Thursday, December 13, 2007

Earth's Mightiest Column: Dec. 12, 2007

Lot of stuff up on Wizard Universe today, but this was the only one that I felt warranted a post!

Wizard Universe’s regular rundown of Marvel’s mightiest teams
SUB FOR FRONT PAGE/COLUMN SIDEBAR: Can the Hood’s crew handle the New and Mighty Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men?

By Sal Loria

Posted December 12, 2007 12:20 PM

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Beyond the umbrella of “The Initiative,” Earth’s mightiest heroes soldier on to unravel the shadowy threats that menace the Marvel Universe! For regular recaps of post-Initiative New Avengers, Mighty Avengers and New Avengers: The Illuminati, swing by with each new issue for insight into the costumed conspiracies and superpowered slugfests that break out every time the Avengers assemble! )



• It was a period of Civil War. Though seemingly brought together by fate out of the ashes of the disassembled Avengers team to stop a supervillain breakout at the supermaximum security prison the Raft, the group of heroes known as the New Avengers—Captain America (Steve Rogers), Iron Man (Tony Stark), Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Wolverine (Logan/James Howlett), Luke Cage, Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), the Sentry (Robert Reynolds) and sometimes Ronin (Maya Lopez, aka Echo)—were torn between Iron Man’s drive to register all superhumans and Captain America’s determination to resist.
• When the dust settled, Captain America was dead and Iron Man triumphant, installed as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. As a result, two separate teams claim the Avengers mantle.
• Duly authorized under the Superhuman Registration Act, the Mighty Avengers consist of Iron Man, the Sentry, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers), the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne), the Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff), Wonder Man (Simon Reynolds) and god of war Ares.
• On the run from the government—including the Mighty Avengers—the New Avengers comprise Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Spider-Woman, Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme), Iron Fist (Danny Rand) and the new Ronin (Clint Barton, formerly known as Hawkeye). They’re supported by Strange’s servant Wong and Cage’s wife Jessica Jones (the one-time hero Jewel and mother of Cage’s child).
• As part of the “Initiative” event, the Mighty Avengers are embroiled in a tense struggle against a new Ultron, who seized control of Tony Stark’s biomechanically enhanced body, transforming it into a female form not unlike the Wasp’s and deploying near-unstoppable new powers against the team—most recently killing the Sentry’s wife Lindy.
• Meanwhile, the New Avengers’ battle to rescue their teammate Echo from the clutches of the powerful ninja cult called the Hand ended abruptly when Echo stabbed the Hand’s leader Elektra to death—revealing that she’s not Greco-American Elektra Natchios at all, but a Skrull impostor. The fact that a member of this shape-shifting alien race—whose long and hostile history with Earth’s heroes was recently illustrated in New Avengers: Illuminati—could assume control of the deadliest group of assassins known to man left the team wondering: Who else might be a Skrull? And who can they trust?
• Not Spider-Woman, apparently: Whether because she’s secretly a Skrull or just thinks taking Skrullektra’s body to Tony Stark for analysis is the right thing to do despite the objections of her teammates, Jessica Drew takes advantage of the crash of the New Avengers’ jet to zap Wolverine and make off with Skrullektra’s corpse.
• Tempers rise and paranoia spreads like a disease, causing the New Avengers to almost disassemble! As the team takes a much-needed break from one another, Wolverine comes face-to-gun-barrel with the criminal underground’s newest head honcho—the Hood!
New Avengers: Illuminati has been depicting untold tales of a clandestine group of heroes known as the Illuminati: Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Professor X (Charles Xavier), Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards), Black Bolt (Blackagar Boltagon, king of the Inhumans) and Namor the Sub-Mariner (ruler of Atlantis). Brought together in secret by Stark in the wake of the Kree-Skrull War to quietly protect humanity from major threats, the group played a major behind-the-scenes role in the Marvel Universe before splitting up prior to the Civil War. Among other tasks, they’ve chased off a Skrull fleet, gathered the Infinity Gems, attempted to banish the Beyonder from this universe, convinced Marvel Boy to rethink his life, and exiled the Hulk from the Earth.
• Capitalizing on the disarray facing Marvel’s heroes following the Civil War and the Initiative, the new Kingpin-in-training—the Hood—gets organized and rounds up virtually every villain who broke out of the Raft back in New Avengers #1. Promising his newfound allies more money than they can imagine, the Hood pledges to hit heroes where it hurts—particularly their families—if any cape comes near his new operation. To prove his dedication to his new world order, the Hood physically and psychologically takes out Tigra and sets his sights to earn big while the heroes are occupied with a symbiote infestation.
• While the Mighty Avengers continue their metallic melee with the horde of Iron Man armors unleashed upon them by Ultron, Ares leaves the battle to travel to the S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier and reveals his plan to take down Ultron. After a brief meeting of the minds, Ares and Hank agree to implant a virus directly into Ultron’s system. However, to keep the Avengers busy, Ultron hacks into government systems, causing the launch of a nuclear missile off the Florida coast. While the Avengers halt the missile, the Starktech 940 drone secretly launches a shrunken Ares into the mouth of Ultron to implant the virus.
• Disturbed by recent events (and a body bag dropped on his doorstep), Iron Man calls an Illuminati meeting to address the corpse of Skrullektra and threat of a Skrull invasion, which is the result of their past attack. As the group tries to rationalize how to approach this threat, Black Bolt is revealed to be a Skrull spy who immediately attacks the stunned heroes. In the fight against…umm, Black Skrolt, the Illuminati seemingly kill him, only to be surprise-attacked by Skrulls mimicking the powers of Thor and Colossus. To end the battle quickly, Iron Man creates a huge explosion that appears to have destroyed the Skrull attackers. Fueled by distrust and betrayal in light of the current situation, the team disbands again, leaving Iron Man to lament the Skrull invasion.
• With the vast majority of New York turned by the symbiote outbreak, both Avengers teams do what they can but, ultimately, fall one by one to the venomous goo. Only Iron Man comes through by putting an end to the infestation and, wary of each other, both teams aid in the cleanup. The Mighty Avengers track the symbiote attack back to Dr. Doom, and make plans for a trip to Latveria, but not before Wolverine pays Spider-Woman a visit in her shower to question why she had switched sides. Upon leaving, Wolvie joins his rebel teammates as they’ve located the Hood’s hideaway, where a new free-for-all is about to begin…

Brian Michael Bendis (W)/Leinil Francis Yu (A)


• Showing that a “bad day at the office” is an understatement, the Hood’s cronies are confronted by members of the New and Mighty Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and more. Not one to back down, the Wrecker jumps right in, and quickly discovers that most of the “heroes” are apparitions concocted by Dr. Strange.
• Regardless, the battle royal erupts, and members of the Hood’s crew slowly begin falling. Strange makes a beeline for the Hood, and warns him that the demon he possesses will eventually kill him. Parker Robbins doesn’t take kindly to the news, and transforms into the demon once more (or did the demon choose to reveal itself?) before completely vanishing.
• With their leader out of the picture, the gang loses the fight and is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. While under interrogation, the Wrecker explains what happened in the fight, but refuses to reveal the Hood’s identity. Good thing too, since the Hood materializes and springs the Wrecker in the process, with both of them now going about the task of freeing the rest of their motley crew. Vowing revenge, the Hood is ready to take the fight back to the New Avengers…


What’s worse: the Wrecker getting sandwiched by an Austin Mini (of all things) or having the entire thing caught on tape, which leads to an embarrassing S.H.I.E.L.D. interrogation?


All things, no matter how set in stone, must come to an end. Moon Knight and Iron Fist are now cool? Done. Bucky comes back from the dead? No problem. And now, Wolverine has actually laughed at a Spidey wisecrack. Nothing’s sacred anymore…


Long removed from his days in the operating room, the good Doctor’s clearly out of touch when it comes to bedside manner. Despite being the bearer of bad news, Strange is treated to the Hood’s demonic side, and it ain’t pretty. The real question is, who let the demon out?


No confusion here, folks. With a final image setting the stage, there’s no doubt that the next confrontation between the New Avengers and the Hood and Co. will be one for the ages. I’ll bring the popcorn!

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