Secret Wars Declassified Week 7, Part 1: Teams, Dreams, Mad Schemes! Choose Your Adventure!!

Welcome to Secret Wars Declassified!

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Choose your adventure: “Battleworld”, “Last Days”, “Warzones”.

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KORVAC SAGA #1

“” (20 pages) by Dan Abnett, Otto Schmidt, Cris Peter, VC’s Clayton Cowles

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The Guardians of the Galaxy are zeroing in on Emil Blonsky, a man in distress and potential victim of ‘The Madness’. Their arrival accelerates his inevitable transformation into The Abomination. Yondu resorts to extreme prejudice to end the threat. Michael Korvac and his beautiful wife Carina are having a private moment when Major Victory ruins the moment by reporting on the failed attempt at saving Emil. Geena Drake feels like second-best to her mentor Starhawk. For one who is supposedly omniscient. She wants to see things the way he does. They discuss the nature of the Madness. Hawk suspects that it may be a techno-virus engineered by the Ultrons. The solution must be find for if not God Doom will bring his Thor Corps to take over the domain and do away with the heretics. The Avengers arrive as an escort to Baron Simon Williams. There is tension between the two teams. Michael is hosting a soirée to broker an accord with his neighbour the Wonder Man. Simon whispers to his ‘opponent’ that plans have changed. Carina breaks away. She returns to her chamber. She peers out the window and inquires about the starless sky. She has been affected by the Madness!!!

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Domain #? Forest Hills

Domain #? Holy Wood

Seeing stars? The Madness causes insomnia. More importantly, it has citizens remember the reality from before. Since not everyone falls in line with this, those that perceive the truth are deemed insane. Starhawk is way off with his theory. Carina is subject to tragedy.

Assemble! The line-up is exactly like that of the original story made up mostly of reserve members: Black Panther, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Hercules, Jocasta, Moondragon, Vision, Yellowjacket.

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Dan Abnett is the current custodian of the intergalactic team. This is an extension of the GUARDIANS 3000 book. The members are overshadowed by the eponymous character as well as the subplot involving the Madness and Baron Williams’ imminent hostile takeover. There is a neat role reversal with Korvac espousing heroic qualities and Simon opting for wicked ways. The upcoming clash between the two sides should be a real treat. Apologie to Otto Schmidt but the art is completely unappealing. The anatomy is off. The faces seem to have been through a vise. The solid lines are inconsistent. The colours are dampened by the overuse of black. [5/10]

 

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X-MEN ‘92 #1

by Chris Sims & Chad Bowers, Scott Koblish, Matt Milla, VC’s Travis Lanham

“Hope You Survive the Experience” (14 pages)

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Marvel’s Merriest Mutants are having some much-needed R&R. How? Stepping out of the Danger Room and into Lazer Hut. The winner of the competition is their youngest member Jubilee!! As soon as that’s wrapped up, a Sentinel strikes!! This is no drill. Wolverine ends up saving the day thanks to his savage nature. Baron Robert Kelly arrives and apologizes for the loose robot. His people are one step closer to deactivating all the mutant hunters after the Westchester Wars. Wolvie wants an apology from the Baron.

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A soldier threatens to ship him off to Clear Mountain. Kelly explains that it’s a facility for violent mutants who can reintegrate into society. Professor X and Cyclops begin a philosophical debate. Cyke sees it as a threat and a trap; Charles sees it as a haven. Charles wants the X-Men to check it out. Cyclops begrudgingly agrees. He informs his mentor and father-figure that he is quitting after this last mission. As the team flies towards its destination, Scott suggests a vacation to Jean. Wolvie makes a snarky remark.

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“Here Comes Tomorrow” (16 pages)

The director of Clear Mountain is Cassandra Nova :0 She dispenses with formalities and gives the team a tour. The first stop is the Courtyard, a place where mutants mingle. Wolverine seems perturbed with a particular scent. Jean is hit by a psionic suppressor. Nova explains that it’s to prevent telepaths from getting ahead of the program. Scott is enraged but Jean doesn’t mind since the X-Men are Nova’s guests. Wolverine flies off the handle once he detects Sabretooth. The outcome is completely unexpected since Victor Creed is nothing but a big softie who hugs it out with his former archenemy.

Meanwhile, Prof. X uses Cerebro to check on his X-Men. Upon connection, he is assailed by Cassandra on the astral plane. She’s delivering a sound beating. She eventually reveals her identity. Charles is horrified to learn that she’s a female version of him from Apocalypse’s cloning project. Cassandra explains she’s more than that: she’s the Shadow King Queen!! There is no contest. Due to her viciousness, Nova/Queen lobotomizes Charles.

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While all this is occurring, Director Nova concludes her tour with the Children of the Atom and suggests that they try the Mind Field. There is some hesitance but the group decides to dive in. Jubilee is exempt due to her young age. It’s a trap!! Cassandra activates the Xavier Protocols. She assures the X-Men they won’t be harmed since they will be undergoing therapy.

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Domain #33: Westchester

To me, my X-Men! The fan faves from the animated series are featured here!! Enjoyable memories from Saturday mornings on Fox

Mutant mishmash: No less than twenty-two acquaintances, allies, and former enemies have cameos – Iceman, Frenzy, Havok, Malice, Cannonball, Thunderbird, Boom-Boom, Rictor, Shatterstar, Vertigo, Destiny, Strong Guy, Avalanche, Pyro, Dazzler, Blob, Toad, Sabretooth, Siryn, Barbarus, Firefist, and three or four others I can’t identify :$

MRP: There are four steps to Cassandra Nova’s program. 1 – Mentoring. 2 – Interaction. 3 – Integration. 4 – Mind Field.

Change of mind: I got a kick out of the two instances where “censoring” occurred – the first being Cassandra’s flirtation with Beast; the second scratching [pun intended!] Rogue’s remark that Sabretooth has become a pussycat.

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Mssrs. Sims & Bowers are unfamiliar to me. They are new to Marvel as well. Welcome, gents! The two give us a double dose of story in one issue. It’s good to have it divided into separate chapters despite the non-obvious break. The X-Men are seen with their head down before they face future perils. The relationship between Charles and Scott is on the verge of rupturing. The tension between Scott and Logan doesn’t disappear. Cassandra Nova being the Shadow King’s new persona was by far the best twist. The story is straightforward with little room to process as is wont in the lives of adventurers. Scott Koblish has a long-standing tenure at Marvel. He captures the essence of the animated characters beautifully. Their vibrant colours set them apart from all the rest. The gender-bending of the Shadow King is a bit disturbing. The costume harkens back to the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say s/he has a perturbing fetish toward Charles Xavier. This feels like an extended episode from the TV show incorporating the newer elements of the X-lore. The question always is: what comes next? [8/10]

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E is for EXTINCTION #1

“Relax and Be Replaced” (29 pages) by Chris Burnham, Ramon Villalobos, Ian Herring, VC’s Clayton Cowles

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What better way to shock readers than by showing Prof. X blowing his brains out?!? So much for his legacy. Life goes on as does the mutant population. Beak’s outing at Club Morlox is interrupted by homo sapien hating hunters. He valiantly tries to put up a fight. Luckily for him Magneto arrives with his X-Men. They enforce the Golden Rule on the humans. Scott and Emma arrive but they are mocked for their late arrival, their ineffectiveness, and their fashion sense. They part with their heads hanging in shame.

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At the Xavier Memorial Education Nexus, colloquially referred to as the Atom Institute, Magneto walks the grounds checking on the students. He is grooming Quentin Quire. There is a special task required of him: cracking the cocoon that Jean Grey has created when she was overwhelmed by the Phoenix Force.

A couple pay a visit to Dr. Henry McCoy at the Mutopia Medical Center. They want to ascertain if their unborn child will become a mutant. Scans reveal the X-Gene is present. Beast forewarns the couple that mutants experience persecution. Aside from that, the innate abilities are impossible to predict.

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Angel and Beak have a frank convo outside the park. Angel seems interested in Beak’s potential hook-ups. She chastises a child for fighting with another. Scott is past his prime. He isn’t able to perform with Emma. More than that, his power set is dwindling. Emma gives him a push. Through mental focus, he can now use his optic beams to change the channels. Hi-larious!!

Magneto sets up a training session in the Danger Room. Erik is pleased with Quentin pushing the students to their outer limits.

Logan is about to get into a dust-up with two barflies. He unsheathes his claws and slices a beer bottle along with three digits to show he means business. The patrons back off and claim that they were only kidding. Scott arrives and coaxes Logan to side with him against Magneto. Logan sees it as a futile endeavour since his healing factor is a lot slower and since Magneto won the war. The clincher is that Jean is being kept captive by him. Scott tells him there is a mole in the organization. That’s enough to convince the Wolverine to spring back into action.

Various interludes: (a) Magneto shows Esme Cuckoo the cocoon. He also makes her feel privileged by entrusting her and needing her psychic powers. (b) The human version of Hank rings up Beast at his home in District X. (c) Scott, Emma, and Logan are outside a guarded facility. Scott uses his hypnosis to gain entry. The man in the mask that will aid them is Xorn!!!

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Domain #32: Mutopia

Angel-ize: The cover page has a dazzling silhouette of Angel Salvadore. If I didn’t know better I’d think that this is in acknowledgement of Alison Blaire.

X marks the spot: The motif for the 24th letter of the alphabet is most apparent as the blood spatter from Xavier’s suicide. Clever trick but completely unrealistic.

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Wiggle wiggle: The floating sperm highlighting the X-gene is quite progressive! It is science, after all. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned: I never thought I’d see this in a mainstream book.

No clue: No one can remember No-Girl. Myself included.

Euphemism: No one likes to hear the world ‘old’ after a certain age. Case in point – Cyke corrects one of the U-Men. Wolvie disagrees: “Holy! It’s the old X-Men!” “Classic X-Men.” “Naw, I think old is right.

It’s a bit of a surprise to see Chris Burnham handling a pen rather than a pencil 😉 I’m pretty sure this is his baptism by fire as a writer. He does a bang-up job [no pun intended] expanding Grant Morrison’s body of work with this incarnation of the X-Men. Out with the old, in with the new. The torchbearers are brash, disrespectful, and feel they have a handle of the harsh realities of the world. The old guard is an endangered species in itself. The trio are undervalued and largely forgotten. Ramon Villalobos shows great versatility from gore to gritty to grotesque. His characters seem sickly in appearance. Magneto is much too thin, purposely resembling Sir Ian McKellen. Emma looks haggard and I’m not a fan of Scott’s paunch. A war is brewing yet again. Who will emerge victorious? [6.5/10]

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AGE of ULTRON vs. MARVEL ZOMBIES #1

“A Stranger Came to Town” (21 pages) James Robinson, Steve Pugh, Jim Charalampidis, VC’s Clayton Cowles

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Tigra is on the run from the undead. She’s completely in her element as she trapaises through the jungle. She is carefree despite her punishment for attempting to organize an uprising against Emperor God Doom. Salvation is at hand when the Ultrons obliterate the zombies. The next six-and-a-half pages detail the origin of Perfection by its creator Ultron-1.

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The ‘stranger’ in question is Hank Pym. He converses with Janet Van Dyne and Michael Morbius, emissaries of Annihilus. He is to be sent to Perfection to negotiate with Ultron. However, a Sentinel drops him off in the Deadlands. Zombie versions of the Owl and the Rhino catch his scent and are in hot pursuit. It’s a good thing three men connected to him save his bacon: Human Torch Jim Hammond, Vision, and Wonder Man! Hank’s arrival was anticipated and his expertise will be required.

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Domain #38: Deadlands

Domain #39: Perfection

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The creative team move forward from their ALL-NEW INVADERS gig into this venture. I associate James Robinson with tradition and inheritance. He is expert at honouring the extensive chronologies of established characters while expanding their accomplishments with fresh faces. The story seems a bit disjointed with Tigra dodging the zombies, followed by Ultron-1’s rise in status to Hank Pym’s involvement. I’m a bit confused as to where Hank meets Janet and Morbius, why Annihilus is mentioned, and why Hank is placed smack dab in the Deadlands if he is to meet with Ultron. Plus, I’m a little perplexed by the mechanical clockwork man. Could he be referring to the Torch or Vizh? Those two coincidentally materialize to reacquaint themselves with their creator. Is Hank really Kang or Immortus in disguise? Is he playing the part of an educated rube or an amnesiac lost in time?? Steve Pugh has greatly improved his illustrating techniques. Simply put, I find his work to be gorgeous!! The details given to the zombies, the radiance of the Ultrons, the gratuitious four two-page spreads as well as the split panel to contrast Ultron-1 and Hank are superb!! The varying panels provide a global scope. Jim Charalampidis broadens his range from the drab colours of Hank’s suit to the rocket red glare within the Ultrons to the stark landscape of the Deadlands. He produces a visual smorgasbord. Can rotten flesh overcome metal men? Time will tell. [8/10]

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 BLACK WIDOW #19 review spoilers 1

BLACK WIDOW #19

“January, pt. 1” (20 pages) Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto, VC’s Clayton Cowles

A one-page interlude is on the here and now. Natasha is asked to board Reed Richard’s shuttle to help prevent the Incursions and save certain individuals. FalCap encourages her to do her best.

In the not-too-distant-past, newest recruit Natalia Romanova is given her first(?) mission by the Red Room. She will be sent to Cuba to retrieve the Comienza family. They are not sympathizers to Fidel Castro but they have information vital to Mother Russia that the Americans must not obtain. Aiding her will be another agent named Marina who is deep uncover and has forged a friendship with the family. Marina is a little too overjoyed at Nat’s presence and too comfortable with her surroundings. Nat makes nice with the family after introductions. Nat uses scare tactics to get the Comienzas to come around. Nat’s S.O. Yulov has a secret rendezvous with her on the beach. He prevents a bite from a black widow [ironic!] and pushes forward the deadline. After bumping into the fam at the local market, Nat ups the stakes some more. She rigs a bomb to a car allowing José to think that his covert contact has perished. Yulov is pleased with Nat’s methods. She has another mission: eliminate her close friend Marina by order of the Red Room!!

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Come again? The inscription on the cover is Russian for “big book”. This makes complete sense since this is the ledger where Nat keeps track of all her missions.

I enjoyed reading Natasha’s bildungsroman into the lethal, efficient, cold, calculated spy we all know and love. Her freshness coupled with her ambition makes her unpredictable. Add to that her friendship with Marina that will eventually erode makes for tragic foreshadowing. Nat embraces her true calling. As such, she can never fully form nor maintain proper relationships. Everyone is a means to an end. Cuba is the polar tropical opposite to place a Soviet agent. Phil Noto has remained faithful to this book since its inception. His pencils are soft which bring out a softer side to Natasha. The short red hair emphasizes her youth and supposedly innocent demeanour. Mr. Noto masters a beseeching coastal view and scrupulously highlights the local colour with the cantina, the square, and the open market. This is a very subtle tie-in to SECRET WARS. If not for that first page, I wouldn’t even consider it nor bother with alluding to it. Perhaps the next issue will explain Nat’s disappearance before the Incursion. Nat’s ledger is about to be blemished for the first time. Marina is too wrapped up in her own world to notice. That’s an amateur spy for you. [9/10]

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PUNISHER #19

“Final Punishment, pt. 1” (20 pages) Nathan Edmondson, Mitch Gerads, Andy W. Clift, VC’s Cory Petit

Frank crosses off multiple baddies from his bucket list. He comes out of the Villains bar in NYC feeling pretty damn good. The Howling Commandoes approach him. They show him the execution of one of his followers in Tikrit, Iraq. It doesn’t take much to convince Frank to go out in a blaze of glory. The rest of the book is a bloody, gory, intense shakedown as the Punisher makes his presence known in the war zone. He cuts a swath to get to the source of the Black Dawn. All weapons are at his disposal: bombs, guns, night vision goggles, and most importantly: his sharp strategic soldier skills.

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The best scene is torturing a grunt by pressing his face against a revving tire. For reasons unknown, the Black Dawn has it in for Mr. Castle having forced his hand by murdering one of his acolytes. That matters little. Frank really lives up to the definition of a one-man army. Only the foolish dare strike against the Punisher. Much introspection is provided as Frank lives out his last days. It’s not over, not by a long shot! [pun intended!]

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Perish the thought! I’m dying to know which villains bit the bullets at Frank’s hand.

Call to war:I can taste war. It tastes of rotting flesh, spent gunpowder, mortar, piss, and hot garbage. It’s a warm scent carried on the cold wind of death…a wind brought by countless free-world soldiers’ boots.

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Cry for death:I’m wading, pushing through a river of blood, looking at the other shore. The other shore is the only refuge that I have left. But I refuse to climb the other shore until I have enough bodies with me to pay the toll.

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Time is near:The closer to death, the lonelier the journey. No one crosses except alone.

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Nathan Edmonson must be a military man. Who better to scribe the exploits of a war veteran?? His knowledge is impressive. He blew me away [no pun intended] with the clarity of Frank’s mindset. Frank Castle fully understands the nature of the ‘work’ he’s in. There’s no reasoning with the enemy. Point and shoot. Like any warrior, the only honourable death is to be killed in battle. Frank is fearless and has no qualms imprinting his blood trail on those deserving a timely end. Mitch Gerads delivers a frenetic summary of Frank’s psychotic world — the B&W video footage, the infrared lighting on the plane, the mirage-like harbinger of death through the flames, the shaky vision experienced by one of the baddies, the wraith-like image of Punny through the surveillance tech. Frank’s skull-like ski mask over combat fatigues flushes him out as an envoy of the grim reaper. Andy Clift gets shared credit in assisting Mr. Gerads.

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Cory Petit gets a pat on the back for the blood-soaked “AAGGHHHH” as one of the Iraqis experiences rubber against flesh. How does this tie into SECRET WARS?!? This is a straight shoot’em-up style story! [9/10]

 LOKI - AGENT of ASGARD #15 review spoilers 1

LOKI: AGENT of ASGARD #15

“The Old Army Game” by Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, VC’s Clayton Cowles

Given the break in structure and the parallel plots, I will summarize accordingly even if it isn’t in proper order.

I will take artistic liberties and call the first story “The Secret Origin of Verity Willis”:

Chapter One (1 page)

Verity’s father Roger is bequeathed a magic ring by his father Eric. The ring will enable the bearer to distinguish between truth and deception, illusion vs. reality. Eric has to make a hasty retreat. He is the holder of the Casket of Ancient Winters. Too many non-friendly parties are interested in snatching that from him.

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Chapter Two (1 page)

Roger has made Andvari’s ring his wedding band. He has misplaced it and is frustrated with its disappearance. Baby Verity ingests it. Oral fixation to the extreme!!

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Chapter Three – Verity (1 page)

Baby Verity is taken to the hospital and free from harm. The ring magically dissolved in her body. Emphasis on ‘magically’. There are no adverse side effects either. Verity detects the very first lie when the nurse reassures her parents that their daughter is A-OK.

Chapter Four (1 page)

Snippets of Verity’s life flash before our eyes, all filled with lies – her mom coaxing her to eat equating the spoon to a plane; song lyrics exaggerating finding love; dad divorcing mom stressing it’s not Verity’s fault; creepy blind date; mom worried about Verity’s introvertedness; Iron Man asking all super-humans to register and issuing an ultimatum.

Chapter Five (1 page)

Verity actually takes Iron Man’s words to heart and enters the SHRA database. Her ability is so minimal that she’s classified as D-7. Geez. Verity turns down three employment offers that require her special skill set simply because she can’t work from home. One opportunity arises.

Chapter Six – Verity (1 page)

Mother knows best, or tries to. She wants Verity to find that special someone, gender unimportant. Verity stresses that she is a shut-in because her ability is overwhelming. EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. LIES. Irony of ironies!! She herself lies to her mom by claiming contentment. Verity caves in to give speed dating a shot, if for no other reason than to shut up mommy dearest.

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Chapter Seven (2 pages)

Speed dating worked!! Ish. Verity makes Loki’s acquaintance and they become fast friends. The truth comes out: Verity was telling her life story to none other than the titular character. While she was listening, Loki has separated Verity’s life essence from her body. The world is about to end and preserving her soul is of the utmost importance. Never trusts anyone who says “trust me”. I should know!!

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The real story takes place here! Evil future Loki continues to carry out his mad scheme. I shall call this “Asgard or Bust!”

Chapter Three – Loki (5 pages)

What a twist!! Odin and his entourage are using man-made weapons! They are carrying heavy (literally!) firepower. Freyja is a natural. She is bloodthirsty too ordering the others to take head shots at Hela’s soldiers. Unthar, an Asgardian youth, is having trouble dealing with the ‘mortal magic’. Amora tells him to make it snappy otherwise he will perish. Sadly, her words ring true. Loki is off the deep end. He is drunk with power. Hela assures Tyr that they have goals in common. Earth and Asgardia must be expunged before the Incursion. Survival is the only important matter. Unthar is resurrected as one of the dead’s soldiers much to his chagrin. Loki pulls a Joker here living only for chaos. He even cackles as he self-narrates.

Chapter Six – Loki (7 pages)

Freyja realizes the futility of Midgardian arms against the World Serpent and the Queen of the Dead. After Odin disappoints, she powers up her staff and demands a match with Loki. She swats her son like a gnat. As she is about to pierce the snake, she utters the word Godsdeath and sacrifices herself in the process.

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The battle has just begun. Enemies from the other realms pop out. Odin pulls a major ace from his sleeve – the Gjallarhorn!

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Off-note/off-page/off-topic/off-world: Lorelei and Sigurd are reborn at the Isle of Silence. She feels rejuvenated. He is itching to fight.

Failure to launch:Your Odin-Power, has it woken in you?” “It takes time to rise, wife…” “(So you have often said.)” Ouch!!

Step aside, son!You are a blade grown blunt, god of failed hopes. A joke told too often.

Phallic symbol: The Gjallarhorn is a massive tool. Just sayin’

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Were it not for my weekly ‘obligation’ to analyze all the tie-ins, I don’t think I’d read this title aside from the first issue which I also purchased. That being said, I tip my helmet to Mr. Ewing. His grasp on Loki and all things Asgard is remarkable!! His emphasis on Story as Loki’s raison d’être is magnificently meta-fictitious!! Lee Garbett has outdone himself in keeping up with Mr. Ewing’s mad-dashes. The reflection of the skeleton soldiers in the bullets demonstrate their overwhelming numbers. Freyja the warrior is a cross between Angela and Thor as she prepares to strike. The silhouette of Odin’s army reminds me of the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED cartoon intro as the heroes are eventually brought to light. Clayton Cowles deserves a round of applause for the recap page and those epic onomatopia.

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