responsiblity for the actions of his step-brother should things go horribly, horribly wrong. Luke plans to hold Professor X to that. Even so, Cage makes sure to tell Juggernaut that this isn't something that he wanted and that it took an outside call to make it happen.
It's the next Thunderbolt that was most heavily opposed by the former Power Man: Crossbones. The guy that shot Captain America. Cage agrees with the reasoning. Crossbones is a horrible person and should help most of the T-Bolts to gravitate towards Luke. The thing is, it could horribly backfire. Crossbones' presence could cause the team to favor his particular brand of violence. Oh yeah. This is gonna be trouble.
After the unpleasantness of offering Crossbones a place on the new team, Cage gets some reassurance that he's doing the right thing by yet another founding T-Bolt: MACH V. Abe Jenkins is the former Beetle and is now a dedicated super-hero. Here's another one that I really hope never switches back to the bad guys. Abe's job at the raft is crafting new security measures. We went over them in detail in Enter the Heroic Age but Abe lets us know that while the new protocols are formidable, their greatest strength is their adaptability. Someone might escape from the Raft but it'll never happen the same way twice. That means whatever got Grizzly (he's showing up over in Deadpool right now!) out of prison can't be duplicated.
It's time for Luke to get a good look at his team's transportation. Abe leads him down, down, and further down into the lower levels of the Raft. Luke's hope that he'll get a Quinjet or a refurbished Zeus are diminished but still not fully broken. When he meets Wasp he learns that his team is taking a different method of transport all together.
His ride is the Giant-Sized Man-Thing. Remember that seemingly throwaway story in Dark Avengers #10 where they took out Man-Thing? Turns out they captured him. After Osborn's fall from grace, the Man-Thing ended up in federal custody and no-one knew what to do with it. There was a movement to destroy the thing (if that's even possible) for some deaths it may have been responsible for. Hank saved it from that fate by putting it to use here.
While the Man-Thing is normally a transporter for alternate universes, Hank's rigged the creature to be able to send the Thunderbolts to anywhere on earth instantly. Luke would rather just have a Quinjet but is convinced by Hank Pym's plea that this is a last chance for this creature as well. All that remains is establishing a rapport with the Man-Thing. Luke reaches out a hand and gives the Man-Thing a speech about being stuck together. While the creature's touch burns those that are afraid, that's not going to happen here. Luke isn't scared.
So the T-Bolts have their unusual method of transport. And don't ask me to explain Man-Thing's appearances here with the events going on in Punisher. I would have to read that comic to make an accurate guess and that's only happening if I really have to. Punisher's one of those characters I usually just pretend doesn't exist (though Frankencastle looks hilariously awesome, I'll admit).
Since Thunderbolts Tower is still being built, Luke and the original team of T-Bolts brings the new roster down to the east side of the Raft island to get some practice in.
Luke starts this meeting with another speech about how he's lived the hard life and can understand where these guys are coming from. Since this is, like, the third time we've heard this since the Heroic Age began, maybe I'm just getting a little tired of it. It's still kind of the first time these particular characters have heard this but still. Anyway, Luke also lets us know that not everyone is here to knock years off their sentence. For people like Crossbones and Juggernaut, this is just a way for them to get out of their cells for some time.
Cage goes into how this is going to work before dropping to the ground in pain. Songbird rushes over to the fallen Avenger as a ship rises out of the ocean. A voice from inside claims that Luke Cage is dead but they don't have to worry about following him.
It's Baron Zemo. The original founder of the Thunderbolts. He's here to take his team back.
And, yeah, this would be completely awesome to see except that there's no way Zemo just killed off Luke Cage. Odds are pretty good this is a swerve to keep our interest.
And it kinda worked. I'll be back next issue. :)
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
In this issue:
• We get a short image version of Siege #4.
• Balder and his trusted friends regret what they couldn't do during and prior to Siege.
• Thor's exile is lifted.
• Balder tries to get Thor to reclaim the throne but Thor declines.
• The Warriors Three help with relief efforts and accidentally unbury the body of Ragnarok.
• Kelda finds her fallen lover, Bill Jr., dining in the great hall of Valhalla.
• Thor takes a position as Balder's advisor and then takes off to deal with Ragnarok.
• Thor's cyborg clone is defeated.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE .
Before we get to the actual issue, we're treated by some nicely rendered images by Doug Braithwaite showing the events as they happened in Siege #4. It's a quick, succinct retelling.
And it all lead to the ruins of Asgard. The Asgardians won the Siege with the help of their human allies but they still lost their home. Balder, Heimdall, and Tyr each blame themselves for letting this happen. Tyr has to live with the fact that he ran from the fight like a coward though this isn't something he'll share with his brothers in arms. Heimdall blames himself for not being vigilant enough to have seen the Siege before it tore their city apart. Balder takes most of the blame on his own shoulders. He is king. The fault is his. None of Heimdall's words of comfort will disuade him from this thought.
Thor flies into Asgard after receiving summons to meet Balder. This lets him know that his exile is over. Balder confirms that decree. After what he learned from Loki last issue, it's the least he can do. In fact, Balder wishes to offer Thor much more than that. He asks his brother to take a walk with him.
Kelda returns to Asgard after her own adventures in Broxton over the past three issues. She decides it's best to get right to the rebuilding and asks a Valkyrie to direct her. The Valkyrie has something more important to show her in the halls of Valhalla.
Thor and Balder have entered the ancient throneroom of Asgard. It is here where Balder tells Thor of Loki's treachery. Even though Thor was responsible for killing Bor, Loki admitted to sensing magic at work during their fight. He still never admitted to being behind it but no matter. At a time like this Balder decides it best to pardon Thor anyway. He's king and it's time to start doing what he knows is right instead of being shackled by what is proper.
Thor thanks his brother but soon learns that is not the end of it. Balder wants to step down and allow Thor to reign once more. Thor refuses to retake the throne.
Elsewhere in Asgard, the Warriors Three help clean things up. Volstagg is moving like a man possessed. His two friends tell him to calm down but big V refuses. He still holds himself responsible for all of this and needs to be actively involved in it's clean up. Sure, he captured Norman Osborn but Volstagg considers that more of a reward than an atonement. The three uncover another body in the rubble and are delighted to find that it's a live one. Before the newcomer can rise, Volstagg recognizes him and is not pleased.
Kelda is nearly dragged to the Halls of Valhalla by her Valkyrie companion. Inside are all the mortal warriors who have been slain in battles feast for eternity. Even with Asgard in ruins, there are still those inside enjoying the party. Among them is Bill Jr., Kelda's mortal lover.
Kelda tries to join her partner but a barrier holds her back. It seems their love is keeping them apart. Kelda accepts this. Somehow, she will make this work. It's just nice to see him even though he's dead.
In Asgard's throneroom, Balder is upset that he can't abdicate his throne to Thor.
Thor tells Balder that this isn't because of his rule. It's because Thor was exiled and Balder's chief advisor was the god of mischief. With Thor back to defend the realm and Loki gone, Balder's reign can lead Asgard back to greatness. Thor proposes himself act as Balder's advisor. This lifts Balder's spirits. The brothers clasp hands before the sound of thunder brings their attention back outside.
And there is Ragnarok working on killing Volstagg again. Rags has been a part of this book all through the Siege story arc so he shouldn't require any introduction at this point. Still, if this is your first time reading, Ragnarok is the cyborg clone of Thor created by Reed Richards and a Skrull Yellowjacket. He thinks he's the real Thor and even seeing the genuine article doesn't dissuade this belief.
Balder wants to lead the charge against this bastard of science and mythology but Thor convinces his king to allow him to take this guy personally. After all, we shouldn't be denied the battle between Ragnarok and Thor. This needed to happen.
Ragnarok even reminds Thor of the death of Goliath just so we remember just what a jerk he is. Thor proves his better after a couple pages of battle. One final hammer blow shatters the false god of thunder.
Meanwhile, King Balder has checked on the Warriors Three and found them all to be alive. With the destruction of Ragnarok, the attack against Asgard is finally over. It's time to rebuild. Thor tells Balder that Asgard never fell. The city, yes, that fell. But Asgard? Where two brothers of Asgard stand together, so does Asgard.
Fantastic Four #1
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
In this issue:
• Reed Richards summons the rest of the Fantastic Four with a Fantastic Four flare.
• In quick succession, we meet the rest of the foursome as they cause their own trouble getting to Reed's apartment.
• We flashback to the illegal rocket launch that gave the Fantastic Four their powers.
• The four are bombarded by cosmic rays where and land back on earth where they discover they have super powers.
• Together, they decide to fight against the forces of evil as the Fantastic Four.
• In the present, Reed tells everyone that Nuclear Plants are disappearing all over the world.
• Richards pinpoints the central location behind these attacks as Monster Island.
• The team heads to the island and fights it out with monsters.
• Eventually, they meet the Mole Man who explains his tragic origin.
• The Fantastic Four beat the Mole Man and his army.
• Mole Man blows up the island as the Fantastic Four leave.
This is quite possibly the most important book in Marvel's history. This is the book that revitalized Marvel's super-hero line and started their Silver Age days of glory. And the Marvel title wasn't even on the magazine!
The story is well known. The Publisher of Atlas Comics (Marvel's forerunner), Martin Goodman, had a golf game with DC Comics Publisher, Jack Liebowitz. During the friendly competition, Liebowitz told Goodman about the sales he was making with the Justice League or America. This comic teamed up DC's line of super-heroes with great success. Goodman decided that Atlas needed to do the same thing.
The problem was a distinct lack of super-heroes. DC had never completely abandoned their super-heroes. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman rode out the dark days of comics without interruption. DC also got back into making other super-hero comics before Atlas, reinventing Golden Age heroes like the Flash and Green Lantern as new Silver Age icons beginning in 1956. Atlas had brought back their major Golden Age heroes in 1954 but interest was so weak that the titles lasted for only a handful of issues before going back into cancellation.
Atlas was pretty much on it's last days. Their line of comics had been reduced to a handful and distribution had been handed over to DC which limited the number of titles that could be released. The editor, writer, and art director of Atlas, Stan Lee, was burnt out and ready to leave the comics game for other opportunities. His wife convinced him to take one last shot at comics, telling him to try making a comic that he would want to read. Jack Kirby, one of Atlas's few remaining illustrators, was determined to keep this company alive if only to keep food on his table. Both of these creators brought their A-game to the table to create Marvel's brand new stable of super-heroes.
This started with a comic called "The Fantastic Four."
Some old conventions started things off. We may know the Fantastic Four to live in New York City but inside their first issue they lived in the fictional Central City. The issue starts off when a complicated flare hits the air. The words "The Fantastic Four" are written across the sky, startling the residents of Central City and gaining the attention of the local police force. We pull right up to the man who fired this flare: Mr. Fantastic. He's just summoned the Four together for the first time.
Sue Storm is visiting with a socialite friend when she gets the call to action. Instead of graciously taking her leave, Sue immediately turns invisible and makes her way to Reed's location. This would have been a lot easier if she had turned visible but that would have made this scene much more boring. No, instead, the Invisible Girl knocks over pedestrians as she chaotically heads to a taxi. She enters the vehicle and still doesn't turn visible. Instead, she just rides around in the cab until getting close to her destination. She tries to hand the cab driver some money but she just freaks him out and he drives off in a fright.
Ben Grimm's trip to Reed Richards just ups the ante. He's in a men's clothing store where the man behind to counter is telling hem they just can't fit a man his size when he notices the flare outside. Ben strips out of his trenchcoat, hat, and sunglasses and smashes his way out of the store (even though he must have gotten inside without making such a mess). The destruction just keeps going. The police start firing on the Thing without even asking any questions.
Thing is an angry, angry monsterous man in his first appearance but he still retains his moral center. Ben isn't going to attack the authorities even if they ARE trying to kill him. Instead, he tears open a manhole cover and takes to the sewers. When he gets close to Reed's place, Grimm tears right up to street level. A car smashes right into him but the only thing hurt is the vehicle. Before the police converge on this site, Ben has made his escape.
Johnny Storm is getting his car fixed up when he sees the flare change shape into a "4." Johnny doesn't even waste time. He burns right through his car on his way to whatever passes for the FF's headquarters. The people on the street see the Human Torch burn his way across the sky and it's more panic. The Mayor gets word of this and alerts the Governor. The National Guard are called and planes are put in the air.
Johnny tries to call them off but without a radio, he's basically talking to himself. The jets get too close and start melting. Luckily, the pilots are able to eject before the melting bits of metal hit the ground. The Torch isn't out of the woods yet. One of those pilots fired a missile at him. And it's nuclear.
Because killing an entire city of people to take out a flying burning man is a brilliant idea.
Johnny tries outracing the missile but runs out of steam and starts falling from the sky. Two stretchy arms reach out, grab the nuclear missile, and hurl it into the ocean where it harms no-one. Before Johnny makes a nice red stain on the pavement, Reed Richards catches the teenager and pulls him inside his room. The Fantastic Four are together again!
And now, we get to our traditional flashback of the comic. It's also an origin.
Reed Richards built a rocket and plans to fly it to the moon. His pilot, Ben Grimm, warns Reed against this because of the dangers of Cosmic Rays. Reed doesn't even answer his headstrong friend, leaving this argument to his fiance. Sue accuses Ben of being chicken and Grimm is suckered into this mission. These were cold war times. America was in a race to reach the moon before the Russians. While this would take the better part of the decade, Reed Richards was ready to do it NOW.
Even if the authorities didn't support him. That's right! Reed and company steal their way aboard the ship and take off without proper authorization. Don't even ask why Reed brought Sue and Johnny along. It logically makes no sense even after the two try to explain themselves.
The rocket hits the upper atmosphere with no troubles. It's only when they're hit by Cosmic Rays that Reed realizes he made a near fatal error. The Cosmic Rays go right through the shielding and bathe the occupants. Johnny nearly bursts into flames right then. Ben's body gets extremely heavy, preventing him from steering the craft. Luckily, the rocket's auto-pilot is able to get them to the ground safely.
They're still in trouble. Those Cosmic Rays have caused some permanent damage to these four brave, idiots. Sue disappears before their eyes then suddenly reappears. Ben blames Reed for this even though he went up knowing they had no protection against the Cosmic Radiation. Grimm also thinks Sue should be in love with him instead of the scientist. He's raging so much he doesn't even notice he's turned into a lump of orange rock with super strength until after he's pulled up a tree and used it as a bat.
Reed starts stretching in self-defense and shows a natural ability for using his powers. Richards wraps up his pilot before the Thing can cause any more trouble. All of this freaks out Johnny Storm who is the last to show powers.
And what a power it is. Johnny's not the first Human Torch but he'll become the best known. He burns the air as he soars across the sky. Johnny lands and they all watch as the forest burns to the ground. It's great.
Since all four of these people are naturally inclined to do the right thing (even though they do it by causing as much damage as they can), it doesn't take them long to decide on using their powers to help all mankind. Yes, even the Thing who will be perpetually angry for years. They each choose a super-hero name and throw their hands in as the Fantastic Four.
And, yes, Mr. Fantastic is an awesome name and not hilarious at all.
And that is the secret origin of the Fantastic Four. Now, back to the regular story. Our heroes have gathered together. Now, they just need to know WHY they've been summoned. Reed pulls out a bunch of photos showing Nuclear Plants throughout the world that have been left gaping craters. Each incident has been accompanied by specific seismic activity.
We cut to French Africa where another Nuclear Plant is swallowed by the ground. Emerging from the hole is the Mole Man's nameless gigantic monster. He's the monster on the cover of this issue. Before he returns to his home below the earth, the monster takes out the French tanks and mortar guns that fire on him from the hole perimeter. On the command of a tiny man (Mole Man), he stops his onslaught and returns to the land below.
Back at FF HQ, Reed pinpoints the latest attack to French Africa.
Reed has triangulated these attacks and found that they all lead back to a mythical place known as Monster Isle. You might imagine they have some monsters there. It's interesting because Atlas had made a small name on their monster comic books. This is like passing the baton as the Fantastic Four face off against a legion of monsters.
The Fantastic Four take their private super jet to the Isle and start exploring for clues. Their first monster encounter takes place when they meet a three-headed flying dragon later named Tricephalous. This thing might look menacing but Reed is able to lasso it with his arms and hurl it into the ocean.
No sooner is that done than the ground gives way beneath Reed and Johnny. The two adventurers decend to the depth below using Mr. Fantastic's body as a parachute. Once they reach the bottom, they are blinded from the light emitted from the Valley of Diamonds. The two pass out from the sudden burst of light.
When they wake up, Reed and Johnny find themselves wearing strange suits that protect them from the blinding glow. It is then that they meet their first villain: the Mole Man.
Back on the surface, Sue and Ben are left to face yet another monster. Thing is able to best this beast with his superior strength. Ben doesn't get any happier, though. He'll be blaming Reed for his condition for quite a while. It won't prevent him from playing the hero but it'll make him constantly angry.
Back down below, Mole Man is explaining his own origin to the two adventurers. It's tragic tale of a man not accepted by society. He couldn't get dates. He couldn't get jobs. People made fun of him because he had an odd look. Because of this, the Mole Man went off to be alone. After a time, he found a cave that led to the center of the earth. A cave in took most of his sight but it was no matter. Mole Man learned to use his own radar sense (just like Daredevil!) and isn't hindered by being mostly blind. To prove it, he demands that Reed attack him with a staff. The fight is short and favors Mole Man to its end.
With the origin out of the way, Mole Man gets right into his monologuing. His plan is to keep taking Nuclear Plants away from the surface until they're all gone. Without their nuclear power, the surface will be defenseless for his monster horde's attack.
Thing and Sue show up to help Reed and Johnny defeat the Mole Man and stop this horrible plot. Mole Man summons his best monsters (including the monster from the cover yet again) but they're stopped by Johnny Storm who bursts out of his protective clothing to take to the air as the Human Torch.
While Torch does his thing, Reed grabs the Mole Man. Before they reach the surface, the Mole Man has squirmed out of Mr. Fantastic's grasp but Reed claims he did it on purpose.
The Fantastic Four board their jet and take off for home. They didn't capture the villain or prevent his terrible master plan but they did get into a fight and beat up a lot of monsters and that's the next best thing. To signal that the Fantastic Four have somehow won this fight, Mole Man detonates Monster Isle, permanently sealing off his underground kingdom forever. Or for twenty-one issues. Whatever comes first.
The Fantastic Four return home. Their first mission is behind them and the future looks very, very bright. The FF title would remain the flagship of the soon-to-be-renamed Marvel Comics for quite a while. Spider-Man would eventually take it's place saleswise but the Fantastic Four would stay fresh and lead the way in creating the Marvel Universe for as long as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby remained on the title (which was until issue #102.) So many ideas came out of this title that it's a crime if you don't at least make an attempt to read their run.
Silver Age hoky-ness aside, it's a fun ride.
And that is that! One more week of great comics down!
Until we meet again: Excelsior!
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