Waiting for the Trade – Spidergirl

Amazing Spider-Girl: Maybreak

collects Amazing Spider-Girl #25-30

by writer Tom Defalco and artist Ron Frenz

 

Why I Bought This: The easy reason is I was on vacation in Portland and it was on sale for $8. But aside from that this is the conclusion of Spider-Girl’s title, and while I didn’t regularly collect her book, I’ve always liked the core concept behind it.

 

The Plot: Spider-Girl and her extended supporting cast must deal with the return of the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn. For those who don’t know Spider-Girl’s story is set 15 years in the future of the main Marvel Universe where she is May Parker, the daughter of the married Peter Parker and Mary Jane and has inherited her father’s powers. In her back-story, Norman died fighting Peter when she was six months old and has never appeared in her title.

 

(spoilers below)

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Waiting for the Trade – Captain America

Waiting for the Trade

Captain America Corps

by Roger Stern & Philippe Briones

collects Captain America Corps #1-5 and Age of Heroes #4

 Why I Bought This: This was a Christmas present from my wife, but the reason I wanted this is because it has Roger Stern, who in my opinion writes the definitive Captain America, writing the character again for the first time in 30 years.

The Plot: The Contemplator (an Elder of the Universe) becomes aware of a crisis in the multiverse and recruits several different Captain Americas from across time to solve it. They are: Steve Rogers during his rookie year in World War II, US Agent (John Walker from Gru’s Cap No More run in the 80s), Bucky-Cap (from, at the time this was published, Brubaker’s current run), American Dream (Steve’s daughter with Sharon Carter from Spider Girl’s MC2 near-future), and Commander A from the year 2410–who uses dual laser-shields with a hi-tech costume.

(spoilers below)

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Waiting for the Trade: Gambit

Waiting for the Trade

Gambit (1): Once A Thief . . .

written by James Asmus,

 illustrated by Clay Mann, Leonard Kirk, Diogenes Neves and Al Barrionuevo

collects Gambit #1-7

 Why I Bought This: I actually wasn’t much of a Gambit fan until he appeared in the Wolverine movie. I know a lot of people hate on that film, but I think it is a fine little bit of entertainment, with Gambit in particular being the best part of it in how his powers are presented visually. That film inspired me to buy the Gambit Classic trade, which was a mixed bag at best but still showed the potential of the character. Thus when this solo series was announced with the promise of focusing more on Gambit’s roots as a thief and a charmer rather than a superhero I bought the trade as soon as it hit the stores at full cover price.

The Plot: Gambit decides he misses being a thief so he pulls heist, which leads to all sorts of complications.

(spoilers below)

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Waiting for the Trade = All New Cap

All New Captain America (1): Hydra Ascendant

collects All-New Captain America #1-6

written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Stuart Immonen

 Why I Bought This: As a big Cap fan, I was very curious to see how the Falcon as Cap story will play out, so much so I actually pre-ordered this on Amazon before it was released.

The Plot: Sam Wilson (The Falcon) has been named the new Captain America following Steve’s retirement (he was rapidly aged in some prior volume I haven’t read), giving the country an African-American Captain America. On his first case he uncovers a Hydra plot that includes most of Steve’s major foes (with the exception of the Red Skull).

(spoilers below)

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Waiting for the Trade – Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

 Mighty Avengers (2): Family Bonding

written by Al Ewing, art by Valerio Schiti and Greg Land

collecting Mighty Avengers #6-10

 Why I Bought This: As a fan of Roger Stern’s Avengers run I’ve always liked Captain Marvel v2.0 a lot. This title finally returned her to prominence with a fitting new code name in Spectrum so I grabbed the first volume as soon as it came out in trade. I liked it quite a bit and thus picked up volume 2 when it hit trade.

 (spoilers below)

 

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Waiting for the Trade – Masters of Evil

House of M: Masters of Evil

written by Christos N. Gage, illustrated by Mannuel Garcia

collects House of M: Masters of Evil #1-4

Why I Bought This: I like villain-centric titles and this was sitting in a 75% off discount bin at the local comic store.

The Plot: We see what life is like in the House of M reality for the super villains who usually fight the Avengers. (House of M was a crossover in which Scarlet Witch created a timeline wherein Magneto conquered the world allowing mutants to flourish at the expense of humans.)

(spoilers below)

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Waiting for the Trade = Hulk vs. Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

Hulk Smash Avengers

written by Tom Defalco, Joe Casey, Roger Stern, Jim McCann and Fred Van Lente

art by Ron Frenz, Max Fiumara, Karl Molinem Agustin Padilla & Michael Avon Oeming

collects Hulk Smash Avengers #1-5

 Why I Bought This: I erroneously thought the entire mini-series was by Tom Defalco and as I’ve often said Defalco is the best choreographer of fight scenes in Marvel history and as this book seemed like it would be chock full of fight scenes I’d intended to pick it up in trade back when I first heard about it in miniseries form.

The Plot: Released in conjunction with the first Avengers film, each chapter is set in a different decade (real time) featuring Hulk battling various line-ups of the Avengers.

(Spoilers below)

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Waiting for the trade = Fantastic Four

So in honor of the FF movie no one saw here is a review of an FF book that probably no one else has read.

Waiting for the Trade 

Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four (vol. 4): Cosmic Threats

written by Justin Gray and illustrated by Juan Santacruz and Starz Johnson.

collects Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #13-16

 Why I Bought This: I had read another volume of this series before it and it was surprisingly fun. This volume features several of Marvel’s great cosmic villains like Thanos, Grand Master and Terminus so it seemed worth picking up.

The Plot: Individual one and done stories of the FF fighting cosmic threats in the company’s kid-friendly line.

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Waiting for the Trade: Spider-man vs. Venom

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller 

Spider-man: The Vengeance of Venom

by David Micheline & Peter David; art by Erik Larsen, Mark Bagley (and others)

collects Amazing Spider-man 332-333, 346-347, 361-363, and 374-375 and Spider-Man: The Trial of Venom and excerpts from Amazing Spider-man 373, 388, Annual 25-26, Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-man Annual 12 and Web of Spider-man Annual 8.

 Why I Bought This: Venom is my favorite Spider-man villain and this is a collection of stories from the character’s golden era including my favorite single-issue of Spider-man (issue 347) when he and Venom battle on the island. While I already owned the Spider-man Venom Returns trade that also collects issues 332-347, this one is a larger volume and I found it on Amazon for $5 (including shipping). At that price I wanted the additional stories, plus I love this cover which recreates the cover of issue 347.

 

The Plot: Venom hates Spider-man a lot, knows Peter’s secret identity, doesn’t trigger his spider sense and will stop at nothing to kill him. Then just when it can’t get any worse than Venom for Spidey, Carnage shows up. Overall the trade starts with the third Venom-Spider-man story and proceeds chronologically until the conclusion of their initial animosity.

(spoilers below)

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Waiting for the Trade = Captain America

Captain America: The Fighting Avenger

writers: Brian Clevinger, Paul Tobin and Jeff Parker

artists: Gurihiru, Chriscross, Manuel Garcia and Dario Brizuela

collects Captain America Fighting Avenger #1, Marvel Adventures Superheroes #5, and Marvel Adventures the Avengers #3 and #37.

 

 Why I Bought This: Released at the same time as the first Cap film this tells the story of Cap’s very first mission, something I don’t think Marvel has ever told before. Also I’ve enjoyed the little bit of Paul Tobin’s writing I’ve read in the past. You can grab this pretty cheap on Amazon and as I’m always looking for bargain-priced Cap stories I picked it up.

 

The Plot: The feature story shows Cap’s first mission. The book also includes several bonus reprints of Cap-centric stories from the current all-ages Avengers line.

(Spoilers below)

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Waiting for the Trade – Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade 

by Bill Miller 

Spider-man the Next Chapter vol. 3

Written by John Byrne and Howard Mackie with Gregory Wright and A.A. Ward

Pencils by John Byrne, Lee Weeks, Graham Nolan, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson &  Erik Larsen with Andy Kuhn.

collects Amazing Spider-man (vol 2) 13-19, Peter Parker: Spiderman 13-19 and Spider  Woman (vol. 3) #9

 Why I Bought This: It includes some Eddie Brock-Venom stories I’d never read before, which will always get my money eventually. In this case Venom is stalking the Sinister Six.

 

The Plot: This isn’t a plot so much as a collection of sequential issues from an era that is generally not well-regarded when Marvel first began arbitrarily canceling titles just to launch new #1s. To the extent that there is a single story here it is Peter dealing with Mary Jane’s presumed death in a plane crash.

 (spoilers below)

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Waiting for the Trade – New Avengers

 Waiting for the Trade

New Avengers:
Everything Dies

by Jonathan Hickman
and Steve Epting

collects New Avengers
(2013) #1-6

Why I Bought This: Actually
I didn’t, I got it from the library. I had intended to buy this some day when I
first heard it involved the Infinity Gems but then I bought the Infinity crossover trade by Hickman as a
brand new preorder on Amazon for $50 and hated it. After that I wasn’t willing
to spend more money on a Hickman trade. However with this now being the book
that sets the new Secret Wars event
in motion that is allegedly going to end the Marvel Universe I decided it to
track it down and read it. 
The Plot: The
Black Panther reforms the Illuminati when he discovers that universes are
colliding.

(Spoilers below)

 

Chapter 1 – We open with a flashback of Black Panther
refusing to join the Illuminati when it formed years ago. Now, in Wakanda,
Black Panther is working with three teen geniuses whom he believes are the
future of his country on a stellar map. Suddenly, they uncover a hole in
reality. On the other side of the hole is a looming planet in a red sky as well
as woman speaking Sumerian to her followers. Panther and company approach her
and she informs them that an “incursion” is occurring and she has come to destroy
a world. Panther vows to stop her; at which point her men fatally gun down
Panther’s teen followers. Panther takes on the soldiers while the mystery woman
kills her main hireling and detonates a bomb that destroys the world in the
sky. Panther takes down the woman while the world returns to normal following
the explosion. Panther then summons the Illuminati to Wakanda, whose members
are Black Bolt, Namor, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Captain America and Iron Man.

 Chapter 2 – Reed interrogates the woman from last issue, who
is known as Black Swan. Swan reveals the world she destroyed was an alternate
Earth. Reed briefs the others on the threat. He explains the infinite alternate
earth multiverse theory. He says all universes left to their own die at the
same time. However in one of the universes an event occurred that destroyed
that universe. As a result the remaining universes are contracting together to
fill the gap since the other universes apparently exist literally side by side.
Unfortunately, when the universes contract they collide at the spot where the
original defective universe was destroyed, which was Earth. When two Earths
make contact both of their universes are destroyed. Furthermore, this then
creates larger gaps in the multiverse, which causes more universe to contract,
leading a cycle that ultimately will destroy all realities. However destroying
one of the Earths, as Black Swan did in chapter 1, can prevent the incursion
from destroying the two universes. Tony says they need to investigate the cause
of the collapse and if the chain reaction can be stopped or slowed down. Reed
notes he can rebuild Black Swan’s bomb based on her trigger, which they took
off her when they captured her. Cap then puts a stop to that talk. No one is
blowing up worlds while he is around. Reed is concerned there won’t be time to
deal with this in the normal heroic way as Swan told him that once an Earth
survives one incursion it attracts additional incursions at a rapid rate and when
an incursion begins there are only eight hours from when the other Earth
appears in the sky before the two worlds make contact. Hearing this, Tony makes
the pitch that all options need to be on the table; to which Cap responds,
“What the hell is wrong with you.” Cap says they have a solution: they can just
reassemble the Infinity Gauntlet (The Illuminati have been in possession of the
individual gems since Bendis’ run). As the others leave to get their gems, Reed
stays to talk with T’Challa. Reed feels with infinite worlds on the line this
type of solution should have been tried already thus the two most likely conclusions
are either the problem is inherent to the multiverse and cannot be corrected or
that an outside force is working to destroy all realities. Reed concludes that
while he’s all for trying the moral options first, he’s willing to destroy
worlds if needed. 

Chapter 3 – Cap and Black Bolt recruit Beast to the
Illuminati and he retrieves the Mind Gem, which had been in Professor X’s
possession before he died (again). Reed implants early warning devices into the
Illuminati members’ palms to detect the incursions. Reed then runs the Infinity
Gauntlet plan past Black Swan and she says it will buy them time. Four days
later we have an incursion in Pakistan.
Cap is given the Infinity Gauntlet. Cap forces the other universe backwards but
there is a vibrational feedback so that when Cap ends the incursion all of the
Infinity Gems shatter except the Time Gem, which disappears. Now the Illuminati
meet again. Cap asks Panther to support him before they go in, and T’Challa
vows to do the right thing. Cap again says there will be no world destroying on
his watch. Everyone else disagrees including T’Challa as they vow to protect
their nations, species or family. On Tony’s order, Dr. Strange then mind-wipes
Cap and the Illuminati send him on his way with no memory of being a member so
they can get on with finding ways to destroy worlds.

 Chapter 4 – Reed and T’Challa build anti-matter bombs based
on Black Swan’s technology. Tony starts to build a Dyson Sphere, which can
harness the energy of the sun, which at 2-percent power can destroy a world.
Dr. Strange finds a spell book called the “Blood Bible” which has a spell he
believes can destroy a world but will requires the life force of 40 men and (the
soul of) one righteous man. Just then another incursion occurs over Ellis Island. Reed notes he also has the Ultimate
Nullifier and if fired through vibranium barrel it should destroy a world only
at the cost of the person pulling the trigger. The bombs and Dyson sphere
aren’t ready yet. Beast says they could go to the other Earth to find its
Infinity Gems, which the heroes think is worth trying since the other two
options (The nullifier and Strange’s spell) will both cost one of Illuminati their
life. On the other side of the reality warp, the heroes find Galactus is about
to eat this Earth, which will end the threat. This leads to a debate on if they
should just leave and let this Galactus solve the problem for them or if they
try to save this world from Galactus. The heroes are confronted by Terrax, who
is apparently still the herald of this Galactus and who knows what an incursion
is. He adds Galactus was present at the birth of the universe and is destined
to be present at the end, thus if he senses the universe is going to end
prematurely it is his job to stop it. He adds this will likely to happen to the
heroes’ Earth as well when their Galactus becomes aware of the problem. The
chapter ends with the heroes choosing to fight Terrax instead of leaving.

Chapter 5 – We’re back to Reed and Black Swan having another
Silence of the Lambs moment. She
agrees to help them because she wants to live. Reed and T’Challa release her
from her cell but she has to wear a bomb on her throat. Next we see Terrax is
in an adjoining cell. We flashback to one week ago where Black Bolt defeated
Terrax but the fight lasted long enough for Galactus to eat the world as the
heroes narrowly escaped back to their own reality. Black Swan gives her origin.
She was raised in some mystic temple with doors to other dimensions. Her Earth
was subject to an incursion and the invading earth sent an army to kill
everyone. She went through one of the doors where she found a sisterhood known
as the Black Swans, whom raised her. The Swan dimension has since been
destroyed as well. The Swans believe the birth of a being known as Rabum Alal
is the cause of the universal destruction. Reed asks how to stop the
incursions. Swan says to evacuate the planet and destroy their own Earth and
this will spare their universe. Swan notes she can sense the incursions earlier
than the Illuminati’s warning system and one is due to incur in minutes. This
time it is happening over Latveria.

Chapter 6 – The Illuminati teleport into Latveria with their
antimatter bomb. However this time the incursion sky is blue not red, which
according to Swan is “much worse.” It means a group known as the Mapmakers has
come. The Mapmakers have already destroyed all life on the incursion Earth but
keep a it intact so they can map new universes to conquer when an incursion
occurs. We see the mapmakers in tech-armor and they are fighting Doom and
Kristoff. The Illuminati go to the dead world where Swan says the mapmakers
will detonate the planet before the incursion destroys the two universes, however
if one fragment of that other Earth survives the Mapmakers can find their way
back to this reality so they can devour the new Earth of all it resources as
well. Panther detonates the incursion world with the anti-matter bomb. The
universe returns to normal. The heroes return to Wakanda. When Swan is alone in
her cell she telepathically contacts Terrax. Meanwhile Doom recovers a fragment
of the other Earth.
Critical Thoughts: I
have to admit, I’m surprised by how much I liked this. This certainly presents
a unique threat (at least for Marvel). Now generally I don’t care for
multiverse stories with alternate versions of existing characters but in this
one the details of the multiverses themselves are secondary to the incursion
threat. What I like best about this book is it doesn’t shy away from the fact
that in the Marvel Universe there are plenty of options for destroying a planet
and we discuss some of the most obvious right away: Infinity Gems, Ultimate
Nullifier, Galactus, etc.

The concept is certainly an intriguing take of necessary
evil for the greater good. Do you sacrifice the billions of strangers on
alternate Earth to save the life of not just your own world but the life of
everyone in two universes (which in the Marvel Universe with numerous alien
races some of which have empires that span galaxies is clearly trillions upon
trillions of lifeforms. Now of course in the old days the Fantastic Four alone
would solve a problem like this without even considering killing anyone, but in
modern Marvel generally Cap and Spidey still have that absolute moral sense.
Yes Reed, Beast and maybe Strange could be written to agree with Cap but given
the stakes it is not a stretch for them to have them at least explore all
options, which is where the line is so far in this trade.

Yes in the cons I could easily complain about the Infinity
Gems fracturing. I feel like that just shouldn’t happen, given what we’ve seen
of them in the past. But if it didn’t happen then this story would just be over
and done with; therefore I can see why Hickman made that choice: They are the
most obvious solution first, he had to address them and find a way to take them
off the table if this is the story he wants to tell. Of course with that consideration given, there’s no excuse for the heroes not assembling the Infinity Gems earlier and practicing with them. They come up with this plan with a couple days to spare and gather gems but don’t unite them until the moment of crisis? That does not seem like something that either an expert tactician (like Cap and Panther) or a scientist (like Reed and Tony) would do. What kind of tactician or scientist takes an untested weapon into the field?
Grade A-. Despite
my initial skepticism I liked this enough that I placed an order for the other
trades in this series from my library.

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

Avengers: The Big
Three

by Steve Englehart,
Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, Jim Shooter, Kurt Busiek, George Perez, Jack Kirby and
many others.

collects Captain
America 176, Avengers 150-151, 215-216 and 224, The Terminatrix Objective 1-4,
Avengers (vol3) 21 and Thor 81.

Why I Bought This: This
was in the discount bin of my favorite comic shop and as I love me some
Avengers and this premise could be interesting (see below), why not?
The Plot: Released
in conjunction with the first Avengers movie,
this is not so much a plot as a collection of stories over the years that focus
on the relationship of the Avengers “Big Three” of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man.

(spoilers below)

 

Chapter 1 – After the resolution of the Secret Empire
storyline in which the President of the United
States was revealed to be a traitor and killed himself in
front of Cap to prevent capture, Steve is disillusioned with America. He
considers giving up the Captain America identity and talks to Thor and Iron Man
about it first (and later to Falcon, Peggy Carter, Vision and Sharon Carter).
He ultimately decides to give up the name and mask.

Chapter 2 – It’s a changing of the guard issue as it seems
they have too many members at present. Thor quits the team. Iron Man agrees to
stay. Cap is asked if he wants to stay which leads to a long flashback of when
everyone quit but Cap and then Hawkeye, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch first
joined.

Chapter 3 – Cap decides to stay. Hawkeye and Two Gun Kid are
made reserve members. Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Wasp all decide to stay but
Hank Pym wants to quit and go back to being a scientist much to Jan’s
disappointment. Moondragon refuses membership on the grounds that she is a
“god.” Beast joins the team. Hellcat also accepts to join but then Moondragon
talks her out of it. Pym reconsiders to at least be a reserve member. This is
apparently the first time the reserve status is used by the team, as Thor
praises the idea and then he, Moondragon and Hellcat all accept reserve status
as well. The active members do the usual press conference but it is interrupted
by Wonder Man returning from the grave and accusing Vision of stealing his
mind.

Chapter 4 – Newest Avenger Tigra is enjoying her new found
fame. Meanwhile Silver Surfer bumps into Molecule Man in NJ and they share
origin stories. This inspires Molecule Man to want to eat the Earth ala
Galactus. He then defeats Surfer fairly easily by trapping him in the ground
though Surfer is able to send his board away for help. It finds the Avengers,
who are only four members at the time: the Big Three and Tigra. They free
Surfer and with much effort the heroes break through a force field Molecule Man
created around a castle he materialized. They send Tigra to sneak around but he
captures her easily. When the rest of the heroes arrive Molecule Man
disintegrates all their special weapons with a wave of his hand (i.e. Cap’s
shield, Thor’s hammer, Surfer’s board and Iron Man’s armor.) He then captures
the male heroes (Cap going down last) and seemingly kills them all in front of
Tigra by dropping a giant anvil on them.

Chapter 5 – Molecule Man tells Tigra she can live as his
pet. The FF arrive but cannot get through the force field. The male heroes turn
up alive as Surfer phased them through the floor at the last minute. Meanwhile
Thor has reverted to Don Blake without his hammer and thus he, Cap and the armor-less
Tony learn each other’s secret identities for the first time. Despite being
powerless Tony and Don insist on fighting alongside Cap and Surfer. Tigra
considers killing Molecule Man as he sleeps but is too scared to even try. As
she slinks away dejected, Cap finds her. Molecule Man attacks first by
disintegrating some spare tech Tony cobbled together and then nearly crushing
him in an avalanche. MM has the heroes on the defensive but ignores Blake and
as a result gets a broken nose from a punch, which causes him to flee. Blake
has to tend to Tony’s injuries so it is up to the three super powered heroes to
fight. Surfer tries the direct approach as he too can manipulate matter but
ultimately Molecule Man proves more powerful and wins. Cap however dodges
everything Molecule Man throws at him and KO’s him with one punch. Tony and Cap
debate whether to kill him or not (with Tony on the pro-side) but it becomes
moot when Molecule Man awakens and Tigra convinces him to see a therapist. As a
gesture of thanks he reconstitutes the heroes’ weapons for them. Surfer is
offered membership but declines, while Tigra decides these kinds of threats are
out her league and quits the team.

Chapter 6 – Hank is in prison and Wasp has filed for
divorce. Tony in a total cad move decides to date her as Tony when she still
doesn’t know his secret identity. Cap completely disapproves. Thor is more
understanding but he feels Tony owes Jan the truth about who he is. When he
tells her she doesn’t take it well and ends things with him on the spot.

Chapter 7 – Terminatrix, who has recently assumed Kang’s
empire while he is in a coma due to the terrible “Citizen Kang” crossover, encounters
a time traveling entity called Alioth who has an even larger time empire that
predates Kang’s. She returns to Chronopolis (Kang’s capital city outside the time
stream) to learn the Anachronauts that served Kang feel no loyalty to her and
are resigning. Then yet another female time traveler named Revelation summons
U.S. Agent, War Machine and Thunderstrike (all replacements for the Big Three
in their solo titles at one point) and sic them on Terminatrix. She escapes
into the old West and then pulls Cap, Thor and Iron Man to her through time.

Chapter 8 – Terminatrix gets the heroic trios to fight each
other. It ends in a stalemate (although you’d think the originals would route
the replacements) and then she sends a bunch of robots to attack all six
heroes. She time travels far into the future to escape but bumps into Marcus
(Immortus’s son with Ms. Marvel). The heroes defeat the robots and compare
notes. Marcus captures Terminatrix but she time jumps again only to end up in
Limbo captured by Immortus. Meanwhile the Avengers find their way to the Cross
Time Council of Kangs.

Chapter 9 – Three members of Kang’s council find the true
Kang’s comatose body, then reveal themselves to actually be members of the
Timekeepers. They note that in over half the timelines today is the day
Chronopolis falls. One of them wants to help Kang because Alioth is worse but
they have a non-interference vow and teleport away which is an awfully
convoluted way to insert foreshadowing into the story. Meanwhile the Avengers retreat
from the Cross Time Council. Meanwhile Immortus tells Terminatrix along with
several other women in stasis who are all apparently divergent versions of her
(including with absolutely no explanation Nebula and a female version of
Grandmaster) today is the day he dies of old age. Immortus has an older version
of Ravonna with him who wants to die at the same time he does and he is looking
for a volunteer to do it. Also this version of Marcus is his kid with Ravonna
(and doesn’t want to kill his mom, hence the nonsense with Terminatrix and her
counterparts). Then just to make this thing more complicated Immortus gives us
the origin of Tempus and it is yet another time loop: Old Immortus built him
now and is sending back in time to serve Silver Age Immortus, who up until
today never knew where Tempus came from. That done Immortus drops dead. Teminatrix
volunteers to kill Ravonna but uses their grief as a distraction and escapes
only to bump into Revelation. The heroes enter another wormhole and end up in
Timely, Wisconsin—an early 20th century town founded by Kang under
the persona Victor Timely that was part of the aforementioned Citizen Kang
crap. Meanwhile in a surprise to absolutely no one Revelation reveals she is a
future version of Terminatrix. She then produces a map of the time stream that
looks like an eighth grade rendition of Europe to explain how Alioth defeating
Kang would be bad for her/their own future empire in a bid to convince
Teriminatrix to revive Kang so he can defeat Alioth—plus she reveals that she
and Kang get together at some point anyway. Terminatrix agrees and is given a
potion of healing by Revelation. Meanwhile the Avengers defeat hi-tech keystone
kops and steal the car which is of course a time machine. Their time jump
stalls out in a mysterious black fog that reveals itself to be Alioth.

Chapter 10 – Terminatrix wakes up Kang. The Avengers get
saved from Alioth by Limbo Whales. Kang explains Alioth is a “primordial force”
that eats time travelers. He goes to find the Cross Time Council but Alioth has
(thankfully) killed them. Kang explains Alioth cannot be stopped by time travel
so Terminatrix & Revelation recruit the Avengers to stop it. Kang gives the
heroes environmental suits and a key and send them to battle Alioth. Thor’s hammer
does nothing but when he pulls the key out it transforms into Tempus. Kang then
sends the Avengers home and professes his love for Terminatrix. Revelation informs
Marcus this is when she and Kang became a couple but this time Terminatrix
stabs Kang and places him back in his coma pod. Then because this crap isn’t convoluted
enough she travels back to Timely, Wisconsin so she can date Kang as Victor
Timely instead. On the final page we see Tempus and Alioth engaged in a
stalemate for all time.

Chapter 11 – So now we jump to the middle of Busiek’s
classic “Ultron Unlimited” arc. UN Troops are trying to free the nation of
Slorenia from Ultron only to discover that he has killed the entire population
and outfitted the corpses with cybernetic implants to make necro-zombies. The
Avengers arrive to save the day consisting of our Big Three, Firestar and Black
Panther. Meanwhile Ultron has captured his “family”: Pym, Wasp, Wonder Man,
Vision, Scarlet Witch and Grim Reaper and plans to use their brainwaves to create
a new race of robot children. The Avengers find Ultron’s hideout and Ultron-16
confronts them. We then get an absolutely epic battle with the team doing
everything it can to penetrate Ultron’s adamantium shell–Panther throws
intangible energy daggers at him, Firestar uses microwave energy, Cap has his
energy shield and shoves it down Ultron’s jaw, Iron Man builds a electronic
disruptor—and none of it works. Ultimately Thor goes all out and manages to
blow Ultron up. The Avengers are exhausted and enter Ultron’s headquarters only
to find Ultron-17 waiting for them. They’re pretty dispirited by that and it
only gets worse when Ultron-23 shows himself; followed by Ultron 458 in the
cliffhanger.

Chapter 12 – We are in part 2 of 6 of a Thor story called Ragnarok (from “Avengers Disassembled”). Thor,
Cap and Iron Man are walking through a burned out Asgardian forest. Next they
came across a city of dead trolls. Cap finds an Asgardian child hiding in a
closet who says a Giant did this led by Loki. Sure enough said Giant shows up
along with Loki, Ullik the Troll and Fenris (a werewolf). A huge fight breaks
out with the heroes doing well against the monsters. Then Loki has Thor’s
hammer (since this is part 2 of a longer story there is no explanation of how
that’s possible) and turns it on Iron Man. Cap uses his shield to prevent the
killing blow. Thor stands alone and pummels both Loki and the Werewolf with his
bare hands until the villains retreat. The Avengers continue on to find Balder
the Brave’s funeral. Thor also learns his mother is dead. With that he sends
the Avengers forcibly home via teleportation to guard the Earth from Loki
should he fail. Thor then gives a rousing speech to the remaining Asgardians
though he believes this is Ragnarok and they are all destined to die.

 

Critical Thoughts
– While the concept is sound, the delivery is terrible. Most of these stories
are throwaways or lack context, while the story that takes up the most space is
atrociously awful. Let’s take them one at a time.

We start with Cap giving up his identity. While in its
entirety this is a legendary story and worth reading, for this book I don’t see
why it is included; especially as the opening story. Sure Cap talks to Tony and
Thor but he talks to other heroes too. Furthermore he doesn’t take their advice
so how does this demonstrate the bond between the three heroes?

Next we get the two-part changing of the guard issue. Again
the inclusion here is baffling. The basic scope of the story has no particular
connection for the big three. The Avengers tell this reshuffling of the roster
story repeatedly in their first 30 years or so of continuity so it is not a big
pivotal moment for the title let alone the big three. Furthermore, Thor doesn’t
even agree to stay on the team. Most bizarrely Marvel is so embarrassed by this
story that even 35 years after the fact they reprint the letters page of issue
151 wherein they publicly fire Steve Englehart for missing his deadline on the
previous issue thus forcing them to reprint large portions of issue 16 verbatim
as part of the 150th anniversary tale (a reprint incidentally that
focuses on Hawkeye, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch not Thor and Iron Man). Think
about that for a minute: I’ve never seen the letters pages of a Marvel comic
reprinted in a trade. Whether it is deluxe hard covers that sometimes have
extras like scripts, interviews with creators or rough pencils they tend not to
have letters pages; nor on the other end of the spectrum do the Essentials,
which collect two years of comics at a time in a bare bones black and white
format, include the letters page even though it would easily fit in with the
theme. But here Marvel feels the need to reprint a 35-year-old letters page
that apologizes for the preceding story—which begs the question: then why
include this story at all?

The two-part Molecule Man story is the first one that really
makes sense for inclusion. It’s a bare bones team that is primarily made of the
Big Three and it features a key moment in their dynamic as they learn each
other’s secret identities. We get to see two of them be heroes without their
powers. All in all it is a decent Avengers story. I wouldn’t consider it
great—Molecule Man’s motivations are all over the place for one thing, but I
generally liked it and it was something I hadn’t read before.

The story with Tony dating the Wasp is just sort of there.
While we do see the three heroes debate ethics a little, ultimately there’s no
action/threat and the ethical quandary does not seem as dire as the writer
makes it out to be.

Then we get to the Terminatrix thing. Now I can understand
why they included this. The only Avengers in it are the Big Three and their
replacements, whom they get to fight. For the theme of this trade including it
makes sense, especially since it has not been reprinted before in trade and was
unlikely to ever be a stand-alone trade. Of course there is a reason for
that—namely it is a terrible frickin’ story. Kang was involved in an escalating
series of nonsensical dreck from the late 80s and through the entire 90s. There
were four or five different Kang stories in that era that were all terrible in
every conceivable way. In many ways Kang was to the Avengers what the Clone
Saga was to Spider-man in that
timeframe (though at least Kang’s bad stories weren’t 45 consecutive issues
long): in that the Kang stories featured too many players, many of whom were
the same person, doing things that made no sense in badly-written,
overly-talky, poorly-paced stories bereft of any possible consequences since there
were half-a-dozen versions of the same character often dying or resurrecting in
any given issue. That Busiek miraculously untangled the mess of Kang’s
continuity in the 2000s with Avengers
Forever
is a minor miracle (note to do this he killed Terminatrix off-panel
in the first issue where she has thankfully never been referenced again). This
story in this trade represents the nadir of that era of bad Kang stories. It is
unrepentantly awful from beginning to end.

From the lowest low to the highest heights we next look at
the Ultron story, which may be the greatest single fight scene in Avengers
history. It is easily the best story in this trade and it fits the theme well.
Yet as great as this chapter is, I feel the need to point out you can find this
issue reprinted in two other trades, both of which include the entire Busiek
Ultron masterpiece (while mercifully omitting the Terminatrix story.)

Finally the Thor chapter has really nice art and camaraderie
among the three heroes. It fits the theme well, yet at the same time it is a
fraction of a larger story. I haven’t read that story but I feel one would be
better served just buying that trade than this one.

I’ll end saying given some of the questionable choices in
this volume. I’d argue at least three or four could have been replaced at no
loss to the theme, it would have been nice to include Thor 390 where Steve
proves worthy to lift the Hammer for the first time and which had never been
reprinted in trade at the time this was released. There’s also a story from the
Shooter era wherein Moondragon hypnotizes Thor and sends him to fight his
teammates of whom the only members are Cap, Tony and Wasp (along with guest
star Drax) that probably would be a better fit than several that were included.
Throw in one of the many Cap-Iron Man moral disagreements and this would have
been a much stronger collection.

 

Grade F – If this
was a numeric grade it would be a 25
rather than 0 only because the
Molecule Man story is a rare find and the Ultron story is a classic even if it
can be found elsewhere. Otherwise we have a bunch of odd choices, incomplete
stories and a catastrophically bad miniseries. There is no way in a million
years this is worth the $30 cover price. It wasn’t even worth the discounted
price I paid for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Captain America

Waiting for the Trade

Captain America: No
Escape

written by Ed
Brubaker, illustrated by Jackson Guice & Mitch Breitweiser

collects Captain America
606-610

 

Why I Bought This: Baron
Zemo is the villain who killed Bucky. If you are going to bring Bucky back from
the dead then sooner or later this is the natural story to tell, and of course
I wanted to read it.

 

The Plot: Baron
Zemo (son of the original) learns Bucky is back from the dead, and he’s not
happy about it.

(spoiler below)

 
Chapter 1 – It begins with a chance meeting between Zemo and
the Ghost—an Iron Man villain who is a master of uncovering secrets; and does
he have a doozy to share with Zemo about the new Captain America. Meanwhile
Cap (Bucky) and Falcon are fighting the Wrecking Crew. Falcon’s narration tells
us Bucky has been erratic since their last mission wherein Bucky had to shoot
and presumably kill the 1950s’ Cap (who had joined the Watchdogs and become a
terrorist but was still wearing the Cap costume); and indeed we see
confirmation of the narration as Bucky’s recklessness allows the Wrecking Crew
to escape. Sam talks to Steve as he thinks only Steve can get Bucky to talk
about what’s bothering him. Meanwhile Bucky is having nightmares about killing
the 50s’ Cap. Meanwhile Zemo is recruiting old Nazi super villains that used to
work for his father. Steve, Sam and Bucky are having drinks at a bar where Cap
and Sam give Bucky advice. They leave and Bucky is drunk even though he only
had two beers. Sam offers to get Bucky’s motorcycle for him so he won’t have to
drive. When Sam puts the key in the ignition it explodes. Zemo & Fixer
watch from the roof, where Zemo reveals the bomb was not meant to kill Sam,
just injure him enough to screw with Bucky’s head. We then see a flashback from
two days earlier where Zemo breaks into a prison to meet with Sinn and get all
the information she has on Bucky. 

Chapter 2 – Falcon is rushed to the ER where Bucky is
punching walls in his rage at Falcon taking a bomb that was seemingly meant for
him. Just then Iron Hand Hauptman (the Nazi villain Zemo recruited last issue)
attacks Bucky at the Hospital, and with Bucky still being drugged/drunk lays a
beating on him. Bucky briefly turns the tide because his cyborg arm is stronger
than the villain’s iron hand but then reinforcements arrive in the form of a
platoon of Nazis wearing full-on WWII uniforms. Bucky brutally beats the foot
soldiers into oblivion until Steve arrives to stop him, at which point we see
Bucky was hallucinating and he just beat up the local cops. Hauptman also
escaped during the confusion. Medical tests show Bucky wasn’t just drugged, he
was injected with a nanotech virus that can release additional drugs into him
as needed. The Avengers use an EMP to kill the nanos. Steve and Black Widow
brainstorm with Bucky on who could be behind this. Meanwhile the news is
running with the story of Cap brutalizing cops, and asking questions about who
this is new Cap is and who he is accountable to. Bucky is about to rush out and
confront the media when Natasha stops him by noting that is what the mystery
villain obviously wants him to do. They backtrack for clues and decide to look
into the female bartender to see if she drugged him. While they investigate,
Steve calls to say Sam is out of critical condition, adding to the heroes
deducing that everything happening is meant to enrage and distract Bucky since
otherwise a bomb should have killed Sam at that range. Natasha heads up to the
apartment of the waitress and the door explodes. This time as Bucky rushes in
to help he is met with a laser blast followed the debut of a new, female
Beetle. Meanwhile in the cliffhanger Zemo meets with an ex-KGB agent and
purchases film of the Winter Soldier.

Chapter 3 – Beetle has a brief fight with Bucky and Widow
but in her own words this is her first day as a super villain so despite the
superior firepower she’s easily outmatched. She realizes this and tries to fly
away but Bucky catches her in midair and KOs
her. They take her to the Raft prison, where Fixer works as a Thunderbolt. When
the heroes go to question her in costume she calls Cap “Bucky” and he loses his
temper again. She unnerves him more by reciting his real name and history until
Widow steps in. Beetle reveals she isn’t working for herself but little else to
Widow. Zemo contacts Fixer on a secure line and he’s okay with Beetle talking
to the heroes since she doesn’t know enough to upset his plans, and besides
he’s already set the next step in motion. Widow offers Beetle a plea bargain
but Beetle laughs in her face. Afterwards Bucky notes they got the information
they needed; they just learned that whoever is targeting him is after him
because he is Bucky and not because he is Captain America. They work through the list
of villains who know Bucky’s secret identity before Natasha hits on Zemo. Just
then a horde of reporters rushes Bucky on the street in his civilian identity questioning
him on 1-being Captain America,
2-Being Cap’s original WWII partner and 3-being the soviet assassin Winter
Soldier. Furthermore Zemo leaked to the media Winter Soldier’s training films
he acquired last chapter leaving little doubt to the public that the current
Captain America
is a former Soviet traitor.

Chapter 4 – Sam checks himself out of the hospital after
seeing the news reports, and he and Steve head off to find Bucky. Meanwhile
Widow talks Bucky into going into hiding until she can decode Zemo’s next move,
but as Bucky is packing up his belongings at his apartment he finds a note from
Zemo challenging him to a fight “where he was born.” That Zemo would come into
his house is the last straw and Bucky heads out to meet him, no longer caring
if it is a trap. Steve, Sam and Natasha find the note to try and figure out
where Zemo wants to meet Bucky. Zemo sends Iron Hand to slow them down, who
bazookas Bucky’s apartment as an opening salvo. Bucky arrives at Camp LeHigh
(where he was trained to be Cap’s partner) and finds Zemo waiting for him;
though Zemo says this is not the location he meant in his note. We cut back and
forth between the two fights. Zemo uses tech to keep Bucky on the defensive,
while it takes all three heroes to eventually overcome Iron Hand; and that
fight only ends when Steve accidentally breaks his foe’s titular hand thinking
it was a cyborg hand and not an iron glove. Bucky’s fighting skill takes Zemo
down but Zemo is playing possum and uses tech to shut down Bucky’s cyborg arm.
The fight doesn’t last long after that as Zemo shoots Bucky with a laser gun
for the KO. Bucky wakes up on a plane with Zemo revealing he is taking him to his
father’s castle where Bucky originally died.

Chapter 5 – Cap (Steve) figures out where Zemo is taking
Bucky. Cut to Bucky waking up on the island, dressed in his original costume
just outside of Zemo’s castle. Zemo has thugs dressed as Nazi’s for Bucky to
fight before he enters the fray himself wielding Cap’s shield. Zemo claims he
isn’t doing this for his father, but because Bucky does not deserve redemption.
Bucky wins the fight and is about to decapitate Zemo before thinking better of
it. Zemo says Bucky is still a killer and not a hero like Steve then hits a
button activating a trap in his castle to KO Bucky. When Bucky wakes up he is
of course tied to a replica WWII airplane with a bomb on a timer. Zemo launches
the plane, and while Bucky can’t see the timer he knows it will blow up in the
same spot as last time allowing him to estimate how much time he has to escape.
Bucky escapes as the plane explodes in midair. When he swims to shore the Cap
costume and shield are waiting for him but Zemo is gone. An hour later the
other heroes arrive to take Bucky home, who despite all Zemo put him though
realizes Zemo is right about one thing—he will need to earn his redemption.

 

Critical Thoughts:
I liked this comic book a lot, which I suppose is par for the course at this
point on the Brubaker Cap trades. In
general I find Zemo to be a very interesting villain. Historically he is Cap’s
#2 foe thanks to both the killing of Bucky and the legendary Avengers Under Siege story. While still
a Nazi, Zemo is in many ways a much more interesting character than the Red
Skull. I enjoy a good Cap vs. Skull story but generally Skull’s goals are
always the same, whereas Zemo has a lot more nuance to him thanks to years of
appearing in the Thunderbolts and his
schemes tend to be more elaborate than the Skull’s. This book is a perfect
example of that as Zemo’s scheme unfolds across every chapter showing him
outmaneuver and manipulate the heroes time and again. I also like how Zemo’s
resources and allies pay heed to both his father’s continuity in WWII and his
own with the Thunderbolts. It’s a credit to the writing that this book ends in
the most obvious comic book way possible (Zemo ties Bucky to a death trap that
recreates an iconic prior story) and yet the journey to get to that point still
feels deliciously complex.

That also brings us to Zemo’s motivation. I think the
dialogue in the finale hits just the right note of harkening back to the themes
explored with Zemo in Thunderbolts—a
book at its core about redemption, and in Zemo’s case his duality with being
raised that he was “born better” while witnessing his teammates embrace that
chance for redemption in a way he never does. This is the rare story allowing a
character to pivot back to his roots (in this case as an arch villain) without
feeling like a retread. It’s always tricky when a redeemed villain backslides.
I personally still hate what happened with Sandman in the Spidey titles. In this case however I think it fits. I mean on a
surface level Zemo is a Nazi so I don’t think many readers ever bought into his
redemption anyway. Beyond that even in Thunderbolts
he never fully became a hero at any time; even when he comes closest to
that role (circa issue 100) he still kills a true hero in Photon
(Legacy/Captain Marvel v3.0) albeit for the greater cosmic good. Bucky’s
resurrection is the perfect catalyst to make Zemo backtrack given his
longstanding daddy issues. Brubaker’s writing fleshes out the details of what
should be obvious, and even so he lets Zemo depart ambiguously by leaving the
Cap identity behind for Bucky to reclaim.

As for the heroes, by this point Bru had been writing these
characters for five years so it should not be a surprise that all of them read
true. Basically if you like Bru’s prior interpretations of Steve, Bucky, Falcon
and Widow then this is more of the same. If you like his style of espionage
flavored super-heroics this delivers on that front, although not to the degree
of his earliest work on the title. I liked Bru’s take on these characters before,
and that has not changed.

One last bonus kudo is this marks the first appearance of
the female Beetle. She’s interesting enough here for a secondary villain making
her debut. The scene where she taunts Bucky in prison is a good one. But of
course the real treat is for those of us reading Superior Foes of Spider-man where she is one of
the lead characters. In the second trade of that series you get to see these
same events from a different perspective, some of which is hysterically funny
and yet the writing of both series is such that the askew view in that title
does not diminish the dramatic tension of this trade.

 

Grade: A. This
book delivered exactly what the premise promised—letting us see what happens
when the villain who killed Bucky decades ago suddenly learns Bucky is alive—in
a satisfying way.

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade = Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

 
Amazing Spider-man:
Flying Blind
Written by Dan Slott
& Mark Waid

Illustrated by
Humberto Ramos, Emma Rios, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Kano

Collects Amazing
Spiderman 674-677 and Daredevil 8

 

Why I Bought This: It
features Black Cat, who is my favorite character in the Spider-verse. Interestingly
it took me two years to track this thing down. Twice I went to several stores
on Free Comic Book Day and none of them carried this trade. I finally bought it
on Amazon a few weeks ago for about $7.

 

The Plot: The
Black Cat story sees her accused of a crime and Spidey getting DD to defend
her. There are also stories involving the Vulture running a teen gang and the
Sinister Six battling the Intelligentsia.

 (spoilers below)

 
Chapter 1 – A dude in wings falls from the sky to his death.
We find there have been a rash of falling deaths of late, which police chalk up
to the recently concluded “Spider-Island” arc: the theory is people who got
spider-powers in that story are web slinging when their powers cut out and they
die. Meanwhile Kingpin is sad that his spider powers cut out but cheers up when
a Horizon employee offers to sell him spider-sense jammers. Meanwhile Spidey
wins a fight with some robot cops. Meanwhile we see a teen runaway recruited
into the flying gang. Meanwhile MJ and Glory Grant go clubbing. Meanwhile Peter
and Carlie Cooper bump into each other for the first time since breaking up.
They realize they are both working on the same case and agree to work together.
Meanwhile teen recruit boy learns this gang is being run by the Vulture.

Chapter 2 – Spidey and Carlie do some CSI stuff at the
police lab. Vulture tells the new kid for being in his gang: they get to fly
around and steal stuff for him then at the end of the day they get to keep a
little bit for themselves. Then for some inexplicable reason we see Vulture’s head
out is above the club MJ and Gloria are at. The gang kids exit through the club
and pick a fight with Glory’s boyfriend. This prompts MJ to call Peter just as
he and Carlie had deduced Vulture’s scheme so Spidey heads off to the club
(without Carlie). The Vulture boys execute a mid-air heist but new kid has too
much conscience for Tooms’ liking so he cuts the power to his wings. Spidey
saves him in the nick of time. Spidey then fights the kids (who have laser
scythes) as Carlie arrives. She deduces the Vulture operates all their wings on
remote and tells Spidey so he can use magnetic webbing to jam the single.
Vulture retaliates by throwing a car at Carlie but Spidey saves her. Vulture
escapes. Carlie decides she can trust Spidey enough to work with him, though
she is still upset he kept his identity from her when they were dating. The
book ends with Carlie going to see MJ to talk about Peter.

Chapter 3 – Doc Ock’s debuts a bulky exoskeleton look as his
call to his together his latest Sinister Six of Sandman, Chameleon, Rhino,
Electro and Mysterio for one final big plan (Ock is terminally ill as of ASM
600). Chameleon has infiltrated the Intelligentsia (a group of super smart Hulk
and FF villains originally led by the Leader but now led by Modok). The
Intelligentsia takes down some Russian superheroes with a teleporter ray that
sends its target into orbit. Ock wants their weapon so the Sinister Six attack
them. The rest of the issue is a big fight that Ock’s team ultimately wins
allowing them to take possession of Modok’s tech.

Chapter 4 – Pete is down in the dumps about Carlie dumping
him and decides to take out his frustrations on some muggers when low and
behold the Black Cat crosses his path. He perks up and hits on her but Felicia
refuses to be the rebound girl. When she gets to her apartment she finds a
spider tracer on her costume and then police bust in and arrest her. The next
morning Pete goes to Horizon to learn that Felicia was arrested for stealing
from the lab. He knows she is innocent since he was fighting the crooks with
her when this went down. Pete tracks down Daredevil and asks him to help clear
Felicia. Felicia meanwhile has already broken out of police custody. Spidey and
DD come across a hostage situation but when DD doesn’t register it Pete
realizes it is all an illusion as it was a hologram projector stolen from
Horizon. They make their way into a tunnel which then collapses and as Pete
tries to crawl out he has the bad luck to grab a livewire as we see Felicia
standing over the heroes.

Chapter 5 – Foggy Nelson discovers the grave of Matt’s
father has been dug up. DD recovers and takes out the fuse box before Spidey
dies. He grabs Felicia and she says wasn’t trying to kill Spidey just hurt him
for leading the police to her apartment with his tracer. Spidey denies that and
everyone agrees to work together. They search for clues and find a guy locked
in a closet. He’s the one who sold Horizon out. DD detects the dude is poisoned
and has Spidey rush him to the hospital. While Spidey is gone DD asks Felicia
to steal something for him based on some conspiracy going on his own title with
a group called Black Spectre. They take out some generic thugs and disable an
elaborate security system. The last safeguard are the holograms which DD
ignores. DD and Felicia share a kiss after they complete the theft. Then a
flashback is actually working for these Spectre people and the whole frame-up
of her was a ruse to let her get close to DD. Meanwhile Pete sees them making
out and leaves (with the funny line “I think this is my super villain origin”).
DD takes Felicia home but before they can do the deed Matt gets the phone call
from Foggy about his father’s grave. 

 

Critical Thoughts: I’ll
take these on in order. I found the Vulture story to be a perfectly acceptable
comic book story. It’s not reinventing the wheel but it’s a fine use of one of
Spidey’s classic second tier rogues. I also found the personal life stuff with
Peter and Carlie to be well written and serve the purpose of setting a new
status quo for them. I never hated Carlie like so many other fans did. I
certainly get the general hate for the ending of Peter’s marriage to MJ,
particularly the way it was done; but I don’t think that should prejudice us
against every new love interest that comes down the pike in this title. I think
Carlie is a fine supporting character: she’s not great but she’s not terrible.
More importantly whether Peter dates her or not she can serve a role in the
title as his contact on the police force, something the titles have been
missing since the death of Jean DeWolf and that fits a good niche in
Spider-man’s street crime milieu. I suppose the only real flaw with the story
is the ridiculousness of Vulture (who is a senior citizen) keeping his
headquarters over a nightclub and that MJ happens to go that same nightclub at
just the right time to lead Peter there, but it’s not like Stan Lee and Gerry
Conway didn’t use the same type of coincidences all the time in their Spidey
stories.

I was not over fond of the Sinister Six vs. Intelligentsia
battle. Slott really upped the Six’s threat level his run on the title (they
would go on to take out the Avengers in a subsequent story arc). While I’m not
one to complain about taking villains seriously, I think this reads more like a
downgrade of the Intelligentsia than an upgrade for the Six; which is a real
shame since the team was just debuted a year earlier to be major Hulk villains
so why ruin that credibility so soon? I suppose you could say without the
Leader they are not at their full strength but it still strikes me as an
unnecessary choice.

Onto the main event, I enjoyed the Black Cat story quite a
bit. Admittedly I am prone to liking Black Cat stories anyway but I thought
this one was a fun use of her ambiguous relationship with the law and keeping
the reader guessing which side she is really on. I can’t say I love the idea of
Felicia hooking up with DD but since it is ultimately revealed she’s playing
him I’m okay with it. So much so that I went out and bought the DD trade that
follows this arc up, and I almost never buy DD trades. Again much like the
Vulture story it’s not going to go down in the annals of great Spidey stories
but it uses conventional story-telling and familiar characters well.

 
Grade: B. I
wouldn’t want to pay full price for this but for what Amazon sells it for it is
a rather entertaining collection of Spidey stories.

 

 

 

Extant’s Comics Pull List

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s new comics day here in the U.S., with new books available in comic shops and online.

This month, DC Comics continues to wrap up storylines in advance of next month’s Convergence event and June’s mini-relaunch, while Marvel continues its March towards Battleworld.

My pull (and I’m admittedly a DC fanboy, so you won’t see too much Marvel on my lists) this week includes the three DC Comics weeklies – Future’s End, Earth 2: World’s End and Batman Eternal – along with the new issues of Action Comics, Constantine and Coffin Hill, a fun book from Vertigo that in my opinion needs some more love.

Other notable stuff coming out this week: new issues of Star Wars, Walking Dead, Spider-Gwen and Astro City, along with Bill & Ted’s Most Triumphant Return.

What does your pull list look like?

In other news, Powers debuted yesterday on PlayStation Plus and Flash and Arrow come back to TV next week.

Anyone else watch the first three episodes of Powers?

Waiting for the Trade – Hulk

Waiting for the Trade

Fall of the Hulks:
Prelude

Written by Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak, Jeff Parker and Fred
Van Lente. Illustrated by Ed McGuinness,

            Ron
Garney, Mitch Breitweiser, Dan Panosian, Michael Ryan and Peter Vale.

Collects Hulk#2 and 16, Son of Hulk #1, Hulk: Raging
Thunder, Planet Skaar Prologue, All-New Savage She-Hulk #4, Amazing Fantasy
#15, Hulk #9 and Incredible Hulk #600-601.

Why I Bought This: I liked the villain concept for this crossover, i.e. that Leader and a
few other super intelligent villains have had a secret alliance for years, and
now they plan to take out the eight men who are smarter than them in their
quest for world domination. I was less intrigued by the concept that there are
11 Hulks running around now or the spoiler I heard that every Marvel hero but
Deadpool becomes a Hulk during this thing. So, when I looked for the main
crossover title on Amazon it was more expensive than I was willing to pay, but
this Prelude existed and was a bit cheaper so I thought I’d pick it up to see
if I wanted to wade into the entire thing.

 

The Plot: More
or less a primer on the 17,000 Hulks running around who are going to be targeted in
the big crossover such Red Hulk, Skaar, Red She Hulk and Savage She Hulk
(alongside Banner and regular She Hulk).

 (spoilers below)

Chapter 1 – Maria Hill is
briefing Tony Stark (currently the head of SHIELD) on the recent assassination
of the Abomination as She Hulk listens in. Suddenly Red Hulk smashes in and
defeats She Hulk in seconds off-panel. Tony fights him for a bit as he growls
but has to abandon the battle when the Hellicarrier starts to crash. Red Hulk
uses the distraction to plant a computer virus that erases all files on the
Hulk and escape. Next we cut to Rick Jones hitchhiking. He also gets attacked
by Red Hulk only to transform into a blue Abomination known as A-Bomb.

Chapter 2 – We get the back-story
of Sakaar (“Planet Hulk”) and see that after Hulk left for World War Hulk his wife’s magic energy kept their child healthy in
her corpse long enough for him to be born in a pool of lava and climb out. The
naked infant is born knowing how to walk as well as hunt, kill and eat some
giant bug creatures. One year later he’s a boy/teen/young man (the art is
contradictory) and leading some nomads against a barbarian horde. Dragon’s
breath kills his companions but leaves him unharmed so he can fight the head
barbarian, who seems to kill him in one blow. Later that night however the
lesser barbarians get sliced down one-by-one before Skaar reveals himself for
round two with the head barbarian.

Chapter 3 – We meet Thundra
in her dystopian 23rd century future where men and women have formed
separate nations and are constantly at war, and see her kill an enemy. Thundra
is sent back in time to fight Hulk, allegedly to prove female superiority to
her soldiers, but in fact she has a secret mission. She ambushes the dumb savage
Hulk and they trade punches until her future tech shows her he is the candidate
she was looking for, at which point she seduces Hulk. She returns to her own
time pregnant. Fast forward 20 years in Thundra’s future and we meet Hulk’s
green skinned amazon daughter.

Chapter 4 – We meet teen boy
Amadeus Cho, who is being tracked by spies. Cho is “the seventh smartest person
in the world.” He broke the record of some televised game show thus garnering
the attention of said spies, who then firebombed his home. He’s at a diner
where some cop hassles him over bringing a dog inside so Cho goes all Matrix-fu
by seeing various geometric angles before attacking and escaping. During his
escape he bumps into the Hulk, and they seemingly become friends.

Chapter 5 – In a previous
issue She Hulk, Valkyrie and Thundra were fighting Red Hulk. Now a bunch of
other female superheroes join them: Invisible Woman, Tigra, Black Widow, Storm,
Hellcat and Spider-Woman. They all bull rush him but Rulk shrugs them off. She
Hulk gets mad and gets some good shots in. Sue cuts off his air with a force
field around the head and then Storm creates a thunderstorm inside the force
field for the KO. They tie him up with Thundra’s chain and then gossip while
they wait for him to revert to human until someone points out that She Hulk
doesn’t revert to human when she goes to sleep. Rulk wakes up and snaps the
chain with ease, aiming the debris to KO Spider Woman and Storm (the only two
flyers). He then grabs Thundra and leaps off. He then says he has an offer for
her at which point we cut to her calling She Hulk on the phone to say Rulk let
her go without speaking to her.

Chapter 6 – Skaar comes to
Earth. His presence is psychically felt by Hulk, She Hulk and, for some reason,
Kate Waynesboro (a brief love interest of Bruce’s in the 80s prior to issue
300), who brings the information to Norman Osborn. Reed Richards’ equipment
also detects the dimensional portal Skaar used to arrive. Skaar wants to kill
his father. The FF meets up with She Hulk and they decide to intercept Skaar
together. Kate summons the War Bound (from World War Hulk) to help find and
protect Skaar. Reed is worried if Hulk meets his son he will change from dumb
Hulk to his potential planet destroying Green Scar personality. Skaar sees some
park rangers kill a coyote so he breaks their helicopter. She Hulk intercepts
him and attempts to talk but the army shoots her with a tank. Skaar tosses Thing
to the ground with ease while the army attacks the FF for some reason. Skaar
attacks the army as the fight goes live on TV (and we see various heroes and
villains react). The army (possibly on Norman’s
orders) bombs the hell out of the FF-Skaar battle site. In the wreckage Skaar’s
sword is broken and there is no sign of him. She Hulk can no longer psychically
feel him (implying he his dead) but in the cliffhanger he has changed into a
human teen and is petting the coyote.

Chapter 7 – We are once again
joined in progress, this time Llyra (Hulk’s daughter with Thundra) traveled
back in time to assassinate Norman Osborn only to be captured by him, but then
started making out with him in a prior cliffhanger. We pick up with her
rejecting Osborn despite her talking future tech sidekick saying he would make
a good father genetically. Llyra decides she hates her home reality and wants
to stay in the present. Osborn calls in the Dark Avengers to prevent her
escape. Llyra’s powers are the opposite of the Hulk: if she gets angry she
loses them, but when she is calm she taps into gamma energy from the big bang
and basically turns into Neo from the Matrix. She beats the heck out of Ares,
Wolverine v2.0, Bullseye and Venom v2.0 before Moonstone and Iron Patriot use
their energy powers to take her down. Meanwhile She Hulk is attempting to
rescue Llyra but is delayed by Sentry and Captain Marvel v6.0. Jen outmaneuvers
them so that she can get to Llyra. The two She-Hulks then turn the tide long
enough for a subset of SHIELD called ARMOR to teleport them to safety. ARMOR
deports Llyra to her home dimension where we learn she succeeded in her true
mission to download some computer files from Osborn’s HAMMER records. Llyra is
then granted freedom from the sisterhood of her future so she returns to
exactly when/where she left in the present and trades Osborn’s secrets for
immunity to stay in the main Marvel reality as an agent of ARMOR.

Chapter 8 – She Hulk recruits
Ben Urich (Daily Bugle reporter, usually found in Daredevil) to help her uncover the identity of Red Hulk. He brings
Peter Parker along and She Hulk gets Doc Samson and the four of them sneak into
Gamma Base, where they find Modok, AIM and Thunderbolt Ross are working
together and have captured A-Bomb and Bruce Banner. Seeing Modok makes Samson
wig out as he’s apparently been brainwashed to have an evil personality. Samson
and She Hulk fight until Modok blasts them both. Red Hulk finds Urich but Pete
switches to Spidey and pulls Urich to safety. Spidey uses his agility to keep
away from Red Hulk and frees the prisoners. Hulk and Red Hulk fight briefly
until Red Hulk uses an energy drain power to turn Hulk back into Banner
(allegedly permanently). Spidey escapes with Urich and A-Bomb escapes with
Banner, leaving She Hulk and Samson behind. Later, Red Hulk meets up with Urich
and threatens him into killing his story (not that he learned who Red Hulk is,
but that Ross and AIM are working together to make gamma powered super
soldiers).

Chapter 9 – Banner stops some
dude from beating his kid on the subway. When he gets off the Avengers and FF
are waiting for him as this has first time back in NYC since “World War Hulk.”
Bruce has come to meet with Reed for info on Skaar (who apparently in some
other issue not reprinted here fought the savage Hulk and stabbed him in the
chest). While he’s there Marvel’s smarted heroes (Reed, Pym, Beast, Black
Panther and Cho) test Banner’s blood and confirm that he can no longer become
the Hulk. Bruce doesn’t believe them since Hulk always comes back, and then
steals the Green Scar Hulk’s sword from Reed’s lab and teleports away. Banner
then seemingly transforms into Green Scar and challenges Skaar to a fight, but
in fact Banner is wearing some Gamma-absorbing armor from his early 60s’
comics. While Skaar’s gamma strength can’t dent it, when he switches to his
mother’s “old world” seismic power he shatters the suit. Banner explains he
can’t become Hulk anymore right now, and believes Skaar only wants to kill Hulk
(specifically Green Scar) and not Banner. Banner adds that Green Scar wants to
kill his son as well because Skaar destroyed his mother’s planet. Banner offers
to align with Skaar and train him so that he can defeat Green Scar when the
Hulk power inevitably returns. To that end he sends Skaar to pick a fight with
Juggernaut as his first test in the cliffhanger.

Chapter 10 – We start with
another JIP with a previously page for an issue not in this trade. In this case
Domino may have discovered the secret of Red Hulk’s identity so he hired Elektra
and Thundra to capture her, which caused Wolverine to come to the rescue.
Wolvie stabbed Red Hulk in the eyes and blinded him only for a Red She Hulk to
show up and make the save. On top the new stuff as Red She Hulk claims she
killed both Elektra and Domino (and is no wielding their weapons). Wolvie
responds by stabbing her in the leg while stabbing the third rail of the subway
line causing them both to be electrocuted. He then stabs her in the chest,
which seems to casually take in stride. She spits fire on him and gets a few
punches in, while claiming to have killed She Hulk too, causing Wolvie to go
berserk. Then for some reason Punisher shows up and shoots Wolverine. Deadpool
is with Punisher until Red She Hulk stabs him with Elektra’s sai. Archangel arrives to help Wolverine though Thundra
dispatches him with ease. Red She Hulk helps Red Hulk escape and as they talk
we get all clues about their secret identities (ultimately revealed to be
Thunderbolt Ross and Betty Ross shortly after this story). Meanwhile a mystery
person arrives and convinces Wolvie to leave and tend to his wounded X-Force
teammates. He then makes an offer to the remaining antiheroes. Back in the
tunnels Red She Hulk turns on Red Hulk and beats him down then delivers to Doc
Samson, who has the antiheroes and reveals he has been pulling the strings all
along.

 

Critical Thoughts: This is mostly terrible. I think the basic concept is flawed in much
the same way the Clone Saga was flawed. One or two alternate versions of a
major character are fine, but more than that gets ridiculous. Let’s assume
there was a good story to be told in the Red Hulk mystery or there is a good
story to tell involving Hulk having a grown barbarian son from another planet
(I’m dubious of that second claim since that origin story is this trade is
awfully dumb, but for argument’s sake we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt).
Red She Hulk still feels like one step too many, where the writers are being
more cutesy than clever. Once we give Hulk yet another grown child in that
amazon She Hulk or we turn Rick Jones into an Abomination clone it feels like
we’re just piling on nonsense for no reason (not to mention Hulk has yet
another alien child not in this book that for some reason has vast cosmic
power). This is a perfect example where less would be more; especially since
Hulk has a basic straightforward superpower that is probably the most
widespread in comics anyway. Thus it is not like we haven’t seen Hulk fight
other super strong characters before, it’s pretty much his most common story
traditionally so the writers need more of a hook than just color and sex
variations to make these alternate Hulks interesting, and that’s not being done
in this sampler. And if we go beyond the pages of this trade, once this story
finished it’s revelations it has the effect of decimating Hulk’s civilian
supporting cast as now Rick Jones, Betty Ross and Thunderbolt Ross are all
gamma monsters leaving Hulk with exactly zero normal humans in his orbit, which
I can’t imagine is a positive development for any series to radically alter the
entire supporting cast, especially to alter them all in the exact same way.

Next, it seems the villain is
Doc Samson. A character no one has ever given a crap about so why would we care
if he turns heel in a general sense? And specifically how does he measure up as
the potential main villain of this crossover, when we are already have the much
more interesting secret alliance led by the Leader, and the year long Red Hulk
mystery as selling points? Of course I say Samson seems to be the main villain
but in one chapter Samson is just a brainwashed dupe of Modok but then in the
ultimate cliffhanger he seems to be the one pulling the strings, so who the
heck knows?

This leads to the related
criticism of how little I care about these new characters. Skaar is at best
two-dimension and at worst jaw-droppingly ridiculous (he’s born able to walk
and hunt?). Cho doesn’t do it for me, although at least other writers have
tried to make him interesting. Thundra was not interesting in the 70’s when she
hung out with Thing, and now this book completely erases her subsequent history
(she had married Arkon in the pages of Avengers
decades ago) and reverts her back to basics with the end result of giving Hulk
another, less interesting child from the future. And here’s a little thing, why
are we naming that character “Llyra?” when Namor has a green-skinned female villain
with the exact same name and look. Then we have Red She Hulk, whose attitude in
her first appearance is like a parody of the worst of 90’s comic. Actually that
entire fight issue that closes the trade is like a bad parody as numerous
characters are stabbed in the chest and aren’t even phased; which removes all
stakes or sense of danger from the action.

There are really only two
positives about this book: one minor and one major. The minor one is the fight
scene with the Lady Liberators and Red Hulk is entertaining. (Although if She
Hulk was recruiting female superheroes to take down a Hulk-class foe why isn’t
Spectrum there? Spectrum is likely the most powerful female hero in the Marvel
Universe and served with She Hulk on the Avengers. Instead lightweights like
Tigra, Hellcat and Spider Woman, all of whom could not possibly hurt a Hulk are
recruited. Dagger would also be much better choice than half the women chosen,
though I’m not sure She Hulk knows Dagger). Still as written it is a fun issue
both in terms of the fight and the ladies’ banter.

The best thing about the book
is the characterization of Banner himself. I like how Banner does not doubt for
a second that he’s not actually cured of the Hulk despite Reed and company’s
tests. I like the way he confronts Skaar. I like the way he scares the abusive
father on the train. I like how he seems to be in control and planning ahead
for once. It’s been a long time since Banner has been written with clarity
(probably not since Peter David’s Pantheon era in the 90s). And since Banner is
the lead character in the book finding an interesting take on him is a major plus
in this thing’s favor.

 

Grade: D. In
terms of providing a primer of who the various Hulks are, this book succeeds in
its goal, which prevents it from getting a failing grade. However, while it may
give someone a general idea of who all these new Hulks are, it does not entice
me to want to read about any of them again.

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Secret Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

Secret Avengers (2):
Eyes of the Dragon

Written by Ed
Brubaker, Illustrated by Mike Deodato & Will Conrad

Collects Secret
Avengers #6-12

 

Why I Bought This: It
was $6 at BAM. Given the quality of Bru’s Cap run, I was interested to see what
he would do with an Avengers title, particularly one with Cap in the lead and
an espionage-based concept.

 

The Plot: Shang
Chi’s father (Fu Manchu) has returned from the dead and it is up to the
Avengers to stop him.
 

(spoilers below)

 

Chapter 1 – Shang Chi is sleeping when he is awoken by a
ninja attack. He recognizes them as his father’s ninjas, even though his father
is supposed to be dead. Shang Chi has the fight well in hand, when another
Asian hero “Prince of Orphans,” who can transform into green mist arrives to
help. We learn the Prince was sent in by Cap to retrieve Shang Chi. We
flashback to two days ago when the Prince found a temple of slaughtered monks
and a missing magic scroll that can raise the dead. Back in the present Cap and
Shang Chi come up with a plan of attack to stop Fu Manchu from being
resurrected. This leads to Cap, Widow and Shang Chi breaking into a museum to
preemptively steal some other magic artifact only to be attacked by more
ninjas. Cut to the Shadow Council, where we see Fu Manchu is indeed walking
about though he is only ‘half-alive” and we get a close up of his undead face.

Chapter 2  – ThenNinjas
overrun the heroes and manage to teleport away with Shang Chi. Cap is
surprisingly okay with this as we learn Ant Man (v3.0) is hidden in Shang Chi’s
robe and Ant Man’s helmet is linked to the Hellicarrier. The plan was to track
the ninjas but when they want to behead Shang the heroes are forced to escape.
Meanwhile Valkyrie and Orphan Prince are in China looking for more magic items
and they too get ambushed by a few ninjas. The heroes easily win and bring back
a prisoner for Cap and Widow to interrogate. Meanwhile the Shadow Council is
unhappy so they decide to unleash John Steele on Cap, whom the narration tells
us was America’s
first super soldier.

Chapter 3 – We get a little back-story on Steele and Cap in
WWII as Steele plans a distraction so he can kidnap Shang Chi. Meanwhile Beast
researches and discovers Shang Chi’s father is centuries old and his original
name is Zheng Zu (because Marvel lost the license to Fu Manchu decades ago).
Also the secret to his immortality is to drain the life of family members. Sharon alerts Steve that Zheng Zu is committing a major
terrorist attack in broad daylight in Hong Kong.
The heroes respond and once engaged Shang is suspicious if this is really the
work of his father. Cut to the Hellicarrier where Steel and Max Fury (a rogue
Nick Fury LMD) break in to attack Sharon.
Zheng Zhu blows up Steve’s plane so the heroes cannot go back to aid her. Shang
Chi fights his way to dad only to discover he is a hologram. Beast and Sharon lose their fight.
War Machine and Steve fly in to make the save but its too late Steele has
escaped with Sharon.
He’s left Steve a video offering a hostage exchange of Sharon for Shang Chi.

 Chapter 4 – We get
Cap’s take on Steele’s origin: he dates back to the Civil War and while he
doesn’t have Steve’s fighting skill he does have super strength and
invulnerability similar to Luke Cage. He’s been MIA since 1943. Meanwhile Max
Fury tries to recruit Sharon
to the Shadow Council. Meanwhile Shang tells Steve he is willing to make the
exchange. Cap & Shang meet with Steele on a rooftop. He turns over Sharon and shoots Shang
in the head. That leads to Cap and Steele going one on one and surprisingly
Steele wins, at which point the rest of the team shows up to make the save.
Steele manages to escape while the heroes are occupied with generic thugs. Back
at villain HQ Shang and his father have a moment with Fu Manchu promising to
sacrifice his boy at nightfall. In the cliffhanger we see Moon Knight managed
to sneak into the villains’ hideout disguised as one of the thugs.

Chapter 5 – The heroes crash the sacrificial ceremony. This
time Cap leaves Steele to Valkyrie while he takes on Max. Orphans materializes
and disrupts Fu Manchu’s spell causing him to self combust. Max escapes. Steele
manages to fight Valkyrie to a stalemate but when War Machine lends a hand the
heroes overwhelm him. In the epilogue the door is left open for Shang Chi to join
the team, while Cap visits Steele in prison to ask why he switched sides.

Chapter 6 – Cap uses VR to access Steele’s memories. This
leads to the usual Marvel WWII flashback tale of Nazis in castles. This time
they were trying to summon monsters. Steele becomes aware of Rogers in his brain and breaks free of his
chains in real life.

Chapter 7 – Cap and Orphan Prince subdue Steele with ease.
We return to the VR simulation and see how the Shadow Council captured Steele
and then with an occult ritual summoned the Abyss, who took possession of his
body. At the conclusion of the flashback Steele is himself again and agrees to
join the team.

 

Critical Thoughts:
This is a fairly mundane comic. It’s not bad per se, but it is rather run of
the mill in both action and characterization. There are not any major plot
twists. The threat never seems all that serious. Even the few new characters we
are given are not interesting at all. Furthermore on the latter point Prince of
Orphans is a terrible name for a superhero, while Steele is a yet another
heretofore unknown Super Soldier for Cap to deal with. I’ve complained about
this once before but the point still stands: Cap has way too many foes that are
variations of his powers and origin; one of these is fine, nearly a dozen is
ridiculous especially since no one stays dead in the Marvel Universe so you can
just use the existing ones if this point if you need to tell this story yet
again.

Also on the continuity police front,  why is Fu Manchu dead?
I’m assuming he died when Shang Chi’s 70s book ended (which I never read). But
he was alive and running his empire in the excellent 2000 era team book Marvel Knights. And since Marvel doesn’t
really own the name to the character and Shang Chi doesn’t appear very often I
find it doubtful that he died since that series’ premature cancellation. (Also
an interesting footnote is that series also had a rogue Nick Fury LMD as one of
its recurring villains, so that makes it twice as unforgiveable for an editor
not to catch this point since one could argue Max Fury first appeared in that
series too).

The only positive thing I have to say about this book is the
art in the two fight scenes with Steele is very dynamic.

 

Grade C-. Again
not a terrible comic but there is no reason to go out of your way to read this
either.


Waiitng for the Trade (Hulk, X-men & Daredevil)

Waiting for the Trade
The 100 Greatest
Marvels of All Time #13 – 10.

written by Stan Lee,
Mark Millar, Frank Miller & Larry Hama

art by Jack Kirby,
Adam Kubert & David Mazzuchelli

collects Incredible
Hulk #1, Ultimate X-men #1, Daredevil #227 & Wolverine #75

 Why I Bought This: It
was a $1.50 at my local comic shop and I’ve actually never read Hulk #1 before
so that alone made it worth picking up.
The Plot: So in
2001 Marvel ran a poll asking for the 100 greatest stories of all time and then
turned that into a series of four issue trades priced at $7.50 each. This one
has the first appearance of the Hulk, the first issue of Ultimate X-Men, the first chapter of the Daredevil “Born Again”
story arc, and the final chapter of the X-Men’s “Fatal Attractions” crossover.

(spoilers below)

 
Chapter 1 – We meet Bruce Banner, General Thunderbolt Ross
and Betty Ross for the first time setting up Bruce as the meek but brilliant
scientist, Betty’s crush on Bruce and Ross’s disapproval of Bruce. We also meet
a lab assistant named Igor. It is the day of the Gamma Bomb test. Teenager Rick
Jones goes joyriding into the military base on a dare. Bruce spots him and goes
to evacuate the teen leaving it to Igor to halt the test but Igor has his own
agenda and lets the bomb detonate. Bruce gets Rick to shelter but absorbs the
bomb’s radioactive detonation. The military have Bruce & Rick locked in a
bunk and when night falls Bruce transforms into a grey Hulk. He breaks out of
the base and wanders into the desert as Rick follows. Hulk finds Igor
ransacking Bruce’s office and beats him down. Rick helps Hulk realize he is
Banner and Hulk seems like he is going to kill Rick to keep his secret safe but
then turns back into Bruce. The military arrives and arrest Igor for being a
spy and question Bruce and Rick about the Hulk. In his cell Igor contacts the
Gargoyle, who seems to be a deformed Russian midget mad scientist and Gargoyle
launches a missile attack. Bruce has Rick drive him to the dessert so when he
transforms that night no one will be hurt however they are followed by
Gargoyle. Meanwhile Betty goes for a night walk to cope with her worries about
Bruce, bumps into the Hulk and promptly faints. Gargoyle then shoots Hulk with
a mind control bullet and takes him to meet more some more Red spies. Come
morning Hulk turns into Banner and he is not subject to the mind control. In a
stunning display of astuteness for the Silver Age Gargoyle immediately figures
out Hulk is Banner. Seeing that Hulk can become a normal human makes him cry.
He then frees Bruce and Rick and turns his missile upon himself.

Chapter 2 – The Sentinels are killing mutants in the
streets. And we learn this is authorized by the President as Magneto and the
Brotherhood initiated terrorist attacks on NYC and DC a week ago. We see Beast
(in his original ape-like form without the blue fur) where he gets bothered by
bigots in a bar. Next punk rock looking Jean Grey recruits Beast, Storm and Colossus
to the X-men. Professor X and Cyclops give the new recruits tour and introduce
Cerebro and the other standard X-house gimmicks. We get the usual Magneto/Pro X
were friends once back-story although this one had Pro X forming the
Brotherhood with Magneto in the Savage
Land before Magneto
impaled him on a metal rod and cost him his legs, and then Pro X formed the
X-men to stop Magneto. Cerebro sends the X-men to rescue a teen mutant runaway
who ends up being Ice-Man and they end up fighting some Sentinels in the
process. Afterwards Magneto sees the fight on the news and calls in the Brotherhood
whose members include Toad, Scarlet Witch and Wolverine.

Chapter 3 – We open on Karen Page who is now a porn actress
and a junkie and she sells DD’s secret identity for smack. Six weeks later the
info makes it way to Kingpin, and he decides to test the info and if it proves
valid kill everyone else who handled it on the way to him. Six months later
Matt Murdock wakes up to get the mail where he learns he’s behind on his
mortgage, being audited, his assets are frozen and his girlfriend is breaking
up with him. Next he gets indicted on bribing a witness to perjure himself. The
prosecution’s key witness is a cop with an impeccable record. Matt’s
ex-girlfriend Glory finds her apartment ransacked and ends up moving in with
Matt’s former law partner Foggy Nelson. Matt turns into Daredevil and pays a
visit to the cop witness. The cop kicks him out of his home but after DD leaves
the Cop makes a phone call asking revealing he is going along with this to get
his terminally-ill son treated which DD hears from the roof with his
super-hearing. When he gets back to his apartment he finds all the utilities
are shut off. As the months pass Kingpin enjoys watching DD lose his cool more
and more as he fails to shake down any info on who is doing this to him. Foggy
is able to keep Matt out of prison but he loses his law license, which is just
what Kingpin wanted. Meanwhile Karen narrowly escapes a hitman. Matt is
wandering home wondering what to do next: he has no job, no assets and 30 days
before the bank forecloses and then his apartment explodes. And finally Matt
realizes this is all Kingpin’s doing and vows revenge.

Chapter 4 – Wolverine is in really bad shape after Magneto
ripped the adamantium off his bones through his skin. If not for both Jean Grey
telekinetically holding him together and his healing factor he’d be dead; and
even so he’s in critical condition. The fight was on Asteroid M so now the
X-men are trying to get back to Earth to get Wolvie medical attention before he
flat-lines. Jean and Professor X enter Wolvie’s mind to shut down his pain
receptors to help him survive and this leads to one of those mindscape stories
where the telepaths witness key moments in Wolvie’s life some of which play out
in a surreal manner. Anyway that goes on for most of the issue with cuts and
back and forth to either problems landing the plane or X-men giving him medical
attention as his health deteriorates. Ultimately the plane lands safely with a
little help from Jean’s TK though she nearly gets sucked out of the plane when
the roof blows off which causes Wolvie to wake up and grab her. We jump ahead a
few weeks as Wolvie heals. He tries the danger room for the first time since
the injury and it isn’t going well until he suddenly pops bone-claws, which
even he did not know he had. In the aftermath of that incident, he talks with
Jubilee and makes the decision to quit the X-men so he can walk the earth and find
himself.

 
Critical Thoughts:
Certainly for the price I paid this was worthwhile. The first two chapters were
stories I’d never read before and both ended up being quite good. The third is
a classic tale worth revisiting. The fourth one is pretty subpar, especially
for a collection of all-time great stories, but that’s not enough to drag down
the book as a whole. With that said let’s take them one at a time.

Hulk’s origin is another example of Stan Lee’s genius. What
more needs to be said about the sheer volume of outstanding creativity Stan Lee
gave us in the silver age. Yes, in the course of 50 years one can argue that a
lot of Hulk stories tend to be the same thing over and over again, but for an
original concept Hulk was like no other superhero before him. More than that
Stan Lee works his magic creating outstanding supporting characters in
Thunderbolt Ross and Betty. Even Rick Jones is a nice variation on the typical
teen sidekick of the era. He is not joining the Hulk because ‘gosh gee wiz
fighting bad guys is swell, and you’re the greatest Hulk;’ but because he is
racked with guilt for accidentally turning an innocent man into a monster. (And decades later, Peter David would turn Jones into one of the most
entertaining characters in comics). This is the first appearance of four
lynchpin characters of the Marvel Universe, how can it get anything but a positive
review.

Ultimate X-men was a surprisingly good comic. I say
surprisingly good because I’m not much of an X-men fan in the main continuity
and I have no use for the Ultimate universe (though admittedly I’ve read very
little of it outside of Spider-man). First of all the art is fantastic in this
book. The Sentinels have never looked more imposing than they do in this. On
top of that this is really strong first issue to set up the revamped origin of
the X-men. There’s some intriguing changes here in the Pro X/Magneto dynamic.
This is good enough to make me consider reading more of it in the future, and
it was not something that was remotely on my radar before.

The Daredevil chapter is exceptional writing. That is a hell
of a cliffhanger. I’ve read Born Again before, but you kind of forget just how
good it is, probably because DD is not a hero usually on my radar. I own the
great classic DD stories (Elektra Saga, Born Again and Guardian Devil) but
that’s about it outside of him guest starring in Spidey once in a while.

As for the Wolverine story, I hate mindscape stories in
general that’s another subgenre where you’ve read one, you’ve read them all.
Beyond that, I really don’t see why it is here. I don’t think Fatal Attractions
is all that great a crossover to begin with but if you were going to include it
I would go with the chapter before this which has the two big shock moments of
Magneto ripping out Wolvie’s bones and Professor X mindwiping Magneto. This has
what? The bone claws reveal? Really? I realize Wolverine is popular and this
story was published about a year or so before the poll was taken so it was
fresh in his fans mind, but even so are the bone claws that exciting a
development that they belong above the other three stories in this list? Because
I don’t see it, and history has proven this was just a footnote before Wolvie
got his metal claws back a few years later.
Grade: If we’re averaging it’s three A’s and D which comes
out to an A-.

Waiting for the Trade – Captain America

Happy new year all

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

Captain America: Winter
Soldier ultimate collection

By Ed Brubaker and
Steve Epting.

Collects Captain America #1-9
and 11-14

 

Why I Bought This: I
mentioned this before but I actually avoided this book for a long time. I don’t
think I picked it up until 2012 or so. Because let’s be honest, the idea of
Bucky comes back from the dead as a cyborg assassin screams comic cliché/fan
fiction—on top of which I never particularly gave a crap about Bucky to begin
with. Chances are if you’ve read one flashback Cap and Bucky in WW2 story,
you’ve read them all; most of them involve old scientists in castles behind
enemy lines (according to Marvel, WWII was fought with more castles than the
middle ages). The net result is Bucky has always been just a plot point in
Steve’s backstory rather than an actual character so I’ve never particularly
cared when other writers would dig up his corpse for some flashback story or
heretofore unknown threat from the past emerging. Of course every review written
gushed over Brubaker’s run in general and this arc in particular. Being the Cap
fan I am I finally caved and bought this.
The Plot
Captain America’s world moves more fully into espionage and terrorism when a
mysterious assassin known as Winter Soldier kills the Red Skull under orders
from Russian general Alexander Lukin in a bid to claim the power of the Cosmic
Cube forcing Cap and SHIELD to investigate.

(spoilers below)

 
Chapter 1 – Years ago the Red Skull met Russian general
Alexander Lukin for the first  time as
Lukin sold him weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lukin also
has a frozen cyborg in his possession that intrigues the Skull, but Lukin says
he will only trade it for the Cosmic Cube. Skull notes he too is looking for
the Cube and if he got it he certainly wouldn’t trade it. Cut to the present
where the Skull has recovered an imperfect Cosmic Cube. He intends to jump
start its power by burning several cities to the ground. Steve meanwhile is
depressed about the death of Hawkeye and disbanding of the Avengers in “Avengers
Disassembled” so Sharon Carter checks in on him. She also notes his tactics
have been more extreme of late as he recently thwarted a hijacking of a train
and in the process hospitalized and killed the perps. Steve goes home and we
see the Skull has someone tailing him. Skull’s plotting is interrupted by a
phone call from Lukin who offers to buy the Cube from him. Skull turns him down
and is promptly assassinated by our mystery cyborg.

Chapter 2 – Crossbones is waiting on Red Skull to call. Cap
is having nightmares about Bucky dying in battle in WWII. Fury calls Cap to the
Hellicarrier where SHIELD has recovered Skull’s body. Their spy tech confirms
this is really Skull but Cap has his doubts. Cap flashes back to how he was
created to battle the Skull. Cap and Sharon
find some leads at the Skull’s house that lead them into the sewers where they
find Crossbones and some henchmen recruited from AIM however because of the
darkness of the tunnel the heroes never see Crossbones. After the heroes win
Crossbones overhears them talking about the Skull’s death. Fury’s forensic team
learns Skull had a Cosmic Cube and now it’s missing. Crossbones vows to burn
down several cities in memory of the Skull.

Chapter 3 – SHIELD is following more leads, while Cap keeps
having World War II flashbacks that end differently than they historically played
out. Union Jack reports Skull’s agents in London
were murdered and the firebomb stolen. Cap and Sharon track down and beat up the responsible
AIM agents, who stole the bomb because Skull’s henchmen within AIM stole it
from them first. Cap and Sharon spend some
downtime in Paris.
Meanwhile in Pittsburg Cap’s former partner Nomad is murdered outside of a bar.

Chapter 4 –Lukin’s Cube has very little power but it has
enough to help him in a corporate takeover meeting with Roxxon Oil. Cap
receives a call from Fury that upsets him and he departs immediately. Fury then
meets with Sharon
to reveal the assassin may be Nomad as his prints were found on the rifle used
to kill Skull though both feel that is awfully convenient. Cap is at Arlington Cemetery where the gravestones of two
former replacement Caps have been destroyed. Cap is attacked by Crossbones
while simultaneously having more weird flashbacks Crossbones beats Cap down but
denies destroying the graveyard, saying he got a call from a Russian telling
him where to find Cap. Bones realizes he has been setup as well and leaves. Sharon’s search for Nomad
has her find the unknown cyborg, who drops her with one punch.

Chapter 5 – Fury tells Cap the most likely Russian suspect
(based on Crssobones comments last chapter) is Lukin, who we are told heads the
international Kronas Corporation. Cap then tells a story of a WWII mission in Russia under a
Colonel Karpov whom Cap immediately dislikes because he tortures prisoners.
This is also the beginning of the Bucky was an assassin during the war retcon.
Anyway the mission goes south, Cap calls in the Invaders, and ultimately the
Red Skull is found in the village
of Kronas using a heat-beam
laser. The village burns to the ground and the weapon is destroyed but the
Skull escapes. After Cap left Karpov found the village’s soul survivor: a boy
named Alex Lukin whom he would raise and train. Of course Cap doesn’t know that
last part while Fury’s intel puts Karpov as 20 years dead. Cap heads off to
deal with his escalating weird memory problems while Fury has a classified
dossier that may “destroy Cap’s world.”

Chapter 6 – The mystery cyborg is in Philly setting a bomb
and leaving Nomad’s body behind as a scapegoat. He also had Sharon tied up in his trunk. We meet some
SHIELD agent whose been dating Sharon
and is worried she hasn’t checked in for 24 hours. Cap goes to Castle Zemo and
begins to remember being tortured with Bucky. His reverie is interrupted by
some Nazis who disappear as suddenly as they appeared. Cap begins to suspect
the Cosmic Cube is being used against him. He flashes back to Bucky’s death on
the plane with new details. He gets ready to fly home and is hit with a mental
image of Sharon
tied up. Cap arrives in Philly and easily rescues her. When he unties her she
tells him she’s seen Bucky (aka our mystery cyborg). Bucky could take a shot on
Steve but Lukin order him not to. Instead Bucky detonates the bomb just as Sharon’s new boyfriend
was attempting to deactivate it. The deaths caused by the explosion power up
Lukin’s Cube.

Chapter 7 – We see what Nomad was up to before he was
murdered. One year ago the super soldier serum in his blood began
disintegrating. As a result his powers, immune system and sanity will all fade
until he dies. He refuses to go to Cap and the Avengers for help. He eventually
tracks down Bucky v4.0 (a baby he used to dress like the original Bucky and
wear on a backpack while he fought crime in his 90s solo series) who is now in
first grade. He learns there are drug dealers operating near her school and
vows to take them down. For the most part he does pretty well except for when
he has blackouts and loses weeks and months at a time. And then one night is
waiting in a bar to meet with a source and Winter Soldier finds him and kills
him.

Chapter 8 – In 1945 a Russian submarine hears the Germans
broadcasting that they killed Cap and feel they are close enough to check it
out. In the present Fury presents Cap with photos of Bucky alive today as an
assassin and tells Cap that Bucky is the prime suspect in the firebombing of
Philly. Cut back to Philly the night before and Cap evacuates some survivors
and fights some AIM agents with their MODOC hive mind soldiers. In the present
Fury unveils the entire origin of Winter Soldier as a mythical KGB assassin
that is kept in suspended animation and only unfrozen for high profile
missions. Cut back to Philly where Cap saw a glimpse of Bucky at the end of his
fight though Winter Soldier did not recognize him and then disappeared. Back in
the present Steve flips out and breaks stuff as he accepts the truth, then
agrees to go on a SHIELD mission to capture Lukin—who they now fear has a
functional Cosmic Cube. Fury also tells Sharon
her boyfriend died in Philly. Flashback to 1945 where the Russians retrieve a
one-armed unconscious Bucky from the English Channel.

Chapter 9 – Crossbones breaks into a military base and
kidnaps a young girl. Cap and Sharon
have tension over the mission because she wants justice for her dead boyfriend
while Cap wants to save Bucky. Also this mission is off-book because Fury has
no evidence against Lukin–indeed all the evidence points to Nomad. They
assault the Kronas building on some private island off the coast of China.
When the heroes make it to the boardroom Cap loses his temper attacking Kronas
and screaming at him to tell him where Bucky is. Unfortunately the U.S. Vice
President’s Chief of Staff and the Assistant to the Secretary General of the UN
were both in a meeting with Kronas when this went down. They pull rank on Cap
and Fury who are escorted from the building. Meanwhile Crossbones reveals he
has freed the Red Skull’s daughter Sin.

Chapter 10 – Lukin is getting irritable and absent minded
and worries the cause is contact with the Cosmic Cube. At his home Cap receives
a top secret file on how Bucky was turned into Winter Soldier.

Chapter 11 – Lukin assembles a bunch of corporate heads to
auction of the Cube to, but it turns out to be a ruse and he uses the Cube to
brainwash them into signing over their companies to him. Later the Cube causes
him to have an episode and when his assistant tries to help him pick up the
Cube, Lukin goes all Gollum and murders him for touching the precious.
Meanwhile Cap, Sharon & Fury discuss the file, with Sharon still believing Bucky should be
killed. Steve leaves and recalls a mission with Bucky where they had to fight
zombie soldiers and how horrified Bucky was that American soldiers were used by
Nazis and forced to betray their ideals in life making Steve wonder if Bucky
would want to be killed after what’s been done to him. Steve’s reverie is
interrupted by the Falcon.

Chapter 12 – Steve talks over his troubles with Sam and the
two also note the Cosmic Cube never seems to grant wishes they way various
villains like the Skull expect, foremost among these examples being how the
Cube ended up making Cap and Falcon partners. Lukin meanwhile tasks Winter
Soldier with hiding the Cube. When Bucky leaves we see Lukin is hearing voices
who disagree with him. Cap, Falcon and Iron Man raid an AIM warehouse. They
capture a scientist and question him on how to track the Cosmic Cube. This
leads them to another Kronas facility, though for corporate reasons Tony Stark can’t
be part of an assault on Kronas. Cap radios where he is going to Sharon after he has
already left so the politicians can’t stop him this time. As Cap and Falcon
approach Winter Soldier gets a bead on them and despite a momentary hesitation Bucky
pulls the trigger.

Chapter 13 – Winter Soldier misses the mark when Redwing
warns the heroes to get out of the way. Cap’s shield then drives Bucky into
retreat. Sam takes on the generic thugs giving Cap a clear path to the long
awaited one-on-one showdown with Bucky. As they fight Cap tries to get Bucky to
remember. When that fails he drops his defenses to allow Bucky to pull the
trigger. Even that doesn’t work as Bucky shoots but Cap casually dodges and
then uses his Shield to take Bucky down and retrieve the Cube all in one throw.
Cap then uses the Cosmic Cube to restore Bucky’s memories. Sharon still wants justice for her friend but
Cap convinces her to drop it. Bucky tells Cap he’d have been better off dead
and in a fit off rage he grabs the Cube with his cyborg hand and crushes it.
This causes cosmic energy to pour out that seemingly disintegrates him. Cap
refuses to believe it, and indeed in the epilogue we see Bucky teleported
himself back to Camp
Lehigh. In the finale we
see Lukin talking to the voices in his head and when he looks in a mirror the reflection
that stares back is the Red Skull as their minds now share Lukin’s body.
Critical Thoughts:
If you haven’t read it, believe the hype for this is indeed as good as everyone
says it is. A good barometer is to watch the movie that bears its name. If you
liked the film then you will like this book. Best of all there are plenty of
similarities in tone but differences in details that you can watch the film and
still thoroughly enjoy this as its own experience.

The plotting is really good. One thing Brubaker does very
well is pace his reveals as he adds new intrigues or introduces additional
players so that this builds and reads far better than most comic book stories.
He is aided by Epting’s excellent cinematic art. All of the espionage elements
are plotted quite well, but it is the Bucky reveal done in stages that really
is superb. At the same time we got to see Cap’s reaction to it, so that the
second act with Steve over the edge and furious at Lukin is really good. Best
of all it feels in-character despite being new territory for Steve, which is
the best kind of character-based story-telling.

I supposed one could criticize this story by saying ‘well
it’s easy to build tension when you kill off longtime characters like Red Skull
and Nomad in the first three chapters’, but as with any story it’s the execution
that counts and in this case the way the murders unfold and reveal themselves
show much more narrative skill than simple shock value. Nomad is a character
that had not been relevant in a decade or two; and sure he is just killed in the
cliffhanger of chapter three at first, but then Bru goes back in chapter seven
and gives us a beautifully written standalone chapter on what the last few
months of Nomad’s life were like. As for killing the Skull, of course it is a
shock value up the stakes moment, but it also serves to deepen the mystery
since otherwise he’d be the de facto prime suspect in any plot with this much
scope and personal history for the protagonist.

I like the way Cap is written has having a network of
resources. Cap is often written as the most respected hero in the Marvel
Universe and an experienced soldier. So it makes sense that he would call upon
Union Jack or Iron Man or Falcon if they could be of help to him in a mission.
I think Cap’s often cooperative yet tense relationship with SHIELD is also
portrayed very consistently with established history in this volume. Certainly
the increased SHIELD presence fits into the espionage milieu Brubaker wants to
project.

One thing I don’t like is the Bucky was an assassin in World
War II retcon. It’s not so bad here, but future writers have portrayed Bucky as
borderline psychotic in newer flashback tales. I have two problems with it.
One, It undermines Cap’s character: as either he is a moron who doesn’t know
what his kid sidekick is up to, or he is complicit in letting a minor carry out
murders just so his own image isn’t tarnished—neither to me are acceptable for
Steve. Second, it undermines the impact of this story that Brubaker is telling.
If Bucky was always a psychotic killer then who cares if the Russians hypnotize
him and turn him into an assassin? Conversely, if Bucky was a superhero in the
past and now he’s been turned into a murder against his will that’s a lot more
powerful dramatically and tragic for his character.

Grade: A+.