Category Archives: Spotlight

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BINC Announces $2 million Survive to Thrive Initiative

BINC logo

The Book Industry Charity Foundation (Binc) announced today the establishment of the Survive to Thrive bookstore grant program. Founded with initial support from Ingram Charities and Ingram Content Group, the program will quickly provide grants to independent bookstores and comic shops affected by COVID-19.

With a leading gift of $500k jointly from Ingram Charities and Ingram Content Group, $250k from Bookshop.org, and an additional $250k total from HachetteHarper CollinsMacmillan Publishers, and Penguin Random House, the Survive to Thrive initiative has raised the first million dollars of its $2 million goal.

The Survive to Thrive grant program will provide substantial support to as many as 200 brick-and-mortar bookstores and comic shops in the U.S. that have a strong foundation in their community but are facing financial challenges due to the impacts of the pandemic.

With $2 million, the Survive to Thrive initiative could make grants of up to $10,000 to 200 independent bookstores and comic shops.

Grants will be made via a juried review process designed to provide grants to stabilize stores and help them thrive, retaining the many and varied benefits local bookstores and comic shops provide to their communities. The Survive to Thrive jury of reviewers will be made of industry leaders who love book and comic shops and have the knowledge and expertise to review the grant applications. The Survive to Thrive applications are expected to open in mid-April, with grants to be distributed in early June.

Survive to Thrive is relying on industry and community support. All gifts to Binc in support of the Survive to Thrive grant program will make a difference for independent bookstores and comic shops that, with some help, can continue to be vital Main Street anchors, community gathering spots, and the backbone of the book and comics industries. Visit to donate today.

In 2020, Binc distributed $2.9 million to help more than 2,200 bookstores, comic shops, and individual store owners and employees. In 8 weeks beginning in late March 2020, Binc distributed more aid than in the prior 8 years combined.

Diamond Releases a Statement Regarding Marvel’s Move to Penguin Random House

Earlier today shockwaves through the comic industry were felt as Marvel announced an exclusive deal with Penguin Random House to distribute their comics to the direct market (ie comic shops). This is a major hit to Diamond Comic Distributors, the current distributor, and comes about 9 months after DC left Diamond.

Diamond Comic Distributors Chairman, President & CEO Steve Geppi has released a statement regarding the change:

We value our almost 40-year relationship with Marvel and are pleased that we will continue selling Marvel products to the Direct Market and other channels,” the statement reads.

The change Marvel announced today represents a behind-the-scenes shift in how Diamond interacts with Marvel for certain products, but does not impact our ability to supply our customers with Marvel comics, trades, and graphic novels. I expect the discount terms under which our retail partners order these Marvel products to change, and Diamond will communicate that information to our customers well in advance of any adjustments. While there are still details of this new arrangement to work through, my leadership team and I are committed to making this supply change as operationally seamless as possible for our retail partners and we look forward to our continued distribution of Marvel products.

Marvel’s deal with Penguin Random House will begin on October 1. Diamond will remain as a distributor as well but Diamond would be getting their product from Penguin Random House as to re-distribute.

Marvel Goes Exclusive with Penguin Random House for Direct Market Distribution

Penguin Random House and Marvel

Marvel Comics and Penguin Random House Publisher Services (PRHPS), a division of Penguin Random House, have announced an exclusive worldwide multi-year sales and distribution agreement for Marvel’s newly published and backlist comic books, trade collections, and graphic novels to comics shops, known as the Direct Market. PRHPS officially begins its distribution to Direct Market retailers for all Marvel titles starting October 1.

Marvel has chosen PRHPS as its distribution partner to create a sustainable, productive supply chain and enhanced infrastructure for Marvel publications that will benefit comics retailers. Penguin Random House is known for its state-of-the-art multi-ranging services that enable independent booksellers to increase efficiency and profitability.

Penguin Random House has long been committed to physical retail in order to foster and grow their market. Independently owned brick-and-mortar bookstores are local community builders, advocates for books, and passionate influencers for the industry.

After seeing a double-digit percentage in closures of physical bookstores from 2001 to 2011, and notwithstanding an anticipated rise in e-books, PRH significantly extended and expanded its outreach to physical retail. Through its robust supply chain of rapid direct shipping, greater access to data, and premier customer service, PRH helped support healthier margins that led to a market turnaround. These past experiences and learnings will be invaluable when adapting for today’s physical retailers in the Direct Market.

Penguin Random House is a free-freight company, allowing retailers to simplify their business models while alleviating the volatility and complexity of reducing freight costs and planning. Through many of PRH’s standard offerings, like its rapid replenishment program for graphic novels and advanced supply chain, Direct Market retailers will experience more flexibility to manage inventory and stock their stores to best serve their customers.

Direct Market retailers can choose to order Marvel products direct from PRH, or alternatively, through Diamond as a wholesaler under terms established by Diamond in the US and the UK. Hachette Book Group will continue to manage distribution of Marvel’s graphic novels and trade collections to the book market.

Marvel’s full print and online October Marvel Previews catalog and comic book solicits will be available in July and distributed by PRHPS to active accounts. All comic book and trade orders for titles going on sale this October should be made through PRHPS. Early solicit titles will be available for order starting on May 26. Retailers can open PRHPS accounts now to register for Marvel’s monthly title catalogs and solicits, which will continue to be available to retailers approximately three months ahead of on sale.

The last year has been a rough when it comes to distribution. COVID forced Diamond to shut down for an extended time period resulting in DC Comics to pull their deal and go to two other distributors (which is now consolidated back to one). Other publishers have also pulled their distribution from Diamond often choosing to sell directly to stores and/or consumers instead.

With yet another distributor to contend with, comic shops will likely suffer by the decision. A third ordering system will increase time to order and manage purchases, labor costs will increase and it’s unknown how margins will be impacted for them. Overall, this sounds like a decision that’s good for Marvel but the impact on stores is a big unknown.

Exclusive Preview: Sh*tshow #3

Sh*tshow #3

(W) Adam Barnhardt (A) Samir Simao (C) Warnia K. Sahadewa (L) Lettersquids
In Shops: Apr 07, 2021
SRP: $3.99

This is it, fearless readers! Balam is picking off the McCoys one by one, and Legend’s day of reckoning has arrived. Does the Principled Protector of Peace have it in him to put the demon away for good, or should we prepare ourselves to be doomed for eternity? The first story ends here!

Sh*tshow #3

Exclusive Preview: Miles to Go #4

MILES TO GO #4

Writer: B. Clay Moore 
Artist & Colorist: Stephen Molnar 
Letterer: Thomas Mauer 
Cover: Stephen Molnar
$3.99 / 32 pages / Color / On sale 4.07.21

Amara Bishop and her daughter Alea learn that running away can’t help the family left behind, and retired assassin Moses Graves realizes that retirement isn’t always permanent. And the truth behind Amara’s childhood affinity for killing leads to a frightening new understanding of her daughter.

Miles to Go #4

Underrated: Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice Ultimate Edition

With the Snyder Cut of Justice League having just been released, I felt it was an ideal time to rerun this older post. This has nothing to do with me not preparing a column in advance. Nope. Not at all.


This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice Ultimate Edition.


Let’s not beat around the bush here: the theatrical cut of Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice wasn’t the greatest superhero movie of last year and while it wasn’t the worst comic book movie of the year, it was perhaps one of the most disappointing – for me at least. I had expected so much from the movie, because it was fucking Batman and Superman on the big screen together. And… well we got an average movie. There were parts that were great (Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot), and parts that were pretty good (Henry Cavil), and… some less than savoury parts. I left the theatre feeling quite unsure of how I felt; did the good outweigh the bad, or did it balance it out? What didn’t click for me? Could the movie had been better?

Shortly after seeing the movie I found out that there would be an R rated extended cut of the film released for home media, and I wondered whether that would do anything to set the film right.

As it turns out, it did.

Almost every problem I had with the pacing, plot and direction of the movie was made better by the extended cut. I still wasn’t happy that the entire movie had effectively been told in short form in the trailers, but there wasn’t much I could do about that other than not watching the trailer in the first palace. Since that wasn’t an option…

Look, I get that Warner Brothers probably had concerns about audiences sitting for an extended period of time… I mean the near two and a half hour run time of the theatrical cut was the longest movie in recent memory, and understandably Warner’s were concerned about audiences attention spans. It’s not like we’d ever sit patiently during Lord Of The Rings, or binge watch five hours of Daredevil in one sitting. That’s just not who we are. And to think we’d rather have  a great long movie longer than a slightly shorter average one would never cross their minds. 

It’s okay, though.

Whether it’s thanks to the success of Deadpool, or the critical slamming early on, or both, the Extended cut of the movie is a much better story in every way. The plot holes that resulted from the opening sequence are fixed because of the additional footage showing the soldiers using flame throwers to incinerate bodies to mimic Superman’s heat vision, if you wrote the movie off based on the theatrical cut then you’re missing one of the better superhero movies of last year.

Yeah, I said it.

The Extended edition is a better move than Civil War is, but because the real version of the film was never released in theaters, the movie as a whole got quite an unfair reputation – albeit fairly earned based on the expectations people had for this supposed juggernaut of a film, and what was initially delivered. If you’ve only seen the theatrical cut of the movie, then give the Extended edition a shot. The additional scenes add significantly to the overall experience, delivering a much better experience than anything you’d have expected from the theatrical experience.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: An Avengers Retrospective Part 6: The Kree-Skrull War

Guest contributor Gene Selassie is back with his latest retrospective of Marvel‘s The Avengers. He started at the beginning and he’s back discussing the classic Kree-Skrull War!


This is it, fellow Avenger aficionados. It’s here that we discuss the first official (or unofficial) event story in Avengers canon. The Kree-Skrull War is an epic that I’ve not gone back to read in almost 25 years. There are elements to the story that stuck out with clarity (the changes in art throughout the story did make for a slightly unharmonious visual flow, Rick Jones being such a centerpiece to the story, when he hadn’t factored much into Avengers continuity in the year or two leading up to this story did make the climax not hit as powerfully as it could have). Other elements did catch me off guard (I mistakenly thought Wanda and Vision’s romance was hinted at before this story, the grand cosmic side of Marvel was more interconnected back then than I’d realized). Here, I’ll be doing more of a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. Let’s begin our trek through the Kree-Skrull War.

Avengers #89

Avengers #89

  • The cover of issue 89 is almost one of my favorites as the striking image of Captain Mar-Vell getting the electric chair is a cover that I never thought would fly. My only qualm is the tagline “The Only Good Alien Is a Dead Alien”, which has some unsavory connotations.
  • Sal Buscema, who has been the “swing artist” for the book the last few years, is who illustrates this opening chapter.
  • The story opens up with Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision chasing down Captain Marvel. He evades capture for a while, but he’s blindsided by Rick Jones. Rick fires a ray gun at him, disabling the Kree warrior.
  • Through flashbacks, we see that Rick Jones became a singer and guitarist. We also see that when Captain Marvel and Rick Jones swapped bodies, once the adventure was done, it was the Negative Zone that Mar-Vell’s body returned to. Mar-Vell showed Rick an image of Reed Richards exploring the Negative Zone and then escaping. Both men figured that the key to Mar-Vell permanently escaping the Negative Zone resided in the Baxter Building. Mar-Vell broke in while the Fantastic Four were away. This alerted the Avengers. Mar-Vell activated Reed’s dimensional gateway and Rick was able to make it through. Unfortunately, the ruler of the Negative Zone, the living death that walks, Annihilus, followed them through.
  • The powerful being, possessor of the Cosmic Control Rod, was more than a match for the team, even shrugging off Wanda’s powerful hex bolts. Vision lured Annihilus into a trap and they shunted him back to the Negative Zone.
  • Yet, before they could catch their breath, Mar-Vell fled the scene, stealing the Avengers’ Quinjet in the process. His destination, Cape Canaveral in Florida, so that he can find a ship that could make the journey back to the Kree Empire.
  • The team discovers that during the time he spent in the Negative Zone, Mar-Vell absorbed ungodly amounts of radiation, to the point where it threatens his life.
  • Once Rick and Mar-Vell separated the powerful weapons, known as the Nega Bands, dissolved from Mar-Vell’s wrists.
  • When the flashbacks are done, we see that it’s not an electric chair that Mar-Vell was put in, but a decontamination device to siphon off radiation, in the hopes of saving Mar-Vell’s life. The machine lacked sufficient power, so Vision nearly sacrificed himself to power it, saving Mar-Vell’s life in the process. I wonder how much of this plot point may have factored into the eventual Death of Mar-Vell, a decade later, given how Mar-Vell died.
  • The story then cuts to the entity that rules over all of Kree civilization, the Supreme Intelligence. A coup is staged and the Intelligence’s guardsmen are all killed. Ronan the Accuser, who was imprisoned in Captain Marvel issue 16, is released. He forces the Intelligence to cede power. Ronan also activates the titanic automaton known as the Kree Sentry, which laid dormant for months at Cape Canaveral. Its mission, to kill the still unconscious Mar-Vell.
Avengers #90

Avengers #90

  • Issue 90 begins with the Kree Sentry breaking through the walls of the facility to get to the comatose Captain Marvel. Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and a still weakened Vision attempt to hold off the enormous automaton. Despite their combined power, they’re not able to repel the attack, and the Sentry escapes with Mar-Vell. The Sentry states that the Kree are to enact Plan Atavus, which freaked out a revived Mar-Vell so much that he shouted “No! Kill me here, Sentry. Don’t use that!”
  • As the Avengers proceeded to leave, they were stopped by the head of Cape Canaveral security, one Carol Danvers, future Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel. She demanded a full report of the incident…at a pretty inopportune time, as the team was trying to rescue Mar-Vell.
  • Rick Jones went on to recount the history of the Kree that he gleaned from Mar-Vell. It also explains Mar-Vell’s original mission, to spy on Earth and determine if it’s a threat to the Kree.  Over time, he learned that Earth was a noble species, worthy of saving and he all but defected from the Kree.
  • One of Roy Thomas’ favorite lines is “You win the Kewpie Doll”. I’ve seen that line nearly forty times since the beginning of this run.
  • The Avengers return home, only to be greeted by an emergency message from Goliath, letting them know that Hank and Jan are in trouble up in Alaska and for the team to rendezvous with them. Storming out, they all accidentally knocked down poor Jarvis, who was bringing them tea and snacks. He gets less respect than Rodney Dangerfield.
  • Jan explained to Clint that she and Hank were exploring an unusual phenomenon, a jungle in the middle of Alaska. Hank freaked out and made a dive for it to investigate while sending Jan back to their ship. Clint decided to go it alone to search for Hank, stating that he “can’t work with women around, not since he and Natasha broke up”. Good grief, the sooner I get to the modern era, the better. The casual sexism has overstayed its welcome.  
  • There were quite a few spelling errors in this book; from Jan’s “What have you done with the I love?” to Quicksilver’s “That blast, if it had struck where the Wasp was standing“. They made for quite a discordant reading experience.
  • The other Avengers arrive and find Clint under the control of Ronan the Accuser and the Kree Sentry and so they do battle.
  • Ronan reveals to the captive Mar-Vell what Plan Atavus is. The Kree feel that humanity will become a threat to them in a short while. They plan to use a machine to devolve humanity back, millions of years. The test subject on this, a now Cro-Magnon Hank Pym, set out to kill an unconscious Wasp.
Avengers #90

Avengers #91

  • Issue 91 continues the fight, with the prehistoric Pym somehow stopping himself before he hurts Jan. The three other Avengers were able to knock out Goliath as well.
  • However, the Kree Sentry seems to have adapted to Vision’s ability to alter his mass. As Wanda attends to the temporarily disabled Vision, he unknowingly releases pent-up energy and they both are incapacitated.
  • Quicksilver is forced to flee with Rick Jones in tow until they could come up with a new battle plan.
  • The captive Avengers have an emotional moment when Wanda attempts to kiss Vision. His self-loathing nature wouldn’t just let it happen though. MAN, I don’t remember the first move coming from out of nowhere like this.
  • Rick Jones going from the gee golly character in those early Avengers issues to the wise-cracking smart aleck was also a bit jarring if you didn’t keep up with The Incredible Hulk or Captain Marvel comics to see the evolution of his character.
  • Ronan adjusts his plan and decides to juice up his devolution device to revert mankind to the primordial ooze from whence it came.
  • Quicksilver and Rick mount a rescue and free their captive teammates.
  • Before the fight can really get underway, Ronan receives a scrambled transmission from his home galaxy with a warning, “The Skrulls have invaded”. Ronan quickly abandons all plans on Earth and transports himself away. The Sentry and the secret Kree installation are both buried beneath the reformed ice caps. The humans affected by the devolution device also revert back to normal.
  • Hank feels he was pretty useless in the fight. He decides that he’s retiring from the Avengers for good. Jan joins him.
Avengers #92

Avengers #92

  • Issue 92 starts off with a seemingly relaxing day for the team (along with chauvinistic remarks from Quicksilver). This was the first time I’ve seen Vision wearing plain clothes, like in the MCU films. He rarely did so in the 80s-90s, so I completely forgot this was a thing in the comics as well.
  • Their tranquility is upended when they see a news report about the incident in Alaska, an incident that all involved, including the scientists that Hank was working with, were sworn to secrecy over. It appears the scientists broke their silence and a worldwide panic about an alien incursion has started. Also made public was the fact that Captain Mar-Vell was a Kree, which turned the public against the Avengers fairly quickly. A government oversight committee has been formed (headed up by one H.W. Craddock), which resembles a McCarthy-era witch hunt.
  • SHIELD aircraft were ordered to circle the skies over Avengers mansion. There were a few continuity errors, one very noticeable one is that Fury had no eye patch in the first few pages he was on, but later did.
  • Carol Danvers arrives at the mansion, offering Mar-Vell a place to lay low while all of this blows over. They escape in a Quinjet.
  • Craddock contacts Fury to let him know he’s monitoring all law enforcement AND SHIELD activities around the mansion. He feels Fury intentionally let them escape. Fury shuts off communications, but Dum Dum Dugan asked him why he let them escape. Fury tells him that after the war, he saw some of the relocation centers that Japanese Americans were forced to live in during World War II. He saw what it did to people. He says he didn’t allow the escape for Mar-Vell; he did it for America, or what America is SUPPOSED to be.
  • Rick Jones’ mind drifted back to simpler times when he was a kid and only read about superheroes in his comic books. Heroes like the Whizzer, the Destroyer, or even ones he met like Captain America, all come from a simpler time when there was a clear line between good guys and bad guys. Now, as Rick has grown up, he sees that line isn’t as clearly defined as he once thought.
  • The Avengers are served a summons to appear before an oversight committee about the incident in Alaska. As the proceedings occur, it’s obvious that Craddock is trying to use fear to incite the public.
  • In the courtroom, Rick Jones relives what he thought was a dream. In actuality, he had a vision of Mar-Vell and Carol Danvers arriving at the farmhouse that Carol offered to Mar-Vell. The noble Kree warrior was then attacked by some green monster. The sight was enough to make Rick flip out and flee the courthouse.
  • The rest of the team returned to the mansion, which was vandalized by protestors. Jarvis shut off the security measures, as all they needed was for some idiot rioter to get accidentally injured or killed by them.
  • At the same time, the big three (Cap, Iron Man, and Thor) show up. They’re concerned about how the team sheltered Mar-Vell and how he avoided going to the hearing.  Due to their by-laws, the big three have the power to disband the Avengers and do just that. However, their tones were so condescending, especially Iron Man’s, that it was pretty obvious that something was amiss.
Avengers #93

Avengers #93

  • The magnificent pencils of artist extraordinaire, Neal Adams, graces the book in issue 93. The intense character poses and dynamic camera angles make it obvious why he was such a huge influence on megastar artist, Jim Lee.
  • The big three are at the mansion when Vision shows up. The synthezoid fell unconscious right inside the front door. The team doesn’t know how to help him. Hank Pym arrives, in his original Ant-Man costume, as all of the founders were called in by Iron Man.
  • Hank figures the only way to determine what is ailing the Vision is to shrink down and go inside of him to do a diagnostic.
  • This is a fantastic trip through hard sci-fi land, which some of my favorite Avengers tales are. Hank and his ants are attacked by perceived monsters, but they’re only defense measures within Vision’s android body. They’re eerily similar to the human body, but still noticeably different. It’s fascinating how, unlike in humans, Vision’s mental impulses don’t have to travel through winding nerves, but dart directly to and from his brain.
  • Hank makes it to Vision’s brain and repairs some things. Although Hank finds something odd, which the readers aren’t made privy to, he has to haul tail as more antibodies show up. Hank makes his way out of Vision’s nasal cavity, ending, as the narrative caption so eloquently put it, the strangest rescue mission of all time.
  • Hank tells the others that he really has resigned from active duty, but if they ever need help, he’ll be there.
  • Vision and the big three talk about the awkward ending of the last issue. Thor and the others have no recollection of the incident, meaning that the ones who disbanded the team were imposters. Vision also recounts that the other Avengers, after leaving, tried to track down Carol and Mar-Vell. The farm they found had no one but a few cows. These same cows shape-shifted into the Fantastic Four and possessed the same powers as the team. While Vision was incapacitated, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were abducted. Vision’s body, on autopilot, returned to the mansion.
  • The story shifts to Mar-Vell and Carol, who are prisoners of the shape-shifting Skrulls. Those Skrulls were cows due to the actions of the Fantastic Four several years earlier. They’ve been lying in wait all this time.
  • Given Carol’s military background, I had hoped she’d come off not as weak-willed as the other women featured in this comic the past eight years. I was disappointed in how she almost cowered when she asked Mar-Vell to not intimidate their captors.
  • The Skrulls depart momentarily to deal with the arriving Avengers. While gone, Mar-Vell escapes and uses his uni-beam weapon, along with stolen Skrull tech, to create an omni-wave projector and send a message to the Kree about the Skrulls being here on Earth. Mar-Vell also figures out that her fellow captive isn’t the real Carol Danvers, but Kl’rt: the Super Skrull. While they do battle, Kl’rt activates thrusters for his ship, which was hidden in the barn.
  • Goliath grows to skyscraper size to stop the ship. However, he suddenly starts to shrink. He hadn’t had the opportunity to take any Pym Particles recently. Thor saves him, but Clint is pissed off at feeling like a fifth wheel AGAIN. As the Skrulls escape with Mar-Vell, Pietro, and Wanda, Rick notes that this is probably the lowest point he’s ever seen the team at.
Avengers #94

Avengers #94

  • Issue 94 sees the Avengers coordinating intel with the Fantastic Four about the incident last issue.
  • Vision secretly stowed aboard the Skrull craft. Their next destination was the city of Attilan, home of the Inhumans. Before the Skrulls could launch their attack, Vision engaged them. Vizh and Super-Skrull were at a stalemate. However, Kl’rt wasn’t interested in fighting. He activated a superweapon, which rained down a nuclear-like energy upon Attilan, enough to topple mountains and melt ice caps. Fortunately, the energy barrier, which protects the great refuge, went up at the last moment. Vision then faced off once more against Kl’rt. His words were touching when he explained why fighting was useless; “I could accomplish nothing, save perhaps the death of one whom—I—.” Vision is starting to exhibit feelings for Wanda. Vision’s only option was to escape to warn the other Avengers of what has transpired.
  • Neal Adams draws the definitive Silver Age Vision. He feels wraith-like, yet more human simultaneously.
  • When Super Skrull and his party arrives back on the Skrull throne world, they are hit by shots from the Royal Palace. Kl’rt is still technically in exile, ordered by the Emperor himself. He even had a failsafe to ensnare Super Skrull if he ever returned.
  • The Emperor locks Wanda and Pietro into a holding chamber with other imprisoned species, making the two Avengers have to fight for their lives. The Emperor tries to barter the lives of the two Avengers if Mar-Vell gives the Skrulls the secret of Omni-Wave Projection. Having no alternative, Mar-Vell agrees and the Avengers are spared.
  • The story shifts back to Earth, within a secret facility, where Craddock is using a new alien detection device. His first test subjects, the three scientists that reported what happened in Alaska. The scientists begin to regret being so forthcoming with information on the Alaska incident.
  • Craddock also forces SHIELD’s hand and we see the first appearance of their Mandroids, agents in power armor that rivals the Iron Man suit. As their fight begins, Triton (of the Inhuman royal family) arrives on the scene.
Avengers #95

Avengers #95

  • Issue 95 continues the pitched battle against the Mandroids. Iron Man uses his power pods for precision strikes of electricity to disable them. Thor found it curious that Iron Man knew specifically where their enemies’ Achilles heel was and even brings up his concern, but Iron Man brushed it off.
  • Triton relays why he’s here. Tying into Amazing Adventures issues 5-8, the Inhuman royal family are all in search of an amnesiac Black Bolt, who is wandering the United States. His mind, tampered with by the new ruler of Attilan, Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus the Mad. Before Iron Man can state the team will help him, Vision immediately rejects this plan, pointing out that they have an interplanetary war to stop and fellow Avengers to rescue. Vision acquiesces to splitting into two teams. He almost shows guilt for sending the heavy hitters on the space mission, because he secretly loves Wanda.
  • YEEESH, Maximus had the gaudiest costume I’ve ever seen. I don’t remember him ever wearing that gold and red eyesore.
  • In San Francisco, a group of armed men chases Black Bolt into an abandoned building. Their purpose, as one of the pursuers so ineloquently put it, “We just wantcha to help us go on a lootin’ spree—same as you did them Blacks a while back.” Uggh. Mega cringe. Cap, Goliath, Rick Jones, and Triton arrive to assist him. Black Bolt, whose memories have returned, motions for the team to help him as they’re all needed back in Attilan.
  • We see a retelling of Black Bolt’s younger years. He overheard young Maximus speaking with a Kree soldier in private, making a deal that if the Inhumans assist the Kree when the time comes, Maximus would be handed the throne to rule over all of Earth. Black Bolt tried to run for help but was cornered. With no other options, Black Bolt was forced to use his deadly voice, which could level mountains, to down the escaping Kree ship. Doing so in such close proximity to his brother also damaged Maximus’ brain. Black Bolt has harbored that guilt ever since.
  • The reunited team converges on the dome surrounding Attilan. Nothing can penetrate the dome, not Iron Man’s repulsor blasts, Vision’s intangibility, or Thor’s mighty hammer. Only Black Bolt is able to collapse the dome and does so with a mere whisper. When he does, the Inhumans from within the dome all attack. Black Bolt adjusts the modulation of his whisper and it’s enough to snap everyone out of the mind control that they were under, courtesy of Maximus.
  • The Avengers, Black Bolt, and Triton storm the citadel. The Kree spy working with Maximus escapes, but with Rick Jones as a hostage.
Avengers #96

Avengers #96

  • The cover of issue 96 brings us the new design for the Avengers logo, the one we all know and love today.
  • The team is on an orbital platform, evidently run by SHIELD. Nick Fury offered them a long-range shuttle but had to pretend that he didn’t know they took it, otherwise he’d face consequences from H.W. Craddock’s commission.
  • The team enters hyperspace (not sure how they knew what direction they were to head in), but when they exit, they’re greeted by the Skrull armada. The Avengers take on the flagship of the fleet in separate attack pods. Iron Man did battle just in his armor. It would be several years before Stark has specialized armor for deep space.
  • As they tear into the flagship and order a surrender, the Skrull emperor comes on screen to let them know that they still hold Mar-Vell, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver hostage and that Mar-Vell is working on an Omni-Wave weapon. However, as one of the guards goes to grab Mar-Vell, he sees it’s a hologram. Mar-Vell duped the guards and frees the Maximoffs.
  • Vision, no longer able to hide his worry over Wanda, or his anger at the Skrulls holding them captive grabs one of the Skrulls and begins to beat him within an inch of his life, trying to get the location of the Skrull throne world. It took Thor and Iron Man to pull him off. The Avengers honoring Geneva Convention, even in an interstellar war, felt a bit truer than say, them murdering Skrulls left and right in more recent event stories.
  • The Skrull ship fires a rocket with a hyperspace weapon that will turn Earth into a smoldering crater. Clint, who is manning one of the ships, pursues after it, being of more use there than in a fistfight with no more Pym Particles. Clint boards the rocket, only to find four armed Skrulls…and him without weapons or powers.
  • Rick Jones is brought to the Kree homeworld of Hala, before a disappointed Ronan, who was expecting a more superhuman hostage. Rick swiftly grabs an energy staff from one of his guards and fires it at Ronan. Not only did it have no effect, but Ronan smacks Rick across the room for good measure. I don’t know why, but in that moment, I envisioned Ronan yelling “CHARLIE MURPHY!!!” Ronan explains that Earth is at a strategic staging point between the Kree and Skrull empires, so it must be taken or destroyed. Rick again tries to escape and gets blasted. Ronan cannot understand the futility of his actions, since he will be the only survivor of his species. I gained a newfound respect for Rick when he responded with this line; Y-yeah, I’m lucky, all right…’cause that means that someday, someway, I’m definitely gonna kill you, creep. And the only way you’re gonna lessen those odds, buddy, is to waste me NOW!” Dude has grapefruits, I’ll give him that.
  • Rick is locked away in the same prison that now houses the former ruler of the Kree, the Supreme Intelligence. He explains that even with his mental powers weakened, he reached across the cosmos to nudge H. Warren Craddock to hound the Avengers, he implanted the dream-like memories in Rick’s head and he influenced the Kree soldier in Attilan to abduct Rick. He states that Rick is integral to this entire conflict. Unfortunately, to get him to realize his true potential, the Intelligence teleported Rick away and back into the Negative Zone, right at Annihilus’ front door.
Avengers #97

Avengers #97

  • Regular series artist, John Buscema, returns to illustrate the finale to this saga.
  • Just as Annihilus grabs Rick by the throat, going for the kill, a bolt of concentrated psionic energy comes from Rick’s mind. He sends Annihilus hurtling across the stars. He’s temporarily safe but still stranded in the Negative Zone.
  • Mar-Vell used the Omni-Wave to contact Rick and he believes that is what sent Rick to the Negative Zone. Mar-Vell destroys it, realizing that it’s too dangerous to allow the Skrulls to have possession of it.
  • Rick escapes through a portal, only to return to the Supreme Intelligence, but now Ronan is onto them. The Intelligence tells Rick that he has unlocked the potential of humankind that it may possess one day. To protect them, the Intelligence has Rick create mental projections of the heroes he read about in comics as a youth, Captain America, Namor, the original Human Torch, the Blazing Skull, the Golden Age Vision, etc. Controlling these heroes proved a great strain on Rick’s mind and he was only able to hold it for a couple of minutes. With the Kree forces regrouping, Rick concentrated and unleashed an incalculable wave of psionic energy, one powerful enough to freeze every Kree in the facility like statues and, through mental contact with Mar-Vell, every Skrull engaged in battle as well.
  • Rick releases another bolt, across the galaxy, to Earth. He reveals that H. Warren Craddock was a Skrull all along. The same mob in which he whipped into a frenzy beat him to death, which was poetic justice.
  • The Supreme Intelligence explains to Rick that both the Kree and the Skrull have hit the zenith of their species and will not evolve any further, whereas Earth has nearly limitless potential. As he further explains this, Rick passes out. The strain on Jones’ mind was too much and he laid in critical condition. When the Avengers arrive, Mar-Vell is given the option to save him…by once again merging with Rick. Not seeing any other alternatives, he agrees to do it.
  • The Supreme Intelligence, now at full power again, returns the team home
  • Upon arriving home, the team is greeted by Nick Fury. He lets them know that the real H. Warren Craddock was imprisoned and the Skrull impersonating him had done so for months.
  • The Avengers notice that all of them were transported back to Earth…all except for Clint Barton, who is missing in action.

Upon reflection, while I do really like the story, a few minor tweaks here and there could’ve made this the definitive epic for the franchise and for Marvel in general. The Kree and Skrulls actually doing battle in minor skirmishes could have visualized the hate between the two species more so than just talking about their feud. Little hints about Wanda and Vision’s feelings for each other were a bit too subtle in previous issues and needed to be a bit more apparent for the emotional stakes to have had more weight. Less time spent on ancillary plot points (the search for Black Bolt, the battle with the Mandroids, and maybe Ant-Man’s journey into the Vision being done elsewhere) could have freed up so much more room to tell the actual “War” side of things. Most importantly, Rick is featured in the main Avengers book (instead of just in Captain Marvel’s book or The Incredible Hulk) in the 12-18 months leading up to the Kree-Skrull War could have made his near-sacrifice towards the end of the story resonate with readers more.

As we return to our regularly scheduled programming in the coming months, we’ll see familiar faces return to the book, new (and questionable) costume choices, more Barry Windsor-Smith awesomeness, and a milestone that unites every person who had been an Avenger up to that point. Until next time, AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!!

Exclusive: Heather Antos Takes Us Into the Shadowy World of Shadowman

Shadowman #1

Shadowman #1 debuts on April 28th! The debut issue from master of horror Cullen Bunn and acclaimed artist Jon Davis-Hunt, with color by Jordie Bellaire and lettering by Clayton Cowles will soon be unleashed on the world.

Jack Boniface is SHADOWMAN, a powerful protector who keeps humanity safe from the demons that claw at the fabric of our reality.

The forces of darkness are awakening and they are hungry for life. Will Shadowman be able to save us all, or will the darkness devour the world as we know it?

We got a chance to talk to editor Heather Antos about the series and its place in the Valiant universe.

Graphic Policy: Hey Heather, hope you’re well! Being completely honest, this book was better than I ever expected – y’all must be excited to finally have it seeing the light of day?

Heather Antos: I’ll take “better than expected” any day — and I expected it to be great! So, huzzah! I am beyond thrilled that Shadowman #1 has finally hit the stands. I first approached Cullen about this project…gosh…a little over TWO years ago now? After pandemic delays it’s hard to believe we’re finally out there!

GP: If you had to describe Shadowman to a new reader, how would you do it?

HA:  A quick TL:DR on Shadowman: Jack Boniface is a musician by day, and a demon hunter by night, essentially (Okay, it’s a liiiiiiiiiittle more complicated than that). He was born into a legacy of protecting the realm of the living from the darkness of the Deadside partnered with the Shadow Loa Bosou, but it’s not the lifestyle he would’ve chosen for himself. Torn between the life of the living and the world of the dead, Jack has to put his responsibility to protect humanity above all else. He’s a little bit Voodoo…a little bit rock ‘n roll, ha!

Shadowman #1

GP: How did the collaboration with Cullen Bunn and Jon Davis-Hunt come about?

HA: Cullen Bunn and I are longtime collaborators, but I’m even a longer time fan of his horror work. For years we talked about trying to do a horror project together but it just never quite worked out…until Valiant. When I started at the company Shadowman was top on my list of characters I wanted to take a stab at — he was the first Valiant character I ever read, after all — and I knew exactly the writer for the job. As for Jon, we had never worked together previously, but I was an instant fan of his work when I saw him in Vertigo’s THE CLEAN ROOM. His open line inking style is great for horror as it misleads the reader into thinking everything is “safe”…and then you turn the page and see the grotesque horror unleash! He’s truly genius in his storytelling and is absolutely bringing his A-game in every panel.

GP: Shadowman and horror feel like chocolate and peanut butter (though maybe fire and brimstone is a more appropriate analogy…). Where did the direction for the comic come from? Was it something you had in mind before Cullen came on board?

HA: Sort of? I mean, yes, I knew I wanted to take Shadowman in a more distinct horror direction going in, but I also knew that Cullen Bunn was the writer I wanted to approach off the bat. Luckily, he said yes and turned in the most perfect pitch. The rest is history!

Shadowman #1

GP: The first issue is (almost) a complete story in and of itself; was that a happy accident or part of a larger plan?

HA: Making sure each issue was a complete story was absolutely a discussion Cullen and I had during the development of this series. One of the biggest things I wanted to make sure we explored in this series is how the Deadside looks and affects other parts of the world outside of New Orleans. The veil between worlds is wearing thin, so in each issue we see Jack travel the world in order to hunt down whatever it is that is causing these “cracks” to break between dimensions.

GP: There’s a fine balance between horror and crossing that line into gore. Is that something you’re thinking about with the series?

HA: One of the cool things about the Horror genre is that the word “horror” paints a different picture in every person’s mind. For some, it’s 90s slasher films…for others, jump scares…monsters in the night…supernatural beings…tension building thrillers…and we want to explore them all! Like every issue is a complete “episode” that adds to a larger story, we wanted to explore the different ‘tastes’ of horror throughout every issue as well.

GP: Shadowman stands out as the “horror” series of the Valiant Universe which right now is very superhero and sci-fi based. What type of work, if any, goes into making sure this series still “fits in” with the rest?

Shadowman #1

HA: What I love about the Valiant universe is the central themes of the characters have less to do with “genre” and more so to do with the characters and the roles in which they find themselves. Exploring themes like “what is the responsibility of power” is a stronger component to tying the universe together — something we see in spades with Shadowman.

GP: This might be the first time I’ve ever felt sorry for a demon. Not to spoil, but there’s a touching moment in all of the horror from an unexpected place. When developing the first issue, what was your reaction to that part? It feels unusual (in a good way) for this genre of story.

HA: Even in horror, there are two sides to every story. And without spoiling TOO much from this first issue (GO READ IT, PLEASE!!!!), it’s important to remember that not all is as it seems on page 1. Shadowman has a mystery on his hands. Why is this demon in the living Earth? And how can he stop it from happening again? What brought it here…now?

GP: If you had to design a soundtrack/playlist to read Shadowman to, what would you include? 

HA: I hear the big fans over at A SOUND OF THUNDER have created just the song for this — “The Veil (Theme from Shadowman)”! Also, from my own collection, I’d HAVE to add Coheed & Cambria’s “The Dark Sentencer”.

GP: Thanks so much for chatting. Now that I’ve read the first issue, I can’t wait to read more!

Exclusive Preview: Iron Man #7

Iron Man #7

(W) Christopher Cantwell (A) CAFU (CA) Alex Ross (VCA) Jen Bartel, Michael Cho
Rated T+
In Shops: Mar 17, 2021
SRP: $3.99

Iron Man and his small band of allies go interstellar as they pursue Korvac to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, even as the villainous android intellect tries to telepathically lure Hellcat and Tony toward his bizarre utopian visions. But after an unexpected left turn leaves Iron Man on a remote and uncharted planet, Korvac might take the opportunity to blow Shellhead’s vulnerable friends out of the stars once and for all.

Iron Man #7
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