Rock Star Gary reflects on WCCW 04-20-1985

Taped from Dallas, TX

Airdate: April 20, 1985 (taped 04/05)

Attendance: unknown

Hosted by Bill Mercer

Can Kevin defeat Gino while on his World title path? What is the BIG announcement this week? And who will join me for this bacon’n’eggs episode?

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Rock Star Gary reflects on WCCW 04-13-1985

Taped from Dallas, TX

Airdate: April 13, 1985 (taped 04/05)

Attendance: unknown

Hosted by Bill Mercer

Who will win the vacant American tag team titles? How will Hercules fare against the nefarious yet beloved Adams? And just who in God’s name is wrestling Kevin tonight?

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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 – Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

Avengers: Heroes
Reborn

By Rob Liefeld, Jim
Valentino, Jeph Loeb and Walt Simonson; art by Rob Liefeld, Joe Phillips, Joe
Bennet and Al Rio.

Collects Avengers (vol
2) #1-12

 

Why I Bought This: I
love me some Liefeld art and I love me some Avengers. So even though Heroes
Reborn is notoriously bad I grabbed it off Amazon after I had previously found
issue one in a $1 bin and thought this is a promising start and the art is
terrific so maybe it’s better than its reputation. Alas Liefeld only draws two
chapters and as for the writing, read on.
The Plot – The
Avengers died fighting Onslaught only to be reborn in a pocket universe where
basically their origin starts from scratch thus allowing us to see what the
Marvel Universe would be like if it had been created by Image in the 90s
instead.
 
(spoilers below)

 

Chapter 1 – Loki arrives in the Reborn Universe and notices
there is no Asgard here. Meanwhile Donald Blake is an archeologist and he finds
Thor frozen in a block of ice. Loki’s astral form peaks in on the Avengers
although he does not recognize any of them and through him we meet Scarlet
Witch, Swordsman, Hawkeye, Hellcat (looking a lot like Tigra), Vision and Cap.
Also years before the ultimate universe and movies we have Nick Fury and SHIELD
in charge of assembling the Avengers. The team is sent to Blake’s location and
frees Thor from the ice. Loki then appears and tells his brother the Avengers
are responsible for his fate and we get a fight scene. But when Cap saves Thor
from Loki’s backstab and Thor picks up his hammer he sees the truth (and almost
remembers Onslaught but takes it to have been Ragnarok instead). Thor decides
to join the Avengers. Loki retreats and recruits Enchantress who reveals
Scarlet Witch is her daughter.

Chapter 2 – Thor impresses everyone with his strength. We
meet the Pyms for the first time. Kang attacks the team and no one can
penetrate his force field. Kang’s spaceship blasts everyone. Kang then takes
the captured Avengers to Mantis as a gift of love.

Chapter 3 – Kang takes down Fury. Thor summons his hammer to
him and frees the team. Loki meets with Agatha Harkness. Kang’s force field
keeps the human Avengers at bay but they distract him long enough for Wanda to
shut down his force field and one hammer blow later ends the fight. Swordsman
wants to kill Kang but Mantis talks him out of it and this gives Kang and her
time to teleport away. Vision’s body then falls from Kang’s ship and Wanda
fears he may be dead.

Chapter 4 – Hulk is doing his usual Hulk smash thing (only
naked in this universe). Meanwhile Pym and Ultron attempt to repair the Vision
at Pym’s lab. Wanda returns home and we learn Enchantress is now masquerading
as Agatha. Thor is out drinking when Hulk attacks Avengers mansion leaving only
the three humans and Hellcat there to fight him. Hulk wins with only Cap giving
him even a mild fight.

Chapter 5 – Thor arrives and we get some epic Liefeld splash
pages as he and Hulk throw down. Meanwhile Avengers Island apparently has a
gamma reactor on site which is what attracted the Hulk and now due to
collateral damage is about to go nuclear and destroy Manhattan. Hulk wins the
fight with Thor.

Chapter 6 – So apparently this Hulk story crossed over with the
FF HR book and that issue is not reprinted here. So we open with Reed and
Banner working to shut down the reactor while SHIELD evacuates the unconscious
Avengers. Loki’s astral form contacts Nick Fury but says nothing of note. Iron
Man arrives to help with the reactor. Hellcat wakes up and sniffs Bruce realizing
he is the Hulk and tries to attack him. Cap stops her but its too late Bruce
changes into the Hulk.

Chapter 7 – So the Hulk fight was resolved in the pages of
Iron Man (not reprinted here). Iron Man has now joined the Avengers and the
Avengers have split from SHIELD, although Fury is keeping Vision’s shutdown
body claiming it is SHIELD property. Pym meanwhile is still inside the Vision
as Ant Man trying to repair him (and also wearing the ugliest costume ever) and
is running afoul of Vision’s antibodies. Tony also creates Avengers Mansion
and invites Thor inside (but there is no Jarvis in this reality). Hawkeye has a
flashback of working with a cyborg version of Grim Reaper alongside Hellcat in
the first Avengers mission to track down Zemo where apparently Reaper did not
make it out alive. Cap is sitting vigil at Swordsman’s bedside as Hulk put him
in a coma. There is a knock on the door. Thor answers and there is Wonderman
barely able to stand saying he needs help; but it’s a trick as Wonderman attacks
Thor when his guard is down. He is soon joined by the Lethal Legion which
includes Enchantress, Executioner, Ultron and Scarlet Witch.

Chapter 8 – Loki confronts Kang and Mantis and absorbs their
essence as he has discovered the nature of this reality (ergo many of these
people don’t really exist and are just figments of Franklin Richards’
imagination). Meanwhile the battle rages on and Ultron is destroyed (apparently
not adamantium here) by the mansion security system making it probably the
first time that has ever stopped anyone. As the Avengers rally Enchantress and
Wanda teleport away, abandoning their teammates who lose a panel or two later.
The Avengers turn the villains over to SHIELD. Meanwhile Loki sneaks aboard the
SHIELD prison and absorbs various villains from Captain America’s solo
title. Meanwhile inside the Vision, Ant Man finds his brain and hooks up to it
and presumably sees images of the real Marvel Universe which causes him to pass
out. Meanwhile the Avengers are attacked by the Masters of Evil (in the form
C-list Silver Age villains) and a missile explodes. In the prison Loki finds
Executioner and absorbs him. Loki reveals he knows that he himself is not real
but he has a plan to become real.

Chapter 9 – The Masters have the Avengers on the defensive
for all of two pages and then literally three of them trip over each other
breaking legs and hitting heads in the process. Iron Man and Thor punch the
last two and when the fight ends the villains can’t even explain their motives
for attacking. Thor wants to execute the prisoners but Cap puts a stop to that
and then Thor, Hawkeye and Hellcat all quit the team. Loki meets up with
Enchantress & Scarlet Witch for a new plan. Jan (Wasp) asks the team if
anyone has seen Hank who has been missing for days and for no particular reason
Iron Man deduces where he is and takes her to the Hellicarier. Loki teleports
in and absorbs the Masters. Ant Man wakes up and discovers Vision’s memories
are being transmitted back to Avengers
Island and decides to
return to the real world. He emerges just in time to meet up with Tony, Jan and
Fury—who claims he knew Pym was inside Vision all along. Vision then self
destructs for some reason and the Avengers leave while Fury rants like Jonah in
a 60s cartoon. Thor is depressed that he does not get to do Viking activities
like “reaving, pillaging and executing” in the 20th century so
Enchantress teleports in to recruit him to Team Loki by making out with him.
Cap discovers Swordsman is not in his hospital bed (presumably Loki absorbed
him since this subplot is never explained or picked up on again in the series).
Loki rants about Vision blowing up since he was the one using his memories.
Wanda returns to the mansion and is attacked by Hellcat. Wanda claims she was
an undercover agent for the Avengers, at which point Loki ports in behind her
and zaps her. He then offers to put Hellcat’s mind in Wanda’s body so she can
seduce Cap if she will join Team Loki. Cap & Tony are at the gamma reactor
and see some more old (mainstream M.U.) Avengers’ foes materializing but a
single repulsor ray stops that. This causes the energy in the reactor to coalesce
and form Thor.

Chapter 10 – So apparently this is the true Marvel Universe
Thor who assumes he has been reunited with his teammates in Valhalla
after dying in battle with Onslaught. Also Jan is now the Wasp for literally no
explained reason at all—in this entire series she’s not had powers or been on
the team or involved in anyway except as Hank’s wife and yet now she is in
costume and flying with wings. Anyway Cap and Tony have no idea what Thor is
talking about and when they tell him about the reactor Thor is like ‘in what
mad reality would a nuclear reactor be kept in Manhattan?’ and Cap is like ‘good point.’
Loki and Witch-Cat recruit Hawkeye to Team Loki. Reed of the FF comes to
investigate and discovers the reactor is actually a dimensional doorway. Fury
locates Kang’s ship and finds security footage of Loki killing Kang and Mantis.
He shows the footage to the Avengers and MU Thor leaves to investigate. S-Witch
returns and Cap indeed confirms she was an undercover agent known only to him
but then she starts making out with him so that Hawkeye can get a free shot in
with an Asgardian bow. Witch-Cat then fake reveals she liked being bad when she
was undercover so she’s turning heel permanently. HR Thor joins the battle and
starts beating down Iron Man while Enchantress takes out Pym with a sleep spell
kiss. Hawkeye defeats Wasp. HR Thor is about to kill Tony when MU Thor returns to
make the save. Tony zaps Clint as the Thors fight. Loki uses the confusion to
drain the cosmic energy in the reactor.

Chapter 11 – Loki is now giant-sized and he immediately
betrays Enchantress & HR Thor. Heroes and villains regroup together at
which point Agatha’s cat shows Witch her reflection which shows her to be
Hellcat. The mirror then draws in Hellcat’s soul and explodes. Enchantress then
turns the cat back into Agatha. Loki has put a force field around the reactor
that even both Thor hammers combined cannot break. A giant Odin confronts Loki
and they fight with Odin using a Thor hammer. A cut scene reveals Odin is
actually a mystic construct created by the combined magic of Witch, Enchantress
& Agatha. Meanwhile Stark and Pym create a science gizmo powered by MU
Thor’s hammer to break Loki’s force field while he’s distracted. Loki fatally
wounds Odin whose image dissolves into that of HR Thor. Loki takes down the sorceresses
with a mystic bolt and confronts the remaining Avengers. Wasp zaps him in the
ear and then the SHIELD Hellicarrier arrives to blast him with cannons. Loki’s
power is fading and he shrinks to normal size. Cap goes toe to toe with him for
a bit and Thor throws his hammer for the victory shot as Loki dissolves into
purple bubbles. HR Thor dies in MU Thor’s arms. Cap visits Clint in the
hospital where Clint apologizes for going bad but decides to keep the costume
Loki made for him (basically his regular purple costume as opposed to the brown
Wolverine knock off he wore the first 10 issues) as a reminder of how he messed
up.

Chapter 12 – The finale of this universe was a 4-part
“Coming of Galactus” remix. This is part 2. Part 1 was in FF in which Galactus
ate the world but Doom time traveled at the last minute. This chapter opens with
a Viking funeral for HR Thor. Doom arrives and warns everyone that Galactus
will destroy the world tommorow but the Avengers and Fury don’t believe him.
After Doom leaves SHIELD apparently has a satellite near Saturn and detects the
Heralds (Galactus has five in this reality) coming so Fury mobilizes the
Avengers, FF and Hulk. Pym kisses Jan goodbye since she is on one of the four
teams while he’s staying behind to do science. He then resurrects Vision, while
Witch casually mentions Enchantress is not her mom after-all. The FF battle
Silver Surfer. They do okay considering how outgunned they are but Doom is
taking no chances and takes control of Russia’s Nukes and launches them at
the battle site. This succeeds in killing the FF but Surfer is unharmed. Surfer
is touched by the love and nobility the FF showed in death. Another watery Herald
faces SHIELD. She wins rather easily but the Hellicarrier kamikazes the
Galactus planet eating machine on the way down—again impressing the Surfer. In Antarctica
Hulk gets his butt handed to him by Firelord. Vision and Scarlet Witch lend a
helping hand with Vision getting his staff from him. This gives Hulk time to
land a KO punch before he collapses. Vision uses Firelord staff to destroy the
Galactus engine. Banner dies in the snow and Surfer watches. Our final fight is
Avengers vs. Terrax. Terrax kills Hawkeye with ease. Cap gets some hits in.
Tony and Wasp follow up and Wasp dies too. Thor throws his hammer and takes out
both Terrax and the machine, though he is wounded in the explosion—and yes
Surfer watches this too. Then for no reason I can tell the rest of Doom’s nukes
malfunction and blow up. Galactus arrives with Air Walker. The Avengers Big
Three go to confront him but are casually blown away by Air Walker and Galactus
reveals he has a back up machine and with that he starts to eat the planet. The
heroes realize they can’t win but to save other worlds they decide to detonate
the interdimensional reactor to take Galactus with them. Surfer agrees to help
and the entire Heroes Reborn universe ends in an explosion. In the blackness we
learn Doom has time traveled again over to Iron Man #12.

 

Critical Thoughts:
The Heroes Reborn arc is a notoriously bad era for the Avengers and for the
most part this trade lives down to that reputation. Look at how many writers
and artists thing has for a one year stint. No wonder it never gels into a
solid story. The one thing I will say in its defense is Liefeld’s original
vision for this title is actually better than the jumbled throwing everything
at the sink with a side of meta commentary abomination that Simonson turns it
into when he takes over from chapter 8 on. Don’t misunderstand: I am not
arguing that Liefeld is a better writer than Simonson. What I am saying is that
Liefeld at least presented a coherent vision of a superhero team book even if
that vision was a mostly bland retread. Simonson on the other hand is bending
himself into pretzels to undo Liefeld’s story while also finishing it up and
preparing for a larger crossover to get the characters back home. Look at the
chapter recaps: Liefeld’s chapters are more or less short and to the point,
Simonson’s are big unwieldy things because he has so many random tangents in
them.

Let’s examine the Liefeld chapters first. Chapter one really
is a good setup chapter. It pays homage to the classic history by having Loki
be the first villain and having them find a hero in ice. The change of that
frozen hero being Thor rather than Cap is understandable seeing as Cap had a
solo book in this line and Thor did not. It looked fantastic and overall is a
very good first issue for a rebooted universe.

I think the subplots in that first issue all work well. We
start with Loki immediately being aware that the universe isn’t real, and that
is a good way to get the reader invested in what was a controversial reboot at
the time.  I’m pretty sure Loki’s last
prior appearance to this involved being in the Ultraverse with the Infinity
Gauntlet so it is entirely possible the real Loki could have ended up here
after that inter-dimensional mess ended, making it a nice long-term subplot to
keep the reader guessing. I think the interpretation of Thor as being out of
touch with the modern era and still thinking like a Viking is a fun take on the
character for this universe. I also like the plot twist of Scarlet Witch being
Enchantress’ daughter. This is a universe with no mutants so you need to
explain her powers and you don’t have Magneto. This concept is an alternative
that is inline with spirit of her original origins: she is still the daughter
of a master criminal who is sometimes capable of nobility for the greater good
and it later gets her on the Masters of Evil which in the original Silver Age
was very similar to the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It was a very promising
start.

However it quickly becomes obvious that Liefeld doesn’t have
much new to say about these characters after that first issue. Now in his
defense I feel the same way about the Ultimate Universe too. If you are going
to reboot these classic characters in a new timeline are you saying anything
new to make the reboot worthwhile or are we just retelling the same stories
with better science jargon and updated technology in the peripherals of the
story? Because if it is the latter, why bother?

With that in mind let’s look at the team. In this book Cap is
fine. While his own Heroes Reborn book was god-awful, here he mostly just
serves the capable leader role that he usually fills on the team. I already
spoke that Thor and Scarlet Witch had some changes that were mostly positive
for trying something new. The other characters though are characters only in
the loosest of terms; all that is different is ugly redesigns of their costumes.
Vision has the same look and powers he usually does but all he does is speak in
weird run-on sentences and then gets blown up in chapter 3. Hawkeye has an ugly
costume with a mask that completely covers his face. It is alleged there is
some mystery there but it is never developed. In Liefeld’s last chapter he gave
a flashback that Hawkeye is responsible for the Grim Reaper being a cyborg but Simonson
doesn’t follow up on it. Mostly Hawkeye just bitches about Cap’s leadership
like it is the Silver Age Cap’s Kooky Quartet era which is a waste of the
character’s legacy given what he’s done since then. This brings us to
Swordsman: a character no one has ever cared about in the main reality, and who
is even less interesting here. He fills Quicksilver’s role of also bitching
alongside Hawkeye in the Silver Age quartet, while power-wise he is just a dude
with a sword—not even a trick techno sword like the Silver Age version or a
magic sword like Black Knight, nope just a dude with a sword who tries to fight
the Hulk. Hellcat is also just an uglier version of Tigra with the occasional
feral rage—a trope Liefeld seems to love.

Later heroes include: Ant Man, whose costume is the ugliest
thing in this book. He is never really member of the team. He contributes
science stuff before Tony joins and we get a redux of his journey inside the
Vision from the Kree-Skrull War that is not half as good as the original. Wasp
isn’t even a superhero in Liefeld’s version until Simonson has her full on
manifest her classic powers with no explanation. Tony had his own book in this
universe making him a late-comer to the team. His new armor looks good and he
does exactly what you expect him to do in an Avengers’ book: no more, no less.

As for the villains, other than the Asgardians, they are
completely interchangeable. Kang’s appearance is a shallow call-back to his
first appearance under Stan Lee. He just shows up and challenges the Avengers
to a fight so he can impress a girl; that is the extent of his grand plan. It’s
a not a bad fight by any means. It takes two issues, Kang gets an early victory—perfectly
serviceable in a surface way but there is nothing under that surface. Also no
one wants to see Kang date Mantis because it reminds us of The Crossing, which
is the worst Avengers’ story of all time. Ultron evolving every issue is kind
of cute (ergo he’s Ultron-1 in issue 1, Ultron-2 in issue 2, etc) but he joins
the Lethal Legion off-panel which dilutes the payoff. Worse his fight scene
occurs under Simonson, who has the frickin’ mansion security system blow him
up–a staggering anti-climax for the Avengers’ greatest foe. The Hulk chapters
are again typical Silver Age Hulk-smash vs. the Avengers but that kind of thing
is always fun and the Liefeld-drawn Hulk-Thor throw down is a tremendous use of
art and action: I think it ends up being the best thing in the book.

Then we come to Simonson and nothing makes sense anymore.
The villains became even less developed and defeated easily on purpose so he
can show they aren’t real. Suddenly there are two Thors for no particular
reason other than I guess Simonson is most famous for writing Thor and he must
have hated Liefeld’s take on the character so he wanted to bring in the “real”
Thor and show how he should be done, which seems petty since you’ve already
replaced the guy on the title. In fact his writing here is full of petty
touches. When Hellcat goes bad and is revealed, Cap is like we never noticed
she was missing well no wonder then (shrug). Yes Hellcat in this story is a
completely forgettable character but it feels like you’re taking cheap shots
for no reason. Ditto when he has Witch reveal the Enchantress mom-thing was a
lie, A) how would Hank Pym even know to ask that question, B) Enchantress did
not say that to Wanda to get her to join her, she said it to Loki why we she
lie about that to him? and C) the characters are going to their home universe
to be restored so who cares who her mom is in this one? It is just another petty
way to insert how much you think your predecessor’s ideas on this title sucked.
(See also MU Thor’s first sentence being ‘Building a nuclear reactor in Manhattan is the height
of folly’ when he arrives).
Grade: Liefelds’
title may have generously been a C. It was not very good as yes there were too
many characters that no one cared about or were poorly developed among the heroes,
while the villains had very basic motivations; however there were also some
decent mysteries being developed for the characters Liefeld was concentrating
his efforts on and the fight scenes ranged from perfectly serviceable to
excellent. Simmons’s run is a bunch of jump the rails nonsense, invalidating
what came before without building to anything new and is easily an F. Overall I
give the entire trade a D+ primarily
for the two chapters of excellent Liefeld art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Avengers vs. Thunderbolts

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

 

Shadowland:
Thunderbolts

By Jeff Parker, Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey
Collects Thunderbolts
148-151

 

Why I Bought This:
It was in the discount bin of my favorite local comic shop and has a hell of an
intriguing cover of the Avengers big three taking on Juggernaut, Crossbones and
Ghost. Those first two villains can usually both be counted on for a good
story, and even though he hasn’t been used since the 80’s Ghost was presented
as a serious threat back in the day during Michelene’s Iron Man run. Throw in The
Avengers
have always been my favorite title and sometimes you just buy a
book because the cover looks like it promises a fun fight.

 

The Plot: The
Thunderbolts, now a group of inmates working towards parole by taking
government missions under the supervision of Luke Cage, are sent into the
Shadowland. Then in the main event for issue 150 three of the most unrepentant
members of the team: Crossbones, Juggernaut and Ghost escape and have a throw
down with the Avengers big three.

 

Chapter 1 – A cop friend of Luke Cage’s has gone missing due
to whatever the hell is happening in the Shadowland
crossover (haven’t read it and it’s not high on my list to bother with but the
short version seems to be Daredevil gets possessed by a literal demon, become
leader of the Hand ninjas and then builds a castle in Hell’s Kitchen.) Cage
calls in the Thunderbolts to rescue a cop friend who was last seen in the sewers
under the Shadowland castle, while he deals with the main Shadowland story. Apparently this is the first time the crooks have
been given a mission without Cage accompanying them. Cage has Songbird and
Fixer of the original reformed Thunderbolts put in charge of supervising the
criminals, who include: Crossbones, Moonstone, Juggernaut, Ghost and Man-Thing.
The Thunderbolts get attacked by scores of ninjas. For the most part the
criminals aren’t in much danger as Juggernaut’s invulnerable and Moonstone and
Ghost can both go intangible. While they can hurt Crossbones, he is skilled and
viscous enough to kill anyone who comes near him. Man-Thing is also okay since
swords can’t hurt swamp muck and anyone he touches catches on fire. The wardens
on the other hand aren’t nearly so lucky with Fixer getting stabbed from behind
and then Songbird falling to superior numbers while Moonstone looks on without
helping.

Chapter 2 –Songbird is safe in her force field but she’s
also pinned down and can’t move. The ninjas manage to cut Man-Thing into pieces
so Moonstone joins the fight. Songbird lets out a sonic scream to clear the
Ninjas off her force-bubble while Juggernaut and Crossbones become even more
lethal so that whatever ninjas are left retreat. Songbird uses her force field
to carry Fixer to the nearest hospital and now the criminals are completely
unsupervised. Juggernaut plows through walls until he finds ninja-central and
then just wades right into an army of them. The Hand has a dragon on their side
but Moonstone alone takes it out pretty easily. Ghost uses his intangibility to
slip away so he can find and free the Hand prisoners including Cage’s cop
friend. Crossbones is out of ammo but then in desperation he manifests some
sort of fire breath/heat vision. (It was mentioned last chapter he was exposed
to the Inhuman’s Terrigen Mist on a prior mission not in this trade and then
kept that secret to himself.) When Crossbones is done with the Hand the
prisoners show up but since he is alone he kills Cage’s cop friend just cuz;
although he wasn’t actually alone Ghost secretly witnesses everything. When the
other Thunderbolts arrive Crossbones of course blames the cop’s death on the
Hand.

Chapter 3 – Cage is thinking about resigning from overseeing
the Thunderbolts program as he feels the criminals he has on his team will
never be reformed. Cap, Iron Man and Thor arrive to talk with Cage (and also
because a female Asgardian troll is in the prison and Thor wants to meet her.)
Thor offers her friendship but she bites him. Meanwhile Cap has some tense
words with Crossbones, who you may recall killed Cap in Brubaker’s run. Iron
Man and the Ghost also get reacquainted with some hostile threats. As the
heroes get briefed on a new mission, Ghost reveals he has discovered a way to
partially override the teleporter used by the Thunderbolts. When it’s go time
he does just that, transporting himself, Crossbones and Juggernaut to another
dimension. Cap, Thor, Iron Man and Cage follow and take in the scenery (a
talking frog, a lake with magic reflections, etc). We end up with a massive
fight scene that eventually splits into three individual fights along the old
rivalries of Cap vs. Crossbones, Iron Man vs. Ghost and Thor (& Cage) vs.
Juggernaut. Iron Man is able to talk Ghost into surrendering, then Tony joins
the fight against Juggernaut and uses a sonic weapon to stun him long enough to
get him to surrender (with a little help from the magic lake). The
Cap-Crossbones fight is excellent playing off their history and then when Cap
is winning Crossbones unveils his new superpowers to turn the tide for a bit. But
Cap finally lets out his rage for Crossbones killing him and just beats the
crap out of Crossbones. Cap then holds him under the lake but of course lets
him up before killing him. The heroes then use Man-Thing to teleport them home
and Cage agrees to continue supervising the program, although Crossbones is
kicked off the team once Ghost reveals what he did last chapter.

Chapter 4 – We get the origin of the Ghost. He was a
computer programmer. He invented a revolutionary software thing. His bosses
tried to kill him and keep it for themselves. They failed because of his
intangibility tech and then he killed them all and used his computer skills to
erase his real name from all databases.

 

Critical Thoughts: For
what I paid for it I enjoyed the hell out of this. Issue 150 (chapter 3) was
everything you’d want in an anniversary issue. Honestly this could have been a Captain America anniversary issue as
having Steve confront Crossbones for killing him was a pretty big dangling plot
thread from Bru’s run. Their fights have always been pretty good anyway, but
this one takes the cake as the best fight between these characters because it
is so personal and because Crossbones has a surprise power upgrade. So as Cap
fan this issue alone would be worth full cover price let alone $6-off and
everything else is just gravy.

However I was pleasantly surprised with the other two
stories. Yea I have no interest in reading the main Shadowland stuff but the Thunderbolts cast of villains is generally
interesting from top to bottom and the way they each take advantage of the
chaos feels right, so as a standalone story the first two chapters are still
engaging enough to be worth a read.

Ditto the Ghost origin story. Ghost was a major player once
upon a time and his origin to my knowledge was unrevealed up to now. Yea, we’re
not really breaking new ground here with the whole evil corporation double
cross theme, but within the confines of that genre the specifics of this story
are well told.

 

Grade A. I won’t
say this is an all-time classic but I still giving it an A because I honestly
can’t think of a single criticism I have of the stories told here. True, not
every story in it is world changing but they all do what they set out to do
well. And it’s not like it is a total throwaway set of issues: the
Cap-Crossbones fight feels like it has some weight to it, as a major Cap fan it
played out note-perfect to me; and to the extent the Ghost matters we now have
his origin. So all in all I’d recommend picking this one up.

Waiting for the Trade – Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

 by Bill Miller

 

Avengers Assemble
by Brian Michael
Bendis and Mark Bagley

collects Avengers
Assemble #1-8

Why I Bought This: Created
in the wake of the film, this features the team from the film taking on Thanos.
Despite my distrust of Bendis, I couldn’t wait to read this and as soon as it
was collected in trade earlier this year, I ordered it from Amazon. That it
also features Mark Bagley’s art and the Guardians of the Galaxy is just gravy.
The Plot: Thanos hires
the Zodiac to steal items of cosmic power found on Earth and it’s up to the
Avengers to stop him.

Chapter 1 – We see a new version of the Zodiac exists. Tony
has built a new Stark
Tower and the Avengers
celebrate. In the desert Hulk is watching an Army convoy that suddenly comes
under attack by a water elemental. Hulk tries to help, although the Army
assumes he is attacking them too. They fight for a few pages with the Elemental
winning by drowning Hulk enough to pass him out and then stealing a mysterious
item from the convoy and escaping. Meanwhile Hawkeye and Black Widow are
tracking terrorists in Latveria. When they see what the terrorists are stealing
they call in the Avengers for back-up. Hawkeye and Widow manage to hijack the
terrorists’ jeep they loaded the item on when Taurus attacks. Thor and Iron Man
arrive to assist but Taurus defeats them both in physical combat.

Chapter 2 – In flashback we see a mysterious benefactor task
the Zodiac with recovering items of power off the Earth in return for power
upgrades. In the present Hulk arrives at Avengers Tower
and asks Jarvis to get Cap. In Latveria, Taurus gloats over defeating Thor
giving Iron Man and Hawkeye a chance to go on offense. They manage to force him
to retreat and then when Thor recovers he sees the mystery object and even he
is shocked by it. The four heroes meet up with Cap and Hulk on the Hellicarrier
and compare notes, deciding the water elemental was Aquarius. We also learn
that Hawkeye and Widow recovered the Ultimate Nullifier prompting Cap to decide
the stakes are so high that the mission should be classified to the six in this
room. And then the entire 12 members of the Zodiac attack the Hellicarrier.

Chapter 3 – The Avengers try to hold the Zodiac off so Widow
can escape with the Nullifier. She is pursued by Aquarius. Tony tries to bribe
the Zodiac into leaving in a funny moment. The fight gets more intense with
some of the villains throwing jets on the Hellicarrier at Thor, until Hulk gets
his mad on and finally manages to defeat one of them. This causes his power to
flow off into space and Tony is able to analyze it. He then builds a jamming
device which reverts the Zodiac to human. The Avengers attempt to question them
when Thanos arrives promising to destroy the Earth.

Chapter 4 – In one of the cooler moments Tony immediately
broadcasts an emergency signal to the White House as the Avengers have
instituted a planet-wide We’re f*ck*d contingency in case Thanos ever comes to
Earth. Thanos possesses the Hulk and sics him on Thor. Hawkeye manages to take
Hulk down with an exploding arrow to the mouth but then Thanos repowers up the
Zodiac at which point the President blows up the Hellicarrier in mid-air.
Apparently Tony has a force field now that can surround the entire team to save
them. The explosion also distances them from Thanos so Hulk is freed of his
control. Cap interrogates the one of the now-Human powerless Zodiac members as
we learn none of them were anything special before Thanos found them; their
mission was to gather objects of power for Thanos and in return he would give
them power to rule the Earth. The Avengers wonder why Thanos would need lackeys
(although he’s used lackeys plenty of times in the past including in his
earliest appearances), at which point the Guardians of the Galaxy show up
offering to help.

Chapter 5 – We see a flashback to a few days ago where the
Guardians were fighting the Badoon on some alien world, and after winning and
interrogating prisoners learned the Badoon were in league with Thanos and that
Thanos had designs on the Earth. The Guardians think Thanos may be after the
Infinity Gems but Cap and Iron Man dismiss that, and Gamora confirms it is not
the Gems in a cool bit of logic. Meanwhile Hawkeye and Widow make out in the
med lab. The Guardians inform the Avengers that the galactic council has deemed
Earth off-limits which is allegedly why Thanos was using lackeys instead of
attacking outright as the lackeys are a loop-hole to that ruling; as if Thanos
would ever care about galactic law (although Gamora suggests that’s exactly why
Thanos is interested in Earth again). Cap and Hulk then question the military
to learn what the Zodiac took for Thanos in chapter 1 and it is a new Cosmic
Cube designed by the U.S.
military. Realizing Thanos has the Cube the Avengers and Guardians head off
into space to find him.

Chapter 6 – Maria Hill briefs the New Avengers, Secret
Avengers and FF on the events of the last few issues and Reed is tasked with
coming up with a line of defense in case the Avengers and Guardians fail. In space
we see Thanos promise the Badoon an empire larger than the Kree and Skrull if
they eliminate the Avengers for him. Shortly thereafter the Badoon fleet
intercepts the Avengers and Guardians. Thor and Iron Man breech the mother ship
followed by the Guardians and just as the Badoon seem like they are about to
defeat Thor, Iron Man’s armor explodes to reveal Hulk inside as Banner was
piloting it as a “Trojan Hulk” ruse. The other Avengers except Widow follow
inside, when the Badoon blow the airlocks sweeping all the heroes sans
astronaut gear into Outer Space. Meanwhile Thanos successfully activates the
Cosmic Cube.

Chapter 7 – Thanos summons the Elders of the Universe,
Stranger and Inbetweener to him and then obliterates them with the Cube,
however the Cube energy then begins to spike out of Thanos’ control. Back in
space Widow gets a space suit and retrieves the other heroes though Tony and
Clint are not doing particularly well from space exposure. Thor is unaffected
by space and continues to attack Badoon ships, while Star Lord has his old
element gun and uses it take on a raiding party of Badoon foot soldiers. Hulk
joins Thor in the fight while Rocket uses undefined space technology to bring
Clint and Tony back from the brink of death. Thor manages to rupture the warp core
of the Badoon Mother Ship and then the Guardians leap to hyperspace to make
good the heroes’ escape; only for the heroes to be confronted by Thanos, who
has once again shed his physical form though this time the Cosmic Cube seems to
be the heart of his universal energy form.

Chapter 8 – Thor tries to fight Cube Thanos, while Tony
analyzes him and learns the Army was not able to build a true Cosmic Cube but
rather a “dark matter energy conduit” in a cube shape. Cube Thanos disintegrates
the Avengers. On Earth Reed and the President prepare for the worst. The
Avengers and Guardians discover they are not dead but have instead been
transported to the Cancerverse from Realm
of Kings.
They also find the Elders of the Universe are here as well and
form an alliance with them. Cube Thanos arrives on Earth and Reed plans to use
the Ultimate Nullifier to stop him when the Avengers arrive on the scene. Thor
uses some weapon Collector gave him to shatter the Cube, which returns Thanos
to normal at which point the heroes of Earth lay the smack down on him and turn
him over to the Elders for imprisonment. In the epilogue the Guardians invite
Iron Man to join their team, while the Badoon declare war on Earth for what the
Avengers did to their mother ship a few chapters back.

 
 Critical Thoughts: I liked the story’s momentum but it is flawed,
as most Bendis stories are. If you look at this as a story designed to appeal
to casual fans that saw the movie and want to see this cast in another
adventure with aliens it succeeds admirably. However, if you know anything
about Marvel continuity this story makes little to no sense.

We’ll start with the Elders power levels being way off.
Other than Grandmaster none of them have ever been shown able to manipulate cosmic
energy on their own; and even he wouldn’t be part of the cosmic pantheon with
the Stranger or Inbetweener. As we saw in Thanos
Quest
Thanos is more than capable enough of handling these characters at
his base power level. Let me also add Thanos should clearly know the difference
between a real Cosmic Cube and an imitation at this point. Groot’s power level
also seems off as he seems to be a peer to Hulk and Thor in the final battle,
and while he is a powerhouse he is still made of wood and nowhere near the
league of upper cosmic level threats like Thanos or Magus as the last Guardians series made clear.

Speaking of which there are several characters who died in
the last Guardian series who are back
alive with absolutely no explanation. Most notably Star Lord, who is human and
if you are going to resurrect him you need to explain how. Thanos, Drax and the
Cancerverse were all dead as well when last we saw them. At one point Star Lord
is asked point blank how he escaped the Cancerverse (a key plot point since it
was permanently sealed and then collapsed in upon itself when last we saw it)
and Bendis just has him stare at the Avengers blankly instead of providing an
explanation. It also seems to imply that the Guardians work for the Galactic
Council now, which isn’t a bad idea, but is a change in the status quo of their
last series (and this begs the question of what happened to the Annihilators).
I can live with a revolving door to death in comics but at least give the
reader the courtesy of an explanation when you use that door.

Reed’s plan to use the Nullifier also seems ill-advised
since we’ve seen in the past the Cosmic Cube trumps the Nullifier (Infinity War) and that using the
Nullifier can cause planet-sized collateral damage (late 90s issues of Silver Surfer involving Morg and
Tyrant); although I guess we can assume Reed’s intellect is such he could
contain the collateral damage.

We also have the whole Avengers blown into space scene which
makes little sense. Cap is shown to be barely harmed by the vacuum of space,
which Bendis attributes to super soldier serum—showing yet again that Bendis
fundamentally misunderstands what the Super Soldier Serum actually does. This
even more bizarre in that a fully armored Iron Man is nearly killed by the
vacuum of space, when I’ve seen Tony in space in numerous other stories. Tony
also claims at one point the Avengers are not prepared to deal with cosmic
threats; but I think Korvac, Nebula, the Elders of the Universe, the Kree and
the Skrull would all beg to differ. Plus this team of Avengers dwarfs the
Guardians in raw power.

I’d also add the Hawkeye & Widow makeout scene is
completely arbitrary. I guess it is supposed to be a nod to the pseudo romantic
tension between the two in the movie, but it has no story value at all here.

On the positive front I really liked the idea that the
Avengers and the President have a cosmic level protocol specifically for
Thanos. I also liked the presentation of Gamroa’s character a lot, particularly
the use of her history as Thanos’ foster daughter. For the future the use of
the Badoon could be interesting, as DnA were clearly building to a major event
with them during the entire run.

Also Mark Bagley’s art is fabulous with lots of beautiful splash pages. And he draws a heck of Thanos,

 

Grade: B-. A
pretty fun story if you don’t mind the cosmic continuity gaps.

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Fear Itself

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Fear Itself

by Matt Fraction and
Stuart Immonen

collects Fear Itself
1-7 and Fear Itself: Book of the Skull #1.

 

Why I Bought This: While
I tend to avoid the big crossovers, this one caught my interest because it came
out the summer of the Captain America and
Thor movies and seemed to be built
around those two characters in an intriguing way. In my post-Cap movie rush I decided I would buy
this eventually. Lo and behold about three months ago, my favorite local comic
shop moved all the Fear Itself tie-in
trades to the discount bin, so I used that as an excuse to buy this off Amazon
(and yes grabbed a few of the tie-ins from the local store too).
The Plot: The Red
Skull’s daughter Sinn gets her hand on an Asgardian hammer that she uses to
awaken Odin’s long lost brother The Serpent. They then deploy seven more
hammers to make super powered minions to fight alongside a Nazi army in an
attack on the Earth with an ultimate goal of overthrowing Asgard.

Chapter 0 – In the wake of the latest death of the Red
Skull, Sinn and Baron Zemo are unearthing one of his old Nazi fortresses where
they find an Atlantis Necrominicon. We get a flashback to 1942 when the Red
Skull was sacrificing Atlanteans to try to utilize the book’s magic to summon a
weapon. The Invaders stumble across the carnage the next day and Namor is not
happy. The mystic mumbo jumbo leads Red Skull to Antarctica
where he finds a hammer that he and his Nazis can’t lift. The Invaders arrive
and get attacked by a frost giant. Red Skull helps it and although the Invaders
kill it, the Skull tricks the Invaders into thinking it was his weapon summoned
by the book so they never see the magic hammer, which Skull hides for future
study. Back in the present Sinn determines the location of the flashback hammer
and teleports away from Zemo so she can retrieve it alone.

Chapter 1 – Cap (Steve Rogers, currently serving commander
of SHIELD while Bucky has the Cap identity) and Sharon Carter are monitoring a
political protest that breaks out into a riot, during which Steve gets hit in
the head with a brick. In Antarctica Sinn retrieves the hammers and transforms
into a Thor-like being, and claims to be “resurrected.” Back in NYC Cap talks
to the Avengers and is disappointed the riot was entirely man-made (i.e. no
mind control, magic spells, etc). In Broxton,
Oklahoma people are moving out
because of Asgard being there and the constant super villain fights it
attracts. Iron Man volunteers the Avengers to rebuild Asgard, which was destroyed
during the Siege crossover, as a way
of inspiring the common man. Meanwhile Odin is talking to the Watcher about the
return of Skaadi and a prophecy that she will kill an Asgardian. Thor shows up
and Odin is not happy with this whole Avengers rebuild Asgard plan since he
could fix it with a snap of his fingers. At the bottom of the ocean Sinn says
she is coming for her father. She kills some dragons and frees an old-man who
claims to be the rightful ruler of Asgard instead of the Red Skull giving us our
first clue that she is not Sinn anymore. Odin becomes aware of the Serpent’s
return. He orders the Asgardians off Earth. Thor asks for an explanation and
Odin pummels him, strips him of his hammer and takes him away in chains as the
Asgardians cross the Rainbow
Bridge. The Serpent
summons seven more hammers that land across the Earth. Meanwhile Cap frets that
“the gods have abandoned us.”

Chapter 2 – Odin imprisons Thor and tells his warriors how
the Serpent feeds on fear and will destroy the Earth growing in power as people
feel fear and then attack and destroy Asgard. His plan to stop that is to “raze
the Earth” before the Serpent can gain his full fear power and then go to war
with him and kill him. In NYC Juggernaut picks up a hammer. These hammers don’t
just empower their hosts but also possess them into other Serpent Asgardians.
(This explains that Sinn is now the host for Skaadi, mentioned in the last
chapter). Steve deploys the Avengers to hammer sites, while Reed takes the FF
to a hammer on Yancy Street
(Thing’s hometown). In Brazil,
Hulk picks up a hammer and transforms leaving Red She Hulk to run away. In
South Africa Titania picks up a hammer and tells Absorbing Man he has a hammer
waiting for him too. In the Pacific Ocean Attuma grabs a hammer. The Serpent
powers up some WWII-era Nazi war machines (think flying Robotech exoskeletons)
and the Nazi’s attack and destroy much of Washington
DC.

Chapter 3 – Bucky-Cap, Black Widow and Falcon respond to DC
and Bucky-Cap engages Sinn in battle. In Asgard, teen-Loki frees Thor from
jail. Absorbing Man finds his hammer in Dubai.
In Brazil Hulk defeats Red She Hulk and she reverts to Betty in hopes this will
snap the spell. Hulk is about to kill her when the Avengers (specifically
Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel v6.0) arrive for the save. In Yancy
Street Thing gets possessed by the hammer Reed was examining and then levels
the street. Thor learns of Odin’s plan to sacrifice the Earth to defeat the
Serpent and confronts him. Odin allows Thor to go back to fight alongside Earth
despite the prophecy that this will lead to his death. Back in DC Sinn kills
Bucky by ripping off his cyborg arm and beating him with it before stabbing him
through the heart with the hilt of her hammer.

Chapter 4 – We see glimpses of chaos around the world
including Juggernaut vs. the X-men in San Francisco
and Grey Gargoyle with a hammer stacking up bodies in Paris
while the Nazi war machines arrive in New
York. We see heroes mourning Bucky until the Avengers
big three reunite and Steve dons the Captain America costume again. The Serpent
receives his first mass fear power up and uses it to recreate his palace. The
big three separate with Thor taking the battle directly to the Serpent’s
palace, Cap leading the New Avengers against the Nazi war machines and Iron Man
trying to gain an audience with Odin, which he does by drinking alcohol at the
gates of Asgard. Thor gets to the Serpent’s throne and Serpent reveals their
kinship and tries to get Thor to turn against Odin. When Thor refuses he is
teleported back to NYC to face Hulk and Thing.

Chapter 5 – Thor does okay against Thing but Hulk is getting
some big hits on him. Sinn confronts Cap and gloats about killing Bucky. Odin tells
Tony he will not risk Asgard to help Earth, to which Tony replies he doesn’t
want help, he just wants to use Odin’s workshop to build weapons to counteract
the hammers. Thing attempts to kill Thor, which causes Thor to kill Thing in
self-defense. Thor then pummels Hulk with his hammer. Cap isn’t doing well
against Sinn and then the Serpent arrives to join her. The New Avengers attack
him but he casually sweeps them away with an energy wave. Cap throws his shield
at Serpent, who catches it and breaks it in half. He follows that up with a
massive energy explosion. We cut to the heroes waking back up and Spidey wants
to leave the battle to check on his family. Meanwhile Franklin finds Ben’s body and uses his
reality warp powers to resurrect him and free of the hammer influence. Thor
admits to Hulk that he could never beat him, although this may be a ruse, since
when Hulk presses the attack Thor blasts him with full force lightening and
hurls him into orbit (causing him to land in Transylvania).
Thor then promptly passes out from the effort. Spidey leaves as Cap tells
Hawkeye “We’re going to lose.”

Chapter 6 – The Avengers tend to Thor, and Cap splits the
teams with the main team taking Thor to Asgard for magic healing and the New
Avengers overseeing the evacuation of NYC. In Asgard Odin is addressing his
troops when Cap interrupts and orders him to heal Thor. Odin feels disrespected
but does it anyway, although he teleports the Avengers away. Cap thinks the
Avengers need a plan to evacuate the Earth as the Serpent levels up again.
Spidey finds Aunt May and they share a moment before he heads off back to war.
Odin gives Thor some magic armor and the Ragnarok Sword for round 2 while Tony
and Odin’s dwarves build a bunch of magic weapons. Cap, armed with a shot gun
of all things, sets up a last stand in Oklahoma since the Serpent has to
destroy the World Tree (which is in Okla. now) for the next phase of his plan.

Chapter 7 – Cap, now armed like the Punisher, is holding
back the Serpent’s army by himself. Tony returns and hands out his magic
weapons to Spidey, Black Widow, Iron Fist, Ms. Marvel, Wolverine, Hawkeye, Red
She-Hulk and Dr. Strange. The Serpent powers up again to what is presumably his
full power. The Asgardian-powered Avengers arrive to help Cap, and the citizens
of Broxton also vow their support. Thor engages the Serpent, who is now in
dragon form. The Serpent deflects Thor’s hammer when it is thrown at him and it
hits Cap, but the Ragnarok Sword draws blood. Cap meanwhile struggles to his
feet and becomes inspired by the Broxton militia showing up to help. Cap then
lifts Thor’s hammer to power up, and we can get an Avengers Assemble moment
that turns the tide against Sinn, Juggernaut and the Nazis. Thor continues to
stab the Serpent, while Hawkeye enjoys using magic arrows that don’t miss, and
Dr. Strange puts down Titania. Cap gets his chance to confront Sinn for killing
Bucky. Red She-Hulk defeats Attuma. Thor is still stabbing, while Odin prepares
to raze the Earth even the heroes seem to be doing damn well at this point.
Wolverine defeats Juggernaut. Odin and his army arrive on Earth just in time to
see Thor decapitate the Serpent, and the two fall from the sky together. With
the Serpent’s death the remaining evil hammers depart from those villains still
standing (Sinn, Absorbing Man and Grey Gargoyle). Odin clears away the rest of
the Serpent’s army, only for Thor to stagger forward and die in his arms. The
next day Odin takes Serpent’s body to the former extra-dimensional site of
Asgard for safe keeping and then seals off the Rainbow
Bridge leaving the entire Asgardian population
behind in Oklahoma.
There is a funeral for Thor.  Odin
reclaims and melts down the Asgardian weapon’s Tony made. Odin also repairs
Cap’s shield, infusing it with uru so it will be stronger than ever. And we
close with Cap giving one of his speeches vowing to rebuild Asgard, NYC and the
World.

 

Critical Thoughts: This
is a good example of why I skip most of the big event crossovers. This story is
riddled with problems. The biggest of which is Cap’s voice is all wrong. In no
instance is that worse than Cap saying, “We’re going to lose” at the end of
chapter five. Cap is the guy who always believes “Where there’s life there’s
hope.” Heck I can think of plenty of crossovers and even regular Avengers
stories where the threats are a lot more powerful on a universal scale than a
rogue Asgardian and some leftover Nazi tech: The Beyonder, Thanos and the
Infinity Gems, Korvac, most of Grandmasters’ and Immortal’s plots, Nebula with
the Infinity Union, etc. Heck in Infinity Gauntlet Cap witnesses the slaughter
of every hero on Earth under his command and still walks up to Thanos to tell
him, “As long as one man stands against you, you will never claim victory,”
which is a heck of lot more desperate a circumstance than Fear Itself, where the only casualty is Bucky—and yes I get Cap
would feel that loss keenly, but I still don’t see him losing hope over it.

Cap’s voice also comes off really wrong in chapter one. His
reaction to the Asgardians departing Earth is “the gods have abandoned us.” I
don’t buy for a second Cap sees the Asgardians as gods. (I think The Avengers film quote sums that up
nicely, “There’s only one God and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”)
Does Cap respect Thor as a warrior and friend, absolutely. Does he see him as a
“god” after decade or more of working alongside him? Highly doubtful. And no
matter how he feels about Thor, does Cap have any reason to give two sh*ts
about Odin and the rest of the Asgardians? Not that I’ve seen in decades of
stories. Hell for much of continuity Asgard has been in a separate reality from
Earth with only Thor and Enchantress have any regular crossings back and forth,
so who cares if they go home? Especially since at this point in the story the
Serpent/crisis hasn’t even reared up yet? In fact I can’t think of a single
story where the Asgardians have defended the Earth. Where were they during the
countless Kree/Skrull/alien invasions, Thanos attacks, Red Skull cosmic cube
epsidoes, Galactus and Celestial arrivals and other planet-wide crisises the
heroes have thwarted on their own? So who cares if they leave now? Especially
Cap, who in 90-percent of the above cases has personally led the
Avengers/heroes of Earth to victory? I’ll add Cap didn’t show any of this
reverence for mythological pantheons during the “Olympus War” when he took on
Zeus in physical combat without a moment’s hesitation.

Speaking of things the characters should not care about in
this story, Tony drinks to get Odin’s attention. Take everything I said about
Batman unmasking to Green Lantern in my New 52 JLA review and multiply that by
50. Sure Tony breaking his sobriety is a big deal to the reader, but give me
one logical reason Odin would remotely give a crap. It’s entirely possible
given their physiology that Asgardians don’t even have a concept of what
alcoholism is. Even if they do, Odin pummels and imprisons his own son for
questioning him in this story and then mocks him for caring about frail
insignificant mortals. So Tony making an ass of himself and not being able to
hold his liquor challenges Odin’s viewpoint on the worthlessness of man how? Odin
states several times he is willing to “raze the Earth” thus by inference
killing 6-billion people, but one man taking a drink, that he takes seriously?

Also Tony breaks his sobriety and gets drunk but then as
soon as Odin shows up he’s like let’s design and build magic weapons despite my
long-standing aversion to magic and how it works. It’s amazing how getting
drunk not only doesn’t impair Tony’s critical thinking, it actually grants him
mastery of skills he’s never had before.

I’ll also add the details of the final battle are very
vague, both in details and choreography. We as readers are never told what
Tony’s new weapons do. If it’s just a strength power-up how does that put them
on even footing with the villains, most of whom lift 100-tons without hammers? Shouldn’t
that baseline mean if the villain is enhanced and Black Widow is enhanced then
you’re back to square one and she’s still incredibly outclassed.  Wolverine especially makes me say what the
hell is going on. Tony seemingly gives him uru claws and spikes that come out
of his skin. Just what the hell is Tony supposed to have built for Logan? A new skeleton? Gloves
to go over his existing claws? Second, his nails are already fictional
super-metal adamantium so how much of upgrade can fictional super-metal uru be?
Decades of Ultron stories have shown Thor’s uru hammer doesn’t make so much as
a dent in adamantium. Then Wolvie uses his new nails to beat Juggernaut; the
details of which occur off-panel because there is no way that can happen. Even
if Juggernaut isn’t magic hammer enhanced he’s immune to physical attacks as
both scores of X-men stories with Wolverine in them and a couple of Thor vs.
Juggernaut stories have shown.

And once we see how the final battle unfolds, you have to
ask, Why is Odin so scared of the Serpent? He defeated him once before when he
imprisoned him. He gives Thor the sword that defeats him this time, so
apparently he’s had it in his possession all along. The Serpent’s big move is
to morph into a giant snake (which if that is his true form then how are Odin
and him brothers?) which is more or less the same thing every major Thor
villain does that he and the Warriors of Asgard fight every 50 issues—the
Midgard Serpent and Seth are the two most obvious Thor examples, and you can
probably throw Set in their too. Yes, it is implied Odin fears Thor’s death
more than the destruction of Asgard and Earth based on this prophecy; but both
Odin and Thor have died more times than I can count so that’s still a fairly
weak motivation.

As a Cap fan this is a real uneven crossover as it is really
just a glorified Thor story, and Cap’s involvement is less than secondary,
which isn’t what the advertising made it look like. I mean sure one of Cap’s
villains in Sinn gets the first hammer, but then she gets possessed by Skaadi
so who cares. It could be anyone wielding that hammer, for all the difference
it makes. Then he doesn’t even get to take her down and avenge Bucky in the
final battle. She’s just someone Odin casually clears away after Thor falls
alongside rabble like Attuma. That just fails narrative 101: you have two major
heroes and two major villains in this story, and when you pair them off for the
grand battle, you don’t let each hero triumph individually over their own
villain?  Heck if this crossover was
designed to tie-in to the movies of those heroes why not just resurrect the Red
Skull for the 42nd time from whatever he died of this week and use
Cap’s actual nemesis instead of his daughter. Because the idea of the Red Skull
with Thor-like power is a lot more interesting than Sinn gets possessed and
teams up with a new character that will likely never be seen again.

I also want to say this story pokes holes in Marvel’s stated
crossover policy that a reader can buy just the main title and skip the tie-ins
and still get the full story. Because on that level the other hammers do
nothing. Absorbing Man and Titania grab a hammer and we never see them again
until the last three pages; ditto really everyone but Hulk and Thing who have
the fight with Thor.

I could keep going as this story is just cloaked in fail.
Who cares if the Avengers rebuild Asgard? I mean I can see how it’s a nice
gesture by Tony and Steve for Thor’s sake, but Tony insists this will inspire
the public. If am John Q. Public, why does the rebuilding of some mythic city
that’s already been floating over bumblefuck Oklahoma for several month inspire me?  There are probably a million other sci-fi
things Tony could do to aid the lives of actual human citizens that would be
more effective than that. Plus as Odin mentions he could fix the city with a
snap of his fingers. So why hasn’t he already? Does he like the scenic
qualities of living in rubble?

Then there is the Spider-man subplot. Why is it here? How is
it good to have your franchise character leave the fight and be the first hero to
accept the so-called inevitable defeat? Is he really the only hero with friends
and family to check on? How is he able to find Aunt May by swinging around
screaming her name during the evacuation of the 8 million people in New York? How dumb is
Aunt May not to realize he’s Peter in that scene? How hackneyed was the
dialogue for her to work “responsibility” into that conversation.

Why does Odin melt the weapons Tony built down? Even if he
doesn’t want to let the Avengers keep them, doesn’t he think maybe these would
be nice to keep in a vault for his own soldiers the next time Surtur or whoever
raids Asgard. In fact like most crossovers this story is remarkably consequence
free. NYC and Washington DC are destroyed in this story and yet
that’s glossed over in a page at the end, of yea we’ll rebuild. Thor and Bucky
did a speed record in returning from the dead after this story. The worst
offender is when Franklin
casually walks up and resurrects the Thing. That’s not just bad for this story;
it now means every FF story forever to come has no consequences because they
have a get out of jail free card living with them. (Also why the hell aren’t
the FF in this story after Thing gets possessed? Reed is with him when it
happens and then we never see Reed again, because apparently he doesn’t care
enough to call in the rest of the team/family and save his best friend and/or
help deal with the destruction of Manhattan—and also apparently they let their
6-year-old son wander the streets of New York alone in the middle of a major
disaster).

I’ll end my criticism by noting the story is filled with
snippets of conversation about real world issues, which is meant to somehow be
pithy and tie in to the mass fear thing but like most of the writing here
completely fails.

So do I have any positives? I liked seeing Cap go to town
with Thor’s hammer. Tom Defalco showed Cap could lift the hammer over two
decades ago, so it seemed like a big story where that comes into play for the
finale has been a long time coming, as it is a natural strategic surprise Cap
and Thor could pull off in a crisis. Unfortunately this story doesn’t deliver
what I’d want from that scene as not only does Cap with the hammer not win the
day, he doesn’t even beat the secondary villain Sinn on his own. In a related
positive note: the art, particularly the splash pages, look nice—none better
than when Cap lifts the hammer. Bucky’s death is also dramatically done. Sinn
rips off his arm and beats him with it. That’s something you hear in action
movies as a threat all the time but never actually see realized. I also liked
the prologue a lot probably because it was written by Ed Brubaker and not
Fraction, and thus tonally comes off a lot better than anything that follows.

Grade: E

  

Waiting for the Trade – Avengers

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Avengers Prime
by Brian Michael Bendis and Alan Davis
Collects Avengers Prime 1-5
Why I Bought This: I actually rented this from the library, as I don’t like/trust Bendis enough to buy books he writes. Also this is kind of Asgard heavy and that’s not my favorite setting. However, the premise of a mini-series that focuses on the Avengers’ “big three” is definitely something that interests me, so when I decided to rent some trades at the library this was the first one I picked up.
The Plot: In the immediate aftermath of Siege Cap, Thor and Iron Man are warped away to Asgard’s nine realms and must battle their way back to each other/home.

 
Chapter 1 – The big three are looking at the ruins of Asgard (which is still in Oklahoma) when Cap and Tony begin to argue about Civil War again when suddenly a magic vortex opens and sucks them through. Tony ends up in a field alone. Cap (sans shield since Bucky still has it) winds up in a bar full of trolls/orcs/elves, when he asks where to find Thor they all attack him but Cap being awesome lays out the entire bar. Thor finds the Enchantress, who attacks him.
Chapter 2 – Thor and the Enchantress battle, while she blames him for the current state of the nine realms. Iron Man encounters some ogres/trolls who easily defeat him as he isn’t fully armored. Cap battles some more elves and after he wins, he meets an elf chick who has the hots for him after seeing him in battle. The trolls bring Iron Man to a dragon named Fafnir that claims Thor killed him once before and they begin to torture Iron Man. Thor learns from Amora that Hela has conquered the nine realms while the Asgardians have been absent in Oklahoma, and Hela arrives.
Chapter 3 – Thor battles Hela and her army of the dead. Tony uses the lightening flashes of their battle in the distance to scare the trolls into turning against the dragon, and then escapes naked (because it’s a Bendis comic where every captured hero is always naked). The dragons catches up to Tony and is about to kill him when Cap arrives and takes him down in three panels because he’s awesome like that. And then Cap scares the trolls away just by standing up to them without throwing a punch because that’s how he rolls. Hela defeats Thor, but as she’s about to kill him Enchantress teleports him to safety where Cap and Tony find him severely wounded and sans hammer.
Chapter 4 – Enchantress has managed to down Hela and she tries to life Thor’s hammer to no avail, when Hela recovers and defeats her. Hela then tries to first lift and then destroy Thor’s hammer also to no avail. Hela then summons the spirit of Thor’s grandfather to take the hammer promising to send him to Valhalla if he does so, however he too fails to lift it so she banishes him again. Amora recovers and summons an army of demons to attack Hela. Meanwhile the big three compare notes and Thor is baffled that Hela is now more powerful than him amongst other standard Bendis-style silly chit-chat. Thor unites the various dragons, elves, and ogres into an army to oppose Hela. Defeated again, Enchantress learns that Hela has the Twilight Sword.
Chapter 5 – Thor’s army battles Hela’s army of the dead in epically drawn splash pages. Thor and Hela meet in battle and she again overpowers Thor and this time stabs him with the sword. She’s about to decapitate him when Enchantress again intervenes and teleports the two of them away so Thor can recover his hammer. Round 2 and Thor manages to stalemate Hela until Enchantress, Iron Man and the Dragon combine all of their energy attacks with Thor’s lightening to finally defeat Hela. Thor then uses the sword to restore the nine-realms (except he still leaves Asgard broken and in Oklahoma for reasons I don’t buy) and Enchantress teleports the Avengers home. Thor gives the sword to Hemidall for safe-keeping (since the rainbow bridge is broken so he has nothing better to do at the moment I guess), while Cap and Tony finally reconcile their differences.
Critical Thoughts: I was stunned at how much I enjoyed this. This may be the best thing I’ve ever read by Bendis. While it has some of his usual quirks that annoy me they are very few and far between in this story. He actually gets Cap and writes him well both in battle and among his allies (which again stuns me because usually I find Bendis completely misses on a lot of the characters I like–Hawkeye being the most obvious example). The fight scenes are also very strong, which typically is a major criticism I have of Bendis: I’d say in most stories of his I’ve read I find his fight scenes have absolutely no flow at all to the point of being borderline non-existent, so kudos to Davis for making more with less.

I’ve mentioned before that Enchantress is probably my favorite character in the Thor-mythos, and again I’m pleased to say Bendis writes her very well letting her show that hidden streak of nobility she had in her best stories of the 80s alongside the pettiness and superiority that drives her villainous actions. I also really liked the Twilight Sword reveal, as it was last seen in Busiek’s modern classic of the Avengers vs. Morgan Le Fay and Bendis assumes the reader’s know and recall its full power and let’s the moment of its reveal sink in.
Grade: A. – I can’t believe I’m giving this grade to a Bendis written Avengers comic, but I can be objective and this story was quality from top to bottom.

Waiting for the Trade – Avengers vol 2

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Avengers Assemble Vol. 2
by Kurt Busiek and George Perez
Collects 12-23, 0 and Annual ’99
Why I Bought This – As I mentioned a few times the week of The Avengers movie I purchased several trades. This was first on the list with a bullet as I’d waited literally years to read this since the original hardcover volume has been out of print for some time, and I absolutely loved volume 1. Thankfully the movie caused this to be re-released in soft cover.
The Plot – This is a collection of sequential issues so it doesn’t have one plot, although the Ultron story at the end is what this collection is famous for. Spoilers ahead.
Chapter 1 – The Avengers learn Hawkeye has quit the team to join the Thunderbolts, but seeing as they are  the former Masters of Evil some of the team has doubts as to whether he’s being mind-controlled or not. Vision has recovered from his injuries from the Morgan Le Fay arc that started volume 1; and Hank Pym resolves Firestar’s health problems (left over from the New Warriors) as well. Vision learns Wanda and Simon are dating, and decides to keep his own feelings for Wanda to himself. The Avengers then make their way to what will become Thunderbolts mountain, and the two teams have the usual misunderstanding battle until the alien Dominus shows up (originally a Professor X foe, he later switched to the West Coast Avengers—which makes Hawkeye the most familiar with him). Former West Coast Avenger Firebird shows up to help out as well after Dominus sends out a robot that can blow up the planet. The two teams unite and Hawkeye comes up with a plan that enables the Thunderbolts to deactivate the bomb and save the planet, and thus his new team earns the Avengers respect and they all part amicably.
Chapter 2 – We get a flashback from Jarvis’ perspective of the death of the Avengers during the Onslaught crossover; as well as the untold story of why Black Widow was unable to recruit a new Avengers team in the aftermath of the tragedy. In present day four Sentinels made in the image of the founding Avengers attack New York. The Avengers battle them to a stalemate, while Jarvis figures out that Avengers techie Fabian built them from the remains of destroyed Sentinels in the Onslaught story. Fabian had hoped to use them as a heroic strike force that would take the dead Avengers place but as always when humans play with Sentinels tech, it has gone awry and they’ve superseded their programming and are using his brainwaves as a battery until Jarvis can free Fabian which causes the robots to shut down.
Chapter 3 – Justice and Firestar accompany the New Warriors on a mission during their night off from the Avengers. The Warriors run into AIM and new villain Lord Templar and are out of their depth so Justice calls in the Avengers. Templar has energy based powers and can clone himself and thus does very well against both teams until Thor opens up a can of whup-ass; Templar however does manage to escape. Cap was unavailable for this mission due to stuff going on his own book, so Wanda is elected deputy leader. Justice decides he wants to quit the Avengers and go back to the Warriors but before he can tell Angelica, she tells him she wants them to move into the mansion as she’s come to love being an Avenger.
Chapter 4 – Beast stops by the mansion to say hi to longtime best friend Wonder Man. They end up in a bar with Wanda and Vision and we get some more interpersonal drama, while Busiek also cleans up some bad continuity from Wonder Man’s solo-title. A new villain named Pagan attacks the city, and the Avengers are mostly ineffective against him (as he has immensely high level super strength going toe to toe with Thor, Vision and Wonder Man simultaneously at one point). Eventually Pagan calls off his attack and leaves of his own volition.
Chapter 5 – Triathlon is a giving a demonstration of his powers in New York as part of political rally for a quasi-religious/minority rights group called the Triune Understanding, and we learn they gave him his powers. Pagan attacks the Triune rally and the Avengers respond and yet again are ineffective until Templar shows up and aids them against Pagan and wins the day. The Avengers find it fishy that Templar was no match for Thor and yet can defeat Pagan when the team can’t, but the Triune refuses to let them search their building for clues. We learn the head of the Triune is secretly Templar.
Chapter 6 – The Wrecking Crew are teleported to the headquarters of a robot named Doomsday Man (apparently an old foe of Ms. Marvel from her solo title in the 70s). He wants the Wrecking Crew to bring her to him, but they confuse Ms. Marvel with the second Captain Marvel and attack her instead. While normally Captain Marvel should be able to beat the Wrecking Crew in her sleep, apparently Doomsday has also enhanced their powers so they can absorb energy and convert it to physical strength so there isn’t much she can do. She calls in the Avengers for help, and the team along with Black Knight flies down to New Orleans to assist. The Wrecking Crew basically wins the fight giving Justice a concussion and capturing Capt. Marvel but when they call in to Doomsday for a teleport he sees they have the wrong girl and decides to disintegrate them instead; however Wanda’s hex power saves them by inadvertently banishing them to another dimension.
Chapter 7 – Thor tracks the Wrecking Crew and C.M. to Arkon’s dimension and most of the team mounts a rescue operation, while Iron Man treats Justice back at the mansion. The Pyms arrive to inform the team that Doomsday has captured Ms. Marvel (they were with her at the time), but with the rest of the team gone it’s just them and Iron Man to the rescue. We get the obligatory fight scene which ends when Justice arrives; disobeying orders to take medical leave and ends up getting his leg broken by Doomsday although he telekinetically dismantles the robot before passing out. The main team learns the Wrecking Crew has conquered Arkon using C.M as a battery.
Chapter 8 – The Avengers lead a rebellion to free Arkon from the Wrecking Crew. Captain Marvel saves the day by overloading their energy absorption power. Hank Pym is kidnapped from his day job by robots.
Chapter 9 – Wonder Man learns robots have kidnapped his brother Grim Reaper from the mental asylum. The Avengers battle Iron-Man foe Firebrand with Thor banishing him to another dimension to end the fight.
Chapter 10 – Robots raid the Wakandan embassy and Black Panther falls before them. Wasp arrives to inform the team of Hank’s kidnapping just as Black Panther’s distress call comes through. The team arrives and is surprised to find Alkhemia (Ultron’s second bride from WCA), who is now made of Adamantium. A furious battle ensures before Wanda ultimately short circuits her. The Avengers return home to learn Ultron has conquered the fictional European nation of Slorenia.
Chapter 11 – We see every singe person in Slorenia is dead (including some minor superhumans that had appeared in Force Works). Vision, Wanda, Wonder Man and Wasp are searching Hank’s office for clues when all of the prior Ultrons (1-15) attack them and defeat them. Ultron greets them as his family and says he intends to use them (along with Grim Reaper and Hank) to build a new race of robots that will take over the world.
Chapter 12 –  Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Panther and Firestar take on Ultron-16 in an epic back and forth battle until finally Thor manages to destroy him. Then just when they think they’ve won hundreds of additional Ultrons reveal themselves.
Chapter 13 – The Avengers battle on and we learn some of the Ultrons are not adamantium–most of them are steel thus Iron Man is able to build a weapon to defeat them. We learn Hank used his own brain patterns to build Ultron and that guilt is what has caused his mental breakdowns over the years. Vision frees himself and tries to come to a truce with his father, but Ultron rebuffs him. Still Vision is able to buy time for Grim Reaper to free the others. Just then Thor and company arrive and another massive battle ensues. Ultron is on the verge victory when Justice arrives with anti-metal that the team confiscated from AIM in chapter 3 and Hank uses it to disintegrate Ultron.
Chapter 14 – Vision and Wonder Man get into a physical fight over their feelings for Wanda and we learn that both men admire the other as being the superior version of themselves. (They both share the same brainwaves for those who don’t know).
Critical Thoughts: It does not get better than this! I loved every single thing about this book. I mean I could quibble and say the new villains (Templar and Pagan) aren’t all that interesting compared to the more classic Avengers foes; but even those chapters are filled with good character subplots, well drawn battles and a nice little conspiracy mystery that hasn’t hit fruition yet.
The Ultron stuff is every bit as excellent as its reputation. This is the simply the greatest Ultron story ever told. And Ultron is the Avengers’ greatest villain, so it would put it high in the running for greatest Avengers story ever told. Thor has pretty much his most bad-ass moment ever in chapter 13 (“Ultron we would have words with Thee”). Firestar, a character I’ve always liked, also has her greatest moment in chapter 10 as she tries to overheat Alkhema’s insides with her microwave powers and is willing to face-down certain death to do it. And the fight scenes in this arc are all excellent. Hell considering how often they top themselves they are beyond excellent.
I also love the constant one-shot appearances of Avengers’ past aiding the main team when they are in the area. Having Firebird show up to help against an old West Coast Avengers foe, or getting to see Black Knight and Captain Marvel on the team again were real highlights for me because I like them better than the others but this would also apply to Beast and Black Panther showing up.
The interpersonal stories are great. The reversal of Justice and Firestar’s opinions on the team in chapter 3 was a highlight as is all of the Wanda-Vision-Simon stuff. Vision gets a great monologue in the last chapter when he tells Simon how he feels. The Jarvis flashbacks in chapter 2 are also a nice emotional beat for a longtime supporting cast member.
Busiek’s writing remains superb. Perez’s art is without peer. And even the chapters not written by Busiek (the Sentinels chapter and three-issue Wrecking Crew arc) don’t miss a beat, flowing seamlessly into the rest of the title.
Grade A+. Nuff Said.

Waiting for the Trade – Avengers Assemble

By Bill Miller
Marvel Adventures: Black Widow and the Avengers
by Paul Tobin
Collects Marvel Adventures Super Heroes 17 – 21.
Why I Bought This: There is no comic franchise I love more than the Avengers. The impending movie has my anticipation building to a full on geek-gasm. I stumbled upon this on Amazon at just $4 (and that includes shipping costs) and was like Hell Yeah I’m up for some Avengers stories I haven’t read before the movie comes out. Plus the description promised Diablo and he’s actually my favorite FF villain so I’m more than happy to see him switch foes since I like the Avengers a lot more than the FF.

The Plot: Marvel Adventures is a different continuity in an “all ages” format. This is the story of the Avengers coming together in a new continuity. While I know some people don’t care for stories outside the main Marvel continuity (and to an extent I understand that as I can’t be bothered mustering the effort to care about the Ultimate universe); I think once you start reading only trades it really doesn’t make much difference. After all look at the stories I’ve reviewed since starting this column: My first review was Brand New Day Spidey and two books later I was back to married Spidey; a week ago I had Galactus fighting Thor in the modern-era, yesterday I had him fighting the FF in the 80s. The point is you bounce back and forth through time often enough you begin not take care so much about when the stories take place versus just whether it’s a good story or not. And once you cross the bridge of not caring about when so much, it’s a short jump to not caring about which universe it’s in either. Plus let’s be honest continuity gets reset every 15 years or so anyway so what difference does it make?
So onto the story at hand: (spoilers ahead)
Chapter 1 – Cap, Iron Man and Thor are working together on a case but are not yet a team. They arrive in Iowa where a small town was devastated by a mass rage incident. In checking out cell phone videos they discover both the Invisible Woman and Diablo (for those who don’t know he’s an evil alchemist with his three primary powers being control of the four Greek elements, potions that transmute inorganic matter such as lead to gold, and immortality thank to the Elixir Vitale) were both present before it all went crazy. They find Sue buried under-wreckage but she is still under the rage-spell and attacks the heroes doing quite well and even neutralizing Thor until Cap takes her down with some strategy because Cap is awesome like that. Sue reveals an alien life-form caused the chaos and we see the not-yet-Avengers along with Reed Richards investigating several leads in a series of well-written mystery scenes such as Androids and Diablo. The Vision gets involved in the investigation and ultimately Diablo is proved to be innocent, instead it is an artificial construct that Thor banishes to another dimension before its origins are uncovered.
Chapter 2 – Nova (who in this reality is either a teenager or early college age and still new to the superhero biz) is in Scotland with his brother and a group paranormal researchers looking into poltergeist-like phenomena that seems to cause an emotional response and gets attacked in the woods by a creature that looks like a satyr but they say is the ghost of a giant. The five not-yet-Avengers arrive to see if this is related to the incidents from last chapter and they run into Black Widow doing her spy thing. The ghost remanifests and the seven heroes unite to vanquish it with Thor doing the heavy lifting since it is a mystic threat and in the end they decide to form the Avengers. So your Avengers are Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Invisible Woman, Nova and Black Widow.
Chapter 3 – Iron Man sets the team up with a mansion when Plant Man arrives seeking asylum because Silver Surfer is after him and seems to be possessed by an uncontrollable rage. Vision is off with Diablo again, but everyone else is present when Surfer arrives and we then get an epic fight scene. Seriously, this is one the best choreographed fights I’ve seen in years. Anyway the Avengers are losing the battle because let’s face it Surfer is arguably Marvel’s most powerful hero when Vision arrives with one of Diablo’s potions and manages to cure the Surfer.
Chapter 4 – We start ‘in media res’ as the Avengers are battling Diablo and it’s another really good fight scene with him trashing Iron Man thoroughly and sticking some elementals on the rest of the team including an earth elemental that absorbs an entire building as it goes toe to toe with Thor. The fight is interspersed with flashbacks and we see Diablo has fallen into despair and madness. Vision manages to track him down and talk Diablo to his senses before he can kill Iron Man as Diablo realizes the demon D’Spayre is the cause of this and uses his magic to banish the demon.
Chapter 5 – Another story told parallel in action and flashback, Nova gets put in charge of duty roster assignments for a day and has to handle twin problems of a mystic crisis in Hawaii involving obscure titans and goddesses and a closer to home problem with two World War II era heroes that I’ve never heard of seeking help in preventing one of them from becoming a proto-Hulk creature. Anyway this is more a character piece on Nova with a bit of humor tossed in with the threats as window dressing (hence why they’re all so obscure no doubt) so we’ll leave it at that.
Critical Thoughts – I loved this book. This is exactly what an Avengers story should be: big battles with big stakes interspersed with interesting character interactions. I know some people may shy away from this because it’s “all ages” and thus may think that means dumbed-down but they’d be wrong. Heck, the best writers in Marvel history wrote in a time when all comics were meant to be appropriate for younger audience and that never stopped them from creating the stories we rightfully consider classics today.
While I wouldn’t call this a classic, there is some damn good writing here. The investigation in chapter 1 is very compelling. The fight scenes in chapters three and four are awesome; and Nova’s reaction to the idea of even trying to fight the Surfer is well-written and adds to the anticipation for when he does arrive. But also there are really nice character interactions here. Some examples: In this reality Sue is not yet married to Reed and Cap begins to fall for her, and it’s well-written and you want to see how it plays out. Black Widow has joined the team just to spy on them for Reed, which is another intriguing plot twist; at the same time she has a nice comedic chemistry with Nova as she’s the jaded all business spy and he’s the “oh wow” noob—his reaction the new headquarters in chapter three is laugh-out-loud funny. The friendship between Vision and Diablo is well done. Here are two characters that have little in common: one is a hero, one is a villain; one is the science of the future, one is the magic of the past; and yet the writing shows where they have common ground and can find respect for each other. I don’t know who Paul Tobin is, but based on this I’ll be looking for more of his stuff and the main Avengers title would be blessed to have him.
Also this writer gets Cap. And that to me is one of the most important things an Avenger story needs to do to be a success.
Grade A. I don’t what more I can add to my thoughts above. Good writing, good characterizations, great fight scenes focused on characters that I enjoy from the Avengers themselves to Surfer to Diablo. That’s an easy A on every front.

Waiting for the Trade #5 – Thor

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
The Mighty Thor
by Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel
Collects Mighty Thor 1 – 6.
Why I bought this: Actually this was another library rental, as opposed to purchase. It was a story arc (Galactus comes to eat Asgard) that I knew wanted to read because I love me some cosmic Marvel; but at the same time I was wary on purchasing it because I know I don’t like Thor’s solo title–I never have, and the last time I purchased a Thor trade it was awful despite having Thanos in it; so I was very happy to see this at my library and I picked it up instantly.

The Plot: The Asgardians find a seed to the World Tree, Galactus believes the seed can cure his cosmic hunger. Odin refuses to relinquish it. A brouhaha ensues. That really sums up the whole story, but we’ll give the chapter by chapter recap anyway.
Chapter 1 – Citizens of Broxton, Oklahoma are worried about constantly being collateral damage since Asgard arrived in Oklahoma circa 2007 (don’t ask me how: didn’t read it and don’t care too). Meanwhile Galactus is eating a planet, while Silver Surfer assures us through narration that he only guides Galactus to unpopulated worlds. Meanwhile Thor and Sif are swimming in the pink energy that makes up the World Tree trying to fix its roots and are attacked by giant caterpillars, one of whom bites Thor. You wouldn’t think that would be a big deal, and the art makes it look he’s barely scratched, but his wound becomes a plot point throughout the story. Loki, now inexplicably 10-years-old or thereabouts, dives into the tree and saves Thor using a spear. They find the cosmic MacGuffin and turn the seed over to Odin. Apparently Thor and Sif are dating again and we get to see way more of them than we should in a children’s comic; and Thor is leaking energy from his side where the caterpillar bit him. Silver Surfer arrives on Earth.
Chapter 2 – Odin hides the seed inside the Destroyer, who is in a weapons vault from right out of the movie. Surfer informs the residents of Broxton they should depart because Galactus is coming for the seed. (Surfer’s cosmic senses apparently became instantly aware of it when it was plucked last chapter.) Surfer asks Odin for the seed, he says no and Thor attacks Surfer.
Chapter 3 – Volstagg goes to Broxton to get a beer and the residents led by the local preacher tell him the Asgardians they are not welcome anymore. Surfer and Thor fight until Odin intervenes and agrees to hear Surfer out. Surfer explains the seed can cure Galactus’ hunger, saving countless worlds but Odin refuses to turn it over without explaining why because that’s what Odin always does; so Surfer departs warning that when he returns Galactus will be with him. Meanwhile Volstagg tries to raise the guard because he’s an idiot and believes Broxton will attack Asgard soon; however all the Asgardian warriors of note have departed for space to take the fight to Galactus.
Chapter 4 – Loki goes to see the Weird Sisters (from Macbeth, who are apparently now part of Norse mythology) in hopes of finding a cure for Thor’s wound. We get a big battle in space, which breaks into three parts. Galactus sends purple energy tendrils to occupy the rank and file Asgardians, Thor and Surfer go at it physically—mostly hitting each with their hammer and surfboard, and Odin and Galactus battle on the mental plane by making each other relive bad memories. In the climax: The Oklahomans are standing outside Asgard asking them to leave via megaphone, Thor threatens to kill Surfer as their fight spills to Mars, and Loki gets what he wants from the Weird Sisters.
Chapter 5- The battle in space continues, and Odin, losing the mental battle, head-buts Galactus breaking his helmet and causing energy to leak out as he starts to dissipate; wounded both fall to Earth just in time to distract Volstagg and stop him from slaughtering the Oklahomans. Loki retrieves the seed from the Destroyer, accidentally reactivating it in the process. Spent by the battle Odin falls into the Odinsleep, while Galactus pulls himself together and now he’s pissed. Loki decides to put the seed back in the tree, while Pastor Mike thinks Galactus is God.
Chapter 6 – Pastor Mike asks Galactus to have mercy and he gives a definitive “no.” Surfer senses the seed is gone. Odin takes control of the Destroyer and arms himself with Thor’s hammer, he’s about to attack Galactus, who teleports into orbit. The Asgardians feel they have driven him off, but in truth he’s trying to locate the seed with Surfer’s cosmic senses. Odin returns to his body and awakes; and everyone is mad at Loki for putting the seed back even though in so doing he probably saved them all from Galactus. Surfer goes to visit Pastor Mike, and takes him to Asgard where he arranges a truce with the terms that Surfer will remain on Asgard to guard the seed, while Pastor Mike becomes the new Herald of Galactus. Galactus then makes Surfer human again and ties his power to proximity to the seed, the former of which seems to be counterproductive to watching the Asgardians; and we see life going on for the major players as we wrap things up.
Critical Thoughts: Let’s start with the positive. I love the art. From the penciling to the coloring it is gorgeous. Galactus in particular is drawn as an awesome force–in reveal after reveal the art finds new ways to convey it from his eating a planet, to his arrival, to his recovery, to his interaction with Pastor Mike each time he looks more majestic than the time before and the bar starts high to begin with.
I also appreciated Surfer’s narration to start the story that he’s been leading Galactus to uninhabited worlds. As much as I loved Annihilation, the one thing in that story that rang false was Surfer rejoining Galactus, which was clearly shoehorned in to align the comics with the Fantastic Four-Silver Surfer movie that year. As a huge fan of Surfer’s 80-90s solo-title, which was all about his quest for redemption for the genocides he caused when serving Galactus the first time, I was glad to see this included because it mitigates his return to service considerably. Likewise I’m glad to see Surfer released from service at the end of this; and I liked that he was inspired by Pastor Mike’s courage to leave Galactus and try to recover his humanity as it definitely feels in-character and in some ways is a nice hallmark to how Alicia’s compassion won him over the first time. And while unnecessary, since we know his being human probably won’t last more than this writer’s run on Thor, I don’t have a major problem with it.
Unfortunately, I found the story as a whole weak. Part of this is I that I’ve never cared for the Asgardians. I like Thor in the Avengers, but his own book with its mystic mumbo jumbo nonsense has no appeal for me and never has no matter which writers I’ve sampled; and the Asgardians themselves are bunch of dull characters with interchangeable personalities.
But beyond that and specific to this story the fight scene between Galactus and Odin is lacking. The idea that they are metaphysical entities and we can’t see their battle is a cop-out—and patently not true: we’ve seen both have physical battles dozens of times. Plus there is no context given in the memory war they do have. As someone who doesn’t read Thor regularly, I have no idea what any of Odin’s flashbacks are about.
Which brings us to another point; there is a general lack of exposition throughout this trade. Most glaringly why is Loki 10-years-old? That is a fairly jarring status quo change, that should be explained somewhere in this book; especially when you consider not just that trade paperbacks should be self-contained but this collects a new issue #1 released to correspond with the movie in case casual fans wanted to sample the title. And it’s not just Loki is still himself but in 10-year-old body, like he when he was (also inexplicably) a chick a few years ago. No, he’s fully a kid now: in one scene he’s all agog at seeing Sif naked, in the climax he’s crying because no one likes him when he tried to do good. He also seems to no longer have magic as he has to go to the witches for help and uses a spear in his one fight scene. Plus he and Thor are all buddy-buddy, with Thor being all like he’s my beloved brother and defending him to the other Asgardians. So yea exposition definitely needed.
I’d also add the Volstagg-Pastor Mike subplot wasn’t to my liking at all, that Thor seems way too willing to attack and even try to kill the Surfer when they’ve been allies for years, and Surfer’s fighting tactics in general were a little off—since when is the board his primary offensive weapon as opposed to the power cosmic? Is it just to dumb down the fight to magic hammers vs. cosmic surfboard?  Either way it just compounds the lazy plotting of the main fight scene that drives the entire story.
Finally, I don’t see why Galactus would agree to this truce as he really gains nothing from it and he has the power take what he wants—the explanation given is he can wait the Asgardians out because he is more immortal than they are, but in the meantime he’s spending tens of thousands of years eating planets when the problem could be solved now. In fact why isn’t at least one Asgardian (preferably Thor since he’s the protagonist) questioning Odin on this? Thor has certainly defied his father in past stories and this is a chance to save millions of billions of innocent lives, while Odin isn’t even explaining why he wants the seed. That seems like a major lost opportunity for story-telling; at the very least Thor should be conflicted rather than unquestioningly trying to kill a longtime ally for the glory of Asgard.
Overall Grade: D+. The art is fabulous, but while the story had potential it never lived up to it with the fight scenes, subplots and climax all failing to deliver.