Avengers: 2017 “Where Are They Now?” Update (Ant-Man and the Wasp)

Welcome back! While the first installment opens our series with a pair of instant Avenger icons, this next couple is certainly a little more… involved. With their roles largely farmed out to legacy players in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (thus far), they are indeed the least visible *ahem* of the original comic book crew. However, that hasn’t stopped either from being extremely integral to the source material. Let’s take a look!

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Art by Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott

ANT-MAN/ GIANT-MAN/ GOLIATH/ YELLOWJACKET/ WASP (Dr. Henry Pym)

Joined: Avengers #1 (Sept, 1963); Founder

Current Affiliation: Former Member

History:  Size-changing biochemistry and cybernetics genius. Just going off the number of slashes above, it’s probably a sure bet that no one in the history of Avengering has more code-names than ol’ Hank! As it is, a combination of power and mental instabilities causes him to switch up the first four before the title’s even made it outta the ’60s.

During the 1970s, he pairs it down to ping-ponging between only two and falls into his comfort zone of just being a part-time super-hero. He also joins the “hey no worries, we’re sorta like a book club” Defenders.

Feeling like he’s gotta measure up to his wife and the old gang (size joke, again…), Hank re-joins the Avengers in an early ’80s open membership drive. Saying it doesn’t take puts it mildly…

In the new roster’s first field mission, Pym overzealously shoots their surrendering adversary in the back. This results in an official court martial but just hours before the hearing, Hank really loses it and physically strikes his teammate wife! He also builds (another) crazy killer robot to “conveniently” interrupt the proceedings, so that he alone may defeat it and demonstrate his heroic worth. Things don’t exactly go to plan and ultimately cost Pym his membership and marriage. He also shortly thereafter spends a little time in jail.

Retiring completely, Hank resurfaces sometime later as some kinda “Higgins” figure to the Avengers’ collective “Magnum, P.I.” when they open a west coast franchise branch. Eventually he works his way back onto the active list as the Venture Bros.-style speedsuit-wearing “Doctor Pym, Scientific Adventurer”.

Hank stays with the West Coast Avengers until they fold in the mid-90s, even serving turns as a respectable default leader. Returning to the main New York-based team, he makes a breakthrough in his Pym Particle formula and resumes his Giant-Man identity.

The Doc remains firmly in the mix for the next few years of stories, rotating through his costumed “greatest hits” parade until the “classic” Avengers disband amidst turmoil and tragedy.

While back in academia, Pym is kidnapped by alien shape-shifting Skrulls as part of their massive “Secret Invasion” plot. The joke’s somewhat on the invaders as Hank’s history of mental problems prove difficult for their agents to pattern, sending at least one completely off the rails.

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Art by Khoi Pham

Sadly, the climax of this event appears to claim the life of Pym’s ex. Once the abductees return, Hank sets out to pay tribute in what’s clearly the best way fit: by further altering his powerset, growing wings and adopting his dead ex-wife’s moniker as the new Wasp. (Yeah, no looking too closely at any issues here…)

When the Avengers open a school similar to the X-Men’s schtick of “gifted youngster learnifying”, Hank is selected headmaster. Soon after, he resumes his more-identifiable Giant-Man role and proves in short order that he’s just as, um… let’s just say “capable” as Professor X, Magneto or Emma Frost (seriously not a compliment) with many of his young charges abducted for a “Hunger Games”-style teenage death match and a faction of survivors consequently breaking bad. (The exact scenario they built the school to avoid. Irony…)

Compounding this, when multiversal-level time travel shenanigans involving Pym, Wolverine and Pym’s first and historically most recognized deadly killer robot result in a subtle re-ordering of reality (2013’s Age of Ultron event series), Hank is overwhelmed by personal repercussions. Elevated to some sorta elder statesman of all things “The Cyber”, Pym heads a joint Avengers/ S.H.I.E.L.D. task-force to take down a new time-travelling evil artificial intelligence. (Anything to take his mind off those kids misplaced like a set of frikkin’ car keys, I guess…)

Just prior to the total multiversal collapse predicating 2015’s Secret Wars enormo-tacular, the secretive think tank consisting of Tony Stark, the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, the Black Panther and others (colloquially “The Illuminati”) reach out. Given that Pym’s known for years that his size-changing powers derive from drawing or shunting mass from another dimension, he is a well-regarded expert on the extraplanar. That said, the group conscripts Hank as some kind of human long-range reconnaissance probe into the abstract to explore the very forces behind the assailing utter oblivion. For this mission, he curiously chooses “Yellowjacket”- the most controversial of personas…

After seeing some things and stuff, man, Hank makes it back just days before the final world collision. Unhinged even further from his journey, Pym doesn’t even bother trying to get into a support group with Astronaut Dave from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey much less contend for a spot on Reed Richards’ “Scientists and My Family First” interdimensional life-raft.

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Art by Ryan Stegman, Colors by Richard Isanove

Not long after reality resets into the post-Secret Wars “All-New, All-Different” status quo, Pym (back in Giant-Man mode) and other Avengers take on some long-standing hostile A.I.’s. However, there’s a marked difference in Hank’s approach as he coldly eradicates the antagonists- seemingly backpedaling on his artificial intelligence rights stance. Things really escalate when everyone’s favorite creepy robot uncle/ metaphoric prodigal son makes a timely return (2015’s Rage of Ultron Original Graphic Novel)…

A mishap during the usual “machine vs. creator” showdown causes Ultron to amalgamate Pym into itself, reintegrating the two as a new shared techno-organic form. Put it this way: remember the end of the circa 1980 Disney B-sci fi The Black Hole when the evil scientist merges with his psycho automaton? (No? Just me, then?) Well, think of it more like that than say, the song “Sy-Borg” from Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage. (Still, just a little bit of “ewww” and “yikes!”…)

Horrified, the Avengers battle Ult-Pym all the same until newfound self-awareness catches the cyborg off-guard and it launches back out into the deep space from whence it just came. Indeed, a hollow, fleeting victory…

For all intents and purposes, the Avengers declare Hank dead at this point- creating monuments in his honor and such. Of course, this doesn’t stop Ultron from returning once more. Claiming Pym has civilized the “kill all humans” outta their new collective OS, the cyborg comes back to the heroes as a proverbial wolf in android sheep’s clothing. Needless to say, they don’t bite and fighting ensues (again) until resulting in Ultron being transported to the heart of the Sun.

And there- finally– you’d think that’d be that, huh? Well, not quite. Upcoming solicits for the Summer 2017 Secret Empire event depict that Hanktron is already set to make the rounds again!

However, expect this next go-around to have an additional personal component as it’s only been recently revealed that Hank has (wait for it)… a hitherto unknown teenage daughter from his first marriage: Nadia aka burgeoning size-changing genius, The Unstoppable Wasp! (Comics, people, comics…)

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Art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers

WASP/ GIANT-WOMAN (Janet van Dyne)

Joined: Avengers #1 (Sept, 1963); Founder

Current Affiliation: Active

History: Wealthy insect-themed, size-changing fashion designer and strategist. If Tony’s the traditional backer and Cap the starting QB, then Jan is easily the team’s biggest cheerleader as well as their ace in the hole.

Despite being the one to actually name the group, Jan spends a great deal of her early history as the team’s original second-class citizen. However, by the early 1980s, she weaponizes that constant sense of being under-estimated and arguably becomes the Avengers’ second-most effectively capable field leader (sorry, Hawkeye).

Indeed, until that point, Janet is used more as a plot device to keep Hank Pym agonizing over his revolving door-like membership in and out of the group. It’s not until divorcing him that Jan comes to personify the very ’80s zeitgeist of the quasi-corporate “power leader”.

By that decade’s end, she earns some well-deserved vacation time and fades into the background. Next, Jan resurfaces with the West Coasters- first as “big sis just checkin’ in” but recurring appearances see her surprisingly falling back into romantic patterns with Pym.

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Art by MIke Deodato, Jr.

By the mid-’90s, Marvel really gets into re-inventing a “totally extreme” wheel with all the classic 1960s Silver Age properties (to speak in the parlance of the time). In this, perhaps nobody receives a more radical makeover than Janet! When fatally wounded, Jan winds up back on Hank’s operating table. Desperate to save her life, he opts to double-down on Jan’s original power formula. Pym instead turns his ex-wife into an actual human-sized, literal mutated wasp-lady! (Also, serious missed opportunity for a new Hank Pym identity: “Doctor Ooops!”…)

For some reason, this doesn’t really last all that long (can’t imagine why…). Thankfully, after a couple of near back-to-back reality resets, Jan returns to her “classic” look. By the early 2000s, she’s steadily co-leading the Avengers again.

By the end of this era, she begins diversifying more into Pym’s territory: operating under interchangeable code-names and becoming the self-evident “Giant-Woman” as needed.

After one of the alien Skrulls impersonating Pym ends any chance of the exes permanently rekindling their relationship, Jan stays away from supering for a while. Eventually, she aligns with Stark’s pro-registration forces in the first superhero civil war and rejoins the “Mighty” Avengers as they rebrand under the umbrella of the government-sponsored Fifty-State Initiative.

During this time, Jan takes things a little more passive. In boasting a starting seven-person line-up featuring four current and former field leaders, maybe it’s not wanting to add to a “too many chiefs” scenario but regardless, the most Jan contributes is staging a fashion intervention and delivering kinda ditzy one-liners.

When the shape-shifting Skrulls finally make their invasion plans not such a secret and (surprise!) meet a great deal of resistance from Earth’s superhuman population, the final Yellowjacket impersonator kicks in a failsafe just as the aliens lose their cause. Months before, still utilizing the guise of Hank Pym, the Skrulls offer Jan a seemingly harmless power “upgrade”. In reality, she’s become some sorta literal living weapon-of-last-resort…

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Art by Leinil Yu and Mark Morales

Fearing the worst as waves of unknown energy pore out of her, Janet acquiesces that her own sacrifice may be needed. Creating an interdimensional vortex with his magic hammer, Thor heavy-heartedly responds- saving the day while seemingly dissipating Jan into the nether.

So, for a while everyone think Jan’s dead and she doesn’t appear in any new comics for like four years. But is it ever that simple? Nope. Turns out what really happened is that she got theoretical-particle-microscopically small, visiting a dimension called “The Microverse”. Eventually, she gets word to the Avengers and a rescue is staged.

When Captain America establishes the Avengers Unity Squad as the premiere symbol of human-mutant relations (the ongoing Uncanny Avengers), Jan soon joins the organization. Originally intending to work with the group in a support capacity as public relations and branding “mutant chic” as commercial fashion, it’s not long before Jan becomes romantically interested in the field leader, Havok- best known for being X-Man Cyclops’ little brother.

As expected, the Jan-Alex courtship isn’t your typical “whirlwind, storybook romance”. All the same, their relationship covers a near-literal lifetime of shared experience in a very rapid and compressed manner.

Trailing the Apocalypse Twins to their space ark (yeah, ‘cuz that’s how you sentence…), the mutant portion of the Unity Squad (along with a stowaway Wasp) are transported away from Earth before the giant Kirby space robot gods, The Celestials, show up to trash it. Apparently spending five years on a dystopic mutants-only “Planet X”, Jan and Alex have a daughter, Katherine (“Katie”), who is named after Alex’s mother. Along with resistance sympathizers such as Hank “The Beast” McCoy, the family manages to elude the Apocalypse Twins’ totalitarian regime.

In the course of hitting the “undo button” on this reality, the Avengers don’t do the standard time-travel thing. Instead, the survivors have their consciousnesses sent back to their old bodies- five years of life experiences intact– to inform the others to make different choices. Unlikely ally, the usually untrustworthy and self-serving Time Master Immortus, swears he can make it so Jan and Alex can still be a family with Katie- but first the Avengers need to take down the real architect behind the Apocalypse Twins: their old time-travelling arch-nemesis, Kang The Conqueror…

During this skirmish, Alex is severely wounded- with the left side of his body critically burned and disfigured, forcing him into a protracted medically-regenerative stasis as Jan also takes some understandable down-time.

Already having a hard time adjusting, it doesn’t take much to send Alex over the edge. Shortly thereafter, the Scarlet Witch and Dr. Doom unite forces, casting an “inversion spell” in an attempt to liberate the mind of Professor X from the body of the Red Skull (2014’s Avengers and X-Men: Axis event). A great deal of heroes and villains are also caught in the “down is the new up” wake and consequently Havok officially secedes the mutant faction of the Avengers as the X-Men take on a more villainous air.

By the end of the event, most everyone goes back to their old ways. However, Alex is one exception- apparently kidnapping Janet in a misguided attempt to bring their family back together or something. It’s never really followed up on and before long, the whole Marvel multiverse ends with 2015’s Secret Wars

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Art by Pepe Larraz

After reality resets in its current incarnation as the “All-New, All-Different”, Jan is among the Avengers when Hank Pym effectively ceases to exist. To no one’s surprise, she is left in charge of all of his patents and holdings and begins transitioning into being more of a “behind the scenes” businesswoman.

When “Hanktron” briefly returns to Earth, she effectively rejoins the Unity Squad. However, Pym’s “whack-a-mole” pop-up legacy just doesn’t stop there- shortly thereafter, Jan gets a very unexpected front door visitor: a mysteriously-never-mentioned teenage step-daughter?!?

Turns out young Nadia has Dad’s proclivity for super-science and is already trading on the name the Unstoppable Wasp when the Avengers’ butler introduces them. Like most things, Jan takes all this in stride and simply folds her costumed namesake into her adventuring.

During the second superhero civil war, the X-faction of the Unity Squad run some pro-mutant “extracurricular activities”, making temporary alliances with unsavory bedfellows. Secretly-a-HYDRA-agent Captain America catches wind of the unsanctioned ops and officially disavows the entire Unity Squad.

However, the team stays together- placed in a position of clearing their names while continuing to fight the good fight. Although the most seasoned active Avenger, Jan remains content to let others lead. Evidently, this doesn’t stop Steve Rogers from recognizing, as upcoming solicits note Jan as one of his specific Secret Empire targets…

(What’s that axiom about power and responsibility again??)

UP NEXT: Don’t Make Him Angry (you know the rest…)- The Incredible Hulk! Plus Teenage Singing Sensation, Rick Jones!

“What’s so Civil about War, Anyway?” Looking Back on Marvel’s 2006 Mega-Event (Prologue Segment, Part 3)

It’s been a while since the last installment but the road to Marvel’s original  Civil War blowout is indeed a slow and steady thing. You can find Parts One and Two here and here but let’s get back to it now with an in-depth look at the very next case…

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(New Avengers #1, cover-dated January, 2005. Cover art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki and Frank D’Armata)

THE NEW AVENGERS

New Avengers #1 – 10 (2004 – 2005)…And there came a day unlike any other. Okay, maybe there’s been a few days kinda, sorta like it- but this one definitely brings something… New. Writer Brian Michael Bendis encores the super-crew from his Secret War mini and transposes into reigniting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s not exactly all going back and just flipping the lights on at the Mansion but, all the same, the rallying cry and fighting spirit live on!

Like the very first time, though, it’s a bit of fate/bit of chance that brings the group together. Either way, Cap and Iron Man realize that maybe they shouldn’t’ve broken up in the first place…

The first six issues of this relaunch is an extended story entitled “Breakout”. Like the name implies, there is a jailbreak but it’s more about mysteries within mysteries than it is about something that straightforward.

[[Full disclosure before continuing: the beginning of this Avengers reboot is in actuality laying long-game tracks for a story Bendis is brewing called Secret Invasion, not seeing fruition until 2008. That said, I’m going to try my damnedest to stay on point with only how the formation of the New Avengers pertains to Civil War…]]

So, the prison. Lawyers Nelson and Murdock (yes, that Nelson and Murdock) helicopter out to the Ryker’s Island super-power annex island, The Raft, along with their specially-hired bodyguard, Luke Cage. They are greeted by S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison, Jessica Drew (yes, that Jessica Drew- the former Spider-Woman).

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Yep. Totally normal day at the office for Foggy… (New Avengers #1, cover-dated January, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki and Frank D’Armata)

Nelson, Murdock and Cage are visiting The Raft at the request of Reed Richards- asking that they look into the well-being of Robert Reynolds, The Sentry. We’ll get more into the whole thing of the Sentry soon enough but for right now, let’s just leave it with: Bob, a Superman-type good guy, asked to be put in prison because he is convinced that he killed his wife. M’kay?

Just as Jessica and the guys are making their way through the prison, doing the whole run-down of who’s incarcerated there, how evil powers are neutralized inside very thick cells and how incredibly safe they are with all the S.H.I.E.L.D. guards around, the power cuts out. Classic.

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Um… prisons aren’t supposed to do that, right? (New Avengers #1, cover-dated January, 2005. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki and Frank D’Armata)

It’s not just the prison, either. The entire city’s grid is down. From his apartment, Peter Parker notices a bright light and explosion coming from The Raft. As Spider-Man, he decides to investigate further. Again, the luck/fate factor steps in, as he’s able to snag a webline ride along the bottom of a passing helicopter, also turning toward the incident.

However, an electrical surge strikes the chopper and Spidey lands in the icy water. Swimming to shore, Peter is pulled up by fellow passenger of the fiery wreck: Captain America.

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“Come with me if you want to live…” (New Avengers #1, cover-dated January, 2005. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki and Frank D’Armata)

What’s happening is that Electro, one of Spidey’s B-list Silver Age goons, is hired by persons momentarily unknown to break someone out of The Raft. Their intelligence says that the Fantastic Four is out of town and that the X-Men are “preoccupied”. And since there currently aren’t any Avengers- well, that just about takes care of that. Right?

So… yeah, Electro makes off with this person but not before disrupting everything with his electricity powers, letting all the inmates loose in the process. Good stuff.

Resuming, Murdock and company find Bob Reynolds’ cell and toss Foggy inside, figuring it’s probably the safest place for him, as they prepare for all hell to break loose. All the while, of course, ol’ Matty is publicly disavowing that he’s actually Daredevil. Nah, man- blind lawyers always get into ninja fight stance during a superhuman prison riot. It’s all good…

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Awkward… (New Avengers #2, cover-dated February, 2005. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki, Mark Morales and Frank D’Armata)

Up top, Cap urges Spidey to let the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents take the investigation lead. However, before the wall-crawler can fully fire back his quippy retort, he’s eating energy blast from the escapees! Indeed, it is now on (as the kids say)…

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Sooo… that just happened… (New Avengers #2, cover-dated February, 2005. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki, Mark Morales and Frank D’Armata)

Down below, Jessica Drew exhibits that she’s evidently back in the Spider-Woman game- complete with venom blasts and flight ability. The inmates make their presence known as Foggy petitions the Sentry to help his friends. Reynolds finally comes around and overzealously dispatches 90s Venom derivation, Carnage. Not only “dispatches” him but flies straight up through floors of the prison and into low orbit- ripping the frikkin’ psychotic symbiote in half! Yeah, that’s a totally measured response…

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Getting the band back together. (New Avengers #2, cover-dated February, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis, Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki, Mark Morales and Frank D’Armata)

Finally Iron Man shows up and makes it a proper Avengers stew! Before long, more S.H.I.E.L.D. reinforcements arrive and the lockdown begins. In the aftermath, Cap and Tony talk at length about reactivating the Avengers.

Tony hems and haws a bit but Cap goes around the next day asking anyway. No U.N. bells and whistles. No fancy crime-busting lab and “Danger Room”-esque work-out center. Just heroes taking on the big problems. And no regular paycheck (yes, the Avengers used to offer a weekly stipend). The irony is not lost on Spider-Man…

Daredevil respectfully declines as he is far too busy doing damage control to the public outing of his secret identity. Luke Cage agrees to join but on the condition that he is “heard” in the new organization. Indeed, Cage goes on to become something of a central figure throughout Bendis’ eight-year franchise tenure. (Sidebar: Foggy Nelson- relieved or upset that no one asked him?)

Spider-Woman is busted down by S.H.I.E.L.D. for “total assignment failure” as Cap offers her the distinction of being their new “go-between” agent. However, on her way to the first official assembling, she converses with a shadowy figure about re-framing a spying arrangement to now also incorporate the Avengers…

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Establishing shot. (New Avengers #3, cover-dated March, 2005. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki, Allen Martinez, Victor Olazaba and Frank D’Armata)

The “New” Avengers (they still just call themselves “The Avengers” in-story) gather at Stark Tower. Despite Tony’s wonky “Stark-onomics” not allowing the wherewithal to rebuild historic Avengers Mansion and restore the super-team to its “classic” status quo, he’s had a skyscraper ginormity in the offing since before the old guard went tits up. Never mind that the Avengers typically operate from grants by the Maria Stark Foundation, a separate non-profit existing regardless of Iron Man’s presence and operational inclusion. But whatever- let’s go with Tony now has a brand new office building that he can’t lease space in for fear of super-attacks and was planning on using the top three floors as his new personal New York residence anyway. Convenient, right? Even more so when he reveals that he just happens to have a new prototype Quinjet in the roof hangar (because, y’know, Jarvis was just gonna use it to zip down to the store for groceries otherwise…).

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There! New charter ratified! Boom! Next! (New Avengers #4, cover-dated April, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki, Allen Martinez, Victor Olazaba and Frank D’Armata)

Before the gang gets down to formulating their prison break recourse, new S.H.I.E.L.D. Director, Maria Hill, is on the video-conference trying to break up whatever it is this gathering of supers think they have going on. Cap counters by citing that he has “Full Champion  Licence”- some obscure ace-in-the-hole title that pretty much allows him to do whatever he wants. Including forming (or re-forming) super-teams. Hill acquiesces and forwards information so the Avengers can begin investigating but not without giving them a very hairy stinkeye. She also claims to have the Sentry back in custody but that’s not exactly the case. We’ll circle back on this soon…

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Break out ye old Handbook! (New Avengers #4, cover-dated April, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki, Allen Martinez, Victor Olazaba and Frank D’Armata; Characters on monitor screens by various artists)

Going through scant security footage, the Avengers identify Electro. Spidey actually cops to “recognizing that blurry shoulder anywhere” and proceeds to heap guilt on himself that it’s one of his rogues responsible. It takes Tony two seconds to trace Electro’s recent banking transactions and so the team chases him down.

As the villain faints before they can get anything from him, the Avengers resort to Plan B: bribery. Agent Drew returns to Rykers for information from the inmates who didn’t escape. They pretty much fall over each other for a box of donuts, blurting out the name of Electro’s target extraction: Dr. Karl Lykos.

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Cap’s thinking how different log entries are going to be now with this new bunch… (New Avengers #4, cover-dated April, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki, Allen Martinez, Victor Olazaba and Frank D’Armata)

Lykos is an old-school X-Men bad guy dating back to the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams late 60s run. Essentially, he siphons other mutants’ energies to become a giant, leather-winged pterodactyl-man named Sauron. Make no mistake, like many Led Zeppelin lyrics, his name is indeed a heart-on-the-sleeve nod to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

And where does an evil parasitic dino-mutant go when he wants to lay low? How about Marvel’s own improbable prehistoric subcontinent located in Antarctica, The Savage Land! (Of course, so obvious…)

Giving chase anew, the Avengers no sooner set down when a dinosaur crushes their vacant Quinjet. Scattering to the nearby underbrush, Cage and Spider-Woman narrowly escape the one attack to encounter something just as shocking and deadly: the familiar clawed forearm of Wolverine is now at Drew’s throat as she grabs cover behind a tree…

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The Best There Is = Earth’s Mightiest. (New Avengers #5, cover-dated May, 2005. Cover art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki and Frank D’Armata)

Working the Lykos abduction from another angle, Wolverine is there on a tip from another one of Spidey’s bad guys who was offered Electro’s job, The Scorcher. Wanting to go straight and without Avengers around, Scorcher phones the X-Mansion and gives Logan the scoop. Hopping in one of the X-Men’s Blackbirds, he heads out solo and crashes in the Savage Land. (Destructive flight arrival is evidently how one simply travels there…)

On the run with his hyper-keen senses all screwy from the preternatural environment, Logan sets upon Cage and Drew mistaking them for some mysterious jungle stalkers. Also reacting before realizing he’s a friendly, Spider-Woman venom-blast flash-fries his face, judo flips and stabs Wolverine in the jugular with his own claws.

Regrouping and comparing notes, the Avengers are soon ambushed by the Savage Land Mutates (more Silver Age X-Men goons), knocked unconscious and taken captive.

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Ladies and gentlemen… The Nude Avengers! (New Avengers #5, cover-dated May, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki and Frank D’Armata)

Awakening naked (awkward and creepy, right?), bound and suspended in midair (again…), the Mutates take the Avengers to Lykos (at least that works out). Cap demands the doctor surrender himself. The Mutates want to experiment on their captives while Lykos urges to just shoot them.

Tony takes matters into his own hands and remote-control activates his Iron Man armor into breaking the Avengers free. The ensuing melee escalates when Wolverine goes after Lykos and accidentally brings on the Sauron transformation! Just as “Jurassic Vampire” is about to launch into a full-on villain monologue about how his escape is actually bigger than just him and the Mutates, Lykos is shot in the head by a S.H.I.E.L.D. sniper unit emerging from the nearby jungle. The Avengers recognize the commander as blonde Black Widow also-ran, Yelena Belova. She orders her unit to “clean and clear” the area and leave no survivors.

Taking advantage of the soldiers’ momentary hesitancy in shooting Captain America, the Avengers press the initiative. Tony magnetically attracts all of their weapons to the Iron Man armor, literally sending the goons running for the hills while Cap has to physically restrain Wolverine- bent on killing Belova.

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O…kay. Not too cryptic… (New Avengers #6, cover-dated June, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki and Frank D’Armata)

The Avengers begin aiming “Who do you work for?” questions at the captive mercenary; Spider-Woman leaning in and threatening with a face full of venom blast. They don’t exactly know what to do when Belova half blows up Jess’s spot by firing back that the two of them are actually on the same side but then continues on with gibberish.

Before they can ask further, Sauron pops up surprisingly not dead (it’s chocked up to his absorbing Wolverine’s healing factor) and dragon-breath flambes Belova! Evidently, he’s due some payback…

The Avengers subdue Sauron while Belova runs off burning and smoking. Wolverine tells them it doesn’t smell so good for her. As they’re figuring out where this inept weirdo black ops squad parked, Tony starts getting some strange nearby readings.

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Hey, Professor! What’s another word for “buried treasure”? (New Avengers #6, cover-dated June, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki and Frank D’Armata)

Soon, they come across a mining facility where S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are forcing the indigenous Savage Landers to stockpile the Vibranium super-metal onto trucks at gunpoint. The team rushes in but doesn’t get too far when Iron Man picks up another incoming signal: a full-scale air strike targeted right at their location (Gah! No breaks!). His quick-responding repulsor force field saves the Avengers but the surrounding area is utterly decimated (not going for the all-too-obvious “bombed back into the Stone Age” joke- wait, did I?).

The launchers of this rain of death rockets? None other than Maria Hill and the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. Hill claims she’s acting on orders to eradicate a rogue faction and has no prior knowledge of the Avengers’ investigation leading to the Savage Land- let alone ground zero of her intended strike zone. She furthers that, in all fairness, she did also ask them not to nose in.

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“Welcome to the Avengers, Wolverine. Hope you enjoy our butler and weekly paychecks!” (New Avengers #6, cover-dated June, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by David Finch, Danny Miki and Frank D’Armata)

Hill gives the Avengers a ride home as Wolverine is offered a spot on the team despite his own and Cap’s reservations. Ultimately, it comes down to Tony’s irresistible money paying for a guy who can make “tough choices”. (To recap: $$→ Logan = Yes; $$→ Spidey = No?! Wtf- “Parker Luck” is no myth…)

As the team pretty much gets right back to the business of convict round-up (the noobs prove their Avenger-yness during a protracted foray against the enchanted crowbar-wielding Wrecker), Iron Man approaches another one of their new mysteries: The Sentry.

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Together again for the first time. The first in-story appearance of Marvel’s “Illuminati”. (New Avengers #7, cover-dated July, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by Steve McNiven, Mark Morales and Morry Hollowell)

Tony begins by assembling a think-tank of Marvel’s major “patriarchs”. It consists of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Professor Charles Xavier of the X-Men, Doctor Stephen Strange- the Sorcerer Supreme, Prince Namor of undersea Atlantis and Black Bolt- King of the Inhumans, an alien-infused offshoot of humanity (currently making their way around the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series).

It’s not so much that Iron Man starts throwing nets out into the super-community. Don’t forget, Reed Richards is allegedly the one who hires Nelson & Murdock to go out to The Raft and check on the Sentry in the first place. However, Tony is taken aback when Reed denies doing such a thing. It’s part of the mystery and we’ll get there but it isn’t something that these bigwigs get into right away with, either…

Instead, their immediate through-the-door line of questioning boils down to “when did the Avengers get back together and when were you going to tell us?”, followed up with “didn’t we talk about establishing new hero teams in other cities?”. Yeah, this doesn’t really come off as an impromptu one-time confab to just talk business about this Sentry guy. No, this smacks of some kinda regular meet-up familiarity…

What the hell is this group all about?? How long has it been going on for? And why are they meeting in an old, abandoned Stark subsidiary warehouse?

 

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Cover art to New Avengers: Illuminati #1 (May 2006) by Gabriele Dell’Otto

Throughout the next few years, Brian Michael Bendis sporadically releases a New Avengers: Illuminati side-series that delves into the gathering’s surprisingly lengthy exploits. It turns into something of a reluctant fellowship that they can’t seem to quit, either- no matter how hard they try. Suffice to say, it’s an alliance that takes its cues and will go on to inform major Marvel plotlines reaching from 1971’s Kree/Skrull War to Jonathan Hickman’s 2015 Secret Wars.

Some time later, Tony and Cap hop in a Quinjet and head to the Nevada desert, where Maria Hill and S.H.I.E.L.D. are maintaining armed watch over a cave. Inside, the Sentry is fetal-position huddled in a dark corner. (This counts as “in custody”, Hill?!?)

Cap and Tony approach. They are accompanied not only by the Sentry’s surprisingly not-dead wife, Lindy, but also Paul Jenkins, a comic book creator claiming to have written stories about the Sentry years ago. These stories are the only reference to the Sentry that the Avengers could find anywhere on the planet.

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Art imitating life imitating a serpent eating its own tail… (New Avengers #8, cover-dated August, 2005. Art and colors by Steve McNiven, Mark Morales and Morry Hollowell. “Startling Stories featuring Sentry!” interior comic book art by Sal Buscema)

Before this gets all too “meta” (can’t see how…), let’s take a bit of a sidestep. Paul Jenkins is the actual, in-real-life creator of the Sentry character. Circa 2000, Jenkins, with an assist from artist Rick Veitch, pitches then-Marvel Knights editor Joe Quesada a story about a middle-aged, struggling addict ex-superhero that somehow the world forgot. Tweaking the idea slightly, Quesada greenlights a mini-series featuring Jenkins and his collaborator from the acclaimed Inhumans run, artist Jae Lee.

Topping off the mythos, Quesada fabricates a winky backstory wherein Marvel staffers just happen to have been moving some filing cabinets when some “mysterious unused sketches from the 1960s” are “discovered” from an artist named “Artie Rosen” (undoubtedly an amalgam tribute to actual Silver Age Marvel Bullpenners Artie Simek and brothers Sam and Joe Rosen). Stan Lee even corroborates the entire hoax, “conveniently” owing up to his notoriously bad memory as to why he’d forgotten commissioning the character until the “fortuitous unearthing”.

So, despite having all these deep, meaningful and allegedly reconnective moments with the denizens of the Marvel Universe, the original Sentry “phenomenon” unfolds and resolves itself in such a manner that it reads as kinda ambiguously canonical (Think: Earth-616.1, if you will). And that’s the skinny up until the Sentry appears all tattered and bearded in a Raft prison cell…

Oh, and one other thing: In addition to the heroic Sentry persona, Bob Reynolds also becomes his own evil opposite- The Void- an elusive shape-shifting being so destructively powerful it is the very reason why he feels the need to be locked away.

Another other thing: Comic creators have been inserting themselves into their fictitious worlds forever. Stan The Man and Jack “King” Kirby began doing it back in early issues of Fantastic Four and its become something of a running gag ever since. Hell, Steve Rogers even got the job as the artist on Captain America for a while (but couldn’t keep the gig because actually being Cap messed with his deadlines).

Back in the cave, Bob is quickly confused and overloaded by all the feels. Terrified, he flees in a flash of light, fearing that The Void is already on its way…

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Marvel’s Intervention Now! (New Avengers #8, cover-dated August, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by Steve McNiven, Mark Morales and Morry Hollowell)

The Avengers call in additional support, affording Tony’s secret club a chance to scrutinize under the guise of a more universal coalition. It also helps that the X-Men just happen to have a few world-class telepaths as well…

Tailing Sentry to the Reynolds’ suburban home, Emma Frost starts to get inside Bob’s head. However, The Void manifests (as a separate entity) and begins attacking the assembled heroes- right there on the lawn! (Whatever will the neighbors think??)

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Avoid the Void! Bringing death and destruction to the world will probably ruin your pizza, too. (New Avengers #9, cover-dated September, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by Steve McNiven, Mark Morales and Morry Hollowell)

Frost and Reed Richards, aided by a pre-recorded video message of Bob Reynolds himself, start in on the mother of all pep talks as their friends run interference. Emma gets back inside Bob’s head and begins to unravel the mystery…

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This is your brain on comics. (New Avengers #9, cover-dated September, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by Steve McNiven, Mark Morales and Morry Hollowell)

After some intense mental digging, Emma uncovers the root of it all- turns out that among his other super-powers, Bob is also an incredibly powerful psychic. Like “forget I ever existed” powerful. Bob is duped into turning that very power on everyone and himself by Mastermind, one of Magneto’s original Silver Age Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and probably best known as the guy indirectly responsible for the X-Men’s infamous Dark Phoenix Saga.  In this case, a hidden memory reveals he’s in the employ of the Sentry’s generically retro-tinged arch-nemesis, “The General”.

After this breakthrough, the Void’s assault stops. They also realize that the “comic stories” in-story Paul Jenkins has “written” are actually Bob’s metaphoric messages in a bottle, psychically sending them to Jenkins (seemingly at random) so that he wouldn’t be truly erased from the world.

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Yep. Definitely no super-people living here. Totally normal office building. (New Avengers #10, cover-dated October, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by Steve McNiven, Mark Morales, John Dell, Morry Hollowell and Laura Martin)

The post-intervention chinwag is cut short when Jarvis calls- urging the Avengers to return to Manhattan immediately as something weird’s going down at Stark Tower. In the type of coincidence that can only be found in comic books, it seems Sentry’s old Watchtower hq has also re-joined the world. However, it’s sharing real estate and now sits like some creepy, Lovecraftian skyscraper pencil-topper above Tony’s new building! (People are totally gonna rent there now…)

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Whatever you do- don’t call it a “Fortress of Solitude”… (New Avengers #10, cover-dated October, 2005. Words by Brian Michael Bendis. Art and colors by Steve McNiven, Mark Morales, John Dell, Morry Hollowell and Laura Martin)

The Avengers land on the roof and the Sentry departs for the Watchtower, feeling he needs some “alone time” to process everything. The team and his wife reassure that they’ll patiently await his return.

Whew! What an action-packed couple of days!

In all, the Avengers are left certain that the world definitely needs them to once again unite against a common threat. But what does this all mean on the Civil War tip?

Well, aside from the bureaucratic new kid no longer extending former Director Fury’s gruff yet familiar camaraderie, something’s definitely horribly “off” within S.H.I.E.L.D. A subject that will keep for now but suffice to say trust, transparency and oversight issues are a-brewin’…

However, it’s not exactly like the Marvel public should suddenly feel 100% safe and protected either. After the Scarlet Witch debacle, this iteration of the team (now living in a giant “here we are” target) sees the addition of two new potential super-WMDs. One a mutant assassin. The other an agoraphobic-schizophrenic touting “the power of one million exploding suns” (whatever that means but it’s probably worse than a nuclear bomb).

Yeah, Cap and Tony can’t lose when the roster rounds out with Spider-Man- you know, “New York’s Media Darling”, a known ex-con (Cage) and a “former” HYDRA agent.

About that last one, that mysterious convo of Jess’s before the first meet-up at the Tower? Turns out Drew’s back in HYDRA (they gave her her powers back). BUT- she’s really doing a “triple-agent” thing and is reporting back to Nick “I may be forced underground but I’m still a spymaster” Fury. Indeed, Jess has many secrets…

Welcome back, Avengers. Just in time for old shit to bite you in the ass…

UP NEXT: The House of M! (No, seriously, f’r realz this time…)

“What’s so Civil about War, Anyway?” Looking Back on Marvel’s 2006 Mega-Event (Prologue Segment, Part 2)

Things may happen quickly in the Marvel Universe but they rarely come out of nowhere. The first part of this series deep-dives into some of the earliest examples of the Marvel heroes gradually pushing toward their Civil War. Let’s jump back into it now and examine the next batch of cases…

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Cover to Wolverine, Vol.3 #20, cover-dated December, 2004. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts

WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE/AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Wolverine, Vol. 3 #20 – 31 (2004 – 2005)One-part spiritual homage to a discarded Chris Claremont X-Men plot. One part swipe from Akira Kurosawa. Prior to properly writing the MU’s “cast of thousands” in Civil War, Mark Millar backdoor-pilots his ambition through this saga (accompanied by future Kick-Ass co-creator, penciler John Romita, Jr.). Spread out as it does over twelve issues, it actually has more in keeping with Kill Bill.

Like Quentin Tarantino’s cinematic two-parter, each half has its own distinct flavor. You don’t exactly get a grindhouse-esque “revenge flick/cowboy flick” but what you get is a super-hero “action/suspense/horror story” followed by a “action/spy-fi/revenge-thriller”. And ninjas. Such ninjas, omg…

If you have a penchant for crying “Rip Off!”, please note that Millar springboards the entire run by wholesale lifting the logline from the 1963 Japanese film High and Low (well, maybe not the “shoe company” part). Wolverine easily grafts into the scenario: the chauffeur of the wealthy businessman is the cousin of Mariko Yashida, Logan’s deceased ex-fiancee. Wolverine feels honor-bound to get the cousin’s abducted-in-a-case-of-mistaken-identity kid back BUT- Admiral Ackbar-senses tingling– It’s a trap!!

Turns out the gangsters actually kidnapped the right kid. The ransom was never the thing- they wanted the one with tangential ties to Logan. Double twist: these goons are also the little fish. The real masterminds: a diabolical consortium of HYDRA, the deadly Hand ninja cult and a nihilistic extremist mutant faction called The Dawn of the White Light (which actually sounds more like an underground gothcore band that releases all of its music exclusively on hand-written cassettes…).

Triple twist (the really sad one): They killed the kid off-panel prior to the ambush…

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“This is how boastful The Gorgon is, defeating you in the third person!” (Wolverine Vol. 3 #20, cover-dated December 2004. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

Thanks to the Hand’s ninja magic (as seen on the Netflix Daredevil series), the bad guys resurrect Wolverine after somehow killing him. Don’t ask how one sword to the back is supposed to take out a guy with a mutant healing factor, shown to have taken far worse on multiple other occasions. But, okay, disbelief suspended for the sake of seeing where this is going…

Brainwashing the ol’ Canucklehead into being a cybernetically-monitored murder puppet, he’s Trojan-horsed back into the world. Picked up by a S.H.I.E.L.D. freighter, Logan feigns injuries acquired during a falsified escape from captivity. Taken to the infirmary, he soon unleashes a campaign of bloody hell while gathering intelligence data and sinks the ship! Old white Nick Fury appoints unlikely anti-hero, Elektra Natchios, freelance field leader of a special task force and places all of herodom on double-dodeca super-secret lockdown.

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Better get used to these guys and their “big ideas”… (Wolverine Vol. 3 #22, cover-dated January, 2005. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

One of Wolverine’s next big targets is the Baxter Building- home of the Fantastic Four- to steal as many theoretical designs for potentially-destructive superscience gadgets as he possibly can (like a terraformer that Reed Richards just happens to be working on at the moment). While this infiltration is happening, Reed is seen in virtual teleconference with Tony Stark and Hank Pym. Seems incidental in the moment but it’s a think-tank gathering that Millar revisits at length during Civil War.

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“Gratuitous appearance?! Do you know whose book yer in, bub?!?” (Wolverine Vol. 3 #24, cover-dated March, 2005. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

During a(nother) fake-out ploy to bring Daredevil over to the dark side (‘cuz Matt Murdock versus The Hand is such low-hanging fruit), The Gorgon and company acquire their real objective: killing and resurrecting Elektra. (What was that about low-hanging fruit, again?)

Bringing the nightmare to a crescendo, Wolverine is outfitted with a weaponized version of Reed Richards’ terraformer. Utilizing it as blackmail, he stealths his way back into the X-Mansion and demands that one of the resident psychics (Rachel Summers/Grey) use the X-Men’s Cerebra telepathic amplifier to remote-control mentally kill the US President.

Being telekinetic as well as telepathic, Rachel turns the tables by mentally contacting Reed Richards instead and learns how to safely dismantle the device. Wolverine begins cutting a destructive swath across the school and its grounds, pursued by a combination of X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and heroes such as Cap and Iron Man.

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“Oh my god, you killed Northstar!!” (said in mock ‘South Park’ fashion. By no one ever…) (Wolverine #25, vol. 3 #25, cover-dated April 2005. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

Eventually, their efforts prove to be enough to take Wolverine down (Cap gives him a pretty fierce slam with the shield from behind) but not without casualty. On-loan Alpha Flight mutant speedster, Northstar, is fatally stabbed during the round-up. (Canadians sticking together, eh?)

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Side ‘B’. (Cover to Wolverine, Vol. 3 #27, cover-dated June, 2005. Cover art and colors by Greg Land and Richard Isanove. Homage to cover of 1968 Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 by Jim Steranko)

Back in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, Wolverine undergoes a rehabilitative process to dial him back to pre-abduction levels of hairy mutant psychopath. During this time, the bad guys change up tactics. In addition to absconding with and resurrecting Northstar’s body, they begin “recruitng” from the less-organized costumed villain population. Amassing a small army, The Gorgon then turns his legions onto S.H.I.E.L.D. and its Helicarrier as either a manuever to liberate Wolverine or to outright cripple the organization. Either way…

Fury is severely injured in the raid but not before Wolverine gets commissioned to get back into the field as the best there is at what he does. What he does next is criss-cross the globe  with fully-sanctioned S.H.I.E.L.D. assets, kicking ass and taking names.

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“Shut your eyes, Marion. Don’t look at it no matter what happens!” (Wolverine, Vol. 3 #31, cover-dated October, 2005. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

Eventually, he catches up with the bad guys. It’s revealed Elektra’s been a deep-cover plant since her abduction (because Elektra gets brainwashed by The Hand?! Pffftt– sooo been there, done that…). Wolverine also manages to turn The Gorgon’s mutant “turn you to stone” stare back on him using the old Clash of the Titans trick and the reflectiveness of his metal claws.

So, all’s well that– oh wait, the kid’s still dead. Man, kinda hard to put this one in the “win” column, huh?

The impact on the Civil War landscape: This is probably the last story wherein S.H.I.E.L.D. operates in a “passive alliance” capacity with individual masked heroes. Certainly the last with “classic” old white Nick Fury at the helm.

Time was, the Old Warhorse would just show up with his red shirt bit players, roll up his sleeves and lend a helping hand to whatever shenanigans were going down- didn’t matter if you were Cap, Kitty Pryde or frikkin’ Howard the Duck. Sure, he’d grumble about loose-cannon vigilantism but everybody’d just go on their own way at the end of the adventure. After this story, though, seems like it might not be the case much longer…

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“Why don’t you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?” (Wolverine, Vol. 3 #30, cover-dated September, 2005. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

The idea that “capes” would just organically fold into a paramilitary organization as superhuman “assets” is one Millar institutes in his Ultimates run and it kinda seeps in here- particularly the expeditious and somewhat offhand manner in which S.H.I.E.L.D. “deputizes” not only Wolverine but more questionable costumed characters such as Elektra, Rhino, Tombstone and the Constrictor. This trend of using villains willing to play ball with “the man” is one that will prevail into Civil War and beyond. But yeah, Millar is sure chomping to push some big, unified “us versus them” super-police force thing…

Another sign of that this indeed a “through the looking glass” post-9/11, post-Ultimates Marvel is the facility with which superscience equals WMDs; particularly that of Reed Richards, which, until this point, always held a certain naive/kitschy retro-tinged panache. However, the 21st Century seems to be all about pervasive notions and the air is now rife with conceptual genies that refuse to go back in the bottle. Indeed,  it’s at the very core of  the current Invincible Iron Man series as Brian Michael Bendis ramps into 2016’s Civil War II.

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Wolverine is an evil bastard man. (Wolverine, Vol. 3 #25, cover-dated April 2005. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

Final note on this story: Wolverine as a villain is one scary mofo! You get impression that the regular people of the Marvel Universe probably should get up every morning and thank him just for fighting on sides of angels. Just sayin’. Oh, and he does go back and rough up the White House again later, though. That’s all with the intent of smoking out operatives of a guy named Romulus responsible for jerkin’ Logan’s chain since his near-literal Day One. Given how long Wolverine’s been around, that’s a long-ass time. This is all chronicled in the Wolverine: Origins series…

Couple of parting sidebars: Elektra  drops off the grid during the big final boss battle with The Gorgon. Some time later, she evidently reappears, having reorganized The Hand around her. In actuality, Elektra is kidnapped and replaced. The reordering is really the handiwork of shapeshifting alien Skrulls, playing a “long-game” revenge against Iron Man and Reed Richards. Hank Pym is also swapped-out for a Skrull shortly after this story. This is all detailed as part of the Secret Invasion saga, though. Maybe we’ll talk about that one day…

Note: The Gorgon in this story (stone-stare mutant Tomi Shishido) is not to be confused with the classic Lee/Kirby cloven-hooved, stompy Inhumans character of the same name. In fact, the article “The” serves as clear and commonly-recognized distinction.  At any rate, The Gorgon reconstitutes and goes on to serve on HYDRA’s high command council in Jonathan Hickman’s 2009 Secret Warriors series, wherein Baron Strucker turns up as well (as not a clone. Not like in this story…). You can read more about that here.

Speaking of “Secret Warriors”(but not the ones you’re probably thinking of, though)…  [MORE→]

“Sizzle Reel Showcase!” An All-New All-Different Marvel Primer

State of the Union? My Avengers #0 Review at ComicBookHerald.com: http://ow.ly/Tjfa1

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Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and Beyond: A Look Back Before Time Runs Out…

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Wraparound cover of Avengers #44, June 2015 (Art by Dustin Weaver)

In case you may have missed the announcements, Marvel’s entire publishing line is heading into the be-all-end-all event series Secret Wars. This is not just a whimsical marketing-driven stunt meant for summer entertainment dollar grabbery. This is the real deal and about as story-driven as you can possibly get, literally years in the making.

Mastermind of this unalterable road to oblivion is writer Jonathan Hickman. Still a considerably new(ish) talent, Hickman is a surprise outsider- coming into the comic industry with a degree in architecture and an advertising background. Since beginning his stint as a regular Marvel writer in early 2009, he’s helmed many ongoing titles. However, he’s really only been telling one main story the entire time (well, mostly)With his Avengers/New Avengers opus hitting with respective final issues last week, let’s re-examine what a long, strange trip it’s been… [MORE→]

[[Warning: Things will get VERY spoiler-intensive by the end!]]