Bought and thoughtfor the week of March 4th 2009 *spoilers*

Maybe your shop had a mix-up and it wasn't delivered. That happens all the time at mine. I didn't see Dark Reign: FF #1 this week, for example.
Secret Six (with apologies to gail)-

So last issue I said the ending for the first arc just didn't feel like an ending, apparently that's because this was a seven issue arc (I was lied to by someone I'm sure) and now I feel like a got a much better conclusion. I love the back and forths between the team, the battle was brilliant and funny and bane is back to rocking on five out of four cylinders.


Not as great as the last several issues but it was a lead in for the awesomeness to follow. Anyone not expecting deadpool facing antman to be just all sorts of awesome should stop breathing up my oxygen (I can't wait). My main complaint is osborn who I just wanted to be a bit more crazy/funny but seemed too buisness like. Deadpool is one of the few people osborn can go full on psycho with ranting and such and I want to see that. Still, great issue, can't wait to see how this plays out.

War of Kings-

Loving this. It's fast but concise. Bendis, this is how you run an event. Poor Ronan, but he's not dead, not a chance. I liked seeing the inhumans as uppitity asshats, that's how a family of "genetically superior" royals would be and vulcan exploits that arrogance and stupidity rather well. Can't wait for the next issue.

FF-dark reign-

I just wanted to read a good FF story and it's been too long. Thank god this is it. Hickman should be writing as much as his little fingers can produce. I can't wait for the end of millartime so I can get back to reading the family again. The dialogue was crisp, they touched on a few things that I don't think was touched on before (the kids constantly having their house and all their stuff blown up) and franklin got into westerns. Big wins all around.

Submarnier the Depths-

I love this series. It gives the ocean that mystique of darkness and eternal power that's normally reserved for space (note to marvel: do this more!). It's not a standard story and I like it better for it. The ending was a touch predictable but the art, tone and story made up for it in a big way. Marvel Knights is really on fire at this point. Next give me OG human torch.
did anyone get the Spider-man Human Torch One Shot?
I did but I didn't look inside when I grabbed it and guess what its all in Spanish. I called the comic shop and for some reason the got both Spanish and English and didn't even know. so if you're planning on picking that up open it to make sure its in English unless you can read Spanish.
Granted, we could see that it was foolish for Medusa to disregard Lilandra's warnings, but Medusa didn't know anything about Vulcan gearing up right that second to attack the Kree. Dramatic irony there.

The thing I have with that is that the Inhumans just did their whole "It's go-time all the time, mother****ers!" thing, and then they get completely caught with their pants down? Considering Black Bolt's whole new outlook on life, I'd have expected him to be already drafting the damn plans for ****ing up the Shiar.

But really what I wanted to say about it was: hahahahaha, Sad Ronan.
On the other hand, they did just conquer one intergalactic empire in like ten minutes and were still busy conslidating their rule there. I get that they're super-gung-ho now, but they can only do one thing on that scale at a time, right?
did anyone get the Spider-man Human Torch One Shot?
I did but I didn't look inside when I grabbed it and guess what its all in Spanish. I called the comic shop and for some reason the got both Spanish and English and didn't even know. so if you're planning on picking that up open it to make sure its in English unless you can read Spanish.
I would have, but my shop had a shipping error and only received the Spanish version. Alas, I don't read Spanish.

Although it is clearly marked on the cover whether it's the Spanish version...
The preview of FF Dark Reign looked like a Stargate rip-off and a half.
The preview of FF Dark Reign looked like a Stargate rip-off and a half.
I didn't see that at all. It looked pretty awesome, to be honest. The only thing that bugged me was how Valeria appeared to be right about the same size as Franklin, despite the fact that they ought to be like 7 years apart and in 2003 or 2004 (whenever "Unthinkable" was), Val looked like she'd barely begun to waddle around clumsily on her own.
Its about time those kids started to age anyway. Though Franklin hasn't...
Exactly. Age them however, but at least make an effort to keep their relative ages consistent.
I would have, but my shop had a shipping error and only received the Spanish version. Alas, I don't read Spanish.

Although it is clearly marked on the cover whether it's the Spanish version...

you don't really notice that when you're grabbing like 30 comics off a wall and the English and Spanish ones are mixed together.
I'm sure they could just tack that on as another one of his powers--immortality at 10 years old. He'd grow up (figuratively speaking) to be like that *****ebag little immortal kid in the Highlander TV show who kept sucking up to older immortals so they'd take him in and then killing them when they let their guard down.
you don't really notice that when you're grabbing like 30 comics off a wall and the English and Spanish ones are mixed together.
True. My shop's owner didn't even notice he only had Spanish ones until a customer asked if they had the Spanish version in stock and he actually checked through the pile.
Maybe it'll be a plot point? Valeria's growing superfast and getting supersmart, while Franklin just sort of a ret...a slow developer?

I got nuthin'.
Franklin does seem exceptionally useless now that his sister is super-smart. Re-develop powers already, you little monkey. :o
We got more of Hickman in Dark Reign : FF and it was tasty. I wanted more but even just that little bit was more than I've gotten in a single issue of the World's Greatest Comic Pamphlet lately.

My big question mark?

Alicia? Really? She's back? She's just babysitting? Why is she linked to Ben in the diagram on the opening pages? Where's Debbie? Dead already by this point?

Good God man!!! Don't confuse me!!!

:ff: :ff: :ff:
I didn't see that at all. It looked pretty awesome, to be honest. The only thing that bugged me was how Valeria appeared to be right about the same size as Franklin, despite the fact that they ought to be like 7 years apart and in 2003 or 2004 (whenever "Unthinkable" was), Val looked like she'd barely begun to waddle around clumsily on her own.
How can you not see it? It looks EXACTLY like the Stargate. It's round, it has a ramp that goes up to it and it leads to other worlds.

That IS what a Stargate is.
I didn't see anything like that in the preview, which is what you mentioned. I haven't gotten the full issue yet because my shop apparently didn't get it or it sold out super-quick.
I saw it in the preview at the end of NA #50. I haven't read the issue either.
It's just a portal. Reed's been building portals forever. Is your problem with the fact that it's circular this time instead of square?

It doesn't have the water ripple effect thing Stargate had. I don't see the problem.

:ff: :ff: :ff:
Okay, it's a portal. A portal that looks exactly like a Stargate. That's all I'm saying.
On the other hand, they did just conquer one intergalactic empire in like ten minutes and were still busy conslidating their rule there. I get that they're super-gung-ho now, but they can only do one thing on that scale at a time, right?

Honestly I don't think consolidation was the right or the smart move. From the position they were at from SI:War of Kings (or whatever that was called) I think the move to make was to straight up Alexander the Great / Ghengis Khan the **** out of everybody and everything in their path and worry about hammering an empire out of it when they found the time, because consolidation isn't something you do when you've got the next big threat sitting right on your (X millions of light years away) doorstep. I mean honestly why would you think that the various galactic powers spoiling for a fight are going to sit on their hands and wait for you to have your nice quiet wedding ceremony on the lovely little ice planet you just found? You've got Attilan as the fully mobile center of your empire / war machine so take that ***** out while the initiative is on your side and go start the fight on your own terms.
March starts off with a bang for Marvel with WAR OF KINGS, the third in the trilogy of Marvel space epics starting off, and at least two DARK REIGN (which apparently should be pronounced in the tone of the referee from MORTAL KOMBAT) titles coming out. Overall it was a bit of a short week, even with two $4 mini's to buy.

It thrilled me to learn from WONDERCON news that Marvel has announced that ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS. THE HULK is now, and I quote, "almost done". After three years, that's the best we can hope for, right? After all, a precious writer from LOST has lowered himself to our level to work on a comic book part time. One could say if he really cared, he would have actually done more than about a third of a mini-series before clearly seeing his day job as a priority, but isn't it always so wonderful that Marvel is so desperate to be taken seriously by "the mainstream" that they will allow any movie or TV hack to make utter fools of both their production schedule and their eager fans? In an era where Hollywood is desperate for comic book films for summer blockbuster, I think it is about time that Marvel realizes they have it backwards. It is the mainstream that needs comics now, lest they admit that all creativity for all cinema has officially died up and stopped some ten years ago, and is never returning. The time isn't now to be so desperate for Lindeloff that they waste everyone's time finishing that series, which now matters in exactly no way with what Ultimate is doing now, and has been doing since 2006. I do wonder that maybe Marvel will be taken seriously when they take themselves seriously, and not seem desperate to placate TV hacks and their ego's. They've taken baby steps to realize that Allen Heinberg is never, and will never, write more YOUNG AVENGERS, they have quietly given up on Bryan Singer writing Ult. XM for a year (a realization that only took about 4 years and two creative runs on the title), and it would have been a symbolic gesture if UWvH had simply faded away, like DAREDEVIL: TARGET did from Kevin Smith (who is writing a Batman comic for DC now). I'll only say that whoever buys the rest of this mini and likely will aid it in selling within the Top 10 as we all know it will, that silent majority of fans, are the reason why the Big Two refuse to take their audience's criticisms seriously, and why our industry refuses to EVER grow up.

It also appears, at least from the new avatar (which is cool), that TheCorpulent1 has taken all the accusations of Balder being a complete tool/pawn in THOR in Loki's schemes a bit seriously. Interesting. For my money, Balder is looking no better than Gladiator.

I also am bemused that Marvel is so desperate for ad revenue that they are advertising for WONDER WOMAN's animated DTV on some of their back covers, which will only compete with their own DTV's, especially the just-released HULK VS. WOLVERINE.

Onto the actual books, shall we? As always, rants and reviews contain full unfiltered spoilers. By next week's reviews, I will be a year older, and none the wiser.

Dread's Bought/Thought for 3/4/09:

I am very curious how this series sold last month and how it will retain readers; the premise is very unique and sadly that doesn't always translate to large sales, even with a booster of an event tagger. Just look at THE ORDER. Despite that, and a decent Greg Land cover (even if all his women have the same facial expressions, or lack thereoff), AGENTS OF ATLAS is off to another strong start. It is good to see that Jeff Parker, a good writer who has toiled far too long on MARVEL ADVENTURES type stuff finally moving into bigger leagues and getting more to do with his best contribution to Marvel; the Agents are far cooler than even his stuff on X-MEN: FIRST CLASS has been.

Picking up from where we left off, both the Atlas Foundation and Norman Osborn's HAMMER have apparently struck an uneasy truce, with neither side trusting the other. Jimmy Woo and his allies see Osborn and his regime as hopelessly corrupt and wicked, which will have to be taken down at some point. Osborn and his people see the Atlas people as opportunistic criminals, and will side with them only until it becomes convenient to destroy them. The fact that Jimmy's guardian dragon, Mr. Lao, ate Osborn's "ATF agent" Man Mountain Marko last issue doesn't give his replacement, Grizzly, any reason to trust the team. Much like Stark, Osborn is more than willing to draft criminals into his forces, only unlike Stark, he apparently isn't controlling them or their impulses with nanobots, and it isn't for a "state of emergency" like a war against renegade heroes or aliens, but in actual positions, pay, perks, and all. Between this aspect and all the promotions for DARK REIGN, I still think that Marvel's moment for this sort of social commentary passed about 7 months ago, but I digress. The modern story, drawn by Pagulayan, is interspliced with a flashback to a late 50's story drawn by Hardman (which had to be a great last name to have in high school/college) depicting the team meeting with a scientist and then being taken off guard in a club by Communist attackers. In modern day, the team organizes a weapons sale with HAMMER, offering them a gun that disables technology via an EMP blast without damaging any friendly technology in range. When Grizzly offers to test it on M-11, Namora goes berserk, and I like the angle of Namora being viciously protective of the robot that, while not as "lifelike" as later robots like Human Torch, Vision, or even Jocasta, was responsible for Namora's return to life after decades in the ice. This results in a bit of infighting between the Agents and HAMMER, which at least convinces Grizzly of the use of the gun, and gets the sale done.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lao does not approve of Jimmy Woo involving himself directly, so he has already tapped Woo's "inevitable" replacement at Atlas, Temugin, the son of the Mandarin. Parker acknowledges continuity, which means that Temugin has a cybernetic hand (since one was lost in battle with the Puma in Van Lente's MODOK'S 11 series last year) and has returned the 10 alien rings of power to his father (who has fused them to his spine and since battled Iron Man again) in exchange for some means of teleportation, either via technology or magic. He disapproves of Woo's methods and belittles his lack of improvised tactics, such as allowing Osborn to retain the Sentry after Venus had successfully possessed him last issue. Now, tactically speaking, I actually agree that allowing Osborn to retain Sentry was not bright, even if we all know that if the Sentry were to switch sides, it wouldn't happen in such a "lowly" title as this, but in one of Bendis' "important" Avengers books. Naturally, Woo's tenure as leader is split; he wants to control the Atlas group, which is a criminal enterprise, but he wants to steer their direction towards the good of mankind, which means subtle acts against oppressors. As always, Ken Hale gets some great lines, and there is some focus on Venus and the Uranian alien Bob Grayson; both have been made dramatically more interesting from the last AGENTS OF ATLAS series, and Parker continues on that trend with them now. Even Grizzly looks cooler here than the D-List grunt has looked in years. The art in this book continues to be strong, with the past flashbacks of course looking different than the present, and likely allowing the regular artist to stay on schedule, as such things did in IMMORTAL IRON FIST.

This title continues to be one of Marvel's more exciting and innovative team comics, reviving some Golden Age characters in exciting modern ways, proving that sort of thing can work without being altogether predictable. Namora has gotten additional play in INCREDIBLE HERCULES for quite some time, and Marvel at least was smart in using this event to give the premise an additional boost in both flair and hype. If sales slip again after six issues, the blame can't be entirely on promotion this time. The AGENTS OF ATLAS have virtually everything a good modern team comic should have; a unique premise, a nice mix of strong characters with a range of powers among them, strong writing, good lines, a tone that takes itself seriously, but not TOO seriously that it can't have any fun, and solid art. If any title was worth buying the trade and catching up on, this is one of them. Despite writing little with the characters for a year or so until this new relaunch, Jeff Parker hasn't missed a beat, and hopefully the Agents will catch on with readers this time.

I mean, unless everyone really does just want more of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Wolverine.

Another solid issue.

DARK REIGN: FANTASTIC FOUR #1: Because the ongoing title is still indulging Millar & Hitch's whims for another half year or so, future writer on that title Johnathon Hickman gets to cut his teeth with the franchise, as well as give readers a hint at what his tenure on the title will bring, with this obligatory event mini for the Four, alongside former NOVA artist Sean Chen. While one might argue that the Fantastic Four are hardly a strong enough franchise to support spin-off mini's or ongoings in this economy (not even Mark Millar can get the title to sell above 60k for long; his WOLVERINE run has outsold it easily), I do think the idea of using DK as an excuse to get Hickman's feet wet with the property, and at a normal ongoing price, which has become rare for a mini within the last few months, is a good idea. Most mini's are $4 an issue, but Marvel may properly see this as a prelude to get readers onto the run of FF after Millar & Hitch leave, and that is a good call.

And barely 6 pages in, Hickman wins me over by including one character who, believe it or not has been absent from FF for well over two years; Alicia Masters. JMS was too busy with CW to include her. McDuffie wrote the book for a year and completely omitted her. Millar made the situation untenably worse by not only forgetting that Alicia existed, or that Thing got back together with her in THE THING #8/MCP #1, but by having Thing become engaged to a random teacher in Brooklyn, Debbie, within about 11 issues and roughly that may pages of build up. Hickman, even in a token DR mini, has refused to make that mistake. Alicia is even "connected" to Ben in the credits page. This may start the "watch" in the regular title of when Debbie either is revealed to be a villain, or gets killed by Dr. Doom's algebra teachers, but that suits me fine. Dan Slott went through a lot of work to reunite them, and I am glad Hickman has chosen in his debut issue on the Four not to completely ignore that.

The issue itself is mostly set-up, but what do you expect in a typical 5 issue mini series these days? The focus is on the Baxtor Building being repaired and reopened after the destruction of the Skrull Invasion, and Susan working on reuniting her family unit after yet another upheaval, worried about the effect it is having on Val and Franklin. Unfortunately for her, the rest of her super-family isn't as cooperative with the move as she is. Ben is helping Johnny recover "emotionally" from losing his cell phone with all of his listings of single ladies on it, with both being united in the feat of being lazy and allowing the robots to do the moving. Reed, naturally, has also become distracted with yet another fantastic invention as well as personal guilt. Believing that all of the family's as well as the world's current turmoil has been a result of the Four's failures to improve things or properly pre-empt threats, Reed has built a "bridge" to alternate realities so he can learn how various problems were solved on other worlds by alternate versions of himself, so he can solve them here. Reed of course thrives on the idea that every problem has a solution.

In the backdrop of this is the whole DARK REIGN thing. Osborn, perhaps still being annoyed that the Four would occasionally prevent the destruction of Spider-Man, such as way back in the Lee/Ditko era when Torch aided Spider-Man against Green Goblin, and recently when they aided against Osborn's "Sinister Twelve", or at least figuring they will eventually turn on him since about half the Four were hardly loyal to the less vile Iron Man in CW, Osborn has revoked the Four's registration and sent an attack squad after them. One would imagine a mission to arrest the Fantastic Four would be a full on attack by the Dark Avengers, or even a squad of willing villains (such as Osborn deputizing the Fearsome Four), rather than sending a team of "cape killer" grunts, but I digress. They manage to cut power to the building right as Reed activates his bridge, which sets up some trippy stuff for next issue. Osborn's HAMMER seems to be clearly recruiting either former criminals or people who more than have a grudge against metahumans and are eager to fight them; his HR department likely lists "sadism" as an attractive agent quality. I could imagine a funny one-shot or mini taking place about Osborn's HR where someone interviews a range of horrible, near homicidal applicants and picks them over otherwise capable agents. Yes, it is ludicrious how Osborn came to this position of trust & power, but that has already been known, and one may as well make the best of it.

Hickman at least has a strong idea of who the Four are, which is the best impression to give right now. He has written Reed as impossible brilliant but also human with pangs of guilt for what has happened to the world and his family by his team's inaction, and he is often the crux of their team. Susan is depicted as a compassionate den mother who is also more than competant and aggressive in battle when he must (some of her orders to Ben & Johnny when the attack starts were solid). Ben of course is a loveable pug as always, and while Hickman's Johnny so far comes off as vapid as usual, he doesn't seem nearly as moronic as Millar's version (who often is on the verge of clinical ADHD). Hickman's convinced me that he can write the Four decently so far, and that is the main thing for a debut issue of a mini, as well as for a teaser into his near future ongoing run. Even Val and Frankie come off as distinct with each other with Frankie seeming more like a "normal kid" than Val, but again, not nearly the dullard he is under Millar.

Chen's art is solid as usual, with him capable of rendering the Four, the robots, and their digs well. The only iffy part is the cover, where I wonder why Thing is flaking bits of himself. But interior art is solid.

Hickman's off to a decent first impression for me, and hopefully he can keep that up.
WAR OF KINGS #1: To get the cover debate over with, I got the Ron Lim varient cover. Firstly, it looked stronger, as Lim and space art goes together like bread and butter. Secondly, at least 70% of the characters on Lim's cover actually appear in the interior pages. The man's still a master artist, and it is good to see him remain involved in Marvel's space epics; he was often the central artist for them in the 90's, when the writing wasn't always as strong as it has been in these recent years under Keith Giffen and especially Abnett & Lanning, who now virtually write the entire line with most of the "event" comics as well as two ongoings, NOVA and GOTG. Paul Pelletier, fresh off runs on FANTASTIC FOUR and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, returns to interior pencils for this mini and is off to a great start. He is a distinct artist who thrives with far out locals and backgrounds, from glaciers to hi tech areas to space, and with distinctive characters. Some have criticized that his art was too "light" for the later violent subject matter of the issue, but I think that was deliberate. I mean, it was about an attack of the Imperial Guard upon a wedding. The wedding took place on a Kree glacier, so the white surroundings were obviously there for contrast. It's intentional.

As for the story itself, it starts off with a bang, although I must sadly and sarcastically report that this issue reveals the ending of X-MEN: KINGBREAKER #4. Shock of all shocks, Havok, Lorna and all the Starjammers (and their distintive ship, so precious an entire issue or two was devoted to rescuing it rather than just buying a new craft) survive their fight in the underwater dungeon with the Imperial Guard and Vulcan. Havok even repairs his costume. Vulcan and all of his major Imperial Guard live. The Starjammers escape and meet the Kree/Inhumans. I only bring it up because while XM: KINGBREAKER is a technically solid series with strong art, competant writing and some solid action sequences, it is essentially a very long and drawn out prologue scene. All it really had to establish was the Starjammers reuniting and fleeing into space, the sort of set-up that might have been done in about 1-5 pages in the 80's and now gets four entire issues at $4 a pop. Darkhawk's set up to the "war" is being done in two issues and there is a part of me that wonders if KINGBREAKER could have been scaled down to at least three itself. Four for such an obligatory set-up scene almost seems a bit much, even if the work itself is unoffensive. But again I digress.

The issue starts off with the Starjammers fleeing into space with a Shi'ar armada right behind them, trying to use the upcoming wedding of Crystal and Ronan, alongside Lorna's newfound familiar relationship with the Inhumans (since Lorna is now officially Magneto's daughter, she is the aunt of Luna and Crystal's sister-in-law) as clearance to get into the planet. At the last second the shields are lowered for the 'Jammer, but not the Shi'ar fleet, which is destroyed (and is thus the second Shi'ar ship destroyed by the Inhumans). Lilandra seeks aslyum on the Kree homeworld under the rule of Black Bolt, warning them of the inevitable threat of the Shi'ar under Havok's brother, Vulcan, who has conquered far lessor planets for far less reason. Black Bold and Medusa allow the Starjammers to remain, at least for the wedding. This allows Lorna and Crystal to interact. It is implied that they met before, although for the life of me I cannot remember one instance where they have, at least since Lorna has been revealed as truly being Pietro's sister. Aside for that assumption, the scene works a bit well, displaying Crystal's confusion upon the new status quo of her family and their attempts to be more pro-active, leaving Earth and rulers their creators, the Kree. She also reveals that she in no ways regards her marriage to Ronan as anything beyond ceremonial, which of course gets the hulking blue cyborg down as he probably was attracted to her. Ronan's bit is subtle without making him seem wimpy about it, which is good.

Despite the warning about the Shi'ar and the fact that they very recently blew up enough Shi'ar vessals to more than earn Vulcan's wrath, the Inhumans continue as planned with their marriage ceremony to strengthen their political power within Kree society (or whatever it left of it). In a way it seems to show that while the Inhumans may keep talking about being a more aggressive royal family, they still are too used to being defensive, hiding away under a barrier and waiting to be attacked before striking. That has often been the theme of the Inhumans and that continues here, even in WAR OF KINGS. It makes a bit of sense to me that despite all their talk, the Inhumans haven't been unable to shake off their old habits, and this leads to some casualties. They're involved in a far bigger game now, against a far more powerful enemy than they are used to.

Vulcan of course sees the wedding of Ronan and Crystal as the perfect opportunity to attack the Kree empire, which it is. Morally low, but tactically sound. Gathering the new and old Imperial Guard under Gladiator's command, including new legacy members of old titles like Smasher and Hobgoblin (the alien shapeshifter, not the Spidey villain), Vulcan seeks to basically perform a "head-shot" against the Kree. Whether he actually succeeds is another story, but helped in explaining things is the fact that Vulcan is a completely psychopath. He went from declaring bloody vengeance on the Shi'ar for his turmoil to marrying into the royal family and ruling them as an aggressive superpower. He clearly has no idea what he wants beyond further conflict, which he assumes he will win via his awesome powers or ruthless tactics. While DC's Superboy-Prime often ranted and raved about purging an impure world, Vulcan just seems to be full of his own power and spreading conflict to assert it. He's a flat space villain, but in this role he serves well in WAR OF KINGS. I mean, Annihilus in ANNIHILATION literally just sought the end of all life in the universe, which is equally flat, and he worked wonders there. As a figure to want to see pummeled by the heroes, Vulcan suits that well. He works as an adversary, not a character. He makes Vegeta look complicated.

Gladiator gives a bit of narriation and it has been promised that he will get some development this series. He was basically Claremont & Cockrum's version of Superman, only as a constant pawn of the Imperial Guard. He is loyal to the rules and regulations of the empire and whoever sits on the throne of it, regardless of who that person is or what atrocities they do. For some reason this is somehow seen as different than what Balder is doing in THOR right now with Loki by most fans, but I digress. Gladiator has often been a capable heel character, a near-unbeatable minion of whatever manic scheme the Shi'ar are involved in (and they always had a few, even under Lilandra's rule). In later years, though, Gladiator's power has been lessoned a bit; at one time able to pummel Colossus to near death and stretch the Fantastic Four to their limits (literally), he lost to Cannonball during the Joe Mad UXM era in the mid 90's and it all went downhill from there. Here we see a return to form here as he is able to quickly defeat Black Bolt with a minor assist from another Guardsman; or should I say major assist. White-Noise only completely blocked the entire SOURCE of Boltagon's powers for a short period, which is a major assist. I mean, even Spot could probably beat Spider-Man if he had someone cancel out Peter's powers long enough to land a solid punch or two. Still, for the sheer power of many of Gladiator's panels, it served well to build him as a threat.

The Inhumans/Kree/Starjammers were clearly caught off guard and despite killing off a few of the guard (I did like that Karnak got to have a nice panel to himself kicking ass; I mean he should be among the foremost martial artists with his powers), the Guard were the clear away winners. Ch'od and Gorgon seemed to lose a limb each, and even Ronan the Accuser was seemingly crushed to death by Titan (who was basically Colossal Boy of the Guard in the 70's; Cockrum worked on LOSH before UXM and brought a lot of those ideas with his Marvel work, and even in retirement was fond of the franchise). Of course Ronan could merely be mortally wounded or such for all we know, as it did seem a bit of a swift way to kill him after all this time. The main objective of the attack seemed to be to land as many collatoral losses as possible against the Kree while kidnapping Lilandra alive. While leaving Black Bolt and most of the Inhumans alive will incite more conflict, I honestly doubt Vulcan minds. He easily could have accompanied the guard to help inflict more damage, but didn't; Vulcan CRAVES inciting combat. Also, abducting Lilandra serves him a purpose, even if he already rules the Shi'ar. There are still surely a minority of people in the Shi'ar, or at least other planets under the Shi'ar's rule or former rule, as seen in KINGBREAKER, who consider Vulcan and Deathbird an unjust regime and will follow Lilandra if she seeks them out. So long as Lilandra is out there fighting with a band of rebel pirates, she will easily be a rallying figure against Vulcan. Aside for D'Ken, Lilandra has been the longtime leader of the empire for most of the modern era. Publically executing Lilandra, or torturing her until she gives some grand statement to strengthen Vulcan's power to the bully pulpet to as mentioned minority members of the empire, is more than a worthy goal.

I mean, Vulcan could have killed Havok, Lorna, Ch'od and Raza when he captured them, especially after Alex scarred his face, but he didn't. He had MONTHS to do so, rather then the seconds Gladiator may have had with Black Bolt, yet he chose not to. I see Vulcan as an erractic sociopath who wants conflict and little else, even if that effects his tactics. Therefore, the actions of the Guard here seemed fitting with his character as well as accomplishing a decent objective. With Lilandra in his grasp, Vulcan can easily rally the Shi'ar against the classically warlike Kree as an outside attack, rather than a rebel cause led or aided by Lilandra. It is harder for Havok to scream, "we are fighting for your former queen" if said former queen isn't actually with them.

But part of the problem with the Shi'ar in general is that we always exclusively see them from the ruling class and never see any sign of anyone or anything lower; such "rabble" exist just for crowd shots, but that is another digression.

Naturally, this sets up upcoming conflict between the Inhumans and the Shi'ar, which is what the first issue should accomplish. I could imagine Bendis taking 2-3 issues to cover the contents of this issue. Obviously the Inhumans/Starjammers are meant to be underdogs seeking vengeance. As the event expands via the next issues and tie-in's, the reasons will be magnified for various parties, and that is to be expected since the same two writers are writing everything. More so than even ANNIHILATION CONQUEST, this event is more of Abnett & Lanning's baby, and they are entirely responsible for it.

The issue accomplished what it should for me; getting me pumped for the event in general. It was an action packed debut issue with good pacing and solid art, and a lot of combat. I can't wait to see more of it come together, and I actually will be getting every printed tie-in, and I won't feel any shame for it, nor would it mean buying much that I am not already buying. Considering KINGBREAKER is the best selling of the space books now (by about 1-4k or so), hopefully this helps WOK bare fruit in terms of sales. It is doing much to unite the rest of the space angles of Marvel without making it a full sloppy company event, which means the quality may still be there. So far, a great start to what may be a great sequel to ANNIHILATION CONFLICT. It has been a year and I think Abnett & Lanning have learned much from the flaws of their last event, and aim higher than before.

As of WOK #1, I am pleased and psyched for more. I can't wait to see what Richard Rider and Darkhawk bring to things, and I honestly do hope that despite the appeal of Black Bolt taking names against Vulcan, that Havok isn't denied the emotional resolution to his conflict against his brother that has been set up in KINGBREAKER and about a year of UXM. It would be wrong to cheat him of his, basically, "This is for the Nova Corps!" moment. Lord knows Havok could really use it. I look forward to the rest, as it should be, and has been, under Abnett & Lanning space comics. ANNIHILATION has spawned us years of great space material, great enough to actually have me bother with collecting it for the first time ever, and actually liking it. WAR OF KINGS so far seems to be no exception.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS FINALS #2: The second Jeff Parker comic out this week, it isn't as good as AGENTS OF ATLAS by quite a margin, but still is fun. This issue seems to skip around a bit more than it should, though, and in some ways I do wish it took itself a tad more seriously.

The cliffhanger of last issue was that Cyclops' old enemy from XM: FC #10, Frederick, a potently powerful mutant who feeds off of radiation and has incredible strength, telepathy, and a burning touch. Left behind after Cyclops caused a cave-in at a mine where Frederick had taken hostages, he has chosen now, the time when the X-Men are taking their "final exam" from Xavier to graduate from the X-Men, to attack. And the first few pages of that are very tense, solid, great stuff. Things XM:FC should have been more often, rather than just amusing team-up stories. However, Juggernaut seemingly appears out of nowhere, TKO's Fred about 8 pages in, and BOOM, problem solved. At this point I see no need to include the Juggernaut and even the X-Men are confused to his appearance. It probably would have served the interests of the premise had the X-Men managed to find a way to defeat Fred on their own within another two pages.

Aside for that let-down, though, the rest is solid. Parker is showing the characters he has worked on for over two years developping and getting older, but still themselves. Bobby Drake is still a jokester, but starting to become more responsible. Many of them are eager to go back to the real world and get "real jobs", but that is something Scott cannot easily do, not with his eyes and "sunglasses at night" aspect (reference intentional). While looking for Professor X via Cerebro, they detect a mutant signature and head out alone to investigate, finding themselves trapped in the Mad Thinker's old base from their prior series (where Marvel Girl was briefly mentored by Sue Storm and the X-boys thought she would ditch them to join). At the end they seem to be facing an animated pile of metal, which would imply Magneto. Despite all the mentions of him and the Brotherhood, the X-Men have never faced him in all their FC adventures so far and it would seem a proper time to do so. The back up strip by Coover is amusing as always, poking fun at Scott's stiffness and the idea that the world embracing mutant heroes so long as they come from anywhere but the X-Men, which is rather absurd from the whole bigotry angle, but is fun if you sort of joke about it, as Parker and Coover do.

Cruz's art on the main pages is solid as ever, as he excells well with the young characters and kinetic action. This mini may be Parker's departure from the FIRST CLASS series that he launched, and has spawned spin-off's, and a hassle at the beginning of the issue aside, this looks to be among his better efforts on the series. It is interesting recalling a time when the X-Men were able to loosen up.

X-MEN AND SPIDER-MAN #4: Christos Gage & Mario Alberti's four part mini chronicling various team-ups between past eras of Spider-Man and the X-Men that all somehow involve Mr. Sinister (and to some degree Kraven the Hunter) comes to a proper close with this installment. At $4 an issue it likely was a bit much for most fans to bother with monthly, but via trade may be worth a look. It's sales were mediocre, about what one would expect of a random Spidey/X project in 2008-2009.

This issue naturally, and finally, deals with the "modern" day. By "modern", of course, I mean some point before ASTONISHING X-MEN ANNUAL #1, which was when Shadowcat was killed defending the planet from Generic Evil Aliens #144.B. Considering that was the end of a run on X-Men that Whedon was writing in 2004 that had run behind due to art issues, it is "modern" but still likely about 2-3 years behind us in terms of continuity. But, that really has little to do with the climax. All one needs to know is that it takes place after Colossus' revival and M-Day specifically.

A mysterious figure is killing some of the few Morlocks left that are powered, and has been identified as Kraven the Hunter. This attracts the attention of Spider-Man and the X-Men, and they naturally share some thoughts about their past in general and within this series in particular. Determining that the attacker is not a revived Kraven or any of his various insane children, the assassin is revealed as a genetically enhanced clone of Kraven who has, without a doubt, the stupidest name I have ever heard since Yo-Yo of the SECRET INVASIONS.


Yes, the clone of Kraven made by Mr. Sinister is named Xraven. That's worse than Essex's clone of Namor which was called "N2", like a bathroom code. That's a name that would have been tacky for an X-Men story in 1998, much less in 2009. It fits in with tacky names like Adam-X, X-Man, the X-Ternals and the X-Treme X-Men, but by now I x-tremely believe that every single x-pun on an x-gene related subject has been done to death. How the hell do you even pronounce "Xraven"?

Beyond that tacky asside, the rest of the issue is strong. Xraven fights the assembled X-Men (basically the Astonishing team, with Frost swapped for Nightcrawler) and Spider-Man, managing to get blood samples of all of them for Mr. Sinister (who, by the way, is dead and is now "Miss Sinister" now, for the record). The team is unable to match Xraven's combined powers of Kraven and the original four X-Men, and he takes Kitty hostage. Ironically, it was Ben Rielly from last issue that allows a clue as to how to defeat him, as Cyclops takes his idea of fazing the villain with painful mental images of his life. Using telepathy, Xraven learns from Cyclops of Sinister's cruelty and how he only uses his creations as slaves, rather than honorable warriors, getting him to cease his attack and go after Sinister instead.

I especially liked the last few pages, with the idea of the X-Men and Spider-Man being intertwined not only by past adventures together through the mini and other comics, but also by the idea that both fight for people who hate and fear them. Gage's knowledge of continuity, such as Nightcrawler's first meeting with Spidey, was also pretty good. While if Spidey was to ideally join any team, it would have and should have been the Fantastic Four from pure character (not commercial) standpoints, this series at least cemented the theory that Spidey could have also worked better with the X-Men rather than Avengers (as well as noting that he works with Logan as an Avenger now). Alberti's art is strong as always, although he did struggle a bit with Colossus' design.

No modern classic, X-MEN & SPIDER-MAN was a solid, enjoyable series that still worked out better than I expected it to. If one is interested in a long stretching tale about both that, while not especially relevant to what either are doing not, but is faithful to history and all of the characters involved, it's worth a gander.

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