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Review: Dracula, Vlad the Impaler

Dracula, Vlad the Impaler

When it comes to characters whose stories have been told throughout the decades no one truly rivals Dracula. His story, which is based on a real person, is so regaled with lore it can be difficult to know what is true. There are a ton of legends connected to Vlad the Impaler. His most known is his connection to being the most famous vampire. Just about every country in the world has a vampire legend.

One of my favorite interpretations was Luke Evans’ inspired, yet rarely seen or talked about, Dracula Untold. It gave viewers, a different look at the ruler. Unfortunately, the movie never spawned a sequel but left an indelible portrait of this vaunted figure. In a similar retelling of this icon, Roy Thomas and Esteban Maroto give us Dracula, Vlad The Impaler, giving readers a dense look at the legend.

We are introduced to Dracula, as the world knows him, as he serves as our narrator, though his origin story. As we find Vlad the Prince of Wallachia, and the son of Vlad the Dragon, a ruthless tyrant who ruled Transylvania with an iron hand. He and his brother would travel to Galllpoli with their father on a conquest, which lead to them being wards of the sultan of Turkey. The sultan would eventually kill his father and install Vlad as the new regent, but make him beholden to Turkey.  He would eventually get revenge on those who betrayed his father, and would grow weary of the hold the sultan, leading him to wage war with the Turkish Empire. He was soon turn to supernatural means to gain victory, a path which leads him to be even more ruthless than his father , becoming what world knows him now, Dracula . By book’s end, he is eventually defeated, only to brought back from the dead by his son years later.

Overall, Dracula, Vlad The Impaler is an excellent graphic novel that gives readers a more multifarious look at this legend. The story by Thomas is engrossing. The art by Maroto is simply, legendary. Altogether, one of the best telling of this classic monster. It’s one that is sure to inspire new tellings.

Story: Roy Thomas Art: Esteban Maroto
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Preview: Dracula, Vlad the Impaler

Dracula, Vlad the Impaler

(W) Roy Thomas (A/CA) Esteban Maroto
In Shops: Apr 07, 2021
SRP: $15.99

Dracula is one of the most well-known characters in the world. Now, read the story of the man who inspired the legend in this graphic novel available again for the first time in almost 30 years.

A prince of Wallachia and son of Vlad Dracul (The Dragon), Vlad Dracul the Younger (Vlad Dracula) is taken hostage as a young man by Sultan Mehmed I to ensure his father’s loyalty. When his father is killed at the hands of traitorous nobles in his own land, he assumes the crown and wages a cruel war to regain his lands and avenge his father. Throughout his life, he continued the fight to retain his kingdom, committing acts that would later lead to the formation of the famous character created by Bram Stoker. Originally published in the 1990s, it is now presented for the first time in black and white to showcase the beautiful art of Esteban Maroto.

Dracula, Vlad the Impaler

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!!!

ComiXology Featured 5 New Releases from Marvel and Harlequin

There are five new digital comics on comiXology now from Marvel and Harlequin. Get a little action and a little romance to read. Start shopping now or check out the individual issues below!

Cable Vol. 1: Shining Path

Written by David Tischman
Art by Igor Kordey
Cover by Igor Kordey

Collects Cable (1993) #97-100.

A new direction for the mutant soldier! Ever since the apparent defeat of his lifelong nemesis, Apocalypse, Nathan Dayspring has lost his focus. Now, Cable regains the role he was born into, that of soldier, traveling the world, infiltrating political hotspots from Asia to Europe to Africa! His first mission brings the former X-Man to South America where civil war is erupting and peace is a shattered illusion!

Cable Vol. 1: Shining Path

Cable Vol. 2: The End

Written by Darko Macan, David Tischman
Art by Mike Huddleston, Igor Kordey
Cover by Igor Kordey

Collects Cable (1993) #101-107.

The one-man-army known as Cable heads to the world’s hotspots to spread peace – and he’s not afraid to back his message up with bullets!

Cable Vol. 2: The End

Double Identity

Written by Annette Broadrick
Art by Eve Takigawa

Carina has lived a very sheltered life with her wealthy family, but that hasn’t protected her from hardship entirely. She lost her fiancé in a car accident, and it turns out another woman was in the car with him when it happened! Ever since, she hasn’t been terribly interested in men, until one night when a famous socialite and playboy by the name of Jude approaches her. He’s the third son of a wealthy Texan family and he’s very handsome. Just when she’s starting to think that Jude can help her break out of her shell, it becomes clear he has ulterior motives…

Double Identity

Le Retour Imprévu

Written by Catherine George
Art by Riho Sachimi

Rose, propriétaire d’une librairie, trouve une rose devant sa boutique, accompagnée d’une carte dont le message la bouleverse : « Une rose pour une Rose ». C’est un message que James Sinclair lui avait déjà envoyé autrefois. James était un homme parfait, admiré de tous et éperdument amoureux de Rose. Mais quand il a su que leur amour de jeunesse n’était pour elle qu’un jeu, leur histoire a tourné au drame. Une erreur impardonnable a été commise – saura-t-il lui pardonner ?

Le Retour Imprévu

Marvel Visionaries: Gil Kane

Written by Gerry Conway, Gil Kane, Stan Lee, Jim Shooter, Dan Slott, Roy Thomas
Art by Gil Kane
Cover by Gil Kane

Collects Tales To Astonish #76, Tales Of Suspense #88 – #91, Captain Marvel #17, Daredevil #146, Marvel Premiere #1 And #15, What If? #3 And #24, Amazing Spider-Man #99 And #123, Marvel Comics Presents #116.

A lifetime retrospective of the legend’s greatest work for the House of Ideas! Joining the immortal Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and John Romita in the annals of The House’s history is one of the industry’s most gifted artists: Gil Kane! With his fluid pencils, Kane brought a loving familiarity to Mighty Marvel’s most popular characters in a body of work reprinted for fans new and old alike!

Marvel Visionaries: Gil Kane

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Around the Tubes

Generations Forged

It was new comic book day yesterday! What’d you all get? What’d you like? What’d you dislike? Sound off in the comments below! While you think about that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web.

The Hollywood Reporter – Roy Thomas, Former Marvel Editor, Pushes Back on New Stan Lee Biography (Guest Column) – Another opinion of the ongoing debate.

The Root – From Blackest Night to Brightest Day: How the Present Has Seen the Glorious Rise of the Black Superhero – A solid read.

The Alestle – ‘We are no longer the nerds’: How comic book culture has evolved over time – Interesting article. What do you all think?


Games Radar – Generations Forged #1
The Geekiary – Nubia: Real One

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: An Avengers Retrospective Part 5: Did You Hear the One About Scorpio? (Issues 72-88)

The Avengers #72

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 issues #72 to #88!

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night (legitimately no power or water for a few days here in this Texas blizzard) was able to keep me from this next leg of my journey, re-reading every issue of Avengers from the beginning. This series of issues features the first appearance of villains who become staples in Avengers lore. We also see this book truly be the hub of the goings-on of the Marvel U, with guest stars coming in and out of the book fast and furiously. The personalities of some of Earth’s Mightiest begin to resemble how we know them in the modern era. Finally, we highlight several members of the team, who come to an impasse when it comes to balancing Avenging with their responsibilities outside of the team.

When you mention “Avengers villains”, the first three names that should come to mind are Kang, Ultron, and the Masters of Evil. However, the next tier of villains proved, without the shadow of the doubt, to be “Avengers level threats”.

  • Issue 72 opens with an Avengers meeting (sans Black Panther, Iron Man and Thor, who are missing due to personal reasons). They’re interrupted by a communiqué from SHIELD. The investigation that the Avengers are working on is in regards to Scorpio. Fury was hunting him, but was shot by an assassin named Bulls’ Eye (no relation to the popular Daredevil villain) in SHIELD issue 15 and is believed to be dead. Scorpio somehow hacked into the Avengers communications system, later causing it to explode. When they woke up, the Avengers were all restrained. The combined numbers of the secret cabal known as the Zodiac arrive to watch the execution of the Avengers.
  • Quicksilver also makes his return in issue 75. Wanda’s powers were lost, so the siblings scoured most of Europe to find some way of jump-starting them. It appears this is where Wanda first started delving into the world of magic. In her haste, Wanda accidentally opened a portal to another universe. We get the first appearance of the warlord known as Arkon, who, somehow, knew everything there is to know about Wanda and Pietro. He seeks a bride and Wanda fit the bill. His other reason for coming here was to find a way to reignite the energy ring, which functions like a sun, surrounding his world. Flashes of light from our world flickered on his…those flashes occurred every time an atomic weapon was detonated on our world. Arkon’s final stop here was a meeting of the top nuclear scientists on Earth. He kidnaps several of them and disappears, obviously wanting to use their knowledge to create a cataclysm here that will light Arkon’s world indefinitely.
  • Issue 76 hails the return of John Buscema to art duties. It also features Black Panther and, for some reason Captain America, designing a machine that could breach dimensions to Arkon’s realm, which they haven’t referred to as Polemachus yet. As the Avengers work on this (and Quicksilver’s impetuousness goes into overdrive), Hawkeye gets a visit from Black Widow, who says they can never see each other again. She has to say “I never loved you” to get him to buy it, even though she does a horrible job at selling it. The relationship drama between them isn’t working for me, primarily because Natasha only shows up once every 8-10 issues. Arkon uses a machine to draw the knowledge of nuclear physics from each of the scientist, creating a weapon that could detonate the Earth’s core. Before he can move forward with his plan, the united Avengers, including Iron Man and Thor, arrive. Thor is finally using his hammer to traverse dimensions, as is used in the modern era. After Arkon falsely told Scarlet Witch he’d spare Earth, Wanda is disappointed to find out he lied. When the Avengers move in for the rescue, Clint utters the cringe line of “Don’t let it get you down, Witchie! After all, yer only a female.” Ugggh. The fight moves back to Earth, where Arkon attempts to drop his weapon from the top of the Empire State building. In the end, Arkon’s Vizier contacts him to let him know that Iron Man stayed behind and, with Thor’s help, created a generator to reenergize the ring around Arkon’s home, so they no longer need to destroy Earth. Also, all of the trans-dimensional travel seems to have kickstarted Wanda’s powers again. That ending felt a bit like a deus ex machina since there was no building towards it. This was made worse by the fact that Arkon suddenly no longer wanted to force Wanda into marriage against her will. Overall, a good story slightly marred by the abrupt ending.
  • In issue 77, the Avengers essentially become “Heroes for Hire” as they have to take on odd demolition gigs to cover rent for Avengers mansion. Tony Stark lets them know that Stark Industries is fighting off a power play by wealthy tycoon Cornelius Van Lunt, the same man who hired the team for their demolition job uptown. Panther, who’s restricted from funding the team, even gets a job (under the alias of Luke Charles) as a teacher. The team deals with a misfit mob of bank robbers this issue. These are some of my least favorite adventures as it feels like a waste of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Van Lunt offered to back off from his hostile takeover of Stark Enterprises if the Avengers agreed to work on some pet projects of his.  Later, it’s revealed that Van Lunt was involved in both the incidents with forcibly removing some Native Americans from their land as well as funding a full-scale assault on Manhattan.
  • In issue 78, the Man-Ape returns, luring Captain America into a trap. Had it not been for the intervention of the other Avengers, Cap would’ve been street pizza. T’Challa goes it alone, tracking M’Baku to a giant jet copter over the city. Their confrontation is fierce. Before Panther can put away his foe, he’s lured into a trap. M’Baku stated he’s only the first to fall. It is here that we see the first team-up of Man-Ape, Living Laser, Power Man, the Swordsman, and Grim Reaper; the Lethal Legion. Thor and Iron Man are called in to assist with the search for Black Panther. However, this plays right into the Lethal Legion’s hands as they want to kill all of the Avengers. Panther sneaks out of his confinement, in very Batman-like fashion, to get a message to the other Avengers that an ambush awaits them. It turns out that Reaper wanted him to get the message out. He still wants revenge against the team for the death of his brother, Simon (Wonder Man), even though the Avengers had nothing to do with it. Clint was even more of a dick than usual, completely demeaning Wanda as they searched the tunnels underneath Manhattan. They would be joined in battle by Clint’s old mentor, Swordsman, who was accompanied by Power Man. At one point during the fight, Clint shouts “Go ahead, tough guy. I’m from Missouri!” I thought he was from Iowa? Cap and Quicksilver are blindsided at a power plant down the block from the Avengers mansion. Man-Ape and Living Laser get the best of them, capturing them. Power Man went to the mansion to steal personal files and he captured Vision in the process (though I’m not sure how he could have possibly done so). Once Grim Reaper reads Vision’s file, he realizes that Simon’s brain patterns are what was used to create Vision’s mind. Reaper smashes his death trap (though also not sure how poison gas would work on Vision). It turns out that Vision was Power Man? Vision was phased into Power Man’s body…but still looked like Vision? This one caused me quite a headache. As the story concludes, the team defeats the Lethal Legion. Be that as it may, the constant mentioning of Wonder Man was too much for the Vision, so he leaves the Avengers…only to return the next issue.
  • Issue 82 features the return of the Zodiac, as their troops launch a full-scale assault on Manhattan. They have a nerve paralyzing force field around the island, knocking anyone who comes a calling out cold. This even affects the Avengers at the mansion (Captain America, Quicksilver, Iron Man, and Thor). Goliath, Scarlet Witch and Vision are across the river in New Jersey as they plan a rescue. The Fantastic Four are out of town. Despite this, a few heroes, who weren’t in costume at the time of the assault, plan their own counterattack. These are in the form of Black Panther and this issue’s guest star, Daredevil, the man without fear. Matt Murdock is being taken into custody, when, during a power failure, Matt unleashes hell on them. Peter Parker is about to join the fray as Spider-Man, but he’s visiting his Aunt May, who’s having heart issues and he doesn’t want the news from Manhattan to frighten her. It’s noticeable how, despite the occasional death in this era, writers would have the villains use non-lethal measures as much as possible. I didn’t mind it as a kid. In my twenties, I found it lame. However, the body count has gotten so out of hand in Big Two comics that I revel in the restraint from the writers of yesteryear. T’Challa and Matt attempt to rescue the captive Avengers, but they spring a trap, set by Aries, to lure Panther there for capture. The two barely escape with their lives. When the invaders round up civilians to witness the execution of the Avengers, Matt, in his civilian garb, allows himself to be taken. It’s he who starts a civilian uprising and, unbeknownst to his captors, uses his billy club to sabotage the machine imprisoning the Avengers. Aries uses a device to shrink the force field, intensifying it enough to kill everyone on Manhattan. Thor is forced to destroy Aries’ escape craft, and Aries as well, to stop it.
  • Issues 85-86 see Thor transport himself, his teammates, and the mansion back to Earth after a mission. While Black Knight returns to England and Thor and T’Challa return to Manhattan to meet with Captain America & Spider-Man for a Toys for Tots charity toy giveaway, Goliath, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Vision seem to have been pulled to an Earth several days in the future, one in which everyone is dying due to intensely hotter than usual solar rays. Wanda uses her hex power to try to pull them home. They arrive back on the correct date. However, it’s apparent that the team is not on their Earth, but that of the Squadron Supreme, not the Squadron Sinister they faced several issues ago. Nighthawk, Hyperion, Doctor Spectrum, and Whizzer are joined by American Eagle, Lady Lark, Tom Thumb, and their own Hawkeye (obvious analogs for Mr. America, Black Canary, The Atom, and Green Arrow). Doctor Spectrum, Whizzer, and Hyperion are at a rocket launch site. Somehow, this rocket, the Avengers believe, causes the cataclysm they witnessed just days from now. From my experience, Roy Thomas is the only writer who used Quicksilver like a human pinball, much like that of Speedball from the New Warriors. Nighthawk believes the Avengers and tries to help them stop the rocket. However, all are being watched by a mysterious presence. Another fight breaks out between the teams. Wanda desperately uses a hex sphere to hold the rocket in place until Nighthawk can explain to his teammates. The rocket, named Brainchild-One, was named after its creator, who makes his Marvel debut (he was the mysterious presence watching everything unfold). We see the origin of this Earth’s version of Brainchild. He’s a genius whose deformed cranium earned him scorn, despite his work for the U.S. military. He planned to use Brainchild-One to eradicate all life on Earth in revenge. Quicksilver seemed to empathize with him as Brainchild is essentially an ostracized mutant. Back on their home Earth, Iron Man, Thor, and Black Panther use a dimensional scanner, designed by Tony Stark, to try to locate their missing teammates (didn’t Panther and Cap create one earlier?). Quite noteworthy is the fact that the book is nearly a hundred issues in and both Iron Man and Thor still keep their alter egos secret from the other Avengers. The combined Squadron and Avengers confront Brainchild and his deadly advanced technology. The first classic “team-up/splitting off into smaller groups to take on the villain” warms my heart in issue 86. Quicksilver and The Whizzer are blindsided by hundreds of flying boulders. Scarlet Witch and Nighthawk take on a giant humanoid creature. Vision and Doctor Spectrum are attacked by an enormous amoeba-like creature. Goliath and Hyperion tackle Brainchild head on. Despite Brainchild’s psychic brain bolts, the two powerhouses fight on. Clint uses brains, not brawn, to outsmart him (he grows giant-sized, then throws Hyperion, like a lawn dart, at their foe’s protective chair. All of the threats were psychic manifestations of Brainchild. Once defeated, his mind reverted to that of a child. I found this somewhat baffling. To say nothing of Doctor Spectrum’s power prism being able to transform Brainchild’s body into that of a normal child. WTF? The Avengers are pulled back to their Earth by Thor, who locates them. In the end, Vision ponders something quite unsettling; what if the Earth they were brought back to was yet a different Earth, who also happened to have those four Avengers go missing? They would never even know.

Several famous Marvel characters popped in and out of the book in quite the hurry in these issues.

The Avengers #75
  • Rick Jones has returned to the team in issue 72. He states that he was spying around Fury’s apartment and was knocked out by Scorpio, who was also snooping around. This is also around the time that Rick Jones wore the Kree Nega Bands. When he clanged them together he would swap bodies with the Kree warrior and superhero, Captain Mar-Vell, which he’s kept a secret from the rest of the team, even Steve. Rick grew frustrated with the swap and at one point in the action, refused to allow Mar-Vell to come out during the fight.
  • Issue 73 features the first appearance of jazz singer, Monica Lynne. I can understand someone not wanting to get involved in politics. Yet as a Black woman in 1970, Lynne came off as someone who likes to stick their head in the ground whenever tough issues are brought up. The Sons of the Serpent attempt to kidnap Lynne. Black Panther rushes in to save the day. The Supreme Serpent, to prevent his minions from being interrogated, kills them remotely. Lynne noticed how the police took their time because the victim was Black. She becomes more socially conscious after this incident.
  • Issue 80 is the first appearance of the character Red Wolf. While he pursues an armed man that fires at him, Vision decides to investigate. It’s interesting seeing Vision pre “image inducer technology”, where he had to wear a fake human mask and clothing. Vision defeats Red Wolf and takes him to the Avengers, even though he quit the previous issue. The team is already in a heated debate over whether to start a worldwide manhunt for the still at large Zodiac, or something about crime on a local level. It’s odd, yet welcoming, to see a big picture guy like Black Panther more concerned with the youth in the streets of New York. Red Wolf did come across as one of the bigger clichés of that era. However, he became a personal favorite of mine in later years. Apparently, Cornelius Van Lunt tried to strong-arm the land of his reservation away from the people. When they wouldn’t budge, Van Lunt used violence as his next step. When the grandfather of a young boy is murdered, he engages in the ritual to become the warrior of justice for his people, the Red Wolf.  The gunman that Red Wolf was after was an enforcer for Van Lunt. Long before Occupy Avengers was ever a thing, we see Clint and Red Wolf developing a kinship.
  • Issue 88 features a story that Roy Thomas adapted from a plot by famed novelist, Harlan Ellison. Three decades before there was an Illuminati in the Marvel Universe, Reed Richards (leader of the Fantastic Four), Charles Xavier (headmaster of the X-Men) and Tony Stark (Iron Man, founder of the Avengers) combined resources and built a device that could finally contain the Hulk for the U.S. government. Reed mentions that “Perhaps they could even rescue Bruce Banner one day from his living coffin of flesh”, revealing that everyone knows Banner is the Hulk now. This is the first issue of Avengers featuring Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon. One of Falcon’s friends from New Orleans goes missing. His and Captain America’s investigation leads them to a voodoo ritual in the bayou. It turns out that the Vodou priest running things was Sam’s missing friend. He appeared to be in a trance once unmasked, babbling a set of coordinates in the South Pacific. Steve and Sam took Goliath, Iron Man and Thor with them to investigate. They find, what appears to be a giant monster, instead turns out to be the entrance to a temple. While Reed went about transferring the Hulk’s unconscious body to a containment unit, he was mysteriously teleported away, away to the underground lair of the creature known as Psyklop. He is a member of an underground race that predates humankind, going back to when the dark gods roamed the Earth.

Many of the characters, who had less defined traits in the Silver Age, begin to develop the personalities we all know and love to this day.

  • When Quicksilver returns, his temperament seems much more in line with the modern interpretation. He is quite the impatient jerk. You’d think someone needing the Avengers’ help wouldn’t initiate a fight with them first.
  • Goliath also spouting “I never liked him much anyway” felt like Clint didn’t want Pietro to win douche of the year by a landslide.
  • Wanda’s brief foray into the world of magic would be a prelude of things to come.
  • Issue 87 features the first time that we’ve seen Black Panther’s origin in the pages of Avengers. T’Challa uses much less American slang and speaks more formally as time goes on.
  • Iron Man is starting to come off a bit cockier here, not unlike his rendition in the modern era.

The most noticeable aspect of this run is how, unlike the “resident” Avengers (Clint, Wanda, Pietro, Vision), the other Avengers really struggle to balance their duties elsewhere with their duties to the team.

  • Issue 75 opens with Hank and Jan departing from the team as Pym is requested by the U.S. government to look into the effects of oil fields on Alaskan wildlife. On the one hand, Hank is confident the team will do fine without them. On the other hand, Jan sure is mopey about being away from the action.
  • Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and even Rick Jones randomly enter and exit the book due to the goings on of their own series.
  • T’Challa tells his origin story to the team because the temporary chieftain of Wakanda, N’Baza, passed away. This forces T’Challa to have to now choose between being an Avenger and a teacher in New York, or returning to Wakanda as its true chieftain.

This is it, Avengers fans. When next we meet, it will be to discuss, what could essentially be called the first “event story” of the Avengers; the Kree-Skrull War. Yes, part six of this journey will be dedicated entirely to the retelling of the massive conflict between two alien empires, with Earth (in general) and the Avengers (in particular), caught in the crossfire. Until next time, AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

The Curse of The Man-Thing Comes to the X-Men

This year, Marvel celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of its most unique creations with critically-acclaimed writer Steve Orlando’s three-part Curse of the Man-Thing epic. Kicking off next month with Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing and continuing in April’s Spider-Man: Curse of the Man-Thing, the Marvel Universe-spanning saga will reach its climatic conclusion in May with X-Men: Curse of the Man-Thing. Throughout the series Orlando will be joined by incredible artists including Francesco Mobili and Marco Failla, and will be teaming up with Andrea Broccardo for the unforgettable finale.

Man-Thing’s tragic curse has finally been revealed… but it’s under new management! Years ago, Doctor Ted Sallis was ready to give up anything to crack the SO-2 serum and deliver success to his growing family. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world…he did. Today, as cities spanning from the U.S. to Krakoa are besieged  by fear-driven blazes, the Man-Thing must reckon with his past deeds if he hopes to emerge renewed and rescue a world on fire. But fighting from his lowest means that Man-Thing can rise to his highest, especially with the unexpected help of the X-Men’s resident sorceress Magik and her debuting team of monstrous mutants known as THE DARK RIDERS! Magik will lead one of the most eclectic group of mutants ever assembled, a fearsome mix of fan-favorites and obscure delights: Marrow, Forearm, Shark-Girl, Wolf Cub, and Mammomax!

Since his creation by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Gray Morrow in 1971’s Savage Tales #1, the misunderstood swamp monster has taught readers the true meaning of fear in thought-provoking tales by legendary creators such as Steve Gerber and R.L. Stine. Now it’s the X-Men’s turn to burn at the Man-Thing’s touch! See below for a full roundup of the one-shots that will contain this thrilling tale and don’t miss X-Men: Curse of the Man-Thing #1 when it hits stands in May.

X-Men: Curse of the Man-Thing

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: An Avengers Retrospective Part 3: In Battle Joined (Issues #36-56)

Avengers (1963) #36

Guest contributor Eugene Selassie is back with the second part of his retrospective of Marvel‘s The Avengers. He started at the beginning covering the first sixteen issues. He’s back discussing issues #36 to #56!

In this third installment of my deep dive, reading every single issue of The Avengers from the beginning, what we know as staples of Avengers lore are introduced in these issues. Some of these staples greatly enhance the reading experience, while others detracted more than I remembered them to. Legendary writer and artist team of Roy Thomas and John Buscema begin their iconic run on the title. Many new heroes, that would go on to become perennial mainstays of the roster, make their first appearance in the book during these issues. Past relationships and connections come back to haunt a few of the protagonists. Story elements that played out in classic Avengers stories decades later are seeded in these issues. Continuity becomes a double-edged sword during this run, potentially splitting the audience into “love it” or “hate it” camps.

Roy Thomas took over as writer with issue #36. With the constant in-fighting (now between Goliath and Hawkeye over Clint’s insistence that Black Widow be granted membership status) and the hyperbole used in the narration (ex: “Thus it is that, less than sixty seconds later, twin engines of a highly complex design burst into ear-shattering life and zoom with blinding, supersonic speed into the sub-stratosphere, as all passengers fervently hope they will not be too late!”) meant that the transition in scripting from Stan Lee to Roy Thomas was as smooth as possible. Issue #41 heralded the debut of the legendary John Buscema as penciler. His layouts were a bit splashier than what we’ve previously seen. Nevertheless, with George Bell remaining as the inker, making the characters look roughly the same, the transition from Don Heck to John Buscema was not too jarring. Fill in issues by Don Heck were still welcome, as was a one-off by George Tuska, whose level of intricate detail was only rivaled years later by George Perez.

Avengers (1963) #38

I waited with bated breath to see new members, one by one, added to the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes:

  • Black Widow accompanies the team, in issues #36-37, to rescue Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver from an alien threat, the Ultroids, near their village in the Balkans. Natasha turns out to be the ace up the heroes’ sleeve that they desperately needed. The Avengers, sticking to their moral code, prevented them from doing what was necessary to defeat Ixar. On the contrary, Black Widow had no such compunctions. Days after this adventure, as Widow rushes to Avengers mansion for a meeting to discuss her membership, she is abducted. However, it is not by enemies. Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD recruits her for a secret mission overseas, a mission that must remain secret from even Hawkeye and the other Avengers. When Widow recovers in the hospital after this mission and explains how the government lied about her husband’s death and duped her into training (even though they did the same thing to him), there was no mention of the infamous “Red Room” training that we know in the modern age.
  • Hercules makes his Avengers debut in issue #38. The Prince of Power is locked in combat against the God of War, Ares, due to events from Thor issue #129. The Enchantress shows up to convince them to squash their beef and offers alcoholic beverages to both. In reality, she’s working with Ares. Hercules’ drink is spiked with a love potion, making him do Amora’s bidding. Ares gets to tell Zeus of this forbidden passion, making Hercules a pariah in Olympus, while Enchantress gets to use her unwitting slave against the Avengers. During their fight, the potion wears off and Hercules helps the team fend off the Asgardian and Olympian. Due to the perceived forbidden affair, Hercules is then banished from his home in Olympus. The Avengers take him in as less of a member and more of a house guest who helps them whenever he deems fit.
  • Edwin Jarvis, the butler of the Stark family and for the Avengers, makes his first Avengers appearance in issue #38. He’s not given much of a personality until further down the road in issue #54, where he hides a deadly secret from the Avengers; he’s sold the new mansion security specs to the Crimson Cowl in exchange for a large sum of money he desperately needed. Cowl, of course, reneges on the deal.
  • The Sub-Mariner returns in issue #40. A nuclear sub tests weapons near his kingdom, which Namor doesn’t take too kindly to. He attacks the island base from where it came from, only to encounter the Avengers. Page 15…Hercules vs. Namor…HOLY $#I^! These two beat the stuffing out of each other. I am surprised that there wasn’t a giant crater left in their wake.
  • Dane Whitman, nephew of Nathan Garrett, the villainous Black Knight, debuts in issue #47. Garrett met his end against Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #73. Dane seeks to atone for his uncle’s evil actions and decides to use the science and nom de guerre of his uncle, to do good with it as the new Black Knight. He seeks out the Avengers for an alliance. Conversely, they mistake him for his uncle and get into a brawl.
  • Black Panther makes a cameo, alongside Captain America (who quit the team several issues earlier) in issue #51, where Steve requests they consider T’Challa for membership. Issue #52 features the Black Panther entering Avengers mansion for the first time, in a story where he finds what appear to be the bodies of Hank, Jan, and Clint. He’s arrested by SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell and is hauled off into police custody. I don’t know if Roy Thomas understood how tone-deaf it was to see the imagery of the first Black superhero to be featured in the Avengers comic being shackled in the back of a squad car. Of course, T’Challa escapes so he can investigate what occurred.
Avengers (1963) #47

Several extended relationships are given more space to develop in these issues.

  • Issue #43 is the first appearance of the Soviet super-soldier known as Red Guardian, who happens to be the Black Widow’s ex-husband. When Clint finds out, he grows cold and emotionless for the first time in this series. This is the second time a villain is brought into the book that Hawkeye has an obvious grudge with, but their sole motive is to prove they can best Captain America, making the rest of the Avengers look “lesser than”.
  • Concurrent with this story is the arc of Tales of Suspense where Steve meets and falls for SHIELD Agent 13, aka Sharon Carter. It’s also where he’s contemplating giving up being Captain America, which didn’t quite sit well with me. I know Marvel was all about heroes with feet of clay, especially back then, but this was akin to Clark Kent no longer wanting to be Superman. I had no clue that Steve was a fan of Tolkien or fantasy novels in general, so it was cool to see that side of him.
  • Hercules travels to Olympus to beseech his father, Zeus, to reconsider his exile. However, the Prince of Power finds the fabled land completely deserted.  In issue #49, Hercules discovers that it is the dreaded ancient Titan known as Typhon who was responsible for what happened to the Olympians. By destroying the sacred Temple of the Promethean Flame, the immortals of Olympus just vanished. After confronting the Titan, Hercules finds himself banished to the same limbo that his people were banished to. Issue #50 sees Hank, Jan, and Clint search for Hercules, who has reunited with the Olympians. Zeus is able to send him back to Earth due to the magic holding them there not having as strong of a hold on the Prince of Power because he’s half-mortal. The team does their best to slow down Typhon, but the dude is a ten-foot-tall demigod with a battle axe that shoots lightning. Once Hercules arrives, he and Typhon have the grudge match of the ages. Whatever unidentified landmass in the Mediterranean where they brawled had to have been reduced by half. In the end, Hercules defeated him using not just brawn, but tactics taught by Captain America. He returns with Typhon to Olympus, bidding farewell to the Avengers for the time being. This leaves the roster to just Hank, Jan, and Clint…not the most powerhouse line up they’ve had.
  • Issues #47-49 feature Magneto, who was exiled to a planetoid far from the Earth in X-Men #18. This is indubitably pre-Chris Claremont Magneto. He’s not a sympathetic Holocaust survivor trying to prevent the same thing from happening to mutant kind. He is cranky, megalomaniacal, and vengeful. And he is quite abusive to his lackey, Toad. I completely forgot that neither Magneto nor Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch knew they were related in those early years. Magneto demands the UN for his own nation for mutants. When they refuse and he lashes out at one of the representatives with a microphone as a weapon, Hawkeye saves him, and the most fun, yet clunky, dialogue followed; “A diamond-tipped arrow…from out of nowhere…smashing the microphone. But who?” I love superhero comics. Hawkeye landing a kick right to Magneto’s face made me think that this is likely the only time that has ever happened.  The crux of Magneto’s plan was to cause one of the guard’s aim to go off wildly and accidentally shoot Wanda in the head (grazing her temple) just so it would send Pietro into a rage against the guards and the Avengers. Yeah, the “Magneto was right” crowd may want to tone it down a bit after this.

I found myself enthralled by the number of story elements that were just the nugget of an idea that played out on a larger scale some years, even decades later:

  • Long before the Kree-Skrull War, you could tell that both Stan Lee and Roy Thomas had the idea percolating, of a war between two alien empires with Earth caught in the middle. The Ultroids made the second time that something like this was hinted at.
  • Magneto blackmailing the United Nations into giving him his own nation was something done three decades later in an X-men storyline titled “The Magneto War”.
  • Issues 54-55 bring us a new Masters of Evil, comprised of the Klaw, the Melter, Radioactive Man, Whirlwind and the new Black Knight. They’re all working for the mysterious Crimson Cowl. However, they don’t know that this Black Knight is not Nathan Garrett, but his nephew, Dane Whitman. Dane goes undercover with the group to gather intel that he can bring to the Avengers. The mission of this new incarnation of the villain group, to storm Avengers mansion and capture the team. I never knew the Masters of Evil attacked the Avengers in their home, long before the classic Siege of Avengers Mansion during Roger Stern’s run.

I am a person that loves continuity, when used the right way. When Thor or Iron Man have to leave the team due to events in their own book that month, I loved it. Realistically, the characters cannot be everywhere all the time. That era was much better with not having characters guest starring in six different books the same month “just because”. However, when a character pops into a book, carrying over from a story in another book, it gets a bit frustrating keeping up with. While the Hercules story carrying over from The Mighty Thor was explained thoroughly, Nick Fury’s subplot from Strange Tales, where he’s essentially on house arrest, Cap leaving the team due to being duped in Tales of Suspense by Swordsman and Power Man into believing Bucky was still alive, and the most egregious one, the X-men versus Magneto fight that carried over into an Avengers comic, were not given the necessary flashbacks to really flesh out these elements. In the case of the X-men one, it would’ve helped tremendously if they just made it an actual crossover with the parts 1 and 2 posted on the covers of those respective issues.

My apologies for the gargantuan length of this post, in the future, I will do my best to make sure the articles aren’t covering twenty issues worth of content. Speaking of content, when we reconvene again, we discuss several debuts (Vision, Yellowjacket, and a guest appearance by Doctor Strange) along with trips into the sci-fi, the cosmic, and even the occult. Until next time, AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

Fear the Man-Thing in April with Spider-Man: Curse of the Man-Thing

Announced last month, Marvel is honoring the 50th anniversary of Man-Thing with a new series. Starting in March with Avengers: Cure of the Man-Thing #1, the three-part Marvel Universe-spanning event will continue in April with Spider-Man: Curse of the Man-Thing #1. In this installment, critically acclaimed writer Steve Orlando (Martian ManhunterBatmanWonder Woman) will be joined by artist Alberto Foche who makes his Marvel Comics debut with an unforgettable tale. The first issue features a cover by Daniel Acuña with a variant by Nick Bradshaw.

Man-Thing’s supernatural abilities have been pirated thanks to the new Marvel villain, Harrower, a zealot intent on clearing humanity off the board so a new species can get a shot at the top. The world burns and fear is the accelerant! Meanwhile, Spider-Man races across New York desperate to avert disaster and find the one man that just might be able to get through to Man-Thing…his former colleague Curt Connors, A.K.A. The Lizard! But deep within the Man-Thing’s psyche, it’s Spider-Man that discovers something he never expected: a devilish secret, and a doctor seeking redemption.

Since his creation by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Gray Morrow in 1971’s Savage Tales #1, the misunderstood swamp monster has taught readers the true meaning of fear in thought-provoking tales by legendary creators such as Steve Gerber and R.L. Stine. Prepare to burn at the Man-Thing’s touch once again when Spider-Man Cure of the Man-Thing #1 hits stands this April.

Man-Thing Celebrates 50 Years with Variant Covers in March

Marvel announced a brand-new Man-Thing comic series launching in March and celebrating 50 years of the character, Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing. But, the celebration doesn’t end there.

March will also see some of your favorite Marvel heroes transformed into outrageous Man-Thing personas on stunning variant covers by today’s best artists including Superlog, Bernard Chang, Greg Land, Sara Pichelli, and more! Check out the first three now and be on the lookout for more Man-Thing variant cover reveals in the coming weeks.

Man-Thing debuted in 1971’s Savage Tales #1 and was created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Gray Marrow.

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