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Super Reads 105

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Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Today, we check out Avengers Academy #1, Captain America #606, The Invincible Iron Man #27, The Heroic Age: Prince of Power #2, Young Allies #1, and Blast to the Past for The Incredible Hulk #1. Enjoy and spread the word!

Spoilers Ahead!


The kids and the old timers share the spotlight this week as we look at books starring and guest-starring veterans like Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor while mixing them up with a younger generation of hero.

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

Alright. School's back in for summer.

aa1.jpgAvengers Academy #1
Writer: Christos N. Gage
Artist: Mike McKone


In this issue:

• We back track to when Veil first got her powers, and to how Osborn forced them out of her even more.

• Maddy learns that she's dying; Hank Pym has hope that it's correctable.

• We meet Hazmat- she's pissed that she'll spend most of her life in a containment suit to protect others.

• Veil gets her suit and freaks out in front of Mettle.

• Striker and Finesse make their appearances.

• Penance is back to being Speedball and leads a training session after a speech by Wasp.

• The teachers' staff talks about how emotionally damaged most of them are.

• The staff has a secret about the new trainees that they don't want to get out.

• Of course, the students learn that there's a secret and decide to figure out what it is.

• It turns out that these students aren't the best of the best. They're just the ones most likely to become super-villains.

The last issue of Avengers: The Iniative was covered HERE .

Avengers Academy may be the spiritual successor to Avengers: The Initiative but it also brings in some cast members and themes from The Mighty Avengers. If you like Hank Pym, Quicksilver, or the Infinite Mansion from Mighty Avengers, chances are you'll enjoy this title. If you were enjoying Avengers: The Initiative, you probably already planned on picking up the next book on training new Avengers.

Our book begins well before the Siege and right during the Dark Reign. We focus in on the life of Madelyne Berry as she goes throughout her humdrum day at Harry S. Truman High School. She's been getting text messages from the hot guy at school who's been telling her how shy he is and how he wants to go to prom with her. If this all seems like set up for a stupid high school prank, well: DUH. Maddy decides that texting him back that she'd like to go wouldn't embarrass her enough so she approaches her in the hall and tells him she's all in for Prom.

Hto guy has no clue what she's talking about and doesn't even really know who she is. It was his girlfriend using his phone and this is the height of hilarity. For some reason. Seriously, I don't get high school pranks. They just seem stupid. Anyway, this is how they actually are, so all I can do is complain about idiot teenagers with too much time on their hands.

Madelyne's powers activate right then and there and she turns into some form of gas. The students freak out and take off. That means when Maddy reforms a minute or so later, no-one's there to witness her nakedness. So, at least she has that.

This whole deal attracts the attention of Norman Osborn who is still Director of HAMMER. Ozzy had plans of taking younger people with powers and shaping them into a super powered army to replace the less predictable villain army he currently had to rely on. Norman meets with Madelyne and lays on the smooth. Ms. Berry completely falls for it... and why shouldn't she? This is the man trusted by the President of the United States to maintain National Security. She tells Norman Osborn that she hasn't been able to activate her powers again but that's no matter to Ozzy. He has his ways.

If you remember the teaser comic for this series in Enter the Heroic Age, you'll know just what those ways entail.

Flashforward to the Heroic Age. Norman Osborn is done and over but someone has to pick up the pieces of the lives he's shattered on the way. Maddy's getting a full checkup by Hank Pym, the wondrous Wasp. He's also hearing her Secret Origin (detailed above). Madelyne has a history of being lied to. When it seems that Pym is holding back some critical information, Maddy tells him that she won't have any of that.

So Dr. Henry Pym explains that she is dying. Because Norman used... non-ethical methods to bring her super powers to maturity before their time, her molecular structure has been critically damaged. She'll lose cohesion in time. Hank guesstimates that it'll be years and also believes that he'll have a solution long before it becomes an issue. This wouldn't be the first time he had to deal with a problem like this. When Firestar joined the Avengers, she was afraid of using her powers because of the harmful radiation the caused. Hank made her a suit that helped control the radiation and healed her from any earlier damage.

Of course, Firestar still ended up with cancer so... maybe Hank's not as good at his as he thinks he is.

When you're hit with news that your days might be numbered, chances are you react in the same manner as Madelyne. She freaks out and leaves the room just as Tigra and Justice are joining the group. Hank tries to shout calming words at her as the departs but... yeah, this is gonna take a different approach. Justice decides to deal with it. Vance gives a nice, inspiring pep talk and also mentions the Firestar thing... though he puts a more positive spin on in than I just did.

It doesn't hurt that Maddy thinks Justice is hot.

Vance leads Madelyne to the monitor room so that they can see another new member of the Academy getting suited up. Hazmat: Jennifer Takeda. Hazmat has toxic... everything. Not that she always had these powers. She had a pretty awesome life before Norman Osborn took an interest in her and kicked her powers into high gear. Now, just to be around other people, she had to wear a full body suit. Unfortunately, her great life fell apart before anyone realized that Takeda was unknowingly killing those she loved most. Vance thinks that Maddy could be the friend Jennifer needs right now.

He's wrong. When Madelyne approaches Jennifer to make friends, Hazmat throws out a Comics Code-approved expletive before walking off. Well, it's not like Justice knows everything.

Justice and Madelyne walk around the Infinite Mansion as Justice continues his pep talk. How cool is it that the Infinite Mansion is the Avengers Academy grounds? We all know how well things worked out with Camp Hammond and Camp HAMMER. You just invite someone to attack you. The Infinite Mansion might have some of that in the future because that's how things work but, right now, it seems to be the best place to train the next generation of Avengers.

Madelyne asks Vance to promise that they'll find her a cure. It's not something Astrovik is comfortable doing because who really knows if they can cure her? Still, it's what she needs to hear right now. He says it and then allows her to hug him.

The next day, we find Madelyne dressed up in her super-hero suit. It's... not pretty and she knows it. This suit looks just as Maddy describes it: like a black mummy suit. She doesn't feel like she can complain about it, though. After all, the Avengers have been so nice to her and put this thing together. It'd be bad form to nitpick the suit right now. She'll probably give it a week. Right now, it's time to put on her game face and meet the rest of the team.

Maddy walks into the training area where Reptyl and Mettle are training and screams. She was prepared for the look of Mettle (who looks like a giant medal Red Skull) but his appearance and the fact that Reptyl is attacking him with a flamethrower still throws her off guard. Maddy bursts into gas form as the two other Academy members try to figure out what's going on. Mettle takes it in stride. Looks like he's used to this reaction.

When Maddy puts herself back together, she fumbles her way through an apology before meeting the two trainees. Humberto Ramos, Reptyl, we've already met in Avengers: The Initiative Special and the teaser story in Enter the Heroic Age. He's hoping to get the job for Team Leader. He asks Madelyne for her name. She gives it to them but tells them that she prefers "Veil," her super-hero name. Mettle's real name is Ken Mack and he's more interested in who they're fighting during training excersizes.

The rest of the trainees enter the room with the leader answering that they'll be fighting the ex-New Warriors. This is Striker. He controls electricity and takes pleasure in startling Mettle and getting the big guy to scream. With him is Hazmat (who we've already met) and Finesse. Finesse has no visible super powers but instead is a polymath. That means she's has a great deal of knowledge about a lot of different subjects. What she lacks is personal skills. The good news is Veil won't be the most embarrassing person in the room ever again, though Finesse doesn't seem to care when she's said something uncomfortable.

Before the team meets up with one of their teachers, we get to learn a few more things about our first class. Striker has a massive ego on him. That takes you all of three seconds to learn. Mettle and Hazmat have been told that Hank Pym is working on their condition and will get them back to a normal life. This is a lot like what he told Veil. Now it's time to meet their teacher for today's lesson.

It's Bobby Baldwin! He's back in his Speedball suit! You may remember Bobby dressing up in his best pain suit to go into battle as Penance. It seems that his powers are back to something more akin to his original abilities. Speedball's not as happy-go-lucky as he was last time he used that name. The events of Stamford and fighting alongside the Thunderbolts has changed him. These kids didn't live in a bubble. They know what this guy is blamed for. Mettle sums it up best: this is the right guy to train you all about what could go wrong while playing hero.

Before training, Speedball leads the trainees to a special speech by Hank Pym. Wasp tells the team that they are the best of the best, assembled as the first class in this brand new Avengers Academy. He then introduces his teaching staff. We've already met Tigra, Speedball, and Justice. Rounding out the group is Quicksilver. Pietro has made his share of mistakes in Mighty Avengers which will no doubt be continued in this book. Wait and see!

And now it's time to get some fighting in. It's the new Avengers class versus Speedball, Justice, and some training robots. Throughout this training, the class gets tips and strategies on how to use their abilities better and work with the team. While they fight and train, the rest of the teaching staff talks.
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A good point is brought up. This is one of the most damaged teaching groups you could imagine. It's not who I would choose to train a new group of heroes. Hank has his problems. OH MAN, does he have his problems. Tigra went all crazy violent during Dark Reign. Speedball has his whole Penance thing. Justice killed his father in self-defense. Quicksilver... Pietro may be even more messed up than Hank Pym. Not only was he responsible for the House of M, he's fought against humanity quite a bit even in his recent past.

Quicksilver joins the conversation and agrees that this isn't the most ideal teaching staff. They are the rejected Avengers and this is what they're resigned to do.

While they talk, Speedball ramps up the difficulty level for our trainees. Hazmat gets tossed across the room by her sparring robot.

Quicksilver is less concerned about being the black sheep Avengers and more disturbed by what they AREN'T telling their new elite team. Hank makes an argument against telling the team whatever they aren't telling them but it's wierd seeing Pietro on the side of the conversation for telling these kids the truth considering all the lies he's made in his recent past.

In the training room, Hazmat unleashes a radiation blast. This is a potentially lethal option and gets her the full attention of Speedball. Bobby chews Takeda out for jumping right into the dangerous side of the pool. This is how future Stamfords happen and it hits the former Penance HARD. Justice ends up breaking up this shouting match and sending Bobby out of the training room to cool off. Quicksilver asks Speedball's opinion on witholding information and Bobby freaks once again, saying that they HAVE to keep this info from the new trainees.

Inside the training room, Finess is watching this conversation with interest. After the day's activities are done, we learn that Finesse is a lip-reader. No-one in the monitor room was getting too specific but she has learned that the team isn't getting all the info on themselves.

The teenagers come up with a plan for breaking into the Avengers files and finding out what information is being left unrevealed. Finesse, Striker, and Veil have a successful "off the records" mission. They return to their team with some surprising news.

They are not the best of the best. They are the most dangerous. These kids are the ones that were tortured the most under the Dark Reign. The Avengers are trying to prevent them from becoming super-villains. This is disheartening for most of the team. Only Finesse finds it amusing and exactly what should be expected.

Madelyne Berry just counts it up to one more swerve in a long list of swerves.


ca606.jpgCaptain America #606
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Butch Guice


In this story:

• Baron Zemo learns that James Buchanan Barnes is the new-ish Captain America!

• Cap and the Falcon take on the Wrecking Crew.

• Captain America takes unnecessary risks and Sam calls in Steve Rogers.

• James dreams terrible Cap dreams and wakes up to get some exercise in.

• Zemo recruits Iron Hand Hauptmann after having already convinced the Fixer to join him.

• Steve and Sam have an intervention for James. They do this at a bar because it's not THAT kind of intervention.

• After their night is through, Steve takes off in his flying car, leaving Sam to bring a drugged Barnes home.

• Yes, drugged.

• Falcon tries to start Jim's motorcycle and it explodes.

• Two days ago, Zemo meets up with Sin in captivity to get some more information on the latest Captain America.

We start this issue one month ago, which is always disorienting. Is it still the Dark Reign? What actually happened a month ago? Well, it turns out that one month ago we were already living large in the Heroic Age and the new Thunderbolts team led by Luke Cage had been put together. We know this because our villain for this story arc is letting us in on that as he visits an old T-Bolt safehouse.

He's not alone. It looks like Ghost (already working for the new Thunderbolts, natch) is already there and looting Zemo's old files. Ghost is also trying to remove his tracking device and not having much luck with that. Zemo enters the room and muses over what the Dark Reign could have been. It was a chance for the blacks and whites of the world to become a lot more grey. We're not talking race relations, either. We're talking good and evil. With Norman in charge, things got muddy. In the Heroic Age, things are back to being clear.

Or are they? After all, Zemo had already been on the edge between being a villain and a hero. Even he doesn't know what side he'd fall on anymore. It seems the world is still full of vibrant greys.

Talk turns to the new Captain America. Zemo is about to learn who the new guy is from Ghost. If you don't know how rich this story will be, you don't know the history of Bucky Barnes. Rather, you don't know that he originally "died" at the mechanizations of Zemo's father. Even so, it's a wonder why Zemo takes a particular interest in the new Captain America beyond that. Sure, Zemo never liked Captain America. Steve Rogers killed his father... or caused the elder Zemo's death. Either way, there's a big grudge between Zemo and the original Captain America. Maybe Zemo's interest is in destroying Steve's best friend and original partner. Maybe he doesn't even know why he's going to do what he's going to do. Either way, it beats the Red Skull being the villain yet again.

James Barnes hasn't had an easy time as Captain America. In his last adventure, he ended up facing off against the 1950's version of Cap, William Burnside, to stop a terrorist plot to blow up the Hoover Dam. In that fight, James shot 50's Captain America; presumably fatally, though no body was recovered. This is dwelling heavily on Captain America's mind and could be responsible for how risky Cap is becoming.

Take this current fight Cap and Falcon are involved in with three fourths of the Wrecking Crew (the Wrecker himself is missing). Even though James is doing a remarkable job, Sam Wilson (Falcon) notices the risks his partner is taking. I mean, he's trying to shoot Bulldozer and only survives a the criminal's charge by blocking with his shield. The reckless manuever has Falcon flying in for a rescue while the Wrecking Crew makes good on their getaway.

Sam doesn't know what to do about this, so he turns to the only man he really CAN turn to: Steve Rogers. Rogers is America's Top Cop and donned his Super-Soldier suit for this meeting. Steve doesn't want to believe that his original partner has gone over the edge, but he understands Falcon's concern and is willing to try talking it out with the current Cap.
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There's good reason to be worried about Bucky. He's falling apart in his dreams. This latest nightmare is Steranko-esque in its vibe but the message is clear: he killed Captain America and it's freaking him out. He wakes up to find that he's not sharing the bed tonight. Black Widow is out and about on a mission for the Secret Avengers. She left a note and a flower. That's the key to any man's heart.

After that nightmare, James decides there's no reason to just lie in bed and goes down to check out his new excersize room. Barnes was living in Steve Rogers' brownstone until Norman Osborn leveled the place. It seems Steve decked out his current place of residence with all the gear you'd ever want. You may be wondering why Cap's cyborg arm is looking fleshy. It's because he recieved an upgrade during the last story arc. He's able to make that robot arm look just like a real arm. It helps him fit in.

As Jim Barnes runs through an exercise drill, he beats himself up internally for how he handled the fight with the Wrecking Crew. Even he doesn't know exactly why he's acting all messed up.

Two weeks ago, Baron Zemo hit the Isle of Exiles with a friend. Yeah, it's the Fixer. Of all the reformed Thunderbolts, Norbert Ebersol was the most likely to return to his criminal ways but it's still upsetting. If you're wondering if this is fallout for Zemo's "appearance" in Thunderbolts #144, the answer is: no, not so much. This is all happening right here and I still don't know why the Fixer decided to risk his cushy job with the T-Bolts to join back up with Zemo. Hopefully, we'll get some more information as the storyline plays out. Maybe it's just Zemo's engaging personality.

Whatever the reason, Baron Zemo is here to enlist another to his cause. Iron Hand Hauptmann. Hauptmann is an old ally of the Red Skull and doesn't have much respect for Helmut. Zemo has come to collect on a debt IHH owed his father and this old Nazi doesn't seem to be very willing to pay up. After a short fight where the Baron bests the drunkard in a fight, Iron Hand decides it may be best to do what Zemo says.

It's intervention time! Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson meet James Barnes in a bar for drinks and to talk about his risk taking in the Captain America uniform. Steve brings up a personal story to bring this all home. It seems this isn't the first time Bucky went in a deep blue funk. During World War II, Cap and Bucky were the only survivors in a battle in the Black Forest. James doesn't see the same thing happening here.

He claims that he doesn't really take the fight with 50's Captain America too badly. It's not the first person he's killed after all. Sam reminds him that it's the first one he killed that looked like Steve Rogers and wore the Captain America suit. Barnes leaves the table to get more beer. While he's gone, Sam and Steve chat about how this is going. Steve thinks they're reaching James even if he isn't acknowledging it.

That's true. James realizes that he's in a messed up place but can't admit it to his friends. The lady bartender takes a while to get him his drink and apologizes for it. This is her first day on the job. James tells her not to worry about it and gives her a nice tip. This: is important.

Back at the table, Bucky owns up to some of this. Yes, he's been reckless. He apologizes for putting Falcon at risk. He blames it more on his messed up past than his encounter with 1950's Captain America. He's just got some things he needs to deal with. No worries. With that solved, James moves the conversation back to the "Game." These three are playahs.

With a night of drinking behind them, the three heroes head back to their lives. Steve Rogers has a flying car and takes off straight away. There are no DUI's in the sky. Sam sees that James is a bit drunker than he is (even though he only had the two beers) and decides to drive him back home on James' motorcycle. Barnes realizes he's been drugged moments before Sam starts up his motorcycle. It expodes.

James is wobbly and really no good to anyone in this state. Luckily, the bomb went off right outside the bar and there are people in better condition to call 911 and get some help for Sam. In a nearby building, Zemo and the Fixer watch. Zemo makes sure that Fixer used only enough explosive to wound the Falcon and not kill him. Norbert assures him that no deaths have taken place. Yet. This is good. Phase One is done. It just gets more messed up from here on out.

Two days ago, Zemo breaks into Kurtzberg Institute for the Criminally Insane. He's not here to break anyone out. Helmut just wants to talk to the daughter of the Red Skull. Sin. During Captain America Reborn, Sin's face was burned up and she now looks like she has a Red Skull all her own. When Zemo tells her to give him all her information on the current Captain America, she starts laughing.

Writer: Sean McKeever
Penciler: David Baldeón


In this story:

• Rikki Barnes goes to school and gets insulted behind her back about not having too many pairs of clothes.

• She tries to get a job at the food shelter and mentions the smell around the place.

• Nomad doesn't get employment.

• Rikki meets Bernard and agrees to do odd jobs for him in exchange for some new clothes. Bernie's house is right by the Food Shelter.

• After a hard day's work, Rikki goes downstairs to get her clothes and is locked inside.

• She looks around and sees a skeletal hand. The smell at the soup kitchen was coming from here.

It's not easy being a girl from another world. Rikki Barnes is from one of the many Counter-Earths created in the Marvel Universe. There were TWO different Heroes Reborn universes and Nomad comes from the second one (which was used in Onslaught Reborn a couple years ago). Since I haven't subjected myself to that particular masterpiece, I'm not going to be able to go into specifics. Let's just say Nomad is the Bucky of a different reality and move on.

Rikki has done her best to make a life for herself in the 616 but it's not an easy task. No birth certificate. No social security number. Nada. These things can be faked and our hero has done that on occassion but she's got more problems than being an illegal immigrant to our reality. She's also wanted by the Secret Society and trying to keep a low profile. This leads her to a life on the streets where she's found a boarded up room to crash in. She's got a morning routine that starts at five in the AM that includes working out, working for a sandwich and change at a local deli, and breaking into the school to shower and finish homework before classes begin.

Still, Rikki is a smart girl that knows that a proper eductation is the key to a bright future. She's going to the same high school as Araña. The two teen super-heroes met in the last back-up story arc in Captain America. Rikki's finding it hard to fit in at school and most of these issues stem from her living on the streets. She's told her friend that she lives on her own but hasn't given Anya any specifics. Pride. She knows that if she told Anya that she was homeless, Anya and her family would probably help out. Maybe she'd end up in foster care or maybe she'd be crashing at Anya's place. She doesn't want that. She needs to make it on her own.

Remember kids: If you're living on the streets, get help. I know you think that living on the streets is cool and that all you need is this internet connection so you can read Super Reads but stop it. Get some help. Don't be Rikki Barnes no matter how awesome she makes being homeless look.

One of the main things bugging our dear Ms. Barnes is she only has a few pairs of clothing. Some of her schoolmates are beginning to notice that her wardrobe lacks variety. Being a teenage girl, this is frustrating to hear. Heck, this isn't something Rikki really cares that much about but it still stings a bit.

That night, Rikki Barnes goes through more of her routine, heading down to charity food shelter to get something to eat before returning to her life on the mean streets of New York City. She's also here to meet with the manager and see about getting a job off the record. The manager of this soup kitchen doesn't actually hire people. This is a volunteer organization and they don't pay people. Rikki presses the issue and sees if she can do odd jobs. After all, there's this really nasty smell around the place and she's sure she could do something about it.

This frustrates the manager because, well, the smell is really bad and they can't figure out where it's coming from. They've had inspectors all over their place and he is certain that it's not coming from his fine establishment. Also: he's not hiring. The manager offers to get her info on some government programs but that's not what Rikki wants. That pesky Secret Empire could find her if she stuck her neck out too far. She leaves frustrated that she can't make this new world work.

On her way back "home," she meets a man on the street who overheard her talking about needing work. He's got a bum leg and could really use some help around his house. Rikki isn't the most trusting girl in the world and is about to leave when the man (his name is Bernard) tells her he's got some clothes left over from when his daughter left that would probably fit her. Looks like Rikki's going to work.

Bernard's place is right next to the soup kitchen so it's a quick trip back. His home is in need of some major cleaning and minor repairs. Rikki gets right to work. She's a diligent kid and probably enjoys having things to do. She finds Bernie to lack some social graces but he seems to be a pretty good guy otherwise. It's no time at all before she's got his kitchen back to some semblance of good repair.

The two sit at his table while Rikki enjoys one of those delicious soda-pops. Bernard is impressed by what she was able to accomplish in such a short time. Rikki reminds him a lot of his daughter Sophie. Barnes asks the adult about his daughter and we get a tale of a man who raised his girl all on his own. Everything was fine until Sophie reached her teen years. Then, things fell apart for the family. Sophie began to loathe this house and her dad. Now, she's gone.

But enough of that. Let's move this plot along, huh? Bernard owes his hard worker some clothes. After his daughter left, Bernie put all of Sophie's belongings in the basement. All Rikki has to do is head on downstairs and find her treasure. Bernard would come with but he has that crutch holding him back.
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Man, it stinks down here. Bernard tells Rikki that the entire block smells.

Rikki wonders if her parents have packed up her stuff in the basement after she disappeared. She wishes she could get a message back to her home as she finds Sophie's old clothes.

And then the door back upstairs slams shut. Rikki runs up the stairs, thinking that Bernard might be in trouble but the truth is far more disturbing. The door is locked. She can't get out. She can't get out.

Before the goblins start attacking, Rikki curses herself for being so trusting. Then she gets a good look around the basement and finds that the smell is coming from the dead body buried in the basement. Looks like Sophie didn't leave home. She just left the world of the living.


iim27.jpgThe Invincible Iron Man #27
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Salvador Larroca


In this story:

• Pepper Potts gets Tony to agree to make her a super-hero again.

• Mrs. Arbogast signs on for Stark Resilient.

• Highly armed terrorists attack Tokyo.

• Detroit Steel is there to save the day.

• So are Justine Hammer and her daughter, Sasha.

• Pepper goes into surgery.

• Tony learns about Tokyo.

• War Machine and Iron Man launch for clean-up after Rhodey mopes a bit.

The previous story in this series was covered HERE .

Alright! The Heroic Age banner reappears after disappearing last issue! It's not gonna stick around long so let's enjoy it while it's here.

...

Man, it's not really that great looking is it?

Anyway: Story!

Pepper Potts spent most of World's Most Wanted running around in her own armored suit. She was called Rescue and that was what she did. The Rescue armor wouldn't be the suit to take if you were going up against Doctor Doom. It had no offensive weaponry. Even the booster jets burned cold. What it had was a lot of defensive systems. Pepper loved the thing and she had to give it up to get Tony Stark back.

Now, she wants it back. Since Tony promised to give it back in the video detailing how to bring him back to the world of the sentient, she's holding that against him. Tony doesn't remember any of this, of course. All he knows is that he'd rather Pepper weren't running around risking her life. Unfortunatetly, working for Tony Stark is already a life risk. You might as well be armored. Pepper runs through the list of her accomplishments while using the Rescue armor. It includes saving Tony's life and freeing Maria Hill and Black Widow from Avengers Tower.

Dr. Lisk is here to witness this whole exchange and to agree on putting a repulsor battery back in Pepper's chest. He's anything but comfortable as Pepper goes into details on just what she wants with her new suit. This is all well and good but Tony still thinks this is a recipe for losing Pepper Potts. He's lost everything else and doesn't want to lose her. She asks if he remembers anything from the World's Most Wanted story. We flash to a scene where the two are making out. This is something Tony doesn't remember at all.

Potts tells him he has nothing left to lose.

Eventually, Tony relents. He'll make her a damn suit but she's the Chief Operating Officer of Stark Resilient and that job takes priority. If she can't think of a way that running around as a super-hero won't interfere with her day job, then he won't make her a suit. This is a delaying tactic at best but Pepper's prepared for it. She's already figured this all out. It's time for Tony's next appointment.

Mrs. Bambi Arbogast. She's back! Mrs. Arbogast was Tony's personal assistant during most of the eighties (stretching into the seventies and nineties) and it's about frickin' time we saw her back again. She goes over her list of activities since she left Stark-Fujikawa and we and Tony Stark are suitably impressed by her business acumen. Tony wants to know why Mrs. Arbogast would want to join his company, considering he can't really pay her or anything. Bambi just wants the excitement of working for Stark.

Tony goes through an awesome list of how much it's going to suck working at Stark Resilient but Mrs. Arbogast just smiles and asks him why he's doing it. Tony responds that he has an impossible mission to accomplish and he's Tony Stark so you know he has a good chance of making the impossible possible. Mrs. Arbogast isn't stupid. She knows Tony Stark and is confident that her once and future employer is going to change the world once more. She's already started the job, looking into some potential employers with a particular outlook on the future. She's also noticed that something is going down in Tokyo that might be of interest to a certain Iron Man. Looks like Mrs. Arbogast is joining Stark Resilient.

It also looks like Pepper Potts will be Rescue again.

In Tokyo, a group of terrorists armed with some incredibly powerful gear start causing some trouble in Shibuya. They take down a subway line and do a lot of talking in Japanese that I can't read. Maybe they're mad about something happening in Jump.

No worries. There's an armored hero to help clear the area of hostiles. It's not Iron Man. It's Detroit Steel decked out in the colors of the rising sun. This actually looks a lot better than the red, white, and blue suit we've seen before. Piloting the suit is still Lieutenant Doug Johnson. He doesn't know Japanese either, but his suit does all the translating for him (and us!).

Detroit Steel heads on down into the subway to take care of some angry terrorists. Even he is surprised by the weaponry employed by this terror cell. I say "even he" because this whole thing is a set up and Johnson is in on it. He shouts through his com about how wreckless it is to give maniacs like this such powerful weapons but the Hammer girls are certain Detroit Steel can handle the threat. They're more worried that he come back up without blood covering his suit. Things are getting violent down there.

Back in the States, Pepper Potts is getting an electro-magnetic battery put in her chest. Mrs. A and Mr. Stark are in the monitor room talking about this procedure but they move more into what Pepper is going to become. Rescue isn't a military suit. It's search and rescue. No weaponry. Stark explains this to Mrs. Arbogast and she's thrilled. This is just what Tony always wanted to make and now he's done it.

Well, he'll have to do it again, actually. The original Rescue armor was stripped down for components to bring Tony's mind back. With no money, Tony's going to have to go back to Reed Richards and borrow some supplies.

Both Tony and Arbogast get phone calls at the same time. Trouble in Tokyo.

James Rhodes is suited up in his War Machine suit but isn't looking very happy to be going out on a mission.
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I guess everyone has moments of doubt and this is one of Rhodey's. He kind of deserves it. After all, he spent about a year as a cyborg before being downloaded into his new clone body. His little demotivational speech involves losing at gambling. Rhodey is so uninspiring that he makes Tony not want to go out. These guys are heroes, though. They need to get in the air. Sure, they aren't going to be there in time to take down the bad guy but they can handle clean up and figure out if this is going to have further repercussions.

The Tokyo incident is starting to hit the news. General Babbage catches it and is just a bit annoyed. There is the Detroit Steel armor dressed up in another flag. He gets Justine Hammer on the phone. It looks like she's calling him at the same time. Justine, Sasha, and Lt. Johnson and in the middle of a press conference following the terrorist incident. Babbage isn't stupid. He knows that Detroit Steel's appearance in Tokyo just in time to stop a terror attack is too good to be true but Justine Hammer isn't revealing her hand. She just mentions that it was a good thing that the Japanese government signed on for some armors so that this attack would be halted.

Babbage feels he has little choice. He calls up the Secretary of Defense and tells him that they're going to be buying up some Detroit Steels of their very own.

Before Iron Man and War Machine take off to Tokyo, Tony tries to get a hold of Maria Hill. She's out at the moment so he leaves her a message telling her what's going on and where he and Rhodey are heading. With that bit of official business done, the two heroes take to the skies, Tokyo bound.


pop2.jpgThe Heroic Age: Prince of Power #2
Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Penciler: Reilly Brown


In this issue:

• Vali Halfling takes Hebe hostage and gets her to show him where she hides the Nectar of Eternal Youth.

• Amadeus Cho fights Thor in a fight that reveals who Hercules' best friend was.

• Vali destroys the Promethean Flame.

• This destruction echoes through all Olympians as they cry out in pain and begin growing weaker.

• Vali Halfling shows up at the meeting of godheads to gloat and to pass blame on to Amadeus Cho.

• After fighting for a long time, Thor finally listens to Amadeus Cho and learns his plan.

• The Council of Godheads has already sent word that Cho is working against them and Tyr shows up with a group of warriors to capture Amadeus.

• Thor defends Amadeus and the two leave to the location of the next key to godhood, Duat.

• They arrive in the Egyptian Underworld to face off against Sekhmet, Lady of Slaughter.

• Athena arrives at the headquarters of the Olympus Group just in time to get herself taken prisoner by Vali's men.

• As she's placed in a cell with Hebe, Athena notices that it's the same cell that contained Delphyne Gorgon who is now absent and waiting to attack Vali and his men.

The previous story in this series was covered HERE .

Hebe is calling down to the Amazon Security team to send up some peeps to pick up the trash. Last issue, Amadeus Cho defeated a holographic image of Vali Halfling and also took down his escort troops from the Pantheon. Before Hebe's security detail can reach the room, we learn that the real Vali Halfling was dressed up as one of his own guards. Vali isn't as unconscious as he let on. He rises to his feet and pulls a gun on Hebe.

When Amazon security arrives, the villain explains that his gun contains mistletoe bullets. They worked on Balder back in the day so they'll probably do the job on the goddess of youth. This keeps the Amazons at bay as Vali moves Hebe down to the chamber that contains the Nectar of Eternal Youth.

In the ruins of Asgard, Thor is fighting the Prince of Power, Amadeus Cho. Thor thinks Cho stole the Apples of Idunn. Amadeus WANTED to steal them but he was beat to the punch by the treacherous Vali. So... yeah, bad intentions but probably not enough to recieve a beating. Still, Thor doesn't know that the former companion of Hercules hasn't done something stupid so it's a nice battle all over Asgard.

Amadeus shouldn't be able to stand up to Thor. In fact, he can't. He's aided in the fight by a magical mace and a personal forcefield. Cho is super-smart but that'll always be one of his strengths. Thor knocks the Prince of Power into Valhalla where the ghosts of those who died in battle decide to exact some punishment on our hero.

Most of this fight is Thor scolding Amadeus for not living up to the example set by Thor's best friend, Hercules. If you want to piss off Amadeus Cho, you hit all the right buttons when you decide that you were best friends with his best friend.

Back at the Olympus Group, Vali has succeeded in entering the chamber containing the Nectar of Eternal Youth. Afte taking a vial, he approaches the hanging pot where more of the brew is being prepared over the Promethean Flame. This is no good for Vali. The villain charges up his lightsaber and slashes through the pot and the flame. It all goes up in a tremendous explosion.

The effects of this are immediate. Wherever they are, Olympians can feel the source of their immortality draining away. At the council of Godheads, Athena screams in pain. To punctuate this scene, Vali appears above them, larger than life, to gloat about his latest deeds. He's got the Apples of Idunn and the Nectar of Eternal Youth. Vali uses the moment to condemn Amadeus Cho for helping him.

Balder gives us the back story on Vali. The leader of the Pantheon is the bastard son of Loki. He's got some wierd brothers and sisters. Hela, Fenris, the Midgard Serpent. Good roots. Strong family connections. Actually, Vali stole some of Loki's works and was cursed into being an eternal teenager.

Vali's image fades with the challenge to stop him on his lips. This throws the Council into disarray. They're all here to prepare for the eventual arrival of Mikaboshi and this threat isn't helping matters. They start thinking about helping their own houses. Athena takes a portal back to Olympus but this is mostly because she's already feeling the effects of losing the Nectar of Eternal Youth. She tells everyone that their reactions are playing right into the prince of mischief's hands.

In Asgard, Amadeus Cho is fighting his way through the warriors of Valhalla before Thor catches up to him again. The god of thunder is still talking about his disappointment in Amadeus' actions. Why, if only Thor's best friend were here, he'd be so upset with how his young ward was acting. Again, this is not the way to make Cho happy. Thor hits Amadeus with a lightning bolt that knocks out his Bannertech shields.

The Odinson follows up with a hammer throw. Amadeus uses his big brain to calculate the exact moment necessary to grab onto Mjolnir's strap and ride it out of there. Thor calls the hammer back only to find a snake (from the Well of Urd) stuck in the strap. While Thor is dealing with the serpent, Amadeus teaches him what being a real friend means.
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It means hitting someone on the head with an Adamantine Mace.

Mostly, this part of the fight is about Amadeus telling Thor that Hercules' best friend was Cho. You know, a guy that actually hung out with him and helped him through a series of adventures. Thor usually just showed up for the obligatory fight over a misunderstanding that leads to a team-up type of thing. Sometimes, Herc was drunk.

Eventually, Thor has enough of this and bats Amadeus away before killing the snake to death. The Prince of Power forgot that his shields were down. Being swatted around by the god of thunder isn't something you really want to go through. Cho took some serious damage and likely cracked a few ribs.

Without all the punching, Amadeus explains that the Apples of Idunn were taken by Vali Halfling. Amadeus is trying to recover the devices of godhood so that he'll have the omniscience to bring Hercules back from wherever the Olympian ended up. Thor tries to tell the young hero that Herc is dead but Amadeus has some contrary information that makes the god of thunder raise his eyes in surprise.

Tyr, the god of battles enters Valhalla with a complement of warriors. They've been sent by Balder to secure Amadeus Cho after learning Vali's interpretation of recent events. Thor wonders who he should believe but he's leaning towards his kin until Cho mentions that Hercules would side with HIM.

With that, Thor delivers a shocking bolt of lightning to his fellow Asgardians and then uses his hammer to teleport right to the next stop on Amadeus' path to godhood: the Ancient Egyptian Underworld of Duat.

They find Sekhmet, the Lady of Slaughter, waiting for them. Word travels fast! Thor asks Amadeus for directions but the young hero for directions to the tomb but Cho really doesn't know where they're going here. Thor scowls and says how much he hates this mortal.

Athena's portal took a long time to get to Olympus Group Headquarters but she's here just in time to walk into the welcoming guns of Pantheon soldiers. Oh, and there's Vali. Athena is already feeling the effects of being separated from the Olympian source of immortality. She's looking old. Now, she's looking captured.

Vali and his guards lead an aging Athena to the same cell that's holding Hebe. The goddess of youth is having the same aging problems. They both wonder if Amadeus will be coming to their rescue but even Athena is uncertain. Athena notices a book on their bed: How to Kill a God. Someone we know was in this cell until recently.

Delphyne Gorgon. Now, our favorite Gorgon Amazon is stalking Vali... which is pretty awesome.


ya1.jpgYoung Allies #1
Writer: Sean McKeever
Penciler: David Baleón


In this issue:

• The new 616 Toro gets an origin!

• Nomad and Araña fight a group of thugs and dance on the rooftops.

• Greg Willis and Angelica Jones attend NYU and have their own separate problems to deal with.

• Toro visits the Statue of Liberty.

• The Bastards of Evil attack. Our heroes show up to fight back.

• Toro rescues Araña and joins the fight.

• Warhead ignites and blows up a portion of New York City.

Meet Benito. Three years ago, he was a kid struggling to learn big words with his loving sister. Then, he was taken from his family and reprogrammed to be a soldier. In time, he made a friend and they got chest tattoos to go along with their personalities. Benito got a bull. His friend got a dragon.

Benito was the most vicious killer in his unit which fast tracked him through a program to get super powers OR kill him. Benny didn't know that it could kill him but it's likely he wouldn't care. At this point, "el Toro" was pretty mindwashed.

The procedure that would give him super powers also opened up his memories. He suddenly remembered being separated from his sister. The world went red.

In the present, we meet our villains: The Bastards of Evil. Like many groups of do-evilers, they spend their time in low-lit rooms. We only get extreme closeups and shadows of our villains. They're excited for their first appearance in New York City. The home of most of the world's super-heroes! There's some debate about headlining in the city that never sleeps or going somewhere with no heroes and just executing a bunch of randoms. The decisions already been made, though. After talking about their famous pedigrees, their leader tells them to get to sleep. You can't be evil on less than three hours of evil nap time, after all.

The next day, we catch up with Nomad and Araña as they take down a couple of no name criminals in a convenience store. With that done, they start chasing around the rooftops. Araña is in her new costume (Arachne's old suit) after her adventures in Amazing Spider-Man (The Grim Hunt- ASM #'s 634-637). She also asserts that she is NOT taking up the name Spider-Girl (yet). Nomad has a lot of fun making jokes about Araña's new suit, comparing it to Venom more than Spidey, but this conversation moves right back to Nomad's living conditions before too long. Rikki is still living on the street but isn't giving up any info to her only friend about her current living situation other than that she has her own place.

We also learn that Anya lacks super powers, possibly as some fallout from the Grim Hunt though nothing on panel in that story arc seems to indicate that she lost her powers. It takes some courage to dance on rooftops with no real powers. Rikki makes sure to let her recently depowered friend know how much she admires her before getting right back in with the Venom jokes.
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Let's move over to the campus of New York University where some well known, younger super-heroes try to mix college life with saving the world. Greg Willis, Gravity, is having a philosophical conversation with some of his friends about why killing bad guys would be so much better than capturing them. He uses a recent fight with the "son of the Radiactive Man," Warhead, to prove the point. Gravity captured the super-criminal only to find that Warhead had broken out of jail with the help of his friends in the Bastards of Evil. Hell, the Bastards even have an online website to celebrate their villainy with the world.

Greg seems to be thinking about taking a more lethal turn as Gravity. If he were an actual law enforcement agent, then I'd be fine with this. Since he's more of a vigilante after the collapse of the Initiative, I have more of an issue with him killing people. Rules and stuff. We'll see where Gravity goes from here.

Racing by them is Angelica Jones who you might better recognize as Firestar. This isn't the first time Super Reads has had a story featuring Firestar so you might have some idea who this character is if you're a long time reader who somehow has missed all of her comic appearances. For the uninitiated, Firestar made her first appearance on the small screen as a Mary-Jane substitute on Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Her debut on the comic page was as a one-time Hellion working for Emma Frost. It didn't last long. Firestar is a founding member of the New Warriors and served as an Avengers soon after the team reformed during Heroes Return. When the Super-human Registration Act was signed into law, Firestar quit doing the super-hero thing. Lately, she's been hanging out with a quartet of girl power friends in the Divas mini-series where she was being treated for cancer before it went back into remission.

Now, she's trying to get some classes in and avoiding calls from Patsy Walker.

You may be wondering what happened to Benito. He came to America and now looks up at the Statue of Liberty from a close view on Liberty Island. I guess they don't let kids close to the Statue without an adult or group of classmates. Security is on him like boom. He shows the man his ticket but that's not enough for this government worker. He wants to see some parents or student group STAT. Security dude is nice about it but the rules are the rules.

On the Brooklyn Bridge, Nomad and Araña are talking boys and costumes when a nearby building explodes. This looks like a job for...

These guys.

Firestar curses because she's about to miss another class. Toro wants to get over to the action but the ferry is down and he doesn't think he can jump to Manhattan from here. Gravity makes up a lame excuse and separates from his friends who are distracted by Firestar overhead.

Man, Firestar really needs a uniform update. Even when it was on the cartoon it looked bland... though she also looked like she was running around naked on television so there's that. Still, Angel has worn better clothes. C'mon, Marvel, give her some good threads!

For now, the fight is on. The Bastards of Evil are just causing general mayhem on the streets of Manhattan. Their leader is the presumed daughter of Electro, Aftershock. She's all lightning and energy and finds herself facing off with Firestar. The supposed son of Pyro, Ember, faces off against Araña after his blast is deflected by Nomad's energy shield. With that done, Nomad finds herself fighting Mortar who claims the Grey Gargoyle as her father. Warhead, who we've already mentioned, tries attacking the police before he is noticed by Gravity. Four heroes isn't going to cut it especially when two of them are non-powered. When Singularity, who may be the son of Graviton, enters the fight, Anya finds herself flying far from the fight.

Araña's path sends her flying right towards the head of the Statue of Liberty. Benito doesn't have the choice to sit this one out, now. He activates his powers and becomes the giant Toro, complete with bull feet. Toro jumps into the air and saves Araña from a hard landing. This is a nice first meeting since Benny's language of choice is Spanish. Anya may be the only other person in this book who could hold a conversation in his native language.

Back at the main fight, Gravity is beating the pulp out of Warhead. This isn't their first meeting and he's pretty much what is making Greg Willis question his choices as a super-hero. Singularity stops him from making the choice to kill by interrupting the fight. Both of these two have gravity powers so it's kind of a standoff.

Toro makes the leap over to Manhattan. Anya's filling him in on the particulars of this fight. Toro decides to deal with them in a lethal manner. That sort of concerns Araña but she still makes a formal introduction and gives him her super-hero name.

While Gravity and Singularity keep each other busy, Warhead gets back to his feet. He tells Singularity that it would have been better if Gravity had been allowed to kill him. That's the kind of corruption you just can't buy. Warhead limps towards the base of the Federal Hall National Monument just as Gravity bests Singularity. There's no time to stop Warhead.

Hero and villain are all started when Warhead explodes.


ih1.jpgThe Incredible Hulk #1
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby


In this story:

• Bruce Banner conducts the Gamma Bomb test but sees a stupid teenager near the blast site and races off to the rescue.

• He tells his fellow scientist, Igor, to delay the test but Igor doesn't because he's a dirty communist and wants to give us free health care.

• Dr. Robert Bruce Banner is caught in the blast after pushing Rick Jones (the stupid teenager) to safety.

• Bruce is loaded up with Gamma Rays and turns into the Hulk when the lights go out.

• The Hulk goes home and stops Igor from discovering the secret behind the Gamma Bomb.

• Hulk changes back to Bruce Banner with the coming of day and deals with the fallout from the Hulk's rampage.

• Igor sends word to his communist masters that the Hulk is around.

• The Gargoyle decides to pit his own powers against the Hulk and captures the grey goliath.

• After a return to Mother Russia, Gargoyle discovers that the Hulk is really Banner.

• Bruce Banner cures the Gargoyle of his hideous deformity and incredible intelligence.

• Gorgoyle sends Bruce and Rick back home and suicide bombs his plant, killing lots of military leaders.

May, 1963. It was time for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to introduce their next official super-hero into the Marvel Universe. The Hulk wasn't an actual hero by any stretch of the word but he would become the next creation in Marvel's line of super-hero comics. Last time, we showcased the first appearance of Hank Pym who is technically the next oldest entry into the Marvel world of super-heroes after the FF. Pym didn't return and put on a super-hero suit until September, though, so you could easily dispute Lee and Kirby's intentions with the character.

The Hulk, however, was more than just a continuation of the Twilight Zone-esque stories that populated the books that would soon feature Marvel heroes. No, the Hulk was launched in his own title much like the Fantastic Four with the promise of serial adventures. The company still hadn't picked up an official name so you won't see any "Marvel" or "Atlas" on the cover. The Incredible Hulk was a bi-monthly title that launched in the same month that Fantastic Four #6 hit stands. In fact, the previous issue of FF had Johnny Storm reading an Incredible Hulk comic. Marvel hadn't decided to have a shared universe just yet but there was already some cross-promotion happening.

The Hulk was not a hero. He was a monster, combining elements from Frankenstein's Monster and Jekyll and Hyde. He was also not an immediate success. After six issues, the Incredible Hulk book was cancelled. Hulk appeared the same month in Fantastic Four #12 which cemented the shared universe concept and guaranteed that even though his book was done, the Hulk would continue. The Green Goliath would show up later that year as a founding member of the Avengers before sharing the Tales to Astonish book with Giant-Man and, later, Namor the Sub-Mariner starting with issue #59 in September, 1964. Namor moved on to his own title and the book was retitled The Incredible Hulk with issue #102.

With Hulk's exposure in other media, you probably have a good idea how his origin story works out. Let's see how accurate it holds up to his first appearance.

Dr. Bruce Banner is the United States top nuclear scientist and heads up the test of the brand new Gamma Bomb. This weapon is of Bruce Banner's own design and it's inner workings are things he hasn't shared with anyone, including his nagging fellow scientist Igor.

Yes, Igor. When have to met a good guy named Igor? Is it never? It's probably never. Unless you read Terry Pratchet books. Exception that proves the rule, IMO. Anyway, Igor thinks the test of this new bomb should be delayed until someone, probably HIM, is able to go over Dr. Banner's notes and proof the weapon's design. Bruce claims to never make mistakes.

On the other end of the spectrum is General "Thunderbolt" Ross. Old T-Bolt is impatient and wants this test over and done with last week. If he were actually in CHARGE of this Gamma Bomb test he would have finished it sooner. Since Bruce Banner running the show, everything has been checked and double-checked to his satisfaction.

Also in attendance is General Ross's daughter, Betty. Betty apologizes for his father's impatience and defends Bruce's methods. Even after her father tries unsuccessfully to shoo her daughter away from the man talk, Betty just ignores her old man and takes over the conversation.

Igor does a bit more complaining about not knowing the composition of the Gamma Bomb. Bruce declares that the only copy of the schematics of the device is located in his room, locked in by a key. Clearly, these are impenetrable defenses. Igor finally gets physical and grabs Bruce by the shirt collar. This display doesn't impress the young scientist. In fact, it probably strengthens Banner's resolve. This is a man that hates violence. Bruce has finally prepared everything to his satisfaction and announces that the test will begin, shortly. The countdown has begun. Bruce looks out his binoculars and sees a teenager driving his car right onto the test site. He tells Igor to delay the launch and makes a mad dash to rescue the kid.

Igor has no intention of delaying the launch. This is his prime opportunity to kill Bruce off without using a messy knife or gun. Score.

Enter Rick Jones. Rick is an orphan kid with more guts than brains. He was dared to come out here and there's no way he'd pass up on a dare. You also have to credit the fine security skills of the United States Army for not keeping our top secret areas free of harmonica-playing youth. Bruce pulls the protesting teen out of his car just in time to get to a ditch. This cover protects Rick Jones but Dr. Banner isn't so lucky. He's still standing when the bomb detonates.

Bruce and Rick are miles from the bomb but the Gamma Rays still wash all over the doctor. The effect isn't immediate. The only sign that things have gone completely wrong is that Bruce won't stop screaming for hours. Once he comes to, he finds himself and Rick Jones with a medical doctor. The doc tells him that he's lucky to have survived all those Gamma Rays but he DID survive with no physical signs of injury. His hair hasn't fallen out or anything. Rick Jones tells Bruce that it was the teenager who brought him here as thanks for saving Jones' life.

For obvious reasons, the two are kept overnight for observation. As darkness falls, the true cost of Bruce's act of heroism is laid bare. Before Rick's eyes, the doctor grows into a musclebound grey behemoth. Yep. Grey. For his first issue, the Hulk was colored grey. Some say this was changed to green to add more color to the book (which would make it similar to why Iron Man's original armored changed from grey to gold). Others say they couldn't get a consistant grey color from the printers so they went with the more traditional green color to help matters along. Either way, the grey Hulk has returned a few times in the Hulk's run as a different personality from the green version.

This Hulk has no memory of being Bruce Banner and just wants to get out of the room. To that end, he breaks down a wall and then smashes up a jeep filled with Army personnel. This Hulk may not be as smart as Bruce Banner but he's more confused than stupid. SOOOOO much more interesting than stupid Hulk, but I digress. Once the Hulk has made an impression on the soldiers, he runs off into the night with Rick Jones close behind.

Hulk is a powerful monster but it seems he'd rather avoid detection than take on the soldiers called in to pursue him. These men are the ones that coin his moniker, "Hulk," as they continue searching for the grey-skinned creature. Hulk's destination is the home of Bruce Banner. He may not know who he really is but he still follows almost forgotten signals to get to his own house.

Inside is Igor, furiously looking for Bruce Banner's notes on the Gamma Bomb and coming up empty handed. When he sees the Hulk, he tries to kill the grey goliath with his pistol but the bullet doesn't even slow him down, though it DOES break skin. During the VERY one-sided battle between Igor and the Hulk, the secret notes on the Gamma Bomb are uncovered on the bottom of a beaker. Rick Jones takes them for safe keeping.

Jones also tries to tell the Hulk who he is. He grabs a photo of Bruce Banner and tries to show it to the musclebound man. Hulk doesn't care for Banner's image at all. He sees Dr. Bruce Banner as weak. Soft. Bespectacled. The memories are right there, though. Soon, he realizes that he is indeed the Hulk. Rick apologizes for being somewhat responsible for Banner's current state but the Hulk doesn't care. He loves being powerful. Now, he's going to have to do something about the only person who knows his secret.

Before the Hulk can make Rick into paste, the sun comes up and Bruce Banner comes back out to play. The Military Police show up soon afterward.
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They seem to know all about Igor being a spy... which would have been nice to know 24 hours earlier. They see Bruce Banner in tattered clothes and wonder why he's not in medical observation and why his shoulder is bleeding, though they don't care overmuch.

The soldiers that encountered the Hulk the night before have wildly different stories to tell about the incident. One man says it was a giant gorilla. Another thinks Hulk to be a huge bear in shredded clothes. None seem to have gotten too good a look at the actual beast. Rick laughs it off as being another urban legend forming. The soldiers leave, the officer grabbing Bruce's Gamma Bomb formula notes on his way out.

Betty Ross sticks around. She doesn't know what's going on but she had to see Bruce after the way her father treated him during the test... even though she already apologized for him the day before. Someone's got a crush. Anyway, she never expected to find Dr. Bruce Banner in torn up clothes with a gun wound. Rick moves right in to patch up Bruce's injury, claiming that there's no need to involve doctors in something like this. Rick is also annoyed with how familiar Bruce and Betty are being to each other. Someone's jealous.

Rick is more excited to learn about how Bruce feels about his Hulk experience. After Betty leaves, Jones questions Banner on it. Bruce doesn't think this was a one-time thing. He changed at the drop of the sun and reverted to normal at sunrise. This day will be the test. If he changes again at sundown, he's the Hulk for good. FOR GOOD. Bruce sits back in his chair and quietly panics.

Igor's story isn't over just yet. He's not going to do anything adventurous but he is going to contact his superiors in Russia using a radio transmittor hidden in his thumbnail. The message is sent behind the dreaded iron curtain, where it is passed from person to person before someone is forced to give it to the man in charge. The Gargoyle is hideously deformed but also incredibly intelligent. No-one wants to visit his room but they value his brilliant mind. It's just as the Gargoyle would want it.

Word of the Hulk intrigues him. Gargoyle decides to pit his hideous intelligence against the Hulk's brute strength. To that end, he launches himself in a rocket straight and true to America. This rocket is picked up by the US defensive network and shot down, but not before the Gargoyle's command pod ejects. It looks like a Cold War villain has broken through our defenses using his keen intelligence. Now, if only we knew how Rick Jones handled it...

Speaking of, Rick Jones is still hanging out with Bruce Banner. The doctor is heading back to work, wanting the Hulk to appear out in the open if he comes back at all. Rick has decided to latch onto his hero and protect him from being discovered. Bruce could have been paying a bit closer attention to the clock, though. The sun goes down while he's still driving to work. The jeep he's driving crashes, but neither he nor Rick sustain injury.

This time, it's Betty Ross that the Hulk has on his mind. He heads off to her place for a little visit. Rick Jones does his best to stop the grey goliath but is surprisingly unsuccessful. Trailing the both of them is the Gargoyle who found his target with relative ease. If only there were, I don't know, some military men on this base. Everyone is getting through their barriers.

Betty Ross is hung up on Bruce Banner. She is just drawn in by his obvious charms. Her wistful attitude makes her father concerned. General "Thunderbolt" Ross sends her outside for some fresh air. Let's hope the Hulk doesn't show u... oh there he is. One look at the monster's face freaks her out so much that she passes out. Hulk grabs her before she hits the ground, showing that the monster has some of Bruce's compassion.

Now, it's just a battle between the approaching Gargoyle that the Hulk needs to worry about. The Communist Warrior is using a gun for this fight but it doesn't fire bullets like the one Igor wielded. Instead, Gargoyle's gun fires mind-control pellets. Even the Hulk proves susceptible to their influence. Gargy shoots Jones too, because why not?

The two follow Gargoyle's every command as they leave the desert and prepare for a short trip back to Mother Russia. While they make their getaway, General Ross comes to the aid of his daughter as Betty wakes up from her unintentional nap. She tells her pop about her run-in with the Hulk. It was terrifying, but he also had this look in his eyes that made her sad. This was swallowed up in the sheer terror at the time, though.

Gargoyle and his captives take a trip out to a rocket that involves more mind-control pellets to get innocent civilians to do his bidding. Once Hulk and Rick are loaded into the rocket, they travel back behind the iron curtain. This pretty much exhausts the night and the Hulk changes back into Bruce Banner on the trip. When Gargoyle finds Rick and Bruce Banner, it doesn't take him long to figure out that Banner and the Hulk are one and the same.

Gargoyle can't believe that Banner would become the Hulk. After all, Gargoyle hates what he has become. He wasn't always hideously deformed. It was only after working on nuclear bomb tests that he became the gross thing they see before them. Dr. Bruce Banner convinces the Gargoyle that the only thing to counter the dangerous effects of radiation would be more radiation. Gargoyle agrees with whatever they want to do. This... actually works. The Gargoyle is changed back to a more human-looking man. His intelligence is back to normal levels but he doesn't care. He's back to normal and all it took was an American scientist to help him.

The former Gargoyle curses at a picture of his leader, Nikita Khrushchev (here called Comrade K), and preps a rocket to send Banner and Jones back home. With that done, he waits for the the Soviet general to discover his treason. They surround him, not realizing that he's the Gargoyle back in human form. The former Gargy gives a speech about dying like a man and then hits the trigger on a bomb. The place goes up in a sky splitting explosion.

On board their rocket, Banner and Jones here the blast go off and know that the Gargoyle has met his end. Banner hopes that this ending will lead to the eventual fall of Communism.

And that's that! The Hulk is currently in the middle of some very confusing storylines. Seriously! After a time of having the Hulk persona locked away, Bruce Banner has once again become the Green Goliath. He's also got a kid named Skaar and another, more evil kid named Hiro-Kala. If that weren't enough Hulks, there's a Red Hulk running around that used to be General Ross and a whole family of Hulk characters with diverse origins. When the dust of World War Hulks clears, we'll see what Hulks are still around. All I know for certain is that the Red Hulk is slated to join the Avengers in the near future. So you'll probably be seeing some of him soon in Super Reads.

I think it's time to call it a column and let you enjoy all of this comicky goodness.

Until next time: Excelsior!
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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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